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Afghan government won't spray poppies

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Canadian Press
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=1e00c9cb-4e8a-4cfc-b72f-9ae140579008&k=41498

Is the Bush Administration Getting Nervous About Afghan Opium Licensing Schemes?

When the European drug policy and defense think-tank the Senlis Council in late 2005 unveiled its proposal to deal with illicit Afghan opium by licensing growers and diverting production to the global legal medicinal market for opioid pain medications, just about nobody thought the idea had a chance of going anywhere. Since then, as opium production there has continued to increase—Afghanistan now accounts for 90% of the global illicit opium supply—and Taliban insurgents have gathered strength, the licensing scheme has picked up support from politicians in Canada, England, and Italy, but still remains a long-shot. This week, as I will report in the Chronicle on Friday, the licensing notion gained new support, as the British Medical Association is suggesting that Afghan opium be used to produce medicinal diamorphine (heroin) for use in the National Health Service. The licensing idea also made it to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post last week, when columnist Anne Applebaum wrote a piece, "Ending an Opium War; Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom, arguing that the US should do in Afghanistan now what it did so successfully in Turkey under President Nixon. Then, faced with an influx of Turkish heroin (the stuff of the infamous French Connection), the US worked with the Turkish government and farmers to regulate poppy production. Now, Turkey is the main supplier of medicinal narcotics to the US. The current US administration, however, is adamantly opposed to any such effort in Afghanistan. Instead, drug war extremists in Washington are pushing the Afghans to make stronger efforts to eradicate the poppy crop and are even trying to push herbicidal eradication down the throat of the Karzai government. That idea has little support in Afghanistan or even among our NATO allies. Both groups fear a sustained attack on the country's economic mainstay will lead to political upheaval and end up benefiting the Taliban, a not unreasonable worry. But it seems like the Bush administration is starting to worry that the licensing scheme is gaining too much ground. Or, at least, it has bestirred itself to attack the notion. In a letter from James O'Gara, the drug czars deputy for supply reduction in today's Washington Post, the administration tried to fight back:
The Wrong Plan for Afghanistan's Opium Anne Applebaum's proposal to foster legal Afghan opium ["Ending an Opium War; Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom," op-ed, Jan. 16] is based on a misdiagnosis of the problem. First, there is no licit demand for Afghanistan's enormous supply of opium, currently more than 90 percent of the world's illicit market and almost double the world's entire licit production requirement. The United Nations reports a current global oversupply of opium-based products from existing licit producers. Pouring vastly more legal opium into the world system would cause prices to plummet, making the illicit trade that much more attractive to farmers. Second, Afghanistan produces opium because some regions remain under attack and lack security, to say nothing of the controls that are a prerequisite for any legal trade in narcotics. In the absence of such institutional controls, the distinction between legal and illicit opium is meaningless. Afghanistan needs peace, a flourishing economy and the rule of law. Each of these conditions is undone by narcotics production. Nowhere in the world do narco-warlords willingly relinquish their stranglehold on poor opium farmers, and nowhere in the world do such farmers become rich. The opium trade must be broken, not fostered, before it undoes the rest of Afghanistan.
O'Gara first claims there is no global need for more opioid pain relievers, citing the International Narcotics Control Board. That claim is debatable. In its proposal, the Senlis Council begged to differ, citing serious undersupplies, especially in the underdeveloped world. Second, O'Gara suggests that opium is being grown in Afghanistan only because of a lack of security and an effective national state. But the US government's insistence on attacking the poppy crop is precisely what contributes greatly to continued insecurity and political conflict within the country. Does he really think an all-out assault on the poppies is going to bring peace and tranquility? Whether the idea of licensing Afghan opium production is a good idea is open for debate. It is certainly as reasonable a response to the problem as heavy-handed repression efforts, and is much less likely to incite peasant resistance and support for the Taliban. But what is really interesting about all this is the fact that the drug czar's office feels a need to attack supporters of the idea. That suggests the idea is getting enough traction to pose a threat to the drug war as usual. We'll be staying tuned to this debate.
Location: 
United States

If You Smoke Pot, An Alien Could Steal Your Girlfriend

That's the central message of this new Above The Influence ad. There's another new one about how smoking pot is the same as putting leeches all over yourself.

Well shucks, it was fun while it lasted. See you all at Marijuana Anonymous.

Location: 
United States

More drug violence expected after 15 extradited to U.S.

Location: 
McAllen, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Monitor (TX)
URL: 
http://www.themonitor.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=17520&Section=Local

Feds Congratulate Themselves For Persecuting Sick People

From the Fresno Bee:

In a ceremony today, the White House drug czar is honoring the state, local and federal officers who took down Modesto's California Healthcare Collective. Officials charge the ostensibly nonprofit collective with fronting for big-time marijuana dealers.

Walters' grandstanding is particularly galling in light of widespread public condemnation of the DEA's recent activity in California. Indeed, raiding dispensaries that openly provide medicine to sick people in accordance with state law is one of the lamest and least helpful things police can possibly do with our tax dollars.

Every problem associated with medical marijuana distribution could be solved if the federal government rescheduled the drug and brought it inside the law where it belongs.

Instead, the Drug Czar and his army of federally-subsidized task forces continue to gorge themselves on confiscated proceeds and negative publicity. Perhaps recognizing the absurdity of it all, they bend over backwards to paint their targets as gangsters and criminals:

"Most health-care providers wear white coats and carry stethoscopes," said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Fresno-based Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. "In this particular case, they wore bulletproof vests [and] carried a gun."

Of course, it's actually the police who are playing doctor at gunpoint. And you can't blame dispensary owners for arming themselves when they have nowhere to turn for protection. The suggestion that these people are dangerous is a joke and should serve to remind us that truly dangerous people are the beneficiaries when police resources are wasted in a fraudulent political war against medical marijuana.

Are you watching this, Dennis Kucinich?


Location: 
United States

Huge News: Dennis Kucinich To Chair Subcommittee Overseeing ONDCP

It ain't Ethan Nadelmann as Drug Czar, but I'll take it.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been named chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, giving him jurisdiction over the Drug Czar's office. Oversight of ONDCP was previously conducted by the non-defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by rabid drug warrior Mark Souder.

In short, the responsibility of overseeing ONDCP has effectively been transferred from Congress' most reckless drug warrior to its most outspoken drug policy reformer.

Kucinich's agenda remains unknown at this point, but it's clear that he sought this particular appointment deliberately. From GovExec.com:

As the [National Security] panel's presumed chairman in the Democratic-led 110th Congress, he had a ready platform to advance his antiwar agenda.

But Kucinich said in a brief interview that he might wield more influence as chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which will have jurisdiction over all domestic issues and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


If Drug Czar John Walters is now wondering what's in store for him, he might begin by reading what Kucinich has to say about the war on drugs:

I have studied the issue for decades and recognize that our "War on Drugs" has failed. In fact, because our War on Drugs drives up the price, it encourages violence. Prohibition simply doesn't work. It only creates thousands and thousands of Al Capones. Prison should be for people who hurt other people, not themselves. We don't jail people for merely drinking. We jail people when they drink and drive or hurt another human.


The supporters of the drug war have only one solution to this debacle -- more money for law enforcement, more people, more power, more prisons -- with no end in sight. Of course, these happy drug warriors who justify their living hunting down drug users come on TV and promise us that they see light at the end of the tunnel. They promised us a drug-free America by 1995, and instead we see new and more exotic drugs constantly being added to the mix.


The shredding of our rights to privacy and property promoted by the Drug War is inconsistent with a free society. Criminalization of private or self-destructive behavior is not acceptable in a free nation.

The racism evident in the Drug War, and the clearly preferential treatment for offenders with connections, undermine our concept of a just society. Draconian prison sentences that dwarf those for violent crimes, like murder and rape, destroy respect for our laws.


It is time for an honest dialogue on this issue. Time to stop the documented lies, half-truths, and propaganda that got us into this mess in the first place. It is time to face the facts.


With due caution, I must say this is a great day for reform. That the man who spoke these words could even be considered for such a position is a tremendously positive sign. Dennis Kucinich is on our side. He showed up at an SSDP awards dinner for starters.

Stay tuned. This is going to be interesting to say the least.


Dennis Kucinich with SSDP staff, 2004
Location: 
United States

Former Narcs Say Drug War is Futile

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Fox News
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,243813,00.html

Newsbrief: White House Announces Dates, Locations for 2007 Regional Student Drug Testing Summits

courtesy NORML News

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will once again sponsor a series of regional summits to encourage middle-school and high-school administrators to enact federally sponsored random student drug testing. The 2007 summits will mark the fourth consecutive year that the White House is funding the symposiums, which are scheduled to take place this winter and spring in Charleston, South Carolina (January 24), Newark, New Jersey (February 27), Honolulu, Hawaii (March 27), and Las Vegas, Nevada (April 24).

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugtestinglab.jpg
drug testing lab
Under newly revised federal guidelines, federal education funds may be provided to public schools for up to four years to pay for the implementation of random drug testing programs for students who participate in competitive extra-curricular activities.

Since 2005, the Education Department has appropriated more than $20 million to various school districts to pay for random drug testing programs. Federal grant funds may not be used to pay for separate drug education and/or prevention curricula, nor may any funds be used to train school staff officials on how to implement drug testing. Only federal investigators are eligible to review data collected by the school programs, which will be evaluated as part of a forthcoming federal assessment of the efficacy of random drug testing to deter illicit student drug use.

A previous evaluation of student drug testing programs conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded, "Drug testing, as practiced in recent years in American secondary schools, does not prevent or inhibit student drug use." Investigators collected data from 894 schools and 94,000 students and found that at every grade level studied -- 8, 10, and 12 -- students reported using illicit drugs at virtually identical rates in schools that drug tested versus those that did not.

Currently, only five percent of schools randomly drug test student athletes, and some two percent of schools test students who participate in extra-curricular activities other than athletics. Both the National Education Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose such student testing programs.

Visit http://www.cmpinc.net/dts/ to register online to attend any of this year's summits. Visit http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3406 to download NORML fact-sheets on random student drug testing.

So You Don't Have To

My favorite blog Drug War Rant frequently reports on my least favorite blog, the ONDCP's Pushing Back, a habit I intend to undertake myself, since Pete can't possibly find time to counter every last kernel of incoherent kookiness to be found there.

Unfortunately, the only way to learn what they're saying is to visit them and risk perpetuating this:

ONDCP would like to thank all of the loyal readers of Pushing Back for helping make this blog a success. Thanks in part to you, we are now averaging over 300,000 hits per month!

Yes, thanks in small part to spite-readers like us and in large part to ONDCP not telling the truth about its web traffic, their blog is a huge success according to them. As Pete Guither explains, their claims are not demonstrably false, but rather meaningless either way:

Note the use of the word "hits." It may be technically true that Pushing Back is getting 300,000 hits per month, if you use server terminology. In that case, every call of the server counts as a hit, so as a single page is loading it could call upon the server dozens or hundreds of times to load images, run scripts, etc. "Hits" may be useful for analyzing the way you organize your site to reduce server overload, but means very little in terms of the number of people who come to read your site.

In other words, ONDCP uses misleading rhetoric to claim that people like reading their misleading rhetoric.

And we've now found ourselves frequently visiting this blog in order to expose its erroneous claims of being popular. It seems a bit silly, but not as silly as ONDCP bragging about their site traffic when anyone can look them up at Technorati.com and see that every single link to their blog is hostile.

The conspicuous absence of friendly or even neutral links to Pushing Back is notable. It shows that reformers are the only ones reading it, but it also shows how many potential drug war supporters aren't interested enough to discuss the issue. It's a powerful example of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson's observation that support for the drug war is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. Across the vast blogosphere, otherwise an epic political battleground, we can't seem to find much opposition.

In the meantime, I'll continue reading the Drug Czar's blog. So you don't have to.

Location: 
United States

OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/opinion/03males.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

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