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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed an estimated 23,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 5,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Monday, June 28
In Sinaloa, a well-known musician was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Sergio Vega, 40, was driving to a concert when he was intercepted and murdered just hours after having gone on the radio to deny reports that he had been killed. Vega was known to sing "narco-corridos" or drug ballads. Several other musicians of this genre have been killed in Mexico in recent years. Some are known to take commissions from drug-traffickers to write songs about them, or otherwise be involved in the drug business.

In Tamaulipas, a candidate for governor and four others were killed after his motorcade was ambushed. reported that the attackers used clone military vehicles and were dressed in fake Marine uniforms. Rodolfo Torre Cantu, 46, was the PRI candidate and a frontrunner. He was later replaced by his brother. The Torre killing is the most significant political assassination since the 1994 murder of presidential candidate Luis Colosio. There has been significant violence in Tamaulipas in recent months as the Zetas fight their former employers, the Gulf Cartel.

Thursday, July 1

In a remote area near Nogales, Sonora 21 people were killed during a battle between rival groups of drug-traffickers. The incident began after a convoy of 50 vehicles was ambushed by rivals near the village of Tubutuma. One of the groups was apparently allied to Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, while the other was comprised of a mixed force of gunmen loyal to Hector Beltran-Leyva and the Zetas Organization. It is unclear who ambushed whom, but has reported that the Sinaloa Cartel gunmen took the brunt of the casualties.

In Nogales proper, two burnt heads were found hanging on a fence near just outside a cemetery. A handwritten note from one gang threatening another was left at the scene, but it was unclear if this is related to the Tubutuma ambush.

Friday, July 2

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexican officials announced the capture of a key suspect in the March murder of a US consulate employee, her husband, and a third-Mexican national. The suspect, Jesus Ernesto Chavez, is reported to be a senior leader in the Aztecas gang, which provides enforcers for the Juarez Cartel. He has since claimed that he ordered the killing of the consulate employee because she provided visas to rivals. However, US authorities have disputed this claim, saying there are no indications that the killings were due to the employee's job, and that she did not even work in the section which provided visas.

Saturday, July 3

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 15 people were killed in incidents across the city. In one shooting, a 90-year old man was killed by a stray bullet as he stood near a house which was attacked by a group of armed men. Three others (apparently the targets) were also killed. In another incident, four people were killed at a truck repair company's offices.

Tuesday, July 6

In Sinaloa, three decapitated heads were found on the hood of a car near the town of Angostura. The bodies were found inside the car.

In Tamaulipas, police arrested a bodyguard who worked for the governor on allegations that he also worked for a drug cartel. The guard, Ismael Ortega Galicia, has been named by the US Treasury department as being a part of either the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel.

Thursday, July 8

In Los Mochis, Sinaloa, armed men stormed a police facility and took back several vehicles which had been confiscated by the authorities in recent operations. At least 10 gunmen took part in the raid, including some who drove a multi-level car-carrier to take the vehicles away. Hours earlier, gunmen in the area also raided a municipal police facility and rescued three men who were being detained there.

Total Body Count Since Last Update: 520

Total Body Count for the Year: 5,971

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Will the Marijuana Vote Help the Democrats in November?

That's the question everyone's asking this week thanks to this piece from Joshua Green at The Atlantic. The idea is that putting marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot could bring greater numbers of young, left-leaning voters out to the polls in November. With marijuana initiatives up for a vote in six states this year, we'll have an interesting opportunity to evaluate how other campaigns are impacted by the pot vote.

Whether the theory amounts to much is hard to predict and will be difficult to measure even after the polls close in November. But the fact that we're even talking about this is significant. Our political culture is fascinated with the idea that niche demographics can be mobilized in a cynical effort to shape the balance of power in Washington. Karl Rove's successful use of gay marriage bans to bring out conservative voters in 2004 is still widely regarded as an ingenious ploy that may have clinched the election for Bush.

The mere notion that state-level marijuana reform efforts can impact national politics is a healthy dose of leverage and legitimacy for our movement. When political pundits begin speculating about our ability to bring out voters, that sends a message to politicians in a language they understand. For decades, the Democratic Party has remained shamefully silent on marijuana policy -- despite overwhelming support for reform within its base – all because party leaders persist in clinging foolishly to the 1980's mentality that any departure from the "tough on drugs" doctrine is political suicide. What now?

Will the Democrats continue defending the arrest of their own supporters, even when doing so threatens to compromise their candidates in close races? Will the Republicans make a show of fighting back against legalization, even when doing so threatens to alienate the party's growing libertarian wing? What happens next is anyone's guess, but it's becoming clear that the surging marijuana legalization debate is pinching political nerves and creating opportunities for anyone clever enough to capitalize on it.

Gary Johnson Talks Marijuana Legalization on the Colbert Report

I keep hearing rumors that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is going to run for President. And if his campaign sounds anything like last night's Colbert appearance, the other republican candidates better start practicing their anti-pot propaganda:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cGary Johnsonwww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
He should turn this into a campaign ad. If Johnson is able to pick up where Ron Paul left off, while picking up some new folks as well, we could see a heated and potentially consequential drug policy debate happen in the republican primaries. The possibility of a Johnson candidacy is huge for a few reasons:

1. He's a badass who came out for legalization while in office many years ago and has significant comfort and experience debating drug policy.
2. He's extremely popular with libertarians, who can use their massive web presence to fund and promote him.
3. The media's recent fascination with marijuana legalization will bring more attention to his candidacy.
4. There's a general sense that the likely republican candidates all suck horribly, thereby creating more room for Johnson to shine.
5. There won't be an Obama/Clinton war eating up half the press coverage, so the republican primaries will get twice the exposure we saw in '08.

Of course, for a variety of legal and practical reasons, we don't endorse candidates. And he's not even officially running yet. I'm just saying this promises to be an awesome situation that I'm sure we'll be talking about a great deal in the future. The fact that Johnson is already preaching legalization on the Colbert Report -- before even declaring his candidacy -- is a great sign in terms of the kind of press he can get and the kind of things he's likely to say.

(This blog post was published by'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.)

Feature: NORML Annual Conference Meets in Atmosphere of Hope, Determination, and Exhilaration

Riding a wave of enthusiasm about increasing prospects for marijuana law reform, hundreds of people poured into the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Francisco last Thursday for the 38th annual national conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). By the time it ended with a Saturday night NORML benefit, the conference had left most attendees even more energized than when they arrived.

Gathering under the slogan "Yes, We Cannabis" and sensing a fresh breeze blowing since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, conference organizers, speakers, and attendees spent three days in sessions devoted to medical marijuana issues, the prospects for legalization in California (and beyond), the change in public attitudes around marijuana, what parents should tell kids about pot, and much, much more.

The conference was California-centric, but understandably so. Not only was a California city the host for the conference, the Golden State's constantly mutating medical marijuana industry is creating an omnipresent and accessible distribution system, and California is now the home of four competing marijuana legalization initiative campaigns and a similar effort in the state legislature.

In between (and sometimes during) sessions, the pungent odor of pot smoke hung in the air over the Hyatt's outdoor patio as patients medicated and non-patients just plain got high. Hippie attire abounded, but in contrast to the stoner stereotypes, there were plenty of people in suits and ties toking away, too.

At least three newsworthy items came out of the conference:

  • At a Saturday press conference, Oaksterdam University head Richard Lee, the leading proponent of the legalization initiative most likely to actually make the November 2010 ballot -- because it has Lee's financial backing -- announced the formal beginning of signature gathering for the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act, which would allow California cities and counties the local option to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and a 25-square foot garden. Accompanied by former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, "Marijuana Is Safer" author Mason Tvert, and fellow initiative proponent Jeff Jones, Lee also announced the measure's endorsement by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who is running for mayor of Oakland.
  • State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), author of Assembly Bill 390, which would legalize the possession, growing, and sale of marijuana for people 21 or over, announced Friday that he will hold an informational hearing on his bill. The date is tentatively set for October 28 at the capitol in Sacramento. The current political climate has created a "perfect storm" for marijuana law reform, he said. "It's certainly connected to California's economy, which is in the toilet," he added.
  • Oakland City Council member and medical marijuana supporter Rebecca Kaplan (D) announced Saturday that the city is preparing to issue permits for medical marijuana growing and processing operations and for medical marijuana edibles production. The city already has issued permits to four dispensaries, and voters there this summer approved a dispensary-led initiative to add a special medical marijuana tax on them. "We gave permits for a federal felony for the dispensaries, and they didn't bust them -- even under Bush," she said. "We protected them." And now, Oakland is set to expand those protections to other sectors of the industry.

"There is no doubt that today, Sept. 25, 2009, is the moment of genuine zeitgeist to decriminalizing marijuana in America," said NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre as the conference opened. "This conference represents that we are at that tipping point."

But where the movement goes from here was open to heated and healthy debate. Thursday's sessions, which were devoted primarily to the intricacies of medical marijuana dispensing in California, saw detailed discussion of the minutiae of defining collectives and co-ops and operating within state law and the state attorney general's guidelines, but they also saw calls from some leading voices warning about the medicalization of marijuana.

Dr. Frank Lucido, a leading medical marijuana advocate, while lauding the work of the medical marijuana movement, said the weed should really be treated like an over-the-counter herbal supplement. "This should be out of the hands of doctors and in the hands of herbalists," he argued.

Similarly, Steven DeAngelo of the Harborside Health Center, an Oakland dispensary, pointed out that California's medical marijuana distribution system is creating a situation where "cannabis consumption is part of the mainstream." In a speech delivered at the conference, he argued that effective medical marijuana laws are paving the way for a day where medical recommendations are not required to obtain cannabis legally. "Most over-the-counter drugs are far more harmful than marijuana, but there are no restrictions on them," he said. "Let's not waste medical resources on something that doesn't require them."

But the most heated debates were around what is the best path toward outright legalization in California. With several initiatives and an assembly bill all in play, opinion was deeply divided on whether to wait for the legislative process to work its way, to support the Oaksterdam initiative -- which was almost universally considered the most conservative of the initiatives, but which also has the best chance of making the ballot -- or to support one of the competing initiatives.

Joe Rogosin, one of three Northern California defense attorneys who authored the California Cannabis Initiative, admitted that his initiative lacked the deep pockets of the Oaksterdam initiative, but argued that it was still superior to the Oakland effort. It repeals all state laws forbidding people 21 and over from possessing, growing, or selling marijuana.

"We don't want people to go to jail for cannabis," Rogosin said. "Unlike Richard's, our initiative actually legalizes cannabis."

While contending camps were fighting over who had the best initiative, other movement members were warning that none of them were likely to pass. Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia said that his group would not be devoting substantial resources to the initiatives and would not formally endorse them, but would render what low-budget aid it could if one of them actually makes the ballot.

California NORML head Dale Gieringer was blunt in his assessment of the measures' chances. "I don't expect any of them to pass," he said flatly.

As always, California pot politics is in turmoil, and while circular firing squads are not quite forming, the movement is in danger of shooting itself in the foot if it fails to get behind an initiative that makes the ballot -- or if it does get behind an initiative and that initiative loses badly at the ballot box.

There was, of course, much more going on at the NORML conference. Check out the NORML web site for updates with conference content. And keep an eye on California, because marijuana reform is one hot topic there now.

The Manhattan DA’s Race: The Princess of Darkness vs. Two Former Coke-Snorting Assistant DAs

Former Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder has made her career as a “tough on crime” prosecutor and “hang ‘em high” judge, reveling in the moniker "The Princess of Darkness." For years on the bench, she routinely sentenced low-level drug offenders to harsh Rockefeller drug law sentences without batting an eye. Now, in a tight race for Manhattan District Attorney against former Assistant DAs and self-admitted former cocaine users (more on that below) Richard Aborn and Cyrus Vance, Jr., in next Tuesday’s election, Snyder seems to be changing her tune. Citing her “progressive” vision, Snyder says : "For more than 20 years on the bench, I have supported alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, first-time offenders by promoting programs that provide drug treatment, education, and job training. The most important work I did as a judge was finding young people who were not yet locked into the cycle of incarceration and violent crime, and working with all parties to find effective and appropriate sentencing that avoided incarceration and led to rehabilitation." Some Rockefeller law victims, though, aren’t buying what Snyder is peddling. Writing in the Huffington Post, former Rockefeller law prisoner Tony Papa blasted Snyder for sentencing countless low-level drug offenders as "kingpins," including Jose Garcia, who died in a prison cell at age 69, serving a life sentence under the Rockefeller laws. "Nowadays there is a new and improved Leslie Crocker Snyder," wrote Papa. "She is running for New York City District Attorney and, remarkably, now supports Rockefeller Drug Law reform. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this. She sounded nothing like the old "Princess of Darkness." Do I think Snyder really supports drug law reform? No, I don't. She knows that she needs the black and Latino vote. And she knows that public opinion has shifted, as the wastefulness and ineffectiveness of harsh sentences for drug law violations has been brought to light over the past decade. I guess running for a political office has a way of changing a person's thinking." Here’s another Rockefeller law victim who isn’t buying either: In a debate last week, Snyder admitted smoking pot, but both Aborn and Vance trumped that by admitting they had snorted cocaine as young men. Of course, both men did the mandatory ritual negation of their acts, with Aborn calling his coke-snorting “an error” and Vance saying his message to young people was that “drug use is something to be avoided.” Aborn sounds pretty progressive on drug policy reform: "It's time to stop ruining young people's lives because of a single mistake," he says on his web site. "It's time to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws and replace them with a sensible policy grounded in public health and common sense. Drug kingpins deserve prison. First and second-time non-violent offenders deserve an opportunity to rebuild their lives. And the families of offenders unfairly caught up in the draconian Rockefeller laws deserve to be reunited." And so does Cy Vance: "In April, Governor Paterson signed into law significant reforms to New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Drug laws,” he says on his web site. “As a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and member of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform which provided the blueprint for these overdue changes, I welcome the progress that has been made on this important issue. During the more than two decades I have been involved in sentencing issues, I have always been an advocate for moving toward a treatment model that protects public safety through rehabilitation where possible as opposed to a punitive model based on incarceration….As District Attorney, I will continue to work with the Governor and State Legislature to ensure that our drug laws include statewide treatment options and re-entry programs that break the cycle of crime by changing behavior and strengthening families." But neither Alford nor Vance will come out and say that people should not be prosecuted for drug use or simple possession, like what they did in their youths. Maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they think they should have been caught and punished for snorting a line or two. Maybe they think they should have been sent to drug treatment. But somehow, I doubt that. I think it’s more likely that just don’t think it would be politically expedient to say that absent harm to others, drug use should not be the state’s business. And that’s too bad. I don’t live in Manhattan, so I don’t get to vote on Tuesday. I wouldn’t presume to tell New Yorkers how to vote, and I’m not sure which candidate I would vote for. But I know which one I wouldn’t vote for. Got that, Princess? (This article was published by'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.)
New York City, NY
United States

Marijuana: California Gubernatorial Candidates Not High on Legalization

With three marijuana legalization initiatives filed so far (another one was filed last week) and a marijuana legalization bill pending in Sacramento, California is the epicenter of the ever-louder national debate about freeing the weed. But despite all the noise, despite siren calls from proponents that legalization could earn the state billions in taxable revenues, despite recent polling showing a majority of Californians supporting legalization, not one of the major party candidates in the race to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is currently willing to go on record supporting it.
California State Capitol, Sacramento
On Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle asked the leading candidates where they stood on marijuana legalization, a move that would once again cement California's vanguard status on liberalizing repressive marijuana laws. In 1975, then Gov. Jerry Brown (now attorney general and candidate for the Democratic Party nomination) signed one of the country's first marijuana decriminalization bills. Thirteen years ago, California again led the way, this time with the nation's first successful statewide medical marijuana initiative.

But Brown is singing a different tune these days, and when it comes to the current crop of gubernatorial candidates, he's just part of a one-note chorus.

"If the whole society starts getting stoned, we're going to be even less competitive. And we're going to have more broken families and more angry husbands and wives," said Brown. "As far as telling everybody to -- what did Timothy Leary say, 'Tune in, turn on, and drop out'? - that will not be the recommendation of the attorney general."

Republican candidate Tom Campbell, a former US congressman who has been harshly critical of the war on drugs in the past, disappointingly had also changed his tune when it came to marijuana legalization. He opposes it because law enforcement sources told him legalization could benefit Mexican drug cartels, which control both marijuana and methamphetamine imports, he said. "If you legalize the one, you run the risk of creating a distribution mechanism for the other," he reasoned.

Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, another powerful Republican contender, flat out opposes legalizing pot. "I am absolutely against legalizing marijuana for any reason. We have enough challenges in our society without heading down the path of drug legalization," she said.

The third major Republican contender, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, stands opposed, too, his spokesman said. "The idea of legalizing drugs is one more bad idea from a bygone era," said Jarrod Agen. "Nor can California smoke its way out of the structural budget deficit. Only those who are smoking something think tax increases will lead to economic growth," he added.

The only contender whose opposition to legalization appears even slightly mushy is San Francisco's Democratic Mayor Gavin Newsom. Newsom is willing to call the drug war "an abject failure" that consumes "precious, limited, public safety dollars" by treating nonviolent drug offenders like violent felons. But when pressed directly on the issue of marijuana legalization, Gavin spokesman Nathan Ballard would say only that Newsom doesn't think it's a "responsible way to balance the state's budget."

Well, that leaves all the major contenders competing for the 44% of California voters who don't want to see marijuana legalized. One could be forgiven for thinking, however, that someone is eventually going to realize that he will gain more votes than he loses by courting the 56% who do want it legalized.

(This article was published by'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.)

In the Future, Opposing Legalization Will be Political Suicide

Check out this sweet attack ad Pete Guither came up with:

It's time for a change from the failed policies of Senator Incumbent. He voted 24 times in favor of drug laws that increase the profits for black-market criminals -- from the gangs that roam the streets of our town to the drug cartels causing death and destruction in Mexico.

Senator Incumbent is actually opposed to setting age limits for drugs like marijuana -- even cocaine or heroin! He actually prefers that criminals decide at what age kids can buy drugs.

Senator Incumbent refuses to even discuss policy options that have been proven to reduce violence. What is he afraid of? Does he have a reason to keep drug profits high?

It's time for a change. Vote Challenger for Senate. For smart drug regulation that reduces violence -- protecting children, families, and our community. [DrugWarRant]

If we haven't already reached a point where this kind of thing could work, I think we'll be there soon. I've pitched some of my better-funded colleagues in drug policy reform on exactly this type of concept and it's something I think we'll be seeing before long.

The key is to drop a drug reform attack ad in the right race at the right time. We'd probably stick to an issue like medical marijuana, where the polling is so strongly in favor of reform. Even if the ad doesn’t do the trick by itself, it becomes part of the narrative of how a seemingly invincible incumbent got slaughtered. Visibly injuring a big name politician for opposing reform would be game-changing.

Canada: BC Local Elections Bring Another Drug Reform Mayor to Vancouver, A Drug Reform Mayor Back to Grand Forks, and a Drug Reformer to Victoria's City Council

Municipal elections in British Columbia Saturday saw Vancouver get another in a string of pro-drug reform mayors, while a marijuana reformer was returned to the mayor's office in Grand Forks in the interior, and another prominent reform advocate was elected to the city council in Victoria.

In Vancouver, the civic electoral coalition Vision Vancouver succeeded in placing its candidate, Gregor Robertson in the mayor's seat as well as sweeping eight of 11 council seats. Robertson and Vision Vancouver are strong supporters of the city's pioneering Four Pillars drug policy.
Philippe Lucas (from
As Vision Vancouver notes in its platform, it will: "Focus on the Four Pillars to deal with drugs in our communities. Prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement are the most effective tools to make our communities safer. This includes support for InSite, a focus on access to treatment, and expanding prevention education programs."

Meanwhile, in the small interior border town of Grand Forks (pop. 5,000), former mayor and leader in Marc Emery's BC Marijuana Party Bryan Taylor was reelected. Taylor came to drug reform initially around industrial hemp but soon emerged as a leading BC Marijuana Party campaigner in the 2001 elections. He is barred from entering the US, which he can see from his hillside home outside Grand Forks, originally because he was arrested for hemp cultivation ("drug trafficking," in official US-speak). But even after the Canadian government dropped charges against him, US border control authorities continue to deny him entry, accusing him of "fraud and misrepresentation" if he fails to admit he smokes marijuana and deeming him ineligible to enter the country if he does admit it.

And on Vancouver Island, one of the Canadian drug reformers most familiar to his American counterparts, Philippe Lucas, won a seat on the Victoria city council running as a Green Party candidate. Lucas will be joined by Mayor-elect Dean Fortin, who also supports harm reduction and has vowed to find a permanent location for the city's needle exchange program.

In a Victoria radio interview after the election, Fortin said Lucas "is going to challenge the council a lot" and "will be pushing the harm reduction model."

That's no surprise. In addition to running the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, Lucas also authored the BC Green Party drug policy and substance abuse platform planks, which include calls for a legal, regulated market in marijuana. The soft-spoken but keenly focused Lucas will no doubt be a strong force for reform in Victoria.

All in all, a good day for drug reform and its advocates in British Columbia. It looks like BC will retain its position in the vanguard of drug reform in the Western hemisphere.

Telemarketers Refuse to Make "Soft on Crime" Attacks Against Obama

Further evidence that "soft on crime" attacks are becoming politically toxic:

Some three dozen workers at a telemarketing call center in Indiana walked off the job rather than read an incendiary McCain campaign script attacking Barack Obama, according to two workers at the center and one of their parents.

Nina Williams, a stay-at-home mom in Lake County, Indiana, tells us that her daughter recently called her from her job at the center, upset that she had been asked to read a script attacking Obama for being "dangerously weak on crime," "coddling criminals," and for voting against "protecting children from danger."
The daughter, who wanted her name withheld fearing retribution from her employer, confirmed the story to us. "It was like at least 40 people," the daughter said. "People thought the script was nasty and they didn't wanna read it." [Talking Points Memo]
TPM reports that the call script was drawn from this robocall used in other states:

Hello, I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC, because Democrats are dangerously weak on crime. Barack Obama has voted against tougher penalties for street gangs, drug-related crimes, and protecting children from danger. Barack Obama and his liberal allies have a disturbing history of coddling criminals. so we can't trust their judgment to keep our families safe. This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee and McCain-Palin 2008 at 866 558-5591. Thank you, bye

Of all the ferocious bile that gets strewn about in a presidential election, it strikes me as quite remarkable that it was a crime-themed attack which finally broke the will of these callers. Telemarketing is a notoriously unscrupulous profession (no offense) and one would assume that nothing short of a visceral discomfort with the content would produce this kind of open revolt.

When telemarketers sacrifice pay during an economic crisis rather than read an angry "soft on crime" attack script, it really speaks volumes about the rapid descent of crime-themed political posturing. No one wants to here that crap anymore. The limitations of our criminal justice system have become horribly evident and it's growing more difficult to sell the idea that politicians who advocate reform are somehow detached from the realities of the crime issue. Accusing one's opponent of protecting criminals and endangering children just won't fly. Our politics are changing in subtle, yet significant ways. Some of the greatest obstacles on the path to reform may soon be behind us.

(This article was published by'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.)

Voter Guide from Drug Policy Alliance


Election 2008

Dear friends,

In less than two weeks I will walk into a polling booth and vote my conscience. I’m one of the lucky ones.

On Election Day (November 4th), an estimated 5.3 million Americans will be barred from voting because of a felony conviction (in many cases for a simple drug law violation). I’ll be voting on their behalf.  And on behalf of the thousands of Americans, like my Uncle Tommy, who died last year because the government blocks access to sterile syringes. And for all the people who died from a drug overdose because their friends were too afraid of being arrested to call 911 for help. And for the 775,000 Americans who were arrested last year for nothing more than marijuana possession.

Where does your member of Congress stand on these issues? Check out our new voter guide to find out.

If there could be a ballot question that asked, “Should we end the war on drugs?” I would vote yes. I’m fed up with the mass incarceration of my fellow citizens, the reckless drug raids that leave innocent people dead, the rampant racial disparities, the wasted tax dollars, and the demonization of good people. There won’t be such a question on the November 4th ballot, although some ballots will have drug policy reform measures on them. And there will be the names of a lot of candidates seeking our vote. Some of the candidates support punitive drug policies; many others advocate common sense and reform.

I can’t tell you where every candidate in your area stands on drug policy reform, but I can tell you where your Representative in Congress stands on marijuana, syringe exchange, drug treatment, drug war funding and other issues.

It’s all in our 2008 Congressional Voter Guide. I hope you find it useful and interesting. You can find out your state’s election rules, registration information and voting process here.

If, like me, you’re one of the lucky ones and have a vote to cast, then stand up and vote on November 4th. If you’re barred from voting, make sure your friends and family vote. Let’s bring this drug war crashing down.


Bill Piper
Director of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network

P.S. If you have friends or family members living in California, tell them to vote YES on Proposition 5, the biggest U.S. prison and sentencing reform since the repeal of alcohol Prohibition 75 years ago! Learn more at

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