Steve Rolles on the drug war

Steve Rolles has been one of the best voices in drug policy reform internationally. This fantastic article — Recreational drugs market should be managed by ‘governments not gangsters’, says expert — talks about his book, Legalizing Drugs: The Key to Ending the War. This interview in the Independent is loaded with quotes from Steve that provide a great primer into the futility of the drug war.

In an interview with The Independent, Rolles, who has previously served as an adviser to the Global Commission on Drugs, argues that the “most striking thing about the war on drugs is its spectacular failings on its own terms”.

He says the idea behind the policy was to eradicate drugs from the globe in order to create a drug-free world by 2008, with the official slogan of the 1998 UN conference on the world drug problem being: “A Drug-Free World: We Can Do It.”

“Not only did that not happen but actually things continued to get worse so drug markets were founded, prevalence increased and all the problems related to drug use and illegal drug markets increased as well,” Rolles says. “For a policy that is specifically trying to eradicate drugs from the world, it has overseen the most rapid expansion of drug use in human history.”

The policy has instead backfired, he points out, leading to the creation of an “enormous illegal market where hundreds of billions every year are controlled by violent gangsters. So we have all of this crime and violence, both on UK city streets and around the world, which is fuelled by the illegal drug trade. We don’t have those issues with legal drugs. We don’t have tobacconists gunning each other down in the streets. All the problems associated with the vast illegal drug trade are essentially a result of prohibition.”

Instead of protecting the health of the public, the war on drugs has made drugs more dangerous, Rolles maintains. “It’s not deterring youth. It’s not preventing availability of access to drugs. It’s actually making drugs more dangerous.

“All drugs are fundamentally risky but when they’re produced and supplied through an illegal market they become more risky. People don’t know how strong they are, people don’t know what’s in them, their potency can vary wildly. All of the things that that the war on drugs is supposedly achieving in terms of protecting our health or protecting us from crime, it’s actually doing the opposite.”

Good stuff. And there’s lots more in the article.

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39 Responses to Steve Rolles on the drug war

  1. WalStMonky says:


    Oh no! Doesn’t Mr. Rolles know that smoking merrywanna can lead to self dismemberment and attempted matricide?

    Man Smokes Cannabis Joint, Cuts Off Penis, Stabs Mom Repeatedly

    Sure, the first thing everyone thinks is that the man’s name is Oedipus Rex but I made sure that wasn’t the case before I linked this article!! He didn’t stab his mom with the penis either previous or subsequent to it’s removal!!!

    • Head on a Stick says:

      This is actually an incident from 2013. In all the original articles (appearing up to two year later) there was absolutely no mention of weed. I’ve tried to post this information on the comment thread but can’t get past the mods. Good luck!

      A student high on miaow miaow stabbed his mother 11 times before cutting off his own penis at an ‘exceptional’ attack in their home.

      Charles Mann launched the frenzied attack on his mother, Emma, in December 2013 after bingeing on the party drug (miaow miaow) and copious amounts of alcohol.

      • DdC says:

        When they lowered the classification from B to C if memory serves. The Brits freaked out over the “new” highly addictive psychosis causing “skunk”. They fired Nutt over letting some truth escape. Then the crack of pot, shatter freaked out more. Taking a cue from Clinton and Waldo’s today’s pot isn’t what your grand mother smoked crap. Now skunk has returned to take the fall for everything this kid had going on in his head. No evidence outside of hearsay and the word of someone who just cut off their own penis. Everyone is permitted their own opinions, who needs facts?

        ☛ Brits Copycat U.S.… A-Motivated?

        BBC film to show effects of injecting cannabis
        Nicky Taylor, a journalist, is filmed smoking cannabis in cafes in Amsterdam before injecting the main ingredient of the stronger … The BBC is understood to be keen to show the film on the eve of a decision by Jacqui Smith, the Home
        Secretary, to recriminalise cannabis by upgrading it from C to B status.

        June 2, 2017
        ☛ “Father tells of devastation after son cuts off penis while high”

        ☛ Freak out over the new crack called “shatter”

        There’s a new drug in town.
        Shatter is a potent and highly addictive new form of marijuana.

        The Beacon Herald Wednesday, March 18, 2015

        It’s called Shatter and it looks like dark-amber toffee. It’s THC, the chemical that causes the high in marijuana, extracted from the plant and has highly addictive qualities, said Stratford police Insp. Sam Theocharis.

        ☛ Pot Potency? Boomers’ blissfully unfazed by mere facts.

        Or Joe Biden’s RAVE Ax hogwash and the devastation of freaking out over ecstasy. Banning test kits killing kids.

        ☛ Joe Biden’s Ugly History With American Drug Policy

        ☛ New study discovers why cannabis may be causing psychosis.

  2. primus says:

    What, pray tell is miaow-miaow?

    • “Meow meow’s scientific name is “mephedrone,” and the drug is a type of designer amphetamine that produces effects similar to those of both MDMA and cocaine, including everyone’s favorite drug byproduct, teeth grinding.”

      • Head on a Stick says:

        Would you please pop over to the article Duncan referenced (I’m blocked) with the correct information.

      • Head on a Stick says:


        • WalStMonky says:


          You know, I don’t think that they’re writing about the same fictional incident. What’s the point of using refurbished propaganda when you can have two separate incidents? Anyway, in a week they’ll print the correction on the proverbial page 64:

          “We wrongly stated that a teen age boy cut off his penis and then stabbed his mother. The young man was actually a transgender individual transitioning into life as a male. When he was being booked into the jail the guards noticed he had no penis during the mandatory strip search and asked him why not. The young man replied that he had cut it off. The Mail has ascertained that there never was an actual penis involved. We apologize for the confusion.”

  3. strayan says:

    Definitive study about the risks of cannabis use from Greece. Sample size 48 and 16 of these were incarcerated:

    chronic and heavy cannabis abuse results in long-lasting brain dysfunction in all users and in long-lasting schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms in more than half of all users. These findings suggest a reevaluation of the current classification of cannabis as a “soft narcotic” which erroneously, therefore, is typically considered harmless.


    • jean valjean says:

      Is nutty Nora involved?

    • NorCalNative says:

      …and the median daily dose was 5.84.4 grams for prisoners, and 4.84.0 grams for non-prisoners…

      5-grams per day seems like a lot of weed.

  4. jean valjean says:

    “Governments not gangsters.” With governments headed by the likes of Trump and Duterte, I’m not sure how to tell the difference with that one.

  5. Head on a Stick says:

    Great article over at Salon:

    Trump’s Russia scandal is more like Iran-Contra than Watergate — which isn’t good news

    Watergate perpetuates the illusion that “the system worked,” whereas Iran-Contra shows clearly how and why it did not. Second, Watergate was a narrowly focused domestic affair, while Iran-Contra was a far-flung enterprise involving significant foreign actors. Third, Watergate fostered the misleading impression that impeachment turned on breaking the law, while Iran-Contra made it clear that it was about abuse of power and the political elite’s collective willingness to restrain it. Fourth, Watergate was a relatively self-contained scandal, while Iran-Contra was connected with multiple other illegal international enterprises — a coalition of high-level international lawlessness. Fifth, Watergate occurred at the end of an era, in which a different set of norms and institutional constraints still held sway, while Iran-Contra reflected how badly those norms and constraints had been eroded in Watergate’s aftermath.

  6. WalStMonky says:


    Well the only reason this one is interesting is because someone must have hacked into the Mail’s computer to get it published:
    A compound in cannabis is ‘significantly’ effective in destroying cancerous tumours in leukaemia, study reveals

    Why the heck do the British have such a weird spelling problem? Didn’t they invent the language in the first place?

  7. WalStMonky says:


    Well this one certainly stirred up my inner zombie. Mmm-mmm…head cheese!

    Even Moderate Drinking Linked to Changes in Brain Structure, Study Finds

    “And we found no support for a protective effect of light consumption on brain structure,” they added.

  8. Servetus says:

    For decades prohibition critics have pounded home the idea that persecuting people for drug use is self-defeating and results in repression and criminogenic laws. Few people deny this. Polls consistently demonstrate a majority of citizens believe drug enforcement is a disaster and feel alternatives should be sought.

    Citizens tend to presume their government has their best interests in mind. History says it ain’t necessarily so. Governments focus on their own interests. If a corrupt government can sacrifice innocent people to survive, it will. If it can create a society of poor people begging for jobs at minimum wage because it means all other incomes can be kept low, it will. If it means destroying an obstructive middle class to obtain its goals, it doesn’t hesitate. Our government knows precisely what it is doing. It knows being a despot is easier than becoming knowledgeable and making competent choices about drug issues or anything else.

    As the government assumes a plausible disguise of faux-benefactor, the obligation falls upon citizens to identify the enemy and hit back, as their respective governments will no longer do that job for them.

    Strikes, boycotts, street demonstrations, public humiliation, exposure of government fraud and deceit are some of the tools that have worked previously. The drug war and governments who support it can be stopped–its drug war progenitors publicly humiliated. It’s happened before. During his occupation of Spain between 1811 and 1813, Napoleon Bonaparte jailed all of Spain’s inquisitors. A fully informed public could accomplish a similar feat. No reason exists not to treat prohibitionists as war criminals under international law as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute. It merely requires that every pot smoker and marijuana-friendly citizen in the country vote to seize the reins of government. Victory can be achieved if the majority realizes its collective power.

  9. Servetus says:

    Samantha Bee takes on Sessions’ Drug War and drug test kits.

    The War on Drugs Reboot | June 7, 2017 Pt. 2 | Full Frontal on TBS:

    Just Say No To Drug Test Kits | June 7, 2017 Pt. 3 | Full Frontal on TBS:

  10. Head on a Stick says:

    Episode 1: The Sacred Plant…Revealed

  11. Servetus says:

    Researchers from the U.S. and Australia highlight the differences in cannabis versus tobacco policies:

    8-JUN-2017 — Their paper takes a look at the diverging trajectories of cannabis and tobacco policies in the United States[…]

    For tobacco control, the push is toward what Kozlowski calls “a kind of prohibition,” mandating that only very low nicotine cigarettes are sold. The cannabis policy community, however, is advocating for quite the opposite — legal recreational use of marijuana.[…]

    “One group perceives the downside of banning products and accepts an inevitability of some recreational use,” Kozlowski said, referring to marijuana advocates, “and the other does not accept recreational use and seeks a kind of prohibition.”

    The differences can also be explained by examining who’s part of each group. The tobacco control community includes tobacco researchers, public health advocates, non-governmental organizations and government officials. The cannabis community is more diverse, Hall and Kozlowski point out, noting that it comprises civil liberties lawyers, civil rights advocates and supporters of reforming drug laws.

    The cannabis community has another thing going for it: the fact that the legalization of recreational marijuana was preceded by legalizing the drug for medical use. In a way, that has softened the response to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Hall and Kozlowski say.

    “If you think the product is able to cure some ills, then that can justify use. The fun of it becomes a kind of bonus,” Kozlowski said.[…]

    AAAS Public Release: Why the marijuana and tobacco policy camps are on very different paths

    Differences in policies are also determined by the fact that marijuana and tobacco are very different plants that differ in their chemistry and physical effects.

  12. Servetus says:

    Psychologists note that perceptions of leadership are at stake when politicians use moral excuses. Moral excuses against drug consumption would apply:

    8-JUN-2017 — When leaders use a moral argument rather than a pragmatic one as the basis for a position, they may be judged harshly if they change that position later. They are perceived as hypocrites, less effective and less worthy of future support, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

    “Leaders may choose to take moral stances, believing that this will improve audiences’ perceptions. And it does, initially. But all people, even leaders, have to change their minds sometimes,” said lead author Tamar Kreps, PhD, of the University of Utah. “Our research shows that leaders who change their moral minds are seen as more hypocritical, and not as courageous or flexible, compared with those whose initial view was based on a pragmatic argument. Due to this perception of hypocrisy, they are also seen as less effective and less worthy of support.”[…]

    What surprised the researchers the most was how difficult it was to eliminate the effect, according to Kreps. “In different studies, we tried to test various factors we thought might weaken the effect. For example, what if the leader used the same moral value in the later view as in the earlier view? What if the leader did not rely on popular support and therefore would have no reason to pander? What about participants who believed in moral relativism, the view that there is no objective reality in the first place? None of those things made a difference — initially moral mind-changers consistently seemed more hypocritical,” she said.[…]

    AAAS Public Release: Mind changing can be risky: Leaders who change stance on moral position seen as hypocritical, less effective, study says

    Long understood is the difficulty of legislating morality, as new laws alone cannot change what people regard as right or wrong. Under moral relativism, prohibitionists are compelled to make their argument against drugs based solely on the drug’s ill effects on people’s health. When adverse medical effects are absent, prohibitionists create a pseudo-scientific platform to support their moral beliefs, as most morally driven prohibitionists are also anti-science and anti-intellectuals.

  13. Julia Purdy: Impacts of marijuana legalization on our children
    -They took my reply down

    I thought someone here might be interested.

  14. strayan says:

    Cannabis prohibitionist and moron David Frum seems to believe he is now an anti authoritarian and champion of freedom:

  15. Servetus says:

    Mandatory Minimum AG Jeff Sessions lets Citigroup’s Mexico-based subsidiary bank slide on prosecuting its bankers in a money laundering scheme:

    May 25, 2017 — “Again, a crime and no crooks,” Bart Naylor of Public Citizen told the Corporate Crime Reporter. The deal sparks fears of “a kid-gloves approach towards corporate crime in the new administration,” Too Big To Jail author Brandon Garrett told the paper. Roughly eight times out of nine that the government builds up a Bank Secrecy Act case, Garrett said, it chooses to resolve it through sterner means than the non-prosecution deal Citigroup struck this week.[…]

  16. Servetus says:

    When people get high, their high can attain up to eleven dimensions. The latest from neuroscience:

    12-JUN-2017 – … a new study has discovered structures in the brain with up to eleven dimensions.[…]

    The research, published today in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, shows that these structures arise when a group of neurons forms a clique: each neuron connects to every other neuron in the group in a very specific way that generates a precise geometric object. The more neurons there are in a clique, the higher the dimension of the geometric object.

    “We found a world that we had never imagined,” says neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of Blue Brain Project and professor at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, “there are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions.”

    Markram suggests this may explain why it has been so hard to understand the brain. “The mathematics usually applied to study networks cannot detect the high-dimensional structures and spaces that we now see clearly.”

    If 4D worlds stretch our imagination, worlds with 5, 6 or more dimensions are too complex for most of us to comprehend. This is where algebraic topology comes in: a branch of mathematics that can describe systems with any number of dimensions. The mathematicians who brought algebraic topology to the study of brain networks in the Blue Brain Project were Kathryn Hess from EPFL and Ran Levi from Aberdeen University.

    “Algebraic topology is like a telescope and microscope at the same time. It can zoom into networks to find hidden structures – the trees in the forest – and see the empty spaces – the clearings – all at the same time,” explains Hess.

    AAAS Public Release: Blue Brain team discovers a multi-dimensional universe in brain networks

    Full, open-access research article:

    Other references:

    • NorCalNative says:

      Help me out here Servetus, where in those links are you seeing that the “stimulus” is related to drugs or getting high?

      Not saying it isn’t, but my tiny brain isn’t finding the evidence on my own. I need some tutoring.

      • Servetus says:

        Sorry. There are no direct links from the articles. I regard being high as just another way of thinking and sensing, and how we think relies on the brain’s neural structure and biochemistry.

        In the researchers’ case they are closer to quantifying how we all think by using a bit of mathematical trickery to determine the brain’s interconnected geometry. The use of multi-dimensions in math calculations is a tool that’s also used for explaining the universe—string theory in physics is an example, which posits the universe has ten or eleven dimensions based on which string theory turns out to be correct. Thermodynamics is another branch of physics that benefits from a mathematical method found in statistical physics known as six-dimensional phase space.

        So when we think, high or not, our brains can now be thought of as operating within an eleven dimensional geometry of interconnected synapses, and that the thinking process is eleven dimensional. Which is fascinating. For unthinking and anti-science prohibitionists, it could mean they will never be able to grasp what being high is all about.

        • DdC says:

          I think it is our duty as patriotic citizens to show them. I may be at odds with prohibitionists but they are technically human. So it is my job to help them shrink their fear centers and treat their clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. For their own good. Put them into a Scythian tapestry dome sweat lodge and place buds onto hot rocks in a cauldron and let the vapors go to work. For the good of the country and mankind. Stone a Prohibitionists!

        • NorCalNative says:

          No need to be sorry. Very interesting and enjoying read.

          A few terms stood out to me: information processing, neural plasticity and learning.

          Neural plasticity is the ability to form new neural connections.

          “The endocannabinoid system is heavily involved in neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity involves the sprouting and pruning of synapses, changes in dendritic spine density and —-changes in neurotransmitter pathways —– It gives rise to all types of adaptive learning including recovering from a stroke, the conscious act of gaining a new skill; the unconscious acquisition of a new emotional response and it could be a pathological process such as central sensitization to pain.”

          “There are multiple mechanisms by which cannabinoids —– modulate neuroplasticity —– including neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons.”

          From Dustin Sulak’s course at The Medical Cannabis Institute on the endocannabinoid system.

          This algebraic topology appears to be a way to visualize or map the workings of the endocannabinoid system within the brain.

          The endocannabinoids ananamide and 2-AG are produced on demand and are short lived. The studies talk about the multi-dimensional aspect as “towers built around a cavity.” They also referred to these multi-dimensional neural structures as “sandcastles,” because they are formed and then quickly disappear.”

          I may be wrong, but my tiny brain sees a connection between this work and the ECS.

    • tensity1 says:

      Yeah, string theory popped into my mind when I saw 11 dimensions.

      Coincidentally I was reading an article today about how neural networks can help describe certain states of quantum entanglement. It’s tangentially related to the Blue Brain article.

    • WalStMonky says:


      I’m making book that Congress will just say no. After all there are only 6 Senators and a handful of Representatives who don’t come from a State which has authorized at least some kind of limited phytocannabinoid medicines.

    • DdC says:

      The link gave me…

      Secure Connection Failed
      An error occurred during a connection to
      Cannot communicate securely with peer: no common encryption algorithm(s).

      (Error code: ssl_error_no_cypher_overlap)

      The page you are trying to view can not be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.

      Please contact the web site owners to inform them of this problem. Alternatively, use the command found in the help menu to report this broken site.

      But its cached,

      i smoked weed three times and ended up in rehab hell Google’s cache

      Another victim to provide statistics to “court order treat” more victims.
      All to “protect” the Cannon Fodder Kids.
      One of the means to an end of perpetuating the Ganjawar. Or…

      Child Protection Racket (raw)

      Sending the messages to the kids that survive the message.

      Collaterally Damaged Kids

      Bo Sesspool and Kephen Sabeteurs of Liberty. Desperately clinging with their tiny dirty fingernails. For the profits of lies. With absolutely no cognizant inkling of a thought to the consequences of their vile draconian acts. The Ghost of the Tricky Dick needs a burnt offering.

      Nixon lied to schedule Ganja #1

  17. NorCalNative says:

    “If we don’t destroy the capitalist system, we’re gonna go extinct.”

    Chris Hedges, in a recent talk in Portland, Oregon.

    Here’s the follow-up to that pretty significant statement.

    “What does that mean?” “It means that all of our utilities, our railroads, our banks are Nationalized.” “It means that taxes are so punitive on the fossil-fuel industry that it’s not profitable for them to take things out of the ground.”

    “It means that the Empire is dismantled and the war machine is reduced to a defensive force that consumes a tiny percentage of our budget.” “It means campaign finance where nobody is allowed to accept money from corporations to run for political office.” “It means a return of justice which will see figures like Lloyd Blankfein and Dick Cheney in some form of punitive.”

    “It means free public education, including at the university level for all.” “It means health care as a human right.” “It means a robust system of broadcasting so voices that are not beholden to the elites, have a platform.” “It means a massive funding of culture and the arts.”

    “And finally, it means an honest examination of the Nation as who we are as white Americans and what we have done, in the same way that after WWII the Germans unlike the Austrians, looked themselves in the face. And until we as white Americans do that, we are as Baldwin said “We are going to perpetuate this House of the Dead.”

    Chris also said that “Evil is actions, but it’s also silence.”

    You’re at the Casino. Put your money on Chris, or capitalism?

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