The Speakeasy Blog

Reuters Admits Flawed Marijuana Reporting

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Given ONDCP's ongoing claims of 20-30 fold increases in marijuana potency, yesterday's announcement that potency has merely doubled feels more like a concession than the latest drug war scare tactic. Yet thanks to lazy reporting, this lukewarm story became the next great threat to public safety.

From Associated Press:
The government estimates that 4.1 million Americans use marijuana. Use by teenagers has declined recently, but federal officials worry that marijuana is being cited more often in emergency room visits.
From Reuters:
The marijuana being sold across the United States is stronger than ever, which could explain a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug, say government drug experts.

Neither story explained the concept of "emergency room mentions" from which these claims were derived. And these two reports were republished in major papers everywhere from Dallas to Sydney.

Importantly, people who mentioned marijuana to doctors weren't in most -- if any -- cases directly injured by it. Upon admission to the emergency room, you're instructed to report any drugs in your system in case they could interfere with your treatment (and it's really not marijuana they're worried about). Patients who mention marijuana include everyone from heroin users to gunshot victims to various people who fell and couldn't get up.

Marijuana is growing in popularity as a medicine, which could also help explain why sick people report having used it.

Fortunately, thanks to incredulous readers, Reuters was forced to clarify:

Lots and lots of readers asked for examples of these emergencies. We updated the story with an explanation which should have been made clear from the start, that medical emergency "means that the patient mentioned using marijuana and does not mean the drug directly caused the accident or condition being treated."

Is it any wonder that readers were confused? Statements such as "marijuana is being cited more often in emergency room visits" or "a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug" clearly imply that marijuana caused or contributed to the patient's hospitalization. That was ONDCP's intention, passed along uncritically by Reuters and AP with the inevitable effect of confusing the public.*

Like many things you read in an ONDCP press release, the statement on emergency room visits was so misleading that it becomes false if you change any of the words. "Mentioned" is simply not the same as "involved." Thus the media reports became more misleading than the press release they were based on, which was pretty bad to begin with.

Even when properly explained, "emergency room mentions" remain a vague and ultimately unhelpful measure upon which to base alarmist claims. ONDCP's reliance on such tenuous, circumstantial evidence speaks to the credibility of their position on marijuana policy in general.

*Reuters made a partial correction, but AP has not. Contact them here.

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ONDCP Admits Exaggerating Marijuana Potency

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Well, that's not exactly how they phrased it. But that's what happened. After years of claiming that marijuana is 25-30 times stronger than it used to be, ONDCP admitted that marijuana potency has merely doubled:

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released the latest analysis from the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project which revealed that levels of THC—the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana—have reached the highest-ever levels since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970's. According to the latest data on marijuana samples analyzed to date, the average amount of THC in seized samples has reached 8.5 percent. This compares to an average of just under 4 percent reported in 1983 and represents more than a doubling in the potency of the drug since that time.

Compare that to John Walters' statement in The San Francisco Chronicle on September 1, 2002:

The THC of today's sinsemilla averages 14 percent and ranges as high as 30 percent.

Even stronger stuff is on the way. The point is that the potency of available marijuana has not merely "doubled," but increased as much as 30 times.

Maybe he thought we wouldn't remember. It's curious that ONDCP and NIDA are so proud to announce that they've been wildly exaggerating marijuana potency for many years. Apparently, they see value in finally legitimizing their claims that pot is getting stronger, even if doing so raises the question of what the hell they've been talking about all this time.

Yet a doubling of marijuana potency hardly compliments the ONDCP's ongoing effort to eradicate the stuff from the planet. Nor does it bear any relationship to the intoxication levels experienced by users, who titrate their doses to achieve the desired effect regardless of potency.

Besides, now that researchers at Harvard have informed us that THC shrinks tumors and likely prevents lung cancer, more of it can only be a good thing.

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Wanna Beat a Drug Test? Switch From Pot to Oxycodone

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Yesterday, I wrote about false positive drug test results, noting that many schools aren't required to confirm positive results and quoting a top expert who believes that more expensive follow-up testing is often not being conducted. Obviously, the potential for innocent students to be accused and stigmatized is profoundly disturbing. Still, the issue of false negatives raises interesting issues as well. From The New Scientist:
Of 710 drug tests performed, 85 gave incorrect results, either because the urine sample was too dilute to interpret properly, or because the test picked up prescription medicines. Meanwhile, routine tests failed to detect the painkiller oxycodone in nearly two-thirds of cases.
So the synthetic opioids driving America's growing problem with prescription abuse among young people are remarkably difficult to detect through the exact urine testing programs ONDCP is pitching as a solution to the problem of youth drug abuse.

As marijuana remains the easiest drug to detect, is it any wonder that kids are turning to dangerous synthetic opioids that are undetectable 2/3 thirds of the time? We've always understood that more dangerous drugs leave the body faster, but oxycodone usually fails to show up even when it's still in your system.

Thus the ONDCP's argument that drug testing 'identifies use before it becomes a huge problem' is fundamentally incompatible with what these tests actually do. Given the ease with which one can avoid detection of all drugs other than marijuana, only students with severe addiction problems are likely to be identified. And if their problem is oxycodone, they'll often evade detection altogether.

So student drug testing is more likely to increase prescription drug abuse than prevent it. But before we accuse ONDCP of having its head up its ass yet again, check out their awesome life-saving guide on how to dispose of valuable unused prescriptions by mixing them with kitty litter.

If only more people disposed of their drugs instead of snorting them, we'd be out of the dark forest of hopelessness and instead skipping merrily through the lush meadows of healthiness and well-being. Surely, there's nothing more euphoric than being completely sober, even if it requires frequent urine inspections to keep you that way.
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Review of Lies, Damned Lies and Drug War Statistics by Matt B. Robinson and Renee G. Scherlen (SUNY Press, 2007).

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(Click here to read about DRCNet's book offer for members.) Reviewed by Randall G. Shelden, UNLV Looking back on my career and what I have learned there is a rather consistent theme in my thinking and writing about the subject of crime and justice. It might go something like this: we have a system in place that has a vested interest in keeping crime (including drug use) at a certain level. All sorts of careers and a lot of money (literally tens of billions of dollars each year) are dependent upon a steady supply of offenders - even if they have to pass new laws creating new categories of offenders (this especially applies to drugs). This is why many have used such terms like "crime control industry" or "criminal justice industrial complex." Agencies within this complex can sort of "have their cake and eat it too" in that they can have it both ways: when what they do is clearly failing they can merely claim that the problem still exists and they need to continuing doing the same thing (with more money of course). Obviously when things are going well they can take responsibility. This is the pattern with local police departments and in fact the entire system, namely that when crime is down they take credit because of some program in place; however, when crime goes up, they can shift responsibility to all sorts of variables. Favorites include a growing population in their jurisdiction (which is not usually that relevant), a growing youth or "crime risk" population (again, not that critical), "broken" or "dysfunctional" families and, two of my favorites, "outside influences" (e.g., gangs moving) or "liberal programs." Another way of putting this is that, as Jeff Reiman has observed, nothing succeeds like failure! A friend once told me something he learned when studying for his MBA. It is called "optimal starting and stopping points." What this means is that in order to bolster your argument or to make a case that what you are doing is working you pick out a time period that best represents your success and avoid time periods that do not. So it has been with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Matt Robinson and Renee Scherlen do an exceptional job of showing exactly this in Damned Lies and Drug War Statistics. They do this by critically examining six years (2000-2006) of the National Drug Control Strategy. They read through each and every annual report, looking especially for both accurate and inaccurate use of statistics and evidence of honesty and dishonesty in each report. They examined each and every claim made by ONDCP and evaluated ONDCP's stated goals (e.g., reducing drug use and drug availability). What they found for each year, almost without exception, was an almost total misuse of some very simple statistics (e.g., from various annual drug surveys, such as NHSDA, ADAM, MTF). They discovered that in many instances ONDCP employed the "optimal starting and stopping points." For instance, Robinson and Scherlen found that for the 2000 strategy report ONDCP uses a baseline of 1985 that shows a decline in drug use from that year to 1999. Yet the ONDCP was not started until 1988 and the largest drop in drug use was between 1985 and 1988, with the rate remaining steady for the rest of the decade. Other reports use 1979 as a starting point (the peak of drug use). On another occasion the ONDCP claims to prove that George Bush's goal during his 2002 "State of the Union speech of a 10% reduction of drug use by youth within two years was met, but uses a time period that started one year prior to Bush's speech! The authors also found numerous instances where they cite declines in youth drug use during a certain period, but ignore the fact that drug use was increasing among adults. In some cases the ONDCP reproduces a chart that clearly shows drug use increasing, but fail to comment on this rather obvious evidence of failure. On the other hand, on some occasions the ONDCP readily admits "disturbing trends" such as the fact that throughout the decade of the 1990s drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders (Monitoring the Future) is "close to record highs." Yet in this case, the ONDCP sort of ignores such an obvious failure and instead uses this as evidence of a need to get tougher in the war on drugs! Nothing succeeds like failure! Robinson and Scherlen note that ONDCP tends to "celebrate declines even when they are short-term or occurred a decade ago, and downplay increases unless they are being used to create alarm" (p. 66). More examples like this are presented throughout this book. Perhaps more importantly, even when there are some decreases in drug use, ONDCP fails to provide any evidence that this is because of what they did. Moreover, like I said above concerning police departments, Robinson and Scherlen note that "ONDCP only takes credit when drug use trends decline, but takes no responsibility when drug use trends increase" (p. 68). One of the most important chapters in this book is chapters 5 and 6 where they examine ONDCP's claims of success in "healing America's drug users and disrupting drug markets" and claims concerning the costs of the drug war. In these two chapters Robinson and Scherlen also critically examine ONDCP claims about the nature of the drug problem itself. First, ONDCP fails to differentiate between drug use and drug abuse and instead claims that "Drug use promises one thing but delivers something else – something sad and debilitating for users, their families, and their communities. The deception can be masked for some time, and it is during this time that the habit is 'carried' by users to other vulnerable young people." This is an outlandish claim totally lacking empirical foundation. As Robinson and Scherlen correctly note, drug use does not lead to such outcomes and in fact the majority of youths who use drugs do so only a few times and quit completely in their early 20s (p. 96). Such a conclusion is a general consensus by drug experts – obviously a group ONDCP fails to consult! ONDCP also claims that drug testing is effective, yet can cite only anecdotal evidence (such as a statement by one woman based upon a one conversation with a grocery bagger – see p. 102) and ignore comprehensive studies that find that it clearly does not work (e.g., as cited on the Monitoring the Future web site). This is called "confirmation bias" – selecting evidence that supports your position while ignoring contrary evidence. The ONDCP clearly has failed to disrupt drug markets and there has been a steady decline in the price of illegal drugs, as Robinson and Scherlen clearly show with charts taken from ONDCP's report. Yes, you read this correctly: ONDCP reproduces charts that show prices falling yet fail to make any statement that suggests that their goal of raising prices by disrupting drug markets is not working! This is one of the best points about the Robinson and Scherlen book in that they use readily available data – some reproduced by ONDCP – which clearly contradict ONDCP's claims! Robinson and Scherlen also examined claims about the costs of drugs and the drug war. Once again, they demonstrate that ONDCP misuses statistics. Here the authors show that the bulk of the costs of drugs stems from the drug war itself and the fact that some drugs have been criminalized. I could go on and on with more examples. Suffice it to say that Robinson and Scherlen have provided a thorough critique of the claims made by those in charge of the drug war. This book will no doubt prove to be a valuable resource for those trying to make sense of a war that has created so much havoc within our society. Incidentally, the first two chapters provide the reader with an excellent overview on the how the drug war came to be, including a brief history of anti-drug legislation. For those not familiar with this history, these chapters will provide much needed information to fill this gap. Read it, learn from it, use it. Randall G. Shelden is Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he has been a faculty member since 1977. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice (3rd edition), with Meda Chesney-Lind (which received the Hindelang Award for outstanding contribution to Criminology in 1992); Youth Gangs in American Society (3rd ed.), with Sharon Tracy and William B. Brown (both with Wadsworth); Controlling the Dangerous Classes: A History of Criminal Justice (2nd forthcoming, Allyn and Bacon); Criminal Justice in America: A Critical View, with William B. Brown (a revised edition of this book is forthcoming with Waveland Press). His most recent book is Delinquency and Juvenile Justice in American Society (Waveland Press). His web site is: (Click here to read about DRCNet's book offer for members.)
United States

False Positives: The Dark Secret of the Drug Testing Regime

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The New Scientist has an excellent story on student drug testing which reveals, among other things, that the stupid tests don't even work:

What's more, such tests can flag kids who are "clean" and miss genuine users. A study led by [director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Children's Hospital Boston, Sharon] Levy and published this month in Pediatrics (DOI: 01.1542/peds.2006-2278) examined recent drug tests of teenagers being treated for substance abuse. Of 710 drug tests performed, 85 gave incorrect results, either because the urine sample was too dilute to interpret properly, or because the test picked up prescription medicines.

"Drug tests can be very difficult to understand and interpret," says Levy. "There are lots of circumstances under which a kid could be using drugs and not test positive or have a positive test when they are not using drugs."

The tests were wrong 11.9% of the time. That's unbelievable. If 12 students out of 100 are getting bogus results, these tests aren't even close to being useful. And while follow-up tests can sometimes set things straight, consider this:

While the rules for federally funded testing say positive results must be checked by an approved lab, no such rules exist for the approximately 500 schools that are testing without federal grants. "Confirmatory testing adds a lot of cost. I don't think most schools are doing it." Levy says.

So the tests are wrong with frightening regularity, yet many schools don’t even have procedures for following up on positive results. That doesn't mean they aren't doing it, but it certainly raises doubts. Here's just one example of how a false positive test can destroy a student's relationship with their school.

As reformers, I believe we've been remiss in failing to emphasize false positives as a primary argument against student drug testing. It may prove difficult to establish the frequency with which they occur, but one is too many and the victims are highly sympathetic. When innocent non-users are accused and subjected to the stigma of drug use erroneously, all perceived values of the program are cast into doubt. This is an argument that might catch the attention of "clean" kids and proud parents who think they've got nothing to lose here.

Funny Side-note: SSDP's Tom Angell once urine tested himself for fun. Tom's reputation for partying is rather undistinguished, so we were certain he'd come up negative across the board. Instead, he came up positive for amphetamines and barbiturates (isn't that what killed Elvis?).

It was amusing that the test was so completely wrong the first time we ever tried it. But then we got chills thinking about families being torn apart by these fraudulent products. Come to think of it, there's nothing at all funny about any of this.


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Charges Dismissed Against Loretta Nall; Happy 4/20 To All of Y'all!

Alabama housewife turned activist Loretta Nall is out from under the long arm of the law, with the marijuana charges against her dropped as Cannabis Nation celebrates its unofficial national holiday, 4/20. She was arrested over an alleged roach after a pro-marijuana legalization letter she wrote to the Birmingham News prompted police and officials at her daughter's school to improperly interrogate the young child. The letter and the child's statements were the basis of the search warrant that led to her arrest. She was convicted in district court in 2004 of two misdemeanor counts and given a 30-day suspended sentence. But, activist that she has become, she appealed the conviction and sought to get the evidence from the search thrown out. Today, the judge ruled that prosecutors did not respond to Nall's motion, granted her motion, and suppressed the evidence. Prosecutors responded that without the evidence the case could not continue, and the judge then dismissed the charges. After her arrest, Nall blossomed as a marijuana reform activist, founding the US Marijuana Party, doing countless appearances and interviews, writing letters to the editor, and running for governor of Alabama under the Libertarian Party banner in 2006. Now, with the order of dismissal in her hand as of this afternoon,(and posted on her blog, Nall is in a justifiably exuberant mood:
I am exquisitely pleased to announce that on April 17, 2007 my attorney informed me that the DA's office in Tallapoosa County *UNCONDITIONALLY SURRENDERED* to *ME* and will be formally withdrawing charges against me by the end of this week in the case that has dragged on for five years. Guess what that means friends and neighbors? Hidday Ho, just guess what that means! And, in the ultimate irony for the prosecution, it was finalized today on 4/20 Tallapoosa County authorities must rue the day they went after the fiery mom five years ago because while they may be done with her, she isn’t done with them. The righteous reefer wrath below suggests Nall wants justice—and she wants heads on a pike:
So, here is the beginnings of my list of demands. I want a federal investigation into the Tallapoosa County DA's office, the Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Office, the Alexander City Police Department and into Judge Kim Taylor's office. I want to know how many people are in jail on bullshit charges like mine. I know that I cannot be the only one. I want the Alabama Bar Association to investigate the complaints I am in the process of filing against the DA and Deputy DA of Tallapoosa County. I'd like both E. Paul Jones and Damon Lewis's license to practice law hanging on my wall. I want them arrested, prosecuted and jailed. I have to "make an example out of them" and "send a strong message" that there will be "zero tolerance" for this kind of prosecutorial misconduct. I want [teacher] Beth Shaw charged for conspiring with the school resource officer, Eric McCain, to have me jailed, for inviting DHR workers and police officers to interrogate my children without counsel and other unbiased adults present REPEATEDLY, for filing a malicious complaint with DHR that I was starving my children, for going outside the school and telling personal friends that I was starving my children, for having a box of food with "Bell's Special Snack" written on it under her desk that she only allowed Bell to eat from, for turning notes I sent to the school about my children over to police, for making school a hostile environment for my children and for allowing my five-year-old baby to be humiliated in front of her peers. I want Beth Shaw's license to teach hanging on my wall next to the DA's law licenses. I want her house, cars and retirement account. I want her fired and barred from ever working with children ever again. That bitch needs to suffer. I want Eric McCain charged for using a letter to the editor as a way to question my daughter at school without counsel or another unbiased adult present, for conspiring with Beth Shaw to have me jailed on bogus charges, for humiliating my 5-year-old baby in front of her class, for LYING on the witness stand UNDER OATH. For fabricating this whole damn case because my letter to the editor was not in line with his views on marijuana. I want Eric McCain's badge to hang on my wall next to Beth Shaw's teaching certificate and the DA's' law licenses. If he has one of those nifty cop hats, then I want that, too. I want him barred from ever working as a police officer and from working with children ever again. And, I want him sterilized, because it is never a good idea to allow vermin to breed. I'd like them all jailed. I want pictures.
Go get 'em, Loretta! It's time for some reefer justice; in fact, it's long past time. When do we get our drug war Nuremburg? I tried calling Loretta this afternoon, but it's already past 4:20 in Alabama, so I' m assuming she is celebrating in the appropriate manner. Damn, it's just past 4:20 here now. Gotta go.
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I'll Have A Porous Border With "Cheese" Please

Bryan Preston at Michelle Malkin's mega-blog Hot Air is very upset about the "cheese" epidemic that's killing kids in Texas. Preston's no rabid drug warrior, rather he falls into the growing camp of frustrated observers who reject legalization but acknowledge that drug-freedom is not exactly on the march.

Here's his depressing conclusion, including my own optimistic reactions:
All around, it’s an awful story. Drug cartels will always stay a step or two ahead of law enforcement. Legalization really won’t work.
It worked against the alcohol cartels in Chicago. They were always "a step or two ahead" until their livelihood was transferred to private business owners. Poisonings from rancid bathtub gin went away too, as did violent turf wars. It was glorious.
Unless we find a way to license every weed patch, meth lab, crack house and "cheese" shop in every country in the hemisphere and enforce the relevant regulations, the drug networks will always find a way to operate outside the law.
Black markets for legal products are tiny and very rare. People buy their beer at the store, not from an alcoholic in an alley. Have some faith in capitalism, man.
Legalize one drug, they’ll just invent another one or mix a couple of current ones for a whole new buzz, and then they’ll sell it to kids no matter what age restrictions we try to slap on.
The current market couldn't be better designed to maximize dangerous merchandise and unrestricted youth access. We have everything to gain in these areas and nothing to lose. Recall that the whole premise of this story is that a new drug cocktail is killing young people.
They’re criminals, and that’s just what criminals do. Our lax border laws aid and abet these criminals in preying on yet another generation, and the media and political elites just paper over the inconvenient particulars. It’s a shame and a disgrace.
Yes, there's plenty of shame disgrace to go around. Criminals take over any profit-making opportunity left available to them, but drugs are far too valuable and dangerous to leave in crooked hands. As for the border, it's the drug war that incentivizes traffickers to cut holes in the fence. It's also black market corruption that fosters political turmoil throughout Central and South America. This is a big reason people are fleeing Mexico in the first place.

Bryan Preston, you hate the solution we propose. I know you do. But do you prefer things the way they are now? The dead youth? The turf wars? The porous border? The wasted billions?

Isn't it time to try something completely different?
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Cannabis Doesn't Cause Cancer, But It Might Cure It

When a NIDA funded study last May revealed no link between lung cancer and lifetime marijuana smoking, important questions were raised. We know that marijuana smoke contains carcinogenic compounds, thus NIDA's findings seemed to suggest that marijuana smoke somehow protects the user from its own inherently carcinogenic properties.

Via, new research offers more insight into this fascinating revelation and brings us closer to the conclusion we've long suspected: cannabis just might cure cancer.
Harvard University researchers have found that, in both laboratory and mouse studies, delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cuts tumor growth in half in common lung cancer while impeding the cancer's ability to spread.

The compound "seems to have a suppressive effect on certain lines of cancer cells," explained Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

According to the researchers, THC fights lung cancer by curbing epidermal growth factor (EGF), a molecule that promotes the growth and spread of particularly aggressive non-small cell lung cancers.
I once witnessed Andrea Barthwell get stumped at an ONDCP press conference when someone asked her to cite a reference for her claim that marijuana caused lung cancer. That was funny, but this much funnier.

Evidence that marijuana doesn't cause lung cancer has long consisted of the observation that marijuana smokers don't get cancer. But now you can google "marijuana+lung+cancer" and discover a list of excellent references refuting this old favorite of the prohibitionist camp. Heck, I can't even find it on the ONDCP's website anymore.

Still, it's generally been assumed that the failure of marijuana smokers to contract lung cancer was attributable to their reduced consumption compared to that of cigarette smokers. That THC actually suppresses cancerous cells is a far more exciting and promising explanation. This suggests, among other things, that administering THC to one's lungs though non-smoking methods just might be remarkably good for you.

With each passing year, the controversy surrounding medical marijuana becomes less of a debate and more of a referendum on the blind idiocy of the liars and quacks who've portrayed it as anything other than a miracle drug.

If marijuana proves capable of curing cancer, will these people finally shut up?

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Losing Your Job: Another Thing For MMJ Patients to Worry About

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This might be the greatest intro ever to a major media story on marijuana. From USA Today:
On a typical weekday, stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld has a marijuana cigarette before work, then goes to his firm's smoking area for another after he gets to the office. By day's end, he usually has smoked more than a half-dozen joints — and handled millions of dollars' in clients' holdings.

His firm, Newbridge Securities, supports his use of marijuana and says it hasn't hurt his performance.
In so many ways, the mere existence of Irv Rosenfeld demonstrates the fundamental wrongness of typical anti-marijuana rhetoric. That he receives his medicine directly from the federal government proves that they've always known the truth, despite subsequently pretending not to. His success demonstrates that marijuana, even in large doses, can be part of a healthy and productive lifestyle.

Of course, Irv is one of a shrinking handful of federally approved medical marijuana patients. The security he enjoys is highly anomalous:
None of the states with medical marijuana laws requires employers to make accommodations for the use of the drug in the workplace, says Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Yet, there are legal gray areas for companies, say employment lawyers such as Richard Meneghello of Portland, Ore., who does seminars for companies on the topic.

Meanwhile, there are questions about whether medical marijuana laws would offer any protection to employers if a worker who used marijuana to treat pain ended up injuring others or making a mistake on the job. It's unclear whether such an incident has occurred.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California for 10 years and it's "unclear" whether an incident has occurred. I think that says it all. Come what may, the truth will always be that competency is best determined by conventional means and not through urinalysis.

Unfortunately, the problem goes beyond that of competent employees establishing the trust of sympathetic employers:
Scott Seidman, a Portland lawyer who represented Columbia [a company sued for firing an MMJ patient], says the company had to maintain its drug-free workplace policy because it is a federal contractor.
Once again, the federal prohibition against medical marijuana is central to the problem. Unless, of course, you're one of the few people who receive medical marijuana in the mail each month from the same government that says there's no such thing.

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Punk Rocker's Drug Test a False Positive -- But Charges Still Pending

Dr. Bronner's sent out this follow-up press release earlier today: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Adam Eidinger April 17, 2007 Breaking News! Orange County Crime Lab Test Shows Dr. Bronner's Soap Clean of GHB or Any Other Drug Germs' Drummer Don Bolles Wrongly Imprisoned; Police Field Drug Test Kits Faulty ESCONDIDO, CA – The Bronner family, makers of the popular organic Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, has learned that the confirmation drug-testing at the Orange County crime lab of soap taken from Don Bolles does not contain GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). The crime lab's confirmation tests use the GC-MS method which is much more accurate than the field drug test kits used by the Newport Beach Police, which on April 4th produced a false-positive for GHB for Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. Based on this flawed faulty field test, Newport Beach police threw Don Bolles, drummer for the legendary punk band The Germs, in jail for three and half days over Easter weekend. Media reports that Dr. Bronner's soaps test positive for THC are also false. Bruce Margolin, attorney for Jimmy Michael Giorsetti who goes by the stage name Don Bolles, was told Friday by the Orange County DA that Mr. Bolles' soap tested negative for drugs. "Mr. Bolles' charges of felony drug possession charges have been proven false," said David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "It's shocking that the DA's office is sitting on the lab results on the soap and hasn't dropped the charges already. Mr. Bolles has always been innocent in this case, but as long as these charges are pending he may not get a passport to travel out of the country to perform and is in major legal jeopardy," said Bronner who appeared in court last Friday to support Mr. Bolles. The next court appearance for Mr. Bolles is May 18, 2007. "Don and our soaps shouldn't have to wait a month to clear this up," says Bronner. "Our customers need to know now this whole soap opera is a mistake by police who tormented an innocent 50 year old man with jail. We purchased the same NarcoPouch® 928 GHB field test made by ODV, Inc. that was used by the police, and ran tests on our soaps. We confirmed that the test is useless when used on soap since every test came back positive. We also tested other common brands of soap including Johnson & Johnson's popular Neutrogena brand, as well as Colgate-Palmolive's popular Tom's of Maine brand, which gave the same false-positive tests as well. What kind of justice system allows police to use field drug tests that deprive citizens of their God-given liberty, that test positive for something as common as soap? What kind of policies and regulations are in place on police drug-testing practices and products, such that a US citizen can be tossed in the slammer over Easter weekend for possession of soap? Police departments nationwide should immediately stop using the ODV, Inc. field test for GHB as it is not accurate when used on soaps and who knows what other common household products." ODV, Inc is a subsidiary of Armor Holdings, Inc. Mr. Bolles was arrested following a search of his vintage 1968 Dodge A-108 van by the Newport Beach police. During the search they found an 8 oz bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's soap which is made with organic coconut, olive, hemp, peppermint and jojoba oils. The police ignored repeated pleas by Mr. Bolles that the liquid was nothing more than soap. "I've used only Dr. Bronner's soap for 35 years," says Mr. Bolles. "I use it for everything - bathing, washing my hair, washing my clothes - it goes everywhere I go. I'm scheduled to go to Europe to tour with The Germs this summer, but these felony charges could keep me from traveling out of the country." To arrange an interview with Don Bolles or David Bronner please contact Adam Eidinger.
Escondido, CA
United States

Peru's Garcia Seems Determined to Stoke Conflict With Coca Growers

Although the Peruvian government cut a deal with coca growers in San Martin state last month to end a strike, promising a temporary end to forced eradication of coca crops, it has since decided to resume the destruction of crops. Garcia has also vowed loudly to bomb coca crops and maceration pits. It is almost as if he is seeking confrontation with growers. Now he's getting it. Coca growers in Tingo Maria, Aucayacu, and Leoncio Prada announced strikes beginning today. Growers in San Martin's Tocache district are already rumbling over the government's reversal on eradication. And someone has taken more direct action: On Friday, snipers opened fire on an eradication team in Yanajanca, killing one civilian eradicator and wounding five police officers. Garcia is headed for Washington soon for trade talks. Is he attempting to curry favor with the US by taking a tough line on coca and cocaine? And what kind of price in terms of domestic conflict and violence is he willing to pay?

With Friends Like These…

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell says the Dominican Republic is our "most important ally" in the war on drugs. He might be right, but how pathetic is that?

Our biggest ally in the collosal U.S. drug war is a tiny island nation in the Caribbean? I guess it depends what he means by "important," because the Dominican Republic is hardly a glowing example of progress in the international drug war. The fact that it's becoming more important isn't a good thing.

According to the State Department, "in 2006, the DR saw a surge in air smuggling of cocaine out of Venezuela." Google news has several articles on increased drug trafficking activity there. And there might be even more news on drug activity in the Dominican Republic if drug traffickers weren't threatening to burn Dominican journalists alive.

But the Dominican government loves U.S. drug war money, and President Leonel Fernandez accused us of negligence just three weeks ago for not giving him more of it. It's almost like he has an incentive to maintain a baseline of drug activity, while claiming an entitlement to U.S. tax-dollars to combat the problem.

The U.S. and its drug war allies are the most drug-infested nations in the world. "We're almost there!" they exclaim, with self-congratulatory zeal, like lemmings on a glorious march to the clifftop.

Actual progress is possible once we start doing the opposite of most things we've been doing.

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Punk Rocker Jailed -- Over Soap!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Adam Eidinger April 9, 2007

"Germ" Wrongly Jailed Over Soap

Absurd GHB Drug Charges for Don Bolles, Drummer of the "The Germs", Stem From a Bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap Found in Van During Police Stop ESCONDIDO, CA – The Bronner family, makers of the popular organic Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are shocked and disturbed by musician Don Bolles' April 4th arrest for felony drug possession after police alleged an 8oz bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap tested positive for the illicit drug GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). The notion that anyone would put GHB in a rinse-off liquid soap product is beyond belief, and the police field test used must have been flawed or tampered with. GHB, which produces euphoria and is an alleged aphrodisiac when ingested, of course has absolutely no effect in a soap product that is rinsed off the hands and body. Mr. Bolles, drummer of the legendary punk band The Germs, was arrested following a police traffic stop and spent three and half days in various jails in Orange County before being released early Easter morning. During a consented search of Mr. Bolles vintage 1968 A-108 van, Newport Beach police found a bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's soap which is made with organic coconut, olive, hemp, peppermint and jojoba oils. Felony drug possession could mean 20 years in prison if convicted. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2007 at the Harbor Justice Center, 4601 Jamboree Road Newport Beach, CA at 8:30am. "I've used only Dr. Bronner's soap for 35 years," says Mr. Bolles. "I use it for everything - bathing, washing my hair, washing my clothes - it goes everywhere I go. I'm scheduled to go to Europe to tour with The Germs this summer, but these felony charges could keep me from traveling out of the country. This whole thing could be really devastating to a 50 year old guy just trying to make a living. I told the officer 'its soap, it smells like peppermint soap,' but he seemed intent on arresting me." "It is totally outrageous that the police could be this malicious and idiotic," says Michael Bronner, Vice-President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "This clearly is a case of profiling by the Newport Beach police of a person who doesn't look like the people who live in that town. We are paying the cost of Mr. Bolle's lawyer, and we demand the charges be dropped or proof from the police forensics lab of GHB contamination be immediately provided to us," said Bronner. Adds brother David Bronner, President: "We cannot imagine anyone putting GHB, or any other drug for that matter, into a rinse-off soap product that is lathered and rinsed off the body immediately. The Newport Beach police should see how much of a buzz putting beer in their shampoo gives them, and get a grip and apologize on their hands and knees to Mr. Bolles." At the time of the arrest Mr. Bowles was driving his girlfriend, and fellow musician Cat Scandal to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Newport Beach. "I had heard of GHB but the police had to tell me what it was," said Bolles. "I'm going to fight these charges." To arrange an interview with Don Bolles, Michael Bronner or David Bronner please contact Adam Eidinger at [email protected] ###
Newport Beach, CA
United States

"Pot. It mightn't kill you, but it could turn you into a dickhead"

This slogan, in all seriousness, will be appearing in magazines and on bus stops in Australia. I don't know what 'dickhead' means in Australian, but around here it means someone who isn't very nice.

Needless to say, being a dickhead is neither a crime nor a likely result of smoking pot. Ironically, however, writing the word 'dickhead' on a bus stop generally is a crime if done for any purpose other than this one.

Given what we know about the effectiveness of absurd anti-drug ads, I'd guess this campaign is unlikely to cause a decrease in marijuana use, but it might cause an increase in the use of the word 'dickhead.'

In fact, it already has.

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Mouth Makeovers for Meth Moms

Tonight at 10:00, The Tyra Banks Show will be giving makeovers to disfigured recovering meth addicts in a thrilling episode titled "Makeovers for Life: Meth Faces."
Tyra wrote a letter to the ladies, explaining how proud she was of them for kicking their addictions. She revealed they would all receive a life-changing makeover to erase the physical scars of their past. Their first stop was The Ora Dentistry Spa to have their teeth examined and repaired by Dr. Sam Saleh. Next, they visited top skin specialist Dr. Ava Shamban at the Laser Institute for Dermatology and Skin Care to take care of their severe skin damage. Finally, they were sent to the Warren-Tricomi Salon, where they were treated to new hair color and cuts.
I know what you're thinking. Buying a shiny new grill for a meth addict re-enforces their destructive behavior. One might ask how people will learn to stop getting wasted on meth if Tyra Banks is going around getting them dental surgery.

Well according to the Tyra Banks Show, meth chooses you, not the other way around:
From CEO’s to soccer moms, meth has no preference.
I don't know about that, but in fairness to Tyra, her approach to the meth problem makes infinitely more sense than almost anything that's been tried so far.

Next week on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Ty Pennington and the gang will help victims of wrong address SWAT raids re-plaster their walls and replace their slain pets with cuddly new ones.
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Nobody Likes The Drug Czar

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Part 5 of NPR's disappointing series "The Forgotten War on Drugs" takes aim at Drug Czar John Walters:
During the course of research for this series, it became apparent that many prominent players in the war on drugs don't have many compliments for the current drug czar, John Walters.

Though President Bush appointed Walters to be the public face of the war on drugs, some anti-drug activists say he's been the invisible man.
What, is he supposed to go around racially profiling people and asking for consent to search?
Gen. Barry McCaffrey was drug czar from 1996 to 2001. He says, bluntly, that as far as he can tell, there is no federal drug policy at present.
Really? Tell that to the half-million non-violent drug offenders sitting in prison this evening. Yeah, we all miss the good old days when Barry McCaffrey was in charge and America was drug free.
Four members of Congress — all prominent drug warriors — have asked for the drug czar's resignation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) says Walters, even more than his predecessors, manipulates numbers to inflate the Bush administration's successes in drug policy.

"When it comes to statistics, I think it's fair to say they cook the books," Grassley said. "They use whatever statistics fit their public relations program."

The drug czar's office says that Grassley was "badly briefed."
Badly briefed by whom? This is hilarious. But to be fair, the drug czar's office is a "public relations program." ONDCP's resident doctor/scientist David Murray explains:
"My sense would be you're talking to the wrong people," Murray said. "You are talking with people who have a partial and mis-clarified sense of what the office does."
Exactly. ONDCP's purpose is to claim that the drug war works. You've got a better chance of getting stoned on marijuana-flavored lollipops than expecting candor or humility from this organization.  ONDCP is like a weatherman that always predicts sunshine. If you get soaked, it's your own fault for watching the fake weather report.
Of the more than 100 anti-drug professionals across America interviewed for this series — in overseas operations, domestic law enforcement, treatment and prevention — very few share the rhetoric of this drug czar: that we are "winning the drug war."
Are we witnessing the beginnings of a major rift within the drug war establishment? ONDCP's fraudulent routine of claiming progress in the drug war is no longer impressing its core audience. As a result, confused drug war supporters like NPR's Burnett, along with Lou Dobbs and others, have found themselves in the awkward position of articulating the failure of our current policies while simultaneously demanding their expansion.

This is terrible reporting to be sure, but at least the "how to win?" crowd isn't proposing specific policy solutions. Dobbs and Burnett are amplifying the message that the drug war is failing, and turning to ONDCP for answers it can't give.

These frustrated observers might want to begin by learning that it isn't ONDCP's fault the drug war doesn't work. But I'm all for firing John Walters on the off-chance that he bugs out like Michael Douglas in Traffic and admits the whole thing is a sham. That would be grand.

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Pushing Crap: 24 Hours Of ONDCP Blogging Boggles the Brain

At tremendous risk to my sanity, I read ONDCP's blog so you don’t have to. Keep in mind that the following was posted sequentially within a 24 hour period:

First ONDCP criticizes Gov. Bill Richardson for signing New Mexico's medical marijuana law:

Medical Marijuana in New Mexico: A Triumph of Politics Over Science

Next, it reports that prescription drugs now kill almost as many people as murderers:

Report: Prescription Drugs Deaths Nearly Equal Murders

Then it follows up with this:

"Anti-pot Message Needs to be Louder."

The announcement that prescription drugs are killing people at alarming rates is sandwiched between two hysterical posts about medical marijuana. Apparently, it requires massive loss of human life to distract ONDCP even briefly from its frantic campaign against patients with pot.

Meanwhile, murderous FDA-approved medicines are massacring Americans left and right, a fact to which the ONDCP pays lip service before exclaiming, in its very next post, that medical marijuana must really be very dangerous precisely because it hasn't been approved by the FDA.

ONDCP's mantra that FDA-approved medicines are safe and effective and that non-approved medicines are dangerous and unpredictable is exposed as utterly hollow and meaningless right on the front page of its own blog. And they have no clue because the actual human consequences of various medical decisions are the furthest thing from their minds when they write this malicious drivel.

Only by ending the fraudulent campaign against marijuana can the anti-drug movement salvage the credibility necessary to warn people about drugs that can kill you. But they're not ready for that. ONDCP is still busy touting these very same killer drugs as alternatives to medical marijuana. If attempting to comprehend the unintended irony of all this makes you nauseous, you're not alone.
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Drug Czar: Supporting MMJ is Politically Wise, But Don't Do It

New Mexico has officially become the 12th medical marijuana state, prompting reckless viciousness and incredulity from the Drug Czar. From AP:

"This is a triumph of politics over science," [Drug Czar John Walters] said, suggesting [New Mexico Governor Bill] Richardson sought "to curry the favor of wealthy donors who are marijuana legalization advocates."

That's rich. Considering overwhelming public support for medical marijuana, a more accurate political interpretation would assume that Richardson is attempting to "curry the favor" of almost everybody.

As I've said before, there are really only like six people on the "con" side of the medical marijuana debate. Our opposition otherwise consists of confused parents and arrogant moralists who would be panicking about something else if they hadn’t been tricked by these six people (it used to be seven).

If John Walters wants to bark about the political viability of marijuana policy reform, let's buy him a bullhorn.

(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.)


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Drag Racing: The Anti-Drug

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Not to be confused with the superb know-your-rights manual by Katya Komisaruk (reviewed in the latest DWC), Beat The Heat is also a non-profit "Cops and kids" program in which police officers teach children to avoid drugs and alcohol by becoming interested in drag racing:
To help EDUCATE the young people of our communities about the real problems of illegal drug and alcohol use, To EDUCATE everyone to the horrors of alcohol or drug impaired driving, To promote a better understanding between the Police and the communities they serve and, To EDUCATE the general public about DRAG RACING, and encourage everyone to not race in the street.
Yes, these folks are, in all seriousness, offering drag racing as an alternative to risky behavior. Apparently, drug racing is fun for the whole family:
There are many, many women who Drag Race and several of them have advanced even into the VERY elite group of persons who drive the ultimate machine, the Top Fuel Dragster, at 300 Miles Per Hour.

With the advent of NHRA's new JR. DRAG RACING LEAGUE younger fans are now able to participate in Drag Racing at a very early age (8 years old).
8-year-olds, dude. They're letting 8-year-olds drag race in the name of drug and alcohol prevention, which may be the final sign that there's literally nothing you can't justify in the name of protecting kids from drugs. The overwhelming lunacy of it all is best illustrated by the fact that they're putting 8-year-olds behind the wheel of these massive death traps, even though children that young aren't even at risk for drug use.

In case it's actually necessary to explain that drag racing is vastly more dangerous than taking drugs, here's a video of some horrifying, fiery drag race crashes. Among other things, it's quite clear that these machines explode without warning, launching flaming shrapnel in every direction. Simply attending one of these events is arguably more perilous than the responsible use of any illegal drug.

Of course, despite our doubts about whether children should be recklessly endangered for a perverse photo-op, we don't think drag racing should be illegal. But the practice of teaching 8-year-olds to race each other in giant explosive rockets speaks volumes about the credibility of people who claim that marijuana will ruin your life.

United States

Peru's President Looking for Trouble in Coca Lands

Peruvian President Alan Garcia appears determined to spark an open confrontation with the county's hundreds of thousands of coca growers. Two weeks ago, we reported on a coca grower strike in Tocache. That was resolved last week with an agreement to end forced eradication of coca crops there. Now, Garcia has declared that forced eradication will resume and, for good measure, he is threatening to use military force to wipe out the numerous backwoods labs that process coca leaves into cocaine.
Peru, the world's No. 2 cocaine producer, should launch air strikes and machine-gun attacks to destroy jungle drug factories and airstrips used by traffickers, President Alan Garcia said on Monday. Garcia said a day earlier the destruction of coca crops would resume in one of the most-important cocaine-making regions in the South American country. Officials had made a deal with local farmers to halt the eradication. "We've got to finish every last cocaine factory and every last airport. Use the A37 planes, bomb and attack these airports, these cocaine factories with machine guns," Garcia said, directing his comments to the country's interior minister, who is in charge of the police that lead the fight against drugs. Peru is the second-largest producer of cocaine in the world after Colombia. "I'm not willing to be blackmailed ... I'm not going to be a straw doll or puppet of the political fears," said Garcia, who took office in July. According to official figures, Peruvian police raided 718 cocaine factories last year and seized 14.7 tons of partially processed cocaine. They also destroyed more than 25,000 acres of illegal crops of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.
While Garcia appears to be seeking confrontation, his leading rival, Peruvian Nationalist Party leader Ollanta Humala, who came in a close second to Garcia in last year's elections, has a better idea: Buy up the crop. According to Humala, $250 million over four years would buy 90,000 tons of coca leaves, which could be processed into legitimate nutritional and medicinal products, and would provide a window of opportunity for coca farmers to switch to alternative crops. Humala said he is worried about growing social conflict in the coca zones. Garcia, on the other hand, seems determined to exacerbate it.

Thanks Bob Barr, Now Can I Have My Faith in Democracy Back?

Christmas came nine months early with news that former drug-warring Congressman Bob Barr has repented and agreed to work with MPP on medical marijuana. One of our worst enemies has become one of our most promising allies in just a few years time. For me, this is perhaps the single greatest validation I've experienced since joining the drug policy reform movement (even though I had nothing to do with it).

It was November of '98 and I was finally 18. Lacking any significant interest in D.C. politics at the time, I deliberately registered to vote for the sole purpose of helping to pass Initiative 59 to protect Washington D.C.'s medical marijuana patients.

This was my first exposure to drug policy reform in my own community, and my first opportunity to participate in the democratic process. I spent the afternoon hanging out with friends and arrived at the polling site late afternoon in high spirits, eager to do my civic duty. I recall bumping into my dad, who assured me that he'd voted the right way on 59. Go, Dad!

Initiative 59 passed with 69%, making our city the cherry on top of MMJ victories in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

I don't recall fully understanding the issue, but I knew it was the beginning of something important. Proposition 215 in California two years earlier had proven that compassion could triumph over tyranny in a democratic society, even beneath the shadow of the drug war's towering ramparts. I was inspired.

But then came the Barr Amendment to the D.C. Appropriations Bill:

An amendment to prohibit any funds to be used to conduct a ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act or any tetrahydrocannabinois derivative.
The first time I'd participated in the democratic process, the U.S. Congress intervened and overruled me. They also overruled my dad, and pretty much everyone I knew. A lot of people just shrugged it off, as D.C. residents had become accustomed to being marginalized politically. But I'd had my first taste of the hypocrisy of the drug war and the anti-democratic principles in which it is founded.

Many criminal justice courses, conferences, protests, and late paychecks later, the man who took away my voice has admitted he was wrong. Today I feel the righteousness of our cause in my heart. It is a feeling most drug warriors will never know.

Don't Snort The Pink Speed

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If you're not already dead, be warned that drug dealers are lacing meth with candy. According to experts at the DEA, it's obviously a cynical plot to trick children and stupid adults into doing lots of meth. From USA Today:
Reports of candy-flavored methamphetamine are emerging around the nation, stirring concern among police and abuse prevention experts that drug dealers are marketing the drug to younger people.

"Drug traffickers are trying to lure in new customers, no matter what their age, by making the meth seem less dangerous," [DEA Spokesman Steve] Robertson says.
Of course, the truth is that everybody likes sweets. Young people are disproportionately associated with candy because it's one of the only naughty things they're allowed to consume. It's probably also worth noting that children who want sugar won't buy it in an alley for $100 a gram, and that they are also often pumped full of meth derivatives by their doctors with no one complaining except the Scientologists.
"The traffickers know the word is out about what a horrible drug this is," [Deputy Drug Czar Scott] Burns says.

"They are having a tough time selling this product, especially to young people. What do people in marketing do when they have a tough time selling a product? They have to come up with some sort of gimmick."

Wait, what? I thought we were in the middle of a massive, unmanageable meth crisis. Scott Burns is right that meth use is on the decline, but it's annoying that he only brings this up when it suits him. Of course, meth use was going down before the "crisis" was even declared, yet these late-comers wanna take credit for saving America with poignant public service announcements. It wasn't until 2005 that ONDCP figured out meth and marijuana were different drugs. And they continue to mix them up.

Seriously though, it's the users who decide what drugs are in and out. There's no evidence that street-level marketing schemes or ONDCP propaganda make a lick of difference to party people who want the most bang for their buck. They know what they're after. Pink meth exists because people want pink meth, not because they don't want any meth at all.

Drug policy expert Chris Rock explains it best in his classic performance Bring the Pain:

"Drug dealers don't sell drugs. Drugs sell themselves. It's crack. It's not an encyclopedia. It's not a f**king vacuum cleaner. You don't really gotta try to sell crack. Ok?

I've never heard a crack dealer going "Man, how am I gonna get rid of all this crack?!"
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House Judiciary Committee Passes Second Chance Act

[Courtesy of FedCURE,]

Just a week after the re-introduction of the bill, today members of the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1593, the Second Chance Act of 2007. The bill will now be sent to the House floor for consideration, which sponsors say will take place in mid-April. During the mark-up of the bill, members voted down several amendments that would have jeopardized the bipartisan support for the bill.

The Second Chance Act would authorize a $65 million re-entry grant program administered through the Department of Justice for state and county re-entry initiatives, and a $15 million re-entry program for community and faith-based organizations to deliver mentoring and transitional services. The bill also retains a number of drug treatment provisions that were added to the legislation last session. Last week, the Second Chance Act was reintroduced by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Chris Cannon (R-UT) and has a growing list of bipartisan co-sponsors. The Senate plans to reintroduce their version of the bill later this week.

For more information on the Second Chance Act click here or contact Sara Paterni at [email protected].

Washington, DC
United States

Lou Dobbs Sucks Live

I don't have cable, so the only way to catch the latest edition of Lou Dobbs' appalling series "The War Within" was to attend a live filming at George Washington University. The value of actually being there was limited, although it was comforting knowing I could disrupt the live broadcast if I felt I had to.

To be fair, tonight's episode was a bit less offensive than previous installments. The focus was on addiction, and despite periodic outlandish Dobbsisms about "winning the drug war" and so forth, there were many valid concerns raised. Still, for a show that promises "News, Debate, Opinion," Lou Dobbs entirely failed to provide any debate. He brought out recovering addicts and school administrators, but his primary expert guests were Nora Volkow (NIDA), Joseph Califano (CASA), and Terry Klein (SAMHSA). As far as I can tell, these people completely agree on everything from public health policy to pizza toppings.

Having just discovered that the drug war isn't working, Dobbs would do well to consult some of the experts who've been predicting failure for decades. Califano offered the startling statistic that the U.S. has 4% of the world's population, but consumes 2/3 of the world's drugs. It is of course mind-boggling to contemplate how such an observation doesn’t lead to an immediate referendum on the policies that have gotten us here.

Thus, Lou Dobbs has become a curious and increasingly common character in the drug policy discussion. He can see that nothing's changed. He wants to talk about "how to win," yet he insists on having that conversation with people who haven’t had an original idea about drug policy in their wildest dreams. Bizarrely, he interrupts the discussion of treatment to complain that our interdiction efforts are ineffective and under-funded, quickly snuffing out my faint hope that Dobbs' newfound interest in treatment would lead him to question the value of buying more helicopters to chase speedboats across the Gulf of Mexico.

Dobbs' insistence that the drug war is failing stands in stark contrast to recent ONDCP propaganda about how "America's drug problem is getting smaller," thus it's interesting to consider how a John Walters appearance on the "The War Within" would play out. If Walters could get over any potential objections to the premise of the program, he and Dobbs might have a blast plotting how to double our drug war losses.

Lou Dobbs, self-proclaimed champion of the middle-class, seems to think the solution to drug abuse is inside the wallets of American taxpayers. Guess he's got a "war within" going on right up there in his giant, ignorant head.

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STATS is a resource you should know about.

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I want to bring to your attention a great resource for debunking bad science posing as policy analysis. The Statistical Assesment Service (STATS) at George Mason University says its mission is "correcting scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies." And it is very good at what it does. STATS got on my radar again this week with a nice report on the British "skunk" controversy, the dispute in the British press over just how much stronger skunk is than regular weed and whether skunk is causing teens to turn into schizophrenics. "Do Skunk Stats Stink? examines the controversy and the often overheated claims swirling around it. Check it out. The skunk article was written by Trevor Butterworth, but much of the examination of statistical claims related to drug policy is done by Maia Szalavitz, an uncommonly gifted and acute observer of the statistical drug wars. This month, Szalavitz has gone after Joe Califano's National Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse, which recently raised alarms over college student drinking and drugging. "Is There a College Substance Abuse Crisis?" Szalavitz asks, or is this yet another example of CASA's manipulating the numbers? Read it and find out. She also blogged on the Huffington Post on the Richard Paey case. Paey is the Florida pain patient doing a 25-year sentence as a drug dealer for trying to obtain sufficient pain meds. And Szalavitz took on CNN's Lou Dobbs, who has lately been on a crusade to revitalize the drug war. In addition to gallantly appearing with the populist poseur, she took him to task in print with "Lou Dobbs on Drugs. Check out any or all of these pieces to see how statistical analysis and careful argumentation is done right. STATS is a valuable resource for all of us.
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