Tag: marijuana

Proof that every American is a criminal

| December 28, 2011 | 2 Replies
Proof that every American is a criminal

Bad news from Scientific American: We all produce marijuana-like chemicals in our brains. Therefore, all of us need to turn ourselves in and spend time in prison.

[Marijuana] is also something everyone is familiar with, whether they know it or not. Everyone grows a form of the drug, regardless of their political leanings or recreational proclivities. That is because the brain makes its own marijuana, natural compounds called endocannabinoids (after the plant’s formal name, Cannabis sativa).

For some serious criticism of the alleged “war on drugs,” see this recent post.

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Law enforcement officers dismissed for supporting decriminalization of marijuana

| December 4, 2011 | Reply
Law enforcement officers dismissed for supporting decriminalization of marijuana

The New York Times reports on the ill-consequences that law enforcement officers have suffered for speaking out on our ludicrous “war on drugs.” In the meantime, the membership of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) has grown to 48,000.

See here for more on LEAP.

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Nothing better to do with tax dollars than put drug-users in prison

| October 9, 2011 | 4 Replies
Nothing better to do with tax dollars than put drug-users in prison

I’m still stunned that President Obama has decided to crank up the federal drug war by clamping down on medical marijuana dispensaries. This has been yet another political about-face by Barack Obama. Don’t we have anything better to do with our tax dollars and energies than to throw people in prison for using a substance that makes them feel good, where that substance is far less dangerous than alcohol? And keep in mind that there are legally available pharmaceuticals that have comparable effects on one’s psyche, available only if the user is wealthy enough to afford the doctor appointment and the pharmaceutical.

But wait . . . the stories is even worse. As reported by Glenn Greenwald, there is is evidence to counter-balance the idea that currently illegal drugs are always destructive:

[T]he deceit at the heart of America’s barbaric drug policy — that these substances are such unadulterated evils that adults should be put in cages for voluntarily using them — is more glaring than ever. In light of his comments about LSD, it’s rather difficult to reconcile America’s adoration for Steve Jobs with its ongoing obsession with prosecuting and imprisoning millions of citizens (mostly poor and minorities) for doing what Jobs, Obama, George W. Bush, Michael Phelps and millions of others have done. Obviously, most of these banned substances — like alcohol, gambling, sex, junk food consumption, prescription drug use and a litany of other legal activities — can create harm to the individual and to others when abused (though America’s solution for drug users — prison — also creates rather substantial harm to the drug user and to others, including their spouses, parents and children: at least as much harm as, and usually substantially more than, the banned drugs themselves). But no rational person can doubt that these substances can also be used responsibly and constructively; just study Steve Jobs’ life if you doubt that. Jobs’ praise for his LSD use is what I kept returning to as I read about the Obama DOJ’s heinous new policy to use the full force of criminal prosecutions against medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

In the meantime, do you know how your local law enforcement officers are spending most of their time?

To make it clear: I’m not advocating drug use. I’m stating facts that make it undeniable that the “war on drugs” is much more dangerous to all of us than the use of those drugs.

There’s a drug-related arrest in the U.S. every 19 seconds. Consider, also, that 45 people are massacred in the U.S. every day thanks to our “drug war,” and that it is this “war” that causes the violence.  This is a war that has failed at every one of its announced objectives.  Many of our law enforcement officer have declared the “war on drugs” to be an immoral war.  Consider this conservative judge’s harsh words toward the “Drug War.”  The most harmful thing about marijuana, according to Judge John Gray, is jail.  Here’s why:  the “war on drugs” by the numbers.  It’s time to take a deep breath and get over America’s obsession with imprisoning otherwise law-abiding citizens for partaking of a relatively harmless drug.

What the hell is wrong with us?

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Let the feds worry about marijuana

| July 28, 2010 | Reply
Let the feds worry about marijuana

In the LA Times, Hanna Liebman Dershowitz points out the stupidity of not changing X because X is “the law.” The case of interest in California is legalizing marijuana. Federal and state authorities annually arrest more than 800,000 people for possessing marijuana. This is an immense and destructive waste of government resources. Liebman Dershowitz argues that California legalization would leave it to the feds to justify this atrocious policy of criminalizing marijuana (though not beer or tobacco – - I would add psycho-active prescription drugs):

Voter approval of Proposition 19 would shift to the feds the responsibility and burden of justifying marijuana prohibition in the first place. Now, the Washingtonians who have never questioned decades of anti-pot propaganda can explain to the people of California why we cannot be trusted to determine our state’s marijuana policies. Let them endorse the prohibition laws’ usefulness as a tool of oppressing minorities. Let them celebrate how minor marijuana violations cost people their jobs, their housing, custody of their kids, and entrap them permanently in vast criminal justice databases. Let them justify the utter hypocrisy of the legal treatment of alcohol and tobacco, as compared with the illegal treatment of marijuana. Let them tell us how many more people will have to be prosecuted and punished before marijuana is eradicated, how much that will cost, and where the money will come from.

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Police keeping the country safe from marijuana

| May 13, 2010 | 1 Reply
Police keeping the country safe from marijuana

The police recently raided this house in Columbia, Missouri. A large group of police officers with nothing better to do stormed into action, kicking down the door to protect the community from a guy who likes to smoke a bit of dope. The most poignant thing we learn is that this evil marijuana-user loved his dog, a point he passionately made after he learned that the storm-trooper cops shot it, and all for what?

And keep in mind that this is how the drug police act when they know that there is a video camera running. Make no mistake that these cops were on their best behavior — this was a sanitized version of a raid.

As I’ve argued many times, it’s time to put an end to our pointless and violent “war on drugs.” There are many better ways to deal with the urge of some adults to get high using substances other than prescription drugs and alcohol. It’s time to just say no to the “war on drugs.”

I’m fully aware that we need brave police to protect us from violence and to solve crimes that have hurt people. I admire those brave police officers. We need sophisticated law enforcement to storm the ledger books of Wall Street Banks, and we don’t have nearly enough of them. But this kind of “police protection” is pointless. It doesn’t stop drug use–it only makes drug use violent. This use of police is as pointless as the practice of having traffic cops park behind bushes and waiting to nab people going 38 in a 35. This post is not pro-police or anti-police. It is anti-this type of activity by police.

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Reactions to the partial shift in federal drug enforcement policy

| May 11, 2010 | 2 Replies
Reactions to the partial shift in federal drug enforcement policy

Today the Obama administration announced a shift in its priorities regarding drug enforcement.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a revised approach to “confronting the complex challenge of drug use and its consequences,” putting more resources into drug prevention and treatment.

The new drug control strategy boosts community-based anti-drug programs, encourages health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.

At Huffpo, Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, applauds some of the changes:

The Obama administration has taken important steps to undo some of the damage of past administrations’ drug policies. The Justice Department has played an important role in trying to reduce the absurdly harsh, and racially discriminatory, crack/powder mandatory minimum drug laws; Congress is likely to approve a major reform this year. DOJ also changed course on medical marijuana, letting state governments know that federal authorities would defer to their efforts to legally regulate medical marijuana under state law. And they approved the repeal of the ban on federal funding of syringe exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS, thereby indicating that science would at last be allowed to trump politics and prejudice even in the domain of drug policy.

The new strategy goes further. It calls for reforming federal policies that prohibit people with criminal convictions and in recovery from accessing housing, employment, student loans and driver’s licenses. It also endorses a variety of harm reduction strategies (even as it remains allergic to using the actual language of “harm reduction”), endorsing specific initiatives to reduce fatal overdoses, better integration of drug treatment into ordinary medical care, and alternatives to incarceration for people struggling with addiction. All of this diverges from the drug policies of the Reagan, Clinton and two Bush administrations.

Nadelmann also criticizes the the budget numbers because they point to a continued waging of the “drug war”: “64% of their budget – virtually the same as under the Bush Administration and its predecessors – focuses on largely futile interdiction efforts as well as arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating extraordinary numbers of people”

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) also criticizes the budget numbers for the same reason as Nadelmann:

The drug czar is saying all the right things about ending the ‘war on drugs’ and enacting a long-overdue balanced strategy focused on a public health approach,” said Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore cop and incoming executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “Unfortunately the reality of the budget numbers don’t match up to the rhetoric. Two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to the same old ‘war on drugs’ approach and only a third goes to public health strategies. My experience policing the beat tells me that it’s certainly time for a new approach, but unfortunately this administration is failing to provide the necessary leadership to actually make it happen instead of just talking about it.

The strategy devotes 64 percent of the budget to traditional supply reduction strategies like enforcement and interdiction while reserving only 36 percent for demand reduction approaches like treatment and prevention.

StoptheDrugWar joins the chorus, arguing that the budget allocation needs to match the new rhetoric:

President Obama’s first National Drug Control Strategy offers real, meaningful, exciting change,” [Matthew Robinson, professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University and coauthor (with Renee Scherlen) of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the ONDCP"] summed up. “Whether this change amounts to ‘change we can believe in’ will be debated by drug policy reformers. For those who support demand side measures, many will embrace the 2010 Strategy and call for even greater funding for prevention and treatment. For those who support harm reduction measures such as needled exchange, methadone maintenance and so forth, there will be celebration. Yet, for those who support real alternatives to federal drug control policy such as legalization or decriminalization, all will be disappointed. And even if Obama officials will not refer to its drug control policies as a ‘war on drugs,’ they still amount to just that.

In the past, I’ve cited many reasons and sources that paint the “drug war” as ineffective and immoral. See, especially LEAP’s videos here. Also see the powerful arguments raised by conservative Judge James Gray. Gray has commented that “the most harmful thing about marijuana is jail.” In this post, I refer to John Richardson’s shocking statistics: The amount we spend every year on the “drug war” is enough to pay for universal health care. The insanity goes on and on.

I am buoyed by the recent change in federal rhetoric, however. I am glad that many people (a large proportion of whom are in favor of the use of street drugs) are finding the courage to speak out against the status quo. I would hope that this is the beginning to the end to a failed policy that is based on shrill ideology that results in needless violence and stigmatization and the arrests of almost 800,000 people every year for marijuana charges.

In my opinion, one of the most direct and courageous statements on the “drug war” was made by travel guru Rick Steves:

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Sting: The war on drugs is a failure

| April 4, 2010 | Reply
Sting: The war on drugs is a failure

Sting has written a Huffpo article declaring the “war on drugs” to be a failure:

Everyone knows the War on Drugs has failed. It’s time to step out of our comfort zones, acknowledge the truth — and challenge our leaders … and ourselves … to change.

How is this “war” a failure? Sting refers to an opinion piece by the Drug Policy Alliance that sets forth the following facts:

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

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And it’s causing senseless violence and wasting of tax dollars up here too

| March 27, 2010 | Reply
And it’s causing senseless violence and wasting of tax dollars up here too

Mexico is the biggest supplier of marijuana to the United States, and the illegal drug trade is tearing Mexico apart.

Mexico has been wracked by murders connected to the drug trade. Last year, it suffered more than 6,500 drug-related killings, triple the number in 2007. And 2010 looks worse. As of mid-March, more than 2,000 people have died in drug-related homicides – which puts Mexico on pace for more than 10,000 such deaths this year. That’s more than one every hour.

The linked article (from the Chicago Tribune) argues that California’s upcoming ballot initiative legalizing marijuana would be the worst nightmare of the Mexican drug cartels.

For the terrible numbers from Mexico at a glance, see here.

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Against all odds: How marijuana was legalized in Denver

| January 23, 2010 | 7 Replies
Against all odds: How marijuana was legalized in Denver

If your quest were to convince the people of your city to legalize a highly demonized drug which was entirely safe, how would you run your campaign? At the recently concluded True Spin Conference in Denver, I had the opportunity to listen to an animated yet highly focused Mason Tvert describing for the audience how he and his small and not-well-funded organization (“SAFER”) convinced the people of Denver to legalize marijuana in 2005, with 51% of the people voting in favor. He also spearheaded a 2006 campaign to legalize marijuana throughout Colorado. Although that latter measure failed, an astounding 41% of the people of Colorado voted in favor.

In case you’re thinking that I’m promoting the use of marijuana, I am not, but neither would I attempt to prohibit any other adult from using it. I’ve never used marijuana (even though I once worked as a musician and the opportunities were ubiquitous. Millions of gainfully employed and otherwise law abiding people do like to use marijuana, but they are paying dearly for their attempts to feel good and seek stress relief. I am for the legalization of marijuana because that our country arrests more than 750,000 people each year for possessing or using an extremely safe drug that successfully makes people feel good. This destructive and expensive waste of government law enforcement is absolutely shameful. The number of people arrested each year is more than the entire population of South Dakota. and these users include many people you know and respect.

There is rank hypocrisy in the air, given that marijuana inexpensively offers the harmless escape that most of us seek much of the time (in one way or another), without any serious side effects and without the expense of many other methods of escape. If there were no such thing as marijuana, when it was finally invented by a pharmaceutical company, we would hail it as a miracle drug (Big Pharma wouldn’t need to lie about its efficacy or safety, as it does for many other drugs). Governments would allow it to be sold at drugs stores and they would happily tax it.

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