Drug War Claims Four Lives in 24 Hours

If anyone had any doubts as to the major cause of violence in Baltimore, yesterdays events in Northeast Baltimore should allay them. The drug war has claimed 4 more lives in Baltimore City, and most likely played a part in a large number of the 57 murders so far in the city this year.

Via The Sun:

In Lauraville, a gunman shot into a car on a quiet side street hitting two people in what police say was the latest chapter of an ongoing turf war over the sale of marijuana. The victims' car careened down the street, slammed into a parked vehicle and triggered a pileup that startled residents. One of the men who was shot died.

Thats right, over POT sales. A drug that can basically be legally purchased on the West Coast is highly illegal in Maryland, and look what we get for it. Dead young men and no reduction in the availability of marijuana. It's disgusting really.

The shootings on List and Cliftmont avenues occurred 2 1/2 miles apart about 8:15 p.m. Bealefeld said police were aware of simmering tensions between rivals and tried to defuse them by talking with those involved, days before the shootings occurred. He said police also had deployed extra officers to the two areas in an attempt to prevent violence.

Police did everything they could, apparently, but it just wasn't enough. This is the sad reality of the cut-throat drug trade we have created through our misguided drug policies. Bitter rivals fighting to sell an extremely valuable product. Of course, the illegality of the product is what MAKES IT SO PROFITABLE and forces it onto the street instead of keeping it inside of the pharmacy or in the garden. I am not sure how to make the logic clearer, our drug policy is directly responsible for this violence.

Authorities said the shooting on List Avenue was connected to two feuding drug gangs, who some residents said were vying for crack cocaine distribution along Harford Road. Police were deployed in the area along Harford Road, but the shooting happened about four blocks west.

Drugs again, gangs too. With all the talk about gang violence, I wonder when the discussion comes in about how these gangs make their money? Could it be from drug sales? No one is asking, no one cares. Its all about guns and getting "guns off of the street". This is silliness. The problem isn't guns, its drugs, and more to the point, the illegal drug trade created through our prohibitionist policies. We have created the most profitable illegal market in the world, and we have no hope of shutting it down short of forcing it into legitimacy. Then we will see an end to the violence. When it is no longer attractive or profitable to sell drugs illegally, the violence will fall. The way to do this is to legalize drugs and create a legitimate market.

I feel like I have written that paragraph many times in slightly different forms. Its easy to repeat the same position when the same sorts of murders keep happening, motivated by the same drug trade. Our inability to acknowledge the truth is both disturbing and depressing. The murders will keep coming, and those in law enforcement and in the city council will continue to ignore the solutions that are staring them right in the face.


For those Following the NAACP/Bruce Gordon Fiasco

Mr. Gordon released a statement on the matter, and it is a MUST READ.

The most telling are the instances in which Mr. Gordon differed with the bloated NAACP board:

I have consistently said that the NAACP is bigger than one individual (me), and I believe that. Rupert Richardson’s quote confirmed the basis for my decision. I did not accept this position to follow orders. I did come here to help the association become more effective.

You should also know that I have spent the past two days trying to contact prospective donors that I have been cultivating for major gifts. I do not want them to “leave the table” in the wake of my departure. I will continue to make those calls but my initial efforts have not been fruitful. I don’t want to set false expectations. I have, however, succeeded at keeping two important Centennial Campaign volunteers involved in that initiative. That is good news.

I have read and received direct feedback from board members questioning what it is that is out of alignment. You deserve a response. Let me mention some examples:

§ Some Executive Committee members want to be directly involved in how I manage the staff. They want to approve organization structure. They want to make hire and fire decisions. They want to influence vendor selection. I view that as micromanagement.

§ Many directors and trustees do not feel that they have an obligation to fundraise. They are offended when I express appreciation for the success of some and the non-productivity of others. I believe that board members have an obligation to “give or get” money, particularly the SCF trustees.

§ I believe that the Centennial Plan (The “Pitch”) presented at last year’s annual meeting was a superb piece of work. It was developed with the consultative support of Booz Allen Hamilton. While it is not perfect, I see no evidence of a better strategic planning effort in recent years. The staff and I have subsequently provided detailed plans of execution for almost every part of the “Pitch” but my failure to stakeholder the effort has resulted in the Executive Committee asking me to develop a new document. I think there are more effective ways to use the limited capacity and resources of our staff.

§ From the beginning of my tenure I have been criticized for actions that I considered to be progressive. For instance:

Ø We initiated a Katrina Relief Fund that raised $2.6M but were chastised for not getting board approval first.

Ø I convened a meeting of national high profile leaders from across the country. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a unified position on post-Katrina government response. Instead of applauding this effort, I was faulted for attempting to “set policy.”

Ø I arranged one-on-one meetings with the President, Secretary of State, and Attorney General and was challenged for violating association policy planning to attend these meetings alone.

Ø We initiated a Medicare Part D enrollment effort and enlisted Bill Cosby and Danny Glover to create public service announcements but were told that this was a service initiative and we are an advocacy organization.

I have come to accept that my view of my role and the association’s role is not aligned with the board. I am willing to accept that our points of view regarding governance and strategic direction are in conflict. This is not about right or wrong…this is about difference. We can agree to disagree. We also could have found a way to blend the best of our respective points of view but in 19 months that did not happen.

Ouch! AAPP's opinion here. I generally agree.

HBO Continues to Impress

HBO will be hosting a new documentary series about addiction. I hope HBO approaches this topic with the same honesty they approached Hurricane Katrina along with Spike Lee, as well as the drug war in Baltimore on David Simon's The WIRE.

Its shows like The WIRE (which BET has thankfully purchased the rights to) and hopefully "Addiction" which will change American's perceptions about these issues.

For example, were you aware that 70% of addicts in America are in the workforce?


Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Maryland General Assembly

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know my position on illegal drugs: they should be legal.

This is why I am excited that Maryland could be taking the first steps towards eventual drug legalization, the legalization of marijuana use for medical purposes. Lets not delude ourselves for a second, though bills of this type do serve a medical purpose, they IN MY OPINION part of a larger strategy to legalize currently illegal drugs. As a thinking, liberty loving person, I welcome this legislation, and I hope it gets out of committee (fat chance, I think).

Some info:
Currently under state law, individuals using the drug for medical reasons can still be arrested and prosecuted for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, but caps the fine at $100.

Should the legislation pass, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would issue picture identification cards to patients who qualify to use marijuana for medical purposes. The proposal also exempts caregivers from arrests, penalties and disciplinary action.

"This is recognizing the beneficial use of marijuana and the fact that some people need it," said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, D-Baltimore. "We understand what the federal government is saying, but we also recognize the federal government is not going to spend any energy on a person who has six little plants."

Yes, yes, yes, people who "need" it. Perhaps Maryland should allow those under 21 who can prove they need to drink red wine for "medical purposes" to buy a bottle of Merlot when the whimsy hits.

Need aside, a joint is about as dangerous as a stiff drink. I like bills like these because they are the only way to advance the "legalization" debate without being called insane. I dislike them because they are disingenuous. The public who back these proposals are most likely legalization proponents, some are possibly causal users. This places those who support this legislation in a position where they must argue for legislation that only does half of what we want. Those arguing against are stalwartly defending the same line that they always have. It immediately places us at a disadvantage in the public eye and in the legislatures.

I hope this bill passes, or at least gets some debate on the floor. Either way, its only a start.

Bush Policy Could Streamline Illegal Drug Importation From Mexico

Very good framing going on over at African American (Black) Opinion.

It seems that GWB has opened up new trucking routes out of Mexico. AAO seems to think that this will lead to a great expansion of the drug war, particularly in inner cities, because of the direct access these trucks will now have.

As Baltimore continues to rack up the bodies, this is an important development. So anyway, wonderful frame-job over at AAO, and I will be keeping tabs on this story.

(BTW, I will be spending a lot more time blogging over at the new Free State Politics, but I will still be blogging here, though less frequently (maybe). I hope to make this blog more Baltimore-centric, with a comments on the national scene (for what its worth) intermittently.