The Clinton Years The Cocaine Administration
Activists urge end to War on Drugs
By Freddie Allen
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Black activists marked the 42nd anniversary of the War on Drugs with a protest in front of the White House aimed at ending a targeted action that has led to the disproportionate arresting, conviction and incarceration of Blacks for decades.
The Institute of the Black World 21st Century, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of the Black community, mobilized a network of community groups last Monday for the “day of direct action.”
The group of activists, led by a police escort, marched from the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C., down 16th Street and into Lafayette Park for the rally. Event organizers and marchers touted the symbolism of protesting against the president’s War on Drugs within shouting distance of the White House.
“The War on Drugs was started by a president, and it needs to end with the president,” said Courtney Stewart, chairman of The Reentry Network for Returning Citizens, a group that helps ex-offenders find jobs, housing and access to social services. “Everything starts with leadership. President Obama is the leader of this great nation. He needs to end the War on Drugs.”
Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, said that the War on Drugs is a war on us. Daniels, a veteran social and political activist, said that the statistics reveal racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, which is devastating and destroying the Black community.
The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization focused on criminal justice advocacy and research, reported that while Blacks make up 12 percent of the total population of drug users, they make up 34 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 45 percent of those in state prison for a drug offense. Whites accounted for less than 29 percent of state prisoners arrested for drug offenses.
According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union titled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a Black person is 3.73 times more likely (or six times more likely in some states) to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though both groups use marijuana at similar rates. In the worst counties in America, the disparity between Black-White marijuana arrests jumped to 30 to 1.
States collectively spent more than $3.6 billion chasing down and arresting Americans for marijuana possession and in at least one case, for just a seed of marijuana. According to the ACLU study, there was a marijuana arrest every 37 seconds in 2010.
“Just as with the larger drug war,” the ACLU report said, “the War on Marijuana has, quite simply, served as a vehicle for police to target communities of color.”
According to a 2010 study conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars and most are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. More than 11 percent of Black children have a parent that is locked up, compared to less than 2 percent of white children.
“Children with fathers who have been incarcerated are significantly more likely than other children to be expelled or suspended from school,” stated the report. When children spend less time in school as a result of disciplinary action, they often spend more time in the juvenile justice system, which can lead to a young person becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system as an adult.
“The president has to come out and say that he supports the Black community and that he understands the issues that affect the Black community,” said Stewart. “He has to say that he understands the disparities, that he understands the lack of hope, that he understands the joblessness and that he understands how this War on Drugs has really decimated our community.”
Stewart said that until President Obama articulates those concerns on a national stage and backs those concerns with policy reforms, little will change — many people won’t fight because they don’t see their president fighting.
The network of community organizations and activists called on the president to intensify efforts to eliminate drug sentencing disparities, to publicly support the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and to allocate more funds for drug education, counseling and treatment.
Daniels said that ending the War on Drugs will take a significant mass movement, similar to the grassroots campaigns that increased awareness about issues affecting other minority groups.
“How did marriage equality come about? The immigration question, why is that on the table now?” asked Daniels. “The dreamers never stopped dreaming. You can’t just sit back. You have to keep organizing and organizing and organizing until your message is heard.”*******
The War on Drugs: An Endangerment Racket
1 August 2012*******
If prohibition was a genuine protection racket, at least we would be protected from harm. But it isn’t. It is much worse than that. It is effectively an “endangerment racket”, argues Danny Kushlick
Fifty years ago almost every United Nations member state signed up to support a global prohibition on the non-medical use of certain drugs. Ever since, citizens all over the world have repeatedly voted for governments that proclaim the virtues of fighting a “war on drugs”. Through taxes we pay governments to enforce drug laws to protect us, our children, our communities and our countries from the all too real harms of drug misuse.
However, the regime of prohibition (the criminalisation of production, supply and use) has been applied only to certain drugs. It has rarely been applied to tobacco and alcohol. But who does this prohibition protect?
In a classic protection racket, a racketeer threatens damage to a business, or harm to an individual, unless the victim pays the racketeer “protection” money. The 1961 UN Single Convention on drugs, to which the UK is a signatory, frames its approach in terms of a concern for the “health and welfare of mankind” and a desire to “combat” the “serious evil” of “addiction to narcotic drugs”. It then places an obligation on signatories to put in place a blanket prohibition (and thereby eliminate use and eradicate supply) in order to protect us from this “evil”.
The threat, as articulated, is that if we do not support the prohibition, the “evil” will take over and we will no longer be “protected” from addiction. But the global prohibition – the “war on drugs” – has singularly failed to stop people using drugs. The reality is that worldwide there are up to 300 million users. All the evidence shows that the level of law enforcement has little or no correlation with levels of drug misuse.
Not only has law failed to regulate drugs misuse, like alcohol prohibition, the war on drugs has gifted the multi-billion pound trade to drug-trafficking organisations and unregulated dealers, who are genuinely dangerous to all of us, our children and our communities. In 2008, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime conceded that the “drug control system” (a euphemism for prohibition) itself fuels the $320 billion a year criminal trade, describing it as one of five major “unintended consequences”. The recently published Alternative World Drug Report gives an even more comprehensive exposition of the harms caused by the war on drugs.
Governments use this “unintended consequence” - the creation of the second largest money earner for organised crime globally - as a further pretext to demand more “protection” money. However, this second payment, now apparently spent on fighting organised crime, does nothing to stop drug trafficking organisations. In fact, it serves as a price support mechanism, turning simple agricultural products into commodities literally worth more than their weight in gold. An understanding of basic economics tells us that squeezing the supply of any trade that has a high and resilient level of demand will serve only to raise the price (notwithstanding the fact that prices are further hiked by virtue of the risk undertaken throughout the supply chain). And so a self-perpetuating vicious circle is created, whereby control of the market by unregulated suppliers is used to justify continuation or escalation of the war.
These two “rackets” (the one built upon the other) have not only failed to protect communities and children, but have also brought entire nation-states to their knees. Prohibition has turned Guinea Bissau, for example, from a fragile state to a narco-state within months of the cocaine trade crossing its borders.
Prohibition has also brought the law into disrepute around the world, as millions break an unenforceable law mostly using whatever drugs they want, whilst the vast criminal profits are used to corrupt officials at all levels. Prohibition has made the drugs trade as dirty and dangerous as it could possibly be; unregulated dealers sell adulterated drugs to minors and violent criminals control much of the trade, and more than 50,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since 2006. Year after year the Afghan poppy crop supplies the majority of the raw material for the manufacture of illegal heroin.
If prohibition was a genuine protection racket, at least we would be protected from harm. But it isn’t. It is much worse than that. It is effectively an “endangerment racket”. The first payment we make creates plentiful money-making opportunities for organised crime. The second payment provides the budgets for those given the task of “fighting organised crime” – FBI, CIA DEA, SOCA and many others around the world. The second payment of “endangerment money” distracts us from the fallout from the first racket and further serves to perpetuate the overarching prohibitionist regime.
However, there is good news. Governments are not organised crime groups. We can stop paying “endangerment money” any time we like, by voting for an individual or party that is seeking alternatives to global prohibition, and the endangerment racket that accompanies it.
We can stop governments spending our money on a regime that ultimately endangers those who are most vulnerable and at risk, and press them to reassign the vast sums involved to a “post-drug war Marshall Plan”. Around the world we are seeing the beginning of more pragmatic approaches to legalisation and regulation. As citizens we have a choice. We can use our vote for peace – or for war.