'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

July 21, 2011

Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

Chain The Dogma      July 21, 2011

Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

Religion and Politics - Two Sides of the Same Con

By Perry Bulwer

The slang term I use in my subtitle, which plays on the word coin, is derived from the term 'confidence trick' and refers to the intentional deception of people after gaining their confidence, usually in relation to a financial fraud. Not all confidence artists are swindlers out for monetary gain, however. Politicians and religious believers also use confidence tricks to exploit others. Confidence artists, or fraudsters, exploit various human characteristics such as greed, credulity and naïveté, and emotions such as compassion and fear, to trick their targets into trusting them. Politicians do the same by using ideology, propaganda and demagoguery to misinform and mislead their constituents. Believers do it by using religious dogma to exploit the gullibility, superstitions and fears of adults, or the innocence, ignorance and inexperience of children.

Many aspects of both religion and politics are aptly described as con jobs. Here is how the New Testament describes religious faith in Hebrews 11:1, first in the King James Version and then in the Common English Bible: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see”. Choose any translation you want, they basically all say the same thing. But it is illogical to claim that the act of believing some thing exists is actually evidence of that thing, that merely having faith or hoping for something to be true is proof of its reality. Faith is not substance or reality, it is merely a belief or a feeling that is not based on evidence. Faith is simply wishful thinking, which sounds nice and harmless, but it can turn deadly when acted upon, as in the case of faith healing parents who allow their children to die  tortuous deaths without any medical intervention. Their confidence in the authority of the Bible has tricked them into killing their own children through neglect.

Children also suffer from the religious confidence trick of indoctrination. There is a reason most religious evangelism focuses on children.  They are easy targets for spiritual fraud because they already have confidence in authority figures such as their parents and religious teachers. It is easy to exploit their credulity and naïveté to trick them into believing in faith-based fantasies rather than evidence-based reality. But the con doesn't stop with just convincing little children that God or gods are real, or that they will live forever in paradise if they just believe, otherwise most children would eventually out grow their belief in imaginary religious figures and places, just like they out grow their belief in Santa and his toy factory at the North Pole.

No sane parent continues to push the Santa story on a child that has grown to reject that particular myth because of common sense and observable evidence, so that belief is easily discarded at a certain stage of childhood. The myths of religion, on the other hand, are constantly reinforced throughout childhood and adolescence with dogma that prevents critical thinking and disables a child's ability to discern the difference between reality and fantasy. By the time a child subjected to such indoctrination reaches adulthood it is extremely difficult to escape the imposed religious worldview. For example, any child convinced to accept the religious fantasy of creationism over the scientific reality of evolution is a victim of a con job of the highest order as it can infect their worldview throughout their life. Nothing could be more childish than to believe that the Biblical creation myth, and other events in Genesis such as the flood and Noah's ark, were literal events that happened exactly as described. Yet many adults who were indoctrinated with creationist lies as children retain that childish belief contrary to the advice in I Corinthians 13:11 to “put away childish things”. The childish thing in that example of creationism is holding a belief or an opinion on an issue when there is no evidence to support that view and all the evidence supports the opposite position.

That sounds a lot like how many politicians work. Political campaign promises are a common example of a con job. Everyone knows how it works. A politician makes an election promise, often with no intention of keeping it, that helps gain the confidence of voters, but once elected the promise is not kept. That is a confidence trick, a con job that everyone can recognize as such and yet voters continue to get taken in by such lies. There are many examples of confidence tricks, or con jobs, in the political realm. The Iraq war waged on the basis of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist is one recent example. But it is the far more disastrous global 'war on drugs'  that I want to focus on here, given the recent report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, comprised of mostly former heads of state and other world leaders.

The Commission's report is just the latest of many that concludes the prohibition of some drugs has been a complete failure “... with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” It has not been a war on drugs, but a war on citizens, often fought along racial lines particularly in the United States. The commissioners, like many others before them, recommend the legalization of cannabis and other prohibited drugs. Whether or not those high profile individuals can help bring the insanity and injustice to an end remains to be seen, especially given the fact that most of them failed to do anything about it when they were in office and had more power to effect change. Ending prohibition will not be easy as long as political leaders like President Obama and Prime Minister Harper continue to base their drug policies on ideology rather than scientific evidence.

President Obama promised in his presidential campaign  that his administration would not prosecute medical cannabis patients and providers in states that have legalized it, yet that is exactly what he is doing today. He gained the confidence of large numbers of voters interested in the issue of medical cannabis by deliberately lying about his intentions. He could have easily kept that promise and taken one small, progressive step towards ending the disastrous war on drugs, but he didn't, which is why I think it was a deliberate campaign lie. After all, the prohibition of cannabis was originally premised on, and is perpetuated by, deliberate lies and propaganda. In fact, the prohibition of some drugs, but not the most dangerous ones that cause the most harms to individuals and socities, is a con job on an international scale, started and led primarily by the United States.

The evidence for the efficacy and safety of cannabis as medicine  is overwhelming.  Yet, under Obama the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to not just ignore that evidence, but to declare without any evidence of its own, that cannabis has no accepted medical use.  If that is true, then on what basis have 16 state legislatures legalized medical cannabis? The DEA's lies are absolutely absurd and easy to disprove.

Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years.  There are thousands of scientific research studies showing the effectiveness of cannabis for a wide range of health problems. Cannabis was even listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and used as commonly as aspirin, another useful drug derived from a plant but more toxic than cannabis.

In 2009, the American Medical Association reversed its opinion (an opinion informed not by science but by political propaganda) that cannabis had no medicinal application, and called for more research. Ironically, the AMA's original position on cannabis was that it has a great deal of therapeutic value for a variety of ailments, and in the 1930s the organization argued against prohibiting it in the first place because it considered cannabis a potential wonder drug, which it is. That call for more research has so far gone unheeded, except for a few exceptions, even though the American College of Physicians has called for the same thing.  The National Cancer Institute,  part of the U.S. Department of Health, refers to cannabis as alternative medicine and admits it has been used as medicine for thousands of years, though the political climate requires it to refer only to potential benefits of cannabis for cancer patients. If you ask the multitudes of cancer patients who use cannabis whether the relief they derive from it is a real benefit or merely potential, I am quite sure I know how they will reply.

In 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review the scientific evidence of the health benefits and risks of cannabis. The IOM's report  emphasized evidence-based medicine as opposed to ideology-based medicine, and concluded that cannabis has therapeutic value for pain relief, control of nausea and appetite stimulation. In fact, the U.S. government still grows and supplies cannabis to a handful of medicinal users under an investigative program that was cancelled in 1992.

Furthermore, the new pharmaceutical drug, Sativex,  is derived directly from the cannabis plant, unlike other pharmaceutical cannabinoid analog drugs that are solely synthetic. Sativex has undergone vigorous regulatory testing successfully and is approved for sale in several countries, including Canada, for various medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and cancer. More countries are testing it, including the U.S., where the first large scale trial for cancer patients had positive results and the next development phase is underway. Finally, the evidence from Portugal  puts the lie to all claims that the legalization or decriminalization of all drugs will increase drug use and harms to individuals and society. After ten years of one of the sanest drug policies in the world, the evidence shows the opposite is true.

So, on what basis has Obama approved the DEA's latest attacks against desperately ill people for whom cannabis is the most effective and safest drug they could use, and one which they could produce on their own very easily and cheaply? It is certainly not on the basis of any credible evidence. Does Obama really believe the DEA's propaganda that cannabis has no accepted medical use, or is he merely playing politics with people's lives? As Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego, said: "It's always a danger if the government acts on certain kinds of persuasions or beliefs rather than evidence."  Obama's ally in this immoral war against sick people, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also seems to prefer ideological propaganda over scientific evidence. He has proven that by his government's efforts to shut down North America's only medical center where drug addicts can legally inject illegal drugs.

All of the evidence proves that Vancouver's INSITE  effectively saves the lives of individuals and improves the community, yet Harper has used the courts to try and shut it down. When the case recently reached the Supreme Court of Canada, British Columbia's lawyers presented the justices with stacks of scientific evidence demonstrating that INSITE was effective public policy.  What evidence did the government's lawyers present to the court to counter that? None, because there is none. Incredibly, the government's argument relied solely on a jurisdictional issue.  In other words, federal government lawyers argued on the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. They admitted to the Supreme Court justices that there was no credible evidence that the program does not work, but insisted that the province of British Columbia had no jurisdiction in this matter because it is a criminal law issue falling under federal jurisdiction, and not a public health issue which is governed by the provinces.

Just a week after that Global Commission recommended ending the failed drug war, the Canadian government pledged $5 million to keep fighting it in the Americas. Prime Minister Harper does not care much for scientific evidence,  not wanting the facts to get in the way of his religious ideology. I say religious rather than conservative ideology because the prohibition of drugs, particularly cannabis, is not a conservative position.  As Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who supports legalization of cannabis, recently wrote:

William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman, two of the most respected conservative intellectuals of the late 20th century, were among the drug war's high-profile critics. These great thinkers did not argue that recreational drug use should be celebrated -- far from it! Instead, they argued that the prohibition of drugs was causing far greater harm to society than drug abuse itself. And they were right.

So, if Harper's drug policies are not based on scientific evidence or on conservative values, what could they possibly be based on other than his religious ideology. (I will have much more to say about Harper's religious affiliation in future posts.)  Harper had the gall to recently crow that "Conservative values are Canadian values. Canadian values are conservative values.” Nothing could be further from the truth. He bases that hubris on his recent election victory that finally gave him a majority in the House of Commons. However, the majority of Canadians, around 60 percent, did not vote for Harper or his Conservative party. Only 40 percent of Canadians support Harper, yet over 50 percent support the legalization of cannabis, showing just how out of touch with reality Harper is.  That latter number would be much higher but for decades of prohibition propaganda that deliberately obscures the facts.

As part of Harper's tough-on-crime agenda, also based on ideology rather than evidence (e.g. spending billions on new prisons when the crime rate has fallen to lowest level since 1973),  he plans to impose mandatory minimum sentences for various crimes, including small-scale cannabis cultivation. The U.S. experiment with mandatory minimum sentences has been a failure, especially for drug cases, and is being discontinued in many states. Yet despite that strong evidence from the U.S. that such sentences are ineffectual and a massive waste of money, Harper seems to think they will work in Canada. Harper's rejection of evidence in favour of ideology has many international observers bewildered.

Continuing to prohibit some drugs that have proven health benefits, but not others that are far more dangerous, and imprisoning users based purely on ideology rather than on evidence of harm caused to individuals and society is immoral. As Sam Harris recently wrote: “The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.” And it is not just jailing harmless people that is immoral. Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer needlessly from great pain simply because of hyperbolic drug war propaganda and policies that prevent them from accessing a common, cheap drug that could free them from their misery. The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, thinks that the war on drugs is a conservative value and a Canadian value, but it is neither. It is an inhumane, immoral injustice and a complete failure.

I wonder what those who dishonestly hold to the dogma that Cannabis has no scientifically confirmed medical benefits would say to the father and son in the following video?

Dad gives two year old son battling with Brain cancer Medical Marijuana

"Marijuana Moms"  A group of moms in California, where medical pot is legal with a prescription, have declared that marijuana makes them better parents and partners.

International Law and the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health Care: Using Safe Injection Facilities to Control and Prevent Epidemics

Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats


  1. Federal Lawsuit to Challenge DEA's Denial of Marijuana Science

    By Kristen Gwynne

    Covington & Burling LL, a prominent, D.C.-based firm representing the pharmaceutical industry, will work pro-bono for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to challenge the DEA's ludicrous monopoly on marijuana research. The suit is an attempt to overturn the federal government's latest attempt to deny scientific proof for the medical benefits of marijuana.

    Recently, the University of Haifa in France determined that marijuana blocks PTSD symptoms in rats. But when MAPS attempted to obtain a license to grow marijuana and study its effects on chronic, treatment resistant PTSD, the DEA approved the study but did not disclose whether it would sell them the marijuana necessary to carry it out.

    The DEA also rejected University of Massachusetts professor Lyle Craker's request to obtain a license to grow marijuana and study its potential medical uses. Denying scientists access to science, the DEA said that only NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) can supply marijuana for FDA-regulated research.

    "The federal government’s official policy is that marijuana has no medical benefit," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a legal brief on the case, "But the government is unwilling to put its policy to the test of science: instead, the government exercises monopoly control over the nation’s supply of marijuana that may be used for scientific purposes, by allowing an agency whose mission is to explore the consequences of the abuse of marijuana."

    This June, the DEA notoriously ruled to keep marijuana, alongside heroin, in the Schedule I drug category, the criteria for which include lack of safety and medical use, as well as the potential for abuse. Citing lack of scientific studies that prove the efficacy and and safety of marijuana, the DEA said marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use." Days after making the ridiculous statement, the DEA responded to widespread condemnation and adjusted its announcement to admit there may be "some" benefits in "individual components" of marijuana. The plant's classification remained unchanged.

    That marijuana has no medical value was not the only lie the DEA told. It also said there are no FDA-approved marijuana treatments, but its own website says "Medical marijuana already exists. It's called Marinol." The THC pill is one of two FDA-approved THC pills on the market, and a third is in Phase III of FDA-testing.

    Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already approved marijuana -- in its pure plant-form -- for medical use. Smoking, as opposed to ingesting, marijuana allows patients to feel the effects of the drug immediately, thus providing them with better control over administration. What's more, NORML asserts that it is not just THC, but many other chemicals present in marijuana, that provide consumers with the medical benefits the plant is known to contain.


  2. SWAT Teams, Flash-Bang Grenades, Shooting the Family Pet: The Shocking Outcomes of Police Militarization in the War on Drugs

    By Norm Stamper, AlterNet November 11, 2011

    Norm Stamper is former chief of the Seattle Police Department, and an advisory board member of NORML and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

    In the forty years since Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” Americans’ perceptions of that war are finally beginning to shift. Receding support for Prohibition is happening in large part because of virally circulated news accounts and videos of law enforcement’s disturbingly harsh tactics in the drug war. My former colleagues are making clear that besides causing thousands of deaths worldwide and costing billions of taxpayer dollars, the drug war’s most serious collateral damage has been to undermine the role of civilian law enforcement in our free society. In one of the most widely viewed videos, a tiny single-family home is descended upon by a Columbia, Missouri Police Department SWAT team. After pounding on the door and announcing themselves, the cops waste no time. They smash open the door and charge into the unsuspecting family’s home. ...
    Public indignation over the incident intensified when it was learned that the Columbia SWAT team was executing an eight-day-old search warrant, and that the only things seized were a pipe containing a small amount of marijuana residue. Since possession of small amounts of pot had long ago been essentially decriminalized in Columbia, the man was charged with simple possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. The reaction of Fox Business Network’s Andrew Napolitano was telling. In a segment about the raid that also found its way onto YouTube, the retired New Jersey Superior Court judge says, “This was America – not East Germany, not Nazi Germany, but middle America!” Yet as former Cato staffer Radley Balko, who wrote about the Columbia video, has noted, what’s most remarkable about the raid is that it wasn’t remarkable at all. ...

    There are more than 50,000 police paramilitary raids in the United States each year – more than 130 every day. Virtually all are for prosecution of drug warrants, the vast majority involving marijuana. Many jurisdictions use SWAT teams for execution of every search warrant for drugs. ...
    A police officer’s job is to preserve the peace, to maintain public order on the streets of America’s cities. A soldier’s job is to fight wars on foreign soil. These are two profoundly different roles.

    Tragically, the gradual evolution of local law enforcement into paramilitary units has, over a generation, dramatically changed the culture of police work—in ways the public increasingly and justifiably, finds objectionable.

    The shock-and-awe drug enforcement tactics now employed almost a thousand times each week have needlessly injected a high risk of violence into the prosecution of what are almost always non-violent, consensual crimes.

    For the innocent bystanders who get caught up in them, the paramilitary raids impose a traumatic and lasting punishment where none is justified. Even for the perpetrators, the raids constitute a reversal of the presumption of innocence (and, as evidenced so vividly by the Columbia raid, a grotesquely disproportionate response to a minor—or non-existent—offense). ...
    More and more Americans are coming to realize the staggering human toll—in lives, dollars, and civil liberties—of the drug war. Some of these awakening Americans are police officers—a rapidly growing minority of cops who realize the harm these tactics have done to the people they’ve been hired to serve, the risks to their own safety and wellbeing, and the erosion of public confidence and respect for law enforcement this policy has caused. ...

    read the full article at:


  3. Former Governor Gary Johnson knows his views on legalizing drugs are out of step with 99% of American politicians. He stops by and tells us why that's a good thing.

    The GOP's Most Radical Candidate Visits The Fix

    By Will Godfrey, Editor - The Fix November 17, 2011

    Gary Johnson, the Republican presidential candidate and former two-term Governor of New Mexico, actually enjoys being known as "The Marijuana Guy" in this campaign. Fiscally conservative and socially liberal, he positions himself as the only candidate in the field with something new to say about drug policy. For starters, he'd legalize pot, and he sees the decriminalization of other drugs—like heroin and cocaine—as a "rational" next step.


    Long a staunch proponent of marijuana legalization, Johnson flirts with overt libertarianism: "Nowhere in the constitution does it say what we can or cannot put in our own bodies by our own choice." Including, he says, heroin and cocaine. "I suggest that if we legalize marijuana, this country will take giant steps to what I would call rational drug policy, which starts with looking at drugs first as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue."

    Although he currently espouses the legalization of marijuana only—which he thinks will make the world "a better place," reaping financial rewards and lowering crime—he hints that the Portuguese model of decriminalizing all drugs and treating them primarily as a health issue should be our national model: "Why wouldn't it work in the United States?" He notes that heroin use has dropped by half in Portugal in the ten years since that country decriminalized all drugs. And his European comparisons don't end there; he stresses that the Netherlands, which has "effectively" decriminalized all drugs, has "about 60% the drug use of the United States; that's on a per capita basis."


    As for marijuana, he says that despite a recent Gallup poll showing that voters narrowly support legalization, "This is an issue that's way ahead of the politicians." He cites figures claiming the financial windfall from legalization would add up to $20 billion in savings and income at state and federal levels. And he would pardon all non-violent marijuana offenders currently serving time. Asked about the pro-prohibition views of former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet, he issues a challenge: "I would love to be able to debate this individual anywhere, any time. I see no benefits whatsoever to prohibition, none." By way of comparison he adds, "In no category—no category—is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol."

    Johnson's willingness to break step with the vast majority of US politicians on prohibition is brave, although a trailblazer is often doomed to forge a path that others later follow with more success. His views on marijuana aren't at odds with US voters. But the powerful TV networks and party establishment are proving slower to follow public opinion, which leaves him starved of publicity.

    And that's a shame. Without the full participation of a dissenting voice like Johnson's, drug and addiction issues are set to receive little airtime in the 2012 presidential campaign. The Fix has asked several other candidates for an interview or statement on their drug policy and received no response—except from a spokeswoman from the Michele Bachmann campaign, who simply replied, "What drug policy?" Whatever your views on prohibition, this lack of political scrutiny of a vital policy area—directly affecting many millions of Americans and others around the world, and perceived by many to be failing—is anything but healthy.

    read the full article at:


  4. Police Officers Find That Dissent on Drug Laws May Come With a Price

    By MARC LACEY, New York Times December 2, 2011

    PHOENIX — Border Patrol agents pursue smugglers one moment and sit around in boredom the next. It was during one of the lulls that Bryan Gonzalez, a young agent, made some comments to a colleague that cost him his career.

    Stationed in Deming, N.M., Mr. Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

    Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

    After his dismissal, Mr. Gonzalez joined a group even more exclusive than the Border Patrol: law enforcement officials who have lost their jobs for questioning the war on drugs and are fighting back in the courts.

    In Arizona, Joe Miller, a probation officer in Mohave County, near the California border, filed suit last month in Federal District Court after he was dismissed for adding his name to a letter by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Medford, Mass., and known as LEAP, expressing support for the decriminalization of marijuana.

    “More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks,” said Daniel Pochoda, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is handling the Miller case.

    Mr. Miller was one of 32 members of LEAP who signed the letter, which expressed support for a California ballot measure that failed last year that would have permitted recreational marijuana use. Most of the signers were retired members of law enforcement agencies, who can speak their minds without fear of action by their bosses. But Mr. Miller and a handful of others who were still on the job — including the district attorney for Humboldt County in California and the Oakland city attorney — signed, too.

    LEAP has seen its membership increase significantly from the time it was founded in 2002 by five disillusioned officers. It now has an e-mail list of 48,000, and its members include 145 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials, most of them retired, who speak on the group’s behalf.

    “No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their job in court,” said Neill Franklin, a retired police officer who is LEAP’s executive director. “So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.” ...
    Among those not yet ready to publicly urge the legalization of drugs is a veteran Texas police officer who quietly supports LEAP and spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “We all know the drug war is a bad joke,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we also know that you’ll never get promoted if you’re seen as soft on drugs.”

    Mr. Franklin, the LEAP official, said it was natural that those on the front lines of enforcing drug laws would have strong views on them, either way. It was the death of a colleague at the hands of a drug dealer in 2000 that prompted Mr. Franklin, a veteran officer, to begin questioning the nation’s drug policies. ...

    read the full article at:


  5. 9 Huge Blows to the Catastrophic War on Drugs -- Will We Have Sane Drug Policy Some Day?

    By Tony Newman, AlterNet December 2, 2011

    2011 has been a watershed year for the movement working to end our county’s disastrous war on drugs. Below are the top stories of the year that exemplify the momentum and give us hope that we can find alternatives to drug war madness.

    #1. World Leaders Make International News by Calling for Marijuana Legalization and End to Drug War

    #2. 40-Year Anniversary of Nixon’s Launch of Drug War Met with Nationwide Protests

    #3. Gallop Poll Shows Historic Support: 50% of Americans Favor Ending Marijuana Prohibition

    #4. NYPD Commissioner Directs Police to Stop Improper Marijuana Arrests

    #5. Thousands in Mexico Take to Street to Protest Drug War

    #6. Colorado and Washington to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana in 2012

    #7 Portugal Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of Decriminalizing Drugs

    #8 Drug War Critique is All Over TV and Popular Culture

    #9 New and Powerful Voices Join Movement to End Failed Drug War


    For all of the progress in 2011, the war on drugs is as vicious as ever. The worst drug war policies remain entrenched, as more than three-quarters of a million people are arrested for marijuana possession every year, and more than half a million people are still behind bars today for nothing more than a drug law violation. The bloodbath in Mexico has taken 50,000 lives in the last five years and shows no signs of slowing down. There is a little-noticed overdose crisis in this country, even though overdose deaths have more than doubled in the last decade. The Obama administration is reversing their past commitments to stop the federal government from interfering with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

    We are at a paradoxical moment in our country. We are clearly moving in the right direction, toward a more rational drug policy based on science, compassion, health and human rights. But we need to step up our efforts, grow our numbers, and continue to win hearts and minds because the casualties from the war continue to mount every day. Please join the movement to the end the war on drugs. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

    read the full article at:


  6. Three former Vancouver mayors: We can’t afford a war on weed

    National Post December 19, 2011

    By Larry Campbell, Philip Own and Sam Sullivan

    Canada has reached a critical time in its misguided War on Weed. Despite investing countless billions across North America in areas such as law enforcement, prison expansion and border controls, marijuana prohibition has been a costly failure. Youth today have easier access to pot than alcohol and tobacco, organized crime is getting rich and some neighbourhoods remain deadly combat zones as arrests lead to new rounds of turf warfare among gangs controlling the marijuana trade.

    Now, Canada’s federal government and the B.C. provincial government are on the verge of committing many more billions of our tax dollars to this failed policy.

    It’s lunacy.

    Since 1908, when Canada passed the Anti-Opium Act, we have had a century of experience to know that an approach that emphasizes prohibition and leans heavily on costly law enforcement and imprisonment will fail.

    Civic leaders are the politicians closest to the gang-related violence that plays out on city streets. As former mayors of Vancouver, we are calling for an alternative to marijuana prohibition. Our call is not new; some mayors in B.C. have already voiced support for our efforts. And in 2007, mayors at the annual United States Conference of Mayors voted unanimously in favour of a statement that noted the War on Drugs has failed and called for a public health approach to drug policy.

    Unfortunately, senior levels of government have either ignored pleas to reconsider marijuana prohibition or disregarded evidence that proves — conclusively — that the crusade they are on is doomed to fail.

    Canada’s federal government continues to state its strong opposition to taxation and regulation of marijuana while the B.C. government dodges the question by repeating the mantra that it is focused on jobs and family. But it is families that pay the price for broken communities and gang warfare.

    The lessons of alcohol prohibition are directly relevant to the experience with marijuana. Just as with alcohol prohibition — which failed to suppress alcohol use, wasted police resources and turned ordinary citizens into criminals — under marijuana prohibition young people have consistently had easier access to pot than alcohol or cigarettes. And just like the emergence of the violent illegal market controlled by gangsters like Al Capone in the 1920s, marijuana prohibition has similarly fueled the growth of organized crime.

    The RCMP in British Columbia has consistently highlighted the violent methods that biker gangs and other organized crime groups use to control the trade in marijuana and other drugs. In one recent report, they said the drug trade in B.C. includes “homicides, contract killings, kidnappings, vicious ordered assaults, extortion and arson [which] continues to be the hallmark of all levels of the drug economy.”

    In 2009, there were no fewer than 276 incidents of drive-by shootings in B.C., which, the RCMP added, often occurred without regard for public safety.

    continued in next comment:


  7. continued from previous comment:

    Recently, we wrote an open letter to elected leaders in British Columbia urging them to join us as part of a new coalition called Stop the Violence BC, which is attempting to “break the silence” regarding the ineffectiveness and harms of marijuana prohibition. The coalition, which consists of leading legal, law enforcement and public health experts, has called for a strictly regulated legal market for adult marijuana use as a strategy to address the ineffectiveness and serious harms of marijuana prohibition.

    Not only could this strategy raise hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, experts believe that employing the regulatory tools and educational strategies that have pushed down rates of tobacco use could also reduce rates of marijuana use. While marijuana is illegal, none of those effectively regulatory tools are policy options.

    While it is true that drug laws are a federal issue, the need for provincial leadership has never been greater. After all, it is the provinces that will be on the hook for the billions of dollars that will be required to house an increased prison population and pay for other measures under the federal government’s proposed mandatory minimum sentencing legislation. Even though mandatory minimum sentences have unequivocally failed to address the drug problem south of the border, the B.C. provincial government has voiced support for the proposed federal omnibus crime bill which includes mandatory minimum prison sentences for anyone caught with more than five marijuana plants.

    The federal and provincial governments should heed the words of the Fraser Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank that opposes marijuana prohibition and laments the fact that marijuana-related revenue and profits go straight to criminal enterprises rather than government coffers.

    Politicians at all levels — whether in government or opposition — can no longer ignore the violence, crime and financial costs to taxpayers related to marijuana prohibition. By taxing and regulating marijuana under a strict public health framework, politicians can help stop the growth of a massive underground economy that enriches gangsters rather than the public purse and does nothing to prevent young people from easily accessing marijuana. Politicians must act, now, before billions more are foolishly spent and further blood is shed.

    It’s time politicians recognize that prohibition has been with us for 103 years, and ask themselves, “How are we doing so far?”


  8. Tell Obama - End the War on Medical Marijuana Patients

    By Paul Armentano, NORML

    Over the past several months, the Federal government escalated its war against medical marijuana to previously unseen heights. The Drug War machine kicked into high gear starting in October when the IRS began applying an obscure part of the US tax code, meant to target drug cartels, against medical dispensaries in attempts to shut them down. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined in the fight when it issued a heavy handed one page memo to every gun and ammunition dealer nationwide informing them that they must, by law, deny sales to lawful medical cannabis patients.

    The hammer really fell when the US Attorneys for the four federal districts in California formally announced a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensing operations and began issuing memos threatening operators and landlords of these properties. Threats were even waged against news publications who ran advertisements for medical marijuana businesses. All of this in an environment where over 70% of Americans support medical use of cannabis, the country’s largest physicians group endorsed full legalization, and at least four governors are petitioning the DEA to reclassify marijuana based on overwhelming evidence of its medicinal value. Unfortunately, It doesn’t appear an end is in sight as new threats of intervention are looming in Colorado.

    That is why today, in cooperation with other reform organizations, NORML is encouraging you to contact President Obama and tell him to end his administrations war on cannabis patients. Click here to use NORML’s Take Action Center to directly email the below letter to the White House and tell President Obama to stand by his promise to not interfere with state medical marijuana laws.

    Dear President Obama:

    I urge you to end your war on medical marijuana patients. More than 70 percent of Americans are in favor of legal medical marijuana. 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana legislation.

    At least four governors are petitioning the DEA to reclassify marijuana based on overwhelming evidence that it has medicinal value. While this reclassification is pending, your Administration should respect — not attack –state medical marijuana laws that provide patients with safe and reliable access to this medicine.

    Given the fiscal crisis our country finds itself in, it doesn’t make sense to waste federal tax dollars and law enforcement resources interfering with state medical marijuana laws.

    Click here to contact Obama.


  9. B.C. medical health officers join call to legalize pot

    CBC News December 22, 2011

    B.C.'s medical health officers are joining a powerful coalition of health, academic and justice experts calling for an overhaul of Canada's anti-drug policies.

    In a written statement, the Health Officers' Council of B.C. says it has unanimously passed a resolution to support Stop the Violence BC. The council includes all medical health officers throughout the province as well as physicians, researchers and consultants.

    Dr. Paul Hasselback, who chairs the council, said medical experts are not asserting the drug is safe, but that policy as it stands puts the public at even greater risk.

    "We need to acknowledge that our current approach to some of our substance-use policies is perhaps not as evidence-based as it should be," he said.

    "We need to be proceeding to a dialogue that keeps the public's health as one of the prime drivers in the decision-making process."

    Hasselback noted that unlike widely-used substances like alcohol and tobacco, officials can't proscribe measures for safe use of cannabis — simply because it's illegal.

    The public is wary of the dangers of drinking and driving, he added, but there's very little knowledge or research around using pot and driving for the same reason.

    Dr. Evan Wood, a founder of Stop the Violence BC, says it's clear prohibition isn't working.

    "The more money that we pump into anti-cannabis law enforcement does not have any kind of effect on rates of use and price of cannabis has gone down quite dramatically," he said. "The government's own data show that Canada's prohibition has failed."

    A new report from the Stop the Violence BC coalition says billions of dollars have been spent in the hopes of stemming the drug trade — but marijuana is cheaper, more potent and more available than ever.

    The coalition says instead of criminalizing pot, Ottawa should regulate and tax it.

    The call comes as the Tories' wide-ranging crime bill — which toughens drug penalties — is nearing passage into law, but the federal justice minister stands by the decision not to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

    Asked for reaction to the report, a spokeswoman for the federal justice minister was terse.

    "Our government has no intention to decriminalize or legalize marijuana," said Julie Di Mambro in an email.

    Arrests and cannabis seizures soared when anti-drug funding jumped, according to available data presented in the report, but none of the other anticipated impacts materialized.

    Since 2007, the majority of at least $260 million in funding against drugs from Ottawa has been allocated to policing. Between 1990 to 2009, arrests have increased by 70 per cent.

    But at the same time, prevalence of cannabis use rose.

    The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey showed 27 per cent of B.C. youth between 15 and 24 smoked weed at least once in the previous year.

    In Ontario, the number of high school students using pot doubled from fewer than 10 per cent in 1991 to more than 20 per cent in 2009.

    "It's just so clear that organized crime has absolutely overwhelmed these law enforcement efforts with the price of marijuana going down dramatically ... [and] the potency has gone up astronomically," Wood said.

    Stop the Violence BC launched its campaign in October with a report that showed criminal organizations are making huge profits and engaging in street-level warfare over the underground drug trade.

    A group of former Vancouver mayors have voiced their support for the coalition, which includes former B.C. Supreme Court justice Ross Lander and B.C.'s former chief coroner Vince Cain.


  10. Jurors in marijuana cases have legal right to vote not guilty even when guilt is established

    NY Times OP-ED December 20, 2011

    By PAUL BUTLER, Washington

    Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No

    IF you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.

    The information I have just provided — about a constitutional doctrine called “jury nullification” — is absolutely true. But if federal prosecutors in New York get their way, telling the truth to potential jurors could result in a six-month prison sentence.

    Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor, with jury tampering because he stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan providing information about jury nullification to passers-by. Given that I have been recommending nullification for nonviolent drug cases since 1995 — in such forums as The Yale Law Journal, “60 Minutes” and YouTube — I guess I, too, have committed a crime.

    The prosecutors who charged Mr. Heicklen said that “advocacy of jury nullification, directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.” The prosecutors in this case are wrong. The First Amendment exists to protect speech like this — honest information that the government prefers citizens not know.

    Laws against jury tampering are intended to deter people from threatening or intimidating jurors. To contort these laws to justify punishing Mr. Heicklen, whose court-appointed counsel describe him as “a shabby old man distributing his silly leaflets from the sidewalk outside a courthouse,” is not only unconstitutional but unpatriotic. Jury nullification is not new; its proponents have included John Hancock and John Adams.

    The doctrine is premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should have the final say as to whether a person should be punished. As Adams put it, it is each juror’s “duty” to vote based on his or her “own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”

    In 1895, the Supreme Court ruled that jurors had no right, during trials, to be told about nullification. The court did not say that jurors didn’t have the power, or that they couldn’t be told about it, but only that judges were not required to instruct them on it during a trial. Since then, it’s been up to scholars like me, and activists like Mr. Heicklen, to get the word out.

    continued in next comment


  11. continued from previous post:

    Nullification has been credited with helping to end alcohol prohibition and laws that criminalized gay sex. Last year, Montana prosecutors were forced to offer a defendant in a marijuana case a favorable plea bargain after so many potential jurors said they would nullify that the judge didn’t think he could find enough jurors to hear the case. (Prosecutors now say they will remember the actions of those jurors when they consider whether to charge other people with marijuana crimes.)

    There have been unfortunate instances of nullification. Racist juries in the South, for example, refused to convict people who committed violent acts against civil-rights activists, and nullification has been used in cases involving the use of excessive force by the police. But nullification is like any other democratic power; some people may try to misuse it, but that does not mean it should be taken away from everyone else.

    How one feels about jury nullification ultimately depends on how much confidence one has in the jury system. Based on my experience, I trust jurors a lot. I first became interested in nullification when I prosecuted low-level drug crimes in Washington in 1990. Jurors here, who were predominantly African-American, nullified regularly because they were concerned about racially selective enforcement of the law.

    Across the country, crime has fallen, but incarceration rates remain at near record levels. Last year, the New York City police made 50,000 arrests just for marijuana possession. Because prosecutors have discretion over whether to charge a suspect, and for what offense, they have more power than judges over the outcome of a case. They tend to throw the book at defendants, to compel them to plead guilty in return for less harsh sentences. In some jurisdictions, like Washington, prosecutors have responded to jurors who are fed up with their draconian tactics by lobbying lawmakers to take away the right to a jury trial in drug cases. That is precisely the kind of power grab that the Constitution’s framers were so concerned about.

    In October, the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, asked at a Senate hearing about the role of juries in checking governmental power, seemed open to the notion that jurors “can ignore the law” if the law “is producing a terrible result.” He added: “I’m a big fan of the jury.” I’m a big fan, too. I would respectfully suggest that if the prosecutors in New York bring fair cases, they won’t have to worry about jury nullification. Dropping the case against Mr. Heicklen would let citizens know that they are as committed to justice, and to free speech, as they are to locking people up.

    Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, is a professor of law at George Washington University and the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”


  12. Hypocritical NYPD Continues Racist Pot Arrest Crusade

    By Steven Wishnia, AlterNet December 30, 2011

    Despite a well-publicized police order instructing officers not to use bogus pretexts to justify marijuana arrests, New York City remains the pot-bust capital of the United States.

    Preliminary figures released in late November indicated a slight decline in arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in the two months since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told police to arrest people for marijuana only if it was genuinely “open to public view,” because having a small amount in your pocket is decriminalized, and does not warrant an arrest. The department had come under criticism because the basis for many pot busts was that defendants had emptied their pockets when told to do so by police—and when they did, they brought their marijuana into “public view.”

    In practice, little has changed, say defense attorneys and legalization advocates. “It still is happening a lot,” says Sydney Peck, a Brooklyn public defender. “A police officer pulls marijuana out of someone’s pocket, and all of a sudden, it’s marijuana in public view.”

    Since New York State decriminalized marijuana in 1977, possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana has been a violation carrying a maximum $100 fine for a first offense. Since Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made petty pot offenses a police priority in the late 1990s, however, the vast majority of people arrested have been charged with possession in public view—a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of three months in jail, with a conviction bringing a permanent criminal record. More than 85% of those busted are black or Latino.

    To be prosecuted for marijuana in public view, explains Odalys Alonzo, chief assistant to Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, the defendant has to be observed either smoking in public or displaying a glassine or plastic package that police recognize as marijuana. “Sometimes, we see three people charged for one joint, because we’ve seen them passing a joint,” she says.

    The apparent decline may be simply because the preliminary figures are incomplete, says Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, who has tracked drug arrests in the city since the late-1980s crack era. Others cite random and seasonal fluctuations in arrests. In any case, the city’s courts continue to see a heavy flow of marijuana defendants. By mid-November, pot-misdemeanor arrests this year had already exceeded the 45,500 in 2009, and the year's total might surpass the 50,400 in 2010.

    “The volume seems to have kept up,” says Scott Levy, a lawyer with the Bronx Defenders, a public-defender group. The biggest change since Kelly’s announcement, Levy suspects, may be in how complaints are phrased. Police, he says, are increasingly reporting that they saw a defendant “take an object and put it in their pocket” and then found it to be marijuana when they searched them, but “our clients are saying that they never had it out.”

    Joshua Saunders, a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defenders Society, another public-defender group, says he’s seen a lot of “dropsy” cases, in which police say they saw the defendant drop the marijuana on the ground. He points out the police report of a man busted for three bags of pot in the Brownsville neighborhood in November. It says the officer observed the man on the sidewalk in front of a bodega “in possession of a quantity of marihuana which was open to public view and which informant recovered from defendant’s pants pocket.” Saunders wonders if the man had “transparent pants.”

    Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance estimates that “depending on the borough, anywhere between 50 and 75% of the arrests are completely bogus.” [...]

    read the rest of the article at:


  13. NYPD Marijuana Crusade Led to Cops Killing a Teenager in the Bronx

    By Tony Newman | Sourced from AlterNet February 8, 2012

    An 18-year-old teenager, Ramarley Graham, was killed in his home in the Bronx last week by plainclothes cops. A member of the narcotics unit shot the unarmed teenager in his bathroom.

    While details of the tragedy are still unfolding, it appears that the teen had a small amount of marijuana on him, so walked home to get away from the cops because he didn’t want to be arrested. The cops followed him, broke into his home and killed him in his bathroom while he was trying to flush a small amount of marijuana down the toilet. The police officer who shot Graham said he believed the young man had a gun. He did not – no weapons were found.

    The bottom line is that an 18-year-old is dead because of the insane marijuana arrest crusade by the NYPD.

    Graham’s family and the community are righteously demanding justice. There was a passionate protest of hundreds of people outside the 47th Precinct station in the Bronx Monday night, where they condemned police violence and the almost-routine killings of unarmed men like Mr. Graham. Graham’s sister is quoted in yesterday’s New York Times, saying “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young black men.”

    Incidentally, just the day before the tragic killing, the New York City media was buzzing about the 2011 marijuana arrest numbers. There were more than 50,000 marijuana arrests in 2011, the second-most in NYC history and the most in more than a decade. The NYPD bust more people for small amounts of marijuana than any other crime in the city. And these 50,000 arrests are overwhelmingly young black and Latino men – even though, according to the government’s own data, they are no more likely to use or sell marijuana than young whites.

    The amazing thing is that 7/8 of an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized – if police find marijuana in your belongings, they’re supposed to just give you a ticket, instead of arresting you, unless the marijuana is being smoked or in “public view.” So if under an ounce is supposed to not lead to arrest, why are 50,000 arrests happening a year? Because the NYPD stops and frisks more than 600,000 people – mostly young black and brown men – and then tricks them into emptying their pockets. And when marijuana is then pulled out, the police arrest them for marijuana in “public view.”

    There has been a big campaign by the Drug Policy Alliance, Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA), and VOCAL-NY slamming the NYPD for these illegal arrests. In September it seemed like the campaign had reached a breakthrough when Police Commissioner Kelly ordered his police to stop making improper marijuana arrests. Last week’s news about the 2011 statistics, however, shows that the Commissioner’s order has not stopped these arrests – and New York City remains the marijuana arrest capital of the world.

    Getting arrested for marijuana is no small matter – not least because it creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found on the Internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks.

    And if these 50,000 arrests a year are not destructive enough, we have an 18-year-old teenager who is dead, killed by the NYPD looking to make another small bust for marijuana. No one has ever died from smoking marijuana. But the war on marijuana has taken way too many lives.


  14. Legalize pot, say former B.C. attorneys general

    B.C. 'lost its war with the marijuana industry,' says letter

    CBC News February 14, 2012

    Four former B.C. attorneys general are joining a coalition of health and justice experts calling for the legalization of marijuana.

    Colin Gabelmann, Ujjal Dosanjh, Graeme Bowbrick and Geoff Plant have all signed a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark and B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix, calling on the politicians to endorse legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana.

    The former attorneys general say the move would help reduce gang violence associated with the illegal marijuana trade, raise tax revenues and ease the burden on the province's court system.

    "As former B.C. attorneys general, we are fully aware that British Columbia lost its war against the marijuana industry many years ago," the letter reads.

    "The case demonstrating the failure and harms of marijuana prohibition is airtight. The evidence? Massive profits for organized crime, widespread gang violence, easy access to illegal cannabis for our youth, reduced community safety, and significant — and escalating — costs to taxpayers."

    'Dismayed' by mandatory minimum sentencing

    The letter goes on to say that as attorneys general, the four men were responsible for overseeing the province's justice system and are well aware of the "burden" imposed on the court system by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

    "We are therefore dismayed that the B.C. government supports the federal government’s move to impose mandatory minimum sentences for minor cannabis offences," says the letter. "These misguided prosecutions will further strain an already clogged system, without reducing cannabis prohibition-related violence or rates of cannabis use."

    The letter goes on to compare today's marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition in the United States in the 1920s.

    "It is time B.C. politicians listened to the vast majority of B.C. voters who support replacing cannabis prohibition in favour of a strictly regulated legal market for adult marijuana use," the letter reads.

    Premier Christy Clark responded to the letter Tuesday, saying the decision isn't hers to make.

    "I am going to leave the marijuana debate to the federal government," she said. "It's in their sole sphere of responsibility, so as a premier I respect that former attorneys general have taken this stand, people who are outside of politics, but as a premier I'm going to leave this to the federal government."

    continued in next comment...


  15. continued from previous comment:

    Growing organized crime network

    In an interview with CBC News, Plant acknowledged B.C. politicians can't change federal law, but said this is about adding to the chorus of voices calling for the legalization of marijuana.

    The four former B.C. attorneys general say the illegal marijuana trade is fuelling gang violence. (Canadian Press)
    "I think the goal here is to add momentum to what is an increasingly public groundswell of a demand that governments recognize that the so-called war on drugs, the marijuana prohibition — it's not reducing the incidences of the use of marijuana," he said.

    "Instead, it's feeding this huge and growing organized crime network that's causing people to get shot in the streets."

    Plant said the aim is to get public policy in line with reality.

    "There's evidence that indicates as many as 400,000 British Columbians that are regular consumers of marijuana. When they are possessing it, they're breaking the law and yet it seems that that's tolerated," he said.

    "We like to think that in Canada we live in a society governed by the rule of law, but if one in 10 British Columbians exist outside that … it's almost kind of a joke to think that we truly believe in the rule of law when we are willing to tolerate behaviour that is, on the face of it, unlawful."

    The former attorneys general join four former Vancouver mayors and the Health Officers Council of B.C. in their endorsement of Stop the Violence BC’s call to legally regulate the sale of marijuana under a public health framework.

    Stop the Violence BC is a coalition of law enforcement officials, legal experts, public health officials and academic experts from the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and the University of Northern B.C.


  16. "Beware of religion." Indeed. But God is unspeakably beautiful. Unless you see it for yourself, you cannot imagine how much. There is nothing I have ever done in my life that makes me deserve that experience any more than anyone else. Yet it happened. I hope it happens to you one day. I look at Harper and I see someone more lost than most. What do I know? The sacredness of life. God loves. The last thing I can imagine God wanting is fear. I don't have answers for the yeahbuts. I can appreciate why people ask those questions because I did, but I don't have the answers. But I do know what I experienced. I cannot even ask people to have faith, since they cannot imagine what that faith can bring. So many people are standing a breath away and have no idea.

  17. I notice, Anonymous, that you don't like the sub-heading on my blog banner, warning to Beware of God and would prefer that I wrote "beware of religion". I have heard every argument believers make (I used to make them myself), including the ones you've made here that it is religion that is the problem, not belief in God. But the god virus is most certainly the main problem, the main disease, religion is just the symptom of that disease.

    You make impossible claims, such as God is beautiful and God loves, yet you have absolutely no way to support those claims except by your own subjective experience, if you have truly rejected all religion and dogma.

    Your characterization of God suggests you are coming at this from a Christian perspective, even if you reject its religious trappings. Have you considered the possibility that what you experienced wasn't God, but the Devil? The Bible tells believers that Satan can appear as an angel of light, or something like that.

    Or maybe you truly have rejected all religion and dogma, but that still would not validate your personal experience, which would remain yours alone to misinterpret in anyway you want. Your experience, which you interpret as being God, may have been merely a physical brain fart.

    Sorry, but you are wrong when you claim: "But I do know what I experienced". No you don't, you just think you do.

    Anyone can have a unique personal experience and then claim anything they want to about it, but for you to insist on the certainty that God exists because you experienced it is as convincing as the beliefs of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


  18. Former UK Adviser: Cannabis and Ecstasy Bans Prevent Scientific Research

    By Alok Jha, The Guardian May 31, 2012

    The classification system that makes drugs such as cannabis and MDMA (ecstasy) illegal has prevented scientists from properly researching their possible therapeutic uses for conditions such as schizophrenia and depression, according to the government’s former chief adviser on drugs.

    Professor David Nutt said the UK’s laws on misuse of drugs needed to be rewritten to more accurately reflect their relative harms and called for a regulated approach to making drugs such as MDMA and cannabis available for medical and research purposes.

    “Regulations, which are arbitrary, actually make it virtually impossible to research these drugs,” said Nutt. “The effect these laws have had on research is greater than the effects that [George] Bush stopping stem cell research has had because it’s been going on since the 1960s.”

    Almost all the drugs that could help scientists to understand brain phenomena such as consciousness, perception, mood and psychosis are illegal, including ketamine, cannabis, MDMA and psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms. Nutt said there had been almost no work in this field because the government made it difficult for scientists to access the drugs.

    A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: “The Home Office licensing regime enables bona fide institutions to carry out scientific research on controlled substances while ensuring necessary safeguards are in place.”

    Nutt, who is professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, made his comments at a briefing in London on Wednesday to mark the launch of his book, Drugs Without the Hot Air.

    He is used to being a thorn in the side of the authorities when it comes to drugs regulation. In 2009, he was sacked by the then health secretary, Alan Johnson, from his post as chair of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for publicly stating that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than LSD, ecstasy and cannabis.

    Researchers who want to experiment on illegal drugs, which come under the schedule 1 list of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, must apply for a licence from the Home Office. This takes a year to approve and costs thousands of pounds. Researchers are also required to have secure storage facilities and are subject to random inspections by police.

    “[The rules] completely limit research at the real cutting edge of science,” said Nutt. “I wonder how many other opportunities have been lost in the last 40 years with important drugs like MDMA, with its empathetic qualities, drugs like LSD in terms of treating addictions, cannabis for all the possible uses and insights which it might have for things like schizophrenia. All of those opportunities have been wasted because it is virtually impossible, when a drug’s illegal, to work with it.”

    continued in next comment...

  19. continued from previous comment:

    One of the best treatments for people with post-traumatic stress disorder is to get them to relive their trauma and then teach them how to delete or somehow control the memories. “But many people are so traumatised that, once the memories come back, they just dissociate and can’t hold it long enough in order to deal with it,” said Nutt.

    “There’s been one study in the US showing that MDMA, by damping down the negative emotions associated with the trauma, allow people to get into the therapy and get better. We’re very keen to set up a similar trial in the UK. The paradox will be that, even if we can show it could work, no one could use it in the UK because no doctor would have the licence.

    “LSD was trialled as a treatment for alcoholism in the 1960s and Nutt said the “evidence is that it’s as good as anything we’ve got, maybe better. But no one’s using it because it’s too difficult.”

    Nutt said that the lack of scientific research was a direct result of the UK’s arbitrary classification of drugs. “Drugs are drugs – they differ in terms of their brain effects but, fundamentally, they’re all psychotropic agents and it is arbitrary whether we choose to keep alcohol legal or ban cannabis or make tobacco legal and ban ecstasy. Those are not scientific decisions, they’re political or moral or religious decisions.”

    According to Nutt, research into the effects of drugs would lead to a more rational approach. He said the laws around the misuse of drugs needed to be rewritten, after a thorough, independent review of the harms involved.

    “I’m not in favour of legalisation, a free open market of all drugs – that does lead to more use,” he said. “We need regulated access across the board.”

    This would mean drugs such as cannabis, MDMA or PZP being made available for treatments through a pharmacy. Patients could be issued with a card and given access to an annual supply, he said. “Then at least you would know what you were getting.”

    To see the links embedded in this article go to:


  20. Canada funds regional support to combat drug trafficking and related crime


    OTTAWA — The federal government has announced a $1.5 million contribution toward a global effort to combat transnational organized crime related to illicit drug trafficking in the Americas.

    The new Regional Intelligence Gathering and Criminal Analysis project, implemented by INTERPOL, is aimed at enhancing the capacity of local and regional law enforcement officers in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean to gather and analyze criminal intelligence and data, said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy in a statement Monday.

    "Implementing a regional approach to counter the rampant drug trade and related crime in the Americas is critical to strengthening local and international security," Ablonczy said while at meetings in Washington, D.C.

    "We must continue to build the capacity of law enforcement agencies to stay one step ahead of these sophisticated criminal networks."

    Canada's $1.5 million contribution is funded by the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program, which provides up to $15 million per year to support efforts by countries in the Americas to prevent and respond to threats posed by transnational organized crime.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched that program in 2009, at the North American Leaders' Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.

    Drug trafficking-related violence in Central America has reached "alarming and unprecedented levels," making it one of the world's most violent areas, the United Nations reported in February. Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were identified as key transit countries for smuggling drugs northward.

    North America is the world's largest drug market, the United Nations anti-narcotics panel said in its report.

    "Through implementing objectives we share with trusted partners, we can mitigate the criminal activity and violence associated with illicit drug trafficking," Ablonczy said Monday.

    "Working to accomplish these common goals allows countries throughout the hemisphere to improve safety for their citizens and visitors."


  21. NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) joins Caravan For Peace to end 75 years of violence against citizens caused by the failure of drug prohibition

    NORML Partners With Global Exchange In Support of "Caravan for Peace" Campaign

    NORML and the Women's Alliance are partnering with a multi-national Coalition of NGOs, religious organizations and civil rights groups to support the "Caravan for Peace" Campaign and cross-country tour.

    Led by the Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity (MPJD) and the American-based Global Exchange, the Campaign was established to bring attention to Mexico's ongoing drug war violence and to create a platform where those adversely affected by this battle can join their voices to inform public opinion on both sides of the border.

    "This one-of-a-kind campaign will draw public attention to the damage marijuana prohibition is causing not only in our country, but in Mexico as well. This international alliance of drug reform, human rights, religious and progressive organizations are coming together with one objective: to raise awareness about, and ending, our 75 year violent and failed drug prohibition -- a large portion of which is fueled by our nation's current marijuana policy," said Sabrina Fendrick of the NORML Women's Alliance.

    The Caravan takes place at a politically charged moment. It begins in San Diego, six weeks after Mexico's July 1 presidential election and arrives in Washington, D.C. in September, six weeks prior to the U.S. elections, in which Colorado, Oregon and Washington state will all have the opportunity to vote to implement a legalized, regulated marijuana market.

    NORML chapters and Women's Alliance communities will be taking an active role at various locations. The campaign will bring communities together around events, turning awareness into action and building a movement that will continue pushing for changes at the local, state, national and international level long after the Caravan has passed through.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


    Caravan For Peace website:


  22. Vancouver drug users can access illegal substances within minutes: study


    VANCOUVER - A study called "surprising" by one of its lead researchers has found hard drugs are just ten minutes away for Vancouver's young users.

    The study conducted by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that despite decades of efforts to combat drugs, heroin, crack, cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana can be obtained within minutes, particularly by young drug users.

    Dr. Evan Wood, an internal medicine physician and senior author of the study, noted the U.S. declared the war on drugs 40 years ago, but that hasn't helped at-risk youth avoid falling into drug use.

    "Their reality in terms of the free and easy availability of drugs is, I think, discordant from your average Canadian's understanding of just how . . . available drugs are on the streets of Canadian cities," said Wood.

    The study, to be released today, surveyed two groups of people in 2007; one between 14 and 26 years of age who had used an illicit drug other or in addition to marijuana at least 30 days before joining the study.

    The other consisted of adult drug users over 16 years old who injected drugs at least a month before the survey.

    Both studies asked "How difficult would it be for you to get drugs right now in the area you typically obtain your drugs?"

    They then focused on those who answered they could get drugs in ten minutes and found the small time frame wasn't just for marijuana, but for hard drugs as well.

    "That's, I think, the most surprising thing," said Wood.

    "I'm in the office right now. It would probably take me more than ten minutes to go and be able to buy a bottle of wine."

    Vancouver police spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton wasn't shocked.

    "I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone that if someone is motivated enough and has the knowledge on how to obtain illegal drugs, they could probably do it fairly quickly," wrote Houghton in an email.

    "I’m sure if the study was done 5, 10, or 15 years ago the numbers wouldn’t have been much different."

    continued in next comment...

  23. continued from previous comment:

    Houghton hasn't seen the study yet, but has worked with at-risk youth in the past and said what is important is access to medical care should users have a problem and access to services to help end their addictions.

    Wood said the easy access means current drug policies are not succeeding in stopping the availability and use of illegal drugs and Houghton's comments show police know this.

    "While the police are aware, I think your average Canadian is totally unaware of the fact that our streets are so awash in drugs," said Wood, stressing he doesn't want to sugest he's negative about police efforts.

    "If supply reduction is the foundation of Canada's drug strategy, we really need to have an impact assessment and evaluation of what we're actually getting from that investment."

    He said money spent on prisons and trying to cut the supply of drugs would be more wisely spent on rehabilitation programs and community outreach efforts.

    Wood said legalization and regulation would also cut down on incidents where impure products injure users and compared use to that of people going blind drinking homemade booze during alcohol prohibition.

    "As an internal medicine physician who not that infrequently sees people who have had a brain injury due to a non-fatal overdose or having to give HIV positive test results to young people, I would love to see a drug-free world," said Wood.

    "I'm just coming at this as a scientist and someone who wants to advocate for appropriate use of tax dollars and the general public being made more aware of alternative effective strategies that could better improve health and safety."

    Walter McKay is a former Vancouver police officer who now is a policing consultant. He agrees with Wood that the current drug prohibition model isn't working.

    "Our most secure prisons, where you have armed guards, you control the environment entirely — drugs still get inside it," said McKay.

    "If we can't even control that and we have absolute control over these prisons, then how can we expect the greater policies of more policing, more man power, more money to keep drugs out of the country or off the street?"

    McKay said, due to the profits of drug dealing, no matter how many drug dealers are taken off the streets there will always be another one ready to fill the gap in the market.


  24. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a psychopathic demagogue who deliberately lies to citizens. As a fundamentalist evangelical Christian he has had lots of practice at believing and telling religious lies, and he doesn't hesitate to use that black art in his politics. The Bible gives him justification for lying, in 2 Corinthians 6:8, which tells biblical literalist believers, like the church Harper belongs to, that they can be deceivers yet still true.

    As this blog article points out, Stephen Harper's government fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to try and shut down the first legal Safe Injection Facility in North America. His lawyers made no arguments based on science, but instead tried to shut down Insite with technical, jurisdictional arguments. Prime Minister Harper denies and rejects all scientific evidence related to drugs and instead bases all of his drug policies on moralistic, reactionary ideology mostly imported from the United States, where the drug war is a proven disaster on all levels. Harper is expanding this unjust, immoral war against citizens who use certain drugs against mountains of evidence that prohibition of drugs causes far more harm to individuals and society than the drugs themselves.

    Now, hyper hypocritical Harper, who rejects all scientific evidence related to drugs, is claiming his environmental policies are entirely based on science. Here is what the lying hypocrite said regarding the environmental hearings and assessments now taking place over the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

    From the Globe & Mail:

    Earlier this month, Mr. Harper told reporters in Vancouver that “decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project, and that’s how we conduct our business.”

    He went on to say “the only way that government can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.”

    Yet that was exactly how Harper's government handled the controversial Insite project, simply on political criteria not on science at all.

    As for the pipeline project, the Globe & Mail article points out Harper's appeal to science is at least disingenuous, at worst a deliberate lie to muddy the political waters:

    While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn’t forthcoming.

    And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

    ... the federal government recently sent letters to 92 habitat staff members within Fisheries and Oceans in B.C., telling them that their positions will be cut. Thirty-two of them will be laid off outright.

    The cuts will mean the department in B.C. has half the habitat staff it had a decade ago.
    “He (Harper) says the science will make the decision. Well he’s basically disembowelled the science,” said Mr. Langer. “It’s a cruel hoax that they’re pulling over on the public.”

    Former federal Liberal fisheries minister David Anderson agrees.

    Given the Dec. 31, 2013, deadline set by the federal government, Mr. Anderson said scientists in the Fisheries Department simply don’t have time to complete any substantial scientific study of the project.

    read the rest at:


  25. Why Are No Women Celebrity Stoners Willing to Come Out of the Greenhouse?

    by Greta Gaines AlterNet August 16, 2012

    The only way famous women talk openly and politically about pot use today is if they are using it “medically” -- as in the case with Melissa Etheridge, who spoke openly about her pot use during the chemo treatments she underwent during her 2005 battle with breast cancer. What we don’t hear is celebrity women who are willing to advocate for the legalization and taxation of weed, aka cannabis sativa. But they should, because it’s better for the economy, for the sick and ailing and prescription-addicted, for farmers and for the environment.

    Twenty million-plus Americans use marijuana recreationally. And here’s where things get tricky for potential high-profile women advocates. Women have not been shown “what’s in it for them” if they endorse re-legalizing marijuana and industrial hemp. Subsequently, they still feel there’s too much at stake both personally and professionally to publicly stand up for drug policy reform. Even as much of our history as a nation included this plant -- it served us as rope and masts in the ships that won our wars, as the medium for our founders’ message when the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper -- famous women stay mute when it comes to their relationship to weed.

    Where are the female Tommy Chongs, the Snoop Dog (Lion)s, and the Willie Nelsons? They are out there, but they’re not talking. And they need to understand all they have to gain by coming out of the greenhouse or the pot cookie closet. Is it because they’re not as cavalier as men when it comes to going on record about breaking the law to smoke pot? With upwards of 850,000 marijuana arrests yearly and over a trillion spent, the war on drugs has been the costliest war in American history. Our job at the NORML Women’s Alliance is to urge women to become more vocal about the need to “free the weed.” But a sister needs to help a sister out!

    So this is a call to arms to Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Joss Stone, Paris Hilton, Drew Barrymore, Charlize Theron, Rihanna, Cameron Diaz, Mischa Barton and Jennifer Aniston. Which one of you will be gutsy (and career savvy) enough to cash in on your celebrity stoner status? Millions of us are waiting for our US magazines to arrive with those first photos of a green goddess collecting her platinum bong for her commitment to the cause.

    continued in next comment...

  26. continued from previous comment:

    Here are three good reasons why famous women should consider legalizing marijuana in America.

    1. It’s an entirely green initiative. Oil companies are already bidding on the oil reserves underneath the ever-melting polar ice caps. Hemp is oil and all of our cars and airplanes can run on it while also putting out-of-work farmers back to work. Hemp actually improves the environment where it is grown.

    2. It could save your life. Not only is pot way cooler than alcohol, it’s also non-toxic. Dylan Thomas could not have smoked himself to death. There has never been a cannabis-related death. Ever. In fact, recent studies show that cannabis kills stage 4 cancer cells. It’s not only not bad for you, studies are showing that cannabinoids (helpful compounds found in the plant) support the immune system. These same compounds found in the pot plant are found in mother’s milk. So, while drinking can kill you -- and others if you drive while intoxicated -- pot could save your life.

    3. It will probably make you a pop cultural icon. If you are a famous hot female, what’s more rad than getting photographed smoking a blunt in a Bob Marley bathing suit in Barbados? Rihanna could change lives if she would just come out and say, “I smoke pot. I like it.”

    Dr. Andrew Weil, the guru of alternative medicine, has called cannabis sativa the dog of the plant world. In other words, the pot plant has been growing loyally since the dawn of mankind, making itself useful to us as fiber, food and medicine. This war on weed is being sustained by a self-interested government that has never figured out how to properly profit from legal marijuana production, and is afraid of its power to put so many big oil and pharmaceutical companies out of business.

    Famous women can help change this by arming themselves with the facts and being fearless in the conviction of their choices. Theirs are the voices that are missing from this important struggle, and they need to step up. It’s high time.

    Greta Gaines is a singer/songwriter who lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two young sons. She serves on the national board of NORML and on the NORML Women’s Alliance. She has been named in Skunk Magazine’s “100 most important marijuana activists.”


  27. Federal Government Kills Another Patient

    Rob Kampia, Executive Director - Marijuana Policy Project http://www.mpp.org/ August 31, 2012

    Five years ago, Montana’s most outspoken medical marijuana patient — Robin Prosser — committed suicide after the DEA seized her medicine, making her life unbearable.

    Now flash forward to this past Wednesday night, when the feds’ war on medical marijuana claimed another Montana citizen’s life ...

    Former medical marijuana provider Richard Flor died on Wednesday after suffering heart attacks and kidney failure about six months into his five-year federal sentence. Richard was sentenced despite suffering from diabetes, Hepatitis C, and osteoarthritis.

    For months, the federal government failed to place him in a facility that could give him the medical care he needed — and that the judge recommended.

    Let your Congress member know that it’s past time to end this carnage.

    Richard was Montana’s first registered caregiver, under a law that MPP passed via voter initiative in November 2004. He was assisting his wife Sherry — who suffers from chronic pain and is allergic to pain medications — as well as other patients.

    Richard believed President Obama and his Justice Department when they said that medical marijuana providers would not be a federal enforcement priority. So, in 2009, Richard co-founded Montana Cannabis, where patients could get reliable, safe access to their medicine. But then the feds suddenly shifted their policy in March 2011, targeting Montana Cannabis and several other providers without warning.

    The feds didn’t spare Sherry, either: She is serving a two-year sentence.

    Please email your U.S. House representative to ask them to pass legislation to give legal protection to medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and businesses in the 17 (and soon to be more) states and the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.

    P.S. If you’d like to send Sherry a sympathy card, please mail it to:
    Sherry Flor #11358046
    Federal Prison Camp
    37930 North 45th Avenue
    Phoenix, AZ 85086

    To view the links embedded in this news release go to:


  28. Federal Cannabis Prohibition Turns 75-Years-Old Today

    NORML October 1, 2012

    n a milestone that will no doubt go largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, today marks the 75th anniversary of the enactment of federal marijuana prohibition. On October 1, 1937, the US government criminally outlawed the possession and cultivation of cannabis -- setting into motion a public policy that today results in some 850,000 arrests per year and has led to more than 20 million arrests since 1965.

    But times are changing. Now, for the first time, a majority of Americans say that they favor replacing this failed policy with one of cannabis legalization and regulation. Further, on November 6th, voters in three states -- Colorado, Oregon, and Washington -- will decide at the ballot box whether to allow for the limited legalization of cannabis for adults. According to the latest polls, voters Colorado and Washington appear ready to take this historic step, while Oregonians remain closely divided on the issue.

    That is why we have themed this week's 41st national NORML Conference in Los Angeles 'The Final Days of Prohibition'. (Conference registration information is here.) Today we reflect upon the decades of failure imposed by prohibition; tomorrow we look to the very near future when cannabis prohibition is abolished once and for all.

    Below is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (2009, Chelsea Green) which looks back at how we got into this mess in the first place.

    to see the links embedded in this article go to: http://norml.org/news/2012/10/01/federal-cannabis-prohibition-turns-75-years-old-today

    continued in next comment:

  29. continued from previous comment...

    By 1935, most states in the country had enacted laws criminalizing the possession and use of pot, and newspaper editors were frequently opining in favor of stiffer and stiffer penalties for marijuana users. As [US Federal Bureau of Narcotics' Director Harry J.] Anslinger's rhetoric became prominent, he found additional allies who were willing to carry his propagandist message to the general public. Among these were the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Hearst newspaper chain - the latter of which luridly editorialized against the "insidious and insanity producing marihuana" in papers across the country.

    Members of state and local law enforcement also joined the FBN's anti-marijuana crusade. Writing in The Journal of Criminology, Wichita, Kansas, police officer L. E. Bowery asserted that the cannabis user is capable of "great feats of strength and endurance, during which no fatigue is felt." Bowery's toxic screed, which for years thereafter would be hailed by advocates of prohibition as the definitive 'study' of the drug, concluded:

    "Sexual desires are stimulated and may lead to unnatural acts, such as indecent exposure and rape. ... [Marijuana use] ends in the destruction of brain tissues and nerve centers, and does irreparably damage. If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death."

    ... By 1937, Congress - which had resisted efforts to clamp down on the drug some two decades earlier - was poised to act, and act quickly, to enact blanket federal prohibition. Ironically, by this time virtually every state had already ratified laws against cannabis possession. Nonetheless, local authorities argued that the marijuana threat was so great that federal intervention was also necessary.

    On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced House Bill 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive tax on the drug. The measure was the brainchild of the U.S. Treasury Department, and mandated a $100 per ounce tax on the transfer of cannabis to members of the general public. Ironically, a separate anti-marijuana measure introduced that same year sought to directly outlaw possession and use of the drug. However this proposal was assumed at that time to have been beyond the constitutional authority of Congress.

    Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of Rep. Doughton's bill. The federal government's chief witness, Harry Anslinger, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that "traffic in marijuana is increasing to such an extent that it has come to be the cause for the greatest national concern. ... This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured."

    Other witnesses included a pair of veterinarians who testified that dogs were particularly susceptible to marijuana's effects. "Over a period of six months or a year (of exposure to marijuana), ... the animal must be discarded because it is no longer serviceable," one doctor testified. This would be the extent of 'scientific' testimony presented to the Committee.

    continued in next comment...

  30. continued from previous comment...

    The American Medical Association (AMA) represented the most vocal opposition against the bill. Speaking before Congress, the AMA's Legislative Counsel Dr. William C. Woodward challenged the legitimacy of the alleged 'Demon Weed.'

    "We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.

    You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children's Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children's Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and no nothing particularly of it.

    ... Moreover, there is the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service. ... Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have no record of any marijuana or cannabis addicts."

    Woodward further argued that the proposed legislation would severely hamper physicians' ability to utilize marijuana's therapeutic potential. While acknowledging that the drug's popularity as a prescription medicine had declined, Woodward nonetheless warned that the Marihuana Tax Act "loses sight of the fact that future investigations may show that there are substantial medical uses for cannabis."

    Woodward's criticisms of the bill's intent - as well as his questions regarding whether such legislation was objectively justifiable - drew a stern rebuke from the Chairman of the Committee. "If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticism, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the federal government is trying to do," the AMA's counsel was told. "Is not the fact that you were not consulted your real objection to this bill?"

    Despite the AMA's protests, the House Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 6385. House members even went so far as to elevate the Anslinger's propaganda to Congressional findings of fact, stating:

    "Under the influence of this drug the will is destroyed and all power directing and controlling thought is lost. ... [M]any violent crimes have been and are being committed by persons under the influence of this drug. ... [S]chool children ... have been driven to crime and insanity through the use of this drug. Its continued use results many times in impotency and insanity."

    Anslinger made similar horrific pronouncements before members of the Senate, which spent even less time debating than the measure than had the House. By June, less than three months after the bill's introduction, the House of Representatives voted affirmatively to pass the proposal, which was described by one congressman as having "something to do with something that is called marijuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind."

    Weeks later, after the Senate had approved their version of the bill, the House was asked to vote once again on the measure. Prior to the House's final vote, one representative asked whether the American Medical Association had endorsed the proposal, to which a member of the Ways and Means Committee replied, "Their Dr. Wharton (sic) gave this measure his full support." Following this brief exchange of inaccurate information, Congress gave its final approval of the Marihuana Tax Act without a recorded vote.

    President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law. The Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect on October 1, 1937 - thus setting in motion the federal government's foray into the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws which continues unabated today.


  31. Class War: Why Poor Parents Are More Likely to Get Busted for Pot

    Low-income parents who smoke pot live with the well-founded fear that they could lose their children to the foster care system.

    By Emma S. Ketteringham, Mary Anne Mendenhall, AlterNet October 16, 2012

    Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed by an art dealer and father from San Francisco titled “Pot for Parents.” It was just the latest of a growing number of pieces (Jezebel.com, NY Post, Huffingtonpost.com and Phillymag.com) published recently espousing the benefits of marijuana use for parents. These pro-pot missives share a carefree and cavalier tone, portraying marijuana use as an upscale diversion that ameliorates stress and leads to more patient and creative parenting. The “best part” of marijuana use, the “Pot for Parents” author writes, “is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome” -- the ability to perform obligatory parental duties with genuine enthusiasm after using marijuana.

    Whatever benefits marijuana use may or may not have for parenting, to those of us who represent parents in New York City’s Family Courts, these articles only highlight a daily reality: that when it comes to drug use, there are very different rules for poor parents, and particularly poor parents of color. The disproportionate and devastating impact of the drug war on poor communities of color, in terms of criminal arrests and prosecutions, has been well documented. What has largely gone unreported is the extent to which countless low-income parents in New York City and across the country live with the fear – a fear clearly not shared by the well-heeled author of “Pot for Parents” – that they could lose their children to the foster care system if they were as brazen about their own pot smoking.

    These fears are well founded. For poor parents in New York, suspicion of marijuana use will often trigger a visit from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and an intrusive inspection of their homes, bedrooms and cupboards. The municipal caseworker, untrained in social work or child psychology, will interrogate their children, asking questions about the intimate minutiae of all aspects of family life without background or context, and require a drug test. If the parent refuses a drug test or tests positive for marijuana, she will be asked to attend intensive drug treatment lasting up to 18 months, usually at taxpayers’ expense, even for casual or infrequent marijuana use. If the parent refuses to attend treatment, ACS will file a petition charging the parent with child neglect, regardless of whether there is any evidence that the marijuana use has had a negative effect on parenting.

    Contrary to the ACS position, research actually suggests that there is no express link between marijuana use on its own and child neglect. In one 13-year study at Columbia University, researchers found that even during periods of marijuana-induced intoxication, people are able to engage in appropriate social behaviors and even respond to emergencies. A second peer-reviewed study sought to determine whether drug use -- including harder drugs -- causes or is associated with increased risks of abuse and neglect. The researchers could not find any such association.

    Despite a lack of evidence of any actual harm, these cases will nonetheless wind their way through protracted and torturous court processes. Parents will be drug-tested again and again, ordered to attend services, and threatened with the removal of their children until they test negative. If they fail to comply with mandated services or test positive for marijuana during the proceedings, the court can remove their children and place them with strangers.

    continued in next comment...

  32. continued from previous comment...

    To say that this process weighs heavily on a family’s day-to-day functioning is an understatement. Cases frequently linger in the court system for months or sometimes years. Parents are required to open their homes up to an ever-changing line-up of caseworkers who come knocking at the dinner hour, or worse, past bedtime. And even if the legal case is ultimately dismissed, the parent’s name will likely remain on a state-wide registry of people who have maltreated children until the parent’s youngest child turns 28 years old, a stigma that will foreclose numerous job opportunities and disadvantage the parent at every turn in future child-related court proceedings.

    We know that substance use cuts across socioeconomic and racial lines. National studies show that 22.5 million Americans – nearly 9% of the population – say they regularly use drugs such as marijuana and studies consistently show that marijuana use is heaviest among whites. Yet it is poor parents of color who overwhelmingly shoulder the burden of a dysfunctional and broken child welfare system. Indeed, despite higher rates of illegal drug use by white women during pregnancy, African American women are 10 times more likely to be reported to child welfare authorities for testing positive for an illegal drug at the birth of their child.

    The child welfare system’s treatment of substance-using parents is one of the clearest examples of the double standard that exists for rich and poor parents in this country. In one America, parents risk nothing more than the passive disapproval of peers whose tolerance of parental palliatives stops at a legal glass of Chardonnay at dinnertime. In the other America, families risk needless and costly governmental intrusion, court-directed scrutiny of their parenting abilities, and in many cases, the permanent disruption of their families.

    Our courts regularly mete out draconian punishments to poor parents for behavior that would elicit nothing worse than a disapproving glance in more well-to-do circles. ACS perpetuates this double-standard unabated – without any support for its position – causing more short- and long-term harm to children than a little “pot for parents” ever could.

    Emma S. Ketteringham is Managing Attorney at the Bronx Defenders, Family Defense Practice, and the former director of legal advocacy at National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

    Mary Anne Mendenhall is Staff Attorney at the Bronx Defenders, Family Defense Practice.


  33. Media Ignored Expert's Shocking Findings That Marijuana Helps Prevent Lung Cancer -- Now It's Med-School Material

    UCLA professor Donald Tashkin will now be sharing his research discoveries to medical students this week.

    By Fred Gardner, AlterNet October 24, 2012

    You'd think it would have been very big news in the spring of 2005 when Donald Tashkin, a professor of pulmonology at UCLA's David Geffin School of Medicine, revealed at a conference that components of marijuana smoke, although they damage cells in respiratory tissue, somehow prevent them from becoming malignant. But headlines announcing "Pot Doesn't Cause Cancer" did not ensue.

    Tashkin will review his findings and discuss current research this Thursday in Santa Monica, California as part of a course for doctors accredited by the University of California San Francisco. (It is open to the public; pre-registration is $95.)

    Tashkin has special credibility. He was the lead investigator on studies dating back to the 1970s that identified the compounds in marijuana smoke that are toxic. It was Tashkin who published photomicrographs showing that marijuana smoke damages cells lining the upper airways. It was the Tashkin lab reporting that benzpyrene -a component of tobacco smoke that plays a role in most lung cancers- is especially prevalent in marijuana smoke. It was Tashkin's data documenting that marijuana smokers are more likely than non-smokers to cough, wheeze, and produce sputum.

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse supported Tashkin's marijuana-related research over the decades and readily gave him a grant to conduct a large, population-based, case-controlled study that would prove definitively that heavy, long-term marijuana use increases the risk of lung and upper-airways cancers. What Tashkin and his colleagues found, however, disproved their hypothesis. (Tashkin is to marijuana as a cause of lung cancer what Hans Blick is to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -an honest investigator who set out to find something, concluded that it wasn't there, and reported his results.)

    Tashkin's team interviewed 1,212 cancer patients from the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance program, matched for age, gender, and neighborhood with 1,040 cancer-free controls. Marijuana use was measured in "joint years" (number of years smoked times number of joints per day). It turned out that increased marijuana use did not result in higher rates of lung and pharyngeal cancer (whereas tobacco smokers were at greater risk the more they smoked). Tobacco smokers who also smoked marijuana were at slightly lower risk of getting lung cancer than tobacco-only smokers.

    The Tashkin scoop was still there for the taking in April 2009 when Tashkin reviewed his findings at a conference at Asilomar organized by "Patients Out of Time." Investigators from New Zealand had recently gotten widespread media attention for a study contradicting Tashkin's results. "Heavy cannabis users may be at greater risk of chronic lung disease -including cancer- compared to tobacco smokers," is how BBC News summed up the New Zealanders' findings. The very small size of the study -79 smokers took part, 21 of whom smoked cannabis only- was not held against the authors. As conveyed in the corporate media, the New Zealand study represented the latest word on this important subject (as if science were some kind of tennis match and the truth just gets truthier with every volley).

    continued in next comment...

  34. continued from previous comment...

    Tashkin criticized the New Zealanders' methodology in his talk at Asilomar: "There's some cognitive dissonance associated with the interpretation of their findings. I think this has to do with the belief model among the investigators and -I wish they were here to defend themselves- the integrity of the investigators... They actually published another paper in which they mimicked the design that we used for looking at lung function."

    Tashkin spoke from the stage of an airy redwood chapel designed by Julia Morgan. He is pink-cheeked, 70ish, wears wire-rimmed spectacles. "For tobacco they found what you'd expect: a higher risk for lung cancer and a clear dose-response relationship. A 24-fold increase in the people who smoked the most... What about marijuana? If they smoked a small or moderate amount there was no increased risk, in fact slightly less than one. But if they were in the upper third of the group, then their risk was six-fold... A rather surprising finding, and one has to be cautious about interpreting the results because of the very small number of cases (14) and controls (4)."

    Tashkin said the New Zealanders employed "statistical sleight of hand." He deemed it "completely implausible that smokers of only 365 joints of marijuana have a risk for developing lung cancer similar to that of smokers of 7,000 tobacco cigarettes... Their small sample size led to vastly inflated estimates... They had said 'it's ideal to do the study in New Zealand because we have a much higher prevalence of marijuana smoking.' But 88 percent of their controls had never smoked marijuana, whereas 36% of our controls (in Los Angeles) had never smoked marijuana. Why did so few of the controls smoke marijuana? Something fishy about that!"

    Those are very strong words for a UCLA School of Medicine professor!

    As to the highly promising implication of his own study -that something in marijuana stops damaged cells from becoming malignant- Tashkin noted that an anti-proliferative effect of THC has been observed in cell-culture systems and animal models of brain, breast, prostate, and lung cancer. THC has been shown to promote known apoptosis (damaged cells die instead of reproducing) and to counter angiogenesis (the process by which blood vessels are formed -a requirement of tumor growth). Other antioxidants in cannabis may also be involved in countering malignancy, said Tashkin.

    Much of Tashkin's talk at Asilomar was devoted to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, another condition prevalent among tobacco smokers. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two forms of COPD, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Air pollution and tobacco smoke are known culprits. Inhaled pathogens cause an inflammatory response, resulting in diminished lung function. COPD patients have increasing difficulty clearing the airways as they get older.

    Tashkin and colleagues at UCLA conducted a major study in which they measured lung function of various cohorts over eight years and found that tobacco-only smokers had an accelerated rate of decline, but marijuana smokers -even if they smoked tobacco as well- experienced the same rate of decline as non-smokers. "The more tobacco smoked, the greater the rate of decline," said Tashkin. "In contrast, no matter how much marijuana was smoked, the rate of decline was similar to normal." Tashkin concluded that his and other studies "do not support the concept that regular smoking of marijuana leads to COPD."

    continued in next comment...

  35. continued from previous comment...

    Note: The half-day series of talks, dubbed "MMJ13001B" by UCSF, is newsworthy in itself, as medical schools typically do not include Cannabis in the curriculum. ("MMJ13001A" will be offered in San Francisco Oct. 24.)

    The media has never taken note of the reality that there is a spectrum of expertise among doctors who approve marijuana use by patients. They have portrayed "potdocs" as quick-buck artists practicing sub-standard medicine, ignoring the serious, research-minded clinicians who understand why compounds in the plant alleviate a wide range of symptoms.

    Like Tashkin, all the MMJ13001 speakers are clinicians who have done cutting-edge research. The line-up:

    -Introduction to the endocannabinoid system: Epidemiology of medical cannabis use, Clinical overview -Mark Ware, MD

    -The Neuropsychiatric Effects of Cannabis -Igor Grant, MD

    -Pulmonary effects of Cannabis: COPD, Cancer and Clinical Considerations (30 mins) -Donald Tashkin, MD

    -Therapeutic effects of Cannabis: Cancer and Pain Management: Clinical trials, Vaporization and Clinical Pearls-Donald Abrams, MD

    -Cannabis in Primary Care: Issues for the Practicing Physician: IBD, Patient screening and monitoring, Clinical Pearls -Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD

    - Cannabis: A Nursing perspective-MaryLynn Mathre, RN

    UC San Diego psychiatrist Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, recently published a paper in The Open Neurology Journal concluding "it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking, and calling for its rescheduling by the federal government.

    The CME course was organized by the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of the Cannabinoids with support from the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, a California-based group. It provides 2.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)(tm). Pre-registration is at www.ccic.net/USACME.


  36. Full-Body Pat-Downs in Americas Schools: How the War on Drugs Is a War on Children

    By Patricia J. Williams, The Nation
    AlterNet February 18, 2013

    On a warm spring afternoon at American colleges, the intoxicating aroma of surely medicinal marijuana will be floating like a soft caress in the breeze, and hard-working students will be stocking up on amphetamine cocktails to sharpen their overstressed young minds for the coming exams.

    On a warm spring afternoon at the nation’s poorer public schools, children (and I mean children) will endure a daily police presence, including drug-sniffing dogs, full-body pat-downs, searches of backpacks and lockers, stops in the hallways—all in the name of searching for contraband.

    Drugs are ubiquitous in this country, and yet we know that some people have the privilege of doctor-prescribed intoxication, while others are thrown into dungeons for seeking the same relief. We know that the war on drugs is heavily inflected with Jim Crow–ism, economic inequality, gun culture myths and political opportunism. We know that Adam Lanza’s unfortunate mother was not the sole Newtown resident stocking up on military-style weapons; plenty of suburban gun owners keep similar weapons to protect their well-kept homes against darkly imagined, drug-addled marauders from places like Bridgeport. We divert resources from mental health or rehab, and allocate millions to militarize schools.

    The result: the war on drugs has metastasized into a war on children.

    Best publicized, perhaps, is the plight of young people in Meridian, Mississippi, where a federal investigation is probing into why children as young as 10 are routinely taken to jail for wearing the wrong color socks or flatulence in class. Bob Herbert wrote of a situation in Florida in 2007, where police found themselves faced with the great challenge of placing a 6-year-old girl in handcuffs too big for her wrists. The child was being arrested for throwing a tantrum in her kindergarten class; the solution was to cuff her biceps, after which she was dragged to the precinct house for mug shots and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.

    In New York City, kids who make trouble are routinely removed from school altogether and placed in suspension centers, holding cells or juvenile detention lockups. In the old days, you got a detention slip for scrawling your initials on a desk. Now a student can be given a summons by a school police officer. If the kid loses it or doesn’t want to tell his parents, it becomes a warrant—and a basis for arrest.

    According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, some 
77 percent of New York’s school police interventions are for noncriminal matters like having food outside the cafeteria, having a cellphone or being late. Other minor offenses like shouting, getting into petty scuffles or being on school grounds after hours fall into the category of “disruptive behavior”—an offense that can get a student suspended. Just 4 percent of police interventions are in response to “major crimes against persons.”

    But what’s a teacher to do? In New York City, police officers outnumber guidance counselors by more than 2,000.

    continued in next comment...

  37. Yet as Newtown should teach us, we love our guns as much as we love our drugs. We know that even our best efforts at gun control will not undo a simultaneous and enthusiastic installation of armed overseers in our public schools. As such forces grow exponentially across the country, we keep them busy by installing zero-tolerance policies that take disciplinary discretion out of teachers’ hands and put it in the hands of law enforcement officers with little to no training in child psychology, mediation or anger management. Indeed, the NYCLU recently filed a complaint after the NYPD arrested Mark Federman, the principal of East Side Community High School, for intervening as the in-school officers hauled away an honor student.

    This “school-to-prison pipeline” has emerged suddenly. Over just the last two decades, we got scared. We sent guns and billy clubs into our schools on purpose. We provided federal funds for massive surveillance systems—for cameras like they have in Oakland, monitoring every inch of school life from a command center. We slashed budgets for books, salaries, computers, psychologists, librarians and buildings. We dealt with classroom overcrowding
by segregating those with learning difficulties, shunting them into tracks where they have no chance.

    On top of that, we instituted blunt metrics by which teachers lose pay or even their jobs depending on student outcomes. If scores aren’t good—regardless of how difficult the students’ life circumstances or language challenges or learning disabilities—
it is teachers who are held responsible. With so much at stake, calling the school police is one way to remove lower-performing students from the classroom on high-stakes testing days.

    And with the police being given incentives for making a large number of arrests, why wouldn’t the rational officer bring charges of “disturbance of education” or disorderly conduct for catfights in the hallways, when he might beef up his salary with the easy frog-march of juvenile perps to the precinct?

    The most vulnerable targets may be children of color, but this war on kids is a war on all children. Ultimately, the lack of due-process protections and human dignity in ghetto schools leaches into suburban schools. It doesn’t really matter whether one side views it as protecting against the dark side with zero-tolerance strip searches for ibuprofen, while the other side experiences it as an annexing of the prison-industrial complex onto daily life. Criminalizing children will have constitutional implications for generations to come. It is corrosive and rends the fabric of our erstwhile civil society, makes a lie of equal opportunity, and rewards authoritarian personality disorder at the expense of our humanity.


  38. Physicist: If All Science Were Run Like Marijuana Research, Creationists Would Control Paleontology

    The DEA and NIDA act as a "tag team" to censor science on pot.

    By Nicole Flatow AlterNet February 26, 2013

    In the face of obstacles to marijuana research from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and one-time MacArthur Fellow is calling out the federal government on its obstruction of science.

    During an address before a medical marijuana conference Friday, John H. Schwartz explained how the DEA and NIDA act as a “tag team” to censor science, with NIDA holding a monopoly over legal access to cannabis for research, and the DEA refusing to reconsider the drug’s designation in the Controlled Substances Act as a dangerous substance with no medical value on the basis that sufficient research does not exist. He alleges that the government has blocked research even though it has long been aware of marijuana’s potential to serve many medical benefits including shrink aggressive cancer cells is because it might “send the wrong message to children”:

    The most blatant example of this behavior came last year, when NIDA blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them. […]

    As a physicist, I can assure you that this not how physics works. … We are all expected to act like grownups and accept it gracefully as experiments prove our favorite theories are false. In physics, unlike marijuana policy, we consider the right message to send to be the message that’s true. […]

    Consider what American science might look like if all research were run like marijuana research is being run now. Suppose the Institute for Creation Science were put in charge of approving paleontology digs and the science of human evolution. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we gave coal and oil companies the power to block any climate research they didn’t like.

    Of course, as Schwartz acknowledges, interest groups such as coal and oil companies often do have a significant influence over policy decisions, regardless of the underlying science. Even blocking research outright — a much less common tactic — is not unique to marijuana. The NRA has had tremendous success, for example, in blocking gun violence prevention research. It remains, however, a uniquely insidious tactic that Schwartz says harkens back to the era of witch hunts. And as Schwartz points out, organizations tasked with “drug enforcement” and battling “drug abuse” are not well-positioned to remain neutral on the best way to handle drug policy. A bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) would take federal oversight of marijuana research out of the hands of NIDA.

    Like many marijuana advocates, Schwartz has a family member whose life was altered by medical marijuana. His wife, Patricia, resorted to remedies as extreme as electric shock before turning to marijuana to treat her chronic bladder inflammation — the only remedy that worked.

    “After a few months of using it,” around the time of the passage of Proposition 215′s passage in California 16 years ago, he said, ”her bladder function returned to normal and so did our lives, except for one thing: we were now facing the wrath of the most powerful government in the world.” And they still are.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to:


  39. Fleeing His Own War on Drugs, Felipe Calderón Finds Refuge at Harvard

    By Andalusia Knoll, Truthout | Op-Ed March 01, 2013

    Citizens of Mexico and the United States question the appropriateness of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government offering former Mexican president Felipe Calderón a prestigious and lucrative fellowship, given the dramatic increases in drug violence and human rights violations during his tenure.

    When Felipe Calderón completed his Mexican presidential term in the fall of 2012, he boarded the first plane out of the country and landed at The Harvard Kennedy School of Government to start a prestigious fellowship. In his wake, he left a country reeling from violence, where kidnappings, extortions, beheadings and grave human rights violations have become part of every day life. In the past six years, over 70,000 people have been murdered and more than 25,000 people have been disappeared under Calderón's "war on narco-trafficking."

    On November 28, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government announced that Felipe Calderón would be their Inaugural Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow in a program designed for "high-profile leaders who are transitioning out of public office or other leadership positions to spend time in residence at Harvard for teaching, learning and research."

    Within days of this announcement, Eduardo Cortés Rivadeneyra, a businessman from the state of Puebla, started a bilingual petition on change.org to urge the president of Harvard and dean of the Kennedy School to revoke Calderón 's fellowship. Simultaneously, John Randolph, a former border patrol officer, started an English petition stating, "Any moral or ethical integrity that Harvard has ever had has been submerged in Calderón's blood- soaked fellowship." Randolph and Cortés united their petitions and have garnered over 35,000 signatures in just two months.

    Petitioners hailing from some 28 countries, including Mexico, the United States, India, Iran, Colombia and Germany wrote a range of complaints, but the words assassin, blood and death were a constant presence throughout the signatories' comments.

    "Our tax dollars are going to fight this unjust illogical war," says petition creator John Randolph. "How can you trust the military when the whole government is corrupt from local to state law enforcement on up?"

    Working 26 years as a US Border Patrol Officer, Randolph added that he has seen enough of the deadly effects on immigrants resulting from the militarization of the border and that spreading similar security tactics farther south won't work.

    "People think [the violence] is just Mexico's problem without examining our own problems of drug consumption, a skyrocketing prison population and not to mention money laundering and arm exports," adds Randolph.

    Randolph and Cortés hope that the petition and the large support it has gathered through change.org will serve as a wake-up call to the American people about the true significance of Calderón's Harvard fellowship.

    On Tuesday, January 29, Melodie Jackson, Kennedy School associate dean for communications and public affairs, received Cortés and Randolph, allowing them to submit hundreds of papers with the signatures urging the dean to revoke the fellowship. The petitions had been addressed to Harvard President Drew Faust and Kennedy School of Government Dean David Ellwood - both of whom did not attend the meeting and later issued a statement (which the school has not publicly posted) rejecting the petition's claims.

    Harvard Kennedy School: "A Free Exchange of Ideas"

    The press office of Harvard Kennedy School refused to speak with Truthout and instead sent two public statements issued by Dean Ellwood, both of which were grounded in the idea that "one of the fundamental tenets of the Kennedy School is the free exchange of ideas."

    continued in next comment...

  40. When asked by Truthout why the free flow of information must be accompanied by a hefty salary, Harvard's press office simply referenced their previous statement:

    "The unique opportunity to engage in direct discussion with a former head of state is one that many of our students value greatly, even if they may disagree with some of that leader's policy positions. We are confident that Mr. Calderón's one-year fellowship will create numerous opportunities for rigorous discussion and active debate on a range of important issues between our students, the wider Harvard community, and Mexico's former president."

    Calderón: Rising to Power on Stolen votes

    The Mexican people's issues with Calderón started with the controversial election through which he took power. Calderón belongs to the right-wing Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), which translates into National Action Party. In 2005, he ran against center left candidate and former mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). At first, the Federal Electoral Institute declared that the election was too close to declare a winner, and then it stated a few days later that Calderón had won by a narrow margin of 0.58%. For many months following the election, supporters of Obrador declared the results were fraudulent and set up an encampment occupying the capital city's main plaza, the Zocalo, to protest the imposition of Calderón .

    Lacking the popular support of the Mexican people, Calderón sought legitimacy by exercising an iron fist against the country's infamous narco-traffickers. "National Security" became his motto, and he greatly increased the national defense budget, deploying 50,000 military troops to civilian areas throughout the country. The United States enthusiastically welcomed Calderón's militarized approach, viewing it as parallel to its own war on drugs. In June 2008, The US government signed The Merida Initiative into law, which allocated $1.6 billion over the course of three years to Mexico and countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean to combat drug trafficking - which was likened to terrorism and insurgency. This initiative is nicknamed Plan Mexico by its critics, a reference to Plan Colombia and the massive militarization of that country under the umbrella of a war on drugs.

    Much of this money allocated to Mexico never left the United States, landing in the hands of the very same defense contractors who had lobbied for the passage of the Merida Initiative in the first place. While the Merida Initiative came with a high financial cost to US taxpayers, it came at a much higher cost to Mexican citizens, who paid with their flesh and blood, 70,000 - 100,000 times over, depending on whom you ask.

    Calderón's strategy of deploying the military to civilian areas and pursuing targeted assassinations of drug kingpins merely resulted in the splintering of "organized crime." This method of selective enforcement left voids that allowed newer cartels to emerge and engage in turf wars. With brute force and massive artilleries, these cartels battle for control of the local drug market and trafficking corridors known as the "plaza." These newer groups often act with less discipline - increasing the likelihood that ordinary citizens will be caught in their deadly crossfire. In 2009, the military murdered cartel leader Arturo Beltrán Leyva in Cuernavaca, Morelos, and in the wake of his death, murder rates immediately skyrocketed.

    In a country where less than 10 percent of crimes are investigated and less than 5 percent are pursued, the families of the more than 25,000 people disappeared are left grappling with unknown histories and dark futures. For those living in the 14 Mexican states that are most ravaged by violence, the chance of a crime leading to trial and sentencing was less than 1 percent in 2010.

    continued in next comment...

  41. We've Had It Up to Here: Breaking the Silence

    In 2010, nationally renowned poet Javier Sicilia's son was killed in narco-related violence, leading Sicilia to denounce Calderón's failed strategy as the true assassin of the Mexican people. In the months following, he formed the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) and helped mobilize more than 225,000 people across the country in protest of Calderón's utterly failed drug war. The testimonies of each participant debunked the government myth that only drug traffickers are killed in this war. Families united to break the silence, refusing to let the deaths and disappearances of their loved ones be brushed aside as collateral damage.

    In 2012, MPJD protesters took their cries for justice up North, crossing the border and traveling across the United States to denounce their neighboring country's role in the violence by supplying the market, the arms, the banks and government support for military actions.

    "The only fear that I have is to die without seeing my son again, but other than that nothing will stop me from looking for him." said Maria Gonzalez Vela of Puebla at a protest at NYC's City Hall. "I will spend all my days looking for him, because when you lose a child, there goes your life."

    It is the testimony of thousands of people just like Vela, whom Calderón has ignored.

    "He doesn't stay here to show his face to the victims and all the consequences of his political economical and war decisions" says National Autonomous University of Mexico professor Pietro Ameglio "If he wants to discuss with students of the USA or the world in Harvard, he should first discuss with victims and families of victims about why he took such dramatic effects and without any conscience."

    Javier Sicilia and Sergio Aguayo, who is also involved with MPJD, wrote two letters to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government urging them to reconsider their offer, citing Harvard's commitment to "individuals who respect the dignity of others" which they maintain that Calderón has clearly violated. "Professor Ellwood, you called the 'President Calderón of living example of a dynamic and committed public servant,' " write Aguayo and Sicilia "How can you support that claim, when there is so much evidence to the contrary? President Felipe Calderón was insensitive: The government failed to investigate what happened to the dissapeared and deliberately concealed important information to their families."

    After receiving these letters, the Harvard administration has maintained its same support for Calderón. "We care about power, not ethics," is the message that Harvard is sending, according to Laura Carlsen, the director of the Mexico-based Center on the Americas.

    "Wow! We're cool because we have these former world leaders, and we don't really care if they left their country bathed in blood, or if they left their countries mired in debt, or if they created human misery left and right during their time in office. Is that the way that they want to teach students in the United States? Ethics, morality and even human life doesn't matter."

    Academic Accolades for Human Rights and Environmental Violations

    Harvard has not only praised Calderón's social practices, but also his economic policies. In its statement announcing the fellowship, Calderón was credited, "with having boosted the nation's economic development as a pro-business, pro-free market leader and having made significant reforms to the country's environmental, immigration and health-care policies."

    Change.org petitioner Cortés also based his argument against Calderón's fellowship on a critique of his catastrophic economic policies.

    continued in next comment...

  42. "Felipe Calderón increased public debt by 122 percent, according to the Mexican Ministry of Finance, and poverty rates rose with the addition of 7.3 million poor people, and Mexico fell 33 ranks in the international Corruption Index according to Transparency International."

    In the center of Mexico City stands a towering statue known as the Estela de Luz or Stream of Light, which has become emblematic of Calderón's corruption. The Estela de Luz, constructed to commemorate the Mexican Biennial, was originally budgeted to cost the equivalent $16 million - and in the end cost $ 124 million.

    As far as Calderón's immigration policies are concerned, his government willfully accepted the deportation of over 1 million Mexicans from the United States during his term, and violence against Central American migrants crossing through Mexico on their way to the United States seriously increased.

    The Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, an activist organization dedicated to migrant's rights, estimates that more than 60,000 migrants have disappeared during his six-year term.
    Concerning environmental advancements, Calderón opened up the country's campesino and indigenous territories to transnational mining companies, which now have thousands of exploration licenses for gold, silver and copper mining. These mining concessions come with a human toll, not only that of contaminated rivers and air, but also increased violence against activists defending their communities from these mines. Assassinations of environmental activists across the country are proof that those receiving the bullets are not just those on the payroll of organized crime. "Within our movement, they have assassinated our brothers, our compañeros in indigenous communities." stated Saul Raque, representing an indigenous council in Morelos, during the US caravan organized by MPJD. "These assassinations are ecocide, killing our natural resources," he added, after recounting the stories of two fellow community members who were assassinated for defending their land.

    Those reporting on these assassinations have also themselves become victims of violent crimes, kidnappings and murders. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and during Calderón's term, at least 45 of them have been assassinated.

    Harvard: the Mecca of the Technocrats

    One would have to be delusional, perhaps, to think that Harvard's Kennedy School of Government would take issue with Calderón's welcoming transnational mining companies since the University is legendary for teaching neoliberal economic models. Calderón completed his masters in 2000 at the Kennedy School - officially baptizing him as a "Technocrat."

    Technocrats belong to a school of political elites that are defined as "individuals with foreign graduate degrees in economics who have spent their careers in the financial sector of the government," according to Colorado College Political Science Professor Juan D. Lindau. They are defined by neoliberal policies that allow for limited democratic participation."American Capitalism is their religion, and the Harvard Business School is their Mecca," according to Lindau.

    continued in next comment...

  43. Many blame neoliberal policies for the devastating economic effects that laid the groundwork for the explosion in narco-trafficking and related violence. "When a young woman has to work all day in a factory in exploitative conditions, she doesn't have time to care for her children." said Rafael Mondragon, an grad student at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), hailing from the northern state of Durango who was active in the anti-drug war mobilizations. "People abandoned their traditional crops, adapted to the maquiladora lifestyle, and then the companies found cheaper labor in other countries and left an even larger social void. This created the broth that created narco-trafficking. Children in middle school now have ambitions to be hit men."

    In implementing these neoliberal policies, Calderón followed the lead of his predecessors, de la Madrid, Salinas and Zedillo - who are also faithful members of the technocrat school. Just like Calderón, they also had to flee the country when they ended their terms. Zedillo met a similar fate to Calderón's, landing at Yale, where he is a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Globalization. He also serves on the board of Citigroup and numerous transnational corporations seeking to invest in Mexico. Zedillo is currently being sued for crimes against humanity for his role in promoting the formation of paramilitary groups that murdered 45 indigenous people in a chapel in Acteal, Chiapas.Yale has not issued public statements concerning the lawsuit.

    Renowned Mexicans Denouncing Harvard's Ties to Calderón
    Two weeks after Calderón started his fellowship, former Mexican Ambassador to Norway, Denmark and Iceland, Héctor Vasconcelos, returned his diploma to Harvard denouncing Calderón s role in election fraud and skyrocketing murder and poverty rates during his term. "I believe that the presence of Calderón at Harvard contradicts the values of representative democracy, critical thinking and intellectual honesty that university personnel are supposed to promote," says Vasconselos.

    Mexican Journalist Marcela Turati recently scoured the halls of Harvard's Kennedy School in search of Calderón and says he is nowhere to be found, nor signs of his presence. She recounted in an article in the Mexican Magazine Proceso that numerous journalists have been pursuing him and that the former president does not respond to e-mails sent to his Harvard account, and that some addresses he has provided don't even work.

    John Randolph says he has little hope that Harvard will revoke his position unless the American people take a more active stance.

    In 2010, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was offered a position as a "Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership" at Georgetown University. He completed one year and was not invited back due to popular resistance by students who protested his human rights record. John Randolph says that United States residents need to increase their pressure on Harvard, urging the university to rescind the fellowship to yield similar results. Randolph and Cortés are currently publicizing their change.org petition striving to gain 100,000 petitions.

    to view the links embedded in this article or to sign the petition go to:



  44. The House I Live In

    Drug war has become 'slow motion holocaust' says riveting new documentary

    By Steve Burgess, The Tyee March 1, 2013

    In the wake of the rather depressing Oscar victory of Ben Affleck's mendacious Argo, it's useful to be reminded that drama and documentary can complement each other. The House I Live In, the latest from documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, can be seen as a non-fiction companion piece to the acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire. Both documentary and series aim to lay bare the societal devastation and the ultimate futility of America's long-running "War on Drugs." Jarecki (The Trials of Henry Kissinger, Reagan, Why We Fight) taps some surprising sources to build his provocative case that drug enforcement and incarceration represents, as one interview subject calls it, "a Holocaust in slow motion."

    That phrase comes from none other than the creator of The Wire himself, David Simon. Jarecki makes prominent use of Simon, a man who has seen policing up close in his hometown of Baltimore. While careful to note that drug abuse truly does destroy lives, Simon adds, "What drugs haven't destroyed, the war against them has... It would be one thing if it was draconian and worked. But it's draconian and it hasn't worked."

    As he did dramatically in The Wire, Simon argues that for many young residents of inner city neighbourhoods dealing drugs is no different from mining coal or making cars: "You're going to work for the only company that exists in a company town."

    War machinery

    While the first part of The House I Live In makes compelling but familiar points about the useless nature of drug prohibition ($1 trillion spent since 1971, 45 million arrests, with no discernible effect on the drug trade), Jarecki gradually moves into more controversial territory -- the corrosive effect of the drug war on law enforcement itself, the growth of the prison system as an industry, and finally a carefully stated argument that the drug war has become, intentionally or otherwise, a war on the lower class.

    Mike Carpenter, chief of security for Oklahoma's Lexington Correction Center, describes himself as so well-suited for life as a prison guard that it should have been stamped on his forehead at birth. Yet Carpenter, a self-professed law-and-order advocate who says he would rather see his taxes pay for 10 police cars than one soup kitchen, has some strong opinions on the growth of the American incarceration industry ("build a bed, fill a bed," as he puts it), and the political mania for hard line approaches that impose minimum sentences on even non-violent drug offenders. "You can't get elected without being tough on crime," Carpenter points out. "Nobody can afford to be the first to say, 'Wait a minute, we can't afford to do what we're doing, let's do something different."

    continued in next comment...

  45. Drug defendants, Carpenter believes, "become victims of the sound bite. They're paying for our fear instead of paying for their crime."

    Dr. Gabor Mate suggests that the drug war, for all its evident failure, may actually persist because it is a success. "What if it's a success by keeping police forces busy... by keeping private jails thriving... maybe it's a success on different terms than the publicly stated ones."

    According to Simon, the system encourages low level drug dealer sweeps ("like arresting the drive-through window guy" at a burger joint) that provide cops with plenty of overtime and great arrest stats. A cop who works a homicide for a month might get credit for one arrest while the cop who trawls for drug dealers gets 60. "Who gets promoted to sergeant?" Simon asks. In Baltimore, he says, drug arrests doubled while arrests for more serious crimes like murder, rape, robbery, and assault dropped by half. "It makes the city unliveable," he says. "Nobody can solve a fucking crime."

    'Chain of destruction' fuelled by racism

    Jarecki brings in Lincoln historian Richard Miller to help make his most controversial point: that drug wars all begin as racist campaigns and now function very much like class warfare. Opium, Miller says, was not identified as a threat until it became associated with hard-working Chinese immigrants who threatened to take white jobs. Similarly cocaine was identified with black people and pot with Mexicans.

    Miller identifies a "chain of destruction" that characterizes such genocidal campaigns: identification, ostracization, confiscation, concentration, and finally annihilation. Miller argues that all but the last step are present in the war on drugs. While the targets are primarily black, Simon believes the victims of the drug war are identified not by race but class. "Capitalism is fairly colour-blind in the end," he says. "White people found that out later than black people. But they found out."

    Neither Miller nor Simon believe that the drug war is truly a targeted campaign of extermination: "Let's be honest about what was unique to the Holocaust," Simon says. And Miller adds that there is no great evil master plan behind it all. "It develops its own momentum," he says. "Nobody is forcing it to happen."

    But The House I Live In makes a compelling case that the drug war has become an end in itself, a corrupting, job-creating enterprise that parallels the drug trade it seeks to prevent. Like The Wire, Jarecki's film shows that morality is hard to locate on either side of this battle. Whether through consumption or prohibition, America is truly hooked on drugs.


  46. Masked Cops Raid Home of Terminally Ill Medical Marijuana Patient

    by Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access March 1, 2013

    Earlier this week, while more than 200 citizen lobbyists were meeting face-to-face with their Congressional legislators in Washington, D.C. to change federal policy on medical cannabis, a series of events occurred in Florida, making that state the next political battleground on this issue.

    On Monday, a Miami Herald article cited a recent poll indicating 81 percent of Florida voters said approve of doctors recommending cannabis to patients, with only 14 percent opposed. As many as 70 percent of voters said they supported a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis, a full 10 points higher than what Florida requires to pass such amendments.

    Then, tragically, later that afternoon, the home of Americans for Safe Access member and Sarasota resident Cathy Jordan and her 64-year-old husband Robert was raided by the Manatee County Sheriff's Department. With black ski masks and guns drawn in an intimidating fashion that has become all-too familiar for medical cannabis patients across the country, sheriff's deputies came into their home and seized all 23 of Cathy's plants, which she uses to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease"), a terminal illness.

    Cathy was diagnosed in 1986 with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to loss of limb control, breathing, swallowing, and speech. However, after trying cannabis in 1989, she was able to better manage her symptoms and significantly improve her quality of life. Now, more than 20 years later, Cathy has outlived five of her support groups and four of her neurologists.

    Cathy's video testimony: http://youtu.be/8tqpA5Xor8w

    As you can see from her medical history and the positive impact that cannabis has had on her life, Cathy is a shining example of why public policy must be changed, not only in Florida but at the federal level as well. Therefore, it was no surprise (except maybe to the Manatee County Sheriff's Department) that she was chosen as the lead spokesperson for SB1250, the "Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act," a Florida bill introduced the very next day by State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake worth).

    And, if SB1250 fails to get the necessary votes for passage, there is another effort afoot by People United for Medical Marijuana to put an initiative on the 2014 ballot in Florida that would amend the state constitution in order to protect patients from exactly the type of raid that Cathy and her husband had to endure.

    continued in next comment...

  47. This type of aggressive enforcement effort is not unique to Cathy or to other patients in Florida. It happens virtually every day across America, even in states that have adopted medical cannabis laws. One of the main reasons for this is an outdated policy at the federal level. For decades now, the federal government has refused to recognize the medical efficacy of cannabis, maintaining the position that it is a dangerous drug with no medical value. In July 2011, the Obama Administration denied a 9-year-old petition filed by ASA and other groups aimed at reclassifying cannabis for medical use, in an effort to overturn the federal government's draconian policy. This bittersweet denial, however, gave ASA the opportunity to bring the issue of medical cannabis into the federal courts by appealing the denial to the D.C. Circuit. Cathy Jordan was one of the lead plaintiffs in this appeal, ASA v. DEA. Unfortunately, last month, the D.C. Circuit sided with the government's position, denying our appeal and refusing to usher in a new compassionate policy toward patients.

    However, advocates are not giving up and the medical cannabis patient community is now more ardent than ever. ASA will soon be filing for En Banc review of the appeal with the full D.C. Circuit, but advocates are not putting all of their eggs in the federal court basket. With last week's introduction of two Congressional bills, HR689, the "States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," and HR710, the "Truth in Trials Act," advocates are hard at work convincing their members of Congress that federal policy must be changed. Indeed, it was the support for these bills that brought more than 250 people to Washington, D.C. this past weekend for the ASA-hosted, first-ever national medical cannabis conference in Washington, D.C. More than half of the conference participants took to Capitol Hill Monday to show that they're a force to be reckoned with.

    Given the historical and widespread support for medical cannabis in the U.S., consistently polling at up to 80 percent, Congress has been woefully out of step with their constituents on this issue. Yet, that's about to change. It has to change, unless we want to be known as a society that favors attacking our most vulnerable citizens for using a medication that improves -- and, in many cases, extends -- their lives. I know we're better than that. We just have to show Congress that there will be consequences for ignoring the will of the people and the plight of patients.


  48. The New NORML: Looking Back at 40-Year Crusade to End Marijuana Prohibition

    As long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which aren't, then anyone behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner.

    By Paul Krassner, AlterNet March 9, 2013

    In 1972, two years after Keith Stroup founded NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) with the aid of a $5,000 grant from the Playboy Foundation, he met, at the Democratic National Counter-Convention in Miami, a trio of countercultural icons: Hunter Thompson, Abbie Hoffman and Tom Forcade.

    Thompson became an active supporter of NORML. When Hoffman, co-founder of the Yippies (Youth International Party) was on the lam for a drug bust, he hid out for a little while at Thompson’s home. Forcade went on to launch High Times as what he thought would be a one-issue parody of Playboy, featuring a colorful centerfold of naked marijuana plants. Eventually, High Times displaced Playboy as NORML’s largest contributor.

    My favorite High Times moment occurred with a questionnaire in the magazine. One of the questions was, “Is it possible to smoke too much pot?” A reader responded, “I don’t understand the question.” Now High Times has published Stroup’s memoir, It’s NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40-Year Fight For Marijuana Smokers’ Rights. I asked him if there was anything he wished he had included but was too late to get into the book.

    “Obviously,” he replied, “I would have enjoyed discussing the enormous impact of the two new state legalization laws adopted by voters in November, but had to complete the manuscript before the outcome was known. The fact that two states have now ignored the federal prohibition of marijuana and moved ahead with their own marijuana legalization policies, as New York and a handful of other states did at the end of alcohol prohibition, is truly momentous, and has changed the political climate like no other development since marijuana was first made illegal in 1937.

    “It is truly the beginning of the end, and I am thrilled to have lived long enough to experience this. We now have members of Congress who formerly would not even take our phone calls now calling our office to ask for our help drafting marijuana bills, and the positive reaction on the state level is even more pronounced. What seemed politically impossible to elected officials only a few months ago now seems quite achievable.”

    I told Stroup, “As pleased as I am that Colorado and Washington have legalized pot, I’m dismayed by the lack of amnesty for all those serving time for possession or use or growing or selling.”

    “Now that they have legalized marijuana moving forward,” he said, “it is our responsibility to go back to the legislature to assure that those currently in jail for these same offenses that are now legal are released, and those who have a criminal record for offenses which are no longer a crime have their records cleared. A bill is pending in Washington state currently to do that. Hopefully we will have a similar bill introduced in Colorado shortly. Our state affiliates in those two states are involved now in the efforts to develop regulations by their state agencies to actually implement the new laws.”

    In December 1977, President Jimmy Carter’s drug policy advisor, Peter Bourne, attended a NORML party where he joined a group in a private room upstairs and snorted a couple of lines of cocaine. ...

    continued in next comment

  49. It became an open secret, and in July 1978, a syndicated columnist informed Stroup that he was going to run with the story without Stroup verifying what had occurred, but nonetheless pleaded with him to “Please, just tell me if the story is accurate."

    “Off the record,” Stroup replied, “it’s accurate.” But the next day, he was besieged with calls from many papers, and this time his response was, “I can neither confirm nor deny the story” -- in effect, confirming the story. Those damning words were quoted widely, including on the front page of the Washington Post.

    “While I hadn’t exactly snitched on Bourne,” Stroup admits, “my failure to protect him was a violation of the basic principle that most marijuana smokers live by, and that NORML had adopted as policy years earlier. It is never acceptable to rat on someone else, even to avoid a conviction or a jail term. The NORML Legal Committee had even adopted a policy not to represent anyone who wanted to get off by snitching – by testifying against another person.”

    The story became a national scandal, and Stroup realized that the time had come for him to resign from NORML. He could never have predicted that in 1994 he would be invited to serve another decade as executive director.

    Flash forward to February 2013. At NORML’s annual meeting, the board of directors elected Norm Kent as their new chairperson. He joined NORML as a college senior in 1971, and is now a criminal defense attorney based in Ft. Lauderdale, handling First Amendment, constitutional rights and media law cases. A pioneer in medical-necessity defenses for marijuana users, he has represented patients, growers and buyer's clubs throughout Florida for over 30 years. Author of The Pot Warriors Manifesto, he is a cancer survivor who credits marijuana with ameliorating the harsh nature of chemotherapy treatments.

    In 1982, he sued the state of Florida to stop the deadly herbicide paraquat from being sprayed on marijuana fields. We were living in a society where children were being taught that it was wrong to put cyanide in Extra-Strength Tylenol, yet acceptable to spray paraquat on marijuana crops.

    My position is that as long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which are illegal, then anyone behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner. Personally, I owe my longevity to never taking any legal drugs. (Although, I did take an aspirin last month. I didn’t have a headache or anything; I was just at a party, and the host was passing around a plate full of aspirins. It was a kind of social ingestion. You know, peer pressure.)

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free America was originally founded and funded by the pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol industries. They produced classic “public service” TV commercials such as the one with a young woman frying a pair of eggs, sunny-side up, with the message, “This is your brain on drugs.” Of course, I perceived that imagery as merely a fine example of having the good old post-tokey munchies.

    That hypocritical anti-marijuana campaign originally inspired my anthology, Pot Stories For the Soul: An Updated Edition for a Stoned America (available at paulkrassner.com), to counteract the negative propaganda with a variety of true tales. When it was first published in 1995, lawyers for the Chicken Soup For the Soul franchise demanded that my publisher “cease and desist” the use of my title. Apparently, although theologians and scientists agree that the soul cannot be located, it can be copyrighted.


  50. Former Cop: How To Talk To Police About Pot

    CA cop turned marijuana activist Nate Bradley specializes in changing cops' minds about weed laws.

    By David Downs, East Bay Express

    Former prosecutors and cops led the effort to legalize marijuana in Washington last fall. And some current law enforcement officials are now openly endorsing pot legalization in the Midwest. In fact, no matter where you look, it's fair to say that cops across the country are talking a lot about pot these days and questioning whether it should remain illegal, said retired California police officer and marijuana activist Nate Bradley, who specializes in changing cops' minds about ending the weed war.

    Bradley began using medical cannabis after he was laid off in 2009 from the police department in Wheatland, California, just north of Sacramento. He's now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a national group of retired police officers who want to end the Drug War.

    Since joining LEAP, Bradley has focused on talking to cops and law enforcement brass about legalization, because police organizations are the main opposition to it. Neutralizing police fears about marijuana is essential to any legalization effort, he said. The process starts by understanding the police mindset and looking for the right opportunity to broach the subject. "Very casually bring up the news last night and ask them, 'What do you think?'" he said, adding that the answer might surprise you. "The attitude of many cops in the Bay Area is 'Prohibition's a joke.'"

    Still, cops skew toward being rule-followers. Bradley, for instance, said he "came from a very religious, right-wing household" and attended Christian school before enrolling in the Sacramento County Sheriff's Academy in the 1990s. "I was one of the weird people who never [smoked pot] in high school," he said. "Cops are uptight. Imagine Eagle Scouts."

    In police academy, instructors espouse "a military mindset of 'all for one and one for all,' where they tell you what to think: 'Marijuana is bad, it does X, Y, and Z. These are the rules, this is how we go after people,'" he said. Cops also are taught to treat pot users like drug addicts, and to "see them as second-class citizens," Bradley added. "Your view of a drug user is that of a zombie. 'Treat 'em like a zombie.'"

    continued in next comment...

  51. After police academy, uniformed officers are tested for marijuana use, and if they associate with friends who smoke pot, it can put them in an uncomfortable position, not to mention possibly damage their careers. But they're still our uncles, brothers, and buddies underneath the uniform, Bradley said, and activists need to start conversations with relatives and friends who are cops. But, he said, don't try to sell a cop on the benefits of pot. Instead, discuss the harms caused by prohibition. Plant a seed of critical thinking. "Cops are trained to see the truth and to sniff through bullshit," he said.

    Ask for a cop's experience with the weed war, because it will likely include plenty of wasted resources. In addition to working for the Wheatland PD, Bradley also worked with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department from 2002 to 2009. His first real pot arrest involved a father on parole. "Here were four cops surrounding this one guy, and he says, 'I got dope on me, I'm sorry.' My sergeant pulls out his handcuffs and says, 'All right.' And he looks at my sergeant and he just starts crying. He goes, 'Can you at least wait until my son goes inside?' It froze me. I looked at him. I looked at his kid. And something in me says, 'This guy's not a criminal.'"

    Bradley said he has watched twenty police officers get paid overtime to cut down a pot garden, and then be told that no overtime is available for catching more pedophiles, for solving more homicides, or for taking guns off the street. "I've learned it's that way everywhere."

    Bradley also suggests asking cops about the corruption that stems from keeping pot illegal. "Marijuana is reaching levels of acceptability where we've got these young law enforcement officers for whom it's a way of life — they're not going to think twice about throwing a few pounds [of marijuana] in the back of their car when they have to make rent," he said. "And I'm only saying it because I see all that shit."

    Lastly, Bradley suggests appealing to a cop's self-interest. "Two deputies I know got shot at by a pot grower last year," he said. "Those are two sets of kids that almost didn't have a Papa Bear come home — over weed — not because you were going after some rapist.

    "The ideal result of ending marijuana prohibition is no more dead cops," he continued. "That gets them going. 'How many more funerals, dude?' ... The money drug dealers get from selling weed, they buy bullets to kill cops. Ending prohibition is just for our own safety."


  52. NOTE: The authors of the study reported below assert: "Although there is little argument that the physical hazards found in cannabis grow-operations pose a risk to children and adults living in the homes ..."

    Actually, there is a big argument about that because it all depends on what kind of grow-operation it is. Small personal grow ops do not pose hazards to children or adults. That's like saying house plants, backyard gardens or small green houses pose hazards. Any hazards associated with grow ops are created by prohibition laws that cause growers to go 'underground'. There is nothing inherently hazardous in growing cannabis, especially in the small amounts personal use producers grow.

    There is hardly anything more immoral than removing children from their parents because of fear-mongering prohibition propaganda. The harm to those children is not caused by cannabis, but by the state continuing to enforce and unjust, immoral law.

    Study: At Home Marijuana Gardens Not Associated With Adverse Health Effects Among Children

    NORML March 14, 2013

    Vancouver, British Columbia: Children residing in homes where marijuana is cultivated do not suffer from adverse health effects at any greater rate than do comparable children in cannabis-free environments, according to a study in press in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

    A pair of investigators with the University of British Columbia, School of Social Work compared the household, family and individual characteristics of 181 children found living in homes with cannabis grow operations in two regions in British Columbia, Canada.

    Data was collected on site regarding the physical characteristics of the homes, the health characteristics of the children residing in the homes, and the adolescents' prescription drug history. Investigators also compared the rates of the subjects' prescription drug use with that of a group of children from the same geographic areas.

    Researchers reported "no significant difference between the health of the children living in cannabis grow operations and the comparison group of children, based on their prescription history and their reported health at the time."

    They concluded: "The findings of this study challenge contemporary child welfare approaches and have implications for both child protection social workers and the policymakers who develop frameworks for practice. ... Although there is little argument that the physical hazards found in cannabis grow-operations pose a risk to children and adults living in the homes, the associated health risks are not as clear. Policymakers involved in establishing frameworks and protocols for responding to these unique child welfare cases must consider the absence of clinical evidence to indicate these children are unwell and whether there are grounds for child welfare intervention."


  53. 37 Percent of People Dont Have a Clue About What's Going on

    But who's more naive -- the ignorant, or the educated who can't deal with the idea that there are ignorant people in the world.

    by Mark Morford, AlterNet March 20, 2013

    Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves… actual clouds. A shockingly sad 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Aren’t they cute? And Floridian?

    Do you believe in angels? Forty-five percent of Americans do. In fact, roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism. A hilariously large percent of terrified right-wingers are convinced Obama is soon going to take away all their guns, so when the Newtown shooting happened and 20 young children were massacred due to America’s fetish for, obsession with and addiction to firearms, violence and fear, they bought more bullets. Because obviously.

    In sum and all averaged out, it’s safe to say about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright. Or rather, quite shockingly dumb. Perhaps beyond reach. Perhaps beyond hope or redemption. Perhaps beyond caring about anything they have to say in the public sphere ever again. Sorry, Kansas.

    Did you frown at that last paragraph? Was it a terribly elitist and unkind thing to say? Sort of. Probably. But I’m not sure it matters, because none of those people are reading this column right now, or any column for that matter, because reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span. OMG LOL kittens! 19 babies having a worse day than you. WTF is up with Justin Timberlake’s hair?!?

    It is this bizarre, circular, catch-22 kind of question, asked almost exclusively by intellectual liberals because intellectual conservatives don’t actually exist, given how higher education leads to more developed critical thinking (you already know the vast majority of university professors and scientists identify as Democrat/progressive, right?) which leads straight to a more nimble, open-minded perspective. In short: The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become.

    Until you get old. Or rich. And scared. And you forget. And you clamp down, seize up, fossilize. And the GOP grabs you like a mold.

    Oh right! The question: How to reach the not-very-bright hordes, when they simply refuse to be reached by logic, fact, or modern mode? How to communicate obvious and vital truths (conservation, global warming, public health, sexuality, basic nutrition, religion as parable/myth, the general awfulness of Mumford & Sons) the lack of understanding of which keep the country straggling and embarrassing, the laughingstock of the civilized world?

    And who are these people, exactly? And are they all really in Kentucky and Florida and Mississippi? Are they all in the Tea Party? Is failing education to blame? A dumbed-down media? Reality TV? In the wealthiest and most egomaniacal superpower in the world, why is the chasm so wide?

    continued in next comment...

  54. There is no easy answer, but there is a great deal of irony. It is a wicked conundrum that you and I can debate the definition of elitism, whether or not it’s fair to criticize those who believe that, say, gay marriage means kids will be indoctrinated into homosexuality, or that evolution is still a theory, or that Jesus literally flew up out of a cave and into the sky, when the discussion itself is, by nature, elitist, exclusionary, requiring fluid, abstract thinking the very people we’re discussing simply do not possess, and therefore cannot participate in.

    Discussion of elitism is elitist. Intelligence can talk itself blue about what to do about all the dumb; the dumb will never hear it.

    It’s a fact even recognized by Louisiana’s own Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had the nerve to defy his own state’s (and his own party’s) famously low IQ by saying, after the last election, “The GOP must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.”

    Of course he’s right. But where would that leave their base? And who will tell the megachurches? And does Jindal not know Louisiana is where they teach that the existence of the Loch Ness monster is evidence that evolution is a lie?

    Brings to mind a stunning study about facts and truths. Have you ever heard it? It goes something like: Here is hard evidence, scientific evidence, irrefutable proof that something is or is not true. Here is dinosaur bone, for example, which we know beyond a doubt is between 60 and 70 million years old. Amazing! Obviously!

    But then comes the impossible snag: If you are hard-coded to believe otherwise, if your TV network or your ideology, your pastor or your lack of education tell you differently, you will still not believe it. No matter what. No matter how many facts, figures, common senses slap you upside the obvious. You will think there is conspiracy, collusion, trickery afoot. The Bible says that bone is only eight thousand years old. Science is elitist. Liberals hate God.The end.

    It is not enough to say people believe what they want to believe. They will also believe it in the face of irrefutable counter-evidence and millennia of fundamental proof.

    This! This is what stuns and stupefies liberals and progressives of every intellectual stripe. We cannot understand. We cannot compute. We think, “Well, if more people just had the facts, just heard a reasonable and cogent argument or read up on the real science, surely they would change their minds? Surely they would see the error in their thinking?”

    Oh, liberals. All those smarts, and still so naïve.

    Here is the body of Jesus! We found it! In a cave in a hole deep in an iron-gated alcove beneath the Vatican! Turns out he is not the Messiah after all! Turns out – look at those tribal tattoos! Those mala beads! That blond hair! – he’s a wild non-dualist guru from parts unknown. Christianity is a total fabrication! Always has been, always will be.

    Here is hard evidence coupled with an ocean of common sense that more guns equal only more violence and death! Stat after stat, mass shooting after mass shooting proving we have it all wrong about protection and fear. Also! At least 2,605 people have died by gun violence in America since the Newtown shooting. Can we ban them now? No?

    Here is overwhelming evidence that global warming is ravaging us like a furious god, and not only are we complicit, not only have we blindly raced forth into the abyss, we are, if all goes according to current trends and speeds and attitudes, totally f–king doomed.

    Ah, unicorns. You look better every day.


  55. Scientist muzzling probed by information commissioner

    Complaint was filed by Democracy Watch and University of Victoria on Feb. 20

    CBC News April 1, 2013

    Canada's information commissioner has confirmed that her office will investigate allegations that the federal government is muzzling its scientists.

    The office of Suzanne Legault has concluded that a complaint made by Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Clinic in February falls within its mandate, wrote Emily McCarthy, assistant information commissioner, in a letter released Monday by Democracy Watch, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization that advocates for government accountability.

    The letter, dated March 27, added that the office has notified and sent a summary of the complaint to the relevant government institutions:

    Environment Canada.
    Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
    Natural Resources Canada.
    National Research Council of Canada.
    Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
    Department of National Defence.

    The letter added, "We have also determined that the Treasury Board Secretariat should be included in your complaint because of its role in relation to the development and implementation of government policies."

    Tyler Sommers, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch, said in a statement, that the group is "very pleased" about the investigation being called.

    "And we will continue to push the information commissioner to get to the bottom of this situation, publicly release the results, and push the federal government to change these policies,” he added.

    The complaint, filed on Feb. 20, suggested that federal government policy "forcing scientists to jump through hoops before speaking with the media" breaches the Access to Information Act.

    The complaint included a 26-page report with 100 pages of appendices, containing details and examples, based on internal government documents previously released through freedom of information requests, along with conversations with current and former federal public servants, journalists, members of non-profit organizations, and professors at Canadian universities.

    The federal Access to Information Act requires the Office of the Information Commissioner to investigate "any matter related to obtaining or requesting access to records" from federal institutions.

    If, following the investigation, the commissioner finds that the evidence supports the complaint, she will make recommendations to correct the problem or "facilitate a resolution," which typically involves mediation, but can also include a referral to the Federal Court of Canada.

    Democracy Watch report on scientist muzzling

    Letter from the Information Commissioner's office to Democracy Watch


  56. U.S. marijuana law changes bring boom to B.C. hydroponics

    The Canadian Press April 1, 2013

    Business has been smokin' at one hydroponics shop and warehouse in Surrey, B.C. ever since two U.S. states legalized the possession of marijuana through ballot initiatives last November.

    On any given day, courier vans and transport trucks join a steady stream of walk-in customers at Pacific Northwest Garden Supply and Green Planet Wholesale Ltd., ready to pick up or purchase hydroponics equipment and nutrients to grow medical marijuana and organic food products.

    The owners say sales have quadrupled in the last three weeks alone, and the multi-million-dollar businesses now employ about 60 people, including three new members of a sales team.

    The owners say they even have plans to open a new distribution facility in Washington state, somewhere near Bellingham or Seattle, in the next 90 days.

    "I say a good portion of (the growth) would be the initiatives that have taken place," said co-owner Steven Betts, who says he's been involved in the hydroponics industry for about 20 years.

    "I think there's been more of a social acceptance of that for, you know, medical benefit. So people are kind of getting over the social stigma of it, and they're jumping into it. Plus, there really is a big movement towards just general home gardening."

    The companies' other co-owner Justin Cooper said the hydroponic business has "come out of the shadows" in the last five to 10 years because people are also accepting it as a better way of growing healthier plants.

    The ballot initiatives behind the U.S.-based business boom were approved in Washington state and Colorado Nov. 6, 2012 and allow adults over the age of 21 to posses up to an 28 grams of marijuana.

    In Colorado, users can also grow up to six marijuana plants in a private, secure area, although under U.S. federal law the plant still remains illegal.

    Betts said about 40 per cent of their sales now go to the U.S., and products are distributed through centres located in California, Colorado and Michigan.

    But the headquarters for the companies' retail, wholesale and manufacturing operations remain in a 1,980 square-metre warehouse in Surrey.

    The facility distributes equipment to purify water for plant nutrients through a reverse-osmosis process and bottling and labelling machinery, and has shelves stocked with artificial-lighting and ventilation systems, growing structures and tents, air conditioning units, non-toxic pesticides, and plant nutrients.

    continued in next comment...

  57. Hanging near the checkout counter is a giant yellow sign, warning customers that they'll be asked to leave if they mention any "illegal substances."

    "We've never been about doing things illegally," said Betts. "We're not martyrs. We don't try to be radicals or rebels. We're really about how to garden and how to garden efficiently."

    Lee Bryant, owner of Great Lakes Garden Wholesale, the Michigan-based U.S. distributor of Green Planet products, said most of the customers who are buying the products in his state are doing so with a medical card for marijuana.

    In Michigan, he said, the state allows individuals to obtain a medical card that allows them to grow marijuana for themselves or for other patients, as a caregiver.

    Bryant credits Green Planet's success on its use of high-quality products such as reverse-osmosis water and raw nutrients, and its decision not to use plant-growth regulators, which may grow larger plants but are harmful to the health of consumers.

    "We got the product in and it's done phenomenally," he said. "I mean, we have absolutely changed the market in Michigan and now in quite a few other states in the U.S. that have become big supporters of the product."

    Because of that success, one university academic is questioning how long it will be before other, larger companies get into the game, too.

    Stephen Easton, professor of economic at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, said whenever there's a big margin of opportunity in business, others begin looking.

    "You've got to believe that somebody else is going to move in, too," said Easton. "You think that Wal-Mart's not going to notice or Home Depot?"

    Easton said he's not surprised Americans are drawing resources from a Canadian company.

    "Obviously, they have some expertise," he said, adding social attitudes towards marijuana have changed, although the laws in Canada have not.

    "[In] the olden days... it was sort of demon marijuana, you know, turn you into a... dope fiend," he said. "I think a large part of society is past that, but the laws are sufficiently slow in reacting."

    Cooper and Betts said they're already looking at the companies' future growth. Cooper said while a portion of the company's business is focused on medical marijuana, its long-term vision is food production, giving people the ability to grow healthier, more environmentally friendly, more sustainable crops.

    "We've got to stay ahead of the curve," said Cooper.

    "Everything we do is always, 'how can we make this better?' That's one of the things we say all the time. 'What is it going to take to make this type of product better than what currently is on the market?'"


  58. The War on Drugs Is Far More Immoral Than Most Drug Use

    A prohibitionist says libertarians dismiss moral considerations when they call for legalization. The truth is quite the opposite

    CONOR FRIEDERSDORF, The Atlantic APRIL 4 2013

    In the Washington Post, Peter Wehner advises the Republican Party to reassert itself as the anti-drug-legalization party. "One of the main deterrents to drug use is because it is illegal. If drugs become legal, their price will go down and use will go up," he writes. "And marijuana is far more potent than in the past. Studies have shown that adolescents and young adults who are heavy users of marijuana suffer from disrupted brain development and cognitive processing problems." Of course, no one is advocating that adolescent marijuana be made legal. And does Wehner understand that prohibition creates a powerful incentive for upping drug potency?

    But rather than focus on mistaken arguments common to drug prohibitionists, I want to address a relatively novel claim: "Many people cite the 'costs' of and 'socioeconomic factors' behind drug use; rarely do people say that drug use is wrong because it is morally problematic, because of what it can do to mind and soul," Wehner writes. "In some liberal and libertarian circles, the 'language of morality' is ridiculed. It is considered unenlightened, benighted and simplistic. The role of the state is to maximize individual liberty and be indifferent to human character."

    What he doesn't seem to understand is that many advocates of individual liberty, myself included, regard liberty itself as a moral imperative. I don't want to ridicule the "language of morality." I want to state, as forcefully as possible, that the War on Drugs is deeply, irredeemably immoral; that it corrodes the minds and souls of those who prosecute it, and creates incentives for bad behavior that those living under its contours have always and will always find too powerful to resist. Drug warriors may disagree, but they should not pretend that they are the only ones making moral claims, and that their opponents are indifferent to morality. Reformers are often morally outraged by prohibitionist policies and worry that nannying degrades the character of citizens.

    continued in next comment...

  59. Perhaps I should be more specific.

    See the man in the photo at the top of this article? It isn't immoral for him to light a plant on fire, inhale the smoke, and enjoy a mild high for a short time, presuming he doesn't drive while high. But it would be immoral to react to his plant-smoking by sending men with guns to forcibly arrest him, convict him in a court, and lock him up for months or even years for a victimless crime. That's the choice, dear reader. So take a look at the guy in the photo and make your choice: Is it more moral to let him smoke, or to forcibly cage him with thieves, rapists, and murderers?

    My own moral judgments don't stop there.

    Denying marijuana to sick people whose suffering it would ease is immoral.

    When a paramilitary police squad raids a family home, battering down doors without knocking, exploding flash grenades, shooting family pets, and handcuffing children, all to recover a small number of marijuana plants, the officers or the people who ordered them there are acting immorally.

    When the United States reacts to the insatiable demand for drugs by American citizens by pursuing prohibitionist policies abroad that destabilize multiple foreign countries, it acts immorally.

    When prosecutors coerce nonviolent drug offenders to risk their lives as police informants under threat of draconian prison sentences, they act immorally.

    The dearth of empathy for nonviolent drug offenders serving years or even decades in prison is a moral failure.

    Because we have shifted the costs of drug abuse away from the Americans who freely chose or would choose to use drugs and toward society as a whole, imposing more costs on people who never chose to use drugs but suffer from many harms of the black market, we have achieved a morally dubious redistribution.

    What about character? When leaders like Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama support policies that incarcerate young people for behavior that they themselves engaged in without any apparent harm to themselves, their futures, or anyone else, it is they who exhibit character failures.

    Of course, there are drug abusers who exhibit character failures too. And when those failures affect other people, when they steal or behave violently or recklessly, they ought to be punished. Law enforcement could focus on catching them, and society could do far more to rehabilitate addicts, if so much wealth wasn't squandered on an obviously hopeless War on Drugs. Like a lot of people who favor ending it, I believe a reformed policy would be a lot more moral.


  60. Marijuana Legalization Canada: John Hickenlooper, Colorado Governor, Says It's Inevitable

    The Huffington Post Canada March 29, 2013

    Marijuana legalization in Canada is inevitable, says the governor of a U.S. state that last fall voted to legalize pot.

    John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor of Colorado, was in Alberta this week to talk Keystone pipeline politics but took time from his schedule to address the debate about weed legalization.

    “It’s going to happen here, it’s going to happen everywhere,” Hickenlooper said, as quoted by the Calgary Sun. “Both countries are becoming more progressive every year, you see it in every social arena.”

    Colorado voters last fall approved a ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of less than one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana for persons aged 21 or older. Growing six or fewer marijuana plants for personal use is also legal, as is selling marijuana in stores that have obtained a licence.

    Colorado was one of two states to legalize weed in last fall’s U.S. elections, along with Washington.

    However, Canada’s federal government has been going in the other direction, recently tightening marijuana laws as part of the omnibus crime bill, which included Canada’s first-ever mandatory minimum sentences for growing pot.

    The Liberal Party of Canada last year made marijuana legalization a part of its official platform, and a policy paper from the party’s B.C. division laid out a plan for the establishment of a network of licenced marijuana outlets across Canada.

    A poll last fall found 65 per cent of Canadians support marijuana decriminalization in some form, although the numbers were a decline from the previous year’s poll.

    In Alberta Thursday, Hickenlooper -- who opposed Colorado's marijuana legalization campaign -- warned that marijuana is not without its hazards, noting that “high octane” strains of weed are suspected to impair memory.

    “Your memory’s such a huge part of your existence so we have to make sure we regulate it very tightly and keep it out of the hands of kids,” the Sun quoted Hickenlooper as saying.

    Some economists argue legalizing marijuana would have a positive impact on taxpayers. A paper from Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron argues the U.S. could save $13.7 billion by legalizing marijuana -- $7.7 billion in money saved on drug enforcement, and $6 billion earned if marijuana were taxed at similar rates to cigarettes and alcohol.

    A coalition of British Columbia activists recently argued legalizing marijuana could bring $2.5 billion into the province’s economy over five years.


  61. The Latest Cannabis Discoveries That the Federal Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About

    Federal lawmakers and the White House continue to willfully ignore science in regards to the cannabis plant.

    By Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML May 22, 2013

    Despite issuing a highly publicized memorandum in 2009 stating, "Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration," it remains clear that federal lawmakers and the White House continue to willfully ignore science in regards to the cannabis plant and the federal policies which condemn it to the same prohibitive legal status as heroin. In fact, in 2011 the Obama administration went so far as to reject an administrative petition that called for hearings to reevaluate pot’s safety and efficacy, pronouncing in the Federal Register, “Marijuana does not have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.” (The Administration’s flat-Earth position was upheld in January by a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.)

    Nevertheless, scientific evaluations of cannabis and the health of its consumers have never been more prevalent. Studies are now published almost daily rebuking the federal government’s allegations that the marijuana plant is a highly dangerous substance lacking any therapeutic utility. Yet, virtually all of these studies – and, more importantly, their implications for public policy – continue to be ignored by lawmakers. Here are just a few examples of the latest cannabis science that your federal government doesn’t want you to know about.

    Frequent cannabis smokers possess no greater lung cancer risk than do either occasional pot smokers or non-smokers

    Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke do not possess an increased risk of lung cancer compared to those who either consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research.

    Investigators from the University of California, Los Angeles analyzed data from six case-control studies, conducted between 1999 and 2012, involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls) from around the world.

    They reported, “Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers.”

    Previous case-control studies have also failed to find an association between cannabis smoking and head and neck cancers or cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract.

    Nevertheless, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration continues to maintain, “Marijuana smokers increase their risk of cancer of the head, neck, lungs and respiratory track.”

    Consistent use of cannabis associated is associated with reduced risk factors for Type 2 diabetes

    Will the pot plant one day play a role in staving the ongoing epidemic of Type 2 diabetes? Emerging science indicates that it just might.

    According to trial data published this month in the American Journal of Medicine, subjects who regularly consume cannabis possess favorable indices related to diabetic control compared to occasional consumers or non-consumers.

    continued in next comment...

  62. Investigators at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, assessed self-report data from some 5,000 adult onset diabetics patients regarding whether they smoked or had ever smoked marijuana. Researchers reported that those who were current, regular marijuana smokers possessed 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and reduced insulin resistance compared to those who had never used pot. By contrast, non-users possessed larger waistlines and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’) cholesterol – both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

    Similar benefits were reported in occasional cannabis consumers, though these changes were less pronounced, “suggesting that the impact of marijuana use on insulin and insulin resistance exists during periods of recent use,” researchers reported.

    The recent findings are supportive of the findings of 2012 study by a team of UCLA researchers, published in the British Medical Journal, which reported that adults with a history of marijuana use had a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption, even after researchers adjusted for social variables (ethnicity, level of physical activity, etc.) Concluded the study, “[This] analysis of adults aged 20-59 years … showed that participants who used marijuana had a lower prevalence of DM (Diabetes Mellitus) and lower odds of DM relative to non-marijuana users.”

    Diabetes is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

    Inhaling cannabis dramatically mitigates symptoms of Crohn’sdisease

    Smoking cannabis twice daily significantly reduces symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disorder that is estimated to impact about half a million Americans. So say the results of the first-ever placebo-controlled trial assessing the use of cannabis for Crohn’s – published online this month in the scientific journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

    Researchers at the Meir Medical Center, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Israel assessed the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 21 subjects with Crohn’s disease who were nonresponsive to conventional treatment regimens. Eleven participants smoked standardized cannabis cigarettes containing 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent cannabidiol – a nonpsychotropic cannabinoid known to possess anti-inflammatory properties -- twice daily over a period of eight weeks. The other ten subjects smoked placebo cigarettes containing no active cannabinoids.

    Investigators reported, “Our data show that 8-weeks treatment with THC-rich cannabis, but not placebo, was associated with a significant decrease of 100 points in CDAI (Crohn’s Disease and activity index) scores.” Five of the eleven patients in the study group reported achieving disease remission (defined as a reduction in patient’s CDAI score by more than 150 points). Participants who smoked marijuana reported decreased pain, improved appetite, and better sleep compared to control subjects. Researchers reported that “no significant side effects” were associated with cannabis inhalation.

    The clinical results substantiate decades of anecdotal reports from Crohn’s patients, some one-half of which acknowledge having used cannabis to mitigate symptoms of the disease.

    Marijuana-like substances halt HIV infection in white blood cells

    continues in next comment...

  63. The administration of THC has been associated with decreased mortality and ameliorated disease progression in monkeys with simian immunodeficiency virus, a primate model of HIV disease. So could cannabinoids produce similar outcomes in humans? The findings of a newly published preclinical trial indicate that the answer may be ‘yes’ and they reveal the substance’s likely mechanism of action in combating the disease.

    Writing in the May edition of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, investigators at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia reported that the administration of cannabinoid agonists limits HIV infection in macrophages (white blood cells that aid in the body's immune response). Researchers assessed the impact of three commercially available synthetic cannabis agonists (non-organic compounds that act on the same endogenous receptor sites as do plant cannabinoids) on HIV-infected macrophage cells. Following administration, researchers sampled the cells periodically to measure the activity of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which is essential for HIV replication. By day 7, investigators reported that the administration of all three compounds was associated with a significant decrease in HIV replication.

    “The results suggest that selective CB2 (cannabinoid 2 receptor) agonists could potentially be used in tandem with existing antiretroviral drugs, opening the door to the generation of new drug therapies for HIV/AIDS,” researchers summarized in a Temple University news release. “The data also support the idea that the human immune system could be leveraged to fight HIV infection."

    Cannabinoids offer a likely treatment therapy for PTSD

    Post-traumatic stress syndrome is estimated to impact some eight millions American annually and effective treatments for the condition are few and far between. Yet just published research in the May issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry indicates that cannabinoids hold the potential to successfully treat the condition.

    Researchers at the New York School of Medicine reported that subjects diagnosed with PTSD possess elevated quantities of endogenous cannabinoid receptors in regions of the brain associated with fear and anxiety. In addition, authors also reported that these subjects suffer from the decreased production of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter, resulting in an imbalanced endocannibinoid system. (The endogenous cannabinoid receptor system is a regulatory system that is present in living organisms for the purpose of promoting homeostasis).

    Authors speculated that increasing the body’s production of cannabinoids would likely restore the body’s natural brain chemistry and psychological balance. They affirmed, “[Our] findings substantiate, at least in part, emerging evidence that … plant-derived cannabinoids such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”

    The researchers concluded: “The data reported herein are the first of which we are aware of to demonstrate the critical role of CB1 (cannabinoid) receptors and endocannabinoids in the etiology of PTSD in humans. As such, they provide a foundation upon which to develop and validate informative biomarkers of PTSD vulnerability, as well as to guide the rational development of the next generation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”

    But don’t expect federal officials to help move this process forward. In 2011 federal administrators blocked investigators at the University of Arizona at Phoenix from conducting an FDA-approved, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of cannabis in 50 patients with PTSD.

    Scientific integrity? Not when it comes to marijuana. Not by a long shot.


  64. 12 Shocking Examples of Police Brutality...Just This Month

    Decades of the drug war have warped the priorities of many police departments. The results can be tragic.

    By Tana Ganeva, AlterNet June 7, 2013

    American law enforcement has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past few decades. The war on drugs, the world's most effective way to fill prisons with minorities while doing nothing to curtail drug use, has warped the priorities and practices of police departments around the country. As Kristen Gwynne has reported on AlterNet, federal funding incentivizes police to go after low-level drug use while neglecting more serious crimes like rape. In city after city, the crackdown on drug crime has expanded police power and pointed it straight at minorities and the poor. It's the reason we're number one when it comes to rates of incarceration. With 5 percent of the population, America has a quarter of the world's prisoners, according to the New York Times.

    Meanwhile, the decade-long war on terror has stocked local police departments with weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan—do local police really need drones and tanks? (Journalist Radley Balko has extensively documented the militarization of police by way of the wars on drugs and terror.) The shift toward more aggressive, violent policing has had tragic results on the ground. AlterNet has assembled an incomplete list of brutal and unnecessary police actions, from this month alone.

    1. Black 14-year-old Carrying a Puppy Tackled and Choked by Police for Giving Them a "Dehumanizing Stare"

    Cell phone footage taken by his mother shows a teen boy being thrown to the ground and pinned by police. His crime? Giving officers a funny look while armed with a puppy. As Steven Hsieh wrote on AlterNet:

    Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillan says he was feeding his puppy and playing on the beach with some friends when cops riding ATVs approached him and asked what he was doing. The "peacekeeping" officers say they saw McMillan roughhousing with another teenager, told him it was “unacceptable behavior,” and asked where his mother was. When McMillan walked away, they chased him on ATVs, jumped out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him. According to police reports, McMillan “attempted to pull his arm away, stating, 'Man, don't touch me like I did something.'"


    Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta justified the use of force, saying McMillan was exhibiting threatening “body language,” which includes “clenched fists.” McMillan adamantly denies this charge because, well, he was holding a puppy.

    2. Cops Go Undercover at High School to Bust Special-Needs Kid for Pot: Why Are Police So Desperate to Throw Kids in Jail?

    Why wait for a crime to occur when you can just instigate one? As Kristen Gwynne reported:

    In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were "thrilled" when their son—who has Asperger's and other disabilities and struggled to make friends—appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.

    “He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.

    "Daniel," however, was an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department who " hounded" the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied, not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.

    continued in next comment...

  65. In December, the unnamed senior was arrested along with 21 other students from three schools, all charged with crimes related to the two officers' undercover drug operation at two public schools in Temecula, California (Chaparral and Temecula Valley High School). This March, Judge Marian H. Tully ruled that Temecula Valley Unified School District could not expel the student, and had in fact failed to provide him with proper services.

    3. Police Beat Man to Death With Batons, Confiscate Witness Video

    After beating a father of four to death, police allegedly tried to cover up video evidence. Natasha Lennard reported:

    Following the death of father of four, David Sal Silva last week, his family’s attorneys are calling for police to release bystander video evidence that reportedly shows California Highway Patrol officers brutally beating the 33-year-old. A video from a surveillance camera (which does not show the scene closeup) has been released and shows the man repeatedly struck with a baton. Local press have also reported on details from a 911 call made, in which witness Sulina Quair, 34, said “There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the (expletive) out of him and killed him. I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.” Officers say they were responding to a call about an intoxicated man and that Silva had fought them.

    Attorneys representing the Silva family expressed concern that police may tamper with video evidence and demanded that they be given access to any recordings of the lethal incident. Details emerged, the Bakersfield Californian reported, that officers confiscated the phones of bystanders who had captured the event as it unfolded. Police reportedly arrived at Quair’s home to take his phone.

    4. Texas Police Forced Man to Set Up Drug Deal So They Could Take a Kilo of Coke for Themselves

    Why let all that coke go to waste? Courthouse News reports:

    South Texas lawmen ransacked an elderly couple's home looking for drugs, and finding none, forced the husband to set up a cocaine dealer and took a kilo for themselves, the couple claim in court.

    Jose and Maria Perez sued Hidalgo County, Sheriff Guadalupe "Lupe" Trevino and the City of Mission in Federal court.

    Five sheriff's officers, including members of the unit mentioned in the Perezes' lawsuit, pleaded guilty this week to drug charges.

    "In July 2012, Jose G. Perez and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Perez ... were sitting in their home when six armed men burst into their home demanding drugs," the complaint states. "These invaders were agents and officers of the Panama Unit of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department and officers of the Mission Police Department. These intruders proceeded to ransack the furniture and broke open cabinets searching for their illegal prize.

    "When the intruders found nothing in the home of plaintiffs, they forced the elderly couple into an unmarked SUV, and told Jose G. Perez to 'call someone that sells drugs or else.'

    5. Texas Police Tase Overweight Asthmatic to Death in Drug Raid That Uncovers No Drugs

    Police often rely on their tasers to diffuse dangerous situations. Then there are times tasers turn a non-dangerous situation into a deadly one:

    continued in next comment...

  66. On May 16th, Forth Worth police entered the home of Jarmaine Darden in search of cocaine. The raid, which does not appear to have uncovered any cocaine, ended with the 34-year-old father dead after he was tased multiple times by police.

    Family members told CBS 11 that the 350-pound man, who'd been asleep on the couch when police came in, couldn't drop to the ground on his stomach as officers commanded because he suffered from asthma.

    “They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep. They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can’t breathe on his stomach. He don’t even lie on the bed on his stomach,” said Donna Randle, the mother of victim Jarmaine Darden, 34.

    6. Woman Calls 911 for Help As Police Punch Her in the Face Repeatedly

    A hearing-impaired Washington woman failed to follow police orders, because she couldn't hear them. So police grabbed her and started punching her in the face, as she tried calling 911 for help:

    In a recording of the 911 call, Graham can be heard saying: “You attacked me before you said anything! There is no point whatsoever for you to touch me like that, especially with my condition, so how dare you even touch me?” The officer is heard saying that she is under arrest.

    Another responding officer punched Graham in the face a few times, while telling Graham not to resist arrest. When a police officer put weight on Graham’s hip—where she was injured—she reacted by trying to flip over. Federal Way police said she assaulted an officer during that struggle, reports KIRO 7.

    A photo published by KIRO 7 shows Graham with black and blue marks over her eye and face.

    7. St. Louis Police Shoot Black Honor Student 25 Times

    Conflicting accounts about whether or not the victim had a gun abound. As Think Progress reported:

    Protesters rallied in St. Louis, MO on Wednesday over the death of 25-year-old Cary Ball Jr., who was shot 25 times by police officers last month. Police say Ball refused to pull over for a traffic stop, eventually crashed into a parked car, and started running. According to police, Ball pointed a semi-automatic handgun at the officers, prompting them to open fire.

    Several witnesses who spoke to the family, however, say Ball threw his gun on the ground and was walking toward police with his hands up to surrender when he was shot. Some unverified reports say 7 of the 25 shots hit him in the back. Police say there was no surveillance video in the area to verify exactly what happened.

    Ball was an honor student with a 3.86 GPA, majoring in human services at Forest Park Community College, where he had been celebrated as an “emerging scholar.” According to family and friends, Ball was working to reform his life after being convicted of armed robbery when he was 17. His older brother, Carlos Ball, said Cary probably ran from the police because, as an ex-convict, it was illegal for him to possess a gun.

    continued in next comment...

  67. 8. Police Tase Foreclosed Upon Homeowners Protesting Criminal Bankers, Criminal Bankers Continue Facing No Repercussions

    Who are the real criminals?

    You may have heard about the protests at the DOJ by foreclosed upon homeowners demanding that Eric Holder prosecute some bankers for their criminal activity. If you haven't, you can read all about it here.

    Unfortunately, I received reports last night that citizens exercising their right to peacefully protest were being casually tasered by the authorities.

    This came from my friend Jason Rosenbaum, who was there:

    At the start of the action, when the protesters and homeowners arrived at the south entrance of the DOJ, we were greeted by half a dozen police in tactical gear or uniforms and a metal barrier cutting off access to a small courtyard in front of the large DOJ doors. The group of protesters rallied at the barrier and the planters next to it that made up the square and homeowners slowly climbed over the barriers in an attempt to gain an audience at the DOJ and register their complaints. At that point, the police were keeping people from climbing over, but eventually the police retreated and a few homeowners and protesters made it over and sat down to occupy that space. More joined them. After about 10 minutes, as more climbed over the barrier and the crowd occupied more space, the police retreated up the few steps leading to the door, and eventually ceded the square entirely by going inside the DOJ, leaving the protesters and homeowners alone in the square. The protesters took down the barriers at that point and everyone occupied the square, complete with signs, chants, couches, tents, and the like. (There's video/photos of this on my Twitter feed, @j_ro.)

    That was phase one -- for the next phase, the protest split into three groups, with one staying at the south entrance and the two others to take entrances on the north and west sides of the building. I went with the group going to the west, and we were met again by police presence at the west entrance. We pushed on through to the north entrance around the block, and again were met by police. After sitting down there for a bit and taking the intersection down the block, we were notified that our brethren needed our help back at the south entrance and we marched over.

    When I got there with the crowd in my group, the police had about a dozen homeowners in plastic cuffs on the south steps and had set up a police line around the original square in front of the door. The people in my group rushed through the line to sit down with their fellow protesters and homeowners being arrested, and it was at this point that at least one officer took out his taser gun, pulled the trigger, and started using it to push back those in the crowd coming to the support of those being arrested. That's what you see in my video. As Matt noted, it was over very quickly, with protesters looking to peacefully support those who were being arrested being tased and pushed back, and those being arrested led into a police van and driven away for processing.

    At this point, as the arrests were being loaded into the van, another group of about a dozen sat down inside the police barrier and as far as I know they're still there (I had to leave about an hour after the initial arrests). So there may be more arrests to come shortly.

    9. Diabetic High School Girl Beaten by Police Officer and Arrested, For Falling Asleep in Class

    As if America's streets have been not militarized enough, aggressive police have now entered the schools:

    continued in next comment...

  68. Ashlynn Avery, who has diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, was suspended for cutting class, and had to sit in the in-school suspension room. While she was reading “Huckleberry Finn,” she dozed off. First, the in-school suspension supervisor walked over to her cubicle and struck it, which caused the cubicle to hit Avery’s head, according to the lawsuit. She woke up, but soon fell back asleep. The supervisor, Joshua Whited, then took the book from her and slammed it down, which caused the book to hit the student in the chest.

    Avery was then told to leave the room, according to the complaint, and police officer Christopher Bryant followed her. Bryant slapped her backpack, and then “proceeded to shove Ashlynn face first into a file cabinet and handcuff her,” the complaint states. While in the car, Avery vomited. She was taken to a hospital and had to wear a cast as a result of her injuries.

    10. Cops Beat Woman Holding Toddler After Friend Videotapes Them

    Bad things happen when you record the police:

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Angelique Gerald-Porter was near her home watching a violent arrest that her friend, Salimah Milton, was videotaping. After Gerald-Porter got off her steps, a police officer told her to get back. According to the lawsuit, she complied, but the officer, Ian Nance, told her to walk to the end of the block. Gerald-Porter refused since she lived steps away.

    Then Nance said: “This is our property right now," and took Gerald-Porter to the ground. In the ensuing altercation, Nance allegedly punched her in the stomach, and dragged her down her steps by her hair. Her two-year-old son was pinned beneath her and was kicked, according to the lawsuit. Gerald-Porter “was bloodied, her clothes torn and she was nearly naked in the street, the suit says. Gerald-Porter and her son were both treated for injuries at Lankenau Hospital,” the Daily News reports.

    11. Cops Taser Then Shoot Man to Death After Family Calls 911 for Help for His Depression

    Courthouse News reports:

    A California sheriff's deputy needlessly Tasered and then shot a man to death after his father called 911 seeking help for his son's depression, the family claims in court. Parents and two brothers of the late George I. Ramirez sued Stanislaus County, its sheriff's department, Sheriff Adam Christianson, and Deputy Art Parra Jr. in Federal Court.

    George Ramirez, the father, says he called 911 on April 16, 2012, seeking help for his son. Ramirez says in the complaint that he told the 911 operator that his son was depressed, but never said that the family was in danger or that a crime was in progress.

    Deputy Parra responded, finding the father changing a headlight and the mother indoors doing housework. The family says Parra asked about the son's whereabouts, but did not ask for details regarding his condition or why the family called 911.

    Parra found Ramirez on the couch watching television, unaware that his family had called 911. Parra confirmed his identity and placed him under arrest by ordering him to stand up and turn around, according to the complaint. "In the process of standing up and complying with orders, Ramirez asked Parra why he was under arrest and if he could see his credentials," the complaint states.

    12. Cops Beat Woman For Filming Another Beating

    Once again, film at your own risk:

    Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: "You want to film something, bitch? Film this!" the woman claims in court.

    Makia Smith sued the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.


  69. Top Ten Reasons to Legalize Marijuana Now

    By Carmen Yarrusso, Truthout | Op-Ed June 9, 2013

    10. Hemp benefits are denied. Hemp can be made into paper, paneling, plastics, clothing and thousands of other useful products. The highly nutritious seeds can be used to make flour, cooking oil and cattle feed.

    This environmentally friendly plant grows without herbicides, nourishes the soil, matures quickly and provides high yields. It's the number-one biomass producer in the world - ten tons per acre in four months. It could be an excellent fuel-producing crop.

    Hemp, "nature's perfect plant," could bring a bonanza to hurting American farmers while greatly reducing America's dependence on fossil fuels, which could significantly mitigate climate change.

    9. Prohibition diverts billions from the needy. More than 50 government agencies feed at the drug war trough. Food stamps and other social programs are being slashed while billions are spent trying to stop adults from using marijuana.

    8. Prohibition is clearly counterproductive. Guaranteeing massive profits to anyone on earth who can produce and deliver marijuana to our streets cannot do anything but assure that even more will be produced and delivered.

    7. Criminalizing marijuana lacks moral justification. A real crime implies a victim and a perpetrator. Can you imagine being jailed for robbing yourself? As insane as this sounds, our government has done the equivalent by making adult use of marijuana a crime.

    Only a depraved, corrupt government could invent a crime you commit against yourself.

    6. Marijuana users are not debased human beings. Cultures throughout history - and pre-history! - have altered their minds with a variety of drugs. Billions around the world derive positive benefits from mind-altering drugs (especially from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and marijuana).

    Demonizing and criminalizing some drugs, while approving others without rational criteria, is clearly arbitrary and deceitful. Why are marijuana users criminals while alcohol and tobacco users are not? Why are marijuana dealers demonized, but alcohol and tobacco dealers are not?

    continued in next comment...

  70. 5. Marijuana is effective medicine. There's overwhelming evidence that marijuana can safely relieve pain, nausea and vomiting caused by various illnesses. In fact, marijuana is patently safer than many commonly prescribed drugs.

    4. Promising medical research is thwarted. The discovery of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances in the human body that activate so-called cannabinoid receptors has opened up vast possibilities for new medicines derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are not just in the brain, but also found in many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.

    3. Billions in potential taxes go to drug cartels. Our cash-strapped states are being cheated out of billions that could be obtained by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

    2. Thousands of prohibition murders occur each year. Mexico is the world's largest exporter of marijuana (most goes to the United States). There were at least 24,000 prohibition-related murders in Mexico since 2006. Thousands more died here, also a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

    1. Prohibition denies our most basic human right. Prohibition takes away our right of sovereignty over our own bodies and gives this power to government. Does any other human right make sense if we don't have sovereignty over our own bodies?

    There's a word for people who don't have sovereignty over their own bodies: slaves.

    The Glaring Truth About the Drug War

    The drug war is a blatantly dishonest, extremely expensive, highly destructive, grossly unjust, abject failure of our government.

    Despite 40 years and $1 trillion-plus of taxpayer money spent trying to stop - not robbery, not rape, not murder, not even shoplifting - but mostly trying to stop adults from using marijuana; despite draconian punishments; despite jailing millions of nonviolent Americans; despite thousands of prohibition-related murders each year, illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available than ever.

    The drug war is a vast government scam guaranteed to be perpetually futile. Prohibition only pretends to fight drugs.

    In fact, it guarantees massive profits to anyone on the planet who can produce and deliver prohibited drugs to our streets.

    Jailing drug dealers just creates lucrative job openings for more efficient, more ruthless, eager replacements. Only a small percentage of illegal drugs are intercepted, and these are easily and cheaply replaced.

    Prohibition creates, sustains and handsomely rewards the illegal drug industry while pretending to fight that very same industry. Like the classic mafia protection racket, our government creates a perpetual problem and then charges us exorbitantly to "protect" us from it.

    This abomination continues unabated because our government is addicted to the taxpayer billions it wastes year after year after year pretending to fight an enemy created and sustained by prohibition itself.

    Marijuana is the linchpin of the drug war. Legalizing marijuana will sound the death knell for this devastating crime against humanity.


  71. Government bans people from growing their own medical marijuana

    With pharmacies refusing to sell weed, only option for patients could be mail order

    By Ian Austin, Postmedia News June 11, 2013

    Legal “home grown” will soon be a thing of the past for Canada’s 30,000 medical marijuana users.

    Citing public safety concerns, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq rolled out new medical-marijuana rules Monday in Ottawa, citing overwhelming growth in medical-marijuana users as reason to ban patients from growing their own.

    “This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” said the health ministry, which noted that 500 medical-marijuana users in 2001 has mushroomed to 30,000 today.

    “Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”

    Dana Larsen of Sensible B.C., which is seeking to legalize pot for adults, said medical-marijuana users have spent their time and money to learn how to grow.

    “Now they’re telling them to throw everything away,” said Larsen. “This could be dealt with by city bylaws, regulation, and inspection.

    “The lack of rules is what got us in trouble in the first place — now they say, ‘Ban it.’”

    Pharmacists have lobbied to prevent medical-marijuana sales in their shops, and Aglukkaq granted them their wish Monday.

    “The potential security risks to pharmacies due to robberies would need to be considered,” the Canadian Pharmacists Association wrote Health Canada in February.

    “There is little information available on safety, effectiveness, dosage, drug interactions or long-term health risks.”

    Larsen isn’t surprised the drug vendors didn’t sign on.

    “I never expected pharmacists to sell pot,” said Larsen.

    “I just couldn’t see London Drugs wanting to sell it — that’s not what they do.”

    continued in next comment...

  72. With the changing rules of who can grow or sell it, Larsen sees only one permanent solution.

    “The only reason for medical marijuana laws is to make it illegal for everyone who doesn’t have a doctor’s note,” said Larsen, who is seeking enough signatures to put a legalize-pot referendum to B.C. voters.

    If we legalize marijuana, the medical-marijuana problem is solved.

    “If we legalize marijuana, the medical-marijuana problem is solved.”

    Abbotsford-based lawyer John Conroy said he’ll launch a constitutional challenge on behalf of poor medical-marijuana users if the government outlaws homegrown.
    “One of the constitutional rights is the right to reasonable access – there’s a large group of people that won’t have reasonable access because they’re poor,” said Conroy, who has battled government regulations in court before. “The government is proposing to sell medical marijuana for $8 to $10 a gram – a lot of people are growing their own for $1 to $5 a gram.”

    Conroy said fire chiefs have successfully lobbied about the dangers caused by grow-op setups.

    “I will support that you shouldn’t have large grow ops in a residential area,” said Conroy. “But if it’s legal and licensed and installed by an electrician, you can easily grow three or four plants in a closet.

    “The leading cause of fires is kitchens, but we’re not going to get rid of kitchens.”

    Conroy has a backup plan if the constitutional case fails.

    “Either the courts will rule that the government is taking away reasonable access, or we’ll start a class-action suit for damages.”

    The government proposes that marijuana be available only available through mail order, and Aglukkaq said “reasonable access” is being protected under the new rules.

    “While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said in a statement.

    “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”


  73. Marijuana advocates vow to fight new federal dispensary rules

    By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun columnist June 10, 2013

    On April Fool’s Day next year, Ottawa is officially quitting the pot business and simultaneously uprooting thousands of home-grow operations across the country.

    After two years of consultation and review, the federal government announced an overhaul of the medical marijuana program on Monday.

    The details will be published June 19, but Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is banning the indoor pot gardens that are the bane of police departments, fire marshals and municipalities.

    A marijuana mail-order system for the ailing will be established.

    “While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said.

    She maintained that the 12-year-old medical marijuana program had grown exponentially — from under 500 persons to more than 30,000.

    The unintended consequences of having so many Canadians exempt from the criminal law and allowing thousands to grow marijuana in their homes have proven too difficult to manage, Aglukkaq said.

    Under the new rules, municipal zoning laws must be respected, and marijuana may only be grown by strictly regulated licensed producers who will sell their product by mail.

    Her sympathies clearly lay with civic authorities rather than the sick — Aglukkaq made the announcement from an Ottawa fire hall, not a health setting.

    Advocates for the illegal compassion clubs (who lobbied Ottawa for legitimacy during the consultation process), as well as home-growers and patients (upset about predicted cost increases), promised litigation.

    The new rules continue to prohibit the dispensaries and may prompt municipalities such as Vancouver, which tolerate the illicit operations, to change their laissez-faire policies and shutter them.

    “They’ve ignored the currently existing network of dispensaries that provide more pot to more patients than the Health Canada system does,” complained Dana Larsen, of Sensible B.C. and who is behind an upcoming referendum on pot.

    “My prescription for medical marijuana is to legalize it. It’s safer than Aspirin and should be treated in a similar manner.”

    continued in next comment...

  74. A lawyer who represents a coalition of people against the repeal of the current program, John Conroy said litigation is inevitable.

    “We’ll seek a constitutional declaration that the new regulations are unconstitutional in that they fail to provide for personal production,” he said.

    “We’ll seek a restraining order or injunction to prevent the introduction of the no-growing prohibition, and we’ll ask the court to give the government a year to fix the new regulations to rectify the problem. If that fails, we’ll sue them for damages. All these folks spent considerable amounts of money setting up grows.”

    Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver Island lawyer and marijuana advocate, said it was unfortunate that Health Canada wanted to dispute patients’ rights in court.

    “These new rules, particularly the removal of small home gardens, will mean that patients will go without medicine because of the very high costs to buy it,” he said. “This is not the type of reasonable access to medical cannabis that the Charter, and basic compassion, require.”

    Most people can produce marijuana for between $1 and $4 a gram, but it sells for between $8 and $10 a gram on the black market or in a compassion club.

    Legal pricing under the new regulations was predicted by Ottawa to be much higher.

    The marijuana movement’s most recognized voice, Jodie Emery, wanted the government to recognize that the “clubs and dispensaries are doing invaluable work that should be applauded and authorized by Health Canada”, not left in limbo.

    “The proposed plan of allowing many private businesses to provide marijuana to patients is a very good one, but the freedom of choice for access shouldn’t be restricted or monopolized,” she explained.

    “Growing their own cannabis and accessing it from dispensaries should still be options available for patients.”

    Originally, Ottawa had proposed patients pick up their pot from pharmacies like any other medication, but pharmacists complained about the risks of robbery — as if handling pot were more dangerous than the opiates dispensed.

    Doctors, too, raised concerns about being asked to participate in the program by prescribing a substance they claimed to know little about.

    But the government ignored their bleating.

    The old rules will apply until March 31, 2014.


  75. Lawyer Takes On Feds Over New Pot Rules

    Abbotsford Times June 2013

    Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy is undertaking a legal battle against new changes to the federal government’s medical marijuana program.

    On Monday, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced some of the anticipated changes to the program, which includes banning individual home-based medicinal grow-ops in favour of larger government licenced producers.

    The new regulations mean sick or disabled people or their legal proxies with licences will no long be able to grow their own marijuana, said Conroy.

    The price of marijuana from the large producers will cost people up to four times as much as producing their own, said Conroy.

    The government estimates under the new program medical pot will be sold for $8 to $10 a gram while individuals grew their own for between $1 to $4, said Conroy.

    The price increase will limit some sick individuals, many on a low income, from being able to buy marijuana for their conditions.

    There is legal precedent that individuals with medical conditions with a doctor’s authorization have a Constitutional right to reasonable access to medical marijuana, said Conroy.

    Under the old program, those that couldn’t afford dispensary or black market prices grew their own marijuana, something they won’t be able to do in the future.

    Conroy expects to launch a Constitutional challenge on behalf of a coalition of medical marijuana users fighting the problematic aspects of the proposed regulations.

    “Basically, we’re saying these people’s constitutional rights are being impaired by what’s being proposed,” said Conroy.

    “At one time they could produce cannabis for themselves as there was no other program to provide it. But a program that’s out of reach is akin to having no program at all.”

    The group, MMAR DPL/ PPL Coalition Against Repeal, says it has 3,400 members across Canada.

    Conroy said his firm has collected 1,000 victim impact statements so far.

    The lawsuit aims to prevent some or all of the new regulations from coming into force, or to maintain the status quo until there’s some guarantee that all patients have reasonable access to medical marijuana.

    Failing that, Conroy may also take up a class action lawsuit to compensate individuals who have invested resources and borne the costs of growing their own pot over the last decade.

    On Monday, Aglukkaq agreed there must be reasonable access to legal marijuana for medical purposes.

    But the government believes it must be done in a controlled manner to protect public safety, she said.

    Since starting in 2001, the government’s medical marijuana program has grown exponentially, from less than 500 authorized persons to over 30,000 currently.

    The rapid growth of those producing medical marijuana, often in private homes, had consequences for public health and safety, said Aglukkaq.

    “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses,” she said.

    Municipal fire and bylaw authorities have long argued that home-based medical marijuana grows can pose fire safety problems or health problems due to mold.

    Police point to the dangers of grow rips and the lack of enforcement to ensure licensed growers aren’t producing more than they need for the illegal market.

    Under the new provisions, patients will have access to quality-controlled marijuana produced under sanitary conditions, said the minister.

    But Conroy noted that individuals that grew or developed specific strains of marijuana for their particular medical conditions will be out of luck.

    Litigation will get underway sometime after September and before March 2014 when the new regulations go into effect, he said.

    The details on the federal government’s new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations come out June 19.


    for more information on the lawsuit and how to join go to:


  76. Why it is time to legalize marijuana

    After decades of wasted resources, clogged courtrooms and a shift in public perception, let’s end the war on weed

    by Ken MacQueen on Monday, June 10, 2013

    Sometime this year, if it hasn’t happened already, the millionth Canadian will be arrested for marijuana possession, Dana Larsen estimates. The indefatigable B.C.-based activist for pot legalization is thinking of marking the occasion with a special ceremony. True, it will be impossible to know exactly who the millionth person is, but with the Conservative government’s amped-up war on drugs, it won’t be hard to find a nominee. As Larsen notes, the war on drugs in Canada is mostly a war on marijuana, “and most of that is a war on marijuana users.”

    The numbers bear him out. Since the Tories came to power in 2006, and slammed the door on the previous Liberal government’s muddled plans to reduce or decriminalize marijuana penalties, arrests for pot possession have jumped 41 per cent. In those six years, police reported more than 405,000 marijuana-related arrests, roughly equivalent to the populations of Regina and Saskatoon combined.

    In the statistic-driven world of policing, pot users are the low-hanging fruit, says Larsen, director ofSensible BC, a non-profit group organizing to put marijuana decriminalization on a provincial referendum ballot in 2014. “We’re seeing crime drop across Canada. [Police] feel they’ve got nothing better to do. You can throw a rock and find a marijuana user,” he says over coffee in his Burnaby home. “It’s very easy to do.”

    But is it the right thing to do? Most certainly that’s the view of the federal government, which has been unshakable in its belief that pot users are criminals, and that such criminals need arresting if Canada is to be a safer place. The message hasn’t changed though Canada’s crime rate has plummeted to its lowest level in 40 years. “It depends on which type of crime you’re talking about,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in an interview with the Globe and Mail, a typical defence of the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill, which includes new mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes. “Among other things, child sexual offences, those crimes are going up. Drug crimes are going up, and so, again, much of what the Safe Streets and Communities Act was focused on was child sexual offences and drug crimes.”

    The minister is correct if one takes a cursory look at the statistics. Two of the largest one-year increases in police-reported crimes in 2011 were a 40 per cent jump in child pornography cases (3,100 incidents), and a seven per cent hike (to 61,406 arrests) for pot possession. Taken together, all marijuana offences—possession, growing and trafficking—accounted for a record 78,000 arrests in 2011, or 69 per cent of all drug offences. Simple pot possession represented 54 per cent of every drug crime that police managed to uncover. This is more phony war than calamity, waged by a government determined to save us from a cannabis crisis of its own making. To have the minister imply a moral equivalency between child sexual abuse and carrying a couple of joints in your jeans underscores the emotionalism clouding the issue: reason enough to look at why marijuana is illegal in the first place.

    The Conservative hard line is increasingly out of step with its citizenry, and with the shifting mood in the United States, where two states—Colorado and Washington—have already legalized recreational use, where others have reduced penalties to a misdemeanour ticket and where many, like California, have such lax rules on medical marijuana that one is reminded of the “medicinal alcohol” that drugstores peddled with a wink during a previous failed experiment with prohibition.

    continued in next comment...

  77. In late May, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition added its voice to the debate with a sweeping report, “Getting to Tomorrow,” calling for the decriminalization of all currently illegal drugs, the regulation and taxation of cannabis and the expansion of treatment and harm-reduction programs. The coalition of drug policy experts, affiliated with the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction at Simon Fraser University, calls the increasing emphasis on drug criminalization under the Conservatives an “overwhelming failure.” The high marijuana use by Canadian minors is just one unintended consequence of current drug laws, it concludes. “Prohibition abdicated responsibility for regulating drug markets to organized crime and abandons public health measures like age restrictions and dosing controls.”

    There’s growing consensus, at least outside the Conservative cabinet room, that it’s time to take a hard look at tossing out a marijuana prohibition that dates back to 1923—a Canadian law that has succeeded in criminalizing successive generations, clogging the courts, wasting taxpayer resources and enriching gangsters, while failing to dampen demand for a plant that, by objective measures, is far more benign than alcohol or tobacco.

    Why is marijuana illegal?

    Well, Maclean’s must take a measure of responsibility. Back in the 1920s one of its high-profile correspondents was Emily Murphy, the Alberta magistrate, suffragette and virulent anti-drug crusader, who frequently wrote under the pen name Janey Canuck. She wrote a lurid series of articles for the magazine that were later compiled and expanded in her 1922 book, The Black Candle — you’ll find an excerpt from this book at the end of this piece. She raged against “Negro” drug dealers and Chinese opium peddlers “of fishy blood” out to control and debase the white race.

    Much of her wrath was directed at narcotics and the plight of the addict, but she also waged a hyperbolic attack against the evils of smoking marijuana—then little-known and little-used recreationally, although the hemp plant had been a medicinal staple in teas and tinctures. Quoting uncritically the view of the Los Angeles police chief of the day, she reported: “Persons using this narcotic smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition. While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.”

    In 1923, a year after The Black Candle’s release, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to outlaw cannabis, giving it the same status as opium and other narcotics. It’s impossible to know what influence Murphy’s writing had on the decision because there was no public or parliamentary debate. As noted by a 2002 Canadian Senate committee report, “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy”: “Early drug legislation was largely based on a moral panic, racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate.”

    The Senate report, like the royal commission on the nonmedical use of drugs chaired by Gerald LeDain in the early 1970s, concluded that the criminalization of cannabis had no scientific basis, but its use by adolescents should be discouraged. The LeDain reports, between 1970-73, were ahead of their time—to their detriment. Commissioners generated reams of studies on all drug use and held cross-country hearings (even recording John Lennon’s pro-pot views during an in-camera session in Montreal).

    continued in next comment...

  78. LeDain recommended the repeal of cannabis prohibition, stating “the costs to a significant number of individuals, the majority of whom are young people, and to society generally, of a policy of prohibition of simple possession are not justified by the potential for harm.” Even in a counterculture era of love beads and Trudeaumania the recommendations went nowhere.

    Obscurity also befell the 2002 Senate report 30 years later. The senators recommended legalization, as well as amnesty for past convictions, adding: “We are able to categorically state that, used in moderation, cannabis in itself poses very little danger to users and to society as a whole, but specific types of use represent risks to users,” especially the “tiny minority” of adolescents who are heavy users. Generally, though, the greater harm was not in cannabis use, the senators said, but in the after-effects of the criminal penalties.

    Both reports vanished in a puff of smoke, while 90 years on Emily Murphy endures. She is celebrated in a statue on Parliament Hill for her leading role among the Famous Five, who fought in the courts and were ultimately successful in having women recognized as “persons” under the law. And she endures in the spirit of Canada’s marijuana laws, which continue to reflect some of her hysterical views. Blame political cowardice, the fear of being labelled “soft on crime.” As a correspondent to the British medical journal TheLancet said of the slow pace of change for drug prohibition internationally: “bad policy is still good politics.”

    Putting emotions, fears and rhetoric aside, the case for legalizing personal use of cannabis hangs on addressing two key questions. What is the cost and social impact of marijuana prohibition? And what are the risks to public health, to social order and personal safety of unleashing on Canada a vice that has been prohibited for some 90 years?

    The cost of prohibition

    Estimates vary wildly on the cost impact of marijuana use and of enforcement. Back in 2002 the Senate report pegged the annual cost of cannabis to law enforcement and the justice system at $300 million to $500 million. The costs of enforcing criminalization, the report concluded, “are disproportionately high given the drug’s social and health consequences.”

    Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, concludes in a new study financed by Sensible BC that the annual police- and court-related costs of enforcing marijuana possession in B.C. alone is “reasonably and conservatively” estimated at $10.5 million per year. B.C. has the highest police-reported rate of cannabis offences of any province, and rising: 19,400 in 2011. Of those, almost 16,600 were for possession, leading to almost 3,800 charges, double the number in 2005. As arrests increase, Boyd estimates costs will hit $18.8 million within five years. Added to that will be the cost of jailing people under new mandatory minimum sentences included in the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

    The Conservatives’ National Anti-Drug Strategy, implemented in 2007, shifted drug strategy from Health Canada to the Justice Department. Most of the $528 million budgeted for the strategy between 2012 and 2017 goes to enforcement, rather than treatment, public education or health promotion, the drug policy coalition report notes. “Activities such as RCMP drug enforcement, drug interdiction and the use of the military in international drug control efforts [further] drive up policing, military and security budgets,” it says.

    Canada has always taken a softer line on prosecuting drug offences than the U.S., which has recorded 45 million arrests since president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. More than half of those in U.S. federal prison are there for drug offences. The Canadian drug incarceration rate is nowhere near as high.

    continued in next comment...

  79. But the government’s omnibus crime bill includes a suite of harder penalties. It requires a six-month minimum sentence for those growing as few as six cannabis plants, with escalating minimums. It also doubled the maximum penalty to 14 years for trafficking pot. (In Colorado, by contrast, it’s now legal for an adult to grow six plants for personal use or to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.)

    At the heart of the crime bill, in the government’s view, is public safety through criminal apprehension. The party won successive elections with that as a key election plank, and the senior ministers for crime and justice see it as an inalterable mandate. Nicholson rose in the Commons this March saying the government makes “no apology” for its tough-on-crime agenda, including its war on pot. “Since we’ve come to office, we’ve introduced 30 pieces of legislation aimed at keeping our streets and communities safe,” he said. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, in response to the pot legalization votes in Colorado and Washington, has flatly stated: “We will not be decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.” Back in 2010, Toews made it clear that public safety trumps concerns about increasing costs at a time of falling crime rates. “Let’s not talk about statistics,” he told a Senate committee studying the omnibus crime bill. “Let’s talk about danger,” he said. “I want people to be safe.”

    But there are risks in prohibition, too. The most obvious are the gang hits and gun battles that indeed impact the safety of Canadian streets, much of it fuelled by turf battles over the illegal drug trade. Nor are criminal dealers prone to worry about contaminants in the product from dubious grow ops, or the age of their customers.

    Canadian children and youth, in fact, are the heaviest users of cannabis in the developed world, according to a report released in April by UNICEF. The agency, using a World Health Organization (WHO) survey of 15,000 Canadians, found 28 per cent of Canadian children (aged 11, 13, and 15) tried marijuana in the past 12 months, the highest rate among 29 nations. Fewer than 10 per cent admitted to being frequent users. A Health Canada survey puts the average first use of pot at 15.7 years, and estimates the number of “youth” (ages 15-24) who have tried pot at a lower 22 per cent—the same rate as a survey of Ontario high school student use by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

    UNICEF called child marijuana use a “significant concern” for reasons including possible impacts on physical and mental health as well as school performance. Canadian youth, it speculated, believe occasional pot use is of little risk to their health, and “less risky than regular smoking of cigarettes.” UNICEF warned, however, of significant punitive risks to pot use, including expulsion from school and arrest. It noted 4,700 Canadians between ages 12 to 17 were charged with a cannabis offence in 2006. “Legal sanctions against young people generally lead to even worse outcomes,” the report said, “not improvements in their lives.”

    Nor do Canada’s sanctions curb underage use. Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands are all countries where pot use has been decriminalized, legalized or liberalized, and all have rates of child cannabis use that range from one-third to more than one-half lower than in Canada. Why Canada’s rates are higher is a bit of a mystery. Part of it is the ready availability from dealers with no scruples about targeting youth, and the cachet of forbidden fruit—or rather, buds. Then there’s the storm of mixed messages we send young people. There’s the laissez-faire attitude of many parents who used pot themselves. Then days like the annual 4/20 celebrations every April 20, when police turn a blind eye to open pot use and sale, cloud the issue of legality.

    continued in next comment...

  80. Even the federal government vilifies cannabis on one hand, while its health ministry offers a qualified endorsement of its use as a medicine.

    Mason Tvert, a key strategist in Colorado’s successful legalization vote, says criminalization has created an unregulated underground market of dealers who have no compunction about selling pot to minors. “Whether you want marijuana to be legal or not is irrelevant. Clearly there is a need for something to change if our goal is to keep marijuana from young people,” he says in an interview with Maclean’s during a foray into the Lower Mainland to campaign on behalf of Sensible BC’s referendum plan.

    If you want to see the value of regulating a legal product, combined with proof-of-age requirements and public education campaigns, look to the falling rates of cigarette smoking among young people in both the U.S. and Canada, Tvert says. “We didn’t have to arrest a single adult for smoking a cigarette in order to reduce teen smoking. So why arrest adults to prevent teens from using marijuana?”

    UNICEF also recommended that child pot use can be reduced more effectively with the same kind of public information campaigns and other aggressive measures used to curtail tobacco use. Canadian children, it noted, have the third-lowest rate of tobacco smokers among 29 nations. Remarkably, whether you use the 28 or 22 per cent estimate, more Canadian children have at least tried pot than the number who who smoke or drink heavily. The WHO data found just four per cent of Canadian children smoke cigarettes at least once a week, and 16 per cent said they had been drunk more than twice. It’s noteworthy, too, that tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use by Canadian children have all declined significantly since the last WHO survey in 2002. Perhaps we underestimate the common sense of our young people—sometimes at their peril.

    There are ample reasons to discourage children from the use of intoxicants at a time of formative social, physical and emotional development. It’s noteworthy, though, that Canada’s teens have at least chosen a safer vice in pot—apart from its illegality—than either alcohol or tobacco. As Tvert claims, backed by ample scientific data, pot is not physically addictive (though people can become psychologically dependent) and it is less toxic than either tobacco or alcohol.

    An unfair law, unevenly applied

    It was a bleak, wet night in March when 100 people gathered in a lecture hall at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby to hear an unlikely cast of speakers make the case for marijuana legalization, an event sponsored by Sensible BC. Among the speakers was Derek Corrigan, the city mayor, who cut his teeth as a defence lawyer. “Over the course of my career I gained an understanding of the nature of the people who were using [cannabis] and realized this was a vast cross-section of our society,” he said. They were everyday people, not criminals, he said. Most smoke with impunity in their homes and social circles, but it was young people, without that insulation of social respectability, whom he most often defended. “In criminal law we used to call it the ‘I-didn’t-respect-the-officer-enough’ offence. If you apologized enough you were unlikely to be charged,” he said. “I found that to be reprehensible.”

    Among the other speakers was lawyer Randie Long, who used to have a lucrative sideline as an hourly-paid federal prosecutor dealing with marijuana charges. There is a corrupting influence to the war on drugs that hits far closer to home than the cartels, the gangs and the dealers, he said. It corrupts the police and the justice system itself. “There’s easy money available from the feds for law enforcement”—all they need are the arrests to justify it. “The prosecutors use stats. The cops use stats,” he said. “Better stats mean better money.”

    continued in next comment...

  81. It’s understandable that many believe marijuana possession is quasi-legal. In Vancouver, it all but is. It is the stated policy of Vancouver police to place a low priority on enforcing cannabis possession charges. But outside Vancouver, most B.C. municipalities are patrolled by local detachments of the federal RCMP—and there, the hunt is on. Boyd, the criminologist, has taken a hard look at the numbers. In 2010, for instance, there were only six charges recommended by Vancouver police where marijuana possession was the only offence. There is a “striking difference” in enforcement in areas patrolled by the RCMP, Boyd notes in his report. The rate of all pot possession charges laid by Vancouver police in 2010 was 30 per 100,000. In RCMP territory, it ranged from 79 per 100,000 in Richmond and 90 per 100,000 in North Vancouver to almost 300 per 100,000 in Nelson and 588 per 100,000 in Tofino.

    RCMP Supt. Brian Cantera, head of drug enforcement in the province, explained the jump in pot possession charges in B.C. as “better work by policing the problem.” He wrote in an email to Boyd: “Despite the views of some, most Canadians do not want this drug around, as they recognize the dangers of it. The public does not want another substance to add to the carnage on highways and other community problems. Policing is reflective of what the public does not want.”

    Yet many polls suggest what the public does not want is a prohibition on marijuana. Last year 68 per cent of Canadians told pollster Angus Reid that the war on drugs is a “failure.” Nationally, 57 per cent said they favour legalizing pot. In B.C., 75 per cent supported moving toward regulation and taxation of pot. The number of B.C. respondents who said possessing a marijuana cigarette should lead to a criminal record: 14 per cent.

    Despite the zeal for enforcement, most pot arrests in Canada never result in convictions. In 2010, just 7,500 of possession charges for all types of drugs resulted in guilty verdicts—about 10 per cent of all 74,000 possession offences. Most possession busts never make it to trial. Of those reaching court, more than half of the charges are stayed, withdrawn or result in acquittals. This dismal batting average begs two questions. Is this a wise use of police resources and court time? And what criteria selected the unlucky 10 per cent with a guilty verdict? Aside from the probability it is predominantly young males, there are no national breakdowns by income or race. All told, pot prohibition is “ineffective and costly,” the 2002 Senate report concluded. “Users are marginalized and exposed to discrimination by police and the criminal justice system; society sees the power and wealth of organized crime enhanced as criminals benefit from prohibition; and governments see their ability to prevent at-risk use diminished.”

    The human cost of prohibition

    Victoria resident Myles Wilkinson was thrilled to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans this February. But when he presented himself to U.S. Customs agents at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, he was refused entry to the U.S. because of a marijuana possession conviction—from 1981. “I had two grams of cannabis. I paid a $50 fine,” he told CBC news. He was 19. “I can’t believe that this is happening, for something that happened 32 years ago.” But it can and it does, and the fact that Wilkinson’s Super Bowl contest was sponsored by a brewery adds a painful ironic twist. Wilkinson’s predicament is sadly typical. Canadians in their late teens to mid-20s are by far the most likely to be accused of drug offences, StatsCan reports. They are also the least likely to be able to afford the several thousand dollar defence lawyers typically bill to fight a case that goes to trial.

    continued in next comment...

  82. As for the scale of pot use in Canada, look to the person on your left and the person on your right. If neither of them have violated the law by smoking pot then it must be you, and probably one of the others, too. About 40 per cent of Canadians 15 and older admitted in a 2011 Health Canada survey to have smoked pot in their lifetime. Based on the number of Canadians 15 and older, that’s 10.4 million people. Just nine per cent of survey respondents said they smoked pot in the last year, compared to 14 per cent in 2004. Male past-year cannabis users outnumber females by two to one, and young people 15 to 24 are more than three times more likely to have smoked pot in the past year compared to those 25 and older.

    The same phone survey of 10,000 Canadians found that the alcohol consumption of one-quarter of Canadians puts them at risk of such chronic or acute conditions as liver disease, cancers, injuries and overdoses. If there is a crisis, it’s in that legal drug: alcohol.

    Legalization and the risk to public safety

    Canadians now have the luxury of looking to the social incubators of Washington state and Colorado to assess the potential risks of adding pot to the menu of legalized vices. Critics have already predicted the outcome: a massive increase in pot use, carnage on the highways, a lost generation of underperforming stoners coughing up their cancerous lungs, Hells Angels becoming the Seagram’s of weed.

    As commentator David Frum described it in a column this spring on the Daily Beast website: “A world of weaker families, absent parents, and shrivelling job opportunities is a world in which more Americans will seek a cheap and easy escape from their depressing reality. Legalized marijuana, like legalized tobacco, will become a diversion for those who feel they have the least to lose.”

    These are all legitimate, if often exaggerated, fears that must be addressed.

    Will pot use increase? There’s little evidence internationally to suggest a surge in use, at least any more than it has as an easily obtainable illegal substance. The 2002 Senate report concluded: “We have not legalized cannabis and we have one of the highest rates [of use] in the world. Countries adopting a more liberal policy have, for the most part, rates of usage lower than ours, which stabilized after a short period of growth.”

    The Netherlands, where marijuana is available in hundreds of adult-only coffee shops, is a case in point. The 2012 United Nations World Drug Report, using its own sources, pegs the level of use there at just 7.7 per cent of those aged 15 to 64. The U.S. has the seventh-highest rate of pot smokers, 14.1 per cent, while Canada ranks eighth at 12.7 per cent. Spain and Italy, which have decriminalized possession for all psychoactive drugs, are interesting contrasts. Cannabis use in Italy is 14.6 per cent, while Spain, at 10.6 per cent, is lower than the U.S. or Canada.

    Is cannabis a gateway to harder drugs? Again the 2002 Senate report concluded after extensive study: “Thirty years’ experience in the Netherlands disproves this clearly, as do the liberal policies in Spain, Italy and Portugal,” the report said. “And here in Canada, despite the growing increase in cannabis users [at the time of the report], we have not had a proportionate increase in users of hard drugs.” In fact, use of cocaine, speed, hallucinogens and ecstasy are all at lower rates than in 2004, the Health Canada survey reported in 2011.

    The risks of drugged driving: This is undeniably an area of concern, but one we’ve lived with for decades. Canadian law since 2008 allows police to conduct mandatory roadside assessments if drivers are suspected of drug impairment. There isn’t yet a roadside breath or blood test for drugs, but police can require a blood test under medical supervision. There were 1,900 drugged driving incidents in 2011—two per cent of all impaired driving offences in Canada.

    continued in next comment...

  83. Washington state has a standard of five nanograms per millilitre of blood of marijuana’s psychoactive chemical, THC, but there is not always a correlation between those levels and impairment. “We aren’t going to arrest somebody unless there’s impairment,” Lt. Rob Sharpe, of Washington’s State Patrol Impaired Driving Section, told the Seattle Times.

    So far there has been not a spike in Washington in “green DUIs,” as they’re called. One reason for this may be that many studies have shown that people react recklessly under influence of alcohol, and cautiously when stoned. One admittedly small study at Israel’s Ben Gurion University found alcohol and THC were “equally detrimental” to driving abilities. “After THC administration, subjects drove significantly slower than in the control condition,” the study found, “while after alcohol ingestion, subjects drove significantly faster.” A World Health Organization paper on the health effects of cannabis use says an impaired driver’s risk-taking is one of the greatest dangers, “which the available evidence suggests is reduced by cannabis intoxication, by contrast with alcohol intoxication, which consistently increases risk-taking.” Most certainly criminal sanctions for any form of impaired driving are necessary, as are education campaigns.

    What is the health impact of pot? Expect further studies in the states where legalization has unfettered researchers. In Canada, Gerald Thomas, an analyst with the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., and Chris Davis, an analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, used Health Canada data to chart the health and social costs of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol. Their findings: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user; alcohol-related health costs were $165 per user; cannabis-related health costs were $20 per user. Enforcement costs added $153 per drinker and $328 for cannabis user. In other words, 94 per cent of the cost to society of cannabis comes from keeping it illegal.

    Studies on inhaling pot smoke have yielded some surprising results. A 2006 U.S. study, the largest of its kind, found regular and even heavy marijuana use doesn’t cause lung cancer. The findings among users who had smoked as many as 22,000 joints over their lives, “were against our expectations” that there’d be a link to cancer, Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles told the Washington Post. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

    Another study compared lung function over 20 years between tobacco and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers lost lung function but pot use had the opposite effect, marginally increasing capacity, said the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Cannabinoids in marijuana smoke “have been recognized to have potential antitumour properties,” noted a 2009 study by researchers at Brown University. A study looking at marijuana use and head and neck squamous-cell cancer found an increased risk for smokers and drinkers, while “moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk.” Certainly it is past time for serious and impartial study of the benefits and risks of medicinal marijuana, something that decriminalization would facilitate.

    continued in next comment...

  84. Pot as the lesser of two evils: Let’s dispense once and for all with the stereotype of the unmotivated stoner. There are also unmotivated drunks, cigarette smokers and milk drinkers. Studies have ruled out “the existence of the so-called amotivational syndrome,” the Senate report noted a decade ago. Generations of pot smokers from the Boomers onward have somehow held it together, building families and careers. Miraculously, the last three U.S. presidents managed to lift themselves beyond their admitted marijuana use to seek the highest office in the land. Once there, they forgot whence they came, and continued the war on drugs.

    Consider, too, the opinion of retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, one of many who convinced a solid majority of voters in Washington state last November to endorse legalization. “I strongly believe—and most people agree—that our laws should punish people who do harm to others,” he writes in the foreword to the 2009 bestseller Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? “But by banning the use of marijuana and punishing individuals who merely possess the substance, it is difficult to see what harm we are trying to prevent. It bears repeating: from my own work and the experiences of other members of the law enforcement community, it is abundantly clear that marijuana is rarely, if ever, the cause of harmfully disruptive or violent behaviour. In fact, I would go so far as to say that marijuana use often helps to tamp down tensions where they otherwise might exist.”

    As for pot’s health impact, Stamper concurs with the thesis of the book: study after study finds pot far less toxic and addictive than booze. “By prohibiting marijuana we are steering people toward a substance that far too many people already abuse, namely alcohol. Can marijuana be abused? Of course,” he says. But “it is a much safer product for social and recreational use than alcohol.”

    Mason Tvert, a co-author of the Marijuana is Safer book, notes multiple studies show it is impossible to consume enough weed to overdose, yet as a teen he had to be rushed unconscious by ambulance to hospital to have his stomach pumped after drinking a near-lethal amount of alcohol. “We know alcohol kills brain cells without a doubt,” he says. “That’s what a hangover is, it’s like the funeral procession for your brain cells.”

    Tvert, very much a showman in the early days of the legalization campaign in Colorado, hammered relentlessly on the “benign” nature of pot, compared to alcohol. His organization sponsored a billboardfeaturing a bikini-clad beauty, mimicking the usual approach to peddling beer. In this case, though, the message was: “Marijuana: No hangovers. No violence. No carbs!”

    Tvert went so far as to call anti-legalization opponent John Hickenlooper, then mayor of Denver, “a drug dealer” because he ran a successful brew pub. Now, Tvert notes with sweet irony, Hickenlooper is governor, tasked with implementing the regime for legalized weed.

    continued in next comment...

  85. The rewards of legalization

    Stop the Violence B.C.—a coalition of public health officials, academics, current and former politicians—is trying to take the emotion out of the legalization debate by building science-based counter-arguments to enforcement. One of its member studies concludes B.C. would reap $500 million a year in taxation and licensing revenues from a liquor-control-board style of government regulation and sale.

    While some see those numbers as unduly optimistic, both Washington and Colorado are looking at lower enforcement costs and a revenue bonanza from taxation and regulation. An impact analysis for Colorado, with a population slightly larger than British Columbia, predicts a $12-million saving in enforcement costs in the first year, rising to $40 million “as courts and prisons adapt to fewer and fewer violators.” It predicts combined savings and new revenue of $60 million, “with a potential for this number to double after 2017.”

    In the U.S., so far, the Obama administration has shown no inclination to use federal drug laws to trump the state initiatives. Dana Larsen is banking on a similar response from Ottawa, should Sensible BC manage to get quasi-legalization passed in a September 2014 referendum. The bar is set high. They need to gather, over a 90-day span this fall, signatures from 10 per cent of the registered voters in every one of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts to force a referendum—just as voters rallied to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax, against the wishes of the federal government. The vote, should it go ahead, would seek to amend the Police Act, instructing departments not to enforce cannabis possession. It would be the first step, says Larsen, to a national repeal of prohibition.

    Would the federal government go to war with a province to protect a 90-year-old law built on myths, fears and hysteria; a law that crushed the ambitions of countless thousands of young people; a law that millions violate when it suits their purpose? Likely, but it would be one hell of a fight. After the legalization vote was decided in Washington last November, the Seattle Police Department posted a humourous online guide to pot use, entitled Marijwhatnow? Yes, it said, those over 21 can carry an ounce of pot. No, you can’t smoke it in public. Will Seattle police help federal investigations of marijuana use in the state? Not a chance. There was, between the lines, a palpable relief that they no longer had to play bad cops to a bad law. Marijwhatnow? ended with a clip from Lord of the Rings. Gandalf and Bilbo are smoking a pipe. “Gandalf, my friend,” says Bilbo, “this will be a night to remember.”

    Perhaps one day Canadians will be as lucky.

    The Black Candle


  86. The Most Important Movie of the Summer (Hint: It's Not Man of Steel)

    It's a new documentary called How to Make Money Selling Drugs

    by Ariana Huffington, Huffington Post June 19, 2013

    The biggest movie of the summer isn't Man of Steel, or The Lone Ranger, or Fast & Furious 6. It's a new documentary called How to Make Money Selling Drugs, which will be released in theaters and on demand on June 26.

    Now, when I say "biggest," I'm not talking about budget size or box office receipts -- I'm talking impact and importance. Written and directed by Matthew Cooke, and produced by Bert Marcus and Adrian Grenier, How to Make Money Selling Drugs exposes the hypocrisy, insanity and destructiveness of America's drug war. Of course, the problem with saying a movie is "important" is that it can leave the impression that it isn't entertaining. That's certainly not the case with this film. Indeed, Cooke's goal is, as he put it, borrowing from Malcolm X, to bring about change "by the most entertaining means necessary." Or, as Hamlet said, "The play is the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Or, in this case, the conscience of the public, which will in turn hopefully catch the conscience of the king -- aka our leaders.

    The movie is loosely structured as a satirical how-to, showing how easy it is to make a ton of money as a player in America's war on drugs. And though the film mainly focuses on the stories of former drug dealers, along the way it lays bare the complicity of law enforcement, our justice system, and our political system. It also features interviews with, among others, Susan Sarandon, 50 Cent, The Wire creator David Simon, HuffPost senior writer Radley Balko, and Russell Simmons. (And, full disclosure, a cameo by me.)

    But the reason the film truly feels like a blockbuster is that you can't leave the theater without being shocked and outraged by what you've seen. Even if you go in feeling like you're well-versed in the insanity of the drug war, you'll walk out stunned. That's what happened to me. I've been passionate about this issue for years. In fact, the injustice of the war on drugs has been one of The Huffington Post's core issues since its founding. It's also why this week we've been running a dedicated series of blog posts in conjunction with the movie's release.

    On no issue is the cowardice and hypocrisy of our elected leaders writ larger than on the drug war -- with staggering consequences in lives and in money. Not only is the war on drugs America's longest-running war, it's also arguably its most destructive. The statistics, as laid out by the film's producers, give a sense of the magnitude of the epic failure of the drug war:

    --In 1981, the U.S. spent1.5 billion on the drug war. Last year, the number was 25 billion.

    --In the 1980s there were about 3,000 SWAT-style drug raids per year. Today there are around 50,000.

    --The U.S. is the top consumer of cocaine worldwide.

    --African-American dealers are four times more likely to be arrested than Caucasian dealers -- even though more buyers and sellers are Caucasian.

    --Ninety percent of those convicted on drug charges under the Rockefeller drug laws are African-American and Latino.

    --In 2011, 48 percent of federal inmates were in prison for drug crimes, compared with 8 percent for violent crimes.

    "I think we're led to believe we're a nation of 2 types: criminals and citizens," writes Cooke in his director's statement. "But truly we are one people. If we are divided by anything it's by two conversations. The truth Americans speak on the streets. And the conversation between our commercial news and Washington elites, blasted across our media -- drowning the rest of us out."

    continued in next comment...

  87. That's why it's so important that we all lend our voices to a conversation that can reach Washington and finally overwhelm the entrenched forces that keep this disastrous war -- a war not on drugs but on our people -- going year after devastating year.

    And to help fuel that conversation, we'd like you to send us your stories. How has the drug war affected you, your family, or your friends? Are you involved in local efforts to fight it? Let us know how you're intersecting with the war on drugs.

    And if you've missed the parts of the conversation we've been running on HuffPost in conjunction with the film, here are some highlights:

    Director Matthew Cooke kicked it off by writing about how, "from the standpoint of social responsibility, the war on drugs has in fact created a crisis of epic proportions not just in the United States but across the planet." In sum, he continues, "If we want to save lives we need to end the war on drugs. We know this."

    And to that end, he also recommends supporting three organizations on the front lines of ending this war:

    1) The Drug Policy Alliance is a fantastic organization with tons of information, resources and easy action steps on contacting congresspeople. 2) Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is an inspired group of former and current police officers, judges and prison guards who are calling for legalization of all drugs to save lives. 3) Marijuana Majority, while focused solely on marijuana, is a great coalition of famous names who are joining forces to help spread the word that indeed 72 percent of the nation already agrees "no jail time for marijuana". We're making progress!

    Producer Adrian Grenier writes about having grown up with parents involved in the hippie movement and being exposed both to casual drug use and to those with more serious drug problems. Though he says he doesn't advocate drug use, criminalizing it isn't the answer:

    I was lucky -- I grew up white and middle class.

    In a minority community, the enforcement of drug laws would have ripped my family apart. These communities are systematically targeted and destroyed by drug laws, leaving countless children without their parents. I can only imagine the horror of actually watching a friend, family member, or mentor put behind bars. Is it really more beneficial to society to lock a father in prison, rather than send him to treatment, where he can learn to make better choices as he continues to provide for his family?

    Neill Franklin is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a non-profit representing over 5,000 law enforcement workers opposed to the drug war. He's also a 34-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department and the Maryland State Police. From his very credentialed perspective, Franklin writes about how futile it is to focus on the supply end of the drug war. For inner city children, drug dealing "often means the only avenue of escape from a life of poverty." He continues:

    Prosecuting individual drug suppliers is a lot like squeezing a water balloon: when you tighten in one place, another part of the balloon necessarily expands out. The police might arrest a dealer in one area of the city, but when they do, they create a vacuum in the market, which others enthusiastically fill. Worse, the scramble to fill that void often leads to violent confrontations between groups competing for market share. This is one way in which drug prohibition not only fails to prevent violence, it actively generates it.

    And that's, of course, because of the massive amount of money the system generates. "Pretty much every ill in America is funded by profits from drugs," Franklin writes.

    continued in next comment...

  88. And then there are the opportunity costs of having our limited law enforcement resources focused so intently on the futile drug war. As Franklin notes, as the drug war has grown, the national percentage of murders that get solved has dropped, going from 91 percent in 1963 to 61 percent in 2007.

    "We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," he concludes. "Take it from someone who tried for 34 years."

    For a different angle on the supply side, there's Violeta Ayala, an award-winning indigenous Bolivian filmmaker, who writes about how "the indigenous people of Bolivia have a relationship with the coca leaf that goes back thousands of years." To the Bolivians, cocaine is simply "a way to get out of poverty."

    She details how the Bolivians were one of the top targets of the U.S. after Nixon launched the drug war in 1972. But after 25 years of accepting the consequences of the U.S. war on drugs, everything changed when Evo Morales was elected and refused to go along. The result? "Bolivia has a growing middle class," Ayala writes, "we're fighting illiteracy with more children attending school than ever and the number of people living below the poverty line is decreasing by the day."

    She concludes that, "ultimately, as long as there's demand for cocaine, there will be cocaine production in Bolivia."

    Susan Sarandon writes about the passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, "a common sense step toward ending the archaic prohibition mindset that has resulted in the U.S. leading the world in the incarceration of our people -- a prison system packed with non-violent drug offenders."

    She also reminds us that the drug offenders our prisons are packed with are not evenly distributed across race and class lines: While African-Americans and whites have virtually identical rates of drug use, African-Americans are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated for pot.

    But Sarandon is hopeful for the future:

    With the ascendance of the baby boomers I believe we've finally reached a tipping point. The majority of my generation knows better than to believe the government's breathless anti-marijuana propaganda...

    I encourage everyone to get involved in your own state. Eventually we'll reach enough of a critical mass to prompt reform at the federal level and we can end this national outrage once and for all.

    HuffPost's Radley Balko posts an entry that's taken from his book (to be published July 9) Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. Radley writes about another way to make money -- big money -- from the drug war. And with no risk of jail time:

    Want to make money on the drug war? Start a company that builds military equipment, then sell that gear to local police departments. Thanks to the generation-long trend toward more militarized police forces, there's now a massive and growing market for private companies to outfit your neighborhood cops with gear that's more appropriate for a battlefield.

    How big of a market? By 2014, the homeland security market for local law enforcement agencies will reach over $19 billion. And, as Radley notes, because most of these localities will never face the real threat of terrorism, much of this equipment -- "armored personnel carriers, high-power weapons, aircraft and other military-grade gear" -- will instead be used to further prosecute the drug war, "namely, to perform raids on people suspected of nonviolent consensual drug crimes."

    It's part of what Radley calls "the police-industrial complex," and he shows how the confluence of the drug war and 9/11 has perverted the relationship between even small-town police departments and communities across the country.

    continued in next comment...

  89. Eric Sterling is the head of the non-profit Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. But from 1979 to 1989, he was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and helped write anti-drug legislation, especially the law -- written "with no hearings or effective input from anyone" -- mandating sentencing disparities for those convicted of selling crack cocaine versus powered cocaine.

    "You would think that Eric Holder, the first African American Attorney General, and Barack Obama, the first African American President, would be vigilant that there was no racial discrimination in the Justice Department of their Administration," Sterling writes. "You would think."

    He notes that in 2008, lawmakers, including then-Senators Obama, Biden and Clinton, co-sponsored legislation to address the disparity. But the version that finally passed in 2010, and was signed by President Obama, adjusted the triggering quantities only slightly. The result?

    ... the racial disparity in federal crack cocaine cases is even worse! In FY 2009, blacks were 79.0 percent of all federal crack cocaine defendants. By FY 2012, that percentage had gone UP to 82.6 percent. In FY 2009, whites were only 9.8 percent of all federal crack cocaine defendants. But FY 2012, that percentage had gone DOWN to 6.7 percent. Under Holder and Obama, the racial disparity has gotten significantly worse.

    Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, also brings attention to President Obama's hypocrisy on the issue. As Nadelmann notes, in his 2008 campaign, Obama promised to change the government's emphasis to a public health approach instead of criminalization. How did that turn out?

    The Obama administration's budget continues to emphasize enforcement, prosecution and incarceration at home -- and interdiction, eradication and military escalation abroad. Even what the government does spend on treatment and prevention is overstated, as many of its programs are wasteful and counterproductive.

    continued in next comment...

  90. As Nadelmann points out, in 2011, of the 1.5 million people arrested for drugs, over 80 percent were for low-level possession. "On any given night," he writes, "roughly 500,000 people go to sleep behind bars in the U.S. for nothing more than a drug law violation -- that's 10 times the number in 1980."

    Nor is this an issue the president can blame on John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Congress, the tea party or the media.

    Nadelmann also writes about how the people are fighting back, as seen in the passage of decriminalization initiatives in Washington and Colorado. Yet even as progress has been made, it's important not to let up. "Nothing concerns me more than when people look at what we accomplished on Election Day and declare 'we've won!'" he writes. "The truth is, we may have scored two major victories, but winning the war against the war on drugs is a long way off... The drug war remains entrenched and codified in a complex, global web of policies. We can't stop fighting until policymakers adopt a fundamentally better way of dealing with drugs, people who use them, and their children, families and communities."

    Back in 2001, I wrote about how I hoped the movie Traffic would ignite a conversation about the drug war. And for a while it did. Yes, progress has been made at the state level -- but only in a few states. And while the momentum of demographic change will undoubtedly keep that progress going, we need to bring a sense of urgency to this injustice. I hope there will come a day when the government no longer wages this insane war against its own citizens. But how many lives are going to be destroyed before that happens?

    So please, get involved. See this powerful film -- it will motivate you to take action. And be sure to tell us your drug war stories.

    This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the theatrical and on-demand release of "How To Make Money Selling Drugs," a new documentary by Matthew Cooke that examines the drug trade from a variety of angles. For more info on the film, go to:


    to view the numerous links in this article go to:


  91. Marijuana Moms Are Pot-Smoking and Proud

    A group of Beverly Hills moms say marijuana makes them better wives and parents.

    By Victoria Kim, The Fix June 19, 2013

    Meet the Real "Stoned" Housewives of Beverly Hills. A group of moms in California, where medical pot is legal with a prescription, have declared that marijuana makes them better parents and partners. The self-described "Marijuana Moms" take pot as prescribed for aches and pains, but also to help them cope with the pressures of marriage and motherhood. Once a month, they gather at the home of Cheryl Shuman for a dinner party, in which they indulge in pot-infused delicacies like cannabis leaf salad and marijuana milkshakes, and sample various strains of the plant. They've been met with some judgment in the community, but say they're working to salvage pot's reputation and showcase its benefits. "We've all come up against people who say marijuana is for dirty druggies, but we are proof you can be good parents and productive members of society and use it," says Shuman, 53, and a mother of two, who claims pot eases her stress and helps her to stay calm and rational at home. Simmi Dhillon, 40, credits the drug with helping her overcome dependence on painkillers prescribed for an injury, so she could become the "wife I always wanted to be" to her husband, who happens to be a cop. And January Thomas, 37, who takes pot to treat early onset arthritis, says weed makes her "a better and more creative parent" to her two-year-old daughter, Zeena: "It puts me in the moment with Zeena and stops me worrying about everyday problems." Watch the Marijuana Moms in action (see the video above at the end of the blog post)


  92. Medical marijuana bust angers New Westminster operators

    Operators of N.I.C.E. Dispensary say investigation was a waste of police time and money

    by Jason Proctor, CBC News July 5, 2013

    The lawyer for the operator of a New Westminster medical marijuana dispensary says police wasted time and money targeting his client with a year-long undercover operation.

    New Westminster police have recommended charges against three people after raiding the N.I.C.E dispensary in May.

    A search warrant obtained by CBC News details a year-long investigation into the venture, which was run by Justin Cleveland, head of the West Coast Green Light Society advocacy organization.

    Cleveland's lawyer, Kirk Tousaw, says his client was completely transparent as to his intentions, informing the city with a detailed proposal for a two-year trial period.

    "I think that most Canadians would agree that using scarce police resources to investigate and ultimately arrest people that are trying to help others with medical conditions access medical cannabis isn't the most effective use of these resources," Tousaw says.

    "If I was a taxpayer in New Westminster — and it is a municipal police force — I'd be wondering what the priorities of New Westminster Police Department are."

    Although Health Canada licenses individuals to possess marijuana for personal medical use, dispensaries are technically illegal. But some municipal police forces — like Vancouver's — have turned a blind eye to the practice.

    New regulations introduced last month still make no provision for marijuana dispensaries, instead allowing patients to purchase medical marijuana from licensed growers by mail order.

    Cleveland opened the dispensary in 2012, making presentations to residents associations and informing the city of his plans.

    "There appeared to be a great deal of community support for their activity," says Tousaw. "It was quite a surprise to Mr. Cleveland when the police took it upon themselves to intervene in the situation."

    According to the search warrant, police received a Crime Stoppers tip about the dispensary in May 2012.They spent the next year investigating, running three different undercover scenarios.

    continued below

  93. On one occasion, a male and female officer posed as "a Hispanic couple with little English skills."

    "[We] slowly and sheepishly approached the counter to ask several questions," the detective writes. "I explained that my wife 'Maria' ... was suffering from bursitis, which I understood was an inflammation of the hip."

    "When I asked how we could get marijuana for Maria to use, Cleveland explained that all they [the operators of the dispensary] needed was for 'Maria' to provide a doctor's note confirming that she suffered from an illness and would benefit from the use of marijuana.

    "I asked ... if it was possible to purchase marijuana without a doctor's note of some kind. [They] declined my request advising that, while they sympathized with us, selling marijuana without a doctor's note was against their company policy."

    On a different occasion, the warrant states that another undercover officer was also rejected after showing an expired Health Canada license to possess marijuana.

    "Cleveland explained that [the detective] would have to renew his license to possess before becoming a member. Cleveland then printed off renewal forms."

    It was only after presenting what appeared to be a valid Health Canada marijuana license and her driver's license that a third undercover operator was allegedly able to apply for membership in the dispensary and purchase four grams of marijuana for $40.

    Staff Sgt. Paul Hyland says police were simply doing their job.

    "Certainly the way those laws and the way Health Canada deals with those is under the purveyance of the federal government. But if there are allegations of illegal behaviour, then they will be investigated."

    Marijuana advocate Dana Larsen disagrees.

    "I think that the New Westminster police made the wrong decision to go in there and raid this place," he says.

    "They certainly had the option to deal with it differently because many other municipalities and police forces around B.C. have allowed dispensaries to operate and have made them a very low priority for their policing."

    Larsen says legal precedence involving marijuana dispensary cases has resulted in conditional discharges for other accused.

    "This huge amount of police resources and court resources in this case is going to result in nothing in the end. Just a bunch of wasted time on everyone's part."

    Hyland says charges have been forwarded to federal Crown counsel against three people. The charges include possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking as well as trafficking in a controlled substance.

    Tousaw says he hopes Crown won't pursue the matter any further.

    "I certainly will be urging the Crown to decline to approve charges because I think most Canadians will agree that it's not in the public interest to prosecute people like Mr. Cleveland and the others involved in the N.I.C.E. dispensary for actions that I think most Canadians will view as compassionate, motivated properly and done respectfully and in a very transparent and open way in the community."


  94. Nova Scotia RCMP storm the wrong home, arrest three people anyway

    Three roommates spent several hours at the police station due to a botched search warrant

    by Ishmael N. Daro, Post Media News August 30, 2013

    The RCMP in Nova Scotia says officers made an “honest mistake” when they entered the wrong home and arrested three people, even after finding out the name on their search warrant was incorrect.

    According to a report by the Chronicle Herald, Dustin Moore of Greenwood, N.S., was awoken late Wednesday by police barging into his apartment and shining flashlights in his face.

    “With their guns drawn, they ripped me off the bed, threw me on the floor, handcuffed me (and) drug me outside,” Moore told the newspaper.

    What followed was an all-night ordeal for him and his two roommates, who were also woken up and detained.

    The Kings District Street Crime Enforcement Unit had a warrant to look for illegal drugs and controlled substances, but, as it turns out, the search warrant named the man in the adjacent unit of the duplex under Moore’s address. Despite trying to alert the RCMP officers to the error, the trio was not released — even when the officers found the man they were looking for.

    Things only got worse when the unwanted visitors found some marijuana on the table.

    “They said that we were all under arrest because of that one gram,” said Moore.

    In total, Moore and his roommates were detained for up to five hours, most of that time spent at the Kingston RCMP station. Eventually they were let go without charges.

    The Chronicle Herald reports that when Moore asked why they had been arrested in the first place, an officer smirked and said, “It is what it is.”

    When contacted for comment by Canada.com on Friday, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia RCMP said it was “an honest mistake when they entered the wrong apartment.”

    “We have told the apartment owner we will cover the cost of repairing the door,” said Sgt. Alain Leblanc in an email. “The RCMP regrets having entered the incorrect apartment and given this was an honest mistake, will be speaking further to the home owner.”

    Asked whether the officers had broken the law themselves, potentially committing a break-and-enter in the process of storming the wrong home, Alain said no.

    The officers had acted in good faith, so “there is no offence,” he said.

    Alain could not comment further due to an ongoing investigation.


  95. Health Canada heroin decision draws minister's rebuke

    CBC News September 20, 2013

    Health Minister Rona Ambrose says her department's decision to provide heroin to certain addicts under a federal program is wrong and won't happen again.

    The federal Special Access Program is designed to allow patients in exceptional cases to get medications normally not allowed in Canada.

    The decision that drew the minister's ire will allow doctors in B.C. to prescribe heroin to certain chronic addicts.

    A news release quotes Ambrose saying: "This decision is in direct opposition to the government's anti-drug policy and violates the spirit and intent of the Special Access Program."

    Citing privacy restrictions, the minister and her officials are not identifying the successful applicant approved by Health Canada.

    But sources say it is almost certainly an experimental drug treatment program in Vancouver that is testing an unrestricted pain medication as an alternative to heroin.

    The drug trial involves 322 addicts, some of whom are being given the experimental drug, while others are getting heroin. The participants are not told which one they are receiving.

    A source familiar with the program says its application for special access to heroin has been approved by Health Canada.
    The program is run by Providence Health Care, which operates a chain of Catholic hospitals, clinics and other facilities in B.C.

    Ambrose is quoted in her news release saying: "I am taking immediate action to ... ensure this does not happen again."

    But government officials say the Special Access Program is merely under review, and there is no immediate plan to block future applications of the kind approved for the B.C. drug trials.


  96. Pot-smoking Mountie can't smoke publicly in uniform: RCMP

    Cpl. Ron Francis legally smokes marijuana daily while on duty to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

    By Evan Dyer, CBC News November 28, 2013

    A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer with a medical marijuana prescription thinks he should be able to smoke the drug while in uniform, but the RCMP says he can't smoke marijuana while in red serge or while wearing his regular working uniform.

    Cpl. Ronald Francis serves with J Division in New Brunswick, and received a prescription for medical-grade marijuana on Nov. 4.

    Francis told CBC News marijuana has helped him to calm down and reduces his PTSD symptoms. His prescription allows for three grams a day, which he estimates to be nine to 15 joints, though he said he doesn’t typically smoke that much.

    “I get up in the morning, have my coffee and the marijuana. I go at lunchtime, have a marijuana joint, and then again in the evening. That would be my medical regime. But that may change with my tolerance to THC. It may take two joints in the morning, I don't know," said Francis.

    "I'm just building up my immunity to THC levels, if I was to smoke two I'd probably get stoned to the point that I'm just totally relaxed. I'm still functional. But your nervous system is relaxed, and that makes a big difference," he said.

    Francis, who is currently assigned to administrative duties, said smoking marijuana has no negative effect on his ability to be a police officer and that he intends to continue smoking on the job.

    “There’s no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana. There’s no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge.”

    RCMP says officers 'should not be in red serge' while smoking marijuana

    But while the RCMP accepts that Francis’s prescription gives him the right to consume marijuana, the force takes issue with members smoking in public or in uniform.

    “Definitely a member that has been prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge taking his medication,” said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gilles Moreau. “It would not be advisable for that member, it would not portray the right message to the general public, it’s definitely not something we would support or condone.”

    continued below

  97. Moreau said the RCMP has a duty to accommodate members’ medical needs, but also has to consider the effect on other members and on public perceptions.

    “Because this is relatively new for active members of the RCMP, we are looking at the internal policies to see, how do we set it up? To say, OK, if somebody is prescribed medical marijuana and they have to take it two or three times a day and have to take it at work, where is this going to take place? If it takes place outside, it has to respect the individual but also their co-workers, and it has to respect the Canadian population at large by taking it in a respectful way.”

    The RCMP has the right to challenge medical treatments it considers inappropriate, and to seek a second medical opinion, Moreau said, adding that RCMP will evaluate any member who obtains a medical marijuana prescription.

    If they are found to be impaired in judgment or motor skills, the RCMP will place limits on the police functions they're permitted to perform, he said.

    Turned to marijuana after trying anti-depressants

    Francis said he experienced stress on the job early in his career, while serving the First Nation in Davis Inlet and in his own community of Kingsclear First Nation. He began to seek treatment for mental distress eight years ago.

    At first, his doctors prescribed anti-depressants, but he did not feel any significant improvement.

    “I started to self-medicate with alcohol. And I said no, this is not me. Why am I doing this? And I was going through treatment for PTSD at the time, and the RCMP did provide treatment, and I thank the RCMP for that.”

    But Francis began to read about alternative treatments, including marijuana, and he eventually left the doctor he was seeing at the occupational stress injury clinic. He switched to a different doctor, who gave him the marijuana prescription.

    “When I explored it as a treatment for my PTSD, I had to really make a moral decision about it. Because the RCMP and law enforcement, they seem so anti-marijuana, and that's a hard thing to overcome, so I had to make that decision for my own health. It wasn’t based on my career or anything.

    "It was for my own health. In doing that I realized that I have to come first. The organization doesn't come first, Ron Francis comes first. For my own health. And I'm glad I did that,” he said.


  98. Confessions of a Pothead Mom

    by Kiri Westby , Huffington Post March 18, 2014

    This is not easy to write about.

    First off, I'm worried that readers are going to question my parenting and that I should prepare myself for a visit from Child Protection Services.

    Secondly, there is my family, some of whom know me very well and others who might find this completely shocking. Not to mention my immediate family and, yes, my children, who might catch some ricocheting flak.

    Lastly, there is my career. Even though I am only writing about a small part of my life, for a small part of the time, it could affect ALL of my professional life and have lasting implications.

    Let's face it: My use of the word "pothead" probably dropped my IQ in your mind by several points. Despite compelling research that suggests marijuana has no lasting negative effects on brain function, unlike alcohol or tobacco, it still conjures up images of potato chips and sweatpants, struggling to get off the couch at 2 in the afternoon. And I'm a little concerned that everyone I encounter from now on, personally or professionally, will be asking themselves if I'm stoned at that very moment.

    But someone has to start talking about it, and I've never been one to choose the easy way.

    (Plus, I figure it should be someone living in Colorado or Oregon, so that no one gets thrown in jail or loses custody of their kids for being honest.)

    So here goes, I'm just gonna say it (sorry mom!):

    I'm a stay-at-home mom and I'm a pothead.

    (My friends tell me a pothead is defined as someone who smokes pot more than three times a week... which means that some weeks, I'm a double-pothead.)

    It's both liberating and terrifying to write those words. But why? It's now legal for me to buy it, possess it and smoke it in my home (I live in Colorado). I can literally add a stop to my errands and pick up some quality weed between the gas station and the grocery store.

    So, in light of our very recent emancipation from the illegality of pot, I say it's high time that we lift the veil on marijuana and motherhood.

    (Yes, I know dads smoke pot too, but this blog isn't about them.)

    It's not uncommon for moms at school pickup to discuss their evening plans: "Heading out this evening for a few drinks with friends, you should come!" Or, "I can't wait to get home and have a couple glasses of wine after the day I've had!" Or, "Boy, I could use a drink later, are you free?"

    Often, I'd like to respond with, "You know, alcohol doesn't really make me feel very good, how about you come over and we smoke some organic, shade-grown Indica that I just picked up?" But I don't dare.

    (And now I'm thinking of the actual moms at my daughter's school who might read this, discover what I'm really thinking and judge me for it... Ugh, am I really writing this blog?)

    continued below

  99. Being in Boulder, I'm obviously not the only mom who smokes pot. In fact, I'm guessing that there are a lot of us out there. Sometimes we recognize each other and, in doing so, enter into a sisterhood of winks and whispers, complicit in our mutual understanding and our public shame.

    Alcohol, on the other hand, is a fully acceptable way for moms to relieve stress and relax after a long day of parenting and/or working. Most of us grew up with moms who drank openly and every major parenting show on TV today depicts moms drinking (sometimes at dinner when still in charge of their kids, sometimes after bedtime, when they can really "let their hair down"). It's normal and customary, because motherhood is hard and we all need to let loose sometimes.

    Now imagine if one of those fictional moms lit up a pipe, right there at the dinner table with the whole family sitting around. Viewers would be up in arms and the show would be taken off the air, labeled a bad influence on our kids.

    Or would it?

    I'm a big fan of the TV show "Parenthood." This past week's episode depicted two of the older kids, both over 21, showing up to family dinner super stoned (they took a cab). Twenty years ago, when I was a teenager, that scene would have erupted into a huge family feud, ending with some larger, moral message about why weed is bad and destroys families.

    But times, they have a-changed. In last week's "Parenthood," the kids were chastised for showing up to dinner in an altered state but, in general, it was taken lightly and not focused on for very long. It takes place in California, after all, and most of the parents on the show have smoked weed in a scene or two (in fact, medical marijuana was a huge help for one of the characters battling breast cancer last year).

    What the TV parents were most concerned about was their kids' choice of when to smoke pot, not if they were smoking. And that is the subtle difference my generation of parents will have to make.

    My daughter is growing up in a world where marijuana is legal and accessible. Just like liquor stores, there are eventually going to be pot stores on every third corner in our hometown. It seems like only a matter of time before marijuana is decriminalized nationwide and most of our children will live in such a world.

    So how do we, as caring, involved parents, adjust to this reality?

    Currently, when my little girl asks to have a sip of daddy's beer, we say, "No, that's a grown-up drink, it will make you feel sick," and she gets it. Those are the rules. Just like we taught her that space heaters can burn, and that the cleaners under the sink are strictly off-limits.

    continued below

  100. We could choose to hide our pot, like my parents did, shamefully sneaking out into the shadows to get stoned, afraid of what other people would say. But that only fooled my brother and me until we were about 10, which is the earliest memory I have of finding weed. It quickly became like a treasure hunt that only made us want it more. In my childhood, pot was illegal and taboo, but almost everyone's mom or dad had some hidden in their underwear drawer (I can confirm this after years of babysitting in my teens).

    So I know from experience that if I hide it and refuse to talk about it, then it becomes an object of great desire. If I expose her to it openly, then I still feel like an irresponsible parent, even with it legalized (no matter how alternative my childhood was, Nancy Reagan's face pops up with "Just Say No" and "Gateway Drug!"). If I lie to my daughter about smoking it myself, then I'm a hypocrite who's not to be trusted... and we still have the teenage years to navigate.

    There has to be a happy medium. Just as we can't protest the presence of kitchen knives because they could cut off a finger, we can't fight the weed tide that is rolling into our lives. We have to accept that marijuana is making its way out of the back alleys and into our homes, right next to the whiskey and the painkillers, and we have to prepare our kids accordingly.

    The only way I know how to do that is to be completely honest, with my kids and with myself. Shame and secrecy only produce more of the same, and from what I've seen, as soon as our kids stop trusting us, they stop talking to us and we can lose them to abuse. We can abuse anything if we overdo it, and THAT is the important lesson to impart. We can't deny that we smoke, but we can have our own discipline around it and model healthy choices for our children... and to do that, we have to start talking about it.

    So, Maya, when you are old enough to read this, I want you to know that I smoke pot. I am mindful about how much and when and where, and I always choose your safety and health as my priority, just as I do with alcohol. I promise to teach you how to do the same with all legal substances as you come of age; to value your health and longevity, while at the same time navigating this world from a place of honesty and strength, rather than shame and secrecy.

    So there it is, my big confession.

    Now that I've been brave enough to write about it, will you be brave enough to comment? Are you a parent who smokes pot too? Do you think I should be arrested for writing this blog? Do you still love me? (That one is directed more towards my mother-in-law than anyone else).


    Kiri Westby



  101. Do Our Addictions Stem from that Trapped Feeling? 11 Ways Our Society Treats Us Like Caged Rats.

    Instead of a moral failing or physiological malfunction, is addiction an adaptive response to circumstances?

    By Charles Eisenstein, The Fix AlterNet June 12, 2014

    You've probably heard about those addiction studies with caged lab rats, in which the rats compulsively press the heroin dispensing lever again and again, even to the point of choosing it over food and starving themselves to death. These studies seemed to imply some pretty disheartening things about human nature. Our basic biology is not to be trusted; the seeking of pleasure leads to disaster; one must therefore overcome biological desires through reason, education, and the inculcation of morals; those whose willpower or morals are weak must be controlled and corrected.

    The rat addiction studies also seem to validate the main features of the War on Drugs. First is interdiction: prevent the rats from getting a taste of drugs to begin with. Second is “education” – conditioning the rats into not pressing the lever in the first place. Third is punishment: make the consequences of taking drugs so scary and unpleasant that the rats will overcome their desire to press the lever. You see, some rats just have a stronger moral fiber than others. For those with a strong moral fiber, education suffices. The weak ones need to be deterred with punishments.

    Alexander found that when you take rats out of tiny separate cages and put them in a spacious “rat park” with ample exercise, food, and social interaction, they no longer choose drugs; indeed, already-addicted rats will wean themselves off drugs after they are transferred from cages to the rat park.All of these features of the drug war are forms of control, and therefore sit comfortably within the broader narrative of technological civilization: the domination of nature, the rising above the primitive state, conquering animal desire with the mind and the base impulses with morality, and so forth. That is, perhaps, why Bruce Alexander's devastating challenge to the caged rat experiments was ignored and suppressed for so many years. It wasn't only the drug war that his studies called into question, but also deeper paradigms about human nature and our relationship to the world.

    The implication is that drug addiction is not a moral failing or physiological malfunction, but an adaptive response to circumstances. It would be the height of cruelty to put rats in cages and then, when they start using drugs, to punish them for it. That would be like suppressing the symptoms of a disease while maintaining the necessary conditions for the disease itself. Alexander's studies, if not a contributing factor in the drug war's slow unraveling, are certainly aligned with it in metaphor.

    Are we like rats in cages? Are we putting human beings into intolerable conditions and then punishing them for their efforts to alleviate the anguish? If so, then the War on Drugs is based on false premises and can never succeed. And if we are like caged rats, then what is the nature of these cages, and what would a society look like that was a “rat park” for human beings?

    continued below

  102. Here are some ways to put a human being in a cage:

    —Remove as much as possible all opportunities for meaningful self-expression and service. Instead, coerce people into dead-end labor just to pay the bills and service the debts. Seduce others into living off such labor of others.

    —Cut people off from nature and from place. At most let nature be a spectacle or venue for recreation, but remove any real intimacy with the land. Source food and medicine from thousands of miles away.

    —Move life – especially children's lives – indoors. Let as many sounds as possible be manufactured sounds, and as many sights be virtual sights.

    —Destroy community bonds by casting people into a society of strangers, in which you don't rely on and needn't even know by name the people living around you.

    —Create constant survival anxiety by making survival depend on money, and then making money artificially scarce. Administer a money system in which there is always more debt than there is money.

    —Divide the world up into property, and confine people to spaces that they own or pay to occupy.

    —Replace the infinite variety of the natural and artisanal world, where every object is unique, with the sameness of commodity goods.

    —Reduce the intimate realm of social interaction to the nuclear family and put that family in a box. Destroy the tribe, the village, the clan, and the extended family as a functioning social unit.

    —Make children stay indoors in age-segregated classrooms in a competitive environment where they are conditioned to perform tasks that they don't really care about or want to do, for the sake of external rewards.

    —Destroy the local stories and relationships that build identity, and replace them with celebrity news, sports team identification, brand identification, and world views imposed by authority.

    —Delegitimize or illegalize folk knowledge of how to heal and care for one another, and replace it with the paradigm of the “patient” dependent on medical authorities for health.

    It is no wonder that people in our society compulsively press the lever, be it the drug lever or the consumerism lever or the pornography lever or the gambling lever or the overeating lever. We respond with a million palliatives to circumstances in which real human needs for intimacy, connection, community, beauty, fulfillment, and meaning go mostly unmet. Granted, these cages depend in large part on our own individual acquiescence, but this doesn't mean that a single moment of illumination or a lifetime of effort can liberate us fully. The habits of confinement are deeply programmed. Nor can we escape by destroying our jailers: unlike in the rat experiments, and contrary to conspiracy theories, our elites are just as much prisoner as the rest of us. Empty and addictive compensations for their unmet needs seduce them into doing their part to maintain the status quo.

    continued below

  103. The cages suffer no easy escape. Confinement is not incidental to modern society, but woven deeply into its systems, its ideologies, and our own selves. At bottom are the deep narratives of separation, domination, and control. And now, as we approach a great turning, a shift in consciousness, we sense that these narratives are unraveling, even as their outward expressions – the surveillance state, the walls and the fences, the ecological devastation – reach unprecedented extremes. Yet their ideological core is beginning to hollow out; their foundation is cracking. I think that the lifting (still by no means assured) of the War on Drugs is an early signal that these superstructures are beginning to crack too.

    A cynic might say that the end of the drug war would signal no such thing: that drugs make life in a cage more tolerable and absorb energy that might otherwise go toward social change. The opiate of the masses, in other words, is opiates! The cynic dismisses cannabis legalization in particular as a small, barely significant counter-eddy in an onrushing tide of imperialism and ecocide, an innocuous victory that does nothing to slow the onward march of capitalism.

    This view is mistaken. Generally speaking, drugs do not make us into more effective cage-dwellers: better workers and consumers. The most notable exception is caffeine – significantly, virtually unregulated – which helps people wake up to a schedule they don't want to live and focus on tasks they don't care about. (I'm not saying that's all caffeine does, and in no way do I want to demean sacred plants like tea and coffee, which are among the only herbal infusions or decoctions still taken in modern society.) Another partial exception is alcohol, which as a stress reliever indeed makes life in our society more bearable. Certain other drugs – stimulants and opiates – also may serve these functions, but are ultimately so debilitating that the guardians of capitalism recognize them as a threat.

    Yet other drugs, such as cannabis and the psychedelics, can directly induce nonconformity, weaken consumer values, and make the prescribed normal life seem less tolerable, not more. Consider for example the kind of behavior associated with marijuana smoking. The stoner is not on time for work. He sits around in the grass playing his guitar. He is not competitive. This is not to say that pot smokers don't contribute to society; some of the wealthiest Information Age entrepreneurs are reputedly smokers. In general though, the reputation of cannabis and the psychedelics to be disruptive of the established order is not without foundation.

    The halting but substantial steps in several states and countries toward cannabis legalization is significant for several reasons beyond the well-known benefits regarding crime, imprisonment, medicine, and industrial hemp. First, it implies a release of the mentality of control: interdiction, punishment, and psychological conditioning. Second, as I just discussed, the object of control – cannabis – is corrosive to the cages we have lived in. Third, it is part of a deep shift in consciousness away from separation and toward compassion.

    The mentality of control is predicated on the question of whom or what is to be controlled. Drug War thinking blamed the individual drug user for making poor moral choices, a view grounded in the theory that social psychologists call dispositionism – that human beings make free-willed choices based on a stable character and preferences. While dispositionism acknowledges the influence of environment, it says essentially that people make good choices because they are good people, bad choices because they are bad people.

    continued below

  104. Deterrence, education, and interdiction spring naturally from that philosophy, as does our criminal justice system at large. Judgment and paternalism, inherent in the whole concept of “corrections,” are built into it, because it says, “If I were in your situation, I would have done differently than you.” In other words, it is an assertion of separation: I am different from (and if you are a drug addict, better than) you.

    Note as well that the same belief motivates the War on Terror and, well, the war on pretty much anything. But there is a competing philosophy called situationism that says that people make choices from the totality of their situation, internal and external. In other words, if I were in your situation, including your entire life history, I would do as you do. It is a statement of nonseparation, of compassion. It understands, as Bruce Alexander shows us, that self-destructive or antisocial behavior is a response to circumstances and not a dispositional weakness or moral failing. Situationism motivates healing rather than war, because it seeks to understand and redress the circumstances that give rise to terrorism, drug addiction, germs, weeds, greed, evil, or any other symptom we go to war against. Instead of punishing drug use, it asks, From what circumstances does it spring? Instead of eradicating weeds with pesticides, it asks, What conditions of soil or agronomy are causing them to grow? Instead of applying extreme antiseptic hygiene and broad-spectrum antibiotics, it asks, What “climate of the body” has made it a salubrious environment for germs? That is not to say we never should use antibiotics or lock up a violent criminal who is harming others. But we cannot then say, “Problem solved! Evil has been conquered.”

    Here we see how drug legalization is consistent with the reversal of a millennia-long paradigm I call the War on Evil. As old as civilization itself, it was originally associated with the conquest of chaos and the taming of the wild. Through history, it came to incinerate whole populations and nearly the planet itself. Now, perhaps, we are entering a gentler era. It is fitting that something from nature, a plant, should be a hinge for such a turning.

    The growing movement to end the drug war might reflect a paradigm shift away from judgment, blame, war, and control towards compassion and healing. Cannabis is a natural starting point, because its widespread use makes the caricature of the morally weak abuser insupportable. “If I were in the totality of your circumstances, I would smoke too – in fact I have!”

    Marijuana has long been vilified as a “gateway drug,” the argument being that even if it isn't so dangerous itself, it ushers a person into the culture and habits of drug use. That canard is easily debunked, but perhaps marijuana is a gateway of another sort – a gateway to broader drug decriminalization, and beyond that, toward a compassionate and humble justice system not based on punishment. More broadly still, it may offer us a gateway away from machine values toward organic values, a symbiotic world, an ecological world, and not an arena of separate and competing others against whom one must protect oneself, conquer, and control. Perhaps the conservatives were right. Perhaps drug legalization would mean the end of society as we have known it.