Drug Prevention

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Plan Mexico: The Right Name for the Wrong Idea

Architects of a new plan to subsidize Mexico's brutal drug war with U.S. tax dollars are trying to avoid the name Plan Mexico. Obviously they don't want to invite the comparison to our disastrous Plan Colombia, even though a few desperate drug warriors are still calling it a success. The refusal to name anything after it might be the closest they'll come to admitting that Plan Colombia is widely – and justly – viewed as an utter failure.

As Pete Guither notes, journalists and bloggers alike have already named the program Plan Mexico. So while the details remain to be announced, the stigma of our previous and continuing failures in this area will inevitably haunt any effort to expand our destructive drug war diplomacy.

Although Plan Mexico will surely prioritize scorched-earth drug war demolition tactics, The New Republic notes the bizarre possibility that some funding will be directed towards drug prevention:

One element of that aid package is likely to be funding for drug-use prevention, according to Luis Astorga, a drug policy expert at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. This is a strange new twist in the complex partnership between the U.S. and Mexico to fight drugs. And the U.S. isn't in much of a position to tell anyone how to prevent drug use.

Damn straight. Gosh, if we knew anything about drug prevention, these bloody wars over who gets to sell drugs to us wouldn’t be such a mind-bending crisis in the first place. The irony is just staggering:

When the U.S. cracked down on domestic meth production early this decade, Mexican cartels adept in trafficking cocaine and marijuana jumped at the chance to supply a new product.


The drug has traveled south, and is now available in every major city.

"Mexico's market is not big, but it has grown, mostly in urban zones," said Jorge Chabat, a crime and security expert at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. "Availability has certainly contributed to consumption now that meth is produced in Mexico."

Let me get this straight. The U.S. banned pseudo-ephedrine-based cold medicines, and domestic meth production declined. Mexican cartels stepped in to fill the void, resulting in increased availability and use of meth in Mexico. Now the U.S. is poised to give drug prevention funding to Mexico due in part to a meth problem that didn’t even exist before we essentially exported our meth manufacturing problem to that country. Wow. Just wow.

At the end of the day, it is and always has been the massive drug consumption of U.S. citizens that fuels violence and instability throughout Mexico, Colombia, and beyond. We could spend every dollar we have bribing foreigners to stop selling us drugs and it wouldn’t make a difference. We could hire every man woman and child in these countries to help stop us from getting high, and they would just laugh all the way to the bank.

Too many American drug users are already sending their paychecks to Mexico. It is sheer idiocy to suggest that we send our tax-dollars there as well.

Location: 
United States

Anti-drug campaign 'makes us more likely to take it'

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Scotsman (UK)
URL: 
http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1239972007

Meth Project founder critical of 'crazy' drug policy

Location: 
Helena, MT
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Great Falls Tribune (MT)
URL: 
http://www.greatfallstribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070720/NEWS01/707200329/1002

Pot, Aliens, and ONDCP

Seth Stevenson at Slate is in love with the new ONDCP ad in which a pot-smoker's girlfriend dumps him for a non-smoking alien:
Grade: A. This is very possibly the most effective, and least offensive, anti-marijuana campaign ever created. I know that ONDCP, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, are cautiously thrilled with it. I expect it will be the model for years to come.

I'm not going to beat Stevenson up over this. He shares my belief that these ads shouldn't be offensive, and I agree that this is obviously tame by ONDCP standards. But what on earth does it mean to say that ONDCP is "cautiously thrilled" with this?

When has ONDCP ever been less than thrilled with their advertisements? They've vigorously defended their media campaign throughout its numerous incarnations, never once finding fault, even as a growing mountain of evidence depicts their public outreach efforts as an undeniable failure. Could it be that they were more candid with Seth Stevenson than the U.S. Congress?

Stevenson's analysis is fair enough, at least insofar as this ad is concerned. But, dude, before you go gushing anymore about truth in advertising at ONDCP, you might wanna check out "Stoners in the Mist."

Location: 
United States

New ONDCP Video Demonstrates Exactly Why Their Ads Don't Work

"Stoners in the Mist" is a fake documentary from AboveTheInfluence.com in which "Dr. Barnard Puck," clad in safari clothes, observes stoners and performs various experiments on them.

This is worth discussing only because it perfectly illustrates the lack of seriousness that still dominates the marijuana debate. I don’t know how anyone could watch this and conclude that the people who made it are a credible source of information about the effects of marijuana.

Among the highlights:


* A practically comatose stoner fails to notice when a tracking collar is placed around his neck

* Unable to move, two stoners sit on the same couch for 72 hours

* A stoned girl forgets her friend's name and has brownies in her hair

* Despite repeated attempts, a stoner is unable to grasp objects tossed to him at close range

* Categorical statements such as "we have learned through our intensive research that both male and female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper hygiene" are made.
 

At the risk of increasing their traffic, you have to watch it to appreciate how far-fetched and derogatory this video really is. It reminded me immediately of D.W. Griffith's racist classic The Birth of a Nation, which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and depicts African Americans as incoherent slobbering rapists.

So yesterday, when an ONDCP staffer called SSDP and basically threatened to increase the childishness of his office's activities, we just laughed because there's really no lower level of discourse available to them. Two weeks ago, I witnessed ONDCP's David Murray indignantly challenge the seriousness of his critics, yet it is Murray himself who lobbies for more funding to produce utterly banal and sophomoric nonsense like "Stoners in the Mist."

So if the Responsible and Serious Youth Advocates at ONDCP can't figure out why they've alienated everyone, let me spell it out: it's because you're having your own made-up conversation about marijuana that no one else can participate in because it is completely fictitious and insane.

No, this is not a video about the effects of marijuana. It is a parting shot from an entrenched clan of spiteful, sniveling spin-doctors who continue to sling mud in desperation even as their puddle dries up.
 

Location: 
United States

ONDCP: We Don't Care What You Dorks on YouTube Think

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about political messages on YouTube.com contains this delightful quote from ONDCP:
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it expects its YouTube messages to be ridiculed, laughed at, remade and spoofed. And they are.

The irony here is that, predictable as it may have been, ONDCP had no clue that this was going to happen. They deliberately generated media coverage of their YouTube page, only to find their videos marred by harsh comments and dismal viewer ratings. ONDCP quickly disabled these options, but the damage was done.

If they had genuinely anticipated this level of hostility from viewers, they would have optimized their page before sending out press releases about it. Because they did not, most ONDCP videos are now permanently stamped with the lowest-possible rating of one star.

This is to say nothing of the countless parodies that are now drowning out ONDCP’s unpopular propaganda. Since YouTube automatically recommends similar videos anytime you watch something, viewers of ONDCP’s materials are unavoidably connected to these abundant counter-messages. It is almost certainly for this reason that ONDCP has not uploaded a single new video since the page was first launched back in September 2006.

In a case like this, the mature decision would be to ignore them. But I find it amusing that even something as perfectly logical as expecting ridicule on YouTube turns out to be a lie when it comes from ONDCP.

Location: 
United States

it isn't balance when opinion runs as fact

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Vancouver Sun (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=fad6bd9a-7c00-47aa-a549-e4e0376603c7

Just Say Know: What You Should Know About Federally-Funded Youth Drug Prevention Programs

The federal government continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on drug prevention programs that make little if any impact on youth drug use. Programs such as D.A.R.E., the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and Random Student Drug Testing stand in sharp contrast to the successful anti-smoking “Truth” campaign, which generally follows the rules of good social marketing. This discussion will explore why federally-funded youth drug prevention programs fail and offer pragmatic alternatives that Congress should consider. Speakers include: Marsha Rosenbaum – Director of the Safety First Project and the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance. From 1977 to 1995, Rosenbaum was the principal investigator on National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded studies of heroin addiction, methadone maintenance treatment, MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine, and drug use during pregnancy. She is the author of “Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.” Kris Krane – Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. SSDP is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing their generation and their society. They have chapters on hundreds of high school and college campuses. Please RSVP to Grant Smith at gsmith@drugpolicy.org or 202-216-0035. Snacks and beverages provided. Space is Limited.
Date: 
Wed, 04/25/2007 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: In Britain, Labor's Decade-Long Drug War a Failure, New Report Finds

With Britain's 10-year UK Drug Strategy up for renewal or replacement next year, a series of reports detailing its flaws have appeared in recent months. Now, we can add one more to the list. This week, a new independent panel on drug policy issued a report saying that a decade of Labor's drug war had failed to curb the social problems and criminality related to drug abuse under prohibition.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/ukparliament.jpg
UK government: failing at drug policy
The report, An Analysis of UK Drug Policy was authored by University of Maryland drug policy analyst Peter Reuter and Alex Stevens of the University of Kent, for the UK Drug Policy Commission. Headed by long-time drug reform proponent Dame Ruth Runciman, the commission describes its mission as "to provide independent and objective analysis of drug policy and find ways to help the public and policy makers better understand the implications and options for future policy."

If the commission's report is any indicator, policy makers can use the help. Labor's strategy of education campaigns, forced drug treatment, some harm reduction measures, and harsher prison sentences has not made an appreciable dent in drug use. Britain has the highest level of dependent drug users in Europe, the report found, and heroin use has skyrocketed from 5,000 people in 1975 to an estimated 280,000 now.

The report estimated the size of the British drug market at more than $10 billion a year and the cost of drug-related crime at more than $25 billion a year. It also found that Britain's drug use rates were among the highest in Europe.

While Reuters and Stevens were highly skeptical of the ability of drug policy to influence drug use, they praised harm reduction measures. "Government policies have only limited impact on rates of drug use itself," they wrote. "However, the UK has introduced evidence-based measures, notably the expansion of treatment and harm reduction, that have reduced the harms that would otherwise have occurred. On the other hand it operates measures, such as classifying drugs to deter use and increasing use of imprisonment, that have little or no support from available research."

The number of people in drug treatment had increased from 85,000 to 181,000 between 1998 and 2005, much of that increase driven by the criminal justice system, the authors noted. But the number of drug war prisoners has also increased by 111% in the past decade, and sentences are nearly a third longer than when Tony Blair took office.

The report's executive analysis section on policy implications is worth quoting at length:

There is little evidence from the UK, or any other country, that drug policy influences either the number of drug users or the share of users who are dependent. There are numerous other cultural and social factors that appear to be more important. It is notable that two European countries that are often used as contrasting examples of tough or liberal drug policies, Sweden and the Netherlands, both have lower rates of overall and problematic drug use than the UK.

Given the international evidence as to the limited ability of drug policy to influence national trends in drug use and drug dependence, it is unreasonable to judge the performance of a country's drug policy by the levels of drug use in that country. Yet that is the indictor to which the media and public instinctively turn. However, this is not to say that drug policy is irrelevant.

The arena where government drug policy needs to focus further effort and where it can make an impact is in reducing the levels of drug-related harms (crime, death and disease and other associated problems) through the expansion of and innovation in treatment and harm reduction services.

We know very little about the effectiveness and impact of most enforcement efforts, whether they are directed at reducing the availability of drugs or at enforcing the law over possession and supply. Imprisoning drug offenders for relatively substantial periods does not appear to represent a cost effective response.

Transparency in resource allocations is urgently needed if the overall and relative balance of supply and demand reduction interventions is to be considered.

The UK invests remarkably little in independent evaluation of the impact of drug policies, especially enforcement. This needs redressing if policy makers are to be able to identify and introduce effective measures in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the Blair government rejected the report's findings. "The British Crime Survey shows that drug use has fallen by 16% since 1998 and drug use among adults has fallen by 21%," a Home Office statement said. "We are determined to build on this progress by continuing to take more drugs off our streets, put more dealers behind bars and make sure young people are informed about the harms drugs cause," he said.

Equally unsurprisingly, the opposition Tories called the report "a shocking indictment" of Blair's drug policy. "After ten years in power this is a shocking indictment of the government's failure and shows that Tony Blair has utterly failed in his pledge to get tough on the 'causes' of crime," said Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis in a press release. "The consequences of this failure are not just that hundreds of thousands of young lives are being ruined -- drugs also fuel much of the gun and knife related violence on our streets today, thus destroying communities."

But the Tories would only offer more of the same, the press release indicated. "Conservatives would take real action to combat this scourge on society. Not only would we increase the amount of residential drug rehab beds and increase the prison capacity so that offenders can settle and complete their drug rehab courses, we would also establish a dedicated UK border police to stop drugs simply flowing in through our porous borders. This force would also act to detect and prosecute those who smuggle drugs into our country."

Danny Kushlick, director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which advocates legalization, had a different solution. "We know from evidence that misuse of drugs is related significantly to social ill-being and social deprivation," he told the Guardian. "You cannot deal with that stuff with education and prevention or through teaching younger and younger children. You deal with it by redistributing wealth and improving wellbeing."

Britain has seen report after report detailing the failures of prohibitionist drug policy in the last two years. Next year, it will have the opportunity to put the lessons learned into practice. When was the last time we had such an overview of drug policy in the United States?

Tougher prison sentences 'have little impact on flow of drugs'

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Guardian (UK)
URL: 
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2060658,00.html

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