The Drug War Debate the Pols Want to Stifle

By Tony O'Neill 08/28/12

The Huffington Post's "Shadow Conventions" tackle subjects the Republicans and Democrats dodge. Here's a quick guide to a feast of drug-war reading.

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A protestor against the drug war in Mexico.
Photo via

While the Republicans and Democrats hold their respective conventions, the real action is happening online. The Huffington Post's Shadow Conventions aim to provide an alternative to the hot air and photo-ops of the donkey, elephant and pony shows—holding a spirited discussion on the subjects “they will not be talking about in Tampa and Charlotte.” Naturally, a major topic is the War on Drugs. At the RNC or the DNC it’ll no doubt be about as welcome a subject for discussion as pornography. But over at HuffPo you're spoilt for choice. Here are some highlights:

Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized” features a fascinating interview with Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol members Mason Tvert, Betty Aldworth and Brian Vicente, who talk about their hard work toward getting Proposition 64 passed in Colorado later this year. Prop 64 looks increasingly likely to pass—and if it does, Colorado will be the new front line in the war against pot prohibition.

We also have an illuminating—if rather depressing—glimpse into the lack of contrast between the presidential candidates when it comes to the subject of medical marijuana. While Romney has tried to remain tight-lipped on the subject—even grumbling to one reporter that he’s “not running on the issues of marriage or marijuana”—the indications we do have about his policies are hardly encouraging for progressives. And without vowing to fight marijuana legalization “tooth and nail,” Obama has been happily doing it anyway for the past four years. Ah, democracy.

Then there’s a look into how the American expat community in Mexico feels let down by US drug policies—a piece which rather unsurprisingly comes to the conclusion that when you can literally see, smell and touch the effects of the US-led war on drugs, the idea of spending trillions of dollars to stamp out marijuana use may seem a little…stupid. According to one American real-estate agent who works south of the border, "Many [expats] think that the US should legalize marijuana, which accounts for a large percentage of the profits of the cartels, tax it with revenues going to aid law enforcement along the border."

Next up, LEAP’s Leonard Freiling, a former judge and a leader in the bar of the State of Colorado, writes a spirited op-ed on why both major parties ignore the growing voter fatigue with the War on Drugs at their peril. And just in case it’s all getting a little too serious for you, check out this fun exploration of Hollywood’s evolving attitude toward the war on drugs, as expressed through movies like Scarface, Traffic and Midnight Express. Happy reading!

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.