Drug Prohibition: Still Stupid

Pertinacious Tom

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Kratom Prohibition Is Stupid Too

Kerry Biggs needed help managing her chronic pain.

Years of taking prescription medications to alleviate the pain caused by her fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments had left the mother of two "feeling foggy."

Desperate to find an alternative, Biggs tried kratom. Derived from the leaves of the kratom tree, a close relative of the coffee plant, it has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia for its medicinal properties.


In small doses, kratom acts as a minor stimulant similar to caffeine. In larger doses its works as a painkiller and can act as an antidepressant for some people.

"It gave me a new lease on life," said Biggs, who was able to wean herself off prescription painkillers by using kratom. "It dampened down my pain without all the side effects that come with taking prescription drugs."

That new lease on life came to an abrupt end last year, because Biggs lives in Wisconsin. In 2014, Wisconsin became the fourth state to ban kratom.

Kratom was never mentioned by state legislators either before or after the vote that made it illegal.

Instead, two of the chemicals in it were included on a list of synthetic opioids lawmakers classified as Schedule 1 drugs, despite the fact kratom is neither synthetic nor an opioid.

No one in Madison has been able to explain how or why the chemicals ended up on the list, but their inclusion means kratom is now in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

At a meeting of the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board last week, board member Alan Bloom said he was surprised to see the kratom on the list of schedule substances.

"They stick out like a sore thumb," said Bloom, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Bloom was blunt in his assessment of the scheduling of kratom. "There's no scientific basis for it," he told his colleagues.

But state lawmakers aren't required to rely on science in their decisions. In 2012, legislators in Indiana made kratom illegal by declaring it to be a synthetic drug.

...
 

Saorsa

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As long as addiction isn't regarded as a disability or disease I'm fine with legalization.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Obama's Solicitor General asks court not to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma lawsuit against Colorado

I'd like to see the court tell those two states to take a hike but I don't know about the legal justification.

In their challenge to Colorado's law, filed in December 2014, Nebraska and Oklahoma said marijuana is being smuggled across their borders and that drugs threaten the health and safety of children.

Nebraska and Oklahoma noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and said Colorado has created "a dangerous gap" in the federal drug control system.

Oklahoma and Nebraska's lawsuit was filed under a rarely used Supreme Court process, known as "original jurisdiction," in which the justices hear disputes between states that have not first been handled by lower courts.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in court papers filed on Wednesday that the case was not the type of dispute the court would normally hear.

"Entertaining the type of dispute here - essentially that one state's laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another state - would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court's original jurisdiction," Verrilli said.
I have to agree with Nebraska and Oklahoma that state legalization creates a gap in federal law enforcement. I think it's the enforcement of prohibition that creates the most danger, so I'd dispute that it's a "dangerous gap" but there's no denying it's a gap.

My conclusion: end the federal war on cannabis to make that problem go away.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Some progress. Tacked into the spending bill was a provision to prevent the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with the laws of their state:

http://www.farr.house.gov/index.php/press-releases/71-newsroom/2014-press-releases/1083-farr-statement-on-rohrabacher-farr-medical-marijuana-amendment
I'm glad Congress did that again, but not sure it will be any more effective than it was last time they did it.

It's a bit like Obama doing piecemeal pardons of drug offenders who are serving more time than rapists and murderers. I'm glad to see it, but it's not fixing the problem.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Gardening is bad

Because the cops refused to say why they thought the Hartes were growing marijuana, the couple spent a year and $25,000 in legal fees to get a look at the affidavit supporting the search warrant.

Among other things, Lungstrum's ruling means he thought the evidence cited in that affidavit provided probable cause for the search. If so, that's only because probable cause is a much weaker standard than people generally imagine.

It turned out that the genesis of the search was a tip from a Missouri state trooper who saw Robert Harte leave a Kansas City hydroponics store on August 9, 2011, carrying a bag. Inside the bag were supplies for a horticultural project involving tomato, squash, and melon plants that Harte thought would be edifying for the kids. Since people often buy indoor gardening supplies for such perfectly legal purposes, that purchase itself was not enough for probable cause. But eight months later, sheriff's deputies rummaging through the Hartes' trash came across wet "plant material" that the Hartes think must have been some of the loose tea that Adlynn favors. Although a field test supposedly identified the material as marijuana, a laboratory test (conducted after the raid) showed that result was erroneous.


The Hartes argued that police should have known better than to trust field tests, which are notoriously inaccurate. Experiments by Claflin University biotechnologist Omar Bagasra found that one commonly used field test, the NIK NarcoPouch 908, misidentified many legal plant products as marijuana, including spearmint, peppermint, basil, oregano, patchouli, vanilla, cinnamon leaf, lemon grass, bergamot, lavendar, ginseng, anise, gingko, eucalyptus, rose, cloves, ginger, frankincense, vine flower, chicory flower, olive flower, cypress, and St. John's wort. Several of those are common ingredients in herbal tea. In their complaint, the Hartes say the test used to incriminate them has a false-positive rate of 70 percent. They also note that the test is not supposed to be performed on "saturated or liquid samples."

But according to Judge Lungstrum, the innocent act of visiting a hydroponics store, combined with the result of a test that is accurate only 30 percent of the time (even assuming it is performed correctly), adds up to probable cause for a search....
I don't think that's right. The field test was done after the search so it could not have been part of the "probable cause" for the warrant.

That leaves visiting the gardening store as the act that established probable cause that these people were growing the dreaded killer (that has never killed anyone), marijuana.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Some progress. Tacked into the spending bill was a provision to prevent the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with the laws of their state:

http://www.farr.house.gov/index.php/press-releases/71-newsroom/2014-press-releases/1083-farr-statement-on-rohrabacher-farr-medical-marijuana-amendment
I'm glad Congress did that again, but not sure it will be any more effective than it was last time they did it.

It's a bit like Obama doing piecemeal pardons of drug offenders who are serving more time than rapists and murderers. I'm glad to see it, but it's not fixing the problem.
More on why renewing that Rohrabacher-Farr rider is at best very limited good news.

.

It depends on what the meaning of implement is. One meaning is "tool." I think the DOJ are being obtuse implements

...

One reason the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment did not work as advertised is that the Justice Department refuses to interpret it the way Rohrabacher and Farr do. It is clear from the debate that preceded the House vote on the amendment in May 2014 that supporters and opponents of the rider both thought it would bar prosecution of people who grow, possess, or distribute medical marijuana in compliance with state law. But as I predicted last year, the Justice Department argues that prosecuting medical marijuana suppliers or seizing their property does not “prevent” states from “implementing” their laws.

...

Assuming the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment does ultimately affect enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana in states that allow medical use, that is not the same as eliminating the ban. The rider has no impact in the 27 states that do not have medical marijuana laws, and it applies only to the Justice Department, so it has no effect on actions by the IRS or the Treasury Department that make it difficult for medical marijuana suppliers to pay their taxes and obtain banking services.

More fundamentally, the amendment, which has to be renewed every fiscal year, does not change the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no legal uses. Because marijuana is still prohibited by federal law, people who grow and sell it, no matter the purpose and regardless of their status under state law, commit multiple felonies every day. If no one is trying to put them in prison right now, that is only thanks to prosecutorial forbearance that may prove temporary.

Anyone who provides services to marijuana businesses is implicated in their lawbreaking. This week a Colorado credit union that wants to specialize in serving state-licensed marijuana businesses tried to persuade a federal judge that it is legally entitled to participate in the Federal Reserve’s payment system, without which it cannot operate. The judge did not seem inclined to agree, saying, “I would be forcing the reserve bank to give a master account to a credit union that serves illegal businesses.” This month the U.S. Postal Service announced that periodicals containing marijuana ads are “nonmailable,” citing a CSA provision that makes it a felony to place ads promoting the purchase of illegal drugs. An accounting firm and a bonding company hired by a Colorado marijuana merchant recently paid $70,000 to settle a federal racketeering suit filed against them by a hotel whose owners were upset about plans to open a pot shop near their business.

Problems like these cannot be solved without changing marijuana’s status under federal law. The Rohrbacher-Farr amendment does not do that, no matter how many hopeful headlines it generates.
 

Pertinacious Tom

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The Corrupt Drug Testing Racket In Florida

Florida’s top law enforcement officials knew by 2012 that Millennium Laboratories, the nation’s largest drug testing company, was defrauding Florida Medicaid of millions.

But that did not stop Attorney General Pam Bondi from urging Medicare to pay for high-priced and unnecessary drug screening tests at the heart of Millennium’s massive scam, even as her own office and federal prosecutors pursued civil charges against the company.
 

Pertinacious Tom

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The Folly of Prohibition

...

While Penn suggests that the war on drugs represents a triumph of theory over practice, the truth is that the results of this crusade were perfectly predictable from basic economic principles. It would be more accurate to say that the war on drugs represents a triumph of emotion, prejudice, and inertia over both theory and practical experience.

...
That sounds more than a little like the Rise of The Donald.

As for General Kelly's complaint that he could not interdict enough smugglers because there was not enough money, there can never be enough...

...

Kelly apparently thinks interdiction reduces the total amount of drugs reaching the United States. But that is not how interdiction works, to the extent that it works at all. Given all the places where drugs can be produced and all the ways they can be transported to people who want them, the most that drug warriors can hope to accomplish is to impose costs on traffickers that are high enough to raise retail prices, thereby discouraging consumption.

How has that been going? “With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply,” a 2013 study published by BMJ Open concluded, “illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.”

...
The drug market interprets prohibition as damage and finds a way to route around it. Markets will always beat regulators at that game.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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This girl used to measure her time between seizures in hours, back when she was using legal pharmaceuticals to try to control them.

Now she's using illegal cannabis oil.

12605525_936750439743066_2280979454960495250_o.jpg


 

Pertinacious Tom

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Medical Marijuana Amendment Makes FL Ballot

Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
I'd prefer to see the legislature do this rather than use our constitutional amendment process to get it done, but will vote for this (or possibly one of the other) amendments on this issue.

This is, in my view, the worst one, but it does have the advantage of being backed by the deeeeeep pockets of attorney John Morgan.

In other news, Maine's Governor is a nutcase. Thinks mandatory minimum sentences are going to start winning the drug war any year now and thinks we'd do even better at making prohibition a success if we brought in the guillotine.

And just like gun control or any other prohibition, it's really more about Us vs Them than the thing being prohibited so there are some disturbing overtones...

“The traffickers, these aren’t people who take drugs. These are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” LePage, a Republican, said during a discussion of the state’s heroin epidemic at a town hall event. “These type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home.”

“Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave,” he added. “Which is the real sad thing, because then we have another issue that we have to deal with down the road.”
 

Pertinacious Tom

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Good Christians Against Prohibition

Last Saturday the New England Conference of United Methodist Churches, a group representing 600 congregations in six Northeastern states, voted in favor of Resolution 15-203, which uses Christian principles to call for an end to the War on Drugs.

The resolution begins:

In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right.

...

Be it Resolved: That the New England Annual Conference supports seeking means other than prohibition to address the problem of substance abuse; and is further resolved to support the mission of the international educational organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition.
Wow! Some good Christians in Texas too!

Last I heard, TX had the death penalty for hash oil. This is quite a change of heart. Hope it continues.

The proposal would make Texas the fifth state in the United States to fully legalize recreational marijuana use. In a surprising, and “unprecedented” bipartisan move, the proposal was approved in a House panel vote.

...

Republican David Simpson of Longview explained in an op-ed piece that it was his belief in God, and his distrust of government, as well as criticism of the “War on Drugs” which led him to sponsor the marijuana legalization bill.

“As a Christian, I recognize the innate goodness of everything God made and humanity’s charge to be stewards of the same,” Simpson explained. “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”

...

According to the local Houston Chronicle, the panel’s three Democrats joined two Republicans giving House Bill 2165 a “decisive 5-2 victory.”

This vote came only days after a 4-2 vote to decriminalize marijuana. This marked the first proposal to decriminalize that has made it out of a Texas legislative committee to date.
I'm a little surprised that TX Democrats would vote for this. It is, after all, Texas. What's shocking is the two Republican votes. That's two more than I thought I'd live to see.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Ted Cruz Flip Flops On Mandatory Minimum Sentences

A year ago, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley condemned a sentencing reform bill backed by Ted Cruz as "lenient" and "dangerous." Eight months later, it was Cruz's turn. Explaining his opposition to a sentencing reform bill backed by Grassley, Cruz described it as dangerously lenient.
Not long ago, Cruz understood why drug warriors like Grassley are wrong on this issue:

"Although there is nothing wrong in principle with mandatory minimums, they must be carefully calibrated to ensure that no circumstances could justify a lesser sentence for the crime charged," Cruz wrote in his contribution to a collection of essays published by the Brennan Center for Justice last April. "The current draconian mandatory minimum sentences sometimes result in sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the perpetrator's unique circumstances. This is especially true for nonviolent drug offenders. Harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have contributed to prison overpopulation and are both unfair and ineffective relative to the public expense and human costs of years-long incarceration."
You can't win the R nomination if you go around talking about nonviolent drug offenders and their nonviolent drug crimes.

 
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