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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
March 2015
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Speaking in Indiana on Wednesday

On Wednesday, April 1 (no joke), I’m traveling to Indiana to talk about some bad laws (no, not that one… some others).

This event is hosted by Young Americans for Liberty at Indiana University and Student Peace Alliance


If you’re in the area, hope to see you there!

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Colorado responds

Colorado has responded to the Supreme court complaint by Nebraska and Oklahoma with this brief.

I think it’s extremely well-written and well-argued, pointing out the absurdity of the claims by the other states.

Here’s a taste:

The Complaint, however, does not challenge marijuana legalization as a general matter. For example, the Plaintiff States do not object to Colorado’s legalization and regulation of medical marijuana, although medical marijuana makes up over half of the State’s $700 million marijuana industry and, like recreational marijuana, is also vulnerable to out-of-state diversion. See Raich, 545 U.S. at 31–32. And the Plaintiff States disclaim any argument that a State can be forced “to criminalize marijuana.” […]

The Complaint instead asks the Court to strike down only those laws that empower Colorado to authorize, monitor, and regulate recreational marijuana businesses. Compl. at 28–29. In other words, if Plaintiffs’ requested relief is granted, recreational marijuana would remain legal, but Colorado would lose the ability to monitor and regulate its retail supply and distribution.

Interesting little dig in the statement from the Attorney General in conjunction with the brief… “This lawsuit, however, even if successful, won’t fix America’s national drug policy—at least not without leadership from Washington, D.C., which remains noticeably absent.”

[Thanks, Tom]

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Mark Kleiman asks Kevin Sabet the big question

On twitter:

[…] Now, is there any way to keep prohibition and limit the excesses of drug law enforcement? That’s the hard one.


Kevin always talks about there being a way to solve the problems of the drug war without legalizing, but never seems to be willing to share his “secret” plan. And while Kleiman supports marijuana legalization as a concept, he always seems unwilling to grant people the authority to make decisions for their own lives.

The reality is that there are two answers to the question.

1. No. There has never been any evidence that prohibition can exist without excesses of drug law enforcement. We’ve dealt with various kinds of prohibition for decades and there is no evidence of the potential of a benevolent prohibition.

2. The question assumes that prohibition (if somehow done “right”) is a “value,” but it is not. Prohibition is a fatally flawed concept from the beginning, because it makes a crime out of things that are not a crime. In a wrong-headed effort to tackle a particular perceived societal ill, basic human rights are infringed, and that is simply unacceptable.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image Marijuana Arrests in Colorado After the Passage of Amendment 64

The report finds that since 2010, marijuana possession charges are down by more than 90%, marijuana cultivation charges are down by 96%, and marijuana distribution charges are down by 99%. The number of marijuana possession charges in Colorado courts has decreased by more than 25,000 since 2010 – from 30,428 in 2010 to just 1,922 in 2014.

bullet image (Via press release on Tuesday): Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Submit Companion Bill to CARERS Act to Allow States to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Today a comprehensive bipartisan medical marijuana legalization bill was introduced to the House of Representatives. The bill serves as a companion to the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies without fear of federal prosecution. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) originally introduced the CARERS Act to the Senate earlier this month. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill most recently. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced today’s companion bill, which marks yet another significant leap of progress in bipartisan support for compassionate medical marijuana legislation.

“Police have as much business telling patients whether they should use medical marijuana as they do performing eye surgery – and with a similar rate of success,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a criminal justice group opposed to the drug war. “When you treat a health problem like a matter for law enforcement, you only endanger the patient, who has no assurance of the quality or purity of what he’s consuming and must enter the illegal market to obtain it, and undermine respect for and effectiveness of law enforcement in our society.”

The CARERS Act would foremost allow states to decide their own regulatory policies. It would also reschedule marijuana from the federal scheduling category I to II, which unlike Schedule I, recognizes medical efficacy and allows more extensive research for drugs within that schedule, though it is still very restrictive. If passed, the bill would also permit interstate commerce of CBD (cannabidiol) products. CBD is a non-psychoactive seizure suppressant found in marijuana that has shown to be effective in reducing the severity and intensity of seizures, particularly in pediatric epileptic patients.

bullet image College Republicans in Madison fuzzy on the notion of “freedom.” Point counterpoint: Drug testing public assistance applicants promotes freedom, workforce

The United States is founded on freedom, where everyone has an opportunity. It is a place where success and happiness are attainable through one’s own will. Seizing opportunity and gaining success is the rewarding principle of the American dream.

Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature hope to preserve this principle through their proposal of drug testing public assistance applicants. Drug testing public assistance applicants not only helps ensure that the unemployed are eligible for employment, but also promotes constructive behavior that is desirable in the workforce.

bullet image New Mexico legislature passes sweeping bill to rein in forfeiture abuses

The bill would basically require a criminal conviction before police can take property associated with a crime.

Just goes to show how Kafka-esque this world has gotten where we get excited over one state bravely moving toward what logically should be a common-sense baseline.

bullet image Marijuana Edibles Blamed For Keystone Death

Bizarrely, this article has idiots on twitter (Christine Tatum) demanding:

@DanRiffle, @tomangell, change the “No one dies from pot” message NOW. @learnaboutsam

If you read the article, it’s like someone deciding to go ice fishing after reading the “thin ice” signs, and making a hole with dynamite, blowing himself up in the process, and blaming the death on the lake.

I would classify this death as a Darwin award. But, “died from pot”? No.

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And now for something completely different

Just for fun:

9 Reasons We Should Never, Never, Never, Ever Legalize Marijuana by Michael McCutcheon.

Pretty convincing stuff.

Consider this an open thread.

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United Nations Agency tears into the drug war

No, not the UNODC, but the United Nations Development Programme has nothing good to say about it.

Transform has great coverage: Another UN agency savages the drug war

Here’s the key quote:

“[Drug control efforts] have had harmful collateral consequences: creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence, and instability; threatening public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalization of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women, and youth” — The United Nations Development Programme

Wow! Really powerful stuff.

And they keep going, talking about the impact of drug policies on the formal economy, on human rights, on gender, on the environment, and on indigenous peoples, and they argue that “new approaches are both urgent and necessary.”

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About the notion of cyclical support for legalization

Kevin Sabet has an recent interview with German Lopez in VOX. Most of it is the usual stuff he peddles, like wanting to somehow reduce some of the harmful effects of prohibition while keeping marijuana illegal, bemoaning the greed involved in commercial legalization while completely ignoring the overwhelming greed of prohibition forces. At one point in the interview, Kevin indulges in a bit of wishful thinking…

There’s no doubt that there’s some truth to the momentum for legalization that has grown in the past 10 years or so.

But I think what goes up must also come down. I think these things come in cycles. In the 1970s, we had the exact same thing happen with support for legalization. Maybe not as much as we have now, but we did see a dramatic change from the 1950s to the 1970s — in the same way you’ve seen a change from the 1990s to the 2010s. And that reversed for all sorts of reasons after the 1970s. It might reverse this time, but it might not.

I don’t think he believes it, either, but it’s an interesting point to disuss.

Jacob Sullum addresses it in Anti-Pot Activist on Support for Legalization: ‘What Goes Up Must Come Down’ and crunches some of the numbers to show that the pattern is closer to natural dips in an overall movement rather than cycles.

I have a few more thoughts on this…

First, when the dip in support happened in the 1970s, there was a whole lot going on – reaction to the various youth movements of the time, the Vietnam War, and the beginning of culture wars. I think the reduction in support for legalization had less to do with marijuana than it did with other factors.

Today is a much different time, and marijuana is no longer associated in the minds of the population with one cultural group that can be separated and demonized.

Also, in the 1970s, the government had a much greater control over the dissemination of information to the population, so when the drug war was ratcheted up, their propaganda had very little organized countering (except in specialized populations). And at that time, the media and other institutions were even more likely to support the official government line without question. This allowed for the creation of an atmosphere where even the discussion of legalization was considered some kind of antisocial and dangerous behavior.

Despite this, the anti-legalization forces were still only able to effect a temporary drop in support for legalization.

Today, of course, the dynamics are drastically different. The internet and unlimited means of information distribution have made suppression of information pretty much impossible. Reformers have a legitimate voice that can be heard, even over the full might of the federal government.

Now, might there be dips? Of course.

With major change, there is likely to be temporary shifts in public opinion up and down. As we see legalization expand, there’s always the potential for a tiny minority of stupid people making a public spectacle of themselves, which could cause a temporary blowback. But that’ll quickly settle out.

You could conceivably make a case that there will be some scientific discovery that will change public opinion about marijuana, but that is extremely unlikely. Prohibitionists have tried time and time again using junk science to try to derail support, always unsuccessfully. And we know enough about cannabis to be pretty certain that there is no as-yet-undiscovered danger of any significance.

There will always be those who oppose legalization. But the idea of a cycle that will leave legalization support marginalized once again — just a pipe dream.

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HAT in Nevada?


Nevada State Senate to Consider Goundbreaking Heroin-Assisted Treatment Program

Last week, Nevada State Senator Richard Segerblom introduced groundbreaking legislation, Senate Bill 275, which creates a four-year heroin-assisted treatment pilot project.

Heroin-assisted treatment, also known as heroin maintenance, refers to the supervised administration by a doctor of pharmaceutical-grade heroin (diacetylmorphine) to a small group of chronic heroin users who have failed more traditional forms of treatment including abstinence-based models and medication such as methadone.

Pretty amazing to see, although you can bet it’s going to face some very stiff opposition. If it were to happen, we could be in a position to demonstrate here in the U.S. just how stupid our policies have been.

As Ethan Nadelmann notes:

“All that stands in the way of starting such programs in our country is backward thinking and drug war ideology.”


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Just a reminder about drug scares…

Remember crack babies? How we lost an entire generation because crack destroyed all those new lives?

Yeah. Didn’t happen. We all know that now.

It’s good to be reminded of the scientifically unsupported panic that our government and media likes to push on us regarding drugs.

Recently, there was a very good story about the situation 25 years after the “crack baby epidemic.”

Crack Baby Myth Goes up in Smoke

“We were really preparing for the worst,” Hurt said. “We had reports of psychologists saying this was going to be a biologically inferior underclass, might not even be able to dress themselves.”

But after 25 years of research, she found there were no differences in the health and life outcomes between babies exposed to crack and those who weren’t.

The crack baby was a myth.

What did make a difference for those babies, however, was poverty and violence.

And, as this article points out, the unfounded hysteria may have come from more than just ignorance…

But in fact, the fuel was provided by an entity even more powerful than the media — it came from the federal government. As law professor Michelle Alexander revealed in her book, The New Jim Crow, when President Ronald Reagan declared a War on Drugs in 1982, recreational drug use in the U.S. was in serious decline. Reagan’s declaration of war tapped into a growing public sentiment against illegal drug use. So the declaration was more about politics than about drugs presenting an actual danger to the nation.

The Reagan administration was trying to make his pitch to white people, so it was easy to construct Black people as the enemy in the War on Drugs. This has led to mass incarceration that has imprisoned millions and devastated Black communities across the U.S. The administration made crack into the monster it needed to create the modern prison industrial complex.

Alexander said the administration even used publicists to help create the myth of the uniqueness of crack, a new incredibly addictive superdrug. At the start of the crack scare in the fall of 1985, the news media unleashed a series of startling stories about newborn infants who allegedly suffered severe and permanent health damage as fetuses because their mothers ingested cocaine during pregnancy. But as Hurt and other researchers found, the impact of cocaine exposure on newborn health and development was, at best, greatly exaggerated in media accounts.

The story of so much of the drug war. The federal government willing to lie and cause severe damage to society to push a political agenda regarding drugs, and a complicit media that loves sensationalism.

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Why marijuana isn’t at the bottom of the list

President Obama:

“Let’s put it in perspective,” Obama said in response. “Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace, maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

That, of course, completely misses the point regarding what “thinking about marijuana” actually is about.

Tom Angell:

“But he should think again about how important this issue is. On average, there’s a marijuana possession arrest in the U.S. about every minute. Billions of dollars are wasted on enforcing prohibition laws that don’t stop anyone from using marijuana but do ruin people’s lives with damaging criminal records.”

Lee Rosenberg (via Twitter):

No, marijuana legalization is not the most important issue for young people to care about, but government incompetence on the issue has a very negative and very real impact on the perception that government is capable of solving more serious problems.

“Thinking about marijuana” is about more than getting high.

It’s about systemic police corruption. It’s about a failed criminal justice system that fuels situations like Ferguson. It’s about tens of thousands dead in Mexico. It’s about failed foreign policy. It’s about using bad laws to control a population and deny them basic rights. It’s about perversion of our Constitution. It’s about financial self-interest trumping science and reason.

Marijuana most definitely isn’t at the bottom of the list.

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