Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
Cato Institute study finds that marijuana legalization so far has no effect on traffic accidents, crime, or overall drug use
Legalizing marijuana seems more and more like an equally big event in Oklahoma:
On April 7, 1959, Oklahomans went to the polls and contradicted Will Rogers’s adage that they would vote “dry as long as they could stagger to the polls.” They repealed prohibition and turned back local option.
I happened to be in my small hometown in Oklahoma on the day in the summer of 1959 when the first legal liquor sales occurred. People were nervous—some expect carloads of drunken townspeople to drive recklessly through town, possibly shooting out streetlights and store windows. It was a hot, still day—and nothing happened. Nada. There were a few cars at the liquor store, but no reckless driving, no shooting, no shouting.
The fact was that people who wanted alcohol already had good access to it through a network of bootleggers and corrupt sheriffs. Each time the vote came up on whether to legalize liquor, this group (which made its money from selling illegal liquor) would go into partnership with Baptists, Methodists, and other others of the “dry” (teetotaler) persuasion to defeat legalizing alcohol.
So when it was finally made legal, the main changes were that people under 18 could no longer buy it (the stores checked IDs carefully), and the state got tax revenue from the sale for the first time.
That seems to be what’s going on here. From Radley Balko’s afternoon links:
Cato study finds that when it comes to traffic accidents, crime and overall drug use, thus far pot legalization in marijuana hasn’t had a noticeable effect either way.
Here’s the Executive Summary of the Cato paper:
An understatement, I’d say. Perhaps the US will start moving a little more quickly to dismantle the wreckage of the war on drugs. Ian Millhiser reports at ThinkProgress:
An opinion signed by three appellate judges, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, criticized a federal trial judge for returning a man to prison because of his marijuana use. As Judge Richard Posner’s opinion for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted, there was no indication that the man “deals, or has ever dealt, in marijuana or any illegal drug.” His previous employers said that they were “impressed by his work ethic and would be glad to hire him back after he was released from prison.” Nevertheless, federal district Judge Sara Darrow sentenced him to 15 months in prison for marijuana use and for “violat[ing] rules of the halfway house where he lived for a time after completion of his prison sentence.”
Judge Posner responded to this sentence with a blunt critique: “we have our doubts that imprisonment is an appropriate treatment for a marijuana habit.”
The facts of this case are tragic, and Posner responds to them with a somewhat unusual opinion. The defendant, Jesse Smith, grew up in a broken home. His father was imprisoned for murder, and his mother used crack cocaine. By age 18, he had a criminal record that included burglary and fighting with cops. Not long thereafter, he was sentenced to two years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Yet, as Posner’s opinion notes, Smith’s “criminal career, except for continued use of marijuana, ended five years ago.” During the time Smith spent out of prison, he worked for a living and earned solid reviews from his employers. Smith “had a bank account and actually paid his bills.” He also has three children.
Nevertheless, . . .
Continue reading. There’s a twist: Before Darrow became a judge, she was a prosecutor who prosecuted Smith on a related case. She should have recused herself, but obviously bears some sort of grudge against Smith.
Stanton Peele has an interesting article in Pacific Standard:
Drug use was never considered to be in a special category of human experience until we medicalized addiction—and that idea has been disastrous. Drugs are now returning to their life-sized status as part of the range of normal human behaviors. And they are ubiquitous. Realism about drugs and addiction must dictate drug policy.
HOW WE DISCOVERED, THEN REJECTED, ADDICTION
There is a myth that narcotics cause addiction, a myth created early in the 20th century. Yet both Americans and Brits used copious amounts of opiates in the 19th century—think laudanum, a tinctured opiate, given lavishly to infants and children—without any thought that they caused addiction.
How was it that people so familiar with the use of opiates were so unfamiliar with addiction to them? According to social historian Virginia Berridge, in Opium and the People, despite the liberal dosing of much of the British population with opium and then morphine, “There is little evidence that there were large numbers of morphine addicts in the late nineteenth century.”
But then, at the turn of the century, we made the brilliant discovery that narcotics caused a unique, irresistible, pathologic medical syndrome. As Berridge says: “Morphine use and the problem, as medically defined, of hypodermic self-administration were closely connected with the medical elaboration of a disease view of addiction.”
And so, by the 1960s, when many drugs burst on to the American scene, pharmacologists constructed lists of drugs and their dangers. These lists had two columns—drugs that cause addiction (or physical dependence), and those that merely cause psychological (“psychic”) dependence: . . .
$7.6 billion dollars bought us that little dip toward the right. It’s like pushing a beach ball under the water: as soon as the pressure’s release (the money stops flowing), the ball bounces right back to the surface. We would be well ahead to deflate the damn ball if we want to keep it underwater: legals drugs (all of them), regulate (and tax) their sale, and deal with addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal problem. But that makes sense, and politicians and governments are strongly resistant to things that make sense. Their attention is focused on big donors and lobbyists, and they seem to pay little attention to anything else..
The graph is from a very good article by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post:
The U.S. government wasted $7.6 billion on an ill-conceived drug war in Afghanistan that was doomed to failure from the start, according to ascathing new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The Afghan opium poppy crop, providing the raw material for the bulk of the world’s heroin supply, reached record levels in 2013 and is likely to climb even higher this year, the report finds.
“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability” of the past decade of counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko concludes. “Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counter-narcotics efforts when planning future initiatives.”
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown, who has written extensively about the relationship between drug economies and military conflict, is not at all surprised by the findings. “A lot of these programs were counterproductive,” she told me, “and more importantly did not really address the structural drivers of [poppy] cultivation.”
At its root, the Afghan poppy trade is just a symptom of a much broader problem: Afghanistan is “an extremely weak state with an extremely weak economy, and huge insecurity,” Felbab-Brown said. Given the uncertainties, many Afghan farmers turn to poppy because they know they can turn a profit off it.
Until Obama took office, most U.S. anti-drug efforts were focused onunsustainable crop eradication efforts. Starting in 2009, U.S. policies focused more on economic development and the structural drivers of poppy cultivation, but Felbab-Brown says the implementation of these programs has been deeply flawed. . . .
We piss away money on things like this, shoveling sand against the surf, letting our government services—parks, our public educational system (elementary, secondary, and higher ed), public hospitals and so on—gradually collapse.
Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:
The first is from Anthony Fischer at Reason.tv. It includes just about every drug war excess imaginable, including a militarized police raid for a nonviolent crime, vaguely written drug laws, prosecutorial misconduct, the coercive use of bond, abuse of conspiracy charges, abuse of the plea bargain and the intimidation of media and witnesses to duck transparency.
The second video is from the conservative criminal justice reform group Right on Crime. It’s about prosecutorial discretion and the criminalization of environmental law. The couple in the video were forbidden from building on a parcel of land they had purchased when, after they had purchased it, it was designated a “wetland,” apparently because a backed-up drainage system had caused some standing water . . .
You know, regarding the first video, I’ve seen police aggression exactly like this in movies, but generally it’s Cold War East German movies, or Soviet-spy thrillers set in Moscow: such police actions and tactics were viewed as a sign of a bad government, a government that was starting to oppress its citizens. It’s a pretty familiar pattern, and I’m sorry to see it underway in the US.
Another example, from a NY Times article by Jim Dwyer today:
. . . When Bill de Blasio was running for mayor last year, he noted that marijuana arrests, which fall most heavily on black and Latino males, “have disastrous consequences,” and pledged to curtail the practice of ratcheting up what should be a minor violation of the law into a misdemeanor.
This week, a report showed that such arrests were continuing at about the same pace as last year; the de Blasio mayoralty had not appreciably changed the number of such cases. The Legal Aid Society has a roster of clients across the city who face misdemeanor charges for possession of minuscule amounts of pot because, it was charged, they were “openly displaying” it. About 75 percent of those charged had no prior criminal convictions, and more than 80 percent were black or Latino, according to the report, from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. . .
Think about it: the NYPD no longer heeds the mayor. The NYPD is an independent entity with no controlling authority—well, no authority that can in fact exert control.
Police departments in this country are starting to seem like military emplacements to control the citizenry—at least in places (cf. Ferguson MO).
And the above raid was done with the support and participation of Federal law enforcement. It’s a little too Kristallnachtish for my taste. If you say, “Well, that’s only one case” (or three, depending on how you count), I would point out that each case is only one case—and moreover, don’t we want to take vigorous action to nip this kind of police work in the bud?
Ryan Devereaux reports in The Intercept:
A new report has found the war on drugs in Afghanistan remains colossally expensive, largely ineffective and likely to get worse. This is particularly true in the case of opium production, says the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
In a damning report released Tuesday, the special inspector general, Justin F. Sopko, writes that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013,” hitting 209,000 hectares, surpassing the prior, 2007 peak of 193,000 hectares. Sopko adds that the number should continue to rise thanks to deteriorating security in rural Afghanistan and weak eradication efforts.
Though the figures it reports are jarring, the inspector general’s investigation highlights drug policy failures in Afghanistan that have been consistently documented for years. Indeed, Sopko himself has been raising concerns over the failing drug war in Afghanistan for some time. In January, he testified before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and described a series of discouraging conversations with counternarcotics officials from Afghanistan, the U.S., and elsewhere.
“In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,”Sopko told the lawmakers. “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last 12 years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”
While many of the numbers included in the inspector general’s investigation have been made public before, the report . . .
Mother Jones has an excellent article on this: We Spent $7.6 Billion to Crush the Afghan Opium Trade—and It’s Doing Better Than Ever
The NY Times has a report on Afghanistan as a narco-state.
Here’s an ABC News report. All those billions of dollars, totally pissed away to no purpose.
I earlier blogged the review of a new book on Afghanistan.
Very interesting article by Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post:
No pressure, Colorado and Washington, but the world is scrutinizing your every move.
That was the take-home message of an event today at the Brookings Institution, discussing the international impact of the move toward marijuana legalization at the state-level in the U.S. Laws passed in Colorado and Washington, with other states presumably to come, create a tension with the U.S. obligations toward three major international treaties governing drug control. Historically the U.S. has been a strong advocate of all three conventions, which “commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to recreational marijuana,” according to Brookings’ Wells Bennet.
The U.S. response to this tension has thus far been to call for more “flexibility” in how countries interpret them. This policy was made explicit in recent remarks by Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, who last week at the United Nations said that “we have to be tolerant of different countries, in response to their own national circumstances and conditions, exploring and using different national drug control policies.” He went on: “How could I, a representative of the Government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”
As far as policy stances go this is an aggressively pragmatic solution. . .
Continue reading. Certainly a change of tune after the verbal abuse the US has heaped on other countries that dared to liberalize their drug laws in the light of the obvious failure of the US approach.