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September 2014
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Open Thread

Some very good reading this morning…

bullet image Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes (Washington Post)

Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country. [...]

A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. [...]

There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.

There’s a good video demonstrating a couple of cases of asset forfeiture.


bullet image Crime, Bias and Statistics by Charles M. Blow, New York Times

Crime policies that disproportionately target people of color can increase crime rates by concentrating the effects of criminal labeling and collateral consequences on racial minorities and by fostering a sense of legal immunity among whites.”

There is no way in this country to discuss crime statistics without including in that discussion the myriad ways in which those statistics are informed and influenced by the systemic effects of racial distortion.

We know that the drug war is a huge part of the problem in terms of crime policies that disproportionately target people of color.


bullet image The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing (New York Times)

An outstanding video segment on the history of SWAT and how it’s gotten out of control.

The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks.

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We must prevent education… you know, for the children

One of the things that the drug reform movement has faced throughout its history is the pernicious and constant attempts to silence any efforts to provide honest education about illicit drugs. To even discuss illicit drugs in any realistic way was painted as a an attempt to encourage kids to become druggies.

There was even one time that DrugWarRant got unintentionally embroiled in a local Congressional race and the charge was leveled that since I had a link to Erowid, my site was a danger to the community as young kids could follow that link and learn how to do drugs!

Sometimes these attempts get downright hilarious.

Check out the kerfuffle generated by the Daily Mail over a botanical exhibit.

Kew Gardens storm over ‘Intoxication Season’ which includes talks on mind-altering plants

It’s really quite a nice little educational program at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which will include live plants that can be used to produce both legal and illicit drugs, with a series of lectures about the plants, their history, and their properties.

The Daily Mail makes it seem like the end of civilization.

But last night campaign groups said that Kew, whose patron is Prince Charles, was ‘failing to safeguard youngsters from the dangers of drugs’.

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, chief executive of the charity DrugFAM, said: ‘The literature from Kew Gardens reads like an invitation for children to come and experiment with drugs. I am sure these people are all experts in their field but I deal with families who have lost children to drugs and my son died as a result of them.

‘The organisers are behaving extremely irresponsibly and not safeguarding youngsters. It’s awful a publicly funded organisation is using its money for such a festival.’

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Nullification

Update: This story is from 2012. Sorry about that. Still, if you missed it then, it’s a very strong point. We need to keep pushing for more of this.

Doug Darrell Acquitted of Marijuana Charges Through Jury Nullification in New Hampshire

Here’s the key point:

After deliberating for six hours, the jury unanimously declared Darrell not guilty.

Juror Cathleen Converse, self-described as a “straitlaced little old lady,” explained her reasoning in an interview with Free Talk Live.

“Mr. Darrell is a peaceful man,” she said. “He grows for his own personal religious and medicinal use. I knew that my community would be poorer rather than better off had he been convicted.”

[Thanks, Malcolm]

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We may be turning the tide, but there are still too many victims

Jacob Sullum soberly reminds us that while people are openly and legally buying pot in some parts of the country, there are others behind bars for inconceivable lengths of time for marijuana offenses.

Life In Prison For Pot And Other Travesties of Marijuana Prohibition

The relatively lenient treatment of cannabis consumers raises a moral question that no prohibitionist has ever satisfactorily answered. If smoking pot is not such a big deal, how can merely helping people smoke pot by supplying the raw material justify locking anyone in a cage for years or decades?

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Novel approach: teach students

I have mixed feelings about this article. I’m pleased that the school district has come to their senses, but also concerned about how long it’s taken for them (and many other districts around the country) to realize that an automatic-expel-them-and-forget-them approach is destructive.

ASD Changes Drug & Alcohol Policy To Keep More Students In School

The Anchorage School District averages more than 60 expulsions and almost 400 suspensions a year for drugs and alcohol. Now it says it’s time to take a different approach, when changing the behavior of its students. [...]

The new policy changes the requirement that a student who offends must be expelled right away. The district said the policy is just catching up to something that’s already happening in its schools.

“Those days of expelling,’ –you’re out on the curb and you’re gone from the Anchorage School District, we don’t care about you anymore,’ — long, long gone,” said Graham, “We have these programs and now a policy in place that really allows us to make it easy for us to do this.”

There’s no doubt that there are some students who just don’t belong in school – those who are disruptive and really don’t want to be there. But to kick out students just because they got caught with drugs or alcohol is an abdication of any responsibility for their future.

It’s like saying “Because you have been caught using drugs, we’re going to take away your opportunity for an education, and send you out on the street as a criminal to sell drugs.

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Yawn, majority favor marijuana legalization

Marijuana Legalization Supported By A Growing Majority

The survey, released last week from online polling data company CivicScience, asked more than 450,000 U.S. adults over the last two years this question: “Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol?”

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they support marijuana legalization — with 39 percent saying they “strongly support” and 19 percent saying they “somewhat support” reformed marijuana laws in their states. Thirty-five percent oppose legalization of marijuana — with 29 percent “strongly” opposing and 6 percent “somewhat” opposing laws that would regulate marijuana like alcohol. Seven percent of respondents had no opinion on the issue.

The surprising part of this news is… it’s really not a surprise. Majority support is now where we live.

That doesn’t mean we can rest, and we still have a huge way to go on the larger issue of drug legalization, but boy, it sure is nice to be at a place where a poll like this is merely… ho hum.

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Students for Liberty

Students for Liberty have a new website focused on ending the war on drugs. Good for them!

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Everybody panic… because we don’t have enough evidence to induce panic

Marijuana Legalization Has Researchers Wondering If Traffic Deaths Will Rise

Why are they wondering? Because there’s no clear evidence that it’s going to happen and that’s frustrating them.

It’s not, however, stopping them from speculating…

What worries highway safety experts are cases like that of New York teenager Joseph Beer, who in October 2012 smoked marijuana, climbed into a Subaru Impreza with four friends and drove more than 100 mph before losing control. The car crashed into trees with such force that the vehicle split in half, killing his friends.

Of course… because that’s what you do when you smoke pot. Pot smoking makes you buy a Subaru, causes friends to get into the car with you, and then makes you drive 100 mph and crash into trees. That’s why, no matter where you look, you see nothing but split-in-half Subaru Imprezas everywhere.

Now, I once heard of a reporter who wrote an article for the Huffington Post and then had sex with a goat. It makes me wonder if we’re doing enough to protect the goat population from Huffington Post authors.

Admittedly, studies of Huffington Post article-authorship and goat-rape risk are “highly inconclusive.” Some studies show a two- or three-fold increase, while others show none. Some studies even showed less risk if someone was a writer.

Still, this should be a reason to be concerned for anyone who cares about the safety of our goats.

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Robert DuPont as shill for the drug testing industry

Without disclosing DuPont’s financial interest in the drug testing industry, the Washington Post published this piece of trash: Pot is becoming legal in more places, but we should drug test employees anyway by Robert L. DuPont.

Meanwhile, marijuana advocates are targeting drug-testing policies of major employers, including launching a petition to pressure the New York Times to trash its drug-testing policy. If successful, this movement will damage the safety and productivity of U.S. workplaces and take away one proven way to reduce substance abuse.

Workplace drug testing has largely been a scam since its beginnings, complete with wholly invented statistics on worker productivity and absenteeism, to the point where it’s almost impossible to sort out any actual truth in the claims.

What it’s really been about is building a very lucrative drug testing industry that depends on marijuana (since it stays longer in the system) resulting in penalizing people for what they do on their own time, creating a negative employment atmosphere, and doing nothing to create a safer workplace.

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Debating Drugs

Transform has come out with yet another useful publication: Debating Drugs: How to Make the Case for Legal Regulation

In it, they’ve assembled all the standard prohibition arguments with effective responses to each of them in a variety of areas. Very handy tool for those looking for well-crafted responses.

I’m not always in agreement with Transform – sometimes the degree of regulation they seem to desire goes a little far for me – but they’re doing absolutely wonderful work.

debating-drugs-risk

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