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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
February 2017
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Nora Volkow is stumped

Regulated markets for adults have not made it easier for younger people to get marijuana. U.S. News

The latest Monitoring the Future survey is out.

Actual use of the drug dropped among 8th grade students and stagnated among 12th graders. Reported annual use continued a five-year slide among 10th grade students, though the year-to-year change was not statistically significant.

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissions the annual survey.

“We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up,” she says.

“We’re seeing that more people in the U.S. except for teenagers are taking it,” Volkow says. “The rates of increases are highest among young adults 18-24, so one would expect that would translate to the adolescents, but apparently it has not.”

As Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority notes:

“We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get. The new data bear this out, and it’s just common sense. Under legalization, businesses have every incentive to follow the rules and make sure their customers are of legal age lest they lose their lucrative licenses. Conversely, black market dealers don’t care about the IDs in their customers wallets; they only care about the money in there.”

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And the war continues

Mexico quietly marks 10 years of drug war

Ten years after Mexican troops were unleashed against drug cartels, the country will mark the anniversary without fanfare on Sunday, with murders rising again and the military eager to return to barracks.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who inherited the drug war when he took office in December 2012, has promised his countrymen and women a “Mexico in peace.”

So, after 10 years, how is that progressing?

“The war has become much more complex. The level of death has escalated,” Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told AFP.


Even Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos agrees that troops do not belong in a law enforcement role.

“We didn’t ask to be here. We don’t like it. We didn’t study how to chase criminals,” Cienfuegos said on Thursday.

He said he would be the first to raise “not one, but two hands” in favor of returning troops to barracks.

“Our function is something else and it’s been made into something unnatural. We are doing things that don’t correspond to our training because there’s no one else to do them,” the minister said.

The only way to win the drug war is to end it.

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Hard to talk about anything else

Maybe it’s just the inundation of crap I have in my Facebook feed right now that’s making me want to retreat from the news, but I’m having a hard time focusing on drug policy (that, and the fact that I’m focused on a show I’m producing that’s running right now in Chicago that closes at the end of this week).

I guess there’s such a feeling of uncertainty as to what the upcoming Presidency will mean to… anything. It seems to me that those who are absolutely certain are probably the most likely to be completely wrong.

So, while this has already been shared in comments, it seems that perhaps I just need to play this for you.

Seems like a good pick to me.

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Open Thread

A couple of interesting ones from Tom Angell at

Congressional Republicans Vow To Block Marijuana Amendments

Don’t count on there being any marijuana votes in the U.S. House next year.

That’s the message that Republican leadership in Congress is sending after blocking a number of cannabis amendments from reaching the House floor earlier this year.

“The chairman has taken a stand against all amendments that are deemed poison pills and that would imperil passage of the final bill,” Caroline Boothe, spokeswoman for House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), told in an email on Monday.

White House Hints At Possible Marijuana Moves

How Idaho’s Drug Warriors Stole Hope from Epileptic Kids – a good investigative story from Reason’s Eric Bohm about the behind-the-scenes efforts to stop a good bill that would allow CBD to be used for medical purposes, because of the interests of drug warriors.

Obama says marijuana should be treated like ‘cigarettes or alcohol’ Christopher Ingraham did a pretty good job of covering this story, touching on the huge disappointment that we continually have with political leaders deciding to realize the truth about legalization once they’re leaving office.

The only slight quibble I have with Ingraham on this is the amount of “other side” time he gives to SAM, and the idea that they even have a coherent “approach.”

Expect to see more of this kind of thing now…

Return White House Drug Czar to Cabinet by Robert Charles at Townhall

Opiate addiction has skyrocketed, leading to a breathtaking loss of 47,055 lives last year. Deaths by synthetic drugs quintupled in some categories. Marijuana use, the number one basis for drug treatment, has jumped by 27 percent (during Obama’s years). Drugged driving has risen by roughly 20 percent, and 80 percent of men arrested for property and personal crime in major cities test positive for drugs. This is a genuine crisis enveloping the country.


A nicer, somewhat related bit? The latest proclamation of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, 2016. While, in the past, many of these were opportunities to spread misinformation about drugged driving (John Walters, anyone?) this one is actually reasonable.

Recently, the number of traffic crash fatalities caused by impaired driving has unfortunately increased — last year, preventable alcohol-related driving fatalities accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities. Consumption of alcohol by drivers, even those who are of legal drinking age, is highly dangerous, and drug use, including prescription drug use, can also harm judgment, perception, and the motor skills used when driving. Distracted driving — including eating, tending to passengers, and using a cell phone — can also be dangerous and is equally preventable. […]

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 2016 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. I urge all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.

I can go along with that sentiment.

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New head of the DEA?


It’s satire, of course, but I couldn’t resist.

In an official statement, Trump said that El Chapo’s “tremendous success in the private sector” showed that he has what it takes to “shake things up” at the D.E.A.

Trump’s appointment of the former drug lord surprised many in Washington, in no small part because acrimony between the two allegedly prompted El Chapo, in 2015, to put a hundred-million-dollar bounty on Trump’s head.

But, appearing on CNN, the Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway said that the selection of El Chapo should surprise no one. “Mr. Trump always said that he would surround himself with the best people,” she said.

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Jeff Sessions, Attorney General?

Oh, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

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Open Thread

Retirement continues to be a very busy time for me. Spent the past week in Chicago getting my newest Living Canvas show ready to open tomorrow.


[Trans]formation uses the unique Living Canvas technique (projections on bodies) to tell the stories, poetry and songs of transgender and other non-binary individuals. It’s a pretty stunning world premiere and there really is nothing like it. Running November 17 to December 17 at The Vault at Collaboraction Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave in Chicago. More info.

Early indications in the hugely chaotic transition period for the upcoming President Trump seem to indicate that there are likely to be a lot of hawks in the new administration. In general, that bodes poorly for any kind of reduction or reform of the international drug war, and increases the need to continue to establish the ascendency of the states in drug policy, along with convincing small-government Republicans in Congress to act as a brake against potential overreach by a Trump Justice Department.

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Ongoing Election Results (updated)

Here’s a news site from New Orleans that is doing live tracking of the various marijuana-related votes.

Track marijuana referendum results: 9 states vote on legalizing pot


Recreational marijuana: California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada won! Arizona lost.
Medical marijuana initiatives: Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota won.

That’s a pretty incredible record.

Now we just have to hold the political leaders’ feet to the fire and make them follow the people’s wishes.

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I voted early, as I’m heading up to Chicago to do a show. But it was a pretty dull affair, as I live in Central Illinois and there’s not much to vote for, other than making a symbolic statement.

However, in some parts of the country, your vote matters. And not just the race everyone’s talking about, but judges, and council members, and initiatives. So do your research.

Some really big marijuana initiatives this year – this could be a huge year for moving forward with legalization. Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada will vote on legalization, and Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota have medical marijuana votes.

The LA Times has generally been quite anti-marijuana over the years, and yet they endorse marijuana legalization on the ballot in California.

Meanwhile, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has spent millions this year opposing legalization. Here’s Christopher Ingraham’s article following the money.

So, with nine states involved in this voting cycle, what do you think the score will be?

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Quote of the day

“Marijuana Arrests are the engine driving the War on Drugs”

Quote from: Watch Pusha T’s PSA Supporting Cali Marijuana Bill

Well said. It’s one of the reasons that drug policy reformers have focused so much on marijuana. It is not only the most popular illicit drug, but it is also the reason that most drug warriors have budgets for their war. Without the volume of arrests for marijuana, they would have much harder time justifying the budgets for drug task forces, and the loss of the huge amounts of cash involved the illegal marijuana market would cripple the asset forfeiture business.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t or shouldn’t focus on the other aspects of the drug war (and we must continue to actively oppose the drug war even after marijuana is legalized), but from a practical standpoint, opposing marijuana prohibition has been a critical part of any comprehensive drug policy reform movement.

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