Drug war idiocy: 40 years of Operation Intercept

Forty years ago today, and 5 years before he resigned in disgrace, President Richard Nixon launched Operation Intercept. The operation, planned in part by future Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, involved the intensification of searches at border crossing points from Mexico. The goals were stopping the smuggling of marijuana into the USA and reducing drug distribution channels in Mexico.

  • Four decades later, a half dozen powerful criminal cartels challenge even the Mexican government. They employ armies of paramilitary hit men and cause great carnage in Mexico. It is estimated that over half the financing of the powerful and violent cartels is from smuggling marijuana into the USA. The removal of this cartel gravy train would be but one of the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition.

In 1968, 80,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana possession, only 10% of last year’s total. In the intervening 40 years, nearly 20 million Americans have been arrested for cannabis “crimes”. America’s prison population has exploded to the world’s most bloated, with 2.3 million prisoners.

Cannabis is misplaced on Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act in good part due to the animosity nursed by Nixon towards the counterculture. He hated hippies. Nixon loathed the anti-war activists who protested his raining down death upon Vietnam.

Kevin Zeese in 2002 covered the events by which Nixon secured Schedule I draconian status in the CSA, despite the Shafer Commission he appointed to study the issue recommending just the opposite. Check out Zeese’s AlterNet article that discloses the content of Nixon’s famous tapes on the issue. Stunningly, Nixon compares the threat from marijuana, to that of “homosexuals, Jews and communists.”

The Shafer commission, after actually investigating marijuana, could not come up with a recommendation matching Nixon’s prejudices. Instead they concluded,

  • “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.

The tapes show this science-based conclusion drove Nixon wild with anger. What he desired, in his own words, was a “goddamn strong statement about marijuana … that just tears the ass out of them.” Tragically, Nixon got his way. Marijuana was classified Schedule I, a draconian classification triggering major felony penalties and mandatory minimums. Tens of millions of Americans have had their ass torn from them by these laws and their zealous enforcement.

Cannabis remains Schedule I today, a cruel and wasteful fiction. This artifact of one of America’s worst presidents could be and should be easily reduced (say to Schedule V) by command from President Obama.

The czar these right wingers should be worried about is the drug czar.

Apparently a few well placed words from Karl Rove has provoked right wingers into new tactic for those attacking the White House and its non-white occupant. As Jason Linkins reports in Anti-Czar Bill Gets 100 Cosponsors In House, the House of Representatives, apparently spurred by George W. Bush’s chief adviser hinting darkly that the numerous czars, appointed by Barack Obama, represent “a giant expansion of presidential power.” Although this group was not troubled by Bush and Cheney’s power grabs, they seek to investigate the czar’s influence and power. Linkins points out that Rove himself was domestic policy czar after 2004, and that some of these current czars were Bush appointees.

There is one czar, however, whom all freedom-loving Americans should fear and despise in part because he is required to lie to us. The job description of the drug czar mandates that he or she deceive the American public, and lie most specifically on the subject of medical cannabis. The demand for dishonesty comes from the very legislation creating that office in 1988, tragically, much of it written by vice-president Joe Biden. The mandatory deception is well documented at Pete Guither’s Drug WarRant. Americans paying the salary of the drug czar should rightly and righteously expect he be fired from his propaganda job and that the ONDPC office should be closed in disgrace.

Few Americans realize the true c of the drug czar office. How many people realize, for example, that in the 1990s the ONDCP made direct payments to television production studios for including drug war propaganda into the programming? After airing, programs such as 90210 and many others were graded for adherence to drug czar-approved content in programs. Taxpayer funds were paid out to Hollywood studios depending upon content adherence to the ONDCP party line. No other government media program has intruded so insidiously into the psyche of the American people.

The drug czar TV programming served to quash interest in marijuana by those with medical needs that might be helped by medical cannabis. It also helped provide cover for the greatest incarceration binge in American history (world history) and allowed for the passage of ever more draconian drug war legislation.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, seems to be following his written instructions,  and lying to us about medical cannabis. So, right wingers, here you actually have an issue of freedom and honesty in government.  Help end the lying reign of the drug czar.

Vampire cops want to suck your blood

BOISE, Idaho – When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he’ll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver’s arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein.

“I was looking at people’s arms and hands, thinking, ‘I could draw from that,'” Dowell said.

OK, so the cops are not really vampires and they suck out your blood with a syringe, not with their mouths, but do we really want police officers sticking needles into the citizenry? Especially puncturing veins for the purpose of drawing out the blood of Americans for governmental analysis?

The reduction of drunk driving is a laudable goal. Very likely, however, the blood-sucking tactic will become yet another common and intrusive tool of the forever war, the war on drugs.

Seemingly the seizure and search of an American citizen’s very life blood would be a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.  But that’s right, the Fourth Amendment, along with several others, were done away with by the drug war exemption of the Bill of Rights.

Gateway drug to incarceration.

LA times offers a great OP-ED, The racism of marijuana prohibition. Authored by Stephen Gutwillig, the California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the piece clarifies the terrible damage done, especially to blacks, by zealous enforcement of malignant marijuana laws.

Gutwillig writes:

  • An 18-year-old convicted of a felony is headed nowhere fast. In this sense at least, marijuana is indeed a gateway drug; it is a feeder for the criminal justice system, disproportionately for black kids.

The article points out how arrests for real crimes, such as rape and murder have fallen, as have rates for actually solving these violent crimes. Meanwhile, in California, arrests for possession of cannabis have soared. Last year, nearly 800,000 Americans and over 75,000 Californians were arrested for possessing pot. With the exception providing employment security to the police, prosecutors, jailers and urine testers, these arrests did nobody any good. In fact, such arrests represent a major investment of negative social capital. Instead of a positive investment such as educating a young American, arresting him or her for marijuana possession is instead a negative waste of resources.

  • Financially, education will enrich the youth. The increased taxes he or she will pay will increase the treasury. Financially, arrest will impoverish the youth. The decreased taxes he or she will pay will decrease the treasury.
  • Socially, during education the youth will develop important contacts for success throughout life. Socially, the young American’s arrest and incarceration will develop criminal contacts for success in a life of crime.
  • To the family, an educational degree, such as a high school and college diploma, is a huge asset to all and a unifying force. In the family, an arrest, especially a felony drug “crime”, is a horribly corrosive force, tearing the family bonds, separating all with iron bars.
  • Personally, any educational achievement is a key personal asset and widens potential contributions to society.
  • Personally, any marijuana arrest is a huge lifelong handicap, throwing up barriers to education and employment. The damage is done by the penalty, not the cannabis.

Law enforcement that is addicted to the gateway drug of marijuana prohibition. An American, mostly young and often black or Hispanic is arrested, on the average, every 38 seconds. With the severity built into the drug laws of the last 40 years of rabid drug war legislation, making felony marijuana arrests are far easier than actually protecting people and solving real crimes.

Rigid criminalization and draconian punishment for cannabis must end, for a dozen good reasons. Prohibition does not work, and ramming marijuana prohibition down the throats of Americans is un-American. It is also costly, cruel and counterproductive, building negative social capital, birthing the “incarceration nation.”