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Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (2007, State University of New York Press, 268 pp., $27)

(We reprint our widely-read book review of three weeks ago. Please click here to order a copy through our latest membership offer.)

There is probably not a single drug reformer alive who, at some point, has not sputtered into his coffee cup upon hearing some inane pronouncement from drug czar John Walters. We know what he is saying is wrong and unjustifiable. Sometimes we even go to the effort of thoroughly debunking one of his outrageous claims. It's not that hard to do, really, but up until now, no one had thoroughly deconstructed the claims made by the Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), testing them against the norms of science and reason.

That has changed with the recent publication of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics," by Appalachian State University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Matthew Robinson and Associate Professor of Political Science Renee Scherlen. Since the annual National Drug Control Strategy reports put out by ONDCP form the basis for crafting federal drug policy, this pair of professors decided to systematically put to the test the claims made by ONDCP as a foundation for those policies.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/damnlies-1.jpg
ONDCP misrepresents 'Just Say No' connection, 2003 strategy (graphic appears courtesy Prof. Robinson)
Every federal bureaucracy has to justify its budget, and it does so by setting goals and demonstrating how well it has or has not met those goals. But, as Robinson and Scherlen so admirably demonstrate with example after example of the misleading use of statistics and visual graphics, ONDCP is, in many, many ways, distorting reality to paint a rosier picture of its "successes" in waging the war on drugs. They do so in a calm, deliberate, and understated manner rather than engaging in a partisan attack on a set of policies they clearly feel are a disaster.

In order to gauge the accuracy of ONDCP pronouncements, the authors look at three broad sets of claims made by ONDCP: Claims of success in reducing drug use, claims of success in "healing" America's drug users, and claims of success in disrupting drug markets. Robinson and Scherlen examine the annual National Drug Strategy reports beginning in 2000 and extending through 2005 to look at what ONDCP says it is accomplishing in these three broad areas. These three categories describe what it is ONDCP is supposed to be achieving, but, as the authors so comprehensively illustrate, ONDCP is all too ready to resort to deceptive and misleading information.

Let's take claims of success in reducing drug use, for instance. In the 2001 National Drug Strategy, ONDCP produces a chart that shows a dramatic downward trend in teen drug use in the mid-1980s before remaining essentially stable throughout the 1990s. But since ONDCP and its mandate didn't exist before 1988, the chart is misleading. What it really shows is that throughout ONDCP's tenure, it has failed in its stated goal of reducing teen drug use.

Similarly, in the 2003 National Drug Strategy, in an effort to justify its prevention campaigns, ONDCP sought to show that Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was effective in reducing teen drug use. But to do so, ONDCP relied solely on data involving 18-to-25-year-olds. Since the "Just Say No" campaign was aimed at kids, using data about young adults is "a selective and inappropriate use of statistics," as Robinson and Scherlen so gently put it.

ONCDP also has the curious habit of mentioning "successes" in one year, but failing to revisit them in following years when the numbers don't back them up. In 2000 and 2001, for example, ONDCP crowed about declining marijuana use, even though national drug surveys failed to back it up except in selective categories. But in the annual reports from 2002 to 2005, with marijuana use remaining steady, ONDCP doesn't make any specific claims regarding rates of marijuana use, nor does it provide easily accessible charts or figures. As Robinson and Scherlen note, "Indeed, it appears ONDCP ignores statistics that point to outcomes counter to the drug war."

Robinson and Scherlen go on to systematically dissect ONDCP claims about reducing drug use, "healing" drug users, and disrupting drug markets. Sometimes, they even find that the claims are justified, but this is rarely the case. What the authors repeatedly demonstrate is that ONDCP is unable or unwilling to accurately report its failures to achieve its goals and is willing and able to resort to statistical chicanery to cover up those failures.

In the final two chapters of the book, Robinson and Scherlen attempt a fair assessment of the drug war and ONDCP's ability to meet its self-imposed drug war goals, and offer a series of recommendations for what a more rational drug policy might look like. For one thing, the authors suggest, ONDCP ought to be either terminated or removed from the White House. For an accurate rendition of the numbers regarding drug use, they must be removed from the hothouse political atmosphere of the White House. Currently, the authors argue, ONDCP acts as a "generator and defender of a given ideology in the drug war."

"Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics" is surprisingly easy to read, and Robinson and Scherlen have done a huge favor not only to critics of current drug policy by compiling this damning critique of ONDCP claims, but also to anyone interested in how data is compiled, presented, and misused by bureaucrats attempting to guard their domains. It should be required reading for members of Congress, though, sadly, that is unlikely to happen.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (2007, State University of New York Press, 268 pp., $27)

There is probably not a single drug reformer alive who, at some point, has not sputtered into his coffee cup upon hearing some inane pronouncement from drug czar John Walters. We know what he is saying is wrong and unjustifiable. Sometimes we even go to the effort of thoroughly debunking one of his outrageous claims. It's not that hard to do, really, but up until now, no one had thoroughly deconstructed the claims made by the Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), testing them against the norms of science and reason.

That has changed with the recent publication of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics," by Appalachian State University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Matthew Robinson and Associate Professor of Political Science Renee Scherlen. Since the annual National Drug Control Strategy reports put out by ONDCP form the basis for crafting federal drug policy, this pair of professors decided to systematically put to the test the claims made by ONDCP as a foundation for those policies.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/damnlies-1.jpg
ONDCP misrepresents 'Just Say No' connection, 2003 strategy (graphic appears courtesy Prof. Robinson)
Every federal bureaucracy has to justify its budget, and it does so by setting goals and demonstrating how well it has or has not met those goals. But, as Robinson and Scherlen so admirably demonstrate with example after example of the misleading use of statistics and visual graphics, ONDCP is, in many, many ways, distorting reality to paint a rosier picture of its "successes" in waging the war on drugs. They do so in a calm, deliberate, and understated manner rather than engaging in a partisan attack on a set of policies they clearly feel are a disaster.

In order to gauge the accuracy of ONDCP pronouncements, the authors look at three broad sets of claims made by ONDCP: Claims of success in reducing drug use, claims of success in "healing" America's drug users, and claims of success in disrupting drug markets. Robinson and Scherlen examine the annual National Drug Strategy reports beginning in 2000 and extending through 2005 to look at what ONDCP says it is accomplishing in these three broad areas. These three categories describe what it is ONDCP is supposed to be achieving, but, as the authors so comprehensively illustrate, ONDCP is all too ready to resort to deceptive and misleading information.

Let's take claims of success in reducing drug use, for instance. In the 2001 National Drug Strategy, ONDCP produces a chart that shows a dramatic downward trend in teen drug use in the mid-1980s before remaining essentially stable throughout the 1990s. But since ONDCP and its mandate didn't exist before 1988, the chart is misleading. What it really shows is that throughout ONDCP's tenure, it has failed in its stated goal of reducing teen drug use.

Similarly, in the 2003 National Drug Strategy, in an effort to justify its prevention campaigns, ONDCP sought to show that Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was effective in reducing teen drug use. But to do so, ONDCP relied solely on data involving 18-to-25-year-olds. Since the "Just Say No" campaign was aimed at kids, using data about young adults is "a selective and inappropriate use of statistics," as Robinson and Scherlen so gently put it.

ONCDP also has the curious habit of mentioning "successes" in one year, but failing to revisit them in following years when the numbers don't back them up. In 2000 and 2001, for example, ONDCP crowed about declining marijuana use, even though national drug surveys failed to back it up except in selective categories. But in the annual reports from 2002 to 2005, with marijuana use remaining steady, ONDCP doesn't make any specific claims regarding rates of marijuana use, nor does it provide easily accessible charts or figures. As Robinson and Scherlen note, "Indeed, it appears ONDCP ignores statistics that point to outcomes counter to the drug war."

Robinson and Scherlen go on to systematically dissect ONDCP claims about reducing drug use, "healing" drug users, and disrupting drug markets. Sometimes, they even find that the claims are justified, but this is rarely the case. What the authors repeatedly demonstrate is that ONDCP is unable or unwilling to accurately report its failures to achieve its goals and is willing and able to resort to statistical chicanery to cover up those failures.

In the final two chapters of the book, Robinson and Scherlen attempt a fair assessment of the drug war and ONDCP's ability to meet its self-imposed drug war goals, and offer a series of recommendations for what a more rational drug policy might look like. For one thing, the authors suggest, ONDCP ought to be either terminated or removed from the White House. For an accurate rendition of the numbers regarding drug use, they must be removed from the hothouse political atmosphere of the White House. Currently, the authors argue, ONDCP acts as a "generator and defender of a given ideology in the drug war."

"Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics" is surprisingly easy to read, and Robinson and Scherlen have done a huge favor not only to critics of current drug policy by compiling this damning critique of ONDCP claims, but also to anyone interested in how data is compiled, presented, and misused by bureaucrats attempting to guard their domains. It should be required reading for members of Congress, though, sadly, that is unlikely to happen.

DRCNet Book Review: "Fatal Distraction: The War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terror," by Arnold Trebach (2006, Unlimited Publishing, 398 pp., $19.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor, Drug War Chronicle

The grand old man of American drug reform is at it again. Retired American University professor and head of the International Antiprohibitionist League Arnold Trebach returns to the fray with "Fatal Distraction," and a fine addition to the literature it is. While the book is a reworking of his contribution to the 1993 pro-and-con "Legalize It? Debating American Drug Policy" (with James Inciardi), Trebach has greatly expanded that material and includes much that is new. In doing so, he has created what is in essence a primer for ending drug prohibition.

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And make no mistake about it, legalization is precisely what Trebach wants. Although he complains that he was unfairly labeled a legalizer earlier in his career, Trebach now embraces the label. In "Fatal Distraction," he calls for the repeal of federal drug laws, especially the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, and the dismantling of the DEA. The federal government would get out of the drug prohibition racket and, as was the case with alcohol after Prohibition, leave it to the states to set their own drug laws, Trebach writes.

Drug reform groups that refuse to embrace ending prohibition, who are afraid to say the word "legalization," are part of the problem, Trebach declares. For reformers today to avoid calling directly for full legalization is to Trebach analogous to "the Abolitionist movement of the 1800s having worked not to free the slaves, but to provide better housing and health care for them." Like slavery, Trebach notes, drug prohibition is "a true evil institution, one that needs destroying -- not improving."

Trebach spends about the first third of "Fatal Distraction" demonstrating just how and how horribly drug prohibition has failed, and as he does so, he takes the reader on a guided tour of the drug war, from the bloody streets of our inner cities to our overflowing prisons, from the damage done to the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution to the inherently corrupting asset forfeiture laws, from the crisis in pain relief to the mini-concentration camps masquerading as drug treatment centers for our kids. To all of this, Trebach brings decades of experience, observation, and thoughtful pondering, and he builds a devastating case against prohibition.

Much of Trebach's argument and many of his examples will be familiar to serious students of drugs and drug policy, but Trebach's comprehensive vision helps bring the convoluted mass of intersecting issues around drug policy into clear focus. It also helps that Trebach presents his material in easily digested, bite-sized chunks of three or four or five pages.

But, as "Fatal Distraction's" subtitle -- "The War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terror" -- suggests, Trebach has more on his mind that simply ending drug prohibition. Obviously deeply affected by the September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Trebach argues that the war on Islamic fundamentalist violence is so critical to America's future that continuing to divert energy and resources into the war on drugs could threaten our very existence.

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Arnold Trebach
The ranks of drug reformers will doubtless produce diverse reactions to this contention. Trebach is undoubtedly correct that the war on drugs is a diversion and distraction from the war on terror. But one could also argue that it is a diversion and distraction from the need for social justice or the fight against global warming. Trebach points out that skills honed by the many agents currently employed in drug enforcement could be effectively applied to investigating and rooting out terrorist cells instead. True, but also against other kinds of violent crime. Is the concept of "war" more apt when applied to a tactic (terror) or an ideology (Islamic fundamentalism) than to a war on inert substances (drugs)? This reviewer is himself among the ranks of the unconvinced on those points; and as Trebach has so artfully shown, drug prohibition is a failure on its own terms and does not require juxtaposition with a more recent threat to be recognizable as such.

Nevertheless, while the theme of fighting Islamic terrorism appears sporadically throughout "Fatal Distraction," most of that material appears within a handful of chapters near the end of the book. Perhaps its presence will get some new people to think about the drug laws who haven't done so before. The remainder of "Fatal Distraction" -- the distillation of a life's work in the trenches of drug law reform -- makes this a book grizzled reformers and bright-eyed newcomers to the cause alike will want to read and absorb.

DRCNet Video Review: "Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine, and the Law," Produced and Directed by Jed Riffe

From a handful of federally-approved patients in the late 1970s and 1980s, the American medical marijuana movement has grown by leaps and bounds, with tens of thousands of people in a dozen states now officially registered as medical marijuana users. God alone knows how many people in the remaining 38 states where it is still illegal are smoking pot for the relief of pain, to induce appetite, to reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy, to help with glaucoma, to reduce the tremors and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, or an ever-increasing list of medical conditions helped by a puff on a joint or a bite of a marijuana-laced brownie.

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As academic and scientific research into the medicinal uses of marijuana gains momentum, the list of its applications seems to grow ever wider. Within the last couple of weeks, researchers reported that marijuana may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's.

But resistance to medical marijuana remains strong. The federal government -- especially its anti-drug bureaucracies, the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- is unalterably opposed to its use, while parent anti-drug groups fear that allowing the medicinal use of marijuana will "send the wrong message" to their children. For other foes, medical marijuana is simply one more front in the culture war against hippies and liberals that has been raging for nearly four decades now.

In just over one hour, "Waiting to Inhale," the recently released video by documentary filmmaker Jed Riffe tells the story of the battle over the healing herb. While decidedly sympathetic to medical marijuana, the video also takes pains to present the other side of the story.

We hear ONDCP spokesman David Murray painting a portrait of a dark conspiracy to legalize drugs. "Who is pushing this and why is it being pushed?" he asks. "The agenda is well-funded and being driven to remove the barriers between themselves and the drug they like or are addicted to." Later in the video, Murray calls medical marijuana "a fraud."

Similarly, and more realistically, DEA San Francisco office spokesman Richard Meyer warns that "some traffickers are using [the California medical marijuana law] Prop. 215 as a smoke screen."

Riffe also makes a place for the anti-drug parents' movement, featuring interviews with legendary drug war zealot Sue Rusche, who explains that a trip years ago to a record store with her children where the kids were exposed to a display case of bongs, pipes, and other pot paraphernalia set her on a course of activism. Riffe shows a parents' anti-drug movement that, while still appearing hideously regressive to drug reformers, shows signs of moderation and sophistication. In one scene, Rusche brings out the old canard about "gateway drugs," but says they include "tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana." In another scene, members of a parents' group talk about providing honest information -- not just trying to scare the kids.

While the parents' anti-drug movement -- a key bastion of support for the renewed drug war of the Reagan era and ever since -- may be adapting to adversity, it is also being changed from within. Riffe interviews New Mexico youth counselor Miguel Santesteban, who is working with the anti-drug group Parents United, and Santesteban has some surprising things to say. "Perhaps when it comes to marijuana," he said, "the better message for them to hear is that there is a responsible context for use." Santesteban didn't seem too impressed with federal anti-drug efforts, saying, "If I was the drug czar, I'd give half my budget to the public schools" and "This sending a wrong message thing is a crock."

But despite the time given to the anti-side, it is clear that Riffe's interest and heart is with medical marijuana patients and their fight for safe access to their medicine. The video begins with Mike and Valerie Corral, the founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) co-op outside Santa Cruz, recounting how the DEA raided them at gunpoint in 2002, then cuts to Irv Rosenfeld, "Patient #1," in the federal government's compassionate access program, which allowed a tiny number of patients to smoke federally-produced weed until President Bush the Elder ended it in 1992. Rosenfeld and seven others were grandfathered in, and Rosenfeld, a Florida stockbroker, smokes 10 joints of fed weed a day in a largely successful effort to fend off the pain of a chronic bone disease.

Riffe also brings into the mix the doctors and researchers who have renewed the science of medical marijuana after the half-century-long lacunae created by marijuana prohibition. Riffe interviews Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli researcher who isolated THC, who explains that marijuana has a medicinal history thousands of years long, and he interviews Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of the earliest American academic advocates of medical marijuana.

After marijuana prohibition, Grinspoon explains, "physicians became ignorant about cannabis" because of Federal Bureau of Narcotics head Harry Anslinger's Reefer Madness propaganda campaign against it. With unknowing doctors regurgitating drug warrior claims about the evil weed, "physicians became not only the victims, but also effective agents of that propaganda campaign."

While Irv Rosenfeld and Robert Randall ("Patient #0") in the federal compassionate access program were puffing their fed weed in the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic was beginning to rear its ugly head, especially in San Francisco, and Riffe very deftly shows how what had been a movement for gay rights morphed into a movement for the rights of AIDS patients and then became one more stream in the rapidly emerging medical marijuana movement.

Riffe talks to a lot more people -- patients, doctors, researchers, politicians -- than I have space to mention, and "Waiting to Inhale" excels at drawing together the disparate strands that make up the medical marijuana story. As much as it is a paean to the wonders of medical marijuana, "Waiting to Inhale" manages to tell the complex, complicated story of a mass movement, a scientific journey, and an ongoing political battle, and it does so in an engaging, moving fashion. For anyone who is curious about the contours of the medical marijuana issue, "Waiting to Inhale" is a valuable -- and eminently watchable -- resource.

"Waiting to Inhale" is DRCNet's latest membership premium -- click here to order it!

Click here for the film's official web site, including an online trailer and list of upcoming screenings.

Book Review: "De los Maras a los Zetas: Los secretos del narcotrafico, de Colombia a Chicago" by Jorge Fernandez Menendez and Victor Ronquillo (Mexico City: Editorial Grijalbo, 2006, 290 pp. PB)

If one wishes an object lesson in the unintended consequences of drug prohibition, one need look no further than the other side of the Rio Grande. Like all borders, the US-Mexican border has always been the scene of a lively trade in contraband. Although the authors of "From the Maras to the Zetas: The Secrets of the Drug Trade, From Colombia to Chicago" don't get into the prehistory of Mexico's powerful drug trafficking organizations, way back in those halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s, a lot of marijuana moved across that border, but it was a largely peaceful trade, often a family affair.

In 1982, when President Ronald Reagan, having declared a new war on drugs, sent Vice-President George H.W. Bush to Miami to head up a new effort to block the flood of Colombian cocaine flowing across the Caribbean to Florida, the Colombians adjusted by shifting smuggling routes through Mexico. The Colombian used existing smuggling networks, which since then have grown into a Frankenstein monster, not only in the eyes of the Mexican state, but also in the eyes of their Colombian counterparts, who have found themselves squeezed out of end-stage distribution to the US and the massive profits that followed.

Fueled by Colombian cocaine, American dollars, and American weaponry, in the past 20 years, Mexico's so-called "cartels" -- a misnomer for these brutally competitive trafficking organizations -- have corrupted legions of Mexican police, soldiers, and politicians, and murdered as many more. Every time the Mexican state, hounded by its partner to the north, tries to crack down on the cartels, the result is not social tranquility or the end of the drug trade, but bloody gang wars as the different organizations fight for position -- and the flow of drugs never seems to be affected.

In the past couple of years, the cartels have become so brazen and the death toll from the constant "ajuste de cuentas" ("adjusting of accounts" or "settling scores") so horrendous -- more than 1,500 last year and a like number so far this year -- that they appear to be working with impunity.

Enter Mexico City journalists Jorge Fernandez Menendez and Victor Ronquillo. With the drug trafficking groups beheading police and engaging in street battles with RPGs in Acapulco and wreaking mortal havoc along the US border, their timing couldn't be better because they aim to explain the murky workings of the Mexican drug trade. They study and report on Mara Salvatrucha, the much screamed about gang that grew out from the children of Salvadoran refugees in Los Angeles and other American cities (another lesson in unintended consequences) who learned all too well the ways of the thug life, then re-exported it back home to Central America. According to Fernandez and Ronquillo, Mara Salvatrucha controls much of the traffic in illegal immigrants and drugs -- on Mexico's southern border. But like the truly Mexican criminal organizations, its tentacles extend far to the north as well.

They also provide the skinny on the Zetas, the US-trained former anti-drug elite force that switched sides and now acts as the armed forces of Osiel Cardenas and the Gulf Cartel -- one more lesson in unintended consequences. Thanks to the paramilitary skills of the Zetas, Cardenas has been able to directly confront the Mexican state, as when his men killed six prison employees in Matamoros in early 2005 in retaliation for a federal government crackdown on imprisoned cartel leaders.

There is much, much more in between. Fernandez and Ronquillo warn that imprisoned cartel leaders spent part of their time behind bars buddying up with imprisoned leftist guerrillas and could be either learning tactical lessons or forging unholy alliances with them. Despite the apparent ideological differences between Marxist rebels and drug traffickers, the Mexican cartels have shown that when it comes to business they are nonpartisan. They will corrupt politicians of any party, make deals with whoever can benefit them, and kill those who get in their way.

The cartels circle around power. When the old-time PRI ran the government, the cartels corrupted the PRI. When the PAN government of President Vicente Fox came to power, they attempted to corrupt it, and as Fernandez and Ronquillo demonstrate, they have arguably succeeded. PANista politicians have been caught attending the funerals of leading narcos, PANista local administrations have been bought off, and the narcos even managed to place an associate in President Fox's inner circle before the taint of scandal drove him off.

But while Fernandez and Ronquillo are quite good in unraveling the mysteries of the cartels and explicating the results of decades of prohibitionist drug policy, they fail to make the leap to the next level. For them, "From the Maras to the Zetas" is a desperate wake-up call for the Mexican public and political class, a warning that the power of the cartels threatens the integrity of the Mexican state. They do not take the next step and ask if there is not a better way. But then again, they really don't have to -- the book itself is eloquent testimony to the corrupt and bloody legacy of prohibition in Mexico.

Yes, the book is only available in Spanish. It won't be much use to many of our North American readers, but Drug War Chronicle also goes out in Spanish and Portuguese, and perhaps if we can drum up a little interest here in Gringolandia, an American or Canadian publisher will print a translation. Goodness knows we get very little serious reporting up here about the Mexican drug war.

In the meantime, for you English-only speakers out there with an interest in this topic, I recommend the recent report from the Washington Office on Latin America, "State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico."

Book Review: "Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition," Mitchell Earleywine, ed. (Oxford University Press, $45.00 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer Editor, 9/29/06

Psychologist and addiction researcher Mitchell Earleywine advanced our understanding of marijuana with his aptly-named 2002 book, "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence." Now, the State University of New York-Albany professor is out as the editor of a brand-new volume of essays devoted to outlining the costs of marijuana prohibition and thinking about the strategies that can undo it. "Pot Politics" boasts nearly 400 pages of top-notch research and analysis by some of the best thinkers in the marijuana reform movement, ranging from activists to academics, economists to social philosophers, and beyond.

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With "Pot Politics" the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Standing alone, each of the 17 essays -- on topics including the efficacy of workplace drug testing, the effects of marijuana on driving, the philosophical and religious bases of marijuana policy, the mass media's distorted reporting on marijuana, and the economic consequences of prohibition -- is a cogent, sometimes eloquent, critique of some aspect of the marijuana laws. But taken as a whole, "Pot Politics" is a devastating assault on pot prohibition as a whole and a reasoned, thoughtful argument for marijuana legalization.

I've been writing the Drug War Chronicle for five years now, and following the marijuana law reform movement for decades before that, and I'm usually hard-pressed to hear or read something about pot policy that I haven’t seen before. That's not the case with "Pot Politics." Yes, I was familiar with Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron's work on the economics of marijuana prohibition, but I hadn’t seen him put the data together on the national level, broken down state-by-state. According to Miron -- and after reading his essay, who's going to argue with him? -- we are paying nearly $8 billion a year to continue the folly of arresting and jailing marijuana offenders. At the same time, by refusing to do the sane thing and tax and regulate marijuana sales, we are foregoing more than $6 billion annually in lost tax revenues. Hell, $6 billion pays for three weeks of the Iraq war. Or we could find other uses for it.

An essay by University of Washington School of Social Work faculty members Roger Roffman and Anne Nichol is similarly fresh -- and full of smart ideas that could advance the movement. "The anti-prohibition movement will enhance its effectiveness in promoting liberalized policy and better serve the public if the movement's mission is expanded to include the dissemination of accurate, thorough, and balanced marijuana educational information, tailored for each of its current and potential constituencies," the pair convincingly argue. If the movement can provide honest, useful information about the possible adverse consequences of marijuana use to users, potential users (youths), users beginning to experience problems, dependent heavy users, concerned others, and service providers, its credibility will be enhanced among the public at large and fill a harm reduction information gap within the marijuana community.

That's good, solid, innovative thinking, and that's just what our movement needs. Charles Thomas of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI) provides more of that with a pair of essays describing the sometimes surprising positions of various religious denominations on marijuana and related issues and making the crucial point that pot law reform is simply not going to happen without bringing religiously-inclined people -- the vast majority of Americans -- over to our side. But, as Thomas' detailed analysis of the various denominations' stances suggests, the distance may not be that far. Still, for a movement that is largely secular, if not downright hostile to organized religion, thinking about broadening our ministry to reach out to our brethren in the pews is absolutely necessary.

Essay after essay is replete with this sort of provocative information and analysis. Yes, some of the pieces read more like research reports than persuasive writing, but behind the occasionally stolid prose there is useful data carefully evaluated. Academic rigor may not always make for the flashiest writing, but it has other qualities to recommend it.

Still, it took Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to lay out the futility of marijuana prohibition in a nutshell. "The illogic of America's pot policy -- and its obvious solution -- became stunningly clear to me one day while I was waiting in line for a beer at a concert," he wrote in the forward to this volume. "I was... getting a beer for myself and a friend. When I turned to leave, I was approached by a kid clearly under the legal drinking age. He offered to trade me two joints for both of my beers. Then and there I understood the folly of America's pot policy. Here's a kid who can't get alcohol because it's taxed and regulated who has no problem whatsoever getting pot -- precisely because it's not taxed and regulated."

The marijuana reform movement understands this almost intuitively, but the rest of the polity is not quite there yet. "Pot Politics" will help the movement marshal its best arguments -- moral, legal, theological, pragmatic -- to move the rest of us forward, it will be an eye-opener for students and movement newcomers, and even for seen-it-all movement graybeards, there are going to be a few occasions when you stop and say to yourself, "Wow, why didn’t I ever think of that before?" "Pot Politics" is a welcome addition, both to the knowledge base on marijuana policy and its consequences and to the drug reformer's arsenal.

book review of "Psychedelic Horizons"

This book review was originally posted in the Speakeasy Reader Blogs, http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy/reader.

With thanks to Tripzine

'Psychedelic Horizons', by Tom Roberts

Reviewed by Bruce Sewick, LCPC

This fascinating book by Tom Roberts takes a close look at multi-mind states, enthegenic healing, and more.

Dr. Tom Roberts' interest in psychedelics is best reflected in his recent book "Psychedelic Horizons". His fascination with, and appreciation of the untapped potential of these substances is best summed up in his words, "As an educational psychologist, I am grateful to psychedelics for teaching me that our minds function in many mindbody states... psychedelics challenged me to explore our minds, and I am thankful that they invited me when they did." The exploration of the concept of different mind-body states is one of the more intriguing theories in Dr. Roberts' book. Roberts feels that attachment to our ordinary, normal, "awake" state (single state) is limiting.

What is needed, he says, is the recognition that "our minds do useful work in mindbody states in addition to our ordinary awake state". This is the idea of the multistate mind (italics mine). He likens the concept to a person who has bought a powerful computer, but will only use it to play chess, thus underutilizing a powerful information-processing resource.

Dr. Roberts feels that psychedelics, along with other psychotechnologies (e.g. yoga, meditation, martial arts, dream work, etc.) have helped to expand our assumptions about our minds. He proposes a "Multistate Studies Center" to "explore how current abilities vary across mindbody states, to reask educational questions from a multistate perspective, to explore leads from other cultures on our own, and develop the possibilities of designing new mindbody states and housing them".

The second, rather revolutionary theory, is related to the "placebo effect"... Dr. Roberts posits that the placebo effect is a mindbody skill our minds and our bodies have. He calls this "placebo ability". He feels that psychedelically enhanced mystical experiences could produce an overwhelming sense of well being and might offer clues to spontaneous, unaccountable healing (i.e. placebo effect). He questions and hypothesizes: "do entheogen-induced mystical experiences boost the immune system?" Dr. Roberts calls this the EMXIS hypotheses, short for Entheogen, induced Mystical Experiences Influence the Immune System. This theory differentiates between psychedelics and their transformation to "entheogens" (generating the experience of god within) when a sense of sacredness accompanies the emotional peaks.

I found Dr. Roberts book to be very thought provoking, informative and entertaining. His chapter on "Snow-White-Grof's Landmarks in Disney's Land", for example, is a whimsical, psychedelic interpretation of Snow White that will change the way you read this fairy tale.
The last part of Dr. Roberts' book "Enlarging Education" expands the meaning of what it means to be a well educated (i.e., one with multistate capacities) person: "A well educated person can select from a large number of mindbody states, enter them, and use their resident abilities". Dr. Roberts acknowledges this multi-state education when he expresses his gratefulness in discovering through psychedelics "that religion is about something, and that something is unitive consciousness".

He feels that psychedelics democratizes primary religious experience: "for spiritual guidance, verbalists consult the word of God, mystics consult their experience of God" Part of the entheogenic experience, by definition is the direct experience of the divine. These mystical experiences, drug induced or otherwise, often cause major paradigm shifts -which make it easier to experience mystical states more often and/or to a stronger degree. This could potentially increase our spiritual intelligence. This increase in spiritual intelligence generated by the use of entheogens could have far reaching affects in society and planetary survival.

The final chapters in the book speculate about the future of multistate education and where it may take us. It is fascinating reading both for the uninformed and those of us, who in the seventies sense, "are experienced".

Related Links:
• 'Psychedelic Horizons' on Amazon.com

Tags : psychedelic hallucinogen placebo

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