Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hip Hop, Politics, & Protest Panel at The Left Forum 3-17-12 : Occupy Th...

A panel on "Hip-Hop, Politics, and Protest: A Battle for Hearts, Minds and Money," chaired by Steven Smith, with Will Vill, M1 & UMI of DEAD PREZ, Esteban Nembhard, & Nyaka NiiLampti, at The Left Forum on March 17, 2012:

Dr. Steven Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management at the University of New Orleans. He received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management and International Business from Rutgers University. He holds an MBA and B.S. in Chemical Engineering, also from Rutgers University. Dr. Smith's teaching interests include strategic management, international management and the music and entertainment industry. His current research examines career dynamics and labor market processes in the science and engineering, health care, and library and information science labor markets....

He also has extensive corporate and consulting experience....

Will Vill

M1 of DEAD PREZ : Mutulu Olugbala also known by his stage name M-1 is a rapper, activist and author known for his work as one half of the political hip hop duo Dead Prez along with his friend (Clayton Gavin). In 2006, he also had a lead role in "Broken Rhyme."

His credits include the album "Confidential" by "Dead Prez Presents M-1" and "Can't Sell Dope Forever" by Dead Prez/Outlawz.

M-1 is also featured in the UK documentary "Guilty or Innocent of Using the N Word." He had many cameos in Chappelle's Show comedy sketches. M-1 had a minor role in the 2001 film "Brooklyn Babylon."

M-1 is also a political activist for many black and left-wing causes. In July 2009, M-1 accompanied the Viva Palestina convoy, delivering humanitarian supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In 2010, M-1 was featured on Palestinian British rapper Shadia Mansour's single "Al Kufiyyeh 3arabeyyeh" ("The Kufiyyeh is Arab").

UMI of DEAD PREZ : umi from P.O.W./PEOPLE'S ARMY/RBG FAM was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. His rebellious nature helps remind people everyday that their true independence is still waiting to be claimed. He continues to show listeners that music can be used not only to get money, but also to mobilize and motivate the people.

Esteban Nembhard is a community organizer at La Fuente's New York & Long Island Civic Participation Project. Prior to joining the staff of La Fuente, Estevan traveled throughout the country building union committees with unorganized healthcare workers for SEIU International's 'Flight Team'. Before that, he was a leader in the movements of working class young people in New York City where he founded and chaired the Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice. Estevan grew up and lives in Washington Heights and Inwood.

Nyaka NiiLampti, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor at Queens College in Charlotte, NC) received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University, her M.A. in Sport Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and her B.S. in Psychology from Princeton University. Dr. NiiLampti completed her internship at the University of Miami Counseling Center and has had a variety of clinical experiences in multiple settings, including university counseling centers, secondary school settings and community mental health centers. Dr. NiiLampti works with clients of all ages, including children and college age adults in both individual and group therapy. Her training and research are in the areas of multicultural and cross cultural issues in psychology as well as sport psychology.

For more on The Left Forum, you can start here:

Encourage me to continue my guerrilla journalism by following me on facebook here:


Monday, March 25, 2013

The GOP Wants to Use This Bizarre Case to Scuttle Obama's Most Progressive Cabinet Nominee | Mother Jones

The GOP Wants to Use This Bizarre Case to Scuttle Obama's Most Progressive Cabinet Nominee | Mother Jones

The GOP Wants to Use This Bizarre Case to Scuttle Obama's Most Progressive Cabinet Nominee

Inside the case that made conservatives hate Thomas Perez.

| Fri Mar. 22, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
Thomas PerezAssistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez
Republicans are expected to fiercely oppose President Barack Obama's nomination of Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights and one of the more prominent progressives in his administration, to head the Labor Department. Already, Perez's GOP foes have accused him of corruption concerning a deal he helped forge in the Justice Department. This agreement prevented an unusual Minnesota housing discrimination case from going to the Supreme Court, and the full backstory—which Perez's critics haven't acknowledged—is a bizarre tale of legal complexities in which landlords tried to use a major civil rights law to protect themselves from city regulations meant to improve living conditions for low-income residents.
It all began in the early 2000s, when the city of St. Paul—after finding that many homes in low-income neighborhoods lacked heat or locks on the doors—kicked off an aggressive campaign of housing code enforcement. A group of landlords retaliated, brandishing an unexpected weapon: the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This law bars practices that adversely affect minorities, whether those practices were designed to discriminate or not—a legal standard known as disparate impact. The landlords alleged that the city's actions would force them out of business and harm their minority tenants whose access to affordable housing would be affected. The landlords were essentially arguing that by aggressively enforcing basic housing standards St. Paul was discriminating against low-income minorities, hoping to replace them with wealthier homeowners.
Much of the evidence in the case did not cast the landlords in the most sympathetic light. A police report described one landlord, Frank Steinhauser, threatening to evict one of his tenants, a mother of two children, for taking him to court because the residence he rented her had rotten floors, no heat, and so many rats she had unsuccessfully tried using duct tape to seal off the rat holes in the walls. (At one point, one tenant in the building found a rat in the bed where her two-year-old child slept.) According to this police report, Steinhauser told the woman (whose name was redacted), "Why are you doing this you black bitch? Why do you have the state on my ass? Bitch you're gonna to lose in fucking court. You're going to be out on the street." Several years later, in 2008, Steinhauser was one of the landlords suing St. Paul for enforcing the housing code and supposedly discriminating against their tenants on the basis of race. After St. Paul lost in federal court, the city appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (There was originally more than one lawsuit over the same issue; they were ultimately linked together.)
"Why are you doing this you black bitch? Why do you have the state on my ass? Bitch you're going to lose in fucking court. You're going to be out on the street."
For civil rights advocates, who supported using the Fair Housing Act to protect minorities from real discrimination, this case posed a dilemma. It looked to many of them as if a group of landlords was cynically embracing a landmark civil rights law in order to keep exploiting their minority tenants. Conversely, conservatives could argue that poor minorities in this case would be protected by weakening a civil rights law which conservatives have long opposed (the American Bankers Association also weighed in against the law as currently enforced). It was complicated.
Civil rights groups filed briefs in support of preserving the legal concept of disparate impact, without backing the landlords' claims that St. Paul's housing enforcement actions had been discriminatory. "There was a fair amount of nose-holding about this," says one longtime civil rights attorney, who adds that it looked as if the landlords were arguing for a "fundamental right under the Fair Housing Act to put minorities in crappy housing." Civil rights advocates were worried that if this case reached the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts, who as part of the Reagan Justice Department in the early 1980s had opposed using a disparate impact standard to enforcing the Voting Rights Act, would have another chance to unravel another hard-won civil rights law.
Enter Thomas Perez. According to the Justice Department, in December 2011, Perez, worried that the St. Paul's lawsuit could undermine the Fair Housing Act, reached out to attorneys for the city, who could win their case but end up undercutting this major civil rights law. Those lawyers were worried, too. "We were very concerned about the collateral damage we were going to cause if we won, " says one St. Paul city official familiar with the case. "This case was an anomaly where these landlords tried to use civil rights law to their benefit."
At this time, the city was facing another pending lawsuit. A St. Paul resident named Fredrick Newell had spent years doggedly compiling evidence that St. Paul had not complied with its obligation to use more than $180 million in federal money to help lower-income residents acquire jobs and city contracts. Newell sued in 2009 under the False Claims Act, alleging that St. Paul knew for years it hadn't been meet its federal obligations. Because of the particulars of Newell's case and the way the False Claims Act is written, without Justice Department intervention Newell's case would collapse.
In talks with Perez, St. Paul's attorneys proposed a trade. They would withdraw their request to the Supreme Court to hear the Fair Housing case, and in exchange the Justice Department would agree not to intervene in Newell's case. Republicans have accused Perez of offering the deal, and they have likened this to bribery, but the St. Paul city official tells Mother Jones that the city does not dispute the Justice Department account that St. Paul tendered the offer first.
Shortly after a December 2011 meeting with St. Paul officials, according to a response sent by the Department of Justice to Republican legislators, Perez consulted with the ethics officer in the civil rights division to ensure that the deal, if made, wouldn't violate any conflict-of-interest rules. Next, Perez asked the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office whether the deal would be kosher. Perez was told that it was okay, as long as the person at the head of the department's civil division, which has authority over False Claims Act cases, blessed the arrangement.
According to the Department of Justice, the lead expert on the False Claims Act in the civil division, a career attorney named Michael Hertz, later recommended against joining the Newell case, even though federal attorneys in Minnesota had originally wanted to intervene. Tony West, then the head of the civil division, signed the memo declining to get involved in the Newell case, which noted the deal with St. Paul. As a result the city withdrew its appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Newell case was dismissed by a judge. The city didn't get off scot-free: Based on the allegations in Newell's case, St. Paul entered into an agreement with Housing and Urban Development in 2010 to monitor their compliance with the grant requirements. St. Paul officials say the city has met all its obligations under the agreement and HUD says they have no evidence to the contrary. Newell, however, was upset about being cut out of the deal after all his hard work documenting St. Paul's not complying with its grant obligations, and is currently appealing the decision.
The deal Perez helped cut likely prevented a landmark civil rights law from being struck down by the Roberts court. Perez's civil rights division later used this law to secure record financial settlements against banks that discriminated against minority borrowers during the financial crisis. And Republicans were very angry about it.
The St. Paul deal is now the focus of an investigation by congressional Republicans, who allege that Perez behaved improperly. In September 2012, congressional Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder alleging that the Justice Department had engaged in a "quid pro quo" and had "bargained away a valid case of fraud against American taxpayers in order to shield a questionable legal theory from Supreme Court scrutiny in order to keep on using it." The letter was signed by, among others, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the judiciary committee. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House government oversight committee, has accused Perez of having "paid a $180 million bribe" to the city of St. Paul in exchange for withdrawing their request to the Supreme Court.
Based on the information publicly available, the allegations that Perez behaved unethically or corruptly don't withstand scrutiny.
"They're making, in my view, rather outrageous, essentially defamatory allegations against Perez, and I don't see what their support is," says Kathleen Clark, a professor at Washington University School of Law and an expert in legal ethics. "They are attempting to recharacterize a policy disagreement about two cases into something unethical." Moreover, while conservatives are entitled to the opinion disparate impact is a "dubious legal theory," courts have upheld its use under the Fair Housing Act for decades.
Republicans have accused Perez of overruling the career attorneys in Minnesota who wanted to pursue the False Claims Act case. But according to the Justice Department, it was the civil division's top legal expert on the False Claims Act who believed the case wasn't worth following through on. Despite the heavy implication of corruption in the language used by GOP legislators, when Mother Jones asked whether Perez had violated any specific ethics rules, a GOP Senate aide said that Grassley "is not focusing specifically on a Justice Department ethics rule, but instead is focusing on whether the quid pro quo decision was in the best interest of the American taxpayers as a matter of policy."
Because both the civil rights division and the civil division represent the same client, the United States, Clark says it's entirely ethical for officials in these divisions to decide not to pursue a case due to competing priorities. For example, a homeowner can sue a neighbor for accidentally crashing a car into his home. But he might opt not to, because he wants to preserve his friendship with that neighbor. Just because the Justice Department can sue doesn't mean it has to sue. "When cases settle, there generally are quids pro quo. That's what happens with any negotiation—quids pro quo are not necessarily corrupt," Clark says. "It just looks to me like these members of Congress are alleging ethical misconduct based on their policy disagreement with the Justice Department."
If Republicans block Perez over his actions in the St. Paul case, it won't be because of corruption or ethics. It will be because he rescued a civil rights law they oppose from almost certain death at the hands of the Roberts court.

Adam Serwer

Adam Serwer is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter. Email tips and insights to aserwer [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS |

If You Liked This, You Might Also Like...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas - COLORLINES

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas - COLORLINES

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas



A set of e-mails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina show U.S. immigration officials developed strategies to increase the number of deportations so they could surpass the previous year’s record deportation numbers.
Federal immigration authorities have claimed to target people who pose a threat to public safety but these email show officials targeted immigrants convicted of minor crimes.
 “These recently reported documents suggest that ICE’s ‘targeted’ approach may have less to do with public safety or a focus on serious crimes, and more to do with the agency’s laser focus on meeting deportation levels,” said Seth Freed Wessler,’s investigative reporter.
Wessler says the documents provide evidence to support what advocates have long argued: immigration enforcement as it’s currently practiced looks more like a dragnet than a harpoon.
USA Today analyzed the emails and point to some of the strategies used to increase the number of deportations:
Among those new tactics - detailed in interviews and internal e-mails - were trolling state driver’s license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses. Records show ICE officials in Washington approved some of those steps.
 In April, officials told field office heads to map plans to increase removals, then instructed at least one field office that supervises enforcement throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to go ahead with efforts to mine DMV records and step up their efforts to deport people who had been booked into county jails, among other measures.
ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told USA Today in a statement that “ICE does not have quotas.” She said the agency sets “annual performance goals” that “reflect the agency’s commitment to using the limited resources provided by Congress.”
Immigration advocates say this news doesn’t come as a surprise.
“The revelations about the Obama Administration’s deportation quotas are shocking, but not a suprise” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of “Anyone who knows the hard working people that the Administration is calling ‘criminals,’ who are being jailed by the thousands and deported by the millions, knows that government officials have such internal quotas. Other officials do an injustice to us all when they repeat false claims that there is some sort of legal mandate to deport 400,000 people a year. There’s not. And now everybody can see the ‘bonuses,’ deceit and dirty politics behind the immigrant tragedy.”
Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says the findings are offensive.
“Setting immigration policy by a deportation quota runs counter to every talking point the Obama administration has used in the past five years. It has endangered public safety. It offends both constitutional values and has led to grave civil rights violations,” Newman said.
“It’s the exact reason why the first step in immigration reform must be a suspension of deportations,” Newman went on to say.

Stan Karp - Not Waiting for Superman: Who's Bashing Teachers and Public ...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Federal initiative to help schools recognize youth sex trafficking | The Center for Public Integrity

Federal initiative to help schools recognize youth sex trafficking | The Center for Public Integrity

Federal initiative to help schools recognize youth sex trafficking

Students suspended or expelled can become more vulnerable to exploitation



Children involved in commercial sex trafficking are often recruited first by classmates at school who are doing the bidding of pimps, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other officials warned Wednesday at an event at the U.S. Department of Education.
Officials also warned that educators could unwittingly leave students vulnerable to victimization if they suspend or expel troubled students from school — leaving them unsupervised — or place them in alternative school settings where they are also exposed to potential recruiters.
“In my school district we are looking at our disciplinary practices,” said Jenee Littrell, director of guidance and wellness at the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County. She was invited to the U.S. Department of Education describe her efforts to identify and help school-aged youth exploited by pimps. The Obama Administration is attempting to disseminate more information to schools on this problem.
Littrell talked about two girls who, unknown to school staff, had become involved in child prostitution. The girls’ behavior had become especially aggressive with staff, and one girl was suspended from school, Littrell said. She was discovered at a track, an hour later, Littrell said.
Littrell said that, in her experience, girls who are lured into prostitution have been poor and affluent and from all ethnic backgrounds. But recruiters, both boys and girls working for pimps, Littrell said, zero in on kids in foster care and students with troubled home lives or special-education needs.
Warnings signs teachers can look for: when kids buy lunch for other kids, or flash around money, or become fiercely protective of their cell phones because they contain information about pimps. One girl, Littrell said, ultimately disclosed to adults that she had been sent to work hundreds of miles away in another California city, where her prostitution at a truck stop brought in a thousand dollars a day.
Alice Hill, senior counselor to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, said human trafficking, whether to serve the sex industry or the job market, has been designated a national-security threat. “We call it ‘hidden in plain sight,’ “ Hill said. Some of the trafficked are foreigners smuggled into the United States. They are often promised jobs in offices or industries and then forced into prostitution once they are here.
But other victims are Americans, some younger than teens.
Hill said between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for sex, according to University of Pennsylvania and U.S. Justice Department studies. Almost half of sex-trafficking activity involves minors. Gangs have become deeply involved in recruiting and controlling child prostitutes. One of the more notorious of these gangs, Hill said, is MS-13, the transnational crime group with networks in Central America and the United States.
Hill said gangs have started putting tattoos on girls whose prostitution they control. “It’s a form of showing ownership of the victim,” Hill said. Under federal law, no youth who is under 18 who is prostituting can be charged with sex-trafficking; he or she is considered a victim under the law. Underage recruiters, however, can be charged.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Occupy Wall Street |

Occupy Wall Street |

Occupy Wall Street would like to invite you
to the joining in
(un-)holy matrimony of a real human being to a non-human corporate “person” to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Citizen's United, granting corporations equal rights as living things. So why not ask for their hand in marriage?
at 3:30 pm on Saturday, 
January 19, 2013 
Please arrive at 60 Wall St, where the wedding
party will then proceed to the steps of Federal
Hall for the ceremony.

Please dress in formal wedding attire either in corporate gear and suits for the Corporation side or as a human being on the Human side. Bring signs that match accordingly- protesting the union or encouraging/ branding it with corp. logos.

The Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will preside. Reception to follow with cake and merriment.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Border Lines: Reefer Madness on the Border: Past and Present

Border Lines: Reefer Madness on the Border: Past and Present


Reefer Madness on the Border: Past and Present

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 00:00By Tom Barry, Truthout | Op-Ed

The federal government's nearly 100-year-old move toward cracking down on marijuana consumption with regulation, enforcement, and prohibition has resulted in a boom in marijuana smuggling, drug-war violence and mass criminalization and incarceration in the US. Perhaps it's time to change direction?

Could the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its border protection agencies end their fixation on marijuana control? No one knows what lies ahead, but DHS and the US Border Patrol may want to look to past border control practices of its legacy agencies as a guide to extricate themselves from their current billion-dollar-plus commitment to the marijuana drug war on the border.

Today, for DHS and the Border Patrol, marijuana is the moral and legal equivalent of transnational organized crime. Moreover, marijuana is regarded as a security threat to the homeland. Over the past five years, as the flow of illegal immigrants has diminished to historic lows, the Border Patrol is mostly on the lookout for marijuana.

The Border Patrol's border security buildup, including more agents, drones, and fences, has resulted in record quantities of seized marijuana and tens of thousands of Mexicans, Central Americans and US citizens arrested for violation of federal drug control statutes. Marijuana is a "Schedule 1" controlled substance, the same as heroin, under federal law.

In press releases and Congressional statements, the Border Patrol routinely points to record-breaking quantities of weed seized and presumably destroyed. Last year, the Border Patrol boasted that its commitment to border security on the southwestern border yielded 2.53 million pounds of marijuana. These seizures, declared the Border Patrol, are a direct strike against what it formerly called the drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico, which in the past couple of years have been relabeled as transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).

Marijuana seizures, along with the apprehensions of those illegally crossing the weed across the border (usually in bundles tied to their backs), are successes in the border campaign to "disrupt and dismantle" the TCOs. In other agency releases, the Border Patrol prefers different alliterations. 

The agency's Arizona-based Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT) aims to "deny, degrade, disrupt, and ultimately dismantle criminal organizations and their ability to operate; engage communities to reduce their tolerance of illegal activity." Alternatively, the Border Patrol sometimes deploys other "d" words, saying its drug war operations aim to "detect and deter" TCO activities.

The Border Patrol doesn't say how many members of the TCO leadership have fallen to the agency. But it does regularly issue press releases lauding drug war seizures and arrests.

What's so striking about these figures is that these drug war victories only rarely involve illegal drugs other than marijuana.
Measured by the weight, the Border Patrol in 2011 seized 2,529,211 pounds of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy along the southwestern border. 

The marijuana seizures weighed 2,518,211 pounds - comprising 99.3 percent of the total. Measured by the number of seizures of these illegal drugs, marijuana constituted 93.5 percent of the total of Border Patrol drug seizures between the ports of entry along the US-Mexico boundary.

Since the early 1990s, the US government has been stepping up its efforts to control drug flows across its borders. Until 1914 - when the US Congress passed the Harrison Act, the first in a mounting number of federal anti-drug laws - there was little effort to control narcotics (such as heroin and opium), stimulants (such as cocaine), or psychoactive plants (such a marijuana). In the 1890s, you could even order a syringe and a small stash of cocaine through the Sears & Roebuck catalog - for $1.50 plus handling.

As addiction rates increased, calls for a crackdown against heroin, cocaine, and opium mounted after the turn of the century. As the support for drug prohibition expanded, marijuana was largely ignored. Cannabis could be grown almost anywhere, but most of the weed crossed into the United States from Mexico. Marijuana, or "marihuana," is a portmanteau word, joining the Spanish names María and Juana. Thus, the English nicknames Mary Jane and Mary Warner.

The drug prohibition era began through the implementation of tax and certification regimes - not with a zero tolerance mandate. Initially, it was widely accepted in Congress and among law enforcement agencies that there were legitimate medical uses for opiates and even stimulants.

The Harrison Act of 1914 aimed to end the recreational market for heroin, opium and cocaine, but was not intended to stop physicians from prescribing narcotics. The Harrison Act was self-described as "An Act To provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes." 

Although the objective of the Harrison Act was to regulate the domestic market, the legislation ushered the Customs Agency Service - later Customs Service, currently divided into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - into drug control in a major way for the first time, both because the agency was empowered to enforce the act at the border and also because this first foray in drug prohibition legislation led to a boom in cross-border drug smuggling.

Marijuana was not on the radar of drug prohibition proponents at the time the Harrison Act became the law of the land. By the 1930s, however, drug prohibition advocates had succeeded in instituting marijuana bans in many states. The anti-marijuana movement was in large part a backlash against demographic, racial, and cultural changes. The violence and disruption of the Mexican Revolution caused many Mexicans to flee north, and some of these immigrants introduced the recreational use of marijuana to US society.

Assertions that marijuana use led to crazed violence by Mexicans and African Americans were common in the Congressional hearings on drug control in the 1930s. Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger introduced in the Congressional record a letter to the editor of a newspaper in Alamosa, Colorado, that stated: "I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That’s why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions."

What the antimarijuana campaign called the "marijuana menace" was the subject of the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness, which affirmed common beliefs among older and white Americans that marijuana was driving the youth of America crazy and into alien cultures, like the jazz of African-American and other vanguard musicians.

But the US government didn't see marijuana as the threat to public health, safety, and national security that it currently does. At the time, community healers and the medical sector were still exploring the medicinal and therapeutic uses of marijuana, and US businesses were legally selling hemp fiber, oil and seeds.

In its Narcotics Manual of 1927, the US Customs Agency Service stated: "Neither is there any federal law specifically regulating the importation of Marihuana, but by regulation under the Food and Drugs Act, Collectors of Customs are directed to refuse delivery of all consignments of Marihuana, unless the importer shall first execute a penal bond conditioned that the drug referred to will not be sold or otherwise disposed of for any purpose other than in the preparation of a medicine."

The federal government gradually began cracking down harder on marijuana distribution, both in the domestic market and on the border. The US Border Patrol was created in 1924, but it was not until the late 1930s that the agency was given a clear mandate about marijuana enforcement.

Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which brought cannabis into the drug control structure established by the Harrison Act for heroin, opium and cocaine. A high tax was levied on marijuana distribution by this 1937 drug act, the main proponent of which was Anslinger, the antidrug crusader who was commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Under the provisions of the Marijuana Tax Act, the federal government made marijuana control its business for the first time - through regulation of the importation, cultivation, possession and marketing of the cannabis plant.

Although it was not explicitly prohibited, the antinarcotics legislation put marijuana for the first time in the same regulatory framework used to crack down on heroin, opium and cocaine - whose principal victims were the poor and people of color, not predominantly middle- and upper-class consumers.

It remained legal to import marijuana into the country, and the US Customs Agency Service did collect taxes and affix a certifying stamp on burlap bags of marijuana that met its requirements for legal use and sale. But the end result was that marijuana fell subject to an increasingly restrictive regulatory climate that by 1970 had evolved into complete drug prohibition.

President Richard Nixon became the first drug warrior in the White House. Under his leadership, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, under which marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. That means, according to the federal government, the substance has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted use in medical treatment in the United States and can't be used safely - even under medical supervision. Other Schedule I substances include peyote, DMT, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), and heroin.

At the time that Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, the US Customs Service Agency was not preoccupied with securing the border against cross-border flows of marijuana, as the Department of Homeland Security is today. The agency's narcotics manual noted: "Marihuana may be cultivated or grown wild in almost any locality. Inasmuch as this drug is so readily obtained in the United States, it is not believed to be the subject of much organized smuggling from other countries."

But the federal government's steady move away from noninterference toward regulation, enforcement and prohibition has resulted in a boom in marijuana smuggling, horrific drug-war violence in producer and transition countries, and mass criminalization and incarceration in the United States.

Today, the Customs and Border Protection agency, especially the Border Patrol, has made marijuana enforcement the chief operative focus of its border security mission. 

One can only speculate at what point the federal government will begin reversing its border control practices, perhaps by once again taxing and stamping marijuana imports. Or even - with the advance of a medical marijuana and marijuana legalization - end the agency's misguided and ineffective commitment to marijuana enforcement entirely?

Recalling the scenario described in the narcotics manual of the mid-1930s, we may see the future of marijuana.

It just may be possible that some day, sooner than we think, we could see a time when marijuana is again grown throughout the United States outside of a drug prohibition regime, thereby displacing Mexican and other foreign suppliers, ending the need for so much "border security" spending and undercutting the foreign drug warriors – both the legal and illegal ones.

No comments: