Feature: Amsterdam, Connecticut? Drug Reformer With Bold Vision Seeks State Office, Radical Change

Like the rest of inner city America, Bridgeport, Connecticut's 130th District has for decades been ground zero in the war on drugs. Mostly black and Latino, like other majority minority neighborhoods across the land, it has suffered the twin ravages of drug abuse and drug prohibition. Now, a former drug-fighting Navy officer turned drug reformer is seeking to change all that with a bold vision and an upstart bid for the state House of Representatives.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/sylvestersalcedo.jpg
Sylvester Salcedo (2nd from right)
In late May, Bridgeport attorney Sylvester Salcedo announced he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination for November's House race in the 130th. Salcedo is best known in drug reform circles for being the first and only former military officer to protest the drug war by sending back his Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal to then President Bill Clinton.

"Narcotics use and abuse is our problem here at home," he wrote at the time in a letter sent to Clinton. "The solutions should be applied here and not in Colombia or elsewhere. To spend this additional amount of money overseas is wasteful and counterproductive."

Fast forward eight years and little has changed. The war on drugs continues apace, drug arrests and drug war prisoners reach new highs every year. The violence associated with drug prohibition continues to plague cities like Bridgeport. And Salcedo has had enough.

"The war on drugs is one of our nation's longest wars, at home and abroad," he said as he announced his candidacy May 29. "It is senseless, wasteful and counterproductive. It is highly discriminatory on a racial and economic basis. I said so on the steps of the US Congress in Washington, DC flanked and supported by Minnesota Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad and California Republican Congressman Tom Campbell in the summer of 2000," he said.

"Eight years later, the conditions are the same, if not worse, especially for the isolated and abandoned residents of ethnic minority enclaves and neighborhoods like the 130th District," Salcedo continued. "I want to win this State Representative seat to be a leader of change. I want to lead the way to peace, understanding and cooperation, not through the politics of fear, and racial and ethnic discord and conflict. This senseless war on the poor and the voiceless must end."

Salcedo is not one for half-measures. He is proposing turning the 130th District into a sort of mini-Amsterdam, a zone of drug tolerance replete with safe injection sites, opiate maintenance facilities, and taxed and regulated marijuana sales. "I'm floating around this idea of the Covenant of the 130th District, which is to declare the district as a zone of tolerance," he said.

"I want to borrow from models like Amsterdam or Frankfort," he elaborated. "I'm not pushing legalization legislation, but acknowledging the fact that the 130th is a high drug trafficking and consumption area, from marijuana to heroin to cocaine. I want to try those approaches here. If you live in the district and are a heroin addict, we would work with you, whether it's a treatment and rehabilitation regime or a maintenance regime. If you select maintenance, you get the level of pharmaceutical grade heroin you need. In either case, you get medical, psychological, and social services, an intake exam, a social worker and a drug counselor to work with you. But this won't be a coercive or punitive program; instead it will be designed to develop the relationship with the addict."

Citing Bridgeport's chronically under-funded schools, libraries, and other services, Salcedo also called for regulated marijuana sales as a revenue raiser. "I want to open up a number of marijuana coffee shops in this district," he said. "They could be city sponsored, or they could be a joint private-public project. If people want to come here and imbibe, we will welcome them, let them pay the market price, and tax their purchases. The profits can go to the city general fund, or, if it's a joint venture, a share to the entrepreneurs," he said. "We will follow the experience of Amsterdam, with the police working collaboratively, so they're not arresting people coming from the coffee shops."

Salcedo's will undoubtedly be an uphill battle against the entrenched Bridgeport Democratic Party political establishment and to convince skeptical voters that more of the drug war same old same old is not the solution. But he has already passed the first hurdle by getting 290 district residents to sign his nominating petitions. Now he has to raise $5,000 by August to show he is a viable candidate and qualify for another $20,000 in primary funding from the state of Connecticut. At least 150 Bridgeport residents must donate to his campaign for him to qualify. (That doesn't mean people from outside Bridgeport or Connecticut cannot donate -- they can.)

He can do it, Salcedo said. "The primaries are eight weeks away, and nobody expected me to even get the required signatures, but I did. And I met every person who signed my nomination papers. I think I can meet this challenge, too."

He's going to need some help, from the drug reform community at large and from Connecticut activists in particular if he is to have a chance. One prominent Connecticut drug reformer, Efficacy founder and 2006 Green Party gubernatorial candidate Cliff Thornton is among the first to step up.

"I'll definitely be going down there and doing a few things for Sylvester," said Thornton. "I have to help the reformer."

One thing he will advise Salcedo to do is put his drug reform message in the background. "We'll try to sharpen his message," Thornton said. "He doesn't have to lead with drug policy. He's already known as the drug reformer, and he won't have to talk about it because people are going to ask him about it.

Another thing Salcedo can do is try to tie drug reform into other issues facing the community, Thornton said. "We're spending somewhere between $600 million and $800 million on prisons in Connecticut every year," he said. "If we took that and put it toward health care, we could take care of everyone in the state. That's the kind of connection we need to be drawing."

It would be a good thing if national drug reform organizations provided more than token support, Thornton said, looking back at his 2006 campaign. "When it came to actually supporting that run, everybody disappeared," he said. "The flagship organizations sent a few bucks here and there, but not enough to make a difference. And that's a shame. We are starting to elect good drug reform politicians, like Roger Goodman in Washington state and Chris Murphy here in Connecticut. Their opponents attack them as soft on drug policy, and they go up in the polls. We can elect people, if we support them," Thornton said.

Salcedo could use the help, he said. "Right now this is basically a one-man campaign, and I have a full-time job."

Still, he said, he may be able to pull off a surprise victory. "This is going to be a low turnout election, no other issues on the ballot here, and the only reason people are likely to go to the ballot box is to vote for me for change or because they're tied to one of the establishment candidates," he said. "In this district in this election, maybe 200 or 300 votes can win it. I'll be beating the bushes and talking face to face with people. I'll do everything I can, and then it's up to the voters.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

thats a first

Its good to hear somebody actually want to legalize period. All you hear now a days is decriminalize even though that is good the best way would be legalization and taxation. I would not mind if the proceeds went to our government to help with research for renewable fuel or to at least help rehabilatate real addicts like crack and heroin users.But I for example have been a responsible cannabis user for going on ten years now and not once have I been addicted to cocaine or any other harder drugs except for one that might oneday take my life... tabacco . Thats what makes me so angy that the government allows drugs that can kill over time like alcohol and tabacco be sold everywhere. Thank God I dont enduldge in drinking but i feel that for people like me who get home from a long days work would just like to relax and smoke one to take the edge off without being afraid of being locked up. Well thanks for giving me hope Mr. Salcedo and if theres anything I can do to help just let me know my email is brownrevolution956@hotmail.com Y QUE DIOS LE VENDIGA

Respectfully , Desiderio Vasquez

p.s.
Power to the Potsmoker

Liberals VS Libertarians

You are right... the libertarian message of ending illegal marijuana prohibition by re-legalizing marijuana without taxation or regulation is usually drowned out by our liberal friends who apparently think everything needs to be taxed & regulated!

The illegality of marijuana prohibition should be the major battle-cry of the drug war... hunting down, identifying, and ridiculing prohibitionists should be our highest priority.

We can all start by stopping the intellectual dishonesty statement: "Drugs and Alcohol"!

Why does the original gateway drug... alcohol... get a pass on the drug classification. Alcohol is a drug... and those that pretend otherwise are ignorant hypocrits.

Alcohol is the re-legalized drug of choice of our european ancestors. Image if the [potato] famine hadn't happened in Ireland but Jamaica instead? What if the German & Scottish immigrants, and their alcohol based cultures, were replaced by cannabis based cultures?

The drug war continues to be a human rights issue that is being violated by the same extreme religious temperance movement that was instumental in prohibiting the drug alcohol.

And don't even get me going on the real 'devils weed' tobacco!

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Taxation and cannabis

I sympathize with part of libertarianism as well as some of liberalism so I thought I could help build da bridge... people talk about taxation because that is how alcohol is dealt with. No sales to kids, relatively heavy taxation and laws against driving while intoxicated. Also, if the non-toking world could be convinced to support legalization to help reduce their tax burden, it might be a way to break through the propaganda and misinformation. Nothing like money (in the pocket of taxpayers) to inspire new thinking

Nothing new about that way of thinking

I've been, and alot of people have been saying for years, that taxable cannabis sold to only 21yr olds or better could be pivotal in helping this country pay down on, and maybe even get us out of the multi-trillion dollar national debt. It only makes since that people should vote for and only elect officials who are against the drug war, because of a new light being shown on the therapeutic value of cannabis and not to mention the recent influx of safe delivery systems like vaporizers, which have reduced the tar ingested from cannabis almost down to nothing. This war on drugs has even kept this country from having a new and viable fuel source as well, in the form of industrial hemp stalk cellulose. It has been proven to be even cleaner and cheaper than corn based "ethanol". Also, industrial hemp would even help with water supplies because hemp simply needs less water to survive than corn. There has to be a change in this country, because this drug war has managed to fail miserably at the same time it's cost billions of tax payer dollars.

Why not?

Let's treat alcohol abuse the way that we treat drug abuse.

Okay, people get high on pot. People also get high on alcohol.

Okay, pot dealers are criminals. In the 1920s, alcohol dealers were criminals.

Pot is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco or coffee.

DO IT!

PROHIBITION

IT'S TIME TO REMOVE ALL THE POLITICIANS THAT PROMOTE PROHIBITION.

HOW MANY MORE LIVES HAVE TO BE NEEDLESSLY DEVASTATED OR LOST?

PROHIBITED DRUGS ARE WAY EASIER FOR KIDS TO GET THAN REGULATED DRUGS!

PROHIBITION NEVER WORKS IT JUST CAUSES CRIME & VIOLENCE.

The USA spends $69 billion a year on the drug war, builds 900 new prison beds and hires 150 more correction officers every two weeks, arrests someone on a drug charge every 17 seconds, jails more people than any nation and has killed over 100,000 citizens in the drug war.

In 1914 when there were NO PROHIBITED DRUGS 1.3% of our population was addicted to drugs, TODAY 1.3% of our population is STILL ADDICTED TO DRUGS BUT THERE’S WAY MORE CRIME AND VIOLENCE BECAUSE OF THE HUGE PROFITS PROHIBITION GENERATES. DRUGS TODAY ARE MORE POTENT, MORE READILY AVAILABLE AND LESS EXPENSIVE THAN THEY WERE IN THE EARLY 70’S WHEN RICHARD NIXON STARTED THE WAR ON DRUGS.

Everyone needs to know about “Jury Nullification”. You can learn more here: http://fija.org If you are called for jury duty and you don’t agree with the law the person is charged with, you have the right to vote NOT GUILTY, NO MATTER WHAT EVIDENCE IS PRODUCED. Jurors implementing this right in ALL NON-VIOLENT drug cases will shut down the ridiculous laws of prohibition.

There’s only been one drug success story in history, tobacco, BY FAR THE MOST DEADLY and one of the MOST ADDICTIVE drugs. Almost half the users quit because of REGULATION, ACCURATE INFORMATION AND MEDICAL TREATMENT. No one went to jail and no one got killed.

DEMAND your Constitutional rights. The right; to freedom of religion, free speech, a free press, to keep and bear arms, to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure, to life, liberty and property, to be protected from having your property taken by the government without due process of law and without just compensation, to confront the witnesses against you, to be protected from excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, to vote and many others have been denied to millions of Americans in the name of the drug war.

TAKE ACTION. JOIN THE EMAIL LIST, WATCH THE VIDEOS:
Internet Explorer: http://jsknow.angelfire.com/home
Other Browsers: http://jsknow.angelfire.com/index.html

Bridgeport conn

Acutally Bridgeport Conn where I have lived for 30 years has one of the lowest crime rates in conn. compared to Hartford and New Haven; my comment is:

to arrest people who have not comitted any crimes is

stooooo- pid.

to arrest people who have commited crimes like car thieves is
smaaaart !

So lets' stop arresting tokers and start arresting car thieves !

amen ?

Amsterdam, Connecticut? Drug Reformer With Bold Vision Seeks Sta

More and more people are running for office with a background in drug reform. Lets get more people out there and support them, especially within the drug reform community. Great work S. Salcedo

good luck

sicntired@mac.com,Vancouver,B.C.Canada Here in Canada we have the Green party backing an end to the drug war.It's up to everyone that thinks this war is wrong headed to support those that want to end it.I signed up the day the leader came out for an end to the drug war.

The above two responses have to be the...

weirdest thing i've ever read in m y life... Not including the plentiful grammar screw-ups, Both posts seem to be written by the same stupid person pretending to be a follower and a leader at the same time.

wow...

lame...
read a book, and smoke some herb... your brain must need a rest or somethin!

bye

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