Notes on changing the centers of power
Re: medical use of marijuana:
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer :
" I urged federal and state officials to sit down and work out the conflict, but it hasn't happened."
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter:
"The federal government shouldn't be looking over the fence into the state's backyard."
Currently EVERY country in the world employs prohibition as their drug policy. Some nations may find it a convenient way to help exercise tyrannical power. Others have been bullied by the US into this position, fearing retribution.
"SOLICITOR General Michael Hylton yesterday warned [the Joint Select Committee of Parliament ] studying the ganja [marijuana] issue that Jamaica would breach international obligations and face tough US sanctions, if the drug is decriminalised."
-- Observer, December 11, 2003
The same dynamic that should allow an individual state in the US to provide a laboratory for change applies to nations around the world. Unless the treaties are revised to allow flexibility we will continue to lose much of the potential power for experimentation.
" A first step toward rationalizing U.S. drug policy is to reform its international drug treaty commitments, allowing other nations the right to determine a drug policy they deem appropriate and, in the process, free America to develop a dynamic drug policy that is appropriate for the treatment of a multi-faceted and ever changing problem.
"The unilateral U.S. withdrawal in 2001 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty illustrates that nations often desire to change international agreements over time. Such flexibility is desirable because circumstances change over time."
- Rationalizing Drug Policy Under Federalism by Rasmussen and Benson
An analysis of the International Treaties is at: www.antiprohibitionist.org/documents/documents01.html
"Several police commissioners, including NSW's Peter Ryan and his federal counterpart Mick Palmer, have offered support. The Australian Medical Association, the Pharmacy Guild and the chair of the Victorian Premier's Drug Advisory Council, Professor David Penington, also support the trial." [Of heroin assisted treatment]
- The Australian, 6-9-97
Some analysts have concluded that the US pressured the Australians into stopping the trial. There was already controversy within Australia and such pressure would likely have tipped the balance.
 Encourage Local Control The same principle applies within the states, two (or more) heads are better than one. It is also true that different localities may have different drug problems. This is especially true in a state like Texas with large rural and urban interests.
See: Local Control for one example
In the U.S., the National Academy Of Sciences [NAS] is already designated by Congress to advise the government on many complex scientific matters. NAS should be mandated to assemble a national commission on drug policy. Congress could even vest NAS with the power to implement into law any policy change which gets a super majority of 60% approval from the commission. Individual states would benefit from similar commissions.
Almost 10 years after the plea below, we have done nothing to establish government accountability for the failures of the drug war.
Walter Cronkite, 1995:
" It's surely time for this nation to stop flying blind, stop accepting the assurances of politicians and other officials that if only we keep doing what we're doing, add a little more cash, break down a few more doors, lock up a few more, then we would see the light at the end of the tunnel. Victory would be ours."
"It seems to this reporter that the time has come for President Clinton to do what President Hoover did when prohibition was tearing the nation apart: appoint a bipartisan commission of distinguished citizens ... a blue ribbon panel to reappraise our drug policy right down to its very core with a commission with full investigative authority and the prestige and power to override bureaucratic concerns and political considerations. Such a commission could help us focus our thinking, escape the cliches of the drug war in favor of scientific fact, more rationally analyze the real scope of the problem, answer the questions that bedevil us, and present a comprehensive drug policy for the future. We cannot go into tomorrow with the same formulas that are failing today. We must not blindly add to the body count and the terrible cost of the war on drugs only to learn thirty years from now that what we've been doing is wrong, terribly wrong."
The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) Sept. 1997 - Mr. David Crosbie, CEO
"Establishing a committee of experts to develop a comprehensive national alcohol strategy is a good first step in developing new approaches ...
... a significant improvement on previous government committees in that "it is comprised of people with real knowledge and experience rather than senior public servants, and would be reporting directly to Dr. Wooldridge [Federal Health and Family Services Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge] rather than a long line of bureaucratic committees."
Most countries at least have placed primary responsibility with their health departments. Dealing with drug abuse should primarily be the job of the Surgeon General rather than the Attorney General. It is amazing that we have chosen leaders with no medical or public health expertise to deal with drug abuse.
If we redefine the drug problem as a public health problem rather than a police problem we can better:
* Focus on personal responsibility and not coercion. We need to emphasize persuasive prevention, education and treatment as opposed to prisons and supply.
* Encourage abstinence but accept that a substantial amount of drug use is inevitable and focus on reducing the potential harm.
* Address racial, class and gender inequities in the criminal justice system.
* Address problems of abuse of power, corruption, and system overload in the criminal justice system.
* Protect the health care of millions from disproportionate intrusion by police into the doctor/patient relationship.
See: www.csdp.org/edcs/ for more details
The legislative branch has usurped the role of the jucdiciary leaving it unable to correct obvious inequities in individual cases.
See: www.csdp.org/edcs/ for more details
Canada is one example. Many steps we suggest are in place there or have been recommended by their House of Commons Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs or their Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, each of which reported in 2002 after more than a year of intense study.
In Australia there is a Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy made up of all federal, State and Territory health and justice ministers.
In the US the legislatures have often been reduced to the role of cheerleaders rather than thoughtful problem solvers.