who benefits? Fairness, openness, tollerance?
Good for all humanity?
What Science? who’s Scientific research?
Business between who? faith-based research? profit?
Freedom to farm? Freedom to distribute? Competition? Where?natural vs. Sythetic? Medicinal Marijuana and Industrial HEMP? Citizen Cane? H.J Anslinger? why? The 1937 Marijuana tax act? The war on some people who use some drugs? who? Prohibition? Legalization?
I have lots of questions and not many answers, in fact i have no answers, the solution, i guess, lives within the language used as communiction. The following then, are copied and pasted from some recent news articles (so called) – i also provide some wiki links so that if you like you can look deeper into the matter.
Cannabis, like other drugs, but unlike other drugs too, can be commodified, packaged and retailed, patented and sold to the highest bidder. But the sacred experience – the high and the altered states of consciousness will remain the shared space of like minded individuals, priceless, formless – what you might call spirit.
The war on some people who use some drugs is a war on language. To fight back is to write back, i guess?
–steve “fly” agaric.
Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled “coffee shops,” Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don’t enforce their laws against the shops. — http://www.dailyevergreen.com/story/28633
Learn from Dutch drug policy
Decriminalizing marijuana may work better than the War on Drugs
The Daily Evergreen
AMSTERDAM – This isn’t a column filled with cliches about Amsterdam’s infamous drug culture, nor is it an account of the greatness of legally buying marijuana. Not wanting to add any skeletons to the closet of a future political career, I’ll leave my personal experiences on the sidelines for this one.
But during my visit to Amsterdam, I hoped to use this column as an inquiry into how the relaxed Dutch laws have provided a progressive solution to the problem of drug use and trafficking. Amid America’s vastly ineffective War on Drugs, the discussion of legalizing and taxing marijuana for revenue in several states and Mexico’s bloody drug battles spilling across our border, it’s a topic the U.S. can no longer afford to ignore.
First, a simple overview of Amsterdam’s soft drug laws: For customers who are at least 18, possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana or hashish is decriminalized, but these products can only be consumed in specially licensed “coffee shops.” Unlicensed sale or trafficking of cannabis products is prohibited. Additionally, coffee shops may only keep a limited supply on hand at any time and cannot openly advertise their drugs. Hard drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and recently, hallucinogenic mushrooms, remain illegal and heavily punished.
Amsterdam’s marijuana laws are by no means straightforward, but rooted in the ideas that adults can decide for themselves the choices of their own health, and that simple prohibition is not an answer to society’s woes. Instead, they have provided tangible results. And positive results are something America’s drug policy is sorely lacking.
Walk into The Bulldog, Amsterdam’s first marijuana café, and you will see people lighting up everywhere, at tables with friends, at the bar with a newspaper and coffee. But you won’t see marijuana advertised. The drug menu is on the counter behind a black screen, only to be revealed at the push of a button by those in the know.
One of the highest priorities of the country’s policy on soft drugs is to limit their visibility and nuisance to the general population. By shepherding cannabis consumers into designated cafes and outlawing advertising, those who choose to get high can be left to do so without disturbing those who’d prefer to refrain.
The concept of checking IDs seems unknown in Europe. I’ve seen girls who look to be 16 drinking in bars all over the continent. But upon entering any of Amsterdam’s smoking parlors, be sure to have ID ready as patrons are regularly carded. This practice of working to prevent minors from smoking goes hand-in-hand with another success in Dutch drug policy – significantly lower percentages of users.
A 1999 study by the University of Amsterdam found that only 15.6 percent of Dutch people age 12 and up had tried marijuana, compared to 32.9 percent of Americans. At first glance, it wouldn’t seem that decriminalizing a drug would lead to a decline in use, but in regulating marijuana, taxing and making it harder for minors to reach, that’s exactly what the Dutch have successfully done.
Whether you’ve chosen to steer clear of drugs, or you spent Monday’s 4/20 as high as a kite, it’s widely apparent that America’s drug war is not working. Like alcohol before it, prohibition is an utter failure.
It’s time to rethink our country’s marijuana policies. The demand for the drug needs to be taken away from violent cartels and the supply out of the hands of children. And those responsible adults who choose to indulge should have regulated and taxed means to do so, just like alcohol or tobacco. Immediate and outright legalization may not be the answer, but America’s marijuana laws could take some serious advice from the Dutch.
Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?
By Maia Szalavitz Sunday, Apr. 26, 2009.
Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It’s not the Netherlands.)
Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled “coffee shops,” Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don’t enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.
The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.
“Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”
Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.
Portugal’s case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.
“I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn’t having much influence on our drug consumption,” says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.
But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal’s, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.
At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering,” rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem, he says.
“The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization,” says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual’s “drug czar” and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.
Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that “it’s fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise.” However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.
The Cato report’s author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, “that is the central concession that will transform the debate.”
Dutch court upholds ‘magic mushroom’ ban
Apr 14, 2009
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Dutch “magic mushroom” vendors lost a court appeal Tuesday against a December 1 government ban on the hallucinogenic recreational fungi.
“The magic mushroom ban is not unjust,” the Appeals Court in The Hague said, dismissing a challenge by the owners of the so-called “smart shops” that sold the drug.
“The effect of the ruling is that the magic mushroom ban, effective from December 1, 2008, remains in place.”
The ban was introduced by Health Minister Ab Klink, who believes consumption of the fungi “can lead to unpredictable and risky behaviour”.
It followed the death in 2007 of a French teenager who had taken mushrooms before jumping to her death from an Amsterdam bridge, reigniting a national debate over tolerance of the substance.
The ban, approved by lawmakers, forbids the cultivation and sale of 186 species of “shrooms” or “paddos”, which also grow naturally in the wild.
The dried variety has been illegal in the country for several years.
“We are deeply disappointed,” Paul van Oyen, a spokesman for the magic mushroom vendors’ association VLOS, told AFP. “The court is allowing the minister to get away with lies.”
VLOS maintains there is no proof that magic mushrooms are dangerous and is demanding compensation for the loss of income.
Before the ban, there had been six magic mushroom growers in the Netherlands, 180 smart shops, and a few hundred employees in an industry with an annual turnover of 15-20 million euros (20-26.5 million euros), according to the VLOS.
Authorities say about 90 percent of the 1.5 million to two million doses consumed in the Netherlands every year were bought by foreign tourists.
“We will not pursue this in the courts,” said Van Oyen. “It is too expensive. We will retire to lick our wounds.”
The magic mushroom ban is seen as part of a hardening stance on recreational drug use by the traditionally liberal Dutch, who have also been closing some cannabis-vending coffee shops.
Coffee shops in Limburg turn members only
Published: 24 April 2009 16:51 | Changed: 24 April 2009 17:14
From our correspondent
Starting next year, all coffee shops in the Dutch province of Limburg will become private clubs; only registered members will be able to buy soft drugs.
- News – Coffee shop trial is test for Dutch drugs policy
- News – More cannabis cafes shut down
- News – Dutch mayors call for growing marijuana
pril 17, 2009
Marijuana: good medicine for Sonoma?
Walt Williams | Special to the Sun
It is Friday evening, you are done with a hard week of work and you are looking to relax. You pull into the local liquor store and select your grade of marijuana from the list next to the counter. The clerk weighs out the buds, charges you $30 for an eighth of an ounce, and off you go.
Fiction? Maybe not if AB 390 passes. Democratic State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation last month that would legalize marijuana and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale. Ammiano says it could take up to a year before it comes to a vote for passage. A few days after the bill was introduced, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be able to make their own rules on medical marijuana and those federal raids on pot dispensaries in California would cease. Ammiano explained, “If we’re hemorrhaging money and doing all this wink-wink, nod-nod all these years, it’s about time we start harvesting this. And admit to the fact that it’s going to be around and if we regulate and tax it, and decriminalize it, we could not only have an economic benefit but a policy benefit.”
Marijuana is California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for an estimated $14 billion in annual sales. The possible tax windfall for the state is estimated at $1.3 billion in revenue (about 1.5 percent of the budget). “The state of California is in a very, very precipitous economic plight. It’s in the toilet,” said Ammiano. “It looks very, very bleak, with layoffs and foreclosures and schools closing or trying to operate four days a week. We have one of the highest rates of unemployment we have ever had. With any revenue ideas people say you have to think outside the box, you have to be creative, and I feel that the issue of the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana fits that bill. It’s not new, the idea has been around, and the political will may in fact be there to make something happen.”
It is estimated that legalizing pot will also save the state an additional $1 billion per year by ceasing to arrest, prosecute and imprison non-violent offenders. Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray explained, “We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried. Not only do we have that problem, along with glamorizing it by making it illegal, but we also have the crime and corruption that go along with it. Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substances to use, misuse, and abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So, let’s try to reduce those harms, but right now we couldn’t do it worse if we tried.”
Poll shows a majority of Californians support legalize marijuana
May 4, 6:09 PM
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
For the first time ever in a statewide Field Poll, a majority of state voters expressed support for legalizing and taxing marijuana. A poll released last week showed 56 percent of Californians support legalization.
Earlier this year, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education act (AB 390) would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21.
“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move toward regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense. This legislation would generate up to $1.3 billion in much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes, Ammiano said. “California has the opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana.”
The poll bolstered the call for legalized marijuana that has stirred since Ammiano introduced his legislation and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government would no longer raid and prosecute legal marijuana medical dispensaries.
“One of the most respected research firms in the country has confirmed other recent polls and our sense of the groundswell that followed the introduction of AB 390 by Assemblymember Ammiano,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Californians are ready to end decades of failed and wasteful marijuana prohibition. Just as we led the nation in the compassionate adoption of medical marijuana, this state will set the standard for common-sense regulation, generating substantial new revenue for California and enhancing public safety.”
Though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he would not sign legislation legalizing marijuana, the state’s ongoing billion-dollar fiscal crisis is making the idea of taxing legal marijuana to raise revenue, while reducing the strains of the grossly overcrowded prisons, more worthy of consideration for other legislators and voters.
“We are seeing a real sea-change in public attitudes; public opinion has reversed itself; this year marks the first time that polls have shown a majority for legalization; the economic crisis is making people question whether it makes sense to spend more money on marijuana prohibition,” said Dale Gieringer of NORML.
Last month a San Francisco supervisor said the time had come for the city to consider legalization as well.
Mexico’s illegal-reefer madness
In the face of a crisis in drug-related violence, Mexico should reconsider its policy criminalizing marijuana.
By Isaac Campos
May 4, 2009
Last month, Mexico’s Congress convened a special forum to consider marijuana policy reform as a remedy for that country’s current crisis of violence. The forum bucked a century of staunch prohibitionist history in Mexico, a history that has contributed to the continued criminalization of marijuana use throughout North America.
From early on, marijuana was portrayed in Mexico as a frightening substance that produced madness in its users. In 1897, Revista Medica, one of Mexico’s leading scientific journals, reported that marijuana produced “pleasant visions and hallucinations,” an “expansion of the spirit that leads to exaltation” but also an “impulsive delirium” with often fatal consequences: “It is true that in other regions the delirium that is produced by marijuana is a turbulent one, but in our country it reaches the point of furor, terrible and blind impulse, and leads to murder.”
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Although use of the drug was not widespread at the time, the plant was increasingly seen as a national menace and, in 1920, was banned. Gradually, the idea that marijuana was dangerous seeped into the United States, fostering American notions of “reefer madness” and eventually helping to inspire marijuana prohibition here as well (in 1937).
Since then, Mexico has continued to be tough on marijuana, even in the face of softening U.S. attitudes toward the drug. The last time widespread sentiment for marijuana policy reform emerged in the U.S., it was Mexico that leveled some of the harshest criticism against the trend. “We don’t accept that marijuana is less important than heroin,” Mexican Atty. Gen. Pedro Ojeda Paullada declared in 1974.
A few years later, a scandal over use of the herbicide paraquat on Mexican marijuana fields produced a similar response from Ojeda’s successor, Oscar Flores Sanchez. Paraquat spraying, which often failed to completely destroy the targeted crops, led to the sale of poison-soaked pot to unknowing consumers in both countries.
Public outcry in the U.S. inspired congressional action that threatened to eliminate funding for the program if the paraquat spraying continued. Behind closed doors, Flores went ballistic, warning that if the United States refused to back Mexico’s war on marijuana, Mexico might go soft on heroin, the major U.S. priority of that era.
Mexico is now being forced to reevaluate these policies. Ironically, decades of being “tough” on drugs has produced a new link between marijuana and violence, but of a different kind. Indeed, the nation’s “drug-related” violence today might more accurately be termed “drug-policy-related” violence.
The mafias behind the current tsunami of killings — more than 6,000 last year — are a product of the extraordinary black-market profits that drug prohibition generates. And because 60% of the profits earned by Mexican traffickers come from marijuana sales, legalization in both Mexico and the U.S. would deliver a potentially debilitating blow to these powerful gangs.
Unfortunately, the Mexican public remains overwhelmingly opposed to marijuana legalization, with only 14% in favor, according to a February poll by Parametria, a public opinion research firm based in Mexico City. According to CBS News, by contrast, nearly 40% of Americans say they would favor legalization if the drug could be taxed and proceeds used to fund state budgets. Given those numbers, it is hardly surprising that many Mexican legislators chose not to attend last month’s forum.
Indeed, full legalization apparently had few supporters at the forum in April. Instead, many delegates backed half-measures, such as the formal decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Such measures, though a significant departure from the past, nevertheless promise to do very little to alleviate Mexico’s current crisis of violence.
Although decriminalization would free up law enforcement to concentrate on trafficking, this would merely exacerbate the fundamental paradox at the heart of drug policy — that by raising prices, law enforcement increases the economic incentive to traffic in drugs.
Thus, unless decriminalization is accompanied by a successful program of “education” that persuades people to abstain from using a drug that is relatively innocuous in comparison with, say, alcohol or tobacco, it won’t do much to stem the violence. Education efforts should instead focus on undermining old prejudices that prevent meaningful reform in Mexico and the United States.
Last month’s forum at least opened a dialogue among Mexicans. That is certainly a step in the right direction. But if we hope to use legislative reform to reduce Mexico’s drug-policy-related violence, Mexico and the United States need to go all the way on marijuana legalization.
Isaac Campos is an assistant professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and a visiting fellow at UC San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies.
VANCOUVER — B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell said Sunday night’s debate was a good discussion, but he doubted it will change anyone’s minds.
“It was actually a pretty good opportunity for people who wanted to follow the discussion,” he said.
Campbell accused James of mis-stating the Liberal positions on the budget, such as cuts to police and prosecutors, when the Liberals have added resources to fight gang crime.
“I thought we were trying to answer directly to those viewers,” he said. “I heard some mis-information there, and so I can’t imagine that she would want to deliberately mislead.”
“We are increasing the prosecutors to fight gangs,” he said. “We are increasing the number of police that are fighting gangs. The opposition voted against it.”
Campbell said he wants $1.9 billion in administrative savings, to protect healthcare and education in the economic downturn.
Campbell didn’t know how many people would watch a TV debate on a sunny evening, but he said those who did were informed by the exchanges.
“This is a really critically important election,” he said. “There are literally thousands and thousands of jobs at stake, based on the decision of May 12.”
NDP Leader Carole James said that Campbell showed he was out of touch with, and disrespectful to, working families, on the minimum wage, the loss of forestry jobs in the B.C. Interior.
James defended going after Campbell’s record over the past four years, rather than sticking with the answers to viewers’ questions.
“I think it was important to really put Gordon Campbell’s record out for the viewers to be able to see,” she said.
James said she put the question to Campbell on what he would change in the B.C. Rail scandal, but was not surprised that he didn’t answer it.
“Once again, he didn’t answer anything, didn’t say that he would have done things differently,” she said. “I just we don’t have to hope for another election to get answers.”
James said she heard more from Campbell last night than she did in the entire Spring session of the Legislature, when, she recalled, Campbell rose only twice to answer NDP questions.
“It was a little nicer than Question Period, because Gordon Campbell actually had to have an opportunity to respond,” she said.
“It was a good opportunity for viewers to see the record,” she said of the debate. “Viewers had a right to know.”
“The issues I hear on the campaign trail were the questions that came forward from viewers,” she said.
“I think that showed that people are really engaged in this election.”
“I think it was a great opportunity for people to be able to see the issues first-hand, to see that there are very alternatives in this campaign.”
James said it was “nice” to have Green Leader Jane Sterk in the debate, but the election is between two parties, not three.
“It’s very clear in this election there are two parties running for government,” said James. “I appreciated having Ms. Sterk there. I think she offered a number of issues and a number of ideas.”
Green Leader Jane Sterk said B.C. should be legalizing drugs, and the government should be controlling their production and distribution.
“Prohibition is the primary cause of the violence we see in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in the province,” said Sterk.
Sterk said marijuana should be legal, as well as other substances she did not name.
“I believe that everything should be controlled, in terms of both its production and distribution,” she said.
“That’s the only way we are going to rid our streets of this.”
“Get them out the hands of the bad guys, and it would provide us with a whole bunch of tax revenue.”
The State of California is talking about getting $1.5 billion Cdn. in tax revenue by taxing the sale of cannabis in liquor stores. And in Europe, Portugal and the Netherlands have seen their rate of problem substance abuse and recreational drug use have gone down.
Sterk said police officers and several police chiefs also support her ideas, and 65 per cent of British Columbians, according to a weekend opinion poll.
“It’s creating this condition where we have this violence inherent in our system,” she said. “It’s not safe for police officers.”
Sterk said the two big parties in the provincial election would not be discussing policy if it wasn’t for the Greens.
“It would all be about the leadership qualities of the leader of the NDP and the leader of the Liberal Party.”
“It’s their strategy to pretend the Green Party doesn’t exist, because they don’t want us to be successful at getting seats in the legislature,” she added. “Quite frankly, I think it’s tiresome. The Green Party is 25 years old.”
Sterk said 10 per cent of British Columbians support the Greens, but the Greens get no seats because of an “unfair voting system.”
The Greens support a single-transferrable voting system (STV). “We don’t have a two-party system,” she said.
“We have a multi-party system.”
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Apr. 30, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
EDITORIAL: Grass is greener
On the campaign trail last year, Barack Obama expressed refreshing opposition to the Gestapo-like tactics the Bush Justice Department had used to undermine the popular will on the issue of medical marijuana.
Despite voters in a dozen states — including Nevada — having overwhelmingly approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the DEA continued launching heavy-handed raids and prosecutions (particularly in California).
“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors (is) entirely appropriate,” Mr. Obama told the Medford (Ore.) Mail Tribune a year ago. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”
Despite that, two days after President Obama was sworn in, DEA agents raided a South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana dispensary, seizing five pounds of pot and a small amount of cash. No arrests were made.
Presumably the new president, who had other matters on his plate, was not consulted before the SWAT team donned its bulletproof vests that winter day. Finally, on April 22, new Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. outlined a shift in the enforcement of federal drug laws, saying the administration will effectively end the Bush administration’s frequent raids on distributors of medical marijuana.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Holder provided few specifics but said the Justice Department’s enforcement policy would now be restricted to traffickers who falsely masquerade as medical dispensaries and “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.” Mr. Holder said the new approach was consistent with statements made by President Obama in the campaign and was based on an assessment of how to allocate scarce enforcement resources. He said dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration.
The remaining distinction — nonprofit “co-ops” are fine, while “drug dealing for profit” is still illegal — is a little silly. In a free-market economy (the only kind that really works), the willingness of those in need to pay for a medicine is the surest guarantee that entrepreneurs will keep supplies — and quality — high enough to meet demand.
That said, Mr. Holder’s announcement is a big step in the right direction.
Not only does the move put this administration in closer compliance with what Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail, it also combines common sense with at least a partial rehabilitation of the 10th Amendment, that long-neglected article of the Bill of Rights that makes it clear that any regulation of drugs and medicines — because such matters are not mentioned in the delegation of powers to the federal Congress — remain matters where sovereign authority rests with the several states, or with the people themselves.
Retired Seattle police chief, member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Posted April 20, 2009 | 11:01 AM (EST)
As 5:00 p.m. rolls around my interior clock starts chiming. I’ll have an ice-cold, bone-dry martini, thank you. Jalapeno olives and a twist. If the occasion calls for it (temperatures in the twenties, a hot political debate on the tube) I may substitute two fingers of Kentucky sour mash. Four-twenty? Doesn’t resonate. But with April 20 approaching and Waldos of the world gearing up to celebrate their favorite day of the year, it’s not a bad time to consider, yet again, the pluses and minuses of alcohol vs. cannabis.
First, a disclaimer: I am a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but I don’t officially represent the organization in this forum. That said, I can’t very well check my affiliation, or beliefs, at the keyboard when I sit down to blog for HuffPost. We at LEAP are current and former cops and other criminal justice practitioners who have witnessed firsthand the futility and manifold injustices of the drug war. Our professional experiences have led us to conclude that the more dangerous an illicit substance–from crack to krank–the greater the justification for its legalization, regulation, and control. It is the prohibition of drugs that leads inexorably to high rates of death, disease, crime, and addiction.
Back to booze vs. pot. How do the effects of these two drugs stack up against specific health and public safety factors?
Alcohol-related traffic accidents claim approximately 14,000 lives each year, down significantly from 20 or 30 years ago (attributed to improved education and enforcement). Figures for THC-related traffic fatalities are elusive, especially since alcohol is almost always present in the blood as well, and since the numbers of “marijuana-only” traffic fatalities are so small. But evidence from studies, including laboratory simulations, feeds the stereotype that those under the influence of canniboids tend to (1) be more aware of their impaired psychomotor skills, and (2) drive well below the speed limit. Those under the influence of alcohol are much more likely to be clueless or defiant about their condition, and to speed up and drive recklessly.
Hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur annually. There has never been a single recorded marijuana OD fatality.
According to the American Public Health Association, excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of death in this country. APHA pegs the negative economic impact of extreme drinking at $150 billion a year.
There have been no documented cases of lung cancer in a marijuana-only smoker, nor has pot been scientifically linked to any type of cancer. (Don’t trust an advocate’s take on this? Try the fair and balanced coverage over at Fox.) Alcohol abuse contributes to a multitude of long-term negative health consequences, notably cirrhosis of the liver and a variety of cancers.
While a small quantity, taken daily, is being touted for its salutary health effects, alcohol is one of the worst drugs one can take for pain management, marijuana one of the best.
Alcohol contributes to acts of violence; marijuana reduces aggression. In approximately three million cases of reported violent crimes last year, the offender had been drinking. This is particularly true in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and date rape. Marijuana use, in and of itself, is absent from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no link to be made.
Over the past four years I’ve asked police officers throughout the U.S. (and in Canada) two questions. When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I’m talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask: When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches.
All of which begs the question. If one of these two drugs is implicated in dire health effects, high mortality rates, and physical violence–and the other is not–what are we to make of our nation’s marijuana laws? Or alcohol laws, for that matter.
Anybody out there want to launch a campaign for the re-prohibition of alcohol? Didn’t think so. The answer, of course, is responsible drinking. Marijuana smokers, for their part, have already shown (apart from that little matter known as the law) greater responsibility in their choice of drugs than those of us who choose alcohol.
Alchohol awareness month
April is alcohol awareness month, and since drinking is the focus of many of this column’s articles, its important to understand the affect alcohol has on our society as a whole, and how to prevent the abuse of what can be an extremely harmful substance.
According to The Journal of Studies on Alcohol,
- The alcoholic-beverage industry relies on heavy and addicted drinking for the
- largest share of its profits. Hazardous drinking (5 or more drinks at one sitting)
- accounts for more than half of the alcohol industry’s $155 billion market, and more than 75% of the beer industry’s market.
While Seattle offers plenty of outdoor activities for singles to get involved in, many singles still gravitate towards bars to meet people. So how do you know when you’re drinking too much? Alcoholscreening.org has a questionnaire anyone can complete who wants to know if they are drinking too much.
Alcohol, drug offenses keep police busy
Some attending proms are among those arrested
By Mitchell Kline • THE TENNESSEAN • May 5, 2009
FRANKLIN — Police in Franklin made 26 arrests between Friday and Sunday for alcohol and drug offenses.
Four were juveniles and 14 were between the ages of 18 and 20.
All of the arrests came from regular patrol operations, according to the Franklin Police Department. Some cases were tied to after-prom parties.
Seven men, all under 21, were charged with underage consumption of alcohol while attending a gathering at 667 Watson Glen Drive on Sunday at approximately 1:15 a.m.
About an hour later a 16-year-old girl and three men under 21 were caught drinking a bottle of rum in a vehicle driven on Mack Hatcher Parkway, near South Royal Oaks Boulevard.
At approximately 4:20 a.m. the same day, an officer stopped a driver for speeding and for failing to signal a turn. The driver and two other men under 21 were charged with underage consumption of alcohol.
A woman staying at the Cool Springs Marriott was charged with public intoxication at 9:20 p.m. Sunday after allegedly yelling at other guests and throwing candy at them. Officers first escorted the woman, Rhonda Mullins, 38, of Elizabethton, Tenn., to her room, then 30 minutes later were called back to the hotel when employees reported she was creating another disturbance.
There were two people charged with possession of marijuana on Saturday. One was a 17-year-old Franklin boy who an officer observed failing to yield near the intersection of Highway 96 and Jordan Road. The second was a 16-year-old Franklin boy who was observed blocking traffic then driving erratically on Natchez Street. Officers detected the odor of burnt marijuana and found marijuana in the vehicle.
“The Franklin Police Department will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to keep impaired drivers off of our roadways,” Sgt. Charles Warner said.
by Mark Silva
Cinco de Mayo celebrations get underway this evening at the White House, on the eve of Cinco de Mayo.
If President Barack Obama wants to have some fun with one of his guests — the way the president did with the question of legalizing marijuana in a recent online “town hall” at the White House — he might consider a little side-debate with Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan in the East Room tonight.
“As most things in life, you need two to tango,” Sarukhan said in a recent appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation. He was talking about combatting the flow of drugs and weapons across the border. Host Bob Schieffer asked if legalizing marijuana would help.
“This is a very divisive issue,” Sarukhan replied. (See his overall comments above, and see the specific ones here:)
“There are proponents and opponents on both sides of the border… Those who would suggest that some of these measures be looked at understand the dynamics of the drug trade, that you have to bring demand down…. But there are many others who believe that by doing this you would only fan the flames… This is a debate that has to be taken seriously, that we have to engage in on both sides of the border…. It is a debate that has to be taken on with seriousness.”
Obama wasn’t talking too seriously about it in the most recent on-line chat that he conducted at the White House. He interrupted at one point to note what one of the most popular questions was, judging from the votes that had been recorded online.
“We took votes about which questions were going to be asked. and I think 3 million people voted or ….3.5 million people voted,” Obama said. “I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy… and job creation.
“And I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said to laughter, “This was a fairly popular question. we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy… to grow our economy.”
Legalization can financially stabilize economy
Letter to the editor
Heather Healy, email@example.com, HST 103
Published: Sunday, May 3, 2009
Updated: Sunday, May 3, 2009
If the U.S. government were to legalize marijuana, I believe that it would help financially stabilize our economy. The U.S. government is making about $7.7 billion from the sale of cigarettes alone. Imagine how much our government could add to this by legalizing the production and sale of marijuana.
Drug reporter Bruce Mirken states, “The alcohol poisoning death rate in the United States is shockingly high, consistently between 300 and 400 a year. It’s zero for pot.” This proves that alcohol, which is legal for anyone over the age of 21, is far more dangerous than marijuana. Legalizing marijuana does not mean that the government would have no control over the sale and use. I believe that there should be regulations such as an age limit to buy, and strict DUI laws.
Our country is at a loss for jobs and by legalizing marijuana it would produce many different jobs. Farmers and factories will benefit from the legalization. In Nevada alone, over 5,000 people were arrested on marijuana related charges in 2005. We as tax payers are wasting our money on locking up people who just have possession charges, instead of saving it and putting it towards our country’s debt or any other money related problems. I asked for someone else’s opinion, so I interviewed a daycare provider/owner. This was her take on the issue:
“My personal opinions of “pot” are as follows. I believe with the country of United States being in the trouble that we are, a productive way to ease a lot of the problems would be to legalize the growing and production of marijuana. Pay farmers with land sitting empty to grow this product, and organize factories to manufacture cigarettes of marijuana, just like regular cigarettes. The government could tax the sale and distribution of this product, and common businesses like gas stations and carry outs could benefit from the sale. Even those with actual medical problems that need marijuana (like glaucoma) would no longer have to get a prescription for pot. The taxes would ease the country’s deficit, would put farmers back to work, put factories back in small towns, and ease the burden in prisons from the pot sales. Most studies have proved pot is no more harmful than alcohol, and alcohol has been linked to many body diseases that kill humans every day (as well as cigarettes). Make laws that are similar to alcohol intake. An example would be drinking and driving. Enforce the same penalties for driving under the influence, which most states currently have already. This is my opinion only,” said Deanna Troutwine, aged 46 mother of five and not a current pot smoker.
The debate on legalization of marijuana is getting attention today in St. Louis. Many are saying in these tough economic times, taxing legalized pot could be a way to bring in more money. But others say it’s not a good idea.
For decades the term 4/20 has been a hush, hush code word for smoking pot. Now 4/20 is going mainstream. Venues are hosting 4/20 parties for those trying to proclaim an end pot prohibition.
“We’re not saying that 13 and 14 year olds should be able to go out and get marijuana cigarettes, there should be age restrictions but it should be available if you need it.” Christine Hall – Marijuana Advocate
Supporters claim cannabis could be the cure all for the economy.
“We could legalize and tax and put restrictions on it and we could introduce an entirely new industry in the United States.” Curtis Wells – Marijuana Advocate
Others say they need dope to get through the day. When Mark Pederson’s prescriptions couldn’t give him relief from chronic pain. He turned to pot.
“The pain from the fibromyalgia started to go away immediately and the migraines became less and less severe.” Mark Pederson – Cannabis Patient Network
And now he’s piping up about what he says are benefits from medical marijuana. Pederson is among a growing group of vocal supporters who want to see pot decriminalized, if not legalized. But Dan Duncan of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse says their claims are puffed up.
“The smoke contains cacinogenic carbons which seems to be ignored by people who use it.” Dan Duncan – Nat. Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse
Duncan says marijuana is addictive and dangerous. However, he does think reform is coming.
“We probably are seeing a trend toward decriminalization and I don’t think that’s all bad because we don’t need lots of people locked up for using marijuana.” Dan Duncan
In fact, this petition to decriminalize marijuana is circulating around the city of St. Louis.
The Point: Marijuana should be legal, and left alone
Long-ago pothead favors repealing the laws, but now regards reefer- toking as not-such-a-good idea.
By Mark Bowden
Inquirer Currents Columnist
I knew when I saw my father sitting at the kitchen table that I was in trouble.
I was a teenager, returning home late from a night out with my friends. I was high. As we did most nights, my friends and I had been smoking pot. It was 1970. Nearly everyone I knew my age smoked pot.
My father was usually asleep long before I got home. I took a quick inventory of my state of mind and concluded that so long as my conversation with him was casual and brief there was a chance he wouldn’t notice that I was cockeyed stoned. One of the virtues of pot, or so I thought then, was this ability to play it straight. Fear was especially useful. It could straighten out your thinking in a hurry.
As was his style, he confronted me head-on.
“Mark, do you smoke?” he asked.
I could not lie to my father. Even to this day, I’m not sure why exactly; I hope it was because I respected him and knew he did not lie to me.
“Yes,” I told him, and then braced myself.
He was furious, but not about my marijuana use. He had not even considered the possibility of an illicit drug. He was worried that I was smoking cigarettes! I nearly swooned with relief.
I was not a cigarette smoker. They gave me a headache and left a god-awful taste in my mouth. They were addictive and caused cancer. No way. My father had been a heavy smoker in his youth, and he had quit cold turkey when the first of the surgeon general’s warnings had come out. So he could not comprehend why one of his own sons would even consider flirting with the habit.
I did not disabuse him. While I might not have been able to look my father in the eye and lie, I was expert at withholding the complete truth. I bore the cigarette scolding manfully, expressed agreement and contrition, and gave the old man my word I would never smoke another cigarette. I have kept that promise.
It took me a little longer to stop smoking dope. Having raised five children of my own and entered upon grandfatherhood, I can report two things: (1) I think we ought to repeal laws against marijuana possession; (2) I no longer think smoking pot is a good idea.
Tomorrow, April 20, or 4/20, has become an unofficial national holiday for lovers of weed. There are supposedly 420 chemical elements in cannabis, or something like that. The reasons for 4/20 becoming the toker’s special day are suitably confused, about as certain as most trains of thought under the influence. The revelry both celebrates the substance and protests its illegality. I’m with them on the latter issue, not so much on the former.
Marijuana smoking is, if anything, more commonplace today than when I was a wannabe hippie 40 years ago. My sons, now grown, tell me that it was easier for them to get pot in high school in Chester County than it was to get beer. Generations of Americans have grown up getting high, long enough for everyone to know that all the old horror stories about its use are ridiculously exaggerated. No one I knew who smoked dope as a kid – and, as I said, just about everyone I knew did – turned into a heroin or cocaine addict.
I do know some folks who became alcoholics, and a number of them are no longer around. I believed then and I believe today that alcohol is a far greater public health and safety threat than marijuana. Tobacco, also legal, is an even greater curse.
Yet the war on weed rages on. Thirty-seven years after a special commission formed by Congress and President Richard Nixon concluded that punitive marijuana laws cause more social harm than the drug itself, nearly half of the drug arrests in this country are for pot. The numbers grow annually. More people were arrested for pot possession in America last year than ever before in our history, more than 800,000. In Pennsylvania, possession is a misdemeanor, and the possible prison sentence goes from 30 days to a year, depending on whether the amount is more or less than 30 grams. Although there are horrific exceptions, most of these offenders, unless they were involved in serious drug trafficking or some other illegal activity when arrested, do not go to jail for simple possession. Still, what a tremendous waste of money and manpower! One of the strongest arguments against such misdemeanor drug laws is that they are completely ineffective.
More than that, the prohibition of marijuana gives police an undue amount of leverage over average citizens. When something as widespread as pot possession is illegal, police can use it as an excuse to harass whole classes of otherwise law-abiding citizens. It should come as no surprise that the majority of those possession busts were young black and Latino men, even though surveys show that most of the marijuana users in this country are white.
I stopped smoking dope many years ago. I have always urged my children not to use it, just as I have counseled them to avoid using other drugs and getting drunk. The effects of pot use are more subtle than drunkenness, which leads many to conclude that marijuana is a less dangerous intoxicant than alcohol, but its very subtlety poses a unique threat. Because you can go to class high, go to work high, drive high, and otherwise function with apparent normality, it is easier to abuse marijuana constantly than alcohol, and that “normality” you feel isn’t the truth. Marijuana doesn’t make you out of control. It just makes you stupid. And while I haven’t surveyed the most recent medical reports, I suspect the health effects of inhaling pot smoke are likely to be at least as harmful as the substance that so concerned my dad.
For me, as with most users, getting high was a symptom of boredom and rebellion. Once I grew up and found work that I loved, competitive work that demanded real effort and mental clarity, I realized that the effects of getting high, the confusion and silliness, were a disadvantage. When I had children, the responsibility I felt for them weighed on me in a nice way, but also in a way that ruled out getting high. Weed began to induce less joy than worry. What if, feeling temporarily silly and indifferent, I failed my family in some way, large or small?
I know I am not alone in this. These are the kinds of decisions adults in our society make every day about their health, their responsibilities, and their happiness. Lots of people don’t agree with me, including some of my friends. That may make them misguided, in my view, but it certainly shouldn’t make them criminal.