2 Comments · Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The war on drugs is straining Ohio's criminal justice system and has failed to reduce drug use for decades. Experts say decriminalization and legalization could be part of the solution.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:40 PM | Permalink
UC professor suggests different approach to addressing opiate epidemic
Rises in heroin and prescription
painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the
country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that
encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the
dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing
out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent
prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to
address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a
policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity.
CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic?
Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big
increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and
plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing
much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other
things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started
distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along
the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they
can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users
can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally
use. That’s No. 1.
No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to
be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re
used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge
about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if
the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons
CB: The governor unveiled an initiative
essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use
with students. And then the state legislature is considering
strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know,
do these kind of solutions work?
IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a
mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure
on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them.
They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for
users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people
were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something
They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug
distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before,
so they’ve changed to something else.
I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is
dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell
students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that
these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine
they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is
dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know
CB: As you alluded to, one study
found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use
heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug
or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in
respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot
of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do —
and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a
crackdown on that.
Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they
decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium. So
all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are
more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths
because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know
what the dosage is.
CB: Based on your research, what kind of
solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about
Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose
program.IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is
to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to
get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most
of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but
maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing
what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the
street and buying from black-market dealers.
CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go
after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties,
criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are
huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they
could be doing better in this regard?
IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug
problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The
disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a
social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease
of the brain.
I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the
root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like
to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves
what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict.
Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter. …
But addiction problems are real problems. People really do
become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But
most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are
We can’t really expect the government to figure out all
these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more
rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and
Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way.
CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year,
Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say
gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked
about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization
could help put an end to this kind of violence?
IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and
that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re
related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs.
Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have
these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that
are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal.
It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many
people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally
screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding
CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons?
IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually
going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in
prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a
massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s
CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I
mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort
to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But
you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are
worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000
worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that?
IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs
tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have
been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium-
or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from
losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but
they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible
revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those
organization will be weakened.
I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to
arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology
to thwart the high technology being directed at them. …
Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states.
But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that
sort of thing.
The people, budgets and controversies CityBeat covered while writing about the streetcar all year
0 Comments · Thursday, December 26, 2013
Just like it was a big year for Cincinnati and Ohio, it was a big year for the CityBeat news team.
by German Lopez
War on drugs fails goals, housing complex raises concerns, courts deny parking challenges
With the war on drugs widely considered a failure after more than four decades, experts are suggesting legalization and decriminalization as viable alternatives.
One concern: Despite recent attempts at sentencing reform, Ohio’s
prison population is set to grow further and breach a capacity barrier
previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling against California.
With costs rising and drug use rates seemingly unaffected by harsher
enforcement, groups of academics, former law enforcement officials and civil
libertarians say it’s time to look at states and countries that have
abandoned criminalization and harsh enforcement with great success. To read the full story, click here.
A planned supportive housing facility in Avondale is raising concerns for residents
who claim the complex could hurt a neighborhood already plagued by
poverty, crime, obesity, unemployment and homelessness. Particularly
worrying for Avondale 29, the group opposing the plans, is that the
facility is near a daycare and elementary school, which the group says
could have a negative impact on neighborhood children. Supporters of the
facility say the opposition is based on widespread misinformation. They
point to a similar similar supportive housing facility in Columbus,
which, according to the Columbus Police Department’s Gary Scott, had
a positive impact on the community surrounding it.
Opponents of Cincinnati’s parking lease were dealt two major blows in court yesterday: The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear their first legal challenge and effectively upheld the city’s referendum-immune emergency powers, and the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court refused to place a temporary restraining order
on the lease despite claims that the city manager made “significant and
material” changes to the deal without City Council approval. Both the
challenges come from the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims parking rates and enforcement
hours will rise because the city is ceding too much power over its
services by leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority. Supporters of the parking lease argue the
plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets to finance
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.
Commentary: “Secrecy Plagues Potentially Good Programs.”
The city is fighting to have a document removed
from its legal battle over the streetcar with Duke Energy. City officials says the document is “nothing scandalous” and the city just
made a mistake by accidentally disclosing it, but a Duke attorney says
the document is a source of “embarrassment” for the city and important
to the case. As part of an agreement, Cincinnati and Duke are arguing in
court to settle who has to pay an estimated $15 million to move utility
lines to accommodate for the streetcar route.
Advocates of the federally funded Medicaid expansion yesterday filed petitions to the state attorney general’s office
to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. As part of Obamacare, states are
asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level. If they accept, the federal
government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three
years then indefinitely phase down to 90 percent. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure half a million Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and state Democrats support the expansion, but Republican legislators are resisting it.
More than two-thirds of Ohioans support laws that protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, but more than four in five mistakenly think such laws are already in place at the state and federal levels, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey also found a slim majority of Ohioans oppose amending the
state constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which somewhat
contradicts earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University that found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.
State agencies are probing the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison
in the past month. Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man who was sentenced to
life for kidnapping three women and beating and raping them as he held
them for a decade, was found hanging on Tuesday after an apparent
suicide. His death was the seventh suicide in an Ohio prison this year
and the 35th since 2008. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be,
the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and
others,” said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio, in a statement. “Questions remain whether Mr.
Castro was properly screened for suicide risk and mental illness.”
The Ohio Development Services Agency is offering $30 million in loans and grants
to employers who train their workforce. “Building a strong economy is
about ensuring Ohio’s workforce has the tools it needs for success,”
said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in
a statement. “We want our workforce to be ready for the competitive
jobs of tomorrow.”
Ohio legislators are asking the federal government to pursue a balanced-budget amendment.
Although the amendment might sound like a good idea in campaign
platitudes, many economists agree it’s a bad idea because it limits the
federal government’s flexibility in reacting to economic downturns that
typically cause deficits by lowering tax revenues and increasing the
amount of people on government services.
A Fairfield, Ohio, woman is being forced by the Fairfield Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of five of her seven dogs.
The woman, who says she suffers from depression, Parkinson’s disease and
multiple sclerosis, says she needs the dogs to cope. The zoning board
said it had heard anonymous complaints from neighbors, which apparently
convinced the board to not provide an exemption for Fairfield’s two-pet limit.Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is considering dropping some products and offering low-price alternatives for others in response to growing concerns about lacking performance.For the second time in a year, an Ohio judge is publicly shaming a convicted idiot.
A new implant allows doctors look into people’s brains.
by Danny Cross
It was “Rich People Voice Their Concerns Night” at city
councils across town last night, as proponents of the $1 sale of Music
Hall packed Cincinnati City Council chambers even though the proposed
lease deal wasn’t on the agenda. Mayor Mark Mallory insisted that any
middle ground that will allow the nonprofit Music Hall Revitalization
Co. to renovate the building will require that the city retain
Across town (and about 10 miles northeast toward the area with mass trees), Madeira City Council shot down a plan to
develop a luxury apartment complex on Camargo Road. Council voted 6-1 to
scrap the plan for a 184-unit complex after residents who voiced
concern said the complex would be “too dense” and take away from the
city’s single-family character. Word on the street is that the Council
majority didn’t want scumbag renters like this guy to be able to move
into the neighborhood and start playing music really loud out of their car stereos.
Cincinnati City Council yesterday pretty much canceled its
plans to build an atrium at City Hall. Six council members approved a
motion asking administrators to shut it down, and City Manager
Milton Dohoney says he’ll abide by it even though he technically doesn’t
have to because the funding was approved in a spending ordinance.
Council also voted yesterday to keep the property tax rate pretty much the same next year despite a projected deficit.
Now that the Supreme Court has temporarily upheld part of Arizona’s racist
controversial immigration law, no-name state legislators in Ohio and
Kentucky plan to break out the laws they couldn’t previously get passed.
According to The Enquirer’s Mark Curnutte (who apparently won a
national book award for his work covering poverty in Haiti — big ups,
Curnutte!), some dudes named Courtney Combs (R-Ross Township, Ohio) and
John Schickel (R-Union, Ky.) have some great ways to rid of their states'
illegal immigrants, at least until the court strikes down the rest of
New York Times: "Arizona Ruling Only a Narrow Opening for Other States"
Housing prices are going up in most cities due to low interest rates and cheap prices.
A new Obama campaign ad refers to Mitt Romney as “outsourcer in chief.” Ouch!
The War on Drugs is making the AIDS epidemic worse by driving people away from treatment, according to a report released today by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
California condors are being threatened by lead poisoning
from bullets left behind in dead carcasses shot by hunters, which the
Facebook changed users' listed email accounts, and people on the Internet are mad. Gizmodo explains how to fix it.
The Spice Girls are reuniting to create a musical called Viva Forever! at London's Piccadilly Theatre.
Some police say it’s time for end
1 Comment · Wednesday, June 15, 2011
What became clear to me while speaking about marijuana legalization with volunteers of the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is that the argument is really about responsibility. Are we as a society responsible for controlling what adults put into their own bodies? Or are individuals responsible for themselves? And is the Nixonian “war on drugs” — now in its 40th year — responsible for creating more problems than it solved?