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Debunking Link Between Drug Crimes and Violence

Via Sentencing Law and Policy: Check out this new law review article by Law Professor Shima Baradaran. It debunks the link between drug crimes and violence.

[This article] demonstrates that a connection between drugs and violence is not supported by historical arrest data, current research, or independent empirical evidence. That there is little evidence to support the assumption that drugs cause violence is an important insight, because the assumed causal link between drugs and violence forms the foundation of a significant amount of case law, statutes, and commentary.

In particular, the presumed connection between drugs and violence has reduced constitutional protections, misled government resources, and resulted in the unnecessary incarceration of a large proportion of non-violent Americans. In short, if drugs do not cause violence — and the empirical evidence discussed in this Article suggests they do not — then America needs to rethink its entire approach to drug policy.

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Report on America as a Prison Nation, More Criticism of War on Drugs

Human Rights Watch has a new report, A Nation Behind Bars, with facts on the current state of our prison nation and recommendations to reduce our over-reliance on incarceration.

Some facts:[More...]

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War on Drugs: Cheaper and Purer Than Ever

As many have been saying for years, the Global war on drugs has been an epic failure:

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy said its report suggested the war on drugs had failed. The report, published in the British Medical Journal Open, looked at data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems.

More here and here.

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Drug War: Fail

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and member of the Global Drug Commision, has an op-ed at CNN on the failure of the war on drugs.

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.

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Congress Finally Questioning Wisdom of Our Rogue and Global DEA

Via the New York Times: U.S. Rethinks a Drug War After Deaths in Honduras

All joint operations in Honduras are now suspended. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressing the concerns of several Democrats in Congress, is holding up tens of millions of dollars in security assistance, not just because of the planes, but also over suspected human rights abuses by the Honduran police and three shootings in which commandos with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration effectively led raids when they were only supposed to act as advisers.

DEA's FAST program began under George W Bush. (Obama has extended it.) FAST stands for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team. In plain English, squads of commandos. It operates in Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize. Here's a powerpoint about it.

The Administration's total Drug War budget for 2013 is $25 billion. [More.]

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Informants as Pawns in the War on Drugs

The New Yorker has an extensive article, The Throwaways , on the misuse of informants.

Informants are the foot soldiers in the government’s war on drugs. By some estimates, up to eighty per cent of all drug cases in America involve them, often in active roles like Hoffman’s. For police departments facing budget woes, untrained C.I.s provide an inexpensive way to outsource the work of undercover officers. “The system makes it cheap and easy to use informants, as opposed to other, less risky but more cumbersome approaches,” says Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a leading expert on informants. “There are fewer procedures in place and fewer institutional checks on their use.” Often, deploying informants involves no paperwork and no institutional oversight, let alone lawyers, judges, or public scrutiny; their use is necessarily shrouded in secrecy.

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U.S. Marines Join Guatamala's Drug War

The militarization of the war on drugs is officially underway.

A team of 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala's western coast this week in an unprecedented operation to beat drug traffickers in the Central America region, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

The Marines are deployed as part of Operation Martillo, a broader effort started last Jan. 15 to stop drug trafficking along the Central American coast. Focused exclusively on drug dealers in airplanes or boats, the U.S.-led operation involves troops or law enforcement agents from Belize, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain.

Wired has more here.

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Obama Signals on Drug Reform

Marc Ambinder's new article suggesting Obama will shift his position on the War on Drugs if he gets re-elected doesn't offer much.

Since the United Ststes isn't about to legalize or regulate the illegal narcotics markets, the best thing a president can do may be what Obama winds up doing if he gets re-elected: using the bully pulpit to draw attention to the issue. But he won't do so before November.

The article is more a review of the documentary The House I Live In, which I wrote about in January here than it is about Obama.

I have no expectations Obama will ease up on the War on Drugs. But since we know that Republicans will keep escalating it, as they will our over-reliance on incarceration, the choice in November on this issue is clear: Obama.

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Rep. Jared Polis Grills DEA Chief on Dangers of Meth vs Marijuana

Congressman Jared Polis grills DEA Chief Michele Leonhart on the dangers of heroin and meth as compared to marijuana. Great job by Polis. Not so great job by Leonhart who couldn't answer the simple question of whether methamphetamine or heroin is worse for your health than marijuana.

The hearing was held yesterday by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and the subject was Oversight of the DEA. Here is Leonhart's prepared testimony. [More...]

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Post-Election, Mexico May Shift Its Focus in the War on Drugs

The New York Times reports that all three candidates in Mexico's upcoming presidential election are signalling a break from the U.S. in its drug war strategy.

The candidates, while vowing to continue to fight drug trafficking, say they intend to eventually withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight. They are concerned that it has proved unfit for police work and has contributed to the high death toll....

The U.S. believes this will result in more drugs coming into the U.S.[More...]

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Obama Goes to Colombia, Says No to Legalization

Obama weighs in on HookerGate, in which some secret service agents may have retained the services of prostitutes in Colombia, before Obama arrived.

I hope it doesn't get buried that Obama also ramped up the war on drugs while there:

He announced an increase to more than $130 million of funds dedicated to bolstering security and going after narco-traffickers and "gangs" in the region.

Here are his comments from the summit addressing drug legalization. Not surprisingly, his view is "Just say no" to legalization:

"I personally, and my administration's position is, that legalization is not the answer." He reiterated that position while talking at the summit itself, saying "the United States will not be going in this direction."

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Bolivia's President Defends Right to Chew Coca

At the meeting of the UN Commmission on Narcotic Drugs that opened today in Vienna, Bolivian President Evo Morales held up a coca leaf and defended -- to applause -- the right of Bolivians to grow and chew the plant:

Morales said that chewing coca leaves was an "ancestral right" for Bolivians. "We are not drug addicts when we consume the coca leaf. The coca leaf is not cocaine, we have to get rid of this misconception," he said in a speech that ended with applause from the hall.

"This is a millennia-old tradition in Bolivia and we would hope that you will understand that coca leaf producers are not drug dealers."

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US to Expand Drug War Along Northern Border

The Office of National Drug Control Policy today released its first National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy . The full 80-page report is here. The report is required to be submitted to Congress under the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act of 2010 (Act).

What's to come: More intelligence-gathering and sharing. [More...]

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Misplaced Priorities in the War on Drugs

Radley Balko has a new feature article at Huffington Post on law enforcment's misplaced priorities in the War on Drugs.

"The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats," said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing. Downing is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an advocacy group of cops and prosecutors who are calling for an end to the drug war.

"When our cops are focused on executing large-scale, constitutionally questionable raids at the slightest hint that a small-time pot dealer is at work, real police work preventing and investigating crimes like robberies and rapes falls by the wayside," Downing said.

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Mexico Releases Latest Murder Numbers: The "Cockroach Effect"

Mexico has released its 2011 murder statistics for January through August. Murders are down in Juarez, the border city in Chihuahua, which has been known as the most violent area in Mexico.

While it remains exceedingly bloody, Juarez is far safer than it was in 2010: with 1,065 murders through August, it is on pace for just under 1,600 murders, a murder rate of roughly 120 per 100,000 residents. In 2010, the city registered some 3,000 murders and a murder rate of roughly 250 per 100,000.

Murders are also down in Baja California Norte, home to Tijuana and Mexicali. On the other hand, murders are up in Guerrero, especially Acapulco. [More...]

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