Send comments, tips,
and suggestions to:
Join us on Pete's couch.
couch, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
October 2020



NBC, CBS, ABC, & FOX happy to profit from marijuana, as long as nobody talks about legalizing it

[Guest post by Russ Belville] Marijuana legalization is the hottest topic in the media these days. MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, FOX, NatGeo, and CBS News have presented special features on marijuana business, medical marijuana, and the marijuana legalization movement. Google Trends is showing double the interest in searches and news hits for the term “marijuana legalization”. […]


Recently I was reading an opinion piece by an academic who, after demolishing the government’s position on marijuana, felt the need to admonish drug policy reformers for not fulfilling our obligation to inform people that marijuana is not harmless. First, that’s not our job. And to a large extent, it’s irrelevant. Marijuana could be deadly […]

Open Thread

“bullet” He just hasn’t been listening.

“No one has told us what alternative we have,” said [Mexican] Interior Minister Fernando G÷mez Mont, gently slapping his palm on a table during an interview. “We are committed to enduring this wave of violence. We are strengthening our ability to protect the innocent victims of this process, which is the most important thing. We will not look the other way.”

“bullet” Failure Squared: War on Drugs Meets the War on Terror

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is congratulating himself for ending the Bush administration’s expensive and ineffective opium poppy eradication program. Trouble is, he’s decided to replace eradication with interdiction.

“bullet” Drugs are evil. We should legalise them now by Antonia Senior, Times Online.

By legalising, we would have a fighting chance of wresting the market from the hands of the drug barons: the ones who ruin lives and distort global politics and are untouched by our laughable efforts to police them. They are the only winners in the current futile war.

“bullet” Readers respond to debate over legalizing marijuana

BILL: Dave, our column last week on legalizing pot got us more e-mail response than any in the last two years.
DR. DAVE: Mostly for or against legalization?
BILL: Mostly for. What impressed me was the quality of the pro arguments.

“Dr. Dave” needs some educating…

DR.DAVE: [I] invite readers who disagree to send in their best arguments about why legalizing marijuana won‰t cause an even greater youth substance abuse epidemic than we Americans are suffering right now.

Sounds like a challenge.
“bullet” Someone else who needs educating: Harden: Legalizing marijuana would be a recipe for disaster

Legalization of marijuana could lead to increased hospitalizations, violence, crime and a drop in work force productivity with increased employee absenteeism and unemployment. It is a recipe for disaster fraught with a level of risk that is irresponsible.
[Harden is the interim police chief of Modesto.]

“bullet” 19 shot in drug war in Baltimore

When a 5 year old is shot in the middle afternoon by a stray bullet while playing in street where is the outrage from drug war critics? When 12 are shot, many of them innocent, who’s condemning the drug war for the violence?

Good question.
“bullet” Marijuana’s Impact on Brain Function “Minimal,” New Study Says and Marijuana Use Associated With a ‹Significantly Reduced RiskŠ of Head and Neck Cancers Ö Will The Mainstream Media Care?
“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”

Financial Times: Why it’s time to end the war on drugs

This article by Matthew Engel in yesterday’s Financial Times is a must-read. Really great stuff all around.

For decades many academics and professionals have regarded the current blanket prohibition on recreational drugs (though not alcohol or tobacco) as absurd, counter-productive and destructive. But there has never been any political imperative for change, and a thousand reasons to do nothing. […]
But 2009 has seen a change: among the academics and professionals who study this issue, from Carlisle Racecourse to the think-tanks of Washington, there is growing sense that reform is possible and increasingly urgent. The argument is not that drug use is A Good Thing. It is that the collateral damage caused by the so-called war on drugs has now reached catastrophic proportions. And even some politicians have started to think this might be worth discussing.

It’s an extremely comprehensive article, addressing the failures in Mexico and elsewhere around the world, and noting that there is finally some potential for change in the United States – an important precursor for reform for the rest of the world, given historical U.S. international pressure.
The article also talks about the history of drug prohibition (and there’s a time-line, too), including this delightful bit of snark regarding the way British laws are established.

In Britain, there is something close to despair among academics about the political process. Drugs are classified A, B and C, allegedly according to the degree of harm. But the theory ignores the immutable constitutional provision that laws are subject to the approval of the editor of the Daily Mail.

He also gives a little dig at the pro-prohibitionists here:

It is hard to find coherent advocates on the other side of the argument. On the web, I came across Drug Watch International, based in Omaha, promising ‹current information á to counter drug advocacy propagandaŠ. The lead item on its site dates from 2002.

Engel really gets it. He talks about how UNODC’s Costa says that “drugs are, and must remain, controlledŠ and responds:

Of course drugs need to be controlled, just as alcohol, tobacco, firearms, prescription drugs, food additives and indeed UN bureaucrats with massive budgets need to be controlled. But the whole point is that illicit drugs are not controlled. The international pretence of prohibition sees to that. […]
… the case for legalisation is not about allowing baby-boom couples to enjoy a joint after a dinner party without drawing the curtains or being obliged to visit a dodgy bloke called Dave. Decriminalisation or even legalising cannabis on its own would achieve little. Something more radical is required. The crucial issue concerns the supply chain: the way prohibition has enriched and empowered gangsters, corrupt officials and indeed wholly corrupt narco-states across the planet. It was a point made eloquently by the Russian economist Lev Timofeev, when interviewed by Misha Glenny for his book about global organised crime, McMafia. ‹Prohibiting a market does not mean destroying it,Š Timofeev said. What it means is placing a ‹dynamically developing market under the total control of criminal corporationsŠ. He called the present situation a threat to world civilisation, which international public opinion had failed to grasp.
Proper reform means legitimising production and supply, precisely so it can be controlled.

Outstanding article.

A question for the next drug dealer bust press conference

As a follow-up to the previous post… When they come out to brag about a successful operation that resulted in the arrest of some drug dealers, I’d like someone to ask:

Why should we be excited about having more drug dealers? After all, we’ll have all the new drug dealers that will step in to […]

I love watching their heads explode

It’s very hard for some people to grasp the concept that a successful law enforcement operation may not actually end up providing a net benefit to society. In fact, in the drug war, successful law enforcement operations often cause significant damage to society.
It is this fact (which is counterintuitive to many) that is noted by the UK Drug Policy Commission reported in Let drug dealers roam free, police told

POLICE should spend less time pursuing drug dealers, a leading think tank claimed today. […]
The report showed drug dealers were able to avoid having their operations shut down by the police – and even when arrests were made and drugs seized – were “quick to adapt.” […]
It also added successful police operations could in turn have negative consequences, if, for example, they created a turf war between rival gangs.
The report said: ‹Levels of enforcement activity appear to bear no direct relationship to levels of drug use or availability.
‹Traditionally, drug enforcement efforts have focused on arrests and seizures, with the aim of reducing supply, but drug markets are large, resilient, and quick to adapt.Š

Now the UKDPC should have gone on to recommend legalization as the solution, yet their half solution is still logical, given the fact that arrests of dealers cause additional problems — leave the dealers alone and expend your efforts in other areas.
Naturally, the responses were blisteringly fast, outraged, and.. incomprehensible.

Home Office minister Alan Campbell today insisted the report does not signify an end to the war on drugs.
He claimed: ‹Tough enforcement is a fundamental part of our drug strategy, and the police continue to make real progress in tackling the supply of illegal drugs and in reducing the harm they cause.

Talk about not even beginning to addressing the conclusions of the report. But people like Alan Campbell can’t wrap their minds around the truth — it’s too far from their world view.
This head-exploding disconnect was also noticeable in the comments…

Where on earth do we get these idiots from. The more you let go fre the more there will be on the street, then the crime rate will go even higher because adicts will want money for their “fix”

Well, no. It’s simple economics. If you don’t arrest the dealers, there won’t be more dealers because the market will become saturated and any new dealers entering the market will reduce profits too far. So the crime rate actually won’t go higher because the number of addicts won’t actually change.
On the other hand, every time you arrest a drug dealer, you essentially increase the number of drug dealers in the world. There’s the new one that stepped up to take the place of the one you arrested, and there’s the original one that we’re now paying huge sums of money to prosecute and house.
Another commenter:

The solution to the problem of drug dealers is a mandatory life sentence for the second conviction. […]
If they are caught selling drugs let’s get medieval on them. It would make them think twice before they act.

Again, no. You just end up with full prisons and more drug dealers.

Another gem of pure insanity. If you believe you cannot fix a problem, then just give up. Perhaps Labour is keen to get a generation of unemployed into dealing drugs legally. They could then qualify for a small business loan and ultimately the profits from drugs could be taxed. What an asylum Britain has now become!

Actually, the best idea in the bunch, dressed up as insanity. Legalize and tax the drugs, provide jobs and put the criminals out of business.

Let the criminals take over the country we can save a lot of money and anyway a quick snort never did anyone any harm. What a pathetic bunch of free loaders. I will tell you what we should do. Sack these think tanks get rid of all these quangos Get rid of all the so called spy cameras and the millions saved will allow us to employ more police.Back in the 1920s America was over run with criminals they fought back and won.So must we.

Actually, what America did to get rid of the criminals was to end prohibition. Good idea.

Why not prohibit smoking? Commentary: Why not prohibit smoking? by Tony Newman Excellent OpEd comparing the status of tobacco with prohibited drugs to demonstrate the inherent stupidity of using criminal prohibition as a tool for attacking drug abuse or drug dangers.

Instead of giving teens “reefer madness”-style propaganda, we have treated young people with respect and given them […]

Mexico wants U.S. to ‘persecute’ marijuana offenders

Funny. I thought we were already doing that.

MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Mexico’s attorney general said the United States had insufficient resources and infrastructure to clamp down on marijuana trafficking, after meeting the US anti-drug czar. Mexico’s increasingly powerful drug traffickers operate throughout the United States and beyond as well as in Mexico. “We frequently […]

The Union

I just finished watching the newly available DVD: The Union: The Business Behind Getting High that was released yesterday. It’s outstanding! It is the most comprehensive documentary review of cannabis policy, politics, history, myths, science, and.. humanity that I’ve seen. It’s compelling (and yes, a little overwhelming — you almost need to take a […]

Bookstore Blues

I used to love nothing better than spending hours wandering through large bookstores. Yesterday, I spent some time browsing the three-story Borders Books in downtown Chicago. Despite looking fairly extensively (though not asking), I was unable to find any books about the drug war. However, prominently displayed on the main floor were “nonfiction” books by […]