How Real Is Traffic? 

How Real Is Traffic? 
Posted by FoM on April 21, 2001 at 07:11:54 PT
By Donnie R. Marshall
Source: Washington Post
The movie "Traffic" is the most realistic portrayal of drug law enforcement and the ravages of drugs on American families that I've ever seen. It accurately shows the complexity of the drug trade -- from its origins in foreign countries to its terminal point on our streets -- and how predatory drug traffickers victimize young, weak and vulnerable people in our society.But I'm afraid those who have seen the movie may have come to two conclusions that appear to provide simple answers to some not-so-simple problems having to do with our nation's recurring drug problem. 
The first conclusion can be drawn from the Michael Douglas character, the new government drug czar, who declares: "If this is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy." Himself the father of an addicted daughter, he steps down from his post, presumably because he cannot support policies that target users.While this scene is dramatically effective, it is factually inaccurate to say that the U.S. government targets users. In fact, it is well-organized international criminal organizations that are actively targeting American families and American users, without whom they would be out of business. One common misperception is that the American demand for drugs drives the supply; in fact, the opposite is true. Without a steady, well-marketed source of supply, users like Caroline in "Traffic" would not specifically demand crack or heroin.The high-school-age users in the film were bored, affluent kids whose parents had no clue about who their friends were, or how they spent their time after school. The availability of these drugs on the streets of Caroline's home town was a significant factor in her decline.The vast majority of offenders in prison are there not for possession, or because they are users, but for serious trafficking offenses. A 1997 Justice Department survey found that only 5 percent of the drug offenders in federal prison, and 27 percent in state prison, were there on possession charges -- and many of those charges represent the results of plea bargains. There simply is no reason to believe that drug users are the "enemy" in any government policies. Caroline's parents were able to find and afford good treatment for their daughter and, as the film shows, treatment works for some people. For many individuals, success comes only after repeated stays at drug clinics and after too many productive years of life are dedicated to the pursuit of a cure. I am a strong advocate of treatment, and believe it must be widely available to everyone who needs it. Yet, I also believe that drug prevention, along with effective law enforcement, must be a critical component in all of our drug strategies.Which leads me to the second erroneous conclusion some may take from the film: that our country's efforts to solve the drug problem are futile. While "Traffic" correctly suggests that law enforcement has enormous odds to overcome, it also respects the talents, courage and dedication that DEA and Customs agents bring to their task -- talents I see every day. The film shows how difficult it is for law enforcement to work in an environment of corruption and frustration, and yet the DEA characters continue to pursue their targets -- the real enemy -- despite the odds. Fighting the drug problem is not futile. Despite the uphill battle we face, there have been victories. The enforcement of strict laws, coupled with social disapproval, led to the reduction of drug use during the last epidemic at the turn of the century. By the early 1960s only 2 percent of the American people had ever tried drugs, compared with 28 percent today. If Americans could live without drugs 40 years ago, there is no reason we cannot now. Despite a perception that the fight against drugs is lost, today's level of drug use is less than half what it was two decades ago. This progress was made during a time when people thought casual drug use was socially acceptable. But slowly we learned that the consequences and risks of using drugs were severe. Through a balanced approach of law enforcement, prevention and treatment, our nation has made a positive impact on the levels of drug trafficking and use. For the sake of our sons and daughters, the potential Carolines of the world, we need to persevere, with courage and determination.The writer is administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Donnie R. MarshallPublished: Saturday, April 21, 2001; Page A19 Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Articles - Traffic
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Comment #7 posted by Prozac Nation on April 22, 2001 at 06:39:16 PT:
Living without drugs
I look forward to the day when marijuana can take its place beside Paxil and Prozac on the shelf at Walgreens.
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on April 21, 2001 at 13:13:25 PT:
Woe to You, Donnie Marshall!!!
The vast majority of offenders in prison are there not for possession, or because they are users, but for serious trafficking offenses. A 1997 Justice Department survey found that only 5 percent of the drug offenders in federal prison, and 27 percent in state prison, were there on possession charges -- and many of those charges represent the results of plea bargains. There simply is no reason to believe that drug users are the "enemy" in any government policies. That's right, folks; we've got 500,000 drug kingpins behind bars in this country. Sure. Hey, Donnie Marshall: I have this primo real estate in southern Florida you might be interested in.Donnie Marshall knows, as well as you and I, that the bulk of people behind bars are there for possession. The problem is that if they happened to possess more than X amount of marijuana (usually an ounce or so), they are automatically presumed to be "dealers" and are charged with distribution. Thus, Marshall can say that most of the people in prison are there for "crimes" other than possession because our country's laws allow prosecutors to trump up unsubstantiated charges of distribution, and judges consistently convict these folks solely on the basis of possession. Considering this fact, is it not absolutely appalling that 5% of federal and 27% of state prisoners are there for possessing amounts so small that they could not be convicted of these trumped-up distribution charges? The assumption that there would be no demand if there were no supply is the most ridiculously flawed logic I have ever heard. People use cannabis because they enjoy its effects or because they need its effects to combat the symptoms of serious diseases and their treatments, not because (as the Partnership for a Drug Free America would have us believe) because some creepy kid with a bad haircut pulls a joint from his overcoat, waves it in their faces, and says "Wanna get high?" This assumption that the supply creates the demand is absurd and stupid. There is already a demand; people who actually do deal drugs are merely filling that demand. There is only one way this government can effectively combat the supply of drugs in America: legalize the use of soft drugs (cannabis, hallucinogens) and medicalize the use of truly harmful and addictive drugs (cocaine and the opiates).Every 20 seconds, in this country, another person is arrested on drug charges. Typical procedures for drug-related arrests include breaking down the doors to people's homes, shoving guns in their faces, verbally abusing them, physical threats sometimes leading to actual abuse, strip searches, and confinement--and that's before these folks have even been arraigned. Donnie Marshall can scream until he is purple, but there is no way he will ever convince me that these actions are justifiable. He is simply a crook who is making loads of money for himself and his corporate contacts at the expense of the American Constitution. Shame on Donnie Marshall, and shame on anyone who agrees with his hateful message.Stop locking up people for their personal decisions. It is immoral and unconstitutional.Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by jAHn on April 21, 2001 at 12:53:49 PT
It's not like people can't jump from a bridge....
...IF they feel that they are deemed to do so. So, what's the big deal if a "pothead" wants to smoke some grass?  My point is that, maybe, we prioritise the Medical uses of this Natural Pain-Reliever. Big deal if the Pharm-Corp. can't get the quick jump to make a big buck off a Plant!  There are people with MS, don't you get it?Multiple Sclerosis! IT HURTS them BADLY!  They don't want to sky-dive, drive fast cars, or play Contact Sports---nor do i feel that they enjoy being entertained by them!  It's kind of a Rub-In-The-Face of Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Think about it.Some Americans have the right to Bungee Jump (No matter what stats exist to prove that SEVERAl hundred [possibly thousands] people are claimed Casualty to this "Exciting Activity." Other Americans withhold the Choice of Gambling with their Life and Health through activities as simple as Hockey, or Football, even Bowling garnishes some Injuries.  Some of them make millions off the fact.Take what I've seen on America's Hit Show, RealTv  reg Just last night, at a Tee-ball game. Repeat, a TEE-Ball game! A mass of Parents erupted into an ACTUAL, Violent Fist fight because of (a bad Ump call?) some minor discrepancy.  What Gives, People?Are our Neighbors even HUMAN anymore? I guess there'd have to be wafts of Humanity throughout the air in order to answer this---factually, in the 21st Century, It's A CRYING shame that there ISN'T!!! P.S. Other Americans are Enrolled onto baseball teams, regardless of the Hate Speech they perpetuate on the "playing field."  America is run by a Gestapo.Is it you, is it your neighbor? I've come to the ultimate conclusion that America is filled with the Smartest and most Humanely-Informed culture of people, yet the laziest, all at once. Thank Conservatism.  Thank Moderatism. ESPECIALLY, THANK LIBERALISM...  Now Get your Lazy Ass off that Chair and Scream at the World!!! ((Hey, Lots of people are being PAID for the VERY same thing...only in Totally Separate Contexts...))  P.S.S. Anyone Have a Pie? 
Pie Someone...Deservingly!
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Comment #4 posted by Lady D on April 21, 2001 at 11:11:03 PT
Hypocrisy reigns supreme
Not that this is any surprise, but the results of a recently concluded study were announced last week - addiction to PRESCRIBED pharmaceuticals has reached epidemic proportions in this country. Doesn't anyone have the balls to accuse the REAL drug dealers in this country?? The DEA should perhaps work on taking down the drug companies, physicians, and insurance carriers as co-conspirators. Admittedly, the writer of this woeful piece of journalism claims the obvious - that there is big money in trafficking. The only way to take the rug out from under traffickers is to TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF IT for them. Ah, but this would require drawing a completely new plan of action, wouldn't it? And, yes, it would put quite a few people out of jobs.You gotta love (and disdain) the irony in the fact that our tax money goes into paying for the 3-martini lunches our legislators enjoy while figuring out new & preposterous ways to fight their war.
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Comment #3 posted by CongressmanSuet on April 21, 2001 at 09:13:35 PT
Nice quote...
 "If Americans could live without drugs 40 years ago, there is no reason why they cant now". Might I remind this simplistic idiot of a reporter, that prior to 1937, Americans could live WITH drugs, with no real consequences to the "fabric" of our culture back then. This is just another "you mistake the real message behind Traffic, we need more, smarter ways to solve this problem" rant, exactly what you can expect from those soo mired in this moral show of superiority, many of whose entire existances are tied deeply to the "Hey, we let you have alcohol, for God's sake, isnt that enough" mentality. Sure, the press has shown tat it CAN publish honest truthfull articles on this subject matter, but I fear we are being bombarded at a much greater rate by the anti's unconstitutional, "we dont care what you say, you ar just a bunch of "Druggies" after all" brand of journalism. Notice all the pot joke references that start so may of these pieces..."The Blunt Facts", "The POl and the Pot","Hail to the Shroom",it seems that they just cant write serious, unbiased pieces, even when the main tone of some of these articles favors us. As good as it is to see some discussion from places [NYP, etc.} that had always toed the prohibitionist line, its sad to see that jokes are being used to describle this movement and the people behind it.
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Comment #2 posted by Robbie on April 21, 2001 at 09:04:45 PT
Paine had the right idea
If Americans could live without drugs 40 years ago, there is no reason we cannot now.Number 1, Donnie, Americans don't live without drugs today. Look in your local grocer's drug aisle. You'll see that if for some reason use of so-called "illicit" drugs has gone down, "licit" drugs are sold as candy, and pushed by your pharmaceutical drug-lord friends just as fervently.And Number 2, let's just say that your above statement is true. So Americans weren't doing many drugs (which I am not convinced about the reality behind that statement.) So with the 60's came a countrywide increase in use and experimentation ...etc., etc. So you're saying that because you don't want people doing drugs, you will beat them over the head with your moralistic baton? You and your buddies have decreed that drugs are bad, so everyone must conform to your way of thinking?? I thought Communism was gone. I thought totalitarianism went the way of the dinosaur.It's true. We are starting to look like the Undemocratic Socialist State Republic, and our belief that America is the land of the free is going to hell.I'm in with you JR, "Give me liberty or give me death!!!" The writer is administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.No wonder he's a drug-war champion and DEA apologist. He's gotta keep his job and make people think that the DEA has done good work. Wake up America...they're simply wasting taxpayer money.
Wish I could say that my outlook is hopeful...
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Comment #1 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on April 21, 2001 at 08:09:06 PT
Caroline in the city
>>There simply is no reason to believe that drug users are the "enemy" in any government policies.  Tell that to Steve Kubby, Todd McCormick, or Peter McWilliams...  "They want a drug war? We'll give them a drug war!"
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