I just finished watching the 18-hour documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novice on the Vietnam War. To call it an epic masterpiece is an understatement–to call it a definitive documentary on one of the most complex events in U.S. history is to commit the common sin of oversimplification. Nonetheless, I found the series extremely affecting–as a person who came of age and political consciousness during the era covered, it was a reminder of how much my worldview and life path was a response to all that was happening then. What I will say, is that of all the documentaries I have watched on the Vietnam War era, this one was the most personal, the most human, the most balanced (despite an obvious U.S. bias) and the most accurate in providing historical facts.
Seemingly every day we wake to some new terrifying and dispiriting news from the Trump administration. It’s almost too much to bear and yet, we must not only bear it, but continue to resist it and all the other politics of hate.
Since the election, time and time again, Trump and members of his administration have touted “law and order” rhetoric, to advance an agenda that aims to expand criminalization, deportations and promote white supremacy.
I went into law school thinking that I wanted to be a civil rights attorney. As a black queer woman, I understood many of the social injustices experienced by marginalized communities and wanted to use my law degree to fight the many systems of oppression that plagued and terrorized the communities that mattered to me. It wasn’t until my third year of law school, that I that recognized current cannabis policies as a legitimate social justice issue – particularly due to the way marijuana prohibition is enforced.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rolled out a disastrous healthcare bill drafted behind closed doors by a small group of Senate Republicans that would rollback provisions in the Affordable Care Act that has extended access to health care to millions of people. The independent Congressional Budget Office analysis reports that the Republican bill would leave 22 million uninsured and millions left besieged because of the nearly $800 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts.
In a joint statement, the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) expressed their support for countries in the review and repeal of laws that criminalize drug use and possession of drugs for personal use. This joint statement, which addresses discrimination in health care settings, comes in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to “ensure that no one is left behind”.
On Wednesday, in a lengthy 139 page opinion, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a harsh life-without-parole sentence for Ross Ulbricht, the alleged creator of the Silk Road darknet marketplace. In 2015, a lower court convicted Mr. Ulbricht of operating the Silk Road website, on which individuals bought and sold drugs. The court sentenced Mr. Ulbricht to life without the possibility of parole, the harshest punishment short of death that our legal system allows.
Editor's Note: The following is a speech given on Wednesday, April 26, on the occasion of Ethan Nadelmann's last week at the Drug Policy Alliance, which he founded.
We Still Have a Chance to Stop Kratom Prohibition – And the DEA Actually Wants to Hear Your Thoughts
This summer, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its intent to ban kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia and currently used by millions in the United States. After DPA members and activists sent over 70,000 messages to Congress, 51 U.S. Representatives and almost a dozen Senators asked the DEA to postpone their ban.
<p>In October, the DEA <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2016/10/unprecedented-move-drug-enforcement-administration-withdraws-emergency-kratom-ban" target="_blank">took the unprecedented step</a> of delaying the ban – and is now <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DEA-2016-0015-0006" target="_blank">soliciting public comments</a> until December 1.</p><p>With an incoming presidential administration that’s looking <a href="http://theinfluence.org/four-ways-drug-policy-reformers-must-play-it-smart-under-the-trump-administration/" target="_blank">more hostile to equitable drug policies by the day</a>, it’s imperative for us to make the most of this opportunity to stop the senseless criminalization of millions more people. Ominously, <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2016/11/president-elect-trump-selects-senator-jeff-sessions-staunch-supporter-failed-drug-war-b?utm_campaign=fy17social&utm_medium=social&utm_source=1611twc3sessionsAGpr" target="_blank">drug war extremist</a> and <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/18/career-racist-jeff-sessions-is-donald-trumps-pick-for-attorney-general/" target="_blank">professional racist</a> Jeff Sessions has been tapped to lead the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, making it hard to imagine them showing restraint on kratom prohibition post-inauguration. (You can ask your Senator to oppose Sessions’ nomination <a href="https://engage.drugpolicy.org/secure/stop-jeff-sessions?ms=1A1_1611SessionsSenate&utm_campaign=fy17advocacy&utm_medium=web&utm_source=1611wsc3SessionsSenate&cid=701U0000000xybsIAA&_ga=1.37892835.173908680.1409667483" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p><p>Given the widespread moral, political and scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as health issues, <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/approaches-decriminalizing-drug-use-and-possession" target="_blank">there’s no good reason for people who use kratom to be treated as criminals</a> – especially considering how much we already know about <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/drug-war-mass-incarceration-and-race" target="_blank">prohibition’s shamefully disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups</a>.</p><p><br/><strong>Please </strong><strong>consider <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DEA-2016-0015-0006" target="_blank">submitting a comment</a> to the DEA explaining why kratom should not be banned.</strong> Here are some useful talking points:</p><ul class="ee-ul"><li>Banning kratom expands the war on drugs, while the public overwhelmingly supports ending it.</li></ul><ul class="ee-ul"><li>If kratom is added to any one of the five drug schedules, people who use it will be criminalized and locked up behind bars.</li></ul><ul class="ee-ul"><li>Kratom has been used safely by millions of people in the U.S. and evidence supports kratom’s potential as a pain reliever and opioid replacement.</li></ul><p>· Many people struggling with opioid addiction have turned to kratom to help them cut back or quit, but now all promising scientific studies on kratom’s role in opioid treatment could be immediately shut down.</p><ul class="ee-ul"><li>Side effects of kratom are minimal, and its withdrawal symptoms are weak and nearly inconsequential compared to the suffering of people trying to quit opioids.</li></ul><ul class="ee-ul"><li>Prohibiting kratom will worsen the country’s problems of opioid addiction and overdose.</li></ul><p>(Be respectful in your comments and mindful that everything you submit is a matter of public record.)</p><p>In the long run, what we really need is a new, post-prohibition drug classification system that’s based on science and best public health practices. Kratom is suffering the same fate as countless other medicinal plants that have been used by our ancestors for millennia -- there’s no profit incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do years of clinical research to gain FDA approval for a plant that they can’t patent for prescription use, which leaves it in a regulatory gray area. </p><p>It makes no sense for the DEA to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice, especially when its successive directors have <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/dea-four-decades-impeding-and-rejecting-science" target="_blank">systematically abused their discretionary powers</a> in this area. Responsibility for deciding drug classifications and public health policies should be completely removed from the DEA and transferred to a health or science agency. (Check out DPA’s <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/DEA" target="_blank">“Fire the DEA” campaign</a> to learn more about how the DEA has fueled mass incarceration, wasted taxpayer money, and blocked scientific research.)</p><p>In the meantime, it’s crucial for us to accelerate a new vision for ethical drug policies before the next misguided “<a href="http://www.drugpolicyaction.org/docUploads/reinarman_construct.pdf" target="_blank">drug scare</a>” inevitably rears its head. Now’s the time to strike while the iron’s hot and we still have a fighting chance to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5zJvX3pIY4" target="_blank">stop the madness</a> of kratom prohibition.</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p><br/><em>This piece first appeared on the <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/we-still-have-chance-stop-kratom-prohibition-%E2%80%93-and-dea-actually-wants-hear-your-thoughts" target="_blank">Drug Policy Alliance Blog</a>.</em></p>
Keep reading... Show less
September 30, 2016
<p><a href="http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB443" target="_blank">Senate Bill 443</a>, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance), requires a conviction in most cases prior to the permanent loss of property through civil asset forfeiture under state law and procedure and in most cases prevents law enforcement from receiving a share of federally forfeited assets unless there is a conviction in an underlying drug case.</p><p>Civil asset forfeiture has been used by law enforcement to seize and keep cash, cars, real estate, and any other property suspected of being connected to criminal activity even if the owner is never convicted of a crime. While civil asset forfeiture was originally conceived as a way to target the resources of criminal organizations, it has become a method for law enforcement to confiscate and profit from the savings and property of those not charged with any criminal wrongdoing.</p><p>Prior to the passage of SB 443, there were very few restrictions on state law enforcement for forfeiture cases sent into the federal system. Reforms to state forfeiture procedures, established in 1994 with Assembly Bill 114 (Burton) imposed higher evidentiary standards and a conviction threshold for cash forfeitures of up to $25,000. California law enforcement found a way around the 1994 reforms by pursuing forfeitures federally where the state’s protections do not apply.</p><p>In the last 20 years since California implemented these reforms, law enforcement agencies across the state chose to exploit this federal loophole, known as equitable sharing. In 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance published “<a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Drug_Policy_Alliance_Above_the_Law_Civil_Asset_Forfeiture_in_California.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California</em></a>,” a report that revealed that between 2005 and 2013 California law enforcement agencies' revenue from state forfeitures remained stable while their revenue from federal forfeitures more than tripled.</p><p>The new law removes the financial incentives for law enforcement to seize property and pursue forfeitures with federal agencies in cases where one is arrested, charged or convicted of a crime. The passage of SB 443 is a significant reform in the most populous state in the nation and adds California to a growing list of states -- including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyoming -- who took a stance against policing for profit.</p><p>The victory in California is a model for other states and reflects a national bipartisan consensus that civil asset forfeiture abuses must come to an end.</p>
Keep reading... Show less
LOAD MORE POSTS
BRAND NEW STORIES
Thanks for your support!
Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.