Monday, 5 October 2009

Jeepers - HeraldSun Says Prohibition has Failed

What is going on in Murdoch land? First the Adelaide Advertiser publishes a rational article on illicit drugs and now the HeraldSun publishes 2 of them ... on the same day! The last 2 articles might be from the same writer but nevertheless it’s still a shock. The real surprise though is who the author is - Alan Howe. For someone with a few horrible ultra right opinions, Alan Howe seems to be taking a long walk to the opposite side of ideology park. Howe has written before about the criminal justice system not being tough enough and pushes for longer and harsher sentences for those convicted in court. Nearly half of those charged with criminal offences are drug related which makes Howe’s article even more surprising. All that aside, it’s hard to argue that drug prohibition has been successful and to point out it’s failure is an easy task when the facts are known. Why this has eluded so many for so long will become more remarkable as the years pass. But let’s not take any credit away from Alan Howe who must have struggled with his own feelings to write not one but two articles on the matter. And then there's the potential falling out with the boss.

Prohibition Has Failed
Herald Sun
By Alan Howe
October 2009

EVEN among the bulging annals of American improbability, this meeting was right up there.

The two most famous faces on the planet joined in a war on drugs -- the War on Terror of its day.

Since mid-1969, US president Richard Nixon had toyed with the notion of declaring drugs public enemy No.1.

Then, late in 1970, he received a surprise call from the King. Not a phone call. Elvis Presley turned up, uninvited, at the White House asking to see the president.

"I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and communist brainwashing techniques,'' he told the fascinated Nixon.

"And I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good . . . the drug culture, the hippie elements, Black Panthers, etc, do not consider me as their enemy, or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it, sir."

He asked to be made a Federal Agent at Large. Nixon presented him with the badge. Elvis presented Nixon with a World War II-era Colt 45, the pair nicely ticking off America's twin evils.

Nixon kept the meeting secret for a time and months later launched his offensive against the drugs scourge.

What a dream ticket: Presley, the biggest rock star of all time, would be dead in just over six years, having consumed 19,000 doses of sedatives, stimulants and narcotics in his last 30 months; the gin-soaked Nixon, sometimes too drunk to take calls from other world leaders, liked to pop a mood-altering prescription drug called Dilantin, illegally supplied to him in 1000-capsule bottles.

The US war on drugs is estimated to have cost more than $1 trillion -- more than enough money to put Osama bin Laden on the moon. It puts a million Americans in jail each year.

Plenty of Australians are jailed each year, too, for possessing and using illegal drugs.

1In a little-publicised contribution to Kevin Rudd's 2020 summit last year, Brisbane doctor Wendell Rosevear, who has worked in the prison system for decades, called for all drugs to be legalised. He believes the billions of dollars spent in Australia on policing, convicting and jailing addicts and their suppliers should be spent on drug intervention and education programs.

"Drugs are illegal, so we put people in jail to solve the problem and we label people who use drugs as bad -- it doesn't make them feel valuable,'' he said. "If we think we can just put it out of sight, out of mind, we are actually devaluing people and not solving the problem.''

Given that the West's various wars on drugs have failed so miserably, perhaps we should look more closely at Rosevear's proposals.

Certainly, he is not alone. Arriving in Australia today is Norm Stamper, the legendary former chief of the Seattle police, and also a campaigner for legalisation of all drugs.

Stamper is being hosted by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, which believes we can minimise the damage from the drugs trade -- the violence, property crimes and deadly infectious diseases, not to mention the dizzying and untaxed profits being made by Australia's drug gangs -- if we relax our laws.

"That America proclaimed drugs public enemy No.1 and declared all-out war on them I now see as a colossal mistake,'' Stamper said from Washington state at the weekend as he prepared for his trip.

"The war was not against drugs so much as it was against people,'' he said.
"Particularly people of colour, and young people and poor people.

"We've incarcerated tens of millions of non-violent drug offenders and yet drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency than when we declared war against them.''

I'd call that failure. He does. You'd probably agree.

Stamper is a prominent member of a 13,000-strong international organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) that includes current and former police officers, district attorneys, drug enforcement administration officers, homeland security agents, prosecutors, judges and prison wardens who want an end to the prohibition of now-illegal drugs.

They see the lessons of the US Prohibition 90 years ago being forgotten. Back then, alcohol manufacture, sale and transportation were outlawed. It barely affected consumption, but it led to deeply rooted criminal systems being established and crime rates soaring as demand was met, albeit illegally. Like it is with serious drugs today.

STAMPER sees "softer'' drugs, such as marijuana, being decriminalised first, and when lessons are learned, harder drugs following suit.

Having worked in San Diego, he has first-hand experience of the Mexico towns that are now are the front line of the drug cartel wars for control of the lucrative drugs trade.

Ideally, Stamper sees the state growing, manufacturing and controlling the supply of drugs, although LEAP does not have a view on this.

Of course, that's a much stricter regime than we have for the manufacture and sale of alcohol, notwithstanding the alcohol-fuelled violence that so regularly sees injury and death on Melbourne streets.

Cartels Sell Their Nation's Soul
Herald Sun
By Alan Howe
October 2009

THE big boys of the drugs trade make our Underbelly idiots look like they've been on Jenny Craig.

All the numbers are big: Mexico's Attorney-General said his country has spent $US6.5 billion in the past two years fighting the drug gangs.

The cartels will earn about $US15 billion this year; more than 6000 Mexicans will die in cartel warfare in 2009; Mexico has 130,000 standing soldiers, while the two biggest cartels are believed to have 100,000 between them; 24,000 Mexican soldiers are assigned to tackle the drug bosses; 5000 troops work in the town of Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso -- 250 people are murdered there each month.

Last month gunmen broke into a drug rehabilitation centre there, lined up 17 young men and shot them dead. It only just made the news.

The drug cartels openly advertise on street hoardings for government soldiers to defect to them. It's better pay and the kills are more regular.

Mexico is descending into nothing more than a narco-state supplying the demands of Americans who want to get high: in one dreadful weekend in Tijuana nine men were found decapitated; three were policemen, their badges found in their mouths.

Some months back a dozen soldiers were found, also decapitated, their hands tied behind their backs. Heads are rolled on to popular dance floors and tortured bodies turn up in school playgrounds.

It is all too much for some. Former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso now sides with Australia's Wendell Rosevear and Seattle's Norm Stamper.

"The status of addicts must change from that of drug buyers in the illegal market to that of patients cared for in the public health system,'' he wrote two weeks ago.

He wants attention moved from repression of drug users and focused instead on treatment and prevention, the direction in which Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador had already moved.

Related Articles:
Oops! Adelaide Advertiser Gets It Right
Fairfax Media Fights the Good Fight
Drug Hysteria - Headlines from News Ltd

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