Sunday, November 23, 2008

Evo Morales Seeks Change From Obama

Evo Morales visited the U.S. on a speaking tour voicing his hope for change from the incoming Obama Administration regarding the drug inquisition
Morales Vatican Spar in Bolivia
Morales To Speak At Jesuit Fordham University
Morales Lashes Out At The Vatican
The Washington [A]Post[ate] on Morales
Evo Morales Media Reports
Romish Racism Against Bolivian Indigenous
Criminal Romish Cigarette Virginia Conspiracy Against Morales Coca
Alas, Morales reportedly did not get to meet with Obama or any of his representatives.

Perhaps, as a start, Morales should ask Obama about the 1993 US Office of Technology Assessment Report "Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Regions" that instead concluded in favor of opening markets to Coca.

Commissioned by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, this report, dedicated to the official line that Coca cultivation ought to be reduced, Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Region, adopted from a contractor report prepared for the OTA in July, 1991, ended up presenting findings that contradict this dogma of official policy:

...the utility of traditional coca consumption for Andean populations cannot be ignored. Three physiological benefits of coca use (for relief from altitude sickness, as a remedy to vitamin deficiencies, and in conserving body heat), are specifically appropriate to Andeans who must endure the stresses of high-altitude labor and a low protein diet. Evidence does not [emphasis added] support claims that traditional long-term traditional use is harmful. Rather, the multiple advantages of coca use indicate that it has a strong positive role in Andean health. [47]
Such would mark a welcome change from the established jesuitical drug policy treason pushed through such entities as Georgetown University and the U.S. State Department.

Also, it would be useful for Morales to read a bit about the history of how the current anti-Coca laws came about in the early 1900s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some Reformists Forget the Coca Issue?

The political landscape in Washington, DC, is undergoing a dramatic shift as the Democratic tide rolls in, and, after eight years of drug war status quo under the Republicans, drug reformers are now hoping the change in administrations will lead to positive changes in federal drug policies. As with every other aspect of federal policy, groups interested in criminal justice and drug policy reform are coming out of the woodwork with their own recommendations for Obama and the Democratic Congress. This week, we will look at some of those proposals and attempt to assess the prospects for real change.

The White House

One of the most comprehensive criminal justice reform proposals, of which drug-related reform is only a small part, comes from a nonpartisan consortium of organizations and individuals coordinated by the Constitution Project, including groups such as the Sentencing Project, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), and the Open Society Policy Center. The set of proposals, Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress, includes the following recommendations:
  • Mandatory Minimum Reforms:
    Eliminate the crack cocaine sentencing disparity
    Improve and expand the federal "safety valve"
    Create a sunset provision on existing and new mandatory minimums
    Clarify that the 924(c) recidivism provisions apply only to true repeat offenders
  • Alternatives to Incarceration:
    Expand alternatives to incarceration in federal sentencing guidelines
    Enact a deferred adjudication statute
    Support alternatives to incarceration through expansion of federal drug and other problem solving courts.
  • Incentives and Sentencing Management
    Expand the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)
    Clarify good time credit
    Expand the amount of good time conduct credit prisoners may receive and ways they can receive it
    Enhance sentence reductions for extraordinary and compelling circumstances
    Expand elderly prisoners release program
    Revive executive clemency
  • Promoting Fairness and Addressing Disparity:
    Support racial impact statements as a means of reducing unwarranted sentencing disparities
    Support analysis of racial and ethnic disparity in the federal justice system
    Add a federal public defender as an ex officio member of the United States Sentencing Commission

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also issued a set of recommendations, Actions for Restoring America: How to Begin Repairing the Damage to Freedom in America Under Bush, which include some drug reform provisions:

  • Crack/Powder Sentencing: The attorney general should revise the US Attorneys' Manual to require that crack offenses are charged as "cocaine" and not "cocaine base," effectively resulting in elimination of the disparity.
  • Medical Marijuana: Halt the use of Justice Department funds to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana users in states with current laws permitting access to physician-supervised medical marijuana. In particular, the US Attorney general should update the US Attorneys' Manual to de-prioritize the arrest and prosecution of medical marijuana users in medical marijuana states. There is currently no regulation in place to be amended or repealed; there is, of course, a federal statutory scheme that prohibits marijuana use unless pursuant to approved research. But US Attorneys have broad charging discretion in determining what types of cases to prosecute, and with drugs, what threshold amounts that will trigger prosecution. The US Attorneys' Manual contains guidelines promulgated by the Attorney general and followed by US Attorneys and their assistants.
  • The DEA Administrator should grant Lyle Craker's application for a Schedule I license to produce research-grade medical marijuana for use in DEA- and FDA-approved studies. This would only require DEA to approve the current recommendation of its own Administrative Law Judge.
  • All relevant agencies should stop denying the existence of medical uses of marijuana -- as nearly one-third of states have done by enacting laws -- and therefore, under existing legal criteria, reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule V.
  • Issue an executive order stating that, "No veteran shall be denied care solely on the basis of using marijuana for medical purposes in compliance with state law." Although there are many known instances of veterans being denied care as a result of medical marijuana use, we have not been able to identify a specific regulation that mandates or authorizes this policy.
  • Federal Racial Profiling: Issue an executive order prohibiting racial profiling by federal officers and banning law enforcement practices that disproportionately target people for investigation and enforcement based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex or religion. Include in the order a mandate that federal agencies collect data on hit rates for stops and searches, and that such data be disaggregated by group. DOJ should issue guidelines regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies. The new guidelines should clarify that federal law enforcement officials may not use race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or sex to any degree, except that officers may rely on these factors in a specific suspect description as they would any noticeable characteristic of a subject.

Looking to the south, the Latin America Working Group, a coalition of nonprofit groups, has issued a petition urging Obama "to build a just policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean that unites us with our neighbors." Included in its proposals are:

  • Actively work for peace in Colombia. In a war that threatens to go on indefinitely, the immense suffering of the civilian population demands that the United States takes risks to achieve peace. If the United States is to actively support peace, it must stop endlessly bankrolling war and help bring an end to the hemisphere's worst humanitarian crisis.
  • Get serious -- and smart -- about drug policy. Our current drug policy isn't only expensive and ineffective, it's also inhumane. Instead of continuing a failed approach that brings soldiers into Latin America's streets and fields, we must invest in alternative development projects in the Andes and drug treatment and prevention here at home.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has some suggestions as well. As NORML's Paul Armentano wrote last week on Alternet:

  • President Obama must uphold his campaign promise to cease the federal arrest and prosecution of (state) law-abiding medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by appointing leaders at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the US Department of Justice, and the US Attorney General's office who will respect the will of the voters in the thirteen states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of medicinal marijuana.
  • President Obama should use the power of the bully pulpit to reframe the drug policy debate from one of criminal policy to one of public health. Obama can stimulate this change by appointing directors to the Office of National Drug Control Policy who possess professional backgrounds in public health, addiction, and treatment rather than in law enforcement.
  • President Obama should follow up on statements he made earlier in his career in favor of marijuana decriminalization by establishing a bi-partisan presidential commission to review the budgetary, social, and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make progressive recommendations for future policy changes.

Clearly, the drug reform community and its allies see the change of administrations as an opportunity to advance the cause. The question is how receptive will the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress be to drug reform efforts.

"We've examined Obama's record and his statements, and 90% of it is good," said David Borden, executive director of (publisher of this newsletter). "But we don't know what he intends to do in office. There is an enormous amount of good he can do," Borden said, mentioning opening up funding for needle exchange programs, US Attorney appointments, and stopping DEA raids on medical marijuana providers. "Will Obama make some attempt to actualize the progressive drug reform positions he has taken? He has a lot on his plate, and drug policy reform has tended to be the first thing dropped by left-leaning politicians."

There will be some early indicators of administration interest in drug reform, said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We will be watching to see if he issues an executive order stopping the DEA raids; that would be a huge sign," he said. "He could also repeal the needle exchange funding ban. The congressional ban would still be in place, but that would show some great leadership. If they started taking on drug policy issues in the first 100 days, that would be a great sign, but I don't think people should expect that. There are many other issues, and it's going to take awhile just to clean up Bush's mess. I'm optimistic, but I don't expect big changes to come quickly."

"We are hoping to see a new direction," said Nkechi Taifa, senior policy analyst for civil and criminal justice reform for the Open Society Policy Center. "We couldn't have a better scenario with the incoming vice president having sponsored the one-to-one crack/powder bill in the Senate and the incoming president being a sponsor. And we have a situation in Congress, and particularly in the Senate, where there is bipartisan interest in sentencing reform. Both sides of the aisle want some sort of movement on this, it's been studied and vetted, and now Congress needs to do the right thing. It's time to get smart on crime, and this is not a radical agenda. As far as I'm concerned, fixing the crack/powder disparity is the compromise, and elimination of mandatory minimums is what really needs to be on the agenda."

"With the Smart on Crime proposals, we tried to focus on what was feasible," said the Sentencing Project's Kara Gotsch. "These are items where we think we are likely to get support, where the community has demonstrated support, or where there has been legislation proposed to deal with these issues. It prioritizes the issues we think are most likely to move, and crack sentencing reform is on that list."

The marijuana reform groups are more narrowly focused, of course, but they, too are looking for positive change. "Obama has made it very clear on the campaign trail that he disagrees with the use of federal agencies to undo medical marijuana laws in states that have passed them," said Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "He has vowed to stop that. Obama seems to be someone who values facts and reasoned decision-making. If he applies that to marijuana policy, that could be a good thing".

While the list of possible drug reforms is long and varied, it is also notable for what has not been included. Only NORML even mentions marijuana decriminalization, and no one is talking about ending the drug war -- only making it a bit kinder and gentler. The L-word remains unutterable.

"While we're optimistic about reducing the harms of prohibition, legalization is not something that I think they will take on," said Piper. "But any movement toward drug reform is good. If we can begin to shift to a more health-oriented approach, that will change how Americans think about this issue and create a space where regulation can be discussed in a a rational manner. Now, because of our moralist criminal justice framework, it is difficult to have a sane discussion about legalization."

"We didn't talk that much about legalization," said Gotsch in reference to the Smart on Crime proposals. "A lot of organizations involved have more ambitious goals, but that wouldn't get the kind of reaction we want. There just isn't the political support yet for legalization, even of marijuana."

"We should be talking about legalization, yes," said's Borden, "but should we be talking about it in communications to the new president who has shown no sign of supporting it? Not necessarily. We must push the envelope, but if we push it too far in lobbying communications to national leadership, we risk losing their attention."

"I do think it would be a mistake to blend that kind of caution into ideological caution over what we are willing to talk about at all," Borden continued. "I think we should be talking about legalization, it's just a question of when and where," he argued.

Talking legalization is premature, said Eric Sterling, formerly counsel to the US House Judiciary Committee and now president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. "What we are not yet doing as a movement is building upon our successes," he said. "We just saw medical marijuana win overwhelmingly in Michigan and decriminalization in Massachusetts, but the nation's commentariat has not picked up on it, and our movement has not been sufficiently aggressive in getting those votes translated into the political discourse. We haven't broken out of the making fun phase of marijuana policy yet."

Sterling pointed in particular to the medical marijuana issue. "Everyone recognizes that the state-federal conflict on medical marijuana is a major impediment, and we have 26 senators representing medical marijuana states, but not a single senator has introduced a medical marijuana bill," he said. "It's an obvious area for legislative activity in the Senate, but it hasn't happened. This suggests that we as a movement still lack the political muscle even on something as uncontroversial as the medical use of marijuana."

Even the apparent obvious targets for reform, such as the crack/powder sentencing disparity, are going to require a lot of work, said Sterling. "It will continue to be a struggle," he said. "The best crack bill was Biden's, cosponsored by Obama and Clinton, but I'm not sure who is going to pick that up this year. The sentencing reform community continues to struggle to frame the issue as effective law enforcement, and I think it's only on those terms that we can win."

Reformers also face the reality that the politics of crime continues to be a sensitive issue for the majority Democrats, Sterling said. "Crime is an issue members are frightened about, and it's an area where Republicans traditionally feel they have the upper ground. The Democrats are going to be reluctant to open themselves up to attack in areas where there is not a strong political upside. On many issues, Congress acts when there is a clear universe of allies who will benefit and who are pushing for action. I don't know if we are there yet."

Change is the mantra of the Obama administration, and change is what the drug reform community is hoping for. Now, the community must act to ensure that change happens, and that the right changes happen.

The above article comes just about as Morales embarks upon a U.S. speaking tour.

Just what sort of advice do such drug policy reformists receive?

Some possible insight...

To the Drug Policy Alliance's credit, they do feature the following piece:

> An Hour with Bolivian President Evo Morales: "Neoliberalism Is No Solution for Humankind"

Bolivian President Evo Morales joins us in the firehouse studio to discuss the election of Barack Obama, US-Bolivian relations, the global economic crisis and more. Morales is visiting the United States at a time when relations between the two countries are deteriorating. Last month, the Bush administration suspended long-term trade benefits with Bolivia over its alleged failure to cooperate in the “war on drugs.”

Hopefully we will see more about this as an integral component of drug policy reform.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Masonic Frat Member for U.S. Drug Czar?

Monday, November 17, 2008

More drug czar speculation...

Keep in mind that I really think this is really too early to be picking drug czars, but people can't help speculating. The latest comes from Ryan Grim at the Politico.

Rep. Jim Ramstad's name is bouncing around as a possible "drug czar" -- the name given the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican, is in recovery himself and has been a longtime proponent of treatment for drug abuse.

Along with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), he has been an advocate for mental health parity -- the push to treat mental illness with the same effort as physical illness. Ramstad has consistently voted against medical marijuana in Congress, opposing an effort to prevent the federal government from raiding or arresting medical marijuana clubs in states where it is legal.

While certainly it could be a positive step to focus on treatment more than enforcement, as Radley says:

Fear the ex-addict who enters the public policy debate to "prevent others from making my mistakes."

Over the years, Phi Delta Theta members have played an integral role in the shaping of our democracy through their service in local government, state houses, the United States Congress and, yes, even the presidency. Jim Ramstad, U.S. Congressman from Minnesota, is another example of the prominent role Phi Delta Theta has within the Fraternity world.

Jim Ramstad was first elected to Congress in 1990. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Health Subcommittee and Oversight Subcommittee. Jim also co-chairs the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus, as well as the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Law Enforcement Caucus and Medical Technology Caucus.

Congressman Ramstad is the 1998 recipient of the "Fullbright Distinguished Public Service Award." Jim was also named "Legislator of the Year" in 1998 by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors, in 1999 by the National Mental Health Association and in 1997 and 2000 by the National Association of Police Organizations.

Jim Ramstad has a long history of civic and community involvement. He currently serves as a board member of Minnesota D.A.R.E. and the Lake Country Food Bank. Jim is also a member of American Legion Post 118, Minnesota Prayer Breakfast Committee, Plymouth Lions Club and the MetroNorth and Wayzata Area Chambers of Commerce.

Born in Jamestown, North Dakota, Jim is the third generation member of a small business family. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1968 (Phi Beta Kappa) and his J.D. (with Honors) from George Washington University in 1973. He was an officer in the United States National Guard from 1968 to 1974. He also worked as a private practice attorney and as a legislative aide to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

After a combined 27 years in the Minnesota Senate and U.S. Congress, Jim will be retiring from Congress to spend more time in Minnesota. Congratulations Jim!

Bookmark and Share

According to his Wikipedia article, the man is a recovering alcoholic.

Personal life

Ramstad has identified himself as a recovering alcoholic, having been sober since 1981; he is Patrick J. Kennedy's AA sponsor. Ramstad's sister, Sheryl Ramstad-Hvass, is currently a Tax Court judge in Minnesota.

On February 25, 2008 it was announced that Ramstad had been elected to the board of directors of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [11]

Yet he opposes even the limited medical use of Marijuana - a far far safer substance.

Perhaps he is a fool.

But definitely he is a member of a secret society (fraternity):

What sort of "hope" for "change" is this supposed to represent?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coca, Bolivia, and 'Law' 1008

Coca, Bolivia, and Law 1008
Drug War Rant Friday, March 7, 2008

There's a fascinating 5-part series of videos on Bolivia and coca at Definitely worth watching -- I learned quite a bit about the coca leaf. I was particularly interested in Law 1008 -- a law written by an American in English controlling what Bolivians could do with their coca leaves. A law, like every drug prohibition law, that had roots in racism and lies. And a law, like every other drug prohibition law, that actually caused the conditions for developing a massive international black market.

The first three parts of the video are the most interesting, and you do have to get past the smarmy fashion disaster correspondent, but it's worth it.
Thanks to Drug War Flipside

Coca Cookies and Constitutional Dreams By Jean Friedsky
Special to The Narco News Bulletin December 2, 2005

Decriminalization and How It Could Change Life for Bolivia’s Cocaleros

Coca leaves at market.
Photo: D.R. 2004 Jeremy Bigwood

The Contradictions of Coca Eradication in Bolivia By Reed Lindsay
Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholar
February 15, 2003

The drug war in Bolivia has hit a brick wall. While the Bolivian government wiped out more than 70 percent of the nation’s coca production in the late 1990s, the U.S.-backed eradication program has ignited a firestorm of opposition from coca growers, called cocaleros, in the Chapare region of central Bolivia. A growing movement of coca growers has not only stopped the eradication program in its tracks, it has gained widespread popular support that nearly swept cocalero leader, Evo Morales, into the presidency.

Behind the failure of the U.S.-promoted eradication policy in the Chapare region is a gross misunderstanding of the use of coca leaves in Bolivia and elsewhere, say activists and experts attending the Out of the Shadows drug legalization conference in Merida, Mexico.

Coca leaves have been consumed and used for thousands of years in Bolivia for medicinal and religious purposes. Today, coca is primarily “consumed orally,” in a manner similar to chewing tobacco, but it is also used to make tea and in indigenous ceremonies.

Peruvian Vintage Wine of Coca...
According to the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Consumers' Guide (1900)

Is Coca the New Hemp? March 28, 2006

Bolivian President Evo Morales has put a stop to the eradication of coca plantations, triggering fears in Washington of a new wave in the illegal drug trade.

Bolivian President Evo Morales wants to make coca leaves the new hemp, but critics believe his promotion of the plant used to create cocaine will just boost the illegal drug trade.

The wine, a bit on the sweet side, is supposedly a remedy against Parkinson's disease and impotence and, according to the label, it is especially suitable for "athletes and singers." In small doses, that is, because the wine is pressed from coca leaves, enhancing the effect of the alcohol. If you get drunk, you don't have to worry about how you're going to feel the next day because "coca wine doesn't cause a hangover," says Melby Paz.

A Word From Our Sponsor...
His Holiness The Pope enjoyed the invigorating properties of coca wine. Leo XIII carried a personal hipflask to fortify himself in time of need. A grateful Pope awarded a Vatican gold medal to its distinguised orginator, the Corsican-born pharmacist and businessman Angelo Mariani. Mariani had a keen eye for the benefits of celebrity-endorsement.


Dissent Against Washington's Drug War Emerges as Chaos Spreads

Bolivia and Peru defend coca use

The UN lists coca as a controlled substance like cocaine or opium
Tonnes of coca leaves grown illegally in the village of Huaculi, central Bolivia, are burnt (Dec 2007)

The UN lists coca as a controlled substance like cocaine or opium
Bolivia and Peru have defended the continued, traditional use of coca leaves after they were criticised by a UN drugs agency report.

cocaine toothache drops (1885)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bolivia/Morales Charges U.S. with Powder Drug Running

US DEA Complicit in Drug Trade

Agence France-Presse
Published: Thursday November 6, 2008

Morales says evidence will be presented to President Obama

Bolivian leader Evo Morales on Thursday accused the US government of encouraging drug-trafficking as he explained his decision to banish the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Morales, a staunch opponent of the Washington government, said the staff from the US agency had three months to prepare to leave the country, because "the DEA did not respect the police, or even the (Bolivian) armed forces."

"The worst thing is, it did not fight drug trafficking; It encouraged it," the Bolivian leader said, adding that he had "quite a bit of evidence" backing up his charges.

Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana presented a series of documents and press clippings at a news conference, which he described as "object data" that had influenced Morales' decision to suspend DEA activities last week.

Quintana said Morales was ready to present the evidence to incoming US president Barack Obama "to prove the illegality, abuse and arrogance of the DEA in Bolivia."

Throughout the 1990s, the DEA in Bolivia "bribed police officers, violated human rights, covered up murders, destroyed bridges and roads," said Quintana.

Morales earlier Thursday said that after a 1986 operation in Huanchaca National Park, it was determined that the largest cocaine processing plant "was under DEA protection."

He also charged that the DEA had investigated political and union leaders opposed to neoliberal economic policies, which he said amounted to political persecution.

On Wednesday, he had accused the DEA of shooting and killing Bolivians during their anti-drug operations, including members of the coca farmers' movement.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, has served as the leader of the Bolivian coca-growers union. The coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, has many uses in traditional Andean culture.

The Bolivian leader announced last Saturday he was suspending the work of the DEA in the impoverished Andean nation, and accused it of having encouraged political unrest that killed 19 people in September.

"From today all the activities of the US DEA are suspended indefinitely," the Bolivian leader had said in the coca-growing region of Chimore, in the central province of Chapare, where he was evaluating efforts to combat drug trafficking.

The DEA has denied Morales' accusations.

US President George W. Bush, in a finding released in September, added Bolivia to a list of countries that have "failed demonstrably" in anti-drugs cooperation.

Morales could add that the U.S. has killed 10s of millions world wide with their market protection criminal mercantilism of adulterated-misbranded Tobacco cigarettes.