Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

The Speakeasy Blog

New Study: Marijuana Might Cure Brain Tumors

Posted in:
One of the great ironies in the debate over marijuana's medical applications is that the drug may prove to be vastly more useful than many marijuana activists even realize. As the U.S. government continues to block medical marijuana research, scientists around the world are discovering new and exciting possibilities:
Investigators at Bar-Ilan University in Israel report that the administration of THC significantly affects the viability of GBM cells. Glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of glioma (brain cancer), strikes some 7,000 Americans annually, and generally results in death within one to two years following diagnosis.

"THC [is] an essential mediator of cannabinoid antitumoral action," investigators concluded. [NORML]
Or, in layman's terms, THC might stop tumors from killing people. Isn't that great? Now all we have to do is legalize it so people can cure their brains without fear of being raided by the DEA.

As evidence of marijuana's potential value in treating various cancers continues to grow, it becomes increasingly vital that we silence marijuana opponents who seek to prevent such discoveries from being made. The more helpful the drug turns out to be, the more deadly and foolish becomes the conspiracy to destroy its reputation and punish its users.

Is it really so difficult to conceive of the possibility that this plant, like so many others, exists for a good reason?
United States

Someone Tell the Drug Czar That Hemp Isn't a Drug

Posted in:
The brave drug warriors at ONDCP need so much help. They are just as confused as can be about so many things, but they wear industrial strength earplugs and never go on the internet except to periodically blog about how confused they are. It would be funny if they weren't destroying America.

So anyone who still thinks these people are serious should visit the Drug Czar's blog right away and read his recent post, "Terminated! Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Pro-Drug Hemp Bill." It is downright delusional; a perfect encapsulation of the thinly-veiled psychosis that festers beneath the skin of the powerful Drug War Experts in Washington D.C.
While drug legalization groups extol hemp as some kind of miracle-plant, many Americans aren’t getting the full story. Industrial hemp and marijuana are not just "related" – they come from the same cannabis sativa plant.

The real agenda of hemp enthusiasts is to legalize smoked marijuana and it is no coincidence that legalizing hemp would complicate efforts to curb the production and use of smoked marijuana by young people.
Now, I could explain that hemp actually is a useful plant. I could propose that a hemp bill can't be "pro-drug" because hemp isn't a drug. I could point out that the farmers who want to grow it don't care about marijuana legalization. I could argue that Americans already know it's a type of marijuana. And I could even prove that you can't grow commercial marijuana anywhere near it due to cross-pollination.

But that would be pointless, because the Drug Czar doesn't care about these things. All he cares about is that marijuana legalization advocates sometimes participate in criticizing U.S. hemp policy, and if those people want hemp, he will burn to the ground every damned stalk until they pry the flamethrower from his shriveled dead hands.

In fact, as a marijuana legalization advocate, I should maybe shut up about this, lest I fuel the Drug Czar's deranged fantasy that people who want to make pants and granola bars are actually part of a diabolical conspiracy to turn California into the world's biggest rehab clinic.
United States

Digg and Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana

The rise of news aggregator websites like Digg and Reddit has become a surprisingly helpful asset to online activism for drug policy reform. These sites allow participants to submit links with their own description, at which point other users vote to determine which stories make it to the coveted main page. Digg, for example, directs so much traffic from its front page that users have coined the term "digg effect" to describe the inevitable server crash that occurs when Digg links a site with insufficient bandwidth. first experienced "the digg effect" in August with the "Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars" story. Once linked at Digg, the blog post and accompanying press release generated over 100,000 hits, crashing our server repeatedly for over 12 straight hours. It was a bittersweet triumph since few visitors were actually able to view the content due to website malfunctions (and we couldn't receive donations!). Nonetheless, the message about marijuana policy reform was clearly resonating with a massive new audience.

Between Digg and Reddit, we've now had several stories take off, pulling in unusually high traffic and pushing the drug policy debate beyond the self-selected audience of seasoned reform activists. The rising tide has lifted other boats as well, generating massive attention to Pete Guither's "Why is Marijuana Illegal?" and SSDP's "End the Drug War Draft!" Just last week, a front page Digg hit left Mitt Romney's presidential campaign reeling when video of his rude treatment of a medical marijuana patient went viral.

Perhaps it's not so surprising that the new era of user-generated content and internet video would favor ideas that have for too long been relegated to the fringe by the mainstream press. We're witnessing the burial of the antiquated notion that only anti-drug scare stories will sell, and it's long overdue to say the least. The stigma of the "legalization" label, along with the brute force of the law itself, has silenced so many would-be drug war critics, yet the anonymous and democratized realm of online political debate now rages without regard to the philosophical prejudices of the past.

Of course, winning the vote in an artificial internet democracy isn't going to end the war on drugs. But it certainly proves the demand for balance in the drug war debate. As the mainstream media continues to struggle with even the most basic realities about drugs and the terrible war on their users, the truth has to find a home somewhere.

Update: To my great surprise, this post has made it to the front page of Digg. Imagine that. You can vote for it here. What fun.

Update II: There's 300+ comments on this post over at Digg. I haven't finished reading them, but here's my favorite so far:

Look, from someone who has never smoked anything in their life, I'm fine with legalization, but please don't act like assholes with it like everyone in my damn school does. All they do is brag about it, and its funny because I tell my friends I'd do it if it was legal and they say they would stop doing it if it was.

The "stoner" stereotype is a complete product of the drug's illegality, it's true. If we're sick of rebellious potheads, let us take the wind out of their sails by changing the one law they have the nerve to break, thereby turning them into law-abiding dorks.

United States

U.S. Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

We can now add to our long and growing list of drug war grievances that this terrible crusade has become a fully functional army recruitment tool. The U.S. Military has changed its rules to make it easier for drug offenders to enlist. Meanwhile, the aid elimination penalty of the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. That's right, folks. The federal government thinks drug users don't belong in college, but has no problem sending them to die in Iraq.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a great new video explaining the absurdity of all this:

Of course, we support the U.S. Military's new hiring policy. Past drug use should never be a factor in assessing a person's qualifications. But making it harder for drug offenders to go to school, while making it easier for them to join the army, is shockingly barbaric and hypocritical.

One can only hope that this bizarre situation may expose the fraudulent logic by which drug offenders are denied college aid to begin with. After all, military service is widely considered an honorable profession; one which requires great courage, character, and intelligence. The very notion that past drug users can serve their country in combat destroys the myth that these Americans are somehow handicapped because they took drugs.

Now that the U.S. government has acknowledged this principle in one self-serving context, it bears a powerful moral obligation to examine and abolish other forms of discrimination against drug users. Freedom, however one may choose to define it, cannot be defended so long as we arbitrarily injure and obstruct our fellow citizens over such petty indiscretions.
United States

The Drug Czar's Blog Accidentally Admits That Drug Laws Ruin Lives

Yesterday, in a post titled "Random Drug Testing Can Save Lives," the Drug Czar once again blogged himself into a corner. The piece quotes extensively from a Kentucky newspaper article, which argues that random drug testing will save students from getting arrested:
"There was a tragedy in Scott County last week. A young man's future was ruined, and the events that took place will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.

Unless you've been on vacation, you've probably already heard that a superstar athlete on the Scott County basketball team was arrested on felony drug charges, which could result in him going to prison for as long as 10 years. [Georgetown News]

That's awful. But what does this have to do with random drug testing?

...Whether we realize it or not, the real tragedy is this young man wasn't caught sooner, through a less punitive program intended to help youthful offenders, not send them to prison. The greater tragedy, to my way of thinking, is that we, as a community and a school system, haven't seen fit to acknowledge reality and implement a random drug testing program in our high school, and perhaps our middle schools.

So what exactly did this young man do that could get him locked away for 10 years? He was arrested for 1.6 grams of crack on school grounds. Crack/powder sentencing disparity + school zone = 10 years for a one-day supply of drugs.

By conceding that this young man's life has been ruined, the Drug Czar does far more to indict our brutally unfair sentencing laws than to promote random drug testing. He is literally telling us that we should let him collect urine from our children, otherwise his drug soldiers will put them in jail for a decade.

And if that doesn't make your head spin, consider that cocaine leaves your system in 1-2 days and will rarely come up in a drug screen anyway. You can smoke crack all night on Friday and pass a drug test on Monday, so none of this whole insane conversation about saving people from crack laws with drug testing even makes sense to begin with.

United States

The Truth About Why Republican Candidates Oppose Medical Marijuana

McCain, Giuliani, and Romney have all attracted unwanted attention this week with their pledge to continue the federal government's unpopular war on medical marijuana patients and providers. The question is "why?" Everyone knows mainstream republican politicians are often a tough sell when it comes to drug policy reform, but given massive public support for medical marijuana, their callous position appears politically unwise and thus more difficult to explain.

First, it helps to clarify how narrow and simplistic their argument really is. The McCain/Giuliani/Romney consensus on medical marijuana is grounded in the claim that "other medications" are available and should be used instead. This one argument virtually encompasses the totality of their opposition to medical marijuana. It is their only talking point, which is why they move on quickly to the next topic after saying it.

Still, I don't believe this argument actually tells us very much about their true motivations. When Mitt Romney recommends "synthetic marijuana" to a wheelchair-bound patient, it becomes clear that he understands the medical efficacy of the drug. Indeed, these "other medications" are often derived from synthetic cannabinoids, so the debate is clearly not over whether marijuana has medical properties. We've moved beyond that, thankfully.

At this point, it becomes a question of how patients should be acquiring and administering their medicine. Giuliani and Romney both faltered when the patients they encountered explained that they were allergic to pharmaceutical alternatives to marijuana. If they take these patients at their word, they must then confront the insufficiency of these drugs and recognize the unique predicament in which certain patients find themselves. Perhaps this new information will sink in, but that is all beside the point.

Ultimately, McCain, Giuliani, and Romney have access to all the same facts about medical marijuana as everyone else. Their problem is not a misunderstanding of the issue. They've met and spoken with the patients. They know doctors are recommending it. Their real concerns have nothing whatsoever to do with the medical efficacy of marijuana. They are worried about something else entirely:
"But having legalized marijuana is in my view an effort by a very committed few to try to get marijuana out in the public and to ultimately legalize marijuana. It's the wrong way to go." – Mitt Romney

"I believe the effort to try and make marijuana available for medical uses is really a way to legalize it. There's no reason for it." – Rudy Giuliani

This tells us everything there is to know about opposition to medical marijuana from republican presidential candidates, and for that matter, the Drug Czar himself. The whole anti-medical marijuana machine is merely a conspiracy to prevent the outright legalization of marijuana. Its adherents are fearful that telling the truth about the drug's medical value will pave the way for a shift in public attitudes about marijuana in general. They dread the "marijuana lobby" and will concede nothing to it, even if doing so forces them to take unpopular and transparently flawed positions on medical use.

Cynically, they focus on the role of marijuana legalization advocates in promoting medical access, while ignoring the much larger constituency of medical marijuana supporters who don’t advocate recreational legalization. That is why support for medical marijuana from mainstream organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association is ignored, while the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project's position is cited routinely.

Of course, when the truth about medical marijuana becomes a political hostage in the broader legalization debate, it is legitimate patients rather than marijuana activists who suffer the consequences. Fortunately, the rise of internet video has given voters a front row seat in this enduring and increasingly ugly debate. The next victims in the war on medical marijuana may be those candidates who would sacrifice the seriously ill to drug war politics.

(This blog post was published by'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.)

United States

When The Drug Czar Says We're Winning The Drug War, It Means Nothing

The insufferable Robert Caldwell at Human Events writes love letters to the drug war. His latest masterpiece begs presidential hopefuls to entice him by sharing their most hardcore drug war fantasies.

Oddly, Caldwell tries to explain the urgency of the matter by claiming that everything's going phenomenally well. His entire argument consists of a tiresome series of Drug Czar quotes. "John Walters…begs to differ", "Walters offered a slew of statistics", "Walters argued, persuasively", "Walters rightly cites", "Walters notes," and on it goes. The whole thing might as well have been signed by John Walters under the title, "My Awesome Drug War."

Yet, as Pete Guither notes in a helpful new page, it is literally the job of the Drug Czar's office to distort facts in support of the drug war. The GAO even admits it:

Given this role, we do not see a need to examine the accuracy of the Deputy Director's individual statements in detail.

So we really can dispense with the notion that the Drug Czar is available to give us unvarnished assessments of drug war progress. It is, in fact, illegal for him to do that. Asking the Drug Czar how the drug war is going is like asking Colonel Sanders if his chicken is any good.

(This blog post was published by'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.)

United States

Mitt Romney's Horrible Encounter With a Medical Marijuana Patient

I thought it couldn't get any worse than McCain and Giuliani, but I was so wrong. Republican front-runners are literally competing to see who cares the least about medical marijuana patients. And the winner is…Mitt Romney.

Romney may be toeing the party line, but I don't doubt his handlers have had a word or two with him about not insulting people in wheelchairs on CNN. I mean, really, could he have handled this any worse?

Let's set one thing straight here: if you oppose medical marijuana, you support arresting patients. It is just that simple. If you leave patients under the jurisdiction of the DEA, you know what's going to happen. Mitt Romney's unqualified, "I'm not in favor of medical marijuana," is an endorsement of every atrocity – past, present and future – that patients inevitably suffer at the hands of the heavily armed cavalry that so clumsily and callously insists on its right to police their private medical decisions.

Stay tuned, folks. Rumor has it Fred Thompson plans on drop-kicking a paraplegic down a flight of stairs.

McCain and Giuliani Say Terrible Things to a Medical Marijuana Patient

Via MPP, battle lines are being drawn on the campaign trail over medical marijuana. Linda Macia of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana suffers from nerve damage, fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy and degenerative arthritis. She's allergic to other medications and has only found relief through medical marijuana.

You'd think that anyone hoping to become president would show some compassion for this unfortunate woman, but alas…

Notice how McCain turns his back to her the moment she utters the phrase "medical marijuana." Words could not better describe his position. McCain goes on to claim he's seen no documentation of medical marijuana's effectiveness, even though Granite Staters' Stuart Cooper had personally presented him with sound scientific evidence.

Will she have better luck with Rudy Giuliani? Let's see…

Ouch. Giuliani struggles when she explains that she's allergic to the "other medications" he recommends. He also claims not to have lobbied on behalf of OxyContin, which I guess depends on your definition of "lobbying."

Sometimes we don't get the answers we want. That's what happens when you look to the drug war for answers. But at least we're asking the right questions, and asking them often. Perhaps next time we should ask if they've seen the polling on medical marijuana. Maybe that will get their attention.

PS: Also watch McCain insult a New Hampshire student who asks him about medical marijuana, then apologize to him.
United States

Franklin Pierce University Forced by Local Police to Help Bust its Own Students

Posted in:

Drug war lunacy has taken hold in Rindge, NH and it isn't pretty. A new policy of notifying local police about suspected drug use on campus has disrupted the school's educational mission and provoked widespread alarm among students.

After discovering a marijuana grinder during a routine maintenance check, campus security called police to investigate. Police then locked students out of their residence for 26 hours while obtaining a search warrant. This video made by Franklin Pierce SSDP members shows how several students were denied access to all of their possessions, including their school work, for a full day so that one of them could be investigated for drug paraphernalia:

If this sounds like a typical college campus misconduct case, it's not. Sources familiar with the situation have informed me that Rindge Police threatened campus security themselves with arrest if they didn't start sacrificing students to the local drug war. It's like saying, "We know people smoke pot on campus. Help us bust them, or we'll bust you."

It's hard to understand what could motivate this type of law-enforcement. Small-town police departments with less to occupy their time are frequently prone to drug war excesses. College town culture clashes are nothing new either. But the sheer audacity of all this is stunning, and it raises important questions about whether this police department understands its proper role in the community.

Beyond that, it highlights how quickly the war on drugs can become a war on education itself. Throughout the nation, students bear the stigma of presumed drug involvement and are targeted, not just by law-enforcement, but by federal law that removes young people from school for petty offenses. The behavior of police at Franklin Pierce University is symptomatic of the corrupted drug war mentality that we must investigate and destroy our young people if necessary in order to discourage drug use.

This is not a war which seeks to protect and uplift America's youth. It is many things, but it is so clearly not that.

United States

Drug War to Figure Prominently in Sen. Webb's Incarceration Hearing Tomorrow -- Available by Webcast

The state of Virginia has not traditionally been in the vanguard of criminal justice reform -- maybe the other way around -- but it does have some political figures who are enlightened on such issues. Rep. Bobby Scott of Richmond is one who has played a leading role in fighting this good fight for many years. Now, Virginia has Sen. Jim Webb. Last March we reported on remarks he had made on ABC about how mass incarceration is tearing the country apart and those are the kinds of issues he wants to work on. He's coming through. Tomorrow is Webb's first public hearing on the issue, "Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?" At the time of this writing, it is the top news link and prominently displayed on Webb's Senate home page. Follow the links from there and you'll find a lot of the things we've been saying for years, about incarceration in general and the drug war in particular. We've heard that at least one of the speakers is going to call for an end to the drug war. The venue where this is taking place is the Joint Economic Committee, comprised of members of both the Senate and House. New York's Chuck Schumer is the top Democrat on the committee, an influential figure in criminal justice policy. It's hard to tell in advance, but this feels like it could be a significant turning point, even if like most hearings it is likely to be a quiet one. Click here from 10:00am onward tomorrow morning to watch it live, or afterward for a video archive.
Washington, DC
United States

John McCain is Sick of Being Asked About Medical Marijuana

SSDP activist Jon Perri just nailed John McCain over his opposition to medical marijuana. McCain is noticably frustrated about being forced to repeatedly explain his lack of compassion for patients. He belittles Perri, only to subsequently apologize for doing so.

Note how McCain emphasizes his opposition to medical marijuana, but still claims he would not arrest patients. That's sort of the point of the question, Senator.

Cheers to Jon Perri for asking the question smartly and maintaining his composure despite McCain's interruptions. At this pace, one wonders if the Senator will have a complete meltdown the next time this question is asked of him.

United States

Obama Comes Out Against Mandatory Minimums

It's about time. We've been concerned about Obama's perspective on drug policy, but it looks like he's coming around:

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) outlined his civil rights platform Friday, saying that if elected president, he would target racial disparities in the U.S. justice system through a host of measures, including relaxing drug sentencing laws.

"We have a system that locks away too many young, first-time, non-violent offenders for the better part of their lives - a decision that's made not by a judge in a courtroom, but all to often by politicians in Washington and state capitals around the country," Obama said. [AHN]

Obama also pledged to address the crack/powder sentencing disparity, which he's sounded reluctant to do previously.

How could anyone disagree with him? Sentencing reform has become standard fair for the democratic candidates, and I've yet to hear the republicans dispute it. Maybe, just maybe, this one issue can escape the icy death grip of partisan politics. Maybe we can all just agree to stop treating petty drug offenders like murderers and rapists. Can we give this a try? Please?

(This blog post was published by'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.)
United States

Does Partnership for a Drug Free America Oppose Random Student Drug Testing?

Posted in:

As the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) parades around the nation promoting random student drug testing in schools, one of its biggest allies has remained conspicuously silent on this controversial issue. The Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) has been the loudest "anti-drug" voice in America ever since its famous 1987 "This is your brain on drugs" ad and currently produces ad spots for ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

Yet despite extensive cooperation between the two organizations, PDFA appears not to have bought into ONDCP's hype surrounding random student drug testing. PDFA Parental Advisory Board Member Judith Kirkwood has vocally condemned the practice in the press and on her blog, calling it ineffective and invasive. Meanwhile, the PDFA website, which provides extensive "anti-drug" resources for families, only recommends drug testing at the discretion of parents, with suspicion of drug use, and under medical supervision.

For clarification, we contacted PDFA to verify the organization's stance on student drug testing. Surprisingly, their media contact was initially unprepared to address the issue. We eventually heard back from PDFA Deputy Director of Public Affairs Josie Feliz, who acknowledged that "We stay away from that a little bit. It's an individual decision for parents to make." Finally, when pressed, she said, "We don't have policy one way or the other on this."

Of course, saying drug testing is "an individual decision for parents to make," certainly sounds like a policy statement, and one which contrasts sharply with that of ONDCP. The Drug Czar has aggressively touted random student drug testing as a central tool in the effort to reduce drug use among youth. Indeed, his goal is without a doubt to collect urine from as many students as possible with minimal supervision and no individualized suspicion of drug use.

We can only guess why it might be that PDFA does not advocate random student drug testing, but possibilities abound:

*Tests frequently return inaccurate results.
*Numerous studies show testing does not reduce drug use.
*Testing treats innocent students as drug suspects.
*Testing encourages use of less-detectible/more dangerous drugs.
*Tests are easily obscured by cheating.
*Testing requirements discourage participation in extra-curricular activities.
*Testing requires school administrators to look at students' genitals while they urinate.
*Testing takes money away from programs that actually work.
*Testing distracts students and teachers from educational priorities.

Whatever their concerns may be, PDFA's unwillingness to promote random student drug testing is the correct position to take. It is unlikely that they would part ways with their colleagues at ONDCP -- undoubtedly a politically uncomfortable situation for them -- if they were not convinced that random student drug testing is the wrong answer in the fight to reduce youth drug abuse. All of this is symbolic of the growing consensus among physicians, addiction specialists, educators, parents, and students that these programs are severely misguided.

United States

Record Marijuana Seizures Mean There's More Pot, Not Less

The Drug Czar's blog once again demonstrates a remarkable misunderstanding of how drug enforcement works. Or they're just pretending not to understand:

Pot Seizures Way Up in Oregon

More bad news for Mexican drug cartels:

"Harvest season this year has law enforcement scrambling to deal with the largest crop of marijuana in Oregon history.

From counties long known for illegal foliage to those where marijuana is rare, narcotics agents say they are tracking and hacking an unprecedented number of plants in remote and rugged rural areas.

By mid-September, they had seized about 220,000 plants statewide, nearly a 100 percent jump from last year's haul of about 120,000 plants. Almost all of the crops, DEA officials say, are grown by Mexican drug cartels expanding their California operations." [Oregonian]

Government anti-drug officials, of all people, should understand that high seizures mean there's just lots of marijuana to be found. The article even says it's "the largest crop of marijuana in Oregon history." This isn't bad news for Mexican drug cartels, it's bad news for the 20-year-old federally-funded marijuana eradication effort that hasn't accomplished anything. The problem is just getting worse.

What could be more dishonest than pretending that a record crop is good news for marijuana eradication? That is just like saying that record forest fires are good news because we're putting out more fires than ever before.

As usual, the DEA eagerly claims that "almost all of the crops" are grown by Mexican drug cartels, as though white people in Oregon want nothing to do with marijuana cultivation. Um, have you seen those people? Seriously, I've met lots of white people from Oregon, and I swear half of them were just waiting for me to stop talking so they could go water their pot plants in the woods.

And, as I've explained previously, no one ever gets caught planting pot in the woods anyway, so how could police possibly know who's doing it? They have no clue, and it's precisely because no one ever gets caught growing pot in the woods that more and more people are planting more and more pot in the woods. How long must all of this go on before the Drug Czar's office stops citing it as evidence of the effectiveness of marijuana eradication?

United States

The Drug War Costs Each Taxpayer $530 a Year

Posted in:

Big numbers are hard to fathom for most people, and the confusion they create helps to undermine people’s understanding of the impact that the failed Drug War has on one’s or a hard-working family’s bottom line. Your share of this century-long war is costing you dearly.

Have you ever thought about the fact that the feds and states combined have spent over 1 trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) on the failed policy of drug prohibition, and that we spend about $69 billion a year on the Drug War while not taxing the $100+ billion Americans spend on drugs annually? With about 130 million taxpayers in the US, that breaks down to a cost of $530 a year per taxpayer. Then there's the tens of billions in additional tax proceeds we’re not collecting that could be funding, well, geeez, I don’t coverage for millions of uninsured children, safer borders and streets, Social Security, better schools, etc.

Yes, that’s right, you could be paying less in taxes at the same time that current or desired programs are more robustly funded. Drug prohibition is a textbook double whammy. Check out Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws by Jon Gettman – it will show you the US is missing out on $30 billion in taxes just on marijuana alone. We sure could fend off some budget crises with that kind of money. In California, producers and distributors of marijuana are trying to help, they just recently offered Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at least $1 billion a year in new tax revenue.

What would you rather spend your money on -- your mortgage, your children’s education, a new car? Had you had that money to buy Google stock, I bet you’d be quite happy. Over the last ten years, I’d have paid more than $5,000 of my federal student financial aid loans, and improved my credit ranking in the process. Plus, the extra taxes from drugs would have helped insure my retirement future and made my community stronger at the same time.

While we are faced with almost $9 trillion in national debt (each person’s share is about $30,000), massive trade deficits, a US dollar falling all over the globe, spending billions a month in Iraq, housing market woes, a pending Social Security crisis, high gas prices, etc., the Drug War keeps sucking our wallets even dryer.

Next time you are asked to pay higher taxes, a little short on money, or realize you’re not as far along in saving for your retirement as you wish, go ahead and thank your politicians who favor drug prohibition over your present and future financial solvency.

United States

Video of Ron Paul Debate Comments Opposing Drug War

Last week we posted some Mike Gravel footage on about drug legalization, and promised to do likewise for Ron Paul if recent links were sent. Fresh from the Republican candidates debate on PBS, Dr. Paul speaks, via YouTube (and Drug WarRant):

Interestingly, he discusses the racial disparity in drug enforcement, not such a popular angle with Republican audiences generally, despite the overwhelmingly evidence about it. Good for him. Now, any Dennis Kucinich anti-drug war footage out there?

United States

Harvard Scientists Build Very Cool Bong

At last, a solution to the problem of not being able to get high during a brain scan:
Smoking during a brain scan is not easy. Why would you want to? Because functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows researchers to observe activity in the brain, and doing so while smoking tobacco or pot could enhance our understanding of addiction and how to treat it.

Displaying skills that would put MacGyver to shame, Frederick constructed a makeshift water pipe inside of a picnic cooler, then ran 2.4 meters of tubing to a plastic facemask that rests inside of the scanner. Since the mask is made from materials that are not magnetic, it will not interfere with the imaging. [Wired]
In college, my friend Derek conducted some remarkably similar research. Lacking an MRI scanner, he simply conducted informal interviews to see how the device affected participants.
To be sure that the contraption can get people high, Lindsey and her associates asked nine volunteers to inhale smoke from a marijuana cigarette with exactly 3.51 percent THC, then checked to see how much of the drug made it into their blood. Using the mask, the subjects got almost as high as if they had puffed on a joint directly. The researchers suggested using stronger weed to achieve more realistic effects.
These people are geniuses. Next they need to build a device to administer nachos during a brain scan. Hypothesis: Scott Morgan will experience feelings of contentment.
United States

Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization? Part II

Yesterday's post failed to address the prevalence of police officers who privately oppose the drug war, but silently uphold it even though they know it's wrong. My argument is quite incomplete without addressing this important phenomenon.

LEAP director Jack Cole has told me that police constantly admit to him in confidence that they agree with LEAP's arguments. Former Seattle Police Chief and LEAP speaker Norm Stamper has also stated that several high-ranking police officials have privately commended his efforts to end the drug war.

How then do we explain the behavior of police who carry out a war they don't believe in? Are they just following orders and collecting their paychecks? Are they fearful that speaking out will compromise their status within a profession they otherwise enjoy? Do they believe the laws are here to stay, so someone has to enforce them? Are some just waiting for their pension to kick in before joining LEAP?

I'm sure all of these factors contribute here, but I suspect that many officers have a more nuanced view of drug enforcement. I once asked a highly-regarded police sergeant what he thought of a controversial teenage curfew law aimed at curbing crime in D.C. "It's a useful tool," he replied, meaning that it gave him the authority to take action against suspicious youths in the absence of other evidence. If he can't prove they're out tagging cars, he can at least stop them and send them home.

Drug laws, particularly marijuana, perform a similar function by granting police the discretion to forgive or destroy individual suspects based solely on their demeanor and the contents of their pockets. Police can ignore the smell of marijuana when dealing with a polite citizen, or fabricate it entirely when they believe someone's hiding something. A law that criminalizes vast portions of the population, justifying detentions, searches and arrests, is a "useful tool" indeed. Officers needn't believe they're winning the war on drugs to find value in the vast authority it bestows upon them.

Wielding inflated drug war powers with the best of intentions may help some officers justify their participation in something they otherwise find distasteful. Of course, none of this justifies the massive collateral damage that occurs in the process, but it might help explain how conscientious people could engage in behavior that shocks the conscience.

United States

Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization?

The superb efforts of our friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition notwithstanding, police generally oppose efforts to reform marijuana laws. Initiatives in Colorado and Nevada were vehemently contested by law-enforcement interests, who claimed that reform would invite crime and undermine community safety. Sheriff Fred Wagner of Park County, CO even tried to link marijuana reform efforts to a recent school shooting.

Intuitively, there's nothing surprising about police lobbying to retain the gratuitous powers granted them by the war on drugs. Yet, as marijuana arrests reach a new record high each year, it becomes increasingly difficult to point towards any societal benefit to these costly attacks on otherwise law-abiding Americans. Because I believe most officers really do want to protect the communities they serve and make a difference, I have often pondered their willful enforcement of, and political support for, a war that endangers communities while failing to a make a difference.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to learn that Joplin, MO Police Chief Lane Roberts has pledged not to oppose a local marijuana decriminalization initiative. Roberts correctly defines his role as defending the constitution rather than opining on what the law ought to be. But he goes on to explain that officers sometimes overreact to policy changes that reduce police authority:
When asked how his officers had reacted to the decriminalization of pot possession in Oregon and in Washington State where he previously headed up departments, Roberts reclined in his office chair and smiled.

"When that law was first passed, most police officers thought that the end of the world as we know it was about to occur," he said. "But, we thought the same thing when the Miranda decision came down." [Joplin Globe]

Miranda is such a wonderful analogy for law-enforcement's knee-jerk assumption that any restriction on police power will invite pure chaos. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona that police must inform criminal suspects of their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before conducting interrogations provoked panic among police. Murderers and rapists would go free, we were told, and crimes of the most despicable nature would become unsolvable.

The result was nothing of the sort. Police simply became more professional. It turned out that the freakiest psycho killers still insisted on confessing their misdeeds, while the rest got taken down through good old-fashioned police work. "You have the right to remain silent…" has become a popular and familiar symbol of due process, and the horror show predicted by law enforcement has been long forgotten.

The point here is that it was the experts, the interrogation specialists themselves, who were so wrong about Miranda. Today, when police speak out against marijuana reform, they are motivated not by experience at all, but rather a fear of the unknown. Indeed, today's officers simply have no real frame of reference for what law-enforcement in a post-drug war America would look like.

I'm optimistic, however, that whatever our friends at LEAP can't explain to their colleagues will ultimately find a way to explain itself. Inevitably, the truth about drug policy reform will become self-evident each and every time it is given the opportunity to do so.

Update: I've posted a follow-up to emphasize the important point that a significant number of police officers actually do realize the drug war isn't working and continue to fight it anyway

United States

Prohibition Causes Violence: Medical Marijuana Murders in California and Colorado

Prohibition-generated violence tragically took the life of a medical marijuana user's immediate family member. According to AP News, Rex Farrance, a 59-year-old senior editor at PC World magazine, was killed last January by burglars attempting to steal marijuana that his son had grown at their home in Pittsburg, California, for medical use. Charged against three men were filed in the case yesterday. February also saw a prohibition-related murder in a medical marijuana situation, when Colorado activist Ken Gorman, who provided marijuana to patients under that state's MedMj law, was also killed in what appears to have been a similarly-motivated robbery. We need legalization NOW, so people won't get killed anymore over drug money or drugs that can be sold for money, and not just of medical use and not just of marijuana. In the meanwhile, if we can help this problem by making medical marijuana legal while we continue to work for full legalization, that's worth doing too. But all of this needless killing caused by drug prohibition is a real shame.
Pittsburg, CA
United States

Missouri Police Chief Promises Not to Oppose Marijuana Decrim Initiative

A pending marijuana decriminalization effort in Joplin, MO revealed the city's police chief to be a pretty decent guy. This is a textbook example of how a professional public servant regards the democratic process:

"Somebody is going to say, 'you're the chief ... you ought to oppose this thing,'" he said. "Somebody else will say 'you are the chief of police and supposed to be protecting our constitutional rights.' My argument is, 'yep ... you are right.'" [Joplin Globe]

It's such a simple concept, yet it is so often abandoned by law enforcement agencies when citizens work to reform marijuana policy. There's something very creepy about police lobbying to protect their own obscene drug war powers, and it's refreshing to hear a veteran police chief speak in defense of democracy.

United States

John Edwards Supports Needle Exchange

As part his new proposed plan to combat AIDS, democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is speaking out in favor of needle exchange:
"And I think we also ought to promote programs that prevent harm and specifically needle exchange, which I support. We ought to get rid of the federal ban on needle exchange." [NPR]

Drug war absolutists have long opposed needle exchange, despite overwhelming evidence that it prevents AIDS and saves lives. It is just amazing that the people in charge of protecting Americans from drugs support policies that spread AIDS and kill people.

Edwards deserves credit for calling out one of our nation's most ill-conceived drug policies. It's a no-brainer for sure, but at least he got it right.

And in the process, John, you may have stumbled upon a nifty device for drafting a superb drug policy platform for your campaign: simply check what the federal policy is on any drug issue and advocate the opposite. You will be correct every time.

Update: At the risk of further emboldening the hysterical Obama fans who freaked out over my last post, and irrationally implied that he's good on drug policy, it's only fair to add that Barack Obama has also spoken in favor of needle exchange. Hillary Clinton, who's otherwise sounded good on drug policy (for a front-runner, anyway) wants to see more proof that it works, which, at this point, is like demanding proof that the sun will rise tomorrow.

(This blog post was published by'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.)
United States

Important Criminal Justice Hearings Coming Up in Senate

I've been hearing about this from one of our members who has a son in prison, and now it's been discussed in the Boston Globe: Sen. Jim Webb is holding hearings on October 4th dealing with the economic impact of incarceration. Webb crossed our radar screen last March when he remarked on George Stephanopoulos' program that mass incarceration is "tearing this country apart." Check out Life Sentence, a column published in the Globe Sunday by Christopher Shea, which uses the hearings as a hook to examine the issue and highlight works by some important scholars. There's a discussion taking place on the comment board too that you can join.
United States

Mike Gravel Talks Drug Legalization on "The Young Turks"

Presidential candidate and former US Senator from Alaska Mike Gravel has continued his calls for legalization of drugs, last week on the Air America Radio and Internet web cast program The Young Turks, which published the story under the title Democratic Presidential Candidate Calls for Legalizing Cocaine. Read the full transcript here, and watch the YouTube video version here below. P.S. If anyone reading this isn't already aware of where we stand on the issue, we think Gravel is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. P.P.S. Ron Paul supporters, I know I'm going to hear from you, so I'll just say right now, let us know when your guy talks about this stuff and we'll post that too.
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School