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Join us on Pete's couch. is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
April 2014
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In the spirit of the season

Via Drug Policy Alliance:

A broad coalition of Christian leaders have taken the occasion of the holiest day on the Christian calendar to release a statement calling for the end of the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

“The cross that faith leaders are imploring others to take up is this unjust, and immoral war on drugs and mass incarceration of the poor. In particular, poor black and brown young adults whose futures are being ruined at the most critical point in their lives,” said Reverend John E. Jackson of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

“We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies. We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure,” says Reverend Edwin Sanders, who is a Board Member of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

The statement makes the following recommendations:

  • Repeal laws that criminalize drug possession and replace them with policies that expand access to effective health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment.
  • Eliminate policies that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates.
  • End policies that unjustly exclude people with a record of arrest or conviction from key rights and opportunities.

They will be holding a teleconference today.

More on this: Pastors seek to end war on drugs by decriminalizing use

“God does not care if you smoke weed,” he said. “God is not that petty.”

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Inside the mind of a drug warrior

William R. Brownfield is Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Even the title of his job tells you something about the absolute wrongness of how our government has approached drug policy.

He shared some of this thoughts in this speech: U.S. Official Comments on Drugs, Security and Latin America.

Of course, he denies he is a drug warrior:

A little bit of history: In the 1970s, the United States of America, or at least its government, discovered the drug issue. Richard Nixon declared a ‘war on drugs,’ a very unfortunate selection of terms, by the way, since in fact it’s not a war. It’s certainly not a war against our own population that in some way, shape, or form is part of the drug issue. And for that reason, ever so wisely, in the year 1993, the then newly-inaugurated president of the United States Bill Clinton said, and I quote, “It’s not a war, and we’re going to stop calling it a war on drugs.” Things move slowly in the federal government and the media, but don’t you all come at me in 15 minutes and start condemning me for the war on drugs, because I have already told you in advance it is not a war on drugs, it has not been a war on drugs for 21 years, and what we are doing goes a bit beyond the classical, typical definition of the term war, combined with the word drugs.

Read the rest of his comments as he talks about each effort that has been taken over the years and how it failed miserably, and, at the very end, merely comes to the conclusion that what is required is all of the above and some undefined “more.” Also note his pathetic attempt to claim Colombia and changing drug consumption trends as some kind of validation, and never once questions the damage caused by these policies.

Even as he recognizes shifts (Uruguay, Washington, Colorado), he fails to see them as anything other than new factors in the equation as opposed to repudiations of decades of war.

It’s a powerful blindness, demonstrating either a true believer, or, perhaps more likely, someone who has spent a career under flawed assumptions and is constitutionally unable to question their life’s work.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image Commissioner gives ultimatum; Vermont Reps remove PTSD language from medical marijuana bill

MONTPELIER — A House committee, poised to allow PTSD patients to qualify for medical marijuana, reversed itself Friday when the state’s top law enforcement official stepped in before the panel voted.

bullet image While heroin epidemic rages, Bain seeks profit in drug treatment centers

But as opiates ravage communities from rural Vermont to Hollywood, treating addiction has become big business. The push for national health care, and recent changes to federal health insurance laws could make it even more attractive. Substance abuse treatment is a $7.7 billion industry, according to a recent report by IBISWorld Inc., a New York research firm, and growing at an annual rate of about 2 percent.

bullet image Why You Should Never Believe a Newspaper On The Value Of A Cocaine Bust

So, the total value is more like $17 million than the $250 million in the headline.

There is an economic point to this over and above just quibbling with the numbers being offered to us. Now that we can see the price difference between a half container full of cocaine in Colombia and a half container full of cocaine in Rotterdam we can work out why people try to smuggle half containers around the world. Because there’s a $230 million profit in managing to get one half container through. And a $230 million profit on a possible $17 million cost means that the authorities have to intercept at least 12 out of each 13 shipments in order to make it an unprofitable activity.

And no, no one at all thinks they are managing to do that and nor is there anyone who thinks they ever will. Meaning that we can now understand why that War on Drugs doesn’t seem to be having all that much effect: there’s simply too much profit to be made from the smuggling for the war to have any noticeable effect.

bullet image Legal pot becomes a touchy workplace issue

DENVER — Last month, Colorado diner owner Mark Rose posted an unusual job description: “Looking for part time experienced breakfast cook. Pays well, must be friendly and a team player, could turn into a full time gig by summer. 420 friendly a must.”

With that public declaration, Rose put himself squarely in the camp of employers acknowledging that marijuana use is perfectly legal in Colorado. Perhaps more significant, it also puts him in the camp of employers who officially don’t care if their employees use pot off-duty. The phrase “420″ is shorthand for someone who uses marijuana.

Rose owns Dot’s Diner on the Mountain in the pot-friendly mountain town of Nederland, Colo., just west of Boulder. He says he wanted to hire a marijuana-friendly employee to ensure he didn’t have to deal with someone who might complain about his own pot use.

More employers like him, please.

bullet image For fun, here’s a delightful parody of how the media gets sucked in to all the latest hoax drug scares.

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The Shocking Truth about what’s happening in Denver

3 Months Later, Here’s What Denver Looks Like Since Legalizing Marijuana

Three months following Colorado’s decision to legalize the production, sale, possession and use of recreational marijuana — a vote that Denver city officials including Mayor Michael Hancock, among others, fought kicking and screaming — guess what’s happened to Denver crime rates in 2014?

According to new data, they’ve fallen across the board. Property crime is down 14.6% compared to the same period in 2013. Violent crimes are down 2.4%.

Where are the zombies?

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Positive news in sentencing

U.S. Sentencing Commission Votes to Lower Federal Drug Sentences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The seven-member U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously today to amend federal drug sentencing guidelines. The change will reduce federal drug sentences by an average of 11 months.

“We commend the Sentencing Commission for taking this important step toward reforming federal drug sentences,” said Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “This change will save taxpayers money, help to rein in federal prison spending, and bolster the spirits of tens of thousands of federal defendants who are facing impractical and disproportionately long sentences.”

Not enough, but an important step.

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Dana Milbank saw a boobie!

In an embarrassing column in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank acts much like a young boy who just saw his first breast.

How can Congress cure political ills? Smoke some marijuana.

Except in this case, the sniggering and giggling juvenile is discussing… marijuana!

Legal marijuana is spreading like a weed [...] redefined the meaning of a grass-roots movement. [...] There were no complaints, perhaps because munchies had been provided [...] If the pot proponents were any more laid back, they would have been horizontal. [...] Congress should immediately reefer the matter to committee to draft a joint resolution: Everybody must get stoned. [...]

You get the idea.

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Desperately Seeking Calamity

One of the things we knew would be part of the first legalization efforts was that prohibitionists would be poised to pounce on the first idiot to do something stupid in connection with legal marijuana.

And yes, we’ve had our first one: a 19-year-old, after eating a pot cookie, apparently got hostile and jumped off a balcony to his death. (‘Cause you know that’s what always happens when people do pot.)

So this ridiculous article in the Los Angeles Times is no surprise: Student’s death in Colorado raises question on pot and health

Authorities are calling the incident the state’s first marijuana-related death since Colorado legalized sales of recreational marijuana at the beginning of the year to those over 21.

The case has become a grim exhibit in a growing case file as Colorado health officials wonder whether, in the rapid rollout of legalized marijuana, adequate attention was paid to potential health risks of its use, especially in the little-scrutinized area of edible marijuana.

The thing is, when you’re talking about millions of people, shit happens. Sometimes its completely inexplicable. It’s not like we’re thinking “Oh, yeah, forgot about that side effect where people get hostile and leap off a balcony.”

So naturally, you’ve got two things going right now… Prohibitionists getting a little too excited about this death (Prohibitionists Ghoulishly Savor ‘Marijuana Death’ in Denver) and Kevin Sabet calling out legalizers for not discussing it.

Silence among legalizers about CO’s first post-legalization marijuana related death is striking. “Ban banana peels then!” deserves no reply.

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If only

Reason put together this video on April Fools Day, and even though that’s well past, I thought you should see it if you haven’t. Not only is it a fine dream of what officer interactions with the public should be like, but a good reminder on rights.

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Stupid People Quotes

“Each day another state makes it O.K. for my 18-year-old — any 18-year-old — to go and buy pot like he’s buying a Pepsi-Cola”Rob Lowe

Um, no.

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The action of inaction

As the inevitability of cannabis legalization continues to grow (which will then allow us to work on the important larger picture of the legalization and regulation of all drugs), we’re, interestingly, hearing fewer concerns about the “uncertainties” that exist.

Remember the arguments? We can’t legalize marijuana because we don’t know what will happen with “x” (addiction, driving impairment, etc., etc.). And yes, they do still pop up, but every day they become less potent.

But those never were valid arguments.

The notion that we shouldn’t make public policy when we don’t “know” the answers to basic questions seems like a good idea, except that in this case we had already made the public policy — criminalization. And we already know that criminalization as a public policy causes a lot of destruction.

Uncertainty is never a sufficient answer for not legalizing. Inaction in this case is promoting the ongoing action of prohibition.

We’re driving down a dangerous road at 100 miles an hour and we’re told we shouldn’t stop because we don’t know what will happen.

On a completely separate topic, I was struck by this headline: Treating Drug Abuse as a Disease, Not a Crime

This seems to me to be a false dichotomy. I want a third choice. After all, there are serious problems with the disease model of addiction.

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