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February 2016
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It’s a civil rights issue

Something we’ve been saying for a long time…

Via the Marijuana Majority twitter account:

“Creating a legal, responsible and regulated framework for marijuana is a predominant civil right issue and it’s long overdue,” said Alice Huffman, longtime President of California State NAACP.

The California State NAACP has formally endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

Of course, it’s not just legalization of marijuana. It’s the entire drug war that’s a civil rights issue (and a host of other issues as well). But again, since marijuana enforcement is the biggest piece of the drug war, it’s a great place to start.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image Study Concludes Biking While High on Marijuana Isn’t Dangerous

“Hardly any coordinative disturbances could be detected under the influence of high or very high THC concentrations,” the study, published by the International Journal of Legal Medicine this week, found.

bullet image Canada Needs Permission From International Treaties to Legalize Marijuana, Says New PM Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister who won last October’s elections in Canada against the Conservative Stephen Harper, who was seeking a third term, ran in part on a promise to legalize marijuana, and said he was going to “get started on that right away,” signaling a departure from the Harper administration’s anti-pot stance.

Now, Trudeau’s said his efforts have hit a snag—international treaties. They were, uh, there during the election campaign, even if they were left unmentioned by the candidate himself.

According to the Canadian Press:

Trudeau’s plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana is already proving a complicated and controversial undertaking on the domestic front, in part because it requires working with the provinces.

Internationally, says a briefing note prepared for the prime minister, Canada will also have to find a way to essentially tell the world how it plans to conform to its treaty obligations.

bullet image It’s time to get rid of these fossils in politics…

Maine governor blames state’s heroin problem on racist stereotypes

“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty… these types of guys … they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage said. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

bullet image The answer is “yes.”

Is Police Corruption Inevitable in the War on Drugs?

Last week, police in Pennsylvania pulled over a car carrying three men and apparently $2 million worth of weed. Among the 247 pounds of pot and $11,000 in cash in the vehicle, investigators also found a law enforcement badge and service weapon belonging to California Sheriff’s deputy Christopher Heath, one of the men arrested and a frequent drug investigator in Northern California. Now Heath’s bosses have to figure out if the drug cases he led on their behalf will hold up in court given that one of their investigators has been outed as a corrupt cop.

Given how much money’s at stake in the drug game, the fact that police can be swayed to join the distributors they usually bust isn’t all that surprising. Yet police corruption in the drug war is often depicted by the media as a foreign phenomenon, consigned to countries with notoriously powerful cartels such as Mexico or Colombia—despite decades of high-profile examples of US authorities breaking bad, too.

bullet image Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.

Justice IG: DEA paid Amtrak employees nearly $1 million as informants

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration paid an Amtrak employee more than $850,000 during the past 20 years to serve as a confidential informant for the agency only to receive information that was always available to the DEA at no cost, an internal Justice Department review found.

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Open Thread

Happy New Year! Just back from a trip visiting relatives over the holidays, and trying to figure out what retirement means in this, my first week of actually dealing with retirement. Thanks for bearing with me in the long holiday pause.

I would say one of the most potentially interesting news items over break was this one about the Surgeon General:

Surgeon General Announces Review of Federal Drug Policies

Areas of focus in the report may include the history of the prevention, treatment and recovery fields; components of the substance use continuum (i.e., prevention, treatment and recovery); epidemiology of substance use, misuse and substance use disorders; etiology of substance misuse and related disorders; neurobiological base of substance misuse and related disorders; risk and protective factors; application of scientific research in the field, including methods, challenges and current and future directions; social, economic and health consequences of substance misuse; co-occurrence of substance use disorders and other diseases and disorders; the state of health care access and coverage as it relates to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery; integration of substance use disorders, mental health and physical health care in clinical settings; national, state and local initiatives to assess and improve the quality of care for substance misuse and related disorders; organization and financing of prevention, treatment and recovery services within the health care system; ethical, legal and policy issues; and potential future directions.

It’s quite easy to find reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about this news. Certainly, there’s a lot of history in the federal government in claiming to want to find the scientific truth when they really are doing nothing more than distorting it to confirm political preferences. And yet, the surgeon general’s office has historically been less likely to be as politically driven, which could be good.

If we assume that the Surgeon General will actually follow the science and facts wherever they lead, recommendations could still get derailed (witness Joycelyn Elders). But if the administration is trying to pave the way for a real change in federal drug policy before the end of the term, this would be the way to do it — with the weight of the top medical doctor in the country behind the recommendations.

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Happy Holidays

Wonderful holiday wishes to all Drug WarRant readers, and especially to the regular couch-mates who make this place special.

I just finished my last day of work yesterday, and look forward to discovering what retirement will bring. But first, I’m hitting the road for the holidays to visit family and friends.

For those sticking around, there’s some of Alton Brown’s aged eggnog in the refrigerator (make sure Matt doesn’t O.D. on it), and I believe there’s still a fruitcake being used as a doorstop (and no, Mr_Alex, it wasn’t made by the Semblers, so it’s OK).

Have a great time. I’ll stop in during the holidays when I can.

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College drug testing

We’ve often talked here about the fact that suspicionless drug testing in most situations is wrong, and doesn’t actually work, whether it’s in high schools, for welfare recipients, or on the job. And, of course, it’s a big business.

It’s bad enough at the high school level, but college?

Here are two pieces from’s Chronicle

Drug Testing

University of Alabama Subjects All Frat Members to Mandatory Drug Tests. Every fraternity member at the school was required to pass a drug test at the beginning of the academic year, and now, fraternity members are being randomly selected each week for more drug tests. If students test positive, they get several warnings before they are expelled from the fraternity and a university anti-drug program intervenes to “help students get back on track before the school doles out harsher penalties. The drug testing program has been criticized by fraternity members and others as invading the privacy of students, but no one has yet challenged it in court.

ACLU to Appeal Federal Court Ruling Allowing Drug Testing of All Students at Missouri Tech College. The ACLU of Missouri said it will appeal an 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding the suspicionless drug testing of all students at the State Technical College of Missouri. The ACLU is seeking a rehearing of the case before the same three-judge appeals court panel that ruled in the school’s favor or by the entire bench in the 8th Circuit. The ACLU had filed suit in 2011 to challenge the policy and won at the district court level, but the appeals court last year reversed the lower court decision. The federal courts have held that, with a handful of exceptions, mandatory suspicionless drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against warrantless searches and seizures. The ACLU said the appeals court decision is “poorly crafted and departs from the 8th Circuit and Supreme Court precedent.”

I remember when the Missouri Tech College case originally came up and thinking that it should be a slam dunk to stop that in the courts (and it was initially). But I don’t remember hearing about the appeals court. This needs to be stopped so it doesn’t give any other colleges ideas.

As far as the one at University of Alabama, I see where they’re going with it – using the idea that worked in high schools, of targeting those who participate in extra-curricular activities – in this case as a requirement to participate in frats. What a colossally stupid approach. In my experience, the biggest problem in frats is alcohol, something that will not be caught by drug testing. If anything, it’ll drive the frats to focus solely on alcohol, which is not necessarily a good thing.

When I was in college, we didn’t have frats, but we had similarly structured “social groups” (just without separate housing). The one social group least likely to put their fist through a wall, hurt someone, or cause problems on campus was the one whose drug of choice was pot rather than alcohol.

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Via Huffington Post Weird News comes this remarkably absurd anti-marijuana campaign out of Australia.

Supposedly, it’s the work of Australia’s New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet.

And there’s a website.

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Justice Department urges Supreme Court to throw out Nebraska/Oklahoma lawsuit

Thanks to Tom Angell for the info:

This is regarding the lawsuit against Colorado by those states, because they feel harmed by the cost of having to arrest people in their own states for possessing marijuana.

Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae

The motion for leave to file a bill of complaint should be denied because this is not an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdic-tion. Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here—essentially that one State’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another State—would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court’s original jurisdiction.

Well said.

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2015 nearing the end

Hard to think about the year being over soon, but we are starting to see year-in-review pieces.

Phillip Smith has one at Alternet: The People Are Rising Up Against the Destructive Drug War: 8 Key Developments

The items he notes are:

1. The sky hasn’t fallen on legal marijuana states.
2. The marijuana majority solidifies.
3. Monopoly marijuana is rejected in the Heartland.
4. Black Lives Matter’s policing critique implicates the drug war.
5. Overdoses kill tens of thousands, harm reduction responses emerge.
6. Asset forfeiture reform picks up steam.
7. Six thousand federal drug war prisoners come home.
8. Canada elects a marijuana-legalizing prime minister.

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The world of Kevin

“I want there to be a thousand Kevins,” he exclaims. “There can’t be just one Kevin. Kevin is not going to be able to do this alone. Kevin can’t just do this year after year, he is going to have a heart attack.”

Sure, I understand the argument for just not talking about him, but this article has so much worth discussing…

Kevin Sabet Is The Marijuana Movement’s Biggest Threat, But Can He Really Stop ‘Big Pot’? by Joel Warner

Here’s the most damning bit of the entire article:

It’s why Project SAM opposes any form of legalization. But then what does the organization want in its place? Sabet has repeatedly promised to develop model laws, but so far, policy proposals encapsulating Project SAM’s preferred legal reforms, such as reduced marijuana arrests and increased public health campaigns and treatment options, haven’t materialized.

“What do they want as a policy?” says Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. “They make these assertions, how it’s something in the middle, but it’s very vague.”

Sabet says his organization has been working with drug-law experts and political consultants on the matter, and Project SAM-backed policy initiatives are coming soon. “We have to go on the offense,” he says. “I am sick of saying, ‘Vote no, vote no.’ We want to be ‘yes.’”

Coming soon… yes, we’ve heard that for quite a while, now.

Here’s another interesting bit in the article:

The sky hasn’t fallen in Colorado or Washington State since marijuana became legal, concludes Jonathan Caulkins, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who studies marijuana policy. But that’s because, he says, it’s too soon to determine the social impacts of the policy change. He thinks that anyone who tries to spin the short-term data to either promote or condemn legalization is missing the bigger question: What happens years from now to the first generation to grow up not just with legalized but potentially mass-marketed cannabis?

“Only an idiot would predict that the problems would come in two years,” says Caulkins. “I think we are going to legalize this nationally, we are going to let Big Tobacco play, and 25 years from now we will say, ‘What were we thinking?’”

Um… I think the real ‘What were we thinking?’ moment has already come, and is was a reaction to criminalization, not legalization. This is where the public policy folks completely fucked up. If they wanted to make a difference in how marijuana was legalized, then they needed to get involved in suggesting strategies, not just acting as naysayers.

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They keep trying, but it’s harder for the feds to get away with their nonsense

You may have heard that the USPS recently issued a memo to newspapers in Oregon stating that it’s illegal to mail pieces with advertisements for marijuana because it’s Schedule 1.

Now members of Congress are demanding answers.

Lawmakers Question Postal Service About Marijuana Ad Threats to Newspapers by Tom Angell

A group of members of Congress is demanding the U.S. Postal Service explain a memo it recently issued warning newspapers not to mail any publications containing advertisements for marijuana. […]

“Regardless of how you feel about our failed prohibition of marijuana, every American should agree that the U.S. Postal Service should not be censoring what is or is not published in newspapers,” Blumenauer, who has led House efforts to allow medical cannabis access for military veterans, told via email. […]

The lawmakers say they want the postmaster general to answer several questions, such as whether USPS intends the memo to have legal effect in all 50 states. “If not, is it customary for individual districts to create their own policies that may contradict how other districts are operating?” they ask. “What discretion does a regional postmaster have in enforcing or implementing these policies, specifically in states where marijuana is legal?” […]

The letter ends with an ominous question possibly intended to uncover evidence the Department of Justice isn’t abiding by Congress’s medical marijuana interference ban. “Did the USPS cooperate with anyone at DEA or DOJ in establishing this policy? If so, please detail the nature of this cooperation.”

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