Good reading

First up, via Australia (Thanks Evert) we have The decriminalisation (or even legalisation) of drugs by Chris Berg.

It doesn’t take more than a moment of thought to recognise that the rulings on which drugs are legal or illegal are governed by no particular logic.

No theory from medicine or philosophy or psychology demands alcohol, tobacco and caffeine must be legal while marijuana, cocaine, and heroin must be prohibited.


Whether a drug is illegal is nothing more than an accident of history. Drug laws were not written dispassionately by a panel of the best medical and ethical minds in the world. The laws bear no relation to the damage those drugs could cause or their danger to society – they were not written to minimise harm or protect health.

Quite the opposite: the current schedule of drugs in the Western world has been driven by politics, expediency, prejudice, and sometimes outright racism.


But the biggest cultural barrier to such reform is the current status illegal drugs have. In the sort of circular reasoning that only popular discourse can manage, the prohibition of drugs is mostly justified by their pre-existing legal status. Why are certain drugs prohibited? Because they are illicit drugs.

But that status has been set by politics and moral panics, not dispassionate evidence-based risk assessments. Drug prohibition carries the legacy of the ugly politics of the past. Once we realise that, we may start to rethink the justice of a war that is, in truth, not against drugs, but against drug users.

Then, in Canada, we have our friend Eric Sterling trying to advise them from going down our destructive path. Canada is repeating U.S. mistakes on drug sentencing

As Canadian senators meet this week to vote on comprehensive anti-crime Bill C-10, they need to reflect upon the U.S. experience and reject the bill’s entrenchment of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences in Canada. As has been the case in the U.S., mandatory minimums can easily go wrong in Canada, too, in ways entirely predictable. Exploding court and correctional costs for resource-strapped national and provincial governments is one likely calamity that Canadians can expect from mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

In 1986, I played a central role helping the U.S. Congress write the federal mandatory minimum sentences. Soon we saw the devastating effects that this legislation forced upon unprepared court and correctional systems.


But the political temptation to promote harsh-sounding sentences was too seductive in 1986. Ironically, no opponent of mandatory minimum sentences has ever lost re-election on this issue. We have learned that imprisoning countless marijuana gardeners has no impact on organized crime leaders, doesn’t keep drugs away from kids or kids away from drugs, and actually increases criminals’ profits by driving up prices.

Countless lives have been ruined due to incarceration and criminal records for non-violent drug offences. Based on this irrefutable evidence, and the repeal of mandatory sentencing measures in numerous states, I can see only one reason why Canada’s federal government and some provincial governments would want to go down this wasteful route: the belief it is good electoral politics to parade as tough on drugs and crime. At this time of fiscal limits, taxpayers can’t afford the luxury of expensive and symbolic anti-crime measures.

Parliament must embrace only policies that are effective, respect the taxpayers’ pocketbook and are evidence-based. Mandatory minimums fit none of these important criteria.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Good reading

  1. kaptinemo says:

    Canadians! Surely you’ve wondered from time to time why Mr. Harper seems Hell-bent on initiating the same kind of failed policies in ‘The Great White North’ that have been such abject failures here.

    Google the following:

    Versailles France 2003

    That’s it, nothing more.

    Mr. Harper is in the same banksters pocket that our Lil’ Georgie resided until recently, and where Mr. Obama resides today. Faithfully delivering Canadian sovereignty to the Uber-Rich on their neo-liberal agenda’s silver platter, as promised, and that requires bankrupting your nation as drug prohibition has served to bankrupt us…and in more than monetary ways, such as civil liberties worn down to a smudge on the pavement.

    That’s the plan. That’s why just about everything he’s doing is the exact opposite of traditional Canadian governance. His seeming arrogance isn’t just personal; he feels he doesn’t have to worry about your sentiments because his masters will have a nice, cushy job waiting for him after he’s done trashing your country as ours has been.

  2. Nunavut Tripper says:

    Harper is a man without a soul…just look into his eyes,even in a photo. He cares for no one but his own.
    He has all thinking Canadians worried. Lets hope the latest Robocalls scandal will bring him down or at least wake a few people up but I’m not holding my breath.
    The omnibus crime bill is in it’s final stages and he’s not budging on the ridiculous cannabis penalties so we may see a lot of Canuk budheads in prison.
    Karma sucks Stevie…you reap what you sow.

    • kaptinemo says:

      NT, I knew the ‘fix was in’ when I found out he’d been there meeting with the 1%ers.

      I also figured correctly what his trajectory would be…partly because some people up your way made an anti-Harper commercial from the 2004 election that warned that he would do exactly what he has. I wish I could locate it on YouTube, because it was very, very prescient. You almost certainly saw it:

      In description, it was a very stark black, white and scarlet animation in which his former(?) Canadian Alliance membership was pointed out, and the implication was that, as the old saying goes, ‘leopards don’t change their spots’. And that he could be expected do what he has indeed done.

      I kick myself mentally because I can’t recall its’ title, but I knew even then that the producers of that commercial were bang-on target. It doesn’t matter that the commercial was courtesy of an opposing party. Mr. Harper is doing just what those who took his lackluster campaign and supercharged it to the point he ‘won’ the election wanted him to do…in return for his fealty, of course.

      Which means, as being a tool of the 1%, he has no allegiance to those who he is supposed to work for.

      • Maria says:

        There’s always this 🙂

        • kaptinemo says:

          Oh, jeez. (Brushing crumbs off desk.) I should know better than trying to eat something while watching a political link. Almost had something go down the wrong tube; I hate wasting food, even when I’m LMAO.

          Yep, ‘the shoe fits’. Very.

  3. Peter says:

    Some crazed comments on the Chris Berg article from Australia….one character called Gunner, objecting to the suggestion that drug users should not be in prison, gives the usual discredited argument about releasing pedophiles as well. He’s in favor of both groups being used by the airforce for bombing practice. Some posts later, totally without irony, he tells us his “20 years of working in prisons” gives him knowledge about drug users the rest of us do not have. So, no conflict of interest there….

  4. Peter says:

    Just heard on the radio that a Michigan republican bill restricting medical cannabis is going through the house. One of the measures is removing glaucoma as a reason.

    • Chris says:

      They’re supposed to be adding conditions to the law, not removing them. And why glaucoma instead of chronic pain? Are they trying to whittle them down one by one before they go for that?

    • Duncan20903 says:


      The Michigan Legislature needs a 75% supermajority to amend a citizen generated ballot initiative. Montana’s Legislature wasn’t able to do that. They couldn’t even get enough votes to override the Governor’s veto of the law that they passed for de jure repeal and ended up having to go with de facto repeal. [Montana’s residents have the right to overturn a Legislatively implemented law with an up or down ballot initiative which will appear on the ballot on Election Day.]

      The Arizona Legislature is also busy trying to monkey wrench that State’s medicinal cannabis patient protection law. That legislative body also requires a 75% supermajority to alter their law. But unless I’m not correctly understanding what I’ve read they’re also only authorized to advance the law so repeal is off the table, at least directly.

      BTW the people of Arizona can thank the medicinal cannabis law reform advocates for those restrictions on their Legislature. Arizona was 1 of 2 States to decriminalize medicinal cannabis on Election Day 1996 along with California. The Arizona lawmakers repealed that law needing only a simple majority to do so. In 1998 the Arizona voters took the Legislature out to the proverbial woodshed and spanked them with the new supermajority requirement. Who says voting doesn’t change things?

      • Windy says:

        A better solution than voting is for the people of each State, en masse, to go to the State legislature when it is in session, drag each of them out of their offices and send them packing, saying to them, “You no longer serve us, so we no longer pay you, nor do we allow you in our State House, get the hell out of here and never come back!”

        American patriots should do the same with congress.

        Of course this is just a daydream, ain’t never gonna really happen, but it should.

  5. allan says:

    nice oped from my good friend Jim Greig here in Eugene:
    Cannabis activists are ready to say ‘no Obama’

  6. Brock Landers says:

    No way just read article at stopthedrugwar stating that “rock-ribbed conservative” Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) has said it is time to legalize.

    • Francis says:

      Speaking of “conservatives” coming around on cannabis reform, take a look at this story from a few weeks back about a recent Rhode Island poll:

      A majority of Rhode Islanders appear to be fed up with the current marijuana prohibition. Of the 714 voters polled, 52% would like to see all penalties for personal possession and use of marijuana removed and marijuana treated in a manner similar to alcohol, where it would be taxed, regulated, and sold in state-licensed stores to adults over the age of 21. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the idea received bipartisan support and was backed by 55% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.

      When Mason-Dixon Polling and Research asked the exact same question in 2008, only 41% of 625 voters surveyed supported regulated legalization of marijuana. That’s an increase of 11 percentage points among all voters in less than three years. The ’08 poll showed majority support among Democrats (52%) but strong opposition among Republican voters, with only 26% supporting and 66% opposing the idea just 33 months ago. This means we’ve seen support more than double among Rhode Island Republicans.

      A shift in opinion of that size in that time frame is so mind-bogglingly huge that it’s hard for me to fully credit the poll’s accuracy. But even if the Rhode Island poll results are overstating things, there’s no question that conservative opinion on cannabis reform is beginning to move in a big way. And remember this story about Howard Woolridge making the conservative case for marijuana legalization at CPAC? Howard claimed that “[t]he reactions have been almost 100 percent in favor of what I’m doing.” That statement is also pretty shocking, but keep in mind that the reaction of the folks at CPAC is a leading indicator of where the opinions of rank-and-file conservatives are likely to be in a few years. That’s why I said that the “conservative” argument is important. And the fact is, it’s true. Cannabis prohibition really does violate many, many stated “conservative” principles. Conservatives who support prohibition are being incredibly hypocritical. You might scoff and say that “conservatives are always hypocrites.” Maybe, most human beings are in one way or another. But people don’t want to be hypocrites. And conservatives are starting to recognize that this is a losing fight. They’re looking for a reason to jump ship. Let’s continue to give them one.

      • kaptinemo says:

        The ‘lifeboat’ is already bobbing in the water beside the sinking ship; 50% (as opposed to 46%) of US poll respondents want legal cannabis. All they need is the courage to LEAP (yes, a double entendre).

    • Duncan20903 says:


      A true conservative would never support borrowing more than $1 trillion to squander on an epic failure of public policy.

      Liberals make me nauseous. Particularly the liberals that dress in conservative drag and call themselves Republicans.

      Nowadays the more accurate descriptor for those on the so called right is crony capitalist. It’s all about suckling from the government teat.

  7. TakeMeBackToHatchechubbee says:

    A tiny Spanish country town believes it has found a way to make unemployment, debt and economic crisis disappear in a puff of smoke – by leasing out its land for marijuana plantations.

    The town hall of Rasquera in Catalonia on Wednesday voted to sign a €1.3m (£1.1m) agreement with a cannabis association in nearby Barcelona to plant marijuana for its 5,000 members.

    It will allow the association to plant on a seven-hectare stretch of town hall land – roughly the size of 10 football pitches. “This is a chance to bring in money and create jobs,” explained mayor Bernat Pellisa of the Catalan Republican Left party, as older townsfolk worried that he was turning Rasquera into a drugs mecca.

    • kaptinemo says:

      Or, as the old saying goes, “Money talks; BS walks”. And if anything is BS, it’s drug prohibition in a time of universal fiscal suffering. This planet cannot afford it anymore, not fiscally, not socially, not ecologically, and not morally, either.

      Sad it has to be this way, but if this is the only way heavily propagandized non-users can be taught the value of legal cannabis, then so be it.

  8. Hey can anybody tell me which mmj states DON’T allow home cultivation?

  9. darkcycle says:

    AFAIK, New Jersey, DC, Delaware are the only ones.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Arizona too in most cases. If a patient is within a 25 mile radius of a dispensary cultivation is prohibited.

      IIRC the proposed ballot initiatives to protect medicinal cannabis patients from arrest in Ohio and Massachusetts won’t allow it.

      Proposed laws that died in committee in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Illinois didn’t allow cultivation.

      The proposed law that is nominally still being considered in Kentucky would allow 5 plants. I’ll betcha they picked 5 because currently 5 plants or less would be a misdemeanor although only theoretically.

      If any of the three proposed laws in Maryland pass it won’t allow cultivation here. The proposed laws are useless, more useless, and totally useless. What is it with lawmakers that want to have State Universities do the cultivation anyway? Are the people who make the proposal so uninformed as to be unaware that the Feds would likely stop providing any money to the school if that happens? Perhaps they think that they can take credit for being compassionate but blame the big bad Federal boogie man because the Feds are preventing access?

      I have never understood WTF the prohibitionists have against cultivation. Yet another one of their fantasy landscapes where they’ll blame us for the death toll in the Mexican civil war because we bought some nasty brickweed but turn around and demand heavy penalties if they catch us removing ourselves from the black market. Oh well, it really is pointless trying to make sense of the senseless.

  10. claygooding says:

    Better load Nappy up for another trip!!!

    Spanish village to raise funds with marijuana

    MADRID — A tiny Spanish village has voted to lease land for growing marijuana as a source of desperately needed revenue — a unique but legally questionable way of battling an economic crisis highlighted by staggering unemployment and a looming recession.

    A government official with the National Drug Plan said such planting would in fact be against the law and that prosecutors would intervene as soon as the first pot seed was sown.

    Just so we know that we aren’t the only country run by the banks.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      That’s in Basque Country, right? IIRC they’ve got autonomy and Spain’s government doesn’t have any say so.

      • stayan says:

        We need to have ourselves a big ol’ get-together one day. Basque country sounds like just the spot!

  11. allan says:

    OT but importante…

    Support Guatemalan president’s call for drug legalization

    To be delivered to: Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala, Roxana Baldetti, Vice-President, Guatemala, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President, Mexico, Juan Manuel Santos, President, Colombia, Ricardo Martinelli, President, Panama and 5 other targets
    President Molina, we applaud and support your proposal for drug legalization in Central America and beyond.

    Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, we support your efforts to promote this proposal to the Central-American leaders.

    We fully support Guatemalan request to open a debate on drug legalization at the Sixth Summit of the Americas on April 14-15, 2012.

    President Obama, we urge you to not stall the courageous process initiated by Guatemala, and to allow a truthful debate to take place. We urge you to show the courage and vision to add your positive contribution to the debate.

    President Calderon and President Santos, we urge you to throw the full support of Mexico and Colombia behind the Guatemalan proposal.

    Presidents Martinelli of Panama, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Funes of El Salvador, Lobo of Honduras, and Ortega of Nicaragua, we urge to add the support of your countries to the Proposal advanced by the Guatemalan Government.

    Despite the enormous resources wasted on it, the War on Drugs has failed, bringing destruction and chaos all over the world, affecting particularly the Central American region, thanks to its position on the major transit route to the US. Prohibition is the worst possible form of control as it leaves control in the hands of powerful criminal organizations. The time has come to seek more realistic and pragmatic approaches, asking the simple but fundamental question: “Are organized societies capable and willing to manage and control psychoactive substances, instead of leaving it to organized crime?”

    Global re-legalization under a multi-tiers “legalize, tax, control, prevent, treat and educate” regime with practical and efficient mechanisms to manage and minimize societal costs is the only realistic long-term solution to the issue of illegal drugs. Far from giving up and far from an endorsement, controlled legalization would be finally growing up; being realistic instead of being in denial; being in control instead of leaving control to the underworld. It would abolish the current regime of socialization of costs and privatization of profits to criminal enterprises, depriving them of their main source of income and making our world a safer place.

    On Saturday February 11th, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina declared that, following discussions with Colombian President Santos, he will present a proposal for drug legalization in Central America at the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas. Guatemalan Vice-President Roxana Baldetti will begin a tour of Central America to discuss the proposal with regional leaders and garner support for it, starting with Panama, Costa Rica and Salvador on February 29th. Unsurprisingly, the move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government.

    President Molina’s initiative is unprecedented and marks the first time since the launching of the War on Drugs by Richard Nixon in 1971 that a foreign head of state actively challenges the US-led policies of drug prohibition and try to build a coalition against it. A former general of the Guatemalan army, President Molina has impeccable credentials to launch such a move: he was elected in November 2011 on a law-and-order platform, pledging to restore security to the country. Guatemala is on the major transit route from Colombia to the US and drug violence has exploded there over the past few years, turning this already impoverished and unstable country into one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
    We all need to show our support to President Molina and his potential Latin American allies. We also need to put pressure on the Obama administration to ensure that it doesn’t stall Molina’s proposal, and that it allows a truthful debate to take place at the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas and beyond.

    NEW goal – We need 750 signatures

    There are currently 604 signatures

  12. Duncan20903 says:


    Just a heads up here. I’ve run across a prohibitionist posting these statistics 3 times in the past couple of weeks. Of course the prohibitionist will accept anything that appears to support his position at face value. But there’s a major screw up on the page linked.

    Netherlands v United States for total drug offenses:
    Netherlands: 12,683 per 100,000 people
    United States: 560.1 per 100,000 people

    Population of the Netherlands: 16,612,213

    12,683 * 166.12213 = 2,106,927 (rounded up)

    Total crimes in the Netherlands according to the page linked: 1,422,863

    That 12,683 per 100,000 can’t possibly be right.

    Population of the United States: 311,591,917

    560.1 * 3115.91917 = 1,745,043 (rounded down)

    So NationMaster is reporting that there are less drug offenses for the entire United States than for that mathematically impossible number they’re reporting for the Netherlands.

  13. allan says:

    Chris Berg nails it. I enjoy seeing someone take the best of what we’ve all been saying (which is what Stossel’s piece on illegal drugs was, a flawless presentation and on Fox no less) and with their own perspectives turning the words in a new way. The older I get the more I apperkiate precision wordsmithing. Berg’s piece rocks.

    Eric Sterling gets joined by Norm Stamper in the Vancouver Sun (thanks Tom!):

    Prison spending trumps seniors for Harper government

    Keeping one prisoner in a federal penitentiary costs taxpayers $88,000 annually.

    According to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s analysis of the Conservatives’ omnibus crime legislation, prison costs are set to rise from $4.4 billion in 2011 to $9.5 billion by 2015-16. Page issued a report Tuesday stating a single federal measure restricting conditional sentences for offenders will cost provinces and territories more than $100 million a year.

    And talk about prisons and rape… Harper’s ready to screw all of Canada with iron bars. Y’all up there need to drop your calm for a bit methinks and stop el Padrone Harper.

  14. Peter says:

    Just read that Andrew Breitbart had died… someone on this site once wrote that he was pro-drug law reform, although I never found any evidence of that.

  15. Hey, a little something to warm your hearts. A debate featuring all 3 Democratic candidates for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional Seat (Dems have won this district the last 3 times in a row, so it’s highly likely that one of these candidates will be going to D.C. next January).

    When asked whether they will co-sponsor HB 2306, all three say yes and throw in a few choice digs at prohibition. This question is asked at about 8:45 in the video:

  16. HouseOfCards says:

    Presidenta Chinchilla Wants Drug Legalization Debate

    Drug legalization in Central America merits a “serious” debate as a solution to the crime and violence coursing through the region even if it runs up against U.S. opposition, said Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

    “If we keep doing what we have been when the results today are worse than 10 years ago, we’ll never get anywhere and could wind up like Mexico or Colombia,” Chinchilla said yesterday in an interview in San Jose.

    While U.S. opposition to legalization is well-known, Central Americans “have the right to discuss it” because “we are paying a very high price,” said Chinchilla, 52. ..

    .. Having dismantled its army in 1948, Costa Rica has had to tackle drug-related violence differently from its neighbors, Chinchilla said. For example, last year the country ratified a law to decriminalize drug possession in recreational quantities. ..

    • claygooding says:

      As more countries realize throwing money into prohibition strengthens their opponents instead of defeating and removing them they are not motivated by the huge financial complex behind America’s drug war machine.
      Now instead of just sending congress a few million dollars in election funding for a promise to fight drugs the people buying prohibition from American politicians will have to buy support in all South American countries,,,,in other words,,the price of peanuts is going up!

  17. darkcycle says:

    Of all the places I spent time in Central America, Costa Rica has always been the place I wanted to come back to. I love the country and the people, more school teachers than police, that should tell you a little about CR…

  18. darkcycle says:

    It’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday!
    “I not like Green Eggs and Ham, I will not eat then, Sam I Am.”
    I will not eat them with Goat, I will not eat them on a Boat,
    I will not eat them in a House, I will not eat them with a Mouse…”
    Awesome stuff, all with a great message.

  19. Peter says:

    the guardian todAy has a story about the push to privatise the police in england. no doubt this will be one more group of corporate interests lobbying for increased drug arrests

Comments are closed.