In those days, weed arrived in the U.S. primarily from Mexico and Jamaica along with other drugs like “Mexican mud” and “black tar” heroin, which were also inundating the country in the 1960s and 1970s. U.S. culture was generally conservative at the time, and Americans and their government were shocked by the hippie revolution and the liberalism that was displayed, in part, through drug use. There was pushback to this counterculture movement, and the government proclaimed rock and rollers, hippies, drug users, and certain other groups to be antiestablishment, un-American revolutionaries — vilifying them as unsavory, fringe, and even dangerous members of society and causing marijuana users to face stigmatization and harsh punishment for decades. Countless marijuana smugglers and users were jailed, thanks especially to minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines that gave judges little or no room to negotiate prison terms.
During the Barack Obama administration, the federal government — working within the confines of politics, law, and public opinion — softened the authoritative stance previous administrations had taken regarding cannabis. It was during and after Obama’s presidency that many states began to decriminalize, and in some cases legalize, marijuana, to the point that the federal government became faced with a major decision: Should federal power be used to push back against those who dared challenge the traditional policy approach?
Fast-forward to the present. Congress is actively seeking to decriminalize marijuana, and the Joe Biden administration has leveraged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to petition the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reclassify it as a Schedule III drug. HHS, the principal federal health agency, is now leaning on the law enforcement side of government to ask for the drug to be reclassified within CSA.
It’s hard to argue against medicine and science. The agency everyone is waiting on now is the DEA.
Within the DEA, meanwhile, this a is an angst-filled moment. Many DEA agents have died because of marijuana, and many others have been shot while toiling in the mountains of Mexico and around the world, in places where cannabis plantations thrived and were targeted for destruction. DEA agent Enrique Camarena, for example, is considered by many a legend and an icon — a martyr killed because he discovered “El Bufalo,” the largest marijuana plantation destroyed in Mexico at the time. That discovery led to his torture and death in 1985. His deep legacy within the DEA includes an emotional resistance toward marijuana legalization and decriminalization.
The drug war has been, and remains, real to these agents, analysts, task force officers, and other “narcs” who have done their part to enforce both the CSA and state laws. But like soldiers in any conflict or war, law enforcement professionals know that ultimately, they are the instruments of policy. And that policy is now changing, steadily moving toward decriminalization, legalization, and destigmatization at a faster pace than anyone could have predicted. Many DEA agents and law enforcement professionals, current and retired, see the enforcement of these policy changes as a betrayal of the oath of office by anyone who swore to uphold the law. As an institution, law enforcement professionals find it difficult to accept that American leadership at all levels is so broadly and consistently in favor of legalization, regardless of the political party holding the majority in Congress. But the law will likely change soon.
As laws continue to change, marijuana possession, sales, and use will likely soon be legal across the country at both the state and federal levels. Societal and cultural change is sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s always inevitable. Anyone with doubts about the approaching tsunami of change regarding marijuana should consider that these changes are not happening on a whim, without serious thought or sufficient time to reason. Rather, these changes are the result of decades of discussion, critique, questions, studies, and evolving societal views.
We all need to get behind it. My esteemed colleagues, friends, and policymakers in the DEA need to get behind these policy changes and put marijuana into the “bad memory” category of reflection, never forgetting those who died and worked, not in vain, but in the pursuit of what was considered by government, at the time, as a perceived danger to society. It’s time for the DEA to move on to more “clear and present dangers,” especially fentanyl, and other more imminent and deadly threats to our nation.
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This is good news for aspiring college students who now have more metrics at their disposal as they think about where to enroll. There is plenty of overlap among the major published rankings of colleges, but each does, in fact, have a unique method reflecting a particular set of values. In theory, students could now use rankings that reflect their own values regarding college.
For example, while one student might aspire to attend an institution with racial diversity on campus, another might wish to use rankings that reflect only the post-graduation earnings of graduates.
Indices and other quantitative measures attempt to shrink the complexity of the real world into a single dimension. Obviously, much is lost in this process. Nonetheless, these measures can play an important part in students’ decision to attend one college versus another, providing people who don’t have the time or money to study reams of data and tour dozens of campuses touchstones in their career and education journeys.
But does it necessarily make sense to collapse several variables like diversity, economic value, and learning environment into a single measurement, all weighted subjectively to create a ranking? For some, yes. But for others, perhaps with more idiosyncratic preferences, maybe not.
This is one area where the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, a data portal created by the Obama administration and upgraded to include program-level data by Secretary Betsy DeVos, offers an advantage over prebaked rankings like the new ones from the Wall Street Journal. The College Scorecard allows students to drill down to shop for colleges based on more granular parameters. For example, the Scorecard allows examination of earnings after graduation by major.
Unfortunately, the College Scorecard, like most government websites, leave something to be desired on the usability front. It lacks the better interface and consumer friendly, value-based rankings that those from third party rankings entities can provide. As this field continues to innovate, driven by the newfound competition, we hope to see the depth of information offered on the College Scorecard matched by third party rankings but also paired with usability at the same time.
One size does not fit all in education. Future rankings from the Journal and other institutions interested in pursuing a similar project could include more room for students to filter scorecards according to their own idiosyncratic preferences.
More comprehensive college rankings with room for customization predicated on students’ interests promise to not only improve consumers’ ability to make informed choices, but also make the higher education marketplace more dynamic, and ultimately more affordable. Hopefully, more institutions create college rankings like the Journal and U.S. News and World Report, building out students’ abilities to filter them based on their own inclinations.
Learn more: Kick the Bipartisan Addiction to Higher Education Accountability Metrics | Department of Education Should Withdraw its Innovation-Killing OPM Guidance | A Degree of Risk | Democrats should drop the crazy rhetoric and pursue higher education reform
The post New Wall Street Journal Rankings of Colleges Are Good News for Students appeared first on American Enterprise Institute - AEI.
One of this year’s talented fellows is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Caitlin Dickerson. Dickerson’s deeply reported work on topics related to immigration and deportation compellingly illuminate and break down these complex subjects for all readers.
In this extended Q&A from The Fifth Draft — the National Fellows Program’s newsletter featuring exclusive content about and from our Fellows — Class of 2024 Fellow Caitlin Dickerson gave us insight into her forthcoming project about deportation in the United States. Sign up for The Fifth Draft to hear how the world’s best storytellers find ideas that change the world.
Your Fellows Project will be a book that explores deportation in the United States. Can you share the genesis of this project?
The idea for this book began to percolate as I was reporting some of my first stories about immigration, while I was at NPR during the Obama administration. I realized that a lot of immigration writing led up to the moment when a person was either deported or not, but us journalists were rarely sticking around to find out what happened afterward. Over the years, I also became increasingly interested in how effectively immigrant labor — and in particular, unauthorized immigrant labor — is hidden from public view, as well as how the powerful law enforcement lobby perpetuates the status quo. I decided I wanted to try to tell that story comprehensively, through intimate narrative writing and deep research, in a way that depoliticizes the issue as much as possible, while making clear that it impacts almost every American and American community.
You won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for your piece on the separation of migrant children from their parents during the Trump administration. How does that work tie into your book project?
The book won’t draw directly from my reporting on family separation but they’re certainly connected. The best way to explain this is to quote loosely from my Fellows project proposal, which talks about those early journalistic encounters I had with families that were impacted by deportation: “As I went on to spend years covering other issues — dismal conditions inside massive detention centers, asylum seekers expelled to their deaths, the forced wrenching of children from their parents — it became clear to me that these phenomena flowed outward and resulted from the core of our nation’s immigration system: deportation. The more I learned about how and why that system was built, the clearer it became that immigration status can prove as critical as socioeconomics, gender, or race in carving the trajectory of a person’s life.”
In your book, you will delve into the multi-billion dollar deportation industry, with a particular focus on immense immigrant detention facilities. How did you gain access to these facilities? What challenges did you face researching and reporting on them?
Gaining access to detention facilities isn’t easy but it’s something I’ve done before. It involves negotiations with the government and, if the facility is privately run, the corporation that owns it. Reporting in carceral settings is always difficult because of all the restrictions on who can enter and what you can bring inside. Even when you’re allowed in, you’re often stuck in a small box of a room without the ability to record, and sometimes, without even the ability to take handwritten notes. But a lot of great reporting has been done through a combination of in-person visits and then speaking with detainees by phone or video message, as well as with facility staff during non-work hours, so that’s what I plan to do.
You have worked in radio and podcasts as well as print journalism. How does your process differ for each medium? Do you prefer one over the other for certain types of stories?
Add video to that list. I think every story has an ideal medium in which to be told, but I also like repurposing stories in multiple formats, because it can vastly expand the reach and impact of your reporting.
Compared to other forms of storytelling, a print author has much more creative control, of course, because the quotation-to-written-copy ratio is by far the greatest. And you can cram a lot more information like characters and data, not to mention graphic elements, into a book or article, because readers can put it down if they need a break and then return to it later, or look back at a prior page to remind themselves of something they forgot or were confused by (though ideally, they never become confused!). Video interests me because it opens up access to a vast and important audience of people who just don’t have the time, ability, or sufficient interest for print works or podcasts, no matter how well executed they are. Audio is also very dear to me. I don’t think there’s anything more moving than the sound of a person’s voice. Forget the actual words, the voice itself carries so much information through tone, pauses, breaths, gasps. I think there’s something universal about the voice, which can be really important when you’re covering a polarizing issue. In my opinion, this is why it took an audio file of crying children that was leaked to ProPublica for family separation to become an international scandal despite all the print stories that I and other reporters (including the ones at ProPublica who got the audio) had been writing about the issue for months.
How do you hope your book will contribute to policy and the ongoing debate around deportation and immigration in the United States?
My hope is that shedding light on the reality of our relationship to immigrants living in the U.S. without legal authorization — which is actually much more symbiotic than it is often portrayed — will help people to see the issue with fresh eyes. I also hope to arm readers with the information they need to push back against the lazy talking points that are often employed by politicians on both sides of the aisle to score points by blaming each other for various aspects of the system that aren’t working while dodging any sense of responsibility for fixing it.