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couch, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
May 2009



Oh, the horror. Look what happens when you decriminalize marijuana!


The Dutch Justice Ministry reports it was forced to close down eight prisons, which will result in some 1,200 penal system staff members being laid off. During the 1990s, the Netherlands was faced with a lack of prison capacities, but now it has virtually no prisoners. Some 12,000 prisoners are serving their sentence at […]

A shift in drug testing policy?

For years there has been a national push to get schools to implement suspicion-less random drug testing for those in extra-curricular activities, supported by grants from the federal government, and promoted heavily by the Drug Czar’s office. This is not only wrong, but it’s a stupid policy — one that is likely to be counter-productive. […]

Christian Science Monitor stinks up the joint

I didn’t even know if I wanted to tackle this one (it can be tiring hitting the same points over and over), but it’s a major editorial and it needs to be taken down a peg.
Christian Science Monitor Editorial Board: Legalize marijuana? Not so fast.

The push toward full legalization is a well-organized, Internet-savvy campaign, generously funded by a few billionaires, including George Soros.

Thanks for the compliments — yes, we’re definitely internet-savvy, much more so than our opponents. And then, yes, that generously funded swipe. Sure, all the funding that drug policy reform groups get is generous. But compared to the entire federal budget aimed at promoting prohibition? It is mere peanuts.
Now the Monitor takes aim at marijuana itself.

A harmless drug? Supporters of legalization often claim that no one has died of a pot overdose, and that it has beneficial effects in alleviating suffering from certain diseases.
True, marijuana cannot directly kill its user in the way that alcohol or a drug like heroin can. And activists claim that it may ease symptoms for certain patients — though it has not been endorsed by the major medical associations representing those patients, and the Food and Drug Administration disputes its value.
Rosalie Pacula, codirector of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, poses this question: “If pot is relatively harmless, why are we seeing more than 100,000 hospitalizations a year” for marijuana use?
Emergency-room admissions where marijuana is the primary substance involved increased by 164 percent from 1995 to 2002 — faster than for other drugs, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

First of all, why does Rand continue to employ this lying embarrassment — Rosalie Pacula? She makes Rand look like some third-rate political action group rather than a research institution. This isn’t the first time she’s blatantly lied to promote marijuana prohibition.
We are NOT seeing 100,000 hospitalizations a year for marijuana use. That is an outright lie.
Radical Russ over at NORML stash takes Pacula on:

The way Rosalie puts it, you‰d think 100,000 people were running into the ER and screaming, ‹Quick, doctor! I need help! I‰ve taken marijuana and I think I‰m going to die!Š (in four years of doing this, I‰ve only heard one such caseá)
But the fact is that these DAWN statistics just survey the drugs people admit to using or what is detected in their body when they are admitted to the emergency room. DAWN doesn‰t measure the cause of why someone‰s in the hospital. If you smoked a joint, went to a restaurant, sat down for dinner and had the server accidentally drop scalding hot coffee in your lap, and you went to the hospital for the burns, and when asked, admitted you had smoked a joint that day, cha-ching, that‰s a ‹marijuana [as] the primary substance involvedŠ in that admission. You might as well say iPods are harmful, because the number of people admitted to hospitals that own an iPod has skyrocketed since 1995.

The Monitor continues…

Research results over the past decade link frequent marijuana use to several serious mental health problems, with youth particularly at risk.

Was that with legal marijuana or illegal marijuana? Were there age restrictions? How large a percent of the population? Can you prove causation? Ahhh, you don’t want to talk about that, do you?

And the British Lung Foundation finds that smoking three to four joints is the equivalent of 20 tobacco cigarettes.

Wait a second! Studies have shown that smoking marijuana doesn’t lead to lung cancer. Is the British Lung Foundation claiming that smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes won’t lead to lung cancer? Interesting.

While marijuana is not addictive in the way that a drug like crack-cocaine is, heavy use can lead to dependence — defined by the same criteria as for other drugs. About half of those who use pot daily become dependent for some period of time, writes Kevin Sabet, in the 2006 book, “Pot Politics”

Sounds ominous. But it’s completely ridiculous. You could as well say:

While video games are not addictive in the way that a drug like crack-cocaine is, heavy use can lead to dependence – defined by the same criteria as for other drugs. About half of those who play video games daily become dependent for some period of time… While chocolate milk is not addictive in the way that a drug like crack-cocaine is, heavy use can lead to dependence – defined by the same criteria as for other drugs. About half of those who drink chocolate milk daily become dependent for some period of time…

Just as valid.

He adds that physicians in Britain and the Netherlands — both countries that have experience with relaxed marijuana laws — are seeing withdrawal symptoms among heavy marijuana users that are similar to those of cocaine and heroin addicts. This has been confirmed in the lab with monkeys.

Now that’s just hilarious.

Dr. Smallwood, I believe that marijuana user may have just exhibited a symptom similar to that of a cocaine or heroin addict.
Blimy, Dr. Van Wijk, you may be right, but I can’t tell for sure. Let’s go to the lab and ask the monkeys.

Similar symptoms? What does that mean?

Today’s marijuana is also much more potent than in the hippie days of yesteryear.

Ah, those hippie days of yesteryear when we smoked stems. Didn’t anybody watch
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In? Somebody on the writing staff back then had to have had some pretty potent pot.

But that doesn’t change what’s always been known about even casual use of this drug: It distorts perception, reduces motor skills, and affects alertness.

That’s kind of the point.
The Monitor goes on to some of the other stale arguments brought up in recent days…

Legalization of marijuana wouldn’t help Mexico because the cartels would still have the other drugs. Yep, no point in reducing their income at all, unless we can reduce all of it at once. That’s nonsensical.
Nobody’s really in jail for marijuana possession so there’s no need to legalize it. Since most of those apprehended don’t go to jail, it can’t really be that much of a bother to them. More nonsense — just ask those who have lost financial aid, jobs, children, homes, cars, etc., etc.
It’s unlikely that we’ll raise $1.3 billion in taxes from legalization, so why bother? Besides, the black market will undercut it and so you won’t reduce the black market (yeah, like the black market for avoiding cigarette taxes is as violent as the black market for illegal drugs.)

A government could attempt to eliminate the black market altogether by making marijuana incredibly cheap (Dr. Pacula at the RAND Organization says today’s black market price is about four times what it would be if pot were completely legalized). But then use would skyrocket and teens (though barred) could buy it with their lunch money.

Lunch money. Yeah, that’s a nice one. Why don’t you try something like “babies will be able trade their mashed peas for it”? And that skyrocketing use? Care to cite some proof?

Indeed, legalizing marijuana is bound to increase use simply because of availability. Legalization advocates say “not so” and point to the Netherlands and its legal marijuana “coffee shops.” Indeed, after the Dutch de facto legalized the drug in 1976, use stayed about the same for adults and youth. But it took off after 1984, growing by 300 percent over the next decade or so. Experts attribute this to commercialization (sound like alcohol?), and also society’s view of the drug as normal š which took a while to set in.

Experts? Commercialization? Coffee shops? Care to mention that rates are still well below the U.S.?

As America has learned with alcohol, taxes don’t begin to cover the costs to society of destroyed families, lost productivity, and ruined lives š and regulators still have not succeeded in keeping alcohol from underage drinkers.

Because marijuana behavior is just like alcohol behavior, right?

No one has figured out what the exact social costs of legalizing marijuana would be. But ephemeral taxes won’t cover them — nor should society want to encourage easier access to a drug that can lead to dependency, has health risks, and reduces alertness, to name just a few of its negative outcomes.

Well, since we don’t know what it’ll cost and whether problem use will increase at all, we should continue to spend billions of dollars arresting people who are not having a problem with marijuana and not actually address the issue of those who do. Sounds incredibly stupid.

[Parents] must let lawmakers know that legalization is not OK, and they must carry this message to their children, too. Disapproval, along with information on risk, are the most important factors in discouraging marijuana and cocaine use among high school seniors, according to the University of Michigan’s “Monitoring the Future” project on substance abuse.

Now this is really messed up. Parents should tell their children that legalization is not OK? Not that drugs are not OK, but that legalization is not OK? Wow.

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s world problem solvers — and the ones most likely to be affected if marijuana is legalized. Future generations need to be clear thinkers. For their sakes, those who oppose legalizing marijuana must become vocal, well-funded, and mainstream — before it’s too late.

Sorry, Christian Science Monitor, but it’s too late. All the clear thinkers are on our side.

Thought for the day – the drug czar is against legalization

I must confess to being confused by the amount of apparent surprise that has greeted Gil Kerlikowske’s recent statements that he is opposed to legalization. Of course he is. He just got a new job – a government job that has Congressional oversight. And the job description for that new job, well, it wasn’t a […]

Pictures that make my head explode

This is a screen shot of Fox News’ Happy Hour, featuring Rebecca Diamond, interviewing Ethan Nadelmann about marijuana legalization in California. Note that this takes place in a bar with tons of booze on the shelves behind Rebecca, and a screen tag saying “Legalizing Marijuana: High Times or Buzz Kill?” Right at this point, Rebecca […]

Open Thread

“bullet” A Freakonomics Quorum. What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized?. Strong opinions from Joel W. Hay, Robert Platshorn, Jeffrey A. Miron, Paul Armentano, and Mike Braun. (breakables warning when reading Hay and Braun).
“bullet” Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee continues his effort to do something about marijuana laws, in a slightly unrelated hearing yesterday (one on crack and powder disparity), and goes off on another rant on Anslinger and jazz musicians. I love this guy. His questions were directed toć Reps. Rangel, Jackson Lee and Waters. Here is the video. His part comes 53:50 into the video. (Thanks, Eric!)
Here’s a youtube version of that section:

“bullet” New Scientist: Get real, drug czars

International drug policy has become absurd: it’s time world leaders abandoned their futile pursuit of a drug-free world

“bullet” UNODC pushes bad laws onto other countries. Nigeria:

The United Nation’s Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) has challenged the Federal Government on the lapses of its constitutional provision for immunity of public office holders, pointing out the need for it to institute the non-conviction based asset forfeiture legislation.
Senior Project Manager of UNODC, Oliver Stolpe, said the non-conviction based asset forfeiture which is a relatively new concept which is already in operation in some countries is important in countries where stolen assets are difficult to recover.
His words, “Non-conviction based asset forfeiture can provide a procedure that allows for confiscation of stolen assets without the need for a criminal conviction…

“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”

The Drug Czar speaks… and dances

ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske was interviewed this morning on KUOW in Seattle. The audio is available here. It’s a nice extended interview, and gives you a chance to get to know Kerlikowske’s style a little bit. It’s a mixed bag, with lots of pretty offensive stuff (of course) and some odd material where he puts […]

We’re winning the war on drugs!

All the recent talk of legalization is really bringing out the crazies. Check out this OpEd by James G. Harpring. I found myself picturing the propaganda newsreels in Starship Troopers as I read it…

By combating the production and use of narcotics, America is winning the war on drugs. By not capitulating to decriminalization and […]

This word is not in this sentence

Did Kerlikowske just call President Obama dumb?

“Legalization isn’t in the president’s vocabulary, and it certainly isn’t in mine,” he told 300 police, federal agents and law enforcement officials.

Unfortunately, the USA Today report failed to explain how the drug czar managed to communicate that statement.

[Thanks, Tom]

FBI director schooled on marijuana by Rep. Steve Cohen

Watch this video now(no, it isn’t another promo for Showtime’s Weeds). This is Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) completely taking it to FBI Director Robert Mueller. He forces Mueller to admit that nobody has died from marijuana and jumps all over him when the Director tries to bring up the gateway theory. Awesome! Embedded video from […]