Send comments, tips,
and suggestions to:
Join us on Pete's couch.

DrugWarRant.com, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
May 2016
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

Open Thread

Been busy with a number of projects, including a show in Normal, Illinois and another one in Chicago opening the same week. Who knew retirement would be so busy?


Michigan Seeks Science of ‘Drugged Driving’

I always take note when I see someone talking about ‘drugged driving’ because so much of it has been about demonizing marijuana with false comparisons to alcohol, and using essentially a back-door way to punish marijuana users.

At least I appreciated where this lawmaker was coming from (and his sense of humor).

Speaking in an exclusive interview after his bill passed the Michigan House by a landslide vote of 107-1 on Tuesday, Rep. Peter Lucido said “this is the first time a scientific study has been conducted to find the exact limit.”

Lucido, of Shelby Township, says he has no stock in the limit Colorado chose after the state legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

Colorado’s limit for drivers is 5 nanograms of THC per unit of blood, but Lucido said lawmakers “basically pulled it out of their ass.”

Assuming it actually is a scientific study, I think that Lucido will find that the “exact limit” is impossible to find – it all depends on the individual. Still, a scientifically determined average is at least better than pulling it out of your ass.

Personally, I believe in policing by observing impairment, not by measuring nanograms.


New Report Details Devastating Effects Of Mass Incarceration On The U.S.

No surprises to anyone on the couch – we’ve been talking about this for years. But good to see the White House disseminating this basic information about some of the failures of our criminal justice system.


Feds Agree to Tolerate the Country’s Largest Medical Marijuana Dispensary

The Justice Department, which has been trying to shut down Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the country, since 2012, is backing down. Yesterday Oakland officials, who have supported the dispensary all along, announced that the feds had agreed to let it stay open. […]

Harborside had argued that U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s campaign against the dispensary likewise violated the Rohrabacher/Farr amendment, which was first enacted at the end of 2014. Haag, who had made a point of targeting dispensaries despite the DOJ’s policy of tolerating marijuana suppliers who comply with state law, left office last September. […]

Although the details of the deal between Harborside and the DOJ are unclear at this point, it looks like the Obama administration is finally trying to reconcile the actions of federal prosecutors with the DOJ’s policy of forbearance. Steve DeAngelo, the dispensary’s executive director, said the agreement “signals the beginning of the end of federal prohibition.”

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

David Bratzer may speak again

Throughout the history of prohibition, lacking science and facts on their side, prohibitionists have tried to control the message, and suppress any attempts to talk about reform. There were even Congressional hearings discussing whether drug policy reformers could be prosecuted! For decades, many people legitimately thought that even talking about legalization could get them in trouble.

And in some places that really was true. One of the greatest voices for reform has been Law Enforcement Against Prohibition made up of (mostly retired) law enforcement officials, judges, etc. But it’s been hard for active LEOs to participate, even in their own time, simply because they’re often not allowed to by their job. That’s right – their employment doesn’t allow them to express their opinion about science and law in their own time.

David Bratzer is a friend to Drug WarRant, and was an active police officer who was an active member of LEAP, until the Victoria Police Department told him that he could no longer speak publicly or personally as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Fortunately, Canadian courts have ruled on his behalf.

Victoria police officer can advocate for drug legalization, tribunal rules

A Victoria police officer who won a human-rights complaint against the force says “on the ground” experience led him to support drug legalization – and he says he doesn’t think he’s alone on the force.

Constable David Bratzer was awarded $20,000 last week after the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled the Victoria Police Department violated his rights by preventing him from advocating for legalization. A civil-liberties group describes the ruling as precedent-setting.

An editorial in the Times Colonist was blunt: Editorial: Rights case wasted money

It can be difficult for some to accept that police officers might not agree with all of the laws they are being asked to enforce.

It is more difficult to accept the notion that a police department could discriminate against one of its officers because of his political beliefs that were not far removed from mainstream thinking.

What is most difficult of all is the realization that this case was allowed to go on for as long as it did, taking time and money that could have been spent on more important priorities.

The tribunal found that former police chief Jamie Graham was not in favour of drug legalization or decriminalization, and that played a partial role in the treatment of Bratzer on at least one occasion.

Let’s restate that: If Graham tried to gag Bratzer’s off-duty comments because he disagreed with Bratzer’s views, then Graham overstepped his position. That kind of management action is wrong.

It’s good to have David’s voice back!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

U.N. not a place to find good policy

UN backs prohibitionist drug policies despite call for more ‘humane solution’

The first United Nations general assembly special session on drugs in almost two decades has approved an agreement that leaves in place the prohibitionist policies banning narcotics use, despite growing international discontent with the “war on drugs” – and the concerns of the nations that called the meeting. […]

The agreement adopted on the first day of the three-day summit included no criticism of the death penalty for drug crimes, and instead called for greater cooperation between nations, while maintaining the prohibitionist framework which criminalizes all drug use that is not for medical or scientific purposes.

The agreement – called an “outcome document” – was not a surprise for anyone in the room and was publicised in advance of the meeting and adopted almost immediately. […]

However, some advocacy groups have pointed to progress in the outcome document, especially in its call for promotion of opioid treatment programs and overdose medications, Naloxone being the best known.

And although the document avoided the words “harm reduction”, a common umbrella term in public health circles, the document called on nations to consider programs such as needle exchanges, which provide clean syringes to injection drug users. Such programs have been shown to reduce new cases of blood borne diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Of course, you might think that the U.N. had a more enlightened approach if you read the LA Times.

Tom Angell caught them: LA Times Gets Fooled by Fake Drug War Press Release

But at least one newspaper got tricked into reporting fake news from the event.

According the Los Angeles Times:

As the summit opened Tuesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced new international recommendations, including the decriminalization of marijuana, universal access to controlled medicines, criminal justice system reforms including elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentences and abolition of the death penalty and acknowledging marijuana’s medical use.

“The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches,” UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s time to reverse the cycles of violence that occur wherever ‘drug wars’ are undertaken, and to abandon policies that exacerbate suffering.”

The UNODC also said it would reform its decision-making process to include a more diverse range of voices.

“We can begin to dismantle ‘just say no’ policies that result in millions needlessly killed and incarcerated — and that defy logic and science — and instead bring to the forefront humane solutions that are known to work,” said Kevin Campo, a spokesman for the drugs agency.

To advocates of ending the war on drugs, that sounds like great news. There’s only one problem: It’s all based on a fake press release claiming that UNODC was using cannabis holiday 4/20 to announce a big shift

That fake press release is titled “UNODC Unveils Historic “4/20″ Policy Redirect at UNGASS 2016.” Huh, yeah. Funny.

Of course, those of us who have followed Yuri Fedetov at all, would immediately recognize that quote couldn’t be from him.

Successful prank. Nice catch, Tom! (Note: The LA Times story is still up at this time.)

No, the U.N. leadership is not that open to reform (as the Guardian article so clearly notes). In fact, the Drug Policy Alliance reported that the U.N. was confiscating copies of the letter calling for the end of the drug war that were being handed out in front of the U.N.

UN Security was apparently ordered to confiscate the letter, and attendees were ordered to hand over their copies upon entering the building. According to a number of participants in the UN Special Session, they were told that the document was not allowed in the building. “As we were walking into the metal detectors right at the entrance, the security were confiscating it from people,” said Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, Policy and Advocacy Manager for Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Ms. Ginsberg continued, “I went back to ask the security guard why, and he said he got orders from the UN to specifically take the newspapers. He said he was just following orders.”

Of course, the truth is that the U.N. is not going to be a leader on reform (just as we knew the U.S. government was never going to be a leader on reform. The UNGASS, though disappointingly predictable, did provide the impetus for publicity from a growing international group of reform-minded organizations and leaders. And that’s good.

Just as marijuana reform has been happening in the U.S. simply because the people began to realize that the U.S. government was outdated and irrelevant in its views, international drug policy reform will happen because individual countries start to think the same about the U.N.

Update: Steve Rolles at Transform said what I was thinking, only better: The drug warriors who derailed the UN drug policy summit have made a terrible miscalculation. Just go ahead and read it.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Happy 420

I sometimes forget that Drug WarRant has a CafePress store.

One of the items – a wall clock that I made years ago – continues to be one of my favorites. Simple, understated, and yet makes the point. I have it in my place and whenever people come to visit, I get comments.

420_wall_clock

Enjoy your day.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Preparing for the U.N. Special Session

Humankind cannot afford a 21 st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century’s. A new global response to drugs is needed, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

That’s from this new letter: Over 1,000 Leaders Worldwide Call for End to “Disastrous” Drug War, Ahead of UN Special Session

The list of signatories is significant — of course including a lot of former world leaders, but also current leaders (and a couple of Presidential candidates). Apparently the list also was gathered in a very short time. Impressive.


There will be a pop-up museum in New York for 3 days: Museum of Drug Policy at UNGASS (245 Park Avenue (corner of Park & E 47th St., April 19-21, 2016; open 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM), which will include work by young artists about the drug war – This Is How Young Artists See the War on Drugs: The Winners of Our Poster Contest

There will also be a UNGASS Youth Demonstration conducted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on those three days in the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

The activists will stage performance art pieces, including slam poetry readings. Visual art depicting the harms of drug prohibition, from as far away as Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, will be displayed, and students will give short soapbox speeches to make their voices heard.

"Breaking Down the Double Standards: Aren't We All Drug Users After All?", by Nuno Pinto, Anca Dima and Clara Abdullah, Portugal

“Breaking Down the Double Standards: Aren’t We All Drug Users After All?”, by Nuno Pinto, Anca Dima and Clara Abdullah, Portugal

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Opioid prescriptions, panic, and bad math

The editorial in this month’s Journal of Palliative Medicine: The Pendulum Swings for Opioid Prescribing by Charles F. von Gunten, Editor-in-Chief

I am about to turn 60 years of age. During my professional life as a physician, I have seen the pendulum of attitudes about the role of opioids for treating pain swing its full arc and back again. I only graduated from medical school in 1988! Why does the pendulum need to swing from one extreme to the other? Why can’t it settle in the middle, at rest, where it belongs?

It’s a good editorial and helps point out the capriciousness of how we prescribe based on the fears generated by junk science media (and political opportunism).

I particularly liked this point about the math – we see this kind of thing all the time in drug policy.

It’s a numerator and denominator issue. If you put the number of opioid addicts who were first introduced to opioids as prescription drugs before taking heroin in the numerator, and put all opioid addicts in the denominator you get a very large number. That large number (anywhere from 60% to 100% depending on the population studied) frightened everyone. But it’s the wrong math.

If you put all people with pain who are treated with an opioid and become an addict in the numerator, and all people treated with pain and an opioid in the denominator, you come up with a very small number, somewhere between 0.01% and 4% depending on the kind of pain you are looking at.

[Thanks, Evert]

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Odds and Ends

DEA Will Act on Marijuana Rescheduling Before Obama Leaves Office — What Could It Mean? by Tom Angell

Obviously I would prefer that marijuana was removed from the schedules entirely (just like alcohol and tobacco), but accept that there are positive values that can come from any change in the scheduling. Tom does a good job of laying out some of the benefits.


Senators held a hearing to remind you that ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana’ (yes, really) by Chris Ingraham

Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R.-Al.) spoke of the need to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”


This Norwegian Man’s UN Speech About People Who Use Drugs Is Extraordinary

My name is Sturla and I’m a drug addict. Because I am an addict, I do not represent most people who use drugs. The vast majority of people who use drugs don’t know what the inside of a rehabilitation center looks like: Most people who use drugs choose to enjoy mind-­altering substances besides alcohol without ever needing treatment. They’re doctors, lawyers, politicians, dentists and truck drivers. Far from everyone who uses drugs does so in a compulsory manner, just as far from everyone who enjoys alcohol are alcoholics. I, on the other hand, am seen by some as a sick person because I use drugs more regularly and suffer bigger consequences than most people as a result of my use. By others I am seen as a criminal.[…]

We need to stop demanding that people are drug ­free before being admitted into society as fully worthy members, and accept that some will always feel the urge to alter their consciousness with substances.


Why Are Heroin, Cocaine and Other Drugs Really Illegal? We Must Never Forget the Answers

As the world grapples with the fallout from the War on Drugs—and heads towards UNGASS 2016, a possible opportunity to put things right—it’s important to know the history of these drugs and their journey from medicine to menace. We didn’t suddenly discover that they were far more addictive or dangerous than other medicines. In fact, the reasons that drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and others are illegal today have far more to do with economics and cultural prejudice than with addiction.


Drug policy reform hits a Russian roadblock at the UN

Russia’s commitment to a hardline approach at home, and its influence as a global superpower, meant it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to see the Russian delegation flying the flag for the war on drugs at the UN’s annual drug policy jamboree, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which took place a couple of weeks ago. But what was surprising was the lengths they were willing to go to to stymie any attempt, however incremental, to reorient the debate toward anything that could be considered even vaguely progressive.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Thanks, but no thanks

I get a lot of the same mail, and finally realized I needed a boiler-plate response…

To whom it may concern,

Thank you for your interest in advertising on DrugWarRant.com, or your interest in writing a guest post.

DrugWarRant.com has advertising options available through Google Ads, including the ability to specifically place ads on our site. Go to Google Display Network for more information.

We do not offer any other advertising opportunities, and, in particular, are not interested in any of the so-called “text link ads.”

If that is what you wish, please stop contacting us.

Regarding guest posts: DrugWarRant.com is always interested in legitimate guest posts about drug policy. The best way to start making guest posts is to submit one, and if we think it adds to the discussion with our regulars, we’ll be happy to add it.

We do not accept guests posts about treatment options, nor do we accept guest posts that include advertisements or links to businesses (including treatment centers, treatment referral centers, legal referral centers, or cannabis businesses).

Hope this helps.

Of course, the positive in this is that DrugWarRant.com apparently is an attractive site in terms of ranking. But it can be annoying at times.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Basic rational change sometimes requires dragging the establishment along, kicking and screaming

Interesting article from the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips: Analysis: How Vermont could change the marijuana legalization game

But up until now, change has mostly come from the voters — sometimes in spite of lawmakers’ wishes. That balance could be shifting toward legislators, at least in one state: Vermont. In the next few weeks, Vermont could become the first state legislature to legalize marijuana. […]

But unlike Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana in a matter of months after voters approve it, Vermont would wait more than a year after the bill’s passage before residents could walk into a store and buy a joint.

If Shumlin signs the bill this summer, Vermont residents won’t be able to buy marijuana legally until January 2018. For the first few years, the state will also limit the number of marijuana licenses for selling and growing marijuana. In addition, public schools in Vermont would receive state-mandated drug education programs about marijuana a full semester before it’s legal.

The slow, methodical approach to legalization is the main difference between Vermont and other states that legalized it via ballot initiatives, […]

No, the big difference is that legislators are finally starting to catch up with the public. The reason that most marijuana legalization has come from ballot initiatives is because the politicians aren’t doing their job. And fine, if Vermont wants to painfully draw out the legalization procedure despite any evidence that such caution is warranted, go ahead. At least it’s better than the status quo which has also existed for decades without any evidence.

In the article, the usual players (Kleiman, Sabet) were brought out to push the boogieman of big, unregulated, marijuana. And I will say this again — I’m not really interested in what someone has to say about how to legalize marijuana, when they weren’t interested in legalizing marijuana at all until it became a certainty.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

The Lancet Commission

The Lancet is one of the oldest and best-known peer-reviewed medical journals. Occasionally they commission a group a scientists to prepare a detailed scientific analysis on a particular topic. In this case, they joined with John Hopkins and commissioned 22 experts to analyze Public Health and International Drug Policy, in advance of the United Nations special session (UNGASS) on drug policy next month.

The report is not an easy read at times – so much data and information — but it’s very thorough and it is a stinging scientific indictment of international drug policy. Check out part of the conclusion:

Policies meant to prohibit or greatly suppress drugs present an apparent paradox. They are portrayed by policy makers to be necessary to preserve public health and safety, and yet they directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice, and the undermining of people’s right to health. The framers of international human rights law foresaw that there would be times, especially in the face of security threats, when some individual rights would have to be abrogated in favour of preserving collective safety and wellbeing. There is international consensus that if policies that abrogate rights are necessary for the greater good, those policies should pursue a legitimate and transparently defined goal and be proportionate to that goal, must be the least rights-restrictive and the least harmful possible to achieve the stated goal, should include adequate remedies for people whose rights are violated, and should not interfere with the democratic functioning of society.

In our view, policies pursuing drug prohibition or severe suppression do not meet these criteria, even if one accepts that drugs in and of themselves somehow present a serious security threat. Policies that pursue drug prohibition or heavy suppression do not represent the least harmful way to address drugs, the aim they pursue is not well defined or realistic, their interventions are not proportionate to the problem, they destabilize democratic societies, and people harmed by them often have no recourse to remedies to mitigate those harms. The scourge of drugs and the harms of drug use are exaggerated to justify these measures.

You can Public Health and International Drug Policyread the report yourself. Also, Jacob Sullum has more on the report.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon