Monday, August 01, 2016

Back With Some Great News

Back in April, I went to post a new update on my blog and got caught in the third inner-ring of hell! Short version is that my template was no longer supported and when I attempted to change it, my blog suddenly disappeared. I checked every now and then, but it was still gone -- until I checked today. Woohoo!

If you noticed, my public work came to a standstill some time ago. I won't bore you with the details, and instead have some awesome news: I was contacted by William Martin, the head of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. He explained that he had been taking advantage of my work for quite some time and was inquiring as to why my work came to an abrupt end. We spoke by phone and he made an offer I simply could not refuse: they wanted to take the work on my website "truth:the Anti-drugwar," update the charts and tables, rehost the materials on their own website, and give me a great deal of recognition and credit for orignally doing the work.

Needless to say, I was extremely honored by the recognition and absolutely delighted that someone was willing to step-up and accept the challenge of continuing the work. In addition, I have been invited to be a Contributing Expert in the Drug Policy Program, which will allow me to directly contribute to their work, as well as cite that relationship when I publish my independent work in major media. It will take some time to get everything done, and as the updates are made to the Baker Institute site, I will add the appropriate links on my pages, directing people to the latest data.

Have a look at the first set of materials they have updated, from the MTF and NSDUH data. Also, please read the Issue Brief the Baker Institute has published regarding the work. It's not a long read and continues the tradition of using pictures to tell the whole story. Kindly share the link for the Issue Brief with others, rather than sending them the pdf directly -- clicks on links can be counted, and are important to ensure that the work can continue.

It's good to be back!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Thrown Under the Bus by the "Leader"

Now that the dust has settled slightly concerning the release of the latest National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), it's time to point out the truly horrifying (and apparently completely overlooked), focus of the newest NDCS: drug testing everyone as frequently as possible as a proven, effective technique of reducing drug use and it's possible negative impacts on society. Perhaps the worst aspect of recent events however, is that whether he realizes it or not, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann has given his endorsement to keeping the drug war chugging along -- but worse yet, has basically stated that he wants ONDCP to work on re-directing their efforts against drug users rather than focusing on drug suppliers. Of course, he's actually been saying that since the days of Barry McCaffrey, but it looks like the new Drug Czar agrees with Ethan. With friends like this, we're totally screwed.

We'll get back to Ethan and his "too slowly, too timidly, and with little vision of a fundamentally different way of dealing with" approach to changing drug policy in depth in a future piece, but right now it's important to illustrate how the Drug Czar plans to do exactly what Ethan has told him he needs to do. The pertinent details about what the Drug Czar has planned are on the very first page of the NDCS, which lays out the first two of its overall objectives, to whit: Strengthen Efforts to Prevent Drug Use in Communities; and Seek Early Intervention Opportunities in Health Care. The two key words here are "prevent" and "intervention." You see, the absolute best way to avoid the potential negative societal impacts of drug use is to do your best at ensuring that nobody is using any drugs. And the best way to do that is by making everyone prove they aren't using any drugs -- including some "legal" ones in certain contexts. So, how does the Drug Czar plan to accomplish these objectives? The specifics are also right there on the first page. Let's have a look.

The czar intends to Prevent Drug Use by (among other things):

  • Developing a community-oriented national prevention system focused on young people;

  • Collaborating with States to help communities implement evidence-based prevention initiatives;

  • Fostering collaboration between public health and public safety organizations to prevent drug use; and by

  • Curtailing drugged driving by encouraging States to establish and enforce laws that impose penalties for the presence of any illicit drug while driving and by launching a national effort to educate the public about the serious public health and safety threat posed by drugged driving

The key thing for us to focus on is that the Drug Czar is stating over and over again in no uncertain terms that he is not focused on drug abuse -- he is focused on preventing all drug use, period. That's "zero-tolerance" -- same as it has always been. On page 8 of the NDCS we can find the czar's reaction to calls for basing drug policy on science and reason: "Research indicates that preventing drug use in the first place is the most cost-effective strategy in drug control policy." That seems to indicate that the Drug Czar has taken to heart all the criticism about wasteful drug war spending and lack of science based policy. He's simply doing what he was told to do by drug policy critics in the name of "sane and rational" drug policy.

Drug testing provides the best way to "implement evidence-based prevention initiatives" -- kind of a no-brainer isn't it? It looks like they want to spend early attention focused on testing young people. It is important to make that practice seem as "normal" and "reasonable" as possible at very young ages to ensure higher compliance rates and less resistance over time -- another cost-effective technique. Be prepared for your children to be drug tested for a wide variety of reasons, multiple times over the course of the school year, and don't worry that your school districts have no money to pay teachers and can't afford to do constant monitoring of students for drug use -- the feds will gladly pay for your testing programs. For the rest of it you'll still be on your own.

Naturally, though, drug testing cannot be limited to children if the goal is "zero" use. Be prepared to get drug tested when you get or renew your driver's license, register a vehicle, or get pulled over in a "routine" traffic stop. Those activities will be how the Drug Czar attacks the problem of drugged driving -- by making the states create and enforce these laws in order to get federal funds for highway and infrastructure projects. And here's the really fun bonus: you won't have to pee to provide a sample. Thanks to the long term efforts of the drug testing industry, the utopia of constant monitoring for the presence of "bad" drugs is upon us. You can hardly make a coherent case of your "privacy" being violated from a simple mouth swab that you yourself use to acquire the sample with, now can you? Open up and say "ahhhh!" Hell, they'll probably just have us licking the test strips in a few years, which would be even less intrusive. The kids will all be tested, the drivers will all be tested, the workers will all be tested -- the "most cost-effective" way to reach the goal of zero use. There's that critical word again -- "use." Not abuse, just plain use. All use. Everywhere. Everyone. Every way. Always.

This leads us to objective 2 in the new NDCS: "Early Intervention" which will be implemented via (again, among other things):

  • Increasing screening and early intervention for substance use in all healthcare settings; and

  • Increasing healthcare providers’ knowledge of screening and brief intervention techniques through medical schools and continuing education programs

The stated reason for the above is that: "The healthcare system can avert enormous human and economic cost if care providers consistently screen and intervene with early-stage substance abuse before it becomes acutely life threatening." Translated into reality, what this says is that every time you get near any health care professional, you will be drug tested. Drug testing is slated to become a routine test in all health care related scenarios. Check-up? Drug test. Flu shot? Drug test. Donate blood? Drug test. Dental check-up? Drug test. Sports physical? Drug test. Join a gym? Drug test -- it's only a matter of time, especially if you get some kind of health care benefit, employer contribution, or tax write off as a result of membership. Don't believe it? Read the verbiage about how the Drug Czar wants the whole "community" involved. You wanna hear the really fun part: you will have to pay for it.

In summary then, the "new" drug control strategy apparently is to ensure that nobody uses drugs. Nobody. Ever. Zero Tolerance. That, of course, is nothing new, but what's different here is that the ONDCP appears ready to take the advice of Ethan Nadelmann and shift the imbalance of drug war funding away from production and supply interdiction, and move a lot more of the budget into "prevention and treatment." Ethan has on many occasions over the past decade and a half bemoaned the funding imbablance specifically -- most recently in testimony before a U.S. House Domestic Policy Subcommittee hearing on funding for the ONDCP and it's overdue release of the annual NDCS. Here are some of the pertinent quotes from Ethan's testimony:

    "In terms of the broad strokes of ONDCP's proposed FY11 drug war budget, it is largely a continuation of the failed drug policies of the last three decades, with most of the money dedicated to ineffective supply-side programs, relatively little going to treatment and prevention, and almost none going to harm reduction."

    "The U.S. is never going to significantly reduce the problems associated with drug use and misuse as long as most of the drug war budget is dedicated to supply reduction instead of demand and harm reduction. Drug strategies that seek to interrupt the supply at its source have failed over and over again for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and virtually every drug to which they have been applied - including alcohol during alcohol Prohibition."

There you have it folks, the Drug Czar doesn't want to fight a war on our own citizens anymore and thinks he found a way out: by concentrating on "prevention and treatment" -- just as Ethan Nadelmann (and in fairness, others) has demanded. Inadvertently or not though, the "leader" of drug policy reform has of late taken to singing the praises of the Drug Czar and his "new" policy, and has been offering up the advice to stop the supply side fight and focus more on "prevention." And it appears that is exactly what the Drug Czar's "new approach" actually is. I can see the headlines from the Drug Czar's office now: "Drug Policy Alliance and ONDCP Agree: Prevention is Best Approach." It should be quite easy to demonstrate that absolute lack of drug use is a "proven" (and measurable) technique for addressing the ills of drug use: no use equals no problem. What better form of "prevention" is there?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm back!

At long last, I have finally regained control of my blog!  I forgot my password and the primary account email was set to a dummy account I can't even log in to.  It was a huge pain in the ass and all of the "support" is automated -- no one to talk to or email.  But, I should be back to posting on a several times a month basis soon.

I've been working my ass off for the past two years doing more historic research (which will allow me to show people beyond any doubt that this whole mess is simply an insane merry-go-round in which the exact same crap occurs over and over), as well as updating all of the primary data resources on my site.

There are a lot of things going on, the dialog is starting to get better and more and more people are paying attention.  Now is the time to get everybody lined up, singing the same song, and marching in the same direction.

The prohibitionists are feeling the heat and relying on their same old tired arguments and shocktoids -- time to knock them off their horses!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I've Been Busy

Holy crap! It's been that long since I last posted?

I don't really have the time to do much with my blog anymore, as I've been incredibly busy with my latest projects.

Meanwhile, I urge you to head on over to Pete's Couch (no, not that one), where you will find the absolute best blog there is about the drug war.

I'll keep updating my site and write something every now and then as I can, but I can't emphasize enough that we've got a shitload of work to do and we need all hands on deck. It's time to finally pull the plug on the drug war. Come to Pete's place and help.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Catch-22 of Drug Law Reform

Those who are working for reform of our nation's drug laws are out-moneyed, out-gunned, and out-numbered by those waging it. Clearly, the citizens have no prayer of ever out-gunning the government, and the vast majority of drug reformers are actually un-paid volunteers. Interest in putting an end to the drug war is nowhere near as widespread as it needs to be, thus the money that is available is quite limited, and in no case will ever be likely to number in the tens of billions of dollars spent annually by our government to continue waging the war itself. If enough people cared, then certainly more money could be available. Clearly, then, we need to get more people to care about the drug war and then become pissed off enough to help do something about it.

The time honored way to do that, of course, is to get a poster child or two from the group on whose behalf assistance is sought, and to get those very people to work en masse on their own behalf. Since the drug war is being waged primarily against marijuana users, you'd think that marijuana users would be fully engaged in seeking their own emancipation. Sadly, you'd be wrong. This cause is one that just doesn't get much attention or sympathy from the general public, and those who do step forward risk losing everything they have in life as their reward for doing so at the moment. Of course, by not stepping forward and allowing the situation to deteriorate at an ever accelerating rate, it is increasingly likely that every marijuana user will one day be caught and cast aside as a societal reject. Damned if you do -- fucked if you don't. Catch-22.

People can't stand up because it's too dangerous, but not standing up is allowing it to get even worse even faster. So, we slowly die, hoping somebody will figure out what to do. We have to make it "safe" to say out loud that you have used marijuana and/or still do. The absolute most effective way to counter the stereotypes and claims of "damages" due to using marijuana is for those who do use it to stand up and say two simple things: "Yep, I do (did) it, so what?" and "When is all that bad stuff supposed to happen to me?" There is no one in a better position to counter claims about every angle used by the prohibitionists than the millions upon millions of pot-using Americans silently letting their liberty bleed into history.

So, given that it is so dangerous to stand up, yet also so dangerous to not do so, what is the answer? There are two large drug reform organizations alleged to be working toward making America safer for marijuana users: the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). What are they doing to make America safer for marijuana users? MPP spends a lot of time throwing parties at the Playboy mansion, including a past one celebrating their 10th anniversary. In every one of those 10 years (and counting), another new record number of marijuana arrests was achieved. Meanwhile these folks are crowing about trying to pass medical marijuana laws in states where the entire population is lower than the number of annual marijuana arrests. Nice work, folks!

And why does MPP even exist? NORML was set up to specifically address making marijuana legal -- back in the early 1970's! Sad to say that in NORML's 30+ years of existence there is a 30+ year history of yet another new record number of marijuana arrests. To paraphrase Hudson in the movie "Aliens" just after first contact: maybe you haven't been paying attention for the past three decades, but we keep getting our asses kicked!

More arrests, more lives ruined. More drug testing, more lives ruined. More student drug testing, more dangerous drugs used instead. Marijuana users remain pariahs and will continue to be seen that way until a core of "average pot smokers" can rise to challenge the stereotypes. Theoretically, that's what NORML was founded to do -- and at the state and local levels they're doing a pretty decent job here and there. However, at the federal level, NORML is essentially ineffective and meaningless. In terms of making life easier and "safer" for America's pot smokers, we have to face the facts: you're failing.

You'd think that when some celebrity gets caught with marijuana that it would help open the door to "normalizing" the behavior -- and indeed, NORML does make an occasional attempt to get that sort of person to help. There are a few problems with that though: first, the people who get caught tend to value their careers more than they have the desire to be a spokesperson for marijuana use (what with "the children" out there and all); and second, most of the ones who get caught really don't make very good spokespersons in the first place. So where do we turn? How do we get the marijuana user to be looked on as a "normal" person if there are no normal people rising up and saying that they use marijuana?

As luck would have it, Americans tend to take things into their own hands when they aren't seeing progress, and there are literally hundreds of organizations and individuals that have started making their own attempts at getting attention drawn to the plight of marijuana users. Some of them started because they got caught, while others simply got fed-up enough for whatever reasons that they decided to try to make a difference personally. Why did these people strike out on their own if there are already two organizations supposedly working on their behalf? [Three, actually, but I'm going to do a separate piece on the Drug Policy "Alliance."] I suggest it is a vote of "no confidence" -- a vote with which I must agree, and one of the reasons why I started doing the work I've done.

Neither MPP nor NORML is accomplishing anything truly useful for the plight of the marijuana user. The witch hunt continues with increasing ferocity year after year, in large part because there are no examples on the national level with which to counter the allegations of the drug czar and his war machine with regard to marijuana, its effects and its users. There is only the same sickeningly stupid merry-go-round of claim and counter-claim. Oops, and another new record number of marijuana arrests every year.

If we're going to get anywhere, we need credible people to rise to the challenge and directly counter all of the mythology and bullshit. Fortunately, a small number of people have come forward to act as examples of "normal" people who just happen to use marijuana, and two great places to find them are Dr Lester Grinspoon's "Marijuana Uses" -- featuring commentaries about marijuana use from those who have actually used it; and Mikki Norris's "Cannabis Consumers Campaign" -- where a growing number of people have "outed" themselves as good, honest, hard-working people who just happen to enjoy using marijuana. But what is still missing is an effective way to gain positive attention from the media -- especially on a large scale.

The only consistent attention that traditional media have paid to the marijuana users occurs in the form of derisive smirking, and the usual "stupid stoner" jokes. If you really believe that running for election under the banner of the "Marijuana Party" is ever going to be looked at as anything other than a joke, I really don't know what to tell you. There is very little good to be achieved by such acts.

We need positive media attention, and we need millions of people to get involved. The "leaders" are currently failing at both. Something tells me that doing the same crap over and over is a bad idea -- it is. I suggest that rather than literally pissing away what little resources are available on "some day we'll get there" bullshit -- like crowing about five more votes on the Hinchey-Rohrbacher bill, or the latest "medical marijuana" initiative in another sparsely populated state -- it's time to get seriously proactive. There is no reason in the world that we should be fucking with people who inhale plant smoke -- or do anything else to themselves, for that matter. Period. It really is that simple. If the plant smokers would pull together, they'd win this game easily. But they can't -- because it's too dangerous, and the "leaders" aren't doing anything to inspire courageous acts among them.

Will we continue to twist in the wind, setting record arrest numbers while the parties rage on at the Playboy Mansion? Will the current director of NORML retire 30 years from now, as did the first one -- meaning the war still raged on? Will the "leaders" rise to the occasion and start exhibiting the courage that is required of "leaders?" Can they give the pot smokers something to believe in -- so that they actually would rise to the challenge before us?

More drug testing. More drug arrests. More lives ruined. More families destroyed. More drug laws. More children turning in their parents. On and on for decade after goddam decade. Gentlemen, enough is enough! You need to up your game (at least I hope you aren't actually showing us your A-game right now). Get your acts together and seize the moment: that's what "leaders" do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Proposed Controlled Substances Act of 2007

The major piece of US legislation dealing with drugs and drug use is called the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which among other things, established five distinct "Schedule" levels and the criteria for determining into which Schedule any given substance should be classed. For each level in the Schedule, the criteria are focused on three distinct aspects: potential for abuse, established medical efficacy, and likelihood of creating dependence.

Surely, one of the most blatant examples of the lunacy of the criteria for "Scheduling" substances involves marijuana. The main psychoactive compound in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. In its natural state in the marijuana plant, THC is a "Schedule I" substance with a "high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." Obviously, if something has no "accepted medical use" then it will not likely have an established level of safety in medical use -- it's a Catch-22, isn't it?

More importantly, man-made THC is on Schedule III and thus has been judged to have a potential for abuse "less than those included in Schedules I and II," a "currently accepted medical use," and that "abuse" of the drug may lead to only "moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence." Somehow, man-made THC has been declared to have less potential for abuse than marijuana which contains natural THC. Frankly, I am incapable of comprehending how that can possibly be so.

But my intent here is not to focus on "medical" marijuana -- I want to focus on the real reason the vast majority of people smoke pot: for recreational intoxication. It is a subtle but essential point to state that the CSA has nothing to do with recreational intoxicants. Indeed, the specification in the Scheduling criteria that a substance has to be evaluated in terms of its medical efficacy is its Achilles' Heel. Why should a substance intended for recreational intoxication be assessed for medical utility? If I want to get high, I honestly don't care whether or not my intoxicant can double as a "medicine" of some sort.

Worse yet, given the absolute inadequacy of the CSA to address recreational intoxication, if we need to buy allergy pills or cold medicine we now have to show photo ID, and have our purchases of such items recorded and restricted. Never mind that the drug in question (pseudoephedrine) was already approved through the various "Schedules" and was proven a "safe and effective" non-threatening "medicine" that made it all the way to over-the-counter sales (in 1976!). Never mind that 99.4 percent of Americans are not past year meth users. The intentions behind the CSA were to ensure that intoxicants other than alcohol would never be "legal" to manufacture, use or sell in the United States. Period.

To help put an end to the nonsensical requirements of the current CSA and create a more sane approach to the issues of intoxicant use, I therefore propose a new modified CSA. The new act only needs to have three defined "Schedules" as follows:

Schedule I - Medicines: Medicines are those substances primarily designed and intended to treat or cure diseases.

Schedule II - Drugs: Drugs are those substances primarily designed and intended to provide relief of physical symptoms and discomforts.

Schedule III - Recreational Intoxicants: Recreational intoxicants are those substances primarily designed and intended to create a state of altered awareness.

License the manufacture and sale, establish quality controls and labeling requirements, and sell the intoxicants only to adults.

Prescriptions should only be used as a form of recommendation from a physician to a patient -- not as a "permission" slip as is the case in the current system.

This stuff is nowhere near as complicated as it has been made out to be.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Face It: You're a "Legalizer"

If you have ever expressed any doubt about the War on Drugs, no matter how small, you are a “legalizer.” Whether we like it or not, that’s where the bar has been set by the opposition – thus, even though we are failing to recognize it, the true measure of our argument (and thus also our probability of success) is entirely dependent upon clearing that bar. While the drug reform “movement” remains disjointed and broken into a thousand little threads, there will be no mass involvement among the general public in altering the status quo. Thus, to truly benefit from (and more intelligently utilize) the efforts of those engaging in the attempt, my appeal to all of you is simply this: let’s clear the bar.

There is absolutely no defensible reason to continue prohibition. If you have one, bring it on – I will convince you of the error of your ways. Or, failing at the task, consign you to the “do not resuscitate” pile. There is indeed some number of our fellow citizens who can only be described as “fanatical” people who will never be swayed from their position. The good news, though, is that they tally up to a rather small (though loud and certainly insufferable) portion of the populace. Interestingly, the “standard curve” applies, and it is likely that this minority of extremists is probably in balanced proportion to those they wish to bully – that is, the number of problem drug using people is likely quite similar to the number of vehement prohibitionists. It’s just a hunch. But, if it is anywhere close to true, it is certainly something that works to our advantage. Just as drug abuse is the exception, so is utter intolerance. The American people as a whole tend toward being quite a bit more tolerant than would be required for achieving a “zero tolerance, drug-free” America. The problem we face is not convincing them that we are correct – it is getting them to pay attention in the first place. And then there’s that little knee jerk: “You’re just trying to make it legal to use drugs.” That is ultimately their last line of defense … and their first.

Trying to change marijuana laws may be the “easiest” thing politically, but I’m sorry, there are two HUGE reasons why that one is going nowhere: 1) pot smokers are afraid to speak up for themselves and 2) passing a pot law in one state leaves the pot smokers in the other 49 screwed. Let’s say the MPP was “successful” (in the true sense of the word, not in their self-aggrandizing definition of the word) in passing the recreational marijuana use law proposed in Nevada this past fall – what would that really mean? If you lived in Arizona and went to Vegas for a weekend of boozing, gambling, whoring and pot smoking, when you returned to work Monday morning, your piss test would still put you out of a job. Some "success" that would be.

The worst impact of trying the "go slowly" approach is that even full-blown wide open legal availability of marijuana will do absolutely nothing to address the entirely heinous aspects of the drug war. Innocent people will still be killed during SWAT raids on the wrong house, there will still be plenty of "drug-related" crime, plenty of accidental deaths from stuff like "heroin" that is laced with fentanyl, and (worst of all) the "let's pee for freedom" train will be charging full steam ahead training our youth to be obedient little neo-fascists.

Let’s not forget too, how quickly the British and Swiss addiction experiments were (and continue to be) dubbed as “failures” (despite abundant evidence to the contrary). You see, the basic problem with the piecemeal approach is that it actually does nothing to help. It merely allows the existing system to remain largely intact while allowing the emergence of a new chorus of voices protesting things like “drug tourism” and demanding even more stupidity like increasing the use of drug testing. It’s a completely dumbass idea to try to kill the beast by trimming its toenails.

“Legalizing Drugs,” is thus the big scary boogeyman that serves as the foundation of the status quo. I am convinced, however, that the average citizen is quite capable of comprehending why we need to end the War on Drugs – and that by ending the war it will indeed mean that we do have to legalize the sales, possession, and use of the wide variety of available intoxicants. Does that mean we all turn into heroin addicts the day after? HELL NO!!! But the actual goal should not and indeed is not to legalize drugs – it is to end the tyrannous practices that have resulted from our society having adopted intolerance as part of its creed. In essence, we need to gather the courage to play for the fence, and make this a core issue at every level in the next general election.

We must stop splintering the far too limited resources we possess into so many misdirected attempts at eating the poo one swallow at a time. We have nothing, ask for next to nothing, and consistently lose to the trump card of “you’re just trying to make drugs legal.” Enough! If we want to gather the numbers we require to accomplish the task, we first need to focus our attention on the fact that the core reason to end the drug war is simply because it is completely un-American to turn in your neighbor for doing things directly to only himself. Period. We need to demand (and practice) equality for all.

We need to be bold, we need to have courage. We know we are correct, and we know we will prevail -- we just need the balls to actually swing for the fence.

Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, two outs, down by three.

Batter up!