Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dope for Democracy - by Wayne Kramer

(Originally posted by Wayne on Nov. 28, 2007)

wayne kramer: "dope for democracy " (MP3, 3:22)

Wayne Kramer, as Tom Morello introduced him one night, "is the godfather of punk." His band the MC5 has often been cited as a huge influence on early metal and punk. Wayne not only continues to rock hard, but is an activist, concerned citizen, and all around good guy.

Here he tackles the absurdity and destruction of our drug laws- something which he knows about quite well.


America The Irrational.

Drug policy in America is so irrational that it almost defies description.

The Food and Drug Administration staked out its position on the long-standing controversy over the medical use of marijuana — and infuriated a lot of people. The F.D.A. recently endorsed a multi-agency study that found that "no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use." This came as an insult to all who know that cannabis is an appropriate treatment for ailments from nausea and vomiting to muscle spasticity and intractable pain. Particularly from AIDS wasting.

This brilliant deduction comes after fifty years of accumulated evidence to the contrary.

The penalty of our irrationality on this subject is so egregious that it bears closer examination.

Recent reports also tie Bush Administration appointed DEA officials to politically motivated enforcement of federal drug laws.

The White House and its personal goon squad the DEA have declared war on sick people and the doctors and pharmacists that treat them Not only that, but once ensnared in the criminal justice system, you stand a good chance of being branded for life.

Recently in Alexandria, VA. A pain-management doctor who prescribed opiates to patients at his northern Virginia clinic was sentenced Friday to five years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a life term for William E. Hurwitz, 61, who was convicted in April on 16 counts of drug trafficking. Authorities claimed Hurwitz crossed the line from doctor to drug dealer with his high-dose treatments. The Judge lowered the doctor’s sentence from the original 25 years after re-examining the evidence.

The further bad news is there are over 400,000 American citizens is state, federal and local jails and prisons for nonviolent drug offences. This is more than all the people locked up in Western Europe for all crimes whatsoever. And Western Europe has a larger population than the United States.

Tried to buy Sudafed lately? Had to show I.D. and sign for it? Bush/DEA loyalists slipped in the Osama/Sudafed connection in the latest version of the homeland security law. Not only are they snooping into our health records, but also they are prosecuting our doctors and pharmacists for treating us.

To break it down even further, half of America’s courts’ operating hours are spent on nonviolent drug cases. And, half of America’s police man-hours are consumed in nonviolent drug enforcement. Ask any cop and they’ll tell you they are in and absurdist cycle of chasing druggies while real, violent criminals - murders, rapists, and child molesters- are regularly paroled to make room for nonviolent drug offenders.

The marijuana laws are clearly hypocritical compared the real lethal (and legal) drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The common perception is that illegal drugs kill hundreds of thousands, alcohol less than that, and cigarettes even less than that, still persists. The truth is just the opposite. Check this out:

The number of American deaths per year that result directly or primarily from the following selected causes nationwide, according to World Almanacs, Life Insurance Actuarial (death) Rates, and the last 20 years of U.S. Surgeon Generals' reports:

Tobacco 340,000 to 450,000,
Alcohol (Not including 50% of all highway deaths and 65% of all murders) 150,000+.
Aspirin (Including deliberate overdose) 180 to 1,000+.
Caffeine (From stress, ulcers, and triggering irregular heartbeats, etc.) 1,000 to 10,000. "Legal" Drug Overdose (Deliberate or accidental) from legal, prescribed or patent medicines and/or mixing with alcohol - e.g. Valium/alcohol 14,000 to 27,000.
Illicit Drug Overdose (Deliberate or accidental) from all illegal drugs.3,800 to 5,200. Marijuana 0

The source of our draconian drug policy stems from the religious rights Calvinistic conviction that anything that makes you feel better must be a sin. With their profound lack of compassion and empirical evidence not withstanding, they champion attitudes that just do not stand up to rational scrutiny. Not only do they believe it, but they are incredibly well organized and have managed to control the laws of the land to successfully create a second and even a third generation of disenfranchised Americans. Those caught up in the system have been locked up and then locked out of the mainstream.

None of this happened by accident. The history of the drug war goes back to the original Pure Food and Drug act of 1906 and the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, both were part of the fanatical religious movement of the days efforts to make America a “good christian country”. Their set piece of legislation was, of course, the Alcohol Prohibition Act of 1920. We all know how well that turned out. The result was the creation of the Mafia. Today’s drug war has done the same for our generation with the creation of the numerous international drug cartels and urban street gangs that control drug sales in our cities.

The federal government has known a great deal about drug addiction and alcoholism since the forties. At two federal prisons around the country, most notably my alma mater, Lexington FCI, research was conducted to learn all that could be gleaned about the why’s and how’s of addiction. The CIA had a hand in this work. In the cold war they were looking for the James Bond “truth serum” that they could use on the Russian spies. They fried men’s brains with LSD for months at a time. Finally giving up on these experiments and having most of the records destroyed. Some good came out of the work begun at Lexington. Methadone programs for example. But the government turned their back on the results of their own research. Instead of creating a humanitarian approach to the social problem of addiction they gave into the perfect storm of political logic: to protect us from something they themselves created. The cold war was saving us from the commies, just like the Iraq war is saving us from the terrorists and the drug war is saving us from the druggies. They ignored the recommendations of their own scientists and made drug policy a moral/police/court/prison issue, not a medical/social problem. The Government has, in fact, created the drug problem in this country. The latest Pew Global Attitudes report says that the people of the United States and Great Britain – voice more worry about drugs than about crime.

I look to our government to guide us as a good parent might. At the rate their parenting skills are failing they could be charged with child abuse. I don’t expect the government to fix everything but I do expect them to help. At the very least don’t make it worse, which is just what they have done.

The costs in dollars have been unbelievable. For example, the US government spends at the federal level alone nearly $20 billion annually on the drug war. The total cost of our drug laws could easily be in excess of $100 billion dollars each year. The United Nations values the drug trade at $400 billion a year. That’s more than the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense. The irony is that the cost of our drug policy is the market they have created has become a steady stream of income for terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Shining Path and others.

Even if we acknowledge that stopping drug abuse is a justifiable social goal, and it is, how does the financial cost of the war on drugs appear in light of the other challenges we face? National health insurance? Schools? The list is long.

I have seen some good news: Crippled by soaring corrections costs many large American cities, NY, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and others are re-examining policies that drive ex-offenders right back to prison by barring them from employment. Locked out of the mainstream, ex-felons (mostly drug offenders) can become burdens to their families, their communities and the nation as a whole. These cities have taken groundbreaking steps aimed at de-emphasizing criminal histories for qualified applicants for city jobs, except where people with convictions are specifically barred by statute.

These developments are a step forward in terms of fairness for law-abiding ex-offenders, who are often barred from entire occupations because of draconian drug laws and minor crimes committed in the distant past. It should be clear to all of us by now that confining those people to the ranks of the unemployed makes it more likely that they will commit new crimes, return to prison and the cycle continues.

Drug courts in California are also a step in the right direction. The 60% of offenders now in prisons could be held accountable in community based correction/treatment options. Cali leads the nation on this and we should.

--Wayne Kramer

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