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September 2007



Three must-read articles…

“bullet” Whenever Maia Szalavitz has a new article about the drug war, I have come to expect brilliance, and today’s is no exception: Increasing Agony, Not Fighting Addiction

Think about it: we have the ability to ease the pain of the dying, even when we can’t treat their illnesses or injuries, for pennies a day. But we don’t do so — in fact, we directly prohibit them from getting these medicines — because we are afraid that either we will addict the dying or that addicts will somehow get access to this medicine somewhere along the supply line.
What kind of insanity is this? If you are dying, what does it matter if you are physically dependent on a drug? What does it matter, even, if you develop a compulsive desire for more of it? And why should people who live with painful conditions that will not kill them suffer, either, for that matter? We are so misguided in our thinking about addiction that we prefer people to live and die in unspeakable agony rather than risk them having a bit of extra euphoria!

“bullet” I’ve been a big fan of LEAP’s Jack Cole, so this feature on him in the Guardian Unlimited was a delightful read: Badge of honour by Alexandra Topping

Cole’s voice drops: “The undercover cop would stand watching the guys file past so they would know you had evidence against them, and wouldn’t bother pleading not guilty.” But when the good Samaritan walked by, he looked Cole in the eye and said: “Man, I was just trying to be your friend.” Cole’s voice falters. “I realised then that we were sending the wrong people to jail, and it had to stop. How many of those young folks would have gone on to have a perfectly productive life had I not intervened?

“bullet” The third piece of reading was in the Politico, and I hadn’t noticed the byline before reading it. I was really impressed with the piece and had to know… Of course, it was Radley Balko: Federalism should extend to marijuana raids

It‰s difficult to understand how the same party that (correctly, in my view) argues that the federal government has no business telling the states how they should regulate their businesses, set their speed limits, keep their air and water free of pollution or regulate the sale of firearms within their borders can at the same time feel that the federal government can and should tell states that they aren‰t allowed to let sick people obtain relief wherever they might find it.


Medical marijuana in Rhode Island

A very nice story about the working medical marijuana program in Rhode Island: For more than 300 Rhode Islanders, marijuana provides legal relief
The article references our friend Tom Angell:

O‰Donnell, now 44, was a dynamo in a wheelchair, lobbying at the State House for marijuana to be made legal for the chronically ill in Rhode Island. Her son Tom Angell had brainstormed the idea with a friend in his dorm room at the University of Rhode Island. Angell, who was president of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at the time, had heard a speaker hosted by the group whose wife used marijuana to relieve her pain. He thought about his mother.

Tom — don’t you know that kids in dorm rooms are supposed to be smoking pot — not plotting to overthrow the government and help sick people?
Another interesting moment in the article is this DEA comment:

Anthony Pettigrew, agent for the New England field office of the DEA, said that while marijuana possession is against federal law, ‹the DEA never targets the sick and dying.Š The agency is more interested in organized drug traffickers, Pettigrew said. ‹I‰ve been here for 22 years,Š he said, and ‹realistically, I‰ve never seen anyone go to federal jail for possessing a joint.Š

Scott Morgan notes:

If DEA won’t arrest patients and state police can’t arrest patients, then medical marijuana laws work very well. […]
It doesn’t matter whether DEA’s policy of not arresting patients is motivated by compassion, political sensibilities, funding constraints, or some combination thereof. The fact of the matter is that state laws are effective at protecting medical marijuana users from prosecution, which is their intended purpose.

And that’s true, with one caveat. The trick is, of course, that possessing one joint doesn’t solve the supply problem, and the point at which the amount you’re needing to grow or buy or have grown for you reaches the level of drug trafficking may be (and is) defined differently by patients, state laws, and the DEA — problem that could be easily solved by simply allowing marijuana to be regulated.

Catching a bad man

Diego Montoya, a reputed major Colombian drug trafficker and mass murderer was captured yesterday. If what he is accused of is true, then I join the drug czar in celebrating his arrest. However, unlike the drug czar, I understand that it is United States drug policy that created the conditions for a Diego Montoya to […]