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Bill Bennett Blames 'Weeds' for Increasing Marijuana Use

Michael Whitney at FDL points out the latest crazy rant from former drug czar Bill Bennett, who co-authored a CNN piece today blaming drug use on everything and everyone except the people who choose to consume intoxicants.What begins, predictably, with an attack on the Obama Administration for failing to obsess over the latest drug use statistics soon nosedives into an absurd attack against popular television for failing to depict all drug use as profoundly unpleasant:

As for the popular culture, the message has been even more damaging. Where once television shows actively promoted the dangers of drug use, several of our more popular shows, from "Weeds" to "Entourage" to "Mad Men," make drug use a laugh line.

Back when our country was making a serious assault on drug abuse, a show like "Weeds" would never be aired. Today it is promoted in full page ads in our nation's most popular magazines. This, for a comedy about the life and times of a marijuana-growing and -dealing family.

With all this, it should be no real surprise the drug numbers are on the increase. Our national leaders are silent, our culture makes laugh lines of drug use and serious numbers of serious people are advocating further legalization.

So what then shall we do about all these "serious people" hell-bent on drugging American culture into oblivion? Clearly, this is a job for Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers:

We should see public service announcements and ads from the likes of Beyonce, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, the Jonas Brothers; from the likes of the Williams Sisters and the Manning brothers; from Jimmy Johnson and Danika Patrick.

Sadly, 90% of the work that went to into drafting the op-ed was spent identifying this embarrassingly short list of allegedly drug-free celebrities, and they still somehow forgot to include Stephen Baldwin. I would also caution against the potential consequences of suggesting to young people that avoiding pot could cause them be more like the Jonas Brothers.

Sending a Meth Message, Does It Work?

For the second year, graphic television ads showing actors portraying pathetic and physically damaged drug addicts remind people about the danger of methamphetamine -- but does the scary message work? "It does not prevent future use. They're not effective," Jeanne Y. Ohta, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, says of the frightening TV commercial prepared by the Hawaii Meth Project.
Publication/Source: 
The Star-Advertiser (HI)
URL: 
http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorials/20100919_Sending_a_meth_message_does_it_work.html

Drugs, Freedom, and Responsibility at Burning Man

Having just emerged from one of the most epic experiences of my life, I'd like to share a few thoughts before returning to my usual news-skewering routine. Don't worry, it's about drug policy, although I'm proud to say I did manage to go an entire week without thinking about the drug war much at all.


I just spent seven days in the desert with 50,000 very enthusiastic adventurers, more than a few of whom engaged in the recreational use of mind-altering substances other than alcohol. Now, Burning Man is about much more than drugs, and even among those choosing to consume, beer seemed to be the most popular choice. But there was also a robust and visible psychedelic culture to be found there, making the event a rather vivid depiction of what happens when you release thousands of rabid psychonauts in harsh desert conditions and let them do whatever the hell they want.

Let's just say the outcome is substantially more graceful and orderly than even my own wide-open mind could have anticipated. I've seen far more sloppiness and idiocy at any football game I've ever attended than I did at Burning Man, even after dark when the serious weirdos really get down to business. Not even an abundance of liquid acid can unravel the inherent civility that takes hold when an intentional community of caring and curious people unites to celebrate free-expression on its own terms.

No major festival is entirely immune to the disruptive influence of individual trouble-makers, but Burning Man has established an impressive track record of general safety and cohesion going back many years now. It's a brilliant exhibit in the viability of expanding the boundaries of acceptable human behavior, particularly insofar as anyone who doesn't want to see naked people driving around in fire-breathing dragon-cars can simply choose not to attend.

The whole experience for me became yet another reminder of the profound stupidity of attempting to purge the psychedelic experience from our culture. If the paranoid fulminations of the anti-drug demagogues even approached the truth, an event such as this could never exist, for the playa would be soaked in blood and tears before the first sunrise. Once it's understood that the post-legalization drug apocalypse we've been taught to fear for so long is nothing more than a mindless fantasy, the justification for war evaporates faster than sweat under the desert sun.

Ethics Panel Rips TV Drug Court

Location: 
AR
United States
Arkansas' judicial officials are questioning whether Washington-Madison County Drug Court, a popular local television program, should be aired. An opinion from the Arkansas Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, issued Thursday, appears to quash any thought of taking any version of the show national and questions whether it should continue to be broadcast locally. The committee members, two retired judges and a law professor, issued a scathing opinion saying they had concerns with any broadcast of drug court proceedings.
Publication/Source: 
Stuttgart Daily Leader (AR)
URL: 
http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/newsnow/x353256866/Ark-panel-issues-opinion-on-televising-drug-court

America's First Medical Marijuana TV Ad

Location: 
Sacramento, CA
United States
A Sacramento, CA dispensary — run by a conservative Christian — makes history with a television commercial touting the benefits of medical marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
The Week (FL)
URL: 
http://theweek.com/article/index/206685/americas-first-medical-marijuana-tv-ad

TV Station to Air First-ever Medical Pot Ad

Location: 
Sacramento, CA
United States
Fox's KTXL television station in Sacramento, California will be the first-ever in the United States to air a paid commercial advertisement for a medical marijuana dispensary.
Publication/Source: 
Newser (IL)
URL: 
http://www.newser.com/story/99289/tv-station-to-air-first-ever-medical-pot-ad.html

How Bogus Drug Scares Get Started

Bogus drug scares are a mainstay of mainstream media reporting and reactionary parenting. Gawker put together this roundup of the latest in ludicrous drug trends. Look back at how bogus substances have stirred panic for more than a century now.
Publication/Source: 
Gawker (NY)
URL: 
http://gawker.com/5609915/how-bogus-drug-scares-get-started?skyline=true&s=i

Review: "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love"

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: Nicholas Schou, "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World" (2010, St. Martin's Press, 305 pp., $24.99 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/orangesunshine.jpg
As a teenager in remote South Dakota in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had friends who traveled to Southern California and returned bearing strange gifts indeed: Orange Sunshine brand LSD, hash oil called "Number 1," Thai sticks. I had no clue at the time I was becoming a participant in a messianic drug-selling venture that spanned the world from its headquarters in Laguna Beach, but it turns out I was. That stuff my friends brought back from California was all thanks to the efforts of a group of Orange County surf bums and trouble-prone working class kids who took acid, got religion, and set out to change the world.

They ended up calling themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and "Orange Sunshine" is their story. And what a story it is! Led by a charismatic Laguna Beach street-fighter and troublemaker turned acid-washed mystic named John Griggs (who later died after taking a massive dose of synthetic psilocybin), the Brotherhood adopted as its mission the turning-on of the whole planet. What is shocking is how far they came in achieving their goal.

By the time the Brotherhood went down in flames in a massive federal bust in 1972, it had manufactured and distributed untold millions of doses of its trademark Orange Sunshine, it had pioneered the smuggling of Afghan hashish to the US, it had smuggled massive amounts of Mexican weed into the US, it provided a strong impetus for the formation of the DEA, and, strangely enough, it had made possible Maui Wowie and the Hawaiian pot boom of the 1970s.

The story of Maui Wowie is worth recounting, given that it demonstrates the scope of the Brotherhood's operations and the avidity with which its members went about their business. Wanting to finance another massive Afghan hash deal, Brotherhood members bought a boatload of Mexican weed and took it to Hawaii to sell before heading on to Afghanistan for the second part of the deal. Trapped in an endless, drug-fueled party on Maui, the Brotherhood never completed that deal, but someone there crossbred the Mexican weed with some Afghan pot plants and -- voila! -- Maui Wowie was born, and so was the Hawaiian pot industry.

Relying on interviews with Brotherhood members and the police who chased them, as well as court and newspaper records, OC Weekly writer Nicholos Schou spent four years tracking down the story of the legendary group and telling it in a rollicking, page-turning fashion. In so doing, he also opens a window on the beginnings of the acid era and the cultural turmoil of the late 1960s.

What jumps out at contemporary readers is the naivete and innocence of the time. Griggs and the other Brotherhood members really believed that LSD could change the world -- it certainly changed their world -- and set out with missionary zeal to make it so. Yes, there was money to be made, but for the idealistic Brotherhood, money was not an end, but a means. In fact, the Brotherhood bragged that it had knocked the bottom out of the Southern California hash market intentionally, because prices were too high.

Of course, idealistic zeal could hardly compete with cash, and before long, the Brotherhood and its members were acting like any other dope dealers, more interested in the bottom line than in blowing minds. Such a trajectory seems preordained today, but at the time, the holiness of LSD was supposed to lead us past such materialistic traps. That it didn't hardly seems surprising now, and I suppose that shows how far we've fallen.

Idealistic zeal also had a hard time dealing with pressure and betrayal. While Brotherhood members stayed remarkably loyal for years, one of them eventually cracked under police pressure (and because of disaffection with a group that had drifted from its noble goals), allowing the feds to roll up their operation in 1972. And Timothy Leary, the apostle of acid, whom the Brotherhood worshipped and who stayed with the Brotherhood in Laguna Beach, also turned on it, spilling the beans to the feds after being arrested in Afghanistan. What made Leary's betrayal sting even more painfully was the fact that the Brotherhood had financed the successful Weatherman/Black Panther effort to break Leary out of prison after he had been busted in Laguna Beach.

"Orange Sunshine" is full of great stories, but my favorite has to be the Laguna Beach Christmas party in 1970, when 25,000 hippies headed for Laguna Canyon for a Woodstock-style event. On Christmas day, a cargo plane hired by the Brotherhood flew over the gathering and bombed the crowd with several tens of thousands of hits of Orange Sunshine. Now, that's what I call a party!

But all parties must come to an end, and that was true for the Brotherhood as well, although, despite bold pronouncements from the feds that they had broken the group in 1972, individual members of the Brotherhood kept at their dope-dealing trade for years afterwards. All in all, "Orange Sunshine" is an eminently readable trip down memory lane to the beginning of the contemporary drug culture and a fascinating look at how a small group of high-minded kids ended up changing the world.

Anti-Prohibitionist Candidates Challenge New York Status Quo (FEATURE)

An unlikely pair of anti-prohibitionist insurgents are running statewide campaigns in New York designed to challenge the political status quo. Randy Credico, a comedian turned activist turned senatorial candidate, is challenging incumbent Charles Schumer for the Democratic Party senatorial nomination, while hedge fund manager turned madam turned convict Kristin Davis is running for governor on the Anti-Prohibition party ticket.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/randycredico2010.jpg
Randy Credico
Credico is familiar to the activist community as a relentless organizer against the Rockefeller drug laws from his post at the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, while Davis's notoriety comes from her prosecution and four-month imprisonment as a "Manhattan Madam" who procured prostitutes for deposed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Both are proving adept at milking the media for all it's worth in a bid to bring their anti-prohibitionist messages to the public eye.

By all accounts, neither has a chance of winning outright. In the latest Siena Poll of New York politics, Credico was pulling 11% against Schumer, up from 9% last fall, but still hardly a close race. Davis has not figured in any polls, but is running as a third party candidate in a year when Democrat Andrew Cuomo appears to be a shoo-in in November.

Still, both are committed to doing all they can to bolster their campaigns and get the spotlight focused on their issues. Last week, the Credico campaign handed in signatures in a bid to qualify for the Democratic primary, while the Davis campaign is in the midst of a signature drive of its own.

"I'm exhausted, I just spent 38 days on the petitioning drive," said Credico on the way back from Albany after handing in signatures. "I'm sick. I have some bronchial problem. If Paterson signs the medical marijuana bill, I might be able to get some relief. We have enough signatures to get on the ballot. Now we have to wait to see if Schumer challenges us," Credico said.

That may be unnecessary, given that the state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs told the New York Daily News Sunday that Credico and his allies had not turned in enough signatures to make the party ballot. But whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico will be in the race. He is also on the ticket for both the Libertarian Party and Davis's Anti-Prohibitionist Party.

"Randy submitted 7,000 signatures himself, and one running mate submitted 6,500, and the third guy was supposed to submit 9,000, but only handed in 500," said Roger Stone, a Republican political operative who is friends with Credico and is advising Davis. "The next morning, the Democratic state committee was peddling the story that Randy had fallen short. I think the third guy was working with Chuck Schumer in a Nixon-style dirty tricks operation. Why does Chuck Schumer fear competition? Why deny people a vote?"

Stone might know a thing or two about political tricksters. He has a long history of political shenanigans, most notably a role in the infamous "Brooks Brothers riots" in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election, where mobs of angry Republicans rushed election offices as officials scrutinized chads. He denies any involvement in that.

"I'm a libertarian Republican, not a religious right or Moral Majority Republican," Stone said. "I'm pro-freedom, I favor gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana, casino gambling, and prostitution. The only way to get the pimps and drugs out of it is to regulate it. It's a $10 billion industry -- let's legalize it and run out the mob, the pimps, the guys who exploit women, let's empower women."

He is also critical of New York's drug laws. "The Rockefeller laws were racist," Stone said bluntly. "If you were a rich white kid, you could get a break. I think there's a difference between cocaine and marijuana, and I'm not for the legalization of heroin, but until someone can convince me marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, I say legalize it. It's a harmless herb that grows from the earth, and the idea it's a gateway drug is horseshit. New York has millions of marijuana users and they didn't all turn into heroin addicts."

Whatever Stone's motives, he is pushing both anti-prohibitionist campaigns and played a key role in getting Davis into the governor's race. "I met Roger Stone on a Sirius radio show, and afterward, I approached him about lobbying for the legalization of prostitution," said Davis, whose blonde bombshell looks belie a keen intellect. "That was right after a woman who had worked for me was killed by the Craig's List killer in Boston. I feel very strongly she would still be alive if prostitution were legal. If one of his earlier victims had felt comfortable calling the police, he might have been caught before he killed," she said.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kristindavis2010.jpg
Kristin Davis
"My platform is pro-freedom," said Davis, adding that some of her issues are getting more play than others. "We've sort of moved into being most vocal on marijuana and gay marriage," she said. "These are the two issues that resonate most with people. New York is broke, deeply in debt, so we're looking at marijuana not so much as a social issue, but as an economic one."

Davis acknowledged that actually winning the governorship was unlikely, to say the least, but said her campaign was more about getting the issues addressed and getting enough votes to get the Anti-Prohibitionist Party official status in New York. "People say you can't expect to win, but that depends on your definition of winning," she said. "Andrew Cuomo has approval ratings over 60% and $23 million in campaign funds, but voting for me sends a clear message to the career politicians that these issues need to be heard. If we can get 50,000 votes for the party, then we're officially recognized and can lobby for our issues. Every single vote matters. Every vote for me shows the career politicians that New Yorkers care about these issues, that they want legal marijuana."

The anti-prohibitionist tag team has been doing some joint appearances, Davis said. "Randy is on my Anti-Prohibitionist Party petition as the Senate nominee. We just did an event over the weekend. It was a signature drive kickoff slash birthday party for me," she said. "There were maybe 300 people there."

Davis's notoriety has both helped and hindered her campaign, the former madam said. "It's a double-edged sword. Compared to sex, people by and large are not so interested in politics," she explained. "Sex gets people interested, and I'm an interesting character, but on the other hand, the mainstream media has been skeptical. The Post and New York One have not covered the campaign at all. I hope that once we're on the ballot, and they see this isn't a hoax, they'll start taking us a little more seriously."

"She's been able to use the celebrity that came out of her brush with Eliot Spitzer to her advantage to continue to point out the inequities of the criminal justice system," Stone said. "She went to prison, and he went back to his town house."

If politics makes strange bedfellows, anti-drug war politics makes even stranger ones. Stone is a libertarian Republican, Davis describes herself as a libertarian, but Credico comes out of a left-leaning social justice perspective. They don't agree on everything. For instance, Credico has come out in favor of allowing a mosque to be built near the former World Trade Center site, while Davis opposes it. Similarly, Credico touts an anti-war, anti-interventionist foreign policy, while Davis doesn't touch those issues.

"In the end," said Stone, "Credico and Davis become running mates and are on the same side. The drug war is one of the issues that motivates them both."

Whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico isn't going away. "We're going to start a war of attrition against Schumer," the activist/comedian turned candidate vowed. "We'll be making inroads in the black, latino, lesbian and gay communities, we'll be making inroads with people upstate concerned about their mortgages and credit cards. "I know Schumer is not happy I'm in the race," said Credico. "I'm the last person he wants challenging him. I have a show biz background, I have charisma."

But he also has street cred dating back to his days agitating against the Rockefeller drug laws. "I worked with the families of prisoners, I worked with the African-American community. That's what helped get me over the top. Women whose kids were incarcerated came out and canvassed for me. Schumer has nothing to offer them," Credico said.

Credico compares and contrasts his career with Schumer's and finds the incumbent fares badly. "I ran a civil rights organization, and he conducted himself as someone opposed to civil rights, as manifested by his support of the Patriot Act, the drug war, ID cards, the wall on the border, and other repressive measures. He's anti-civil rights, not for constitutional or civil rights for most Americans."

The Schumer campaign did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

"I'm for civil rights, human rights, a clean environment, and pulling out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Colombia," Credico elaborated. "Schumer was going to waltz right in there without having to talk about this, and New Yorkers deserve better. Why is he an avid supporter of the drug war? Why isn't he as progressive as [Republican senators] Sessions and Hatch on the crack/powder sentencing disparity?" the long-time activist asked.

"I'm for legalization of marijuana," Credico continued. "We should be able to grow marijuana here, without taxing it. Let's not give the government any more layers of power. Prohibition has to be abolished. We have to talk about this. The drug war is a Trojan horse to incarcerate people of color for social control."

The Republicans and Democrats in New York have shown little taste for challenging drug war orthodoxy, but insurgent candidates Credico and Davis are determined to hold their feet to the fire when it comes to justifying prohibitionist policies. Let the games begin!

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Is Bill O'Reilly Helping Us Legalize Drugs?

A couple readers objected to my suggestion last week that Bill O'Reilly's anti-drug scare tactics are actually helping our cause more than they hurt it. Here's what they said:

"I'm very displeased with most of these TV interviews. Between Mr. O'Reilly's constant use of voodoo pharmacology and emotional appeals, Mr. Nadelmann never really got a chance to articulate the finer points of legalization. Until we get longer fairer interviews, I'm not convinced that these TV spots do any good."

"I have to disagree with Scott's post. Dogmatic idiots like O'Reilly and his 'chronic' (pun intended) listeners can't be schooled. Not by reasoned argument, anyway. That's the big problem re. all the societal problems we face: there's so many dogmatic idiots, and way too many of them, like O'Reilly, have public megaphones via corporate sponsored mass media. Imo, it's better to just accept that quite a few people are unreachable, and instead, try to reach those who still have a modicum of intelligent open-mindedness."

I understand how one could conclude that our efforts are undermined when a prominent voice like O'Reilly speaks out against us before a massive television audience, nor would I argue that there's no such thing as bad publicity for the cause of drug policy reform. But Bill O'Reilly's brand of dubious DEA-derived data and authoritarian posturing is unlikely to come as a major revelation to anyone in his audience. His tactics are nothing more than classic prohibitionist nonsense; the same stuff that's failed quite consistently to turn back our momentum.

Over and over again, O'Reilly's attacks have come from a defensive stance, as he reacts to our efforts by condemning the latest drug reform book or campaign. In the process, he inadvertently presents and legitimizes our argument before an audience that we'd otherwise struggle to reach. He props up reform leaders with primetime television exposure and further establishes the now-undeniable rise of drug policy reform into the realm of mainstream political debate. In the meantime, support for drug policy reform among conservatives surges like never before and national support for marijuana legalization has never been higher than it is today.

So if I had a choice between O'Reilly attacking us every day of the week, or ignoring us entirely, I'd choose the former without hesitation. If you don't think it's possible to advance a political agenda by quarreling with Bill O'Reilly, consider the fact that Al Franken is now a U.S. Senator.

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