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If I wanted to win the hearts and minds of farmers in Latin America and Afghanistan, I probably wouldn’t start by destroying their fields and removing their only hope of feeding their families.Guitherisms

 

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October 2017
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The opioid ‘crisis’

In Scientific American: People Are Dying Because of Ignorance, not Because of Opioids by Carl L. Hart

I am concerned that declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency will serve primarily to increase law-enforcement budgets, precipitating an escalation of this same sort of routine racial discrimination. […]

It is certainly possible to die from an overdose of an opioid alone, but this accounts for a minority of the thousands of opioid-related deaths. Many are caused when people combine an opioid with another sedative (such as alcohol), an antihistamine (such as promethazine) or a benzodiazepine (such as Xanax or Klonopin). People are not dying because of opioids; they are dying because of ignorance.

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Open Thread

Apologies to all my fellow couch friends. Catching up after moving and a long trip took me away from this site for too long and the comments section expired, temporarily preventing people from commenting.

I’ve extended the settings so this won’t happen again. Thanks for your patience.

I’ll try to have some more new content here soon.

– Pete

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How to Win a War on Drugs

That’s the title of Nicholas Kristof’s investigative article in the New York Times (it’s this Sunday’s Times, but they’ve put it online early)

Decades ago, the United States and Portugal both struggled with illicit drugs and took decisive action — in diametrically opposite directions. The U.S. cracked down vigorously, spending billions of dollars incarcerating drug users. In contrast, Portugal undertook a monumental experiment: It decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Ever since in Portugal, drug addiction has been treated more as a medical challenge than as a criminal justice issue.

After more than 15 years, it’s clear which approach worked better. The United States drug policy failed spectacularly, with about as many Americans dying last year of overdoses — around 64,000 — as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.

In contrast, Portugal may be winning the war on drugs — by ending it. Today, the Health Ministry estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.

The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.

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Open Thread

I’m off in San Francisco and Seattle on vacation.


— Congrats to Shaleen Title for being named to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Cannabis Control Commission ‘does not reflect the Massachusetts electorate,’ pro-marijuana group says

As Tom Angell says “As far as I know, this is the first time an advocate who helped draft a measure to end prohibition has been put in charge of implementing it.”


Political cartoon:

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Pardon

Remember how we gave President Obama such a hard time about delaying on giving pardons to so many people who had received such harsh sentences for non-violent drug crimes? And how it wasn’t until the end of his second term that he really stepped up the pardons?

Well, President Trump isn’t waiting. According to CNN, President Trump has pardoned… Joe Arpaio???

Sheesh.

President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night.

Martin Redish, writing in the New York Times, isn’t so sure… Why Trump Can’t Pardon Arpaio

This is uncharted territory. Yes, on its face the Constitution’s pardon power would seem unlimited. And past presidents have used it with varying degrees of wisdom, at times in ways that would seem to clash with the courts’ ability to render justice. But the Arpaio case is different: The sheriff was convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling. Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.

Many legal scholars argue that the only possible redress is impeachment — itself a politicized, drawn-out process. But there may be another route. If the pardon is challenged in court, we may discover that there are, in fact, limits to the president’s pardon power after all.

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Open Thread

Updates on some recent activities:

  1. The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival. I was a judge for the sixth year for this fantastic film fest, this year at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. Got to see some amazing films, not the least of which was the amazing film Monkey, which took seven awards, including Best of the Festival.
  2. “Hair” is running at the Mercury Theater in Chicago. If you’re anywhere in the area, please go see this musical (running through September 24). It’s the best production I’ve seen, with a really outstanding cast, and there’s something about seeing it in these troubled times that is extraordinarily cathartic. My small contribution even got some press:

    “But one of the most powerful moments can be attributed to the highly controversial nudity scene done here with taste, innovation and strength, avoiding the usual discomfort and vulnerability exhibited by most other productions and ensembles. This is largely due to the genius of The Living Canvas’ Pete Guither’s projection design and an explosive harmonious “freedom” sung at the end of “Where Do I Go.”” – PerformInk Review

  3. There’s a reason I never moved in the last 26 years. This packing thing is really kicking my ass. Once I finish moving next week, I think I’ll wait at least another 26 years.

Marijuana politics emerge as 2020 flash point in Politico

Marijuana legalization just moved from the fringes of the last presidential campaign to center stage in 2020.

Between a sweeping new package of legislation introduced last week by one of the top Democratic presidential prospects and, on the other end of the spectrum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vigorous opposition to recreational use of marijuana, the debate over legalization of cannabis is about to receive a full airing on the presidential campaign trail.

We’ll see, but that would be nice.


Why no one is stopping Détente’s drug war

Interesting analysis.

From the start of his presidency, Duterte offered his subordinates and the public absolution for the drug war. All responsibility, he vowed, would be his, personally. He has said time and again that anyone convicted in a court of law will receive a presidential pardon. That declaration offers the key for his success at gaining public consent for his war on drugs. He has placed himself above, and thus beyond, ordinary law, making himself the supreme law.

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Site maintenance

It’s been pointed out that Drug WarRant just celebrated its 14th Blogiversary yesterday. It would be nice to just sit back and enjoy that.

So… naturally, there were several updates today to the software that keeps this blog running, and also naturally, a number of things immediately stopped running. I’ve made a rough attempt at imperfectly restoring a some of the features to which we’ve grown accustomed, but it’s still a bit of a mess.

I promise to take a look at this more thoroughly in the near future, but it may take a few days. It turns out that retirement is much busier than I thought it would be.

Just finished contributing video projections to an amazing production of “Hair” at the Mercury Theater in Chicago that is now in previews. Next week, I’m going to be one of the Festival judges at the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. The following week, I’m moving after 26 years in the same place (which means I’ve accumulated way too much stuff!). And then a couple weeks later, I’m off on a cross-country Amtrak trip with my bicycle (Chicago to San Francisco to Seattle and back).

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Because there just isn’t enough police brutality out there right now

Sigh.

Donald Trump Endorses Police Brutality In Speech To Cops

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump received applause on Friday when he endorsed police brutality while delivering a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, New York.

The president suggested that officers should hit suspects’ heads on the doors of their police cars.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” Trump said.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head, I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’” he added.

His remarks received significant applause.

Trump also made the dubious claim that laws were “horrendously stacked” against police officers and said he wants to change those laws.

“For years and years, [laws have] been made to protect the criminal,” Trump said. “Totally protect the criminal, not the officers. You do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We’re changing those laws.”

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Get ready for a fight

Trump’s DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant. […]

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. […]

On Wednesday, Sessions reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program ahead of the committee’s recommendations.

Local law enforcement leaders say a crackdown appears to be next, though they argue there’s no need for it. […]

Though Sessions appears to be an obstacle for lawmakers and advocates who want sentencing reform, Booker said he’s not “insurmountable.”

“If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party,” he said.

But Sessions isn’t alone in his views on pot. Though he said he believes in the need for sentencing reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed to agree this week that there needs to be stricter enforcement.

“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Graham said of the task force report.

I don’t doubt, particularly since the task force is an internal structure, that the report will be crafted to appeal to what Sessions wants to do, regardless of the facts. So we could see a return to the federal pigheadedness of the John Walters tenure as Drug Czar, or worse, as Sessions has more actual power.

However, this isn’t 2007, and the political realities have shifted pretty dramatically in the past 10 years. Sessions won’t find it as easy to return to the war on marijuana that once existed. Legalization is becoming acceptable, profitable, and politically advantageous.

Government propaganda just doesn’t fly like it used to, so any findings of the task force are likely to undergo a lot more scrutiny. And there are plenty of allies on all sides of the political landscape who won’t put up with a return to pot wars.

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Open Thread

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