Sharda Sekaran

Charlotte Police Foment Unrest and Attempt to Use Marijuana to Justify Killing Keith Lamont Scott

Keith Lamont Scott is dead at the age of 43. A father of seven children with a wife of 20 years and a cognitive impairment from a motorcycle accident, Mr. Scott is gone from this earth and lost from his loved ones, invariably leaving them with unspeakable grief. Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina is inflamed with massive public discontent in the form of protests.

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How to Get Away With Murder: The Death of Terence Crutcher and the Drug War

Step one: Make sure you have a badge and the person you are murdering is black.

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Harm Reduction Drug Policies Are Gaining Momentum Across the Country

It’s been a groundbreaking month in the national dialogue about opiate dependency and addiction.  From halls of government to family living rooms, the country is positioning for a dramatic shift in attitudes about drug policy that might finally mean an end to the drug war in favor of a public health and human rights approach.

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Michael Moore's New Film Shines the Spotlight on Portugal's Humane Approach to Drug Users

Filmmaker Michael Moore never shies from taking on tough issues and challenging the status quo. His latest film "Where to Invade Next" is a clever spoof of U.S. foreign policy that encourages our military leaders to "invade" other countries and import their policies that can improve our quality of life.

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Drug War Enables Police Roadside Sexual Assault

Drug War Enables Police Roadside Sexual Assault 
By Sharda Sekaran

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Guess How Sandra Bland Is Being Smeared Now? With Lazy, Racist Marijuana Myths

Two years ago, when marijuana was brought up to smear the reputation of Trayvon Martin, I wrote "In Order to Address Racism, We Must Confront the Drug War." I said, "From clothing to intoxicants, what is normal and innocuous in another context becomes sinister when associated with black men and boys." Sandra Bland's tragic death in a Texas jail, and subsequent reports of marijuana found in her system, illustrate the same is still true, and moreover equally true for black women and girls.

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A Long-Awaited Promise: Obama Gets Real About Criminal Justice Reform

"Mass incarceration makes our entire country worse off, and we need to do something about it." - President Obama in his July 14, 2015 speech to the NAACP annual conference

Fifteen years ago, when I first started working on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues, I never would have imagined these words coming out of the mouth of a sitting U.S. president. But then again, I would never have imagined Barack Obama.

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Dear Media: Please Use This Realistic Marijuana B-Roll For Your News Stories

A couple of years ago I was watching my boss get interviewed on television about the cost of marijuana prohibition, growing public opinion in favor of legalization, and legislative efforts for marijuana policy reform. It was a fairly wonky conversation peppered with serious facts about the billions of dollars wasted on fighting the war on marijuana and the hundreds of thousands of people arrested each year.

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The Funniest Explanation of How Oregon Can End Marijuana Prohibition You'll Ever See

I’m a native New Yorker and I live in Brooklyn. But right now I’m in Portland and I am completely dedicating myself to the state of Oregon.

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The Stories of these Two Babies Victimized by the War on Drugs Are Horrific

The multi-decade, trillion dollar waste that we call the drug war has become increasingly unpopular, with everyone from Nobel Prize winning economists to leaders from the religious and civil rights communities calling for its end. Those who defend arresting, incarcerating and militarizing our way into even more disaster often claim that it’s all in the name of protecting children. Yet, the war on drugs is waged with a shocking disregard for human rights, and even babies and children are not spared.

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Why Does Mainstream Media Portray Marijuana Users As Cheech and Chong Look-Alikes?

Global political and business leaders are talking seriously about ending marijuana prohibition everywhere from D.C. to Davos. Recent polls say a majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana – and not just in the states you’d expect but even in Missouri, Indiana, Texas, Florida and Louisiana. In Washington State, Colorado and the country of Uruguay, marijuana is now legally regulated – not to mention the twenty states and D.C. that have implemented medical marijuana laws since 1996.

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5 of 2013's Most Enraging Moments in Drug War Racism

The drug war is full of racism and hypocrisy. It's hard to argue against that reality. People intoxicate themselves, both illegally and legally, at much the same rates across racial lines. Similarly, the drug trade is an equal opportunity employer and the demographic breakdown for sellers is more or less racially balanced. So, why do the vast majority of people who are arrested, punished and incarcerated for drugs happen to be black or Latino?
From their inception, anti-drug laws were created and enforced in ways that deliberately targeted minorities and marginalized people. Michelle Alexander has done an excellent job of breaking down racism and the drug war in her seminal book, "The New Jim Crow."
Here's looking back on racist drug war moments from the past year. Let's raise a glass of your beverage of choice (intoxicant or not) and hope that the prohibitionist madness will come closer to ending in 2014.
1. ACLU Report Finds Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrests
According to a groundbreaking report released by the ALCU in June, black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates. The report also found that marijuana arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010. The report shows that this disparity has continued to become more pronounced over the past 10 years. In counties with the worst disparities, black people were as much as 30 times more likely to be arrested. The racial disparities exist in all regions of the U.S., as well as in both large and small counties, cities and rural areas, in both high- and low-income communities, and whether black residents make up a small or a large percentage of a county's overall population.
2. Trayvon Martin's Toxicology Report
Among the arguments used by George Zimmerman's defense attorneys this past summer to discredit Trayvon's reputation was the presence of marijuana in thetoxicology report of the murdered young man. There's no telling if the trace amounts of marijuana had been there for some time or if Trayvon was intoxicated at the time he encountered Zimmerman but, regardless, suggesting that marijuana made him aggressive is an archaic "Reefer Madness" era notion and represents an outrageous double standard, given how mainstream marijuana consumption has become in our society. This is just one of many factors in a case that stinks of racism.
3. "Cantaloupe Calved Mules" or Valedictorians?
During House deliberations concerning comprehensive immigration reform in July, Iowa Republican Congressman and member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, Steve King, said in reference to young people who might benefit from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, "for every one that is a valedictorian, there are another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and have calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." King later elaborated, "We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they've been doing for months..." For collapsing his anti-immigrant, racist, drug warrior rhetoric into the same diatribe, he at least gets points for multi-tasking?
4. Bloomberg Defends Stop-and-Frisk, Suggesting not Racist Enough
Soon-to-be-former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been a staunch defender of the much derided NYPD practice of routinely stopping and searching young, primarily black and Latino men, normally for marijuana or weapons (although guns are found in less than .2 percent of stops). Civil liberties, racial justice groups and others have long criticized the policy as thinly veiled racial profiling, with, black people and Latinos consistently accounting for around 85 percent of those selected by police for search, each year since 2003. Yet, Bloomberg persists in praising the practice. This past June, he went so far as to claim, "We disproportionately stop whites too much. And minorities too little." A federal judge ruled stop-and-friskunconstitutional in August. New Yorkers are waiting to see what Mayor elect Bill de Blasio, who was critical of the practice on the campaign trail, will do once assuming office.
5. Rob Ford and Trey Radel "Get Out of Jail Free" Card
Despite getting busted for using cocaine (to much notoriety in Rob Ford's case, in the form of crack) while in public office, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Florida Congressman Trey Radel suffered little more consequence than public shaming and ridicule by comedians and late night hosts. In a glowing moment of irony, Trey Radel is on the record as having voted to drug test food stamp recipients. Yet, these two public figures did not face the criminal consequences that daily destroy the lives of millions of mostly poor, immigrant or people of color caught up in the vicious web of the drug war -- half a million of whom will go to bed tonight behind bars for drug law violations that are not too different from those committed by these guys. They get a pass while others get unjustifiable agony, and the misguided and futile war on drugs wages on.
For a weekly roundup of news and developments in the drug reform movement and the injustices stemming from prohibition, sign up to receive AlterNet's Drugs Newsletter here. Make sure to scroll down to "Drugs" and subscribe! 

Spoiler Alert! Elected Officials Use Drugs Too

It’s been a troublesome week for politicians who like to get wasted. Flashbacks to Representative Pete Russo’s character in “House of Cards” abound, as we watch public relations catastrophes involving two high profile men and their unsightly public episodes involving intoxication.

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How a 5-Year-Old Girl Gave CNN's Sanjay Gupta New Perspective on Medical Pot

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is making waves for his recent reversal of opinion on medical marijuana. Part of this has to do with an expansive body of medical evidence but the touching story of a 5-year-old girl may have also played a meaningful role.

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When Was the Last Time Someone Made a Case for Justifiable Homicide of a Suburban White Kid for Smoking Pot?

This past week has brought an intense time of reflection and critical self-examination for many Americans. In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, there have been emotionally-charged conversations about the way young black men are viewed in the U.S. and how valued their lives are. All the way up to President Obama we are witnessing soul-searching attempts to confront the complicated role of race in our culture. In a public address, President Obama said 35 years ago, he could have been Trayvon Martin and was routinely racially profiled before he became a senator.

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Synthetic Marijuana Turns People Into Zombies, Says Atrocious Govt. Anti-Drug Propaganda

You might be familiar with Reefer Madness, the drug war film from the 1930s that has become a cult classic because of its over-the-top scare tactics about marijuana. Generations have laughed at the film’s cartoonish hysteria, with young students portrayed committing acts of violent lunacy after smoking a joint with their friends. Rather than educating young people about marijuana, Reefer Madness is widely seen as the epitome of unreliable and exaggerated propaganda.

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