After 2012 election,cannabis prohibition teeters in the USA, and across the hemisphere.

“Game changer”, “tipping point”, “beginning of the end”, all the phrases this commenter wanted to use have already been used to describe the effects on cannabis prohibition of the 2012  momentous election.

The decision of Washington and Colorado voters to legalize marijuana in their states may well be a fatal blow to prohibition of cannabis in the USA. In the short time since these citizens of these states decided to end prohibition of cannabis possession, their votes have caused a major upheaval in cannabis and drug prohibition. These events may be among the most important in finally ending the moral wrong of cannabis prohibition.

The post-election realization is that now, for the first time, marijuana legalization is the will of the majority of American voters. This has to press the RESET button of politicians, as they contemplate legalization getting more votes than President Obama in Colorado. Republicans considering their unpopularity with young voters realize that repeal of cannabis prohibition is widely favored by the young.

Post election action on the state level has been impressive and encouraging. State legislators across the country have introduced legislation widening medical exemptions to state marijuana laws. Legislators in Maine and Rhode Island stepped beyond that with legislation to legalize for personal useAnd the states are pressuring the feds! In Colorado, US Representative Jared Polis (D) is clamoring for state exemption of federal cannabis law. Joining him are not just fellow democrats, but republicans too. Colorado politicians who worked against legalization now agree to work to see the will of Colorado voters respected and support Polis’ and Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-CO)  “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act.”

Internationally, a host of countries currently saddled with enforcing hard-line US drug policy found hearty justification for their skepticism of the drug war. Check out Colorado, Washington Marijuana Legalization: Latin American Leaders Ask For A Review Of Drug Policies on The Huffington Post.  Mexico in particular questions why it has lost 6o,000 lives and considers legalization. Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing personal use. Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Belize are all questioning the current war on drugs and are looking at legalization as an alternative.

A final gift of the election of 2012 was the just announced defeat of Dan Lungren, House Republican from California and one of the very worst drug war villains. For 3 decades he has  been involved in crafting and enforcing some of the most Stalinistic aspects, such as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, targeting cannabis devotees with forfeiture and mandatory minimum sentencing. See also, “Why 1984 WAS like 1984.”  Another huge election plus was the defeat of Prohibitionist Allen West (R) Florida!

Still, even with all this political, state and international swing towards ending cannabis prohibition, hugely formidable forces will seek to prevent change. So far in his presidency, Barak Obama has been a huge disappointment on the issue, ignoring all drug war and incarceration issues and allowing zealots in the justice department to attack medical cannabis with all the cruel tools at their disposal. The House and Senate are both rife with prohibitionist dinosaurs like Lamar Smith, Mitch McConnell, Diane Feinstein, and Jeff Sessions. Texas Representative Lamar Smith (R) was able last congress to, by himself, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee  (retch) to block Ron Paul and Barney Frank’s legislation to exempt medical cannabis from federal prosecution. He was the sole decider, the House did not even get to consider. He could probably do the same again this session. And in the house, Congress has lost three of its anti-drug war patriots, Ron Paul (R-Texas), Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Ardent anti-cannabis foe Michele Leonhart directs much of the current federal assault on medical marijuana from her post at the head of the DEA.  This zealot was given carte blanc to proceed full bore by her nominator President Obama, and unanimous senate confirmation. US Attorneys, eager to expand power and careers are attacking medical marijuana for easy forfeiture and mandatory minimum charges.

A wildcard in this upcoming battle on cannabis prohibition is the current action underway in the US Court of Appeals to strip away its insidious and evil Schedule I status. Much of the cruelty in the war against cannabis has issued from this classification, first implemented by Richard Nixon to “tear the a** out of hippies.” The draconian Schedule I status for cannabis has been a legal cancer draining the USA for 40 years. It has turned America into a vast incarceration gulag, trashed the Bill of Rights, corrupted law enforcement and forever damaged the lives of 20 million citizens burdened with a marijuana arrest. If the court allows anything like a science-based review, then the fiction of the Schedule I classification (dangerous, addictive, no medical use) will be obvious and the plant will be rescheduled.

The next years will be dynamic for cannabis prohibition reform. Hold on to your hats!

 

Publicizing rational ranking of drug harms to show relative safety of cannabis.

Patriots interested in ending the tyranny that is the war on drugs have been given a powerful new tool.  From Britain comes a novel ranking of the dangers of various drugs to their consumers and harms to families and society. In a finding that tears at the foundation of drug prohibition, ranked the legal drug alcohol the most dangerous of all drugs, legal or illegal. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, headed by the esteemed Professor David Nutt found highly illegal marijuana, by contrast, was to be far safer.

Many were shocked that alcohol was declared the most dangerous drug. But others were less surprised, as alcohol is by far the most abused drug, causes the most addiction and promotes behaviors damaging to family and society. It also directly causes disease and death, especially through liver disease. Heroin came in as the second most harmful drug, mainly from it highly addictive nature, although it is not any where near a cause of violence as alcohol. Crack, the most volatile form of cocaine, was ranked as the next most destructive drug. Far down the harm list came marijuana and even lower other psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy and LSD.

The ranking looked at 9 categories of drug harm. Harm-to-self categories are:

  • Drug-specific mortality
  • Drug-related mortality
  • Drug-specific damage
  • Drug-related damage
  • Dependence
  • Drug-specific impairment of mental function
  • Drug-related impairment of mental functioning
  • Loss of tangibles
  • Loss of relationships
  • Injury

Harms-to-others categories include:

  • Crime
  • Environmental damage
  • Family conflict
  • International damage
  • Economic cost
  • Decline in community cohesion.

Numeric rankings were assigned to the Overall Harm Score, the higher the score, the more harmful the drug.

  • Alcohol – 72 – This is a huge number far out pacing the rest.
  • Heroin – 55
  • Crack –   54
  • Crystal meth – 33
  • Cocaine – 27
  • Tobacco – 26  – This number seems low considering the 5 million yearly world-wide cigarette deaths.  1,200 Americans die from cigarettes every day. Tobacco is also the most highly addictive drug and 3,000 American teenagers become addicted to cigarettes each day.
  • Amphetamine/speed – 23
  • Cannabis – 20 – This seems a little high, considering that zero medical deaths are associated with marijuana, and use of cannabis tends to reduce violence.
  • Benzodiazepines – Valium -15
  • Ecstacy – 9
  • Anabolic steroids – 9
  • LSD – 7 – Powerful potential as a psychiatric drug
  • Mushrooms – 5 – Yet psilocybin mushrooms, which grow from cattle dung and may be spiritually beneficial, are persecuted as Schedule I by the DEA

Headlines blared the new rankings:

This is not news, of course. Over a decade ago a similar ranking looking a addictive potential, impairment, danger to health and other indicators had cannabis competing with coffee as the least dangerous drug. The fresh rankings are news, though, in that they diverge from much of the public’s distorted view of drug dangers, fed by decades of federal drug war propaganda. And the new rankings of drug dangers are in nearly a directly opposite ranking of the legality of the drugs in the US federal government. The most dangerous drug, alcohol, is legal (as is the most addictive and lethal drug, cigarettes) while the far safer cannabis is legally ranked as Schedule I. This labels it as among the most dangerous drugs, without medical value, deserving of the harshest prosecution in criminal codes.

Ecstasy, MMDA, LSD and even psilocybin mushrooms are also legally scheduled as terribly dangerous, and of no medical use.  It turns out they inflict little harm and many may well have great value, especially in treating war caused disorders such as PTSD. If only the psychiatrists could use them, but they cannot, because congress and the DEA, in their self-serving wisdom, have declared them Schedule I. Politicians and bureaucrats have set the drug’s schedules, science be damned, and harms not considered. Knee jerk scheduling remains decades later, after legally scourging millions of American lives.

This new, rational ranking of drug harms can be used effectively for those arguing to end the damage of drug wars. This has already been done, e.g. in letter to the Pot Shots at the Criminalization of a Soft Drug. The writer, Alan Shanoff, state, “The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in England recently rated marijuana with a harm score of 20 compared with alcohol at 72.” This numerical rating can be a real eye-opener and winning argument for reducing the only real harms from cannabis, those that come from its prohibition.

Dispensary closures are bureaucratic anti-business blunders.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Los Angeles recently ordered closed all but 70 medical cannabis clinics. Upwards of 1,000 medical cannabis dispensaries had filled storefronts and opened in malls across the county, a flurry of business activity in these times of recession.

Although these clinics did not in any way contribute to crime and provided legal access to their medicine by state legal medical consumers, dispensaries ran afoul of the special interests of police, prosecutors and prisons. A cadre of tax-paid parasites has apparently succeeded in most of goal of getting dispensaries closed, and resuming the arrest-prosecute-imprison regimen that has so boosted their careers and pensions.

California is in recession and is totally broke, in desperate need of every job and tax dollar. And yet in this environment, tax-paid bureaucrats like city attorneys are making policy that severely restricts closes down storefronts, puts working people into unemployment lines and ends a lucrative sales tax revenue stream. Go figure.

Most dispensaries will close; the 70 or so remaining will be relegated to “industrial areas” and must be farm from schools and churches. While this may serve as an economic stimulus to the industrial areas, such restrictions present difficulties to medical users in getting their medicine. Such harassing zoning also creates additional car trips and increases carbon footprint. Does LA really need more cars on its roads? Why should medical cannabis consumers have to drive to a remote area instead of picking up their medicine by walking to the corner dispensary operated by their neighbor?

Whether LA needed nearly 1,000 dispensaries is unclear. As in normal competition, the number would probably sort itself out through the law of supply and demand, consumer choice and the management of the dispensaries. What is clear is the the proliferation of dispensaries hurt or injured no one and caused no increase in crime. Indeed, the crime rate in LA Country was at historic lows as the clinics grew. The only cost or injury was the giant crack in the wall of marijuana prohibition the clinics represent. The stakeholders in the present system of arrest-prosecute-imprison include police, prosecutors, prison guards, narcotics officers, and urine testers. Other winners in this harm-maximization prohibitionist policy include dug dealers, street gangs, Mexican cartels and various other criminals.

The clinic closures come just months after bureaucrats profiting from marijuana prohibition planned their demise. The group sponsoring the action to subvert the will of California voters was the California Narcotics Officer’s Association. Obviously the drug war has been very good for narcotics officers as law enforcement has become mainly drug enforcement. Consider the career of New York City narcotics officer Bernard Kerik. He rode from obscurity on his narcotic’s cop cred to appointment by Rudolph Giuliani as New York’s top cop.  He came just a few lies away from being appointed George W. Bush’s Chief of Homeland Security. That was shortly before being indicted and then convicted as a felon by the feds, and now serving 4 years in federal prison. The California Narcotics Officers seek to continue the hard line on marijuana prohibition that so expanded their own careers and pensions.

  • A good example of the benefit of harsh marijuana laws to law enforcement is CAMP, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. Astonishingly, CAMP’s own website brags: “With more than 110 agencies having participated, CAMP is the largest law enforcement task force in the United States.” It would seem that the largest law enforcement task force in the United States would have something better to do than persecute a harmless, medicinal plant. Perhaps this 110 agency task force should be investigating crimes of violence and crimes with victims rather than wasting their time and our money with military SWAT raids on hapless farmers. Any plants destroyed in this vast operation only serve as price stabilization for the cannabis crops they miss. As with all marijuana law enforcement, it is a waste of resources causing huge collateral damage without benefit to society, except to the job security of the enforcers.
  • The California prison guards union is one of the main groups sponsoring the continuation of repressive and draconian laws against cannabis. Union membership and benefits have grown explosively during the decades of the drug war. In 1980 the state imprisoned just 22,500 people and a prison guard’s salary was $14,400. Today the state imprisons 170,000 Californians, guarded by some of the best paid public employees in the state. Eligible to early retirements (at 75% of salary), the guards enjoy lush benefits and a bloated overtime system that pays many over $100,000 tax dollars per year. The union is one of the most powerful political groups in the state and effectively fights tooth and nail against any drug law reform that might result in fewer prisoners.

The California Narcotic’s Officers event was entitled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.” As reported by Americans for Safe Access, both LA city attorney and Los Angeles District Attorney were in attendance at the event and soon afterward both began claiming dispensaries were illegal and working for their closure. Regrettably, they have succeeded in closing most of the dispensaries.

If city bureaucrats and the DA really wanted to improve the health of their city and its citizens by imposing business restrictions, they would clamp down on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. Cannabis is far SAFER; unlike alcohol, it cannot cause death and does not cause violence or domestic abuse.

Most of the dwindling number of Americans who support more drug war are, paradoxically, supporters of private enterprise and supposedly abhor big government. Hopefully they will come to see that the drug war is a perversion of market-oriented free enterprise, a war against the law of supply and demand, destined to fail. The war on drugs is itself a bloated and parasitic expansion of big government run amuck. The specter of city attorneys and district attorneys interfering with the personal health care decisions of Los Angelenos is almost Stalinistic.

George Will gets it wrong: Cannabis laws make a mockery of justice.

George Will

George Will

This writer knew something was wrong when conservative pundit George Will wrote two opinion pieces with which I could agree. The first was regarding Afghanistan where, regrettably, Will makes more sense for leaving than Obama does for escalating. The other was for his recent criticism of the war on drugs. However, in a November 29 Washington Post column, Rocky Mountain high, Will returns to his authoritarian, neocon roots with criticisms of Colorado’s medical marijuana program.

Those wishing to disdain the medical value of marijuana typically put the term “medical” in quotation marks when the word is followed by marijuana. George Will goes further, when belittling the conditions for which medical cannabis may be used, he includes “chronic pain” (quotation marks his). It may be news to George, but pain is the primary reason people go to the doctor, and indeed was the core reason the medical profession came into being! Yes George, pain, especially chronic pain, is a good reason for seeking medical care and medication.

Cannabis has been used for pain relief for at least 5,000 years and is proving in new studies to be highly effective in lessening many types of pain. It is also the least toxic of any pain relieving substance. Indeed, cannabis is the safer choice for pain relief, far safer than Oxycontin, far safer than Vicodin, safer even than aspirin. Aspirin causes several hundred deaths each year, marijuana causes zero deaths. Typically, use of dangerous, mind-altering opioid pain relievers is greatly reduced when cannabis is added as an adjunct analgesic.

Yet George Will and the authoritarian wing of the Republican party would deny Americans their personal freedom of medical choice for pain relief, if that choice happened to be marijuana.

  • How did the Republican party, supposedly the party of small government, transform itself into a tyranny that controls and punishes American citizens needlessly?
  • How did the Republican party, supposed for keeping the government out of people’s lives, still seeks to deny Americans the freedom to make their own safer medical choices?

Will gets off on the wrong foot by lauding prohibitionist Colorado attorney general, John Suthers, calling him honest and thoughtful. Actually he is a bureaucrat protecting his turf, a law enforcement official extending his domain over the medical choices of his fellow Coloradans. Because of his prohibitionist efforts, Coloradans may be forced to give up the right to choose safer, cheaper medications. Hopefully, Colorado citizen Mason Tvert of SAFER will educate the authoritarian George Will on the “thoughtfulness” of the hardline AG.

Americans should rightly bristle when self-serving bureaucrats deny them medical choices. The police should not be lobbying against the medical freedoms and choices of their fellow citizens, just because costs them enforcement turf, as is the case with medical cannabis. George Will allowed Suthers to feed him age-old platitudes about current marijuana being “seven, eight times as concentrated” as pot used to be. Even if this old saw were true, it would only make it “seven, eight” times safer, requiring less consumption for equal medical benefit.

George almost misted up when revealing that Suthers claimed that in a recent survey, “non-using young people revealed that health concerns did not explain nonuse. The main explanation was the law: We underestimate the number of people who care that something is illegal.” Great rationale for continuing the current marijuana laws devastate the lives of the 800,000 people arrested each year in the USA! Such reasoning is contradicted by the Dutch who have a much higher level of “nonuse” of cannabis than Americans, but have much more lenient laws against the plant substance.

Will concludes, “by mocking the idea of lawful behavior, legalization of medical marijuana may be more socially destructive than full legalization.” Gee, George, the arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious laws against marijuana have been dissed and disobeyed for more than 40 years now by Americans who knew the restrictions were unjust. These laws have been willfully broken by tens of millions of Americans for decades, mocking the law, flaunting legislators who passed them and viewing as enemies the police that enforced them. Respect for the law demands laws deserving respect.

As far as legalization of marijuana being socially destructive? Not in the least. The recent experience of Portugal proves that. The social destruction of the last 40 years of failed drug war has been the 20 million cannabis arrest casulties inflicted upon Americans by their government. The unneeded, counterproductive and failed war on marijuana users has produced maximum harm and is the mockery of American justice George Will should be protesting.

Marijuana is SAFER – Important new book.

Drug policy reformers and others interested in personal freedom are encouraged to order today from Amazon.com a copy of the important new book, Marijuana is SAFER: So why are we driving people to drink? I just ordered 2 more copies for local libraries.

The SAFER concept is incredibly powerful for drug policy reform, showing how marijuana is far safer for personal health and public safety than the national drug of alcohol. The low lethal dose of alcohol, which results in many binge drinking deaths, is contrasted with lack of any lethal dose of cannabis. The horrific violence toll of alcohol is painted in contrast to the lack of violence by those choosing marijuana.

These and many other differences that make cannabis a far safer recreational choice provide the basis for an aggressive, pro-active approach to cannabis law reform. The authors, Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert summarize on page 127:

  • in sum, the fact that alcohol causes so many problems in our society is not a reason to keep pot illegal; rather, it is the reason we must make it legal. Unless our opponents are going to argue for a return to alcohol prohibition, they will be forced to explain why they wish to compel adults to use the more harmful recreational intoxicant.

Today, August 20, a “book bomb” is underway to raise the sales ranking at Amazon. Order a copy for yourself and one for your local library today!

Michael Phelps and Use of Cannabis

Any human being who can achieve the goal of competing in the Olympics is, in at least some ways and by definition, extraordinary. Beyond that, an athlete who can totally dominate his event and set world’s records for gold medals is all that much more remarkable. That is exactly what swimmer Michael Phelps did in capturing 8 gold medals in last summer’s Beijing Olympics 2008. Now this athletic hero is being castigated and attacked from some sides for using cannabis, after a photo of him surfaced toking on a pot-fueled bong.

Since there is not much wrong with Olympian Michael Phelps, maybe there is something wrong with the prohibitions he broke. Obviously, recreational use of cannabis is not incompatible with great, even epic achievement. Michael Phelps is a poster-boy for ambitious, high-achieving cannabis users. The federal propaganda claiming marijuana causes an “amotivational syndrome” are belied, quite tangibly, by 8 shining gold medals.

More seriously, Phelps is reported to have used a far more dangerous drug at the same party. Unlike cannabis, beer is associated with violence and antisocial activity. Although cannabis does not have a lethal dose, the lethal dose of alcohol is just a few times that of recreational dose, and fatal alcohol overdoses are common. Strangely, the advertisers who would not raise an eyebrow at Michael Phelps’ use of alcohol may abandon him for a picture of him sampling a SAFER alternative, cannabis.