George Will gets drug war right, mostly.

Columnist George Will

Columnist George Will

Conservative writer George Will addressed the war on drugs, especially marijuana, in his Oct. 29 column. True conservatives, as believers in small government, abhor the drug war with its big government meddling in the lives of Americans. But many “conservatives,” especially neo-cons, still support support the bureaucratic persecution and incarceration of fellow citizens.

Will quotes drug czar Gil Kerlikowske as saying, “not many people think the drug war is a success.”  George Will makes a great many good points to back this up.

  • Furthermore, the recession’s toll on state budgets has concentrated minds on the costs of drug offense incarcerations — costs that in some states are larger than expenditures on secondary education.
  • He quotes the Economist, “The annual U.S. bill for attempting to diminish the supply of drugs is $40 billion. Of the 1.5 million Americans arrested each year on drug offenses, half a million are incarcerated. “Tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars,” the Economist said in March.”

Will’s most important quotation from the Economist is a key truth unrealized by most law makers, presidents and drug czars:

  • “There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer.” Do cultural differences explain this? Evidently not: “Even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates.” (emphasis mine)

This last point underscores the basic futility and corruption of the failed, decade’s-long war on drugs. It is doubly troubling that the drug war has been allowed to take it most savage form in the USA and transform the land of the free into the world’s largest incarceration of human beings. Drug warriors like to think that only their efforts stand between the populace and drug catastrophe; in truth, their activities are essentially irrelevant to the amount of drug use.

Will does allow Kerlikowske to make a couple of dumb points. The drug czar says, “”You don’t find many heroin users who didn’t start with marijuana.” Hey, Gil, try reading the drug czar-commissioned 1999 Institute of Medicine report that debunked this gateway propaganda, supposedly for once and for all.

Importantly, Will contrasted the failed war on drugs with the very successful American experience with the deadliest drug, tobacco cigarettes. “The good news is the progress America has made against tobacco, which is more addictive than most illegal drugs.” He continues with a discussion of historic alcohol use in the USA.

Will ended his column vaguely. He began with a suggestion to the drug czar, “With his first report to the president early next year, he could increase the quotient of realism.” But apparently George F. Will is unaware that the drug czar cannot, by the laws of his office, be truthful. He must, by law, disavow any validity to medical marijuana, a position puts him at odds with science and will prevent him from telling his boss the truth in the upcoming report.

Overall, George Will provided a refreshing account of several important truths about America’s failed war on drugs.

Interesting news reactions to new federal medical marijuana policy.

The Obama administration’s new guidelines discouraging federal prosecution of marijuana in states where it is medically legal was widely reported this week by the major networks. This writer, while using the treadmill of course, was able to catch the NBC, CBS and ABC coverage between 5:30 and 6pm Monday evening.

The news of the new federal policy is one of the biggest events in the last several decades of drug policy reform and important actual news to tens of millions of Americans. But this switch in medical marijuana policy was not the first story at either network. CBS lead off its newscast with, again, coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax, which, by this time, was over 72 hours old.

The second CBS story finally got to the new policy sent by the Obama justice department to prosecutors across the country and to the head of the DEA, essentially telling them not to waste resources on prosecuting medical cannabis where it is state legal.

All three of the traditional networks played the story cautiously. Prohibitionists were interviewed for their reactions and allowed to recite their tired talking points. The LA City Attorney Cooley was given face time to call alarm about the high number of dispensaries in LA. He did not mention that the crime rate is down.

Surprisingly, by far the most intelligent reporting on cannabis issues is this week coming from Fox Business News. As flagged by Norml’s Radical Russ, the Fox stories have been matter-of-fact, adult and intelligent. Tuesday’s interview with Denver hedge fund manager and cannabis seed developer Ben Holmes was as positive and intelligent as the Colorado cannabis entrepreneur himself. It was followed Wednesday with a prohibitionist LA official.

The next day, ONDCP Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske showed himself to be a dullard. The Fox Business news team seemed exasperated in trying to pull any intelligent responses to the changes underway on the ground in California and other states with medical exemptions. On hearing the L word, legalization, the drug czar lapsed into his lame, “legalization is not in our vocabulary” rant.

A surprising discussion was found, oddly, on the CNN show of drug war reactionary, Lou Dobbs.  His panel addressing the new medical marijuana guidelines included Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch and from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, ex-cop and criminal justice professor Peter Moskos. Moskos did an excellent job explaining the LEAP position.

McCaffrey fumed, then blatantly lied when he said providers and consumers of medical cannabis had never been targeted by the Feds. Over a decade ago, McCaffrey himself (along with, regrettably, Rahm Emanuel) threated physicians in California with even mentioning medical uses of cannabis to patients, after California voters demanded change in 1996’s Proposition 215. This was too much for Cato Institute scholar Tim Lynch who pointed out that McCaffrey’s anti free speech actions had ended in a circuit court ruling against him. It was good to see such assertive and competent anti-prohibitionists pitted against the sputtering drug war lies of years gone by.

Obama pioneers new medical marijuana policy!

Barack Obama in WashingtonAn Associated Press writer is publishing that a new federal policy on medical marijuana is being distributed Monday to federal prosecutors around the country. AP Newsbreak: New Medical Marijuana Policy Issued.

The policy change is apparently in line with statements made by the president as he ran for office and first outlined by Attorney General Eric Holder last February. In a reversal of the policies of all presidents to come before him, no  those needing and producing cannabis for medical need will need not fear federal prosecution. Incredibly, in the recent past, Americans whose only “crime” was growing plants suffered severe federal prosecution and lost decades of their lives to overcrowded prisons and forfeited their property to the government. Hopefully, this modern Inquisition is over.

Now it is time to remove cannabis from the false Schedule I classification that erroneously clings to the no-brainer notion that cannabis lacks medical value. Let science into this decision, not just DEA dogma.

Perhaps President Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize after all. Millions of Americans in medical need of cannabis will certainly feel new peace in their lives from this long-overdue humanitarian policy.

Controlled Substances Act: 39 years of drug war tyranny.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace, August 1974.

Thirty nine years ago this week an evil befell the USA.

President Richard Nixon, in cahoots with his fellow Watergate criminal (and Attorney General), John Mitchell, ramped up the war on drugs by prodding the misbegotten legislation, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This act crafted the schedule system for classifying the illegality of (some) drugs. In 1973 Nixon created the DEA to act as overseers of federal drug policy and enforcement.

Cannabis had actually been legal since a 1969 Supreme Court decision. Instigated by no less than Timothy Leary, the high court declared as unconstitutional the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 ended this short period of freedom, instituting a repressive, punishment-oriented approach. Because of Nixon’s direct actions, cannabis was classified as a Schedule I drug, the most restricted, illegal and penalized.

This draconian schedule for cannabis was purported to be just temporary, until a commission studied the question. This became the famous Shafer Commission. Kevin Zeese reported on the commission and Nixon’s attempts to declare marijuana dangerous. As Zeese reported, the commission took its task seriously and ended up having to conclude that marijuana is not very dangerous and does not justify harsh legal treatment of its users.

Nixon blew up, ranting (on tape) instead for laws that “tears the ass” out of marijuana users. He got his way. Even though Nixon had to resign in disgrace, the drug war he promoted has lived on. In the intervening 40 years, 20 million Americans have had their lives torn asunder in the form of needless and wasteful arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations for victimless cannabis “crimes.”

The CSA is is unconstitutional. An amendment to the US Constitution was required to prohibit alcohol. The same is true for marijuana and other drugs. Richard Nixon and the US congress ignored his requirement in passing the CSA. The courts, of course, should have quickly flagged this flagrant unconstitutionality. Instead the judiciary gave it a free pass under the “drug war exemption” to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Subsequent generations of congressional drug warriors such as Joe Biden found even this legislation too timid and schemed at “enhanced penalties” and evils such as asset forfeiture.  Mandatory minimums were reinstated again in the drug war-crazed 1980s. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Member of both political parties fought to out-do each other with ever more repressive legislation, including the Controlled Substance Penalties Amendment Act of 1984 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

International legislation, the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances soon codified schedules and penalties world wide.

Under the 39 year-old CSA the DEA is given authority to classify substances. It can at will, stubbornly stick to obviously incorrect schedules, e.g. Schedule I for cannabis. The classification of various drugs by the DEA is not based whatsoever upon the actual dangers of the drugs, but is based on bureaucratic and turf reasons.

  • The most dangerous drug, cigarettes, for example is not even under DEA enforcement. Nor was it regulated even by FDA, until a few months ago. But cannabis, a far safer drug, is degraded by the most draconian Schedule I classification and brutally enforced by the DEA.

Constitutionally the  US government has no business in the prohibition business. Practically such prohibitions have become an incarceration nightmare. We need to drug war collateral damage. Harsh penalties conceived to “tear the ass out” of hippies 40 years ago should not be mandating continuation of prison state and police state policies.

Nobel Peace Prize winner still presides over war on his own citizens.

Barack Obama Free On the same day President Barack Obama received word of his Nobel Peace Prize, over 2,000 Americans were arrested for the “crime” of possessing plant residue. Obama reports he was humbled by word of the prize. The operative emotion for those arrested for cannabis “crimes” was closer to humiliation, with degradation, fury, fear and disgust thrown in.

The disgust was for their American government, supposedly dedicated to freedom and personal liberty, but instead warped by a malignant war on drugs. The drug war became a war by tax-payer funded interests against the personal liberty and freedom of American citizens who broke those arbitrary laws, especially those free thinkers who willfully ignored ignorant and draconian penalties against the medical plant, cannabis.

The fear was in being torn from family life and thrown into a cage with miscreants, knowing that they face absurdly harsh laws against cannabis. Depending on the whim of prosecutors eager to build reputations, prosecutions and incarcerations, they might be facing the possibility of years of your life ripped away, their families hammered by severe, even mandatory, sentencing.

In the 10 months of the Obama presidency, well over half a million Americans have had their lives and families needlessly devastated by cruel enforcement of these ignorant and misguided laws and penalties. The war on drugs has transformed the American prison system into a gargantuan gulag, incarcerating well over 2 million Americans, jailing far more of its people than any other nation on earth, including China with five times the population. As Senator Jim Webb, who probably should have received the prize instead, points out,

  • “With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different–and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter.”

Each of these imprisoned American citizens is every day getting worse in every way. Most will eventually be released back into society. The current system is harm-enhancement at its worst and endangers every American.

President Obama, you could easily have been one of those casualties, as you too broke the law with cannabis, but you escaped the hell that befalls two thousand of your fellow Americans each day. The absent damage from the arrest that you avoided allowed the USA to gain a remarkable man as our president. And even to win a Nobel Peace Prize! You now have the power and obligation to spare these daily 2,000 good Americans violating bad laws from life-damaging and family-wounding government persecution. You avoided the harm a marijuana arrest would have inflicted upon you. Act to prevent this needless, arbitrary arrest horror from closing the presidential or Nobel aspirations of thousand of (mostly) young Americans each day.

Yes, President Obama, let the Nobel Peace Prize inspire you to actually deserve it. Well, end the government’s war upon its own citizens. You could start very easily by directing the rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule V. Perhaps next year you might win the Nobel Prize for Medicine by helping free this remarkably medically useful plant medication from Schedule I persecution.

New York Times recycles Bush drug czar cannabis lies.

Supposedly one of America’s great newspapers, The New York Times fails its readers on a key issue of individual liberty and personal health.

This NY Times lapse occurs on-line at “Times Topics,” linked here.  Although Times articles linked at the this page are not terribly skewed in favor of continued prohibition of cannabis, the great error lies in the section below, the –