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Former British Drug Czar Says Legalize It All

Former Home Office drug minister and former Defense Minister Bob Ainsworth has called for all illegal drugs, including cocaine and heroin, to be legalized. He told the House of Commons Friday that addicts should be prescribed heroin rather than allowing global criminal organizations to handle and get rich from the illicit drug trade.

Bob Ainsworth breaks ranks with drug prohibition. (image courtesy Wikimedia)
Ainsworth called in the House of Commons for a fundamental rethink of British drug policy. Ainsworth's call was met with support from some MPs from all parties, but was roundly criticized by his own Labor Party.

Ainsworth served as head of drug policy under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and as Blair's defense minister, he oversaw the British effort to eliminate opium planting in Afghanistan.

"Prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harm to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit," Ainsworth said in remarks reported by The Independent. "We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs. It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children. We must take the trade away from organized criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists."

Ainsworth said his experiences in Afghanistan had been an education. "Bombs and bullets and the wherewithal to produce IEDs are bought by funds supplied by international drugs," he said. A massive NATO occupation had failed to stamp out the heroin traffic, he said, so it was now time to consider "taking the market away" by legalizing drugs.

Former deputy Conservative leader Peter Lilley said he favored legalizing marijuana, while continuing to keep hard drugs illegal. Still, he supported Ainsworth's call for a reexamination of British drug policy. "I support Bob Ainsworth's sensible call for a proper, evidence-based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach, with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalization, and legal regulation."

"This could be a turning point in the failing UK 'war on drugs,'" said Labor MP Paul Flynn, a legalization supporter.

But Labor's leadership was quick to distance itself from Ainsworth's remarks. "Bob's views do not reflect Ed's views, the party's view or indeed the view of the vast majority of the public," a spokeswoman for Labor Leader Ed Miliband said.

Ainsworth's remarks were "extremely irresponsible," said an unnamed party source. "I don’t know what he was thinking."

London
United Kingdom

Why We Need an Impact Assessment of Drug Policy (Opinion)

Location: 
United Kingdom
UK Labour MP and former minister Bob Ainsworth has come out out strongly against drug prohibition. He proposed an “Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act”, an “independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options” which was welcomed by Lib Dem MP Tom Brake. Adam Corlett, acting vice-chair of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, explores the matter.
Publication/Source: 
Liberal Democrat Voice (UK)
URL: 
http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-why-we-need-an-impact-assessment-of-drugs-policy-22419.html

Why Willie Nelson Needs to Host a Benefit Concert for Marijuana

Willie Nelson has long been an outspoken activist, so it was no big surprise that soon after his recent arrest for marijuana possession the country music legend and pot aficionado was calling for a national movement to end the U.S. government’s destructive crusade against cannabis. But if Nelson wants to help end pot prohibition, he can do more than inspire the push for reform -- he can help lead it. And one relatively easy way he can do so is by hosting a benefit concert next year to draw attention to the evils of the drug war, using his iconic pop culture status to raise money for those organizations and people that are working to make the dream of reform a reality. A benefit concert next year would be particularly well timed, with the question of whether to legalize pot possibly being put to Washingtonians as soon as next fall and with California and Colorado voters likely weighing in on ballot initiatives of their own in 2012.
Publication/Source: 
Change.org (DC)
URL: 
http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/why_willie_nelson_needs_to_host_a_benefit_concert_for_pot

Despite Pot Prohibition, Teen Marijuana Use Continues Slight Upward Trend

Marijuana use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders increased slightly this year, according to figures released Tuesday by the annual Monitoring the Future survey of junior and senior high school students. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who see "great risk" in regular marijuana use continues a slight decline. In both cases, this year's figures reflect a continuation of a trend beginning about five years ago.

More than one in five (21.4%) of high school seniors reported using marijuana within the past 30 days. While that figure is higher than any year since 2002, it is in line with usage rates reported throughout the late 1990s and into the first year of the new millennium. In that period, 30-day usage rates among seniors ranged between 21.2% and 23.7%.

Although the latest teen drug use figures show that teen marijuana use is roughly stable over the past fifteen years, Office of National Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske was quick to lay blame on "mixed messages" from the effort to end marijuana prohibition.

"The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing," he said Tuesday. "And mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana legalization, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent young people from using drugs."

Drug reform organizations, unsurprisingly, had a different take on the numbers. Both the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) were quick to blame not legalization talk but actually existing pot prohibition.

“It’s really no surprise that more American teenagers are using marijuana and continue to say it’s easy to get. Our government has spent decades refusing to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren’t required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people,” said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. “The continued decline in teen tobacco use is proof that sensible regulations, coupled with honest, and science-based public education can be effective in keeping substances away from young people. It’s time we acknowledge that our current marijuana laws have utterly failed to accomplish one of their primary objectives – to keep marijuana away from young people – and do the right thing by regulating marijuana, bringing its sale under the rule of law, and working to reduce the unfettered access to marijuana our broken laws have given teenagers.” 

“Opponents of any change in America’s failed drug policies always throw out the myth that talking about reform sends a dangerous message to teens," said Bill Piper, national affairs head for DPA.  "Fifteen states (plus Washington, DC) have legalized marijuana for medical use and 13 states have deciminalized marijuana for personal use. Decades of research have consistently demonstrated that marijuana use rates in those states go up and down at roughly the same rates as in other states."

Piper pointed out that the annual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over miniscule changes in the number of teens smoking pot laws is largely theater. The drivers of drug use are complex and have little to do with the moral crusade of the day in Washington. 

"The truth is that drug use rates fluctuate all the time and this fluctuation rarely has anything to do with what politicians are debating," Piper said. "Studies around the world have found that the relative harshness of drug laws matters surprisingly little. After all, rates of illegal drug use in the United States are higher than those in Europe, despite our more punitive policies. Look at US tobacco policy. Both teen and adult tobacco use is at record lows and we are achieving that without criminalization and mass arrests. And because it is legal the government can control, regulate and tax it – unlike marijuana or other prohibited drugs."

Indeed, teen pot smoking continues its slight upward trend despite the huge number of pot arrests each year—more than 850,000 last year alone.

"The US made almost 860,000 arrests for marijuana last year, including 760,000 arrests for mere possession, yet teen marijuana use is on the rise," Piper noted. "The moral of this story is that a public health approach and honest drug education works — and criminalization doesn’t."

Budding Prospects: Youth Activists Push Marijuana Reform

Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and an advisory board member of the Just Say Now campaign, discusses why young advocates of legalization are poised for big gains.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/news/149144/budding_prospects%3A_youth_activists_push_marijuana_reform

U.S. House Expected to Pass Resolution Today Calling for New Marijuana Strategy (Press Release)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

DECEMBER 8, 2010

U.S. House Expected to Pass Resolution Today Calling for New Marijuana Strategy

Rep. Jared Polis, MPP Say It’s Time to End “Failed” Marijuana Prohibition, Regulate Marijuana Industry to Combat Drug Traffickers

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP director of communications: 202-905-2030, 443-927-6400 or mmeno@mpp.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a resolution today declaring illegal marijuana cultivation on federal lands to be an “unacceptable threat to the safety of law enforcement and the public,” and calling upon the nation’s drug czar “to work in conjunction with Federal and State agencies to develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to permanently dismantle Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating on Federal lands.”

            Speaking on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) agreed with the goals of H. Res. 1540, but said the only way to accomplish such objectives would be to eliminate “the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana and replac[e] it with regulation.” 

            “I have no doubt that marijuana plantations, as the resolution states, pose a threat to the environmental health of Federal lands, that drug traffickers spray unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, but I submit that the best way to address that is to incorporate this into a meaningful and enforceable agricultural policy for the country with regard to the regulatory structure for the production of marijuana,” said Polis, whose home state of Colorado has emerged as a national leader in the regulation of medical marijuana. “… As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground. No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country.”

            Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, today joined Rep. Polis in endorsing the underlying rationale of the resolution and suggesting that accomplishing the goals detailed in legislation will require an entirely new strategy by the federal government.

            “Passage of this resolution will send a clear message to the drug czar and others that our current strategies for combating illegal marijuana production are not working and that a new direction is needed,” Fox said. “There are two choices here: continue the failed prohibitionist policies that encourage Mexican drug cartels to keep growing marijuana on federal lands, or embrace a new path that would acknowledge the reality that marijuana is not going away, but its production and sale can be sensibly regulated in order to reduce the harm caused by its illicit production on federal lands.” 

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks, Cops and Border Patrol Agents Say the Only Real Solution is Marijuana Legalization (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Angell at (202) 557-4979 or media@leap.cc

U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks

Cops and Border Patrol Agents Say the Only Real Solution is Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON, DC --  The U.S. House passed a bill today directing the White House drug czar's office to develop a plan for stopping Mexican drug cartels from growing marijuana in U.S. national parks.  A group of police officers and judges who fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" is pointing out that the only way to actually end the violence and environmental destruction associated with these illicit grows is to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade.

"No matter how many grow operations are eradicated or cartel leaders are arrested, there will always be more people willing to take the risk to earn huge profits in the black market for marijuana," said Richard Newton, a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who is now a speaker for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "My years of experience in federal drug enforcement tells me that only when we legalize and regulate marijuana will we put a stop to this madness.  After all, you don't see too many Mexican wine cartels growing grapes in our national parks, and that's because alcohol is legal."

The bill, H. Res. 1540, which was passed by the House via voice vote, points out many of the harms of the current prohibition policy that leads to drug cartels growing marijuana in U.S. national parks, including that

* drug traffickers spray considerable quantities of unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers; 

* drug traffickers divert streams and other waterways to construct complex irrigation systems;

* it costs the Federal Government $11,000 to restore one acre of forest on which marijuana is being cultivated;

* drug traffickers place booby traps that contain live shotgun shells on marijuana plantations;

* on October 8, 2000, an 8-year-old boy and his father were shot by drug traffickers while hunting in El Dorado National Forest;

* on June 16, 2009, law enforcement officers with the Lassen County Sheriff's Department were wounded by gunfire from drug traffickers during the investigation of a marijuana plantation on Bureau of Land Management property; and

* Mexican drug traffickers use the revenue generated from marijuana production on Federal lands to support criminal activities, including human trafficking and illicit weapons smuggling, and to foster political unrest in Mexico.

The bill points out that law enforcement efforts to date have only brought about "short-lived successes in combating marijuana production on Federal lands" but offers no suggestions for solutions that would actually hurt the cartels in the long-term.  The law enforcement officials at LEAP believe that legalization is the only long-term solution, and if the bill is enacted into law they will be working to make sure that the White House drug czar's office seriously weighs ending prohibition as part of the strategy called for by the legislation.

The full text of the bill can be found at: <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.RES.1540:>

Speaking on the floor today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), said the bill "serves to perpetuate this failed policy of prohibition which has led to rise of criminal production of marijuana on federal lands."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

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2010 Nobel Prizewinner Mario Vargas Llosa Calls for Legalization of Drugs

Location: 
Vargas Llosa said, "Drugs have to be legalized and all the huge sums of money that currently are invested in their repression, should be put into treatment, prevention and education, as has been done for example in the case of tobacco, with great success."
Publication/Source: 
PODER (FL)
URL: 
http://www.poder360.com/dailynews_detail.php?blurbid=10123

It’s Time to End America’s Failed Cannabis Prohibition (Opinion)

Allen St. Pierre and Paul Armentano of NORML opine that the end of cannabis prohibition is near. How can they tell? When the beneficiaries of the status quo — both prohibitionists and contrabandists — join together to actively oppose long sought alternatives to America’s expensive, unsuccessful, anti-free market and Constitution-warping cannabis prohibition, then it is clear that change is upon us.
Publication/Source: 
CNBC (NJ)
URL: 
http://www.cnbc.com/id/40475801

GOP Presidential Hopeful Johnson Wants Pot Legalized

Gary E. Johnson, a former New Mexico governor and marijuana legalization advocate, is putting out Florida feelers in a possible bid for the presidency in 2012. Johnson's reasons for wanting to legalize marijuana: It's is less harmful than alcohol and the cost of locking up pot smokers exacts too much of a toll on civil liberties and on taxpayers. "I don't drink. I don't smoke pot. But I've drank and I've smoked pot...The big difference between the two is that marijuana is a lot safer than alcohol," said Johnson, an accomplished tri-athlete who once scaled Mount Everest.
Publication/Source: 
Miami Herald (FL)
URL: 
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/02/1952903/presidential-hopeful-legalize.html

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