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 US Attorney General Finally Admits Weed Isn’t a Gateway Drug — Prescription Pills Are

US Attorney General Finally Admits Weed Isn’t a Gateway Drug — Prescription Pills Are

September 28, 2016   |   Alice Salles

(ANTIMEDIA) The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a U.S. federal research institute focused on[advancing] science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction … to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health. ” Though it admits “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances,” it still describes marijuana as a gateway drug.

But U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently told a group of Kentucky high school students the role of marijuana in the national drug abuse debate has been overstated.

While discussing how heroin abuse and how individuals often develop an addiction, Lynch argued:

[I]ndividuals [start out] with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids —  it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.”

Attorney General Lynch added that instead of trafficking rings, what “introduce[s] a person to opioids … [is] the household medicine cabinet.”

The event she attended was part of the Prescription Opioid Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, a campaign designed by the White House that includes “250 different events highlighting the importance of prevention, enforcement, and treatment.” As expected, the campaign focused on advertising the official approach to drug abuse, encouraging the public to support the Obama administration’s approach to the opioid crisis.

Measures embraced by the administration includeexpanding evidence-based prevention and treatment programs, increasing access to the overdose-reversal medicine naloxone, and supporting targeted enforcement activities.” But nowhere in the official campaign page is there a list of practical solutions to the opioid crisis, an admission of guilt, or a concession stating that, despite marijuana’s official federal classification, cannabis is not seen as the root of the problem by the very head of the United States Department of Justice.

In early August, the Obama administration said no to a bid urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reconsider how marijuana is classified under federal drug control laws. Currently, the DEA lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin, the pivot drug of the opioid epidemic. But as the Attorney General’s comments demonstrate, the federal government fails to take its own classification methodology seriously, choosing instead to contend that prescription drug abuse is a much bigger issue. Per its federal classification, marijuana should be seen as a threat as dangerous as heroin, and yet Lynch appears to contend the abuse of legal drugs is keeping federal agents busy — not the enforcement of her agency’s own rules.

What Lynch is failing to discuss on the federal government’s anti-opioid abuse campaign trail is the racist, opportunistic roots of the failed and decades-long drug war in America. But as American states begin to shift their approach to some of the targets of this nationwide anti-drug campaign, legalized marijuana is able to accomplish what many drug war apologists claimed criminalization would achieve: bringing down the drug cartels.

But as the Washington Post report demonstrates, legalizing pot is not enough.

While powerful drug cartels have seen legalized marijuana taking a chunk out of their profits, the criminalization of other drugs such as heroin continues to put addicts in harm’s way.

With drug cartels seeing an increase in demand due to the pressure mounting from the growth of the relationship between the government and the pharmaceutical industry, dangerous alternatives to heroin, such as fentanyl, are sold on the street as regular heroin.

Without legal means to produce the drugs the market demands, these cartels are not concerned with the quality of their product nor the health of their consumer. When looking at the destruction stemming from the illegal drug trafficking industry, we are able to trace it back to the criminalization of drug commerce and use — and yet government officials prefer to live in the dark ages, upping their involvement with the war on yet another drug epidemic entirely manufactured by crony kingpins.

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‘Legalize heroin & cocaine’: World leaders call for end to War on Drugs



Reuters / Yannis Behrakis

Reuters / Yannis Behrakis

A panel of top global narcotics experts fronted by prominent public figures including Kofi Annan, Richard Branson and eight ex-national presidents, is strongly urging that drugs be a matter for health professionals, not the police, in a new report.

“Overwhelming evidence points to not just the failure of the drug control regime to attain its stated goals but also the horrific unintended consequences of punitive and prohibitionist laws and policies,” states the study, published by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) this week.

“A new and improved global drug control regime is needed that better protects the health and safety of individuals and communities around the world,”
the report says. “Harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies must be replaced by more humane and effective policies shaped by scientific evidence, public health principles and human rights standards.”

GCDP's view of the current drug control policies

GCDP’s view of the current drug control policies


There have been previous groups that have advocated radical reform, and drugs panels that have been staffed with respected and sober politicians, but never have the two been combined to produce a body with such clout. Among its board members are the ex-presidents of Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Colombia, some of the countries with the most acute drug problems in the world.

(L-R) Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan, Ernesto Zedillo, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria, Ruth Dreifuss, Michel Kazatchkine, Jorge Sampaio, Thorvald Stoltenberg (GCDP / Rebecca Bowring)

(L-R) Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan, Ernesto Zedillo, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria, Ruth Dreifuss, Michel Kazatchkine, Jorge Sampaio, Thorvald Stoltenberg (GCDP / Rebecca Bowring)


As a sign of its stature, the GCDP leadership met with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, in the hope of swaying the current UN chief ahead of the 2016 UN session on drugs. The conference will direct global policy for the next decade and the GCDP hopes that it will radically alter the “dated rhetoric and unrealistic goals” of the previous session in 1998.

The GCDP’s report enlists a litany of statistics in aid of this cause.

The UN estimates that the number of drug users rose 18 percent from 203 million to 243 million between 2008 and 2012. In the past three decades, opium production has risen almost fourfold.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works.”

The side effects of drug prohibition is a “thread” that runs through all of public life, the group says.


“Punitive drug law enforcement fuels crime and maximizes the health risks associated with drug use, especially among the most vulnerable,” say the authors, citing the studies that show – among other grim findings – that almost four in 10 Russian heroin users are HIV-positive.

“Criminal drug producers and traffickers thrive in fragile, conflict-affected and underdeveloped regions, where vulnerable populations are easily exploited. The corruption, violence and instability generated by unregulated drug markets are widely recognized as a threat to both security and development,” says the GCDP report.

The Mexican government’s war against the cartels that control the lucrative drug routes to the US has resulted in more than 120,000 deaths in less than a decade, while drugs have also played a key role in conflicts in Colombia and Afghanistan.

The GCDP’s recommendations for solving this are bold: governments must ensure that citizens inflict as little harm upon themselves while using drugs; no users should ever be arrested for possession; and the government must itself control the drug market.

“Decriminalization of drug consumption is certainly crucial but not sufficient. Significant legal and institutional reforms, both at the national and international levels, are needed to allow governments and societies to put in place policies to regulate the supply of drugs with rigorous medical criteria, if the engines of organized crime profiting from drug traffic are to be truly dismantled,” said former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

“Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation,”
said Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil. “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue – rather than as a crime – and by reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives. But let’s also allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking.”

In essence, the vision of the recreational drug industry painted here is similar to the government-regulated cannabis sale points that were pioneered in the modern era by the Netherlands, and have recently been taken up in Uruguay and several states in the US.

Employees stock shelves at Cannabis City before their "high noon" grand opening during the first day of legal retail marijuana sales in Seattle, Washington July 8, 2014 (Reuters / Jason Redmond)

Employees stock shelves at Cannabis City before their “high noon” grand opening during the first day of legal retail marijuana sales in Seattle, Washington July 8, 2014 (Reuters / Jason Redmond)


This civilized version of the drug trade, accompanied by extensive medical facilities and rehabilitation programs, seems infinitely more desirable than the wars over opium fields in Afghanistan, or Colombian jungle raids.

Yet it is unclear if members of the UN will believe that this vision can be scaled up to other, more dangerous drugs, such as heroin, although the authors do say that they believe crack cocaine, and Russian-invented necrosis-causing drug Krokodil should be banned from sale. It is also less obvious if the model of drug supply in affluent Western societies leads to the same social consequences if transposed to poorer, underdeveloped regions such as rural India or China.

How the War on Drugs and the War on Terror Merged Into One Disastrous War on All Americans


By Alex Kane


It was 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one in the United States.” With those words, Nixon ushered in the “war on drugs,” the attempt to use law enforcement to jail drug users and halt the flow of illegal substances like marijuana and cocaine.

Thirty years later, another president, George W. Bush, declared war on another word: terrorism. But the war on drugs hadn’t ended yet.  Instead of one failed war replacing another soon-to-be-failed war, both drugs and terrorism remain targets for law enforcement and military action that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and have cost billions of dollars.

In fact, the war on terror and the war on drugs have merged to form a hydra-headed monster that rapaciously targets Americans, particularly communities of color. Tactics and legislation used to fight terrorism in the U.S. have been turned on drug users, with disastrous consequences measured in lives, limbs and cash. And money initially used to combat drugs has been spent on the war on terror. From the Patriot Act to the use of informants to surveillance, the wars on drugs and terror have melted into one another.

On Oct. 26, 2001, after remarkably little debate, President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) into law. Some elected officials admitted they hadn’t read the entire legislation before voting on it. The Patriot Act was renewed in 2011 by President Barack Obama.

The purpose of the legislationwas “to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world [and] to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools.” Buried in the act is a hint that the wars on terror and drugs were being paired. The Patriot Act appropriated $5 million to the Drug Enforcement Administration to train Turkish forces in anti-drug measures and to increase the apprehension of drugs in South and Central Asia.

Even more significant was Section 213 of the act, which legitimizes what are known as “sneak and peek warrants.” These warrants, approved by a judge, allow the police to enter into a home without notifying the suspect in that home for at least 30 days—90 days if a judge is convinced the police need it. The 90-day extensions can be repeatedly re-authorized. Authorities are able to enter a home or office, rifle through private property and take photographs all without the suspect knowing, which is contrary to how normal warrants work.  While “sneak and peek” authority was allowed in limited cases before the 2001 legislation, the Patriot Act has dramatically expanded its use. And the vast majority of cases where it’s used had nothing to do with terrorism, despite the FBI’s claim that the warrants are an “invaluable tool to fight terrorism.”

From October 2009 to September 2010, law enforcement agents executed sneak and peek warrants 3,970 times, according to numbers obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Less than one percent of those cases had to do with terrorism. But 76 percent had to do with drugs. It was much the same story from 2006-2009, according to data compiled by New York magazine. In that time period, 1,618 such warrants were issued for drugs. Only 15 were issued for terrorism-related cases, with 122 being issued for fraud.

In November 2009, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), questioned Department of Justice official David Kris about the Patriot Act being used to execute the war on drugs. The assistant attorney general’s response was telling: “This authority here on the sneak-and-peek side, on the criminal side, is not meant for intelligence. It’s for criminal cases. So I guess it’s not surprising to me that it applies in drug cases.”  Feingold responded by pointing out that the Patriot Act was sold as needed to fight terrorism, not “regular, run-of-the-mill criminal cases.”

In addition to the sneak and peek warrants that so concerned Feingold, the full-scale militarization of police in the U.S., accelerated by the war on terror has brought weapons used in war to the homes of suspected drug dealers as well as and innocent people. The ACLU’s recent report on police militarization has shined a big spotlight on how the intersection of the wars on terror and drugs have brought destruction to many Americans.

The militarization of law enforcement began during President Reagan’s term in office. As journalist Radley Balko, who has tracked police militarization for years, pointed out last fall, “the election of Ronald Reagan brought new funding, equipment, and a more active drug policing role for the paramilitary SWAT units popping up across the country.” But the war on terror has fueled the process.

As Balko notes, in 1994, the Pentagon authorized the transfer of military equipment to police departments. Also that year, Congress passed a law to facilitate that type of transfer. Every year since then, with almost no debate, the Pentagon budget passed by Congress has included that provision.

Today, the same type of weapons being used in Iraq and Afghanistan to battle militants are being used in the streets of America. These weapons include machine guns, armored personnel carriers, aircraft, drones, night-vision equipment and mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles. And in the vast majority of cases, these military weapons are being turned on drug suspects. Furthering the militarization of police are Department of Homeland Security grants given to local police agencies, which use the cash to buy military-style equipment. At least $34 billion in such grants, given by an agency created because of 9/11, have been handed out to local police, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

This infusion of cash, the ACLU’s report on militarization notes, has “led to even more police militarization and even greater military-law enforcement contact, and DHS grants have allowed police departments to stockpile specialized equipment in the name of anti-terror readiness.”

One facet of the ever-growing trend toward militarized police forces is the use of informants to figure out which houses to raid. The informants used in the vast majority of drug cases are typically people involved in the drug trade who have escaped a jail sentence—or had a sentence reduced—at the price of helping the police. But informants are not the most reliable of people. They have an incentive to tell the police about alleged crimes, even if their information is not accurate. Nevertheless, the use of informants has not let up in recent decades, even when the information has led to botched raids and the deaths of innocents. This reliance on informants, honed in the war on drugs, is now a major weapon in the war on terror.

Many of the domestic terrorism cases in the U.S. start with plots first egged on by informants, who are typically low-income Muslims who have their own legal troubles. Critics of the use of informants say that the cases these sting operations produce are entrapment of Muslims.

Take the case of Shamiur Rahman. In 2012, the 19-year-old Rahman, a Muslim,spoke out about his informant activities for the New York Police Department, whose Intelligence Division has created a massive spying apparatus targeting Muslims across the Northeast of the U.S. Rahman quit his job and said his activities as an informant were unconstitutional. His activities involved trying to bait Muslims into saying inflammatory things and taking pictures inside of mosques while collecting the names of innocent people who went to study groups on Islam. He sent that information to the NYPD. Rahman got involved with the police after being arrested repeatedly for minor marijuana charges. In exchange for cash and goodwill from the police, he informed on his community. 

That’s not the only way the NYPD’s war on terror has been fueled by the war on drugs. In February 2012, Associated Press reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo revealed that the White House was funding part of the NYPD’s spy program.

The millions of dollars funneled to the NYPD from the White House came from a grant program called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Administered by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, it was created for the war on drugs to give money to law enforcement to fight drug gangs. But since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, at least $135 million flowed to the NYPD for its spying on Muslims.

As the NYPD’s funding and informant model shows, it’s getting increasingly hard to differentiate the war on drugs from the war on terror. From the federal government to local law enforcement, money earmarked to fight terrorism is being turned on drug users, while cash that started out to combat drugs is being turned on Muslims. And both wars are eating away at Americans’ civil liberties.