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May 2018
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Open Thread

Sorry for my absence from the couch recently. I’ve been taking a bit of a break to deal with other things.

I’m currently the musical director for a wonderfully bizarre production: “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” by Anne Washburn at Illinois State University.

I’m also working on musical direction for the delightfully complex “Floyd Collins” by Adam Guettel and Tina Howe at Heartland Theatre.

On March 3, I’ll be the Luncheon Speaker at the 2018 Libertarian Party of Illinois Convention, speaking about the Drug War and talking about DrugWarRant.com.

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Good riddance to the Cole Memo

There’s been a lot of talk about how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has eliminated the Cole Memo – an advisory document intended to reduce the focus on federal prosecutions of state-legal cannabis operations as long as a list of guidelines were followed.

In reality, the Cole Memo was limited, vague, and had no force of law – any Attorney General could overturn it at will (as Sessions has done). It was the appearance of the federal government respecting state law without having to actually, you know, do it.

The good thing about Sessions’ tone-deaf action is that it’s woken a lot of people up to the absurdity of still having a federal prohibition that could allow prosecutors to arrest citizens for openly following state law. Sessions has managed to anger liberals, conservatives and libertarians through his action.

Perhaps the absence of the Cole Memo, and the outrage following its repeal, will finally get Congress to act and do something meaningful.

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Out with the old, in with the new

A strange year, to say the least.

2017: The Year Pot Policy Stood Still as Opioids Ravaged the Nation – a year-in-review from Rolling Stone.

The take-away quote:

While many federal lawmakers have called for overhauling the criminal justice system and for rethinking the government’s relationship with substances like marijuana, 2017 saw little to no action on drug policy.

“Status quo year,” Democratic Representative Jared Polis tells Rolling Stone. “It was a year of stagnation.”


Civil liberties predictions for 2018 – in an annual tradition for Radley Balko, he puts together a post of ridiculous predictions of the most outrageous things that couldn’t possibly happen, and you quickly realize that they all actually occurred this past year.

Stunningly disheartening.


Here’s wishing everyone on the couch a better new year. Take the time to celebrate what you have, and then continue your work on improving the world.

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A tale of two approaches to legalization

First, in Canada…

Marc Emery was right; Julian Fantino was wrong

In September 2011, Conservative MP and former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino stood in the House of Commons to urge MPs to vote for the Conservatives’ Safe Streets and Communities Act, which, among other things, increased mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences, including six months for possessing six plants. […]

Emery, who finished his sentence in 2014 and returned to Canada, is not able to enter the legal marijuana business because of his criminal convictions. On Monday, he and his wife, Jodie Emery, will appear in a Toronto courtroom where they will plead guilty to marijuana charges laid after the police busted marijuana stores they were running in Ontario and British Columbia. They will have to pay large fines. […]

I believe Emery was right about marijuana and Fantino was wrong, and it seems that Fantino now has had a change of heart, because last month he announced that he plans to sell medical marijuana in a business he founded with former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Soccer.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, where Shaleen Title is an active force for coming up with approaches that are fairer.

Mass. Recreational Pot Industry Won’t Just Line Pockets Of Big Businesses, Regulators Say

But regulators say they are looking out for the interests of people who, in the past, may have been in legal trouble for activities involving marijuana that the new law no longer criminalizes. […]

Certain entities would have their application fees waived if they’re determined to be an equity applicant coming from one of those disproportionately affected communities. Criteria include residency, past nonviolent drug convictions for themselves or for someone in their family.

“If you come from a community where marijuana enforcement has been unfair, and there are disparities, you now are given a way to enter this industry in a way that’s fair, so that you just have some help starting your business and getting to be involved in the wealth that is being built,” said Shaleen Title, who is a member of the Cannabis Control Commission.

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Open Thread

The Onion comes to the rescue:

FDA Confirms Psilocybin Reduces Risk Of Mindlessly Following Society’s Rules Like Fucking Lemming

SILVER SPRING, MD—Following months of research into the psychedelic compound’s effects, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed Thursday that psilocybin could significantly reduce the risk of mindlessly following society’s rules like a fucking lemming. “After numerous clinical trials, we can state with a high degree of certainty that ingesting small doses of psilocybin greatly decreases the chances of blindly marching in lockstep like a bunch of goddamn sheep being led to the slaughter,” said FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb


He’s got a point.

Let Marijuana Travel Between States If Guns Can, Dem Congressman Says

Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing legislation this week that would allow people permitted to carry concealed guns in one state to bring their weapons with them when they travel, even if their destination state has more stringent requirements to qualify for concealed carry.

But if the GOP wants to do that, a Democratic congressman argues in a new video, they should also be in favor of forcing states to recognize protections granted under each another’s marijuana laws.


Philipines:

Highlights from the Supreme Court oral arguments on the drug war

Must be rough for the government:

In his comment filed before the SC began oral arguments, the government’s chief legal counsel said that the drug war is being “emasculated and undermined” by petitions of the families who lost their loved ones in the violent police operations.

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Smoke a joint and still be able to get a job

Of course, we all know that you can be a pot smoker and still be very good at any profession you could do if you weren’t, but there’s still the big-business drug testing industry trying to claim that you can’t, and for some jobs, merely admitting to past use could still disqualify you.

But that may be changing…

Smoking marijuana shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor for federal judgeship: Top senators say

Top senators said Thursday that people who smoked pot a couple of times in their lives shouldn’t be denied federal judgeships, saying it might soon become tough to fill out the federal bench if marijuana use was considered disqualifying. […]

Both Chairman Charles E. Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said there’s been an evolving standard in society, and the committee is also having to adjust.

“If that’s the sole judgment on whether somebody ought to have a judgeship or not — or maybe any other position — we may not be able to find people to fill those positions,” said Mr. Grassley, who said his own views on drug use have also changed since he came to Congress three decades ago

If I wasn’t enjoying retirement so much, and I had actually gone to law school, I might put my hat in the ring.

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SAM burned by Angell

Tom Angell and the Marijuana Moment continue to keep on top of everything marijuana-related, including the ridiculous antics of Kevin Sabet and S.A.M.

In this latest post, Anti-Marijuana Site Features Pro-Legalization Politician (For Some Reason), Tom details a number of the past big efforts by Kevin and SAM that never amounted to anything. Worth checking out (and also worth supporting Tom’s efforts).

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The opioid ‘crisis’

In Scientific American: People Are Dying Because of Ignorance, not Because of Opioids by Carl L. Hart

I am concerned that declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency will serve primarily to increase law-enforcement budgets, precipitating an escalation of this same sort of routine racial discrimination. […]

It is certainly possible to die from an overdose of an opioid alone, but this accounts for a minority of the thousands of opioid-related deaths. Many are caused when people combine an opioid with another sedative (such as alcohol), an antihistamine (such as promethazine) or a benzodiazepine (such as Xanax or Klonopin). People are not dying because of opioids; they are dying because of ignorance.

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Open Thread

Apologies to all my fellow couch friends. Catching up after moving and a long trip took me away from this site for too long and the comments section expired, temporarily preventing people from commenting.

I’ve extended the settings so this won’t happen again. Thanks for your patience.

I’ll try to have some more new content here soon.

– Pete

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How to Win a War on Drugs

That’s the title of Nicholas Kristof’s investigative article in the New York Times (it’s this Sunday’s Times, but they’ve put it online early)

Decades ago, the United States and Portugal both struggled with illicit drugs and took decisive action — in diametrically opposite directions. The U.S. cracked down vigorously, spending billions of dollars incarcerating drug users. In contrast, Portugal undertook a monumental experiment: It decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Ever since in Portugal, drug addiction has been treated more as a medical challenge than as a criminal justice issue.

After more than 15 years, it’s clear which approach worked better. The United States drug policy failed spectacularly, with about as many Americans dying last year of overdoses — around 64,000 — as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.

In contrast, Portugal may be winning the war on drugs — by ending it. Today, the Health Ministry estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.

The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.

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