Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
That was certainly Timothy Leary’s hope: he was convinced that LSD trips with good guidance could significantly reduce recidivism, and he did indeed drop acid with imprisoned convicts. He confided to one, while they were tripping, that he was somewhat fearful, and the convicted laughed. “Hell, I’m terrified, in here with this crazy doctor and I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
I actually met Leary at a party held at Trip Hawkins house. Hawkins was then the CEO of Electronic Arts and I was working on a program (never published), so was at the party. I also met at the same party Thomas Disch, the science-fiction writer. Disch really wanted to meet Leary, but seemed a bit shy, so I took him over and introduced them. Leary knew Disch’s work and had been impressed, so it was sort of interesting to see the two, each impressed by the other and a little in awe, start to converse.
But to the issue: Joshua Rapp Learn writes in Motherboard:
That’s the implication of a new study, which found that 42 percent of US inmates whohadn’t taken psychedelic drugs before doing time were arrested within six years of their release for domestic battery—compared to 27 percent of those who had taken drugs like acid, mushrooms and ecstasy.
It’s a small, observational study, and a lot more research is needed. Even so, “it adds to growing evidence that these substances may have positive effects,” Zachary Walsh told me. Walsh is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, and the lead author of the study in The Journal of Psychopharmacology.
He and his coauthors interviewed 302 adult inmates at a county jail in Illinois. All of them had a history of substance disorders, and 72 percent had past histories of violent crime (though not necessarily domestic violence). After they were released from jail, these researchers monitored the men through FBI records and other sources for an average of six years, checking for any domestic violence arrests.
Most of the men—about 56 percent—had tried hallucinogens before, while another 13 percent had a disorder relating to psychedelic drugs, according to Walsh. Most had used “classic psychedelics” like LSD, magic mushrooms and to a lesser extent mescaline and DMT. This study was initiated in the early 2000s, and the date may be a sign of the times: only 45 percent had tried what researchers classified as “a-typical,” or less common, psychedelics, including ecstasy, special k (ketamine) and angel dust (PCP).
“Maybe there are some personal health benefits to these substances,” Walsh said.
The reason why the inmates who have tried hallucinogens tended less towards domestic violence than other drug users is difficult to say based on these results, but Walsh said that it may have to do with the nature of the experiences the drugs afford.
“The experiences of unity, positivity, and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may be particularly beneficial to groups that are frequently marginalized and isolated, such as the incarcerated men who participated in this study,” he explained in a release.
He also says . . .
As I recall, Leary found that using LSD reduced recidivism by about 40%. Taking the drug seemed to relax the rigidity of outlooks and assumptions, allowing one to find a new and less unpleasant mindset.
Ryan Devereaux reports in The Intercept of what is becoming a horror story:
Fouteen months after they arrived to investigate the disappearance of 43 college students, a panel of international experts is leaving Mexico, their case unsolved. Appearing at a press conference in Mexico City on Sunday, members of the independent panel, appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, described a case tainted by government torture and deep prosecutorial mishandling.
Of more than 120 suspects arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance, 17 showed signs of torture, the panel reported. Of those allegedly tortured, five were key to the government’s account of the students’ fate, the experts said. The case has been riddled with media reports of suspects tortured into making confessions, and the words of Patricio Reyes Landa, whose testimony was made public in the report, offers a jarring description of the alleged abuse. Landa, a central suspect in the crimes whose confession was aired in nationally televised press conferences, said the description of his capture was a “lie.”
“They went into the house, beating and kicking,” Landa said. “They hauled me aboard a vehicle, they blindfolded me, tied my feet and hands, they began beating me again and gave me electric shocks, they put a rag over my nose and poured water on it. They gave me shocks on the inside of my mouth and my testicles. They put a bag over my face so I couldn’t breathe. It went on for hours.”
While the allegations of torture could thwart potential prosecutions in the case, they do little to explain what happened to the students. For that, the panel would need access to officials and evidence that it did not receive. The lack of access, the panel indicated, did not appear to be accidental. “The investigation had difficulties that are not attributable exclusively to the simple complexity of a case of this magnitude,” the report said.
From the outset, the Mexican government’s account of what happened on the night of September 26, 2014, has been the subject of withering criticism. According to the official story — once described by Mexico’s former attorney general as “the historical truth” — the students were intercepted by municipal police while attempting to commandeer buses in the city of Iguala, some three hours south of Mexico City. The students were then handed over to a local drug gang who drove them to a garbage pit where they were murdered and incinerated in a massive, makeshift funeral pyre, the government has contended.
As the initial details of the violence trickled out, the nation recoiled in horror. The students came from deeply impoverished backgrounds. Their school — officially known as Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos but better known as Aytozinapa — is a training college for aspiring teachers. The vast majority of the students attacked that night were freshmen who had little idea what they were getting into when they left campus. Not only were scores of unarmed students disappeared, but six people, a mix of students and bystanders, were killed in the process of their capture. One of the student victims was found beaten and bruised in the street; his assailants cut his face off. Within weeks, anger over the crimes led to fiery protests that soon spread across the country.
In May, The Intercept published a series of articles about the students’ disappearance, based on six months of investigation and more than two dozen interviews, including conversations with survivors of the attacks, as well as a review of state and federal records, including communications reports by Mexican security forces and sealed statements from municipal police officers and alleged gang members who were detained in the wake of the crimes. The Intercept found major inconsistencies in the government’s story. Rather than a local crime committed by municipal officials and their gangster accomplices, ample evidence, including the government’s own records, pointed to a wider circle of responsibility and a clear-cut case of enforced disappearance — a crime against humanity under international law.
Speaking at the press conference in Mexico City this weekend, members of the panel reiterated, for the second time, the core conclusions of investigative articles published by The Intercept and other news outlets. In a rebuke of the government’s narrative of a limited, local operation, the panel reported that it had uncovered new evidence of wider federal police involvement in the night’s events. Regarding the assertion that the students were collectively incinerated, the experts repeated their long-held position that this was not the case. “[The panel] has not a single piece of evidence to change its conclusion that the 43 students were not incinerated,” Francisco Cox, a Chilean member of the team, said.
The panel’s first report was published in September of last year. The 560-page document meticulously deconstructed the government’s account and presented the events that night for what they were: a hyper-violent, coordinated, multi-pronged ambush of unarmed civilians at multiple locations resulting in at least six people dead, 40 injured, and 43 disappeared, carried out with full knowledge, if not outright participation, of security forces at all levels, including federal police and the military.
The experts had come to Mexico at the government’s invitation. With the authority to conduct an independent investigation and promises that the state would aid in making the necessary evidence and witnesses available, their presence offered a glimmer of hope that the most shocking crime in recent Mexican history might actually get solved. That hope sooncrumbled though.
Following their first report, the experts’ relationship to the government turned cold, according to an account members of the panel provided to theNew York Times. The government refused to make key interviews possible, including interviews with members of the military potentially present on the night of the students’ disappearance. Meanwhile, the experts themselves were attacked in media outlets close to the state, and an individual who appointed them became the target of a dubious criminal inquiry. Despite a sense that their job was not done, the experts were not offered an extension of their mandate. They are expected to leave Mexico in the coming days.
The search for the students has turned up scores of clandestine graves in the southern state of Guerrero, where the attack took place. To date, the remains of just one of the young men, 21-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, has been positively identified. Exactly where his remains were found is deeply contested. The Intercept met Mora’s father, Ezequiel, on a rainy night on the Ayotzinapa campus. He was taking shelter beneath an awning. Violence, intimidation, disappearances — that’s how the government does business, Ezequiel explained. “It is their policy,” he said. “It is a narco-government. It is not a government that is for its people.” . . .
David Downs writes in Scientific American:
Speculation is growing about the possibility that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will review by summer its “Schedule I” designation of marijuana as equal to heroin among the world’s most dangerous drugs. Very few Americans know of or understand the DEA’s drug-ranking process, and a review of cannabis’s history as a Schedule I drug shows that the label is highly controversial and dubious.
Disgraced Attorney General John Mitchell of the Nixon administration placed marijuana in this category in 1972 as part of the ranking or “scheduling” of all drugs under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Cannabis has been there ever since. “As of today, marijuana has never been determined to be medicine,” says Russ Baer, staff coordinator in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at the DEA. “There’s no safe, effective medical use, and a high abuse potential, and it can’t be used in medical settings.” This determination has come to be insulated by a byzantine, Kafkaesque bureaucratic process now impervious to the opinion of the majority of U.S. doctors—and to a vast body of scientific knowledge—many experts say.
“Of course cannabis has medical uses,” says University of California, San Francisco integrative oncologist Donald Abrams, one of the few researchers who have been able to obtain extremely limited, government-approved supplies of research cannabis for human trials. “It’s pretty clear from anthropological and archaeological evidence that cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years—and it was a medicine in the U.S. until 1942,” Abrams adds. “I’m an oncologist and I say all the time, not a day goes by when I’m not recommending cannabis to patients for nausea, loss of appetite, pains, insomnia and depression—it works.”
Marijuana’s placement in Schedule I did not happen in a vacuum, historians note. Overt racism, combined with New Deal reforms and bureaucratic self-interest are often blamed for the first round of federal cannabis prohibition under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which restricted possession to those who paid a steep tax for a limited set of medical and industrial applications. (Cannabis was removed from the official U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1942.) “In segregated America newspapers were saying, ‘this stuff makes white women and black men have sex,’” notes historian Martin Lee, author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana.
The American Medical Association initially opposed prohibition. Cannabis was medically useful, says William Woodward, association counsel. “Congress being what it was at the time, you could ram things through just by bullshitting,” Lee adds. “Who’s going to be stepping up to the plate [in 1937] to defend a drug that blacks, Latinos and jazz musicians use?”
The Tax Act passed amid New Deal reforms, and the first marijuana peddlers were arrested and jailed that year. Science reared its head within a decade, though. In 1944 the La Guardia Committee report from the New York Academy of Medicine was the first in a long line of official bodies to question the prohibition. The committee found marijuana not physically addictive, not a gateway drug and that it did not lead to crime. But Harry Anslinger, head of the then–Federal Bureau of Narcotics, labeled the report unscientific and prohibition rolled on. “Every 10 years since then—although we’re a bit off schedule—some august governing body has reviewed the data and come up with the same finding [against prohibition],” Abrams says.
The Tax Act’s mode of federal cannabis prohibition became illegal in 1969 with the case Leary v. United States, which found that purchasing a marijuana tax stamp amounted to self-incrimination. The verdict spurred Congress to repeal the Tax Act and replace it with the more comprehensive Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Marijuana was placed in Schedule I in 1971 provisionally, until the science could be assessed. But Pres. Richard Nixon saw pot prohibition as a way to destroy the antiwar left, according to clandestine recordings made by Nixon in the White House as well as statements from his staff to the press. Nixon convened The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (what became known as the Shafer Commission) to engineer scientific support for cannabis’s Schedule I placement. “I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana,” Nixon said in tapes from 1971. “Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”
The Shafer Commission found in 1972 that cannabis was as safe as alcohol, and recommended ending prohibition in favor of a public health approach. But by then the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had been removed from the Treasury Department and merged into the U.S. Department of Justice—where Nixon’s ally, Attorney General John Mitchell, placed cannabis in Schedule I in 1972; that same year he resigned to head Nixon’s re-election committee. (He later stood trial in 1974 over the Watergate scandal and served 19 months of a prison sentence for conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice.] “You want to know what this was really all about?” Nixon aid John Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum in 1994, according to an article published in Harper’s Magazine in 2016. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Anyone can petition the DEA to reschedule any drug, Baer says. The DEA takes advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, the DEA’s administrative law judges, along with others, but “the buck stops here. We have final scheduling authority,” he says. “Really it comes down to science. That’s the foundation of the argument. We’re bound by that scientific and medical evaluation.”
Many would disagree. Decades ago the DEA’s own administrative law judge, Francis Young, recommended unscheduling cannabis in response to a petition from activist groups. Young ruled in 1988 that “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.” The DEA denied the petition anyway.
In 1999, in response to California medical legalization, the Institute of Medicine found that marijuana had medical uses and a relatively low potential for abuse, leading to another round of petitioning. The DEA denied a petition again in 2011, citing a lack of available research specifically on smoked marijuana in the U.S.
Researchers say this represents a classic catch-22, as the paucity of research is the direct result of a federal blockade on such research by the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). . .
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
The global war on drugs has proven “disastrous” and “humankind cannot afford a 21st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century’s.” So say more than 1,000 world leaders, including 27 members of the House of Representatives and six U.S. senators, in a letter to the United Nations ahead of a major international drug summit happening this week.
The letters signatories also include 24 current and former law enforcement officials, 37 members of the clergy, more than 230 health and medical professionals, and a colorful slate of celebrities, athletes and business leaders, including DJ Khaled, Michael Douglas, Tom Brady and Warren Buffett.
“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights,” the letter states. “Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.”
The U.N. General Assembly will hold a special session on global drug policy in New York this week. The purpose of the meeting is to set the tone and focus of global drug policy for the coming decades.
The last time the U.N. held such a session was in 1998. Proceeding under the official motto of “a drug-free world — we can do it,” member states vowed to “promote a society free of drug abuse” and to “develop strategies with a view to eliminating or significantly reducing” the production and use of illicit substances by 2008.
Since then, of course, a number of U.S. states have voted to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use. Portugal decriminalized the use of all illicit drugs. And the United States has seen an explosion in the abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin, and deaths caused by overdoses of those two drugs.
Reformers had hoped this week’s special session would represent a change of course for the international drug control regime. But if the draft declaration that will be discussed at the meeting is any indication, this is unlikely. The language about promoting a society “free of drug abuse” and the need to “eliminate” the production of drugs remains in place.
VICE News reported that several diplomats pointed to Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia as the primary opponents to changing the language.
“Basically, the bad guys had the upper hand” in negotiating the language of these documents, according to Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group. “They were able to make sure that nothing bold or stunning happened in these things.”
The irony of the U.N.’s inaction on drugs is that it makes it more likely member states will continue to chart their own paths forward on drug policy. State-level marijuana legalization in the United States has enraged the Russian director of the U.N.’s anti-drug program, but U.S. officials simply assert that the treaties allow for considerable “flexibility” in addressing drug issues. . .
But their home was wrecked and the police are not interested in returning their possessions. I blogged this a few days ago, but here’s a video of Annette Shattuck giving testimony to the Michigan House of Representatives.
A video of Annette’s testimony can also be found in the Washington Post report of the incident.
You can help the Shattucks rebuild—and pay for the counseling their young children now require after being traumatized by the cops—through making a donation to them. I donated, and I hope they reach their goal and use some of the funds to file a civil lawsuit against the police, though that might well be a waste of money. In the US, police departments can do pretty much anything they want to civilians without being held accountable.
These police are simply thugs with guns and immunity who broke into the home in broad daylight, threatened the woman’s mother and young children with guns, took all the possessions, and vandalized the home by (for example) dumping all the boxes of cereal and other food on the floor and stomping on it.
From an email sent by the Marijuana Policy Project:
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It is a time dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of alcohol-related issues. For our campaign, it is also a time to raise awareness about the relative harms of alcohol and marijuana. As we repeatedly point out, the truth is that marijuana is objectively far less harmful than alcohol.
This probably isn’t news to you, but you may have friends or family members who still consider marijuana a dangerous substance that should remain illegal – even though they have no problem cracking a beer or enjoying a cocktail now and then. Before they vote on our ballot initiative to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana this November, they need to consider this information.
We have created a page on our website that details the ways in which marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. It expands upon all of the topics listed here:
Impact on the Consumer
- Many people die from alcohol use. Nobody dies from marijuana use.
- People die from alcohol overdoses. There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose.
- The health-related costs associated with alcohol use far exceed those for marijuana use.
- Alcohol use damages the brain. Marijuana use does not.
- Alcohol use is linked to cancer. Marijuana use is not.
- Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana.
- Alcohol use increases the risk of injury to the consumer. Marijuana use does not.
Impact on the Community
- Alcohol use contributes to aggressive and violent behavior. Marijuana use does not.
- Alcohol use is a major factor in violent crimes. Marijuana use is not.
- Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Marijuana use does not.
From Oliver Twist (always worth rereading):
“It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it,” urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round, to ascertain that his partner had left the room.
That is no excuse,” returned Mr. Brownlow. “You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”
If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
A self-described Michigan “soccer mom” who had “every belonging” taken from her family in a 2014 drug raid has been cleared of all criminal charges, 19 months after heavily armed drug task force members ransacked her home and her business. But in many ways, her ordeal is only beginning.
Annette Shattuck and her husband, Dale, had been facing felony charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession with intent to manufacture marijuana and maintaining a drug house. But last month, Michigan Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly threw out all criminal complaints filed against the Shattucks “on the grounds of entrapment by estoppel,”according to court filings. Entrapment by estoppel occurs when a government official leads a defendant to believe that their conduct is permissible under the law.
The Shattucks’ case is an illustration of how the nation’s patchwork marijuana laws can be a confusing mess for patients, businesses and law enforcement officials alike. Nearly two dozen states now have medical marijuana laws on the books, but laws vary significantly from state to state. And even within states, various arms of government have clashed over how the laws are interpreted and enforced.
In 2014, the Shattucks were starting up a marijuana dispensary under Michigan’s medical marijuana law. They worked to ensure every last detail was in full compliance with the law as they understood it: They obtained the permission of the landlord of the building where the dispensary, called the DNA Wellness Center, was to be housed. They went to local planning commission meetings to obtain the proper permits and licenses. They discussed business hours, security measures and even signage requirements with the planning commission.
The town building inspector checked the property and approved the signage. The chairman of the planning commission publicly thanked the Shattucks for working within the allowed legal framework. According to court documents, the Shattucks even went so far as to call the local sheriff’s Drug Task Force to invite them to inspect the property and verify their compliance with the law.
“We really went above and beyond,” Annette Shattuck said in an interview. “We asked for help. We went out of our way to make sure that everything was legit.”
But the Task Force never inspected the property. Instead, acting on an anonymous tip that marijuana was being sold at the location, agents of the St. Clair County Drug Task Force conducted a number of “controlled buys,” where informants with medical marijuana cards entered the dispensary and purchased marijuana under the guise of medical use. That gave them enough probable cause to execute a raid.
Michigan’s existing voter-approved medical marijuana law doesn’t address the legal status of dispensaries, leaving room for conflicting interpretations. The Shattucks’ case is an example of what some drug policy experts say are the shortcomings of writing drug policy via ballot initiative. A more carefully considered piece of legislation may have clarified the gray areas that led to the raid on the Shattucks’ home and business, for instance.
Michigan’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 2008, “is a very confusing statute,” according to Stephen Guilliat, chief assistant prosecutor for St. Clair County, where the dispensary was located. “Whoever drafted it was either crazy as a fox, or didn’t know what they were doing.”
Of the 22 states plus D.C. with medical marijuana laws currently on the books, only Michigan, Montana and Alaska do not allow for medical marijuana to be sold from dispensaries. Patients in those states are, however, allowed to cultivate limited numbers of marijuana plants themselves, according marijuana reform group NORML. Michigan’s legislature has been working on legislation that would allow regulated dispensaries, but progress has been slow.
Technically, Shattuck’s dispensary should not have been approved by the town planning commission, because the law does not provide for selling marijuana in dispensaries, Guilliat said. “I think the township probably thought they were doing the right thing, without knowing what the law says,” he added.
On July 28, 2014 — not long after the couple reached out to them to perform a compliance check — task force agents raided both the dispensary and the Shattucks’ home. In addition to charging the Shattucks with a variety of marijuana-related drug crimes, they took a lawnmower, a bicycle, their daughter’s birthday money, their marriage certificate and numerous other belongings, according to Annette Shattuck’s testimony before the Michigan House last year.
But Judge Daniel Kelly ruled last month that, because the town planning commission had signed off on the dispensary, and because the Shattucks “would not have called [the Drug Task Force] and invited law enforcement to their compassion center for an inspection unless [they] believed in good faith” that they were operating within the bounds of the law, “basic principles of due process preclude prosecution in this case.” In short, the government can’t prosecute you for operating an “illegal” business if another arm of government has given you the green light on it.
Annette Shattuck says “it’s beyond exciting” to have the criminal charges cleared. But the tough work of getting her forfeited property back has only just begun.
Under asset forfeiture laws, police are allowed to seize and keep property suspected of involvement in a crime, regardless of whether the property’s owners are ever convicted — or even charged, in many cases. Michigan’s laws are particularly skewed against property owners, according a 2015 report from the Institute for Justice. The nonprofit civil liberties law firm gave Michigan a D- on its forfeiture laws, citing “poor protections for innocent property owners” and policies that allow police to keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property, creating a profit motive for seizing belongings.
Annette Shattuck says that since the charges have been dismissed, the Drug Task Force has returned some of her property. But much of it is damaged. Electronic items are missing power cords and remotes. Her and her husband’s phones were smashed. They returned her husband’s guns and the safe he stored it in, but they didn’t return the key. Two of the kids’ insurance cards are missing. Shattuck says her marriage and birth certificates haven’t been returned, and since the Task Force does not itemize seized documents in its paperwork, it has no record of taking them in the first place. . .
And do read the whole thing. It gets worse. From the article:
I wonder why police departments get so much bad publicity. Perhaps from their actions?