Ending the War on Drugs: a talk with Inspire Seattle

InspireSeattle invites YOU to join us at our Social Forum: Saturday, April 25th at 6:30PM.

Inspire Seattle

Main discussion topic for this evening: Ending the War on Drugs

For four decades the US has fueled its policy of a “war on drugs” with over a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies. More than 39 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses have been made. The incarcerated population quadrupled over a 20-year period, making building prisons the nation’s fastest growing industry. More than 2.3 million US citizens are currently in prison or jail, far more per capita than any country in the world. The US has 4.6 percent of the population of the world but 22.5 percent of the world’s prisoners. Each year this war costs the US another 70 billion dollars. Despite all the lives destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much easier to access than they were at the beginning of the war on drugs, 40 years ago. Meanwhile, people continue dying on the streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer, more powerful, better armed.

Not one of the stated US drug policy goals of lowering the incidence of crime, addiction, drug availability, or juvenile drug use, has been achieved. Instead, our approach has magnified these problems by creating a self-perpetuating, ever-expanding policy of destruction, yet the US still insists on continuing the war and pressuring other governments to perpetuate these same unworkable policies. The drug war wreaks havoc, funds terrorism, and causes major corruption around the globe. This is the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease!

With this in mind, current and former members of law enforcement have created a drug policy reform group called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). Supporters of LEAP believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition. LEAP believes a system of regulation and control is far more effective than one of prohibition.

Please join us for this important discussion!

Guest Speaker:  Jim Doherty:

Jim Doherty prosecuted drug users as a chief prosecutor and also helped keep them in jail as a corrections officer. Prior to attending law school, Jim spent a year working as an “alternatives worker” getting criminal defendants into drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and spent a year as a cell block officer in a large county jail. He later gained experience with the opposite perspective by serving as a public defender. In total, he has been practicing law for over thirty years, including several years as a felony public defender in Oregon, several as a municipal prosecutor for Washington cities, and two years as the Chief Prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office in American Samoa.

Jim describes his criminal legal experience as an exercise in futility when dealing with drug issues. “The legal prohibition of drugs has clogged our courts and jails, and has led to an out-of-control black market that destroys the lives of too many people, both here in America and abroad.”

He is part of the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project, which was the country’s first county-wide collaboration to look at and work towards alternatives to America’s longest war. He is also a member of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. Since 1993, Jim has served as a full time legal consultant with Municipal Research & Services Center, a non-profit organization providing research assistance to cities and counties in the State of Washington.

About InspireSeattle:

InspireSeattle is a progressive network of Seattle-area people sharing ideas and supporting action. InspireSeattle’s vision is to create connection throughout our community and better community through activism. InspireSeattle’s mission is to provide a fun, supportive gathering for people who care deeply about our community, our country and our planet. We embrace progressive policies that improve our society and protect our environment. We discuss current issues, share ideas and activism efforts while striving to inspire additional action. Subscribe (or unsubscribe) to InspireSeattle by visiting www.inspireseattle.org/contact.html.

When: April 25th at 6:30PM. Please try to be on time!!!

Where: Toni Merritt’s place, 1334 44th Ave SW, Seattle WA 98116, 773-495-4398.

Google map: https://www.google.com/maps/place/1334+44th+Ave+SW,+Seattle,+WA+98116/@47.5909059,-122.386944,19z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x54904073f9488d41:0x4c67063a02b81ccf

Directions: Go west over the West Seattle bridge – take the Admiral Way exit – go up hill to California Ave SW – go right (north) on California – go 8 blocks to Atlantic – go left (west) on Atlantic – go right at 44th (first intersection) – first house on right.


It’s a potluck: so please help out and bring something to eat and to drink!

6:30 to 7:45: Social time! Eat, drink, relax, and catch up with some other local progressives

Formal discussion and guest speakers, 7:45 to 9:30

Other Announcements – got any?

Rules of Engagement!

1. So that everyone has a chance to participate, please keep your comments short

2. Raise one’s hand to ask a question in lieu of shouting out

3. Respect the points of views of others

4. No arguing of politics during the formal discussion – save that for afterwards!

Christopher Kennedy Lawford: the pain of addiction, the hope of recovery

Christopher Kennedy Lawford brings his insights into addicition and recovery to Seattle, March 19.
Credits: womensconference.org

As a thirteen-year-old with great expectations, he aspired to follow the life trajectory of his uncle: attend and excel at a prestigious university; engage in a distinguished military career; publish an award-winning book at a relatively young age; pursue a successful path in politics; and, naturally, become President of the United States. If that’s what his uncle John F. Kennedy was able to achieve, well then, reasoned youthful Christopher Kennedy Lawford, why couldn’t he?

One of Chris Lawford’s earliest—and fondest—memories is of being awakened early in the morning of July 13, 1960 by Uncle John in Los Angeles. “Christopher,” said Uncle John as he sat on the edge of his five-year-old nephew’s bed, “I’ve been nominated to be President of the United States. Will you help me?”

“I was mesmerized by the whole American political spectacle,” says Lawford, recalling how he did indeed “help” his uncle by sporting a little red jacket, tie, and American flag during the wild tumult of the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

When Uncle John was assassinated just over three years later, it was a horrible blow to Chris and all the extended Kennedy clan. Not to mention the entire nation. But there was still hope. Chris turned to another uncle, Bobby, for inspiration.

“Uncle Bobby was the most profound influence in my young life,” Lawford says. Uncle Bobby always seemed to be there for Christopher, was continually involved with the family. He constantly urged his nephew to explore life, and, no matter what the game or contest, Uncle Bobby saw to it that “no one sat on the sidelines; everybody played.”

That hope ended abruplty with yet another assassin’s bullet when Robert F. Kennedy was cut down in June of 1968, just as his presidential campaign was reaching its climax.

It was the “Summer of Love.” But it devolved into a summer of despair for thirteen-year-old Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Subjected to such immense pain and trauma in raw adolescence, Chris began looking for a way out. Something to help him feel better. Laments Lawford, “I spent the next seventeen years trying to ‘feel better.’”

What began as teenage experiments with LSD escalated into chronic heroin and alcohol abuse. “I knew I had a problem at the age of twenty,” Lawford says, “but it took me ten years to get sober. I tried everything…nothing worked.”

But eventually, one miserably cold day in Boston, 1986, Chris hit rock bottom and began to look up.

By late 1986, Christopher Kennedy Lawford found himself wallowing in a miasma of drugs and alcohol, both despite and because of his rich family heritage from the political Kennedy clan and high-profile actor/father Peter Lawford. Feeling his great expectations might never be realized, he considered his life to be over and contemplated suicide. Then it happened.

Chris Lawford experienced a “moment of surrender, a window of opportunity,” during which he resolved to do whatever he was told to do in order to change his life. Lawford frequently emphasizes the need for such a moment in his incredibly insightful writings about addiction and recovery. Is it a spiritual revelation? Perhaps.

Chris describes it as a gut-level feeling of submission: “Please help me!” And there is help. With that help—and it may take a long time or not—anyone can move from slavery to toxic compulsions into recovery.

Addicts, observes Lawford in his latest book Recover to Live, are driven by self-centeredness. Once that self-centeredness is overcome by the realization that there is, indeed, something greater than you, then the process of reaching out for help can begin. The ultimate prize of recovery, and what Christopher Kennedy Lawford regards as his proudest achievement, is “my freedom to be me.” Finally unchained from his perceived legacy, toxic relationships, and the other assorted carry-on baggage of his previous life, Lawford revels in the possibility to examine his untapped talents and explore his future.

And he firmly believes we as a society ought to foster those opportunities for all Americans. How? For one thing, “nutrition and healthcare should be affordable for everyone.” Why? Because “physical health is mental health.” Can’t have one without the other, as Chris sees it, and everyone should have access to both.

Universal health care is one priority for Chris Lawford. A national dialogue about mental health is another. Having come from a family scarred by divorce and murder, and seen first-hand the ugly influence of poverty, Lawford insists that “we (Americans) have to overcome this enormous ignorance and shame” we feel when it comes to talking about mental health.

“My family, generationally, was obliterated by gun violence,” Chris recalls, as he bemoans right-wing political hysteria that points accusing fingers at scapegoats and scarecrows instead of engaging in genuine discussion about the root causes of social ills like aggression and addiction.

“People that care about this as a social justice issue have to get involved,” Lawford implores. If it’s left up to politicians and insurance companies dealing behind closed doors, nothing will get done.

Perhaps we as a nation need to recognize our addiction to fear, surrender our ignorance, and recover our possibilities?


  • Christopher Kennedy Lawford will be appearing in Seattle at Elliott Bay Books Tuesday, March 19, 7:00pm. He’ll be signing copies of his latest book, Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, an extensive exploration of the possibilities for self-treatment of toxic compulsions from drugs to gambling to sex and pornography.
  • Earlier in the day, at 7:30am, Chris will be speaking at an Invest in Youth breakfast for Youth Eastside Services, at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

Originally published at Examiner.com.

WA legislators propose standardized tax rates for all marijuana

Two House Democrats introduced legislation today that would standardize tax rates for all sales of marijuana.

Marijuana leaf

Sponsored by Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48) and House Finance Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle (D-36), HB 1789 would create a consistent regulatory scheme for marijuana transactions.

“A responsible regulatory system requires that we have consistent, transparent oversight and tracking mechanisms, and that taxes be applied evenly,” said Rep. Hunter, “or we will create a lucrative black market.”

Washington voters approved recreational cannabis use last November with Initiative 502.

“We’re very concerned that having two systems, one almost completely without oversight, would make it difficult to win federal approval for overall marijuana legalization,” said Rep. Carlyle.  “It will distort the market and drive non-medical use inappropriately into the medical channel.”

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee will hear HB 1789 this Friday, February, 15th at their 1:30 PM meeting.

For interviews or more information:

Rep. Ross Hunter 360-786-7936 or ross.hunter@leg.wa.gov

Staff: Kristen Mattern 360-786-7936 or kristen.mattern@leg.wa.gov

See Standardized Tax Rates for all Marijuana

The ugly origin of the war on drugs

After serving his time federal prison, John Ehrlichman granted an interview to author Dan Baum, who reports that Ehrlichman explained the origin of the war on drugs this way:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Source: The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-changing Stories. Edited by Larry Smith, Harper Perennial, 2012.

Scouring the News for Signs of Intelligent Life

Lots of coverage of the republican primaries out there. Few signs of intelligent life in that pile of smoking offal. Going to move on. There must be more important stuff going on. Mr. Fish strikes again

Oh, here we go: Chris Hedges has a good piece in Truth Dig about the NDAA – National Defense Authorization Act – and what a dangerous piece of legislation the NDAA truly is. Like the presidential authority to use drone weaponry to assassinate US citizens or our “enemies” anywhere in the world, this NDAA piece of legislation may look less scary to some in the hands of President Obama (I don’t know why that is? He’s pretty aggressive.) than it might look in the hands of a President Palin, but once presidential authority is asserted, it is seldom relinquished, so you have to look ahead at how the NDAA would work with President Santorum or the like. I don’t like.

Indefinite military detention. Hmm…

On another front SCOTUS Inc. came out with another 5-4 decision that says if you are arrested for any offense, no matter how minor, the jail is entitled to strip search you for a close visual inspection. A bid Thank You to the 4 who voted against, but you lost and so did we.

The plaintiff in the underlying case Florence v. County of Burlington was strip searched twice after he was arrested for failure to pay a fine. The fine had been paid, the arrest should not have occurred, but two strip searches later, Albert W. Florence (a black man) was released. He was a passenger in his BMW when his wife was pulled over for speeding and the records search produced the erroneous arrest warrant matter.

hmm… sometimes the authorities simply get it wrong, right? Those things happen. No harm, no foul, says Justice Anthony Kennedy. At least no harm that he can see.

I monitor a national police oversight listserv and caught this story regarding the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman shooting death that continues to build public outrage: The Elusiveness of Police Accountability.

There is something particularly scary about a cop wannabe packing a 9 mm weapon and patrolling a neighborhood. Judgment, training, – there are a lot of things missing in this community security package. Bu, the Atlantic Cities story tells the story of 18 yo Ramarley Graham, who was chased into his house by NY police and shot dead in the bathroom. He is reported to have been unarmed and in possession of a small quantity of marijuana. The point of the Atlantic Cities piece is that if Trayvon had been shot by a police officer instead of a cop wannabe, there would be a lot less news coverage of the event. That’s probably true. There is something really disturbing about the fact that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after dispatch advised to stop. With Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin we appear to have two deaths that just didn’t need to happen.

We don’t know if Ramarley was wearing a hoodie when he was shot. That seems to be scary attire. I am wearing my hoodie every day now.

Here are some facts that I think are inescapable:

Justice is elusive. Handguns are ubiquitous. Armed men who think they need to keep the peace are dangerous to young black men.

My solution? Reduce the number of weapons in the community. Gun control. Buy back programs. Interference in the realm of handgun commerce. A big government type solution to a big public problem.

Yep, a like a little big government from time to time, but I am not too crazy about the NDAA and Scotus Inc.

Resolution to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana

(The following resolution has been adopted by numerous state Democratic organizations, as shown at the bottom)


Endorse and Support the Passage of Initiative Measure No. 502
To Legalize, Tax, and Regulate Marijuana for Adults 21 and Over

WHEREAS thousands of Washington adults are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for simple marijuana possession each year, wasting millions of dollars in police, court, and jail resources that could be redirected to more important public safety priorities;

WHEREAS marijuana is Washington’s second biggest cash crop and could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues for the state if brought out of the illicit market, regulated, produced by licensed Washington businesses, and taxed;

WHEREAS legalizing marijuana and bringing it under regulatory control would have a significant impact on the illicit profits supporting violent criminal organizations;

WHEREAS simple marijuana-possession charges now account for fully half of all drug arrests in Washington;

WHEREAS possession of even a small amount of marijuana for personal use is a criminal charge requiring court appearances and carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-four hours in jail and a $250 fine, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees;

WHEREAS these short-term consequences disrupt lives and create financial hardship for many;

WHEREAS even a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession can result in long-term consequences like loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of federal financial aid for college, termination of child visitation rights, and deportation and exclusion of legal immigrants;

WHEREAS, although white Washingtonians use marijuana at slightly higher rates, people of color are more frequently arrested, charged, and convicted for marijuana possession, resulting in a disproportionate impact on the communities struggling most to achieve social and economic justice;

WHEREAS in Washington, an African American is three times as likely to be arrested, three times as likely to be charged, and three times as likely to be convicted for a marijuana offense as a white Washingtonian, despite the fact that whites use marijuana at slightly higher rates;

WHEREAS evidence-based prevention programs, community support for at-risk families, education, and healthcare are more cost-effective strategies for reducing the risk of substance abuse than incarcerating people for marijuana use and saddling them with criminal records;

WHEREAS Initiative Measure No. 502 will legalize, tax, and regulate the purchase and possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults aged 21 and over;

WHEREAS Initiative Measure No. 502 will authorize the Washington State Liquor Control Board to license private individuals to produce, refine, and sell marijuana in marijuana-only stores, and to adopt regulations addressing safety, security, sanitation, quality control, labeling, and advertising;

WHEREAS Initiative Measure No. 502 will generate an estimated $215 million in new tax revenues each year, with roughly $80 million going to the state general fund and local budgets, and $135 million earmarked for substance abuse prevention, research and education, healthcare, and programs for at-risk youth;

WHEREAS Initiative Measure No. 502 will create a per se DUI threshold of 5 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood for the psychoactive marijuana component THC, and this per se limit will not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC that can appear in blood and urine tests for days or even weeks after last use; and

WHEREAS Initiative Measure No. 502 will not change Washington’s medical marijuana law, but it will provide patients new protection from arrest for possessing marijuana and new access to licensed, regulated sources of quality-controlled and Washington-produced marijuana;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we (1) endorse Initiative Measure No. 502 to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over, and (2) urge our members, and all Democrats in King County, to participate actively in the campaign to gather signatures for Initiative Measure No. 502.

Adopted ____________________ by __________________________________

Submitted by Lisa Mc Shane, lisa@newapproachwa.org,

Previously endorsed by the 11th, 30th, 36th, 39th, and 43rd District Democrats, and the Washington State Democratic Central Committee