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Drug Warriors Claim Colorado Going to Pot – Article by Mark Thornton

Drug Warriors Claim Colorado Going to Pot – Article by Mark Thornton

The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
September 20, 2014
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As we moved into the second half of 2014, I was eager to learn if marijuana legalization in Colorado was succeeding. At first there was little being reported, but eventually reports started appearing in the news. Business Insider reported that “Legalizing Weed in Colorado Is A Huge Success,” although they did temper their report with a “Down Side” as well. Jacob Sullum reported that such things as underage consumption and traffic fatalities have fallen, although the declines were statistically insignificant and part of already declining trends in the statistics.

The important thing for me is that things did not get much worse according to these reports. When you open the door to a newly legal recreational drug via a very clunky regulatory circus, and where the government gives its seal of approval, there are bound to be growing pains and tragic cases. For example, one college student jumped to his death after ingesting six times the recommended number of pot-infused cookies.

The third report I came across was an editorial from the venerable Heritage Foundation. Given the previous reports, I was astonished to learn that in Colorado marijuana use was associated with an increase in highway fatalities, DUI arrests, underage consumption, drug-related student expulsions, college student use, and marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The editorial concludes: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data. And the data coming out of Colorado points to one and only one conclusion: the legalization of marijuana in the state is terrible public policy.”

However, I began to get suspicious when I found out that the “hard science and reliable data” were not collected, produced, or analyzed by the Heritage Foundation, but by some outfit named the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program. They produced the report entitled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” which strongly calls into question the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

There was no information about the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program (RMHIDRA) in the report other than it was produced by the “Investigative Support Center” in Denver, Colorado. It turns out the program is actually controlled by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, otherwise known as the Drug Czar.

Colorado has been in the process of legalizing marijuana since 2000. It initially started small with limited medical marijuana and as of January of 2014, it has legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana with local option for commercial production and retail distribution. So we should expect, ceteris paribus, that the full price to consumers has fallen and that consumption for medical and recreational use has increased.

One of the most distressing empirical results in the RMHIDRA report was that while overall traffic fatalities decreased 14.8 percent between 2007 and 2012 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists that tested positive for marijuana increased by 100 percent. This data is exploited over several pages of the report using a variety of tables and charts.

If Coloradoans were consuming more marijuana and relatively less alcohol, we would expect the number of traffic fatalities to decrease because marijuana has been found to be relatively much safer than alcohol in terms of driving and motor skills. But the data indicating a 100 percent increase in fatalities involving marijuana is puzzling, disturbing, and at odds with “hard science.” If this was indeed “reliable data” it would indicate that marijuana consumption in Colorado had greatly increased beyond anyone’s estimation.

It turns out RMHIDRA’s data was anything but “reliable” and would be best characterized as misleading. If you examine the footnote section of the report you will find that the data from 2012 “represents 100 percent reporting” due to the efforts of RMHIDA to scour several data sources. However, a footnote reveals that in the data from 2006 through 2012 a very slight majority of cases, 50.13 percent were not tested! If 100 percent were tested in 2012, then the percent tested for 2006–2011 is far less than 50 percent.

What this means is that if you increased blood testing to 100 percent in 2012 when you were testing less than 50 percent of cases in prior years that you should expect to find at least a 100 percent increase involving traffic fatalities with some detection of marijuana. This result not only brings into question the reports “reliable data,” it brings into serious question RMHIDRA’s respect for “hard science.”

Another basic problem with their data is the meaning of “testing positive for marijuana.” Marijuana’s active ingredient THC can remain detectable days and weeks after it has been consumed. In contrast, marijuana impairment only lasts for several hours and is somewhat offset by safer driving behaviors, such as driving at slower speeds and avoiding high traffic areas. Given that marijuana consumption has increased significantly since 2000 we should indeed expect many more positive blood tests, but without making the leap that marijuana consumption is causing more highway fatalities.

The RMHIDRA report also offers up some dreary data on youth marijuana use. In particular, they conclude that marijuana use by young Coloradans is higher than the national average and increasing. Most importantly, they point out that between the 2008–09 and 2012–/13 school years there was a 32 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in Colorado.

Other experts using different data sources believe that there has actually been a secular trend of decreasing marijuana use by the young people of Colorado throughout the entire legalization process. However, with respect to suspensions and expulsions, there has indeed been a 32 percent increase in the number of drug-related suspensions and expulsions.

However, weighted on a per pupil basis, there has been virtually no increase in the rate of drug-related suspensions and expulsions. The numerical increase in suspensions and expulsions is more than completely accounted for by the increased number of pupils and the relative increase of impoverished minority groups.

In addition, “drug related” suspensions and expulsions involves other drugs besides marijuana, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Marijuana-related suspensions and expulsions are overwhelmingly related to “possession” and “under the influence,” not things like violence, property destruction, and classroom disturbances.

The RMHIDRA report spans over 150 pages, but everything I had time to examine was either clearly wrong, misleading, or intentionally sensational.

Of course there are other sources of misinformation on the relative risks of cannabis. For example, there are academics who warn of the dangers of cannabis while they are receiving money from the pharmaceutical pain drug companies. This again suggests a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

This is particularly disturbing and relevant information given recent reports which indicate that relatively fewer overdose painkiller deaths are occurring in states with medical marijuana laws.

There are clearly some things wrong with Colorado’s approach to legalizing marijuana and there are clearly going to be some bad results at the individual and state level, but this report is not the right way of determining and correcting those problems. As the Heritage Foundation editorial concluded: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data.”

Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Obama’s Syria Policy Looks a Lot Like Bush’s Iraq Policy – Article by Ron Paul

Obama’s Syria Policy Looks a Lot Like Bush’s Iraq Policy – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 19, 2013
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President Obama announced late last week that the US intelligence community had just determined that the Syrian government had used poison gas on a small scale, killing some 100 people in a civil conflict that has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. Because of this use of gas, the president claimed, Syria had crossed his “red line” and the US must begin to arm the rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.

Setting aside the question of why 100 killed by gas is somehow more important than 99,900 killed by other means, the fact is his above explanation is full of holes. The Washington Post reported this week that the decision to overtly arm the Syrian rebels was made “weeks ago” – in other words, it was made at a time when the intelligence community did not believe “with high confidence” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.

Further, this plan to transfer weapons to the Syrian rebels had become policy much earlier than that, as the Washington Post reported that the CIA had expanded over the past year its secret bases in Jordan to prepare for the transfer of weapons to the rebels in Syria.

The process was identical to the massive deception campaign that led us into the Iraq war. Remember the famous quote from the leaked “Downing Street Memo,” where representatives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration discussed Washington’s push for war on Iraq?

Here the head of British intelligence was reporting back to his government after a trip to Washington in the summer of 2002:

“Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

That is exactly what the Obama Administration is doing with Syria: fixing the intelligence and facts around the already determined policy. And Congress just goes along, just as they did the last time.

We found out shortly after the Iraq war started that the facts and intelligence being fixed around the policy were nothing but lies put forth by the neo-con warmongers and the paid informants, like the infamous and admitted liar known as “Curveball.” But we seem to have learned nothing from being fooled before.

So Obama now plans to send even more weapons to the Syrian rebels even though his administration is aware that the main rebel factions have pledged their loyalty to al-Qaeda. Does anyone else see the irony? After 12 years of the “war on terror” and the struggle against al-Qaeda, the US decided to provide weapons to the allies of al-Qaeda. Does anyone really think this is a good idea?

The Obama administration promises us that this is to be a very limited operation, providing small arms only, with no plans for a no-fly zone or American boots on the ground. That sounds an awful lot like how Vietnam started. Just a few advisors. When these few small arms do not achieve the pre-determined US policy of regime change in Syria, what is the administration going to do? Admit failure and pull the troops out, or escalate? History suggests the answer, and it now appears to be repeating itself once again.

The president has opened a can of worms that will destroy his presidency and possibly destroy this country. Another multi-billion-dollar war has begun.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.