Saturday, August 23, 2003


We've had the kind of days in New England that you always wish to wake up to but rarely find. Cold front is pushing down hard from Canada and brought clear air, bright sun and a refreshing breeze. Feels more like September than August, but it was nice for it to have come on a weekend when I wasn't cooped up in the office.

It's the last weekend that the residents own the town for the academic year. The students will start taking over in the next week or so. The place is virtually deserted but the energy on the streets is crazy. I think it has something to do with Mars being so close to Earth. That's the planet of war isn't it?

Everything is so loud. Agitated conversations, raucous laughter, people singing, challenges being hurled - all ceaselessly echo on the nearly empty streets. Even our resident squirrel was acting exceptionally nutty in the last couple of days.


The town wears a shroud of sorrow this week. One of the dirty little secrets in these small New England towns is the heroin problem. No one denies it exists, but few want to admit how deeply it reaches into the community. I've watched the problem grow here for over a decade. When I arrived, almost no one was doing it. Cocaine was pretty much the party drug of choice. There weren't many ODs. Then the War on Some Drugs and Users escalated, driving the price up and the buzz in the clubs began to center around $5 bags of heroin. The kids thought if they only snorted it, they would be safe, but they started dying instead.

Now I don't advocate the use of this drug, or any drug for that matter. I think it's unrealistic however, to deny that the drugs are on the streets and that people are going to use them. Chances are, some 20 year old, perfectly clean cut kid you know, is snorting a batch of Taliban Gold right now. (I made the name up but I'll bet it's called something like that.) One of them will likely OD on it.

Around here the heroin deaths that occur within the good families are covered up. They are usually listed in the obits as unexpected deaths. Only the street people get attributed to an overdose in the evening news. Making an educated guess based on rumor and personal knowledge however, I'd say we lose at least a dozen young people a year to this drug.

There appears to be either a really bad or really pure batch on the streets right now. We've lost three users in the last ten days. Two were street people and the other was unattributed publicly. Young kid, maybe 23, good looking and smart. He was one of the regulars in the City after-work crowd. We had just started having conversations beyond the usual nod and small exchange of pleasantries.

Three days before he died, we had done a crossword together, having found ourselves at the same corner of the bar. He was about to give up but I filled in some more answers which renewed his interest. Between the two of us we finished it with the certainty that every answer was correct. He was a really nice kid. I wish he wasn't gone.

I was shocked when I heard the news. I've known a lot of users in my lifetime and I would not have pegged him as one. I suspect he either got hooked inadvertently, or was inexperienced and didn't realize he was taking too much. I can't help but think if we had clinics to administer legal doses of this drug, it wouldn't have been available on the street to kill him.


That's the problem with this ridiculous war. It does not acheive it's stated (and unobtainable) goal of eliminating drug use and it creates social problems that could be readily solved by simple regulation. If they put the millions they are spending on eradication into building clinics, the money would stay in this country, boosting our ailing construction industry and would help addicts, help themselves out of the cycle of addiction.

The only way they could possibly eradicate these drugs at their agricultural origination point is to launch an herbicidal attack from space and defoliate the entire planet at once. Even now, as our government plys its inhumane eradication policies against the coca plant in the Latin Americas, the poppies bloom to fill the void - supply for the demand. A demand that remains steady in spite of unprecendented numbers of our citizens in jail for non-violent possession. If you ask me, it's a hell of a dumb way to run a war.

Just take Afghanistan for example. Once touted by this administration as a prohibition success story, poppy production is now surpassing pre-Taliban levels. As recently reported by Time magazine,

This year, after a bumper crop of opium poppies, say U.N. officials, Afghanistan became the world's largest heroin producer, with an estimated $1.2 billion in profits.

The article goes on to say,

The debate over whether to crack down on the drug trade has reached the top levels of the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld doesn't want the already over-stretched 8,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to become sidetracked from their main goal: to capture and kill terrorists. And chasing drug smugglers could take away allies from the Americans. Diplomats say many of the local commanders the U.S. military relies on for intelligence on al-Qaeda and the Taliban and to provide hired guns are mixed up in the drug business. "Without money from drugs, our friendly warlords can't pay their militias," says a Kabul diplomat. "It's as simple as that."

Let's see, Rumsfeld doesn't want to waste his resources on chasing drug lords. Is he still working for the same government that spent hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars on a media campaign to convince kids that even taking one hit of marijuana was supporting terrorists? And they wonder why that ad campaign failed.

Sorry if I'm sounding bitter today folks, hypocrisy always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


There is some good news. Pete Guither at Drug War Rant has a good post on the pardon of The Tulia 35 . Extensive coverage on this moment of justice can be found in the MAPINC archives.

Peter also has an excellent section on actions you can take to end the war against personal sovereignty.

The action that is the dearest to me on that list, is the UMASS Medical Marijuana Project. They have been trying to get a license there for a long time. This is a legitimate application for a serious project that has been stalled for much too long by bureaucratic machinations designed to thwart necessary scientific research. Meanwhile patients suffer, the collateral damage of this political agenda. Please participate in this action.

A lot of people tell me they don't participate in political actions because it doesn't do any good. They believe there is no way to change the system. All I can ever say to that is - you're wrong. A concerted group effort can make a difference.

Last word of the day goes to Richard Lake, who has this to say on that theme:

...all that has happened since the bust went down in Tulia really got started and pushed along by a state reform group coordinating thru an email list of about 140 members - the Drug Policy Forum of Texas.

There are dozens of Tulia's out there, some recognized, some not, and of course not all as big. But from the start DPFT members recognized the problems, that the bust did not make sense, there just could not be that many coke dealers in a town that size, etc. and dug into the story, pushing the media, working with MAP to get the word out, etc.

In time other .orgs recognized the truths that DPFT presented and joined in. Today those more wealthy .orgs get much of the credit, as they paid for lawyers, etc. But it was folks just like you that put Tulia on the map.

Just one state email list and good folks on the list doing what needed doing is what made this happen.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home