Each year, in the last weeks of September, the world’s leaders gather in New York City to speak at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. The speeches can usually be forecasted well in advance, either tired articulations of values that do not get acted upon or belligerent voices that threaten war in an institution built to prevent war. However, every once in a while, a speech shines through, a voice emanates from the chamber and echoes around the world for its clarity and sincerity. This year, that voice belongs to Colombia’s recently inaugurated president, Gustavo Petro, whose brief remarks distilled with poetic precision the problems in our world and the cascading crises of social distress, the addiction to money and power, the climate catastrophe and environmental destruction.
War On Drugs
Colombia’s first ever left-wing President Gustavo Petro delivered a historic speech at the United Nations declaring, “The war on drugs has failed.” Petro emphasized that drug addiction is a social problem, and cannot be solved with violence and militarization. Rather, he argued, it is a mere symptom of a much deeper problem: the capitalist system itself, with its “addiction to money and oil.” The Colombian leader warned that the infinite greed of capitalism is destroying the planet, threatening life on Earth. “The cause of the climate disaster is capital – the logic of dedicating ourselves to consume more and more, to produce more and more, and so that a small few can earn more and more [money],” Petro proclaimed. The “logic of increasing accumulation of capital” is ravaging the environment, he warned. “The increasing accumulation of capital is the increasing accumulation of death.”
Fifty years ago, on June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon stood before the White House press corps, staffers at his side, to announce “a new, all-out offensive” against drug abuse, which he denounced as “America’s public enemy number one.” He called on Congress to contribute $350 million for a worldwide attack on “the sources of supply.” The first battle in this new drug war would be fought in South Vietnam where, Nixon said, “a number of young Americans have become addicts as they serve abroad.” While the president was declaring his war on drugs, I was stepping off a trans-Pacific flight into the searing tropical heat of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, to report on the sources of supply for the drug abuse that was indeed sweeping through the ranks of American soldiers fighting this country’s war in Vietnam.
November’s election saw criminal legal system and drug policy reform win big at the polls. Oregon became the first state to decriminalize all drugs, and voters overwhelmingly passed other reforms to drug laws, even in deeply red states like South Dakota. Policing took center stage in the national dialogue. And both the vice president and president-elect in their first addresses to the nation promised to “root out systemic racism” in the criminal legal system. The people have spoken, and we are on the precipice of a new moment for justice reform. But how we understand the scope of this collective call for change — and the challenge to which Biden and Harris will have to rise — stands to shape what our new world may look like for decades to come.
America shows signs of emerging from the century-long shadow of drug prohibition, with marijuana leading the way and a psychedelic decriminalization movement rapidly gaining steam. It also seems as if the mass incarceration fever driven by the war on drugs has finally broken, although tens if not hundreds of thousands remain behind bars on drug charges.
Donald Trump called upon “Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!” Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador just as promptly rejected Trump’s proposal. That’s not surprising. He ran for president on a platform that includes ending, not escalating, Mexico’s status as a battlefield in the decades-long US “war on drugs,” a war that created, and continues to empower, the cartels.
In March 2017, Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans began co-drafting the Tax & Regulate Cannabis like Alcohol bill. In the nearly two years since, Chicago NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has encouraged Illinois legislators to prioritize social equity and criminal justice in the final version of the bill. In a January 2018 speech to industry stakeholders, then-candidate and now Illinois governor-elect JB Pritzker promised to “intentionally include black and brown entrepreneurs” in managing legal marijuana businesses in the state in order to address “historically systemic racism.”
For decades the Black community has been heavily targeted by the war on drugs which resulted in the disenfranchisement of many families of color and the destruction of Black communities nationwide. Now the same drugs are making white business owners billions of dollars for engaging in the same practices that black ‘entrepreneurs’ were incarcerated for at astronomical rates. Thousands of individuals still wait behind bars while others who have been released still suffer from the effects of their incarceration with records that bar them from the ability to vote, obtain public assistance, find work, fund an education or acquire housing.
By Chris McGreal for The Guardian - America’s opioid crisis was caused by rapacious pharma companies, politicians who colluded with them and regulators who approved one opioid pill after another. Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.” The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said. That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers - essentially heroin in pill form - but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.
By Staff of Al Jazeera - Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of the Philippine capital of Manila to denounce President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, as they marked the death anniversary of one of the country's pro-democracy heroes. Human rights advocates, youth groups, and religious communities on Monday defied a tropical storm that brought steady rain to gather at the memorial of the 1986 people power revolution to call for an end to the killings in Duterte's war on drugs. Amid public pressure, Duterte said on Monday there could have been abuses in his anti-drug war policy. "There is a possibility that in some of police incidents there could be abuses. I admit that," Duterte told reporters in Manila. "These abusive police officers are destroying the credibility of the government." Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Manila, said at least 4,000 people joined in the rally, adding that a separate protest was also held in another part of the city. Protesters are demanding an independent investigation into the summary executions and police operations that left thousands of people dead. They said the president should be held accountable for the deaths. Demonstrators waved Philippine flags and carried banners that read: "Resist the Fascist!", "Stop the Killings!", and "We will fight" among others.
By Staff for Telesur. On Monday, the U.S. launched its latest diplomatic attack on Venezuela by officially putting Vice President Tareck El Aissami on a sanctions list reserved for “drug kingpins” without offering any evidence or issuing any criminal charges. Venezuela was quick to respond, with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez calling the move “lamentable and highly dangerous,” adding that her government “will not tolerate any aggression on our soil against our ability to be free.” For his part, El Aissami — who has vigorously and categorically denied the accusation — said the “miserable and vile aggression” was simply “an acknowledgment of (his) status as an anti-imperialist revolutionary.” As Venezuela contemplates its official response to the move, it’s important to review the background to this latest sanction.
By y Phillip Smith for AlterNet - In a sharp break with the Obama administration, which distanced itself from harsh anti-drug rhetoric and emphasized treatment for drug users over punishment, President Trump this week reverted to tough drug war oratory and backed it up with a series of executive orders he said are "designed to restore safety in America." "We're going to stop the drugs from pouring in," Trump told law enforcement professionals of the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Wednesday. "We're going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We're going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we're going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence." Trump also lambasted the Obama administration for one its signature achievements in criminal justice reform, opening the prison doors for more than 1,700 drug war prisoners...
By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. On Thursday afternoon the protests grew filling the streets of downtown Philadelphia when Trump arrived at noon. People were protesting a host of extreme right wing issues that Trump and the GOP are pursuing including immigration, healthcare, women's rights, the drug war and civil liberties, urged tolerance and love as an antidote to hate. Thousands of people filled city blocks around the Loews Hotel. People also protested his executive orders that seek to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline as well as Trump's threats to the environment.
By Will Godfrey for The Influence. “Will decriminalization solve the drug scourge?” wonders a Washington Post column today. It’s a question being widely asked in the wake of a major report published yesterday by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, in which those two prestigious organizations called for the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. The many reasons to support such a move include the right to self-determination when it comes to drug use; better prospects of reducing drug-related harms; and ending America’s appalling, racially biased levels of drug-related arrestsand incarceration. Portugal decriminalized all drugs back in 2001, eliminating criminal penalties for consumption and possession in quantities deemed to be for personal use. Portugal’s bold approach has been in place for long enough to allow meaningful analysis of its results. The result, It’s easy to answer the question of whether or not the US should decriminalize drugs. Indeed, the only debate should be around whether decriminalization goes far enough—whether full legal regulation . . .
By Maya Schenwar for Truth Out - April, former Attorney General Eric Holder told Frontline that the drug war "is over." Over the last part of his final term, President Obama has echoed that refrain, granting clemency to hundreds of people incarcerated for drug offenses and emphasizing that the US has relied too much on the criminal punishment system to address drug-related problems.