A recent study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the American Journal of Public Health, focused on two years of opioid and stimulant seizure data from the Indianapolis police. The researchers examined how these seizures impacted fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the areas where the seizures took place within specific time frames. The results found fatal overdoses doubled in the week following an opioid seizure within approximately 500 meters of the seizure location. Additionally, the distribution of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, by paramedics doubled in the two weeks following an opioid-related drug seizure within the same radius.
There is a sense of desperation on Edmonton streets as outreach workers battle drug poisonings while Alberta recorded its highest-ever number of opioid fatalities in a single month. In an update to the province’s Substance Use Surveillance Data this week, Alberta recorded 179 opioid deaths in April, the highest number of opioid fatalities recorded in a single month since 175 deaths were reported in December 2021. In total, 613 Albertans died from an opioid poisoning between January and April this year. Data for May has not been released. February saw 151 opioid deaths, up from the 115 recorded in January.
Overdoses are still soaring throughout the U.S. According to the National Institutes of Health, “More than 106,000 persons in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdose in 2021, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.” From September to January 2022, almost 80,000 people died from overdose. And the epidemic goes beyond the overdose numbers. While most politicians talk about the risks of drugs laced with fentanyl, that is not the only risk. Thousands around the country are at risk of using drugs contaminated with dangerous additives such as xylazine, or “tranq,” as it spreads through the drug supply in various cities.
When it comes to drugs—that is to say, when it comes to drugs whose use by some people in some contexts is officially deemed illicit—to suggest any other approach than criminalization is to be told you aren’t “taking the issue seriously.” That any response not involving jail, prison, loss of livelihood, family separation, is widely deemed, essentially, a non-response is indication of an impoverished state of conversation. But is that changing? Some pushback to the White House policy addressing fentanyl suggests that there is space for a new way to talk about drugs, and harm, and ways forward. Maritza Perez Medina is the director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.
Joe Biden’s announcement that he would pardon all federal convictions for possession of marijuana was quickly met with excitement. It isn’t hard to understand why that would be the case. Everyone knows that the United States is the world’s biggest jailer, with more than 2 million people behind bars, and that the various “wars on drugs” contributed to this dubious distinction. But upon examination, the announcement was found to be meaningless. Anyone who thought that thousands of people would be freed from jail was in for a surprise. Most convictions in this country occur at the state level, not federal, so any Biden pardons would impact a small number of people. Also, very few people are convicted solely for possession of marijuana or any other narcotic. They are usually convicted for selling, distribution, or conspiracy as well.
Reasserting that "no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana," U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he is planning to issue an executive order pardoning everyone convicted of low-level marijuana possession, a move that drew applause from drug policy reform advocates. "Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives—for conduct that is legal in many states. That's before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction," Biden—who as recently as 2019 called cannabis a "gateway drug"—tweeted. "Today, we begin to right these wrongs." "First: I'm pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession," the president stated.
Jonny, a pseudonym for a 45-year-old man currently being held in pretrial detention in Miami’s Federal Detention Center (FDC Miami), believes that prison authorities are trying to kill him. Maria, Jonny’s partner of three years, tells me in a series of interviews translated by her teenage daughter that she is also concerned for his life, given FDC Miami’s cruel mismanagement of his grave medical condition. As a pretrial detainee, Jonny’s innocent until proven guilty and protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, but you wouldn’t know this from the inhumane treatment he receives at the prison. Jonny’s detention should not deprive him of life, liberty, or property without due process, and it certainly shouldn’t subject him to punishment since he has not been convicted of a crime.
I just returned from eight days in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, where the capital, Manila, is located. For many years, the movement for national democracy in the Philippines has asked for international solidarity, including human rights defenders to aid them in their struggle for economic and political rights. The presence of people from other countries can help diminish the violence of the Philippine military and national police against the movement. In addition, as national elections approach on May 9 there has been a rise in human rights abuses, and so the need for international solidarity is more pressing.
After taking control of their community, the people of Cheran decided to ban political parties, abolish police, and establish a unique form of participatory democracy based on their indigenous Purepecha traditions. As anarchists, it was truly beautiful to be in a place where the people have seized control of their community from the state, and we were delighted to see that the community, by all appearances, is doing very well. Cheran has now been self-governing for over 10 years, and despite narco-violence being endemic in much of Michoacan, the autonomous town seems to be somewhat of an oasis in the midst of Mexico’s ongoing drug war. According to a 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times, there were ZERO murders or kidnappings reported in Cheran in the six years following the uprising.
A few weeks ago I covered the mind-blowing facts about American prisons that should make anyone and everyone rethink/detest/abhor the entire institution. Now, I want to examine the reasons people find themselves locked up in the largest prison state in the world (the Land of the Free) and see if we can’t decrease the number of inmates to something more reasonable …like, zero. Or one. …One guy who’s a real grade-A asshole. I’m well aware that many of you are already yelling, “But what about murderers and rapists?!” We’ll get to them in a minute. Keep your pantaloons fastened. Besides, “What about murderers and rapists?!” is a really abnormal thing to yell at something you’re reading. Come to think of it, maybe you’re not fit for society. Maybe we should lock you up.
We are torn by images of unaccompanied minors and overcrowded facilities at our southern border, but few in the United States are asking why so many Central American families are so desperate to escape their own countries that they are willing to risk everything — including family separation. These migrants are not fleeing some Act of God — drought or hurricanes or the like — that could not be anticipated or prevented. Rather, they are fleeing cartel violence and governmental corruption. As CNN recently noted, “poverty, crime, and corruption in Latin America have long been drivers of migration.” Indeed, many Central Americans have concluded that the risks of the journey, of the smugglers, and of the possibility of losing their children are outweighed by the near certainty of violence or death at home.
Something seismic happened in this election and it has nothing to do with Joe Biden winning. And yes, Joe Biden did indeed win. I’m sorry for those of you Trump fans who believe the election was rigged against him. It simply wasn’t. Yes, millions of Americans were indeed purged from the voter rolls – but they were mostly people of color. So if MAGA Nation are waiting for those votes to be counted, then Trump will actually do even worse. And I honestly don’t care if you’re thinking, “But I saw a video on Tik-Tok of someone burning a ballot and then smothering it in hot sauce and eating it.”
Voters in Oregon approved a historic ballot initiative that would decriminalize possession of smaller amounts of all illegal drugs and funnel tax revenue from legal marijuana sales into addiction treatment, potentially providing an early model for combating deep racial disparities in the criminal legal system and significantly slowing the war on drugs. Now that Measure 110 has passed with nearly 59 percent of the vote, racial disparities in drug arrests are expected to drop by an astounding 94 percent, according to an analysis by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, a state agency.
Arnold Trebach, who died last week at the age of 92, started the Drug Policy Foundation in the heat of Ronald Reagan's war on drugs. It was the same year that Joe Biden, a Democrat who is running for president this year as a criminal justice reformer, wrote the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which prescribed new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and created the notorious weight-based sentencing distinction that treated crack cocaine as if it were 100 times worse than cocaine powder.