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September 2008



Finally – a drug free workforce!


John Consoli wants to get rid of drugs in the workplace, one telephone handset at a time. Consoli, 67, is the president of On Site, a Spring Hill, Fla., company marketing DrugWipe, a handheld narcotic detector. Just swipe the DrugWipe against a keyboard or any other surface, Consoli said, and the toothbrush-sized detector can […]

SWAT – Hey, we’re kind of right most of the time.

Lima, Ohio:

More than a quarter of the 198 raids by the Lima Police Department SWAT team in the last seven years came up empty-handed without finding drugs, weapons, paraphernalia or money. And nearly a third of the time, police do not find drugs or a weapon. Drugs alone were found in nearly two-thirds of […]


Did they say anything about drug policy?

Open Thread

“bullet” An interesting candidate

I am Ben Mitchell, the Liberty Union candidate for lieutenant governor in the state of Vermont. If I am elected and the governor leaves the state for even 10 minutes, I will pardon all nonviolent drug offenders serving time in Vermont or Kentucky prisons. I think it is stupid to pay […]


Scott Morgan has an excellent post talking about the latest episode in the continual slaughter of dogs by law enforcement officers — the shooting of a Jack Russell terrier.

Ok, obviously there‰s some sort of major misunderstanding going on here, because the number of household pets being killed by police has gone from alarming to inconceivably, mindblowingly outrageous and intolerable. Of course, police are heroes who would never kill animals just to be mean (only sociopaths are cruel to animals), so the answer must be that police are disproportionately terrified of dogs.

It’s a good point, and I find myself wondering — since police are always going to often find themselves interacting with dogs, wouldn’t it make sense to give them some, I don’t know, training on dealing with dogs? Did some departments just cut that part of the training?

“Well, we were going to have dog training, but that would’ve taken a whole day to do it right, so we just said “Shoot ’em.” Took 5 seconds instead.” [</snark>]

Many years ago, I worked as a crew leader for a company that delivered advertising material door-to-door in Chicago and the suburbs. And some of the most vicious dogs are kept outside, sometimes on chains, by the side of the house.
Now we couldn’t make our quota of deliveries if we took the sidewalk back and forth at each house, so we often cut across lawns. And invariably, right when you get to the side of the house you’d come face to face with a large dog three feet away from you, with 20 feet more chain.
And we weren’t issued guns.
So you know what, we learned how to get along with dogs. We learned dog psychology. And I never had a delivery person get bit.
Add to that the postal carriers, UPS/FedEx, meter readers, and neighborhood children. They all figure out ways to deal with the dog without shooting him.
Now you may say that the police have a different situation in that they are dealing with dogs inside the house. And that’s true. But that leads me to another theory.
You see, dogs aren’t any more dangerous inside the house. They just bark a lot. And all that barking in the confines of a room gets really loud, and if you’re stressed, it can make you edgy. “I can’t think with all this noise!”
Maybe cops shoot dogs because they want quiet.
That wouldn’t be a very good public reason, of course. “We killed your family member because he was loud.” That’s why they use the “I felt threatened” line.
Just a thought.

Self Censorship

Another interesting post over at Transform Is self-censorship helping perpetuate the drug war?

Is it possible that there are groups that recognise the truth about prohibition, but self-censor on this issue when in the media eye?

The short answer: Yes. And it’s both groups and individuals. It’s the people who whisper to me […]

Oh, look! It’s another drug free world.

Check out this post over at Transform.
Steve points out this bizarre Declaration of: World Forum Against Drugs (Stockholm Sweden, 2008) (pdf)
It’s a real mess, with statements like:

There can be no other goal than a drug-free world.
Such a goal is neither utopian nor impossible. […]
All people have the right to
expect their governments to protect them and
their families from drug abuse and to have a life
free of drug abuse. […]

What a strange use of the word “right.”

All forms of differentiation between so-called
‹softŠ and so-called ‹hardŠ drugs must cease. Extensive
research confirms that the use of cannabis
is detrimental to health, causes crime, and is addictive.
Cannabis, and certain other drugs regarded
in some countries as ‹softŠ, should be
viewed in the same way as other types of
illicit/psychotropic drugs when it comes to control
policy, rehabilitation and preventive measures. […]
The so-called ‹medicalŠ projects for distribution of
heroin to drug addicts as a means of ‹harm reductionŠ
are nothing but an attempt to legalize drugs
through the ‹back door.Š

Love all the scare quotes.

We denounce so-called ‹medical marijuanaŠ policies
where marijuana is used as a ‹medicineŠ, […]
We oppose all forms of legalization of illicit/
psychotropic drugs because such policies do not
withstand critical evaluation, tend to run contrary
to general experience and violate the Conventions.

Critical evaluation? You get the idea. As Steve says:

…it’s so exotic as to render itself almost completely irrelevant to real world debate. It’s actually self neutering. And if it really is going to be the banner for the remaining defenders of the drug war, then the drug peace is probably nearer than we might have hoped.

One of the ones who received the letter was Alex Wodak, board member of the International Harm Reduction Association. He wrote a very powerful letter in response, which is shared in its entirety in the Transform post. Well worth reading.

[Some earlier posts on Drug Free Worlds include my conversation with Mary Jane, and Drug Free West Virginia]

Odds and Ends

“bullet” It’s clear to me that, when only considering the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates, Obama is better than McCain on drug policy and criminal justice issues. But that isn’t saying much. Read Jeralyn at TalkLeft: Police Unions to Endorse Obama/Biden. Also Heather Tirado Gilligan/Nikki Jones: Obama’s Approach To Fighting Crime Actually Based On Research. […]

Cato Unbound – Conclusion

Well, the Cato Unbound series on Responsible Drug Use has concluded. To recap, here are some of my earlier posts on the series.

Jonathan Caulkins is Tired of the Legalization Debate
Jacob Sullum continues the discussion
In Search of Free Prohibition
In Which I Talk About Jonathan Caulkins Again
The Conversation (parts 1-9)

The last ones added to The Conversation since then were:

» Be Realistic About how Much Information Alone Changes Behavior by Jonathan Caulkins.

» Pot Smokers for Prohibition by Jacob Sullum.

» 25 Million Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by Jonathan Caulkins.

» Against the Ban on Cannabis Smoking; for the Ban on Cannabis Commerce by Mark Kleiman.

» Drug Information Isn’t Just for “Druggies” by Earth and Fire Erowid

» Public Health Promotion is OK by Jonathan Caulkins.

» Politicians with Pot Problems by Jacob Sullum.

I’m not going to try to dissect them all today — in general, these start devolving into clarifications and side discussions — but I’ll hit a few highlights.
Caulkins continues to astound — first it was his ignorance, but now it’s his shilling for ignorance. In [10], he dances around for quite a while downplaying the importance of “accurate information about drugs.” When called on it by the Erowids in [14] (be sure to check out their delightful description of caffeine), Caulkins comes back in [15] by stating:

I generally prefer for such campaigns to achieve their ends simply by providing accurate information, but acknowledge that sometimes appealing to emotions or providing only selective information is more effective at changing behavior.

Selective information is one of those delightful euphemisms for lying. Because that’s what he really means — intentionally deceiving through selective information.

I understand that many Cato readers who are committed to libertarian principles could dislike any taxpayer-funded, government-managed campaign designed to promote healthy behavior.

Perhaps, but I think the readers would be even more outraged at using taxpayer-funded, government-managed campaigns that lie to the people.
Watch the great slight of hand that Jonathan uses here when talking about drugs:

To avoid any misunderstanding, when I used the word ‹drugŠ in the previous paragraph I meant the big four illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine/crack, heroin, and meth). The statement also happens to be true of tobacco. I have no idea whether it applies to caffeine, and I do not much care. That is not, as the Erowids imply, because I do not think caffeine can reasonably be considered to be a psychoactive drug. It is simply because I do not think caffeine poses problems that merit public policy discussion or intervention. There are many serious problems associated with drug use and/or attempts to control use, including overdose, family dysfunction, crime, violence, corruption, etc. Caffeine barely registers on any of those metrics.

And why does marijuana register on those metrics? Because of prohibition.
Jonathan goes off the deep end a few other places, including a lack of comprehension in [12], but by now it’s hardly worth discussing, since he’s dug himself so deep a hole.
Mark Kleiman delivers a stirring call for decriminalization of marijuana use in [13]. It’s true that he has consistently felt that marijuana laws against consumption should be changed, although when talking with mainstream media, he tends to avoid mentioning that fact. He proposes the idea of allowing people to grow their own and distribute without selling, but is adamant about keeping all commerce illegal. This goes to his obsession with the harmful effects of Philip Morris marketing drugs — he is unable to imagine a practical legalization option that doesn’t involve massive marketing.

So I conclude that the ban on cannabis smoking Ö as opposed to cannabis commerce Ö cannot be justified, and that the majority in this instance acts wrongfully in restricting the liberty of the minority for no particular public purpose. That does not shake my conviction that allowing commercial marketing of cannabis along the lines currently permitted for alcohol would risk a very substantial increase in the level of abuse, as the legalization of the old ‹numbers gameŠ led to the substantial prevalence of problem lottery gambling we now observe.

Of course, Kleiman’s proposal leaves the black market intact, and potentially many of the abuses of the drug war, but it’s certainly better than what we have now.
All in all, an interesting discussion (even though somewhat limited, and lacking the voice of the public, except through blogs watching the debate). By the end of it, each of the players had relatively clearly established their position.
I’d like to see the Erowids get involved in more discussions — I think they have a lot to offer, even though it’s truly impossible to have a full reasoned discussion of drugs without drug policy rearing its ugly head. I think Jonathan Caulkins should find an occupation where intellectual activities are not required. I believe Mark Kleiman has the smarts to have something important to say, if he could just get past his fears and really look at the whole story with reason. And I believe that we need to do a better job of reminding people that prohibition isn’t free.
Cato Unbound concludes with a round-up of those blogs that provided “thought-provoking” contributions to the conversation.

The Washington Post editorial staff is dumb as a box of rocks

The Post came out with an editorial today on Salvia: Meet — or Don’t Meet — Salvia Remember, this is one of those solutions in search of a problem. Most people who use Salvia never want to again. It has no evidence of causing addiction, and there would be very little interest in it (except […]