Saturday, May 29, 2010

Former judge slams War on Drugs

The highly respected former Supreme Court judge Ken Crispin has come out swinging against the War on Drugs, with a new book Quest for Justice.

Interviewed by Kerry O'Brien on the 7.30 Report, he said:
...drug usage has exploded during the war on drugs. To quote one British figure 'the number of heroin users over about 30 years increased from 2000 to 300,000.' The prevalence of drugs has exploded to the point that the prices have fallen so cocaine, in real terms, now costs about a sixth of what it did at the start of the war on drugs. Heroin costs about a tenth of what it did on the start of the war on drugs. 
He goes on to reveal some of his inside knowledge of the mechanism that increases drug use under prohibition:
If the average drug user has to fund his drug usage in some way and he doesn't have a high flying job he usually turns to crime. When he gets sick of breaking into houses or holding up banks or service stations, he then turns to selling drugs. and of course he goes along to see his dealer and his dealer doesn't say 'here's a list of my established customers', he can service them he doesn't need you for that, so he says to you 'go out and persuade other people to take drugs' and you have this constant pressure, therefore, by people to persuade others to take drugs so they can fund their own addiction.
This of course is not what prohibitionists claim -- they say that regulated legal supply would cause an explosion of drug use, as if there were huge latent pools of people out there longing to inject an addictive drug if only it was legal (I have yet to meet such a person).

It partially explains why drug use does not in fact rise significantly when the War is relaxed. This result is, however, counter-intuitive.

By way of comparison, if the police stopped their war against speeding, there would probably be a lot more people speeding. But it's not so for drugs, which contradict a number of commonly accepted economic models. Prohibitionists ignore this (or themselves are ignorant of it) and exploit the lack of first-hand knowledge in the general public.

All the more reason to listen to Ken Crispin, who does know. His book is on my shopping list.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sports stars and recreational drugs

Thirty-five years ago Bernie Carbo nailed the greatest pinch-hit home run in Red Sox history - bringing three men home in game six to keep them alive against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1975 World Series. This week he divulged the secret of his success

'"I probably smoked two joints, drank about three or four beers, got to the ballpark, took some speed, took a pain pill, drank a cup of coffee, chewed some tobacco, had a cigarette, and got up to the plate and hit.''
That's an apt quote in these days of prohibitionist attack dogs destroying all the intelligent cool sports stars because of recreational drug residues found in their bodies -- an entirely different matter from using drugs to cheat. All this chemical testing is the most extreme invasion of privacy, because inside one's own body is the most private place. Why don't privacy laws cover it?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Drug reformer takes the fight to Washington

While the Obama administration has toned down the language and ferocity of its drug policies, there has been no essential change. About 64% of its budget is still being spent on interdiction and incarceration.

Reformer Ethan Nadelmann recently testified before the U.S. House Domestic Policy Subcommittee, (alongside other contributors such as the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy [also known as the drug czar], Gil Kerlikowske). Nadelmann's full testimony is well worth a read, but here are some quotes:
The United States now ranks first in the world in per capita incarceration rates, with less than 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of the world's prison population. Roughly 500,000 people are behind bars tonight for a drug law violation. That's ten times the total in 1980, and more than all of western Europe (with a much larger population) incarcerates for all offenses. More than half of federal prisoners are there for drug law violations; relatively few are kingpins and virtually none are queenpins.

Yet, despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars and arresting millions of Americans, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available throughout the country...
And referring to the continuing emphasis on drug war methods, he said:
A 1994 RAND study commissioned by the U.S. Army and ONDCP found treatment to be 10 times more effective at reducing drug abuse than drug interdiction, 15 times more effective than domestic law enforcement, and 23 times more effective than trying to eradicate drugs at their source. A 1997 SAMHSA study found that treatment reduces drug selling by 78%, shoplifting by almost 82% and assaults by 78%. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Racial discrimination and marijuana arrests

It happens in Australia too -- black people are searched by US police far more frequently than white people and  then those who are carrying cannabis are busted. In the  US, 46,500 people were arrested for marijuana possession last year; 87 percent of these people were black and Latino, even though about the same proportion of whites consume the drug.

Considering that possession of marijuana is in fact less dangerous to the public than walking down the street with a bottle of beer in a paper bag, these figures show how prohibition has distorted the so-called justice system.

It's all explained in a new article on the Huffington Post. by eloquent drug law reformer Ethan Nadelmann who writes:
Where's the evidence that this arrest policy does anything whatsoever to make the city safer? Indeed, where's the evidence that most New Yorkers even approve of such a policy? So far as I can tell, most New Yorkers would much prefer that police focus their attention on genuine threats to public safety.
Australian incarceration rates for Indigenous citizens show similar trends -- according to The 7.30 Report:
The grim report by the productivity commission last week on indigenous disadvantage revealed that for indigenous men, the rate of imprisonment increased by 27 per cent in the years between 2000 and 2008, and for women, by more than 40 per cent. Indigenous adults are now 13 times more likely than non-indigenous adults to be sent to gaol, and they're much more likely to re-offend.
Other reports claim cannabis use is rising among Indigenous people, partly in response to crackdowns on drinking. No doubt cannabis is therefore playing a greater role in people being vulnerable to police. And while some self-interested researchers are raising a moral panic about Aboriginal kids smoking pot,  the fact is that it is easier for them to get under the total deregulation of a market created by prohibition.

As for adult users, by objective assessment they and their families are better off if less booze is being consumed.

Picture: Police in Kings Cross lead a sniffer dog on a tight lead towards an Indigenous man. The man was unconcerned and the dog did not indicate, but it clearly shows how Police target certain demographics. Immediately after this shot was taken, two dog handlers and other police ran down the road to catch up with another (Caucasian) guy and put the dogs on him. No drugs were found. Clearly, drug prohibition is being used as a means of social control and is contributing to cruel social injustice.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mothers' day present

The Women's Marijuana Movement in the US is cleverly offering an e-card people can send to their mums on mums' day, letting them know you support legalisation. This addresses the tendency for people to keep quiet about their recreational preferences, because pot is illegal and governments spend a fortune demonising it, creating a social stigma among people who know no better.

The e-card available on the WMM site (which you can send from the page) uses flash animation and starts with the following text:

Thank you for raising me
to be thoughtful and compassionate,
to think for myself and make good decisions,
to respect my body and my health,
to be considerate of others, and
to be honest with those I love.
Based in part on these valuable lessons, I want to share some news that may surprise you, but should not upset you: I believe marijuana should be legal.

One of the card options comes with an order for the book, Marijuana is safer, reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Link here to that book on

Drug cops shoot dog with child present

It seems the millions of people who use illicit drugs in Australia prefer to keep their heads down and let the unlucky few who are caught wear the consequences of enforcement.

If every pot smoker in the country turned up to their local police station at the same time and pleaded guilty, the whole system would break down.

But spare a thought for victims of the War on Drugs in the USA. Below is police video of a night raid on a family in Missouri in which the police break open the door, shoot the dog -- it sounds like several times -- with a child present. They found a small amount of cannabis, and charged the guy with endangering children (because he had some pot in the house, which is safer than alcohol by any objective measure)! Is the terror and violence proportionate to this victimless 'crime'?

Truly, the War on Drugs is far more harmful than the drugs themselves. The Cato Institute estimates there are 40,000 such raids in the US each year.

Warning, this video is distressing.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Kenneally stays tough on kids

The Kenneally government has rejected an independent review that recommends a shift from a punitive criminal approach to youth crime to a social intervention approach, says the SMH:
In Victoria, where greater emphasis is placed on drug and alcohol courts and youth conferencing, nine out of 100,000 adolescents are in custody, compared with 38 in NSW.

Furthermore, community-based interventions are always much cheaper than incarceration, the review said.

"While 'get tough' approaches may be politically attractive, evidence indicates they are not effective."
The review said the heavy stick approach was not helping law and order as the level of youth crime was more or less static.

A disproportionate number of those jailed were mentally ill, socially marginalised or Indigenous.

So much for the evidence.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Not cool: Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

This shot of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig looks like something out of a Star Wars movie. But this is reality, not CGI animation. Here the rig is listing badly not long before it sank.

No such problems with Solar Thermal power generation and storage...

Coolhunter hunts cool, even unto the dentist's

Cheeky bastard Bill Tikos has leveraged his excellent eye for quality and style into a blogging sensation at his Coolhunter sites, which seem to have servers on several continents.

Above is a cool dental surgery concept. Check out the site for more stunning examples of architecture -- lots of wood, lots of awesome locations. Plus marketing ideas, cool cars and theories about what cool is and is not. You can subscribe to a newsletter for regular updates.

Below is Bill being cool.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

'Stiletto stoners' want cannabis legalised

Denver attorney and Rebublican Jessica P. Correy writes in support of legalisation and the new Women's Marijuana Movement:
As organizers, we question aloud how we could ever defend to our children the fact that America spends $30,000 a year on each non-violent drug offender we put behind bars at the same time we issue a $45,000 bill to each baby born today as his or her share of the national debt. As one of several small business owners who take part in the event, I'm downright angry that this insane tax burden will inevitably mean more hours spent away from my children.
While it is traditionally the conservatives who have most enthusiastically waged the failed War on Drugs, those true to the party's libertarian principles have a different line, as Ms Correy says:
We are coming together to reclaim our country. For our children. For our pocketbooks. And for the long forgotten American ideal that in the absence of harm to others, government should not interfere in our personal lives.
The WWM site is very upbeat, showing shiny pics of sassy corporate gals in the "stiletto stoner" mould. Kind of like Sarah Palin on pot!

As the legalisation movement goes mainstream, it must be getting hard for prohibitionists to find credulous audiences for their fallacious fantasies. When will the Australian media catch up to the global debate?

The illustration here is from the WMM site. Love the footnote: Source: Every objective study on alcohol and marijuana

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hillbilly bashing highlights crime generated under prohibition

In scenes reminiscent of Hillbilly battles over Ma's illegal still, a backwoods marijuana grower near Tamworth has been attacked, bashed and left covered in petrol-soaked blankets, breathing in the gas from his caravan stove, after a drug heist by three men wearing balaclavas and green raincoats (SMH today).

The man had several teeth knocked out in the attack. But he also had a security camera running which showed the thieves' faces when they took off their headgear. One of these charmers is described as "tall and fat with a goatee, with a large tribal tattoo on the left side of his neck".

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Mums and Moms oppose the War on Drugs

It's almost de rigeur for prohibitionists to trot out the emotional "protect our children" line in their efforts to demonise drugs -- and usually skipping any actual evidence. But some parents are more intelligent, able to see that nearly all drug-related damage is in fact caused by prohibition itself. So they form lobby groups opposing the failed War on Drugs and supporting a health care approach.

In Australia parents whose children have suffered drug addiction or even death have formed the Family Drug Support group, Australian of the Year Tony Trimingham being the best known member. A quick read of their comments page could break your heart. People desperate to free themselves or family members from addiction plead for help.

In the US it’s PATH, (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing) and they write up a good case against the War on Drugs  in The Huffington Post. Their website is here.