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October 2009
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Peter Moskos in the Washington Post

An excellent OpEd feature article by Peter Moskos: If it’s on the shelves, it’s off the streets (in the Sunday Magazine)

In this piece, Peter talks about his studies of drug policy in Amsterdam, compared with his experiences as a police officer here.

In America, 37 percent of adults have tried marijuana; in the Netherlands the figure is 17 percent. Heroin usage rates are three times higher in the United States than in the Netherlands. Crystal meth, so destructive here, is almost nonexistent there. By any standard — drug usage rates, addiction, homicides, incarceration and dollars spent — America has lost the war on drugs.

And just as escalating the drug war over the past three decades hasn’t caused a decrease in supply and demand, there’s no good reason to believe that regulating drugs instead of outlawing them would cause an increase. If it did, why are drug usage rates in the Netherlands lower? People start and stop taking drugs for many different reasons, but the law seems to be pretty low on the list.

And he points toward the solution he prefers… getting the federal government out of the way.

History provides some lessons. The 21st Amendment ending Prohibition did not force anybody to drink or any city to license saloons. In 1933, after the failure to ban alcohol, the feds simply got out of the game. Today, they should do the same […]

Without federal control, states, cities and counties would be free to bar or regulate drugs as they saw fit. Just as with alcohol and tobacco regulation, one size does not fit all; we would see local solutions to local problems. […]

Even without federal pressure, most states and cities would undoubtedly start by maintaining the status quo against drugs. That’s fine. […]

One can easily imagine that in some cities — San Francisco, Portland and Seattle come to mind — alternatives to arrest and incarceration could be tried. They could learn from the experience of the Dutch, and we could all learn from their successes and failures.

I think this model makes a lot of sense, and today, despite overwhelming federal oppression, it’s the model that we seem to be partially implementing (at least as it relates to medical marijuana so far…). But it’ll be tough — the federal government sure doesn’t like to sit back and watch.

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9 comments to Peter Moskos in the Washington Post

  • ItsMeDave

    We shouldn’t have to, but an amendment to the Constitution re-legalizing cannabis is a wonderful idea. Actually make that an amendment which bans federal intervention in a state’s “authority” over products which are now federally illegal. Now if we could just get the incrementalists on board. I kid.

    Where do we start? Who’s leading the effort for a Constitutional amendment? There were 5 amendments passed in 20 years from 1951-71. Out of our memories, but not out of the realm of possibility based on history.

    Then again thats just not gonna happen in our broken duopoly. Sorry I entertained the thought.

    —Oooo, oooo Sen. Kerry is speaking about Afhganistan on CNN right now. I bet he doesn’t even mention the drug war there. This administration is a complete failure just like the last.

  • claygooding

    All we need them to do is remove marijuana from schedule 1 so the clinical trials for marijuana can be done for the FDA approval of marijuana as a medicine. The easiest to prove I think would be a sleeping aid,2 grams of primo dank in a brownie and your going too sleep,without any “drug” hangover or harm too your body.
    The rest of the legalization will just happen when all the over the counter medications start showing up in the pharmacies.
    Prior to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act,there were over 150 medicines sold with cannibus sativa or cannibus indica in them,and though it will be slow,due to FDA requirements,
    marijuana will return to the medicine cabinets across
    America.

  • claygooding

    PS.It don’t have to be cooked,,,grind to dust,mix with favorite jam and peanut butter,and for don’t know the fiber content but it must add some. Included this for fellow insomniacs.

  • Guy#1

    Great article, sanity in a mainstream newspaper?

  • ezrydn

    While much has been said about politicos taking fire for “being soft,” I doubt that’s the case today. It would seem what they fear most now is having to back away from all the lies and propaganda they’ve bolstered over the years. Would be a funny headline, though: “Sorry! Seems We Were Wrong!” Then, wait for the finger pointing show.

    However, I think the transition will probably be steered “quietly.” Plus, we see how hard it is for associated agencies to “get the word” and understand what it says.

  • By any standard — drug usage rates, addiction, homicides, incarceration and dollars spent — America has lost the war on drugs.

    Of course. But in the small mind of a drug warrior, the facts that America has the highest per capita incarceration level in the history of Planet Earth, and more people behind bars than any other country at any other time in human history, is strong evidence that we’re “winning” the war on drugs. Surely they can’t explain that logic, but logic has nothing to do with it.

    Drug prohibition is not now, nor has it ever been, a result-oriented policy.

  • kaptinemo

    And, if you want an idea as to just how small those ‘small minds’ are, go to DEAWAtch and read the comments there. They still think DARE was a success, despite all the research that shows it isn’t.

    I can’t help but wonder sometimes just how far Humanity might have gotten if we hadn’t had to drag such ‘small minds’ along, kicking and screaming, into the Enlightenment.

  • kaptinemo: but for religion, we wouldn’t have had prohibition (alcohol or drug) and we’d have colonized the moon, mars, we’d all have teleportation booths in our homes, we’d have fusion energy powering our lives – no fossil fuels, and there would be world peace.

    *sigh*

  • DdC

    but for religion,
    we wouldn’t have had prohibition (alcohol or drug)

    That’s somewhat of a copout. Alcohol and Cannabis prohibition were corporate fabrications. Using religion and government for propaganda and legislation.

    Modern religions have sided with the despots for protection of their own. Their own even excluding other religions. Some using religion as their authority, falsely. Its still the individual making the choice. Its still we the sheople doing it the same as we the sheople doing drugs. Blaming religion for my actions or blaming drugs is a copout. They are the same as lies. Not reality based. So you can never tangibly deal with it. That is the goal. Perpetuate and profit. Winning and losing ends the paychecks.

    The Inquisition and Auschwitz show how low humans are capible of getting. It also showed how the majority went along with it. Coups and Revolutions, like Cuba don’t happen unless some are left out of the equation. The US friendly fascism has worked since the gitgo, escalating with FDR. Stopping the hemorrhage caused by a few profiting on fossil fool and Pharmaceutical “treatments”. Cures and Prevention are bad for profits and taxes. Since the firm of Nixon, Rayguns Boosh Klintoon & Boosh Jr, its the wild west on wall street.

    The most effective religion is on Madison Avenue and the Broadcast Networks taking collections on every election show. News entertainment now opiates and divides the masses. I don’t buy the twinkie defense. Or drunk, legally medicated, over-age, inexperienced or drugged driving excuses. In realism each individual makes the choice.

    When forced to commit an act, then the blame goes to the oppressor. But the church, Madison Ave or Drugs have no authority to “make” you do anything. Just the government. That is technically “We the People”. You can’t let your communities get run down to the point of “excusing” governments intrusion. Have to vote in “representatives”, not lobbyists. Sam Farr or the Sheriff didn’t come out of the box gung-ho on Ganja. They can only go so far, and should be commended on how far they’ve gone. But if we let up, someone will use the opportunity to “save” us from something.

    Until we take responsibility to demand reality and not lies. It will linger, swell up occasionally, squirt puss now and then. Get all red and painful. Up to us. Ganja and Hemp are not schedule#1 narcotic drugs, and the CSA should be no more than increments on a measuring cup. An aid to the physicians and users, a Material Safety Data Sheet. The vice crimes lobbied by the Church, to cage humans for indulging. Are still the responsibility of the government to weigh the consequences on everyone. Heathens and Religionists and Realists.
    No where in the Constitution does it mention money.

    The Church or largest Banks should have no special privilege, nor the courts special rules to sway juries or ignore judges opinions with manmins, 3 strikes or plea bargain fast lanes nixing the jurying altogether. Judges and Sheriffs legislating illicitly should be busted the same as us po folk’s. Especially the elected, lying to us. Or to each other just to pass their boss lobby’s agenda. These rarely witnessed red flags come from a lack of diligence on our part, keeping our Reps and Judges in check, keeping our local News informed. Keeping our teachers factual and our Health care, Food, Clothing and Shelter attainable. Thats what citizenship is. Taking care of our own business of taking care of our own. We let the corporations come into town, bypassing the environmental laws as payment for reducing the high unemployment. Take it or leave it and too many towns take it.

    Kick back and let them do it, then whine and hiss at the winners and scoff at the losers till the pendulum swings back. Or… go to a city council meeting, stand in line and inform. Go to the PTA, Go to Ganjawar victims trials. Write letters and show up and be counted at marches. Reform groups are tools for us to use, and we should support them for that reason. They are not in charge of anyone, their strategies are only as good as the donations, and they only last on effective reform. Keeping the individuals out, or incrementally groveling and appeasing each thug for not being cruel is the drug worriers tools.

    ConPromising on the nuts and bolts. All based on a lie that could be overturned with a stoke of a pen. As long as we let religious mythology reefer madness come into reality as legislation. Replacing hard science. 13 inch rulers. A gallon of gas give or take? Political science may work in cooked ledgers, its a bitch in the real world.

    Buy goods and services from legitimate American business’ that Don’t Piss Taste. Their goal is to eliminate independent jobs. One big happy like minded corporation. Individuals think for themselves and refuse to donate bodily fluids. Work their own schedules and speak their own minds. Not afraid of blowing corporate whistles and speaking up for the workers. Quality work keeps employment. Not just a number, replaced by another. No uniforms or grooming mandates ever made a product better. Cut the waste and rebuild the checks and balances. Can’t trust humans with power. Look what Trump did to the USFL and Enron to California. Or the Ganjawar.

    Nazism Part Deux or the Ganjawar?

    Drug Worrier Blasphemy

    Flog the Sin out of Addiction