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Michelle Alexander: The War on Drugs and the Politics Behind It

5 Nobel Prize economists call for an end to the drug war


Five Nobel Prize economists call for an end to the 'war on drugs' in a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Ending the Drug Wars: Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy outlines the enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage from the ‘war on drugs’ and includes a call on governments from five Nobel Prize economists to redirect resources away from an enforcement-led and prohibition-focused strategy, toward effective, evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis.

First, resources should be drastically reallocated away from law enforcement and repressive policies towards proven public health policies of harm reduction and treatment, with governments ensuring that these services are fully resourced to meet requirements.

Second, rigorously monitored policy and regulatory experimentation should be encouraged. States should be allowed to pursue new initiatives, the report argues, in order to determine which policies work and which don't. The places that legalise cannabis first will provide an external benefit to the rest of the world in the form of knowledge regardless of how the experiments turn out. As a result, pioneering jurisdictions should be accepted as long as they take adequate measures to prevent ‘exports’.

h/t http://www.alternet.org/drugs/5-nobel-prize-economists-call-end-failed-war-drugs

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina announced the report, titled “Ending the Drug Wars: Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy,” during a live event at the London School of Economics, which published the paper.

In addition to the Nobel Prize economists (Kenneth Arrow, Sir Christopher Pissarides, Thomas Schelling, Vernon Smith, and Oliver Williamson), international players such as former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Nick Clegg signed the report’s forward—signaling the level of attention that may be awarded to this report and, perhaps, a shift in policy to be expected on the horizon.

The report mounts a hefty case based on economic analysis, highlighting a variety of consequences suffered globally as a result of the War on Drugs. Among the examples, the report points to correlations between Colombia’s growing illegal drug trade (which increased 200 percent between 1994 and 2008) and its homicide rate. Around 3,8000 homicides occur each year “that are associated with illegal drug markets and the War on Drugs,” it says. Farther north, Mexico has experienced a tripling of its homicide rate in a four-year span from 2006 to 2010.

The document’s Nobel Prize-winning authors turn their attention to the War on Drugs’ relationship to overflowing prisons, explaining that an estimated 40 percent of the world’s 9 million incarcerated individuals are behind bars for drug offences. In U.S. federal prisons, this figure went from 25 to 59 percent from 1980 to 1998.

The UN will hold a session to decide its drug policy in 2016. In meetings concerning this same issue, there was an unprecedented leak in 2013, revealing the lack of consensus and the unwillingness of nations in South and Central America, as well as Europe, to be forced to adhere to outdated policy related to drug use.


The document, first publicised by the Guardian and obtained by IPS, contains over 100 specific policy recommendations and proposals from member states, many at odds with the status quo on illicit drug eradication and prohibition.

...Under U.S. law, the Department of State must every year publish a report that includes evaluating whether foreign aid recipients meet the “goals and objectives” of the 1988 agreement.

Most UNODC funding comes from member states, which can attach strings to “special-purpose funds.”

This means countries can maintain both private and public stances on drug policy. Switzerland, which began offering heroin-assisted treatment for addicts in 2008, backtracked this week in a press statement that stressed the leaked document was part of a “brainstorming” session and that it “does in no way support any efforts or attempts of changing the three U.N. Drug Conventions as they are today.”

Bolivia has already claimed an exemption for coca leaves as part of indigenous culture in that nation. Uruquay has already nationalized/legalized cannabis (and has been in talks with Canada and Israel to grow marijuana for medical use in those nations.)

This is an important moment. All laws regarding drug policy in various nations are designed to meet the UN Single Conventions on Drugs (tho every nation has the discretion to schedule substances apart from this convention, and there is no real penalty for refusal to follow such conventions for any major nation - but it's time for a worldwide change in drug policy - to move from a punishment model to a rehabilitation/harm reduction model.

The "gateway" myth debunked


For decades, prohibitionists have claimed that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that inevitably leads to use of harder substances like heroin and cocaine — despite the fact that every objective study ever done on the gateway theory has determined that it’s absolute crap.

Last week, researchers at the University of New Hampshire released yet another study discrediting the gateway theory. Their findings, based on survey data from more than 1,200 students in Florida public schools, showed that a person’s likelihood to use harder drugs has more to do with social and environmental factors than whether or not they’ve ever tried marijuana.

edit to correct: The researchers found that the strongest predictor of other illicit drug use appears to be race-ethnicity, not prior use of marijuana. Non-Hispanic whites show the greatest odds of other illicit substance use, followed by Hispanics, and then by African Americans.

New Hampshire study: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/uonh-rom083110.php

Whether teenagers who smoked pot will use other illicit drugs as young adults has more to do with life factors such as employment status and stress, according to the new research. In fact, the strongest predictor of whether someone will use other illicit drugs is their race/ethnicity, not whether they ever used marijuana.

iow - it's lack of employment opportunities, NOT MARIJUANA that creates the lack of opportunity and the stress this implies.

Conducted by UNH associate professors of sociology Karen Van Gundy and Cesar Rebellon, the research appears in the September 2010, issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in the article, "A Life-course Perspective on the 'Gateway Hypothesis.' "

"In light of these findings, we urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the 'drug problem,' " Van Gundy and Rebellon say.

The researchers used survey data from 1,286 young adults who attended Miami-Dade public schools in the 1990s. Within the final sample, 26 percent of the respondents are African American, 44 percent are Hispanic, and 30 percent are non-Hispanic white.

Once young adults reach age 21, the gateway effect subsides entirely.


Scientists say "gateway theory is bunk


...A study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, researchers found no gateway effect for marijuana. Surveying 17,000 drug users over a 10-year period, they reported that marijuana use typically began between the ages of 18 and 20, and cocaine use began between 20 and 25. Moreover, they found that there was not much variance among those who used cocaine in comparison to if they had previously used marijuana. There were substantial individuals who had used “soft and hard drugs”, but the association was related to personal characteristics and a tendency to partake in experimentation (Golub & Johnson, 2001).

This study demonstrated that arrest, lack of education, and employment put someone on a path to more involvement with illicit drugs - iow - the underground economy - with the proximity of other drugs as part of that economy - was the greatest predictive factor, while supportive social structure, education and opportunity were deterrents.

The Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report - "Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana—usually before they are of legal age.

In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway" drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, "gateway" to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. An important caution is that data on drug use progression cannot be assumed to apply to the use of drugs for medical purposes. It does not follow from those data that if marijuana were available by prescription for medical use, the pattern of drug use would remain the same as seen in illicit use" (Joy et al. 1999)

A more recent study based on national survey data also does not support the hypothesis that increases in marijuana use lead to increased use of more dangerous drugs among the general public. In the American Journal of Public Health, Andrew Golub and Bruce Johnson of the National Development and Research Institute in New York wrote that young people who smoked marijuana in the generations before and after the baby boomers do not appear to be likely to move on to harder drugs. The researchers said that these findings suggest that the gateway phenomenon reflects norms prevailing among youths at a specific place and time.

Those who came of age in the 1990s did so when medical marijuana was made legal - a trend that continues. Previous studies in CA indicate that marijuana use leveled off when marijuana became "normalized" rather than stigmatized - and when it was available in markets that would exclude other illegal substances.

"Marijuana culture" in places like CA also stigmatize pharmaceutical drug use because such substances are not herbal/organic.

On the other hand, Golub and Johnson found:

Research also suggests that the “gateway theory” does not describe the behavior of serious drug users:

“The serious drug users were substantially different from high school samples in their progression of drug use. The serious drug users were less likely to follow the typical sequence identified in previous studies (alcohol, then marijuana, followed by other illicit drugs). They were more likely to have used marijuana before using alcohol, and more likely to have used other illicit drugs before using marijuana. We also found that atypical sequencing was associated with earlier initiation of the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana and greater lifetime drug involvement. These findings suggest that for a large number of serious drug users, marijuana does not play the role of a 'gateway drug'. We conclude that prevention efforts which focus on alcohol and marijuana may be of limited effectiveness for youth who are at risk for serious drug abuse” (Mackesy-Amiti et al. 1997)

Republicans Weigh D.C. Residents' Vote to Decriminalize MJ

Washington D.C. legislators recently voted to decriminalize marijuana in the nation's capital. Because of the set up for D.C. representation, their laws must be approved by the federal Congress before they are enacted. In these cases, Congress has 60 days to weigh the law before it is passed.

That 60 day period is coming nigh.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Friday that the Government Operations subpanel, led by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), will examine the new law when Congress returns from its two-week spring recess.

Although D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) signed the measure on Monday, the unique rules governing the nation's capitol grant Congress 60 days to review – and possibly block – the proposal before it takes effect.
Such a rejection is highly unusual, as it would require action by both the House and Senate. But a public hearing would offer critics – including a number of conservatives on the Oversight panel – a forum to air their concerns in an election year.

He suggested the examination would focus on the enforcement questions created by the discrepancies between federal marijuana laws and those enacted by state and local governments – an issue even more complicated in the case of D.C., which falls under partial control of Congress.

“The will of a city versus the will of the nation is always going to be a bit of a challenge, and we're seeing this unfold [with the marijuana law]," Issa told The Hill Friday. “This is an area in transition where The District neither should lead nor be held unreasonably not to be able to follow. And so how it gets reviewed in light of the federal enforcement and so on I think remains to be seen.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/202720-house-gop-to-examine-dc-bill-to-legalize-marijuana#ixzz30snAbWM0
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

Issa is also one of the Republicans who crafted a bill to tell Obama to enforce federal law in states that have legalized marijuana - AND want to be able to sue President Obama for the same.


Legislation approved by House Republicans would seek to force President Barack Obama to crack down on marijuana in states that have made the drug legal for medical or recreational use.

The House passed the Enforce the Law Act by a vote of 233-181 on Wednesday, March 12th. The bill was introduced by Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) to allow Congress to sue the president for failing to faithfully execute laws.

“The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to write the laws and the Executive to enforce them,” Gowdy said Wednesday in a statement. “We don’t pass suggestions. We don’t pass ideas. We pass laws. Regardless of our politics, I hope my colleagues have enough regard for our work to expect those laws would be faithfully executed.”

A committee report submitted by Goodlatte cited the Obama administration’s decision to not intervene with marijuana legalization efforts in various states as an example of executive overreach.

Isn't it interesting that Republicans are only interested in states' rights when they can take freedom away from Americans - but any time a grass roots campaign seeks to make America less of of right wing authoritarian paradise - they're suddenly in favor of federal law - and a lawsuit against a President who is, in fact, following the law?

Prosecutorial discretion allows the Attn. Gen. to decide which situations require the greatest oversight - even tho, within the constitution, the Supremacy Clause places federal law above state law.

However, the federal govt. cannot compel state law enforcement to implement federal law. Therefore, in order to overturn the will of the people in states with legal marijuana, federal agents would have to go to those states to enforce the law.

THIS is why it is so important for numerous states to create changes in their laws - to overwhelm the federal capacity to enforce unwanted law.

When various states passed decriminalization laws in the 70s and 80s in response to Nixon's refusal to follow the DEA judge's recommendation to decriminalize - this issue of paying for enforcement was a primary reason those laws remained intact.

When state after state passed laws making medical mj legal - this issue of paying for enforcement was a primary reason those laws have remained intact (but it's also the reason why the DEA raids state-legal medical mj providers from time to time and prosecutes some in "show trials" to create an environment of uncertainty regarding laws the majority of the population favors. Since the late 1990s, more than 70% of the American public has favored legal medical mj. Since CO and WA's votes to fully legalize, more than 50% (Gallup had one poll at 58%) want to end the war on marijuana. This number is growing as more Americans see the tax revenues from legal, regulated marijuana - and see that legal marijuana does not destroy civilization as we know it.)

recreational mj use peaked in the mid to late 70s

Marijuana use among high school seniors peaked in 1979. At that point, nearly 60% of high school seniors had tried mj at least once. Once the tail end of the baby boomers started to settle down, btw, mj usage rates fell as well...or, after Carter, with Reagan's War on Drugs, fewer were willing to admit to it. But, according to the MPP, the highest rates of mj usage before age 21 is for those who were born between 1961-1965... however, the figures are really close, for that sort of usage, for those born between 1956-1970. Those born between 1966-1970 showed 51.4% who tried marijuana before age 21- and that was the lowest figure between the three age groups.

During the "Summer of Love" years - far fewer teens used mj than after, tho, as the report below indicates, by 1970, 43% of college students had ever tried - while only 28% were regular users.

iow, most people did not attend Woodstock (contrary to what they may now say, lol) while those who listened to the Woodstock album in high school were more likely to have been stoned while doing so...

The earliest survey data on marijuana use in the U.S. was obtained through a Gallup Poll in the spring of 1967. The nationally-based telephone poll of college students found a 5% lifetime prevalence of marijuana use. Two years later, this proportion jumped to 22%. A Gallup Poll of the adult population in the summer of 1969 found a 4% lifetime prevalence, with 12% of those in the 21-29 year old age group, 3% in the 30-49 year old group and only 1% of those aged 50 and over reporting ever trying marijuana. In the fall of 1970, another Gallup Poll of college students found 43% reported trying marijuana, with 39% reporting use in the past year and 28% reporting use in the past 30 days. By 1971, over half (51%) of the nation's college students reported lifetime use, and annual and thirty day prevalence rates stood at 41% and 30% respectively. These Gallup telephone polls document the explosion in marijuana use among college students during the late 1960s, with a leveling occurring in the early 1970s, such that by 1971, over half of the nation's college students had at least tried marijuana. It is commonly hypothesized that marijuana use first burgeoned among college students, and then spread to younger ages. A national survey of males in their finalyear of high school (aged 17-18 years) in 1969 found a 22% lifetime prevalence of use.

In 1970-1971, the New York Narcotic Addiction Control Commission conducted a major general population survey of New York State (Chambers and Inciardi, 1971). The research study used state-of-the-art techniques and, to that time, gave one of the best assessments (albeit limited to New York State) of the nature and extent of drug use. The study found that 12.3% of the New York State population had ever used marijuana. They further found that regular users (defined as at least 6 times per month) made up 3.5% (487,000 individuals) of the State's population. Of these regular users, over 70% were under the age of 25 and nearly half defined themselves as students at the high school or college levels.

Piketty's Capital in 3 Minutes

Florida: 88% support mmj amendment/ 53% back recreational use


Medical marijuana gets 88% support in new Florida poll; 53% back ‘personal use’ of pot

Nearly 9 out of 10 Florida voters say adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

An amendment to the Florida constitution to legalize medical marijuana goes before voters in November and needs 60 percent support to pass. The Quinnipiac poll didn’t specifically ask about the ballot question, but found 88 percent support for permitting medical marijuana. That’s up from 82 percent support in November.

The same poll found 53 percent support for “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” with 42 percent opposed. Voters were more evenly divided in November, with 48 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.

Asked if they’ve ever tried marijuana, 45 percent of Florida voters say they have and 54 percent say they have not. The age group with the highest percentage of reported marijuana use was 50-to-64-year-olds, with 62 percent saying they have tried pot.

Congressman Blumenauer: Oregon Could "Break the Dam" on Marijuana Prohibition


(Democratic) Congressman Earl Blumenauer said Oregon could be the "explosion that breaks the dam" in allowing states to handle marijuana legalization during a speech at Saturday's Global Cannabis March in downtown Portland.

The veteran legislator was the keynote speaker at the rally, which comes amid several initiatives to get marijuana legalization measures on the November 2014 ballot. His brief remarks drew cheers and the ringing of a tambourine at a rally that saw several hundred people march and listen to speakers through intermittent rain.

Blumenauer called on government to "reappraise what can be only described as a failed war on drugs." The current U.S. approach to marijuana legalization is an "upside down world," he added.

Oregon should be at the forefront of making the call on legalization, Blumenauer said. He joked that Alaska, which will vote on legalization there in November, won't necessarily lead the way for other states: "I don't think the land of the midnight sun and Sarah Palin" is up to that, he said.


With national backing, marijuana advocates file legalization measure

New Approach Oregon said it will first push for legislators to refer their new measure to the November, 2014 ballot. If that doesn't work, the measure's chief petitioner, Anthony Johnson, said his group will have the resources to collect the 87,213 signatures needed to put the initiative before voters.

Washington and Colorado in 2012 became the first states to legalize the drug for recreational purposes. At the same time, Oregon voters rejected a legalization measure that was much looser. It would have, for example, allowed drinking-age adults to possess unlimited amounts of marijuana and an industry-dominated board would have regulated sales.

New Approach Oregon's measure would allow 21-and-over adults to possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana and four plants. In addition, sales of the drug would be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

It's your time to shine, Oregon!

We the people can put an end to prohibition.

here's another link that works


Mexico's attorney general says investigators have seized 44 tons (39 metric tons) of marijuana in Tijuana across the border from San Diego, California.

A statement from the office says that nearly 4,000 packets of drugs were found in the Granjas Familiares del Matamoros neighborhood based on a federal warrant. Mexican military and Tijuana police conducted the raid. There were no arrests.

The statement says the seizure occurred Thursday.

Tijuana is known for huge marijuana seizures because of its proximity to the U.S., including Mexico's largest to date: 148 tons (134 metric tons) found in 2010. At least seven sophisticated tunnels under the border have been found in recent years. Roughly the same amount of marijuana seized Thursday was found outside the entrance of a tunnel discovered in Tijuana in 2012.

good thing he was arrested back in Feb., huh? Otherwise we might have metric tons of marijuana to deal with...


except, those who look at this issue don't think he will ever be extradited to the U.S. (and he'd already "escaped" from prison in Mexico a decade ago.


"...the U.S. was fighting so hard to extradite him...it is interesting that (Mexican President) Enrique Peña Nieto chose not to extradite him...I think Peña Nieto is trying to send the message in that...Mexico has the control over its own fate," said Sylvia Longmire, author of Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us Safer and border analyst, during Friday's broadcast of Arizona Week.

..."We've seen numerous extraditions, because we know, if they are extradited here, they will go through a trial...a plea deal...(and amid a plea deal), they will be able to provide intelligence to the (Drug Enforcement Agency)," she said. Many argue this is the exact reason why he will never be extradited.

It is argued the Mexican government cannot afford Guzman to roll out a list of higher-ups who've been or still are in his pocket.

"He will never be extradited to the U.S.," said Terry Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. "The attorney general from Mexico said 'absolutely not,' no matter how much pressure the U.S. puts on them. They don't want the public corruption involved there...his network..." or the identities of the politicians and law enforcement agents who allegedly collaborated with him, he argued.

Yet our govt. continues to provide billions of dollars, much of it unaccounted for, to military contractors to "fight" this war.

When will Americans finally get sick of this shell game of corruption between monied entities, I wonder? Obviously it pays some politicians well to be drug warriors on both sides of the border.

The "just say no" era of soccer moms is over

The drug war folks say that's it's not getting as much traction any longer because the issue has moved from status-anxiety among the middle class who feared for Johnny's/Johanna's chances to get an education and job to the issue of medical uses - including some children - Gupta made the case for this clear to all Americans.

But here's some guesses about the causes of change -


One likely answer is they have less incentive to protest: Fewer high-school kids smoke regularly. In 1978, nearly two in five high-school seniors (37.1 percent) said they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days, according to the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey. Last year, barely more than one in five (22.7) said they had. This figure has changed little since the mid-'90s.

Another likely answer for the decline of the parents movement is the success of medical marijuana. Talk with anti-pot leaders, and to a person they say the advent of medical pot in the mid-'90s reoriented the debate. Sue Rusche, co-founder of National Families in Action, said the tide turned after “three billionaires stepped forward—George Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling—and funded so-called medical marijuana.” Like Lowe and Cohen, Rusche suggested that medical marijuana changed the national conversation over weed from a behavioral issue involving teenagers to a quality-of-life one involving mostly adults.

Scholars agree. As Jonathan P. Caulkins, a former co-director of Rand’s Drug Policy Research Center, wrote in Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, “The big change in marijuana consumption over the last half dozen years does not pertain to youth. Rather, it is the very substantial increase in the number of adults who use marijuana daily or near daily.” The share of adults who use pot regularly has risen to 8 percent from 7 percent in 2006. Also, the share of adults who have tried pot has risen to 38 percent from 24 percent in 1977.

The increase in the share of adults who have used pot has also made Americans more accepting of the drug. As William Galston and E.J. Dionne Jr. pointed out in a Brookings study last May, “demographic change and widespread public experience using marijuana imply that opposition to legalization will never again return to the levels seen in the 1980s.”
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