Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Today we begin a "cyber march" on Washington
April 9, 2013 7:44 AM   Subscribe

A group of respected entertainers (and some not-as-respected celebrities), businessmen, Civil Rights leaders and academics have signed an open letter calling on the President to #EndTheWarOnDrugs.

In conjunction with the PBS Documentary "The House I Live In" an examination of the small scale effects of America's longest war.

Bonus link: Take the PBS drug test!
posted by Potomac Avenue (49 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brad Pitt is not-as-respected?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:50 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe, "not-as-respected" by the 420 DudeBros.
posted by sideshow at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2013


You scored 70%!

Not bad considering I have no deep understanding about US drug laws, your strange addiction to crackm but by picking the most "obvious" answers.

I predict #EndTheWarOnDrugs will be less successful than whatever the latest One Direction trending tweet is, though.
posted by Mezentian at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Russell Simmons has been fighting the good fight for awhile. He's been working on chipping away at New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws for years. Still a long way to go though, as that Wikipedia article mentions:
New York City remains the cannabis-arrest capital of the world, with over 40,000 arrests in 2008.
posted by gwint at 7:53 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, should be more clear, I find Brad Pitt awesome. The letter was also signed by the Kardashians and Will Smith and the like.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:53 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter, this may be relevant to your interests if only due to the involvement of David Simon.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2013


I scored 90% on the Drug Test with a few lucky guesses, a couple that I actually knew, but mainly by picking the most awful answer.

Oh, and what's not respectable about Will Smith?
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Et tu, Opie? This is quite shortsighted. If America ends its drug war, how will it make sure its prisons remain profitably stuffed with poor black people who will then never be able to vote.
posted by pracowity at 8:06 AM on April 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


My score on the test was lower than it should have been because I kept guessing the 'bad but not as bad as my first instinct' option in the multiple choice. So you might say that I cut the War on Drugs some slack, the irony of which is not lost on me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If America ends its drug war, how will it make sure its prisons remain profitably stuffed with poor black people who will then never be able to vote.

Really, just look how well forced-labor prison camps and an underclass of "hostiles" have worked to boost North Korea's economy!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2013


Trading the War on Drugs for sensible harm reduction is the right thing to do, but my gut feeling is that it would be politically difficult for a Democratic President to do this. I think it would be especially tough for Obama in particular to do this, in view of perceptions of race in this country. The right wing talk radio guys would shit themselves in ecstasy.
posted by exogenous at 8:13 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


We will be asking all of you to join us on our cyber march on Washington, where we will use every resource from newspapers to television, but especially the internet and popular culture to educate and engage the masses to push for the end of the war.

I'm all for this, but this "cyber march" looks a lot like a traditional media campaign.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


As with many large-scale bankrupt policies, it behoves the community attempting to change the policies who are the current beneficiaries.

The War On Drugs is not an accident of history, a backwater piece of legislation that was signed and today is having unintended consequences. The War On Drugs is an international industry: spanning government agencies (DEA), manufacturing (arms), incarceration (private prisons), "treatment" (healthcare), fines/fees/taxes (local government), asset seizures (IRS), etc.

It's not a law. It's an industry. One that definitely will not go silently into the night, no matter what Willbrad Pittsmith desires. That being said, I do wish them the best of luck in changing one of the few truly monstrous undertakings of the United States.
posted by nickrussell at 8:18 AM on April 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


If America ends its drug war, how will it make sure its prisons remain profitably stuffed with poor black people who will then never be able to vote.

This map from the ACLU may be relevant to your interests.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of the few truly monstrous undertakings of the United States

I wish it really were one of the few. I love my country, but we seem to be unable to live without one massive injustice or another driving our economy even as it sucks us dry. Slavery, Jim Crow, Union-smashing, and now this unending trudge that 90% of politicians won't even bring up to defend, much less address the problems. I just hope we don't replace this decayed corpse of a policy with something worse.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can think of several far more monstrous undertakings currently under way, but talking about them would be a serious derail.

I doubt this particular initiative will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, but every last piece of straw helps, I think!
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:33 AM on April 9, 2013


Trading the War on Drugs for sensible harm reduction is the right thing to do, but my gut feeling is that it would be politically difficult for a Democratic President to do this. I think it would be especially tough for Obama in particular to do this, in view of perceptions of race in this country. The right wing talk radio guys would shit themselves in ecstasy.

Well, we start with pot. It has majority support for legalization but not enough that there would not be political backlash. Move on to true federal tolerance for medical pot instead. If I understand correctly, the drug scheduling is under executive control. Medical pot polls better than Mom and Apple Pie across parties and demographics.

He doesn't have to fix everything overnight, but there is ZERO political excuse not get started on the popular stuff.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:33 AM on April 9, 2013


> I'm all for this, but this "cyber march" looks a lot like a traditional media campaign.

No way, it's got "cyber" in the name, so it's obviously a media campaign from 1998.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Q.3 What does crack cocaine have in it that powdered cocaine does not?

- A solution of LSD and gin

I have never wanted to try crack before this moment.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The right wing talk radio guys would shit themselves in ecstasy.

Shit themselves with ecstacy? Knowing the drug-related proclivities of certain right-wing talkers, wouldn't it be more accurate to say they'd go into involuntary convulsions with Oxycontin?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Finally, this cruel, senseless waste of time and resources will end. I totally support this. Do not worry, Bensons, Funnies, Freshes, Stanhopes, and Flouties! The War on Dougs will end!

Wait?

What?

Well, I'm sure Doug Benson is still all for this.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


He doesn't have to fix everything overnight, but there is ZERO political excuse not get started on the popular stuff.

I think that's actually part of the reason that he doesn't want to do it, actually. Because that is the most popular part of things - if he gives it up for nothing, without tying it to anything, any support for ending the drug war will end completely. Whereas if he attempts to tie it to other drugs, it may float support for them as well.

Are there any statistics of what percentage of prisoners are there purely for marijuana possession only with no complicating factors, and what the racial breakdown there is?
posted by corb at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2013


That website is so busy it made my eyes bleed.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:54 AM on April 9, 2013


That drug test is interesting, but I'm a little skeptical about one of their answers: that the number of drug abusers in Portugal has declined by 50% since they decriminalized drugs. I can't find any really solid evidence to support that claim. Everything I've read on this that isn't outright "legalize it!" propaganda has suggested that A) they don't have really good baseline figures for drug use prior to the decriminalization and B) what estimates that have been made show roughly stable usage.

The figure that really shocked me, though, was that 90% of Nixon's "war on drugs" budget went to treatment. Although it's true that Nixon used the term "war on drugs" it's also clear that he really is in no way the father of the current madness. That really is a Reagan-era phenomenon.
posted by yoink at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe Will Smith became less respectable in certain parts when he turned Scientologist. Although, it prob has more to do with the lame movie choices. Although, he's cool in my book.
posted by sideshow at 8:58 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finally, this cruel, senseless waste of time and resources will end. I totally support this. Do not worry, Bensons, Funnies, Freshes, Stanhopes, and Flouties! The War on Dougs will end!

What, do you think that's the easy solution that's gonna bridge the generation gap between you and me? I'm Doug, and I'm outta heeeeeeeeere...
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:01 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whereas if he attempts to tie it to other drugs, it may float support for them as well.

I really don't think that is it. I think he thinks the other drugs should remain illegal. I'm very anti drug war myself but I do think we need to proceed slowly and carefully first since drugs can be a very real health hazard. Start with pot, see what works, then move on to the hard drugs with that experience in mind.

Big American cities have had a terrible experience with coke and heroin. A lot of the damage is due to prohibition, but like with guns the communities involved are going to focus a lot more on protecting themselves than freedom there. Obama is very attuned to those communities as a politician as they are his biggest supporters. Reducing the sentencing and focusing on treatment will be on the agenda, but Obama has already started on that.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2013


Government: sorry, no. Money and control. You understand, of course.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2013


Whereas if he attempts to tie it to other drugs, it may float support for them as well.

The President is not a supporter of legalization. This is not the reason the popular stuff hasn't been done.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:16 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The War On Drugs is an international industry: spanning government agencies (DEA), manufacturing (arms), incarceration (private prisons), "treatment" (healthcare), fines/fees/taxes (local government), asset seizures (IRS), etc.

This. The DEA and the prison industry are far and away the biggest impediments to ending the war on drugs, and they are flush with both cash and political influence. Any weakening of drug laws is to them an existential threat, and the first law of any organization (be it public or private) is to fight tooth and nail for survival, regardless of whether it makes sense for them to exist in the first place.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:19 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trading the War on Drugs for sensible harm reduction is the right thing to do, but my gut feeling is that it would be politically difficult for a Democratic President to do this.

I think you're correct, that this is a sort of "only Nixon could go to China" situation. But there are some conservatives who are actually headed that direction, both about the drug war and about overcriminalization in general, which is really heartening.

The best example is Right on Crime, a group that includes Grover Norquist, Ed Meese, Newt Gingrich, Ralph Reed, Jeb Bush, and Asa Hutchinson, among others. I don't love everything about the mission statement, but it basically boils down to this: conservatives (at least in theory) believe that the government should try to spend less money, and that when the government does spend money, we as taxpayers deserve to actually get something for the money. Additionally, the government has an obligation not to violate people's fundamental rights, to avoid destroying families and communities, and to keep us safe from others who want to harm us. Our current way of dealing with crime satisfies none of those requirements. We're spending a preposterous amount of money, and there's no evidence that we're getting our money's worth. There is a ton of evidence, however, that we're violating people's rights, separating parents from their children, and preventing people from getting and keeping gainful employment that allows them to support themselves and their families. And all of this, without any reason to believe that we're safer than we would be otherwise.

There are lots of reasons that the political system keeps supporting mass incarceration: inertia, politicians' fears about some sort of Willie Horton-type situation, special interest group politics, moral approbation for drug use, racism, classism, etc. But philosophically, there are also lots of reasons that conservatives should support reform, and I'm heartened to see that at least some of them are starting to make it a policy priority.
posted by decathecting at 9:22 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe Will Smith became less respectable in certain parts when he turned Scientologist.

there's also his ego.

As for the Scientology bit, that, as always, seems a little complicated

Smith has said he has studied multiple religions, including Scientology, and he has said many complimentary things about Scientology and other faiths. Despite his praise of Scientology, Smith said "I just think a lot of the ideas in Scientology are brilliant and revolutionary and non-religious"[34][35] and "Ninety-eight percent of the principles in Scientology are identical to the principles of the Bible.... I don't think that because the word someone uses for spirit is 'thetan' that the definition becomes any different."[36] He has denied having joined the Church of Scientology, saying "I am a Christian. I am a student of all religions, and I respect all people and all paths."[37]

Smith gave $1.3 million to charities in 2007, of which $450,000 went to two Christian ministries, and $122,500 went to three Scientology organizations; the remaining beneficiaries included "a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and [...] the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel".[38] Smith and his wife have also founded a private elementary school in Calabasas, California, the New Village Leadership Academy, which uses Study Technology, a teaching methodology developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.[39] Federal tax filing showed that Will Smith donated $1.2 million to the school in 2010.[40]

posted by philip-random at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be clear, Nixon's treatment percentage was 60%, not 90%, though that's still a hell of a lot better than what happened in the Reagan years (and continues today, obviously.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The right wing talk radio guys would shit themselves in ecstasy.

This is different than any other action the president has taken how?
posted by eriko at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


For many years, my mother was a corrections officer. We discussed the War on Drugs and she gave it no more thought than what it meant for her job security. Now she's retired and actually voted FOR a medicinal marijuana law (citing me as inspiration, knowing how MM can make the difference on whether I can walk or not.)

A lot of people are like my mother. More so than like me. The prison industrial complex will lobby the hell out of keeping the War on Drugs and much of those employed by that system will vote towards job security.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2013


that's still a hell of a lot better than what happened in the Reagan years

Yeah, sorry about cocking up the Nixon percentage. It's in the Reagan years that the incarceration rate starts shooting up--and that's the real core of what makes the War on Drugs so insanely destructive.

One of the biggest problems with undoing this mess is the vast sums of money the private prison industry spreads around in Washington and in State Capitols. I do sometimes wonder if you might be able to pass a law banning industries from lobbying in relation to criminal laws and regulations when they stand to make a direct profit from them; the "this is a ridiculous conflict of interest" argument seems in some ways an easier sell than arguments directly about drug policy. That still wouldn't prevent them pouring money into politician's reelection campaigns, however.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2013


Because cyber-protesting has proven to be so effective...
posted by SansPoint at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2013


eriko: This is different than any other action the president has taken how?

The dog-whistles would be pitched down to the range of normal human hearing.
posted by exogenous at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2013


> The dog-whistles would be pitched down to the range of normal human hearing.

I've pointed out here so often that the idea that a Democrat shouldn't do something because it might piss off ultra-right wing Republicans is bizarre in the extreme.

Rationally, a politician should refuse to do something if it might influence people who would have voted for him not to vote for him. These people will never vote Democrat, ever ever ever.

Please. This idea that the President can't do things because of what right wing talk radio will say is deeply irrational. Let's just drop it, shall we?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Big American cities have had a terrible experience with coke and heroin.

I've always seen drug use a symptom of distress, rather then the root of distress itself. That's why the theory of gateway drugs never seemed to hold much water for me. Happy, well-adjusted people can become heavy drug users, but it seems quite unlikely. People that become heavy drug users (in my experience) tend to be people with underlying psychological issues or general distress. That's nothing against the people – distress can be external / socioeconomic just as easily as inherently psychological.

But the fact remains, that if negative drug use is in fact a symbol of distress, that makes it just as much a social problem as an individual problem. A lot of the population that are heavy drug users in Big American cities are also people with few economic opportunities / options. A lot of them have – surprise – health problems and are not able to access proper medical care.

The point being that Big American cities that have had terrible experiences with coke and heroin are probably Big American cities that have other problems first – exploitive labour practices, lack of economic opportunities, lack of access to social services, or a variety of other conditions, that result in high use of numbing drugs like coke and heroin. So if a Big American city had high use of numbing drugs like coke and heroin, we should then look at what are the conditions of that city – or a population of cities – that promote people using substances.

With the example of crack in lower-class African American communities, it's quite simple. Many of people in those communities are 1) shown a world of wealth and aspiration via media (television, music, etc.), whilst simultaneously living in a reality where 2) they will (most likely) never participate in that world. It's part of the bastard Puritan work orientation engrained in Americans. Work hard, and you can be a success. That success is intrinsic. Therefore, if you are not a success, it's because you haven't worked hard, or because you made poor choices. It removes the reality for many people, which is that the system is neatly stacked against them.

Which, by the way, the war on drugs conveniently exploits. Take a mantra which says "Drugs are evil, evil people do drugs" and apply that to a population which use drugs because "Successful people work hard. If you are not successful, you haven't worked hard". The result is that you have people – whom the deck is stacked against – who already feel insecure because they didn't work hard enough. They then find relief from their self-imposed distress in drugs, at which point they become evil.

It's heartbreaking to think of how many people have gone on that journey and destroyed themselves, for what amounts to a situation where the deck is stacked against them.

So I would say that Big American cities have not had a terrible experience with coke or heroin. I would say that they people inhabiting big American cities have often turned to coke and heroin because the city itself was a terrible experience.
posted by nickrussell at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Q.3 What does crack cocaine have in it that powdered cocaine does not?

- A solution of LSD and gin

I have never wanted to try crack before this moment.


They make it sound glamorous, but testing of over 140 street samples of 'crack' showed that less than 6% contained safe qualities of ingredients such as Catoctin or Hendricks. 35% were cut with Pine-Sol or other adulterants, and an alarming 59% contained outright poisonous bases such as Banker's Club or Mr. Boston.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "This idea that the President can't do things because of what right wing talk radio will say is deeply irrational."

I didn't mean to offer that up as a reason for the President to act or not act, and frankly such an interpretation strikes me as an intentional misreading.

Let me rephrase so that perhaps you can understand: I believe that the Democratic party leadership would oppose any action by Obama towards drug decriminalization due to a perception that doing so would hinder their candidates getting elected. This is what I meant by "politically difficult."
posted by exogenous at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2013


exogenous: This is rather different from, "The right wing talk radio guys would shit themselves in ecstasy," isn't it?

But I still don't understand your argument. A majority of Americans are in favor of legalization of pot - an even greater percentage of independents and Democrats. Why should taking the majority position be "politically difficult"?

And this is before any major politician owning this issue. Imagine Mr. Obama giving a speech where he explains that the Drug War has been a failure, where he explains the tremendous human and financial costs of it, the hundred-year proven safety record of cannabis and cannabis products, and conversely how many jobs and how much taxation we could make from regulating it. Imagine what a swing of public opinion there would be - given that this is already a majority position and that a lot of people are worried about jobs and taxation more than anything else.

And Mr. Obama is not up for re-election. With a stroke of the pen, he could simply order pot removed from Schedule 1 and there's nothing anyone could do about it. Millions of arrests would be avoid, millions of lives not ruined, billions of dollars saved - heck, perhaps we could use some of these law-enforcement resources to prosecute some crimes with actual victims, crimes like money laundering, insider trading and outright fraud.

If there's one thing that Mr. Obama could do to pay back African-Americans for their steadfast support of him, it is this - stop destroying black kids' lives for smoking or selling pot. After all, if today's laws had been applied to him, then he would not be President.

But he's never going to do this. The rich people make money off it. The prison industrial complex makes money off it. Law enforcement makes money off it. The facts that it's morally wrong, that it destroys millions of lives, and that it's extremely expensive for the tax payer are irrelevant because none of these negatively impact rich people.

The fact that Mr. Obama doesn't see the hypocrisy of the Draconian application of the very laws he flouted as a kid, laws he broke without actually causing harm to anyone, has had as much to do with my personal disenchantment with him as anything else - "anything else" being inaction on climate change, lack of prosecution for Wall Street criminals, targeted assassination, lack of transparency, the vendetta against whistleblowers, the lack of significant Wall Street reforms, and making the very first cut into the meat of Social Security.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2013


And Mr. Obama is not up for re-election. With a stroke of the pen, he could simply order pot removed from Schedule 1 and there's nothing anyone could do about it. Millions of arrests would be avoid, millions of lives not ruined, billions of dollars saved - heck, perhaps we could use some of these law-enforcement resources to prosecute some crimes with actual victims, crimes like money laundering, insider trading and outright fraud.

Cocaine is a Schedule 2 drug, as is morphine. Removing Marijuana from Schedule 1 is not the same thing as legalizing it. It would make it easier for individual states to make "medical use" exceptions, that's really all.

And there aren't "millions" of Federal arrests related to Marijuana that are in that particular window of the conflict between State and Federal law. For Obama to reschedule Marijuana by executive fiat would be a stunty move that would please a certain smallish crowd for a little while before they realized how little difference it made to the reality on the ground but which would almost certainly make any real legislative progress on the issue harder to achieve.
posted by yoink at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2013


This would be a fantastic swan song for Obama, to tackle this issue as he heads out. And it's really a lot of separate things combined: legalizing drugs, police reform, judiciary and sentencing reform, prison reform. All of it matters.

Sadly, Obama has so far had a deaf ear to this kind of thing. The lobbies for the above interests are huge and it will take a lot of firepower.
posted by zardoz at 3:08 PM on April 9, 2013


and an alarming 59% contained outright poisonous bases such as Banker's Club or Mr. Boston.

I really can't understand why a bunch of rich bankers can't afford better booze, that stuff is awful.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:46 PM on April 9, 2013


> Cocaine is a Schedule 2 drug, as is morphine.

Where did I say, "reclassify marijuana under another illegal category"? What would that solve? Strike it from the list entirely. If alcohol and tobacco aren't on that list, why is pot?

> And there aren't "millions" of Federal arrests related to Marijuana that are in that particular window of the conflict between State and Federal law.

True - but very many cases are investigated by the DEA and or the Justice Department and then the small fry prosecuted at the local or state level. By the end of this Administration, the DEA will have directly arrested over 100,000 people for drug offenses...

...but more to the point, it's the message that it sends to the states. Right now, any state thinking of regulating and taxing to help their budget crises knows that the Feds will come down on them like a ton of bricks. With the pressure from the Feds gone, why would New York, Colorado, California, Vermont, Oregon and many other states with massive pro-pot majorities not just out and legalize it?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:29 PM on April 9, 2013


Ummm,

Washington and Colorado DID legalize it...
posted by Windopaene at 12:17 AM on April 10, 2013


And the feds can still prosecute, making it another example of "if there are enough laws then everyone is a criminal who can be tried on a whim"
posted by lalochezia at 6:53 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older You keep doing your work, because you have to, bec...  |  More than five years after it ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments