Odds and Ends

Still in New York with the group until Tuesday, and on a very tight schedule, but having a great time.

There are some excellent discussions going on in the comments of the past few posts, so be sure to check those out.

Here are some more things to spark conversations (this is an open thread).

bullet image The Saturday interview: Richard Branson

He hopes the commission can help focus a debate on the facts, because the alternative is unsustainable, he says. “In the US, prisons are literally loaded with people who have taken drugs on a few occasions. Mainly black people. It’s very much a racist set-up when it comes to the drug issues in America. It costs society a fortune, and these people, who could be productive members of society, have their lives ruined.”

The situation isn’t much different in the UK, he says, where 80,000 people a year get sentences for drugs. “The commission believes nobody should be sent to prison for taking drugs,” he says. In other countries the state of affairs is worse, with people executed for taking a small amount of dope. Branson has been working to get two women out of jail in Thailand who have, so far, served 27 years for what in other countries would be minor drug offences. He says it’s “incredible” how little the debate has moved on since the 1960s. “It has just got worse and worse and worse.”

bullet image The mother who gave her terminally-ill daughter Ecstasy to ease her suffering

Biologist Marilyn Howell claims giving her 32-year-old daughter Mara the drug ‘took away the pain’ and was ‘the best thing that happened’ at the end of her life.’

bullet image $1 billion for anti-narco programs, and no central database to track it

The Department of State, which received more $1 billion for international counter-narcotics programs last year, doesn’t have a central database to track its anti-drug programs.

Most of State’s $1 billion supports programs in Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is responsible for programs that ran the gamut from eradication of illegal crops, drug interdiction and reducing drug demand.

Why would they bother with a central database? After all, it’s never been about creating effective programs.

bullet image The global drug war and the Nixon connection by Paul Rosenberg at Al Jazeera

On June 2, a report form the prestigious Global Commission on Drug Policy told the world what it already knew: the decades-long war on drugs has been a spectacular failure. [...]

The other side begins with Richard Nixon, who ran for president on “law and order” in 1968. This was largely just code for lumping together his most voiceless political enemies – student demonstrators and “uppity” urban blacks – but it was given a rational veneer as a promise to crack down on street crime – something that presidents had virtually nothing to do with at the time.

Once elected, Nixon cast about for a way to make good on his impossible promise – or at least to look tough fighting against the odds. The war on drugs was the answer he came up with, and ever since it has survived on this strange conjunction of unacknowledged political motives on the one hand, and the impossibility of actual success on the other. Its political utility is grounded in the fact that it’s a war that can never be won. All it can do is keep piling up victims, year after year.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy calls that a “failure”. But Nixon would call it a tremendous success. And Washington is Nixon’s town, now more than ever before.

[Thanks, Tom]

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