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One War or Another: It's Bongs Over Baghdad

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 2, 2003.

  1. By Ben Rayner
    Source: Toronto Star

    It must have been heartening for every American bunkered down behind duct-taped doors and windows, nervously awaiting a smallpox outbreak or mustard-gas attack, to see their federal authorities could still find time away from the arduous task of combating international terrorism last week to fight a new bogeyman: the bong.
    The War on Drugs needs a little sexing up for the public eye every so often, something to distract the populace from the fact that it's been a dismal failure from the perspective of everyone but the thriving U.S. prison industry.

    When the War on Terror threatened to steal what was left of its flagging thunder, for instance, anti-drug forces responded by linking the two and warning narcotics consumers that the money they spend on recreational pharmaceuticals could potentially be trickling back into the hands of terrorist organizations.

    "If you get high, kids, the terrorists win," was the message - coming, rather unfairly, at a time when a lot of fearful people are feeling an uncommonly strong urge to do just that. Drug users were no longer just immoral human beings and criminals to be pitied and incarcerated en masse. No, the stoners were bringing the country down from within.

    Now, in what can only be seen as a rather wobbly attempt to save face in a long, losing battle, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is crying "victory" in a whole new conflict spun off from the War on Drugs, one we'll dub the War on Drug Paraphernalia.

    The DEA made a proud announcement this past week that it had snared 55 individuals in countrywide raids on businesses allegedly manufacturing, importing and selling bongs, pipes, scales and other varieties of "illegal drug paraphernalia."

    Amidst all the "that's one for the good guys" back-slapping and alarmist rhetoric emanating from the various law-enforcement agencies involved, however, there was no mention of anything being done to physically curb the actual drug trade that enables the paraphernalia business to take in an estimated $50 million (U.S.) in the States annually.

    At the end of the day, "Operation Pipe Dreams," as the crackdown was creatively named, did nothing more than screw up the lives and livelihoods of several dozen entrepreneurs and provide the authorities with an elaborate media stunt to disguise the fact that they're not doing their real job.

    Inventing a problem is always a handy political tool for manipulating public opinion and diverting attention from the numerous things you're not doing. We've seen the same tactic at work here in Toronto numerous times - when former Ontario education minister John Snobelen got caught musing about "creating a crisis" to ram the Harris government's school reforms through the provincial Legislature, for example, or when the Toronto police force made somewhat spurious claims about seizing guns at raves three years ago to exaggerate the (virtually non-existent) dangers of the after-hours party scene and hasten a clampdown.

    America must be resting a little easier tonight, now that it's dealt with all those Graffix bongs, tiny coke spoons and crack pipes - the latter's not a hot seller, I suspect, since committed crackheads are more likely to shoplift a pipe or crudely fashion one from a discarded can than they are to walk into a head shop and say, "Hello, might I have a look at your selection of crack pipes, please?" What a crippling blow to the drug trade. Surely the demand for marijuana and blow will dry up now that no one has any means of ingesting them. This War on Drugs is winnable, after all!

    "People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different from drug dealers," was DEA chief John Brown's ludicrous statement to the press. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."

    No different from drug dealers, that is, except they don't deal drugs. And, if we're to be picky about the structure of Brown's second statement, wouldn't it be more accurate to relate dealers of drug paraphernalia to those who supply murderers with the "paraphernalia" of criminal homicide - gun dealers, let's say - rather than silencers? A silencer is more akin to a roach clip or a glass bowl for a bong; it's an accessory, a tool of the trade. But, I suppose, following logic on this matter might imply some justification for an America-wide crackdown on weapons manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and that's not coming anytime soon.

    As usual, puritanical U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft found a way to foment middle-class panic by noting that a dozen of the businesses raided were Internet operations that "in some cases" had been targeting "young people" with their products (smart business, really, since young people tend to do the most drugs).

    "The illegal drug-paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," he cautioned, employing the same sort of broadly generalized non-reasoning favoured by his colleagues in the DEA. One would think, after all, that anyone ordering a freebase kit from an online retailer is well aware that the illegal drug-paraphernalia industry has "invaded" - or, rather, been invited into - his or her home.

    The Internet angle is nevertheless a convenient, subtle way of implying a need for stricter monitoring of cyberspace, which - if we're to believe the news - is already a minefield of perverts, child pornographers and con artists preying on our "young people." And, as we all know, governments these days are all hot and bothered about monitoring everything and everyone. For the greater good, of course.

    It's all - to use a vaguely drug-related idiom - smoke and mirrors, an empty triumph of law and order over a symptomatic "evil" that wouldn't exist had a much larger problem been dealt with sanely and efficiently in the first place. Create a crisis and proclaim yourself a hero, while changing nothing.

    If I weren't already so tired of talking about the States, I'd say that sounds awfully familiar.

    Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
    Author: Ben Rayner
    Published: March 2, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star

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