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December 2014
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They just don’t make them like John Walters anymore

Drug enforcement is not racist by John P. Walters and David W. Murray.

Yep, that John Walters. The former drug czar, and subject of hundreds of drug warrant postings. And yes, he and David Murray are arguing that the drug war isn’t racist.

His argument construction is truly masterful in its evil obfuscation.

Note where he tries to take you. From “the drug war is not racist” to this explanation:

A 2008 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that fewer than 0.3 percent of those incarcerated in state prison (which is where most US inmates are incarcerated) are there for simple marijuana-possession offenses — and many of those have just “pled down” from more serious offenses.

Wow. I’ve seen others misuse the state prison argument, but none to this degree. Of course, the drug war is way, way more than simple marijuana-possession offenses, and, of course, simple marijuana-possession offenses are not likely to end up specifically in state prison, but that doesn’t mean that the hundreds of thousands arrested each year for it are not harmed. Note the “which is where most US inmates are incarcerated” line, which is intended to make you think that anything else is an insignificant aspect to the argument.

Are African-Americans targeted victims of the drug laws? No — race is not the driver of “disparate impact.”

This is also fascinating. The drug war is racist because of its impact, not necessarily because of conscious effort on the part of all those enforcing. But here, he uses one aspect in the question, and a different one in the answer, making it seem like they follow when they don’t.

Walters was really good at this kind of paragraph construction when he was drug czar. He’d place disconnected statements next to each other in a way to make you think there was a connection between them.

Read the rest of his piece and see how he uses this in many of his arguments (also pay particular attention to words like “associated with” and “linked,” as well as his use of the perfect solution fallacy). Analyzing his writing is good practice for us.

Walters has definitely been consistent as a manipulative sadomoralist, even going back to his early days, when he was co-author of “Body Count: Moral Poverty.. and How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs” with William J. Bennett and John J. DiIulio, Jr.

In some strange way, I almost miss this evil genius. Today’s buffoons like Kevin Sabet really don’t hold a candle.

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Surgeon General

There is a new surgeon general, and Kevin Sabet approves:

Congratulations to the new @Surgeon_General Vivek Murthy, who opposes marijuana. “I don’t recommend marijuana.”

Marijuana’s a no-no, says desi Surgeon General nominee

Dr Vivek H Murthy (bottom left), President Obama’s nominee for the United States Surgeon General, believes the jury is still out on the medical benefits of marijuana and hence he wouldn’t prescribe it to his patients. Furthermore, if he had kids, he would advise them to stay away from it. […]

Murthy acknowledged that “this is a very important issue” in many states and noted that some of his patients too had spoken to him on the efficacy of marijuana.

“This is an important public health issue,” he noted, but asserted, “I wouldn’t prescribe medical marijuana myself.”

Murthy said, “In my estimation, while there is anecdotal evidence of benefits we hear about from cancer doctors and other physicians about medical marijuana, I agree with the AMA (American Medical Association) and other organiastions, that we need more information about the proven indications of medical marijuana as well as safe doses and the risks and the side effects, before we can safely prescribe it for medical purposes.”

“Just like other drugs,” he said, “I don’t recommend marijuana and I don’t think it’s a good habit to use marijuana.”

Murthy added, “If I had kids, I would tell them not to use it.”

Asked if he would use his bully pulpit as surgeon general to get this message out to the public, he said, “What I would do is — as I was mentioning earlier — I believe we need more information on marijuana.”

That doesn’t sound like opposition so much as it does an attempt to walk some kind of political line. The “I can’t decide without more information” response is not only getting old, but since there actually is so much information out there, it makes the speaker sound stupid and uninformed.

Of course, there are drugs prescribed and recommended all the time about which we have far less information than we do about marijuana.

But maybe Dr. Murthy is some kind of radical who actually opposes all drugs, including pharmaceuticals, too…

“Just like other drugs,” he said, “I don’t recommend marijuana…”

Hmmm… appears he hasn’t even really figured out the definition of the word “drugs.”

The Surgeon General position has always been political, and rarely relevant. It appears that this may be more of the same.

Now and then, however, we’ve had someone actually step up in the position.

“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.” – M. Jocelyn Elders

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Open Thread

bullet image Absolutely outstanding response to the Big Marijuana nonsense: Marijuana Legalization: The Big Tobacco Smokescreen by Jon Gettman

Big Marijuana? It’s catchy, but comparing legalized marijuana to the tobacco industry misleads both the public and policymakers about the challenges of regulating this industry. […]

However, marijuana regulations need to be devised on solid information and experience, and not on the basis of superficial analogies, and most certainly not based on hypocrisy. Big Marijuana already exists — it’s also called the Black Market. Public concern over a large, unregulated, socially irresponsible marijuana market is, and should be, argument number one in support of marijuana’s legalization.

bullet image Native American reservations now free to legalize marijuana

The Justice Department said Thursday it will no longer prosecute federal laws regulating the growing or selling of marijuana on reservations, even when state law bans the drug.

The government will let tribal governments decide what to do about pot.

bullet image So, apparently Congress blocked the implementation of Washington DC’s vote for legalization. Or maybe they didn’t. Depends on who you read and how they interpret the language of the amendment. I’ll wait and see.

However, it’s always interesting to follow the money. Why Is This Maryland Republican Really Trying to Block D.C.’s Pot Legalization?

As for why Harris has made this fight against D.C. democracy his primary cause, the Attn. blog looked into the congressman’s biggest donors and found that a Maryland-based company called Emergent BioSolutions near the top of the list.

Attn.’s Matthew Seagel reports:

One of Emergent’s products is epsil, “a fast-acting treatment that reduces the pain associated with oral mucositis,” which is a common complication of chemotherapy from cancer treatment. According to its website, “by reducing the pain associated with OM, episil® may help you maintain proper nutrition and a level of comfort—and may allow you to continue your cancer therapy uninterrupted.”

So what does any of this mean?

Marijuana (cannabis) is a huge combatant against many of the deleterious effects of cancer and chemotherapy, and thus a hugely disruptive threat to Emergent’s business model.

No surprise there.

bullet image U.S. marijuana foes discuss launching tax-exempt funding body

Marijuana legalization opponents could launch a tax-exempt fundraising body as early as next year that would let them shield donors, part of a broader 2016 election strategy aimed at raising more cash and merging political factions, activists said on Wednesday. […]

Smart Approaches to Marijuana President Kevin Sabet, who said he pushed for the tax-exempt group, said there was a moment of relief over a U.S. spending bill that bars the nation’s capital from using funds to implement legal pot.

Sabet said the group also discussed lobbying 2016 presidential candidates and appealing to wealthy donors like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent some $4 million campaigning against Florida’s medical pot initiative, as well as corporations concerned about stoned workers and liability.

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Drug War Victim David Hooks

Another outrageous case that’s been added to my Drug War Victims page.

Police shoot, kill Georgia grandfather during no-knock drug raid

David HooksEAST DUBLIN, GA — A drug task force gunned down a grandfather in his home during a botched late-night raid that was based on the word of a self-confessed meth addict and burglar who had robbed the property two nights prior. [..]

The officers claimed to be looking for methamphetamines. After searching the home forty-four (44) hours, not a single trace of narcotics was retrieved.

The warrant — which was acquired only 1 hour before the raid — had been founded on information provided by the very same burglar who had stolen the Hooks’ Lincoln Aviator SUV two nights prior. The self-described thief and meth-addict was Rodney Garrett, who alleged that he had obtained drugs from inside the vehicle he had stolen from David and Teresa Hooks.

Attorney: Hooks shot in the back and head during raid

He says officers were looking for drugs in the home, but didn’t find any. Shook says the officers fired 17 shots inside the home and struck Hooks.

He says Hooks had four wounds, two of which he says are very problematic. Shook says that’s according to the Laurens County EMS records. He says the same information is found in the medical records from Fairview Park Hospital.

“One was to the side of the head, the other, was in his back, the back of his left shoulder, based on the evidence we see, we believe that David Hooks was face down on the ground when he received those last two shots,” says Shook. […]

Teresa Hooks, David’s wife, remembers the night clearly.

She says, “Between 10:30 and 11, I turned the light off upstairs. I heard a car coming up the driveway really fast, and I looked up the upstairs window. I saw a black vehicle with no lights. I saw 6 to 8 men, coming around the side of my house, and I panicked. I came running downstairs, yelling for David to wake up. He was in the bedroom asleep, had been for about an hour and a half. When I got downstairs to the bottom of the stairs, he opened the door and he had a gun in his hand, and he said, ‘Who is it?,’ and I said I didn’t know. He stepped back into the bedroom like he was going to grab his pants, but before he could do that, the door was busted down. He came around me, in the hall, into the den, and I was gonna come behind him, but before I could step into the den the shots were fired, and it was over.”

She says, “Initially, I thought that I was going to die, I thought I was going to be shot, I thought a gang had broke in, and up until I heard the radios the dispatch radios, I had no idea.”

Hooks says she sat outside in handcuffs for two hours after her husband was shot to death.

She says during that time, she had to watch her husband on a stretcher without a word from officers about what was going on.

More links at that story.

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Students say the darndest things

I haven’t posted one of these for a while — the college student anti-drug piece that appears to be attempted regurgitation of DARE-style propaganda without any actual comprehension.

Student Katie Wightman says: Don’t legalize marijuana in Missouri

Marijuana should not become a household item to get on the shopping list while running errands. Do not “normalize” it. The link between harmful situations that occur when being under the influence is indisputable. Thousands of dollars are spent on education in the schools about the harmful effects of being under the influence.

This will be increased when kids are taught that smoking marijuana is an acceptable thing to do. So, if marijuana is legalized in Missouri then it will negatively affect future generations’ view on drugs.

I don’t know what they teach at Evangel University, but it clearly doesn’t include logic or academic research.

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You can’t say that water doesn’t kill anybody

Kevin Sabet pretends that his argument about the dangers of marijuana is a legitimate critique of legalization, and that things like context and relative risk can be ignored.

Busting the Myth That Marijuana Doesn’t Kill, in 1 Minute

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House of Representatives moves to protect Medical Marijuana

The text of the omnibus spending bill approved by the House includes the following remarkable passages (pages 213-214):

“Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

“Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

Via Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority who suggests:

“Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference. This legislation greatly reduces the chances that costly and senseless DEA raids will come between seriously ill patients and the doctor-recommended medicine they need for relief. Now that Congress has created political space by taking this important legislative step, there are no remaining excuses for the Obama administration not to exercise its executive power to reschedule marijuana immediately. The attorney general can begin that process today with the stroke of a pen.”

Now, this is still just the House, and still just a first step, but for this kind of language to actually get passed in the U.S. Congress… pretty amazing.

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No mistakes

Rand Paul on marijuana: ‘I made mistakes’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hinted to a local Kentucky television news station that he smoked marijuana in college. […]

“Let’s just say I wasn’t a choir boy when I was in college,” Paul said, “and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid.”

Just stop that, will you?

I also smoked pot in college. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a conscious, informed decision that provided numerous measurable benefits to me during my time in school. I don’t regret it, and if I could go back in time, I would do it again.

Let’s stop making excuses for something that needs no excusing.

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Disingenuous critiques of ‘Big Marijuana’

Samuel T. Wilkinson from the Yale School of Medicine blindly follows the S.A.M. playbook in The marijuana industry is following the trail blazed by Big Tobacco.

Kevin Sabet’s crew keeps pushing this narrative as if it were an actual legitimate argument instead of an insincere ploy to scare people without cause.

In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer. […]

Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies.

Guess what? Cannabis isn’t tobacco, and the 21st Century isn’t the 20th century. Scientific knowledge has changed, political realities have changed, social awareness has changed, so any comparison between big tobacco then and “big marijuana” now is unfounded, plus… cannabis isn’t tobacco.

If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities.

This is also disingenuous. Wilkinson and the S.A.M. clones know full well that government-run distribution is impossible at this stage, in part because of opposition from people just like them. Not one of these folks has seriously suggested reform that would allow a government regulated approach, but rather use it as a fake argument to forestall legalization.

The reason that commercial entrepreneurship is the model for marijuana legalization today is because it is the only model that is possible in the face of federal obstructionism.

If Wilkinson and Sabet want to complain about the commercial market, then they should be complaining about federal interference with state options.

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Drug policy that shows us up

Still not perfect, but here are two examples of drug policy that help to drive home just how incredibly horrendous is U.S. policy.

bullet image Netherlands: ‘You will not be arrested for using drugs’: What a sane drug policy looks like

Cocaine alert

Now a truly good policy would have cocaine legally regulated so you don’t unexpected ingredients in your cocaine, but this is far better than what we would do.

bullet image Canada: Canada Begins Prescribing Heroin to Those Already Addicted

Canada has become the first country in North America to implement a medically prescribed heroin dispensing program. Often called ‘heroin maintenance programs,’ these initiatives help heroin addicts who fail to respond to conventional treatment, typically methadone.

This kind of program has been proved effective for years, and yet we still are unwilling to consider anything like it in the U.S.

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