There There.
December 19, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

A memorial to the many dead. Here in Oakland, California, the murder rate has gone out of control. The incoming mayor has not articulated any clear plan for reducing violence. And the current one, having only seen violence increase here, is going on to become the state Attorney General. Amid the challenges Oaklanders face - gentrification, a lack of meaningful work opportunities, and a history of a devistating drug trade, there are some efforts to make change: here, here, here, and here.
posted by serazin (60 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Meanwhile, Oakland's fingerprint unit has been closed for 7 months. When Oakland decides it really gives a shit they might try funding and supporting the police department, and having the balls to actually arrest and prosecute people who break the law.
posted by 2sheets at 9:14 AM on December 19, 2006


Gentrification AND jobs at Wal-Mart? That would be contradictory.

I don theen "Gentrification" means what they theen it means.
posted by tkchrist at 9:20 AM on December 19, 2006


On top of it all,

Oakland's police are well known for their brutality

and for getting away with it.
posted by serazin at 9:20 AM on December 19, 2006


US crime rate up, ending decade of decline.
posted by stbalbach at 9:20 AM on December 19, 2006


Oops that's an old link, FBI released a new report in 2006 that crime is up.
posted by stbalbach at 9:25 AM on December 19, 2006


What you USians need is another 'Project 100,00'. If only there was some troubled land on the other side of the planet that you could ship these young urchins off to.
posted by veedubya at 9:28 AM on December 19, 2006


Philadelphia: 394
posted by The Straightener at 9:32 AM on December 19, 2006


I wonder how many of the murderers have lost family members (dads, specifically, but the loss of any part of a potential support system interests me) and/or years of their lives to the prison system for non-violent drug offenses.

Yes, crime is bad.
What's our part in it?
There are hundreds of human beings in prison in CA for 25 years to LIFE who have NEVER committed (okay, to be absolutely factual, they've never been convicted of committing) a violent crime.

Seriously. Drug offenses.
Pot, mostly.
And lots of these people are parents who could and should be another brick in the wall between their kids and gangs.

Organized Crime is to Prohibition as _________ is to the War on Drugs. (fill in the blank)
posted by mer2113 at 9:45 AM on December 19, 2006


Barbie!
posted by edgeways at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2006


So long as the drug war continues, gentrification is probably the best thing that can happen to the area. As people who cannot afford to live in the area are forced to move away, gang integrity will tend to dissipate.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2006


How does the gentrification happen? I was curious, but the links don't explain it explicitly. Is it landlord driven - pushing out poorer tenants by jacking up security deposits? Or are the rental houses/buildings being bought up by others?
posted by jb at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2006


Organized Crime is to Prohibition as _________ is to the War on Drugs. (fill in the blank)
posted by mer2113 at 12:45 PM EST on December 19


Gangs? Made up of people who live in Oakland?

You realize if drugs were legalized, it would actually be a twofold catastrophe on places like this. First, the gang members who make money selling drugs would no longer make any. Granted, that would probably result in the dissolution of gangs, but it would also mean less money in the pockets of residents, from which the members of gangs are drawn. So poverty would increase.

Secondly, more people drank after prohibition than during it. We can assume that if pot was legalized, the people who do it now would probably still do it, and others would get into it. So now you have more spending on drugs when its legalizes then you would otherwise?

But who do you think is going to be supplying the pot? Local growers? No. Agribusinesses, wealthy farmers/corporations - the same ones who supply the country with its corn, wheat, etc.

So if you legalize pot, in Oakland you'd have more drug users on the streets (because ethey wouldn't be going to jail), with less money in their pockets, and all the community collectively spends on pot would leave the community. So you have poor people with no jobs looking for money to buy drugs but getting no money from the sale of them.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2006


It happened because the Bay Area home prices have gone insane, Oakland has a good location, some nice old houses, and at least 5-6 years ago, cheap (for the area) real estate.

Complaining about gentrification pisses me off, the second comment on that gentrificaiton link says it better than I could. You should also keep in mind that Oakland has pretty strong rent control laws, and because of prop 13 people who do own in the area don't have their property taxes go up. Yes renters can have owner move ins and the like if the property gets sold, but at least that means the property is being lived in by the owner.
posted by aspo at 10:29 AM on December 19, 2006


land speculation.....

people buy a house and fix it up on the idea that the neighborhood will get better. Oakland is ripe for development being right next to San Fran. The neighbohoods in west oakland are probably a good target, between two downtowns and several freeways. Emeryville is a good example, that place is nice and right next to a high crime area.
posted by dibblda at 10:30 AM on December 19, 2006


Pastabagel: First, the gang members who make money selling drugs would no longer make any.

They would just switch to other commodities, mostly smuggled and counterfeit goods. Of course, these aren't nearly as lucrative.

Secondly, the bulk of the profits in the drug trade occur at the import/export juncture and wholesale distribution, not street retailing.

So now you have more spending on drugs when its legalizes then you would otherwise?

The broad economic effects of prohibition are the following:

1)drive up prices significantly, in some cases, dramatically. Miron, an economist at Boston U. conservatively estimates cocaine retails for 4 times, heroin 8-19 times and marijuana 15 times as their putative price in an alcohol-like regime.

2)Government would save substantial money on law enforcement (enforcement, incarceration..)

3)Government would make substantial money from tax revenue, which it currently forgoes.
posted by daksya at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2006


and and The Straightener
Philadelphia: 394
That may be true, but according to the 2000 census Philadelphia had 1.5 million people, Oakland had 400k.
150*1500/400 = 562
That should give some idea how bad Oakland's murder rate is right now.
posted by aspo at 10:43 AM on December 19, 2006


Ha! Baltimore's had 253 so far, with a population of 640K! Oakland would need almost 160 by now to keep up with that rate.

We RULE!
posted by schroedinger at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2006


In a way, drug prohibition has covered up the fact that many of America's poorest are without legal jobs. If drugs were legalized, there's one other group that would eventually take an employment hit—police. So much of our tax money is tied up into trying to bust the drug dealers.
posted by drezdn at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2006


And we've got a corner on drug trade imports on the Eastern Seaboard. Bitches. And our own strain of syphilis. And 1,000 new HIV infections and 35,000 cases of gonorrhea a year. Let me again reiterate the ruling we do, and how much of it. Because it is quite a lot.
posted by schroedinger at 10:52 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


1)drive up prices significantly, in some cases, dramatically. Miron, an economist at Boston U. conservatively estimates cocaine retails for 4 times, heroin 8-19 times and marijuana 15 times as their putative price in an alcohol-like regime.

The alcohol analogy breaks down when you realize that a lot of booze was smuggled in from Canada and elsewhere where it was legal and produced under conditions where the producer was taxed, obeyed regulations, etc. So the price the bootlegger paid in Canada included all of this. Furthermore, prohibition existed prior to most of the taxation, and labor and employment regulations that any legal drug dealing entity would have to contend with today.

Now, every aspect of the drug trade is illegal. Production, importation, wholesaling, distribution, retailing. If they were really legalize, i.e. if every aspect of the chain of commerce relating to drugs was legalized, then you'd have labor laws, payroll and other taxes, regulatory burdens, etc imposing costs at every stage.

Furthermore, any legal entity selling drugs subjects itself to tobacco industry-level product liability suits. That risk will be priced in. On top of this, the government is probably going to tax drugs the way they tax cigarettes.

My guess is that at the end of the day, the retail drug price is going to be about the same as the street price now, if for no other reason then we know that is a price consumers are willing to pay. The difference is that all the revenue at every stage leaves the community. There are no corner dealers making a living in a world where pot can be obtained from the same $7/hr convenience store clerk who sells you beer and cigarettes.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:00 AM on December 19, 2006


Secondly, more people drank after prohibition than during it. We can assume that if pot was legalized, the people who do it now would probably still do it, and others would get into it.

I imagine that if drugs were legalised, a lot more people would do more drugs. In the short term at least, there would probably be a spike in the number of hardcore addicts.

SO FUCKING WHAT? The alternative is to continue attempting to enforce the farcicial prohibition that currently exists, and the effects of that are felt every goddamnned day from the slums of Oakland to the slums of Colombia. It's important to have a grasp of how fucked up the world is RIGHT NOW because of the "drug war" when considering what negative effects a change in policy could have.
posted by jcruelty at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Miron is comparing the current prohibition prices with a legal alcohol-like regime, so he's accounting for the legal costs of doing business.

Furthermore, any legal entity selling drugs subjects itself to tobacco industry-level product liability suits. That risk will be priced in.

Given that drugs are illegal right now, that would be worked out prior to legalization. Furthermore, Big Tobacco basically paid for their lies, whereas there's no such history with drugs, like there isn't for alcohol.

On top of this, the government is probably going to tax drugs the way they tax cigarettes.

That's factored into Miron's assumptions.
posted by daksya at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2006


Actually, oddly enough, increased marijuana availability and decriminalization does not increase the number of people using pot.

I know, it makes no sense.
But I recently was working on a paper on drug policy and came across "Sending The Wrong Message": Did Medical Marijuana Legalization Change Attitudes About and Use of Marijuana?, from a 2004 issue of the Journal of Drug Issues. Basically, during the period in which Medical Marijuana was first available (increasing the total marijuana supply; I know a fair amount of recreational pot smokers who are none-the-less members of the "Cannabis Club"), marijuana use did not increase. Perceptions of harm from marijuana use decreased, but disapproval of recreational marijuana use actually increased. When pot was available and decriminalized, not only did regular use stay the same, but people actually looked down on regular use more.
These results might actually be crazy, but hey. After some of the other stuff I saw while researching, I could read a paper claiming that Santa Claus was bringing in Maui Wowie and I wouldn't be surprised.
Oh, and re: drug offenders in prison: The Effect of Imprisonment on Recidivism Rates of Felony Offenders: A Focus on Drug Offenders, from Vol. 40, #2 of Criminology, basically says that imprisoning drug offenders not only doesn't have any more effect on recidivism rates than probation, it actually increases the probability of later, and more violent convictions. Imprisoning drug users makes it more likely that you'll be imprisoning them later, as violent criminals (as opposed to putting them on probation).
posted by 235w103 at 11:18 AM on December 19, 2006


My guess is that crime rates are increasing as we continue to dump dollars and manpower into the War Against Some Terrorists.
posted by eriko at 11:24 AM on December 19, 2006


There are no corner dealers making a living in a world where pot can be obtained from the same $7/hr convenience store clerk who sells you beer and cigarettes.

Ah, yes. Because beer and cigarettes are only made and sold by huge, monolithic companies, and the same goes for coffee, correct? Thus why Folgers, Camel, and Budweiser are the only choices in every store, and you'll never find a bar that sells its own beer, or a coffee house that roasts its own coffee!

Your model doesn't match reality. Microbrews, local coffee companies, and even smaller tobacco outfits still exist, and still do fine despite being taxed and regulated. If I want to, I can buy beer, cigarettes, and coffee that were processed (though not necessarily *all* the ingredients were local) and packaged in the next town over. And these local brands are really popular around here, even in the dirt-poor towns, because they're better. People are usually willing to spend a bit more to get better stuff, especially when it comes to drugs.

Marijuana, being a drug that can be grown very easily at almost no cost, does not lend itself to total corporate control. I guarantee that no company will ever be able to beat the lure of better and/or cheaper local weed, bought from a friend-of-a-friend instead of your underpaid store clerk...
posted by vorfeed at 11:29 AM on December 19, 2006


235w013: Actually, oddly enough, increased marijuana availability and decriminalization does not increase the number of people using pot.

I'm a legalizer, and I've read a fair amount of the literature viz. comparing trends across places, like Amsterdam and San Francisco, and among Australian provinces with different policies; comparing trends within a place, like the Netherlands before and after. But I've to take deep objection with these analyses. Now, this thread is not focused on the drug war, so I'll keep it short: the controls that modulate drug use are social and legal. Both reinforce and shape the other, but it is the social controls that are dominant, not the legal. Most of the sites where decriminalization occured, had tolerant attitudes prior to the policy change. In other words, the social controls were already more relaxed. After overcoming some inertia and political grandstanding, the legal change followed. Note the pattern of where decriminalization has occured, mostly places with urban populations who sport a tolerant/liberal attitude. In that context, the formal legal policy change is the wrong demarcation point for the sake of effect analysis. I'll end here but we can discuss it in email or at another focused forum, if you wish.
posted by daksya at 11:29 AM on December 19, 2006


I've been in Oakland 3 years now, and it's not any different than any other ghetto.

You have a bunch of kids in poverty, with no hope or idea of how to get out of it. They can't imagine ever owning a house, having a family, or an actual career. They have nothing to look forward to, and the very little they have is often taken from them as well. All they have is anger, and they unleash it on whatever is nearby.

The police claim they need more funding, but there's plenty of police in my neighborhood, and very little busting. Adolescent girls from across the country come here to work the streets because they know they won't get busted, and the market is booming.

Gentrification is at the edges, and eventually, probably over the course of decades, folks will get pushed out, underpaid for what property folks do own, and then into a new ghetto, with less land ownership and disparate gangs fighting to establish new territorial lines.
posted by yeloson at 11:36 AM on December 19, 2006


Pastabagel, every change in policy hurts somebody's economic interests. See slavery, prohibition, the whaling industry in New England, and the formation of labor unions for other examples where (mostly) enacting the correct policy won out over narrow economic interests, and see if most people don't think these decisions were very good ideas in retrospect.
posted by SBMike at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2006


Marijuana, being a drug that can be grown very easily at almost no cost, does not lend itself to total corporate control. I guarantee that no company will ever be able to beat the lure of better and/or cheaper local weed, bought from a friend-of-a-friend instead of your underpaid store clerk...
posted by vorfeed at 2:29 PM EST on December 19


Nothing lends itself to total anything. I can buy locally grown lettuce. However, most of the lettuce bought in most places is corporate grown lettuce.

And your microbrews analogy isn't a good one, because nobody sues microbrews or small coffee houses when they OD on coffee.

Drugs are narcotics. daksya above mentioned that Big tobacco paid for their lies. You don't think drug producers are going to lie? You're ignoring the opportunism that funds all these class action liability suits.

Pot becomes legal. Someone funds a study that shows pot causes emphysema. Someone questions a grower of pot "does your product really give your customers emphysema?" Anything other than "yes" will be considered to be covering up or lying. So mow pot growers are liable to their customers for emphysema. I'm just using that as an example here - it could be anything.

The point is that like the tobacco industry which has consolidated into a handful of companies, the drug industry will also likely consolidate. The difference is that knowing now the liability risks, the consolidation will happen at the outset rather than after the fact.

Furthermore, I'd like to point out the contradiction in wanting legalization of harder drugs like coke or heroin, while legal prescription drugs like vicodin, valium, and prozac are highly regulated. Under a legalized drug regime, would pharmaceutical companies be permitted to create new drugs for sale on the street without FDA regulation? Let's not forget that these are the people who gave use LSD and ecstasy.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:53 AM on December 19, 2006


Pastabagel, every change in policy hurts somebody's economic interests. See slavery, prohibition, the whaling industry in New England, and the formation of labor unions for other examples where (mostly) enacting the correct policy won out over narrow economic interests, and see if most people don't think these decisions were very good ideas in retrospect.
posted by SBMike at 2:37 PM EST on December 19


Yes, but we talking specifically about the economic interests of the poor people in Oakland who I contend would suffer a net negative if drugs were legalized. It might be the case that somewhere someone else will get richer, that the govt might make more in tax revenue, or that taxpayers will benefit by not having to fund a war on drugs, but we aren't talking about them.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:56 AM on December 19, 2006


Pastabagel, don't you see that the current system does everything it can to push poor black kids into the illegal drug trade to the exclusion of more productive/honest ways of making a living? Actually, I think the biggest economic losses won't be in the inner city, but from all the industries that benefit from the prison system or the multi-billion dollar drug testing industry. Nevermind the devastating social effects of jailing such a huge percent of the inner-city population. I mean, I appreciate your concerns about the short-term economic effects on Oakland residents (which are real, should be considered and debated, and may indeed be negative), but there's a bigger picture here. Take a step or two back.
posted by SBMike at 12:09 PM on December 19, 2006


Pastabagel: You don't think drug producers are going to lie?

No. The era of outright lying and blatant misleading is gone (except for political propaganda, but even there only the drug war propaganda really qualifies). The forthcoming drug companies will be like other industries that sell risky products i.e. emphasize the positive/neutral aspects; downplay but not deny the negative aspects; make a show of social responsibility by putting disclaimers and put out PSAs encouraging certain attitudes and behaviors that covers their ass. Remember, Big Tobacco didn't really pay for their ongoing trangressions. They had a huge history of deception, and as the health hazards of tobacco came into public awareness, alongwith the anti-corporate attitudes of the left, that meant that the public rage got focused on Big Tobacco as retribution, nevermind that the government and academia found out about tobacco health risks at the same time as Big Tobacco did.

Someone questions a grower of pot "does your product really give your customers emphysema?" Anything other than "yes" will be considered to be covering up or lying. So mow pot growers are liable to their customers for emphysema.

a)Alcohol producers aren't paying for cirrhosis or fetal alcohol syndrome or drunk driving accidents.

b)The correct answer is "some extra risk if you smoke a lot; very low extra risk if you're a typical moderate user; no extra risk if you don't smoke your pot in the first place."

c)Drugs are already formally considered bad to begin with. Should legalization occur, it won't be on the basis of a repudiation of their reputations, but an economic and social cost-benefit rationale.
posted by daksya at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2006


No offense to the anti Drug-War folks (I happen to agree with you in general), but I think the problem goes a lot deeper than that. Gangs and crime have been the scourge of Oakland since long before the 1960s, and it has certainly been infamous for gangs and crime since then. What people have to understand is that this is an industrial, blue-collar town, historically. If the economy were ever stable, the children of blue collar workers could find a decent job when they hit 18.... enough of a job to continue doing exactly what their parents did. If the economy is NOT stable, then there are too many children for too few jobs, or we have a work shortage which means more people move in to fill those jobs. At some point, the economy downturns and there are no more jobs available.
The myth of "rags to riches" and other such lies are just not borne out by reality in places like this, places which I call "economic reservations" in the same sense that Native Americans are pushed to the side, the lower and working classes have been pushed to the side in this country. Admittedly, any of these people have the "right" to go out and better themselves, but it's a little harder to better yourself with little-to-no resources compared to a middle class or upper class family, where the family can afford to blow a few tens of thousands on a botched education, or the child can presume a safety net if he fails at his enterprise.
So then what to do? After all, these working class kids are taught from day One that America is a great land of opportunity and, if you fail, it's basically just your own stupid fault for not seizing the golden banners of opportunity flopping over your head at all times. When you don't see opportunity, a real American makes his own! As money is the measure of a man in this country, the smart, entrepeneurial kids go into some sort of business which makes them real money and which is available to them. Prostitution, gambling, drugs and guns are a whole lot more profitable than working at Burger King, and allow a kid to earn enough money to have nice things. And don't forget Thorstein Veblen's sociological contribution to this country: Conspicuous Consumption. So Burger King kid gets to drive a beat up old Maverick everywhere and gangbanger kid gets a pimped-out Audi. Oh and the violence? That's simple, there's competition and cheap unregistered weaponry.
If it weren't Piru and Crips it would be the Mafia. If it weren't drugs, guns, prostitution and gambling it would be illegal Brazilian parrots. The problem is systemic, and it boils down to unequal distribution of wealth.
On a positive note, the hyphy culture looks, to me, like a tremendously positive step in Oakland's cultural history. The reason I say this is because there was, shall we say, tension between the hip/hop gangbangers and the rock/punk gangs in Oakland when I was there, and both of those subcultures have an extensive history in the East Bay. Hyphy looks to me like a sort of "coming together" of those two groups.
(the following statement may confuse non-Bay people)
I haven't been there in 13 years or so, but I can't help but be gettin hyphy, iz da rilla.
posted by eparchos at 12:27 PM on December 19, 2006


"Seriously. Drug offenses.
Pot, mostly."

You know, I hear this all the time but never see any sources to back it up, other than the usual propaganda from NORML and other pro-pot groups. I highly doubt that many people are getting life sentences just because they were busted with pot. If it's their "third strike" and they're running afoul of the "Three Strikes" laws, then yes, I can see that. But for a first offense? If I recall correctly, Oakland is one of the cities that has pot clubs and with Measure Z has shuffled marijuana crimes down to the bottom of the priority list, nearly decriminalizing its use. Yet that hasn't solved the gang problems or the homicides. One reason is that meth is more of a problem than pot is.

I don't think that people are really blaming marijuana this time.
posted by drstein at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2006


" If drugs were legalized, there's one other group that would eventually take an employment hit—police."

I don't really know if that's true. Maybe at the Federal level, but the way things are going these days we'd hopefully wind up moving them around to departments that are understaffed.

Like the Oakland PD's fingerprint lab.
posted by drstein at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2006


A qucik look at the comments and thenthis one question: If drugs were readily availale, that is, legal, then Oakland would be in good shape? Is it just drugs that causes all these problems? That seems to be central to so many ofthese comments.
posted by Postroad at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2006


realizes he just told Pastabagel to look at the larger picture when Pastabagel was specifically talking about the smaller picture. Sorry.
posted by SBMike at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2006


drstein: I highly doubt that many people are getting life sentences just because they were busted with pot.

"The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a mandatory 55-year prison sentence, condemned as excessive by the federal judge who imposed it, for a man convicted of carrying a handgun during three marijuana deals. [...]
The charges stemmed from his sale of three 8-ounce bags of marijuana to an undercover informant. He had a gun but never brandished or used it. Nevertheless, the three counts of possession of a firearm in a drug transaction required the mandatory minimum sentence."

But hey, feel free to ignore the vicious pro-drug propaganda of Fox News and the Associated Press.

And if that doesn't do it for you, how about this guy, who is serving a life sentence for testing positive for marijuana while on probation... for a $2 stickup in which no one was hurt. For extra points, think for a moment about what, say, a 5% false-positive test rate means over ten years of probation.

Simple possession accounts for more than four-fifths of all drug arrests, and the marijuana laws account for more arrests than any other drug. That's an awful lot of people getting arrested for possessing pot, isn't it? Nearly 700,000 people in 2005 -- for perspective, that's more than were arrested for all violent crimes combined -- were arrested for marijuana possession alone. But please, go on about how nobody (certainly not more people than the individual prison populations of 8 of the 10 European Union nations) is incarcerated due to our marijuana laws.
posted by vorfeed at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hmm... replace rock/punk with biker/punk in my earlier comment.
posted by eparchos at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2006


vorfeed, very few people are sent to prison for just simple possession of pot.
posted by daksya at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2006


"3)Government would make substantial money from tax revenue, which it currently forgoes."

Do you really think so? I would imagine the amount of tax Federal and state governments would impose would be huge. I would think that the "weed tax" would be even higher (no pun intended) than the cigarette tax. This of course leads to a black market all over again. We're already seeing tax avoidance with cigarettes and as taxes continue to rise it's going to progress to outright smuggling. Of course even if you could buy weed legally you wouldn't be able to actually smoke it anywhere. Also, what reputable company is going to manufacture and sell crack, heroin and crystal meth? Drug legalization isn't just about the bud.
posted by MikeMc at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2006


vorfeed: Ok, I'll go on, because you're talking out of your ass. Those folks were sent to prison for prior criminal convictions and violating probation.

"Nevertheless, the three counts of possession of a firearm in a drug transaction"

Was that just because of the pot? NO. From your link: "Angelos was convicted of 16 counts of violating federal firearms, drug and money laundering laws in 2003. The charges stemmed from his sale of three 8-ounce bags of marijuana to an undercover informant."

SIXTEEN federal counts, and you're acting like he was sent to jail for life just because he had a joint, and you know damn well that is not the case. By presenting it as such, you are doing a serious disservice to people that actually do wind up in jail for minor possessions.

"who is serving a life sentence for testing positive for marijuana while on probation."

Was he a first time offender? NO.

Quit being a turkey and read your own facts - people do NOT get life sentences for their first marijuana possession.
posted by drstein at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2006


Your favorite solution to Oakland's problems is hella stupid.
posted by ubi at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


MikeMc: I would imagine the amount of tax Federal and state governments would impose would be huge. I would think that the "weed tax" would be even higher (no pun intended) than the cigarette tax. This of course leads to a black market all over again.

a)If the public rationale for legalization is to reduce crime by removing the huge premiums from the drugs trade, then imposing a very huge tax that perpetuates the black market is pointless and politically a nonstarter.

b)There's a huge spread between the putative untaxed price of legal cannabis and the current street price. Huge enough that the governments can impose a decent enough tax without sustaining the current black market. Take decent bud that retails for $400/oz now. If the same untaxed legal bud costs, say, $80 (yes, margins are that 'high'), then the government can impose a tax of, say, 50% i.e. $120 , or 150% i.e. $200 and still substantially undercut the street price. Then, street dealers have to

a)match that price - less profit means less incentive to continue an illegal activity. And the incentive discounting function is not linear, so a hit of $100/oz leads to a greater disproportionate reduction than $50/oz.

b)coerce customers to buy - this is pretty implausible but I'll tackle it anyway - the symbiosis between user/dealer that keeps current dealers safe from capture is broken, and hence the users have little motivation to cultivate dealers.

c)find another commodity or line of work - as Moises Naim profiles in his book on illicit trade, this is the likely outcome during the transitional period (when existing dealers are coping with the change in drug policy).
posted by daksya at 3:21 PM on December 19, 2006


vorfeed, very few people are sent to prison for just simple possession of pot.

Actually, it's tough to tell, because our government doesn't keep proper records of the difference in number between possession prisoners and those who are in for "possession with intent to sell", "trafficking", etc. There are probably around 37,000 marijuana prisoners, total. MPP estimated that there were about 8,000 people were in state or local jails for felony marijuana possession alone in 1997, plus about 5,000 more in local jails for misdemeanor possession, and an unknown number in federal prison for felony possession. That's a minimum of 13,000 people in jail for possession -- in 1997, when mandatory minimum programs were still in the process of spreading across the country. There were also about 100,000 fewer marijuana arrests in 1997 than there were last year. Maybe 13,000 is "very few" to you, but it's not to me, considering the relative harmlessness of the crime in question. The fact that anybody is ever sent to prison for possession alone ought to be a wake-up call.

Also, I'd seriously question how many people arrested for "trafficking" or "dealing" were really trafficking or dealing. Many states add an automatic "with intent to sell" charge on possession of large amounts of pot, so there are probably quite a few possession-only prisoners being counted as dealers.

Quit being a turkey and read your own facts - people do NOT get life sentences for their first marijuana possession.

Yes, well, I never said that they did. You said, "just because they were busted with pot" -- and if you ask me, both of the people I mentioned were sent to jail "just because they were busted with pot". What they did last week, or two years ago, or our legal fiction of making a handgun 100% legal unless it happens to be in the jacket pocket of somebody selling drugs, does not change the fact that these people were sent to prison, for decades, for the crime of handling a plant in an entirely peaceful manner. You can point to things like "16 federal counts" and "probation violation" all you want to, but that does not change the essential fact that the first guy got 50+ years for selling 3 half-pound bags of weed to an undercover guy, and the second got life for sticking somebody up and then smoking some weed a few years later.

When you're talking about the drug war, not counting mandatory minimum sentencing and the "three strikes" laws makes no sense, because these are exactly the laws under which people are going to jail for simple marijuana possession, for years, all the time. In short, your argument is equivalent to, "well, we're not sending anyone to jail for a long sentence, except for the people we're sending to jail for a long sentence". Nice attempt to frame the issue, but I'm not going to buy it unless you can tell me, with a straight face, that the second guy I linked to deserves a life sentence for testing positive for pot after taking part in a $2 stickup where nobody was hurt. Sorry, but the old "blah blah prior criminal convictions and violating probation" argument should not apply here. It should be impossible for an American to get put in jail for life for doing what this man did, probation violation or not, period.
posted by vorfeed at 3:30 PM on December 19, 2006


Jacksonville, FL has 132, so far, in 2006, versus 114 total in 2005
2000 Census population: 735,000, 2005 estimate: 782,623

So, compared to Oakland and other cities named in this thread, we're not doing all that bad in terms of murder rate, statistically speaking, and yet, people here are scared. 33 per cent of likely voters recently surveyed (a pretty high number for a single issue interest in an urban mayoral election), said that the city's murder rate will be their #1 decision issue in selecting a mayoral candidate in the upcoming spring 2007 mayor's race.

What's troubling is that no one attributes to the increase in murders to any one factor. Drug killings are part of it, the short tempers of young men figure in, and some people say its partly economic: the 32206, 32208 and 32209 zip codes had the highest rates of foreclosure actions in Jacksonville, and also the highest murder rates. But there is also a senseless randomness about some of the killings here, that make people think it could be them, in their own home, next.

However, some threshold was crossed here this year, as the parade of murder across the front pages of the newspaper, and TV news screens became a nearly constant feature. There is a rythym to news reporting of murder, that follows the investigation of the crime, and a new killing often leads the news for 2 or 3 days, as officials seek leads from the public through the media, and the media reports the story. This year, with an average of a little more that 1 murder every 3 days, for the most part, murder has been constantly in the news.

And that gets hairs up, on the back of people's necks. And still, in a state with an active death penalty, up until a few days ago, the prosecution and punishment of murder, as well as the redress of justice gone wrong, all contribute to the news cycle and on-going discussion of the worst of human crimes, and how best to prevent it.

In response to a rash of murders early in 2006, the Jacksonville Police Department launched Operation Safe Streets, and early on, it appeared to have had some effect. But some wonder if keeping 50 to 70 extra police on the streets in targeted high crime zones indefinitely is the right approach. Whether or not it's really an effective means of preventing murder city wide, police see it at least as "doing something" in areas where crime is most likely.
posted by paulsc at 3:40 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


"sent to prison, for decades, for the crime of handling a plant in an entirely peaceful manner"

No, they were sent to prison for decades because they proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are incapable of obeying some pretty simple laws.

"Nice attempt to frame the issue, but I'm not going to buy it unless you can tell me, with a straight face"

I think that life is a little excessive, but according to his own story, he didn't even make it a MONTH through probation before blowing it. Did you miss the bit where he was also a known gang member and committed armed robbery? It doesn't fucking matter if "nobody got hurt." Just because nobody got hurt doesn't make the crime of felony armed robbery any less of a crime. So he got probation instead of the 5 years in prison, and he turned right around and went back to being a criminal. He chose to break the law. It sounds like he knew pot was illegal and a probation violation, yet he continued breaking the law. He knew what could happen and made his choices accordingly. Nobody forced him to do it.

But this is really off topic now, so we can just agree to disagree. First time offenders aren't being tossed in prison for their whole lives, and the pro-pot agenda folks really like to pick strange examples.
posted by drstein at 4:17 PM on December 19, 2006


It doesn't fucking matter if "nobody got hurt."

So, drstein, explain to me why we have juries and judges then.
posted by eparchos at 4:41 PM on December 19, 2006


jesus people. its the economy, stupid.

drugs are a factor but legalization of pot/crack/meth/whatever would not cure oakland's problems overnight.

bottom line is that there are no jobs, and as others have pointed out, this is a market economy. the benefits for a kid to cross over to a life of crime far outweigh the (perceived) risks. teenaged males were never big on that whole idea of mortality.

anyway i hate living here. i hate living here because i'm not safe in my community and neither are the people living in west oakland. i dont think ron dellums is going to do anything, just like jerry brown didnt. all i can hope for is that he'll do more than de la fuente.
posted by joeblough at 5:04 PM on December 19, 2006


"So, drstein, explain to me why we have juries and judges then."

What are you talking about? Does that change the fact that armed robbery still a crime? The judicial system didn't fail that guy - he failed himself.

Bah. I'm done.
posted by drstein at 5:58 PM on December 19, 2006


The USA is going to eat itself up from within.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:58 PM on December 19, 2006


I don't think the drug dealing problem in Oakland has much to do with pot. There aren't too many pot junkies. I think it has more to do with crack and heroin, the ones that produce a physical addiction and require a more sophisticated infrastructure to distribute. Decriminalizing pot wouldn't help Oakland's gang problem because Oakland's gang problem has very little to do with pot in the first place. So do we decriminalize heroin? I dunno, maybe.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:30 PM on December 19, 2006


You set up safe injection sites, for starters. That alone will have a marked effect on the number of addicts: many of them will use the opportunity to seek help from the nurses staffing the safehouse.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:16 PM on December 19, 2006


Decriminalizing heroin? That's the brilliant idea of the week.
posted by schroedinger at 8:39 PM on December 19, 2006


oakland happens to command some pretty decent resources, two in particular, desirable land, and one of only 3 ports on the western shore of the US. billions of dollars comes through that port.

the problem is not that oakland is poor, its WHY oakland is poor, and what oaklanders can do to change that, that doesnt involve importing rich white commuters with fat bank accounts from walnut creek. for example, getting fair amounts of tax out of the port would help. not having the city council give away land dirt cheap to developers so they make a killing would help.

meanwhile, the only solution people can think of to ALL oaklands problems comes from the cops. if you know cops, esp. in oakland, you know they are good at kicking people around, bad at being economic advisors and social workers.

unfortunately, real solutions require creative thinking, and political willpower, two things oakland has been short on for a while. although maybe with the new mayor things will change a bit.
posted by mano at 9:00 PM on December 19, 2006


A young woman from Oakland on the local news tonight was interviewed about enlisting for the military. She said that she would be facing a war either way, whether she stayed in Oakland or joined to serve and some of the linked material gives a good idea of why someone would feel that way.
posted by PY at 10:34 PM on December 19, 2006


man, that's terrible. what a f'n shame this country is when someone would feel that way about her life.
posted by joeblough at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2006


A young woman from Oakland on the local news tonight was interviewed about enlisting for the military. She said that she would be facing a war either way, whether she stayed in Oakland or joined to serve and some of the linked material gives a good idea of why someone would feel that way.

It is goign to get really interesting when the troops return to their war-zone neighborhoods. Add a few dozen ex-military people, trained against the Iraq insurgency into the mix and crime might literally explode. Some will take police jobs, but others will find themselves unemployed and fall back on their military skills.

Did urban crime spike after troops returned from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War?
posted by b1tr0t at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2006


Did urban crime spike after troops returned from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War?

After the Vietnam War? Yes. It sure did. It's also why suddenly the government started taking Civil Rights seriously. Once young black men in Berets were walking around Oakland in formation with shotguns. Suddenly MLK started looking like a statesman by comparison.
posted by tkchrist at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2006


From the Wikipedia article cited in one of the links:


Gentrification, or more specifically urban gentrification, is a process in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods experience physical renovation and an increase in property values, along with an influx of wealthier residents who typically replace the prior residents. The process often returns decaying parts of a city to the middle-class, economically viable neighborhoods they were originally built as.


Yeah. That sounds terrible.
posted by kjs3 at 6:30 AM on December 21, 2006


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