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Join us on Pete's couch., the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
April 2015
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Fire the DEA

Forget expressing no confidence in Michele Leonhardt, or even firing her. The entire agency is corrupt, out of control, and destructive to our society.

DEA’s Leonhart Doomed? Committee Declares ‘No Confidence’ Amid Sex Party Scandal — USA Today

Nearly two dozen lawmakers serving on the House oversight committee say it’s time for leadership change at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The current DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, infuriated committee members Tuesday with her testimony about agents who repeatedly attended sex parties with prostitutes that were funded by drug cartel members.

None of the misbehaving agents were fired. Seven of them were punished with suspensions of between one and 10 days. The Department of Justice’s inspector general reported on the wild overseas escapades last month.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said after the hearing that Leonhart should resign or be fired.

In a remarkably bipartisan Wednesday afternoon declaration, Chaffetz, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and 20 other members said they have no confidence in Leonhart.

DEA: Bad Boys Sexing Up Colombian Prostitutes Supplied by Drug Cartels – by Diane Goldstein

As a career police officer and an Executive Board Member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement professionals opposed to the War on Drugs, I have long believed that one of the most corrupting influences in policing is the enforcement of our drug laws. […]

I have often written about the Machiavellian effect of the drug war on policing and how it has fueled corruption. This scandal, as so many others is not a salacious tale about sex and drugs, but about the failures of drug prohibition and how power corrupts. The DEA, like the drug war has outlived its usefulness. The agency’s handling of not just this scandal, but also many others since its inception reflects their inability to manage itself. The time has come to dismantle an agency more concerned for its own power then for supporting the will of the American people and the rule of law.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image Smoking Marijuana for 50 Years, and Turning Out Just Fine

Not the kind of person that prohibitionists like to admit even exists.

Awkward joke by the author about marijuana being a gateway to writing a book, but otherwise, nice little article.

bullet image New Mexico: Governor Signs Bill on Civil Forfeiture

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Friday virtually ending the practice of civil forfeiture, making the state a leader in sharply restricting a contentious policy that critics say deprives citizens of due process and gives law enforcement a profit motive. “This is landmark legislation to protect people’s property and due process rights,” said Lee McGrath, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian civil rights group that has long campaigned against the practice. The law preserves criminal forfeiture, in which assets tied to crime can be taken if the owner is convicted.

bullet image Human Rights Watch Sues DEA over Bulk Collection of Americans’ Telephone Records

Los Angeles — Human Rights Watch, a nonpartisan organization that fights human rights abuses across the globe, filed suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration late Tuesday for illegally collecting records of its telephone calls to certain foreign countries as part of yet another government bulk surveillance program. The group is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has launched a series of legal challenges against unconstitutional government surveillance.

“The DEA’s program of untargeted and suspicionless surveillance of Americans’ international telephone call records—information about the numbers people call, and the time, date, and duration of those calls—affects millions of innocent people, yet the DEA operated the program in secret for years,’’ said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. “Both the First and Fourth Amendment protect Americans from this kind of overreaching surveillance. This lawsuit aims to vindicate HRW’s rights, and the rights of all Americans, to make calls overseas without being subject to government surveillance.”

bullet image Where Do Presidential Candidates Stand on Marijuana?

Nice run-down by Tom Angell.

bullet image In Mexico, new demand for ‘the good stuff’ grown in U.S.

Hmmm… will this change border dynamics?

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Fun with Propaganda

Of course, throughout history, our government has coopted all kinds of cultural icons to help promote its destructive war on drugs (and I’m sure some participated in good faith because they themselves had been blinded by the years of propaganda). I was reminded this morning of this:

Captain America Goes To War Against Drugs

It was 1990, and it was a free issue “Produced in Cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation”

Back in 2011 Cracked had an article that described the completely inane attempt at using Captain America this way: 6 Comics That Covered Serious Issues and Failed Hilariously

Captain America seems like a perfect “Don’t do drugs” spokesman until you remember that it was getting shot up with a “super soldier serum” that let him gain muscles the size of basketballs and become a superhero. So that makes him pretty much the Barry Bonds of superheroes and the second-worst person to star in a PSA comic about substance abuse after Pablo Escobar.

The “Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs” story is so epic it spans two comics, and it’s so offensively stupid that the DEA might as well have tattooed DRUGS on their knuckles and punched all the kids who read this comic in the face instead.

It goes on in detail to describe the bizarre story in this comic.

And, of course, there were others. Check out The American Soft Drink Industry presents DC Comics’ The New Teen Titans in cooperation with The President’s Drug Awareness Campaign, complete with a letter from Nancy Reagan.


Speaking of propaganda, remember the old “This is your brain on drugs”?


It’s been rightly ridiculed over the years, but now there’s a new version that’s a lot more interesting.

The tagline of the most famous anti-drug campaign of the late 80s is now the title of a series of beautiful posters created by Duke University senior Meaghan Li. Li majors in public policy and minors in graphic design. This project was created for a psychology class that delved into different aspects of substance use and abuse.

This is your brain on drugs.


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I’ve been busy today and haven’t had a chance to watch/listen to this, but I thought you might want to know that there’s a video featuring Mark Kleiman debating “Chasing the Scream’s” Johann Hari.

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DEA spying on Americans

This isn’t a real surprise, but it’s still a big story.

U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

It turns out the DEA was the worst offender…

The DEA used its data collection extensively and in ways that the NSA is now prohibited from doing. Agents gathered the records without court approval, searched them more often in a day than the spy agency does in a year and automatically linked the numbers the agency gathered to large electronic collections of investigative reports, domestic call records accumulated by its agents and intelligence data from overseas.

And it took Edward Snowden to stop the program.

Holder halted the data collection in September 2013 amid the fallout from Snowden’s revelations about other surveillance programs.

And, of course, they knew it wasn’t right.

To keep the program secret, the DEA sought not to use the information as evidence in criminal prosecutions or in its justification for warrants or other searches.

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How backwards we can be

From a scientific, public health, and public policy perspective, needle exchange programs aren’t even controversial. They save lives, reduce disease, and don’t result in increased drug abuse.

Yet politically, there are still flat-earthers out there somehow concerned about the message sent by saving people’s lives.

Indiana begins needle exchange in county with outbreak

Scott County’s needle-exchange program was created through an emergency executive order signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence in an attempt to curb the state’s largest-ever HIV outbreak. Pence’s 30-day order temporarily suspended Indiana’s ban on such programs, but only for the southeastern Indiana county that’s about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

“While (Pence) has been clear that he does not support needle exchange as anti-drug policy on an ongoing basis, he’s been equally clear about his concern over this outbreak, and has taken a critical step to end this outbreak by allowing this needle exchange to occur,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, the News and Tribune reported.

That is an incredible disconnect. They understand that it is absolutely essential to public health, yet they don’t support it and will only allow it on a limited basis in one county.

[Thanks, Sanho]

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Open thread

Welcome to those who participated in a most enjoyable event last night at Indiana University. I had a great time with my presentation, and a wonderful discussion with the folks there. Special kudos for making that wonderful Drug War Victims poster based on the Drug War Victims page.

If this is your first time visiting the site, have a seat on the couch — we’ve got some great folks here, who have a ton of good information.

Oh, and for the wonderful gentleman who traveled a long distance to hear the talk and was foiled by Indiana time zones, I’m sorry you missed a good portion of it, but glad I got to meet you.

Pete Guither speaking on the drug war's assault on liberty

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As always, follow the money

Former Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high

Yet there is a clear winner in the anti-drug effort – not the Afghan people, but the infamous mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater.

Statistics released on Tuesday reveal that the rebranded private security firm, known since 2011 as Academi, reaped over half a billion dollars from the futile Defense Department push to eradicate Afghan narcotics, some 32% of the $1.8bn in contracting money the Pentagon has devoted to the job since 2002.

The company is by far the biggest beneficiary of counternarcotics largesse in Afghanistan. Its closest competition, the defense giant Northrop Grumman, claimed $250m.

That’s a lot of money. What has been the result?

Far from eradicating the deep-rooted opiate trade, US counternarcotics efforts have proven useless, according to a series of recent official inquiries. Other aspects of the billions that the US has poured into Afghanistan over the last 13 years of war have even contributed to the opium boom.

In December, the United Nations reported a 60% growth in Afghan land used for opium poppy cultivation since 2011, up to 209,000 hectares. The estimated $3bn value of Afghan heroin and morphine represents some 15% of Afghan GDP.

The extent of the money-grabbing connected to the drug war is mind-boggling.

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Big Gay Marijuana

Talk Radio Host Bryan Fischer has been getting a lot of Twitter ridicule for this tweet regarding the situation in Indiana:


This worry about Big Gay… sound familiar? It’s just like Kevin Sabet and his constant concern trolling about Big Marijuana.

It seems like there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity here — maybe Big Gay and Big Marijuana should join forces and open a string of Big Gay Marijuana businesses (excluding bigots and Kevin Sabet).

imagePerhaps with Big Gay Ice Cream next door…

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Against random student drug testing

Doctors Group Opposes Student Drug Testing, reported by Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority

A group representing 62,000 pediatricians said Monday that schools should not randomly drug test students.[…]

Beyond drug testing’s futility, the group’s policy statement cites a number of harms the practice can cause:

“Other concerns regarding school-based drug testing include the potential for breach of privacy (eg, when a student’s prescribed medications are identified on a drug test); detrimental consequences, such as suspension or expulsion for students who have positive drug test results; school dropout or increased truancy for students who fear they would fail a drug test; or increased use of substances not easily detectable on a drug screen.”

In a technical report accompanying the new policy statement, the pediatricians also note the “unfair stigmatization” that can result from false-positive test results. “Consequences related to false-positive drug test results (school suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, interpersonal relationship stressors with parents, peers, teachers, and school administrators) can have significant effects on a high school student.”

We still have school districts all over the country instituting drug testing for students, and it’s going to take some time to reverse the trend.

I know I’ve discussed this here before, but I am opposed to suspicionless drug testing for any group, including suspicionless employment drug testing, suspicionless student drug testing, and suspicionless public assistance drug testing.

As an overall notion, it is offensive to American principles to set up procedures requiring people to prove their “innocence.” And, time and time again, the more that these policies are properly analyzed in context, we find that they are more harmful overall than helpful.

Related: School Suspensions Cause More, Not Less, Student Marijuana Use

Students who attend schools that use out-of-school suspension as a punishment for illegal drug use were 1.6 times more likely to use marijuana in the next year than those at schools without such policies, researchers from the University of Washington and various institutions in Australia found in the paper, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

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