Schwarzenegger ignores the low hanging fruit, harmful cannabis arrests and prosecutions.

As California crashes into the financial sea, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is ignoring easy money from simple changes in approach to drugs. California’s drug policy, like America’s, has always chosen a harm maximization approach. This most expensive drug policy option was modified and made more just and less expensive by California voters decriminalizing medical marijuana. Yet opportunities for saving money (and human anguish) surround Gov. Schwarzenegger like low hanging fruit. So far, he seems blind to them.

SF Gate reports Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has “outlined a plan to save $1.2 billion in prison spending by changing the criminal justice system so that fewer people are sent to prison and fewer parolees are sent back to prison.”

  • Some items on the governor’s list of reforms is greatly needed in a state bleeding money by incarcerating 167,000 of its citizens, in good part for the benefit of the prison guards’ union. Many of these reforms, however, involve crimes with actual victims. Car theft (for cheap cars, at least) would not be a felony, for example.
  • Instead of “reforming” laws for crimes with actual victims, the governor could do much better revamping enforcement of drug “crimes” where any crime is consensual, and, in any case, is really the business of the California citizen, not the business of self-serving state bureaucrats.
  • Crimes committed by people on drugs, should be enforced, but overwhelmingly crimes committed while on drugs center on the legal drug, alcohol.
  • On the recreational level, arrests for cannabis possession fuel alcohol consumption and abuse. Alcohol is a far more powerful drug than cannabis. Alcohol intoxication is often associated with belligerence and violence; a cannabis high is never the cause of violence. For California, as elsewhere, cannabis is a SAFER alternative to alcohol.

The current wasteful approach was well demonstrated last winter, when the California budget tsunami was on the horizon, police in northern California had the excess resources to waste on outlandishly lavish marijuana busts. Consider the utter stupidity and waste of sending 100 armored cops into 2 tiny northern California High School to arrest a few students for cannabis “crimes.” These drug cops should have to get real jobs doing real work, not padding the pensions with unwarranted but cinematic shows of force.

The governor should drop the current costly harm maximization approach approach to drug use in California and adopt more effective and far less costly harm minimization.

  • A rational harm minimization tactic would be to end all marijuana arrests.
  • Since cannabis is so blatantly misrepresented as a Schedule 1 drug, all the laws, regulations and mandatory minimums associated with Schedule 1 status should be thrown out the window.
  • California prisons should be emptied of those whose “crime” involved cannabis.

The state of California could save huge sums of money by not inflicting needless, useless arrests, prosecutions and incarceratons for cannabis “crimes” with no victims.

It was 42 years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the world a better way.

It was 42 years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the world a better way. More specifically, The Beatles took out in a full-page advertisement in The Times of London protesting the harsh laws against marijuana in Britain.

Along with 65 luminaries, they pointed out that “The law against marijuana is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.” The goals of the ad are still valid, and sadly unmet, 42 years later:

  • The legalization of marijuana possession
  • Release of all prisoners on marijuana possession charges
  • Government research into medical uses

Here in the USA during those four decades, 20 million Americans have had their lives mugged by their government in the form of arrests for marijuana possession. Each of these arrests caused enormous harm to the lives, families and futures of those arrested.  In this harm maximization strategy, the only beneficiaries were the police, prosecutors, piss testers and jailers who built their careers and pensions upon legal misfortunes of their countrymen.

Too bad Britain and the USA did not listen to the Beatles. Instead, Americans went about persecuting  cannabis and prosecuting those who preferred it.  As the NORML chart below shows, things are worse than ever and 100 Americans each hour are shoved into the meat grinder that is America’s war on marijuana.US Marijuana Arrests

The drug war policy Barack Obama should have urged on the NAACP

President Obama spoke to the NAACP’s 100th convention, the first time the group has had a black president as speaker. The president’s speech was at times inspirational, but his talk ignored the elephant in the room at the NAACP, the drug war that has so devastated the black community. In fact, the president’s presence at the convention was due only to the fact that he himself, as a self confessed teenage cannabis user, was not ensnared by the same cruel laws and racially corrosive justice system that he now leaves unchallenged.

The NAACP did have debate on legalizing cannabis, as reported by Radical Russ Belville in Norml’s Daily Audio Stash. This debate, however, did not seem to recognize the drug war policies so devastating to the black community over the last 40 years. Ethan Nadelmann pointed out that of the yearly 800,000+ cannabis arrests in the USA, nearly 40% ensnare black and brown Americans. Often their first arrest, says Nadelmann, often for one joint. They are damaged not by the use of a mild drug, but damaged they are by arrest and prosecution.

Radical Russ summed up the issue:

A 2008 New York Times article, On Arrests, Demographics, and Marijuana, showed that in New York City arrested nearly 400,000 people for pot possession in the years 1998-2007. This is nearly 100 young lives daily scarred and compromised by a needless arrest. Citing the study, the NYT article pointed out:

The NAACP should be out on the streets in force, tearing down the un-American drug war. Current drug war policies and laws, along with their enforcement, are like an enormous, bloated tick, feeding upon the lives of American citizens, most of them brown and black. Shame on NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, normally a sensible man, for supporting such injustice.

The drug war policy Barack Obama should have urged on the NAACP was delivered by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Medicine Grown by Hand: Medical Cannabis as an open-source model.

In his near-future dystopian novel, World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler presents a bleak portrayal of a small upstate New York town a couple of decades hence. The federal government had collapsed, Washington DC was nuked and the availability of gasoline and electricity ended. Ex-motor cycle toughs run the community’s central resource, the old town dump, now the source of riches such as nails. In this new world, owning a horse makes one wealthy.

In the novel, the system no longer provides medication nor medical care. The town’s doctor is the protagonist. He faces the frustrations and tragedies of having to practice medicine with no modern supplies, tools or services. With pharmaceuticals unavailable, the good doctor grows medicinal herbs. A key medication for pain relief and succor from various ailments is one not freely available before the collapse, cannabis. Treatment with cannabis is part of open-source health care in this new world. Seeds are the open source. Such self-treatment will become an ever more important part of our own health care future.

In health care, the term open-source includes self-care, with the individual taking more responsibility for his or her health and treatment. In some cases, the person (the term patient not quite right) becomes the source of treatment. Self-care itself is part of a larger wellness model that focuses upon a preventive lifestyle, especially with sufficient exercise and mindful nutrition, as key aspects of health.

Without doubt, more open-source medication, especially with cannabis, will be part of America’s health care future. For many people, including the 45 million uninsured Americans, the current health care system does not work. It has many problems:

  • The current medical care colossus sucks up one dollar out of 5 in the American economy.
  • The American system is by far the most expensive, and offers far less care for the dollar than in other countries.
  • Much of what passes for medical care is in reality too late and inefficient. It does not do well treating the huge class of auto-immune inflammatory disorders that most afflict the health of Americans with chronic degenerative diseases.
  • Medicine is (over)used to try to stave off injury of primarily a behavioral nature. Medical technology is used to try to fix damage caused by behaviors such as cigarette smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for most ailments. Mortality from these drugs alone is a major cause of death.

The choices and actions of Americans, especially regarding physical (in)activity and (over)eating behaviors underlie much of what ails us. In most of the degenerative, inflammatory diseases that bedevil modern Americans, much medical care is merely palliative, relieving just the symptoms, symptoms of behavior-caused damage. Obesity, flaccid body composition and sickly organs damaged from cigarette smoking and alcohol poisoning are examples.

Type II diabetes is essentially a self-chosen disease; walking 10,000 steps a day is a robust preventative, even cure for Type II diabetes. Personal health actions such as increasing physical exercise, if universally adopted, could abolish many of the inflammatory ails that now pass for disease.

  • To ignore these preventatives and to proceed as before with a late intervention, medical and pharmaceutical approach to life-style-based health problems is folly.
  • Just as the pre-diabetic can literally walk away from diabetes, so too our general health practices determine how healthy we really are. The 10,000 steps-a-day prescription is not just for those threatened by diabetes or obesity, but serve as a good goal for nearly everyone. Such activity is open-source self-care at its best.
  • Eating daily 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables is the core of healthy nutrition. Rich in nutrients and sparse in calories, this plant based foundation provides much fiber. High fiber helps us stay full and tune the digestive system.

Aspirin-taking is open-source self-medication. Because aspirin is a legal and available drug that provides relief for a wide variety of ailments, we are free to use it for self-medication. Aspirin is very useful, but not without some dangers, such as attacking the stomach. Like most drugs, it has a lethal dose and several hundred people die from aspirin poisoning each year. Still, its ability to reduce pain and inflammation and to provide protective cardio-vascular effects make it a key open source medication.

Another substance to relieve a wide variety of symptoms such as pain and inflammation is cannabis. Unlike aspirin, no deaths are associated with its use. Like aspirin, cannabis is medically useful not just for a small array of discrete problems. Although it does provide fairly specific prevention and therapy of maladies such as glaucoma, and works wonderfully for reducing the worse symptoms of chemotherapy, its applications are broad. It is useful in treating a dozen major diseases. Other benefits are less specific. The cannabinoids in cannabis are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic. The latter, pain relief, points to the more generalized medical benefits of cannabinoids.

Pain is one of the chief reasons people seek medical care at all. What percentage of the humankind, what single person, does not experience pain at sometime in life? To quell pain is the reason most people take an aspirin. To quell pain is the main reason tens of millions of Californians in the future may take a tincture of cannabis.

  • A century hence, and hopefully far sooner, Americans will regain the pain-relieving, self-health remedies available to their ancestors. They already have in California and a dozen other states.

In a country supposedly searching for national health care answers, the open-source, self-care benefits of medical cannabis must not be ignored. Medical cannabis will not be ignored by those without insurance, nor those increasing millions who become aware of the superiority of pain relief and other medical benefits available to them with cannabis. Bizarrely, conservatives who worry that a national health care system would deny medical choices are the first to deny totally American citizens the right to choose cannabis-based medications.

Americans will make these choices anyway, using the cannabis seed as the open-source basis for their medication. Hopefully they will have state laws in place to provide them some safety from the dangers inflicted upon them by their government, as they again produce their medicine grown by hand.

UN Bureaucrats Promote Drug War Tyranny

The freedoms of Americans and other world citizens are being restricted by a handful of UN bureaucrats.

  • UNODC is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The office takes a hard line, prohibitionist view of (some) drug use around the world. Essentially, they play out international laws codified from the authoritarian mind of Henry J. Anslinger, the USA’s first drug warrior.
  • The agency has an evil twin, the The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). This INCB operates out of Vienna, Austria. With the UNODC, it successfully works furthering the neocon drug war agenda from the USA to the entire planet.
  • The punitive stance played out by bureaucrats at both powerful organizations was formed and is still maintained by America’s delegation, which has pushed this approach for the last 50 years. Sadly, the same coercive stance continues well into the Obama administration.
International Narcotics Control Board

International Narcotics Control Board

Americans are less free because of the prohibitionist, incarceration-happy inclinations of UN officials. These elderly men promote, even demand, that the USA continue its hard-line, zero-tolerance approach to drug use. The demand is based upon US signing onto UN mediated international treaties such as the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

Americans have less medical choice thanks to the UN. America and Americans are not free to act, in their view, in ways that challenge these international laws, such as removing prohibitions against medical use of cannabis. The international organization takes the view that cannabis should remain strictly prohibited, world-wide. They deny that it has any medical benefit. Americans in medical need of cannabis, such as those suffering from glaucoma, do now have increasing access to their medicine because of state action, at least in 13 states. Such freedom of medical choice, however, has been fiercely resisted on the national level by entrenched interests such as the DEA, and on the international level by by UNODC and INCB.

Americans are caged behind bars at record rates because of the hard-line, punishment-oriented approach of this country has taken is reaffirmed by the UN. Execution of drug-possession “criminals” around the world remains a part of the UN’s Anti-Drug Day festivities, each June 26.

UN 1, Magna Carta, 0. Civil forfeiture is the process whereby governments take the property away from their citizens, without need of criminal charges. In the ominous year 1984, the USA adopted this procedure, popular during the Inquisition, to confiscate the property of Americans violating the country’s newly enhanced drug laws. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Supposedly to repossess the fruits of crimes of major drug lords, forfeiture became a favored tool of every prosecutor, sheriff and newly formed drug “crimes” team. Taking the money and property of Americans running afoul of draconian laws was far easier than actual police work, protecting people and property, addressing crimes with actual victims. An analysis of American forfeiture legisilation from a South African paper:

  • In 1970, the US passed the federal statute, The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It was subsequently amended in 1978 and 1984. Unlike the admiralty courts, US civil forfeitures in the modern era are used when wrongdoers are within the court’s jurisdiction. Officials can seize property without notice, upon an ex parte application (without hearing the defendant’s case) of probable cause (a low standard of proof) that the property has been ‘involved’ in a crime.
  • No person has to be charged. The action is against the ‘thing’. The allegation of ‘involvement’ may be that the property is contraband, represents the proceeds of crime, or somehow ‘facilitates’ crime. ‘Probable cause’ may be based on nothing more than hearsay, innuendo, or the oral evidence of a party with interests adverse to the property owner. Family homes, vehicles and other assets have been seized in pursuance of this law, especially in relation to drug-dealing.

As it turns out, the USA and 169 other signatories of the 1988 treaty have to agree to promote forfeiture, just as they have to agree to keep drugs such as cannabis illegal. In the eyes of these UN bureaucrats, Americans have no right to medical cannabis, nor can they even work to change American laws prohibiting cannabis. These international treaties, they argue, trump national sovereignty.  

The only drugs acceptable for use, by the criteria of UN officials such as the UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa, are alcohol and cigarettes. All cultural, sacred and recreational use of other drugs, such as cannabis and coca leaf, are classified as “abuse.” Indeed, in the UN anti-drug mission, both plants, cannabis and coca, are slated for forced extinction.

Idiotically, the UNODC back in 1999 called for a drug-free world in 10 years. Despite valiant efforts towards this goal by such countries as Thailand which killed 2,500 “drug abusers” in 2003, cannabis and other plant-based drugs still exist. In that 10 years, American prison population, already the world’s highest, grew to over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Instead of no drugs in the USA as the result of this incarceration hysteria, drug use is little changed. Indeed, there is almost no relationship between the harshness of a country’s drug policy and levels of drug use.

The UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna met last March to decide the organization’s drug policy for the next decade. Obama’s UN drug policy team, which was the Bush UN drug policy team unchanged, argued for more of the same hard-nosed approach. Harm reduction tactics were vilified.

This first crack in the UN’s intransigence came last week with the release of the UNODC’s annual report. The report did mention the hugely positive results obtained by Portugal in decriminalizing drugs. The UNODC office took a new look at the rousing success of decriminalization in Portugal. They went on however, to reject decriminalization in other countries.

Perhaps the 4th of July is the time Americans should reject the UN’s overbearing and obtrusive drug war zealotry. Individual American citizens deserve to have their rights to medical choices not quashed by paper pushers sitting behind desks in Austria. The American nation deserves to have its ability to free itself from the evils of the drug war and prohibition not given over to UN bureaucrats.