Archive for the ‘ War on Drugs ’ Category

filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

ProJo Editorial — Legalize Marijuana

3PM ON 03/04/2014
BY Beth Comery

Providence Journal I have a piece in today’s Providence Journal — “Drug war has failed; legalize marijuana” — in which I take the ProJo editorial board to task for their recent opposition to the legalization of marijuana.

My advocacy concerning the war on drugs and the reform of marijuana laws is known to regular Dose readers — but I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here — so I am glad for this opportunity to be making my arguments to a much wider audience, and one that may still need some convincing on the issue.

However, I would not have chosen the image they used online — a stock photo of a dirty jobless hippie-type. I would have preferred a photo of prison overcrowding.


filed under: Social Justice | War on Drugs

Patrick Kennedy Can’t Get Out Of His Own Head

10AM ON 22/02/2014
BY Beth Comery

bars Too bad, because that’s where he does most of his thinking.

Former congressman, and outspoken opponent of marijuana reform, Patrick Kennedy is in a snit: Lifespan has backed out of hosting a planned conference in which medical and addiction professionals were apparently prepared to discuss — without irony — the need to sweep marijuana users into the criminal justice system for their own good. (Lifespan’s statement is included in the article at ProJo 2.21.14.)

Kennedy has always had trouble seeing beyond his personal, and not in any way typical, experiences with substance abuse, and the larger issue of the mass incarceration of minorities and people of color resulting from our futile war on drugs. Reforming marijuana laws is primarily about addressing this latter social justice issue.

What makes Kennedy’s experience with drug abuse so atypical is that in spite of all his widely publicized, and overtly obnoxious, interactions with law enforcement — crashing his car into a D.C. traffic barrier, assaulting an airport security guard, and whatever that thing involving the Coast Guard was — Patrick Kennedy has never spent one day in prison. Due to his status as a privileged, affluent, white male — armed with connected lawyers and legally obtained prescriptions — he has had the luxury of treating his addiction as a personal health issue for which he could seek treatment and counseling. But tough luck for you if you get yourself busted.

This country has spent forty years applying law enforcement solutions to the public health problem of drug use, and all we have to show for it is families torn apart, neighborhoods gutted, and a nation that incarcerates more of its citizens per capita than any other nation in the world. Marijuana reform hopes to address a part of that problem.

(Beth Comery is a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.)


filed under: Health | War on Drugs

Overdose Prevention Forum At Miriam

3PM ON 17/02/2014
BY Beth Comery

(2.19) On January 17th state Health director Michael D. Fine held a news conference with the alarming news that in a 13-day period that month 22 people had died of accidental drug overdoses (ProJo 1.17.14).

narcan By February 7th Dr. Fine held another news conference along with Craig Stenning, director of the state’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, superintendent of the state police. They were announcing that a second spike in overdose deaths had raised that number to 38 for the first 6 weeks of the year (ProJo 2.14.14). These officials are fast-tracking a plan to distribute Narcan kits to first responders, detox centers, residential treatment centers, and even patients leaving treatment. Narcan (naloxone) can be delivered nasally, reverses opiate overdoses.

(This is where I like to remind people that this is after forty years of our ‘War on Drugs.’ Doesn’t feel like progress does it?)

Felice Freyer and Lynn Arditi report on this grim health crisis from the point of view of those working at the state morgue. (ProJo 2.8.14).

A ‘Community Listening Forum on Overdose Prevention’ will be held in Miriam Hospital’s Sopkin Auditorium. Moderated by WPRI TV’s Walt Buteau, the forum will feature presentations from experts and audience members, followed by reaction from a listening panel of leaders in law enforcement and government. Complete info here.

7pm to 9pm, Wednesday, February 19th, Miriam Hospital, Sopkin Auditorium, 164 Summit Avenue, directions


filed under: Social Justice | War on Drugs

End Marijuana Prohibition — Join Regulate Rhode Island

8PM ON 14/01/2014
BY Beth Comery

Regulate RI Supporters of the move to end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island can now organize under one banner. The newly launched Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of citizens and advocacy groups who will be focusing their efforts on educating the public and persuading the members of the General Assembly to pass the “Marijuana Control, Regulate, and Tax” soon to be introduced by Sen. Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence).

The brains and initiative behind RRI is the highly dedicated progressive power couple — my cheeky characterization, not theirs — Jared Moffat and Rebecca McGoldrick. Prior to his graduation last spring, Moffat was the director of the Brown University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, while McGoldrick is the executive director of Protect Families First, a grassroots organization that promotes issues affecting Rhode Island youth and families.

I cannot overstate the role these two have played over the past years in organizing the marijuana reform movement, particularly by organizing the speakers needed to testify before the various committee hearings at the State House. (Chris Reilly of the Bradford Group has also been a huge help — among other things, by keeping his eye on the legislative calender and alerting everyone to the upcoming hearings.) These are some of the first people to thank for shepherding the Marijuana Decriminalization Law into being.

So check out the Regulate Rhode Island website where you can like and share and tweet. You can also help out with a donation which I assure you will be used wisely. Among the supporters already on board are the Marijuana Policy Project and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition* (both these organizations were a huge help with us at the State House) and the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (Brown and URI chapters), NORML, Marijuana Majority, and more.

Let’s legalize and regulate marijuana in Rhode Island now.

*Beth Comery is a speaker for LEAP.


filed under: Film | War on Drugs

‘The House I Live In’ Screening

9AM ON 04/11/2013
BY Beth Comery

thili (11.7) “40 years, $1 trillion, 45 million arrests — This is the war on drugs.”

The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America presents a screening of The House I Live In, a documentary about America’s unsuccessful war on drugs. The documentary follows the lives of everyone involved in the drug industry, from the law enforcement to the drug dealers, senators, and grieving mothers.

A brainstorming session will follow the screening. The session will be led by Bryonn Bain, Tim Mitchell, Gerald Torres, Tricia Rose, as well as scholar, civil rights activist, and the first African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School, Lani Guinier.

(For more on the failed war on drugs, go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.)

Free and open to the public, 7pm, Thursday, November 7, Room 101, Salomon Center for Teaching, Main Green Brown University (directions)


filed under: Television | War on Drugs

DOJ Coming Around On Drug War/Mass Incarceration

9AM ON 12/08/2013
BY Beth Comery

DPA/Beyond Bars Attorney General Eric Holder will be announcing a policy shift today at the annual meeting of the ABA, simultaneously issuing new guidelines to U.S. attorney offices regarding drug prosecutions. The New York Times reports from Holder’s prepared remarks,

. . . “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy push in both moral and economic terms.

It’s a start. New guidelines in a nutshell: “. . . prosecutors will be told that they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: their conduct did not involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.” This would allow for a sentence less than would be required under the mandatory minimum law.

Meanwhile, Beyond Bars (a project of Brave New Foundation) in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance has produced a short video “What Breaking Bad reveals about the War on Drugs.”

Watch video after the jump. It’s short (and shows violence of course). The end is actually pretty funny.

more »


filed under: Criminal Justice | War on Drugs

Judge Lagueux Rights A Wrong

7PM ON 29/03/2013
BY Beth Comery

federal courthouse Ten years ago U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux reluctantly sentenced Denise Dallaire to 15 years in prison for selling crack cocaine; one of the more invidious initiatives in the war on drugs — mandatory sentencing guidelines — left him no choice. The New York Times reports that last month Judge Lagueux had an opportunity to make the last five years of that sentence disappear and jumped on it.

“I felt bound by those mandatory guidelines and I hated them,” Judge Lagueux (pronounced la-GUEUR) said from the bench as Ms. Dallaire sobbed quietly and the room froze with amazement. “I’m sorry I sent you away for 15 years.”

Not only did Judge Lagueux apologize, but he had helped create this re-sentencing opportunity by pointing out a technical flaw in his own original sentence. (Read the article to understand the entire travel of the case; there’s more than one hero in this story.)

Mandatory sentencing was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2005 (two years after Dallaire’s 15-year sentence was imposed) and Congress has twice reduced sentences for inmates involved with crack cocaine, but thousands still languish in prisons hoping for their own day of redemption.

For decades judges across the country were forced to look countless defendants in the eye and impose tragically excessive sentences. That has got to take a toll; these judges must also be considered victims of our failed, flawed war on drugs.

Kudos to Judge Lagueux, and let’s hope this story starts repeating itself across the nation. Here was his final thought.

“This was a miscarriage of justice,” Judge Lagueux said in his living room in East Providence one recent afternoon. “It stayed in my mind to an unusual degree and I thought justice should be done.”


filed under: War on Drugs |

“More Boots On The Southern Border”

8PM ON 03/03/2013
BY Beth Comery

Mexican border That’s what President Obama promised in his State of the Union address. And what exactly will these boots be doing? According to a recent CBS News report we’ll be needing lots of new boots to help investigate all the old boots. (See “Over the line: Fighting corruption on the border”.)

More than 40,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents guard the nation’s borders, and the vast majority are honest. But drug cartels are working harder than ever to infiltrate their ranks.

“They’re using Cold War-style tactics: Money, sex, drugs to convince officers to work with them, and to help get their products and their people across the border,” said Special Agent Terry Reed, part of the FBI’s ever-expanding operation working to root out corruption.

Reed said that in 2007 there were only six border corruption task forces. Today there are 24.

Twenty-four federal law enforcement task forces devoted entirely to investigating our own Customs and Border Patrol agents. As to that fence, people are just driving right over it . . . except for these particular geniuses who didn’t get the geometry quite right. Fitting metaphor for our war on drugs.

For more information go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) for whom I am a speaker.


filed under: War on Drugs |

Drug Policy Reform Seminar

9AM ON 25/02/2013
BY Daily Dose

drug policy reform (2.26) Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance will be the featured speaker at “Drug Policy Reform in the Americas: A Remarkable Turn of Events” Tuesday at the Watson Institute.

The multi-decade drug war consensus is crumbling.  Latin American presidents are talking openly about decriminalization and even legal regulation of illegal drugs.  Voters in Colorado and Washington State recently approved historic ballot measures to legally regulate marijuana like alcohol.  The rapid pace of reform is catching everyone by surprise.  Why is this happening? And where is this going?

Noon, Tuesday, February 26, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Patrick Kennedy Against Marijuana Legalization

12PM ON 07/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

squirrel tracks Oh Patrick, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?  Former Rhode Island Rep Patrick Kennedy has come out against the legalization of marijuana. From the Reuters report;

Kennedy, who was married for the first time in 2011, said he worries his 8-month-old son might be predisposed to drug abuse – due to a kind of genetic “trigger” – and that is part of his fight against legalization.

He also said he wants to “reduce the environmental factors that pull that trigger,” such as marijuana use being commonly accepted.

No doubt the Kennedys have an unfortunate genetic load, but Patrick admits his problems were with alcohol and Oxycontin, both legal drugs. So Patrick, you are going to need a more nuanced message for your son than “Don’t use illegal drugs.” and I’d start the conversation early. And by the way, he will definitely be bumping into marijuana and noticing that it is already “commonly accepted” — legal or not — or will you be home schooling him from kindergarten through college?

One more thing Patrick, how many years in prison did you spend as a result of your run-ins with airport security, the Coast Guard, and the Capitol police? Or were you given other options?


filed under: War on Drugs |

AG Kilmartin Asks For Bigger Budget, More Prosecutors

5PM ON 06/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

RIAG Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is asking for an increase of 8% in his budget for the next fiscal year. Governor Chafee wants him to find 7% in cuts.  Providence Journal staff writer Tracy Breton reports on the staffing woes at the A.G.’s office in today’s paper, “Stretched to the limit, prosecutors plead case.” Kilmartin insists he needs to increase his staff by eight, including four additional prosecutors, and provides convincing statistics and analysis to support that claim.

Breton follows Terence M. Coyne, a prosecutor in the A.G.’s Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit, as he goes through a typical day — “He doesn’t always work 12-hour days, but Coyne and the other lawyers in his unit have 80 to 100 cases assigned to them at any one time.” — that is an insane caseload.

Nowhere in this article does anyone suggest taking a huge step back and reevaluating whether our current policy of arresting and charging an endless stream of nonviolent drug offenders might be contributing to this problem, and to what end. (It is noted that since Kilmartin took office, the Drug Court has been increased to four days a week.) Over the past 40 years the United States has spent well over $1 trillion and made 39 million arrests of nonviolent drug users.

Perhaps, instead of more prosecutors, we need fewer crimes.

(Beth Comery is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an international organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies. LEAP membership includes many former/retired judges and prosecutors.)


filed under: War on Drugs |

U.S. Now Officially Part Of The Mexican Drug Trade

11AM ON 14/12/2012
BY Beth Comery

federal courtAnd why not? Let’s get on the gravy train. British Bank HSBC has apparently established that money-laundering for Mexican drug cartels (and terrorists) will now be considered a civil offense. According to the New York Times,

Federal and state authorities secured a record $1.92 billion payment from HSBC on Tuesday to settle charges that the banking giant transferred billions of dollars for nations under United States sanctions, enabled Mexican drug cartels to launder tainted money through the American financial system, and worked closely with Saudi Arabian banks linked to terrorist organizations.

So we are in the loop now. Our government is in the revenue stream and we seem to be on our way to taxing the drug economy without actually legalizing it. (If $1.92 billion sounds like a lot, it has been estimated that over the years in question HSBC handled hundreds of trillions of dollars; so this is just chump change, the cost of doing business.) The New York Times editorial board points out that we have yet to correct the basic problem with our banking system in “Too Big to Indict.”

In today’s ProJo, Bob Kerr reminds us that the lower-level drug dealers who can not significantly help the U.S. government balance its budget can count on some hard time in prison for engaging in what HSBC refers to as “mistakes.”

(More at the Providence Journal (12.11.12) on how drug money corrupted the Providence Police Force, “Drug Unit in Recovery.” It’s getting difficult to even keep up with this.)


filed under: War on Drugs |

War On Drugs — Let The Landlords Do It

9PM ON 30/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

city hall In a noble but misguided effort to assist troubled neighborhoods, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is going with the Whack-a-Mole approach to our war on drugs; why he thinks this method will succeed is not known. Over the last several decades, as a result of various combined law enforcement efforts, cartels have been moving their smuggling activities in and out of the Caribbean, over to Mexico, and up and down Central and South America. The cocaine industry, which started in Peru and Bolivia, moved to Colombia; then pressure on the Colombian cocaine cartels pushed the business back into Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. We learned last summer that military offensives in Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras (where DEA agents participated in lethal drug operations with a Honduran police squad, oops) have now squeezed drug traffickers into Costa Rica (HuffPo: “Costa Rica Drug Trafficking Threatens Country’s National Parks”). In other words, success is just around the corner . . . always. Perhaps the solution lies in Africa; let’s spend money there. The New York Times reported in July,

. . . the United States has begun training an elite unit of counternarcotics police in Ghana and planning similar units in Nigeria and Kenya as part of an effort to combat the Latin American cartels that are increasingly using Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.

Sadly, this same short-sighted approach is playing itself out right here in Providence, where the Mayor and the City Council have revamped a city ordinance — City Solicitor Jeffrey Padwa is calling it “the drug house ordinance” — with an unbelievably cumbersome enforcement regime that promises to clog up the court system with hearings and appeals, and more appeals (ProJo 11.30.12). The American Civil Liberties Union correctly suggests

. . . that the city would stigmatize alleged nuisance properties, trample on the civil rights of landlords and tenants and punish them for activities beyond their control. City officials’ actions, they complained in part, will push landlords into illegal discrimination against tenants or potential tenants.

We can move the users and dealers around and around, but it will never put a dent in the drug market. Let’s hope that Mayor Taveras and the other elected officials will someday soon take a step back and look at the big picture and come up with a more enlightened approach to this problem. Landlords? Really? (For more information go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an organization of which I am a member.)


filed under: War on Drugs |

“The House I Live In” At Cable Car Cinema

5PM ON 11/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

the-house-i-live-in In light of recent progress being made on the national front regarding marijuana reform, this documentary about the failed war on drugs could hardly have come at a better time. Let’s broaden the discussion and keep the momentum going on this topic.

As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans. Over the last forty years, the War on Drugs has cost $1 trillion, accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before. Filmed in more than twenty states, “The House I Live In”, captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Eugene Jarecki.

Held over through Wednesday, November 21, Cable Car Cinema, 204 South Main Street, 272.3970


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Attention Pols — Support Marijuana Reform And Be A Winner

9AM ON 08/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

autumn Attitudes are changing across the country regarding marijuana reform. A piece at HuffPo —  “Colorado, Washington Pot Legalization Deals Drug War Major Blow” — has a great quote from my LEAP cohort Tom Angell.

“To put this into historical context, there is no historical context,” said Tom Angell, spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “It’s the first time any state has ever voted to legalize marijuana — and two of them did it.”

Tom is also the founder of Marijuana Majority a website where people of note (a real mixed bag of pols, celebs, religious leaders, etc.) have thrown in with the movement. It’s real fun to scroll through.

Mr. Angell helped local reformers immensely with the testimony at the Rhode Island state house that finally  resulted in the new marijuana decriminalization legislation (takes effect next April 1st). When facing the committees, we all cited recent polls to the legislators that we felt indicated there would be no political price to pay for backing marijuana reform. Were we right?

Answer after the jump.

more »


filed under: War on Drugs |

Heroin Bust In The News — The War On Drugs Drags On

2PM ON 03/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

war on drugs Look familiar? Haven’t we been down this road before?

The headline in today’s Providence Journal reads “Record heroin seizure in R.I.” as if this were a big win in our war on drugs, when in fact it means just the opposite. If we were winning this war after 40 years the hauls would be getting smaller and smaller, and much harder to find. But once again Rhode Island law enforcement officials, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, the Mayor, and the DEA have held a news conference to announce the “largest heroin seizure in Rhode Island history.”  But the ProJo article notes right at the top,

It was more than three times, by weight, the size of the largest previous heroin seizure in Rhode Island, in 2004. Investigators then grabbed 13.2 pounds, also in Providence.

And the largest cocaine bust in Rhode Island took place just last year when authorities found 143 pounds of the stuff in a North Kingstown storage unit. By what strange calculus could this possibly be called progress?

The Jim Taricani report on Channel 10 identifies the two men arrested as “high-level drug dealers.” But how high-level can they be if it only took two weeks for police to get from the initial street purchase to the big stash. There may be a lot more where that came from. And these two guys will soon be replaced, although we may have to endure another violent turf war for that to happen.

This in no way diminishes the dangerous nature of this police work and the sincerity of the officers involved. But many members of the law enforcement community have come to believe that the war on drugs is an expensive failure that is tearing apart families and neighborhoods. Let’s try treating drug addiction as the public health problem it is. For more information please go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of which I am a member.


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