Drug policy

Has the ‘War on Drugs’ failed?

The US has has a ‘War on Drugs’ for more than 100 years.

A few short years ago John Key and his Chief ‘Science’ Advisor declared a war on drugs too.

But have all these ?wars on drugs worked.

Eric Schneider, author of Smack: Heroin and the American City?shares his thoughts at Politico.

Let?s all pause today to wish a happy 100th?birthday to the War on Drugs. And what a century it?s been!

Twenty-five years ago, the stated goal of the United States? anti-narcotic efforts according to the Department of Justice was to ?disrupt, destroy and dismantle drug trafficking enterprises.? That same year, the U.S. government pumped almost $8 billion into anti-drug efforts, including $600 million in prison construction alone. It was just a typical fiscal year during the height of the drug war. But two and a half decades later, despite this dizzying spending, we don?t need a drug czar to tell us?even though one of them has?the war on drugs, by its own measures, has been a century-long failure.

A hundred years ago this month, the U.S. government started this fight to rid us of the scourge of opiates. Today, not only have we failed to control drug demand, an entirely new breed of opiate epidemic has flourished in the face of the most draconian drug laws in the world. Aided by aggressive Big Pharma marketing and enthusiastic ?pain specialists,? opiate abuse has simply taken on a new shape, moving from urban enclaves and overrunning pockets of New England and the South, from rural Vermont to the suburbs of Dallas, that have little history of widespread drug abuse. Heroin today is cheaper and purer than it was 50 years ago. That?s to say nothing of the 700 percent increase in incarceration of American citizens in the past four decades, the distribution of nearly $450 million worth of military equipment that is used by local and state law enforcement agencies (that ?militarization of the police? you?ve been reading so much about lately), and the creation of a wasteful, labyrinthine bureaucracy dedicated to what has proven a perhaps impossible goal: The eradication of drugs.

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NY Times endorses legalisation of cannabis

The NY Times has taken an editorial stance supporting the legalisation of cannabis.

The New York Times editorial board endorsed the repeal of federal law banning marijuana use on Saturday, a landmark moment in the decades-long fight for legalization.

The Times is also rolling out?an interactive six-part series?with more editorials discussing issues related to marijuana use.?In the first interactive editorial, which turns the stars of the American flag into marijuana leaves as the user scrolls down, the editorial board argued that the ban on marijuana has caused ?great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.?

?There are no perfect answers to people?s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level ? health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues ? the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization,? the board wrote. ?That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs ? at the state level.?

The Times is the biggest U.S. newspaper to endorse the legalization of marijuana. In recent years magazines like National Review and a few state newspapers like the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Star-Ledger Editorial Board have endorsed legalization.? Read more »

We should try this here

Prison for non-violent drug crimes is a waste of time and money.

More than 46,000 people will be allowed to petition for reduced prison sentences for drug crimes, thanks to a unanimous vote by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Friday.?

The U.S. Sentencing Commission on Friday voted to make recent guidelines lowering prison sentences for most federal drug offenses fully retroactive to all currently serving federal sentences under the guidelines.

As BuzzFeed?reported?earlier this week, the question before the commission was whether approximately 50,000 drug offenders serving time currently will be able to petition a judge to review their sentences according to the new standards. The Justice Department had opposed making the changes fully retroactive.

The commission unanimously voted yes Friday to make the decision retroactive, although the decision will not allow for release of any prisoners until Nov. 1, 2015. The approximately 50,000 people affected represent around 25% of the total federal prison population ? approximately 210,000 convicts.? Read more »

The Governor who opposed legalisation of cannabis and what he thinks now

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The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, is a Democrat who opposed legalisation of cannabis in the state.

The voters however saw differently and voted for legalisation. Accordingly he then had to implement the wishes of the people.

Here are ten things he has passed comment on about the whole process.

1) As Colorado attempts to build its brand as a healthy state, marijuana “dilutes what you’re trying to do.”

2) “I think decriminalization would’ve been a wiser first step.”

3) One of the best things about marijuana legalization: “I think the black market has been damaged. I think people are willing to pay taxes and to go through pretty rigorous regulation.”

4) “Some of the anxiety has been laid to rest. We don’t see a spike in adult use. We don’t think we see a spike in youth consumption although there are some things that are disconcerting.”

5) One of the governor’s concerns: “This high THC marijuana, what can it do to a brain that is still developing?”

6) One of the governor’s complaints: federal rules that prohibit dispensary owners from putting their money in banks. “If you really want to introduce corruption into legal marijuana,” he said, “make it an all cash business.”

7) On unanticipated problems: There’s been “a dramatic increase in edibles.” And “no one had ever worried about dosage sizes. The original edibles that came out, once you took the packaging off there was nothing to show it was any different than candy.” ? Read more »

No surprises that Jamaica will be the next country to decriminalise cannabis


No surprises here, Jamaica is likely to become the next country to decriminalise cannabis.

IT WOULD have seemed a lot more revolutionary just two years ago but for Jamaica, it is still a welcome whiff of sense. The island?s energy minister, Philip Paulwell, who also leads government business in parliament, has said he will find time this year to decriminalise possession of small amounts of marijuana. At a stroke, the move will cut the number of criminal offences by as many as a million a week. It will also make a Jamaican break somewhat less nervy for ganja-puffing tourists.? Read more »

Texas Governor Rick Perry considering decriminalisation of cannabis

The various states in the US are moving rapidly on cannabis…decriminalisation a the very least and legalisation ?are being considered more and more.

Colorado has already fully legalised and now Texas Governor Rick Perry has lent his support to decriminalisation.

A proper and sensible debate is now being had on the issue, politicians are realising that prohibition hasn’t and won’t work and alternatives are now being sought.

Gov.?Rick Perry?signaled Thursday that he’s for the decriminalization of marijuana use ? not legalization, but the softening of punishment for pot users in the border state.

?As governor, I have begun to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization? by introducing alternative ?drug courts? that provide treatment and softer penalties for minor offenses, Perry said during an international panel on drug legalization at the?World Economic Forum?in Davos, Switzerland.

It’s the first time the governor, who’s voiced support for drug courts in the past, took a position on decriminalization in Texas.

His spokeswoman confirmed that Perry is staunchly opposed to legalization of marijuana because of the dangers that have been associated with the drug but is committed to policies that would lower the punishment for its use to keep smokers out of jail.? Read more »

Legalisation of Cannabis is going to become an avalanche


After Colorado moved to full legalisation and licensing of cannabis other states are rushing to join in.

Uruguay has legalised and put in place a regime similar to that of tobacco and alcohol. It is only a matter of time as state after state embraces legalisation.

Most of the western world will follow suit. I predict that some states and countries will move to a halfway house of decriminalisation first…which will lead Police to stop enforcement anyway, followed by legalisation. That is probably what will happen in Maryland.

Amsterdam, Vancouver, and Silver Spring?

Maryland could become the latest destination for legal marijuana, joining the states of Washington and Colorado, if an effort to allow the regulated sale of the drug in the Old Line State becomes law.

In?an interview with?The Washington Post?on Friday,?Mike Miller, the powerful president of the Maryland Senate, said, ?I favor the legalization and taxation of marijuana, with restrictions.? Miller, a relatively conservative Democrat who has opposed both same-sex marriage and abolishing the death penalty, said he believes his position is the way of the future. ?I know where people are going to be a generation or two from now,? he said.? Read more »

A contrary opinion on decriminalisation of cannabis

Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle

Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle

Last week I blogged about a top UK cop and his call for an end to the war on drugs.

There are of course many opinions and his is just one. Not one to only present one side of the argument on anything here is another, also from the UK.

I don’t happen to agree with him, his views take the extreme and ignore the successes of decriminalisation…nonetheless it is worth hearing the other side of the debate on de criminalisation of cannabis.

In the small Mexican town of Los Reyes last week, a bag containing the severed heads of three men was left beside a roundabout. They had been killed by gangsters as a warning to local people who had established self-defence squads to protect themselves from the brutal violence associated with the country?s war on drugs. Over the past three years, an estimated 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico. If ever there was a country that had cause to believe it was losing the fight, then here it is. So why haven?t the Mexicans alighted upon the solution proposed at the weekend by Mike Barton, the chief constable of Durham, and decriminalised drugs?? Read more »

Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell on Drug Legalisation

Last week I posted a few interesting posts about cannabis and legalisation. Those posts started a conversation, not only in the comments but also via a few emails, including one from Don Brash.

Over the weekend I also received this one from a reader:


In a bid to continue the discussion, I thought I would send through this 8 minute clip of Milton Friedman arguing in favour of drug legalisation, specifically looking at the effects of prohibition.

It is a shame that more often than not, those who stand up in support of decriminalisation or legalisation are the hardcore stoners. Nobel-Prize winning conservative economists like Friedman, and our own Don Brash shows there is credibility to the intellectual argument which believes prohibition has been a gross failure.

When will our politicians wake up and debate the social harms which come from the status quo?

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Decriminalisation has worked…in Portugal

The Beckley Foundation

A while ago I posted a video about drug decriminalisation in Portugal and the success that it was meeting with. Here it is again:

Now research has confirmed the dramatic results in Portugal:

On July 1st, 2001,?Portugal decriminalized every imaginable drug, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin. Some thought Lisbon would become a drug tourist haven, others predicted usage rates among youths to surge. Eleven years later, it turns out they were both wrong.

Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labeling them as people affected by a disease. This time lapse has allowed statistics to develop and in time, has made Portugal an example to follow.

First, some clarification.

Portugal?s move to decriminalize does not mean people can carry around, use, and sell drugs free from police interference. That would be legalization. Rather, all drugs are ?decriminalized,? meaning drug possession, distribution, and use is still illegal. While distribution and trafficking is still a criminal offense, possession and use is moved out of criminal courts and into a special court where each offender?s unique ?situation is judged by legal experts, psychologists, and social workers. Treatment and further action is decided in these courts, where addicts and drug use is treated as a public health service rather than referring it to the justice system (like the U.S.),reports Fox News.

The resulting effect:?a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports?highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years.?Portugal?s drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states,?according to the same report.

One more outcome: a lot less sick people. Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates, which experts believe is the result of the government offering treatment with no threat of legal ramifications to addicts.