Diane Feinstein’s feeble-minded war(s) on drugs

Diana Feinstein

Senator Diane Feinstein

California Democrat and Senator Dianne Feinstein is advocating truly idiotic drug war policies. During her long senate career her neo-con leanings have been a disappointment. She was an enthusiastic participant in crafting punitive, ruinous drug war legislation and signed on to George W. Bush’s tragic international war recklessness. Two recent offenses to clear thinking and responsible legislation again show her to be dishonest and authoritarian, and unfit to be a US senator.

Doing Away With the Drugs in Afghanistan

Now, with Afghanistan becoming America’s longest war and its prospects dimming daily, Feinstein is ready to double up and forget about Obama’s promise to begin ending the war in 2011.  Senator Feinstein’s most ludicrous comments concerned the drug situation in Afghanistan. The last time this situation was favorable, from an anti-drug viewpoint, was when the Taliban were in power, prior to late 2001. This fundamentalist movement in 2000 banned the growing of opium and by 9/11 had greatly reduced the acreage of Afghanistan growing opium. UN drug office functionary Bernard Frahi, was amazed. “This is the first time that a country has decided to eliminate in one go – not gradually – these crops on its territory,” and called it “one of the most remarkable successes ever” in the UN drug fight.” As it turned out, these “successes” caused huge social turmoil by beggaring farmers and disrupting the credit system. Innumerable daughters were sold to pay off debts.

After the US invasion swept the Taliban out of control, opium growing boomed, expanded by 40-fold,  and easily makes Afghanistan the world’s largest producer of this heroin precursor. Interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News she said this:

  • WALLACE: And let me just quickly follow up on that. If Petraeus comes to the president in the spring of 2011 and says, “You know, this July deadline – I need six more months,” should that…
  • FEINSTEIN: I would say give it to him, absolutely. Now, let’s talk about the deadline. This is a transition point toward the beginning of a withdrawal or a draw down, as Petraeus said in his transcript before the armed services. And I think he has flexibility, realistically. Ten years is a long time to fight a war, particularly with what happened before the 10 years. And so we need to understand that to get the military trained, get the government online, secure and stabilize and, I think, do away with the drugs to a great extent – because the drugs are now fueling the Taliban.

Not only are her ramblings grammatically incorrect, but also logically ridiculous. Senator Feinstein sees doing away with drugs in Afghanistan as a doable, short-term goal. To achieve this simple task she advocates a major new drug war in Afghanistan. With her senate seniority she is unfortunately the chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control,chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Despite the fact that the Taliban nearly successfully eradicated opium production a decade ago, she tells us that now, “”The Taliban has morphed into one-part terrorist organization, one-part drug cartel,” and that their profits from the drug trade help finance their war against the NATO forces occupying the country. Her solution? A robust drug war in Afghanistan, including more drug agents, more helicopters, more eradication and more SWAT-style paramilitary training. Above all, her Senate report seeks to conflate terrorism with drug trade, and invokes 2006 revisions to the Patriot Act giving the DEA a free hand around the globe. I guess we will have to wait and see if the Senator’s new effort do away with drugs in Afghanistan in a year. On the tiny chance her new Afghan drug war proves to be anywhere near as effective as that of the Taliban, it will earn the enmity of the people. Well, at least those few Afghans who don’t already hate what they see as NATO invaders.

Maintaining Prohibition in the USA

Not content with extending drug war stupidity on the other side of the planet, Senator Feinstein seeks to reinvigorate the putrefying drug war back in the USA. She is actually campaigning for the continuation of cannabis prohibition and has signed up as co-chair (with a sheriff, of course) on the No on 19 against legalizing the herb in California. Rather than allow Californians the freedom of choice for a substance far safer than alcohol, she urges the continuation of the fatally flawed war on marijuana, including yearly CAMP eradication raids. Feinstein continues to promote legislation aimed at persecuting the tens of millions of Americans who find medical or other benefit from cannabis.

Controlled Substances Act: 39 years of drug war tyranny.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace, August 1974.

Thirty nine years ago this week an evil befell the USA.

President Richard Nixon, in cahoots with his fellow Watergate criminal (and Attorney General), John Mitchell, ramped up the war on drugs by prodding the misbegotten legislation, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This act crafted the schedule system for classifying the illegality of (some) drugs. In 1973 Nixon created the DEA to act as overseers of federal drug policy and enforcement.

Cannabis had actually been legal since a 1969 Supreme Court decision. Instigated by no less than Timothy Leary, the high court declared as unconstitutional the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 ended this short period of freedom, instituting a repressive, punishment-oriented approach. Because of Nixon’s direct actions, cannabis was classified as a Schedule I drug, the most restricted, illegal and penalized.

This draconian schedule for cannabis was purported to be just temporary, until a commission studied the question. This became the famous Shafer Commission. Kevin Zeese reported on the commission and Nixon’s attempts to declare marijuana dangerous. As Zeese reported, the commission took its task seriously and ended up having to conclude that marijuana is not very dangerous and does not justify harsh legal treatment of its users.

Nixon blew up, ranting (on tape) instead for laws that “tears the ass” out of marijuana users. He got his way. Even though Nixon had to resign in disgrace, the drug war he promoted has lived on. In the intervening 40 years, 20 million Americans have had their lives torn asunder in the form of needless and wasteful arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations for victimless cannabis “crimes.”

The CSA is is unconstitutional. An amendment to the US Constitution was required to prohibit alcohol. The same is true for marijuana and other drugs. Richard Nixon and the US congress ignored his requirement in passing the CSA. The courts, of course, should have quickly flagged this flagrant unconstitutionality. Instead the judiciary gave it a free pass under the “drug war exemption” to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Subsequent generations of congressional drug warriors such as Joe Biden found even this legislation too timid and schemed at “enhanced penalties” and evils such as asset forfeiture.  Mandatory minimums were reinstated again in the drug war-crazed 1980s. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Member of both political parties fought to out-do each other with ever more repressive legislation, including the Controlled Substance Penalties Amendment Act of 1984 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

International legislation, the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances soon codified schedules and penalties world wide.

Under the 39 year-old CSA the DEA is given authority to classify substances. It can at will, stubbornly stick to obviously incorrect schedules, e.g. Schedule I for cannabis. The classification of various drugs by the DEA is not based whatsoever upon the actual dangers of the drugs, but is based on bureaucratic and turf reasons.

  • The most dangerous drug, cigarettes, for example is not even under DEA enforcement. Nor was it regulated even by FDA, until a few months ago. But cannabis, a far safer drug, is degraded by the most draconian Schedule I classification and brutally enforced by the DEA.

Constitutionally the  US government has no business in the prohibition business. Practically such prohibitions have become an incarceration nightmare. We need to drug war collateral damage. Harsh penalties conceived to “tear the ass out” of hippies 40 years ago should not be mandating continuation of prison state and police state policies.

It was 42 years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the world a better way.

It was 42 years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the world a better way. More specifically, The Beatles took out in a full-page advertisement in The Times of London protesting the harsh laws against marijuana in Britain.

Along with 65 luminaries, they pointed out that “The law against marijuana is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.” The goals of the ad are still valid, and sadly unmet, 42 years later:

  • The legalization of marijuana possession
  • Release of all prisoners on marijuana possession charges
  • Government research into medical uses

Here in the USA during those four decades, 20 million Americans have had their lives mugged by their government in the form of arrests for marijuana possession. Each of these arrests caused enormous harm to the lives, families and futures of those arrested.  In this harm maximization strategy, the only beneficiaries were the police, prosecutors, piss testers and jailers who built their careers and pensions upon legal misfortunes of their countrymen.

Too bad Britain and the USA did not listen to the Beatles. Instead, Americans went about persecuting  cannabis and prosecuting those who preferred it.  As the NORML chart below shows, things are worse than ever and 100 Americans each hour are shoved into the meat grinder that is America’s war on marijuana.US Marijuana Arrests