Free Marijuana Day!
On this date in 1937, FDR signed the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively making marijuana illegal. That worked well, didn't it? The legislation and its successors has made criminals of -- literally -- millions of Americans; it has ruined many millions more in affected families, and has created the incarceration crisis that threatens to overwhelm the US today.
In memory, therefore, it would be good to make August 2nd Free Marijuana from the Clutches of The Law Day.
Life Degraded: Pickton's Entourage
Sadly, in this case, so far, all witnesses for the crown have had their credibility shattered. This is a result of their rampant drug use and alleged criminal histories. Their criminal ways have been exposed, including assaults, welfare and credit card fraud, drug trafficking, violence with a weapon (gun) and it goes on and on.
For certain, drug addicts are very sick people and I agree we should be treating them medically for their conditions. Having said this, we simply cannot overlook or dismiss their criminal ways. I hate to say it because, I do not want to be seen as attacking drug addicts, however, their lives are full of lies, deception and criminality.
The Pickton trial simply re-affirms to the public that drug addicts and drug addiction are harmful to society. So many lives have been ruined and destroyed as a result of drug mis-use and in the aftermath of the Pickton carnage, we are witnessing the complicity of many individuals in what have been serial killings (murders).
For those of us who strive for the elimination of sanctions against personal drug use, these cases are a disaster. I have no answer, but I'm glad she made me think about it again.
Update: I have uploaded here the Special Report on Vancouver recently issued by the UN Population Fund. It makes for unpleasant reading.
Today, the Downtown Eastside is home to an estimated 10,000 people—many of whom are homeless, drug or alcohol addicted and/or mentally ill. The majority of residents supplement their miserable existence by scavenging for recyclables, stealing or selling their bodies for drugs and/or food ... [and more]
At Least They Haven't ....
... declared this as another "mission accomplished" -- at least not yet. The government is admitting to having spent $5 billion of taxpayers' money to destroy Colombia's coca crop and yet "the price, quality and availability of cocaine on American streets [remains] virtually unchanged."
It is no surprise that
"Bush administration officials say that coca farmers are on the run, and that the leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries who feed on drug profits are weaker than ever. That has made Colombia, Washington’s closest ally in a tumultuous region, more stable, they say."
However, "that claim was disputed by a wide range of drug policy experts." And the government's own facts and figures belie the politicians' statements:
- As much coca is cultivated today in Colombia as was grown at the start of the large-scale aerial fumigation effort in 2000, according to State Department figures.
- Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the leading sources of coca and cocaine, produce more than enough cocaine to satisfy world demand, and possibly as much as in the mid-1990’s, the UN says.
- The government’s tracking over the past quarter century shows that the price of cocaine in the US has tumbled and that purity remains high, signs that the drug is as available as ever.
If they are admitting to $5 billion wasted, it seems certain the true cost was much higher. Add billions more for the FBI and DEA and other local law enforcement involved in the War on Some Drugs in the US itself. Add many more billions for the cost of drug-fuelled incarceration rates. And add billions and billions more for the failed Afghani front of the War on Some Drugs. This is a whole bunch of your tax money they are spending.
Can anyone say any of it has done any good?
Free enterprisers everywhere must be cheering the news that opium production in Afghanistan has reached record levels this year. Proving that government regulations restraining an industry can be overcome even against overwhelming firepower. The corporatist elite that underwrites the Bush Administration should surely be cheered by this exercise in freedom. After all,
"opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers - virtually eradicating the crop in 2000 ... This year's increased poppy cultivation follows a 21 percent drop the previous year, suggesting the government has not followed through on warnings to farmers against planting poppies. Although 37,065 acres of poppies were eradicated this year, according to the Ministry for Counternarcotics, a campaign by police to destroy crops fell short of expectation."
Bravo for the fighting spirit of capitalism!
But oddly enough, the fine people of America don't think that heroin dealing is a trade they should support. Therefore, at least until the force of aggravated circumstances allows them to cancel or better control elections, the regime in Washington is obliged to put treasure and manpower into appearing to fight the War on Some Drugs. Hundreds of millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of American and allied troops. But oddly enough, that is fine too because this way the "defence" industry leg of the Military-Industrial-Media complex gets paid.
It's only Joe Schmo in America and Abdul Abdul in Afghanistan who get hurt. No wonder this guy looks bemused.
Another mission accomplished.
The New Bolivia
I have been lax in congratulating Evo Morales on his victory in the Bolivian presidential contest. He is the first in what is expected to be a series of left-wing victories in Latin American democracies. Linked with Cuba and Venezuela, this group will soon be a force to take on the imperialist Monroe Doctrine.
The movement in Bolivia is particularly interesting for me. Vice President-elect Alvaro Garcia Linera contends that MAS, the Movement Toward Socialism party which he and Morales belong to, is not a party but rather "a coalition of flexible social movements that has expanded its actions to the electoral arena. There is no structure; it is a leader and movements, and there is nothing in between. This means that MAS must depend on mobilizations or on the temperament of the social movements." Take away "a leader" and you have a series of anarchistic interests.
It will be an interesting path that Morales and MAS have to travel. Bush and his minions will growl, loudly at times. And there is always the threat of the U.S. troops stationed in neighboring Paraguay.
But it is certainly not just the Americans who will be taking a close watch on Bolivia's evolution. Brazil, for example, has enormous capitalist interests in Bolivia. Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil giant, controls 25% of the natural gas reserves located in the Tarija district, owns the pipelines for exporting gas to Brazil and Bolivia's two petroleum refineries, and controls close to 40% of the livestock and agriculture business of Santa Cruz, much of which is run by Brazilian ranchers.
We'll keep a close watch. In the meantime, we wish Morales and MAS the very best of luck in their fight against global capitalism.
Deaths Bring Wrong Reasoning
Yesterday, in a terrible tragedy, four RCMP officers were shot dead by a criminal psycopath during a raid on a marijuana grow-op on a farm in Alberta. Immediately, there are calls for additional and harsher penalties for marijuana cultivation. One politician at least said that harsh sentences were the "only possible response" to such a tragedy.
The officers were killed not because marijuana was being grown, but because growing marijuana is illegal. If marijuana cultivation had been legal, there would have been no reason for the police to be raiding the farm, and the killings would have been avoided.
There is no rational reason for marijuana to be illegal (especially while other far more dangerous drugs such as tobacco and alcohol are both legal and encouraged). It is this irrationality that killed the RCMP officers. It is about time we recognized that and ended this sham of a War on Some Drugs that kills so many people.
Score Another One For George
George Bush and his minions call the invasion of Afghanistan a huge success. Charles Krauthammer's gloating pre-election article is typical of the genre:
"[Afghanistan] represents the single most astonishing geopolitical transformation of the past four years ... creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war."
Rush Limbaugh calls the Afghani adventure "a profound and robust success," while Ollie North claims that the "the Afghan people are rejoicing," and saying that Bush's "Afghan achievement is enormous." The State Department lauds what it calls "humanitarian success stories" and the White House itself is endlessly plugging this foreign policy "success".
Needless to say, many observers disagree with the Administration's rose-tinted view of the situation on the ground. And so does reality. Just this weekend, for example, in the Ukraine we had yet more proof that simply allowing people to vote solves nothing, and the recent elections in Kabul which were cause for such momentous joy in Washington have similar value to those in Kiev.
More importantly for the long term, perhaps, is yet more proof that Afghanistan under the puppet American regime has become a narco-republic on a grand scale. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that
"opium cultivation has spread to all of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, making narcotics the main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples. Valued at US$2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to over 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP ... [C]orruption in the public sector, the die-hard ambition of local warlords, and the complicity of local investors are becoming a factor in Afghan life.”
"Years of war and tyranny have eroded Afghanistan's economy and infrastructure, yet a revival is underway. Afghans are busy starting their own businesses. Some 15,000 licenses have already been issued for foreign businesses and investors to explore economic opportunities in Afghanistan."
If so, score one for George!
Jackboots on the Drive
There must be a real lack of serious crime in Vancouver or how else could one explain the ability of the Vancouver Police Department to spare forty pairs of jackboots to close down the Da Kine Cafe on Commercial Drive last night?
As I have written before, the Da Kine has been openly selling gram baggies of marijuana across the counter for some time now. At 6pm -- the middle of rush hour on a very busy street -- the heavy-handed cops pushed wooden barriers to close off an entire block, shutting down traffic, transit and twenty stores. They barged into the cafe and started making arrests. Within minutes the entire street was filled with protesters. The Peg antique store on the other side of the street played Bob Marley songs loudly, the smell of marijuana smoke was everywhere, and the crowd raucously debated the issues with police for hours.
This is just a day or so after the Chief of VPD said that the cafe was not a priority for his department, and less than 24 hours after the politicians in Victoria complained about the police's attitude. The police now say that their raid had nothing to do with political interference. Right.
In the end, 6 people were charged with trafficking, the contempt for the police in the neighbourhood has grown considerably, and the owner of Da Kine says she will re-open this afternoon.
Cannabis and Common Sense
For a year or more now, Vancouver has had a couple of "cannabis cafes", storefronts where it was OK to go sit and roll your joint and smoke it peacefully. Now, in a move beyond, my own Commercial Drive has a store -- Da Kine -- which sells marijuana openly over the counter.
To purchase from the store, you have to be over 19 (very carefully carded at the door) and be willing to complete and sign a form saying that you suffer from some medical condition or other and that the marijuana is of medical assistance. Once that is out of the way, you can go to the counter, choose from the menu of what is currently on offer, pay your money and take your dope (in gram baggies -- about $10 Canadian -- up to a maximum of one ounce). The cafe also offers a comfortable space where you can roll up and smoke on the promises, and a fully stocked paraphenalia retail area.
Although the store has been operating for two or three months, it received block headline coverage this week in the local media. The Vancouver Chief of Police has said that he has other priorities than bothering about Da Kine. I went there last night to see what the fuss was all about. It was busy, with perhaps a dozen and a half clients milling around, studying, filling forms, waiting for their dope, sitting and smoking. There was no fuss and no trouble. Everyone seemed to be just happy that the days of common sense have arrived on Commercial Drive.
By the way, not all of Canada is this enlightened. Vancouver-based Marc Emery, the leader -- or at least the face -- of legalised marijuana in this country was in Saskatchewan recently attending a rally. Someone passed him a joint which he in turn passed on to someone else. Emery was busted and is currently serving 90 days in jail for "trafficking". I guess the magistrate thought he was in Kansas or someplace equally medieval!
Divergent Paths on Marijuana
While the Empire fights its futile War on Some Drugs -- a War which is bankrupting many counties and States who have to house the vast numbers of marijuana prisoners -- Canada continues to base its cannabis poilicy on the reality that marijuana is ever more popular with voters. While the Empire continues to treat its adults as naughty children, Canada will move toward decriminalization, recognizing that adults should have the right to enjoy themselves in any way that harms no-one else.
"Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced [last] Wednesday that his government will reintroduce a bill that would make possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana a ticketable offense with no criminal record."At about the same time, Stats Canada released the latest figures on cannabis use:
"In 1989, Stats Canada found, 6.5% of Canadians over age 15 admitted using cannabis within the previous year; by 2002, that number had risen to 12.2%, or some three million Canadians. About 10 million Canadians, or one-third of the population, have used marijuana at some point in their lives."I suspect that this figure is way too low for Vancouver where we now have several cannabis cafes, and that beautiful sweet smell is common in many neighbourhoods.
The Canadian decriminilization bill still contains obnoxious penalties for growing the weed. However, with the results of the last election giving the Liberal Party only a minority position in Parliament, it is possible that the left of centre New Democratic Party could demand even more reform in exchange for its support. We can but hope.
Unfortortunaely, in Europe, there is a chance that progress toward individual freedom may go into reverse.
"A European Union (EU) working group on drug policy has issued a draft resolution identifying marijuana as European drug problem number one and recommending, among other things, that governments move to censor or criminalize Internet sites that provide information on cannabis cultivation or promote its use. "Dumb, dumb, dumb! Luckily, there seems to be little expectation that such a recommendation will be followed through on. But still, as a leading drug reform group says:
"Perhaps everyone has forgotten about this already, but the main trend behind this resolution will not go away if we just sit and pray."I read somewhere the other day that increased border security has stalled a lot of shipments of BC bud flowing into the States. This in turn has caused a glut in Vancouver with significant and welcome local price cuts as a result. So, the War on Some Terror hasn't been a total loss!