Monday, August 13, 2012

Doesn’t Anybody Read Anymore? (Or Even Think?)

There’s been a lot of talk recently about state and local employees who administer medical marijuana programs being subject to federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  For example, Governor Christie used this as one of his reasons for delaying the medical marijuana program in New Jersey.  More recently, the state Attorney General for Arizona has tried to put a stop to their program in part because of this “concern.”

Before we even get to the part about not reading, let’s consider these people’s apparent inability to even give some serious thought to this issue.  Their alleged concern is that the CSA, a federal law, makes it illegal for anyone to be involved with controlled substances in any way whatsoever.  State laws in this case are irrelevant.  Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, and that’s that.  On the surface, it would appear that this is a valid concern.  State and local employees would indeed be involved in a program that the federal government views as illegal.  Sounds simple enough, obvious even.  Until you think about it.

But what about other state and local officials that are involved with controlled substances, and have been since those substances first became controlled?  I’m talking about state and local police.  These people are often in possession of a controlled substance, in clear violation of federal law.  When a cop takes a joint from a kid on the street, when a warehouse full of cocaine is seized, they are in violation of federal law.  The police are also involved in trafficking as well.  When they set up a sting to buy or sell drugs, that could be considered trafficking in a controlled substance under federal law.  Even planning the sting could be considered conspiracy.

Yet state and local law enforcement officers are not arrested and charged with federal crimes for their involvement with controlled substances.  How can that be?  Isn’t that exactly what Governor Christie and the AZ Attorney General are so concerned about?  Don’t they see the inconsistency in their argument?

The answer to why these people are not prosecuted of course can be found by simply reading the CSA.  In particular, Section 885. Burden of proof; liabilities, which states in section d:

(d) Immunity of Federal, State, local and other officials
Except as provided in sections 2234 and 2235 of title 18, no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed by virtue of this subchapter upon any duly authorized Federal officer lawfully engaged in the enforcement of this subchapter, or upon any duly authorized officer of any State, territory, political subdivision thereof, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States, who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances.

If anybody bothered to first think about the issue, then follow up with reading the relevant piece of legislation, this “concern” would have never arisen.  As you can see, state and local authorities are immune from prosecution for performing their duties under state and local law.  Period.  End of discussion.  It’s a non issue.

Unfortunately, this seems to be an effective scare tactic, as federal officials can count on no one actually reading the CSA.  Even the ACLU seems to be unaware of this provision of the CSA. They are challenging this threat in California with some court cases that supposedly set a precedent for not prosecuting local authorities, when all they really need to do is refer to the immunity clearly provided by the CSA.  We can only hope that someday, somewhere, somehow, someone will read the CSA and call these bullies on their lies and empty threats.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Federal Government Acknowledges Medical Use of Marijuana

In light of the upcoming lawsuit (Americans for Safe Access v. DEA, to begin oral arguments this October), a review the federal government’s position on the medical use of marijuana is in order.  The DEA may not want to admit it, but the federal government already has. Cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds do have medical uses.  The federal government has acknowledged this in the programs they administer, in the results of their research, and in their official policy.  

With respect to federal programs, the Compassionate Investigational New Drug  (IND) program is a federal program administered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  It has been providing patients with FDA-approved marijuana since 1976.  In fact, this program was started in response to a lawsuit (Randall v. US) that the government lost.  In that decision, marijuana was deemed a medical necessity, and criminal charges were dropped.  (I’m not sure why this decision doesn’t apply to anyone today, but that’s another story.)  Since then, a small group of individuals have continued to this day to receive medicinal marijuana, grown on the only farm licensed by the federal government.  But wait, you might say, this is a research program, and the feds have always encouraged medical marijuana research.  Not that I’d say something like that, but someone might suggest that a research program is not necessarily an admission that marijuana has medical uses.  And that would be true.  But the IND program is NOT about research.  I would ask any naysayers to point me to one published study done on any of the participants of the IND medical marijuana program over the last 35 years.  And if they’re not doing research, the federal government must believe that marijuana is useful in treating these people’s various conditions.  Otherwise, the federal government would just be trafficking in a controlled substance.  And we know they’d never do that.

When it comes to research, I won’t even mention the MANY government-sponsored research programs that have found evidence to support the use of marijuana for the treatment of a variety of conditions.  In science (and in the DEA), results can always be disputed.  I’m talking about US Patent 6630507 - Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The assignee of that patent is The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. What this patent means is that the research has been done, and the results are conclusive enough to warrant a patent. (I didn’t even know the government could hold patents.  I always thought the results of research paid for by tax dollars was in the public domain.  Shows how much I know.)  Granted, this patent is not on raw marijuana, but on compounds derived from marijuana.  Still, how could the federal government have a patent on something that it claims doesn’t exist, like medical uses for marijuana?  Therefore, the very existence of this patent is an acknowledgment by the federal government that marijuana has some very clearly-defined medical applications.

Finally, the federal government has established a formal policy with respect to the medicinal use of marijuana. Just recently (July 2012), the Department of Veterans Affairs officially announced that it will allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it’s legal.  Again, this is not a research program.  The DVA is saying they will allow patients to use marijuana as part of their treatment regimens.  If marijuana cannot be used safely as a medical treatment, as its Schedule 1 classification suggests, why would the DVA be subjecting our vets to such danger?  They wouldn’t, of course.  So this must be yet another acknowledgment by the federal government that marijuana has medical uses that are not inconsistent with the medical care provided by the DVA.

There are other examples of the federal government’s acknowledgment that marijuana has medical uses, like Congress explicitly allowing Washington, DC to implement a medical marijuana program.  But I believe these three are the most compelling.  So it would appear that the DEA is one of the few holdouts in the federal government, along with the NIDA, the Drug Czar, a few overzealous prosecutors, and of course the president.  So my question is, why is it the DEA that represents the federal government with respect to medical marijuana when they are clearly in the minority amongst their federal peers?

Friday, April 1, 2011

DEA To Expand War On Drugs

Amid growing concerns over the push for marijuana legalization and the devastation it could wreak on their funding, the DEA has announced that they will be expanding their war on drugs. The war will now target a number of other substances which the DEA believes have not been properly regulated. They will be kicking off this new campaign with the reclassification of insulin as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Beginning today, April 1, 2011, the production, sale, and possession of insulin will be illegal in the United States.

According to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, insulin’s FDA approval has been revoked, meaning it no longer has an accepted medical use in the United States. “We were trying to help these people who claim they have a medical need for this drug, but the situation is getting out of control,” Leonhart warned. She went on to explain how it’s become a “wild west show,” with anybody and everybody being able to get the drug and the paraphernalia needed to inject it. “It’s very obvious to me,” she said, “that far too many of these so-called diabetics just want to enjoy a recreational sugar rush.”

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske praised the DEA’s new classification of insulin. “I’ve visited several pharmacies and seen some of the ‘patients’ who are there filling their insulin prescriptions,” he said, making the air quotes as he spoke. “They sure didn’t look sick to me.” Kerlikowske went to quote government statistics which show that many insulin addicts are in fact young and “healthy looking,” with many under the age of 18. “How can we stop these kids from using drugs when their parents are buying the drug for them and even teaching them how to inject it?” Knowing they will serve time in jail if caught is the only deterrent that can keep people off this addicting drug, he noted. “Spending some time behind bars will make them think twice the next time they want a fix,” he said with a straight face. The Czar added that this new law is the only way we can be certain that teachers, eye doctors, and airline pilots aren’t shooting up on the job.

Law enforcement officials from across the nation have come out in support of the DEA’s new agenda. “Drugs are a scourge on our society, and the only solution is to vigorously enforce any law, real or imaginary, that takes drug users off our streets,” said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Dumanis used the opportunity to announce a crackdown on all San Diego county pharmacies. Rather than warn them to stop selling the drug in advance of the new law, she is planning a series of raids that will involve local police, area SWAT teams, and masked, heavily-armed DEA agents. “These people are drug dealers plain and simple, and the only thing they understand is extreme force,” she said, following up with a maniacal laugh. In response to Dumanis’ announcement, the private prison industry in California collectively creamed its jeans.

Addiction counselors and a number of religious groups have also praised the new legislation. Partnership for a Drug Free America spokesperson Denise Fahr Rite could barely contain herself when she heard the news. “Pharmacies are everywhere these days,” she pointed out. “There’s even one right across the street from my daughter’s pre-school. How can I teach my kids that drugs are bad when they see young, healthy-looking people come and go all day with their bags of drugs and needles?” The rehab industry was also very positive about the new law. Industry spokesman Jebediah Deadwood pointed out that, although treating insulin addiction has not been very profitable in the past, they are very optimistic about the future. “We are planning a major expansion to help this new class of criminal addict kick their habits, “ he said. “As long as they are insured, we will spare no expense to get them drug free.” Stock in a number of private prison and rehab corporations rose sharply on the DEA’s announcement.

Happy April 1st!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Pendulum Swings Back

Today is a sad day for the fight against prohibition. Not only was California’s Proposition 19 soundly defeated, but medical cannabis initiatives in three other states failed as well. Even in Arizona, where medical cannabis had already passed twice before. I hate to say it, but I think the pro-cannabis pendulum is now on its way back to the prohibition side. And I’m afraid it will swing pretty far the other way before coming back around again.

If you want to know what’s in store for the future, you just have to look to the past. Anybody remember the 1970s and 1980s? Back in the 1970s, things were starting to look pretty bleak for prohibition. Over 20 states had passed medical cannabis legislation. Many others decriminalized cannabis. But then in the 1980s, things changed. The Republicans took over, and every single one of those medical cannabis programs was either repealed or never implemented. Even the federal government’s own medical program was discontinued. It wasn’t until 1996 that the pendulum started swinging back to the pro-cannabis side again.

I predict the same will happen all over again starting now. In 2012 Republicans will once again control the country. They will be stoked by yesterday’s defeat of Proposition 19 and the other medical initiatives. And why shouldn’t they be? The voters have spoken, and told them that prohibition is what they want. Of course, the politicians knew all along that being pro legalization was political suicide, and this just confirms it. And their fears that medical cannabis was just a first step toward full legalization have also been confirmed. So it will be full steam ahead for prohibition in the years to come.

What can we expect over the next 10 to 15 years? Here are my predictions:
  • No new medical cannabis legislation will pass.
  • No new decriminalization or legalization legislation will pass.
  • Medical cannabis programs in some states will either be repealed or drastically cut back.
  • Penalties for possession and other cannabis-related offenses will increase in some states, which will probably involve mandatory minimum sentences and/or three-strikes laws.
  • Arrests and imprisonment for cannabis offenses will increase across the country.
  • The same things will happen in Canada.
Sure, the Proposition 19 folks are giving things a positive spin, saying they’ll be back in 2012. But let’s face it. There will never be a legalization initiative that will please everybody. The existing black market and wild-west mentality are too deeply established. There's just too much money involved. The result will be what we have now: Constant bickering about the best way to go about ending prohibition without endangering the children or cutting into anybody's profits.

So check back here again in 10-15 years and see how accurate my predictions were. Around that time the pendulum should start swinging back again. The older folks who are the staunchest supporters of prohibition will be gone, and we might have a fighting chance. Then again, the younger voters will be older by then and worrying about the message they send to their children. Sadly, when many people become parents, that message becomes, “don’t do what I did.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

If Proposition 19 Fails, A New Strategy

If you are even remotely interested in current drug war events, you already know about Proposition 19, affectionately known as Prop 19. For those of you who don't follow drug war happenings, its official title is the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.” That’s right, it’s the California voter initiative to legalize cannabis, also known by its slang name, marijuana. Prop 19 will be on the ballot this November and, if it passes, will become part of the state’s constitution. Whether it will pass or not is anybody’s guess at this point. But if it does, it will inevitably get the ball rolling in other states. If it fails, it will be a major victory in the war on drugs and a setback to the anti-prohibition movement throughout the country.

Right now, if I had to bet, my money would be against Prop 19 passing. Sadly, I have to be a realist. So I started wondering, what then? Where do we go from there? The answer is really quite simple. Adopt an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. The next obvious step would be a voter initiative to criminalize alcohol. That should make both sides happy, right? Cannabis remains illegal, which satisfies the prohibitionists. And both alcohol and cannabis are treated the same, which satisfies the anti-prohibitionists.

If you think about it, it’s not that far fetched After all, it happened before not so long ago. A vocal minority did it then, and they could easily do it again. It’s pretty obvious that prohibitionists learned nothing from our little experiment with banning a recreational drug in the 1920s. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the self-proclaimed moral watchdogs, along with rehab professionals, police, prosecutors, and the prison unions, jumped on the bandwagon. Before you know it, we could have another full-blown temperance movement on our hands. Pretty scary thought, if you ask me.

But what would adding alcohol to the list of banned drugs accomplish? Aside from creating a lot more criminals, and being a boon to the private prison industry, that is. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right. So, what’s the point? Just to get even with the prohibitionists, and give them a taste of their own “medicine”?

As nice as that sounds, punishing the prohibitionists would only be a (pleasant) side effect. The point would be to generate a little empathy. Generally speaking, people who support prohibition are not really affected by it. They’re not really interested in using any drug other than alcohol. Their drug is legal because it’s the “good “drug, and people should not be using the other, “bad” drugs. So maybe it wouldn’t hurt for them to walk a mile in the other side’s shoes. See what it’s like to have one’s preferred drug declared “bad.” See what it’s like to be labeled by society a criminal for relaxing with a cold beer at home. Before you know it, the prohibitionists would be organizing protests, having tea parties, and criticizing the government for taking away their rights and intruding into their private lives. Until prohibition has a personal impact on the lives of the people who support it, they will never understand how destructive a policy it really is. Nor will they budge in their adamant support of it.

So, what do you say? Are you with me on this? If Prop 19 fails to pass, let’s do this prohibition thing right. Not the half-assed way we’re doing it now, with some drugs good, and some bad, some legal and some not. Let’s wipe out the devil’s brew once and for all, and for the first time in history, live in a completely drug-free society. We can do it if we keep doing the same thing, but try a little harder this time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Prohibitionist Tactic

Over the last few years, since the advent of medical cannabis and especially since the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in California, one of the main objectives of the prohibitionists seems to be to insult just about everybody. They're no longer belittling just the stoners and potheads like they used to. Now just about everyone is a target of their mistrust and suspicion. Frankly, I'm a little surprised by this new tactic. In a war, don't you want to win the hearts and minds of the people you're trying to subjugate? So what are they up to? Are they really crazy... like a fox?

What got me thinking about this was a recent statement by our beloved former Drug Czar, Barry McCaffrey, that struck me as a bit odd. Speaking about the possibility of legal cannabis in California, he said that he feared that virtually everyone would be under the influence virtually all the time. In particular, he said he fears that truck drivers, teachers, airline pilots, and even eye doctors would be using the drug while on the job. Aside from this being just plain ludicrous, I think the people of California should be very offended. And if I were one of those professions he named, I'd be pretty pissed. If I were a California eye doctor, I'd be thinking “slander.”

But this is not an isolated incident. I've since noticed others using this very same tactic. For example, the Reverend Ron Allen, who opposes the NAACP's endorsement of the legalization initiative in California. He is essentially saying the same thing about minorities that McCaffrey is saying about people in general: Legalization will lead to wild, uncontrolled abuse. It’s one thing when you insult a profession. But when you say that sort of thing about a race of people, I think they call that racism.

What I’m wondering is, why stop there? What about non-minorities and other respected professions? What’s to stop the Drug Czar himself from abusing cannabis if it becomes legal? I guess we’ll find out soon enough as medical cannabis is now legal in Washington DC. Surely we can expect Mr. Kerlikowske to get himself one of those "bogus" medical recommendations and start toking on the job. And lets not forget the DEA. What’s to stop them from swinging by a dispensary and picking up some Kush or Skunk on the their way to work? I mean, if you are going to start accusing people, why would you expect civil servants to make intelligent decisions about their drug use when even respected professionals, like doctors and pilots, won’t be able to?

So what are those crafty prohibitionists up to? Have they somehow stumbled upon the ultimate scare tactic? Or do they really believe that literally everyone is a potential stoner/pothead? Except for themselves of course? Because it really sounds to me like they are saying that the law is the only thing standing between civilization and zombie land (great movie). I surely must be misinterpreting something. No one could really believe such a thing. But I think there just might be a way to find out. Next time you hear a prohibitionist say that legalization will lead to people being high on the job, ask them exactly how high they plan to be on their job. Surely they consider themselves no better than a teacher or doctor, so they too should be expected to abuse drugs on the job. I’d love to hear a prohibitionist’s response to that question. Any reporters willing to ask it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Whole Truth

When federal agents raid a medical marijuana dispensary or grower, as they’ve been doing and continue to do in California and Colorado, the victim of the raid is charged with a federal crime. Their case is heard in a federal court. No surprise there, as cannabis is illegal under federal law. And did anybody really expect the DEA to stop the raids just because the U.S. Attorney General and President said so? But I digress. Fair enough. You commit a federal crime, you go to a federal court.

But that’s where the fairness stops. You see in federal court, the “defendant” is not allowed a defense. OK, they’ve obviously committed a crime in the eyes of the feds. Unless they can get off on a technicality, it’s pretty hard for a dispensary owner to deny that they were selling and/or growing marijuana when they have a storfront that’s open to the public. So their only possible defense is that they were acting in accordance with state and local law. In one case, the victim a DEA raid had even been deputized by the City of Oakland expressly to shield him from federal prosecution. Sounds like a pretty good defense to me.

But that is exactly the kind of defense that federal judges do not allow. In all such cases to date, the defendants were not allowed to present evidence that they were in compliance with state laws. They were not allowed to mention medical marijuana or use a medical necessity defense. In other words, they were not allowed a defense, any defense, period. There is currently legislation pending that would change this, and would allow what most would consider a reasonable defense when federal and state laws are in conflict. But it’s not passed yet, and the raids continue. And once you are arrested and charged by the feds, you’re as good a convicted as things stand today.

Pretty screwed up if you ask me. But what I’d really like to know is how can these defendants take the oath before testifying? You know, the one that goes, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” If they take this oath and testified, wouldn’t they be committing perjury? They would, under orders of the court, not be telling the whole truth. In fact, they would be witholding pretty much all of the relevant truth. Of course if they do tell the whole truth, they would probably be found in contempt of court and a mistrial declared.

So if it were me, and I took the stand, and I was asked to take the oath, I would have to respectfully decline. I couldn’t, in good conscience, swear to do something that I was expressly instructed not to do. I wonder what would happen? Can a judge order someone to violate the law? I’d like to find out. Might make for an interesting precedent.

If you’d like to learn more about how the system works, Google the cases of U.S. v James Dean Stacy, U.S. v Edward Rosenthal, or U.S. v Charles C. Lynch. For more information about recent and pending cases, check out Federal Medical Marijuana Cases in California & elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prohibition and the 13th Amendment

Remember the 13th Amendment? The one that goes something like this:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
According to my dictionary, a slave is
a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
Putting two and two together (and getting 5), I’m going to go way out on a limb, a limb out past left field, and suggest that prohibition is a violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Before you write this off as crazy talk, let me explain my reasoning, circuitous as it may be.

If the government controls what we can and can’t put into our own bodies, and forces us to obey their restrictions with the threat of arrest and imprisonment, doesn't that make us slaves, at least according to the dictionary definition? If I own my own body, then I have the right to decide what to do with it and what to put into it. If I don’t have that right, then someone else must own my body. No one can have that kind of absolute power over me (except maybe my wife or mother) unless they own me. And if someone owns me, that makes me a slave.

“Come on,” you’re probably thinking. “The government’s not beating or whipping you, or making you work the fields.” That’s true. (As far as you know.) But being physically abused or forced into hard labor are not what makes one a slave. You can be a slave and have a relatively easy life, or you can be a paid servant and be abused. We’re more like house slaves than field hands. We get to live in a nice house and wear nice clothes, but are never allowed to forget our place or who makes the rules.

What makes one a slave is that, unlike the free man, the slave does not own their own body. Someone else makes decisions for them, and they do as they are told. When the government decides what we can and can't put into our bodies, whether we abide by their rules or not, then they, for all intents and purposes, own us. Decisions are made by our master, who knows what’s best for us. We must do their bidding, or suffer the consequences. We are no longer the masters of our own domain.

Unlike many other arguments against prohibition, this one does not apply to victimless crimes in general. Things like gambling or prostitution involve others and the behaviors we engage in with them. Prohibition is different in that it seeks to control a behavior that we engage in entirely on our own. If the government tells me that I can’t drink and drive, that’s OK because they are protecting others from my potentially dangerous public behavior. But if they tell me I can't drink, period, then it would appear that they have absolute control over my body.

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Has our government turned us into slaves with their prohibitionist policy? Or do they just want to be my wife/mother? Who knows? But invalidating the Controlled Substances Act based on the 13th Amendment is no more insane than validating it with the Commerce Clause. So who’s more crazy, me or the government?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prohibitionism: A Religious Cult

It occurred to me that prohibitionists are a lot like religious fanatics. They believe what they believe, because... Well, because that’s what they believe. And they believe it to the max. But, you might argue, their beliefs are not based on any kind of logic or truth. So what? That hasn't prevented their success for the past 70 years. In fact, like most religions, their purely subjective beliefs sound very convincing to lots of people. So much so, that those beliefs have become ingrained into our society. Most people today can recite the prohibitionist prayers without even thinking about it.

Prayers, you say? OK, maybe not prayers exactly. I guess they are more like mantras or incantations. “Just say no.” “Only dopes use dope.” “This is your brain on drugs.” “Think of the children.” “It’s a gateway drug.” “If you legalize it, everyone will use it.” “Those hippies and potheads just want to get high all the time.” I’m sure you’ve heard these and many others, and never really thought about them. Non-prohibitionists might laugh them off, and see them for what they are, meaningless sound bytes. But to a hard-core prohibitionist believer, those mantras are gospel. They are common sense and common knowledge. Anyone who questions the prohibitionist beliefs is trying to destroy the moral fabric of our society. There’s no room for doubters in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Damn those hippies and potheads! Literally.

And just like religious zealots, prohibitionists believe that they are taking the moral high ground. They are the ones that know how people should behave, what they should and shouldn’t do, how they should live their lives. But, unfortunately, they are not content living their own lives according to their beliefs. Like many other religions, they have missionaries, who go out upon the land and preach to anyone who will listen. Ever hear of the Drug Czar? They want everyone else to know about their beliefs, and live their lives accordingly. And they want to punish those who don’t, the infidels.

Of course, you can’t argue with a religious fanatic. You can’t convince them with a logical argument or empirical evidence. That’s because their beliefs are not based on logic or evidence. They know what they know. They’ve always known it, and anyone who doesn’t know what they know is ignorant or delusional. Or worse, evil and deserving of punishment.

So they have their incantations, their moral standards, their missionaries, their intricately-crafted and deeply-rooted belief system. It looks a lot like a religion to me. Except for not having their own special prohibitionist god. But that’s OK. They can and do borrow a god from other religions. Which is what makes them, technically speaking, a cult.

So why does it even matter what they are? Because knowing what they are can help us understand how to fight them. Information, facts, and logic are not effective weapons when dealing with cult members. Sadly, short of an intervention and intensive de-programming, there is very little that can be done to change their world view. Which is why their cult has endured for so long. I wish I knew of an effective means of de-programming them, but I don’t. And, I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic, but I think the media campaigns I’ve seen recently, in California and elsewhere, will do little to actually change the minds of any of the hardcore fanatics. Might as well try to convert a Baptist to Islam.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Prohibition Really Is A Success

I’ve noticed that prohibitionists never like to talk about the effectiveness of the current drug war. Sure, from time to time they bring the press in and show them a big pile of drugs that were seized. And they talk about things like street value, the number of people arrested, and how long they worked and how much money they spent getting ahold of those drugs and the people who possessed them. And I suppose you could say this is their way of showing off their victory in a major battle. But though they may win a fair number of battles, and brag to no end about it, they never really talk about the war. You know, things like the impact of their victories on drug availability, or price, or use. And who can blame them? Because in reality, the battles they win really are pretty few and far between. Skirmishes really. If you look at the big picture, the war as a whole is not going their way at all. Which is not something to brag about.

But I think I’ve figured out a way for the prohibitionists to show the world indisputable evidence of success in their war. And it’s really just a matter of spin. All the drug warriors need to do is redefine their objectives. In other words, if what you are doing is inconsistent with your intentions, and you don’t want to change what you’re doing, then change your intentions. In the drug warrior’s case, they don’t even really have to change their intentions. They just have to admit to them. Isn’t that always the first step?

The drug warriors just need to admit that the purpose of their current prohibitionist drug policy has nothing whatsoever to do with preventing people from using or abusing drugs. It’s not about public health or safety. It’s not about fighting crime, or protecting us from ourselves, or any of that malarky. That’s just their story for public consumption. Kind of like that bachelor uncle that is just neat, or artistic, or sensitive. He’s just waiting for the right woman. I can understand why the Drug Czar refuses to use the term “harm reduction.” Prohibition doesn’t and can’t prevent any harm associated with drug abuse. And it clearly can't stop people from using drugs. If any of these things are really their intention, then it’s plain to see that the war was lost long ago.

So why don’t they just come out of their closet of denial and admit the real purpose of the war. The truth will set them free. The only purpose and, unfortunately, outcome of their ongoing war on drugs is to punish people for using drugs. Drugs are bad, therefore people who use drugs are bad. They need to be punished for their badness. It’s all about defining a moral standard, then declaring that anyone who doesn't adhere to that standard is a criminal. See? Doesn’t that feel better?

Not only that, but now all of a sudden, the war on drugs can be legitimately described as hugely successful. I’d say that, by this criterion, its success is beyond even the wildest dreams of Richard Nixon, the man who first declared the war. Our government has succeeded in punishing more people for using drugs than anyone ever thought humanly possible. We have the largest prison population, not only in the world, but in the history of the world. If our intent is to punish, we couldn’t be more successful. That’s something to brag about!

Now I usually don’t like to give the bad guys (i.e., the prohibitionists) any help. But I’m feeling generous this fine day. So this one’s on me. Consider it some free ammunition in winning the hearts and minds of the people on whom you’ve declared war. Or at the very least, as a way to get more money to carry on your war. You’re welcome.