One year out: On July 13, 2015, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Here’s what their lives are like now. [The Washington Post] Few aspects of the Obama administration have been uncontroversial. Yet releasing 348 people from prison early provoked remarkably little criticism. To date, President Obama has commuted more sentences than his seven predecessors combined; when the president granted clemency to 46 nonviolent drug offenders last July, many of whom were sentenced under laws that no longer exist, critics mostly complained that he hadn’t let more people go free.
"From 2008 to 2012, the city of 1.3 million people was widely deemed the most dangerous place on Earth." And now Juárez is a thriving city with parks where children can play. (SL National Geographic, some graphic imagery)
"We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” - John Ehrlichman, a senior aide to Richard Nixon. [more inside]
Lou Milione, a senior official at [the DEA], told me, “One of the things the DEA is kind of in the business of is almost all of our investigations are proactive.” But Russell Hanks, a former senior American diplomat, who got a ﬁrsthand look at some of the DEA’s narco-terrorism targets during the time he served in West Africa, told me, “The DEA provided everything these men needed to commit a crime, then said, ‘Wow, look what they did.’” He added, “This wasn’t terrorism — this was the manipulation of weak-minded people, in weak countries, in order to pad arrest records." [more inside]
In “Anything for a Witness”, the most recent episode of the Everything Is Stories podcast, Lois Gibson, relates the story of her career, loving faces, and her general thoughts on being the greatest forensic artist of our time. (Includes intense descriptions of sexual violence.) This closes a loop with “Burden of Proof”, the podcast’s first episode, in which a former videographer for COPS and former crime scene photographer describes their careers affiliated with the law. Inside, a few more of the crime episodes that have been a staple of the freeform, well-produced, interview podcast. [more inside]
Last saturday Ruben Espinosa, a Mexican photojournalist, was found dead in his apartment in a middle-class neighborghood in Mexico City. With him, four women were also found dead, three of which lived in the same apartment, and a domestic employee. All five showed signs of torture and had been killed with a shot to the head, execution style. [more inside]
It’s stronger than heroin and more potent than OxyContin. It’s also cheap, ubiquitous, and incredibly deadly. Inside the rise of fentanyl. [more inside]
The New Mexico Law Review just published an issue dedicated entirely to Breaking Bad. It features eight articles that analyze the illegal acts committed on the show, their real-world parallels, and the consequences attached:
Given the array of legal issues raised, our editorial board was excited to take the opportunity to present analysis of Breaking Bad by scholars and legal practitioners. In April 2014 we issued a call for papers requesting abstracts on topics including the application of the Fourth Amendment to drug crimes under the New Mexico and/or U.S. Constitutions; the War on Drugs; ethical duties of lawyers; drug-offense sentencing; drug enforcement in rural, urban, and/or Tribal areas; and substance abuse and the law.Some of the greatest legal minds in New Mexico (and the country) came together to examine how Walter White would look to a jury, how the war on drugs affects peripheral citizens like Skyler, and whether Heisenberg could have stayed legit by fighting for his stake in Grey Matter in the courts. [via] [more inside]
Lives are literally at stake. I have been on both sides of this issue, having spent 7 years as a plainclothes narcotics detective. I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I've never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life. As of June 1, the police department of Gloucester, Massachusetts will no longer be charging drug addicts who turn themselves in and ask for help. Instead, they will be fast tracking them into a recovery program. [more inside]
In the case, Rodriguez v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled (6-3) today that a police officer may not extend a traffic stop beyond the time needed to complete the tasks related to that stop for the purposes of allowing a trained dog to sniff for drugs. Supremecourt.gov pdf, Washington Post article.
The Hunting of Billie Holiday. "How Lady Day found herself in the middle of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ early fight for survival." [more inside]
"Police in a Mexican border city said Wednesday that a drone overloaded with illicit methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot." Fox News, AP. [more inside]
And It Is Not What You Think. "The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did."
California passed proposition 47 on election day, changing a number of crimes- including possession of hard drugs- from a felony to a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, Vermont has decided to offer treatment as an alternative to prosecution for those caught with heroin possession, and Rahm Emanuel has discussed changing Illinois law so that those caught with 1 gram or less of any controlled substance won't recieve a felony in an attempt to get support for tougher gun laws. In addition, Oregon, Alaska, and DC voted to legalize marijuana, and Florida's vote to legalize medical marijuana failed but with 58 percent in favor. Is this the beginning of the end for the War on Drugs?
Mark Kozelek aka Sun Kil Moon is a personality. Recently he played the Ottawa folk festival and there was sound bleed from another strage from the band The War on Drugs. This irritated Kozelek and he wrote a song about it. It had mixed results. Kozelek has apparently been watching the Internet for mention of him and The War on Drugs because the second diss track has been released based on the criticism Kozelek has received.
Josh Soskin's latest short film La Carnada is about a 13 year old drug mule named Manny. Funded by Kickstarter, it is a prequel to a planned feature-length exploration of the drug trade.
Stop and Seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes. A multimedia investigation by the Washington Post.
The world's most extensive study of the drug trade has just been published in the medical journal BMJ Open, providing the first "global snapshot" of four decades of the war on drugs. To sum up their most important findings, the average purity of heroin and cocaine have increased, respectively, 60 percent and 11 percent between 1990 and 2007. Cannabis purity is up a whopping 161 percent over that same time. Not only are drugs way purer than ever, they're also way, way cheaper. Coke is on an 80 percent discount from 1990, heroin 81 percent, cannabis 86 percent. After a trillion dollars spent on the drug war, now is the greatest time in history to get high.
Criminal Cartels And The Rule Of Law In Mexico: Summary, PDF
The cartels have thousands of gunmen and have morphed into diversified crime groups that not only traffic drugs, but also conduct mass kidnappings, oversee extortion rackets and steal from the state oil industry. The military still fights them in much of the country on controversial missions too often ending in shooting rather than prosecutions. If Peña Nieto does not build an effective police and justice system, the violence may continue or worsen. But major institutional improvements and more efficient, comprehensive social programs could mean real hope for sustainable peace and justice.[more inside]
"Settling into an upholstered chair across from his mom, 50-year-old Marc Taulé laughs nervously, recalling the last time his mom made him hand over his urine—last year. To everyone’s surprise, he tested positive for cocaine. He’s not a cocaine user; he had been prescribed a painkiller called Lidocaine after minor surgery. “I love them, and just don’t want to see them in trouble,” Elaine Taulé explains." -- For The Nation, Isabel MacDonald looks at the history of drug testing and some of the characters who want every school child in America to pee in a cup.
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. [more inside]
"Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go unindicted and possession is a misdemeanor on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results." [more inside]
The latest Dwayne Johnson vehicle, Snitch, has used an activist approach for its marketing campaign in a bid to expose the human damage caused by police activity in the War on Drugs. Meanwhile, the BBC notes that some law enforcement agencies in the US use informants in as many as 90% of their drug cases, with little oversight or consistency. Snitching is now an end in itself: at least 48,895 federal convicts — one of every eight — had their prison sentences reduced in exchange for informing, with much higher rates in certain states. Since the murder of informant Rachel Hoffman in 2008, there has been a growing focus on reforming the business of snitching, what the ACLU calls the "unnecessary evil." [more inside]
Len Bias has been dead for longer than he has been alive. For ESPN Michael Weinreb examines how the tragic death due to a cocaine overdose of this young, up and coming basketball star affected both the sport and American drug policy. Meanwhile at Deadspin, Tommy Craigs explains how twentytwo years after his death Len Bias still makes everyone crazy.
The Case Against a Smoke Free America "Tobacco is viewed as pure vice by public health officials. Surgeon General Everett C. Koop famously hoped for a smoke-free America by the year 2000. Koop echoed Lucy Page Gaston, the early twentieth century prohibitionist who campaigned for 'a smokeless America by 1925.' This impulse was revived by Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who testified before Congress in 2003, 'I see no need for any tobacco products in society.'... In Elizabethan England, the then novel act of smoking was described as 'dry drinking.' The metaphor is apt: Neither alcohol nor tobacco is essential to life, but both offer pleasant flavors while enhancing mood and sociality. And, of course, both are harmful when consumed in excess."
Breaking The Taboo, an ambitious and star-studded critique of the War on Drugs, saw its public premier today via YouTube.
"Based in Brisbane, Australia, Stuart uses the medium of comics to explore serious issues with a unique perspective and a sense of fun." - War on Drugs and more, and even more. [Previously]
A Voter’s Guide to Legalizing Marijuana..at the state level
Thousands of drug-related convictions in Massachusetts may be challenged as investigators learn more about improper evidence handling and testing at a Department of Public Health laboratory. Over 50,000 samples related to 34,000 convictions were tested by a single chemist at the lab, who is alleged to have violated multiple laboratory protocols. Governor Deval Patrick's office has identified 1,141 inmates currently serving time in Massachusetts whose convictions may be affected by the investigation. [more inside]
Sarah Stillman for the New Yorker on confidential informants and the ends they meet -- "Gaither was tortured, beaten with a bat, shot with a pistol and a shotgun, run over by a car, and dragged by a chain through the woods." [more inside]
"Alex White, Professional Snitch: What do you do when the cops you work for are dirtier than you are?" Metafilter previously on Kathryn Johnston.
"Barry also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted "Intercepted!," and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind." A User's Guide To Smoking Pot With Barack Obama. [more inside]
On April 20, Daniel Chong went to get high at his friend's place. Next morning the DEA raided the house. Chong was detained and placed in a 5x10' holding cell. He was left there with his hands cuffed behind his back for four days without food, water or human contact. He hallucinated, drank his own urine, and eventually, convinced he was going to die, he broke his eyeglasses and carved 'Sorry Mom' on his arm as a final message. When he was final released he was taken to hospital where he was treated for kidney failure, dehydration and a perforated esophagus. The DEA says it was an accident. NYT, AP, interview, interview.
Rethinking the War on Drugs (WSJ video / not OpEd). A more nuanced view than typically found in the anti-drugs vs. legalize drugs ad nausea. Practical solutions being done today. [more inside]
In Mexico, extortion is a booming offshoot of drug war. 'From mom-and-pop businesses to mid-size construction projects to some of Mexico's wealthiest citizens, almost every segment of the economy and society has been subjected to extortion schemes, authorities and records indicate. Even priests aren't safe. Extortionists have shut entire school systems, crippled real estate developments, driven legions of entrepreneurs into hiding or out of the country.' [more inside]
Shortly after Jared Loughner allegedly opened fire in the parking lot of a Tucson grocery store last January, we saw much hand-wringing about the threat of violence against the government. In fact, violence against government officials is actually pretty rare. But just three days before Loughner's rampage, police in Framingham, Mass., raided the home of 68-year-old Eurie Stamps. Stamps wasn't the target of the drug raid. Police were after the son of Stamps' girlfriend, and actually apprehended him outside the home. They raided the house anyway. Stamps, who was unarmed and broke no laws, was shot and killed by a police officer. By my count, he's at least the 46th innocent person killed in a botched drug raid. Every politician in Washington condemned the Loughner shootings, and rightly so. But nearly every politician in Washington supports the laws and policies that led to the death of Eurie Stamps.-- Radley Balko continues his lonely crusade documenting the ongoing militarization of America's police forces.
Many listeners have written to us since our episode about Georgia Judge Amanda Williams, asking what ever happened to her. Did she face any consequences for the things we documented on our program? Yesterday, Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal charges [PDF] against her. The twelve counts include a number of things reported in our episode: sending away inmates for indefinite detention, jailing Charlie McCullough for 14 days for exercising his right to contest a drug screen, and using “rude, abusive, or insulting language” with individuals appearing before her. Local reporting from the Altanta Journal-Constitution. Previously.
Attention all units, please respond to Central and Broadway, reference a large crowd. It's a war on drugs.Just Say No: a music video featuring former Albuquerque sheriff Darren White. On vocals.
After spending ten years in prison for capital murder, most of it on death row, Cory Maye is to be set free.
Jose Guerena, 26, was a Marine veteran and father of two. He served two tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. On May 5th, he was killed in his home by a SWAT team looking for narcotics [more inside]
"I realized that I was one of those extremely rare individuals who was a former POW of the drug war, and who got out and had the opportunity to share his story with the world." "It kind of makes an activist out of you when 3 helicopters land in your backyard and guys jump out with guns and destroy your place before your very eyes." Exile Nation is a documentary [complete film] [trailer] and an ongoing memoir, a work of “spiritual journalism”, and eventually "a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies […] revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs to the American Criminal Justice System." [more inside]
Law enforcement authorities are in awe of the new wave of narco "supersubs" that are being found in the jungles of Colombia. [more inside]
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” [more inside]
Employed as a Counterterrorism Analyst, But Think Your Bosses Are Misunderstanding the Problem? Quit your DoD post and write a book! Offer it for free, on the Web. Oh, and do it anonymously. Reddit AMA here.
Cocaine - how it's made, how it moves, and who might be cutting it with a deadly cattle-deworming drug, a follow up to the mystery of the tainted cocaine.
No one asks or answers this question: How does such an escalation benefit the drug smuggling business which has not been diminished at all during the past three years of hyper-violence in Mexico? Each year, the death toll rises, each year there is no evidence of any disruption in the delivery of drugs to American consumers, each year the United States asserts its renewed support for this war. And each year, the basic claims about the war go unquestioned. Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico?
In a pilot Phase II study of PTSD sufferers with a median of 19 years since diagnosis, MDMA-assisted therapy resulted in 10 out of 12 patients no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria. [more inside]