'Doing all the wrong things': Health experts call for an end to Wisconsin’s failed 'cocaine moms' law

In 1997, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed Act 292, a.k.a. the Unborn Child Protection Act, which calls for penalties for women who use drugs during a pregnancy. The law, its supporters said 25 years ago, was a response to “cocaine moms.”

But just as many criminal justice reform activists have been calling for an end to the War on Drugs, some Wisconsin doctors and substance use experts are saying that it’s time to reconsider Act 292. One of them is Dr. Kathy Hartke, a retired OB-GYN.

Wisconsin Watch’s Phoebe Petrovic, reporting on December 1, explains, “The law passed in 1997 amid a national ‘crack baby’ hysteria, which in later decades, was scientifically debunked. Longitudinal studies found that children exposed to cocaine in-utero did not vary cognitively or developmentally from children who were not exposed…. Wisconsin Watch spoke with two obstetricians with experience treating pregnant people with substance use disorder, along with leaders of one treatment facility, to explore what the state’s approach to this population could look like in the absence of Act 292.”

READ MORE: The war on drugs is a preview of life without reproductive freedom: columnist

Valerie Vidal is one of 292’s outspoken opponents. Vidal is the CEO of Meta House, a facility and nonprofit in Milwaukee that helps women with substance use problems.

Vidal told Wisconsin Watch, “The laws themselves are criminalizing women who are sick, and ultimately damaging them more by potentially having them be traumatized by a civil detention, instead of getting them access to the care and treatment they may need.”

Hartke argues that substance use is “a medical disease that needs to be treated just like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma.”

The former OB-GYN told Wisconsin Watch, “We have to (help people recover) humanely — nonjudgmentally and with empathy — and we have to do it scientifically and not punitively…. We’re doing all the wrong things.”

READ MORE: Convicted 'Team America' DEA agent says the War on Drugs is 'unwinnable'

Hartke, according to Petrovic, “says she tries to get patients into therapy, assuring them she won’t turn them in. But she advises that if they or their infant test positive for substances around delivery, CPS could take their newborn — showing how avoiding treatment during pregnancy to evade the child welfare system can backfire.”

Dr. Charles Schauberger, known for his expertise on both obstetrics and addiction, also favors a treatment- over-punishment approach.

Schauberger told Wisconsin Watch, “We need to help them learn the skills that they need to be effective parents and productive members of society. Social resources are vitally important and often lacking.”

In 1997, Act 292 was introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature by State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, a Republican. Petrovic notes that opponents of the bill, at the time, criticized it for failing to fund treatment programs. Ladwig was dismissive of their concerns, claiming that 292 only targeted pregnant women who refused treatment and didn’t go after those who were seeking treatment. But Vidal believes that 292 has failed from a treatment standpoint.

Vidal told Wisconsin Watch, “It’s fine for decision-makers to say, ‘Well, a pregnant woman using substances should get treatment.’ OK, but then, how are you supporting that woman to navigate the various systems to get her into treatment, so that she’s not losing rights?”

READ MORE: The war on drugs may make student loan relief 'impossible' for some Americans: report

Convicted 'Team America' DEA agent says the War on Drugs is 'unwinnable'

In December 2021, José Irizarry, a former agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was sentenced to 12 years in prison for conspiring to launder money for Colombian narcotraficantes. Irizarry has been cited as a textbook example of a federal law enforcement agent who went bad, but according to some critics of U.S. drug policy, the War on Drugs was bad to begin with.

Libertarian journalist Radley Balko, a scathing War on Drugs critic known for his work for the libertarian Reason and the Washington Post, has long been arguing that the War on Drugs is terrible policy for a variety of reasons — from mass incarceration to the militarization of police to narcotics officers screwing up and conducting no-knock drug raids at the wrong address. Balko, author of 2013’s “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces,” also believes that the War on Drugs encourages law enforcement officers to behave unethically when the profit motive is involved.

With Irizarry, there was definitely a profit motive: Irizarry enjoyed a lavish lifestyle before he got caught. And according to a report for the Associated Press (AP) published on November 14, he isn’t an isolated example.

READ MORE: Joe Biden's cannabis pardons matter. But the war on drugs' racist legacy lingers

“José Irizarry accepts that he’s known as the most corrupt agent in U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration history, admitting he ‘became another man’ in conspiring with Colombian cartels to build a lavish lifestyle of expensive sportscars, Tiffany jewels and paramours around the world,” AP reports. “But as he used his final hours of freedom to tell his story to The Associated Press, Irizarry says he won't go down for this alone, accusing some long-trusted DEA colleagues of joining him in skimming millions of dollars from drug money laundering stings to fund a decade’s worth of luxury overseas travel, fine dining, top seats at sporting events and frat house-style debauchery.”

AP continues, “The way Irizarry tells it, dozens of other federal agents, prosecutors, informants and in some cases cartel smugglers themselves were all in on the three-continent joyride known as ‘Team America’ that chose cities for money laundering pick-ups mostly for party purposes or to coincide with Real Madrid soccer or Rafael Nadal tennis matches. That included stops along the way in VIP rooms of Caribbean strip joints, Amsterdam’s red-light district and aboard a Colombian yacht that launched with plenty of booze and more than a dozen prostitutes.”

Before going off to federal prison to serve his 12-year sentence, Irizarry spoke candidly to AP and admitted something that Balko has been saying for decades: the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure.

Irizarry told AP, “You can’t win an unwinnable war. DEA knows this, and the agents know this. There’s so much dope leaving Colombia, and there’s so much money. We know we’re not making a difference. The Drug War is a game.... It was a very fun game that we were playing.”

READ MORE: 'A step in the right direction': How Colombia's president plans to end 'the failed War on Drugs'

Although the War on Drugs has been a key factor in mass incarceration in the U.S., it hasn’t prevented the United States’ tragic opioid crisis — which is obvious in parts of major northeastern cities. In Philadelphia, the Kensington area is infamous for countless addicts who are homeless and sleeping on the streets; in Boston, the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard near Roxbury has become known as the “Methadone Mile” because of its abundance of drug-related homelessness. And in both Kensington and the area around “Mass & Cass,” one sees a vivid illustration of Balko’s point that the War on Drugs has failed from a treatment standpoint. Addicts, according to Balko, need comprehensive treatment, not a prison cell — and the War on Drugs has failed miserably where treatment is concerned.

AP notes that Judge Charlene Honeywell has said that Irizarry is not alone when it comes to a DEA agent violating drug laws; he is merely “the one who got caught

Irizarry told AP, “The indictment paints a picture of me, the corrupt agent that did this entire scheme. But it doesn’t talk about the rest of DEA. I wasn’t the mastermind.”

READ MORE: The war on drugs is a preview of life without reproductive freedom: columnists

Watch: Kari Lake threatens to cancel the Super Bowl if the NFL objects to her immigration policies

In 1990, voters in Arizona defeated a ballot measure that would have designated Martin Luther King Day as a holiday. One of the ensuing consequences for the Grand Canyon State arrived when the National Football League relocated Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe to Pasadena, California in 1993.

"The NFL's decision to move the Super Bowl is believed to be the first time a major sports league reacted to a highly politicized issue by relocating an event," ESPN explained last year.

Now, that ruling by the NFL has reverberated into the 2022 race for the Arizona governorship.

READ MORE: Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. nails Kari Lake for claim her dad would be full MAGA

On Sunday, Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake declared at a question-and-answer event that she would be willing to cancel Super Bowl LVII at Glendale's State Farm Stadium in 2023 if the NFL raises objections to her right-wing immigration policy proposals.

“You have stated for quite a while now, day one as governor, that you would declare an invasion at the southern border,” moderator Mike Broomhead of AZTV 7 noted to Lake. “Do you believe you have the legal authority to do that?”

Lake responded that she "absolutely" does because of “Article One, Section 10, United States Constitution," which decrees:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

Broomhead sought additional clarification.

READ MORE: 'Where is the evidence?' CNN's Dana Bash forced to cut off GOPer Kari Lake's rant about election fraud

"You would be inaugurated – you would be sworn in a month from the Super Bowl being here. If the NFL were to threaten they’re going to pull the Super Bowl if you do that, would it make you waver in your decision?” he asked Lake, a conspiracy theorist who has fully embraced former President Donald Trump's Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

“You want to tell me that a bunch of football teams owned by billionaires are okay with fentanyl pouring across our border at a record level, killing our young people? Number one killer right now is fentanyl, 18-45. It’s killing a generation of people. If the NFL is okay with that, then they ought to do some soul-searching. I don’t think the NFL’s that stupid," the ex-talk show host replied. "I really don’t.”

Later on, Lake accused China of using fentanyl to destroy "civilization" through substance abuse:

I'm not going to be taking marching orders from the NFL. I'm taking marching orders from the people of Arizona, who are tired of their children getting their hands on the most deadly drug this country's ever seen. Mike, I talk to the parents all the time. The hardest thing in the world is having a mother come up to you and tell you that she lost her nineteen-year-old because he took a pill. He took one pill. He didn't know it was a fentanyl pill. He didn't know it came from Mexico and the cartels. He's gone. Think about what we, and think about out there, what you have accomplished since you were nineteen. There's no amount of money that can ever bring a child back who's lost his life to fentanyl, and the thing is, we don't have to have these senseless deaths. We're being poisoned by the cartels and the C[Chinese] C[Communist] P[arty]. The communist regime in China is behind this. And if you don't think that they can take down civilization and a country over drugs – with drugs – then you need to do a history lesson. You gotta look at the Opium Wars. They brought down dynasties with drugs and they're trying to bring this country down.

I am a mama bear at heart and I will fight tooth and nail to protect our children. I don't wanna have to face another parent who's lost a seventeen-year-old son, a nineteen-year-old daughter, twenty-year-old daughter. We're losing our future, Mike. And so if the NFL has a problem with that, they're gonna have to lick their wounds because we are going to secure our border in Arizona.

After her conversation with Broomhead, Lake wrote on Twitter that “if the NFL wants to play chicken over the 2023 Super Bowl, I can promise you that I win that game.”

Mediaite pointed out on Monday, however, that "logistically, it is next to impossible for the NFL to move the 2023 Super Bowl — even if it wanted to. With sponsors, broadcast entities, and countless others already having made their plans for Arizona in February, the hurdles are seemingly far too great to overcome — making this a fairly low-risk dare by Lake."

Furthermore, Lake's allusion to the 19th-century Opium Wars distorted the circumstances that led to the dual conflicts. It was actually imperial Great Britain that was smuggling opium from India into China against the wishes of the Chinese government. England twice emerged victorious. It is also notable that Lake's supposed empathy for families who have lost children does not appear to extend to victims of school shootings.

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Democrats are blowing it in a race that has life-or-death implications for democracy: conservative

'Manifestly unjust sentences': WaPo calls on Congress to end the racist 'powder vs. crack disparity'

When the crack epidemic hit American cities during the 1980s, countless rappers — from KRS-1 to Ice-T to Public Enemy — warned of the drug’s dangers but also railed against the War on Drugs, which they viewed as both racist and classist. Those rappers viewed crack as a scourge, but they also had a problem with the fact that the penalties for smokable crack were much more severe than the penalties for powdered cocaine.

A variety of political figures also slammed the War on Drugs as bad policy, from the liberal Rev. Al Sharpton (now an MSNBC host) to Rep. Ron Paul of Texas (a right-wing libertarian). The War on Drugs encouraged mass incarceration, which made violent crime worse; prison gangs such as the Mexican Mafia (a.k.a. la Éme) and the Aryan Brotherhood grew exponentially during the 1980s and 1990s when the War on Drugs greatly increased the number of prisoners in the United States — a country that per capita, locks up more of its people than any other country in the world.

In an editorial published by the Washington Post on September 15, the publication’s editorial board offers both good news and bad news. The good news: Many political figures have been rethinking the War on Drugs along with law enforcement officials. The bad news: There is still way too great a “disparity” between how powered cocaine is prosecuted and how smokable crack is prosecuted — a disparity that, according to the Post, is racist as well as classist.

READ MORE: The War on Drugs is a preview of life without reproductive freedom: columnist

“For decades after Congress passed the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act,” the Post’s editorial board explains, “one ratio illustrated the unfairness of the criminal justice system: 100 to 1. This ratio denoted the amount of powder cocaine that triggered mandatory minimum sentences, relative to crack cocaine. Distributing 500 grams of powder resulted in a five-year sentence — the same sentence for distributing a mere 5 grams of crack. This fueled racial disparities in sentencing, because Black Americans were disproportionately likely to be convicted of crack-related crimes.”

The editorial board continues, “The 2010 Fair Sentencing Act reduced this disparity to 18 to 1, and the 2018 First Step Act made the change retroactive. This was an improvement, but the ratio still remained highly and unreasonably lopsided. Congress should finally bring the law into a sensible balance.”

The Post’s editorial board notes that “crack and powder cocaine” are “essentially two forms of the same substance.”

“Crack, a version of the drug that has been mixed with water and often baking soda, is smoked rather than snorted or injected,” the editorial board explains. “Though studies suggest White and Hispanic people have historically made up a majority of crack users, the drug has stereotypically been associated with Black communities, likely contributing to uneven enforcement: In 2019, 81 percent of those convicted on crack trafficking charges were Black, and just 5.3 percent were White.”

READ MORE: Michelle Alexander: White men get rich from legal pot, black men stay in prison

The board points out that the Equal Act, if passed by Congress, “would eliminate the powder vs. crack disparity” and “would apply retroactively, meaning currently incarcerated people would be eligible for reduced sentencing.”

“With thousands of people currently serving manifestly unjust sentences,” the Post’s editorial board argues, “lawmakers must not squander this opportunity for popular, common-sense and humane reform.”

READ MORE: The War on Drugs may make student loan relief 'impossible' for some Americans: report

'A step in the right direction': How Colombia's president plans to end 'the failed War on Drugs'

Before the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in Mexico, Latin America’s most notorious drug lord was Medellín Cartel founder Pablo Escobar (who was killed in 1993). Colombia is one of the world’s top producers of cocaine, and yet, the U.S. government and the Colombian government have long been major allies in the War on Drugs—which critics on both the left and the right have been denouncing as an abysmal failure.

Critics of the War on Drugs include not only liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but also, right-wing libertarians such as former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen. These critics have long argued that the War on Drugs and the mass incarceration that goes with it haven’t ended drug use, but have encouraged drug-related violence.

One Colombian official who believes that his country needs to seriously rethink the War on Drugs is Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro. Christy Thornton, a professor of sociology and Latin America studies at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, examines Petro’s efforts in an op-ed/guest essay published by the New York Times on September 7. And she wonders how helpful — or unhelpful — officials in Washington, D.C. will be to the new Colombian president.

READ MORE: The war on drugs is a preview of life without reproductive freedom: columnist

“Colombia, one of the world’s top producers of cocaine, has long been a key partner in Washington’s failed War on Drugs,” Thornton explains. “But Gustavo Petro, the country’s newly sworn-in president, has made good on a campaign pledge to take the country in a different direction. Last month, he said he would end forced eradication of coca, and support legislation to decriminalize and regulate cocaine sales in an effort to undercut illicit markets and the profit motive that drives them.”

Thornton continues, “Here at home, the Biden Administration has also signaled an important shift. In April, Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, introduced a new strategy that directs federal resources to harm-reduction services. The aim is to prevent deaths from opioid overdose by increasing access to medical treatment and addiction recovery programs, and promoting alternatives to incarceration for minor drug-related offenses.”

The U.S., per capita, incarcerates more of its population than any other country in the world, and the War on Drugs has been a major factor. Yet addiction continues to plague areas that addicts have been flocking to in big numbers, such as the Kensington area of Philadelphia and an area of Boston that locals have dubbed “the Methadone Mile.”

Thornton notes that “U.S.-led international drug control efforts” have been “a staggering failure, contributing to violence, degradation and displacement in places like Colombia, which largely export cocaine.”

READ MORE: War on Drugs opponents applaud Biden for pardons or commutations of nonviolent offenders

“It has also fueled the move toward synthetic opioids like fentanyl, driving overdose deaths here at home,” Thornton observes. “The Biden Administration’s new forward-thinking national policies are a step in the right direction, but the president must go further and end the global drug war.”

Thornton adds, “In the 1980s, the United States began working closely with the Colombian National Police to reduce illegal drug production and trafficking, including by eradicating coca fields and intercepting smugglers. Then, in 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law Plan Colombia as violence and drug trafficking escalated and a concern about guerrilla influence grew. The plan sought to stabilize the nation and undermine drug production, among other things. But the militarized crackdown failed to stamp out cocaine production.”

The Johns Hopkins professor concludes her op-ed/essay by stressing that abolishing the War on Drugs needs to be an international effort.

“‘It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the War on Drugs has failed,’ President Petro said during his inauguration speech, echoing an argument that has been made by other Latin American leaders in recent years,” Thornton writes. “Promoting policies that foster violence overseas will do nothing to reverse the trend toward an increasingly unsafe drug supply here at home. The Biden Administration has taken key steps to address our failures here at home — but to find lasting success, it must end our drug war abroad, as well.”

READ MORE: Michelle Alexander: White men get rich from legal pot, black men stay in prison

Biden Administration weighs approving psychedelics for therapies: report

From Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, U.S. presidential administrations of the past went after psychedelic drugs with a vengeance as part of the War on Drugs. But according to Mattha Busby, a reporter for The Intercept, the Biden Administration is seriously rethinking that policy. According to a newly revealed letter that Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, sent to Rep. Madeline Dean of Pennsylvania on May 13, the Biden Administration “anticipates” that the drugs MDMA and psilocybin will be approved by regulators for use in therapies.

“The May correspondence, not shared publicly until now, is the clearest indication yet that top officials are preparing for the approval of psychedelic drugs — demonized for decades after former President Richard Nixon sought means to attack the anti-Vietnam War counterculture in the late 1960s — which was arguably unthinkable even five years ago,” Busby reports. “But as evidence grows of the healing potential of certain controlled substances, including many hallucinogens, the War on Drugs in the U.S. is steadily being wound down.”

Busby continues, “Late Friday, the Drug Enforcement Agency dropped plans to schedule several DMT analogues after facing serious opposition, including a legal threat from companies Mindstate, Tactogen, and Panacea Plant Sciences. The move followed Thursday’s introduction of a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., to force the DEA to stop barring terminally ill patients from trying controlled drugs which have passed early trials.

READ MORE: The war on drugs is a preview of life without reproductive freedom: columnist

On July 21, Booker tweeted, “Schedule I drugs—MDMA and psilocybin—show exceptional promise in treating a variety of mental health conditions.”

Delphin-Rittmon, according to Busby, told Dean that “too many Americans are suffering from mental health and substance use issues, which have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” And she added that “we must explore the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies to address this crisis.”

Dean discussed psychedelic therapies with The Intercept, telling the publication, “About 300 people a day (die) from drug overdoses in this country. I call it a jetliner of souls every single day. We know the toll the loss of our loved ones takes on their immediate family and upon entire communities. My son Harry is now nine years, seven months into recovery for opioid addiction. This is a heart-wrenching crisis, and it’s time for bold, innovative solutions to save the lives of our children…. When you hear compelling testimonies from a retired army brigadier general and a retired three-star Marine Corps lieutenant general about the lives that have been saved by providing access to psychedelic-assisted therapy, it is impossible that we take no action.”

READ MORE: War on Drugs opponents applaud Biden for pardons or commutations of nonviolent offenders

Disgraced Pharma Bro Shkreli, post-prison, announces new ‘drug discovery software platform’

In May, Martin Shkreli, the infamous “Pharma Bro,” was released from federal prison — and he will be living in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house until September 14. Shkreli, post-prison, has announced a new business venture he’s calling Druglike.

In a press release dated Monday, July 25, Shkreli, now 39, described Druglike as a “Web3 drug discovery software platform," saying he launched the company because "traditional drug discovery software is too difficult and expensive to use."

The press release quotes Shkreli as saying, “For the first time, any computer or phone with access to the web might be responsible and rewarded for discovering the next breakthrough medicine. We will disrupt the economics of the drug business by allowing a wide pool of innovators and contributors, rather than only pharmaceutical giants, to profit from drug discovery."

READ MORE: 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli ordered to return $64 million in profits gleaned from boosting price of life-saving drug

In the press release, Shkreli described Druglike as “a blockchain/Web3 software company,” stressing that it is “not a pharmaceutical company” and is "not engaged in pharmaceutical research or drug development."

In 2015, Shkreli drew widespread criticism for his price-gouging in the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to Shkreli, the cost of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim went from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. Among health care reform activists, Shkreli became the symbol of everything that is dysfunctional about the health care and drug industries in the United States. And his critics labeled him “Pharma Bro.”

It wasn’t Shkreli’s price-gouging, however, that landed him in federal prison, but rather, being found guilty on two accounts of securities fraud. Shkreli, according to prosecutors, lied to investors about the performance of his hedge funds MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare — and in 2018, he was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. But he didn’t serve the entire seven years, and he was granted an early release for time served — that is, the six months he spent in custody before being sentenced — and for good behavior in prison.

READ MORE: Dems 'cannot overstate the paramount urgency' of passing bill after Big Pharma hikes prices on hundreds of drugs

Anti-choice extremists are declaring war on abortion drugs: report

HuffPost has been publishing a series of articles titled “The End of Roe,” examining some of the many terrible consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade — which, judging from a leaked 5-4 majority draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and published by Politico on May 2, is likely to happen with the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The consequences of overturning Roe will go way beyond abortion becoming illegal in a long list of red states, giving the High Court’s socially conservative majority the green light to also attack everything from contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut) to same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges) to gay sexual practices (Lawrence v. Texas) to interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia).

Overturning Roe will open the floodgates of Christian nationalist hell, and that includes outlawing abortion drugs in GOP-controlled states. Journalist Alanna Vagiano addresses that very real possibility in an article written for HuffPost’s “The End of Roe” series that was published on June 17.

“There’s a new war on drugs looming, but it won’t involve addictive narcotics or SWAT teams banging down doors,” Vagiano warns. “Instead, the approaching battle will be over medication that is safer than Tylenol and approved by the Food and Drug Administration: abortion drugs.”

Far-right Christian fundamentalists hate abortion drugs as vehemently as they hate birth control pills, IUDs and condoms. Their hatred of contraception is ironic because contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies and therefore, prevents the need for abortions; no organization has done more to reduce the number of abortions in the United States than Planned Parenthood, which, through its family planning services, does a lot to help women avoid unplanned pregnancies.

But the Christian Right not only opposes abortion — it opposes family planning in general.

“Anti-choice lawmakers and other abortion opponents are banking on you not knowing about medication abortion,” Vagiano observes. “Many have already started explicitly attacking access to abortion pills: In the first three months of 2022 alone, more than 100 measures attempting to restrict medication abortion were introduced in red states across the country ― in addition to dozens of other extreme abortion restrictions that have gone into effect this year…. With or without Roe, anti-choice lawmakers know the next chapter in abortion care will center on medication abortion. And they’re starting to quietly wage a war, hoping to cut off access to a safe and effective abortion method before most Americans even know about it.”

Vagiano laments that in some red states, “obtaining abortion pills in a clinic setting” is “becoming increasingly more difficult.”

“In the last few years, anti-choice lawmakers have ramped up their efforts to restrict access to in-person clinic care by using targeted regulation of abortion providers, also known as TRAP laws, and other medically unnecessary restrictions, such as state-mandated waiting periods between the consultation and getting the pills prescribed, required counseling that’s not based in science or laws that force people to listen to fetal activity before accessing an abortion,” Vagiano notes. “In states like Oklahoma and Texas, which have extreme abortion bans, people are forced to take multiple-day journeys out of state just to access a handful of abortion pills.”

Vagiano points out that anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life have publicly stated that restricting abortion drugs is a high priority for them, adding that “19 states” in the U.S. have “banned prescribing medication abortion via mail or by virtual telehealth visits.”

“This year alone, Missouri lawmakers introduced bills that would equate mailing abortion pills to drug trafficking,” Vagiano explains. “In Kentucky, lawmakers created a public database that lists the name of medication abortion providers so that people can anonymously report any purported violations of the state’s abortion laws. Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill making it a felony to mail medication abortion, punishable by a $50,000 fine or up to 20 years in prison ― a similar law passed in Texas last year. And all of the draconian abortion bans in places like Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho apply to both procedural and medication abortions.”

But supporters of reproductive freedom aren’t giving up, and that includes Plan C — a group that offers information on obtaining abortion pills.

Elisa Wells, Plan C’s co-founder and co-director, told HuffPost, “In the face of these unjust laws and unjust court decisions, this is what we want people to know: There is something you can do. We’ll tell you where to find these pills, how to use them, how to get support and what you need to know about the landscape around using pills for self-managed abortion, including the potential legal risk.”

Disturbing new documentary examines ‘nightmarish’ Cold War drug experiments conducted on US soldiers

Dr. James S. Ketchum, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, is remembered for his role in the Edgewood experiments — a series of top-secret Cold War-era experiments that tested psychochemical drugs on U.S. soldiers during the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s. Those experiments, conducted at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, are the focus of the new documentary “Dr. Delirium and The Edgewood Experiments.”

Journalist Radheyan Simonpillai, reporting on the documentary in an article published by The Guardian on June 9, explains, “In a decade-old, never-before-seen interview conducted by ‘Dr. Delirium’ Director and Executive Producer Nick Brigden, Ketchum appears frail but lucid. He’s aware of naysayers who can trot out unflattering details about Edgewood, like how he was working alongside Nazi ‘talent’ recruited for their expertise on human experimentation. But he’s confident that he’s on the right side of history with experiments that were harmful to test subjects while serving a greater good.”

Simonpillai notes that at the Edgewood Arsenal, a U.S. Army facility, recruits “were subjected to sarin, VX, teargas, LSD and PCP” as part of the experiments.

“There, Ketchum was administering psychotropic drugs on young soldiers,” Simonpillai explains. “Brigden’s film unearths archival footage of men going temporarily blind, reduced to babbling or completely dysfunctional logs —

or worse, ready to commit violence upon themselves.”

Simonpillai adds that the Edgewood experiments also included “BZ, a potent concoction that would keep subjects in a state of nightmarish delirium for up to three days.”

“We’re only discovering the traumatic and lingering physical effects that those drugs had in recent years because a tight lid had been kept on what went down at Edgewood,” Simonpillai notes. “For decades, the veterans suffered in silence.”

Brigden expressed mixed feelings about Ketchum during an interview with The Guardian, saying, “He was a brilliant scientist, but he had some blinders on — stuff that he didn’t want to see, or he couldn’t see of his own actions and behaviors, and how that affected a great number of people.”

Some of the military veterans who participated in the Edgewood experiments, Brigden notes, were vehemently critical of the way they were handled.

“From their point of view,” Brigden told The Guardian, “they weren’t properly informed of the experiments that they were signing up for. They were told that they were going to be testing Army equipment. There was no mention of drugs. But once they got into Edgewood, from what I’ve heard from these vets, they were threatened with court martials if they didn’t participate.”

Watch a trailer for "Dr. Delirium and The Edgewood Experiments" below:

Dr. Delirium and the Edgewood Experiments | Official Trailer | discovery+ youtu.be

War on Drugs opponents applaud Biden for pardons or commutations of nonviolent offenders

On Tuesday morning, April 26, President Joe Biden announced that he would be granting pardons or commutations to 78 people in the United States. In contrast to former President Donald Trump — who granted pardons to many of his political cronies — Biden focused heavily on nonviolent drug offenders.

The three pardons are going to Abraham Bolden, Sr., Betty Jo Bogans and Dexter Jackson. While Bogans and Jackson were convicted of federal drug charges, the 86-year-old Bolden is a former U.S. Secret Service agent who was accused of trying to sell a Secret Service file back in 1964. Bolden maintained his innocence, and his first trial ended in a hung jury.

The other 75 were commutations, with a heavy emphasis on drugs cases.

Some Twitter users, in response to the pardons and commutations, lambasted the War on Drugs as a failure:

Some Twitter users pointed out that per capita, the U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world:

Here are some more reactions to the 78 pardons or commutations:

No-knock drug raids are a threat to public safety — yet the practice continues: report

Libertarian journalist Radley Balko, now 46, has been calling for an end to no-knock drug raids for decades — emphasizing that such raids often cost innocent people their lives and do a lot more harm than drugs themselves. In the early 2020s, the movement to end such raids has been ramping up — and journalists Nicole Dungca and Jenn Abelson, in an article published by the Washington Post on April 15, make a compelling argument against the practice.

Dungca and Abelson describe no-knock drug raids as a dangerous practice that, in many cases, is badly administered and lacks “accountability.” And such raids, the journalists point out, frequently fail to turn up large amounts of drugs.

“Judges and magistrates are expected to review requests for no-knock warrants — one of the most intrusive and dangerous tactics available to law enforcement — to ensure that citizens are protected from unreasonable searches, as provided in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” Dungca and Abelson explain. “But judges generally rely on the word of police officers and rarely question the merits of the requests, offering little resistance when they seek authorization for no-knocks, a Washington Post investigation has found. The searches, which were meant to be used sparingly, have become commonplace for drug squads and SWAT teams.”

The reporters continue, “Criminal justice experts estimate that police carry out tens of thousands of no-knock raids every year nationwide, mostly in drug-related searches. But few agencies monitor their use, making the exact number unknown. None of the 50 state court systems or the District of Columbia reported tracking the use of no-knock warrants. And no federal or state government agencies keep tabs on the number of people killed or wounded in the raids.”

Balko was railing against the War on Drugs and no-knock drug raids 20 and 25 years ago. During the 2000s and 2010s, Balko wrote countless articles for the libertarian Reason that described no-knock drug raids gone bad — raids that never should have occurred. And Balko reported that it wasn’t uncommon for militarized narcotics officers to screw up, target the wrong address and kill innocent people who had nothing to do with drugs.

In 2020, Dungca and Abelson note, no-knock drug raids “became a flash point” when police in Louisville, Kentucky “killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor inside her apartment as part of a drug investigation involving an ex-boyfriend who didn’t live there.”

“Police carrying out 21 no-knock warrants have killed at least 22 people across the country since 2015, according to a review of The Post’s database of fatal shootings by police and hundreds of court records,” Dungca and Abelson report. “In one case, an officer was also killed. Of the 22 people fatally shot during no-knock raids since 2015, 13 were Black or Hispanic. Experts have suggested that high-risk searches disproportionately target Black and Hispanic homes.”

Dungca and Abelson note the case of Marvin Louis Guy, an African-American man from Killeen, Texas who became the target of a no-knock drug raid in 2014. Guy, who thought he was being robbed, was charged with capital murder after fatally shooting narcotics officer Charles Dinwiddie. A search of his house indicated that Guy was, at worst, a recreational drug user — and not a cocaine dealer as they suspected. Guy was held without bail, and eight years later, he still hasn’t gone to trial. Guy has, in effect, served an eight-year sentence without being convicted of anything.

In Houston, one judge who is rethinking no-knock drug warrants is Gordon Marcum.

Marcum told the Post that in 2022, “I wouldn’t sign one, just because of the fact that there’s a possibility of so many officers getting hurt and killed. There’s no reason to put them in harm’s way.”

Tennessee bill would require health care providers to report drug overdoses to police

The War on Drugs has been slammed as a failure by a combination of liberals, progressives and right-wing libertarians, many of whom have argued that drugs need to be regulated as a health matter rather than as a criminal matter. But in Tennessee, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Joey Hensley, a Republican, would require health care providers to contact police as well as the District Attorney General's Office if they treat someone who suffers a drug overdose.

Tennessee Senate Bill 1891, which would go into effect on July 1 if it passes, has passed in the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee and the Tennessee Senate Calendar Committee —and it is expected to go to a full Tennessee Senate vote on April 25, according to WBIR-TV 10 (an NBC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee).

Meanwhile, in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the House Criminal Justice Committee is expected to discuss a companion bill this Friday, April 15, WBIR reports. If a final version of the bill passes in both branches of the Tennessee General Assembly, it would go to the desk of Republican Gov. Bill Lee — who would have the option of either singing it into law or vetoing it.

According to WBIR, “Health care workers and other workers would need to provide the name, residence and employer of the person if they learn that information, as well as the person's location when the report is made and the place the drug overdose happened. They will also need to describe the character and extent of the injuries. State law already requires them to submit reports in cases of poison or suffocation, and the law would require drug overdoses to be handled the same way those cases already are. It would only require people to report overdoses if the patient has more substances in their systems than what is legally allowed by state and federal law.”

Journalist explains why Biden needs to get serious about federal marijuana pardons

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised that if elected, he would support the decriminalization of marijuana and grant presidential pardons to Americans convicted of nonviolent federal marijuana offenses. But journalist Ben Burgis, in an article published by The Nation on April 8, argues that if Biden is serious about pardoning federal marijuana offenders, he should pardon Daniel Muessig — a Pittsburgh resident and former attorney who is getting ready to serve five years in federal prison for a marijuana conviction.

After Muessig quit practicing law in Pittsburgh, Burgis notes, he became part of an illegal marijuana dispensary. A federal raid occurred in May 2019, but Muessig was never convicted of doing anything violent — only distributing marijuana.

“When the raid happened in May 2019, it was a fluke,” Burgis explains. “They walked into a trap ultimately set for a different gang — one that didn’t just sell weed. Daniel went through two excruciating years of waiting and wondering after that. Meanwhile, his friends were indicted, one after another.”

Burgis adds, “A 63-year-old man only marginally involved in the business hanged himself when the indictment came down and he realized how many years he’d have to spend in prison. Daniel described to me how he bent over and vomited in a Target parking lot when he got the news.”

On November 16, 2021, Muessig pled guilty to distributing marijuana — and on March 8, he was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Muessig discussed his situation in an article published by Truthout on March 13.

Muessig, Burgis notes, could have avoided prison but refused to inform on any fellow marijuana distributors.

“He was offered, again and again throughout the process, the option of informing on his friends,” Burgis observes. “He easily could have gotten off with probation. Instead, when he reports to prison on May 11, he’ll serve a minimum of five years — unless President Biden finally makes good on his promise.”

Unless Biden grants Muessig a federal pardon, Burgis adds, he will be going to federal prison for “committing a ‘crime’ that’s been made entirely legal in states from Maine to Oregon and from Michigan to California.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted for a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill’s fate in the U.S. Senate, however, remains uncertain. If the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act did make it through the Senate, Biden would likely sign it into law.

Muessig, according to Burgis, has been “pushing a high-risk strategy” to get Biden to live up this promise to pardon nonviolent federal marijuana offenders. The “No Pardons, No Voters” strategy, outlined on the website PardonsNow.com, says, “President Biden: keep your word. Pardon all 2,800+ federal nonviolent cannabis prisoners. Or we will not vote in the midterm election this November.”

It's a strategy that many Democratic voters, both progressive and centrist, are likely to reject — as everything from voting rights to abortion rights to gay rights is on the line in the 2022 midterms and the far-right MAGA Republicans who are likely to take over the U.S. House of Representatives are dangerously authoritarian. Certainly, MAGA extremists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina would love for Democratic voters to stay home in November.

“Some people reading this article may be prepared to take the pledge and do the electoral equivalent of shooting the hostage next fall,” Burgis writes. “Others might be disturbed by the idea of rolling the dice on the possible consequences of electing the greater evil. Ultimately, you’re going have to make your own calculations between pragmatism and principle. Daniel Muessig has already made his. Starting on May 11, he’s going to wake up in a cell every day for the next 1875 days.”

Boston and Baltimore’s non-prosecution policies are now at grave risk

Two of the most significant figures in the so-called “progressive prosecutor” movement now seem to be off the table as local top prosecutors. Despite very different circumstances in Baltimore and Boston, where they each presided over groundbreaking non-prosecution policies, these developments should concern anyone who wants to see drug use decriminalized.

In Baltimore, the elected top prosecutor, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, issued a broad non-prosecution policy for drug possession, drug paraphernalia and “prostitution” charges in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic kicked in. She announced her intention to maintain the policy post-pandemic, and a 2021 Johns Hopkins University study found that it had averted many arrests without reducing public safety.

But Mosby just got federally indicted on two perjury counts and two counts of making a false statement on a mortgage loan application. The charges are related to Mosby’s alleged claims of financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as allegedly fraudulent real estate dealings.

Whether Mosby will resign, either willfully or by force, is not presently known. David Jaros, a University of Baltimore law professor, told a local news station that under Maryland law, Mosby “can be removed from her position if the attorney general files a petition and two thirds of the Senate vote to remove her.”

In Boston meanwhile, Rachael Rollins, who until recently was Suffolk County’s district attorney, has now become the US attorney of Massachusetts instead, after the state Senate confirmed the Biden administration’s pick. As DA, Rollins had made progress on her campaign pledge to default to non-prosecution for 14 low-level misdemeanors.

That switch meant that Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican whose administration was highly critical of Rollins’ policies, got to nominate a successor to hold the Suffolk County DA seat until the November 2022 election. He chose Kevin Hayden, a prosecutor with a more middle-of-the-road track record, as Rollins’ replacement.

Despite a National Bureau of Economic Research study confirming that Rollins’ non-prosecution policies decreased justice involvement without increasing local crime rates, whether they will be continued by the new administration is an open question.

Several insiders, speaking to Filter on condition of anonymity, suggested that Hayden himself does not know yet what he plans to do regarding Rollins’ declination policies. One suggested that Hayden plans to keep the policies in place, while cautioning that actions speak louder than words.

On the other hand, Hayden may already be showing why he was Gov. Baker’s pick. Bobby Constantino, who served in the key role of Suffolk County director of innovation and strategy in the Rollins administration, tweeted on January 13: “For those who are wondering how the transition is going, they reassigned my office yesterday without so much as a warning, and despite several requests to meet with the new team, they are forcing me to resign before I can hand off the office’s research and tech portfolio.”

Unlike in Massachusetts, Maryland top local prosecutors who for whatever reason don’t complete their terms are replaced by Circuit Court judges—who themselves are elected to 15-year terms. This has happened at least once before in Baltimore, back in the 1970s, when the Circuit Court bench elected Howard Cardin as state’s attorney in order to fill a vacancy.

However, that appointment was controversial—the bench’s chief judge was Meyer Cardin, Howard’s father—and the new state’s attorney was defeated in the next election cycle.

The timing of Mosby’s indictment makes things even more complicated, as the filing deadline for the June 2022 state’s attorney primary is only weeks away. No one has officially filed yet, though Mosby, as well as attorneys Ivan Bates and Roya Hanna, had expressed plans to do so.

Her indictment does not legally stop Mosby from running, even if her prospects for winning would now be slim. But if she won and was then sentenced to prison due to a conviction, an interim state’s attorney would have to be selected by the judges.

Alternatively, Mosby could resign, triggering the judges’ need to appoint a replacement immediately. It is unclear how long that process might take, and thus whether that person would be able to run in the primary with incumbency advantage.

However, Jaros told Filter that if it came to that, he would be surprised if the judges appointed someone who would radically alter the non-prosecution status quo.

“I think the more likely and smarter play by the judges would be to choose someone who is currently in the office who will serve as a caretaker of the office’s work as the election plays out,” the professor said, “rather than stepping in to anoint a successor who is not currently there.”

Still, it is entirely possible that a change of guard, aided by the political ammunition the indictment provides, will ultimately mean a reversal of Mosby’s non-prosecution policies toward drugs and sex work.

If Mosby’s exit is confirmed alongside that of Rollins, it would be rather devastating to the progressive prosecutor movement nationally, which is already in a tough spot. Progressive district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco face recall battles this year, while the new state attorney general of Virginia, Jason Miyares, was elected after engaging in scorched-earth political warfare against progressive prosecutors. The safest progressive DA seat is undeniably Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s, since he won re-election in 2021 by a large margin against both primary and general election challengers.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

New Manhattan prosecutor sparks a right-wing backlash — but the critics don't understand the reality

On the campaign trail for Manhattan district attorney in 2021, Alvin Bragg was seen by many observers as unlikely to deliver on the reforms he promised. Now that he has been sworn in, he is already planning big moves that could revolutionize the system—unless it destroys him first.

In a memorandum published January 3, DA Bragg states to line prosecutors working under him that they will no longer prosecute “marijuana misdemeanors,” most trespassing charges, turnstile jumping, most resisting arrest charges, and more. “Prostitution” is not specifically named, but a prosecutor must ask a supervisor before charging a client with patronizing. For felonies that are not homicides, high-grade felonies involving serious physical injury with a weapon, most sex offenses, felony domestic violence or major economic crimes, the new default policy is for prosecutors to “not seek a carceral sentence.” The memo also tells line prosecutors that they “shall not seek a sentence of life without parole,” at least under most ordinary circumstances.

Bragg additionally ordered that Manhattan prosecutors should seek to downgrade certain serious charges if mitigating factors are present. For example, a robbery suspect who threatens a clerk with a fake weapon will face larceny charges, not armed robbery charges, so long as no one was hurt and there was no “genuine risk of physical harm.”

This all makes sense in a system that has long abandoned rehabilitation as a genuine goal while failing to demonstrate effective deterrence. Recognizing this, when the elite American Law Institute sought to revise the sentencing provisions of its Model Penal Code, it stated its goal as “limiting retributivism,” nothing less or more. If no one was actually hurt, any legal consequences should be about deterring or incapacitating the person who did the crime, it held—revenge is simply inapplicable.

New York City criminal justice practices get more attention than those of any other city, and have often spread as a model for the rest of the nation. So it did not take long for some of the usual rightwing critics of decarceration to find their soapbox.

Political commentator David French wrote that “This is an extraordinary assertion of prosecutorial authority that’s inconsistent with the rule of law. There’s a difference between prosecutorial discretion (which is already routinely abused) and the wholesale usurpation of the criminal code.” A critical tweet from Peter Moskos, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor who once advocated the introduction of flogging as an alternative to incarceration, was retweeted by Donald Trump, Jr. The former president’s son responded, “As if New York wasn’t already doing everything in its power to push people to Florida.”

However, several other commentators recognized that Bragg’s announcement is not as radical as it seems on first blush. For example, while Bragg announced that his prosecutors are expected to request “non-carceral” sentences for most crimes, more serious felonies in New York will still require at least a year of prison time. Considering this, and the memo’s numerous exceptions to ensure the office abides by state law—for example, the non-carceral sentence recommendation piece applies “unless required by law”—Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff said, “This isn’t the ‘jailbreak’ critics are relatively claiming it to be.”

There is also the inconvenient issue of local judges. Judges in New York are elected. With rare exceptions, cities have not seen a “progressive judge” movement to match the “progressive prosecutor” movement. Judges ultimately decide how to sentence cases, and there is evidence they disagree with reform prosecutors much more than they do with traditional “tough-on-crime” prosecutors. Judges also have to sign off on plea bargains to lesser charges, and they may not do so if they think the arrangement is too lenient.

So how much Bragg’s memo translates to actual decreases in the number of Manhattan residents sent to the Rikers Island jail or an upstate prison remains to be seen. Implementation is also likely to present a number of challenges. For example, Bragg’s plans to downgrade certain charges and recommend lower sentences for others may place a greater burden on probation and parole officials, when some people who would usually go to prison will now be put on probation. And figuring out how to reduce incarceration and (unnecessary) court supervision without risking further harms to victims—which would be both inherently bad and politically dangerous for the decarceration project—will take careful analytical work that has not really been done before. This may help to explain why other progressive DAs have largely resisted reforming criminal-legal responses to more serious crimes—beyond obvious or perceived political barriers.

Interestingly, Bragg simultaneously seems to be listening to the local victims’ rights community, which charged that his predecessor, DA Cy Vance, did not take sexual assault and related crimes seriously enough. Bragg told his prosecutors were told that sex crimes involving physical contact are not eligible for the blanket non-carceral sentence recommendation.

Yet that also may create some arguably bizarre results. For example, a 21-year-old who has sex with a 16-year-old girlfriend can be charged with a felony carrying a maximum of four years in prison. So long as there is no “serious” injury, Bragg’s prosecutors will seemingly both argue that the person convicted of armed robbery, a felony that carries up to 25 years in prison under state law, deserves no prison time, while that 21-year-old deserves up to four years behind bars, in addition to the civic death of the sex offender registry, for an act that is not a crime in several surrounding states.

Yet for all the caveats, Alvin Bragg’s announcement carries great significance. We are officially in new territory with a man who has already shown himself willing to go further toward a downsized criminal justice system, at least in theory, than any district attorney before him. Whether he is all talk, all-action or something in between, we’ll soon find out.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

San Francisco mayor ramps up aggressive policing after city is targeted by right-wing media

Declaring that “We need to take back our Tenderloin,” a hip, mixed-income neighborhood in San Francisco with a large unhoused population, Mayor London Breed announced a new plan in a Medium blog post on December 15.

Its focus is on “interrupting” open-air drug sales and public drug use. Interrupting refers to making arrests, as Breed acknowledged by citing a recent felony arrest warrant sweep. Only after that will social service providers “work in concert” with the police for the second phase of her plan.

Using rhetoric that harkens back to the heyday of the War on Drugs, Breed wrote that police “will continue targeting the criminals—the drug dealers—who prey on people struggling with addiction and poverty and other issues.”

Ignoring the harms and racial injustice inherent to such crackdowns, Breed even acknowledged that ramping up policing will cost more money. In bold letters, she wrote that “we will need a budget supplemental to help fund SFPD overtime.” She stated that she plans to introduce that request in January 2022.

These proposed policies may surprise some people who live in other parts of the United States. San Francisco is widely seen as the nation’s most progressive city—decidedly not a city governed by centrist Democrats. But that common view from non-locals does not describe the politics on the ground.

It is notable that Mayor Breed’s announcement comes on the heels of national publicity for the recall against the San Francisco’s top law enforcement officer, reformist District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

While Boudin’s policies of reducing prosecutions seem little different to those embraced in cities as diverse as Baltimore, Boston and Tucson, his tenure has attracted exceptionally vitriolic criticism from segments of the community. Some of this has been fueled by national-level conservative media, which frequently ties the DA to his parents’ Weather Underground convictions.

John Hamasaki, a reform-minded member of the San Francisco Police Commission who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2018, is skeptical of Breed’s plan. He attributed the change to the mayor, too, feeling the heat from what he characterized as right-wing recalls and the targeting of San Francisco by media outlets like Fox News.

“We all know that substance use, mental health, and homelessness are not policing matters,” he told Filter. “We can address crime, while requiring the proper non-police professionals to address poverty, mental health, or substance use.”

While some have called Breed progressive, her record has been complicated since she first got into politics. Breed served as a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors from 2013 until 2017, where she was pointedly accused of standing with real estate developers over local residents struggling with poverty. She also developed an antagonistic relationship with the press, calling one significant media outlet a “bullshit ass blog” because she was upset by some of its coverage.

In late 2017, former mayor Ed Lee unexpectedly died, and Breed was appointed acting mayor. During the weeks leading up to the June 2018 special mayoral election which saw Breed elected to the office, city residents received letters from George Shultz, a Republican superstar who served on the presidential cabinets of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. One of Breed’s staffers also attempted to garner a second-choice endorsement from the Republican Party Central Committee after the local Democratic Party refused to endorse her, selecting Supervisor Jane Kim instead. (San Francisco has ranked-choice voting, and the mayoral seat is nominally nonpartisan.)

As mayor, Breed has repeatedly shown herself to believe more policing and prosecution is the solution to myriad social issues her city faces.

In 2020, a public records request suggested that the mayor used the police department as her personal anti-homelessness squad. “Man sleeping on bench on Hayes st near gough,” Breed texted the police chief, Bill Scott. “Can someone come ASAP. I’m in the area having lunch.”

That same year, when activists holding Black Lives Matter signs came to her house to protest her inaction on more ambitious police reforms, she denounced them as “all white” and even compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.

And back in 2019, when former San Francisco DA George Gascón announced that he would retire from the seat a month early, Breed appointed Suzy Loftus, an old-guard prosecutor who made a crackdown on property crimes the cornerstone of her subsequent election campaign, as his replacement.

Tucked away in Breed’s latest announcement was a pledge to reverse the city’s pioneering stance on new surveillance technologies that undermine residents’ right to privacy. In 2019, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 to largely ban facial recognition technology by law enforcement. That move was seen as having particular salience since it came out of a city often defined by tech growth.

The mayor claimed that this policy “hobbled law enforcement when confronting life-threatening incidents like active shooters, suspected terrorist events, hostage taking, kidnapping, natural disasters, or looting.” She did not provide evidence or examples.

Shahid Buttar, an attorney who worked as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of grassroots advocacy, was one of many advocates who successfully pushed for the city’s groundbreaking ordinance. He told Filter that this claim was “disinformation from the mayor, parroting police talking points in order to insulate the police-industrial corruption from civilian oversight.”

Mayor Breed’s office declined Filter’s request for comment.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

How Oregon is turning the page on America’s disastrous drug war

In a groundbreaking move, in 2020, Oregon voters approved the decriminalization of personal use amounts of all illicit drugs, with Measure 110 passing with a healthy 59 percent of the vote. That made Oregon the first state in the U.S. to make this dramatic break after decades of the war on drugs. Now, as other states are pondering a similar move and are looking for evidence to bolster their case for drug decriminalization, some of the initial results in Oregon are looking pretty impressive and promising.

Measure 110 promised not only thousands of fewer drug arrests but also a move away from a punitive system to a more compassionate one, with hundreds of millions of dollars for “greatly [expanded] access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, without raising taxes,” according to a November 2020 press release from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). These services would be funded through “excess marijuana tax revenue” (more than $45 million) and savings accrued “from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession,” said the press release. State analysts in June 2020 estimated the excess marijuana tax revenue alone would result in more than $100 million in funding for providing services in the first year, after the implementation of Measure 110—which went into effect in February 2021—and would further result in funding of up to $129 million by 2027.

The state analysts were, however, too cautious. On November 3—“the one-year anniversary of the passage of Measure 110”—the DPA, whose political action arm, Drug Policy Action, spearheaded the successful campaign to get the drug reform measure passed, and the Health Justice Recovery Alliance (HJRA), the DPA’s key implementation partner in the state—which is working to implement treatment, harm reduction, and support programs—announced that they had secured funding of $302 million “for services over the next two years.” That’s more than $150 million a year, the DPA press release announced, “including $30 million lawmakers agreed to release ahead of schedule in May of [2021].” It is also “five times more than what Oregon currently spends on non-Medicaid funding for addiction services,” according to HJRA.

On November 17, that funding got real, with the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council announcing the opening of a grant proposal period to distribute $270 million of the funding to service providers, who will operate under the rubric of the new Behavioral Health Resource Networks (BHRNs). Grants will be going to groups working on a broad spectrum of substance-related concerns, including housing, peer support, and employment support, as well as harm reduction and drug treatment services.

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“Our vision is that by funding BHRNs, there will be a collaboration of networks that include culturally and linguistically specific and responsive, trauma-informed and gender affirming care that will meet the needs of anyone seeking services who have been negatively affected by substance use and the war on drugs,” said Oversight and Accountability Tri-Chair LaKeesha Dumas in a press release by the Oregon Health Authority announcing the grants.

That initial round of grants went to 70 organizations in 26 out of the state’s 36 counties, with these results cited in a DPA press release on November 3:

  • “33 harm reduction and addiction recovery service providers expanded access to treatment services for indigent, uninsured individuals.”
  • “52 organizations hired peer support specialists—a role that addiction medicine experts have long heralded as essential to one’s recovery journey.”
  • “32 service providers added recovery, supportive and transitional housing services.”
  • “30 organizations increased harm reduction services, which include life-saving interventions like overdose prevention; access to naloxone, methadone and buprenorphine; as well as drug education and outreach.”

“We were about to have to close our doors in Wasco County, which would have been devastating to the people that depend on us for support there, but thanks to Measure 110 passing, we were not only able to get the funding we needed to stay open, but also to expand the services and spectrum of care we were able to provide our clients,” said Monta Knudson, executive director of Bridges to Change, a nonprofit that offers peer recovery support, housing and treatment services in Oregon, in the November 3 DPA press release.

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“Addiction has touched us all somehow, some more personally and heartbreakingly than others,” said Tera Hurst, executive director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance, in the DPA press release. “Too many of us have lost loved ones to addiction, or struggled with it ourselves. COVID-19 has made things much worse, decreasing access to care during a time when Oregonians need these services more than ever before. That’s why today, exactly one year after the Measure’s passage, we celebrate the great strides made when it comes to addressing Oregon’s addiction crisis, while recognizing that there’s still much work to be done. Our immediate focus is to ensure every Oregonian knows these critical harm reduction and recovery services are being invested in and expanded so that they will be available to anyone who wants and needs them, and that they can feel comfortable and safe accessing them.”

But while the huge expansion of treatment, harm reduction, and related social services is undeniably a good thing, drug decriminalization is ultimately about getting people out of the criminal justice system and ensuring that they are not sucked into it in the first place. It’s looking like Measure 110 is achieving that goal.

According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, there were roughly between 9,000 and 10,000 drug arrests per year from 2012 to 2018, prior to the passage of Measure 110, and while it is too early to have precise numbers, thousands of Oregonians who would have been arrested for drug possession in 2021 have instead faced only their choice of a $100 fine or a health assessment. This doesn’t mean that there will be no arrests at all, though, because some felony drug possession arrests (possession of more than the specified personal use amounts) have been downgraded to still arrestable misdemeanors. There will, however, be thousands fewer people subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system and all the negative consequences that brings.

Preliminary numbers reported by the Oregonian suggest that drug arrests in 2021 are occurring at a rate of about 200 a month, primarily for possessing more than a personal use quantity of a drug. If that rate holds throughout the year, we should see a dramatic reduction in overall arrests, down from 9,000 (in the latest-reported 2018 data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission) to fewer than 2,500. And most of the people being arrested are now facing misdemeanors instead of felony charges.

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“A year ago, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs and expand access to health services. Now, because of this measure, there are thousands of people in Oregon that will never have to experience the devastating life-long barriers of having a drug arrest on their record, which disproportionately and unjustly affected Black and Indigenous people due to targeted policing,” said DPA Executive Director Kassandra Frederique in the press release. “Because of this measure, there is more than $300 million in funding that did not exist before being funneled into community organizations to provide adequate and culturally competent care that people desperately need. And while the devastation of 50 years of cruel and counterproductive policies can’t be erased overnight, by all metrics we hoped to achieve, and what voters asked for, we are going down the right path.”

Phillip Smith is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a drug policy journalist for more than two decades. He is the longtime writer and editor of the Drug War Chronicle, the online publication of the nonprofit Stop the Drug War, and was the editor of AlterNet’s coverage of drug policy from 2015 to 2018. He was awarded the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edwin M. Brecher Award for Excellence in Media in 2013.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of Drug Reporter.

New York City to become first US city to offer sites for supervised injection drug use

On November 30, New York City authorized two safe consumption sites to begin operations as soon as possible. The decision, a hard-fought victory for harm reduction advocates, makes them the first government-sanctioned overdose prevention centers, as they are also known, to open in the United States.

“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press statement. “After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it.”

In the past few weeks, there have been reports that de Blasio—perhaps eyeing a gubernatorial run—would make good on a longtime promise to launch a pilot program for safe consumption sites (SCS). But that bid endlessly stalled without approval from the governor’s office under former Governor Andrew Cuomo. De Blasio will depart as the city’s mayor by the new year. But Eric Adams, the incoming mayor, has signaled his support for SCS. And with district attorneys and police also reportedly onboard, the sites’ operations should be protected.

A pair of nonprofits—New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE) and the Washington Heights Corner Project—are merging to create a new organization, OnePoint NYC, which will operate the sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights. There, people will be able to obtain sterile syringes and other safer-use supplies, access treatment options and other services, and bring their own drugs to use, with trained staff and naloxone on hand.

The two sites already run syringe service programs. Some harm reduction programs in the city have also been effectively operating SCS without government approval.

In the national context, New York City’s move arrives as overdose deaths have hit record highs during the coronavirus pandemic. Recent data showed that more than 100,000 people in the United States died during a 12-month period between April 2020 and April 2021, amid an increasingly adulterated illicit drug supply.

The Biden administration has indicated broad acceptance of harm reduction approaches to drug use, without, however, taking an explicit stance on SCS. Despite numerous other jurisdictions’ attempts to get similar programs off the ground—Rhode Island made history by passing a bill in the summer to authorize an SCS pilot program—none have yet gone as far as New York City.

“This is a watershed milestone in the fight to end overdose deaths in New York,” Melissa Moore, the director of civil systems reform at the Drug Policy Alliance, who previously led the DPA’s work in the state, said in a statement. “If we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and curb racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like Overdose Prevention Centers.”

As DPA notes, approximately 120 sanctioned SCS already operate in 10 countries around the world, and “over 100 evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies have consistently proven the positive impacts of supervised consumption services.” The organization lists some of these demonstrated benefits as follows:

* Increasing entry into substance use disorder treatment

* Reducing the amount and frequency that clients use drugs

* Reducing public disorder and public injecting while increasing public safety

* Reducing HIV and Hepatitis C risk behavior (i.e. syringe sharing, unsafe sex)

* Successfully managing frequent on-site overdoses and reducing drug-related overdose death rates (there has not been a single overdose fatality at any SCS worldwide)

* Saving costs due to a reduction in disease, overdose deaths, and need for emergency medical services

* Increasing the delivery of medical and social services

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

The right is using the Wisconsin parade tragedy to attack bail reform — but they need a fact-check

After an SUV plowed through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 21, killing five people and injuring 48, including many children, hard-right pundits treated the subsequent arrest of Darrell Brooks like a gift.

Jennifer Van Laar, the editor of popular conservative blog Red State, tweeted, "FIFTY PAGES in Darrell Brooks' criminal record. Drugs, violence, crimes of moral turpitude, sexual offenses. But hey, let's allow him to bond out on $1000 even though he's charged with jumping bail."

Alt-right troll Jack Posobiec and COVID-19 disinformation spreader Chuck Callesto echoed this idea. Turning Point USA's Benny Johnson went a step further, blaming Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm for the incident. So did Mike Cernovich, who ripped into Chisholm as a "Soros DA," despite Chisholm never receiving money from George Soros or his affiliated PACs.

DA Chisholm, as a writer at Red State put it, is allegedly a "radical leftist who has sought to institute 'criminal justice reform' via 'bail reform.'" It is insinuated that Chisholm quietly ushered Brooks out on a serious and recent domestic violence charge on $1,000 bail, then rolled it back in the media after the tragedy, claiming that his deputy prosecutor made a mistake (Chisholm has now launched an investigation into the Brooks bail decision).

Such commentators are in desperate need of a fact-check.

Wisconsin is not like California or New Jersey, which saw bail reform legislation pass in the last few years. It has not had a substantial amendment to its bail law in at least 10 years, according to the Wisconsin state legislature's website.

However, the current law does state that a judge can hold a person charged with a crime in jail pretrial "only upon a finding by the court that there is a reasonable basis to believe that bail is necessary to assure appearance in court."

Meanwhile, both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature have been dominated by Republicans every year in the last decade.

Besides which, if we look at bail reform on a statistical, rather than anecdotal, level, it does not reduce public safety. The vast majority of people facing charges return to court regardless of money bail. In addition, detaining people pretrial, effectively punishing poverty, is "criminogenic," because people lose their jobs and community ties are weakened.

"Money bail compromises public safety," according to analysis from the Prison Policy Initiative.

As Cernovich points out to support his cause, Chisholm has delivered criminal justice reform talking points. But Chisholm has rarely delivered anything on decarceration but talking points. The Democrat, first elected in 2006, has spent much of his career carefully avoiding policies that would make right-wing opponents angry.

In 2017, for example, Chisholm explained how he refuses to categorically drop marijuana possession cases, despite many of his peers elsewhere doing just that.

Chisholm is also the orchestrator of a national strategy to increase the use of drug-induced homicide prosecutions to people who sell drugs as murderers, despite people who have overdosed often not wanting this response. He has sent Assistant District Attorney Patricia Daughtery to national conferences to evangelize these prosecutions. Daughtery has gone so far as to advise officials to build cases using tactics that are disrespectful to the same people she is supposedly trying to protect, such as using the cell phones of people who overdosed.

Additionally, during Chisholm's tenure, Wisconsin had the highest rate of Black incarceration in the nation, with about 65 percent of Black Wisconsinites living in Milwaukee County. University of Wisconsin law professor Ion Meyn has raised concerns that part of this is due to higher prosecution rates and lower plea bargain rates for Black suspects.

Amid Chisholm's middle-of-the-road approach to his office, Milwaukee has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, with 1,332 incidents for every 100,000 residents. His attempt to please everyone and incense no one has achieved little, and there are numerous progressive steps he should be taking. Chances are, the politicization of the Brooks case will increase the DA's timidity and push him in the opposite direction.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

Wyoming launched a system of humiliating, pervasive surveillance under the guise of fighting crime

Criminologists and, increasingly, local court systems love the idea of "swift, certain and fair" punishments for drug use (including alcohol) by people with criminal justice system involvement. They say that releasing people with strict anti-drug use conditions will curb mass incarceration, cut costs and assist in rehabilitation — a win for everyone.

Not only is this misleading, but the programs they are creating might be unconstitutional. That is what the ACLU contends of the 24/7 Sobriety Program in Wyoming, in a demand letter recently sent to Governor Mark Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, the Teton County Sheriff's Office and others.

Its effectiveness as a public safety program is also in doubt.

The program, which was first created as a result of a 2014 law, creates stringent pretrial release conditions for people awaiting alcohol-related charges. Anyone caught drinking will be put back in jail. State lawmakers were inspired by a program created by former South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long in his state.

A training from the South Dakota Attorney General's Office illustrates what the program looks like, as well as some of the ideas behind it. The first slide tells the audience, "Why do we need the 24-7 Program? UNENFORCEABLE CONDITIONS," then lists examples of these conditions: Don't drink. Don't go to bars. Don't drive.

Later, it explains the program's two breathalyzer tests per day, which are mandated whether or not the person is driving. People who are convicted, but also those who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, can face these conditions. They also have to pay for the testing themselves.

A 2017 best practices manual from the National 24/7 Advisory Council shows another bad side to the program. Despite being billed as a personal-responsibility program that saves money and allows people to keep their jobs, South Dakota's in-person testing requirement "made it very difficult, if not impossible, for participants to obtain and keep jobs, attend school, or maintain a healthy family life." The state then introduced a transdermal patch as an alternative testing option.

In Wyoming, people are still coming in person for these tests. To be eligible for the program, the Teton County Sheriff demands an enrollment fee of $30, cash only, exact amount only.

Academic and think tank researchers bolstered the spread of the program, but their research has arguably been mischaracterized by the program's founder, Larry Long.

Sandwiched in between stories of drunk driving and domestic violence, Long wrote in 2017 that "RAND research, published in Lancet Psychiatry in 2016, showed that the implementation of a 24/7 Sobriety Program was followed by a 4.2% decrease in the state's mortality rate, equal to saving the lives of several hundred South Dakotans a year."

Yet Michael Farrell of the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre in Australia, in summarizing that paper, stated: "In an analysis of cause-specific mortality, circulatory disorders but not digestive disorders or injuries (all proxies for alcohol-related mortality) were significantly reduced, whereas there was no association with cancer-related deaths (a falsification test)."

And the authors of the original paper themselves acknowledged that the decline in mortality was "most evident among circulatory disorders" amongst 24/7 Sobriety Program participants.

Thus, the program is not really about crime; rather, it is wielding public health concerns as a carceral weapon. The government has opted to subject the people it is allegedly trying to help to a humiliating, pervasive surveillance.

It is not surprising when you look at the founding members of the National 24/7 Advisory Council. Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm, the inventor of the ineffective and repressive HOPE probation program, is there. So is Stephen Talpins, the second-in-command to the fake-progressive Miami-Dade County State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who described the South Dakota program as "one of the most progressive programs in the country."

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

FDA memos reveal its 'fatal flaw' rejection plan for flavored vapes

There's an ongoing theory about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the vaping community: The agency did not anticipate the onslaught of 6 million-plus premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) it received by a September 2020 deadline, and had to devise some way to try to sort through them all by the following year. It would be no easy feat, but the bar for authorization would be set incredibly high—and that, in the FDA's view, would help.

Documents obtained by Filter shed new light on how this murky process has looked from the heavily criticized agency's perspective. For the first time, they also give an indication, from the agency itself, of something else the vaping community has long inferred: that the FDA—despite some protestations to the contrary—has taken a systemically different approach to PMTA applications for the flavored products on which so many former smokers depend.

The agency previously signaled the threshold to be met—being "appropriate for the protection of public health"—would largely involve a tricky balancing act. Reviewers at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) would weigh the likelihood of a given product facilitating adult smokers to switch to a safer alternative versus its perceived potential to attract a new generation of nicotine users.

The FDA also made clear—even if many in the industry can argue it did so only after the September 2020 submission deadline—that tipping the scales toward authorization would likely require at least one of two types of studies: longitudinal cohort studies, which track large groups of people over an extended period of time, or randomized controlled trials (RCTs), another type of study that examines a specific group of people through intervals of time. Both are costly and require high levels of skill.

On September 9, however, Mitch Zeller stated in an update to the agency's PMTA process that the FDA "does not foreclose the possibility that other types of evidence could be adequate if sufficiently robust and reliable." But the agency has never really expanded on what kind of other evidence that would be.

FDA memos reviewed by Filter provide an inside look into the procedure, establishing explicitly how the agency handled the heavy volume of applications for flavored vaping products.

"Office of Science has been tasked with developing a new plan to effectively manage the remaining non-tobacco flavored ENDS PMTAs not in Phase III, substantive scientific review," reads a memorandum signed on July 9 by Matthew Holman, the director of CTP's Office of Science. "This task has been assigned by the Acting Commissioner given the likely impact on the marketplace on September 10, 2021 (the end of the enforcement discretion period for deemed tobacco products) and in order to take final action on as many applications as possible by September 10, 2021."

"Considering the large number of applications that remain to be reviewed by the September 9, 2021 deadline, OS [Office of Science] will conduct a Fatal Flaw review of PMTAs not in Phase III for non-tobacco-flavored ENDS products," the memo goes on. "The Fatal Flaw review is a simple review in which the reviewer examines the submission to identify whether or not it contains the necessary type of studies."

Critically, the memo continues: "The Fatal Flaw review will be limited to determining presence or absence of such studies; it will not evaluate the merits of the studies."

According to the FDA, there are three "phases" of the PMTA review: Phase I (Acceptance), which essentially means an application has been received; Phase II (Notification or Filing), which entails acknowledging a company had enough information for its applications to be formally filed; and Phase III (Review), which involves a substantive scientific evaluation, followed by a marketing granted order (MGO) or MDO. (In August, the agency refused to file—that is, move to Phase II—about 4.5 million vapor product applications filed by a single manufacturer, JD Nova, because an environmental assessment was not included.)

The memo continues to explain that CTP used "a database query to identify the top twelve manufacturers with the largest number of pending PMTAs not in Phase III for non-tobacco flavored e-liquid products," which then represented 85 precent of all pending PMTA applications. The agency pulled these applications "out of their respective place in the PMTA priority list," and once "Phase II filing was initiated," they underwent the "Fatal Flaw" review.

"Manufacturers are responsible for making their case within their application," Eric Lindblom, a senior scholar at Georgetown's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and a former director of the CTP's Office of Policy, told Filter. "And the FDA is under no legal obligation to fill in any missing gaps or apply external studies or evidence to make the application fulfill application requirements … to make the application worthy of getting an order allowing marketing—to make a PMTA product's marketing appropriate for the protection of the public health."

Still, the Fatal Flaw standard appears to be new; it does not seem to have been employed by CTP in the past. A former CTP employee, speaking to Filter on condition of anonymity, said that they had never heard of the "Fatal Flaw" standard until now.

The FDA has denied the applications of most small- and medium-size producers, issuing identical marketing denial orders (MDOs) for their mostly flavored products, while indicating more time was needed to evaluate the players with the largest market share. (It has authorized just one vape, along with two tobacco-flavored cartridges.)

So the way this happened, previously shrouded in mystery, just became a whole lot clearer: CTP reviewers created what's probably a new method to get through a backlog of millions of PMTAs, searched those applications for longitudinal cohort studies and RCTs without evaluating any other evidence, and for applications lacking them, did not advance them beyond Phase II and just sent out templated MDOs.

Some in the vapor industry wonder if the "Fatal Flaw" review emerged after Janet Woodcock, the agency's acting commissioner, testified at a congressional hearing at the end of June. Many leading Democrats—including two of the most vocal vaping critics, Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi—scolded Woodcock and her agency for not doing enough to address youth vaping rates. There may have been, in other words, political pressure to act, even as youth vaping has fallen. Holman signed the memo a little over two weeks after the hearing.

"The 'Fatal Flaw' standard was created out of a sense of embarrassment on the Hill by the acting commissioner," an industry insider, speaking on condition of anonymity given a pending PMTA application, told Filter.

"Janet Woodcock's legacy won't be vaccines or drug approvals," they continued. "It will be involving herself politically in the vaping market and making it harder for products that adults use to quit smoking to remain on the market. She has politicized the FDA more than any of her recent predecessors, by far."

Through a spokesperson, the FDA declined to comment, as the agency does not do so "on possible, pending or ongoing litigation."

In the meantime, dozens of vapor companies have sued the FDA, mainly for acting in an "arbitrary and capricious manner," and two so far have received full-blown rescissions, with the agency citing that the "FDA found relevant information that was not adequately assessed."

Another company, Triton, which at the end of October received a full stay from a federal court of appeals to continue selling its products as its lawsuit made its way through the court system, revealed that at least some judges agree with the industry's logic: The FDA did not adequately inform manufacturers that long-term data, in the form of longitudinal cohort studies or RCTs, would be totally necessary.

The new evidence of the FDA's cut-and-paste methodology, which emerged through these lawsuits, further substantiates vaping advocates' portrayal of the process as not only chaotic, but stacked against smaller companies and flavors.

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

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