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April 2009



More nonsense from the usual suspects

Naturally, the recent flurry of legalization articles and stories in the media was bound to bring out the big guns of prohibition supporters, and they don’t disappoint. Here are three of biggest ones.
“bullet” John Walters: Drugs: To Legalize or Not in the Wall Street Journal.
I’ve always admired Walters for his smooth ability to lie non-stop. He’s absolutely brilliant at cherry-picking statistics to “prove” anything he wants and taking credit for anything positive that happens regardless of the reason. I had wondered if he would continue to do so after no longer required by law, but this article shows he has no intention of stopping – he revels in it.
Check out this move in the beginning of the piece:

What would America look like with twice or three times as many drug users and addicts? To answer, consider what America was like in the recent past, during the frightening epidemic of methamphetamine, so similar to the crack outbreak of the 1980s. Each was a nightmare, fueled by ready drug availability.

Beautiful. Such craft. Notice how he doesn’t state that there would be 2 or 3 times as many drug users with legalization (the evidence, after all, denies it) — he lets you assume it by asking you to imagine it. And then, think about those horrible epidemics that ravaged this country back when we legalized and regulated crack in the 80’s and meth just recently… Wait. We didn’t legalize or regulate them. Ah….
See what he did there? To the extent that these were “epidemics” (there was some media hype, after all), crack and meth were by-products of prohibition. Yes, they were caused by the war on drugs. And their reduction had little to do with a drug war victory and more to do with the natural shifting of drug use/abuse patterns.
He goes on to take credit for the paradise that is Colombia, and claims the violence in Mexico is a sign of victory as well.
He attempts to downplay the comparisons with the violence of alcohol prohibition with this:

Moreover, some of us remember that Bobby Kennedy was leading organized-crime strike forces against extremely dangerous mafia families, decades after the end of Prohibition. Just as ending Prohibition did not destroy organized crime in the U.S., legalizing drugs will not break the terrorist criminal groups in Mexico.

And the reason that Bobby Kennedy was able to do so was because we legalized alcohol and stopped that huge influx of profits (and law enforcement corruption). Legalizing drugs will not eliminate the cartels, but it will greatly reduce their power, their corrupting ability and their recruiting ability.
Walters ends with absolutely offensive, nonsensical, and un-American statement:

We can make progress faster when more of us learn that drug use and addiction can not be an expression of individual liberty in a free society.

Let’s move on to…
“bullet” Ron Brooks: Puff, Puff, Keep Drug Laws Passed at NPR.
Unlike Walters, Brooks is just a first-class moron. He’s president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, and is merely interested in pushing the drug war for personal gain. He doesn’t care to actually learn anything but just regurgitates the standard lies and talking points from other drug warriors.

I have yet to hear a convincing argument that marijuana legalization is a healthy policy choice ÷ physiologically, economically or socially.

See what I mean? He clearly hasn’t heard a word we’ve said.
And check out this paragraph jammed full of all the false talking points.

More than 65 percent of all teens in treatment are there for marijuana dependence, with another 11 percent in treatment for alcohol and drug dependence together, many of whom are using pot with alcohol. In another disturbing trend, hospital emergency room admissions involving marijuana tripled between 1994 and 2002 and now surpass ER admissions involving heroin. And drugged driving accidents ÷ many involving marijuana ÷ kill more than 8,000 and maim another 500,000 every year.

Well, let’s see.

Since the majority of pot smokers in treatment are there because they were referred to by criminal justice and not for dependency, what this statistic says about marijuana dependency is precisely: zero.
Since ER admission stats don’t limit it to drug references that caused the emergency room visit, what this statistic tells us about marijuana dangers is precisely: zero
Since this statistic is, well, wrong, and yet still says nothing about whether pot had any culpability in causing a fatal accident, what this statistic tells us is precisely: zero.

Thanks for playing, Ron.
I also was confused by one of the commenters on that article: Bill Robinson, supporting Brooks, said:

If you had a cow that kept jumping the fence the answer is not to tear down the fence. It is to make the fence taller.

These bad metaphors confuse me. Is marijuana use the cow and law enforcement the fence? Well, that doesn’t work, ’cause marijuana use isn’t anything like a cow, and law enforcement is more like a bunch of anvils being dropped on cows than a fence. And then I thought, maybe we’re the cows and pot is on the other side of the fence. Well, Bill Robinson has no right to fence me or any other American citizen in like a cow. We’re not your property.
Let’s move on to number 3.
“bullet” Mark Kleiman: Double Drug Trouble in Foreign Policy
Mark’s an interesting case. A schizophrenic policy wonk who wants to legalize marijuana and regularly trashes the excesses of prohibition, yet likes to verbally abuse legalizers for no reason, and supports… prohibition.
Here he does his usual schtick of dismissing anti-prohibitionists without any stated reason.

But simply substituting antiprohibitionist slogans for drug-war slogans, though it adds variety, does not give us clarity. […]
Both no-brainer “solutions” to the drug problem –“a drug-free society” and “ending the drug war” — are equally delusional. The two drug problems [drug abuse and prohibition] are both here to stay. Let’s learn to deal with that fact.

Why would I possibly want to learn to deal with the fact that something as destructive as prohibition is here to stay? That would be stupid.
As usual, he does a great job of dismantling pro-prohibition arguments

The enforcement effort also generates harm: arrest, incarceration, bribery, gunfights between enforcers and dealers. [Kleiman leaves out some of the costs of prohibition here, but still it’s a good overview.] The problem of the illicit market constitutes the second “drug problem.”
Drug warriors tend to focus narrowly on the drug abuse problem and reject any attempt to limit the harms done by trafficking and enforcement, other than by putting dealers out of business. But the logic of the market dictates that incarcerated dealers will be replaced as long as there are customers willing to pay illicit-market prices. After more than a generation of fighting this war, there is overwhelming evidence that drug-law enforcement is a weak tool at best for reducing drug consumption.

But then, what does he come up with (after, of course, eliminating regulated legalization with no reason)?

The United States could — and should — greatly de-escalate its domestic drug war, halving the number of dealers behind bars, without greatly increasing drug abuse.

Really? That’s what you’ve got? Do we just arrest half as many? How do we choose? Maybe just the black ones… (Oh, wait…) Or reduce the sentences by 50%? Or just go after the violent ones? Of course, if we legalized and regulated drugs, we could just go after the violent criminals and greatly reduce the number of dealers behind bars, without greatly increasing drug abuse. And at the same time, we’d dramatically reduce all the destructive costs of prohibition.
But apparently that’s not a serious option.

Open Thread

“bullet” Why wait for the feds? Iowa judge wants to know if marijuana has safe medical uses.

A Polk County judge has ruled that the Iowa Board of Pharmacy must examine whether marijuana has an accepted medical use – a decision some said could thaw the debate on its use for medical purposes in Iowa.
The ruling Thursday by District Judge Joel Novak does not legalize medical marijuana in Iowa. Instead, it requires the pharmacy board to consider whether marijuana is properly classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under state law.
“What this does is it forces the board to address medical marijuana,” said Randall Wilson, the attorney who handled the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

“bullet” Neal Pierce asks Decriminalization ÷ rather than legalization ÷ could this be the sane middle ground we need?

The myth we need to break is that the use of mind-altering drugs is really different from a whole range of activities that humans have engaged in since the dawn of time.
I’d put gambling on that list, but even more deeply entrenched are alcohol, drugs and sexual practices. All have legitimate roles; each, depending on its form and application, can be seriously abused. A mature society warns of problems but holds back on prohibition ÷ and sensibly, because rules of total denial will be broken anyway.

My quick answer to Neal’s question is that decriminalization would be an acceptable first step, but not the answer. Anything that leaves the black market in full gear is unacceptable in the long term.
“bullet” Rockefeller Drug Laws officially kind-of over.

Gov. David Paterson did a ceremonial signing today in Queens today of a bill that reduces sentences for non-violent drug offenders. The legislation, which was passed as part of the 2009-10 state budget early this month, gives judges total discretion to divert non-violent addicts to drug treatment, and it expands the stateČs treatment programs.
čThis is a proud day for me and so many of my colleagues who have fought for so long to overhaul the drug laws and restore judicial discretion in narcotics cases,ä Paterson said at Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities Inc., a state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services-funded drug-treatment center. čFor years, thousands of New Yorkers have spoken out against the Rockefeller Drug Laws.ä

“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”