Forty-five people were murdered in the United States yesterday (16,591 homicides for the year 2009). And another forty-five will be murdered tomorrow. And another forty-five every day of the year and next year and next year.
What happened in Norway was terrible. A Christian extremist named Anders Breivik killed 91 people.* It was clearly a massacre. Here in the United States, we have a massacre the size of Norway’s every other day, but we don’t call it a “massacre” because the killings aren’t as geographically clustered–but then again, many of them are clustered in the inner cities of America. And if we don’t call it a “massacre,” we don’t feel as compelled to do something to stop the killings. Something simple like calling off the “war on drugs.”
For anyone who objects that I’ve called the Norwegian killer a “Christian,” I’m willing to make a deal. Next time a Muslim inflicts violence in America, will you agree that you won’t describe him as a Muslim when you describe his conduct? That would avoid a double-standard. Deal?
LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is disappointed that Barack Obama has reneged on his promise to turn over the enforcement of marijuana regulation to the states. Here’s the first paragraph of an email I received from LEAP today:
Previously, the Obama administration wanted the public to believe that they were going to respect how states decided to handle medical marijuana legalization and regulation. But a new memo released to the public today confirms that this president is simply continuing the harassment and interference policies of the Bush administration when it comes to actually providing patients with their doctor-recommended medicine.
Here’s the evidence that Barack Obama seeks only more wasteful and destructive prohibition. As you can see, there is no sharp line protecting those who are using marijuana at the recommendation of their doctors. Why not?
Like my European friends, I believe we can adopt a pragmatic policy toward both marijuana and hard drugs, with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough-talking but counterproductive criminalization. The time has come to have an honest discussion about our drug laws and their effectiveness. When it comes to drug policy, you can be soft, hard…or smart.
I whole-heartedly agree with Rick Steves, and I admire him for taking this forthright stand, even when taking this could lose him some customers and fans. Speaking of fans, I recently met two brave souls pushing for medical marijuana in front of Busch Stadium, where thousands of fans get high on liver-threatening beer. While I discussed medical marijuana with them, they were jeered and scorned by several fans. They described cancer patients they knew who would like to use marijuana in Missouri, but were afraid that they’d be arrested and thrown in jail. Folks with similar situations are described in this recent NYT piece.
Every year authorities arrest more than 750,000 people each year for possessing or using an extremely safe drug that many people find pleasurable and others use because it relieves them of pain. This is more than the entire population of South Dakota, and these users include many people you know and respect. I mentioned LEAP at the top of this article. LEAP consists of law enforcement officers who have seen first-hand that prohibition fails. LEAP’s approach is this:
We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes marijuana worth more than gold, and heroin worth more than uranium – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.
History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.
We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.
Today, Barack Obama pardoned eight people. They included people convicted of drug offenses and a woman accused of evading bank reporting requirements.
Bradley Birkenfeld, an American banker who formerly worked for UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, was not among the eight people pardoned. The information Birkenfeld voluntarily provided to the federal government in 2007 led to the government’s “uncovering the biggest tax fraud in U.S. history.” Perhaps Birkenfeld (photo here) was intentionally overlooked because pardoning him would remind the public that he is sitting in prison for no good reason, after attempting to report tens of thousands of rich tax cheat to the federal government.
Birkenfeld’s problem is that he is not a celebrity, or wealthy or a sport star or a politician, like many of the thousands of tax cheats he tried to bring to the attention of an uninterested federal government. Birkenfeld continues to sit in prison in Schuylkill Pennsylvania, while the United States continues to wage its war on whistle-blowers (and see here). Several additional links on whistle-blower abuse here.
Here’s a cool idea: Write the Fourth Amendment on your chest in a marker, and then refuse electronic scanning at an airport, henceforth removing your shirt and thus displaying the Fourth Amendment.
Actually, it’s not a cool idea, Aaron Tobey used this technique of self-expression, and here’s what the TSA did, as described at Lowering the Bar:
they cuffed him, interrogated him, had the airport police charge him with “disorderly conduct” (favorite of official thugs everywhere), and then contacted the cops at his university and suggested that they report Tobey to the Dean of Students.