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May 02, 2007

A Letter from the Gulag...and my Reply

A Letter from the Gulag...and my Reply
The following hand-written note from Dustin Costa, now serving a 15 year sentence in a federal ‘Correctional Facility’ in Texas was received yesterday afternoon. Because it seems so pertinent to current developments in the war on drugs, I’m posting it, together with my real-time reply.

Those who wish to write to Dustin should address mail to:
Dustin R. Costa 62406097
FCI Big Spring
Federal Correctional Institution
1900 Simler Ave
Big Spring, Tx  79720

Doctor Tom

                                                                                                                                                                                    4- 26-
Hi, Doc-
 Reviewing some of the ASA literature that _____ sent me, I got a sinking feeling, an epiphany of sorts, of how reform might “win,” and it is this: a great and unfortunate compromise is reached allowing doctors to prescribe Mj, but only for cancer, AIDS, and pain untreatable in any other way. Pharmaceutical companies will be the only entities permitted to produce pot and the gov’t will continue with the message that it is a dangerous drug and nothing changes in the war on drugs. ASA and NORML will declare victory while the arrests and prosecutions of the ‘mood disordered’ will continue.

Doom & Gloom? I don’t know, but it is a scenario that is likely enough to happen to keep me up at night; all the more reason for a demonstration program* similar to what I suggest.

ASA & NORML are close— perhaps within a year or so of achieving the kind of deal I describe. We CAN”T let them control this thing; if we do, we probably gain nothing and lose everything. It’s a gut reaction, probably a little paranoid, but I think there is good reason to beconcerned. What do you think?


* this refers to a ‘Pot 4 Meth’ program, an original idea of Dustin’s, conceived on the basis of his systematic interviews of county jail prisoners and federal prison inmates since  his arrest on August 5, 2005. An outline of the project in his own words will appear here soon.

Here’s the reply to Dustin’s query I'll mail later today:

May 2, 2007

Dear Dustin,

Rec’d your note of 4/26 yesterday; actually, I‘ve been concerned for quite some time that we’ve been heading in the same general direction your scenario suggests. In fact, I believe reform would settle for it right now and that any reluctance by the government probably comes from  doctrinaire crazies who still believe they can ‘uproot’ and ‘weed out’ illegal drug markets, in other words, true believers (mostly federal) who still can't accept that a policy that feeds them is both a short-term loser and long-term disaster.

Actually, if they’d been smarter back in 1937, they’d have made pot a limited prescription item, just like opium and coca derivatives were treated under the Harrison Act. They’d have accomplished what they wanted— and more. Whether Anslinger was more stupid than arrogant (we know he was both) is a moot point. What might have occurred, under a ‘schedule two’ status for pot in 1937 is the current prosecution (both state and federal) of pain doctors accused of prescribing opioids too liberally: if one of their patients dies, the doctor can be tried for murder; if, on the other hand, a patient resells  prescribed drugs, the doctor is tried as a drug dealer. I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but Dr. William Hurwitz of Virginia, who is about your age and whose 25-life sentence was recently overeturned on appeal, was just retried and the second jury also found him guilty. He’s due to be sentenced in a few weeks.

What it amounts to is that the American public remains convinced that 'legal' alcohol and tobacco are the only permissible drugs ordinary citizens should self-medicate with. Our male-dominated macho society has contempt for all emotional symptoms and barely trusts those for whom ‘legal’ pychotropic agents have been prescribed. One way understand that  is our national eagerness to punish 'perpetrators' who are obviously mentally ill; especially with illnesses that have been so poorly defined by Psychiatry.

As a nation, I’m afraid we’e far more vindictive than ‘compassionate.’

One way I see things changing for the better would be if government duplicity were completely exposed; but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. In a real sense, for those who think, it has already been exposed by the political battle over Iraq. It doesn’t help that, just like the war on drugs, neither side is being completely truthful

However, boy scout that I am, I continue to hope that if what we’ve learned is phrased in just the right language, it might convince enough thinking people see drug issues in a different light and eventually make a real difference. My reason for believing so is my own experience: I had no idea  where my ‘study’ would lead after intuiting five years ago that 215 had created a golden opportunity to study the phenomenon of pot use.

 Two years later, when I had enough data to report to my ‘allies’ in reform, I was forced to understand their nearly unanimous rejection of things I knew to be true, but they refused to even discuss. Thus, I was forced to answer an entirely new set of questions. As you might imagine, it’s been a lonely process; especially after the federal government was  prompted by its ‘success’ in the Raich case to reach out and pluck you off the street.

 Because your enthusiasm and organizing skills had made you such an effective ally, it was like losing my right arm. Among the things that have impressed me most about you have been your tenacity and ability to remain focused on basics despite the miserable circumstances you find yourself in; to say nothing of your forced abstinence from a helpful medicine.

BTW, I did find the original papers I’d misplaced and forwarded them all to Bill. I have retained copies which can be OCR’d (when I have a bit of time). Also, the paper is inching towards publication. Now seems like a time to be patient and respond to new opportunities as they present themselves.  I realize that’s a lot easier for me than for you...

in the meantime, please stay well and remain hopeful,


Posted by tjeffo at May 2, 2007 05:25 PM