by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tore into deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli on Tuesday, highlighting federal drug policy’s failure to address the substances “ravaging our country” while still considering marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin.
Speaking during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform focused on the Obama administration’s marijuana policy, Cohen urged drug policy officials to rethink marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance, which the Drug Enforcement Administration considers “the most dangerous class of drugs.” Other Schedule 1 substances include heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while methamphetamine and cocaine fall under the Schedule II definition.
"It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin," Cohen said. "Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin."
Hoffman, the Academy Award-winning actor, died Sunday after an apparent heroin overdose. Police officials said he was found with a syringe still in his arm.
"Every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second that we’re not enforcing heroin laws. And heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country," Cohen continued. "And every death, including Mr. Hoffman’s, is partly the responsibility of the federal government’s drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit."
Cohen warned that by not acknowledging that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin and other substances, as DEA Chief Michele Leonhart has refused to do, the administration is undermining its own efforts to prevent drug abuse.
here’s everything the president said about drug policy in yesterday’s new yorker interview
President Obama’s comments on marijuana prohibition in a new interview with The New Yorker have made waves since it was published on Sunday. In it, the president likened marijuana to cigarettes and alcohol, going a step further to admit marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol:
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol … [Marijuana is less dangerous] in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.
This statement contradicts the federal government’s position on marijuana, which classifies weed as a Schedule I drug, the “most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” According to the federal government, marijuana is just as harmful as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy — also Schedule I drugs.
The president also discussed the unjust racial impact of our marijuana policies:
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties … We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
To remedy this inequality, he endorsed the pot legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington.
"It’s important for [the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
But he adds that we should be wary of slippery-slope arguments that could arise about legalizing harder drugs like meth and cocaine — which, by the way, is in Schedule II.
“Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge … I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
Prohibitionists typically deny the very possibility of responsible or voluntary use of currently illegal substances. They argue that drugs such as coke, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine and even marijuana are verboten precisely because they simply can’t be used casually. Any use either already constitutes abuse or quickly leads to it. “Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal,” former drug czar William Bennett and former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano wrote in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “they are illegal because they are dangerous.”
Nearly 50% of people have tried an illegal drug at least once, yet most don’t repeat the experience. With cocaine, most who have tried it not only don’t go on to became addicts under even the most expansive possible definition of the term, they don’t even go on to become regular users.
[…] It’s also true that regular drug users can often function quite well. Sigmund Freud used cocaine habitually for years, and his first major scientific publication was about the wonders of the drug (he eventually forsook it). Another pioneering late 19th and early 20th century man of medicine, William Halsted, was dependent on cocaine and morphine during an illustrious career that revolutionized and modernized surgical techniques.
[…] In an age in which we are expected to use legal drugs (like beer) and prescription medications (Adderall) responsibly, it’s time to extend that same notion to currently illegal substances whose effects and properties are widely misunderstood. Indeed, the effects of coke, heroin and the rest are a mystery partly because their outlaw status makes it difficult both to research them and have honest discussions about them.
Thai Woman Sentenced to Death for Marijuana
Last month, Thailand native Thitapah Charoenchuea learned her fate for being caught with nearly 40 pounds of marijuana last year in Malaysia. Charoenchuea maintains that she is a victim of circumstance, and her legal counsel pleaded with High Court Judicial Commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab, asking him to consider that his client is the mother of a 10-year-old daughter and recently divorced, before ruling on the case. Despite this, Zaki said on Monday that the prosecution was able to provide him with significant evidence to suggest that Charoenchuea was indeed guilty of violating the Dangerous Drug Act of 1952.
Southeast Asia is notorious for imposing the toughest drug laws on the planet. In countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as little as 17 ounces of marijuana can mean a mandatory death sentence. In Malaysia, the death penalty is prescribed for drug trafficking, which is defined as possession of at least half an ounce of heroin or at least seven ounces of marijuana.
Foreigners are not immune to these harsh penalties. In April, a 43-year-old British woman (Andrea Ruth Waldeck) was arrested by Indonesian authorities after they found 52 ounces of crystal meth in her hotel room. She, too, faces a likely death sentence. In August, another British woman (Lindsay Sandiford) lost her appeal against a death sentence for trafficking drugs into Bali. A three-judge panel unanimously rejected her appeal. The 57-year-old grandmother’s only hope now is for clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has pardoned four drug dealers on death row since he became president in 2004.
Thanks to High Times
Krokodil Is Not Invading America
In the past month, sensational headlines about the arrival of the “flesh-eating, zombie apocalypse” drug, better known as krokodil, in the United States have caused a bit of a panic on this side of the world. Headlines like “Flesh-Eating ‘Zombie’ Drug ‘Kills You From the Inside Out” and “The Most Horrifying Drug in the World Comes to the U.S.” appeared to herald a chilling new age in America’s drug wars.
But according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, they have yet to see a confirmed case of krokodil — a morphine analogue that acts similarly to heroin but with a shorter high — in the U.S. and blames the krokodil hysteria on misinformation and myths propagated by the media. “To date none of our forensic labs have analyzed an exhibit that contain desomorphine,” Rusty Payne, a DEA spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “We have nothing to indicate that it’s out there.”
On September 23, two emergency room patients were sent to the Banner Poison Control Center, a private clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. They told Dr. Frank LeVecchio, the Center’s co-medical director, that they’d developed open sores after trying a drug called krokodil. Before waiting to receive the lab test results, LeVecchio spread the word to fellow toxicologists and the media. “As far as I know, these are the first cases of [krokodil] in the United States that are reported. So we’re extremely frightened," he told CBS5 in Phoenix. "Where there is smoke there is fire, and we’re afraid there are going to be more and more cases." Soon as you know it, Reuters and CNN had picked up the story, and the rest of the world ran with it.
According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House — a non-profit alcohol and drug rehab center — the alleged American krokodil cases are easily explained. ”We don’t have a krokodil epidemic, we have a heroin and painkiller epidemic,” he told The Daily Beast. “This is not a new problem. There are serious medical infections that come from injecting drugs.”
In Russia, krokodil has become the next best thing to heroin. Reports of its use there date back to 2003 when Russia started a major crackdown on heroin production and trafficking. Users resorted to a homemade alternative: krokodil, which is made by mixing lighter fluid, codeine, paint thinner, and eye drops, among other things. It earned its reptilian nickname by turning its users’ skin scaly, eating them from the inside, and rotting the brain and limbs before precipitating a painful death.
Thanks to The Daily Beast
A graph published in the Washington Post illustrates the “embarrassing” results of government attempts to stymie illegal drug supply. The prices of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine—which collectively account for 90% of drug-related incarceration—plunged between 1980 and 2008, just as drug-related incarceration rose from fewer than 42,000 in 1980 to 562,000 in 2007. In the paper which produced the figures on which the graph is based—Long-Run Trends in Incarceration of Drug Offenders in the US—Jonathan Caulkins and Sarah Chandler of Carnegie Mellon University note that a major aim of drug-related incarceration is to drive up prices and reduce consumption by constraining the illegal drug supply. Law enforcement attempts to make drugs more expensive include crop eradication overseas, interdicting smuggling routes, street-level policing and busting dealers. But the numbers reveal an opposite outcome to that intended. “[The] relationships between incarceration, prices, and [use] seem perverse,” say the researchers. “Price plummeted and [use] soared precisely when drug-related incarceration was increasing dramatically, exactly the opposite of what one would expect or hope for.” The US has budgeted to spend $24.5 billion on drug control in 2013, 38% of it towards demand reduction (treatment, education, and prevention) and 62% towards supply reduction (law enforcement and interdiction).
Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is up for the third year in a row and heading towards a record high, according to a new UN report. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013, issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, attributes the increase to opium’s rising price, making it an even more attractive crop for farmers. The figure for 2013 is expected to surpass the 154,000 hectares planted in 2012, according to the report. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, accounting for about 75% of the global supply last year. “The assumption is it will reach again to 90% this year,” says Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. “We are looking at a record high cultivation.”
Lemahieu was recently interviewed for The Fix's exclusive report on the heroin addiction crisis within Afghanistan, which has an estimated 1 million addicts. Earlier this month, the UN also estimated that 1 million deaths worldwide have been caused by Afghan heroin since the US-led “War on Terror” began in 2001, while opium production has increased 40 times. Over 70% of Afthan opium is produced by just three provinces. US troops have attempted to subdue the Taliban influence and find alternative crops for these regions’ farmers. But after the end of the three-year “surge” in 2012, poppy cultivation has soared. It may be that people are turning to illicit markets in greater numbers in anticipation of the predicted withdrawal of foreign forces—and cash—in 2014. “This country is on its way to becoming the world’s first true narco-state,” says an anonymous international law enforcement official. “The opium trade is a much bigger part of the economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Colombia.”
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July 29, 2011—Bound for Sprague, Manitoba, the 66-year-old couldn’t believe it when the jar of brownish liquid in her car tested positive for drugs.
'They came over and said that the substance in the jar tested positive for — well, she said some chemical term and I didn't understand.'
'So I asked her to repeat it and she said it tested positive for traces of heroin,' she said.
She told the authorities that it was actually oil that her son-in-law had used when he had recently done some work on her vehicle.
Nevertheless, she was handcuffed, interrogated and strip searched twice.
[…] After 12 days in custody, further tests by the RCMP lab found the oil was not heroin. +
As efforts to stem the flow of Afghan heroin into Russia bring some limited success, and the street price of the drug goes up, for those addicts who can’t afford their next hit, an even more terrifying spectre has raised its head.
The home-made drug that Oleg and Sasha inject is known as krokodil, or “crocodile”. It is desomorphine, a synthetic opiate many times more powerful than heroin that is created from a complex chain of mixing and chemical reactions, which the addicts perform from memory several times a day. While heroin costs from £20 to £60 per dose, desomorphine can be “cooked” from codeine-based headache pills that cost £2 per pack, and other household ingredients available cheaply from the markets.
It is a drug for the poor, and its effects are horrific. It was given its reptilian name because its poisonous ingredients quickly turn the skin scaly. Worse follows. Oleg and Sasha have not been using for long, but Oleg has rotting sores on the back of his neck.
Just another harmful unintended consequence of prohibition.
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This man is pro-cannabis legalization, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and anti-war. Can you do him this favor? It’s important that he is included, or else Ron Paul is going to be the only non-neocon participating.
In the last debate, Ron Paul got the South Carolina audience to applaud his point on the absurdity of heroin prohibition, then Gary Johnson backed him up by explaining why cannabis should be legalized. We need more of this.
Question for Ron Paul in last night’s first GOP presidential debate:
"You say that the federal government should stay out of people’s personal habits. You say marijuana, cocaine, even heroin should be legal if states want to permit it. You feel the same about prostitution and gay marriage. The question is, why should social conservatives in South Carolina vote for you for president?"