December 3, 2018
December 11, 2018
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Part THIRTY-ONE of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “The Sentencing Project”.


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Show Notes:

  • We finished up last time In 1989
  • Mass murderer George HW Bush is President.
  • May he get anally raped for eternity by the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were murdered on his watch.
  • Percentage of high school seniors who said cocaine is “easy or very easy” to get in 1980: 48.
  • Percentage who said the same thing in 1990: 59.
  • So despite a fortune being spent on the war on drugs during the Reagan years, the “problem” is getting worse.
  • What’s that old saying about doing the same thing and expecting a different results?
  • Sounds like me and podcasting.
  • In 1988, the chief administrative judge of the DEA, Francis Young, recommended the DEA reclassify marijuana to a less restrictive classification.
  • He called it “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man”.
  • He quoted scientific evidence and medical studies.
  • The DEA in 1990 ignored him.
  • In the spring of 1991, Harvard University researchers surveyed a third of the country’s oncologists, and of the thousand who responded about half said they would prescribe marijuana if it was legal.
  • Of those, almost all said they’d done so anyway, telling at least one patient that, though illegal, marijuana can fight the debilitating nausea of chemotherapy.
  • The survey, published in May, seemed to discredit the DEA’s contention that marijuana has “no accepted medical use.”
  • Meanwhile the AIDS epidemic was going into overdrive.
  • Since Bush’s inauguration, the number of drug-related AIDS cases had jumped from 12,000 to 16,000.
  • A third of all the country’s AIDS cases were believed to have originated with a dirty needle.
  • The obvious solution was to provide clean needles for drug users.
  • Pharmacists didn’t want junkies coming into their stores to buy needles.
  • Parks and sanitation workers didn’t want to handle discarded and potentially lethal syringes.
  • Requiring addicts to bring their needles back provided an opportunity for counseling, health care, even addiction treatment.
  • New Haven, Connecticut, launched a needle exchange program in 1990.
  • They had a van that drove around handing out needles.
  • If you brought back your old needles, you got clean ones in return.
  • In the first few months, two out of ten needles that were handed were returned to the van – and 68% contained the AIDS virus.
  • Two years later, some seven in ten were coming back, and the percentage of those testing positive was down to 44.
  • one of every six addicts participating had gone into drug treatment
  • But the Bush administration’s position on drugs was “zero tolerance”.
  • They convinced Congress not to fund a nationwide needle exchange program.
  • Because FUCK people dying of AIDS.
  • Bush actually said “Here’s a disease where you can control its spread by your own personal behavior. You can’t do that in cancer.”
  • Because no-one can help it if they smoke a pack a day.
  • According to the Washington Post, by 1990, U.S. Customs Service agents had confiscated more than $50 million using sniffer dogs at Border crossings and airports, most of which has been forfeited to the government.
  • Did you know that if a sniffer dog smells cash tainted with cocaine on your person, the police can confiscate the cash?
  • Trained dogs sniff cash, and if they bark, that’s taken to mean the money is contaminated with drugs and is therefore “drug money” and seizable.
  • A guy from the ACLU said: “Everything the dog does, no matter what it is, the police claim it’s a hit. If the dog barks, it’s a hit. If the dog sits down, it’s a hit. If the dog fell over dead, they’d probably claim the scent of cocaine killed him.”
  • The Pittsburgh Press found in 1991 that virtually all currency in the United States is tainted with enough cocaine to trigger a dog’s response.
  • Two different private labs tested currency from banks in eleven cities and found as much as 96 percent of it showing traces of coke.
  • In one study, they tested more than 135 bills from seven U.S. cities and found that all but four were contaminated with traces of cocaine.
  • Clean money put in the same drawer as “dirty” money will later make a dog bark.
  • Police and federal agents don’t clean or destroy drug-tainted cash they seize.
  • They deposit it in the bank, to be put into circulation — perhaps to be seized — again.
  • Baum 317
  • And then, in 1992, the tide started to turn.
  • The Sentencing Project, a tiny liberal nonprofit organization, had been tracking big increases in incarceration since 1981, issuing a series of reports that quickly disappeared into obscurity.
  • But then they stumbled onto wording that worked in the media.
  • “America has more black men in prison than in college,” they wrote.
  • “One in four are under control of the criminal justice system —jail, prison, probation or parole.”
  • And suddenly – the country began talking about the racial implications of its War on Drugs.
  • Across the country, small papers were carrying front page stories about how blacks were arrested more often, offered fewer opportunities for bail, and sentenced to longer stretches than whites.
  • USA Today did a national story, DRUG WAR FOCUSED ON BLACKS, that led off: “Urban blacks are being detained in numbers far exceeding their involvement” in the drug trade.
  • Local Bar Associations — notably in Boston and Rochester, New York — issued thick reports on the waste, racial disparities, injustice, and futility of the Drug War.
  • Judges started speaking out too, about the disparity in how many minorities came into their courtrooms for drug offences versus whites.
  • Norman Lanford, a criminal-courts judge in Houston, who considered himself a law and order Republican, did the math.
  • More than 2,500 people from the county had been sent to prison in 1991 for holding less than a gram of cocaine.
  • Most drug convicts held half that much.
  • Threequarters of them were black, even though blacks constituted less than a fifth of the county’s population.
  • Average sentence for a minor drug possessor in Houston that year: eight and a half years.
  • Lanford figured it cost Houston’s taxpayers almost $22 million in 1991 to imprison all the people convicted of holding less than half a gram.
  • He identified 2,113 people imprisoned in Houston that year for possessing — among them — seven ounces of cocaine.
  •  “We’re occupying a 25-year space in prison for a guy [about whom] all we can prove in his entire criminal career is ownership of $40 worth of crack.”
  • The comment cost Lanford his judgeship.
  • When he came up for reelection in early 1991, an assistant district attorney hammered him for being “soft on drugs” and knocked him out of the primary.
  • The mayor of Baltimore in the late 80s argued that drugs should be decriminalized. His name was Kurt SCHMOKE. I kid you not.
  • He ran again in 1991, still pushing against the war on drugs, and won with a bigger margin than he had in 1987.

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