By Dean Becker
For more than 15 years, I have been examining the policy of drug prohibition. I have traveled to Bolivia to witness the use of coca leaf for endurance in high altitudes. I visited Canada to observe the use of “safe injection” rooms to prevent death and disease from the use of heroin and cocaine, and I visited Ciudad Juarez in 2011 when that city was the murder capitol of the world. I have more than 30,000+ hours of investigation, have reported from scores of conferences and seminars, and have interviewed well over 1,000 drug policy experts.
Sadly, too many of those in positions of power have remained steadfast in proclaiming the need to continue this war on people who use certain plant products. However, last December, Houston’s Police Chief McClelland came to the KPFT studio and declared the drug war a “miserable failure.” Our District Attorney Devon Anderson seems to have had an awakening as well, striving to prevent our kids from pleading guilty to minor drug crimes.
Our legislators, for the most part, are not experts on drug users or even the drugs themselves, yet they continue doing what their daddies did, with no understanding as to why. Preferring to lean on the might and “righteousness” of the federal laws as justification, the state and local officials simply plod the beaten path with no rationale as to why.
So, rather than focusing my efforts too broadly on those who do not hold the “magic wand” of being the Drug Czar, I now seek a single discussion with the top dog, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), director Michael Botticelli. I have called and emailed Mr. Botticelli and his numerous predecessors every few months for the last 15 years, to absolutely no avail, but with your help, perhaps this time will be different.
I need YOU to contact the Drug Czar to encourage him to join me on the airwaves of Pacifica Radio. I will provide the contact info later in this article, but first I want to underscore why you should be concerned enough to do so.
Originally, the drug war was declared to “protect the children,” to place an impenetrable barrier between the “evil” sellers and our innocent offspring. On December 17, 1914, with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act, the US began to escalate the machinations of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, leading us into this never-ending war on plant products. Supposedly, the act allowed doctors the option to prescribe narcotics to their patients, but US courts interpreted this to disallow prescriptions for Americans who became addicted to these drugs.
The Harrison act stated that “every person who produces, imports, manufactures, compounds, deals in, dispenses, distributes or gives away opium or coca leaves or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative or preparation thereof shall register with the collector of internal revenue and pay $1 per annum” for the privilege. Only a handful of such registrations were allowed. A hundred years later, doctors are still being punished if bureaucrats in DC determine they have stepped over the line in their number of prescriptions for “preparations” like Oxycontin, which have now overtaken heroin as our nation’s deadliest concoction.
This attempt at prohibition was sold to the American people as a justifiable deviation from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as necessary to protect our children and to protect us from ourselves. A century later, what have we wrought? Today, the best place to purchase drugs on Planet Earth are US colleges and US high schools, followed closely by US junior highs. There are now tens of thousands of gangs around the US, enticing our children to use these forbidden drugs or to join the financial feast of selling drugs to their classmates and friends. Despite decades of effort, tens of millions of arrests and more than a trillion dollars spent, we have never stopped even one determined child from acquiring their drug of choice.
Despite the expenditure of well over one trillion US taxpayer dollars in trying to stop the flow of drugs, our efforts have never intercepted more than 10 to 15% of the drugs being smuggled across our borders. Terrorists, cartels, and gangs actually need a number of these busts to occur so they can justify their highly-inflated prices to their customers, which has allowed them to reap more than ten trillion dollars in profits since Nixon’s declaration of “all out war” on drugs and the implementation of his ludicrously named “Controlled Substances Act.”
It has been suggested that smugglers use approximately half of their earnings to bribe and otherwise corrupt our border guards, customs officials, and law enforcement to ensure that the 10 to 15% rate of interception does not go any higher. According to the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, “profits in illegal drugs are so inflated that three-quarters of all drug shipments would have to be intercepted to seriously reduce the profitability of the business.” Surely not even the Drug Czar thinks this number of busts is possible.
The drug war impacts our lives in many ways, including invasive searches, as graphically witnessed in the recent series of reports of cops performing vaginal probes on parking lot pavement, and the literal highway robbery deemed “interdiction,” which has allowed law enforcement to seize (without a warrant or any evidence whatsoever), more than $2.5 billion dollars from Americans for the crime of having too much money (which the cops simply declare to be “drug money”), in their wallets. For a more complete list of ways the drug war falls on its face, I urge you to read my book: To End The War On Drugs.
Here is where you come in. You already know the drug war is unwinnable, yet you remain wary of speaking up for fear of consequence at home, work, church, school or otherwise. Please rest assured that, most likely, your spouse, boss, minister, teacher and the majority of your friends and associates agree that the drug war is a hopeless cause. In order to bring focus to bear, to ensure that authorities who believe in drug war must validate this drug war, I need you to call and email the Drug Czar to motivate him to do so.
You can contact our nation’s drug czar, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, through the White House switchboard. That number is (202) 456-1414, then ask to speak to the Press Secretary of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mr. Zepeda. Mr. Zepeda’s email is: Mario_A_MorenoZepeda@ondcp.eop.gov. Ask Mr. Mario Moreno Zepeda to please arrange an interview for his boss, Drug Czar Michael Botticelli on my Cultural Baggage show as soon as possible.
Please keep your message civilized. Decry the harms of the drug war, but please note that this is not a time to argue the merits of cannabis or any other drug, but rather to place focus on the the enormous, outrageous, glaring failure of drug prohibition, itself.
Many reform organizations stand with me in making the call for this discussion with our nation’s drug czar. Among the dozens of reform groups who seek this discussion on my radio shows are my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the nation’s largest reform group — the Drug Policy Alliance, National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the James A. Baker III Institute, Veterans for Compassionate Care, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Broken No More, A New PATH, and dozens more.
Shown here is the only written response Zepeda has willing to send thus far:
You can attribute the statement below to me, Mario Moreno Zepeda, spokesperson for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:
“The Obama Administration has been committed to reforming drug policy in a scientific and evidence-based way. Research shows that substance use disorders are preventable and treatable diseases. So the Administration’s strategy for drug policy reform promotes a balance of public health and public safety initiatives, with a focus on substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery.”
Repetition of words like preventable and treatable do sound positive, and if you follow the link for “Administration’s strategy” you will hear of an intention to treat rather than jail users, even as the US remains the world’s leading jailer. There is no mention as to when or if Czar Botticelli will ever be my guest on Pacifica airwaves.
Rather than insist on a set message for you to send, I urge you to scan the boilerplate shown below and to then send your own brief yet heartfelt message to our nation’s Drug Czar.
Sir, this drug war has gone on for far too long. We are not now and never will be a drug free nation, and it is time to make a major change to our policies regarding drug possession and use. When the harms of this policy include increased overdose deaths, children having easier access and criminals worldwide making more than a billion dollars a day by selling contaminated drugs to our children, we must seek another solution than this war declared for eternity. Please arrange a visit with Dean Becker on Pacifica’s Cultural Baggage radio program at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter.
If you desire, select a paragraph or two from this missive, or peruse the thousand transcripts from my radio shows at drugtruth.net to find a doctor, cop, legislator, warden, judge or prosecutor whose words better match your feelings about the drug war.
It has taken more than 100 years for the machination of drug war to slowly diminish our rights and freedoms in the name of a “drug free world.” Despite the kinder, gentler words of a few politicians and officials, the drug war continues to treat users as less than human, unworthy of dignity or even a true second chance. The incremental process and dehumanizing attitude that led us to this point of pig headed indifference to the lives of drug users still exists, and unless and until we examine the evidence in a free and open discussion it will likely take another hundred years to unwind.
We have been duped, fed this bag of lies for so long that many have closed their eyes and ears to the millions of instances of abuse, atrocities, lies and perversions that comprise the “logic” of this drug war. Why do people steal and whore for drugs? Prohibition. Where do terrorists, cartels and gangs get their power? Prohibition. Why do so many die and acquire diseases from using drugs? Prohibition.
I have beat my head against the wall for 15 years, striving to create the scenario wherein the fallacy, the futility of the drug war can be recognized for all to see. Will you please spend a few minutes of your time to motivate the Drug Czar to face down this toothless lion? Once we legalize these “recreational” drugs for adults and put them under government oversight, the price will fall to a penny on the black market dollar, overdose deaths will be mostly those committing suicide, and our children will have much less access because we will then have lots of room in prison for anybody who would dare sell drugs to our kids.
Hopefully, with your help, I will first seek an answer to a simple question: What is the benefit? What have we derived that begins to offset the horrors we inflict on ourselves, and the world, by continuing to believe in the viability of this drug war?
Please contact the drug czar to encourage him to be to be a guest on my radio program. Thank you!
*** Dean Becker reports the drug war NEWS for Pacifica Radio’s KPFT, 90.1 FM in Houston & on WWW.KPFT.ORG. His show is broadcast on Fridays at 4:30 PM CDT. Becker is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a Contributing Expert for the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and is author of “To End The War On Drugs.”