Friday, August 21, 2009

Trey No Longer Down With Disease

Aside from setlist highlights, crunchy lot stories, and the occasional bitch & moan about hearing DWD at Shoreline and The Gorge, there's one thing that phish fans keep bringing up: Trey is sober. And they can hear it.

After being arrested on DWI and drug possession charges back in 2006 in New York, Anastasio was sent to drug court. Drug courts are a cost effective alternative to jail that produce lower recidivism rates than lengthy prison sentences. They're also more humane and aim to help people overcome drug addictions through substance abuse treatment and community service.

Anastasio recently graduated from the drug court program and is touting its effect on his life.
"I've been sober for two-and-a-half years," he says to applause. "My children are happy. In August, my wife and I will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. My band is back together with a sold-out tour. And in September I'll play a solo concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic."
He's also talking about the failure of the prison system for non-violent drug offenders.
Anastasio saw it first-hand when he missed an appointment and was sent to jail for two days. "I can tell you that behind bars there was rampant drug use," he says. "What's more, the people I met there spent their time blaming judges and lawyers for their circumstances. Not in drug court. In drug court, full responsibility rest with you and you alone."
If even Trey Anastasio can see that the drug war has failed so badly that we can't even keep drugs out of our jails and drug courts are proven to work at reducing spending, drug use, and crime rates, why aren't drug courts the staple? As usual, Ryan Grim hits the nail on the head.
Despite their proven effectiveness over the past two decades, drug courts have had to compete for dollars with the prison industry, and when it comes to lobbying might, the drug courts are outgunned. Despite the expense and ineffectiveness of locking people up, the U.S. continues to do it at rates higher than any other nation. Nationally, more than $60 billion was spent locking people up last year. States spend $65,000 on prison construction per inmate and another $23,876 annually to take care of the prisoner, according to the Pew Public Safety Performance Project.
While drug courts aren't a magic bullet, Anastasio is lucky to have been sent to drug court instead of prison and it's certainly admirable that he is speaking publicly about overcoming an addiction and his support for the program.

Mexico Decriminalizes Drugs

That's right:
MEXICO CITY — Mexico enacted a controversial law Thursday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs while encouraging free government treatment for drug dependency.

The law sets out maximum "personal use" amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities will no longer face criminal prosecution when the law goes into effect Friday.

This, of course, is great news. It means that Mexican citizens will no longer be imprisoned simply for choosing to put something into their bodies without harming anybody else. And if they get hooked on drugs, the government will provide treatment. It appears that Mexico is moving in the direction of a more humane way of dealing with drug use and drug users.

Still, decriminalizing drugs does absolutely nothing to stop the violence and corruption that is caused by drug prohibition. The only way we can take billions of dollars out of the hands of cartels is the same way we put Al Capone out of business in the 1930s. End prohibition and regulate drugs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Obama: Better than Bush on drug policy, but by how much?

SSDP alum and current law professor, Alex Kreit, has a great piece on the American Constitution Society's blog, entitled "Assessing the Administration’s Evolving Drug Control Policy.". Here's a taste:
...for all the administration's faults, when one looks at the overall picture, I honestly don't think it would be hyperbolic to say that when it comes to federal drug policy, there has been more progress this calendar year than there was in the previous 25 years combined.

Still, one wonders whether the changes will be limited to narrow and specific issues like needle exchange funding or crack vs. powder sentencing, or whether the administration will seek more fundamental change.

By all measures, our current drug strategy has failed. It has been chiefly responsible for the explosion in our prison population and costs taxpayers billions each year. Yet, more than three times as many teenagers have tried marijuana in the United States than have in the Netherlands. And more kids say it is easier to buy marijuana than alcohol.

If we hope to get ourselves out of this mess, reforms on no-brainer issues like needle exchange, sentencing reform, and medical marijuana are a good start. But, ultimately, in order to dig ourselves out of the mess the failed "war on drugs" strategy has caused, we'll need to change our entire strategy to the problem of drug abuse.

Go read the whole thing.

The Drug War is Over!

In today's Washington Post:
Law enforcement officials announced criminal drug-trafficking charges Thursday against 43 people in the United States and Mexico, including suspected leaders of prominent cartels in a country that has been plagued with gun violence.


The indictments "demonstrate our unwavering commitment to root out the leaders of these criminal enterprises wherever they may be found," said U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Awesome. All the evil doers have been defeated. No more drug abuse and no more drug trade violence now, right?

Let's call up George W. Bush and see if we can borrow his banner:

In all seriousness, this is very BAD news for the people of Mexico. All it means is that several very lucrative job openings have been created in a multi-billion dollar industry, and the job application process involves lots of bloodshed.

Trying to stop cartel violence by arresting cartel leaders is like trying to save the Titanic by punching more holes in it.

The Drug War Makes Us Stupid

A few days ago, SSDP's ED Micah Daigle received this email:
Dear Micah,

I think personally it is absolutely disgusting that you would have a story on Rachel Hoffman that comes to her defense. She was everything that was wrong with this situation. She was helping the war on drugs. I don't care how the police twisted her mind and told her things. The simple fact was she was an under cover informant. To support someone who helps ruin peoples lives is something that is supported by SSPD? Things like this are the sole fact I believe there are huge holes in your organization and truly no firm stance on any one subject. These reasons are the reasons are dismembered the chapter I started at Northern Illinois University. Please try to think about what you are supporting and who. YOU GUYS ARE SUPPORTING AN UNDERCOVER AGENT.

A concerned citizen
Micah shared the email with me and needless to say, it infuriated me at first. But then I realized that this is the mentality our drug policies produce. Here is someone who supports the reform of marijuana laws writing to us that SSDP is wrong because we supported Rachel Hoffman's family in what I consider to be one of the worst drug war tragedies to ever occur.

So what if she became an informant? She should have never been put in that position in the first place. Rachel Hoffman didn't have some cooked up plan to start putting people behind bars and the 2 murderers that she did agree to help arrest weren't her friends. She was scared and confused and being threatened with a jail sentence.

Rachel was not "everything that was wrong with this situation." Maybe the author of that email hasn't heard the story so I'll remind him of everything that went wrong with Rachel's situation:
  1. Marijuana is illegal.
  2. Non-violent drug offenders face jail time.
  3. Police waste resources, tax dollars, and man hours on people like Rachel Hoffman
  4. The police department asked Rachel to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun (which was contrary to department policy as it opened the opportunity for the suspected criminals to explain the presence of the gun), using $13,000 cash in a buy-bust operation.
  5. The police knew the criminal history of the men she was supposed to meet.
  6. The police lost track of Rachel during the sting.
  7. She was murdered with the handgun the police sent her to purchase.
So go ahead and talk the talk. Maybe you've even walked the walk. But to truly comprehend both effective drug policy and personal liberty, you'll need to realize that the drug war has turned you into the same type of monster that it has turned the police department that blamed Rachel for her own death. You're the same as gang members and drug cartels that kill each other for snitching. You're mentality is the same as the 2 men that murdered her.

This is a human being. A human life. And yes, she did turn informant and that would have put 2 men behind bars. Two murderers behind bars that quite frankly belong right where they are.

Furthermore, Rachel's death spawned the creation of the Rachel's Law in Florida which "requires law enforcement agencies to (a) provide special training for officers who recruit confidential informants, (b) instruct informants that reduced sentences may not be provided in exchange for their work, and (c) permit informants to request a lawyer if they want one."

Marijuana Book Bomb Today!

The Great Marijuana Book Bomb of 2009 - August 20, 2009

Today is the Marijuana Book Bomb for the new book "Marijuana is SAFER: So Why are we Driving People to Drink?" by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert.

The bomb aims to drive the book up the Amazon charts by having lots of people order the book today. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

3 Months in Jail... for TicTacs

I don't actually know the brand of the mints but who cares? Back in May of 2005, Donald May was driving home from work in Kissimmee, FL when he was pulled over for expired tags. What happened next is just plain outrageous:
When officers pulled Donald May over for an expired tag, they thought the mints he was chewing were crack and arrested him. May told Eyewitness News they wouldn't let him out of jail for three months until tests proved the so-called drugs were candy.
Ok, so the officer thought the mints were crack. Honest mistake. I mean, we need to clean up the streets here guys. It's not like the police officer found out it was just mints and then lied about testing the drugs in order to cover his ass right? Err...
The officer claimed he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs. The officer said he saw May buying drugs while he was stopped at an intersection. He also stated in his report May waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily admitted to buying drugs. May said that never happened.

"My client never admitted he purchased crack cocaine. Why would he say that?" attorney Adam Sudbury said.

May was thrown in jail and was unable to bond out for three months. He didn't get out until he received a letter from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office that test results showed no drugs were found.
If it were crack, who the fuck would be chewing or sucking on it like a mint? So this poor guy loses his apartment and job, the police tow and auction his car, and he spends 3 months in jail because of police stupidity followed by police misconduct. Yay for the drug war! At least he has filed a complaint.

I don't know who BigWhiteSeth is, but he gives a pretty hilarious recap of the whole situation: