Monday, October 23, 2006
If you think you have a “right” in deciding whether one person you do not even know may freely enter into a lifetime bond with another whom you do not know, then you clearly do not understand the nature of minding your own business, and thus, cannot be trusted with power over others. If you want my vote, you have to address the fundamental question of our day: why in the world are we allowing our government to deny and withold the most fundamental of our rights as equal citizens? Most importantly: what are you going to do to bring it to a halt?
The question is not whether or not one has the right to smoke a joint, or have sex with another person of the same gender. The question is whether or not the government has the proper legitimate power to hold accountable and punish those who act upon themselves. It doesn't matter if the act in question is inhaling smoke from a plant or shoving a burning hot knitting needle into your own eye -- you cannot be legitimately punished by the rest of us for doing so.
The core principle that people fail to realize when they insist that you don't have the "right" to smoke pot, is that in saying so, they are agreeing with the supposition that the decisions you make about what you do to yourself can be voted against by the collective citizenry. In other words, your will toward yourself is subject to being voided by others claiming a superior power to do so based on outnumbering you.
The argument that what you do to yourself "affects others," and is therefore properly subject to inspection and revocation by a group of your fellow citizens, is easily dismissed with actual data. Getting a sunburn may lead to skin cancer -- should we make getting a sunburn illegal? If the criteria we apply to drugs are used to make the determination, then we certainly need to start no-knock raids to see if people are in possession of sunscreen. Those who have young children but do not have sunscreen should be arrested immediately and their children carted off and placed in foster homes to "protect" them.
Think it's absurd? According to the mortality data in the CDC's on-line mortality database, from 1979 through 1998 inclusive, all illegal drugs combined were the underlying cause of death for 44,727 people (out of 42,868,083 total deaths over the span). Meanwhile, over that same time, there were 121,001 deaths attributed to malignant melanoma of the skin.
So, if we need to punish people for using drugs because they might die, then we need to punish people who get sunburns for the same reason. Skin cancer is killing people at a rate nearly triple that of illegal drugs. And think for a moment: if the possibility of immediate death is not deterring people from using the drugs, then what good is *any* law you may dream up?
People dying "too young" from skin cancer "has affects on others." but then again, everything can be said to "affect" others -- that's what makes it such a crappy criteria for outlawing what one does to oneself.
Most people have heard of the theory that "if a butterfly flaps it's wings" off the coast of Africa, that the cumulative "effects" of having moved the air can eventually add up to a typhoon in Madagascar. Which could of course kill and otherwise "affect" lots of people. Bad butterflies!
What happens when you fart? Did fart power lead to hurricane Katrina?
And if every person is only six people away from any other person on earth -- then what is your link to bin Laden?
Drug use costs society money? Oops, fat people cost society over twice as much as those using illegal drugs. Obviously, it should be illegal to be fat. The really obese have all sorts of negative effects on those around them. Let’s round 'em up and lock 'em up -- then we can force them to exercise and control what they eat.
The issue is not whether or not you have the right to smoke pot -- the issue is that no one has the right to punish you for what you choose to do to yourself. Whether that involves smoking pot, shooting heroin, having sex with a cucumber, chopping your own hand from your body, leaping from airplanes, or merely laying around on the beach somewhere baking in the sun, the issue remains the same: no one has the right to punish you for doing something to yourself.
Any criteria you may wish to apply to support the drug war can be used against every person in the nation for some other equally specious "reason." The republic is in very grave danger. It is time to once again rise to the defense of individual liberty.
You have the right to do what ever the hell you want to yourself. No one has the right to punish you for it. It is the fundamental right, without which, there is no other right possible. After all, how can you even vote for the politicians who are taking away these rights, if you don't have the right to make your own decisions in the first place? If I am not allowed to choose what to do to myself, then how am I "allowed" to vote?
It's time to get our nation back on the path of ensuring that all of us are treated as equals. I won't vote for someone who votes to deny rights to the citizens. I will only vote for people who understand that the government is charged with protecting those rights.
Friday, July 21, 2006
While everyone involved in drug law reform generally recognizes that the war on drugs is a tremendous waste of resources, I think it's time for some of the reform organizations to be raked over the same coals too. The bottom line on some of these organizations is that they are squandering huge amounts of money every year and getting absolutely nowhere. A huge case in point is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
I have actually been a dues paying member of MPP in the past and have been able to help some of the individuals from the organization with various things over the years. I still am willing to assist any and all who seek my aid -- but there is no way in hell I am ever going to send the MPP another dime.
That attitude has been developing over the past three years in particular as I observe from afar the tendency of the MPP to claim that every minor piddly-assed change in some aspect of marijuana laws is a huge "victory" for which they themselves deserve all the credit. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and the MPP deserves nothing more than a good solid kick in the ass.
Why do they deserve a kick in the ass? Because they are pissing away the millions of dollars they get in donations (primarily from one very wealthy individual). I'm not too worried about them pissing away these funds on things like their recent two-part 10-year anniversary galas. That's right, while many deserving and hard working grass-roots organizations are dying from lack of even a small amount of funding, these idiots are indulging in self-congratulatory back slapping. And for what?
They claim to be one of the "leading" organizations in drug law reform, and that they are out there fighting the battles and achieving many wonderful victories -- but to borrow a phrase from a recent GAO report on the drug czar's office (ONDCP): "Results Not Demonstrated." Sorry, but an ever escalating number of marijuana arrests year after year for several decades (including over the entire 10 year lifespan of the MPP), and the continuation of federal raids against medical marijuana operations in states that have "legal" medical marijuana, is not even close to something that can be described as a "victory."
Those factors, in and of themselves have caused me to view the MPP with a jaundiced eye for quite some time, but the capper came in the form of their latest (and I might add UNENDING) appeals for money. This time around their "anonymous" philanthropist has pledged to donate $3.5 million in matching funds, if the MPP manages to raise that much this year. That's exciting news, and certainly I do not fault the generosity of the donor. But I do fault the way that money is going to be pissed away by the MPP. Sorry guys, but all you ever actually do is piss away money. I saw the exact same thing going on during my 24 years of working for the federal government. I know fraud, waste and abuse when I see it.
The MPP says that if it can raise these funds it will be able to cover the complete costs of several of their "initiatives" planned for this year. Two of those initiatives are the focus of this little rant: one involves a ballot initiative in Nevada to "end marijuana prohibition entirely" (oops, that's just in Nevada, and only for pot -- the drug war in general is of no concern to MPP), and a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota.
The South Dakota thing is what really got me wondering -- and given my nature as a person who digs down to find out what's really going on, I simply had to investigate. The whole thing just wasn't passing the smell test for me -- I could certainly understand trying to get the nations' bastion of immoral behavior to act as a launching platform for legalizing weed, but the South Dakota angle just baffled me. I mean, sure trying to get more medical marijuana initiatives seems like it may be a good idea -- but South Dakota!?!?!? They're the people who came up with this idea.
So I decided to find out a few crucial things about the states of Nevada and South Dakota to build a better framework of understanding as to exactly how many pot smokers could stand to benefit if the wonderful folks at MPP were to emerge "victorious" over these two initiatives. I tracked down the data for how many people actually live in those two states, how many past year marijuana smokers there are in those two states, and how many people are arrested for marijuana in those two states. All I can say about what I found is that I am completely shocked and disgusted that so much money, time and human resources are about to be wasted for such a paltry potential benefit.
Here's the Lowdown:
South Dakota ranks 46th in the nation in terms of overall population. They have been in 46th place for quite some time, including at the time of the last census (2000). In 2005, the estimated population for the entire state of South Dakota was (hold on to your hats) 775,933 people. In 2004, there were approximately 60,000 past year, and 31,000 past month South Dakota marijuana users. I don't know how many of them are seeking to use marijuana medically, but I do know that in 2004, there were 771,605 people arrested nationwide for marijuana offenses. The numbers aren't out yet for 2005, but I think it's a safe bet that when they are, the number of people arrested in the country annually for violating marijuana laws will exceed the entire population of South Dakota!
[Edit: 9/30/06 -- now they are, and would you look at that! Wow, a new record!!!! Who'da thunk it?]
For the sake of further putting this information in perspective, those 60,000 pot smokers in South Dakota (even if every one of them is a medical user) represent a mere two-tenths of one percent (0.236) of past year American pot smokers. I have nothing against the people of South Dakota, especially those who smoke pot or wish to use it medically, but good God almighty! I didn't bother to find out exactly how much of their multi-million piss fund is going to waste (literally) on this initiative, but I'm sure the other 25 million pot smokers out there in America should be similarly unimpressed with the mighty MPP as I am.
I couldn't find accurate data about how many (who am i kidding -- how few) people in South Dakota were arrested for marijuana in 2004, but I did find that there were 1,542 arrests for all drug related charges. Obviously, there is no reason in the world to believe that all of them were for marijuana, but even if they were, it still casts the MPP in a rather bad light, don't you think? Maybe they need more money to host "award galas" to celebrate their continued track record of "successes" in the drug war. Frankly, I'm not really sure whose side they are actually on if this is what they do to "advance" the cause of ending the persecution of pot smokers.
Moving on to Nevada, the numbers aren't that much better. Nevada ranks 35th in population with a 2005 count of 2,414,807 (at least that's more than the total national arrests for marijuana), and in 2004 there were 196,000 past year, and 114,000 past month marijuana users in Nevada. That works out to about 8.1 percent of the population being past year users and 4.7 percent being past month users. For the record, the national tallies are 10.6 percent for past year and 6.1 percent for past month use.
When it comes to arrests in Nevada, the waters are quite murky. The FBI tally for 2004 says there were 9,832 arrests for drug law violations in Nevada, but the state documentation says the tally was 10,708 in one of the tables in the document, but says there were 11,190 drug arrests in another part. The tally for marijuana offenses in Nevada during 2004: 97 (33 for sales, 64 for possession). Frankly, I don't buy it -- the numbers are surely much higher, but I'll be damned if I can find anything accurate anywhere.
In summary, the MPP has big plans this year to spend money fighting for the pot smokers in Nevada and South Dakota -- all 256,000 of them. For the other 25,195,000 pot smokers in the rest of the country (99 percent of the total) the MPP doesn't seem to have much to offer. So, for those 25 million people, I have two pieces of advice: don't get caught, and don't send money to the MPP.
Truly there are many, many, organizations that deserve to be getting donations from pot smokers, but the MPP isn't one of them. May I suggest that you send a donation to LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), or accept my challenge and send $1 to me.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The main goal outlined by this "strategy" is to reduce past month use of methamphetamines by 15% over the next three years. Even on the surface, that hardly sounds ambitious -- especially given that such "goals" in the past have been as high as a 25 percent reduction for overall drug use (albeit over a five year span). So, in general, there is already a standing drug use reduction goal of 5% per year. But to truly appreciate exactly how asinine this latest pronouncement actually is requires that we first look at some additional data that will give us some perspective on the magnitude (actually lack thereof) of the issues. Then we can skewer the drug czar with the very information supplied to lay out the plan for this next big achievement in the battle against meth.
For starters, you will be hard pressed to find too many drugs that are used by fewer people than methamphetamines. If you pay attention to the mainstream media, you've certainly heard about how meth use is "epidemic" and that meth labs are exploding across the land. But the data about meth use indicate that it is nowhere near as dire as claimed. Indeed, 99.4 percent of all Americans have not used meth in the past year. The primary source of drug use data among the general population is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (latest version) and some really handy information about the use of various drugs and timeframes of use is in the very first table in Appendix H.
Right there, in that table, we can see that there were a mere 583,000 past month meth users in 2004. The population of American people 12 or older in 2004 was 240,515,000 according to Table G.2 in appendix G of the NSDUH. That means that a mere one-quarter of one percent (0.24) of the US population aged 12 or older was a past month meth user in 2004. In the year prior to that there were 607,000 past month meth users (0.256% of the population). That is a drop of 3.95% in the number of past month meth users in one year -- which happened two years before the "strategy" to reduce such use by 15 percent over three years. So meth use decreased all by itself without any special focus by the drug czar. If you set the bar low enough you actually do not have to accomplish anything to get the "desired" result and declare victory.
Even more interesting is the fact that the number of people who try methamphetamine for the first time is similarly low: in 2003 (latest figures available) there were 323,000 Americans who tried meth for the first time. That is one-tenth of one percent (0.136) of the population over age 12. Yep, 99.864 percent of Americans did not try meth for the first time in 2003. And only six-tenths of one-percent of Americans were past year meth users in 2004.
Indeed, the "fact sheet" in the report actually contains a chart depicting the steady decline in meth use from 2001 through 2005 which is even labeled to indicate that the number of past month users has declined by 36 percent over the past four years, past year use has declined 30% and the number who have ever used meth has declined by 34%. Wow, and that was before the problem became so immense that it required its own separate battle plan! Frankly, I'd be embarassed to publish a plan to decrease the use of meth by 5% per year given that all by itself it has declined an average of 9% per year in the case of past month use. But maybe that's why I'm the Anti-Drugwar Czar, instead of the "Drug Czar." And I'm completely baffled that the Drug Czar is bragging about how he got Mexico, China, Thailand, and India involved in his new amazing plan. How in the world are those countries going to help slow down the rate of decline in meth use to 5 percent per year instead of the natural 9 percent per year it has been declining? Perhaps they will import more meth to the US, or somehow get more people to use it next year.
So our drug czar is trumpeting a new campaign to accomplish very little in the name of combatting an issue that involves an extraordinarily small portion of the population. For the record, the number of new meth users actually peaked in 1979 at 465,000 first time users out of a total 180,343,000 Americans 12 or older (0.26%) in the population. Thus, even at it's "most popular" methamphetamine use is simply not very appealing to most people who use various drugs. Sabre rattling over meth use, is of course, demonstratably a popular activity for the drug czar. I guess he's hurting for "victories."
Saturday, May 06, 2006
The writing is on the wall, and it's time to pay attention: the FDA's recent announcement that smoked marijuana has no accepted medical use is going to result in some very ugly ramifications. The ugliest being that the DEA has just been given carte blanche to continue their campaigns against California's medical marijuana operations. All of you people are in very grave danger. The reason you are in so much danger is the confluence of several factors, among them: federal law trumps state law (otherwise known as abuse of the "commerce clause"), the DEA was petitioned long ago to re-schedule marijuana and deferred the issue to the FDA, and last -- the FDA just passed a death sentence on medical marijuana.
Add to the mix the fact that pharmaceutical preparations of natural cannabinoids extracted from marijuana are undergoing clinical trials in which they are being found medically efficacious, and it should be quite clear to the most thick-headed among us that California medical marijuana operations are in for a rash of raids from the DEA.
Yes, anyone studying the issue seriously will have no choice but to conclude that cannabinoids have medical utility. How else can it be explained that artificial THC is already an approved safe and effective medicine? However, the issue has been being debated since the 1970's, and all "progress" made by advocates of medical marijuana has been derailed by two factors: marijuana is irrevocably connected in the public mind to recreational substance use, and more importantly, there simply are not enough legitimate medical marijuana users to bring about the changes required.
The government won the propaganda war over medical marijuana long ago -- go back and read how they've adapted their language over the years. Once cannabinoids did prove themselves as medicine, the language of the propagandists adapted to it. They stopped saying that marijuana had no accepted medical use at all and started saying that smoked marijuana had no accepted medical use. They also went to great lengths to ensure that medical marijuana was viewed as a "backdoor to full legalization." Then they started adding in a little "science" by saying (rightly) that the actual dose received through smoking marijuana (or vaporizing it) could not be controlled with scientific rigor. It doesn't matter that a user can self-titrate based on the immediate feedback of inhaled cannabinoids. In the simplistic (and regrettably, entirely effective) jargon of drug war propaganda, marijuana as medicine is completely unscientific. Oh yeah, and "those people just want to get high."
By divorcing itself from the recreational movement, advocates of medical marijuana have dug themsleves into an untenable position, and they should literally start running for the hills -- 'cause there's a big assed target on your backs, and there simply are not enough of you to make a stand. Stop holding the recreational users at arms length and embrace the fact that their cause can include yours, but you have not allowed theirs to be part of yours. If you could just buy marijuana like beer, then you wouldn't have to go through all the political bullshit to use it for whatever ails you. Wake up already -- and, oh yeah, take cover! You're about to be under heavy fire.
Medical marijuana is dead. Sadly, it is likely that there will also be some humans dying along with it. We need a bigger army -- so it's time to unite for the one cause that makes sense: ending the war on drug users. Then people can use marijuana for whatever the hell they find it useful for -- as "God" intended.
Friday, March 17, 2006
On the other hand, as usual, the "dangers" of meth are blown wildly out of proportion and nowhere near as dire as our government would have us believe. Meth use really isn't an "epidemic" running rampant in our society, and making us sign for our cold pills will do absolutely nothing to alter the fact that some small number of people will use methamphetamines for the fun of it.
By now, you should be more than familiar with the litany of government claims about the "threat" that meth poses to our society, but if not, go visit this page on the drug czar's site to refresh your memory. And then continue reading this so you can see how stupid and useless it really is to make believe that any of us are "threatened" by methamphetamines.
Would You Use It?
I don't know what the magic number is that qualifies something as an "epidemic," but if meth use qualifies for that attribute, then the number is incredibly small. You see, the number of people who use methamphetamines is in reality quite low. According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2005), there were only 1.4 million past year users, and 600,000 past month users of methamphetamine in 2004. And only 318,000 were said to have used it for the first time within the 12 month period prior to the survey. That's out of a total potential customer base of 240,515,000 people aged 12 or older. Meth use is on par with adult use of ADHD drugs -- an estimated 1.5 million adults use them along with with 2.5 million children aged 4 (FOUR!!????) to 17. I haven't heard about the "ADHD drug epidemic" have you?
And for the record, initiation of meth use peaked in 1979 (at 465,000 new users) and it's certainly not a new "menace" -- merely one of a recurring merry-go-round of several. So let's do the math. Approximately one-tenth of one percent (0.1) of Americans tried meth for the first time, some one-quarter of one percent (0.25) of Americans are past month users, and some sixth-tenths (0.6) of one percent of Americans used it in the past year (verify). Epidemic? That's not even enough people to keep a crappy television show on the air.
Even People Who Like Drugs Don't Like Meth!
While the numbers above may strike some as a reason to continue the madness of drug war, I have to wonder why we don't hear about the "epidemic of hallucinogen use." Afterall, if meth qualifies, then hallucinogen use must be nearing "pandemic" proportion, since nearly three times as many people (934,000) tried them for the first time in 2004, and nearly 4 million used them in the past year. And marijuana use must surely be some kind of super-cosmic mega-pandemic given its popularity among Americans. For the record, in 2004 there were 34.8 million users of illicit drugs, 1.4 million of whom used methamphetamine, and 25.4 million of whom used marijuana. So even among people who like to use "illicit" drugs, only four percent were involved in the meth epidemic. Hmmmm, so 96 percent of the people who use illicit intoxicants did not use meth. So why am I standing in line and signing for the cold pills I could freely buy over the counter just last year? I say we make the meth users stand in line!
What About Addiction and Various Other Forms of Mayhem?
Given the general air of hysteria surrounding meth, it seems prudent to assess the actual measures of the havoc meth is said to wreak. Especially since mere use, in and of itself, is certainly not a measure of anything other than its (lack of) popularity. But the drug czar tells us that "mentions" of meth in hospital emergency rooms tallied up to 14,696 in 2002 (latest complete data available). Is that an "epidemic" measure? To answer the question we need to do some more simple math.
If every "mention" came from a different meth user then that means that just under one percent (0.95 percent) of past year meth users (2002 past year users: 1,541,000) made a "mention" of it in a hospital somewhere. Huh? That means that 99 percent of past year meth users didn't mention it in a hospital. Hmmmmm. Okay, what about drug rehab?
In 2002, there were 104,481 admissions for methamphetamine out of a user base of 1,541,000 past year users. That works out to about 6.8 percent of the past year users. So once again, an extremely large majority of meth users (93.2 percent) seem to be able to use the drug without ending up in rehab. These numbers simply can't qualify meth use, addiction, etc as anything other than a minor public health problem.
So Now Let's Look At A Real Public Health "Epidemic"
While the numbers above are the fuel for the government inspired and media-hyped boogeyman of the "meth-epidemic," another evil spectre goes largely unremarked. This particular disease afflicts nearly 21 million Americans, some 6 million of whom don't even realize they are "infected." This particular epidemic is said to have cost the United States $132 billion (yes Billion) in 2002, $40 billion of which was "indirect" costs (like lost worker productivity, premature death, etc) and a whopping $92 billion in direct medical costs. In addition, this particular epidemic was the underlying cause of death for 73,249 Americans in 2002, and implicated in the deaths of a total of 224,092 Americans that year.
The epidemic in question? Diabetes. If our nation is willing to engage in the war on drugs to address the "meth epidemic" to what extent will it act to curb the diabetes epidemic? Some 95 percent of all new diabetes cases are "Type 2" diabetes -- which is caused primarily by eating too much and exercising too little. If we win the war against meth, will we next fight a war on diabetes? Will we tolerate pre-dawn no-knock raids in which SWAT teams trash your house looking for sugar? Will there be mandatory exercise and dietary laws passed? Why not? On what grounds do we challenge the government's power to dictate our lives and our health?
If we are willing to accept what is done to combat the "meth epidemic" then we certainly ought to accept the same to combat the "diabetes epidemic" -- shouldn't we? One final note: do a couple of google searches -- one for meth epidemic and one for diabetes epidemic. Meth epidemic returns 883,000 hits, while diabetes epidemic returns 5,320,000 hits. Better drop that donut!