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Mar-18-2011 12:36printcomments

Today's McCarthyism

For 40 years, the DEA has been kicking in doors and murdering mostly African-Americans while the media and our country has been silent in complacence and complicity.

Today's McCarthyism

(BROOKLYN, N.Y.) - A scapegoat is the vehicle of injustice through which morally depraved political interests amass power and strip society of freedom and humanity. Although the players have changed, the game remains the same.

The politics of fear, hatred and ignorance have scapegoated the politically disenfranchised throughout history; African-Americans during slavery and Jim Crow, Jews in 1933 Germany, Japanese-Americans in WWII America, blacklisted intellectuals in the 1950’s. Today, another campaign of propaganda incites hysteria, spreads lies and misinformation, and ignores facts, science and history.

Drug users are today’s scapegoat. A hysterical, arbitrary and capricious fear of some drug users (and not others) fuels the injustice of incarceration and deprivation of life, liberty and property. Our war on these drugs is a war on people of color, a war on youth, a revisionist war on science and history. Lies, hyperbole and misinformation continually repeated for almost a century, turn fiction into fact; injustice is tolerated and even welcomed. Nowhere is this clearer than in Harry J. Anslinger’s cannabis smear campaign, in which he deliberately spread bigoted, bald-faced lies with the help of his friend and newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Many of these lies, unsupported by an increasing body of scientific evidence, still persist today: marijuana induces psychosis, is the gateway to harder drugs, causes violence, and causes amotivational syndrome.

For 40 years, the DEA has been kicking in doors and murdering mostly African-Americans while the media and our country has been silent in complacence and complicity.

In January of this year, African-American Eurie Stamps of Framingham, MA, MBTA worker and grandfather of 12 was shot and killed in his own home on a botched police drug raid. He was innocent. Meanwhile, prohibitionists ask, what message would we be sending to our children if drugs were legal? What message indeed? Isn’t it time that we sent the message that kicking in doors and killing people is far worse than snorting cocaine?< What message are we sending our children when we sit idly by and allow this injustice to happen to anyone, whether they use drugs or not?

In a recent interview on David Letterman, JZ spoke candidly about growing up in the projects. With no prospects for employment many of his peers turned to selling drugs. Letterman asked JZ what was the outcome of this dangerous trade.

JZ flatly replied this story always ended in prison or death. Over 80% of our prison population are people of color and over half of them are serving time for drug charges - and there isn't a prison on earth that is drug free. Meanwhile, our drug addiction rates are comparable to what they were almost a century ago. Our war on drugs which began in 1970, 5 years after Jim Crow ended, is the New Jim Crow.

The distinction between legal and illegal drugs is not merely arbitrary, but wildly out of proportion to their harms. Cigarettes kill 435,000 people a year, whereas all illicit drugs kill 17,000 people per year from causes both direct and indirect. Where is our one trillion dollar war on cigarettes? 356,000 people die annually from poor diet and lack of exercise. Where is our trillion dollar war on obesity? Drug propaganda has blinded society to the hypocrisy of our war on some drug users and dealers, but not others. Drug addictions to oxycodone, hydrocodone, valium, xanax, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and many other drugs abound, yet these users and distributors are not hunted and murdered by the DEA.

Despite the scientific data and historical facts to the contrary, we hear alarmist warnings that drug legalization will cause rampant drug use. This anxiety is based on two fallacies; (1) prohibition has deterred drug use; and (2) we are unable to curb use of legal, regulated drugs. A recent World Health Organization study of 17 countries found there is no correlation between a country's drug laws and their drug usage rates. As reported by Time Magazine, the drug war has had no effect on supply, demand or usage rates of cannabis. Drugs are cheaper, more potent and more plentiful today than ever, despite a 6 fold increase in the drug war budget in the past 20 years. Meanwhile, tobacco use (our most deadly drug by far), was reduced by 50% through taxation and education in a completely legal and regulated market. If we were truly serious about controlling our drug problem, we would implement a strategy of regulation with proven success similar to that of cigarettes.

In a legal and regulated market, disputes over market share are resolved in the courtroom. In a prohibited market, our neighborhoods become bloody battlegrounds where disputes over market share are fought with guns and innocents are caught in the crossfire. Yet the press continually refers to prohibition violence as “drug related crime.” The revisionist statement that drugs, not prohibition, cause this violence falsely justifies and perpetuates our drug war. There is no violence associated with the sale of Camel cigarettes, Budweiser beer, or Starbucks coffee. Moreover, if the claim is true that addicts commit crimes to support their habit, then legalizing drugs would reduce these crimes by substantially lowering the price of illegal drugs. Prices of illegal drugs such as heroin and marijuana are inflated on average by 1,000 times.  In a legal market, dried vegetable matter costs dollars per pound, not thousands of dollars per pound.

Prohibition creates the very war it fights.

By generating enormous profit margins unheard of in any legal market, prohibition in Mexico has spawned violent cartels, governmental destabilization and corruption, and a rising death toll. Mexican drug cartels are better funded than the Mexican government, and as a result, better armed than the police. These problems are not unique to Mexico. Gangs and gang warfare are funded almost exclusively by the illegal drug trade. Every disenfranchised terrorist group funds their organization with the subsidy of illegal drugs. Ending our drug war would end prohibition violence and corruption as it did when alcohol prohibition ended. Alcohol prohibition did not end because alcohol was proven to be safe, it ended because prohibition does not work, because Chicago and other areas erupted in violence, and because prohibition did not discourage alcohol consumption. For 40 years, America’s war on drugs has been an enormous tax burden sustained by our robust economy. But since our recent economic collapse, financially depleted federal and state governments can no longer afford to fund this drug war which has not and cannot accomplish any of its goals.

If Gallop polls over the past thirty years are any prediction, marijuana prohibition most probably will end in the next five to ten years.  But the end of all drug prohibitions is not as certain. Most people fear legalizing drugs such as heroin or cocaine because the myth persists that prohibition deters drug use and that these drugs are more harmful than alcohol and cigarettes.

However, in Switzerland, for more than 15 years health professionals have been administering heroin to addicts.

This program has eliminated heroin overdoses within its population, has reduced the heroin black market in surrounding areas and succeeded in helping addicts quit. But America is not Switzerland. Here, our policies are based on a moral self-righteousness which deliberately dismisses science and reason.

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Wayne Reiss March 21, 2011 8:08 am (Pacific time)

Thank you all for your comments and support. A free internet is a truly wonderful and powerful thing; a quintessentially democratic thing. And in such an environment, misinformation and subterfuge cannot flourish thanks to people like yourselves.

malcolm kyle March 19, 2011 7:36 am (Pacific time)

Ending the insanity of drug prohibition by legalized regulation, respecting the rights of the responsible users and focusing on addiction as a sickness, like we do with alcohol and tobacco, may save what remains of our economy and civil institutions along with countless lives and livelihoods. Prohibition continues unabated for shameful political reasons. It cannot, and never will, reduce drug use or addiction. Prohibition has permanently scarred our national character as well as our individual psyches. Our national policies and cultural practices have become pervaded by the fascistic, prohibitionist mind-set which has turned our domestic police force into a bunch of paramilitary thugs who often commit extra-judicial beatings and executions while running roughshod over our rights in order to "protect us from ourselves". When we eventually manage to put the horrors of this toxic moronothon behind us, we'll need to engage in some very deep and honest soul-searching as to what we want to be as a nation. Many of our freedoms have been severely circumscribed or lost altogether, our economy has been trashed and our international reputation for being "free and fair" has been dragged through a putrid sewer by vicious narrow-minded drug warrior zealots who are ignorant of abstract concepts such as truth, justice and decency. We'll need to make sure that such a catastrophe is never ever repeated. This may mean that public hearings or tribunals will be held where those who have been the instigators and cheerleaders of this abomination will have to answer for their serious crimes against our once prosperous and proud nation. Each day you remain silent, you help to destroy the Constitution, fill the prisons with our children, and empower terrorists and criminals worldwide while wasting hundreds of billions of your own tax dollars. Prohibition bears many strong and startling similarities to Torquemada­'s inquisition­, it's supporters are servants of tyranny and hate. If you're aware of but not enraged by it's shear waste and cruel atrocities then both your heart and soul must surely be dead. Prohibition engendered black market profits are obscenely huge. Remove this and you remove the ability to bribe or threaten any government official or even whole governments. The argument that legalized regulation won't severely cripple organized crime is truly bizarre. Of course, the bad guys won't just disappear, but if you severely diminish their income, you also severely diminish their power. The proceeds from theft, extortion, pirated goods etc. are a drop in the ocean compared to what can be earned by selling prohibited/unregulated drugs in a black market estimated to be worth 400,000 million dollars. Without the lure and power of so much easy capital, it's also very unlikely that new criminal enterprises will ever fill the void left by those you successfully disrupt or entirely eradicate. Millions of fearless North Africans have recently shown us that recognizing oppression also carries the weight of responsibility to act upon and oppose that oppression. Prohibition is a vicious anti-constitutional assault on ALL American citizens by a criminally insane and dysfunctional government, which left unchallenged will end with the destruction of the entire nation. “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” – Abraham Lincoln, November 12, 1864 "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government…" - The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

Mark Entry March 18, 2011 7:34 pm (Pacific time)

Have you searched news for the word 'marijuana' lately? Nationwide, the DEA has joined with state and local law enforcement agencies to focus so much on arresting anyone with marijuana that violent crimes must be rising dramatically due to neglect by the police. Violent criminals must be having a field day. They talk to each other in prison and know the heat is off them right now. Don't you all feel safer that non-violent pot smokers are behind bars while violent rapist and home invasions rise? Proof? Search the term "rape test kits not tested". Thousands of rape test kits all over this nation are going untested due to diverting law enforcement efforts to marijuana arrrests. Our prisons are full of non-violent drug users. But, the drug called alcohol is legal and involved in 60% of all violence. Pot is not deadly, is rarely addictive, and doesn't cause violence. So, why are we driving people to drink? The alcohol and tobacco industries are major contributors to 'A Drug Free America'. Because, the legal drug industries don't want pot as a competitor. But, pot is as common as tobacco and readily available in spite of prohibition. 440,000 Americans die from alcohol and tobacco yearly. But, pot kills no one. Marijuana prohibitionists are making one last major push to put pot back in the bottle. Too late, regulate the sale of pot to adults, or let the criminals continue to run the trade. POt can't be stopped. But, we can sell it like alcohol and tobacco. Plus, a whole lot of people would switch off the deadly drugs and things would be a whole lot more peaceful.

Callie March 18, 2011 3:52 pm (Pacific time)

5 to 10 years we have to wait? Oh thats a long time. Too long. How many people will lose their life or their pets at the hands of the DEA in that amount of time?

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