Tag Archives: War on Drugs

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Nevada Transhumanist Party Positions on 2016 Nevada Ballot Questions

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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NTP-Logo-9-1-2015

The Nevada Transhumanist Party offers the following brief statements of position on the ballot questions currently before Nevada voters.

Summary
Question 1: No Position
Question 2: Support
Question 3: Support
Question 4: Support

Ballot Question 1 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party does not take a position on Ballot Question 1, the requirement for background checks on private-party transfers of firearms. Gun control is not a strictly transhumanist issue, and transhumanists hold varying positions on it. Vote your conscience on this ballot question.

[Personal Statement: I personally voted against Ballot Question 1, due to my concern regarding the creation of an additional category of crime that could increase the probability of hostile police/citizen confrontations and redirect police resources away from genuine violent crime – but other transhumanists may come to different conclusions from mine. Again, this is a not an area in which the Nevada Transhumanist Party generally takes official stances. ~ Gennady Stolyarov II]

Ballot Question 2 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 2 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any structure of taxation and regulation is superior to the current prohibition enforced by overwhelming violence. While I have no personal interest in marijuana, the damage done by the war on drugs – particularly in the form of police militarization and the use of lethal force against nonviolent persons – threatens everyone. If we want a future of morphological freedom – the right of individuals to alter the appearance, composition, and prospects their organisms, as long as such changes do not harm others – then the first modest step is to stop jailing and killing people for consuming a plant or for simply living in a house falsely suspected of having such plants grown there.

Ballot Question 3 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 3 to eliminate the coercive energy monopoly currently held by NV Energy and allow individuals to choose their utility and source of energy, much like they are able to choose which furniture or which cars to buy today. NV Energy has used its monopoly position to stifle and penalize the deployment of economical rooftop solar systems, which allow homeowners to autonomously generate their own electricity and even earn some money doing so. The suppression of such opportunities is a travesty of justice and needs to be reversed.

Ballot Question 4 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 4 to exempt durable medical equipment from sales and use tax. These taxes can often run into the thousands of dollars for sick and dying patients and could compromise the quality of their care. We support any measure that helps make medical equipment affordable and more widespread.

Mr. Stolyarov is the Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party.
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This post may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs – Article by Jay Stooksberry

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Categories: Culture, Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJay Stooksberry
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Every December 5th, American beer, wine, and spirit enthusiasts celebrate Repeal Day. It was on this day in 1933 that the United States officially passed the 21st Amendment, effectively ending the failed “noble experiment” known as Prohibition. This was not only a good day for liberty and libations; it also marked the end of a violent era in American history.

The transport and sale of illicit booze became a prolific criminal enterprise backed by well-armed, violent gangs. The result: a homicide rate in the United States that steadily climbed between 1920 and 1933. In addition, the rise of “victimless crimes”—namely, consumption or possession of alcohol—added to the already overburdened judicial system. Furthermore, alcohol consumption—what Prohibition laws sought to minimize—actually increased nearly 70 percent.

To call Prohibition a failure would be an understatement.

This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

Repealing Prohibition destroyed the monopoly on alcohol maintained by organized crime. Disempowering the black market produced a noticeable decline in the homicide rate. In fact, homicides continued to diminish each year for eleven years straight.

Prohibition All Over Again

Fast forward 82 years, and we are in the midst of Prohibition 2.0. This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

If concerned citizens want to get serious about reducing gun violence, then they should be encouraged to focus less on policies that are ineffective—“assault weapons” bansgun buyback programs, and outright confiscation—and focus more on ending our failed, four-decade long, overly-militarized, trillion-dollar battle against narcotics.

Let’s put gun violence into perspective. There is no doubt that gun violence is a problem. Guns are used in nearly three-fourths of all American homicides.

What typically brings gun control to the forefront of our political dialogue is the recurring tragedy of a mass shooting. However, mass shootings receive a disproportionate amount of media attention considering how much they actually contribute to our national homicide rate.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2014, mass shooting incidents resulted in the deaths of 383 people—about 3% of total gun homicides for the year. In comparison, the violence caused by the Drug War overshadows the bloodshed of mass shootings. Though difficult to quantify due to inconsistent reporting, estimates of drug-related homicides reach as high as 50 percent of the total homicides in the United States.

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence.

Though recent tragic events shock the collective conscious, it is important to consider them in perspective of what is truly killing so many people. The War on Drugs is less of a spectacle than these mass shootings; instead, it is a slow-killing, institutionalized type of violence.

Predictable Black Market Violence

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence. This violence takes many forms: turf wars between drug suppliers where civilians are also caught in the crossfire; no-knock police raids (sometimes occurring at the wrong house) where suspects are gunned down; drug addicts assaulting others to secure money for their addiction. The multi-faceted nature of the violence makes the task of fully grasping the available data difficult.

The violence of the American Drug War has even spilled over internationally—primarily in Latin America. Between 2007 and 2014, Mexican authorities estimates that 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel violence. For perspective, during the same time period, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled 103,000 combined.

A Way Forward

How the Drug War is to be dismantled is open for debate; deescalating law enforcement militarization, emphasizing treatment over incarceration, decriminalizing certain substances, or outright legalization are all on the table for consideration.

Despite our backwardness regarding most drug policies, the United States is ahead of most of the international community when it comes to the legalization of cannabis—and we are witnessing some of the positive effects of those efforts.

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana with Amendment 64 in 2013, resulting in a “green rush” of population growth. Despite the increase in population, Denver police reports indicate a drop in overall crime, including a 24 percent drop in reported homicides.

Granted, the Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana and its benefits is still new. Plus, it is difficult to demonstrate correlation with such a small sample of data. However, there is a distinct correlation between increased policing of controlled substances and the escalating violence of the black market in those substances. The Independent Institute examined arrest and homicide rates throughout the 20th century and concluded that the greatest contributor to violence is “a violent black market caused by the War on Drugs today, and Prohibition in the 1920’s.”

A Terrible Investment

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources. The United States has invested close to a trillion dollars in drug-related law enforcement over the past four decades.

And what was the return on investment? A black market valued at $100 billion annually and a drug use rate that is the highest in the world.

Einstein defined insanity as repeating a specific action and expecting different results. If that’s the case, our current Drug War is—in the words of Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance—the “international projection of a domestic psychosis.”

If we choose to continue down this costly and deadly path, we will continue to reap what we sowed over 82 years ago during our first failed experiment with prohibition: increased use of the banned substance, increased burden of cost on public coffers, and increased loss of life—all due to failed policy.

jay-stooksberry


Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer with a passion for liberty, skepticism, humor, and whiskey. When he’s not writing, he splits his time between marketing consultation and spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Thousands of Americans Have Been Illegally Detained in Chicago’s CIA-Style Detention Center – Article by Carey Wedler

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Categories: Culture, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatCarey Wedler
August 19, 2015

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(ANTIMEDIA) Chicago, IL – The Chicago Police’s CIA-style black site, Homan Square, has seen more people detained than died on 9/11 or imprisoned at Guantanamo, according to a new report by the Guardian. The newspaper, which sued the Chicago police to obtain further details on Homan Square, reports overwhelming targeting of minorities as well as other sordid and violative policies.

From 2004 to 2015, at least 3,500 people were detained at Homan Square. These records do not cover the full span of the facility’s tenure, as it has been open since 1995. According to the Guardian, a grossly disproportionate ratio of detainees were minorities, “many accused of low-level drug crimes, [and] faced with incriminating themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system by which their families and attorneys might find them.”

The majority of arrests were for low-level drug crimes. As the Guardian details, there were 1,175 arrests for heroin, 526 for cannabis, 484 for cocaine, and 464 for “unspecified” drug charges. 244 arrests were made in relation to firearms while other arrests were for “minor infractions such as traffic violations, public urination and driving without a seatbelt.” Other charges ranged from drinking alcohol in public to murder. More than half of all Homan Square arrests occurred 2.5 miles or less from the facility. Of 3,621 arrest records provided to the Guardian, about 3,540 incurred charges (the newspaper notes that “[v]ast amounts of data documenting the full scope of detentions and interrogations at Homan Square remain undisclosed”).

Though blacks make up 33% of Chicago’s population, 82% of those detained at Homan Square were black. Of the 3,500 detained, only three were allowed official visits from attorneys, two of which were on the same day in 2013. The Guardian noted it was able to find eight other instances of lawyers entering the facilities, though four were to accompany clients turning themselves in.

Craig Futterman of the University of Chicago Law School observed that “In Chicago, the police do not provide people with attorneys at the police station at the times they most need them: when they’re subject to interrogation…That’s what the Miranda warning is all about: the right to counsel while interrogated by police.” Though police have said that “any individual who wishes to consult a lawyer will not be interrogated until they have an opportunity to do so,” the Guardian notes that this would mean 3,500 people waived their right to an attorney.

Former top Obama aide and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who presided over ⅔ of the arrests— 2,522 since he took office in 2011—has insisted that Chicago police “follow all the rules.” However, in addition to the lack of access to attorneys, first-hand accounts reveal a starkly different story.

In February, the Anti-Media reported on detainees held for marijuana, shackled to poles, and denied lawyers. Since the initial news broke that month, 118 arrests have been made. Charles Jones was arrested (for a second time) on March 17 after police officers broke in his door looking for a 5’8” man. Jones is 6’4”, but when officers—some masked— found a firearm in his air conditioning unit, they took him back to Homan Square. He was shackled to a pole in an “interrogation room” and his requests for a lawyer were denied over the course of six to eight hours (others claim to have had similar experiences while other allegations include sexual abusestarvation, sensory deprivation, and beatings).

Jones suspects they conduct such arrests to extract information on drug dealers.

The only reason you’re brought to Homan and Fillmore [the facility’s cross streets] is to extract information,” he said. “The police probably feel they need those covert operations because that’s the only way to get the intel they need instead of doing the good work – the hard work…It’s easy to just go grab someone, throw ’em somewhere – no food, no water, no access to the outside world, intimidating and threatening ’em.

Jones’ wife and mother of his three children was unable to locate him once he was arrested, in spite of her slew of calls to police departments across the city. Jones is currently in the midst of suing the police department for a separate 2012 case where he claims he was charged for refusing to “give them information and cooperate with them.”

Rich Dressman, a white 50-year-old man, says he left town to evade pressure from police to act as an informant. “My life would be a lot easier if I gave them information,” he said. “I’d be home with a nice long shower and all that bullshit.

Though police insist there is nothing disreputable about the facility, saying the square “merely house[s] undercover units,” the number and nature of arrests paint a markedly different reality. More people have been detained and charged at the formerly secret black site than were killed on 9/11, though such abuses are often justified by the terrorist attacks that occurred that day (even as the Patriot Act and Homan arrests overwhelmingly focus on drug “crimes”). More people have been illegally detained at Homan than suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, the globally infamous military torture facility scorned for flouting due process and holding innocent people for a decade. Guantanamo has been open longer than the span of released records from Homan Square.

That the Chicago police continued to arrest people—even after news of its abuses sparked widespread outrage—highlights the impunity with which they operate. That the numbers far surpass other outrageous figures demonstrates the United States’ increasingly misplaced priorities and disregard for the justice and freedom it claims to protect.

As Flint Taylor, who helped pressure Mayor Emanuel and the police to provide compensation to victims of police abuses said, “Hopefully, Chicago’s political leadership and its establishment media will finally take notice and stop collaborating to bury this story, so righteously championed by the Guardian, under the rug of denial and false ignorance.

This article (Thousands of Americans Have Been Illegally Detained in Chicago’s CIA-Style Detention Center) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. As a senior editor, her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised. Learn more about Wedler here!

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SWAT’s Military Tactics Put Cops at Risk – Article by Daniel J. Bier

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel J. Bier
October 2, 2014
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“Democracy means that when there’s a knock on the door at 3 a.m., it’s probably the milkman.”
—Winston Churchill (apocryphal)

On the morning of May 5, 2011, a Pima County, Arizona, SWAT team pulled up to the home of Jose Guerena, a Marine veteran who had served in Iraq. Sheriff’s deputies threw flashbang grenades as a diversionary tactic and broke down the door.

Inside, Guerena told his wife and 4-year-old son to hide in the closet and went into his hallway holding a rifle. Officers let loose, firing 70 rounds in 10 seconds, hitting him over 20 times.

From the time of their arrival to the final shot, it was all over in less than a minute. Guerena’s rifle had the safety on; he never fired a shot. Police found no evidence of criminal activity.

Police organizations sometimes defend the prolific use of military equipment and tactics as necessary precautions against criminals arming themselves before cops can arrest them. But the overuse of tactical raids carries its own risks, and not just to citizens (and their dogs) who are subjected to battering rams, flash grenades, and automatic weapon fire.

Although SWAT teams were originally developed to handle rare and violent events, such as bank heists and hostage situations, they are now increasingly deployed to handle routine law enforcement functions. Paramilitary units are often the first point of contact in any investigation, and there are some places where all warrants—regardless of the suspect, evidence, or crime—are served by SWAT.

St. Louis County, Missouri—home of the city of Ferguson—is one such jurisdiction. As the county government explains the reasons for its SWAT team, “The Tactical Operations Unit … is capable of dealing with hostage situations, armed and barricaded subjects, suicidal persons and executes all search warrants issued in St. Louis County” (emphasis added).

One of these things, you may notice, is not like the others.

St. Louis is not alone. In a typical case in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a SWAT team burst into a man’s home, shot his two black Labradors, and left his family handcuffed on the floor. A drug dealer had mailed a box of drugs to his address, intending to intercept it before it was delivered. The man was Cheye Calvo, the town’s mayor.

A subsequent lawsuit by Calvo revealed that Prince George’s County uses its SWAT team to serve every single search warrant, even when the police don’t know who the suspects are, if they might be dangerous, or if there are children present.

Calvo succeeded in lobbying for the nation’s first law to track the use of SWAT teams. The data soon revealed that 94 percent of tactical deployments in Maryland were for ordinary search warrants, not for the kinds of violent situations that might typically justify such aggressive use of force. In Prince George’s County, more than half the raids were for misdemeanors or non-serious felonies.

Statewide, only 60 percent of tactical raids actually resulted in arrests for any crime, and Maryland is far from exceptional in using SWAT for trivial issues. In Florida, paramilitary teams perform business license inspections on black and Hispanic barbershops. Tactical raids have also been conducted for such “crimes” as hosting unlicensed poker games, defaulting on student loans, violating copyrights, and making fun of a politician on Twitter.

But there is a price to be paid for sending masked men crashing unannounced through windows and doors into people’s homes 45,000 times a year, often in the middle of the night. Using SWAT to serve minor warrants introduces violence into otherwise non-violent situations, creating, rather than defusing, volatile and dangerous conditions—the very opposite of what SWAT teams were originally meant to do.

It is not unusual even for innocent people awoken in such circumstances to believe that the police are thieves or violent criminals breaking into their homes. Like anyone else confronted with such a disorienting and frightening situation, they may reach for guns or other weapons to defend their home and their family, sometimes with tragic results for both citizens and officers.

Consider just a few recent examples:

  • Ryan Frederick was charged with first-degree murder after he fired on someone smashing their way through his door one night in 2008. The intruder turned out to be Detective Jarrod Shivers serving a no-knock warrant for a non-existent cannabis farm.
  • Henry Magee was a small-time marijuana grower who in December 2013 awoke in the middle of a no-knock raid on his trailer and opened fire on the intruders, killing Deputy Adam Sowders. A grand jury refused to indict him for capital murder.
  • Marvin Louis Guy opened fire on someone breaking in through his window before dawn on May 9, 2014; the intruders were police serving a no-knock drug warrant. They found no narcotics, and no drug-related charges have been filed, but Guy faces the death penalty for killing Detective Charles Dinwiddie.
  • Aaron Awtry, a 72-year-old South Carolinian, assumed that the SWAT team members battering down his door were criminals trying to rob his small-stakes poker game. He opened fire through the door, hitting Deputy Matthew May in the arm, while vice officers returned fire. Awtry was wounded and charged with attempted murder; the other players each received a $100 fine.

Cases of disastrous raids abound, and they reveal a serious problem with the assumption that paramilitary tactics are always safer for police. Some crazy or desperate suspects may indeed justify such preemptive force. But in many other cases, the dangerous and volatile conditions put officers at risk who otherwise would not be.

If a policeman in a blue uniform had knocked on Frederick’s door in the middle of the day, what are the chances that the innocent man would have shot a cop? And surely there are many others like Magee: guilty of something, but otherwise non-violent—or at least not suicidal enough to intentionally shoot a cop—who could be frightened into using a weapon in self-defense.

The most serious problem with the overuse of aggressive, militarized raids is one of information: Residents of the home don’t know who is breaking in, and police officers often don’t know who is inside, so both sides assume the worst and act accordingly. From the perspective of a sleeping homeowner, a no-knock SWAT raid is indistinguishable from an armed robbery. And as Guerena’s case shows, these events can escalate to lethal force in the blink of an eye. It is no exaggeration to say that lives have been ruined and ended because of unnecessary and violent tactics for petty and non-violent offenses.

Before we can address such problems as the use of military equipment by local law enforcement, we must first understand what is driving their demand for armored vehicles and high-powered weapons. The overuse of SWAT and the associated overuse of military gear in civilian policing are in part a result of overblown fears about police safety. But they are also based on a false dilemma between keeping cops unsafe and turning them into an army.

Officer safety is a legitimate problem, but that does not mean more force is always a legitimate answer. The best way to keep officers safe is to try to de-escalate conflicts—reserving SWAT for only the worst situations—and to end the War on Drugs that is at the heart of the breakdown of trust in law enforcement. When that’s done, Americans may once again go to sleep knowing that if you hear a bang on your door at 3 a.m., it’s probably just the newspaper.

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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Ferguson: The War Comes Home – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 26, 2014
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America’s attention recently turned away from the violence in Iraq and Gaza toward the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown. While all the facts surrounding the shooing have yet to come to light, the shock of seeing police using tear gas (a substance banned in warfare), and other military-style weapons against American citizens including journalists exercising their First Amendment rights, has started a much-needed debate on police militarization.The increasing use of military equipment by local police is a symptom of growing authoritarianism, not the cause. The cause is policies that encourage police to see Americans as enemies to subjugate, rather than as citizens to “protect and serve.” This attitude is on display not only in Ferguson, but in the police lockdown following the Boston Marathon bombing and in the Americans killed and injured in “no-knock” raids conducted by militarized SWAT teams.

One particularly tragic victim of police militarization and the war on drugs is “baby Bounkham.” This infant was severely burned and put in a coma by a flash-burn grenade thrown into his crib by a SWAT team member who burst into the infant’s room looking for methamphetamine.

As shocking as the case of baby Bounkham is, no one should be surprised that empowering police to stop consensual (though perhaps harmful and immoral) activities has led to a growth of authoritarian attitudes and behaviors among government officials and politicians. Those wondering why the local police increasingly look and act like an occupying military force should consider that the drug war was the justification for the Defense Department’s “1033 program,” which last year gave local police departments almost $450 million worth of “surplus” military equipment. This included armored vehicles and grenades like those that were used to maim baby Bounkham.

Today, the war on drugs has been eclipsed by the war on terror as an all-purpose excuse for expanding the police state. We are all familiar with how the federal government increased police power after September 11 via the PATRIOT Act, TSA, and other Homeland Security programs. Not as widely known is how the war on terror has been used to justify the increased militarization of local police departments to the detriment of our liberty. Since 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has provided over $35 billion in grants to local governments for the purchase of tactical gear, military-style armor, and mine-resistant vehicles.

The threat of terrorism is used to justify these grants. However, the small towns that receive tanks and other military weapons do not just put them into storage until a real terrorist threat emerges. Instead, the military equipment is used for routine law enforcement.

Politicians love this program because it allows them to brag to their local media about how they are keeping their constituents safe. Of course, the military-industrial complex’s new kid brother, the law enforcement-industrial complex, wields tremendous influence on Capitol Hill. Even many so-called progressives support police militarization to curry favor with police unions.

Reversing the dangerous trend of the militarization of local police can start with ending all federal involvement in local law enforcement. Fortunately, all that requires is for Congress to begin following the Constitution, which forbids the federal government from controlling or funding local law enforcement. There is also no justification for federal drug laws or for using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to treat all people as potential criminals. However, Congress will not restore constitutional government on its own; the American people must demand that Congress stop facilitating the growth of an authoritarian police state that threatens their liberty.

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

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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How the Drug War Drives Child Migrants to the US Border – Article by Mark Thornton

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The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
July 20, 2014
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Most attentive parents today rarely allow their children to go unsupervised, particularly in public. It starts with the wireless baby monitor for the crib and ends with the ever-present cell phone at college graduation.

This is what makes reports from the US-Mexican border so perplexing to most Americans. It is hard to believe that parents would send their children, even young children, to travel many hundreds of miles, up to 1,600 miles without guardianship, or under the control of “mules” who guide the children with the hope of a safe voyage to the United States.

The journey is both harsh and dangerous. The northern regions of Central America (i.e., Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and Mexico are some of the most dangerous areas of the world. The climate can be harsh, roads and travel conditions are mostly poor, and the children are subjected to robbers, kidnappers, rapists, government police and soldiers, drug cartel members, and bandits of all sorts.

As unbelievable as it seems, Central American parents are sending their children, or more often asking their children to join with them in the United States, in large numbers. In many cases the children flee on their own accord without any guardian.

A decade ago US Border Patrol agents apprehended only several hundred unaccompanied children per year. Over the last nine months they have caught nearly 50,000. Official estimates project the capture rate to reach 10,000 per month by this fall. Those numbers actually hide the enormity of the problem because historically the problem was largely restricted to Mexican children who could be immediately returned to Mexico. During the last couple of years, the majority of growth has come from children from Central American countries and these must be processed and turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (part of HHS).

One suggested reason for the explosion of child immigrants from Central America is the perception and rumors that children from Central America who cross the border will receive a “proviso” which might suggest a permit to stay in the US legally. However, it seems that the proviso is really just a notice to appear in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Whether this gives the children more time in the US, or whether it increases the probability of them being allowed to stay in the US for humanitarian reasons is unclear. In one report, only 1 of 404 children specifically mentioned the possibility of benefiting from US immigration reform.[1]

Even if the proviso rumor was having an impact, it does not explain why the children and their parents would risk such a dangerous journey in the first place.

The Role of the Drug War

The underlying cause for this mass dangerous migration is the US’s war on drugs. Central American countries have become the conduit by which illegal drugs move from South America across the US border. Unlike conventional media sources, who will sometimes vaguely mention violence and instability in Central America as a cause, The Economist [2] quite correctly found the source of the problem in America’s war on drugs:

Demand for cocaine in the United States (which, unlike that in Europe, is fed through Central America), combined with the ultimately futile war on drugs, has led to the upsurge in violence. It is American consumers who are financing the drug gangs and, to a large extent, American gun merchants who are arming them. So failing American policies help beget failed states in the neighbourhood.

The result has been that the drug cartels have a great deal of control over much of northern Central America. The cartels control the governments, judges, police forces, and even some prisons and some of the military through a combination of bribery, threats, and outright force.

As a consequence of this control drug gangs and cartels can operate in the open or they can operate deep within the jungle beyond the reach of the law. In turn, the drug cartels can act above the law and as a result they have created a culture of violence, building on the civil wars of previous decades.

The countries in the northern Central American region, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have the highest murder rate of any region in the world. The region’s murder rate is 7.5 times the murder rate of the North American region.

Globally, the top murder rate in any given year since the 1990s has been Honduras or El Salvador. In 2012, nearly 1 out of every 1,000 citizens in Honduras was murdered. In addition to murder, there are high rates of other types of violence, crime, and intimidation. A very large percentage of the entire Salvadoran-born population has migrated, mostly to the United States.

In addition to violence, the war on drugs has been a disruptive force for the Central American economies. After reading about the region, is anyone likely to make travel plans to go there, or to consider opening a business there? Obviously, the war on drugs has been highly disruptive for job creation, commerce, and international investment outside the drug cartels themselves. Therefore it would be more correct to say that it is not so much the attraction of opportunities in the US, but the lack of and reduction in opportunities in Central America that are spurring emigration, and that this is directly linked to the war on drugs.

When you try to make sense of parents sending their children on such a dangerous undertaking, just remember it is just another despicable result of the war on drugs with few solutions.

The Economist recommends the repeal of the war on drugs and the legalization of drugs globally as the solution. Its second best solution is for the United States to finance an effort to rebuild the institutions (i.e., police, courts, prisons, etc.) and infrastructure (i.e., military, transportation, and education systems) in the countries of Central America:

Such schemes will not, however, solve the fundamental problem: that as long as drugs that people want to consume are prohibited, and therefore provided by criminals, driving the trade out of one bloodstained area will only push it into some other godforsaken place. But unless and until drugs are legalised, that is the best Central America can hope to do.

In other words, ending the war on drugs is the only solution.

Notes

[1] http://www.unhcrwashington.org/children/reports, p. 31.

[2] “The drug war hits Central America: Organised crime is moving south from Mexico into a bunch of small countries far too weak to deal with it,” The Economist, April 14, 2011.

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.

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The Police State Needed to Enforce Vice Laws – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
June 27, 2014
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What if Canadian governments rigorously enforced all the laws of the land, outrageous price tag and complaints from bleeding-heart civil-rights types be damned? It might be literally impossible economically speaking, with the costs in terms of extra police and prisons approaching and even surpassing 100% of GDP. This is all the more likely given the lost productivity associated with throwing millions of people in jail. But leaving aside the economic calculation, which I have neither the resources nor the expertise to carry out, I want to focus instead on the fact that rigorously enforcing Canadian laws would involve throwing millions of people in jail.
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Don’t believe me? I have two words for you: drug laws. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 44% of Canadians say they have used marijuana at least once, and hence have broken the law. Next time you’re sitting on a bus, look to your left, then look to your right: On average, one of those two people has at least tried marijuana, assuming only that bus riders are statistically representative of Canadians in the relevant ways. That’s roughly 15 million Canadians who would have done jail time if our laws were perfectly enforced.

Even if we just incarcerate those who have used marijuana in the past year, we’re talking about approximately 1 in 8 Canadians aged 15-64, which means locking up some 3 million people. More, really, because I know there are some aging hippies and recently retired baby boomers over the age of 65 out there who are still toking up.

Of course, this ignores the dynamic effects of massively ramping up enforcement levels. If we really put our money (all of it?) where our mouths are when it comes to drug laws and made a serious effort to arrest every last person who took a pull on a joint before passing it along, there would be some significant decrease in the number of people who smoke marijuana. But this would mean spending a whole lot more money. Even the United States, which spends over $50 billion a year on the drug war, only arrested around 750,000 people in 2012 for marijuana law violations (650,000 of which for mere possession). Given that both countries have similar rates of marijuana use, this means that most of the roughly 25 million Americans aged 15-64 who smoked pot last year got away with it.

But economics aside, if we get really serious about enforcing drug laws, we could say goodbye to anything resembling privacy. The draconian measures required even to approach total compliance with our drug laws would be positively Orwellian: cops on every corner, stopping and frisking passersby that look suspicious (or foreign); road traffic slowing to a crawl thanks to checkpoints at major intersections where you have to show your papers and pee into a cup; random no-knock raids at every third door, during which swat team members may or may not shoot the family dog; warrantless wiretapping of every phone call and email message, carried out by humourless killjoys drunk on their power; cameras in all our bedrooms and bathrooms, watched by perverted busybodies who couldn’t cut it as airport security goons.

Patently impossible, you say. We wouldn’t stand for it, you object. Maybe. But then, why do we stand for selective enforcement, with its unavoidable, inherent injustices? If the police and the courts can’t apply the law equally to all, then officers and prosecutors and judges will apply it at their discretion. Since humans are far from flawless, they will apply it disproportionately, according to conscious or subconscious prejudices. Or they will target gadflies like Marc Emery, whose five-year exile to a US prison is finally coming to an end. Was he extradited and thrown in the slammer for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet, or for criticizing the powers that be a little too loudly and a little too effectively?

The Canadian government’s new bill proposing to outlaw sex work (or rather, to outlaw the buying of sex, but not the selling of sex) would similarly not be enforceable to any significant degree without a massive police state. Arrest every person who visits a prostitute? We’ll need many more cops, much more surveillance, many more courts, and many more prisons. And while prostitutes would not be thrown in jail, arresting all their clients would effectively make it impossible for them to practice their trade. Which of course would be the point, if the law were fully enforced. It won’t be, so again we’ll be left with selective, discretionary enforcement, with the added benefit of making prostitutes’ lives more dangerous while appearing to be doing something.

But this unattractive choice between a police state on the one hand and discriminatory, opportunistic enforcement on the other is a false dichotomy. As my QL colleague Adam Allouba recently wrote in a different context, “a far better solution is to make as little of the human experience subject to legislated rules as possible.” We wouldn’t want to do away with laws against such clearly destructive acts as murder, assault, theft, and fraud. But why exactly can’t we follow the lead of places like the Netherlands when it comes to voluntary exchanges of money for sex or soft drugs?

Our existing and soon-to-be-adopted vice laws rest on the assumption that either buyers (of pot) or sellers (of sex) are victims. Now, the very illegality of the activities in question may indeed increase the incidence of peripheral crimes like gang violence or human trafficking. But by and large, voluntary exchanges themselves do not involve victims—just people who have made choices of which you may disapprove. And the lack of any real victim is precisely what makes vice “crimes” so difficult to prosecute without gargantuan budgets and a blatant disregard for people’s rights. In this day and age, knowing all that we know, we can, and should, do better.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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Mises Explains the Drug War – Article by Laurence M. Vance

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The New Renaissance Hat
Laurence M. Vance
October 26, 2013
Recommend this page.
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Air travelers were outraged when the FAA announced that there would be flight delays because air-traffic controllers had to take furloughs as a result of sequester budget cuts. But there is another federal agency whose budget cuts Americans should be cheering — the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the Office of Management and Budget’s report to Congress on the effects of sequestration, the DEA will lose $166 million from its $2.02 billion budget. Other agencies that are part of the expansive federal drug war apparatus are getting their drug-fighting budgets cut as well.

These cuts, no matter how small they may actually end up being, are certainly a good thing since over 1.5 million Americans are arrested on drug charges every year, with almost half of those arrests just for marijuana possession.

Although 18 states have legalized medical marijuana, seven states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, it is still the case that in the majority of the 50 states, possession of even a small amount of marijuana can still result in jail time, probation terms, or fines. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with a high potential for abuse and with no acceptable medical use.

Since the federal government has not followed its own Constitution, which nowhere authorizes the federal government to ban drugs or other any substance, it is no surprise that it has not followed the judgment of Ludwig von Mises when it comes to the drug war.

The war on drugs is a failure. It has failed to prevent drug abuse. It has failed to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts. It has failed to keep drugs away from teenagers. It has failed to reduce the demand for drugs. It has failed to stop the violence associated with drug trafficking. It has failed to help drug addicts get treatment. It has failed to have an impact on the use or availability of most drugs in the United States.

None of this means that there is necessarily anything good about illicit drugs, but as Mises explains “It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices.” But, as Mises contends, the fact that something is a vice is no reason for suppression by way of commercial prohibitions, “nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of a government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.”

The other mischievous dangers of the drug war that have been let loose are legion. The war on drugs has clogged the judicial system, unnecessarily swelled prison populations, fostered violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, destroyed financial privacy, encouraged illegal searches and seizures, ruined countless lives, wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, hindered legitimate pain treatment, turned law-abiding people into criminals, and unreasonably inconvenienced retail shopping. The costs of drug prohibition far outweigh any possible benefits.

But that’s not all, for once the government assumes control over what one can and can’t put into his mouth, nose, or veins or regulates the circumstances under which one can lawfully introduce something into his body, there is no limit to its power and no stopping its reach. Again, as Mises makes clear “[o]pium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”

“As soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual’s mode of life,” Mises goes on, “we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail.”

Mises tells us exactly what the slippery slope of drug prohibition leads to. He asks why what is valid for morphine and cocaine should not be valid for nicotine and caffeine. Indeed: “Why should not the state generally prescribe which foods may be indulged in and which must be avoided because they are injurious?” But it gets worse, for “if one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away.”

“Why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only?” Mises asks. “Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?”

When it comes to bad habits, vices, and immoral behavior of others, in contrast to the state, which does everything by “compulsion and the application of force,” Mises considered tolerance and persuasion to be the rules.

“A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper,” Mises explains. “He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”

For Mises, there is one path to social reform, and “[h]e who wants to reform his countrymen must take recourse to persuasion. This alone is the democratic way of bringing about changes. If a man fails in his endeavors to convince other people of the soundness of his ideas,” Mises concludes, “he should blame his own disabilities. He should not ask for a law, that is, for compulsion and coercion by the police.”

In a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.

Laurence M. Vance is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute and the author of Social Insecurity, The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom, and War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism. Send him mail. See Laurence M. Vance’s article archives.

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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.

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The 2012 US Election and the War on (Some) Drugs – Article by Bradley Doucet

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The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
December 14, 2012
Recommend this page.
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I spent the evening of November 6 with some friends, intentionally notwatching US election coverage. There were only two plausible outcomes in the presidential race, and each was worse than the other, as one friend likes to quip. Another friend kept referring to the occasion as Halo 4 Launch Day, and we all pretended the release of that pvideo game was the most momentous thing happening on the world stage. We didn’t even tune in to see what humorous comments Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might have come up with to lighten the sombre mood.

But along with the dark storm clouds that will continue to hang over the United States for at least another four years, there are other, lighter, more fragrant clouds that will be hanging over two states in particular: Colorado and Washington, whose voters approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana not only for medical purposes, as many states have already done, but even for recreational use. That’s right, in Colorado and Washington, you can now legally get high without a note from your doctor.

Two Steps in the Right Direction

I’ve written against the Drug War a number of times in the past, a fact that has led some people to think that I’m a big pothead. No, I assure them, this calm, laid-back demeanor is my natural, unaltered state of mind. I don’t write about ending drug prohibition because I personally want to smoke marijuana without fear of legal reprisals, but rather because drug prohibition is stupid and wrong. It’s stupid because it does not achieve its ostensible end of protecting us from ourselves by curbing drug abuse, and it’s wrong because protecting us from ourselves is not a legitimate function of government.

The Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative (aka Amendment 64) asked voters if there should be an amendment to the state constitution “providing for the regulation of marijuana” and “permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana,” as well as licensing production and taxing the proceeds. The Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative (aka Initiative 502) asked voters if the state should “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.” Both measures were approved, each receiving 55% of votes cast. This is a sign of the times, as more and more people are realizing that drug prohibition is as wrongheaded as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s—although a similar measure was defeated in Oregon, receiving only 45% of the vote.

Now the Hard Part Begins

Of course, just because the people of Colorado and Washington decided to legalize marijuana production and consumption does not mean the War to End the War on Drugs has been won in those states. For one thing, other recreational drugs will remain illegal, so the government can keep right on kicking down doors and shooting family pets in its crazed search for those substances. (If you haven’t heard about such occurrences yet, check out this chilling music video for the song “No Knock Raid” by Toronto musician Lindy.)

But even when it comes to marijuana, a substance that by all accounts is less harmful than alcohol, the fight is not over. That’s because the federal government is unlikely to honour the democratically expressed wishes of a majority of voters in these two states to be left alone. Instead, according to two former U.S. drug control officials interviewed by Reuters, “the federal government could sue to block parts of the measures or send threatening letters to marijuana shops, followed up by street-level clampdowns similar to those targeting medical marijuana dispensaries the government suspects are fronts for drug traffickers.”

On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama, who has admitted to using marijuana and other drugs when he was young, spoke as if he were going to allow states to go their own way on the medical marijuana issue, breaking with the Bush administration’s policy of raiding pot dispensaries. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he promised. Yet as President, he has broken that promise, cracking down even more than his predecessor on growers and dispensaries in the 16 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes. There is little reason to believe that the Hypocrite in Chief’s reaction to the Colorado and Washington initiatives will be any more restrained.

We’re from the Government, and We’re Here to Help

The notion that prohibition could accomplish anything besides the empowerment of organized criminals is one that should have died with the Volstead Act in 1933. The notion that other people ought to have the power to tell you what you can and cannot put into your own body is one that should offend any individual with a modicum of self-respect. On the one hand, it’s discouraging that the Drug War drags on in this day and age. But on the other hand, the fact that voters in Colorado and Washington have, for practical or moral reasons, denounced this destructive, bankrupt policy is at least a little something for lovers of liberty to celebrate this election cycle.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.
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