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Sunday, June 21, 2009

The War on Drugs: Video of The forum

Thanks to Vinny Brown we have great footage of the entire forum. Once again I would like to officially acknowledge Vinny for filming, editing and posting the entire event, The Other Side for hosting and Pete Bianco for his courage and creativity. I also want to thank everyone (panel and public) that participated.

Discussions like this happen all the time. We, like minded people need to galvanize our efforts into some common sense policies that treat addicts instead of punish them.
The next step in this process is The New York State assembly and Senate. Each have bills currently awaiting passage for medicinal marijuana.

The legalization door is your assemblyman or woman and let them know how you feel.
Zogby and Braden Ritter each have polls...we know we have the numbers.

Speak constituents!!!

This is just the beginning of this conversation here in central New York but be rest assured ,like California and recently Rhode Island, New York State is poised to stay at the forefront of progressive social issues like Medical Marijuana.

The momentum is growing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fighting The War on Drugs: A Re-cap

On May 20th we were fortunate enough to get a little media coverage. Yours truly (David Dancy) considered dusting off the ol' press pass and submitting copy of my own. But I am true to my belief that 'real' journalism is objective.
Since I was intimately involved in all phases of planning and implemention of this event I recused myself from covering it as a journalist.
The Observer Dispatch did send a reporter and I think she did a great job of bringing this conversation to the forefront.
Enjoy and get involved...with something.
Legalizing drugs was the topic of conversation during a panel discussion about America’s drug policy late last month.
About 50 people attended the panel discussion, that took place on May 20 at The Other Side on
2011 Genesee Utica. Topics ranged from policy reform, to the legalization of all drugs – from marijuana to heroin and even methamphetamine.
“I think it is okay for adults to use drugs responsibly,” Pete Bianco said after a panel discussion.
Bianco who organized the event with David Dancy, knows his remark is controversial. “I think this is very difficult, because we’ve been told different lies."
The panel included Peter Christ, a retired police captain and the founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP); Larry Tanoury, Jr., Oneida County legislator for the 25th District; J. Barrett Lee, a former addictions counselor and vicar of the Free Episcopal Church, and Jessica Maxwell of the Syracuse Peace Council.
Dancy said the goal of the event was “to open up the dialogue.”
“Neither me nor Pete have any answers,” he said. “But what we do know is what we’re doing now is not working.”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Bianco said. “And the more I look at it, the more problems there are with ‘The War on Drugs.’”
Bianco cited racism, the number of people imprisoned on drug charges, the amount of money spent on the War on Drugs and the effect of American drug policy on other nations as some of the problems with the current stance on illicit drugs.
“Originally, I was thinking (of) The War on Drugs as needing reform,” Bianco said. Now, however, he believes in legalization.
Each of the panelists gave a brief presentation and then answered questions from those in the audience. Christ said generating a dialogue is a first step to finding a solution. LEAP’s stated mission is “to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs, and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.”“Law enforcement is here to protect people from each other,” Christ said, not to protect adults from themselves.
Lee said when the average person thinks of “The War on Drugs in America,” they think of an “African American youth standing on a street corner flashing gang colors,” not celebrities or star athletes or suburban teens. But, he said, these people are also affected by drug use.
“Everyone in America is touched by the issue of drugs in some way,” Dancy said.Lee compared the War on Drugs to a “V.”At the two tops of the V, he said, there are rich and powerful people – international organized crime (the source of the drugs) on one side and on the other, celebrities who use drugs without recourse. At the bottom of the “V,” are disenfranchised individuals who are often targeted by law enforcement. “The War on Drugs is essentially a war on the poor,” Lee said. As a former addictions counselor, Lee added that prohibition is hurting those who need to seek help, because they do not want to be labeled as an addict or be followed by that stigma. “This is blocking people from seeking the treatment that they need,” Lee said. “Through this moral mythology … we are hurting people.”
Maxwell spoke about the effects of the U.S. War on Drugs on other nations, specifically Colombia. The Colombian military has a long record of human rights abuses, and Colombia is home to a significant percentage of the world’s flora. The War on Drugs has spurred aerial assaults with powerful herbicides and forced manual eradication of cocoa by the military. “Cocoa is not cocaine,” Maxwell emphasized.
Laurel Richards of New Hartford came to hear Jessica Maxwell speak about Colombia, having recently returned from the South American nation herself. She said, she listened to the other panelists with interest. “It makes total sense,” she said.
Nicole Vitteli, 21, of Whitesboro attended, she said, in an effort to become more educated on different issues. At the end of the discussion, she said she hadn’t yet formed an opinion.
An interest in the issue of racism is what drew Dr. Sunithi Bajekal of Utica to the forum, she said.
Panelists agreed that the current social and political climate offers an opportunity for change.The recession offers an opportunity for anti-prohibition activists, Christ said, calling the War on Drugs, which costs almost $70 billion annually, an economic luxury.“I think we’re closer now than we ever were,” Tanoury said. However, he cautioned, those who want to see change cannot get “complacent” and must “keep the pressure on.”Dancy said that he and Bianco hope to continue the discussion at future forums and sessions including more local political leaders.
“We’re going to keep having the conversation,” Dancy said.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Listen and Share

My summer hours on WHCL 88.7 f.m. are Thursdays 6-8 p.m.
Feel free to call in and listen

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stand up and be Counted

May 20th was great. The public forum which was a discussion on rethinking our current drug laws was well attended and informative. A representative from Oneida County Sherriff Dan Middaugh's drug task force attended, NYS Senator Joe Griffo also sent a rep.
We invited the District Attorney of Oneida County, The Mayor of Utica, The Utica Police Department and members of the Mohawk Valley Substance abuse industry. The DA Mayor and police did not send anyone.
But they were there in spirit.
Before the festivities began I had an opportunity to speak with Middaugh's rep (name withheld). He admitted his frustration with our current situation. He has seen many lives turned upside down as a result of use and interdiction. We both admitted our shortcoming when it comes to a solution but we both agreed that something needs to be changed.
"I just don't know Dave... I just don't know"
Our approach perhaps?
Our perspective?
The notion of good and bad drugs maybe?
Ironically he alluded to the current battle in the sherriff's rural jurisdictions which has less to do with Crack (COCAINE) and Heroin ("bad bad drugs") and more to do with legally obtained prescriptions.

Peter Christ from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) provided a wealth of facts to illuminate the insanity of our government's current stance when it comes to controlled substances.
The discussion panel was assembled to address all the different variables.
Jessica Maxell from the Syracuse Peace Council was able to shed light on the affects of our High demand on the economy of Columbia. A country rich in natural resources yet The Coca plant is somehow (duh) the main cash crop. She showed how we retard their progress through our symbolic ($) support of whatever political body is in power.
The FARC which controls part of the country is not part of that 'support' conversation. The FARC which collects a 'street tax' on Cocaine exports and is essentially a 'terrorist' organization that is allowed to operate with impunity are direct beneficiaries of the illegal trade. Remember we are just talking Coke.
There are other substances like heroin or opium that drive other 'terrorist' economies the same way. In fact cartels in South America recently (past ten years) have started to produce opium effectively putting a dent in Asia's global market dominance of that particular commodity by at least 25%.
I'm not into the details of The FARC's struggles but I bet it has lot to do with rural exploitation of natural resources and land. Poor people being treated like shit.
With our foreign policy on drugs we navigate a minefield of business and personal interest each invested in the current 'illegal' structure. She had great info.

It's obvious our laws do not address the real problems that are the result of drug and alcohol abuse. We have chosen punishment after the fact over prevention. We refuse to acknowledge the demand instead we put out a dragnet and lock up anyone feeding it. On the other end, the treatment side, we provide 'legal' alternatives like methadone which essentially are worse (for your body) than the drug they are designed to replace. We regulate crave suppresors like Soboxin (spelling is questionable here) so they are only available to a limited number of addicts.
Panel member J. Barrett Lee an Episcopalian Minister and Drug Abuse Counselor talked about the streets and legions of poor addicted people who have never had a real grip on their existence. People used to standing in lines since they were children learning how to use the system like a band-aid.
People who do not know how to fish.
He spoke of the revolving door into jail, rehab , back to the streets, chronic disease then death.
He talked about stigmas that keep these people on the periphery of society content in their need.
Very important when you are part of something. It is sometimes difficult to imagine not having a clue of what to do next. J Barrett Lee gave us that perspective.
Larry Tanoury Jr. 25th district Legislator in Oneida County made a panel appearance. He clearly admitted his lack of knowledge on the subject but considered his attendance mandatory because so many of his constituents are affected by The War on Drugs. He was clearly enthused by all the new information he recieved and felt he was part of something 'grounbreaking' in New York State.
A surprise speaker and Addiction Specialist out of Clinton New York ,Dr. Robert Lowenstein, offered clear testimony about the challenges he faces trying to treat addicts.
In mohawk valley there are over a thousand registered heroin addicts. Soboxin a crave suppressor has been proven very effective when it comes to heroin addiction. Only addictionologist are allowed to administer (up to one hundred scrips) this drug it is regulated by the DEA and each Doctor with permission to prescribe it has to take several courses and regularly reapply. In mohawk valley several Doctors recently lost the legal right to prescribe the drug causing a backlog. In his words "there here several hundred addicts, who overnight, were suddenly unable to obtain perfectly legal prescriptions that, to date, had enabled these people to go about their daily lives without a relapse".
Without these drugs you can guess what happens next.
It was a poignant moment. to hear from a doctors mouth how frutrating it is to actually try to help and how ridiculous he sounds to an addict that can easily get the real deal. The problem with the real deal is they, the addict, has to trade in their hard fought integrity by using a ' different drug' because it is illegal and demonized.
Ask Rush Limbaugh he knows more about it than me, in fact, I bet he knows more than some Doctors and Presidents.
Of course yours truly, David Dancy, facilitated the discussion with unequaled professionalism. there we a few people in attendance hell bent on tangents but we needed to keep this discussion on the topic.
I did that.
It was filmed and will be posted on You Tube in the near future.
Any visitor to Dancyscorner will be the first to know.