Why Donald Trump’s Agenda for the Drug War Is the Dopiest Thing You’ve Ever Seen

A frightening mix of cruel and superficial.

By Phillip Smith / AlterNet

November 2, 2016

One means of judging the competing presidential candidates is to examine their actual policy prescriptions for dealing with serious issues facing the country. When it comes to drug policy, the contrasts between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump couldn’t be more telling.

The country is in the midst of what can fairly be called an opioid crisis, with the CDC reporting 78 Americans dying every day from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. Both candidates have addressed the problem on the campaign trail, but as is the case in so many other policy areas, one candidate has detailed proposals, while the other offers demagogic sloganeering.

Hillary Clinton has offered a detailed $10 billion plan to deal with what she calls the “quiet epidemic” of opioid addiction. Donald Trump’s plan consists largely of “build the wall.”

That was the centerpiece of his October 15 speech in New Hampshire where he offered his clearest drug policy prescriptions yet (though it was overshadowed by his weird demand that Hillary Clinton undergo a drug test). To be fair, since then, Trump has also called for expanding law enforcement and treatment programs, but he has offered no specifics or cost estimates.

And the centerpiece of his approach remains interdiction, which dovetails nicely with his nativist immigration positions.

“A Trump administration will secure and defend our borders,” he said in that speech. “A wall will not only keep out dangerous cartels and criminals, but it will also keep out the drugs and heroin poisoning our youth.”

Trump did not address the failure of 40 years of ever-increasing border security and interdiction policies to stop the flow of drugs up until now, nor did he explain what would prevent a 50-foot wall from being met with a 51-foot ladder.

Trump’s drug policy also takes aim at a favorite target of conservatives: so-called sanctuary cities, where local officials refuse to cooperate in harsh federal deportation policies.

“We are also going to put an end to sanctuary cities, which refuse to turn over illegal immigrant drug traffickers for deportation,” he said. “We will dismantle the illegal immigrant cartels and violent gangs, and we will send them swiftly out of our country.”

In contrast, Clinton’s detailed proposal calls for increased federal spending for prevention, treatment and recovery, first responders, prescribers, and criminal justice reform. The Clinton plan would send $7.5 billion to the states over 10 years, matching every dollar they spend on such programs with four federal dollars. Another $2.5 billion would be designated for the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program.

While Trump advocates increased border and law enforcement, including a return to now widely discredited mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders, Clinton does not include funding for drug enforcement and interdiction efforts in her proposal. Such funding would presumably come through normal appropriations channels.

Instead of a criminal justice crackdown, Clinton vows that her attorney general will issue guidance to the states urging them to emphasize treatment over incarceration for low-level drug offenders. She also supports alternatives to incarceration such as drug courts (as does Trump). But unlike Trump, Clinton makes no call for increased penalties for drug offenders.

Trump provides lip service to prevention, treatment and recovery, but his rhetorical emphasis illuminates his drug policy priorities: more walls, more law enforcement, more drug war prisoners.

There is one area of drug policy where both candidates are largely in agreement, and that is marijuana policy. Both Clinton and Trump have embraced medical marijuana, both say they are inclined to let the states experiment with legalization, but neither has called for marijuana legalization or the repeal of federal pot prohibition.

If Clinton’s drug policies can be said to be a continuation of Obama’s, Trump’s drug policies are more similar to a return to Nixon’s.

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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DEADLINE 4/17: The UN and Drug Policy Reform and YOU

 

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STOP THE DRUG WAR!

Dear reformer:

I need your help this week. On Tuesday the “UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem” (UNGASS) begins in New York, the UN’s highest-level drug policy session in 18 years. I’m writing to ask you three things:

1) Sign our Change.org petition to President Obama calling for stronger US action on global drug policy reform — calling for reform of the UN drug treaties to allow for legalization of marijuana or other drugs, for the supremacy of human rights, stronger support for public health measures and more.  This petition will continue through next January, but if enough people sign it by Sunday night, we will share it with our contacts in media who are working on stories about next week’s UNGASS.

2) If you run or work with an organization, please consider endorsing our sign-on statement to the UN and the US government. There are hundreds of organizations on the statement already, including some of the leading civil rights, HIV/AIDS groups and religious coalitions, among many others. But we need hundreds more to make the kind of impression on media that we want the statement to have. To endorse the statement, just email me at [email protected], and feel free to contact me with any questions.

3) If you believe it’s important for the US drug policy reform movement to play a role in UN drug policy and US foreign policy on drug issues, please make a generous donation to support this campaign. The UNGASS is next week, but global drug policy and our work goes on. The next big UN drug session is just three years away this time, 2019 — the work we’ve done so far is just the beginning.

We’ve done more than organize sign-on letters and petitions. Last week we held a teleconference for media, featuring legislators from Canada and Mexico talking about the prospects for marijuana legalization in those two countries. Next week we are hosting a meeting of NGOs from around the world for how to end the death penalty for drug offenses. We have secured coverage in a range of prominent media outlets, like WashingtonPost.com and the International Business Times, and there are many more that are likely to write stories for UNGASS next week. We have spoken at the UN, for legislative coalitions in Washington, we have brought new and important organizations into drug policy reform. And there is more to come, with your help.

Again, I hope you will sign our petition to President Obama, and that you will help us with an organizational endorsement for our sign-on statement if you can, by Sunday night. Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

 

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853
Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org
“U.S. and U.N. Drug Policy Reform”

Marijuana makes mother nature cry: report

06/26/15 05:17 PM

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By Tony Dokoupil

 

 

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If you consume cannabis this weekend, you might also be killing fish, clear-cutting forest, and poisoning some cute-faced and endangered members of the weasel family.

That’s one takeaway from new report in the journal BioScience, which details the water-guzzling, land-destroying, pollution-spreading reality of the marijuana farming today.

The work is the most comprehensive effort to date to quantify the environmental costs of serving the country’s millions of regular marijuana users. Among the degradation recorded: diverted streams, displaced plant-life, spilled diesel fuel, reckless use of fertilizers, and dead Pacific fishers (those cute weasels).  

RELATED: Beyond coal and environmentally friendly pot

Because most marijuana consumed in America is grown here, the research adds a green front to the moral and social battle over broader legalization. Because marijuana growers are understandably secretive, however, the scope of their work is hard to measure, and easy to get wrong.

The only certainty is that this research—which did not distinguish between illegal and state-sanctioned growers—won’t be the last word on their impacts, or its relevance to the push for legalization. Softer pot laws have already swept through 23 states in one form or another, and attitudes are changing fast.

For the moment, people tend to argue over what’s best for kids, minorities, sick people, drivers, and the economy at large. Now, they might also have to consider the policy that favors fish, furry animals, forests, streams, and the majesty of nature. 

Predictably, both the pro-and-anti legalization sides see the study as an ally.

Kevin Sabet, for example, is the president of Project SAM, a campaign to keep marijuana illegal and address the failings of the drug war through other means. He instantly turned the study into a new weapon and let fire.

“Everyone thinks that weed is harmless to use, when in reality our earth is very much affected by its production,” he told msnbc. “The only answer to this environmental problem is to reduce our hunger for pot. And that doesn’t happen under legalization.”

RELATED: Are these pot farmers sucking up all California’s water?

Marijuana growers (and, one imagines, marijuana consumers) can just as easily fold the research into their own point of view. They don’t deny that marijuana is a growing threat to the environment, but they attribute that destruction to the perversions of prohibition.

Hezekiah Allen is executive director of the Emerald Growers Association, a trade group that represents state-sanctioned growers in northern California.

“Unregulated commercial agriculture is bound to have more significant impacts than regulated agriculture,” he told msnbc. “The simple solution is that 18 years after California has a legal medical cannabis industry, it’s time for the state to regulate that industry.”

The research was led by the Nature Conservancy, with help from environmental scientists at UC Berkeley and California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. Their own conclusions tended to the growers point of view. They noted “inherent trade-offs and tension between marijuana cultivation and ecosystem needs,” but also pointed out that new policies could “prevent and mitigate” the current level of damage. 

Earlier this spring, msnbc visited a pot farm in northern California to see a model of sustainable growing, in an industry that suddenly needs one. Casey O’Neill and his brother Nathaniel are third-generation cannabis growers in the famed Emerald Triangle, and co-owners of Happy Day Farms.

Before the drought, the O’Neill brothers invested their life savings in two artificial ponds, which now hold about 2 million gallons of captured rainwater. They also installed solar panels, which power their whole grown, and they continued to rely on only natural fertilizers.

Now they’re trying to spread the good word. They believe that the quickest way to clean up the trade may be to legalize it. That would allow farmers to openly trade best practices, and regulators to easily find those who don’t adopt them, they argue.

“We can be fish-friendly and still produce this incredible economic bounty that comes from the sun through human labor,” said Casey. “It’s the translation of solar dollars into real dollars. And that’s something that we are very honor to participate in.”

Explore:

California, Drug Policy, Drugs, Environment, Green and Marijuana

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