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August 2009



Open Thread

“bullet” He just hasn’t been listening.

“No one has told us what alternative we have,” said [Mexican] Interior Minister Fernando G÷mez Mont, gently slapping his palm on a table during an interview. “We are committed to enduring this wave of violence. We are strengthening our ability to protect the innocent victims of this process, which is the most important thing. We will not look the other way.”

“bullet” Failure Squared: War on Drugs Meets the War on Terror

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is congratulating himself for ending the Bush administration’s expensive and ineffective opium poppy eradication program. Trouble is, he’s decided to replace eradication with interdiction.

“bullet” Drugs are evil. We should legalise them now by Antonia Senior, Times Online.

By legalising, we would have a fighting chance of wresting the market from the hands of the drug barons: the ones who ruin lives and distort global politics and are untouched by our laughable efforts to police them. They are the only winners in the current futile war.

“bullet” Readers respond to debate over legalizing marijuana

BILL: Dave, our column last week on legalizing pot got us more e-mail response than any in the last two years.
DR. DAVE: Mostly for or against legalization?
BILL: Mostly for. What impressed me was the quality of the pro arguments.

“Dr. Dave” needs some educating…

DR.DAVE: [I] invite readers who disagree to send in their best arguments about why legalizing marijuana won‰t cause an even greater youth substance abuse epidemic than we Americans are suffering right now.

Sounds like a challenge.
“bullet” Someone else who needs educating: Harden: Legalizing marijuana would be a recipe for disaster

Legalization of marijuana could lead to increased hospitalizations, violence, crime and a drop in work force productivity with increased employee absenteeism and unemployment. It is a recipe for disaster fraught with a level of risk that is irresponsible.
[Harden is the interim police chief of Modesto.]

“bullet” 19 shot in drug war in Baltimore

When a 5 year old is shot in the middle afternoon by a stray bullet while playing in street where is the outrage from drug war critics? When 12 are shot, many of them innocent, who’s condemning the drug war for the violence?

Good question.
“bullet” Marijuana’s Impact on Brain Function “Minimal,” New Study Says and Marijuana Use Associated With a ‹Significantly Reduced RiskŠ of Head and Neck Cancers Ö Will The Mainstream Media Care?
“bullet” DrugSense Weekly
“bullet” “drcnet”

Financial Times: Why it’s time to end the war on drugs

This article by Matthew Engel in yesterday’s Financial Times is a must-read. Really great stuff all around.

For decades many academics and professionals have regarded the current blanket prohibition on recreational drugs (though not alcohol or tobacco) as absurd, counter-productive and destructive. But there has never been any political imperative for change, and a thousand reasons to do nothing. […]
But 2009 has seen a change: among the academics and professionals who study this issue, from Carlisle Racecourse to the think-tanks of Washington, there is growing sense that reform is possible and increasingly urgent. The argument is not that drug use is A Good Thing. It is that the collateral damage caused by the so-called war on drugs has now reached catastrophic proportions. And even some politicians have started to think this might be worth discussing.

It’s an extremely comprehensive article, addressing the failures in Mexico and elsewhere around the world, and noting that there is finally some potential for change in the United States – an important precursor for reform for the rest of the world, given historical U.S. international pressure.
The article also talks about the history of drug prohibition (and there’s a time-line, too), including this delightful bit of snark regarding the way British laws are established.

In Britain, there is something close to despair among academics about the political process. Drugs are classified A, B and C, allegedly according to the degree of harm. But the theory ignores the immutable constitutional provision that laws are subject to the approval of the editor of the Daily Mail.

He also gives a little dig at the pro-prohibitionists here:

It is hard to find coherent advocates on the other side of the argument. On the web, I came across Drug Watch International, based in Omaha, promising ‹current information á to counter drug advocacy propagandaŠ. The lead item on its site dates from 2002.

Engel really gets it. He talks about how UNODC’s Costa says that “drugs are, and must remain, controlledŠ and responds:

Of course drugs need to be controlled, just as alcohol, tobacco, firearms, prescription drugs, food additives and indeed UN bureaucrats with massive budgets need to be controlled. But the whole point is that illicit drugs are not controlled. The international pretence of prohibition sees to that. […]
… the case for legalisation is not about allowing baby-boom couples to enjoy a joint after a dinner party without drawing the curtains or being obliged to visit a dodgy bloke called Dave. Decriminalisation or even legalising cannabis on its own would achieve little. Something more radical is required. The crucial issue concerns the supply chain: the way prohibition has enriched and empowered gangsters, corrupt officials and indeed wholly corrupt narco-states across the planet. It was a point made eloquently by the Russian economist Lev Timofeev, when interviewed by Misha Glenny for his book about global organised crime, McMafia. ‹Prohibiting a market does not mean destroying it,Š Timofeev said. What it means is placing a ‹dynamically developing market under the total control of criminal corporationsŠ. He called the present situation a threat to world civilisation, which international public opinion had failed to grasp.
Proper reform means legitimising production and supply, precisely so it can be controlled.

Outstanding article.