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The DoJ and Congress are begging each other to reform marijuana laws. So why hasn’t either budged?

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Good question. Eric Holder, as Attorney General, could move marijuana out of the Schedule I category (more dangerous than cocaine!!) today, but he doesn’t. Why not? Or, perhaps more important, why does Holder give a pass to the banks that break the law? He knows that JP Morgan committed fraud, but he lets them off the hook with a fine (a large portion of which will be paid by taxpayers and victims) and keeps secret the damning evidence that JP Morgan knew quite well that it was committing fraud and in fact had been informed of that by one of its own lawyers/analysts (who was quickly fired).

That actually provides a clue: Eric Holder really doesn’t seem to care much about the law, but he’s very concerned about getting a cushy job when he leaves the government, so he doesn’t want to annoy the fat cats. But regular people? He doesn’t care.

Christopher Ingraham asks the question of the title in the Washington Post:

The crowning inconsistency of the federal drug control system has always been the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, which makes it among the Worst of the Worst drugs as far as the DEA is concerned — literally as bad as heroin, and worse than cocaine! Drug reform advocates have pushed the DEA to change its position for years, citing decades of research on the relative harmlessness of weed compared to other drugs — including alcohol — but the agency hasn’t budged, even as public opinion has rapidly evolved.

The Controlled Substances Act, which set up the drug schedules in the early 1970s, explicitly places drug scheduling authority in the hands of the attorney general, and even instructs him or her to “remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.”

Much to the chagrin and outright befuddlement of drug law reformers, however, outgoing attorney general Eric Holder has repeatedly stated that any changes to the scheduling status of marijuana should be made by Congress.

In an interview with the just-launched Marshall Project, a non-profit news outfit covering criminal justice issues, he said, “I think the question of how these drugs get scheduled and how they are ultimately treated is something for Congress to work on.” This echoes remarks he made in a September interview with Katie Couric, when he said that federal marijuana decriminalization was something for Congress to decide.

As Firedoglake’s Jon Walker noted yesterday, it’s strange that Holder is trying to punt this issue to Congress while the Obama administration is testing the limits of executive authority elsewhere: “It is just mind boggling that while the Obama administration is looking at ways to stretch their legal authority to use executive actions to get around Congress on issues, like the environment and immigration, they would still refuse to move forward on the one issue where they are so explicitly given the power to act under current law,” Walker writes.

The DEA had no problem acting unilaterally to move hydrocodone products up from Schedule III to Schedule II earlier this year. It alsoadded the previously-unscheduled synthetic opiate tramadol to the drug schedule. So Holder’s conspicuous deference to Congress on marijuana is puzzling. . .

Continue reading.

It’s hard to develop much respect for Eric Holder.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 10:48 am

Why Marijuana Legalization Is Winning

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Interesting article by Maia Szalavitz at (an interesting site in itself):

When I first started writing about drugs in the mid-’80s—before I got into recovery in 1988—it was almost impossible to imagine an America where four states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana use, 58% of Florida midterm voters just cast their ballots in favor of legalizing medical use (the measure needed 60% to pass), and California passed a ballot initiative to lowerdrug and other nonviolent crime sentences. (Nineteen other states have legalized medical marijuana.)

The magnitude of the change is hard to understand without knowing a bit of recent history—and if we are going to continue to move toward rational drug policy, knowing where we’ve been and how it has changed is critical. I offer this perspective through the lens of my own experience covering the drug war for nearly 30 years.

My first national column was called, embarrassingly enough, “Piss Patrol.” I was assigned by High Times to write about corporate urine testing policies, starting around 1987, presumably as a service to stoned readers who were considering their employment options.

Over the next few years, the media would spill so much ink and airtime demonizing crack cocaine that by 1989, 64% of people polled by CBS News said that drugs were the country’s biggest problem—and Republicans and Democrats began tripping over one another to race to pass the harshest possible drug sentencing laws.

High Times itself was targeted by the DEA with frequent demands for its list of subscribers and raids on all of its biggest advertisers of growing supplies, nearly forcing the magazine to close.

Testifying before Congress, LAPD chief Daryl Gates said that casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot,” [dare I say this is a stereotypical police attitude: the police in general seem to hate the Constitution - LG] and the DARE drug prevention program he founded saw nothing ominous in encouraging kids to turn their parents in to the police if they used drugs. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall warned in a prescient 1989 dissent in a urine testing case that “there is no drug exception to the Constitution,” although Congress and the rest of the legal establishment apparently begged to differ.

Even today, police can confiscate cash and property they suspect to be involved in drug crimes, without convicting the owners and with virtual impunity. The surveillance revelations about the NSA’s spying on American citizens include cases where that agency has shared information with the DEA that was gathered from phones and computers without a warrant. In fact, the DEA has an official policy of basically lying to defense attorneys—and sometimes even prosecutors and judges—about the source of this data.

Yet even before the rage to pass tough drug laws took off in the 1980s, law enforcement efforts like mandatory minimum sentences were known to be ineffective. The federal government had quietly overturned one set of mandatory drug sentences in the late ‘60s—since they had clearly failed to prevent the late ‘60s.

And New York City would never have been one of the capitals of crack if the 15-to-life “Rockefeller law” mandatory sentences for selling even powder cocaine, which had been in place here since the mid-‘70s, actually suppressed drug use.

As is clear from this brief summary, for most of my adult life, the idea of a rational drug policy seemed literally to be a pipe dream (a term, by the way, from opium dens). So how did we go, in just a few years, from seeing drug users as demon enemies in a war who must be locked up to having the drug czar drop the military language and even speak at last month’s National Harm Reduction Conference in Baltimore?

Many factors are clearly playing a role. Two of the most obvious are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2014 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Drug laws

The dirty deals made by the Reagan administration

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Giving arms to Iran (then as now a US foe) in exchange for hostages, smuggling drugs to get money to (illegally) fund the Contras in Nicaragua—it was a heady time for the GOP until it fell apart.

This article discusses the hip-hop take on the activity, but the comments are more interesting than the article, at least for someone who is ignorant of hip-hop. For example:

I read an interesting review recently in The LA Times on the new movie, “Kill The Messenger”, with great interest, as it reminded me of a young man I met back in the late 1990′s who was a neighbor of mine (I used to take care of his dog while he was out of town, which always creates strong bonds with their owners). I knew he had been a Navy Seal who had abruptly chosen to leave the service and one evening over beers I asked him why he left.

The story I was told in answer to my casual question could have been the subject of a movie like “Messenger”. He said that he had been assigned as a machine gunner on a navy helicopter which flew a mission in Columbia to pick up a large load of cocaine from a local drug cartel. When the crew landed to unload the coke the officer in charge at the scene was none other than the infamous Oliver North, whom he described as an overly officious and unpleasant fellow.

The story takes a surreal turn when the man telling me the story describes how he and another member of the helicopter crew stashed a few packages of the cocaine cargo for themselves to later attempt to sell in nearby Miami, figuring this was going to be their big retirement fund opportunity. Not being very sophisticated drug dealers they quickly got caught by local drug enforcement cops, whereupon they advised during interrogation back at the police station that a call be made to their military commanders to inform them of what was going on.

What happened after that was a predictably classic cover-up. The military sent personnel to pick the boys up and no criminal charges were made against them, the matter being treated officially as never having happened at all. The two miscreants were then brought before Oliver North, who was understandably furious at them for stealing part of his drug stash, and issued all sorts of all sorts of threats as to reprisals. The two errant Seals, knowing exactly that North’s plans were to use the coke to raise money for the Contras in Nicaragua, responded by laughing in his face and daring him to do anything to formally discipline them, which would necessarily have brought his nefarious drug scheme out into the open.

Col. North, of course, had to let the incident go unpunished, however he told them that their best course was to request an honorable discharge ASAP from the military, as he would see to it that their futures in the navy were not going to be pleasant. So that’s how my friend came to retire to civilian life.

I’m anxious to see the new movie, “Shoot The Messenger”, so that I’ll be able to connect some of the dots of my former friend’s story to see how it related to The Big Picture.

And this one, with a lot of links:

Gary Webb  wrote/nailed this story dead on the head through his “Dark Alliance series back in the mid 90′s.  He correctly claimed (about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking into the US) written for the San Jose Mercury News and later published as a book. In the three-part series, Webb investigated Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras who had smuggled cocaine into the U.S. Their smuggled cocaine was distributed as crack cocaine in Los Angeles, with the profits funneled back to the Contras. Webb also alleged that this influx of Nicaraguan-supplied cocaine sparked, and significantly fueled, the widespread crack cocaine epidemic that swept through many U.S. cities during the 1980s. According to Webb, the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of drugs into the U.S. by Contra personnel. Webb charged that the Reagan administration shielded inner-city drug dealers from prosecution in order to raise money for the Contras, especially after Congress passed the Boland Amendment, which prohibited direct Contra funding.

Investigative reporting at a level seldom seen these days and for his troubles he was generally besmirched by the NY Times, LA Times and even his employer, the San Jose Mercury.  He was fired, black balled  and ultimately took his own life in 2004.

Clearly not a good idea to pull on a Conservative icon’s cape apparently…

It is however great to see Mr. Webb’s work gaining some vindication of late and the former  alleged sainthood of Reagan showing more than a few chinks in the armour…

More to come I’m sure…

And one more:

I am a former CBC TV investigative reporter. I have seen documentation (from a book proposal by a former WaPo bureau chief, now dead, for Little, Brown c1992) was clear enough that (had I pitched it) we could’ve gotten to air (meaning litigation-proof) that places VP GHW Bush in an office in the White House basement, running Iran-Contra’s cocaine trade. 

Bob Parry did indeed land this story and was lucky enough—unlike Gary Webb—not to have been incinerated by a cabal of his peers when he had the story. For more on this, read Russ Baker’s masterful BUSH FAMILY SECRETS. It’s an anatomy of US power politics like few others.

As for serving military personnel co-opted into USG crimes (like the SEAL mentioned in the Oliver North story below), here’s one I know is true: I’ve seen the videos of the men whose lives were ruined (vanished from Pentagon pension lists, for one) by their adventurousness.

Both were involved in the movement of gold on a USAF base in the American southwest, got drunk, and liberated not just a few gold bars but the story itself…which was that German looted gold had been smuggled into the US with seal crates of Nazi weapons systems, marked TOP SECRET. These guys weren’t just ruined: they were *disappeared*. Un-people.

Back to Reagan: he may well have been a figurehead while Bush Sr ran the joint (after having deep-sixed the real CIA horror stories after Helms/Church Committee hearings). Perhaps his conscience was as damaged as his concsciousness, perhaps a good thing given the US horror stemming from the cocaine trade and the maybe million Iraqi dead….but who’s counting?

LBJ was in a whole different universe for sheer corruption. (Even his circumspect biographer Robert Caro admits as much.) And yes, the base from where these gold stories emanate  were built while LBJ was the senator (the biggest crook in Congressional history) *in charge of investigating Pentagon corruption* as well as personally being a wholly owned subsidiary himself of KBR, the military construction giant known today as (ta da) Halliburton.

These are the kind of stories that bubble up—after having been covered up—when average folks come to realize the empire (never mind the emperor) has no clothes.

I find it totally credible that such a stew of unsavory and illegal and wrong-headed activity was going on when Reagan was president, because Reagan was (quite famously) contemptuous of government and government initiatives. Since he believed the government is no good, he (and his people) doubtless thought that they were acting as governments always act: dishonestly and secretively.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2014 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Government

Incidence of marijuana poisoning miniscule compared to other substances

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From this article by Chritopher Ingraham, which begins:

The most politically potent arguments against marijuana legalization have focused on the effects of looser marijuana laws on teens and children. Opponents say that legalization will lead to increased use among teens (so far it hasn’t), and recite the drug war mantra that it will “send the wrong message” (if so, it appears that kids aren’t listening).

Colorado’s market for edible marijuana products – pot-infused baked goods, candies, beverages and the like – has been a particular area of concern. The accidental ingestion of edibles by kids has received a huge amount of media attention. One widely-reported study found that the number of kids under 12 who were admitted to the E.R. for accidental pot ingestion in Colorado jumped from zero to 14 after the state liberalized medical marijuana laws in October 2009. More recently, the Denver Post reported on a “surge in kids” accidentally eating pot from 2013 to 2014.

Stories like these are a big part of the push for tougher packaging requirements on Colorado’s edibles, the Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported this weekend. The Colorado Health Department is planning to recommend that new edible projects are subject to “pre-market approval” by a new commission. Previously, the department had recommended a total ban on the sale of edible products, only to hastily withdraw the proposal shortly after it was made public.

According to the AP, the department wrote that it “remains concerned that there are products on the market that so closely resemble children’s candy that it can entice children to experiment with marijuana.” These concerns are understandable, but they’re blown far out of proportion to the actual numbers.

Marijuana baked goods have been around for nearly as long as marijuana. And marijuana candy has been around for well over a decade, at least. And regardless of the delivery method – whether via edibles or smokes – cases of children being unintentionally exposed to marijuana are vanishingly rare.

Let’s zoom out to the national picture to take a look. The American Association of Poison Control Centers maintains the National Poison Data System, a near-realtime database of literally every call made to a poison control center in the U.S. Their most recent annual report, reflecting data from 2012, allows us to see the number of reported poisoning cases for marijuana, and to compare this to other common drugs and household substances, including over the counter painkillers, diaper creams, and contact lens fluid. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2014 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Very tough column on the situation in Mexico

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Really worth reading.

It should be noted that the whole thing is a direct consequence of the War on Drugs. We created the market (the demand) and the market conditions (illegal = high markup) and so the drug cartels grew in power and wealth. That’s what the War on Drugs did. And not a single shred of science in it: totally a political move against Mexicans and Latinos—cf. the Zoot Suit Riots. So a vote against marijuana was a vote against Them.

That’s really not a good way to make policy—or at least policy that works instead of fails utterly.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2014 at 4:14 pm

How TV helped change attitudes about marijuana

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Interesting article in WaPo by Michael Tesler on how sanity began to enter the discussion of marijuana:

My favorite TV show as a kid, “Beverly Hills, 90210,” offers an informative glimpse into just how much of prime-time television’s portrayals of marijuana have changed in only a short period of time. Marijuana was overwhelmingly portrayed in a negative light throughout the teen drama’s 10 years on TV (1990-2000). So much so that cannabis immediately served as the gateway drug to a peripheral character’s heroin overdose death in 1997.

The 21st-century remake of “90210″ dealt with marijuana use much differently during its 2008-2013 run, though. In fact, marijuana was downright cool on the reincarnated “90210.” The young/hip/brilliant high school teacher smoked it every day back in college; the parents mistakenly ate pot brownies, with good-natured hijinks naturally ensuing; and young love even blossomed at the medical-marijuana dispensary.

The evolution of marijuana depictions from the old to the new “90210″ is a microcosm of the growing normalization of weed on TV. The Atlantic documented these changes in an article aptly titled, “How TV Fell in Love with Marijuana.” But others have decried them. The socially conservative Parents Television Council concluded its 2008 analysis, “Prime Time Goes to Pot,” by lamenting the fact that “prime-time television has joined the growing enthusiasm for portraying marijuana use as harmless and even beneficial”

Television’s new love affair with marijuana, of course, coincides with aremarkable increase in support for legalization over the past 15 years. Recent polls by Gallup, Pew and YouGov found a majority of Americans now favor legal recreational use — up more than 20 percentage points since the late 1990s. Moreover, on Election Day, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., joined Colorado and Washington state in voting to legalize marijuana for recreational use. This growing support, however, naturally raises the chicken-or-egg question of whether TV is portraying pot more positively because of growing public support or if those benign depictions are liberalizing attitudes about legalization.

Fortunately, data from the General Social Survey (GSS) helps shed some light on that question. . .

Continue reading.

And the comments to that article are interesting—pointing out, for example, the impact of the Internet as a source of information and a hospitable venue for arguments more complex than can be done on TV—and with the ability to link to supporting studies. And the Mormons seemed to have recognized the Internet’s influence as well: see next post.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 November 2014 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws, Media

How the drug war blocked research into a promising experimental PTSD therapy​: ecstasy

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The War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster: it has cost trillions over the years, it’s had little effect on the availability of drugs, it has corrupted law enforcement agencies over and over (cf. Serpico), it has created incredibly wealthy criminal cartels, it has caused the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions, it has wrecked the lives of people sent to prison, often for trivial and even harmless offenses.

And it has prevented research into drugs that could be genuinely helpful to many, as Max Ehrenfreund reports in the Washington Post:

Since 2001, 364,000 veterans have received treatment for possible post-traumatic stress disorder. Some researchers believe the vets could benefit from a drug called MDMA. For 30 years, the federal government has blocked research into MDMA because it is the active ingredient in ecstasy, better known as the party drug that fuels raves.

“When it comes to the health and well-being of those who serve, we should leave our politics at the door and not be afraid to follow the data,” Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, a retired Army psychiatrist, told The New York Times. “There’s now an evidence base for this MDMA therapy and a plausible story about what may be going on in the brain to account for the effects.”

Ecstasy first became popular among psychiatrists as a therapeutic tool after the Vietnam War. The drug, they found, made people more trusting and gave them the courage to talk about their pasts. They called it “penicillin for the soul.” Yet no real research had been conducted on the drug. In 1985, the Reagan administration placed MDMA on Schedule I, declaring it an illicit substance without medical value despite the objections of an administrative law judge.

Since then, researchers have had a difficult time getting MDMA for use in clinical trials, and federal grants have been hard to come by as well. A not-for-profit organization in Santa Cruz, Calif. appears to be the only source of funding for studies right now. “Ecstasy is an illegal drug,” a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs told the Los Angeles Times. The V.A. “would not involve veterans in the use of such substances.”

Meanwhile, some veterans have been seeking out the drug on their own, desperate for relief from the psychological burdens of coming back from war. In a given year, 11 percent to 20 percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan experience PTSD, which can produce debilitating systems difficult to fully relieve.

One study, especially approved by the Food and Drug Administration and published in 2011, found that five out of six victims of PTSD were cured after receiving the drug before two sessions with therapists, compared to only a quarter of those who sat through the treatment sessions after taking a placebo. There were no serious side effects. . .

Continue reading. And that’s the drug that doctors are not allowed to use. The US is more interested in jailing people than in helping them.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 November 2014 at 1:21 pm


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