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October 2014
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Odds and Ends

bullet image Thanks to Allan for pointing out this interesting article that serves as an important reminder: Strange reason to legalize marijuana

Apparently an underlying assumption of legal pot opponents is that human consciousness is some sort of pristine, pure pool of unsullied awareness which shouldn’t be contaminated by chemical substances like THC, the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Here’s another science news flash: the brain produces conscious awareness, and it is filled with over 100 chemical neurotransmitters.

They make us happy, horny, hungry, and so much more. Including, high.

I’m writing these words buzzed on a chemical my brain adores: caffeine. Is this wrong? Should caffeine be illegal because it alters my consciousness, increasing alertness and improving my mood?

Of course not. It’s beautiful, really, how humans can bring parts of the world into their brains, then those substances enable them to view the world differently.

We are the world. The world is us. There is no immaterial self standing apart from materiality.

Nice.


bullet image Radley Balko also gives us an update that serves as another important reminder of something we’ve discussed here in the past…

Surprise! Controversial Patriot Act power now overwhelmingly used in drug investigations

So since the Patriot Act passed, the number of of sneak-and-peeks each year has grown from about 16 per year to over 11,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, not only have the number of sneak-and-peek investigations unrelated to terrorism increased on a massive scale, the percentage of sneak-and-peeks that have anything to do with terrorism continues to drop. In other words, sneak-and-peek is increasingly ubiquitous while the justification for granting the government this power in the first place — terrorism — is not only irrelevant to the tactic’s increasing pervasiveness, it gets more irrelevant every year.

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Passing the blame

Recently, it seems like the Washington Post is trying to become the U.S. version of the Daily Mail, given its editorial section antipathy to marijuana.

This time, they give the platform to Roger Roffman, with whom I have had some disagreements in the past. He writes: Marijuana’s addictive risk shouldn’t be ignored.

In it, he talks about his own awareness that the way he was using marijuana was interfering with other things he wanted to do. Of course, he blames this on some evil property of marijuana itself rather than on his own decision-making and prioritization. It’s like blaming football addiction for your lack of cutting the lawn on Sunday. No, you just didn’t want to get your ass off the sofa.

Roffman wants education and treatment to be a necessary condition of marijuana legalization.

Hey, I’ve got no problem with making education and treatment available to those individuals like Roffman who have difficulty managing their lives, regardless of the activity with which they’re obsessed.

But to hold marijuana legalization hostage seems petty and irresponsible.

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On boycotting cocaine

This idea came up again this week, as I saw a number of people link to this article: Boycott Cocaine by Miles Hunt at Unharm, as a response to the devastating violence of the criminal drug market.

Morally we must boycott cocaine just as you’d boycott meat from any farmer that killed their livestock in a horribly gruesome way, or any company that refused to pay wages.

The solution to this problem is through abstinence as individuals until Governments deal with this problem properly by regulation

First, I will say that this is far superior to the absurd notions from some prohibitionists that getting everyone to abstain is a viable answer instead of legalization/regulation. That’s an argument that we’ve consistently debunked here at the Rant.

This is simply saying that prohibition is bad, it needs to be eliminated, but in the meantime we should encourage people to change their consumption habits to reduce the amount of money feeding criminal violence.

Sounds good. But it won’t work.

First of all, it’s important to understand how and when boycotts work. If you read the studies (check out the work of Brayden King), you quickly come to realize that boycotts almost never affect the bottom line. They work when the company being boycotted doesn’t want to be connected with the bad publicity related to the boycott (ie, use of slave labor, environmental damage, etc.).

But violent criminal drug organizations don’t care a bit about the bad publicity, so no boycott is going to affect them in that way.

Second, in those rare situations where a boycott works, there is usually a consumer choice (shop at a different company, buy local, etc.). This isn’t available in the cocaine market.

Third, there are natural changes in markets all the time. Over the past decades, there have been huge shifts – the explosion of cocaine use in the U.S. and then a dramatic reduction over years, with a shift in increased use elsewhere in the world. As long as the black market is in control, it adjusts to those variances seamlessly. Any affect from a boycott would be a tiny blip in comparison.

Finally, there is a danger that a boycott will make people think that they are doing something to help when they’re making no difference at all, perhaps reducing the effort put into true drug policy reform.

Look, if you feel better by avoiding use of cocaine until you can purchase it without the taint of criminal violence, by all means do so. That’s a perfectly fine moral choice.

But don’t think that participating in a cocaine boycott is going to save lives, or reduce the need for your efforts to end prohibition.

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Open Thread

Heading off to Kansas City for an International Fine Arts Deans conference. Hoping to get some ribs while I’m there.

bullet image Here’s a little bit of absurdity… 5 Ridiculous Anti-Drugs Posters

Of course, there have been plenty of others, but these are a pretty bizarre bunch.

bullet image Speaking of irresponsibility… Do the media talk down to teenagers over drugs? (Hint: the answer is “yes”)

And, according to one of its authors, the reporting of studies around drugs such as this can leave young people more confused because the issues are often oversimplified and subject to spin. [...] “When we do our research, we want it to have an impact in the real world, we want to give the best advice. But we find it frustrating that, so often, the media give exaggerated headlines. Sometimes, it is even untrue and you wonder if the journalist has read the piece,” said Professor Curran.

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News that the war on drugs is on its way out is slow to reach certain areas

Those of us who are information consumers and see the long-term inevitability of reform should be reminded now and then that some people are completely oblivious.

This hit me again today as I read this strangely clueless article:

What’s next in war on drugs?

OLEAN — News that Chautauqua County was recently added to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) list could affect law enforcement efforts in neighboring Southern Tier counties as well. [...]

“Funding is still one of the biggest priorities,” said Lt. David Bentley of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force for more than 20 years. “We need more people for this fight we’re in.”

Since Chautauqua County was included in the HIDTA just a few weeks ago, officials are “still trying to figure out what to do with HIDTA,” said Lt. Bentley.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Indiana, a former U.S. attorney from Indianapolis, said HIDTA will “bring another layer of bureaucracy, but it does bring a lot of resources.” She urged Chautauqua County to make sure it has a representative on the New York-New Jersey HIDTA in order to secure competitive funding.

Of course, the war on drugs looks a lot more interesting when your big problem is figuring out what to do with the money.

And here’s someone who clearly has not been keeping up:

Lt. Bentley said there is a lack of a deterrent for heroin and other drug sales. “People are not being put away for long enough,” he said, calling jail time “a mild to moderate business expense.”

I was also interested by this little tidbit, where a politician seemed to momentarily recognize one of the problems of the war on drugs and then everyone’s brain immediately shuts down. Watch it happen…

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, who also attended the roundtable held at The Depot at the Cattaraugus County Campus of Jamestown Community College, said the heroin problem has spread to all parts of the state. Interstate 88, he said, “is a conduit” for drugs coming into the Southern Tier. Heroin use is an unintended consequence of law enforcement’s fight over first prescription drugs and meth, he added.

Rep. Reed said that illegal drug use and sales doesn’t end at the county line, and encouraged Chautauqua County’s Drug Task Force and that of the city of Jamestown to continue to partner with their counterparts in area counties.

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Facebook takes on the DEA

Good for them.

Facebook Tells DEA to Stop Operating Fake Profile Pages

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook wants assurances from the Drug Enforcement Administration that it’s not operating any more fake profile pages as part of ongoing investigations.

Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, said in a letter Friday to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart that law enforcement agencies need to follow the same rules about being truthful on Facebook as civilian users. Those rules include a ban on lying about who you are.

I wonder if DEA administrators have offices with windows that open. Have they noticed the change in the wind?

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Defining addiction

Maia Szalavitz continues to put out excellent material, and while I personally don’t agree with how she wrote everything in this article — Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists. And It’s (Almost) All In Your Head — there’s one part that really resonated with me:

Addiction is a relationship between a person and a substance or activity; addictiveness is not a simple matter of a drug “hijacking the brain.” In fact, with all potentially addictive experiences, only a minority of those who try them get hooked—and people can even become addicted to apparently “nonaddictive” things, like carrots. Addiction depends on learning, context and psychology, not just neurotransmitters.

One of the best definitions I’ve heard.

This, to me, has been a huge problem in our discourse about drugs — a disconnect on even the definition of “addiction.” It’s a word that has had competing political, scientific, and common definitions.

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Now here is an action from the President I can support

Obama to nominate ACLU lawyer to lead Justice Department’s civil rights division

Vanita Gupta, a longtime civil rights lawyer, deputy legal director of the ACLU and director of its Center for Justice, will be appointed acting head of the division Wednesday by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., administration officials said.

Gupta has been a critic of the drug war and has been regularly outspoken about the need to change our racist marijuana laws.

Plus…

Her first case involved leading an effort to win the release of 38 defendants in Tulia, Tex., whose drug convictions and long sentences were discredited by her legal team. All of the defendants were pardoned in 2003 by Gov. Rick Perry, and Gupta helped negotiate a $5 million settlement for the defendants.

I guess I just wish this wasn’t happening so late in the game.

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Because I Got High Remix

Cute…

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Interesting ‘non-shift’ in U.S. position on drug treaties

US calls for major reinterpretation of international drug laws

In a little-noticed October 9 press conference, Assistant Secretary of State for Drugs and Law Enforcement Bill Brownfield acknowledged that the UN Drug Control Conventions, the pillar of international drug laws, should be reinterpreted to allow more policy flexibility. “The first of them was drafted and enacted in 1961,” he said. “Things have changed since 1961.”

Brownfield specified that the treaties should “tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.”

Brownfield spent a lot of time specifically discussing marijuana legalization in Colorado, Washington state, and Uruguay. “How could I,” he said, “a representative of the Government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”

But just to be clear…

A spokesperson for the State Department clarified that Brownfield’s remarks didn’t intend to call for changing the UN Drug Conventions. The remarks instead advocated for a reinterpretation of the treaties.

So, apparently the US position is, rather than changing the outdated conventions to something appropriate or at least reflecting reality, we should just sometimes look the other way? Or perhaps we could just use them to arbitrarily punish the countries we don’t like.

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