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Join us on Pete's couch., the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
March 2018
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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.


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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Open Thread

I’m off in San Francisco and Seattle on vacation.

— Congrats to Shaleen Title for being named to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Cannabis Control Commission ‘does not reflect the Massachusetts electorate,’ pro-marijuana group says

As Tom Angell says “As far as I know, this is the first time an advocate who helped draft a measure to end prohibition has been put in charge of implementing it.”

Political cartoon:

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Remember how we gave President Obama such a hard time about delaying on giving pardons to so many people who had received such harsh sentences for non-violent drug crimes? And how it wasn’t until the end of his second term that he really stepped up the pardons?

Well, President Trump isn’t waiting. According to CNN, President Trump has pardoned… Joe Arpaio???


President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night.

Martin Redish, writing in the New York Times, isn’t so sure… Why Trump Can’t Pardon Arpaio

This is uncharted territory. Yes, on its face the Constitution’s pardon power would seem unlimited. And past presidents have used it with varying degrees of wisdom, at times in ways that would seem to clash with the courts’ ability to render justice. But the Arpaio case is different: The sheriff was convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling. Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.

Many legal scholars argue that the only possible redress is impeachment — itself a politicized, drawn-out process. But there may be another route. If the pardon is challenged in court, we may discover that there are, in fact, limits to the president’s pardon power after all.

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Open Thread

Updates on some recent activities:

  1. The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival. I was a judge for the sixth year for this fantastic film fest, this year at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. Got to see some amazing films, not the least of which was the amazing film Monkey, which took seven awards, including Best of the Festival.
  2. “Hair” is running at the Mercury Theater in Chicago. If you’re anywhere in the area, please go see this musical (running through September 24). It’s the best production I’ve seen, with a really outstanding cast, and there’s something about seeing it in these troubled times that is extraordinarily cathartic. My small contribution even got some press:

    “But one of the most powerful moments can be attributed to the highly controversial nudity scene done here with taste, innovation and strength, avoiding the usual discomfort and vulnerability exhibited by most other productions and ensembles. This is largely due to the genius of The Living Canvas’ Pete Guither’s projection design and an explosive harmonious “freedom” sung at the end of “Where Do I Go.”” – PerformInk Review

  3. There’s a reason I never moved in the last 26 years. This packing thing is really kicking my ass. Once I finish moving next week, I think I’ll wait at least another 26 years.

Marijuana politics emerge as 2020 flash point in Politico

Marijuana legalization just moved from the fringes of the last presidential campaign to center stage in 2020.

Between a sweeping new package of legislation introduced last week by one of the top Democratic presidential prospects and, on the other end of the spectrum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vigorous opposition to recreational use of marijuana, the debate over legalization of cannabis is about to receive a full airing on the presidential campaign trail.

We’ll see, but that would be nice.

Why no one is stopping Détente’s drug war

Interesting analysis.

From the start of his presidency, Duterte offered his subordinates and the public absolution for the drug war. All responsibility, he vowed, would be his, personally. He has said time and again that anyone convicted in a court of law will receive a presidential pardon. That declaration offers the key for his success at gaining public consent for his war on drugs. He has placed himself above, and thus beyond, ordinary law, making himself the supreme law.

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