Hapless or futile war on drugs policy to get a makeover

A bipartisan effort is currently underway to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the “war on drugs.” Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, released a bipartisan report entitled “Reducing the U.S. Demand for Illegal Drugs” that highlights education as a way to curtail drug use by Americans.

The report openly admits America’s insatiable demand for illicit drugs (the U.S. is the largest consumer) is destroying our youth and directly responsible for the Mexican drug cartel violence that has claimed more than 50,000 lives in the past few years.

According to the new report, drug abuse in the U.S. presents a major public health challenge and it also costs the country roughly $193 billion a year in health care, law enforcement and addiction expenses. Even with more drug enforcement resources along the U.S. southern border, approximately 22.6 million Americans over 12 were known illegal drug users. These numbers have consistently edged up during the last decade.


“Unfortunately, almost nine percent of the U.S. population used illegal drugs in 2010, so it’s hard to argue that enough is being done to reduce demand,” said Senator Feinstein, who’s state borders Mexico. “Only if we address the country’s appetite for illicit drug use can we prevent drug trafficking and the violence and loss of life it brings throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Tragically, just across the U.S. border in Mexico, more than 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence over the past five years.”

The bipartisan report discloses a number of causes for drug use and explores several different solutions to slow addict rates and prevent minors from experimenting with drugs.

“There are multiple causes behind the demand for illegal drugs, so there has to be a multifaceted solution to the problem,” said Senator Grassley. “We know there’s been success with an educational component. For example, we’ve heard from first-time users of synthetic drugs who would have stayed away, had they known the risks and consequences.”

Drug cartel reality DVD directed just for kids “Operation Detour”

Getting to children before they reach for drugs is imperative. One method showing promise tackles the issue by creating an educational illicit drug use documentary that concentrates on the lifecycle of illegal drugs and redefines the age old statement “just smoking one joint won’t hurt anyone.”

Texas has already implemented one such program. “Operation Detour” offers insight into the entire cartel process currently in place to move drugs north of the border. The educational DVD takes the flashback approach to show the life of drugs. It’s not pretty, but children get a birds eye view of the death and destruction associated with illegal drugs.

The U.S. Border Patrol’s Marfa sector collaborated with law enforcement agencies and a drug cartel expert to provide a different viewpoint on the “war on drugs” and the result was “Operation Detour.”

“Drug smugglers have increased their efforts to recruit teenagers as smugglers, scouts and lookouts,” said Chief Patrol Agent John J. Smietana, Jr. “Being lured into their trap is a very real danger to our young people with severe consequences. Operation Detour is an effort to point out those dangers and to give kids an awareness of the help that is available to them.”

“We appreciate the willingness of the schools to provide this opportunity and we certainly couldn’t get the message out without the assistance of our partners from the law enforcement and criminal justice agencies,” he said.

The anti-drug program consists of an hour-long agenda made up of two videos showing how the drug trafficking organizations are organized and what the consequences are for partaking in these drug cartel organizations. “The presentation also includes a slideshow that explains the various criminal activities associated with drug smuggling,” the CBP said. “Also included is a panel discussion with law enforcement officials explaining how their organizations enforce the law and what the potential penalties are for getting caught trafficking narcotics.”

“For six years, I’ve been investigating the cartels. I went inside one of the cartels for about a year back in 2006-2007. I have worked around the border, particularly in Texas, for these six years, doing nothing but working border security issues and the cartels,” according to Rusty Fleming, Operation Detour filmmaker.

Once Fleming finished his narco-documentary, “Drug Wars; Silver or Lead,” Border Patrol agents sought his help.

“Shortly after I released ‘Drug Wars,’ the documentary, I got a phone call from the Border Patrol in Del Rio,” he said.

“They wanted to put together a prevention program, a narco-terrorism prevention program.”

Operation Detour, as it was named, is different from past anti-drug abuse campaigns, Fleming said.

“Historically we’ve always warned kids about getting involved in drugs and using drugs,” he said. But Border Patrol has first hand knowledge of young people getting “busted” for drugs.

The first part of the Operation Detour program includes 12 minutes of excerpts from his graphic drug cartel documentary.

 “The second part of the film is a reenactment that we scripted to show kids just how subtly they can become involved with these (drug organizations),” Fleming explains. “The most disturbing part of it is that kids that have absolutely nothing to do with drug smuggling get caught up in this and they either get arrested or killed just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.”

Fleming says Border Patrol agents are very serious about its effort to keep young people from the drug trade.

“Once Border Patrol put (Operation Detour) together, I have to tell you, I’ve never seen so many resources put together and thrown at a prevention program, an awareness program as I have in the Rio Grande Valley.


Some of the new tactics Mexican drug cartels practice is to lure local street gangs and other, gangs like the Latin Kings, Mexican Mafia or Texas Syndicate to distribute drugs in their Texas communities. Eventually, some American kids will move drugs to major markets, Fleming said.

However, the profits will go back to major trafficking organizations not the kids moving the drugs. 

Border Patrol Agent Jose G. Treviño said Operation Detour is effective and finds a receptive school audience.

The decriminalization of drugs could end the illegal drug insanity

On the flip side, there are other experts who believe America may be better served by decriminalizing drugs and ramp up rehabilitation centers to treat the real addiction problem.

Ryan Hoskins wrote a paper for George Mason University regarding this very issue (Mexico Drug Violence: Why the Merida Initiative, gun bans and border controls will fail and drug reform is the solution).

“It would be great if President Obama would reallocate the money currently set aside for drug interdiction and make an effort to fix the drug addiction problems American’s face each day,” Hoskins proposed.
“During my research (on the drug problems America faces) I came across Portugal’s recent legalization of drugs and I realized we (U.S.) are going about this problem all wrong.”

Hoskins contends that drug usage didn’t increase in Portugal as many expected and police actually handed out more “fix-it” type tickets if you will. “By de-stigmatizing drugs, users were more likely to get treatment,” Hoskins explains.

While America may be a long way from decriminalizing drugs, states like New York, are moving forward by adding small amounts of marijuana to the “okay” list. Last year, the Golden State’s voters said “no” on proposition 19, a ballot initiative that would have legalized the Mexican drug cartel’s biggest money maker- pot. However, many say it’s only a matter of time before medical marijuana users gain acceptance and convince the voters the state can gain valuable tax revenues.

Nonetheless it hasn’t curtailed other states in the union from legalizing cannabis in an effort to tax and regulate the green plant. This plays into Hoskin’s hope. “First we need to decriminalize drugs, gain control of the drug problem and then perhaps we can eventually get rid of the black market by legalizing drugs altogether.”

The latter, legalizing drugs would certainly bring an end to most black-market sales, but the notion drugs would be legalized in a country in which excess is the norm, may take a little getting used to.

Senators see room for improvement in the anti-drug effort

If American’s saw the dramatic escalation of violence and the consequences in drug supplying countries, like Mexico, the senators think it could give some potential U.S. drug users some pause.

Another unsuspecting form of illegal drug use stems from the medicine cabinet located in most homes. “We have to reduce the demand fueled by easy access to drugs, such as the dramatic increase in the abuse of prescription pain killers that are readily available in medicine cabinets across the country,” Grassley said.

The Iowa senator would like law enforcement to explore options for reducing access to prescription drugs. One method would be “ensuring the proper checks are in place on health care providers who prescribe these dangerous prescriptions drugs without performing enough due diligence and medical oversight.”

The report also recommends:

• Funding for innovative probation programs that are cost-effective and have significantly reduced recidivism, such as the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), which emphasizes quick punishment when individuals violate conditions of their probation;
• Passage of the Online Pharmacy Safety Act (S. 2002) which would help stop criminals from exploiting the Internet to illegally sell prescription drugs;
• Reorientation of U.S. anti-drug media campaigns to demonstrate the correlation between violence in drug producing and transit countries and consumption in the United States;
• Blocking of any efforts to merge substance abuse and mental health prevention programs by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and
• Improved collection of data on U.S. drug use and treatment.

Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Cornyn (R-TX) endorse the illegal drug report. The entire report can be found here.

In April, President Obama released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, it is the Administration’s primary blueprint for drug policy in America. “The new Strategy supports a ‘third way’ approach to drug policy, proposing alternatives to a law enforcement centric ‘war on drugs.’ The new drug policy strategy outlines 113 specific actions to be undertaken throughout the Federal government to reform U.S. drug policy through innovative and evidence-based public health and safety approaches including reviewing laws and regulations that impede recovery from addiction, expanding access to drug treatment, and expanding community-based recovery support programs,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

For more information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP.

But for now, law enforcement will continue to enforce the country’s drug laws and hope parents and schools are successful at keeping kids off drugs.

For more stories: http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

About thekdreport

Investigative journalist

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