"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's Time to Abolish the DEA and America's "War on Drugs" Gulag

It's Time to Abolish the DEA and America's "War on Drugs" Gulag



Addiction and drug use are medical/mental health issues, not criminalization/ imprisonment issues.

It's difficult to pick the most destructive of America's many senseless, futile and tragically needless wars, but the "War on Drugs" is near the top of the list.Prohibition of mind-altering substances has not just failed--it has failed spectacularly, and generated extremely destructive and counterproductive consequences.

What was the result of the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s? Prohibition instantly criminalized 40+% of the adult populace and created hugely profitable criminal organizations.

What was the result of the "War on Drugs"? This modern-day Prohibition instantly criminalized large swaths of the adult populace and created hugely profitable criminal organizations.

If you want to increase drug use, criminalize innocent citizens and spawn gargantuan criminal organizations, then by all means declare "war" via Prohibition. The results of Prohibition/War on Drugs are so visibly perverse and so destructive that the entire enterprise is sickeningly Orwellian.

The well-paid apologists for Prohibition/War on Drugs claim that imprisoning millions of people "helps" them avoid drugs. If you think being tossed in prison for a few years "helps" people, then step right up and accept a fiver (5-year sentence) in an American prison, which is essentially a factory that produces one product: people damaged by imprisonment, deprived of their full citizenship, hobbled by a felony conviction--ex-con beneficiaries of years of tutorials by hardened criminals.

This is as Orwellian as the Vietnam War's famous "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."

If you think throwing millions of people in prison "helps" them or society, you are either insane or you're making a living in the gulag or our sick system of "justice". If you don't think America has a "War on Drugs" Gulag, please glance at this chart of Americans in jail and prison--many for drug-related offenses:

The US population has increased about 40% since the War on Drugs started in earnest in 1980, while the prison/Gulag population has increased over 400% since 1980.

(Modest correction: The US population is 323 million, global population is 7.4 billion, so the US population is a mere 4.3% of the world population.)

Let's recall that fully legal alcohol kills tens of thousands of people annually and cripples tens of thousands more via drunk-driving accidents, domestic violence and alcohol-related diseases.

If you know any emergency room physicians and nurses, ask them how many tragic medical situations arise from alcohol abuse and how many arise from marijuana abuse. You'll hear endless tales of the terrible consequences of alcoholism and drunkenness, and essentially zero accounts of death and mayhem resulting from marijuana use/abuse.

Marijuana, a Schedule 1 drug equivalent to heroin and cocaine according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has never been conclusively identified as the sole cause of a single traffic fatality. I researched this a few years ago; feel free to duplicate my research.

And let's not forget the tens of thousands of annual deaths attributed to that other fully legal addictive substance, tobacco. "Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States."

The "War on Drugs" policies defining what is "dangerous" and criminalized and what is terribly dangerous yet legal are visibly nonsensical. After decades of tremendous expenditures of taxpayer funds and counterproductive manufacturing of gulags and criminal enterprises, average Americans are finally waking up to the reality that the "War on Drugs" never made sense.

The DEA actually stands for the Destruction Enforcement Agency. The DEA recently denied that marijuana has any potential health benefits, and it remains a Schedule 1 drug equivalent to heroin and cocaine in the DEA's view.

Denying the potential health benefits of cannabis is like denying gravity--yet we let the DEA deny gravity because, well, the all-powerful and all-pervasive American government loves criminalizing stuff and politicos love pushing harsh penalties for all the stuff the power-hungry state has criminalized.

Mesmerized Americans have watched countless film/TV police and court dramas, and so criminalizing the counterculture, poverty and youth in an unlimited War on Americans (oops, I mean on drugs) seems as natural as, well, throwing millions of nonviolent people in prison on trumped up charges--you know, like those other regimes concerned with "helping" people via harsh prison sentences, the Nazis and the USSR.

“Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice.” Arcesilaus (315-241 BC)

"The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer people become." Lao Tzu

It's time to stop the madness and abolish the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and America's "War on Drugs" Gulag. It's time to expunge the criminal records of everyone who was convicted of nonviolent drug-related crimes (using drugs, dealing nickel bags, growing marijuana, etc.) and restore their full citizenship.

Addiction and drug use are medical/mental health issues, not criminalization/ imprisonment issues.What we need is a national system of community clinics devoted to helping people drawn to using addictive substances with the underlying issues that are driving them to self-medicate with self-destructive, addictive substances.

(People with positive goals, purpose, meaning and relationships have no interest in getting addicted to anything. Burdening themselves with an addiction is the last thing they want for themselves and those they care about.)

It's time to abolish the DEA, the drug-related criminal justice system and the thriving War on Drugs gulag. Yes, thousands of well-paid bureaucrats, apparatchiks and functionaries will have to seek gainful employment, but perhaps they can find employment in positions that actually help people overcome the medical/mental health issues behind their addictive drives and drug use rather than destroy their lives by throwing them in prisons with violent offenders.

A Brief History of the Drug War




This video from hip hop legend Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and acclaimed artist Molly Crabapple depicts the drug war’s devastating impact on the Black community from decades of biased law enforcement. 

The video traces the drug war from President Nixon to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws to the emerging aboveground marijuana market that is poised to make legal millions for wealthy investors doing the same thing that generations of people of color have been arrested and locked up for.

The Early Stages of Drug Prohibition

Many currently illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opium, coca, and psychedelics have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. So why are some drugs legal and other drugs illegal today? It's not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs – but it has everything to do with who is associated with these drugs.

The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at Chinese immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws, in the South in the early 1900s, were directed at black men. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Today, Latino and especially black communities are still subject to wildly disproportionate drug enforcement and sentencing practices.

Nixon and the Generation Gap

In the 1960s, as drugs became symbols of youthful rebellion, social upheaval, and political dissent, the government halted scientific research to evaluate their medical safety and efficacy.

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer.

In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.

Between 1973 and 1977, however, eleven states decriminalized marijuana possession. In January 1977, President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated on a campaign platform that included marijuana decriminalization. In October 1977, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

Within just a few years, though, the tide had shifted. Proposals to decriminalize marijuana were abandoned as parents became increasingly concerned about high rates of teen marijuana use. Marijuana was ultimately caught up in a broader cultural backlash against the perceived permissiveness of the 1970s.

The 1980s and 90s: Drug Hysteria and Skyrocketing Incarceration Rates

The presidency of Ronald Reagan marked the start of a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the drug war. The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.

Public concern about illicit drug use built throughout the 1980s, largely due to media portrayals of people addicted to the smokeable form of cocaine dubbed “crack.” Soon after Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, his wife, Nancy Reagan, began a highly-publicized anti-drug campaign, coining the slogan "Just Say No."

This set the stage for the zero tolerance policies implemented in the mid-to-late 1980s. Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who believed that “casual drug users should be taken out and shot,” founded the DARE drug education program, which was quickly adopted nationwide despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness. The increasingly harsh drug policies also blocked the expansion of syringe access programs and other harm reduction policies to reduce the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.

In the late 1980s, a political hysteria about drugs led to the passage of draconian penalties in Congress and state legislatures that rapidly increased the prison population. In 1985, the proportion of Americans polled who saw drug abuse as the nation's "number one problem" was just 2-6 percent. The figure grew through the remainder of the 1980s until, in September 1989, it reached a remarkable 64 percent – one of the most intense fixations by the American public on any issue in polling history. Within less than a year, however, the figure plummeted to less than 10 percent, as the media lost interest. The draconian policies enacted during the hysteria remained, however, and continued to result in escalating levels of arrests and incarceration.

Although Bill Clinton advocated for treatment instead of incarceration during his 1992 presidential campaign, after his first few months in the White House he reverted to the drug war strategies of his Republican predecessors by continuing to escalate the drug war. Notoriously, Clinton rejected a U.S. Sentencing Commission recommendation to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.

He also rejected, with the encouragement of drug czar General Barry McCaffrey, health secretary Donna Shalala’s advice to end the federal ban on funding for syringe access programs. Yet, a month before leaving office, Clinton asserted in a Rolling Stone interview that "we really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment" of people who use drugs, and said that marijuana use "should be decriminalized."

At the height of the drug war hysteria in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a movement emerged seeking a new approach to drug policy. In 1987, Arnold Trebach and Kevin Zeese founded the Drug Policy Foundation – describing it as the “loyal opposition to the war on drugs.” Prominent conservatives such as William Buckley and Milton Friedman had long advocated for ending drug prohibition, as had civil libertarians such as longtime ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser. In the late 1980s they were joined by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Federal Judge Robert Sweet, Princeton professor Ethan Nadelmann, and other activists, scholars and policymakers.

In 1994, Nadelmann founded The Lindesmith Center as the first U.S. project of George Soros’ Open Society Institute. In 2000, the growing Center merged with the Drug Policy Foundation to create the Drug Policy Alliance.

The New Millenium: The Pendulum Shifts – Slowly – Toward Sensible Drug Policy

George W. Bush arrived in the White House as the drug war was running out of steam – yet he allocated more money than ever to it. His drug czar, John Walters, zealously focused on marijuana and launched a major campaign to promote student drug testing. While rates of illicit drug use remained constant, overdose fatalities rose rapidly.

The era of George W. Bush also witnessed the rapid escalation of the militarization of domestic drug law enforcement. By the end of Bush's term, there were about 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year – mostly for nonviolent drug law offenses, often misdemeanors. While federal reform mostly stalled under Bush, state-level reforms finally began to slow the growth of the drug war.

Politicians now routinely admit to having used marijuana, and even cocaine, when they were younger. When Michael Bloomberg was questioned during his 2001 mayoral campaign about whether he had ever used marijuana, he said, "You bet I did – and I enjoyed it." Barack Obama also candidly discussed his prior cocaine and marijuana use: "When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently – that was the point."

The assault on American citizens, however, has persisted. President Obama, despite advocating for reforms – such as reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity, ending the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs, and supporting state medical marijuana laws – has yet to shift the majority of drug control funding to a health-based approach.

Marijuana reform has gained unprecedented momentum throughout the Americas. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults. In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legally regulate marijuana. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize marijuana.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of sensible reforms that expand health-based approaches while reducing the role of criminalization in drug policy. Yet the assault on American citizens and others continues, with 700,000 people still arrested for marijuana offenses each year and almost 500,000 people still behind bars for nothing more than a drug law violation.

Progress is inevitably slow but there is unprecedented momentum behind drug policy reform right now. We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.

For more information about the ‘war on drugs’ see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/war%20on%20drugs  
- Scroll down through ‘Older Posts’ at the end of each section

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