USA tortures Canadian with solitary confinement for promoting cannabis.

Demonstrating a new moral low, the USA has scored a new political prisoner, Canadian entrepreneur Marc Emery. Almost immediately this outspoken voice ending cannabis prohibition suffered solitary confinement. This is a form of torture; as anyone who has suffered this social and sensory deprivation can testify. The Instanbul Statement, a definitive international declaration, calls on

  • States to limit the use of solitary confinement to very exceptional cases, for as short a time as possible, and only as a last resort.

How terribly twisted, then, that in 2010 in the United States of America, a citizen of Canada languishes in solitary confinement at Sea-Tac, in the state of Washington. The world’s largest jailing nation, the USA, gained one more prisoner to its 2,300,000 total when the federal government vindictively snagged this Vancouver BC, Canada entrepreneur.  Within days this political prisoner was plunged into solitary confinement. Not for a short a time as possible, but apparently as long a time as possible. And not as a last resort, but as a first resort.

Canadian citizen, American prisoner Marc Emery

Canadian citizen, American prisoner Marc Emery

Marc Emery’s story is quite well known and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say his powerful entrepreneurial and philanthropic energies showed how prodigious cannabis consumption can correspond with enormous work accomplishment. He ran afoul of the DEA when his passions led him to work expose cannabis prohibitionist lies. When the ultimate prohibitionists, the DEA, finally arrested Marc Emery for selling seeds, Bush appointee Michele Leonhart gloatingly referenced his efforts at marijuana legalization. How tragic that Obama re-appointee (gag) Michele Leonhart may be responsible for Emery’s descent into the torture of sensory deprivation. He is one of the planet’s best people; she is one of the worst.

The War on Drugs has tragically wounded the USA. The land of the free, home of the brave now instead runs a massive prison gulag, boosting the careers and bloated pensions of drug war bureaucrats, cops, prosecutors, prison builders, jail guards and piss testers, while imprisoning more of its own people (by far) than any other country. As Senator Jim Webb has stated.

  • “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.”

As if being the world’s most prolific incarceration nation were not bad enough, the American prison system routinely makes use of solitary confinement, a condition in which tens of thousands of people are languishing at this very moment across the USA. Solitary confinement cells maximize the profits of prison builders, of course, a key industry in the four decade’s old war on drugs. The fact that this deprivation technique drives people insane does not seem to be much of a consideration. Neither the American people nor the current neo-con Supreme Court care much about the condition of prisoners.  Both would care more if they could see the monetary costs and building dangers of such a system. One day, most of these people will walk out of prison and rejoin society.

Marc will do better than most in this deprivation regimen and hopefully will soon be out of solitary if not confinement. If he is required to serve his whole five years, then American taxpayers will have to borrow another quarter million dollars from China to pay for this Canadian’s imprisonment costs. Does not the USA have better things to do with its money, (borrowed and repayable by grandchildren), than to legally kidnap and and imprison citizens of Canada for selling seeds?

Hopefully, much sooner than that, Marc Emery will return to his wonderful wife Jodie Emery and his country of Canada. And hopefully, the USA will return to senses. The war on drugs wastes money, wastes minds, wastes lives and is totally anathema to the true American values of freedom, life and liberty. Free Marc Emery!

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.

US Senate regulates cigarettes, America’s most lethal and addictive drug.

The drug that kills 1,200 Americans each day will finally be regulated in the USA. Tobacco cigarettes, perhaps the most addictive of all drugs, yet virtually unregulated as a consumer product, will come under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. This will not result in prohibition, as the legislation provides for the continued sale of nicotine cigarettes. But several major things will change:

  • Cigarette companies must provide lists of ingredients in cigarettes. The drug cigarettes is a combination of tobacco with a great many additives to strengthen their nicotine kick and mellow their delivery.
  • The FDA will be able to regulate these additive drugs going into cigarettes.
  • More advertising, warning and other restrictions will apply. Graphic warning labels will cover half the cigarette pack.

During the last 40 years of the War on Drugs, those politicians and bureaucrats who most demonized drugs like cannabis were apologists for tobacco companies and loathe to even call cigarettes a drug. Even in today’s historic senate vote, Drug War mongers such as Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell voted against the legislation bringing cigarettes under control of the FDA. As reported by McClatchy, “Senators who opposed tobacco bill received top dollar from industry.” In addition to McConnell, North Carolina’s Jim Bunning and Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, republicans all, tried to stop the bill. Tobacco state senator Jim Webb, D-Virgina voted for the legislation.

The progress made already in reducing use of the drug cigarettes by Americans has been remarkable. Increased taxation, eduction and smoking area restrictions have helped to greatly reduce the use of this drug, even though highly addictive.

  • During the same period as the War on Drugs (some drugs, that is, such as cannabis) which has had virtually no impact on drug use, cigarette addiction and consumption has dropped in the USA.
  • To win this great preventive health victory over cigarettes, no one had to go to jail, and no SWAT squads were sent to break down doors. The FDA regulation should help these encouraging non-smoking trends even more, without the ineffective and un-American brutality of the drug war.

Strangely, during these long decades when the drug cigarettes killed over 400,000 Americans each year, the drug war was aimed chiefly at a far less addictive drug that killed no one. Marijuana, or cannabis, was (and still is) listed as a Schedule I drug and controlled by the DEA.

  • If any drug fits the requirements for Schedule I, it would be nicotine-laden tobacco cigarettes. They are highly addictive and have no recognized medical use, the supposed requirement for Schedule I.
  • Cannabis, on the other hand, is far less addictive and has dozens of well documented medical uses.

As cigarettes now move to FDA regulation, cannabis should be removed from DEA schedules and restrictions and likewise regulated by the FDA.

Descriminalização – Drug decriminalization has worked out wonderfully in Portugal.

As the USA finally seems to be taking a look at its drug and incarceration policies, the experience of Portugal over the last decade is instructive. In 2001 the Iberian country took the step of removing all criminal penalties from possession of drugs of any sort. Small, administrative penalties remained.

American drug warriors propagandize that only strong drug laws and robust enforcement, prosecution and incarceration control drug use behavior. As it turns out, all such un-American coercion has virtually no effect on drug use.

The drug war does not work. America had few drug problems, other than alcohol and tobacco, prior to the criminalization of drugs. A 2008 study of world-wide drug use and drug control policies confirms; strong, even cruel drug enforcement, like that in the USA, does not reduce drug use.

  • USA has, by far, the world’s highest rate of incarceration.
  • The USA also operates the strictest and most enforced drug laws.
  • The country is also home to the most drug users and the highest rates of illegal drug use.

Portugal’s experience over the first decade of the 21st century is particularly impressive. The CATO Institute’s Glenn Greenwald authored the report, Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies is available online in pdf form. The report documents actual decrease of drug use in moste parameters. Nowhere did drug use or any sort of related problems spike. From the report: (emphases mine)

  • None of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents – from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists”-has occurred.
  • The true effects of Portuguese decriminalization can be understood only by comparing postdecriminalization usage and trends in Portugal with other EU states, as well as with non-EU states (such as the United States, Canada, and Australia) that continue to criminalize drugs even for personal usage. And in virtually every category of any significance, Portugal, since decriminalization, has outperformed the vast majority of other states that continue to adhere to a criminalization regime.
  • Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies-such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage-have decreased dramatically.

Virtually all the news coming out of Portugal’s policy of decriminalization then, was positive. Especially important was the decrease in drug use by 15-19 year old Portuguese youth.

As Senator Jim Webb and other senators from both parties undertake the the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, we hope they will study the positive results of decriminalization in Portugal. The clearly positive results for Portugal in decriminalizing drugs should be a key piece of evidence for Senator Webb and others on the new commission. Hopefully, the commission will be guided by the the overwhelming verdict:

  • Possession of all drugs could be and should be removed from the American criminal justice system.

Drug use in the USA would decrease, as it has in Portugal. all health and societal problems associated with drugs would diminish. The vast network of harm maximization of the drug war could be dismantled. This is a difficult goal in a country that has for 40 years been consumed in a War on Drugs, no matter how badly this war has failed.

An early goal in this process, one with the most harm minimization effect the quickest should be:

  • Decriminalize cannabis in the USA.
  • As a first step, the plant and its cannabinoids should be moved from Schedule I to Schedule V.

American citizens would be spared the expense, waste, handicap and indignity of over 800,000 cannabis arrests each year. To the extent this is a goal for many policy makers, cannabis use would likely decrease, along with a vast waste of money and squandering of human lives.

If the USA is to set policy by facts and science, rather than by politics and bureaucracy, we will be guided by how wonderfully decriminalization of drugs has worked out in Portugal.

Why 1984 WAS like 1984

April 4, 1984

So begins George Orwell’s nightmarish novel of future totalitarianism. That date is now long gone, 25 years past.

When Apple first released the Mac computer in 1984, they promised in an innovative Super Bowl ad that 1984 (the year) won’t be like 1984 as in the dark, well, Orwellian vision. Apple Computer 1984 ad introducing Macintosh

An excellent movie made from the book (in 1984, of course) is also available at YouTube – Movie Trailer – 1984. The book and movie portray a cruel society where police helicopters lurk overhead and children watch adults for report of possible “thought crimes” to authorities. Squads of government goons terrorize the citizens with no-knock raids followed by mass incarceration.

Although Apple’s new computer might have been liberating in 1984 (it even offered a new appendage, the mouse), other parts of America were lurching towards big government, intrusive and punitive.

  • Ronald Reagan ruled from the White House and eagerly pressed a cultural crusade. The drug war fit perfectly with his tough talking and authoritarian impulses.
  • Congress also found in the drug war an excellent way to express outrage, pass legislation, gain votes and take permission to spend more of the taxpayer’s money. In many cases, Democrats were the most enthusiastic in wishing to appear, “tough on drugs.”
  • The Supreme Court was underway rewriting the US Constitution with the “war on drugs” exemptions that would steadily whittle away the rights of Americans formerly guaranteed under their Bill of Rights.

In 1984, one of the worst new drug war laws issued from this time of congressional zealotry was the Omnibus Crime Bill. Basic provisions of this vindictive legislation took away property rights extending back to the Magna Carta.

  • The Omnibus Crime Bill greatly expanded the power of government to forfeit away the land and possession of its citizenry. Citizen property rights secure for centuries were usurped.
  • Proceeds of such government seizures of private property could go to the enforcers, from DEA to the local police. Thus policing incentives were warped from enforcing crimes with actual victims, such as rapes, to drug offenses, crimes far more lucrative to the police.
  • Even when police arrests could not secure convictions, many times the police could keep, and sell,  the  private property and land of the American citizen.
  • In some cases police took property without even making an arrest. Under this 1984 legislation, property itself could be “arrested” and confiscated by the police.

The assault on American property rights in the Omnibus Crime Bill was matched by diminished personal rights. Drug possession had now been deemed a far more serious crime, much more commonly a felony.

  • Mandatory minimum sentences befell those for petty possession “crimes.”
  • Sentencing guidelines were “enhanced,” dooming hundred of thousands of future prisoner to millenniums of person-in-prison years.
  • In the intervening 25 years, the number of Americans incarcerated has quadrupled, from 580,000 to 2,300,000, chart below.

One generation after legislation hatched in the drug war zealotry of 1984, the USA, land of the free, finds itself a bloated prison gulag, far out jailing any other country on earth. In the words of Senator Jim Webb,

  • “With so many of our 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.

As Senator Webb points out, in his introduction to pioneering legislation, the National Criminal Justice Act of 2009, Americans, in the last 25 years, have not become 4 times more evil nor in need of 4 times the rate of incarceration.

Ironically, neither have Americans become less likely to use drugs, the purported “purpose” of draconian legislation like that passed in 1984.

With nearly two and a half million prisoners in federal and state gulags, the USA 2009 is in some ways very much like 1984. If Senator Webb and brave colleagues joining him on development of the new criminal justice act succeed, perhaps 2014 will be less like 1984.

The year 1984 shared some cultural trends with another year, this one 1484, 500 years earlier. These will be covered in a future post, Why 1984 was like 1484.

Vastly Counterproductive: The American prison system. Jim Webb is a new American Hero

Freshman Senator Jim Webb, D-Virginia is providing a bold and much needed voice in congress. Jim Webb looks across the country and sees a vast gulag of 2.3 million prisoners. The USA, with 5% of the world’s population houses 25% of its prisoners. Like so many others, the senator finds this a troubling fact. He notes, in Parade Magazine cover story delivered with the last Sunday’s paper across the nation,

  • 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.

Senator Webb will energize his convictions with an 18 month Senate investigation of the American Criminal Justice system. His actions appear to have great bi-partisan support.

The American criminal justice system has been bloated and distorted over the past 3 decades by mindless legislation, dishonest drug laws and the drug war itself. Few voices have stood to counter this malignant tide and the result has swamped American justice. Senator Webb’s perceptions and actions come at a critical time when great change can take place.