If the War on Drugs Is Failing, Where’d All the Cocaine Go?
Toward the end of last year, the DEA published its 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, a 28-page report chronicling drug consumption trends across the United States. These include the continued rise in abuse of prescription drugs (second only to marijuana in popularity), the increase in the production of heroin in Mexico and its availability in the U.S., and the emergence of synthetic designer drugs.
Much of the report is unremarkable—until you arrive at the section on cocaine. “According to [National Seizure System] data,” it reads, “approximately 16,908 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the southwest Border in 2011. During 2012, only 7,143 kilograms of cocaine were seized, a decrease of 58 percent.”
That sharp decline echoes an ongoing trend: 40 percent fewer people in the United States used cocaine in 2012 than they did in 2006; only 19 percent of Chicago arrestees had cocaine in their system two years ago compared to 50 percent in 2000; and less high school seniors say they’ve used cocaine in the last 12 months than at any time since the mid-70s. In fact, the report indicates cocaine was sporadically unavailable in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and St. Louis in the spring of 2012. So where’d the blow go?
Buying Your Drugs Online Is Good for You
Silk Road 2.0, the successor to the deep web’s most infamous marketplace, just passed a new milestone. Despite a dramatic holiday season, when three of its staff and several vendors were arrested on conspiracy charges, there are now over 10,000 narcotics listings on its pixelated shelves. And, according to its acting administrator “Defcon”, traffic to the website has doubled since December.
So it appears that the site—where you can anonymously get your hands on pretty much any substance you want, as well as a bunch of other illegal stuff that you’d usually need Turkish mob connections to access—is just as resilient to the feds as its current ownershad promised it would be.
And far from the digital trap house many have depicted it to be, Silk Road 2.0 has continued its predecessor’s aim of allowing drug users to make informed decisions about their use of psychoactive substances, both by providing products that are open to quality checks and through the spread of honest information about how to take those products as safely as possible.
Dimebag’s Last Christmas
I don’t know if you’ve ever met any of your untouchable, godlike, rock ’n’ roll heroes. But I have, many times, and it usually sucks. They’re never as impressive as when you first saw them in a magazine, and I should know—I’m a photographer, and it’s my job to make rock stars look cool in magazines. I’ve been disillusioned over and over, but in 2003, when I met Pantera’s guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, things went differently. I had done a few photo shoots with Dimebag for a guitar mag, and after the second one, he invited me to his home in Arlington, Texas, to attend a Christmas party.
On Christmas Eve, I arrived at his house—it was obvious which was his because it was the only one in the neighborhood with a huge Confederate flag on the roof. I was expecting a bacchanalian drug fest fit for a metal god, but when Dimebag’s wife, Rita, answered the door in an apron, I realized this was just a straight-up Christmas party. I drank countless “blacktooth grins,” his signature drink of Seagram’s Seven Crown, Crown Royal, and a tiny bit of Coke. There were dudes with ponytails and women in mom jeans, and Dimebag was beneath a black, upside-down Christmas tree passing out presents like spice racks and potpourri.
“Matt!” he yelped when he saw me. “Welcome to the party!” Not long after, the lights dimmed and a smoke machine spewed fog from the base of the tree. Someone threw Black Sabbath on the stereo and the party really started. A random buddy brought a crumpled stop sign he’d knocked down during a recent drunk joyride in Dimebag’s beat-up truck. Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains came late, strolling in holding a fist-size Ziploc of white powder in a decorative holiday bag with a rolled-up dollar bill taped to it. It was a white Christmas for all.
I’ve had these photos stuffed in a drawer since then, but I guess it’s time I shared them. A year after they were taken, Dimebag was shot and killed by a crazed fan, and I figure we should remember him in his true element: surrounded by a bunch of women in mom jeans, novelty drinks, and suburban raging.
This Guy Is Mapping London’s Drug Use with a Discarded Baggie Map
What do you do with your leftover drug paraphernalia? Unless you’re one of those ambitious stoner hoarders who insists on keeping stems for pots of weed tea you’ll never brew, chances are you throw everything away. And if you’re homeless—or someone who enjoys getting high around strangers, or in parks—it’s likely you chuck your empty baggies on the floor or into a bush, kindly leaving them for 10-year-olds to bring into school and use as props in stories about their fictional weekend exploits.
Since January of this year, photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been taking photos of all the discarded baggies he finds throughout south-east London. He’s also been jotting down their geographic coordinates with the aim of eventually mapping out all the bags he’s found and working out whether any patterns emerge. I had a quick chat with Dan about his project.
A map we made out of the baggie coordinates that Dan has gathered so far (Click to enlarge)
VICE: Hey Dan. So far, what has the project taught you about Londoners’ drug use?
Dan Giannopoulos: I’ve been working on it since about January this year, and I haven’t had a chance to map everything fully yet, so at the moment it’s isolated to south-east London. But I tend to find more bags in more of the working-class areas I’ve been to—the kind of areas that have a reputation for drug use. But then I’ve had bags show up in places like Blackheath, which is quite a posh area. It’s quite random at the moment, but I was going to carry on working on it for a year or so and map any patterns that show up.
Is there a variation of drugs between those areas?
It tends to be more weed around the well-to-do areas.
Ibiza Looked Just As Fun Before the Ravers Came
Before the crap ecstasy and Paul Oakenfold, Ibiza was something else entirely: a sleepy Balearic island known for being the favored vacation destination of famous, wealthy hippies hoping to escape the exhausting stresses of making music for a living. There was, however, a short period of change between the boho years and the Ibiza Uncovered era—a span of time that last roughly from the mid-1970s until the late-80s.
During that time, instead of being overrun by tourists getting dressed up in their best pair of shorts to hurl $15 at a luminous bottle of drink in Pacha, Ibiza Town was full of beautiful European people wearing weird clothes and dancing around in open-air nightclubs. It was a bit like Berlin was in the 2000s but with glorious, blazing sunlight and sandy beaches rather than Arctic winds and stern Soviet architecture.
Photographer Derek Ridgers happened to be on a family holiday in Ibiza in 1983 when he came across all these European club kids, and fresh from photographing London’s skinheads, he trained his camera upon them. For whatever reason, no publications would buy his photos at the time, so they’d been sitting around unseen for decades until he dug them out and put them on display this month as part of the ICA’s “Ibiza: Moments in Love" exhibition.
I gave Derek a call to chat about his pictures.
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Congress’s Drug Problem
On October 29, a 37-year-old Republican Congressman named Henry “Trey” Radel fucked up. He bought $260 worth of coke while at a restaurant in DC’s trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood, but the guy selling it turned out to be an undercover cop who was part of a targeted sting operation. When news of the “cocaine Congressman” was reported by Politico this week, a predictable sequence of events played out: a guilty plea, probation but no prison time, and an announcement that he has a drug problem and plans to take a leave of absence from his job while he seeks treatment for it. Presumably he’ll come back eventually, tell the press that he’s in recovery thanks to his family and the grace of God, and the Tea Partiers who elected him in Florida may even love him all the more for having faced down his demons so publicly.
Radel is hardly an important DC figure—he only got elected last year, and before this coke incident he was most known for loving hip-hop and making his own beats. His personal drama is mostly a sideshow, a story that will be forgotten then occasionally brought up as a funny anecdote: “Hey, remember that Tea Party dude who loved Tupac and got caught with cocaine?” It’s not even a story that lends itself to puffed-up allegations of Republican hypocrisy, since Radel has beenbroadly in favor of reforming failed drug war policies. (Though he did support drug testing for food stamp recipients, so maybe he’s into some icky poor-people-shouldn’t-do-drugs-but-rich-folks-can shit.) But one thing this incident shows is just how strangely the legal system works when it comes to drugs.
Rob Ford Needs to Step Down
Update: Rob Ford has commented on today’s revelations by saying: “I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t it’s before the courts. That’s all I can say. I have no reason to resign.” Reporters yelled questions at him about whether he lied to the people of Toronto, but the mayor just walked away.
Early this morning, a line of reporters with microphones and cameras waited outside of Rob Ford’s house. When Rob Ford emerged from his suburban cave, he was immediately bombarded with questions about whether or not he is at the center of a drug-related police investigation, along with questions about his relationship with Alexander Lisi, a man who is known as Rob Ford’s driver, close friend, and an alleged drug dealer with a history of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, Rob Ford didn’t take the questions gracefully and ended up screaming and yelling, “Get off my property! What don’t you understand? Get off my property, partner!” at the reporters who, undoubtedly, are only asking the questions that are on every Torontonian’s mind right now.
This morning’s scrum was the result of the Toronto police released a 474-page document—with a lot of the presumably juicy stuff blacked out and redacted to avoid implicating those who are currently innocent—detailing results of a surveillance operation that clearly targeted Rob Ford and Alexander Lisi. The police dubbed their municipal spy mission “Project Brazen 2,” which I like to believe was inspired by the unbelievably bold and inappropriate behavior Toronto’s mayor appears to believe he can get away with.
I didn’t expect a major bombshell to come out of today’s release, given that an investigation is still underway and given that Ford has been gleefully avoiding the issue ofwhether or not he’s a crack user by decorating his office like a haunted house. I was very wrong. Shortly after the document was released, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair vindicated what Gawker and the Toronto Star have been claiming since May—much to the ire of Ford and his legion of largely suburban political supporters. Blair held a press conference where he admitted that yes, the crack video exists, and yes, Rob Ford is indisputably pictured in it with a crack pipe in his hands.
The scheme sounds like a work of near science fiction. But police in the Netherlands and Belgium insist its true, and say they have the evidence to prove it: two tons of cocaine and heroin, a machine gun, a suitcase stuffed with $1.7 million, and hard drive cases turned into hacking devices.
Summer/Autumn – New Fiction by Ben Brooks
Twenty-one year old Ben Brooks was recently touring with Tao Lin and was named one of the best young writers by our global editor, Andy Capper. Andy wrote and asked Ben for a piece of fiction, and Ben sent this story, which Ben said is 100 percent true. But we are of the “it is fiction if the writer says it is fiction” school. That is, we are of the “most writers who write about themselves just lie about it, and claim they made it up in their big brains” school. We also asked Ben Brooks to write a bio and he sent us this: "Ben Brooks was born in Gloucestershire, which is in the United Kingdom, in 1992. He is the author of Fences, An Island of Fifty, The Kasahara School of Nihilism, Grow Up, and Lolito. He was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize and some other things and he has had like three girlfriends and other stuff.”
I’m 18 and hiding from school. Ellen is 42 and in an office. She moved to London three years ago. She’s from Portugal. Her job is writing computer code. Her husband is in jail.
“Why is he in jail?” I type.
“Oh, me too.”
“What? How old are you?”
Ellen writes about wanting to sit on the faces of the men she sees on public transport. She writes about wanting to be choked, and demeaned, and elbowed in the eyes. She says that her dad was calm and quiet, and that after he sat in them, chairs smelled of pine needles.
We spend afternoons writing emails and evenings on instant messenger. Ellen talks about her colleagues and her boss and how she feels. I invent several girls and a web of anxieties to go with each of them. It doesn’t matter. We talk to be listened to.
When we start to trust each other, we admit our actual ages and exchange genuine pictures. Nothing changes. School ends. She’s promoted.
She reads my first books and says that she likes them more than other books. Each one sells under a hundred copies. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want a job and I don’t want university debt. I’m not getting taller. I can’t grow a beard.
“Why don’t you move here?” she says. “There’s space. There’s too much space.”
“I don’t have any money,” I say. “I don’t have a job. I wrote a CV, but I didn’t know what to put so I just put ‘Wall Street.’”