Posts Tagged ‘gil kerlikowske’
by Robert Corry, Huffington Post
It is 5:00 a.m. on a cold dark Colorado morning. Twenty-five SWAT team officers, clad in black helmets, body armor, wielding assault weapons, large clear shields, and heavy iron battering rams, surround a quiet residential home, shatter the front door, and throw flash-bang grenades and tear gas inside.
The team of 25 militarized cops stream into the house, screaming obscenities, shattering the terrified childrens’ sleep and jarring the scared parents awake. The SWAT team then literally destroys the home and the furniture within, slashing couches, overturning bookcases, throwing possessions all over the floor, carting the crying children off to Social Services or foster care, and throwing the parents to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them painfully before carting them off to the police station.
The SWAT team then locates its target: a couple dozen three-foot high cannabis plants in a modest indoor basement garden, and a pound or so of dried plant matter, some lights, some fertilizer, and a few books on how to grow marijuana.
This is not an extreme example. This scene literally happens every day in America, a nation that loudly professes that it is a “free” country, but that leads the globe in per capita incarceration of its own people, a rate that exceeds those of human rights leaders such as North Korea, China, and Iran, due mostly to the war on drugs.
And this scene embodies America’s war on marijuana. A government this large, this powerful, this intrusive, this belligerent, is necessary to fight this modern-day prohibition against a simple herb thatapproximately half of the American adult population has consumed at some point in their lives. There are so many reasons this must change:
The war on marijuana costs us money. The direct costs to local, state, and federal governments are staggering and exceed a trillion dollars. Police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, courts, jailers, prison guards, and defense lawyers form a massive prison-industrial complex that distracts limited resources away from our failing economy and other more important priorities. The indirect costs to the economy, though more difficult to quantify, are probably higher in the form of people removed from their families and their jobs, the opportunity costs of distracted police and jammed courts too busy to adjudicate important criminal and civil cases. We also lose out on the benefits of industrial hemp, which has no recreational effect but which could be an extremely useful crop for American farmers and industry.
And all of this money has been wasted — accomplishing, like so many other heavy-handed government programs, the precise opposite result of that which was intended. Even the U.S. government’s drug czar (it is appropriate that this government position is named after an imperial Russian tyrant), Gil Kerlikowski, admits that the 40-year experiment with drug prohibition has been an abject failure.
Decades of drug prohibition has not accomplished a single of its goals. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As our governments at all levels pour more lawyers, guns, and money into this militarized marijuana prohibition, people still obtain it — easily — and supply and demand is totally uninterrupted on a macro scale; one dealer falls, another pops up. Under Einstein’s definition, our government is literally insane.
The war on marijuana is alien to the principles of a free nation founded on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. The negative impact of marijuana prohibition laws far outstrip the negative impact of the substance itself, which is one of the few things on Earth that has no practical lethal dose, it is basically harmless.
Humans in all cultures have used the cannabis plant since the dawn of history for medicinal, spiritual, industrial, and recreational purposes; only in the 20th century did it occur to any government to prohibit it. Thomas Jefferson and other founders grew cannabis on their plantations. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper. Even Genesis 1:29 confirms that God gave man every seed-bearing plant on the Earth. God giveth, government taketh.
The history of American marijuana prohibition and “reefer madness” shows that its practical and legal basis is a house of cards. An outgrowth of alcohol prohibition which arose in roughly the same era,marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks.
For the American government to prohibit the cannabis plant, that government must declare war on its own principles. Such a prohibition then contributes to overall erosion in the general population’s respect for the rule of law, because the aggressive enforcement of this law touches so many people and makes the law itself — not just marijuana laws, but all laws and law enforcement officials — a joke.
The body armor-clad government stormtroopers are necessary to prosecute the war on marijuana. That level of expensive and intrusive force is necessary if cannabis, widely used and widely accepted, is to be prohibited from our private homes and lives. But perhaps the best brief against prohibition is the fact that marijuana is widely available to prisoners in America’s prisons and jails. Prisons and jails are the most tightly regulated, highly government-controlled locations in the world. If the government cannot keep marijuana outside of these places, can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?
The war on marijuana, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates and fuels the criminal underclass, organized crime, and domestic and foreign drug cartels. It is basic Economics 101: where there is a demand, a supply will be created to meet it, period. Human demand for marijuana, like alcohol, has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away. Leading economists like Milton Friedman have long seen the drug war as an economically-bankrupt policy.
If marijuana were legalized and taxed, violent drug cartels would lose the principal source of their income. Marijuana ought to be treated like a more dangerous substance: alcohol, available at the corner liquor store, and taxed and regulated. How many Mexican drug cartels smuggle beer over the border? Ban it, and you would see many. Create a regulated legal market for it, and the drug cartels are not involved.
It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer.
That is because the government has created the black market in marijuana, making it more accessible to children. There is no black market in beer. It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, for adults, but difficult for children. Prohibition increases childrens’ attraction to marijuana; the “forbidden fruit” is always sweeter.
For all of these reasons and many more, Americans have now passed the critical 50 percent threshold in support for legalization of marijuana. (These polls typically understate support, as many Americans are understandably reluctant to admit to using or supporting marijuana to an anonymous telephone surveyor.) Even conservative televangelist Pat Robertson recently acknowledged that marijuana ought to be legal.
It is long past time for politicians at all levels to end this bankrupt policy of Prohibition, and stop breaking down the doors of Americans who only want to possess a harmless plant in the comfort of their own homes.
by Phillip Smith, Drug War Chronicle
The Obama administration this week released its Fiscal Year 2013 National Drug Control Budget, and it wants to spend nearly $26 billion on federal anti-drug programs. Despite all the talk about the staggering federal debt problem and current budget deficits, the administration found nothing to cut here. Instead, the proposed budget increases federal anti-drug funding by 1.6% over fiscal year 2012.
The proposed budget is remarkable for how closely it hews to previous years, especially in regard to the allocation of resources for demand reduction (treatment and prevention) versus those for supply reduction (domestic and international law enforcement and interdiction). The roughly 40:60 ratio that has been in place for years has shifted, but only incrementally. The 2013 budget allocates 41.2% for treatment and prevention and 58.2% for law enforcement.
“This is very much the same drug budget we’ve been seeing for years,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The Obama drug budget is the Bush drug budget, which was the Clinton drug budget. Little has changed.”
“It’s really just more of the same,” said Sean Dunagan, a former DEA intelligence analyst whose last assignment in northeastern Mexico between 2008 and 2010, a when prohibition-related violence there was soaring, helped change his perspective. Dunagan quit the DEA and is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
“There are very minor adjustments in how the drug spending is allocated and bit more money for treatment, but there’s a significant increase in interdiction, as well as a $61 million increase for domestic law enforcement,” Dunagan noted. “They’re trying to argue that they’re abandoning the drug war and shifting the focus, but the numbers don’t really back that up.”
The proposed budget also demonstrates the breadth of the federal drug spending largesse among the bureaucratic fiefdoms in Washington. Departments that catch a ride on the drug war gravy train include Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, and Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the federal judiciary, District of Columbia courts, the Small Business Administration, and, of course, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP — the drug czar’s office).
“It’s just the same old programs being funded through the same old stove-pipes,” said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “In a way, it’s ironic. When Congress passed the legislation creating the drug czar’s office in 1988, the idea was for the drug czar to look at all the federal anti-drug spending and come in and say he was going to take the funds from one program and shift them to a more effective program. I think many in Congress hoped he would shift resources from law enforcement to treatment and prevention because there was evidence that those sorts of programs were more effective and a better use of resources. That didn’t happen,” he said.
“The people who run the bureaucratic fiefdoms at Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State and Treasury have outmuscled the drug czar, and now the drug czar’s budget announcements are reduced to public relations and spin,” Sterling continued. “They take some $15 or $20 million program and bullet-point it as significant, but that’s almost nothing when it comes to federal drug dollars.”
The Justice Department alone would get $7.85 billion, up almost $400 million from FY 2012, with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the DEA among those Justice components seeing funding increases. BOP spending would increase by about 8%, while the DEA budget would increase from $2.35 million to $2.38 million. On the other hand, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which lost its congressional patron with the death of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), has been zeroed out.
“The hundreds of millions of dollar increases in funding requested for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is particularly outrageous,” said Sterling. “There are too many people doing too much time they don’t need to be doing. Obama has the power to save hundreds of millions of dollars by commuting excessively long sentences. He could reduce the deficit and increase the amount of justice in America.
“He could tell the BOP he was ordering a cap on the federal prison population that now has a sentenced population of 198,000, Sterling continued, on a roll. “He could order them that whenever a new prisoner arrives, they have to send him the names of prisoners who may have served enough time for their crimes for him to consider for immediate release from prison. He could ask all the federal judges to send him the names of people they have sentenced to longer terms than they think are just. If he had the heart to reach out to those prisoners who are serving decades for minor roles and their suffering families, if he had the brains to put in place the means to achieve those cost-serving measures, and if he had the guts to actually use the constitutional power he has to do it, that would be great.”
“That increase in incarceration spending really jumps out at me, too” said Dunagan. “To make their claim that they’re not going to be locking up small-time dealers and users is pretty disingenuous.”
Pentagon spending on interdiction and other anti-drug activities would decline somewhat, with the budget proposing $1.725 billion for 2013, a decline of $200 million from the 2012 budget. But interdiction spending goes up elsewhere, as Dunagan noted.
And State Department drug spending would take a hit. Spending would decline by just more than $100 million to $687 million, but most of that decrease would come from reduced funding for alternative development assistance, while State’s other drug-related program, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (“drugs and thugs”), would see only a $6 million decrease.
While funding for prevention and treatment would increase by 4.6% under the proposed budget, some treatment and grant programs are seeing cuts, while criminal justice system-based approaches are getting more money.
“I’m concerned that the budget seems to be emphasizing drug courts and criminal justice-based drug treatment,” said Piper. “They’re cutting SAMSHA, which funds a lot of treatment, but increasing spending for prison-based treatment.”
The $364 million earmarked for SAMSHA’s treatment programs is a $61 million reduction from FY 2012, while drug courts saw a $17 million increase to $52 million and BOP drug treatment programs saw a $16 million increase to $109 million.
The new drug budget also resurrects the drug czar’s widely criticized National Youth Media Campaign, dropped last year when Congress failed to fund it.
“I’m also disappointed that they put back in funding for the drug czar’s failed youth media campaign, which Congress eliminated last year,” said Piper. “It’s only $20 million, and you can hardly do a national media campaign with that, but still.”
This is only the administration’s budget proposal, of course, and Congress will have plenty of opportunities to try to cut (or increase) portions of it. Still, the proposed budget is a window on the thinking of administration that has talked the talk about how we are no longer in a war on drugs, but has taken only stumblingly tiny steps toward walking the walk. And drug reformers aren’t liking what they’re seeing.
“LEAP thinks this is misguided,” said Dunagan. “The only thing that’s different is the rhetoric used to spin it, and even that is a sort of tacit acknowledgment by the administration that people don’t really like the drug war, but substantively, there’s very little different from the past.”
“Between the drug budgets and his war on medical marijuana, we’re very disappointed in Obama,” said DPA’s Piper.
“We should be disappointed in the Obama administration,” said Sterling. “There was supposed to be change. This was the University of Chicago law professor, the Harvard-trained lawyer, who was going to bring in his own people and make real change. I’m very disappointed in his drug policies and criminal justice policies. My disappointment with his policy failures don’t have anything to do with the economic crisis or the geostrategic situation he inherited.