On May 31, Ross Ulbricht lost his appeal with the Second Circuit appellate court. He will serve out the remainder of his life sentence, a sentence passed down in part due to allegations that he commissioned multiple murders-for-hire. Whether or not Ulbricht ordered these hits, his case illustrates how, by criminalizing drugs, the United States government has created an institution that incentives violence.
Ulbricht did not begin with violent intentions. He was an Eagle Scout who founded The Silk Road as a beacon of freedom. He agonized over the idea of a hit: As Wiredreports, “He had talked to Inigo [an employee] about how he just wishes the best for people, and loves them in the libertarian spirit—even Green [Ulbricht’s first alleged target], in flagrante delicto.” But for Ulbricht and others involved in the drug industry, violence was in his self interest…
Today on the podcast, Stephen Kent and Lucy Steigerwald discuss the Office of Drug Control Policy and 2018 budget from the White House that shows a 95% cut to their budget. Is this cause for excitement if you want to see the drug war wound down? Lucy is reluctant to celebrate.
On Friday, news broke that Donald Trump’s 2018 budget would reportedly cut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by almost 95 percent. According to CNN, who got the draft themselves, this means the ONDCP would fall “from a $380 million budget to $24 million.”
Libertarians and other anti-prohibitionists should be careful not to celebrate too early. The drug war, like life, tends to find a way. The draft memo justifies these cuts mostly in terms of redundancy. And we will still have a DEA, Chris Christie’s shiny new anti-opioid task force, and myriad federal, state, and local drug laws. Drug warriors may be having a bad day, but they shouldn’t panic too much.
President Trump’s “very friendly conversation” with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte included an invitation for a White House visit, though the latter says he may be too busy to accept. The invitation reportedly shocked Trump’s own top officials, who weren’t consulted before it was extended, and was met with horror by human rights groups.
According to the White House readout, the two leaders “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs,” and Duterte has previously said that Trump has commended him for how he’s dealt with drug dealers.
But Duterte’s drug war is not just a war with cartels, or SWATs teams kicking in doors, as might might be familiar to people in North America but extrajudicial death squads responding to the president’s declaration of open season. And it’s not just talk. Some 8,000 people have been killed already—not counting many more “suicides” by those in police custody—and Duterte was elected only last year.
Atlanta’s city council is contemplating making a smart move by decriminalizing marijuana possession (up to an ounce) within city limits. The current ludicrous threat of jail time would be replaced with a paltry $75 fine.
Many say Atlanta has a major policing problem along racial lines—more black residents are getting arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, to an eery degree. Proponents of this new policy say decriminalization could partially ease those tensions.
Currently, punishments vary for first-time possession of up to an ounce. On the second offense, however, you can pay up to $1000 in fines and spend up to one year in jail. Possessing more than an ounce can result in one to ten years behind bars.
A $75 fine would be a welcome change and would show that Atlanta is yet another in a long list of cities attempting to restore sanity to drug sentencing.