Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's a progressive. . . or a liberal. . .or a conservative?

In John McWhorter's op-ed in The New York Times July 21, 2010, about who identifies himself or herself as a "progressive," a "liberal," or a "conservative," and what progressive means, he says

I am often called a “black conservative” because, despite being a pro-choice Obama voter who opposes the war on drugs, I consider racism an inconvenience to be conquered.
I was struck that of the various potential characterizations he might have chosen -- vegetarian, environmentalist, human rights activist, anti-war, pro-education, pro-health, etc. -- he chose abortion, Obama, racism, and opposing the war on drugs.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brain Enhancement

Stanford Law Professor Henry Greely has a very thoughtful article about brain enhancement on the Cerebrum website of the Dana Foundation.

"Who gets to decide whether you can tinker with your brain?" is a question that goes to the heart of drug policy. Greely's commentary helps tease out the question of whether brain enhancement might be a good idea.

He points out that use of tools and use of language (such as learning to read and having access to books) changes our brains, and are enhancements. It is interesting to think about Cannabis use as a brain enhancement rather than simply a tool for producing a euphoric effect. Isn't the charge that drug use "changes our brains" -- without considering the positive ways that they could be changed (and are changed by our daily experience) just so much fear-mongering?

He has a lovely discussion that takes down the common criticisms of brain enhancements as cheating, unfair, or unnatural.

Greely also thoughtfully dissects the difference between brain enhancements and the use of, say steroids, in a sports competition.

If you think about drug use -- is it a good idea or not? is it moral? what you are using drugs for? -- this is an article that will stimulate you and, perhaps, enhance your drug use.

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Drug Law Reform in Latin America

The Washington Office on Latin America and the Trans National Institute have just launched an excellent new website.

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Plan Colombia -- Not a model for Mexico, Afghanistan or anyplace else

Adam Isacson has an excellent analysis of the "success" of Plan Colombia, whose 10th anniversary is this week. Isacson, who moved from CIP to the Washington Office on Latin America this Spring, observes that when Americans are praising the program, it is as reliable as students grading their own papers.

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Look, up in the sky! It's a drug, it's a high. No, it's website!

How plausible was the Superman story?
How plausible is it that listening to certain "tones" on earphones or a headset can get you "high" -- that is, "using 'digital drugs'"? I don't know, give me a decent theory and perhaps it is plausible. Here is link to Now, how plausible is the warning that listening to such tones is dangerous?

"I think it's very dangerous," said Karina Forrest-Perkins, chief operating officer of Gateway to Prevention and Recovery in Shawnee [OK]. While there are no known neurological effects from digital drugs, they encourage kids to pursue mood altering substances, she said.
She is quoted near the top of the story in The Daily Oklahoman.

Even if it can't get you high, it is dangerous because the website encourages thinking about getting high. Here's another website that also has pictures of Cannabis ("Legal Bud"), pills and hashish ("Legal Hash"). These scam ads have been in magazines for decades, and on the Internet since websites became accessible. If we conclude that simply thinking about drugs and getting high is "dangerous," then what is the content of our anti-drug education programs?

Once again, adults seem to have lost their minds in the face of "dangers!" How many kids are killed and injured in Oklahoma every year in connection with football or hunting? I can confidently assert -- without fear of being disproved -- that the number is greater than that of kids who are injured from the combined dangers of "digital drugs," websites promoting drugs, and marijuana.

And, of course, thinking about getting high is deviant behavior in our culture -- unless you like baseball, and watch the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Fox, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser. No one is going to try to shut this website down!

I suspect that "Digital drugs" are another species of drug scares that are more scare than drugs. In the early 1980s, I set up Congressional hearings on "Look-alike drugs." These were over-the-counter drugs packaged in capsules or tablets to look like commonly-abused stimulant controlled substances. It was already a crime to manufacture or distribute "counterfeit" controlled substances. But the fact that some people were trying to make money selling non-controlled substances as the real thing was enough for stirring up talk of epidemics, etc. Selling these pills was a scam. (When I was an assistant public defender, one of my first jury trials was defending a bartender in a biker bar who sold counterfeit "speed" to an undercover State Trooper in the men's room. We lost.) Of course there was a danger there -- since the counterfeits do not produce the intended effects, a not-too bright person might conclude that instead of having been burned, they should simply take more of the counterfeit pills, risking an overdose of the over-the-counter medication. But the anti-drug public relations consultants, ambitious reporters, and client-hunting drug abuse treatment experts were eager to trumpet an old scam with a new alliterative name, "look-alike drugs".

In the mid-1980s, "Designer Drugs" was another a catchy, public relations label for a logical consequence of prohibition -- but it was good enough to stimulate enactment of the Controlled Substances Analogue Act of 1986. This campaign was scary enough to inspire Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) to push this law which bans substances before they are invented, and once invented, criminalizing the makers and sellers before any evidence of the substances harmfulness was observed, reported or documented. It was the chemical equivalent of requiring a woman to have an abortion because she was impregnated by a "dangerous" man.

The anti-drug establishment is always looking for a scary brand for a "new" epidemic. In the 1990s, DEA and CBS News attempted to re-brand methamphetamine as "Nazi Crank" -- because it was synthesized using a process developed by German scientists in the 1930s to provide stimulants to soldiers, sailors and airmen during World War II. (The U.S. Army and Japan also provided methamphetamine to crucial personnel to help them stay awake.) "Wehrmacht Crank" was hardly as scary and politically-loaded as "Nazi Crank." A drug addict who can be prosecuted for selling "Nazi crank" is not just a bad guy or addicted guy, he is a certified demon.

News stories like this one just made URLs with words like digital drugs, or i-dose, a heck of a lot more valuable. Stay tuned, you will see this "breaking news" on your TV soon, and more stories in newspapers around the nation.

Digital drugs? Caveat emptor, anybody?

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Five Books. . . on drugs

Mark Kleiman at UCLA, the author of When Brute Force Fails, has just been asked about the five essential books on drugs.
Even if you know him well, his answers about the books are not what you would think.

BTW, here is his Huffington Post summary of his book, When Brute Force Fails.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Law Enforcement idiocy exposed by Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has a front page story on the idiotic priorities of county sheriffs in California. They are facing enormous budget shrinkage: they are laying off deputies, closing floors of the county jail, eliminating patrols, eliminating major crimes investigators, letting convicted drunk drivers out of jail early (predicting that they will drink and drive and hurt people). But they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of their scarce local funds to cut down marijuana plants because the Federal government will give them grants to help cover some of the costs. Do they even arrest the marijuana growers who they say are dangerous fiends from the Mexican drug trafficking organizations? No. They make arrests only 10 percent of the time.

How does it make sense for law enforcement agencies to knowingly endanger public safety in order to cut down marijuana plants?

How does it make sense for the Federal government, which is going to spend more than $1.3 trillion this year that it has to borrow, to cut down marijuana plants?

This is the scenario: The U.S. borrows dollars from the Chinese to pay cops who can't catch criminals from Mexico to cut down marijuana in California that when used as intended won't hurt people as much as alcohol and drunk drivers.

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Marijuana prosecutions are a civil rights issue

Excellent article by Alice Huffman of the California NAACP, which has endorsed Proposition 19.

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