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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
April 2015
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Open thread

Welcome to those who participated in a most enjoyable event last night at Indiana University. I had a great time with my presentation, and a wonderful discussion with the folks there. Special kudos for making that wonderful Drug War Victims poster based on the Drug War Victims page.

If this is your first time visiting the site, have a seat on the couch — we’ve got some great folks here, who have a ton of good information.

Oh, and for the wonderful gentleman who traveled a long distance to hear the talk and was foiled by Indiana time zones, I’m sorry you missed a good portion of it, but glad I got to meet you.

Pete Guither speaking on the drug war's assault on liberty

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As always, follow the money

Former Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high

Yet there is a clear winner in the anti-drug effort – not the Afghan people, but the infamous mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater.

Statistics released on Tuesday reveal that the rebranded private security firm, known since 2011 as Academi, reaped over half a billion dollars from the futile Defense Department push to eradicate Afghan narcotics, some 32% of the $1.8bn in contracting money the Pentagon has devoted to the job since 2002.

The company is by far the biggest beneficiary of counternarcotics largesse in Afghanistan. Its closest competition, the defense giant Northrop Grumman, claimed $250m.

That’s a lot of money. What has been the result?

Far from eradicating the deep-rooted opiate trade, US counternarcotics efforts have proven useless, according to a series of recent official inquiries. Other aspects of the billions that the US has poured into Afghanistan over the last 13 years of war have even contributed to the opium boom.

In December, the United Nations reported a 60% growth in Afghan land used for opium poppy cultivation since 2011, up to 209,000 hectares. The estimated $3bn value of Afghan heroin and morphine represents some 15% of Afghan GDP.

The extent of the money-grabbing connected to the drug war is mind-boggling.

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Big Gay Marijuana

Talk Radio Host Bryan Fischer has been getting a lot of Twitter ridicule for this tweet regarding the situation in Indiana:


This worry about Big Gay… sound familiar? It’s just like Kevin Sabet and his constant concern trolling about Big Marijuana.

It seems like there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity here — maybe Big Gay and Big Marijuana should join forces and open a string of Big Gay Marijuana businesses (excluding bigots and Kevin Sabet).

imagePerhaps with Big Gay Ice Cream next door…

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Against random student drug testing

Doctors Group Opposes Student Drug Testing, reported by Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority

A group representing 62,000 pediatricians said Monday that schools should not randomly drug test students.[…]

Beyond drug testing’s futility, the group’s policy statement cites a number of harms the practice can cause:

“Other concerns regarding school-based drug testing include the potential for breach of privacy (eg, when a student’s prescribed medications are identified on a drug test); detrimental consequences, such as suspension or expulsion for students who have positive drug test results; school dropout or increased truancy for students who fear they would fail a drug test; or increased use of substances not easily detectable on a drug screen.”

In a technical report accompanying the new policy statement, the pediatricians also note the “unfair stigmatization” that can result from false-positive test results. “Consequences related to false-positive drug test results (school suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, interpersonal relationship stressors with parents, peers, teachers, and school administrators) can have significant effects on a high school student.”

We still have school districts all over the country instituting drug testing for students, and it’s going to take some time to reverse the trend.

I know I’ve discussed this here before, but I am opposed to suspicionless drug testing for any group, including suspicionless employment drug testing, suspicionless student drug testing, and suspicionless public assistance drug testing.

As an overall notion, it is offensive to American principles to set up procedures requiring people to prove their “innocence.” And, time and time again, the more that these policies are properly analyzed in context, we find that they are more harmful overall than helpful.

Related: School Suspensions Cause More, Not Less, Student Marijuana Use

Students who attend schools that use out-of-school suspension as a punishment for illegal drug use were 1.6 times more likely to use marijuana in the next year than those at schools without such policies, researchers from the University of Washington and various institutions in Australia found in the paper, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Speaking in Indiana on Wednesday

On Wednesday, April 1 (no joke), I’m traveling to Indiana to talk about some bad laws (no, not that one… some others).

This event is hosted by Young Americans for Liberty at Indiana University and Student Peace Alliance


If you’re in the area, hope to see you there!

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Colorado responds

Colorado has responded to the Supreme court complaint by Nebraska and Oklahoma with this brief.

I think it’s extremely well-written and well-argued, pointing out the absurdity of the claims by the other states.

Here’s a taste:

The Complaint, however, does not challenge marijuana legalization as a general matter. For example, the Plaintiff States do not object to Colorado’s legalization and regulation of medical marijuana, although medical marijuana makes up over half of the State’s $700 million marijuana industry and, like recreational marijuana, is also vulnerable to out-of-state diversion. See Raich, 545 U.S. at 31–32. And the Plaintiff States disclaim any argument that a State can be forced “to criminalize marijuana.” […]

The Complaint instead asks the Court to strike down only those laws that empower Colorado to authorize, monitor, and regulate recreational marijuana businesses. Compl. at 28–29. In other words, if Plaintiffs’ requested relief is granted, recreational marijuana would remain legal, but Colorado would lose the ability to monitor and regulate its retail supply and distribution.

Interesting little dig in the statement from the Attorney General in conjunction with the brief… “This lawsuit, however, even if successful, won’t fix America’s national drug policy—at least not without leadership from Washington, D.C., which remains noticeably absent.”

[Thanks, Tom]

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Mark Kleiman asks Kevin Sabet the big question

On twitter:

[…] Now, is there any way to keep prohibition and limit the excesses of drug law enforcement? That’s the hard one.


Kevin always talks about there being a way to solve the problems of the drug war without legalizing, but never seems to be willing to share his “secret” plan. And while Kleiman supports marijuana legalization as a concept, he always seems unwilling to grant people the authority to make decisions for their own lives.

The reality is that there are two answers to the question.

1. No. There has never been any evidence that prohibition can exist without excesses of drug law enforcement. We’ve dealt with various kinds of prohibition for decades and there is no evidence of the potential of a benevolent prohibition.

2. The question assumes that prohibition (if somehow done “right”) is a “value,” but it is not. Prohibition is a fatally flawed concept from the beginning, because it makes a crime out of things that are not a crime. In a wrong-headed effort to tackle a particular perceived societal ill, basic human rights are infringed, and that is simply unacceptable.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image Marijuana Arrests in Colorado After the Passage of Amendment 64

The report finds that since 2010, marijuana possession charges are down by more than 90%, marijuana cultivation charges are down by 96%, and marijuana distribution charges are down by 99%. The number of marijuana possession charges in Colorado courts has decreased by more than 25,000 since 2010 – from 30,428 in 2010 to just 1,922 in 2014.

bullet image (Via press release on Tuesday): Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Submit Companion Bill to CARERS Act to Allow States to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Today a comprehensive bipartisan medical marijuana legalization bill was introduced to the House of Representatives. The bill serves as a companion to the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies without fear of federal prosecution. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) originally introduced the CARERS Act to the Senate earlier this month. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill most recently. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced today’s companion bill, which marks yet another significant leap of progress in bipartisan support for compassionate medical marijuana legislation.

“Police have as much business telling patients whether they should use medical marijuana as they do performing eye surgery – and with a similar rate of success,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a criminal justice group opposed to the drug war. “When you treat a health problem like a matter for law enforcement, you only endanger the patient, who has no assurance of the quality or purity of what he’s consuming and must enter the illegal market to obtain it, and undermine respect for and effectiveness of law enforcement in our society.”

The CARERS Act would foremost allow states to decide their own regulatory policies. It would also reschedule marijuana from the federal scheduling category I to II, which unlike Schedule I, recognizes medical efficacy and allows more extensive research for drugs within that schedule, though it is still very restrictive. If passed, the bill would also permit interstate commerce of CBD (cannabidiol) products. CBD is a non-psychoactive seizure suppressant found in marijuana that has shown to be effective in reducing the severity and intensity of seizures, particularly in pediatric epileptic patients.

bullet image College Republicans in Madison fuzzy on the notion of “freedom.” Point counterpoint: Drug testing public assistance applicants promotes freedom, workforce

The United States is founded on freedom, where everyone has an opportunity. It is a place where success and happiness are attainable through one’s own will. Seizing opportunity and gaining success is the rewarding principle of the American dream.

Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature hope to preserve this principle through their proposal of drug testing public assistance applicants. Drug testing public assistance applicants not only helps ensure that the unemployed are eligible for employment, but also promotes constructive behavior that is desirable in the workforce.

bullet image New Mexico legislature passes sweeping bill to rein in forfeiture abuses

The bill would basically require a criminal conviction before police can take property associated with a crime.

Just goes to show how Kafka-esque this world has gotten where we get excited over one state bravely moving toward what logically should be a common-sense baseline.

bullet image Marijuana Edibles Blamed For Keystone Death

Bizarrely, this article has idiots on twitter (Christine Tatum) demanding:

@DanRiffle, @tomangell, change the “No one dies from pot” message NOW. @learnaboutsam

If you read the article, it’s like someone deciding to go ice fishing after reading the “thin ice” signs, and making a hole with dynamite, blowing himself up in the process, and blaming the death on the lake.

I would classify this death as a Darwin award. But, “died from pot”? No.

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And now for something completely different

Just for fun:

9 Reasons We Should Never, Never, Never, Ever Legalize Marijuana by Michael McCutcheon.

Pretty convincing stuff.

Consider this an open thread.

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United Nations Agency tears into the drug war

No, not the UNODC, but the United Nations Development Programme has nothing good to say about it.

Transform has great coverage: Another UN agency savages the drug war

Here’s the key quote:

“[Drug control efforts] have had harmful collateral consequences: creating a criminal black market; fuelling corruption, violence, and instability; threatening public health and safety; generating large-scale human rights abuses, including abusive and inhumane punishments; and discrimination and marginalization of people who use drugs, indigenous peoples, women, and youth” — The United Nations Development Programme

Wow! Really powerful stuff.

And they keep going, talking about the impact of drug policies on the formal economy, on human rights, on gender, on the environment, and on indigenous peoples, and they argue that “new approaches are both urgent and necessary.”

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