The fully demonstrated and absolutely unsurprising consequences of criminalization

Nice piece at The Age today by Michael Coulter: The long-running war on drugs has failed: we need to legalise now

It would be nice to say that the war on drugs had achieved nothing. The truth is far worse.

The truth is the war on drugs has filled our jails, enriched the worst among us, wasted scarce police resources and blotted up millions of dollars that could have been far better spent. It has been an unmitigated disaster and it needs to stop.

This is the point that we have made here time and time again, and that is so important. Prohibition isn’t free. And yet, those who argue against legalization are often unwilling to even acknowledge the horrific costs of criminalization.

But if many now argue that drugs should be treated as a health problem rather than a law enforcement one, few are prepared to take the next step and call for full legalisation. It’s a debate we desperately need to have, because prohibition has had its day.

It certainly has.

And this frustrates me sometimes. In the past week, I’ve seen both an article and a panel discussion that purported to address the “unintended consequences of marijuana legalization.” Really? You’re going to go there?

I respect their right to have that discussion, but forgive me for not giving a damn about what they have to say, unless they have first established their bona fides in critiquing the destructive consequences of criminalization that we have faced for so many years.

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36 Responses to The fully demonstrated and absolutely unsurprising consequences of criminalization

  1. n.t. greene says:

    Two words: nirvana fallacy.

    “B-but legalizing doesn’t solve all our problems instantaneously”

    “So a couple decades of killing and imprisoning people and burning fields in foreign countries only to experience increases in supply, demand and potency is somehow better…?”

  2. MJ Verite says:

    Unintended consequences, eh? let’s see. How about:

    1. Reduction of suicides
    2. Reduction of DUIs
    3. Reduction of corruption
    4. Reduction in militarization of civilian police forces

    These are huge harms. The last two, corruption and miliarization, strike at the heart of our republic. I’m fairly certain that any unintended consequences of responsible adult use will pale in comparison.

    • DdC says:

      Why are Soldiers Dying in Their Sleep?

      The 6 Types of Pills Big Pharma Wants You Hooked On for Life
      Who says advertising doesn’t work? Of the top-selling drugs in 2011viii, led by Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Advair Diskus, Abilify, Seroquel, Singulair and Crestor, none is taken occasionally, or “as needed” and the treatment goal is never to get off the drug, like an antibiotic.” This matter concerns the massive underreporting of lobbying by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

      They survived the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But instead of bombs and guns, a growing number of U.S. veterans of these wars, whether they’re still deployed or back at home, are being downed by something else. They die in different ways but they all have one thing in common—at the time of their deaths they’re on a cocktail of drugs prescribed for them by military doctors.

      Video description:
      CNN Reports on military personnel dying from drug toxicity.

      Piercing the Veil,
      More Drug Companies Reveal Payments to Doctors

      2010 Company / U.S. Sales

      Lilly $14.3 billion
      GlaxoSmithKline $13.6 billion
      Pfizer $26.2 billion
      AstraZeneca $18.3 billion
      Merck $18.8 billion
      Johnson&Johnson $12.9 billion
      Cephalon $2.1 billion
      ViiV Healthcare Unavailable

      Firms with the highest U.S. sales last year didn’t spend the most on physician marketers. Industry leader Pfizer, with sales of $26.2 billion, spent $34.4 million on speakers, ranking third among the eight companies. By comparison, Eli Lilly and Co. spent the most on speakers, $61.5 million, even though its sales were about half of Pfizer’s.

      22 Pharmacists, Doctors Arrested in DEA’s Drug Abuse Crackdown

      Drug Worriers preferred methods of treatment…
      delusions,dementia,lack of feeling or emotion,thoughts of killing oneself, confusion, shakiness, lack of emotion,loss of memory,Behavior change similar to drunkenness, convulsions, (seizures), changes in patterns and rhythms of speech,clumsiness or unsteadiness,difficulty with coordination,shakiness and unsteady walk,feeling sad or empty, inability to sit still,difficulty with concentration,drowsiness,mood or behavior changes, very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out; agitation, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite…

      “Cannabis is remarkably safe. Although not harmless, it is surely less toxic than most of the conventional medicines it could replace if it were legally available. Despite its use by millions of people over thousands of years, cannabis has never caused an overdose death.”
      Testimony of Professor Lester Grinspoon, M.D.
      Associate Professor of Psychiatry,
      Harvard Medical School, before the
      Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee,
      U.S. House of Representatives,
      Washington, D.C., October 1, 1997

  3. free radical says:

    Agreed, Pete.
    Equally frustrating are the appeals by prohibitionists and the ignorant to “not rush into legalization.”
    As if prohibition were not something that was rushed into, but were debated for months by the full congress and the American people. We all know that didn’t happen.

    • strayan says:

      “Don’t rush into it!” says the white moderate who has never suffered unduly from the scourge of prohibition.

      I imagine it coming out of Mark Kleiman’s mouth.

    • N.T. Greene says:

      “Trying the same thing over and over again for a century” — that’s pretty much the dictionary definition of taking your goddamned time on it.

      “Don’t rush into it” — oh, like we did with the goddamned constitutional amendment outlawing alcohol? That one that became the only amendment to be directly repealed? Like people so love to do when it comes to judging others negatively based on race, gender, creed, etc..? Oh, we see one news story about the inner city and we’re suddenly all for drone warfare (after all, welfare is for people who are manipulating the system and only drug dealers live in our inner cities RIIIIGHT?) and SWAT teams for every household?

      Again, I digress. If there isn’t an alternative offered, “don’t rush into it” is basically a null argument designed to slow progress without anything to back it up in the long term. You’ll notice that many of the purported harms of marijuana in particular have changed over time, from fried brains in the 1980s and 90s, to “makes you stupid and lazy”, to “could potentially lower your IQ a few points if you smoke a lot of it”, to “could potentially cure some diseases and offer many people needed relief, but fuck hippies and liberals”.

      I hate painting with a broad brush, but the more I talk to people IRL the more I am led to believe that “American culture” is a contradiction-in-terms. The most ardent “patriots” hardly know a goddamn thing about how the systems work or the history behind the present day laws.

  4. Matt says:

    The trouble is that this article and others like it completely miss the point, either intentionally or not. The discussion will not progress unless the true situation is addressed. There is NOT a “war on drugs”. It is a cynical and intentional mechanism to achieve political advantage, a massive black market and the “prison industrial complex” (corporate welfare) amongst other things. It is NOT about the drugs. It is about the economic utilisation and oppression of minorities. If the most dangerous drugs and their users were dealt with under this regime as less dangerous drugs are, the users of alcohol and tobacco would also be subject to the criminal justice system. There is no “debate” to be had. Users, manufacturers and sellers of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine would not accept this treatment. A debate as to whether people should be oppressed or not? Just ridiculous. The truth is that the “war on drugs” has been a remarkable success for those who profit from it. This is why it is still in progress: people profit from it. “Filling prisons” is one of its aims. Until we acknowledge and address the real issues, discussion along the lines of the WoDs is a “failure”, is practically pointless. One of the real issues for example is what are the ten thousand employees of the DEA going to do for employment once the madness stops? One thousand might stay on to help regulate legal dispensaries, but thousands will be instantly unemployed. I can understand why those on the take from the “WoDs” hope the debate continues on centred around the “failure” theme, as it diverts attention from the real motives for this terrible oppression.

  5. Servetus says:

    It will never be possible to absolve prohibitionists through some type of organized forgetting offered by government apologists. Under the banner of prohibition, on our current government’s watch, cruelty, betrayal and insanity descended upon America. Our international drug wars are the ultimate political footballs. Demagogues and racists use drug arrests to wage culture wars and disempower minorities. Prohibition collaborates with the many governments displaying a Malthusian contempt for their poor and downtrodden by propagating unjust class-based societies. Our governing institutions now face blowback for bureaucratizing insidious human rights crimes. All roads lead to revolt. Si vis pacem para revolutione (If you want peace, prepare for revolution).

  6. The “unintended consequences of marijuana legalization” cannot be discussed without a complete accounting for the “unintended consequences of marijuana prohibition” as a contrast and comparison to it.

    Racism, Fear, Protection of Corporate Profits, Yellow Journalism, Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators, Personal Career Advancement, and Greed.
    Those are the reasons for marijuana prohibition. The very same reasons that it continues to this day.

    The world needs to stop thinking there is a good reason for the illegality of drugs. Show me where it has improved any society one iota beyond filling its prisons and disenfranchising any idealized constitution from the society it was written for.

    Prohibition enhances the greed and sadism that it takes to drive any society into submission and slavery through the death and destruction it causes.

    The obliteration of co-operative law and order through subserviance to military might and rule is its calling card.

    American researchers knew long ago that cannabinoids inhibited and killed cancer. That information was shelved for the “greater” cause of continued prohibition, and hidden from view.

    Instead we have this: – four cancer charities are shams

    The prohibition of drugs shouldn’t be allowed to exist for even one second more.

    I firmly believe the survival and the existence of The United States of America lies in the balance of the struggle to end prohibition.

    The legacy of prohibition will not continue to ruin the promise of a good life for my children and grandchildren, as long as I can still lift a finger.

    I found out today that THC in the blood stream of my grandchilds girlfriend was used as reason to remove my great grandchild from his home at birth, along with 2 other siblings in their family. Not abuse. Not neglect. Blood.

    The fabric of society that once kept us safe has been torn apart by prohibition and this horrible war on drugs, and the people that use them.

    Be afraid.

    End this monster called prohibition. End this drug war now. How many more casualties and deaths does it take?

    I needed to rant. Glad your blog is here Pete.

  7. ohutumvalik says:

    Dr Thurstone of Project SAM has taken it upon himself to demolish the notion that treatment of PTSD with cannabinoids has any medical validity. Apparently cannabis for PTSD is an industry-driven scam with no more medical validity than leeching, frontal lobotomies or insulin schock therapy, and with horrible consequences such as alcohol and drug abuse, worsening of PTSD symptoms, violent behavior, etc. After all, since cannabis contains more than one cannabinoid, “giving it to a person with PTSD is like crushing 15 kinds of antidepressants and dispensing them” — something US veterans neither need nor deserve.

    So, usual stuff, no surprises there. What surprised me a bit was the eagerness with which SAMsters say they welcome “all of the citations you can share showing that marijuana is an effective and safe treatment for PTSD”. Apparently, they “look forward to reviewing those”.

    Can we maybe provide some evidence that would be difficult to dismiss?

    • Servetus says:

      They could try starting with these studies, here and here.

      If SAM can’t look up information on cannabis PTSD therapy by themselves, then the studies are unlikely to do them any good; it simply means science is out of their league, especially when one more quack psychiatrist like Dr. Thurstone is involved. Also, both studies come from Israel. Perhaps SAM members, much like the Nazis, don’t recognize ‘Jewish’ science.

      What is a proven scientific fact is that incompetence cannot judge competence. SAM doesn’t have any scientists on its staff that I’m aware of. Thus, SAM comprises the last people on earth whose opinion on science matters.

      • ohutumvalik says:

        The first one you’ve linked is about PTSD-like symptoms in rats, the second one barely mentions PTSD, specifically a decrease in nightmares and flashbacks in a study with 17 patients. Everything that’s not a double-blind, placebo-controlled, long-term, multi-phased, large-scale clinical trial with human subjects — like the studies that have to be commissioned by any pharmaceutical company that wants to bring any new drug to market — will not be enough to persuade them, I’m afraid. Is it possible they’re so confident that there are no such studies supporting cannabinoid treatment of PTSD simply because no such studies exist (yet)?

        Mind you, I’m not picking a fight, I just hoped some of the competent regulars here might refer me to a convenient collection of links, so that I wouldn’t have to comb through reams of data from Google Scholar or smth.

      • kaptinemo says:

        Orgs like Project SAM provide an invaluable service: they demonstrate even better than we ever could how the machinery of prohibition can act to preserve itself, regardless of whether that benefits society or not.

        In this instance, decidedly not.

        But even more than that, it is causing a concentration of lunacy.

        Take the most virulent of prohibs, grind them up, boil them in their own bile, distill them, and you get the most extreme prohib possible…and they’re all there, all under one roof. How convenient.

        All we have to do is point and say, “Prohibs.” Let their willful ignorance and spiteful authoritarianism shine unfiltered.

        They really are making this so easy for us.

        • primus says:

          It appears that many public figures are ignorant of the impact of the ‘net. In the past, they could get away with the most egregious lies, half-truths and mixed up logic, because the MSM are so lazy about digging. The ‘net is not lazy, the ‘netizens are willing to take the time to point out the delusions and evil intent of these public figures. They appear clueless once the headlights are shone on them. Then the MSM picks up the thread, acts as if it’s their own and runs with it.

        • allan says:

          agree totally primus. I’m amazed how much of what I see on MSM tv I see first on the wwweb. Nice to see Jello Biafra’s suggestion becoming reality. I mean besides the sea change in general cannabis awareness the militarization of police is even making national evening news.

          Even as little as a couple of years ago I could not have predicted what we’re seeing today. When banking and cannabizness can finally work together… that will be the end of that assault on sanity. Of course there will be those regional and local remnants of cannaphobic control freaks (like Burdick and Kruse in OR) but I have no doubt, we win.

          MAPS is doing great work w/ the psychem’delics. LEAP is gnawing on places which only they can really get to…

          Besides, we are in dire need of a massive dose of sanity all around.

    • Will says:

      “Can we maybe provide some evidence that would be difficult to dismiss?”

      How about the personal experiences of veterans themselves? One among many, the experience of PFC Jared Hunter;

      Vet forced to make shameful choice to fight PTSD

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Can we maybe provide some evidence that would be difficult to dismiss?”

      Surely, you jest! The typical prohibitionist has never had any problem dismissing facts which they don’t like!!

      “Never let the facts get in the way of disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric”

      ~~ The Prohibitionists’ Motto!!!

      The Israeli Ministry of Health certainly thinks that cannabis has valid medicinal utility for the treatment of a long list of diseases and conditions. That list includes PTSD.

      So who the heck knew that the Israeli Ministry of Health first approved medicinal cannabis in 1992?

      In Israel, medical marijuana research far from stuck in the weeds

      Mechoulam’s research team was able to isolate some of the major compounds in marijuana, many of which had been previously unknown, including THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes the typical “high” effect, and CBD is non-psychoactive. Both compounds have medicinal properties.

      THC has proven valuable in helping to treat a multitude of issues such as pain, insomnia, depression, nausea, and appetite loss. CBD has shown an ability to treat inflammation, nausea, diabetes, alcoholism, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

      Would it be accurate to call the Jewish News Service a mainstream news outlet?

      But if we’re going to use an appeal to authority fallacy I think that we should use the Israeli Anti-Drug and Alcohol Authority because that agency also acknowledges that cannabis has valid medicinal utility.

      Israeli anti-drug agency seeks faster granting of medical marijuana permits

      The Anti-Drug and Alcohol Authority this week launched a radio-ad campaign calling for quicker granting of permits for the use of medical marijuana.

      “Do you know that coconuts cause more deaths every year than shark attacks?” a man says in the spot. “Yeah, and pretty soon you’re going to tell me that the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Authority supports medical marijuana,” comes the reply.

      The narrator then pitches the message: “The Anti-Drug and Alcohol Authority supports expediting permits for the use of medical cannabis. The battle for your quality of life is our battle.”

    • Why Marijuana Is Critical For Research in Treating PTSD
      by Sue Sisley, MD

    • DdC says:

      May 24, 2015

      Before he tried marijuana, he thought of trying suicide.

      Heavy drinking hadn’t helped. Nor had various pills prescribed by Veterans Affairs doctors. He was still angry, still depressed, still could not sleep.

      But he found that marijuana helped. It took the anger and depression away. It took the sleeplessness away. Most of all, it took the 11-year-old boy away.

      PFC Jared Hunter never knew the boy’s name. He was just some Iraqi kid who liked to hang around the U.S. Army base outside Baghdad. “He didn’t really speak English or nothing. He would just kind of follow us around and would point things out or tell us if there was somebody there who shouldn’t have been.” The soldiers adopted him as a mascot. Hunter bought him a soccer ball.

      The boy was with the soldiers when they came under fire while patrolling an alley. When the shooting was over, he was dead.

      If combat does nothing else, it hardens you to indiscriminate death. “You just learn to deal with it,” says Hunter. “Something like that happens, at that time you just walk on past it and forget about it. Of course, later on,” he adds softly, “it may come up a little bit or something somewhere.”

      It came up with a vengeance on Hunter. He’s a 30-year-old Arkansas native living near Daytona Beach who joined the Army in 2003 right out of high school and served two tours. He was discharged with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, a neat, clinical term for night terrors, heart palpitations, rage and the seductive lure of suicide. Hunter was almost seduced. He says he was sitting there with gun in hand when his father found him.

      Finally, a friend suggested something he had never tried: marijuana. He says pot worked like magic. “It calmed the anxiety. I wasn’t having near as many anger problems. … The suicide stuff went away. I didn’t really feel that desperate to do anything like that again. I’ve got a bad back and a bad neck; it relieved any kind of pain that I had. It just helped so tremendously that it was unbelievable. Nightmares. … I could actually go to sleep. I didn’t have insomnia. I wasn’t scared to go to sleep. I could actually lay down and … get a halfway decent night’s rest.”

      Marijuana had saved him. Then, last year, police came to his door. He still has no idea who tipped them off. They arrested him and confiscated marijuana plants he says he was growing for his own use. Hunter found himself facing five years in prison. Prosecutors offered a deal: Plead guilty and accept probation. He refused. He didn’t want to be branded a criminal and stripped of his civil rights. full story

      That’s a shameful choice to impose on a man who damaged both body and mind fighting for his country And for, you know, freedom.

      Cannabis, the Importance of Forgetting

    • Duncan20903 says:


      umm, did you forget that leeches are FDA approved medical devices since 2004? You don’t have to take my word for it, the FDA approved leech factory offers free tours 7 days a week! All tour guides are also FDA approved! Don’t forget to ask for your free samples!

      If your doctor is confused when filing a claim with your insurance, remember to remind him that there is no specific CPT® code for medicinal leech therapy.

  8. DdC says:

    The 31-year-old convicted of running a huge criminal website asks to be spared a life sentence
    Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was the mastermind of a billion-dollar online drug ring, according to the US federal government. He was convicted earlier in the year and could face life in prison for his crimes, with prosecutors still quiet on what type of prison term they are seeking at the May 29 sentencing.

    Silk Road helped reduce risks users faced trying to buy narcotics

    Cheney and Hellsburden got a big chunk of the $Trillion or so spent on Iraq. Same as the drug war profiteers. Sold by the media. All Police Actions, for profit as the max-cap prisons filling with poor people, mostly of color. Korea, Vietnam and Iraq after Bush the Sequel declared mishuncomplished, all for profit police actions. Bypassing Congress, checks and balances and killing Americans and the American Spirit.

    Profits on misery created, or a trickle down to sell the treatments. Shelving cures and preventing preventions. The new Mother of Invention is profits. Necessities become deterrents to ward off whistle blowers and sympathy for Americans living on the streets. Vets kicked out of medical care for actually treating PTSD with cannabis. Watching kids seizures cease, and then jail the parents. Saudi’s cutting off heads, Malaysia buying guns for shooting dissidents.

    Life in Missouri for using a jury with gag rules removing why they were doing it. NRA bought and paid for mandatory minimums for a jury trial is why 95% choose please bargain. To profit the democrats version of tyranny. Rehabilitation from a remedy for drinking? Including the scam of urine testing, job loss while doing a good job leaves the poor workers with clean pee driving the business into the ground.

    The middle class is becoming a very large labor pool to curtail minimum wage and forgetabout a living wage out side of bud trimmers. Causing shortages in jobettes cheating undocumented workers. Unions backing the treatment workers over patients. Like a Unionized Pinkerton for the right of bashing organizers or protesters heads. Militarized Police by the same Father of DARE training future drug worriers to perpetuate prohibition profits, to save the message to the children.

    Those who haven’t been sprayed with modern agent orange, or shot for snitching, or gang raped in prison. Life sentences for growing medicine. Hemp lumped in with the medicinal cannabis, Giving big numbers for eradication’s, mostly ditch-weed burlap. My blue jeans are taken from local farmers crops because the DEA has never learned about pollination. Both sides making a living hurting sick people.

    Iraq was planned a long time before the media got in bed with the Military Industrial Complex. How many feet to a gallon, do tanks get? Mistake Hilary? Wake up munchkins. The Neocons have no allegiance to old borders. Banks and Corporations around the globe serve the bottom line. The Neoconstitution is not based on human lives or needs. Locally grown Hemp can make the same products as Crude Oil, Trees, Cattle protein and Chemical cotton .

    Silk Road and Ross Ulbricht served the public, what the public sought. In so doing he saved lives and spared countless users hardship from the street dealers and underground inconsistent, adulterated, sometimes violent market. Time to stop persecuting people for doing the right thing and rewarding cut throat profiteers without allegiance to the people or countries. Time to end the war and become a civilized nation. Free Ross!

    A very lucrative hoax…
    A $Trillion spent on the Ganjawar
    is a $Trillion in the Pockets of Prohibitionists.

    Where are all of the Taxbaggers and Norquest?

    Shame on the Drug Worrier Profiteers

  9. Pingback: Healthy Drug and Communication Use | Spirit Wave

  10. DdC says:

    Spare change? I can see old Joe in a pink jumpsuit cleaning prison toilets.

    Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio asks public’s help with legal fees

    • Windy says:

      I wouldn’t give that asshole a single penny, he’s probably the worst Sheriff in America.

  11. DEA Wants Nearly $1.5 Million for the secret files on catching “Shorty” Guzman

    That’s as funny as Arpaio asking for help with his legal fees.

    • Is it legal for them to hold out for movie rights, you know, Hollywood? They are the only ones willing to spend that kind of money. Seems like a hell of a scam to me. Or a good way to withhold evidence from the public for awhile. Not much freedom of information here.

  12. DdC says:

    The Fully demonstrated and absolutely unsurprising consequences of criminalization By Pete Guither

    • darkcycle says:

      Hey Pete! You got picked up by the MSM! Musta been a slow news day….
      Wee-Haw! Nice to see credit, but did the pay any Dee-nair-O?

      • Duncan20903 says:


        I’ve seen a DWR column printed verbatim at that link at least a few dozen times. It has been a while since I last noticed it.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          As a matter of fact, IIRC it was a DWR column at that link which led me to this site in the first place. Also it may have been the Houston Chronicle which also used to link here.

  13. Duncan20903 says:


    This sounds like great news! I’m going to put it into the “I believe it when I see it happen” category:

    Marijuana Legalization May Get Boost, DEA Backs Off

    Chuck Rosenberg is the new incoming DEA chief, after Michele Leonhart resigned following DEA accusations of involvement with drugs and prostitution. With a new man coming into the game, the DEA will certainly be facing some changes. Rosenberg states that one of these changes is that the DEA will no longer be focusing on marijuana, especially as states are lowering their penalties against use and possession of the drug.

    Rosenber believes that as chief, he needs to reclassify drugs, and money could be better spent sending out agents with a focus on heroin, cocaine, and psychedelic drugs. He states that the focus of the DEA will be on the other more dangerous drugs, especially as his views are different than that of former chief Leonhart’s on weed. Leonhart, according to sources, believed that marijuana was a dangerous drug and that it offered no value, medically or otherwise.

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