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April 2009
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More nonsense from the usual suspects

Naturally, the recent flurry of legalization articles and stories in the media was bound to bring out the big guns of prohibition supporters, and they don’t disappoint. Here are three of biggest ones.
“bullet” John Walters: Drugs: To Legalize or Not in the Wall Street Journal.
I’ve always admired Walters for his smooth ability to lie non-stop. He’s absolutely brilliant at cherry-picking statistics to “prove” anything he wants and taking credit for anything positive that happens regardless of the reason. I had wondered if he would continue to do so after no longer required by law, but this article shows he has no intention of stopping – he revels in it.
Check out this move in the beginning of the piece:

What would America look like with twice or three times as many drug users and addicts? To answer, consider what America was like in the recent past, during the frightening epidemic of methamphetamine, so similar to the crack outbreak of the 1980s. Each was a nightmare, fueled by ready drug availability.

Beautiful. Such craft. Notice how he doesn’t state that there would be 2 or 3 times as many drug users with legalization (the evidence, after all, denies it) — he lets you assume it by asking you to imagine it. And then, think about those horrible epidemics that ravaged this country back when we legalized and regulated crack in the 80’s and meth just recently… Wait. We didn’t legalize or regulate them. Ah….
See what he did there? To the extent that these were “epidemics” (there was some media hype, after all), crack and meth were by-products of prohibition. Yes, they were caused by the war on drugs. And their reduction had little to do with a drug war victory and more to do with the natural shifting of drug use/abuse patterns.
He goes on to take credit for the paradise that is Colombia, and claims the violence in Mexico is a sign of victory as well.
He attempts to downplay the comparisons with the violence of alcohol prohibition with this:

Moreover, some of us remember that Bobby Kennedy was leading organized-crime strike forces against extremely dangerous mafia families, decades after the end of Prohibition. Just as ending Prohibition did not destroy organized crime in the U.S., legalizing drugs will not break the terrorist criminal groups in Mexico.

And the reason that Bobby Kennedy was able to do so was because we legalized alcohol and stopped that huge influx of profits (and law enforcement corruption). Legalizing drugs will not eliminate the cartels, but it will greatly reduce their power, their corrupting ability and their recruiting ability.
Walters ends with absolutely offensive, nonsensical, and un-American statement:

We can make progress faster when more of us learn that drug use and addiction can not be an expression of individual liberty in a free society.

Let’s move on to…
“bullet” Ron Brooks: Puff, Puff, Keep Drug Laws Passed at NPR.
Unlike Walters, Brooks is just a first-class moron. He’s president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, and is merely interested in pushing the drug war for personal gain. He doesn’t care to actually learn anything but just regurgitates the standard lies and talking points from other drug warriors.

I have yet to hear a convincing argument that marijuana legalization is a healthy policy choice Ö physiologically, economically or socially.

See what I mean? He clearly hasn’t heard a word we’ve said.
And check out this paragraph jammed full of all the false talking points.

More than 65 percent of all teens in treatment are there for marijuana dependence, with another 11 percent in treatment for alcohol and drug dependence together, many of whom are using pot with alcohol. In another disturbing trend, hospital emergency room admissions involving marijuana tripled between 1994 and 2002 and now surpass ER admissions involving heroin. And drugged driving accidents Ö many involving marijuana Ö kill more than 8,000 and maim another 500,000 every year.

Well, let’s see.

Since the majority of pot smokers in treatment are there because they were referred to by criminal justice and not for dependency, what this statistic says about marijuana dependency is precisely: zero.
Since ER admission stats don’t limit it to drug references that caused the emergency room visit, what this statistic tells us about marijuana dangers is precisely: zero
Since this statistic is, well, wrong, and yet still says nothing about whether pot had any culpability in causing a fatal accident, what this statistic tells us is precisely: zero.

Thanks for playing, Ron.
I also was confused by one of the commenters on that article: Bill Robinson, supporting Brooks, said:

If you had a cow that kept jumping the fence the answer is not to tear down the fence. It is to make the fence taller.

These bad metaphors confuse me. Is marijuana use the cow and law enforcement the fence? Well, that doesn’t work, ’cause marijuana use isn’t anything like a cow, and law enforcement is more like a bunch of anvils being dropped on cows than a fence. And then I thought, maybe we’re the cows and pot is on the other side of the fence. Well, Bill Robinson has no right to fence me or any other American citizen in like a cow. We’re not your property.
Let’s move on to number 3.
“bullet” Mark Kleiman: Double Drug Trouble in Foreign Policy
Mark’s an interesting case. A schizophrenic policy wonk who wants to legalize marijuana and regularly trashes the excesses of prohibition, yet likes to verbally abuse legalizers for no reason, and supports… prohibition.
Here he does his usual schtick of dismissing anti-prohibitionists without any stated reason.

But simply substituting antiprohibitionist slogans for drug-war slogans, though it adds variety, does not give us clarity. […]
Both no-brainer “solutions” to the drug problem –“a drug-free society” and “ending the drug war” — are equally delusional. The two drug problems [drug abuse and prohibition] are both here to stay. Let’s learn to deal with that fact.

Why would I possibly want to learn to deal with the fact that something as destructive as prohibition is here to stay? That would be stupid.
As usual, he does a great job of dismantling pro-prohibition arguments

The enforcement effort also generates harm: arrest, incarceration, bribery, gunfights between enforcers and dealers. [Kleiman leaves out some of the costs of prohibition here, but still it’s a good overview.] The problem of the illicit market constitutes the second “drug problem.”
Drug warriors tend to focus narrowly on the drug abuse problem and reject any attempt to limit the harms done by trafficking and enforcement, other than by putting dealers out of business. But the logic of the market dictates that incarcerated dealers will be replaced as long as there are customers willing to pay illicit-market prices. After more than a generation of fighting this war, there is overwhelming evidence that drug-law enforcement is a weak tool at best for reducing drug consumption.

But then, what does he come up with (after, of course, eliminating regulated legalization with no reason)?

The United States could — and should — greatly de-escalate its domestic drug war, halving the number of dealers behind bars, without greatly increasing drug abuse.

Really? That’s what you’ve got? Do we just arrest half as many? How do we choose? Maybe just the black ones… (Oh, wait…) Or reduce the sentences by 50%? Or just go after the violent ones? Of course, if we legalized and regulated drugs, we could just go after the violent criminals and greatly reduce the number of dealers behind bars, without greatly increasing drug abuse. And at the same time, we’d dramatically reduce all the destructive costs of prohibition.
But apparently that’s not a serious option.

Open Thread

“bullet” Why wait for the feds? Iowa judge wants to know if marijuana has safe medical uses.

A Polk County judge has ruled that the Iowa Board of Pharmacy must examine whether marijuana has an accepted medical use – a decision some said could thaw the debate on its use for medical purposes in Iowa.
The ruling Thursday by District Judge Joel Novak does not legalize medical marijuana in Iowa. Instead, it requires the pharmacy board to consider whether marijuana is properly classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under state law.
“What this does is it forces the board to address medical marijuana,” said Randall Wilson, the attorney who handled the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

“bullet” Neal Pierce asks Decriminalization Ö rather than legalization Ö could this be the sane middle ground we need?

The myth we need to break is that the use of mind-altering drugs is really different from a whole range of activities that humans have engaged in since the dawn of time.
I’d put gambling on that list, but even more deeply entrenched are alcohol, drugs and sexual practices. All have legitimate roles; each, depending on its form and application, can be seriously abused. A mature society warns of problems but holds back on prohibition Ö and sensibly, because rules of total denial will be broken anyway.

My quick answer to Neal’s question is that decriminalization would be an acceptable first step, but not the answer. Anything that leaves the black market in full gear is unacceptable in the long term.
“bullet” Rockefeller Drug Laws officially kind-of over.

Gov. David Paterson did a ceremonial signing today in Queens today of a bill that reduces sentences for non-violent drug offenders. The legislation, which was passed as part of the 2009-10 state budget early this month, gives judges total discretion to divert non-violent addicts to drug treatment, and it expands the state‰s treatment programs.
‹This is a proud day for me and so many of my colleagues who have fought for so long to overhaul the drug laws and restore judicial discretion in narcotics cases,Š Paterson said at Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities Inc., a state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services-funded drug-treatment center. ‹For years, thousands of New Yorkers have spoken out against the Rockefeller Drug Laws.Š

“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”

Drugs: To Legalize or Not

A must read by Steven B. Duke in the Wall Street Journal

Also hopeless is the notion — now believed by almost no one — that we can keep the drugs from coming into this country and thereby cut off the traffickers’ major market. If we could effectively interdict smuggling through any of our 300-plus […]

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Mary Ann Akers in the Washington Post has a nice little feature on Howard Wooldridge’s work as a LEAP lobbyist, which includes this video:

Family Guy – bag o’ weed

For their 4/20 episode (don’t know how long this will stay up on youtube): Now that’s how you promote pot legalization! (Just in case you’re going crazy trying to place the tune, it’s “Me Ol’ Bamboo” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke.)


Supreme Court jokes about strip-searching little girls

A small good step by the Supreme Court yesterday in Arizona v. Gant regarding Fourth Amendment rights in cars, but the case of Savannah Redding isn’t looking too good.
Reading the transcript of the oral arguments of Safford Unified School District v. Redding was pretty depressing. I don’t know how the Justices will rule, but it appears that they find little wrong with the idea of school officials stripping a young girl and were merely concerned by the procedure of determining when it’s a good idea. They even discussed body cavity searches in schools as if that was merely another option.
The Justices also talked about the idea that kids change clothes anyway for gym or the pool, so how is that different from a strip search. Really! They can’t tell the difference between the humiliation and loss of individual rights in a strip search and changing for gym class?
Dahlia Lithwick has a scathing OpEd at Slate: Search Me: The Supreme Court is neither hot nor bothered by strip searches.

When constitutional historians sit down someday to compile the definitive Supreme Court Concordance of Not Getting It, the entry directly next to Lilly Ledbetter (“Court fails utterly to understand realities of gender pay discrimination”) will be Savana Redding (“Court compares strip searches of 13-year-old girls to American Pie-style locker-room hijinks”). After today’s argument, it’s plain the court will overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding a school’s decision to strip-search a 13-year-old girl unconstitutional. That the school in question was looking for a prescription pill with the mind-altering force of a pair of AdvilÖand couldn’t be bothered to call the child’s mother firstÖhardly matters.

To me, it’s a simple thing. Is having school officials strip search students constitutional? No. Period. Anytime. For any reason. At all. But that simple view was nowhere to be found in the room.
It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to expect the Supreme Court to protect the rights of our kids. We’ll have to do it ourselves.
Every parent needs to teach their kids that whenever school officials attempt to interrogate or search them, they should refuse to do anything until their parents and lawyer have been called.
In that vein, I highly recommend that all parents read A Teaching Moment, at a Public High School by Joel Rosenberg at WindyPundit.

“I know you kids were dealing drugs to her,” he opened with. “And if you don’t confess to me now, when she kills herself, I’ll see you all charged with first degree murder.”
At which point the kids started freaking out, just a little.
Including, on the inside, my kid. But only on the inside. “I want my father and I want my lawyer, now.”
Daddy’s girl did Daddy proud.

Later, Daddy has a discussion with the Vice Principal…

“And, in case I’m not clear, nobody at your school — not you, not your mall ninja, not anybody — is to interrogate my kid on anything without either her attorney or me being present. You can talk to her about her homework, but anything else, David or I are to be there. On a good day, you might get us both. You got that?”
Long pause. “I want to hear a yes on that right about now.”
That was the last time the Vice Principal of that school and I had a chat about anything.

That’s how you handle a power-mad zero-tolerant pipsqueak bureaucrat.

Prohibition isn’t free, part 269

Drug War Torture

Mexican soldiers fighting a war against drug cartels have arbitrarily detained suspects, beating and torturing them with electric shocks, a senior human rights official said on Wednesday. […]
Soldiers charged with patrolling drug hotspots have detained suspects in military barracks — sometimes for up to 12 hours — and beaten them to solicit information before turning them over to police investigators, Ibarra said.
“They give them electric shocks on different parts of the body … testicles, arms, legs, buttocks,” Ibarra told Reuters.
“We have seen with great concern a growing number of incidents. The armed forces are not trained as police and when they are used as police there tend to be excesses,” he said.

Yep, just one more in a long list of extremely damaging side-effects of a drug war intended to keep people from voluntarily enjoying a recreational activity… and failing at that.
Good thing we’ll be stepping in to escalate the war, huh?
Of course, John Stossel gets it:

Visiting Mexico last week, President Obama said he will fight drug violence: ‹I will not pretend that this is Mexico‰s responsibility alone. The demand for these drugs inside the United States is keeping these cartels in business.Š
I don‰t expect politicians to be sticklers for logic, but this is ridiculous. Americans also have a hefty demand for Mexican beer, but there are no ‹Mexican beer cartels.Š When Obama visits France, he doesn‰t consult with politicians about ‹wine violence.Š What‰s happening on the Mexican border is prohibition-caused violence.

Odds and ends

“bullet” Great headline: Christ to speak on war on drugs tonight [Thanks, Micah] “bullet” Great editorial: U.S. should put an end to war on drugs, legalize pot

Interestingly, it’s not just the dope smokers in the park calling for legalized marijuana use. Conservative, progressive and libertarian intellectuals alike have argued that we ought to legalize […]

And with legalization came the inevitable plague of two-headed dogs

NPR’s John Burnett does a bizarre speculative piece: What If Marijuana Were Legal? Possible Outcomes. In it, they attempt to envisage the U.S. two years after marijuana’s legalization.
Radley Balko says that it might be the worst NPR piece he’s ever seen. And Bruce Mirken’s fisk of the story was passed on to the reporter.
Here’s an example of the ridiculous nature of the piece:

Since the prohibition on cannabis ended, has it delivered the results its supporters claimed it would? […]
Now that it’s cultivated domestically and sold legally, surely that has crippled the cartels? […]
[Robert] Almonte, director of the Texas Narcotic Officer’s Association, says all cannabis legalization has done is force the drug mafias to improvise.
“As far as marijuana is concerned, they have been selling it less expensive than what it can sell for here in the United States,” Almonte says. “But more importantly, we’re seeing a more potent marijuana. And with that we’re seeing á an increase in the emergency room admissions.”

Now I like imagining things, and I think I’ve got a pretty good imagination. I also understand that we can’t know all the details about what will happen for sure with legalization.
But imagining the future isn’t just about pulling random things out of your ass. You can use logic and current knowledge to at least eliminate some of the more ridiculously stupid assumptions, and yet Burnett swallows Almonte’s nonsense uncritically.
Emergency room admissions up from marijuana?
Legalization causing increased potency?
Cartels selling marijuana cheaper than we can sell it for in the United States?
Did none of this smell just a little bit… off… to Burnett?
Couldn’t he take just one moment to think through the idea of cartels attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States and undercutting legal sales? Or perhaps explain why Mexican bootleg alcohol isn’t dramatically undercutting alcohol sales in the U.S. Are there dealers on street corners offering Mexican cigarettes for $1.50 a pack?
You know, it really is amazing how often we hear the nonsense that cartels will be relatively unaffected. I do understand that there is quite a bit of cognitive dissonance going on. Despite all the logic and facts we present about how legalization will cripple the income for cartels and drug gangs, people simply don’t want to believe that it will actually work.
Why? For one thing, they’d have to face the fact that all of the violence, death and destruction was easily avoidable.
There’s a second reason. They really want to be able to show off their dicks by physically beating up an enemy. Destroying the cartels by cutting off their business is extremely unsatisfying from a war perspective. You don’t get to beat them. They just go off and do other things.
So what drug war supporters hear is that we want to take away their “victory” (not that one was actually possible) while simultaneously proving that the avoidable destruction of innocents was their fault.

Supreme Court acknowledges existence of the Fourth Amendment

This is a pretty big victory (Arizona v. Gant), and it breathes a tiny bit of air back into the 4th.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of someone they have arrested if the person is locked up in a patrol cruiser and poses no safety threat […]