Quoting a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Nicholas Kristof sees the light in the cleverly and accurately titled “Drugs Won the War”:

He said he gradually became disillusioned with the drug war, beginning in 1967 when he was a young beat officer in San Diego.

“I had arrested a 19-year-old, in his own home, for possession of marijuana,” he recalled. “I literally broke down the door, on the basis of probable cause. I took him to jail on a felony charge.” The arrest and related paperwork took several hours, and Mr. Stamper suddenly had an “aha!” moment: “I could be doing real police work.”

Also see Dallas criminal defense lawyer Robert Guest’s frequent posts re: opportunity cost.
 

From tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal headlines:

Premier anti-“Drug War” crusader Pete Guither wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

Guither said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

Continue Reading It’s About Time (Baby Steps Edition)

Lose a couple of elections and a senator and the even the muckety-mucks in a party will start publicly talking about change. Unfortunately, the Republicans are so married to some of their bad ideas that they are quite possible missing the boat. From SL&P:

[F]olks on the right often assert that the GOP is the only party truly committed to the principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

When I hear that claim, however, I wonder how it squares with modern Republican support for the death penalty (which ends life), and for long prison terms and drug prohibitions (which severely restrict both liberty and the pursuit of happiness).

I find vocal GOP support for the death penalty, mass incarceration and the drug war especially jarring when leading Republicans complain about big government, bureaucracy and excessive taxing and spending — all these problems find particular expression, especially at the state level, in the modern operation of the death penalty, mass incarceration and the drug war.

While not predicting changes in official party positions anytime soon, and especially noting the lack of any clamor for these conservative ideals, Berman’s onto something here. If we don’t make substantial progress in drug war reform during a down economy, it’ll be a long time coming.

A few months ago, Don Fitch started writing Your Blain on Bliss, and one of his first posts “Obama, Cigarettes and Cannabis” caught my eye:

Yet still, of all people, the President-elect is not able to summon the will to not smoke tobacco cigarettes. As much as he would like to quit, as much as Michelle and the girls want him to quit, he will presumably duck out of the White House, furtively avoiding his family and to the chagrin of his Secret Service detail, light up a cigarette.

Continue Reading Your Brain on Bliss: 100 Day Grade = D

Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration Wednesday asked Congress to end the disparity in penalties for use of crack- and powder-cocaine crimes, a stance sure to bring on contentious debate from the law-enforcement community.

"The Administration believes Congress’s goal should be to completely eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine," said assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Under current law, someone caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine gets a five-year sentence, while it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger the same sentence, even though there is no physiological difference.

More than half of all federal inmates were convicted of drug offenses, and in today’s economic climate, perhaps the need to cut costs will bring some sanity to our drug laws. Of course, there are those who think that a 1:1 ratio would be just fine as long as you multiplied the powder cocaine punishments by 100, rather than by dividing the crack sentencing guidelines by the same amount:

James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 325,000 uniformed officers, said that while his group is against the disparity, it would rather see it rectified by increasing the penalties for powder cocaine. "There is a widespread misconception that crack dealers are somehow being victimized by the government," he said. "It is extraordinarily difficult to victimize a criminal unless that person first commits a crime."

But you can indeed victimize a “criminal” by overpunishing him for his “crime”. Folks caught with small amounts of marijuana are criminals, aren’t they? Therefore it’s automatically OK to give them a 5 year sentence? 25 years? They aren’t victims, they are criminals… so any punishment is justified. (Folks not caught with marijuana are also criminals, of course…)

Mr. Pasco added that the disparity could be eliminated by lowering the amount of powder cocaine it takes to trigger the five-year sentence.

A while back Greenfield commented on one of the problems with “niche blogging”: eventually you’re going to end up repeating yourself. I paused for a quick search of my archives, because this story was ringing a pretty loud bell with me, and up pops one of my first posts ever (from November 2006):

If this isn’t shocking on its face, please reread this last quote again. Outloud. Then read it to a friend and ask them their reaction to it.

The Fraternal Order of Police would support increasing the penalties for offenses involving powder cocaine through a reduction in the quantity of powder necessary to trigger the 5- and 10-year mandatory minimum sentences, thereby decreasing the gap between the two similar offenses and addressing the concerns of those who question the current ratio without depriving law enforcement with the tools they need to control the possession, use, and sale of powder cocaine.

The 5-year mandatory minimum sentence can be triggered by 5 grams of crack cocaine. How much is 5 grams of something? 5 Sweet-and-Low packets worth of cocaine is 5 grams. So his solution to the disparity problem…increase the penalties for powder, rather than decreasing them for crack! So the disparity is a problem, one best solved by even more prison building.

The difference is that in 2006 we were still paying up to a million dollars a pop for houses worth less than half that amount, while applying for credit cards and taking out third mortgages. Not to mention the billions being paid by CEOs of car companies to themselves for doing such a good job. Now that we’re out of money, legislators have some political cover for undoing what they did a long time ago.

With every cloud a silver lining, eh? Well maybe this big-R Recession’s silver lining will be sanity in sentencing, since we can literally no longer afford huge sentences for drug addicts.

Peter Hitchens explaining the difference between alcohol prohibition, universally acknowledged as an abject failure, and marijuana and drug prohibition notes:

Alcohol had been legal for centuries, part of the culture of Christian civilization. You might as well try to make breathing illegal.

But cannabis, cocaine and heroin are alien to our world, and could be driven out by firm action.

Alien to our world? Guither’s response:

Right — it’s not like they just… grow in the ground or anything. They came in spaceships.

We need to be firm and tell the space aliens to load up their cannabis, cocaine and heroin and take it all back to planet Druggie.

Continue Reading ET Go Home

Or, maybe not. Identical twins both acquitted because no one could tell which one of them did it.

Because the brothers’ identical features made it impossible for officers who were testifying to point out which one had been found with the key, Judge Ibrahim said she had no choice but to acquit both men.

She called the ruling “a very unique case.” Court officials familiar with the case could not be reached for comment.

Thankfully the judge didn’t go with the more popular “someone has to pay, I’m sorry it has to be both of you” line of legal reasoning.

Especially since the charge, drug trafficking, carried a mandatory death penalty by hanging in Malaysia. 

Face it – most Anti-Marijuana “education” comes down to some sort of variation of this:

Hey kids, if you ever give in to temptation and smoke marijuana, you are immediately doomed to a life of shooting up heroin and prostituting yourself for twenty dollars a pop while living under a bridge.

Take for example the ONDCP’s newest ad campaign: Become a Burrito TasterRadley Balko, Drug WarRant, and Bruce Merken have already commented on the absurdity of this particular tack by the Drug Czar. Windy Pundit, NorLa, B12 Solipsism, TBTEAB, and others have weighed in on the Agitator’s project of listing successful marijuana users.

But there’s a larger issue here as well. There’s no real need to list successful marijuana smokers. You are seriously deluded if you believe that the act itself of lecturing high schoolers (or whomever) about the disastrous consequences of marijuana will reduce comsumption.

Whether or not they read Radley’s list which disproves the Drug Czar’s assertion, I suspect they already know it’s not true. So when you preach “marijuana = death” you lose all credibility. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some credibility left when you try to educate children about the actual deleterious effects of using cocaine and heroin.

[Author’s Note: Nothing in this post shall be read as an endorsement of the over-criminalization of the “harder drugs”.]

Noting the absence of any questions in the vice presidential debate about the United States over-incarceration problem (which is driven in large part by the so called War on Drugs), and Ms. Palin’s repeated efforts to court the vote of “Joe Six-Pack”, Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, today writes:

In what was no doubt a deliberate effort to appeal to so-called “Middle-America, working-class voters,” Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin affectionately invoked the term “Joe Six Pack” — a phrase that despite its literal connotation (The typical American is an alcoholic) is nevertheless championed in the American lexicon.

 

Now just imagine for a moment that instead of proactively reaching out to “Joe Six Pack,” Governor Palin instead invoked the phrase “Joe Doobie” in a similarly veiled attempt to court those millions of Americans who use cannabis responsibly (a voting block that arguably dwarfs the number of Americans who put away a six pack of beer each evening).

 

Paul’s point is obvious. It is literally unimaginable.

 

Unfortunately, the easiest job in America is being the campaign manager for the guy running against the politician who even attempts to inject some sensible suggestions about drug policy reform into their platform. Imagine this scenario:

 

First from our courageous hypothetical politician “Mr. Smith”: “America has 4% of the world’s population and almost 25% of its prison population. Mandatory minimum sentences are morally questionable at best and currently bankrupting us. We can spend 10% of what we waste on the War on Drugs on treatment and eliminate prison sentences for drug addicts entirely and we will significantly reduce violent crime as a side effect.”

 

This would be immediately followed by the campaign for “the other guy” – whoever that was – releasing a commercial effectively saying “Senator/Representative Smith wants your baby to smoke crack!”

 

Yet “Joe Six-Pack” is a vote worth courting. Ever wonder about alcohol vs. marijuana and which is harmful? Know anything about the two substances and the relative safety of marijuana?