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February 2015
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Rand Paul slams Bush ‘hypocrisy’ on pot

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused Jeb Bush of hypocrisy after The Boston Globe reported the former Florida governor was a heavy marijuana smoker while at an elite prep school. […]

“You would think he’d have a little more understanding then,” Paul told The Hill while en route to a political event in Texas.
“He was even opposed to medical marijuana,” Paul said of Bush, a potential rival in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. “This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that,” he said.

Yes, exactly.

Nice to see politicians calling out other politicians on this.

One bizarre moment in this article written by Alexander Bolton, though, was this passage:

The Globe cited a former classmate, Peter Tibbetts, who said he first smoked marijuana with Bush and also consumed cannabis, a concentration of the plant’s resin, in Bush’s dorm room.

Perhaps Bolton should Google “cannabis” and learn what it is before trying to define it to his readers.

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Our approach to addiction treatment is medieval

There’s a new extensive article at Huffington Post worth reading: Dying To Be Free: There’s A Treatment For Heroin Addiction That Actually Works. Why Aren’t We Using It? by Jason Cherkis.

This article absolutely destroys the abstinence-only approach to addiction treatment that drives so much of U.S. drug policy and the treatment industry, showing how this approach actually leads to many of the overdose deaths we see, while failing to actually serve addicts.

It amazes me that people can read this kind of detail and still spout in comments that forcing people to quit cold turkey is the only way to go. It shows just how dysfunctional we have been as a society by pushing anti-drug propaganda to the point of destroying logic and reason.

It’s also sad that this probably ground-breaking article on addiction treatment in the U.S. still doesn’t even get to HAT (heroin-assisted treatment) and some of the better approaches to managing addiction that have been proven successful elsewhere.

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Keeping the pressure on forfeiture reform

While Holder’s recent announcement about limiting federal adoption of civil forfeiture got a lot of people excited, it was important to realize (as we did) that the impact was very limited.

The danger was that people would think that Holder’s memo constituted real reform, and that we could relax. Fortunately, real reform is still being pushed.

As Jacob Sullum reports:

Today Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) reintroduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, which would revise federal civil forfeiture law to give property owners more protection and reduce the profit incentive that encourages law enforcement agencies to seize assets. […]

The FAIR Act abolishes the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allows police to evade state limits on forfeiture by using federal law to confiscate people’s property.[…]

The FAIR Act requires the government to prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that property is subject to forfeiture. […]

In cases where the government argues that an asset is forfeitable because it was used to facilitate criminal activity, the FAIR Act puts the burden on the government to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the owner himself used the property for illegal purposes or that he “knowingly consented or was willfully blind to the use of the property.” […]

The FAIR Act would allow [structuring] forfeiture only when the owner “knowingly” sought to avoid bank reports of “funds not derived from a legitimate source.”[…]

In determining whether a forfeiture is constitutionally excessive, a court is supposed to consider not only “the seriousness of the offense” (as under current law) but also “the extent of the nexus of the property to the offense,” “the range of sentences available for the offense,” “the fair market value of the property,” and “the hardship to the property owner and dependents.” […]

The FAIR act expands the current guarantee of legal representation for property owners who cannot afford it from forfeitures involving primary residences to all forfeitures. […]

This is real reform, and it needs to happen.

We need to really keep up the pressure on our representatives to stop the practice of theft by law enforcement.

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More ugliness from the National Sheriff’s Association

Press Release from the NSA: Gupta Nomination Concern

On behalf of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) and the 3080 elected sheriffs nationwide, Sheriff John Aubrey, NSA President and Sheriff of Jefferson County, Kentucky wrote today to The Honorable Chuck Grassley to advise him of our strong concerns over the potential nomination of Vanita Gupta as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. NSA believes that Ms. Gupta’s previous statements on a range of issues make her ill-suited for this important post.

If Ms. Gupta is formally nominated, NSA urges Grassley to investigate her previous statements on the legalization of drugs. As recently as 2012, she wrote in the Huffington Post that “states should decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, particularly marijuana, and for small amounts of other drugs.” Decriminalization of all drugs—including heroin, LSD, cocaine, and more—would have disastrous effects on our communities and our citizens. Communities have been crippled by drug abuse and addiction, stifling economic productivity and destroying families. Ms. Gupta’s short-sighted statements on legalization and her apparent beliefs would put her at odds with the goal of public safety day in and day out. As the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, it is imperative that any nominee understand the challenges faced by law enforcement in protecting our communities.

Note the unwillingness to even engage in critical thinking – the automatic assumption that like the law of gravity – unable to be questioned, or alternatives considered.

Oh, and remember — they don’t make the laws; they just enforce them.


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More junk science from Patricia Cavazos-Rehg

The media is often up for a juicy pot-related study, without requiring much critical thought.

The latest outrage-du-jour is that people are talking about marijuana… on Twitter.

Pro-marijuana ‘tweets’ are sky-high on Twitter

Analyzing every marijuana-related Twitter message sent during a one-month period in early 2014, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the “Twitterverse” is a pot-friendly place. In that time, more than 7 million tweets referenced marijuana, with 15 times as many pro-pot tweets sent as anti-pot tweets. The findings are reported online Jan. 22 in the Journal of Adolescent Health and will appear in February in the journal’s print edition.

Most of those sending and receiving pot tweets were under age 25, with many in their teens, a demographic group at increased risk for developing marijuana dependence and other drug-related problems.

“It’s a concern because frequent marijuana use can affect brain structures and interfere with cognitive function, emotional development and academic performance,” said first author Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and scholar in the Washington University Institute for Public Health.”

OMG, people are talking about pot. And they’re not saying enough bad things about it.

Really? Is this what passes for psychiatric science?

This is the same researcher who did a smaller study last year to “assess the content of ‘tweets’ and the demographics of followers of a popular pro-marijuana Twitter handle,” and came up with the following conclusion:

Our findings underscore the need for surveillance efforts to monitor the pro-marijuana content reaching young people on Twitter.

For what possible purpose?

Perhaps Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg should get a twitter account and just say a lot of bad things about marijuana to balance things out.

People are talking about marijuana. And they’re no longer willing to spout the false propaganda fed to them. You really think you can put the cat back in the bag?

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Open Thread

bullet image We were one of the few reporting sites that showed restraint and skepticism regarding Holder’s announcement of forfeiture “reform.” Yes, it’s a good step, but it’s not a solution.

Jacob Sullum continues to report: Despite Holder’s Forfeiture Reform, Cops Still Have A License to Steal

But I worry that the widespread confusion about what Holder did will undermine reform efforts by creating the false impression that the problem has been solved. Legislation is necessary not only to prevent cops from evading state reforms but to give property owners more protection under state and federal laws. Ideally, legislators should require a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture and keep cops from getting part of the proceeds, a policy that perverts their priorities and fosters corruption. It would be a shame if such reforms were killed by complacency.

bullet image The Supreme Court’s massive blind spot – Radley Balko with some outstanding reporting on just how out-of-touch the Supreme Court is with what actually goes on in the criminal justice system.

What’s missing from that career trajectory is any real experience in criminal law. Of our current Supreme Court lineup, only two justices — Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor — have significant experience with criminal law. Both are former prosecutors. Alito spent time as an assistant U.S. attorney and a U.S. attorney. But even that misses a huge percentage of the criminal justice system: The overwhelming percentage of criminal cases in America are at the state and local level. Only Sotomayor has real experience with a local, day-to-day criminal justice system, and even that experience isn’t all that overwhelming: She spent four and a half years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, thirty years ago.

bullet image Speaking of Sotomayor, she seems to be one of the only Justices even aware that there’s a Fourth Amendment problem…

Sotomayor to Justice Department Lawyer: ‘We Can’t Keep Bending the Fourth Amendment to the Resources of Law Enforcement’ — Sonia Sotomayor stands up for the Fourth Amendment in drug-sniffing dog case.

Sotomayor went so far as to suggest that the Court’s recent Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was flying off the rails due to its pro-police deference. Here’s a sample of what Sotomayor told the government lawyer:

I have a real fundamental question, because this line drawing is only here because we’ve now created a Fourth Amendment entitlement to search for drugs using dogs, whenever anybody’s stopped. Because that’s what you’re proposing. And is that really what the Fourth Amendment should permit?

…we can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement. Particularly when this stop is not—is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It’s purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.


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I don’t consider any government that commits murder or violates basic human rights to be legitimate.

Capital punishment and public opinion

The campaign to abolish capital punishment in Indonesia suffered a huge setback following the execution of six drug traffickers over the weekend.

The voices of abolitionists were drowned out by those who came out in support of president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who used the executions as an important part of his war against drug abuse in this country.

Public opinion in Indonesia is still overwhelmingly in favour of retaining capital punishment, certainly for the most heinous crimes, including drug trafficking, which is rampant in this country and has such deadly effects. […]

Eleventh-hour appeals last week in phone calls to Jokowi for stays of execution from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and King Willem of the Netherlands, whose citizens were among the six executed, fell on deaf ears.

Prime minister Tony Abbott has also been on the phone with Jokowi trying to save two convicted Australian drug traffickers, whose executions are apparently imminent.

Abbott has to prepare for disappointment and Indonesia for more diplomatic fallout.

The foreign leaders’ interventions, well-meaning as they are, may even have done a disservice to the abolitionists’ cause.

The executions have now been turned into a question of Indonesia’s national pride with accusations flying about the West imposing its human rights values on us.

But, as the saying goes, the harder they push, the stronger Indonesia pushes back.

In response to these foreign meddlers, Indonesia has invoked its sovereignty rights and legal system, which recognises the death penalty.

And with 58 more on death row, we can expect a few more executions, including many non-Indonesians, in the coming days or weeks, just to make a point.

The human rights campaigners and abolitionists have now learned to their dismay that compassion is not president Jokowi’s strongest suit, if he has any at all. […]

This may have been the reason why barely three months into office, Jokowi ordered the executions of the dozens of drug traffickers on death row.

His sagging popularity must have improved for taking a strong stand on drug abuses and for standing up to foreign meddlers.[…]

Supporters of the death penalty for drug traffickers rely on religious leaders endorsing the killing of human beings, even though most major religions advocate compassion and forgiveness above any act of vengeance.

The jury is still out that the death penalty will deter drug traffickers, but then this matters little in Indonesia. Public opinion very much wants it.

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More from Johann Hari on addiction (updated)

Johann Hari’s new book “Chasing the Scream” is getting some good coverage. Apparently he was on Coast to Coast recently with a huge audience, and reviews are starting to show up quite a few places. The book is available for sale beginning today.

Again, I think this is one of the best books out there right now about the drug war and how we need to move beyond it.

Last week, I discussed some of the ideas about addiction that are in the book.

Over at Huffington Press, Johann talks some more about this aspect of the book.

Update: Here’s a great youtube clip of Johann and Russell Brand talking about the book and the issues.

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Holder limits federal adoption of seizures

This is potentially big (and has gotten people quite excited), but it really depends on how certain things are defined.

Executive order dated today: Prohibition on Certain Federal Adoptions of Seizures by State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

The tricky part:

“This order does not apply to (1) seizures by state and local authorities working together with federal authorities in a joint task force; (2) seizures by state and local authorities that are the result of joint federal-state investigations or that are coordinated with federal authorities as part of ongoing federal investigations…”

So yes, this is good news, but if it just means that local and state enforcement agencies will add a federal officer to the bust somehow in order to get around it, then I’m less excited.

I would much prefer to see an order abolishing equitable sharing (i.e., if feds adopt a seizure, then the locals and state get nothing).

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The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection

That’s one of the powerful messages that comes from Johann Hari’s excellent new book “Chasing the Scream” (see my review earlier this week).

Everything we’ve done to address the issues of addiction within the context of the drug war has been all wrong. It’s focused on the drug causing addiction, when the notion of addiction has a lot more to do with other factors.

I looked at him just now, lying there, his face pallid again, and as I stroked his hair, I think I understood something for the first time. The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection. It’s all I can offer. It’s all that will help him in the end. If you are alone, you cannot escape addiction. If you are loved, you have a chance. For a hundred years we have been singing war songs about addicts. All along, we should have been singing love songs to them.

One thing has the potential—more than any other—to kill this attempt at healing. It is the drug war. If these people I love are picked up by the police during a relapse, and given a criminal record, and rendered unemployable, then it will be even harder for them to build connections with the world.

There’s so much we know about addiction, that has been studied about addiction, yet is ignored in all the major discussions about how to ‘deal’ with addicts. “Chasing the Scream” does an excellent job of discussing these issues.

[Gabor] has shown that the core of addiction doesn’t lie in what you swallow or inject—it’s in the pain you feel in your head. Yet we have built a system that thinks we will stop addicts by increasing their pain. “If I had to design a system that was intended to keep people addicted, I’d design exactly the system that we have right now,” Gabor would tell me. “I’d attack people, and ostracize them.” He has seen that “the more you stress people, the more they’re going to use. The more you de-stress people, the less they’re going to use. So to create a system where you ostracize and marginalize and criminalize people, and force them to live in poverty with disease, you are basically guaranteeing they will stay at it.”

This isn’t new stuff. Or radical stuff. I’ve been saying similar things for years…

“As anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows, dependence is hardest to overcome during difficult or stressful times. That must be why, when the government helps drug abusers quit, they arrest them and take away their job, possessions, and children.” – Guitherisms

But it’s a discussion that we absolutely need to bring to the front, because understanding and accepting these basic truths are what gives us harm reduction rather than prohibition, sane policy rather than insanity.

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