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Drug Policy

NYPD Enforcement Of Low-Level Offenses Accounts For Huge Department Expenditures, Racial Disparities

New York City criminalizes drugs and low-level broken windows offenses at a startling rate, with enforcement in these areas accounting for a vast proportion of the NYPD’s policing activities and the city’s budget, according to a new brief from Drug Policy Alliance. DPA released the brief in support of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition call for Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Council to cut the FY21 NYPD expense budget by $1 billion and redirect savings to core needs in Black, Latinx and other NYC communities of color that have long been the target of the drug war and racist policing.  The brief, “NYC’s Costly Drug Enforcement & Broken Windows Policing,” finds that in 2019, NYC spent an estimated $96 million enforcing drug arrests and violations, and an estimated $456 million enforcing low-level broken windows offenses, which accounted for 28.5% of all NYPD arrests and violations issued for the year. 

Calculating The Damage From A Century Of Drug Prohibition

We live in a time of change, when people are questioning old assumptions and seeking new directions. In the ongoing debate over health care, social justice, and border security, there is, however, one overlooked issue that should be at the top of everyone’s agenda, from Democratic Socialists to libertarian Republicans: America’s longest war. No, not the one in Afghanistan. I mean the drug war. For more than a century, the U.S. has worked through the U.N. (and its predecessor, the League of Nations) to build a harsh global drug prohibition regime -- grounded in draconian laws, enforced by pervasive policing, and punished with mass incarceration.

Dan Bigg, Revolutionary Of Harm Reduction Movement, Dies

A colleague of mine, Dan Bigg of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, died on August 21 at his home. Bigg was at the forefront of bringing harm reduction into practice in the United States. The Fix called Dan "The Patron Saint of Harm Reduction" in a notable 2014 interview, and the Chicago Tribune described his work as "revolutionary."  As a result of Bigg's efforts, friends and colleagues said, thousands of people who would have died from infections or overdoses are still alive - a flesh and blood legacy of the "harm reduction" philosophy Bigg helped to popularize.

Will Mexico’s New Leader Reshape Its Drug Policies?

Mexico’s next president will take office at the end of 2018, and among the many big puzzles he must solve is how to deal with the nation’s dangerous and powerful illegal drug trade. He has been careful not to say much about what policies he will pursue, but there have been strong hints.  Back in 2006, more than half a million people took to the already-crowded streets of Mexico City to protest the defeat of presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, often referred to by his initials, AMLO. According to widely reported accounts, the protesters hailed from throughout the country, and they demanded a recount, as López Obrador reportedly lost to right-wing candidate Felipe Calderón by just 0.57%. 

8 Things That Happen When We Legalize Marijuana

The great social experiment that is marijuana legalization is now five years old, with six states already allowing legal marijuana sales, two more where legal sales will begin within months, and yet another that, along with the District of Columbia, has legalized personal possession and cultivation of the herb. As a number of state legislatures—including Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York—seriously contemplate joining the parade this year, it's more important than ever to be able to assess just what impact marijuana legalization has had on those states that have led the way. The prophets of doom warned of all manner of social ills that would arise if marijuana were legalized. From hordes of dope-addled youths aimlessly wandering the streets to red-eyed carnage on the highway, the divinations were dire.

New Threat To Reducing Prison Population & Progress On Drug War

By Mike Lillis for The Hill - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday fended off a challenge to her long leadership reign, defeating Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a closed-door vote prompted largely by Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension to the White House. Pelosi got 134 votes to Ryan's 63 — winning 68 percent of the votes after declaring before the election that she had the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The victory sends a message that while there's a growing appetite for major changes in the party's leadership structure and messaging tactics, it's not strong enough to loosen Pelosi's grip on a liberal-heavy group that's rarely challenged her authority. Ryan and his supporters had argued that the Democrats' grim performance in this year's elections — the latest in a string of cycles planting Republicans firmly in the majority — was a clear signal that Pelosi's leadership strategy has failed to attract the broad coalition of voters required to return the Speaker's gavel to the Democrats' hands. The critics pointed, in particular, to the party's alienation of the middle-class Rust Belt workers, who flocked to Trump and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot.

Women Imprisoned Under Drug War Speak Out Against Sessions’ Policy

By Victoria Law for Truthout - In the federal prison in California, Michelle West described people standing in front of the television in shock this past Friday as they learned about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' memo, which promises to intensify the war on drugs. "They knew it was going to be bad because of his past comments regarding the criminal justice system, but not this bad," West said. In federal prisons across the country, a similar scenario played out as people, many of whom were sentenced under the drug war policies of the 1980s and 1990s, learned about Sessions' two-page memo entitled Department Charging and Sentencing Policy. The directive instructs federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious, readily provable offense. It thus resurrects the emphasis on mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, which have required judges to impose draconian sentences for drug crimes, even when they don't believe these sentences are warranted. Sessions' memo rescinds and reverses the reforms implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which urged prosecutors to charge people with low-level drug cases to avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences. Nearly half (or 92,000) of the people in federal prison are serving sentences for drug convictions.

DEA Refuses To Reschedule Marijuana

By Tony Newman for Drug Policy Alliance - Today, the DEA announced that it was not rescheduling marijuana, in effect refusing to recognize marijuana's medicinal benefits. But in what is viewed as a victory for the marijuana reform movement, the DEA said that it was ending its monopoly on marijuana research. “Keeping marijuana in Schedule I shows that the DEA continues to ignore research, and places politics above science," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “In reality, marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies."

DOJ Suspends Asset Seizures

By Jessica Desvarieux for The Real News - On December 23, the Department of Justice announced that it was suspending a program that made it easier for local police departments to confiscate property seized from citizens. The program, called equitable sharing, gave law enforcement the ability to prosecute asset forfeiture under more lenient federal law. Under federal law the police could keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize, regardless of whether or not a crime has been charged. According to a report issued by the Institute of Justice, between 1997 and 2013, 87 percent of DOJ seizures were civil, and only 13 percent were criminal. This means that only 13 percent of the victims--that's right, 13 percent of the victims--of asset forfeitures were charged with a crime.

Activism Freed One Marijuana Lifer, But Others Need Our Help

By Tony Newman for Drug Policy Alliance - More than 1,500 folks from 71 countries met in the DC Metro area last month at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference to come up with an exit strategy from the unwinnable war on drugs. The gathering left people inspired and energized. One of the people who attended the conference was Jeff Mizanskey. Jeff was just released from prison a couple of months ago after serving 22 years behind bars. Jeff was serving a life sentence for marijuana. The draconian sentence was because of Missouri’s three strikes laws.

Team Recovery, Street Awareness Against Addiction

By Jay Bird Dirt for Revolution News. Team recovery held heroin awareness signs in Toledo Ohio to support not just our city and state, but our country during this deadly epidemic. The stigma on “junkies” and heroin use is so hush hush and we need to stop hiding it and accept the fact that it’s out of the inner cities and into the suburbs and high schools now. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it happens to nurses, lawyers, doctors, athletes, etc., but all we want to portray is that recovery is possible. We can’t cure you, but we can show you what helped us and what might help you. Because it IS possible to quit heroin and live a meaningful life without sticking a needle in your arm and stealing from society and your families. We need to erase that stigma.

Catharsis On The Washington, DC Mall

By Staff for Popular Resistance. There was an unusual drug war event held on the mall this weekend: Catharsis on the Mall. The event included speakers and panels, opportunities to remember people impacted by the drug war and looking forward to the end of the drug war. The event, we featured information sharing from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, DCMJ, and more. An art installation, The Temple of Essence, stood as a monument to honor the victims of the drug war. It was a peace-building structure focused on the communities impacted by this conflict and the mass incarceration of our citizens. This Temple brought people together and created a space for reflection and healing. For 24 hours, people were invited to share their stories of struggle, honor, remembrance, and hope within the walls of the Temple of Essence. On the evening of Saturday, November 21, 2015, the event culminated in a burning ceremony of the Temple of Essence transforming our individual stories into collective memory. Then, people celebrated until the sun rose, dancing until after 8 AM.

UN Attempt To Decriminalise Drugs Foiled

By Mark Easton for BBC News - A paper from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been withdrawn after pressure from at least one country. The document, which was leaked, recommends that UN members consider "decriminalising drug and possession for personal consumption". It argued "arrest and incarceration are disproportionate measures". The document was drawn up by Dr Monica Beg, chief of the HIV/AIDs section of the UNODC in Vienna. It was prepared for an international harm reduction conference currently being held in Kuala Lumpur.

Why 30 Year Drug War Veteran Now Fights The Drug War

By Richard Juman for Alternet - When it comes to the War on Drugs, there are few people in a better position to comment on the futility, brutality and tragedy of the endeavor than retired Major Neill Franklin. He spent over 30 years participating in, and directing, state and local police anti-drug efforts before retiring to become the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which advocates for the legalization of drugs and a law enforcement approach that defends human rights and views drug misusers as persons in need of treatment as opposed to punishment. He describes the evolution of his personal philosophy and his efforts to produce change in this week’s Professional Voices…Dr. Richard Juman

New Drug War Documentary – Ecstasy, Harm Reduction

When we think of the so-called "war on drugs," we tend to think of cartels, violence and the the prison industrial complex. But there is another, equally disturbing consequence of the drug war. The prohibition of recreational drugs (and hence their deregulation) spawns illicit markets where impurities and adulterants harm the health of people who use them. Levamisole, for example, a toxic de-worming agent, has emerged as a major contaminant in cocaine, and can slowly destroy a user's immune system. Similarly, heroin is often cut with other depressant drugs, such as fentanyl, which can act synergistically with heroin and lead to overdose.
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