The DEA Turns 30

The DEA Turns 30
Posted by CN Staff on June 30, 2003 at 20:18:52 PT
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration celebrates its thirtieth birthday this month, as the U.S. Senate ponders the nomination of Karen P. Tandy to be the first woman ever to head the anti-drug agency. If U.S. drug policies were rooted in facts and logic, this would be occasion for a searching reexamination of the DEA's priorities and tactics, not to mention the wisdom of the laws the agency was created to enforce. That is about as likely as George W. Bush deciding to replace Dick Cheney with Al Sharpton as his 2004 vice presidential running mate.
On June 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee held what they tried to pass off as a hearing on Tandy's nomination. No Democrats bothered to show up., and the few Republicans present asked precisely zero challenging questions. A handful of committee members say they plan to submit written questions to Tandy, a career drug war apparatchik, but all indications are that her nomination will sail through without significant debate. So our anti-drug crusade can be expected to continue pretty much as usual – as perhaps the cruelest, most spectacular policy failure in the history of the republic. Formed by an executive order signed by President Richard Nixon in July 1973, the DEA was supposed to establish a unified command for federal efforts that would, at long last, win the war on drugs. Its budget has skyrocketed, from less than $75 million in fiscal 1973 to an estimated $1.9 billion in the current fiscal year. Not surprisingly, this 2,500 percent funding increase helped kick-start a massive upsurge in arrests. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, the annual number of arrests for drug crimes skyrocketed from 328,670 in 1973 to 1,586,902 in 2001. That 2001 figure includes 723,627 arrests for marijuana offenses – more than double the number arrested for all drug crimes combined in 1973. This skyrocketing arrest rate, coupled with lengthy prison terms required by mandatory minimum sentencing laws, has led to an incarceration rate that strains state budgets and shocks most of the world. One thing it has not done, though, is reduce the availability of illegal drugs. Every year, the federally-funded Monitoring the Future study surveys teenagers about illegal drug use and availability. In 1975, the first year the survey was conducted, 87.8 percent of high school seniors said that marijuana was "easy to get." In 2002 that figure was 87.2 percent. Throughout the surveyís 28-year history, this "easy to get" figure has remained astonishingly constant, ranging from a low of 82.7 percent to a high of 90.4 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school seniors reporting that heroin and cocaine are easy to get has actually increased since 1975. To most sentient beings, the DEA's record of utter failure at what is theoretically its principal job – keeping drugs out of the hands of kids – suggests it might be time to rethink the notion that we can arrest and jail our way out of the drug abuse problem. If some 15 million marijuana arrests since Nixon took office have made no dent in the marijuana supply, why should another 15 million do the trick? Even those wedded to prohibition ought to wonder about the DEA's – and indeed the whole federal government's – near-obsession with marijuana. The DEA continues to waste resources harassing, raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California. Do these people really have nothing better to do? Disgust with the medical marijuana raids has led several local law enforcement agencies to consider reducing or ending programs in which they cooperate with the DEA. Just how much damage is the agency willing to do to itself in order to keep attacking cancer and AIDS patients? These are just a few of the questions the Senate should be asking Karen Tandy – and insisting on direct, no-nonsense answers – before confirming her to lead the DEA into its fourth decade. Don't hold your breath. Bruce Mirken is a longtime health journalist whose work has appeared in Menís Health, California Hospitals, the Miami Herald and San Francisco Chronicle. He now serves as communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project -- VirgilSource: AlterNetAuthor:  Bruce Mirken, AlterNetPublished: June 30, 2003Copyright: 2003 Independent Media InstituteContact: info Website: Articles:Marijuana Supporters Demand Meeting with DEA To Nominate 1st Woman as Drug Czar
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on July 02, 2003 at 07:30:04 PT:
So, a birthday cake is in order?
I am presently miles away from any farmer's field, so a fresh defecatory deposit from slow moving ungulates is out of the question.It's about the only type of a 'birthday cake' this last laugh of Tricky Dick merits...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Aragorn on July 01, 2003 at 20:43:33 PT:
   The author's comment, "That is about as likely as George W. Bush deciding to replace Dick Cheney with Al Sharpton as his 2004 vice presidential running mate." vaguely reminds me of the following:   
    "There is as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."
    ------------Morris Sheppard, the congressman from Texas who co-sponsored the original legislation, in 1930.    (alcohol prohibition ends: 1933)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 01, 2003 at 19:32:32 PT
News Article from Australia
Expert Warns Against US-Style Drug WarPublished: July 1, 2003Australia's adoption of hardline US-style drug controls would have severe consequences in the future, a leading researcher warned.Dr John Fitzgerald said following the US approach in Australia would only boost the prison population and produce a generation of drug users with poor self-esteem and few hopes for the future.He told the Alcohol and Drug Foundation of Queensland conference that US drug controls resulted in disruption, displacement and diversion, and had little regard for future consequences.He said evidence of Australia adopting US tactics included the increased prosecution of marijuana users - up from 74 per cent of drug arrests in 1995-96 to 87 per cent in 2000-01.And in that same period the number of people jailed for drug offences in Australia has increased from 1,694 in 1995 to 1,852 in 2001."This increase in drug-related prisoners suggests that the federal government's attempt to reduce prison numbers through the Tough on Drugs campaign has not, to date, been successful," Dr Fitzgerald said."If we go down the American approach of attempting to create a drug-free society, we will displace drug users into treatment, into poor and isolated parts of town, and into social identities that are dark and self-destructive."Dr Fitzgerald, who works with the University of Melbourne's sociology program, said Australia should stick to its original 1985 drug mandate."That was to focus on the consequences of drug use, accept that drug use is a part of society and that our job is to reduce harm," he said."(It's) not about attempting to create a drug-free society and in the process create more problems than we aimed to resolve."Copyright: AAP 2003
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Truth on July 01, 2003 at 10:12:10 PT
Happy Birthday, now how about leaving our people alone, cultural genocide sucks!
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment