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Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category

NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton struggles to think logically, and fails

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

At a news conference Monday, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton blamed a slight uptick in violence in the city (45 homicides at this point last year, versus 54 this year) on marijuana.

“The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country. In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with [in the] 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine . . . In some instances, it’s a causal factor. But it’s an influence in almost everything that we do here.”

Hyperbole at its finest. Even if this year’s uptick holds through December (and it’s worth noting that we’re only dealing with eight weeks of data, here), New York would end the year with 383 murders. The city saw 2,245 murders in 1990.

I’m not exactly sure by what Rube Goldbergian chain of events Bratton thinks legalization in Colorado and Washington is causing homicides in New York City, but it’s clear that he thinks there’s a connection. Another NYPD official said the problem appears to be “ripoffs” — not turf battles, but attempted robberies gone wrong.

Of course, if we want a more direct examination of what effect legal pot might have on homicide, we can just look at the cities where it’s legal. Here’s what we know:

Homicides dropped 24 percent in Denver last year, the first full year of legalization in Colorado. Robberies were down 3 percent. Burglary was down 9.5 percent. The only crimes that increased significantly were larceny (a property crime, not a violent crime) and arson, which seems unlikely to be related to marijuana. Overall, violent crime dropped 0.7 percent, and property crime dropped 2 percent.

Homicides did increase slightly in Seattle (from 23 to 26), the largest city in the other state to legalize the drug. But it’s more difficult to draw conclusions there because the Washington law was quite a bit stricter than the Colorado law, and still left room for a thriving black market.

Of course, we only have a year’s worth of data from Colorado. But then, Bratton is drawing broad conclusions based on just eight weeks. . . .

Continue reading.

I presume Bill Bratton must favor legalization of marijuana, since that would pretty much end people killing each other over marijuana: those who wanted it could simply go to the store and buy some, much as they do beer. (Very few shootings to get a six-pack.)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 3:37 pm

Interesting stories pointed out by Radley Balko

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His morning collection of links. They’re all pretty interesting, so take a look; here are a few to give you the idea:

  • Report: The global war on drugs costs at least $100 billion per year. [That’s $100 billion simply pissed away with no effect whatsoever on the drug trade overall. We might just as well have burned the $100 billion for all the good it did. – LG]
  • Contrary to media reports, a new Department of Homeland Security assessment does not declare the sovereign citizens movement to be a “bigger threat” than the Islamic State.
  • Feds release 100 pages of documents showing the damage Edward Snowden allegedly did to national security. But they’ve all been redacted. (So for all we know they were all filled with Lorem Ipsum. – LG]

There are more at the link above.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 February 2015 at 12:17 pm

The next step: Federal Marijuana Legalization Bills Introduced

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Philip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

Two congressmen from two states where marijuana is already legal under state law today filed two separate bills to legalize marijuana at the federal level. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a bill that would allow states to legalize marijuana without fear of federal intervention, while Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill that would tax marijuana at the federal level, in addition to any state taxes. The bills were not yet available on congressional web sites as of this afternoon.

Polis’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (HR 1013) removes marijuana from the schedule set by the Controlled Substances Act; transitions marijuana oversight from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and regulates marijuana like alcohol by inserting language into the section of the US code governing “intoxicating liquors.””Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” said Polis. “While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals. It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

Blumenauer’s Marijuana Tax Revenue Act (HR 1014) would, after federal legalization, impose a federal excise tax on the sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as apply an occupational tax for marijuana businesses. The bill would establish civil and criminal penalties for those who fail to comply, like those in place for the tobacco industry.

The bill also requires the IRS to produce periodic studies of the marijuana industry and to issue recommendations to Congress. It phases in an excise tax on the sale by a producer (generally the grower) to the next stage of production (generally the processor creating the useable product). This tax is initially set at 10% and rises over time to 25% as the legal market displaces the black market. Medical marijuana is exempt from this tax.”It’s time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana.” said Blumenauer. “Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco. The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives. As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done, it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

The federal bills come as marijuana is increasingly accepted in the US. Now, nearly two-thirds of Americans . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 February 2015 at 11:48 am

Posted in Congress, Drug laws

How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company.

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Mike Mariani has an interesting article at Pacific Standard:

The state of Kentucky may finally get its deliverance. After more than seven years of battling the evasive legal tactics of Purdue Pharma, 2015 may be the year that Kentucky and its attorney general, Jack Conway, are able to move forward with a civil lawsuit alleging that the drugmaker misled doctors and patients about their blockbuster pain pill OxyContin, leading to a vicious addiction epidemic across large swaths of the state.

A pernicious distinction of the first decade of the 21st century was the rise in painkiller abuse, which ultimately led to a catastrophic increase in addicts, fatal overdoses, and blighted communities. But the story of the painkiller epidemic can really be reduced to the story of one powerful, highly addictive drug and its small but ruthlessly enterprising manufacturer.


On December 12, 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid analgesic OxyContin. It hit the market in 1996. In its first year, OxyContin accounted for $45 million in sales for its manufacturer, Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. By 2000 that number would balloon to $1.1 billion, an increase of well over 2,000 percent in a span of just four years. Ten years later, the profits would inflate still further, to $3.1 billion. By then the potent opioid accounted for about 30 percent of the painkiller market. What’s more, Purdue Pharma’s patent for the original OxyContin formula didn’t expire until 2013. This meant that a single private, family-owned pharmaceutical company with non-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.

OxyContin’s ball-of-lightning emergence in the health care marketplace was close to unprecedented for a new painkiller in an age where synthetic opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl had already been competing for decades in doctors’ offices and pharmacies for their piece of the market share of pain-relieving drugs. In retrospect, it almost didn’t make sense. Why was OxyContin so much more popular? Had it been approved for a wider range of ailments than its opioid cousins? Did doctors prefer prescribing it to their patients?

During its rise in popularity, there was a suspicious undercurrent to the drug’s spectrum of approved uses and Purdue Pharma’s relationship to the physicians that were suddenly privileging OxyContin over other meds to combat everything from back pain to arthritis to post-operative discomfort. It would take years to discover that there was much more to the story than the benign introduction of a new, highly effective painkiller.


In 1952, brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler purchased Purdue Pharma, then called Purdue Frederick Co. All three men were psychiatrists by trade, working at a mental facility in Queens in the 1940s.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2015 at 3:33 pm

Testing for Marijuana-Impaired Driving Is About to Get a Whole Lot Easier

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This is a very interesting (and good) development: a test for marijuana usage that is easy, quick, and tests only for recent usage. Kevin Drum has details.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2015 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Science

The obsessed US Attorney Melinda Haag won’t be stopped in her prosecution of medical marijuana

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Something is wrong with this attorney. Josh Harkinson reports in Mother Jones:

Several California congressional representatives issued a statement Friday accusing the Department of Justice of “not acting within the spirit or letter of the law” in its pursuit of a three-year-old legal case aimed at shutting down Harborside Health Center, one of the country’s largest and most respected pot dispensaries.

“As Members of Congress we have watched the public acceptance of medical marijuana develop and grow while the Federal policy on it stagnates,” wrote Reps. Sam Farr, Dana Rohrabacher, and Barbara Lee.

In 2012, US Attorney Melinda Haag initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against Harborside, which does $25 million a year in sales, on the grounds that it had grown too big. The move came as shock to many in California’s medical marijuana industry; Harborside was widely viewed as one of the state’s most ethical and legally compliant dispensaries. A few months later, the City of Oakland sued to block Haag’s case, arguing that shutting down Harborside would create a public health crisis.

“It’s clear now that Melinda Haag is the real criminal,” says Harborside founder Steven DeAngelo.

The following year, the Justice Department issued a memo laying out a more permissive federal policy on pot, and federal prosecutors dropped similar civil forfeiture proceedings against several dispensaries in Los Angeles. But in Northern California, Haag pressed on with her case against Harborside and the Berkeley Patients Group, another large, well-respected dispensary.

Motivated in part by Haag’s prosecutions, Reps. Farr and Rohrabacher won a provision in December’s federal appropriations bill that blocks the DOJ from spending money to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries or patients that abide by state laws. The move was expected to be the nail in the coffin for Haag’s pot cases. But on February 3, she appeared before 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to push the case forward, arguing that the City of Oakland shouldn’t be allowed to challenge the proceedings.

“It’s clear now that Melinda Haag is the real criminal in the Harborside case,” says Harborside founder Steven DeAngelo. Haag’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The DOJ’s ongoing pursuit of the case has led to much debate about Haag’s motivations. Some observers wonder . . .

Continue reading.

Apparently Eric Holder and President Obama have no control over this attorney.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2015 at 4:45 pm

When irrational policies start to self-destruct: Banking and marijuana

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Fascinating article by Matt Richtel in the NY Times. From the article:

. . . Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2001, and recreational marijuana use became legal a year ago. But marijuana businesses have had limited, if any, access to banking services. The federal government considers marijuana illegal and so traditional banks, fearing prosecution for aiding and abetting illegal drug dealers, have shut down pot-business accounts and declined to give loans. Some banks have ferreted out pot entrepreneurs by sniffing their bills, leading to a countermove: bills sprayed with air freshener.

Without a bank account, pot businesses deal in cash, lots of it, held in safes, handed out in clipped bundles on payday, carried in brown paper bags and cardboard boxes to the tax office and the utility company, ferried around the state by armored vehicles and armed guards. And without access to essential banking services — from credit cards to electronic transfers to loans — those businesses pay a huge premium. The reality in Colorado is that it is legal to grow pot but extremely hard to grow a pot business.

The Fourth Corner partners saw a need and a business opportunity. State accreditation in hand, the partners took a step this November that typically goes off without a hitch: they applied to the Federal Reserve Bank for a “master account.” This is the account they would use to deposit funds and transfer them electronically with other banks — the lifeblood of commerce.

Mr. Mason could not find a case of a state accredited financial institution being denied a master account. Usually, approval comes in days, he noted. But it has been nearly three months since the application was filed and there has been no answer, just a letter in early January saying the request was under review. Mr. Mason said the application was on the desk of a specialist in bank risk, a guy named Ryan Harwell in Kansas City, the Fed’s Midwest regional office that oversees the Denver branch. . .

Mr. Mason suggested a reason the Fed may be wary of granting the account.

“This legitimizes the marijuana industry to the extent it’s never been legitimized before,” he said. If Fourth Corner gets approval, businesses would have a place to deposit and to borrow. Other institutions might well follow, and the federal government “would become complicit, and the walls start tumbling down.”

At the same time, Mr. Mason argued that the Federal Reserve Bank was not only within its rights to approve the credit union but was obliged to do so. . .

Peter Conti-Brown, a banking expert at the Stanford Law School, agreed that the credit union application set up a quandary, one that, as policy questions go, is “delicious” and “awesome.” Yes, in theory, he said, the Fed could approve this credit union. But the implications are unclear, and potentially staggering, he said, given that this pen stroke by Mr. Harwell could let the cannabis industry blossom. And then what happens to the federal government’s power over pot?

“I can almost see his green shaded visor and glasses,” said Mr. Conti-Brown, imagining Mr. Harwell in Kansas City. “All of a sudden on the desk of this midlevel bureaucrat comes an extraordinary question of federal policy and constitutional law.” . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2015 at 4:53 pm


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