Posts Tagged ‘War on Drugs’

10 Reasons to End Both the War on Drugs and the War on Sex Workers

 

Sex and drugs are two of the most controversial and intensely charged topics in American culture, and the connection between them extends far beyond their shared association with the hedonistic impulse.

Sex and drugs can be powerful ways to alter consciousness, to facilitate surrender, to heal and to re-connect. But there’s yet another important link to be made between the two: the oppressive prohibitionist wars on drugs and sex work.

As someone with experience fighting for both drug users’ and sex workers’ rights, I am struck by the mirroring of underlying issues at play.

Sex workers and drug users share the questionable distinction of being two groups of people who are consistently and often acceptably stereotyped and maligned as a whole, even in so-called progressive circles.

The general campaign against sex work through state and federal laws (as well as lobbying by anti-trafficking organizations) is not generally called the War on Sex Workers—but that’s effectively what’s taking place. Selling sexual services is illegal, and many activities that help ensure the safety of sex workers are criminalized under pimping or trafficking laws.

Like the War on Drugs, these laws further marginalize the most marginalized. Just as the drug war makes drug-taking more dangerous and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, the War on Sex Workers makes sex work more dangerous too—unfairly targeting certain workers based on gender, race and class.

The worlds of sex work and drug use would both benefit from a harm reductionist rather than prohibitionist model.

 

Here are 10 reasons ending the War on Sex Workers makes as much sense as ending the War on Drugs:

 

  1. Criminalization increases harm and dangers (but legalization isn’t the answer either).

We already know that the criminalization of drugs has a whole slew of unintended negative effects, from impure and potentially dangerous product on the market to the unfair targeting of certain populations in its enforcement.

Similarly, criminalizing sex work creates harm and makes sex work more dangerous. Sex workers have no protection under the law if they are robbed, beaten or raped on the job. (Some still don’t believe a sex worker can be raped.[1])

When sex workers experience theft, rape or other assault, there is no way for them to go to the police. Sex workers who are dealing with a coercive middleman can be left feeling dependent on them, isolated in the underground. Criminal records for sex work (just like records for drug convictions) often prevent those who do want out of sex work from being able to get a different job.

Not to mention the fact that police disproportionately target street-based workers, especially trans women and women of color. In some places, carrying condoms is used as evidence of the intent of prostitution—meaning that sex workers are being incentivized not to protect their health and the health of others, because doing so risks arrest.[2]

However, legalization is not ideal either. Legalization is a reverse criminalization that inevitably creates a two-tiered system, with some activity remaining underground. The amount of stigma around sex work pretty much guarantees that many sex workers are not going to want to register with the government under their legal names.

Regulation also involves jumping through hoops, often requiring extra time and money, a process that favors more privileged workers. The most vulnerable workers are left to work in the underground and continue to face all of the dangers of criminalized sex work. The legalization of sex work in Germany and the Netherlands has demonstrated the weakness and ultimately, failure, of this model.

This is why sex workers’ rights organizations nearly always campaign for the decriminalization of sex work. Decriminalizing would make it possible to prosecute violent clients and to provide social services for exiting sex work outside of the criminal justice system. It would also allow sex workers the freedom to continue their work as they choose, except with a reduction in potential harm.

New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003 and its laws remain the model sex worker organizations refer to as the ideal for their rights and safety.

96% of street-based sex workers in New Zealand say they feel the law protects their rights. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the New Zealand government worked directly with sex workers in order to create laws, something that is so often missing from discussion and legislation of the sex industry elsewhere. One popular sex worker protest slogan is “Nothing about us without us!”

 

  1. Stigma around sex work and drug use compounds harm.

 

As important as changing laws is undermining the dehumanizing social stigma around both drug use and sex work. The stigma around drugs means many users fear that the discovery of their use could lead to everything from the loss of their job to the loss of their children.

Stigma can also prevent users from asking for help and support when struggling with their relationship to substances. Similarly, sex workers often cite stigma as the most harmful aspect of their work. And many sex workers who do want to switch professions find that stigma makes it difficult to explain resume gaps, etc.

At the very least, stigma is isolating and psychologically harmful. But de-stigmatizing sex work wouldn’t just improve sex workers’ mental health and well being—it would help improve their physical safety as well.

One can see both laws and social attitudes reflected in some clients’ treatment of sexual service providers. The stigma of the “dirty whore” facilitates socially acceptable hostility towards sex workers—and leads to a system that has come to accept violence towards them as an inevitable consequence of their work rather than a societal problem that needs to be addressed.

The acceptable stigmatization of sex workers has made them ideal targets for serial rapists and serial killers whose crimes often go unnoticed until more “respectable” victims are targeted as well. “Whore stigma” has both subtle and not-so-subtle consequences.

 

  1. People of color and those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

 

The racist enforcement of the drug war has now been well-established (not to mention we now have proof that it was always intended to be that way.[3])

We also know that generally, those with economic privilege are more likely to get away with using their illegal substance of choice. Similar rules apply in the current enforcement of the war on sex workers. Street-based sex workers are targeted for arrest most often, with trans women and women of color (sex workers or not) profiled far more frequently.

In New York City only one third of the population is black, yet black defendants face 69% of charges brought before the court for prostitution-related offenses and 94% of the charges for the vague offense of “loitering for the purposes of prostitution.”[4]

Discrimination occurs along socioeconomic lines as well. When law enforcement officers stage setups, they often respond to ads on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage, where sex workers can advertise freely or cheaply. (These cheap advertising sites are frequently the determining factor in whether sex workers can work independently indoors or need to work on the street and/or for a third party, and their shutdown can be financially devastating.) Meanwhile, websites that require tens or even hundreds of dollars a month to advertise on, which cater to sex workers with higher rates and wealthier clientele, are left alone.

 

  1. Both wars use law enforcement and imprisonment responses to what are really much broader social problems.

 

Our society’s criminal justice approach to the war on drugs (and as the brilliant author Gabor Maté often says, this system of justice truly is criminal) counts success by arrest numbers. In doing so, we avoid having to face the underlying and intersecting social issues of addiction, poverty, trauma, racism and other marginalization.

Similarly, the War on Sex Workers allows us to avoid issues like transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, poverty, homeless youth, immigration, labor rights and structural inequality under capitalism. The law enforcement approach to sex work gives a seemingly easy solution to what are incredibly complex problems endemic to our society. It allows politicians to tell their voters they have acted to solve the problem, while actually fixing nothing and often compounding the struggles of society’s most vulnerable.

 

5.  Both wars justify themselves through the use of hysteria around “trafficking.”

 

Some of us have lived long enough to remember the hysteria around drug trafficking back in the 1980s that now finds its parallel in the recent explosion of concern over sex trafficking. Both are cases of a moral panic driven by “noble intentions” and an “end demand” prohibitionist approach.

The public wasn’t sold “tough on drugs” legislation as a way to send black people to prison for life over a couple of joints (even though that’s what ended up happening). It was supposed to save us from violent drug gangs and evil crack fiends who were luring innocent children from schoolyards.

Yet we all know how that story ended: mandating more law enforcement, funding police militarization, and enforcing stricter laws unleashed an inhumane war on the most marginalized in our society—without any success in reducing drug use or the violence surrounding it.

The war on sex trafficking is having the same effect, with the popular trend of harsher sentences for trafficking offenses (including new mandatory minimums) and huge amounts of funding to agencies to fight sex trafficking. What’s rarely talked about is the fact that most sex trafficking stings end up rounding up sex workers in handcuffs who were working of their own consent.

The origin of the term “sex trafficking” is problematic and is often used as a way to push an anti-sex work agenda, regardless of the agency of the sex worker involved.

In the 1990s an unholy alliance was formed between evangelical Christians and some radical feminists, who worked to rebrand their (by now unpopular) agenda of eradicating prostitution as a campaign to end sex trafficking.[5] Who could argue with the fight to end sexual slavery?

But leading anti-trafficking organizations such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) define all sex work as trafficking.[6] They pushed their redefinition of commercial sex as “sexual exploitation” into the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was approved and signed by 117 countries. What the general public remains unaware of is that the protocol (along with the ever expanding range of anti-trafficking laws around the globe) provides legal and moral cover to target sex work under the guise of fighting trafficking.

Organizations such as CATW do not recognize the existence of voluntary sex work because by their definition, all prostitution is violence against women (never mind the inconvenient fact that a lot of sex workers aren’t women). This strategy of rebranding the fight to abolish prostitution as one of eradicating sexual slavery has largely succeeded—it’s now impossible to have a discussion about sex work today without also discussing trafficking.

Trafficking of people into forced labor, in the sex industry or any other industry, is clearly abhorrent. But too often the activities now targeted under anti-trafficking laws are consensual acts between adults. One can be prosecuted as a “trafficker” for offering or soliciting paid sex, living with a sex worker, running a classified advertising website, or being a sex worker’s driver or security person.

In real life, “sex trafficking” seldom resemble the images of desperate young girls bound at the wrists plastered all over “end modern-day slavery” campaigns. Under current U.S. law, anyone less than eighteen years old and selling sex is considered “trafficked.”

Underage “trafficking victims” are typically street-based youth (most commonly between 15 and 17 years old) trading sex for survival. [7] Recent studies have found that the majority of these underage sex workers are selling sex without the aid of a middleman or pimp—90% in New York City, according to a study from John Jay College (the same study found 45% of underage sex workers to be boys).[8]  This population would be much better served by the assistance of well-funded social services than by an increase in funding for law enforcement.

Where coercion is taking place by a third party, the traffickers are often abusive partners, with the sex worker emotionally entangled and otherwise dependent on their abuser. This situation has far more in common with domestic abuse situations than the common portrayals of being abducted by a stranger, handcuffed to a bed and forced to have sex for money. While of course the “trafficker” in this case can be prosecuted under the law, the most effective way to affect change in this situation is through emotional support helping the victim leave the abusive situation and then resources and aid for food, jobs, and housing.

Even migrant workers “rescued” under anti-trafficking laws were most often already sex workers in their home country who immigrated illegally in order to work in the sex industry here, rather than having been unexpectedly coerced into doing so upon their arrival.[9] As in the days of peak “drug trafficking” hysteria, “sex trafficking” remains a highly-charged term—but it has also become meaningless.

Worse than meaningless, however, it effectively erases the systemic social conditions that shape sex workers’ lives. We substitute “traffickers” for the traps of poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, and strict immigration policies. Once again, the prohibitionist approach allows lawmakers to avoid dealing with the most pressing issues at the edges of society.

We can immediately shift the number of people affected by sex trafficking by providing more shelter beds for the homeless (particularly LGBT youth), expanding government programs that provide food and housing, and providing opportunities for job training. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, “For the vast majority of vulnerable sex workers, the greatest barrier to exit aren’t ankle-cuffs, isolation, and shadowy kidnappers with guns, but a lack of money, transportation, identification, or other practical things. Is helping with this stuff not sexy enough?”[10]

 

6.  “End demand” doesn’t work.

 

“Ending the demand for drugs is how, in the end, we will win,” President Ronald Reagan told us in 1988. “The tide of the battle has turned and we’re beginning to win the crusade for a drug-free America.”

Of course, the number of Americans using illicit drugs has only increased since then, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of prison sentences later.

The “Nordic model” to “end demand” for sex work (which is law in Scandinavia, France, and Canada and is rapidly influencing American policy) criminalizes buying sex but not selling it. Just as in the war on drugs, the Nordic model so popular in feminist circles theorizes that if only we can make enough arrests or make the punishment severe enough, demand will end and people will stop trying to purchase sexual services. Not only is this based on a false premise, but—contrary to the frequent claims by supporters that this law only punishes “johns”—it directly harms sex workers.

The simple fact is that you cannot criminalize a worker’s customers and not negatively impact the worker’s life as well. These laws have not only failed to reduce prostitution in places like Sweden, but have actually made life more dangerous for sex workers who, for example, now have less time to negotiate safer sex practices with nervous clients who fear arrest.[11]

These laws also perpetuate discrimination and the further marginalization of sex workers, including even the removal of children from their custody if they do not identify with the narrative of victimhood around their work. This is because under the Nordic model, sex workers who don’t define their work as damaging are seen as living in a “false consciousness” and incapable of making their own decisions—including taking care of their own children.[12]

 

7. The real lived experiences of drug users and of sex workers are underrepresented and widely misunderstood.

 

Due in no small part to stigma, social portrayals of drug users and sex workers often miss the mark.

We’ve seen a slight shift in this recently with the normalization of cannabis use and the corresponding widening of mainstream portrayals of cannabis users as a result.

Representations of sex workers, however, remain split along the dichotomies of “wealthy high class call girl” versus “drug-addled street worker,” and of “happy and empowered” versus “desperate victim.”

The reality, of course, is much more nuanced and complex—i.e., human. When will we see the story of the single mom supporting her children through sex work? The trans teenager kicked out of their house and trying to survive? The student putting themselves through college?

A parallel stigma exists for those who purchase sex, particularly if they are men. “Johns” are often demonized as lascivious, aggressive, or abusive. But the reality is most men who buy sex are just normal guys.

Where are the stories of the lonely man on a business trip, the cripplingly shy guy who hasn’t gotten laid in years, the guy with the fantasy he’s too ashamed to share with a partner, the divorcee trying to get his mojo back after a terrible betrayal, or the disabled man who yearns for intimacy?

 

8.  Criminalizing drugs and sex work denies fundamental human rights to cognitive liberty and bodily autonomy.

 

Anti-sex work and anti-drug laws both criminalize activity between consenting adults. Taking drugs and selling sex are consensual crimes where there is no “victim.”

Over time we’ve come to eradicate many of these kinds of laws that seemed to make sense at the time, but eventually came to be understood as reflecting no more than the social morality of the day. For example, homosexuality used to be a crime punishable with fines, jail, or death.

Imagine instead if we could accept that each person is the best expert on their own life, that we all engage in risk and harm reduction all of the time, and decided to live and let live.

Drug reform campaigners sometimes argue that the right to take certain substances falls under the category of cognitive liberty, the right to “mental self-determination” or to alter one’s consciousness as one so chooses.

Sex work has its parallel here in the principle of bodily autonomy—that is, bodily self-determination. If someone chooses to have transactional sex, that’s their body and their right to choose.

The reality is, sex can often be transactional, even outside of sex work. We don’t arrest sugar babies and sugar daddies, for example. Most would find it ridiculous to prosecute someone who felt they should have sex after someone paid for an expensive date. And we would never dream of punishing wives that give their husband oral sex to acquire a favor later. Laws that forbid this transaction from taking place in exchange for cash instead are simply a puritanical hangover.

 

9.  Laws prohibiting drugs and sex work reflect America’s puritanical heritage.

 

The puritanical impulse is alive and well in America—as is all the hypocrisy that comes with it.

We punish people for using some substances (illegal drugs) but not others (alcohol, legal prescription drugs) whose use can also manifest as anything from life-enhancing to harmless to life-destroying.

Similarly, we punish someone for selling a sexual service to another person—but only if they’re not being filmed to have the video sold on the internet later (pornography). We also allow and sometimes even expect people to capitalize on their sexuality (as the adage goes, “sex sells”) but have a real problem with (particularly women) actually selling sex for themselves rather than for a corporation.

As Sue Bradford, member of the New Zealand Parliament, stated in her 2005 speech:

“We believed, and still do, that it was completely wrong to go on living with an archaic law which criminalized generations of sex workers, mainly women, for a victimless so-called crime in the name of antique moralities shared by only some of the population.”[13]

The drives to alter consciousness through drugs or to pay for sexual services have been common throughout time—and other societies have felt no need to criminalize or stigmatize such activity.

In fact, just as numerous cultures around the world and throughout history have had sanctioned and sacred occasions for the use of psychoactive substances, there is some evidence to suggest that ancient Mesopotamian temples priestesses provided sexual rites in exchange for donations to the temples. Having sex with a priestess, who was seen as a living embodiment of the divine Goddess herself, would have been seen as a way to worship and connect to Her. Conceiving of that possibility requires a complete shift in the Western understanding of sexuality and the sacred.

 

  1. Drugs and sex work can be powerful tools for healing and spiritual connection.

We now know that some drug use can lead to healing or transcendent experiences that have positive effects on people’s lives.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that participants who took naturalistic doses of “classic” psychedelics—magic mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD—had significantly decreased likelihood of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and psychological distress. Psychedelic users were found to have 19% less likelihood of exhibiting psychological distress in the past month, 14% lower reports of suicidal thoughts and 36% lower probability of suicidal attempts in the past year.

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 30,000 people in the U.S. die from suicide each year (worldwide that number is 1 million), these numbers are important. While treatment for mental health disorders has improved markedly in the past century, the suicide rate remains stagnant.

Beyond that, studies with substances such as psilocybin and MDMA have been found to be remarkable healers for anxiety in those with terminal illness, depression, PTSD, social anxiety in autism, etc. Psychedelic experiences can lead to powerful unitive and mystical experiences. Drugs that currently remain Schedule I, users of which have been stigmatized for decades, are suddenly being recognized as powerful catalysts for healing and spiritual connection—when used with that intention.

Similarly, sex work can be another powerful tool for healing and spiritual connection. Sex surrogates, sexological bodyworkers, sacred intimates, and neo-tantrikas—all sex workers who focus on sexual healing and re-connection—can be seen as the underground psychedelic therapists of sex work.

In fact, all forms of sex work have innate healing potential—because sex has innate healing potential.

It is innately healing to be met in your nudity and vulnerability with complete presence and acceptance, no less by a stranger. Sex workers can help release sexual shame and guilt, work with troubling sexual fantasies, overcome sexual trauma or dysfunction, build confidence, and provide sexual education. Data on these claims is yet to be compiled, but we do know that touch and intimacy are healing—and that most of us don’t receive nearly enough of it.

 

Both drugs and sex work can be triggering topics for a lot of people, but it’s time to admit that we’ve been using the wrong strategy to address them. It’s no coincidence that organizations like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch are pushing for an end to the War on Drugs at the same time that Amnesty International has called for worldwide decriminalization of prostitution.[14] Prohibition, which only ever increases harm, must come to an end. We need to decriminalize and shift to a harm reduction approach instead.

It’s time to start legally testing drugs for purity, providing clean needles and access to condoms, and permitting safer online markets like Silk Road and Backpage. Time to trust each person to make their own choices with what’s currently available to them—whether they’re a Silicon Valley CEO microdosing LSD to come up with new ideas or a long-distance truck driver taking speed to stay awake at work, a college student escorting to pay tuition or a single mother selling sexual services to keep her kids fed. It’s time to acknowledge the magnificent complexity of how drugs and sex work manifest in real people’s lives—and to invest in supporting them through that complexity.

To deal with difficult matters such as addiction to drugs and coercion in the sex industry, we can replace our law enforcement approach and re-designate funds to focus on ameliorating the conditions that leave people vulnerable to addiction and abuse to begin with, through education, housing, social services and more. There are real and practical measures that can be taken to reduce harm and improve drug users’ and sex workers’ lives. That starts with listening to what sex workers and drug users themselves have to say.

The dream? Once we’ve ended these wars on consensual human activity, de-stigmatized sex work and drug use, and fully implemented a harm reduction approach, a whole new world of possibility opens to us.

Exploring one’s body or mind is no longer done with fear or guilt. Sex workers are seen as expert educators and service providers like any other—and just like a masseuse or therapist, clients see them for everything from pleasure and relaxation to exploration and healing.

Drug users have the opportunity to participate in guided experiences with pure substances to explore their own consciousness in a safe and supportive environment, where old traumas can be reexamined and new insight can emerge.

In this future world, two of the most powerful tools we have for healing, reconnecting and exploring consciousness, are set free. And as a result, so are we.

 

~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~
 

[1] Mary Mitchell, “Mitchell: Rape Case Sends Mixed Messages on Prostitution,” Chicago Sun-Times, September 12, 2015, http://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/7/71/952556/charges-send-mixed-messages-prostitution.

[2] Margaret H Wurth et al., “Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in the United States and the Criminalization of Sex Work,” Journal of the International AIDS Society 16, no. 1 (May 24, 2013), doi:10.7448/IAS.16.1.18626.

[3] “Top Adviser to Richard Nixon Admitted That ‘War on Drugs’ Was Policy Tool to Go After Anti-War Protesters and ‘Black People’ | Drug Policy Alliance,” Drug Policy Alliance, March 23, 2016, http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2016/03/top-adviser-richard-nixon-admitted-war-drugs-was-policy-tool-go-after-anti-war-proteste, http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2016/03/top-adviser-richard-nixon-admitted-war-drugs-was-policy-tool-go-after-anti-war-proteste.

[4] Noah Berlatsky and 2014, “Black Women Profiled as Prostitutes in NYC,” Reason.com, October 1, 2014, http://reason.com/archives/2014/10/01/nypd-profiles-sex-workers-too.

[5] Ellizabeth Nolan Brown, “The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs,” Reason.com, accessed November 6, 2015, https://reason.com/archives/2015/09/30/the-war-on-sex-trafficking-is.

[6] “Coalition Against Trafficking in Women,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, September 4, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Coalition_Against_Trafficking_in_Women&oldid=679392870.

[7] Katherine Koster, “Is Operation Cross Country the Best Way to Fight Child Sex Trafficking?,” Huffington Post, accessed November 6, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katherine-koster/is-operation-cross-country-the-best-way-to-fight-child-sex-trafficking_b_8307634.html.

[8] Kristen Hinman, “Lost Boys,” Village Voice, November 2, 2011, http://www.villagevoice.com/news/lost-boys-6433393.

[9] Noah Berlatsky, “‘Human Trafficking’ Has Become a Meaningless Term,” The New Republic, October 30, 2015, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/123302/human-trafficking-has-become-meaningless-term.

[10] Brown, “The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs.”

[11] Jay Levy, Criminalising the Purchase of Sex: Lessons from Sweden (Routledge, 2014).

[12] Global Network of Sex Work Projects, “The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers: Advocacy Toolkit” (NSWP, November 2015), http://www.nswp.org/sites/nswp.org/files/The%20Real%20Impact%20of%20the%20Swedish%20Model%20on%20Sex%20Workers%20Advocacy%20Toolkit%2C%20NSWP%20-%20November%202015.pdf.

[13] Sue Bradford, “Is Prostitution a Victimless Crime?,” ProCon.org, August 15, 2013, http://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000119#answer-id-000979.

[14] ACLU, “End the War on Drugs,” American Civil Liberties Union, accessed March 27, 2017, https://www.aclu.org/feature/end-war-drugs; Diederik Lohman, “Rethinking the War on Drugs,” Human Rights Watch, March 22, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/rethinking-war-drugs; Catherine Murphy, “Sex Workers’ Rights Are Human Rights,” Amnesty International, accessed November 6, 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/sex-workers-rights-are-human-rights/.

 

~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~
Like what you’ve read?

The Daily Transmission is on Facebook and Twitter – or subscribe via Email to receive updates!

 

*Originally published on Psymposia*

Share

The War on Drugs: The End is Nigh

The world may not actually be coming to an end, but the era of drug prohibition is, even as our politicians remain in denial.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana (not just medical marijuana) via ballot initiatives that came into effect this month. A perfect opportunity for Obama to liberalize drug laws without sticking his neck out, right? Nope, according to the New York Times the administration is weighing it’s legal options which vary from having federal prosecutors making examples of low-level marijuana users to filing lawsuits and cutting off the states’ federal grants. I suppose Obama is really determined not to be the first black president who legalized marijuana (especially after his stoner past was splashed across the papers). Don’t worry Mr. President, no hurry, there are only nearly a million Americans arrested for pot every year (and as a black man you very easily could have been one of them). It’s not like it’s a basic human rights violation or anything.

Andrew Sullivan makes it even more personal. “Mr. President, don’t even think about it” he writes. “The president wasn’t just once a pot-smoker, he was a very serious pothead. His own life and career prove that this substance is no more potentially damaging to a human being than alcohol, which is not only legal but marketed to us with abandon….the federal War on Marijuana is racist in its enforcement, ridiculous as a matter of science, outrageous in terms of personal liberty, and inimical to federalism.”

It shouldn’t be that hard a stand for the President to take, considering the majority of Americans want Feds out of state marijuana laws (64% opposed to the federal government taking steps to enforce federal marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington).

So what gives? It seems we have to break the taboo – the numbers are there, the support is there, but politicians don’t seem to have gotten the message. Which is exactly why “queen of consciousness” Lady Amanda Feilding’s Beckley Foundation has spearheaded a new global grassroots campaign in association with the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Virgin Unite, Avaaz and Sundog Pictures. Senseless or not, it’s still rare for politicians to speak openly on the failed war on drugs, and even more so to speak of liberalizing drug laws. (Well that is, until they’re out of office – and become supporters of campaigns like this one.)

As Lady Feilding writes for the Huffington Post:

“The Global Commission on Drug Policy, and initiatives like the Beckley Foundation’s Public Letter — signed by around 70 of the world’s most respected and influential figures, including 9 presidents, 12 Nobel Prizewinners, and celebrities like Yoko Ono, Noam Chomsky, Sting, Sean Parker and Sir Richard Branson — are rapidly making drug policy a subject that politicians can raise without the stigma that has traditionally accompanied any mention of the “d-word.”…

…The wave of reform is swelling, as President Pérez of Guatemala and President Santos of Colombia — both signatories of the Beckley Public Letter — have been joined by leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina in calling for a new approach to the problem….

…And it is looking increasingly likely that drug policy will be the platform from which a united Latin America will once and for all establish its independence from its domineering northern neighbor on the world stage.”

Exciting times indeed. The new documentary film “Breaking the Taboo” is narrated by Morgan Freeman and features President Clinton and President Cater.

Virgin billionaire Richard Branson has joined the cause, even writing this op-ed for CNN calling the war on drugs a “trillion dollar failure”:

“In 1925, H. L. Mencken wrote an impassioned plea: “Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. … The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”…

…Here we are, four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. More than half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of young lives….

…In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the war on drugs, we need to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data.”

Here’s an idea:

For further evidence that the drug war is a joke, one only needs to look at last weeks headlines. HSBC signed off on a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion after admitting to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels as well as violating other important banking laws. No criminal prosecutions were pursued by the Justice Department.

As Matt Taibi put it, “If you’ve ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you’ve ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or “drug paraphernalia” in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.”

He continues:

“By eschewing criminal prosecutions of major drug launderers on the grounds (the patently absurd grounds, incidentally) that their prosecution might imperil the world financial system, the government has now formalized the double standard.
They’re now saying that if you’re not an important cog in the global financial system, you can’t get away with anything, not even simple possession. You will be jailed and whatever cash they find on you they’ll seize on the spot, and convert into new cruisers or toys for your local SWAT team, which will be deployed to kick in the doors of houses where more such inessential economic cogs as you live. If you don’t have a systemically important job, in other words, the government’s position is that your assets may be used to finance your own political disenfranchisement.

On the other hand, if you are an important person, and you work for a big international bank, you won’t be prosecuted even if you launder nine billion dollars. Even if you actively collude with the people at the very top of the international narcotics trade, your punishment will be far smaller than that of the person at the very bottom of the world drug pyramid. You will be treated with more deference and sympathy than a junkie passing out on a subway car in Manhattan (using two seats of a subway car is a common prosecutable offense in this city). An international drug trafficker is a criminal and usually a murderer; the drug addict walking the street is one of his victims. But thanks to Breuer, we’re now in the business, officially, of jailing the victims and enabling the criminals.”

Glenn Greenwald reinforces this idea in his column in the Guardian, “HSBC, too big to jail, is the poster child for US two tiered justice system.”:

“By coincidence, on the very same day that the DOJ announced that HSBC would not be indicted for its multiple money-laundering felonies, the New York Times published a story featuring the harrowing story of an African-American single mother of three who was sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 27 for a minor drug offense…

…As the NYT notes – and read her whole story to get the full flavor of it – this is commonplace for the poor and for minorities in the US justice system. Contrast that deeply oppressive, merciless punishment system with the full-scale immunity bestowed on HSBC – along with virtually every powerful and rich lawbreaking faction in America over the last decade – and that is the living, breathing two-tiered US justice system. How this glaringly disparate, and explicitly status-based, treatment under the criminal law does not produce serious social unrest is mystifying.”

So the “War on Drugs” doesn’t work. Now what?

How about understanding why people (especially young people) take drugs to begin with? “Drugs are taken for pleasure” says David Nutt in the Guardian. “Realize this and we can start to reduce harm”. Most people who take drugs are not addicts. To help us understand more about drug use, MixMag and the Guardian are asking volunteers to fill out the Global Drug Survey, the biggest independent survey of drug use patterns in the world.

But the reason we take drugs may be even more interesting. Ronald K. Siegel in his book “Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances”, argues that the instinct to pursue intoxication with plants, alcohol and other mind-altering substances is a fourth drive, after food, sleep and sex. This natural part of our biology creates an irrepressible demand for intoxicating substances. If this is true, the war on drugs is actually a war on biology – and even evolution. Drug-taking causes changes in thoughts and behavior that may create variations or mutations that drive evolution. Fancy that!

Whatever the reason, apparently “Everything We Thought We Knew About Drug Users Was Wrong”: “Would you believe that people who use drugs are, on average, more educated than the average citizen? Or that less than 10 percent are unemployed? Around the world, the mythology of the drug user – as a desperate, ill or uncontrollable person – has often influenced policies that were poorly informed about actual drug use.”

So the War on Drugs isn’t working, drug users are not the scourge of society, drug-taking is usually for pleasure, and may even be a basic evolutionary drive. Any other recent drug news? “Marijuana and Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis in Aggressive Cancers” says the Huffington Post.

Now illegal drugs cure cancer. Whatever next?

Share

Going Green: Why Legalizing Marijuana is the Best Thing for America

With seventeen states now implementing medical marijuana programs, a growing admission of the “War on Drugs” as a failure and over half of all Americans favoring legalizing marijuana, it feels like we’re at a kind of tipping point in the case for legalization. If rumors at GQ magazine are to be trusted, President Obama plans on tackling the drug war if elected to a second term. (Although it’s fair to be skeptical after Obama broke his campaign promise to leave state medical dispensaries alone, in fact coming down harder on them than Bush ever did. Read more about “Obama’s War on Pot” in Rolling Stone magazine.) Politics aside, sometimes a picture’s worth a thousand words. Here’s a graphic to show your conservative friends who might not be convinced yet:

Going Green
Created by: OnlineParalegalPrograms.com

With Columbia decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, and Uraguay talking about full-fledged legalization of marijuana it looks like the Latin American countries are set to lead the way in demanding an end to this senseless bloodshed and persecution. Let’s hope the “Land of the Free” isn’t too far behind.

~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~

Like what you’ve read?

The Daily Transmission is on Facebook and Twitter – or subscribe via Email to receive updates!

Share

Take The Oxycontin Express to Florida…
But Bring Your Own Bong!

In the US, more people are now abusing prescription medication than heroin, cocaine and ecstasy combined. Pharmaceuticals like OxyContin, Xanex, Hydrocodone, Demerol, Adderall and Robitussin (Robo’s) are the new hipster drugs.

Those who have personal experience of oxycodone (branded OxyContin) know that it is an extremely euphoric and addictive opioid, hence its nickname as ‘hillbilly heroin’.

But doctors in Florida prescribe oxycodone at five times the national average. Florida has 50 of the top 50 oxycodone prescribers in the country, and 35 of them are in Broward county.

It’s effectively legalised drug dealing, motivated by greed. Doctors have an incentive to prescribe these addictive pain killers. People from all over the country flock to Florida’s countless walk-in ‘pain clinics’, ready to pay cash, often $300 or more, for their fix.

Florida has deregulated to the point that one can doctor shop and get mega prescriptions for conditions that don’t even meet the requirements for minor pain medications. When the state does intervene, it locks up addicts who are selling their prescriptions – not the doctors who are over-prescribing to begin with. The pharmaceutical industry happily supplies these drugs in excessive amounts without question.

Vanguard, Current TV’s original documentary series, exposes the pill pipeline that extends from Florida up the Eastern Seaboard: The OxyContin Express. The show won a Peabody award for shedding light on this unspoken but lethal national pandemic.

But don’t worry, there’s new anti-drug legislation sitting on the governors desk to be signed, passed unanimously in the Florida Senate this past week. HB 187 has been nicknamed the ‘Bong Bill’, and will effectively ban the sale of bongs and other drug paraphernalia in the Sunshine State. Glad that Florida legislators have their priorities straight – they’re tough on drugs!

The new law will be effective July 1st, and violators could face a year in jail. From StoptheDrugWar.org:

“Under the bill, only shops where the sale of tobacco products and accessories constitute 75% of income, or shops where the sale of pipes and bongs constitutes less than 25% of income will be allowed to sell a long list of smoking devices. These include pipes of any material, water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, and ice pipes or chillers.”

The bill is sponsored by Representative Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, Florida, who said earlier this month:

“I’ve been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society.”

Damn those bong-buying hippies disturbing the neighborhoods of our good old American hillbilly heroin junkies!

Share