Tag Archives: Illegal drug trade

Want to end Mexican drug gang violence?

Legalize drugs and the cartels will collapse

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer

http://www.naturalnews.com/034402_drug_cartels_prohibition_legalization.html#ixzz1gV7hRham

(NaturalNews) Rather than curb their prolific use and propagation around the world, the global “war on drugs” has actually made the drug problem worse. According to the latest statistics, drug use around the world is on the rise in almost every category, despite the numerous anti-drug policies in place to supposedly curb their use. Heightened government crackdowns on drug trafficking in many countries have actually led to more, not less, drug-related gang violence.

Irrespective of where they are enacted, anti-drug policies everywhere have had the unintended consequence of actually leading to more violence and criminal activity, while doing little or nothing to actually lower drug use rates. In other words, enforcing anti-drug policies is a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars that seems to only be making the situation worse rather than better.

Mexico is a perfect example of the failed war on drugs. In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon summoned a military crusade of 50,000 troops to crack down on the nation’s drug cartels, which are a main source of drug flow into the US, one of the world’s largest consumers of illicit drugs. But rather than contain the violence, these new enforcements have resulted in more than 45,000 deaths, as drug gangs have resorted to fighting each other for the best remaining smuggling routes.

In the US, the situation is not much different. While there might be less overall gang violence associated with the drug trade than there is in Mexico, an incredible amount of taxpayer funding is spent on targeting users of marijuana, for instance, which largely pose little or no threat to society. Meanwhile, domestic drug rings profit big time from the high prices they are able to fetch for these drugs on the black market.

Back in June, the Global Commission on Drug Policy published a report highlighting the failures of the global war on drugs. That report called for an end to “the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do no harm to others.” This is particularly true of the many people who use marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes, as it is far safer and more effective than many legalized pharmaceutical drugs.

In the end, all the war on drugs has accomplished is to further the success of drug cartels, which are wreaking violence and havoc around the world. If many of the drugs that are restricted today were to become legalized, the drug cartels that currently thrive would quickly collapse, leading to a much safer world for everybody.

Sources for this article include:
http://my.news.yahoo.com/drug-war-failed-across-latin-america-2011-113335984.html




		
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Editorial: Time To Change Marijuana Laws

http://www.ctlawtribune.com/getarticle.aspx?id=39356

Editorial: Time To Change Marijuana Laws
Connecticut Law Tribune
Monday, January 17, 2011
Copyright 2011, ALM Properties, Inc.

 

Commentaries appearing above are produced by the Editorial Board of the Connecticut Law Tribune. The opinions are voted on and passed by at least one third of the members of the board. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of every member of the board, nor of the newspaper. 

Editorial: Time To Change Marijuana Laws

There are substantial arguments for and against legalizing the use of marijuana. Opponents of its use strongly believe that marijuana is addictive, leads to the use of hard drugs, impairs short-term memory and motor coordination, and irritates the respiratory system. Despite these objections, on balance, it’s time to seriously consider legalizing marijuana.

Proponents of the legalized use of marijuana believe the following:

Marijuana has some beneficial qualities. It relieves pain, stimulates appetite in AIDS patients, reduces nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, is an antidepressant, and relieves anxiety.

Our present laws are out of date. That is because too many people wish to use marijuana and we know Prohibition didn’t work. The reason Prohibition didn’t work is because an overwhelming number of otherwise law-abiding citizens wished to drink, and government couldn’t afford to stop them. When a very significant percentage of the population wishes to do something, which is not inherently harmful to anyone else, then government is facing a losing battle.

Save the enforcement money and tax it. The economy would be strengthened if government saved the money they spend on enforcement of our marijuana laws, and taxed it just as they do alcohol. Jeff Mirren, a Harvard economist, has calculated that marijuana could generate approximately $8.7 billion in national tax revenue per year if legalized. He also calculated that approximately $8 billion is spent trying to fight marijuana. Those numbers can be debated, but it is clear that state governments, and the federal government, spend billions of dollars enforcing our marijuana laws and they don’t tax it (unless they catch someone who has an unreported income). That $17 billion could be better spent on other government programs. In signing a new California law that greatly reduces penalties for people possessing small amounts of marijuana, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated: “In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.” In other words, it is too expensive to enforce the present anti-marijuana laws.

Its use is not morally wrong. The use of marijuana is no more morally wrong than the use of alcohol. Therefore, it should not be a crime. It should not even be a misdemeanor. Each year approximately 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The only valid reason for its criminalization is that government needs to protect people from themselves. Statistically, it is difficult to determine what percentage of the people who use marijuana need protecting because they eventually move on to hard drugs, but one generally recognized range is between 2 percent and 9 percent. That is 2 to 9 percent of new users, because present users are still there even if it isn’t legal. Assuming that this is true, part of the tax revenue raised from the legalization of marijuana could be used for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Marijuana laws are not enforced equitably. According to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, blacks and Latino men are more likely than whites to be stopped and searched, and when drugs are found, they are prosecuted. He claims that in Los Angeles black men are arrested for marijuana possession seven times more frequently than whites. It is doubtful that blacks use marijuana seven times as much as whites.

Our present marijuana laws empower gangs and violence. The wars in Mexico are an example. Of course, these drug wars also deal with hard drugs, but eliminating marijuana from the illegal drug trade would make these wars less worthwhile. There is no sense encouraging drug cartels or violence.

The time has come to treat marijuana like alcohol, tax it like alcohol, and sell it either in state-controlled stores or in private stores, like liquor or drug stores. Control of our marijuana laws should be returned to the states with the federal government having a limited role, as it does now, with alcohol.

Some states or towns may continue to make marijuana illegal or control it through zoning laws. That would be up to them. But changing the law would not be difficult since government could simply add marijuana to its alcohol statutes and regulations. Once this is accomplished, the states and the federal government could tax it as they see fit. Let’s not kid ourselves. Government has lost this argument as they did with the Volstead Act. It’s time to learn our lesson. •


One More Reason Why Drugs Should Be legalized!

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The Washington Post

Study: Alcohol more lethal than heroin, cocaine

By MARIA CHENG

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 31, 2010; 8:08 PM

LONDON —

Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

The study was paid for by Britain’s Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.

Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

“Just think about what happens (with alcohol) at every football game,” said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.

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When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.

“We cannot return to the days of prohibition,” said Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study’s authors. “Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won’t go away.”

King said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn’t as widely available.

Experts said the study should prompt countries to reconsider how they classify drugs. For example, last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana. One of its senior advisers, David Nutt – the lead author on the Lancet study – was fired after he criticized the British decision.

What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science,” said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.

“Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit,” he said.

~

Online:

http://www.lancet.com

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So, look folks, if we legalize them we can regulate them and provide services for addicts who want help without being stigmatized by the legal ramifications normally involved. (E)

Why The Drug War Must End

Your Government Dealing Drugs

By Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell

Drugs, Guns, and Government

The heroin epidemic that ravaged our cities during the 50s and 60s basically originated with the CIA out of Southeast Asia. Almost from the moment of their founding in 1947, the CIA was giving covert support to organized drug traffickers in Europe and the Far East, and eventually the Middle East and Latin America. During the Vietnam War—hold onto your hats!—heroin was being smuggled into this country in the bodies of soldiers being flown home, coded ahead of time so they could be identified at various Air Force bases and the drugs removed.

Toward the end of American involvement over there in 1975, a former Green Beret named Michael Hand arranged a 500-pound shipment of heroin from Southeast Asia’s “Golden Triangle” to the U.S. by way of Australia. That’s where Hand had set up shop as vice chair of the Nugan Hand Bank, which was linked by the Australian Narcotics Bureau to a drug smuggling network that “exported some $3 billion [Aust.] worth of heroin from Bangkok prior to June 1976.” Several CIA guys who later came up in the Iran-Contra affair (Ted Shackley, Ray Clines and Edwin Wilson) used the Nugan Hand bank to channel funds for covert operations. By 1979, the bank had 22 branches in 13 countries and $1 billion in annual business. The next year, chairman Frank Nugan was found shot dead in his Mercedes, a hundred miles from Sydney, and the bank soon collapsed. Two official investigations by Australia uncovered its financing of major drug dealers and the laundering of their profits, while collecting an impressive list of “ex”CIA officers.

Drugs Funding Reagan’s War in Nicaragua

After the CIA’s involvement with the Southeast Asian drug trade had been partly disclosed in the mid-1970s, and the U.S. left Vietnam to its fate, the Agency started distancing itself from its “assets.” But that only left the door open to go elsewhere. Which the Reagan Administration did big-time, to fund its secret war in Nicaragua. The 1979 Sandinista revolution that overthrew Anastasio Somoza, one of our favorite Latin dictators, was not looked upon fondly by Ronnie and his friends. He called the counterrevolutionary Contras “freedom fighters,” and compared them to America’s founding fathers. In his attempt to get Congress to approve aid for the Contras, Reagan accused the Sandinista government of drug trafficking. Of course, Nancy Reagan had launched her “Just say no” campaign at the time, but I guess she hadn’t given the word to her husband. After his administration tried to mine the Nicaraguan harbors and got a hand slap from Congress, it turned to secretly selling missiles to Iran and using the payments—along with profits from running drugs—to keep right on funding the Contras. Fifty thousand lost lives later, the World Court would order the U.S. to “cease and to refrain” from unlawful use of force against Nicaragua and pay reparations. (We refused to comply.)

The fact is, with most of the cocaine that flooded the country in the 80s, almost every major drug network was using the Contra operation in some fashion. Colombia’s Medellin cartel began quietly collaborating with the Contras soon after Reagan took office. Then, in 1982, CIA Director Casey negotiated a little Memorandum of Understanding with the attorney general, William French Smith. Basically what this did was give the CIA legal clearance to work with known drug traffickers without being required to report it, so long as they weren’t official employees but only “assets.” This didn’t come out until 1998, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz issued a report that implicated more than 50 Contra and related entities in the drug trade. And the CIA knew all about it. The trafficking and money laundering tracked right into the National Security Council, where Oliver North was overseeing the Contras’ war.

Here’s what was going on behind the scenes: In the mid-1980s, North got together with four companies that were owned and operated by drug dealers, and arranged payments from the State Department for shipping supplies to the Contras. Michael Levine, an undercover agent for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), later said that “running a covert operation in collaboration with a drug cartel . . . [is] what I call treason.” The top DEA agent in El Salvador, Celerino Castillo III, said he saw “very large quantities of cocaine and millions of dollars” being run out of hangars at Ilopango air base, which was controlled by North and CIA operative Felix Rodriguez (he’d been placed in El Salvador by Vice President Bush’s office, as a direct overseer of North’s operations). The cocaine was being transshipped from Costa Rica through El Salvador and on into the U.S. But when Castillo tried to raise this with his superiors, he ran into nothing but obstacles.

Iran-Contra Affair: Drugs, Arms and Hostages

Early in 1985, two Associated Press reporters started hearing from officials in D.C. about all this. A year later, after a lot of stonewalling by the editors, the AP did run Robert Parry and Brian Barger’s story on an FBI probe into cocaine trafficking by the Contras. This led the Reagan Administration to put out a three-page report admitting that there’d been some such shenanigans when the Contras were “particularly hard pressed for financial support” after Congress voted to cut off American aid. There was “evidence of a limited number of incidents.” Uh-huh. It would be awhile yet before an Oliver North note surfaced from July 12, 1985, about a Contra arms warehouse in Honduras: “Fourteen million to finance came from drugs.”

Contra rebels

Also in 1986, an FBI informant inside the Medellin cartel, Wanda Palacio, testified that she’d seen the organization run by Jorge Ochoa loading cocaine onto aircraft that belonged to Southern Air Transport, a company that used to be owned by the CIA and was flying supplies to the Contras. There was strong corroboration for her story, but somehow the Justice Department rejected it as inconclusive.  Senator John Kerry started looking into all this and said at one closed-door committee meeting: “It is clear that there is a network of drug trafficking through the Contras…We can produce specific law-enforcement officials who will tell you that they have been called off drug-trafficking investigations because the CIA is involved or because it would threaten national security.”

What became known as the Iran-Contra affair came to light in November 1986. We were selling arms to Iran, breaking an arms embargo in order to fund the contras. Fourteen Reagan Administration officials got charged with crimes and eleven were convicted, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Of course, Poppa Bush pardoned them all after he got elected president. And do you think a word about drug-running came up in the televised House committee hearings that made Ollie North a household name? Fuhgedaboutit.

[Watch Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura on truTV.]

The thousand-page report issued by Senator Kerry about his committee’s findings did discuss how the State Department had paid more than $800,000 to known traffickers to take “humanitarian assistance” to the Contras.  The New York Times then set out to trash Kerry in a three-part series, including belittling him for relying on the testimony of imprisoned (drug-running) pilots. The Washington Post published a short article heavy on criticisms against Kerry by the Republicans. Newsweek called him “a randy conspiracy buff.” (Wonder what they were snorting.)

But are we surprised? In 1987, the House Narcotics Committee had concluded there should be more investigation into the Contra drug allegations. What was the Washington Post‘s headline? “Hill Panel Finds No Evidence Linking Contras to Drug Smuggling.” The paper wouldn’t even run Chairman Charles Rangel’s letter of correction! That same year, a Time correspondent had an article on this subject blocked and a senior editor privately tell him: “Time is institutionally behind the Contras. If this story were about the Sandinistas and drugs, you’d have no trouble getting it in the magazine.”

Drugs, Panama and Beyond

The list of government skullduggery goes on, and it’s mind-boggling. Remember when Poppa Bush ordered our military to invade Panama back in 1990? The stated reason was that its leader, Colonel Manuel Noriega, had been violating our laws by permitting drugs to be run through his country. In fact, Noriega had been “one of ours” for a long time. After Noriega was brought to the U.S. and convicted by a federal jury in Miami and sentenced to 40 years, filmmaker Oliver Stone went to see him in prison. There Noriega talked freely about having spied on Castro for the U.S., giving covert aid to the Contras and visiting with Oliver North. Noriega and Bush Sr. went way back, to when Bush headed the CIA in 1976. The brief prepared by Noriega’s defense team was heavily censored, but it did reveal significant contact with Bush over a 15-year period. In fact, Bush had headed up a special anti-drug effort as vice president called the South Florida Task Force, which happened to coincide with when quite a few cargoes of cocaine and marijuana came through Florida as part of the Contra support network. So why did we finally go after Noriega? Some said it’s because he knew too much and was demanding too big a cut for his role in the Agency’s drug dealing.

It’s a proven fact that the CIA’s into drugs; we even know why. It’s because they can get money to operate with, and not have to account to Congress for what they’re doing. All this is justified because of the “big picture.” But doesn’t it really beg for a massive investigation and trials and a whole lot of people going to jail? This includes the big banks that allow the dirty money to be laundered through them.

Go back to Chicago and Prohibition, when Al Capone became more powerful than the government because we’d outlawed the selling of liquor. Legalize marijuana and you put the cartels out of business! Instead, we’re going to further militarize our border and go shoot it out with them? And if a few thousand poor Mexicans get killed in the crossfire, too bad. I don’t get that mentality. I don’t understand how this is the proper way, the adult answer, when they could do it another way. Eventually, after thousands more people get killed, they’ll probably arrive at the same answer: legalization. Because there’s nothing else that will work. 

And legalization would go a long way toward giving us a more legitimate government, too—a government that doesn’t have to shield drug dealers who happen to be doing its dirty work. There are clearly people in government making money off drugs. Far more people, statistically, die from prescription drugs than illegal drugs. But the powers that be don’t want you to be able to use a drug that you don’t have to pay for, such as marijuana. Thirteen states now have voted to allow use of medical marijuana. Thank goodness Barack Obama just came out with a new policy stating that the feds are not going to interfere as long as people are following state law. That’s a great step toward legalization.

‘You can’t legislate stupidity’ is an old saying I used in governing. Just because you make something illegal doesn’t mean it’s going away; it just means it’ll now be run by criminals. But is using an illegal drug a criminal offense or a medical one? I tend to believe medical, because that’s customarily how addictions are treated; we don’t throw you in jail for them. In a free society, that’s an oxymoron—going to jail for committing a crime against yourself.

The government is telling people what’s good for them and what’s not, but that should be a choice made by us, not those in power. Look at the consequences when it’s the other way around.

A neat little Graphic that illustrates the article above perfectly (E):

Thanks to:

Cannabis and Driving

A Scientific and Rational Review

By Paul Armentano

Policy debates regarding marijuana law reform invariably raise the question: “How does society address concerns regarding pot use and driving?” The subject is worthy of serious discussion. NORML’s Board of Directors addressed this issue by ratifying a “no driving” clause to the organization’s “Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use”1 stating, “Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer with motorists than alcohol and many prescription drugs, responsible cannabis consumers never operate motor vehicles in an impaired condition.”

Nevertheless, questions remain regarding the degree to which smoking cannabis impairs actual driving performance. Unlike alcohol, which is known to increase drivers’ risk-taking behavior and is a primary contributor in on-road accidents, marijuana’s impact on psychomotor skills is subtle and its real-world impact in automobile crashes is conflicting.

Drugged Driving: True Threat Or False Panic?

Survey data indicates that approximately 112 million Americans (46 percent of the US population) have experimented with the use of illicit substances.2 Of these, more than 20 million (8.3 percent of the population) self-identify as “current” or “monthly” users of illicit drugs,3 and more than 10 million Americans say that they’ve operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of an illicit substance in the past year.4 These totals, while far from negligible, suggest that the prevalence of illicit drug use among US drivers is far less than the prevalence of alcohol among this same population.5

To date, “[The] role of drugs as a causal factor in traffic crashes involving drug-positive drivers is still not well understood.”6 While some studies have indicated that illicit drug use is associated with an increased risk of accident, a relationship has not been established regarding the use of psychoactive substances and crash severity.7 Drivers under the influence of illicit drugs do experience an enhanced fatality risk compared to sober drivers. However, this risk is approximately three times lower than the fatality risk associated with drivers who operate a vehicle above or near the legal limit for alcohol intoxication.8 According to one recent review: “The risk of all drug-positive drivers compared to drug-free drivers is similar to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. The risk is also similar to drivers above age 60 compared to younger drivers [around age 35].”9

Marijuana is the most common illicit substance consumed by motorists who report driving after drug use.10 Epidemiological research also indicates that cannabis is the most prevalent illicit drug detected in fatally injured drivers and motor vehicle crash victims.11 Reasons for this are twofold. One, pot is by far the most widely used illicit drug among the US population, with nearly one out of two Americans admitting having tried it.12 Two, marijuana is the most readily detectable illicit drug in toxicological tests. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive compound, THC, may be detected in blood for several hours, and in some extreme cases days after past use,13 long after any impairing effects have worn off. In addition, non-psychoactive byproducts of cannabis, known as metabolites, may be detected in the urine of regular users for days or weeks after past use.14 (Other common drugs of abuse, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, do not possess such long half-lives.) Therefore, pot’s prevalence in toxicological evaluations of US drivers does not necessarily indicate that it is a frequent or significant causal factor in auto accidents. Rather, its prevalence affirms that cannabis remains far more popular and is far more easily detectable on drug screening tests than other controlled substances.

Cruising On Cannabis: Clarifying The Debate

While it is well established that alcohol consumption increases accident risk, evidence of marijuana’s culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is far less clear. Although acute cannabis intoxication following smoking has been shown to mildly impair psychomotor skills, this impairment is seldom severe or long lasting.15 In closed course and driving simulator studies, marijuana’s acute effects on psychomotor performance include minor impairments in tracking (eye movement control) and reaction time, as well as variation in lateral positioning, headway (drivers under the influence of cannabis tend to follow less closely to the vehicle in front of them), and speed (drivers tend to decrease speed following cannabis inhalation).16 In general, these variations in driving behavior are noticeably less consistent or pronounced than the impairments exhibited by subjects under the influence of alcohol.17 Also, unlike subjects impaired by alcohol, individuals under the influence of cannabis tend to be aware of their impairment and try to compensate for it accordingly, either by driving more cautiously18 or by expressing an unwillingness to drive altogether.19

As a result, cannabis-induced variations in performance do not appear to play a significant role in on-road traffic accidents when THC levels in a driver’s blood are low and/or cannabis is not consumed in combination with alcohol.2021 For example, a 1992 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration review of the role of drug use in fatal accidents reported, “There was no indication that cannabis itself was a cause of fatal crashes” among drivers who tested positive for the presence of the drug.22 A more recent assessment by Blows and colleagues noted that self-reported recent use of cannabis (within three hours of driving) was not significantly associated with car crash injury after investigators controlled for specific cofounders (e.g., seat-belt use, sleepiness, etc.)23 A 2004 observational case control study published in the journal Accident, Analysis and Prevention reported that only drivers under the influence of alcohol or benzodiazepines experience an increased crash risk compared to drug-free controls. Investigators did observe increased risks – though they were not statistically significant – among drivers using amphetamines, cocaine and opiates, but found, “No increased risk for road trauma was found for drivers exposed to cannabis.”24

A handful of more recent studies have noted a positive association between very recent cannabis exposure and a gradually increased risk of vehicle accident. Typically, these studies reveal that drivers who possess THC/blood concentrations above 5ng/ml – implying cannabis inhalation within the past 1-3 hours25-26 – experience an elevated risk of accident compared to drug-free controls.27-28 (Motorists who test positive for the presence of THC in the blood at concentrations below this threshold typically do not have an increased risk compared to controls.29) However, this elevated risk is below the risk presented by drivers who have consumed even small quantities of alcohol.

Two recent case-controlled studies have assessed this risk in detail. A 2007 case-control study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reviewed 10-years of US auto-fatality data. Investigators found that US drivers with blood alcohol levels of 0.05% – a level well below the legal limit for intoxication – were three times as likely to have engaged in unsafe driving activities prior to a fatal crash as compared to individuals who tested positive for marijuana.30 A 2005 review of auto accident fatality data from France showed similar results, finding that drivers who tested positive for any amount of alcohol had a four times greater risk of having a fatal accident than did drivers who tested positive for marijuana in their blood.31 In the latter study, even drivers with low levels of alcohol present in their blood (below 0.05%) experienced a greater elevated risk as compared to drivers who tested positive for high concentrations of cannabis (above 5ng/ml). Both studies noted that overall few traffic accidents appeared to be attributed to driver’s operating a vehicle while impaired by cannabis.

Defining A Rational ‘Drugged Driving’ Policy

The above review illustrates the need for further education and understanding regarding the effects of cannabis upon driving behavior. While pot’s adverse impact on psychomotor skills is less severe than the effects of alcohol, driving under the acute influence of cannabis still may pose an elevated risk of accident in certain situations. However, because marijuana’s psychomotor impairment is subtle and short-lived, consumers can greatly reduce this risk by refraining from driving for a period of several hours following their cannabis use.

By contrast, motorists should never be encouraged to operate a vehicle while smoking cannabis. Drivers should also be advised that engaging in the simultaneous use of both cannabis and alcohol can significantly increase their risk of accident compared to the consumption of either substance alone.32-33 Past use of cannabis, as defined by the detection of inactive cannabis metabolites in the urine of drivers, is not associated with an increased accident risk.34

Educational or public service campaigns targeting drugged driving behavior should particularly be aimed toward the younger driving population age 16 to 25 – as this group is most likely use cannabis35 and report having operated a motor vehicle shortly after consuming pot.36 In addition, this population may have less driving experience, may be more prone to engage in risk-taking behavior, and may be more naïve to pot’s psychoactive effects than older, more experienced populations. This population also reports a greater likelihood for having driven after using cannabis in combinations with other illicit drugs or alcohol.37 Such an educational campaign38 was recently launched nationwide in Canada by the Canadian Public Health Association and could readily be replicated in the United States. Arguably, such a campaign would enjoy enhanced credibility if coordinated by a private public health association or traffic safety organization, such as the American Public Health Association or the AAA Automobile Club, as opposed to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy – whose previous public service campaigns have demonstrated limited influence among younger audiences.39

Finally, increased efforts should be made within the law enforcement community to train officers and DREs (drug recognition experts) to better identify drivers who may be operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana. In Australia, efforts have been made to adapt elements of the roadside Standardized Field Sobriety Test to make it sensitive to drivers who may be under the influence of cannabis. Scientific evaluations of these tests have shown that subjects’ performance on the modified SFSTs may be positively associated with dose-related levels of marijuana impairment.40 Similarly, clinical testing for cannabis impairment among suspected drugged drivers in Norway has been positively associated with identifying drivers with THC/blood concentrations above 3ng/ml.41

Though the development of such cannabis-specific impairment testing is still in its infancy, an argument may be made for the provisional use of such tests by specially trained members of law enforcement. In addition, the development of cannabis-sensitive technology to rapidly identify the presence of THC in drivers, such as a roadside saliva test, would provide utility to law enforcement in their efforts to better identify intoxicated drivers. The development of such technology would also increase public support for the taxation and regulation of cannabis by helping to assuage concerns that liberalizing marijuana policies could potentially lead to an increase in incidences of drugged driving.42 Such concerns are a significant impediment to the enactment of marijuana law reform, and must be sufficiently addressed before a majority of the public will embrace any public policy that proposes regulating adult cannabis use like alcohol.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation. Mr. Armentano is an expert in the field of marijuana policy, health, and pharmacology. He has spoken at numerous national conferences and legal seminars, testified before several state legislatures and federal bodies, and assisted dozens of criminal defense attorneys in cases pertaining to the use of medicinal cannabis and drugged driving. He has attended various international conferences on the subject of cannabis and psychomotor impairment, including those sponsored by the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) and the The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs & Traffic Safety (ICADTS), and coordinated lobbying efforts to successfully liberalize so-called ‘zero tolerant’ drugged driving laws in Virginia and Ohio. He is the author of the 2006 cover story, “Cannabis and Zero Tolerance Per Se DUID Legislation: A Special (and Problematic) Case,” for Florida Defender, the journal of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. (FACDL). He may be contacted via e-mail at: paul@norml.org.

Footnotes

1 Adopted by NORML’s Board of Directors, February 3, 1996. Read all of NORML’s “Principles of Responsible Use

2 US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Drug and Crime Facts: Drug Use Among the General Population. Online document accessed November 24, 2007.

3 US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance and Mental Health Services Association, Office of Applied Studies. 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Results. Online document accessed November 24, 2007.

4 Ibid.

5 US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. State of Knowledge of Drugged Driving: FINAL REPORT. September 2003.

6 Ibid.

7 Smink et al. 2005. Drug use and the severity of traffic accident. Accident, Analysis and Prevention 37: 427-433.

8 Franjo Grotenhermen. Drugs and Driving: Review for the National Treatment Agency, UK. Nova-Institut (Germany). November 2007.

9 Ibid.

10 US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance and Mental Health Services Association, Office of Applied Studies. Driving After Drug or Alcohol Use, 1998. Online document accessed November 24, 2007.

11 US Department of Transportation. 2003. op. cit.

12 October 23-24, 2002 CNN/Time poll conducted by Harris Interactive.

13 Skopp et al. 2003. Serum cannabinoid levels 24 to 48 hours after cannabis smoking. Archives of Criminology (Germany) 212: 83-95.

14 Paul Cary. 2005. The marijuana detection window: Determining the length of time cannabinoids will remain detectable in urine following smoking. Drug Court Review 5: 23-58.

15 According to the US Department of Transportation, 2003. op. cit., “Experimental research on the effects of cannabis … indicat[e] that any effects … dissipate quickly after one hour.”

16 Grotenhermen. 2007. op. cit. and US Department of Transportation. 2003. op. cit. Other summaries include: Ramaekers et al. 2006. Cognition and motor control as a function of Delta-9-THC concentration in serum and oral fluid: Limits of impairment. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 85: 114-122; David Hadorn. “A Review of Cannabis and Driving Skills,” In: The Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. (eds: Guy et al). Pharmaceutical Press, 2004; Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Cannabis: Summary Report: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy. 2002. (See specifically: Chapter 8: “Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis”); Alison Smiley. “Marijuana: On-Road and Driving-Simulator Studies,” In: The Health Effects of Cannabis. (eds. Kalant et al) Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1999.

17 David Hadorn. 2004. op. cit. and US Department of Transportation. 2003. op. cit.

18 According to the US Department of Transportation, 2003. op. cit., “The extensive studies by Robbe and O’Hanlon (1993), revealed that under the influence of marijuana, drivers are aware of their impairment, and when the experimental task allows it, they tend to actually decrease speed, avoid passing other cars, and reduce other risk-taking behaviors.”

19 Menetrey et al. 2005. Assessment of driving capability through the use of clinical and psychomotor tests in relation to blood cannabinoid levels following oral administration of 20mg dronabinol or of a cannabis decoction made with 20 and 60mg delta-9-THC. Journal of Analytical Toxicology 29: 327-338.

20 United Kingdom Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, Road Safety Division Cannabis and Driving: A Review of the Literature and Commentary. Online document accessed November 24, 2007. “Overall, we conclude that the weight of the evidence indicates that … there is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.”

21 Gregory Chesher and Marie Longo. “Cannabis and Alcohol in Motor Vehicle Accidents,” In: Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential. (eds. Grotenhermen et al.) Haworth Press, 2002.

22 US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Incidence and Role of Drugs in Fatally Injured Drivers: Final Report. October 1992.

23 Blows et al. 2004. Marijuana use and car crash injury. Addiction 100: 605-611.

24 Movig et al. 2004. Psychoactive substance use and the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Accident Analysis and Prevention 36: 631-636.

25 Huestis et al. 1992. Blood cannabinoids: Absorption of THC and formation of 11-OH-THC and THCCOOH during and after smoking marijuana. Journal of Analytical Toxicology 16: 276-282.

26 Mushoff et al. 2006. Review of biologic matrices (urine, blood, hair) as indicators of recent or ongoing cannabis use. Therapeutic Drug Monitor 2: 155-163.

27 Drummer et al. 2004. The involvement of drugs in drivers killed in Australian road traffic crashes. Accident, Analysis and Prevention 36: 239-248.

28 Grotenhermen et al. 2007. Developing per se limits for driving under cannabis. Addiction (E-pub ahead of print).

29 Grotenhermen. 2007. op. cit.

30 Bedard et al. 2007. The impact of cannabis on driving. Canadian Journal of Public Health 98: 6-11.

31 Laumon et al. 2005. Cannabis intoxication and fatal road crashes in France: a population base case-control study. British Medical Journal 331: 1371-1377.

32 Ramaekers et al. 2004. Dose related risk of motor vehicle crashes after cannabis use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 73: 109-119. “Experimental studies have shown alcohol and THC combined can produce severe performance impairment even when given at low doses. The combined effect of alcohol and cannabis on performance and crash risk appeared additive in nature, i.e. the effects of alcohol and cannabis combined were always comparable to the sum of the effects of alcohol and THC when given alone.”

33 Williams et al. 1985. Drugs in fatally injured young male drivers. Public Health Reports 1: 19-26.

34 Ramaekers et al. 2004. op. cit.

35 US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. op. cit.

36 US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance and Mental Health Services Association, Office of Applied Studies. 1998. op. cit.

37 Ibid.

38 Canadian Public Health Association. “The Pot and Driving Campaign.”

39 US Government Accountability Office. ONDCP Media Campaign: Contractor’s National Evaluation Did Not Find that the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Was Effective in Reducing Youth Drug Use: Report to the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate. August 25, 2006.

40 Papafotiou et al. 2005. An evaluation of the sensitivity of the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) to detect impairment due to marijuana intoxication. Psychopharmacology 180: 107-114.

41 Khiabani et al. 2006. Relationship between THC concentration in blood and impairment in apprehended drivers. Traffic Injury Prevention 7: 111-116.

42 Looby et al. 2007. Roadside sobriety tests and attitudes toward a regulated cannabis market. Harm Reduction Journal. Online document accessed November 24, 2007.



The Shady Side of Drug Prohibition

From http://timenolonger.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-shady-side-of-drug-prohibition/

The War on Drugs, harsher penalties for abusers and dealers, no tolerance policies… it is almost a staple of upstanding citizenry everywhere to support the idea of the eradication of drug abuse in society.

Drug prohibition is never questioned as being a good and moral idea by decent, law abiding people. It is most certainly considered a necessity that government and law enforcement do everything they must in order to halt the flow of drugs to our streets if you want to be considered a good, moral Christian.

It may shock you to know the reality that lurks behind the policies of drug prohibition. It should not be a shock to know that the occurrence of drug abuse in this country has not been quelled in the least… the evidence of that is abundant, in spite of the outrageous amounts of tax money spent on drug prohibition measures.

Approximately 6 billion dollars a year are taken from tax payers to fund the war on drugs – and yet here we are, still sitting in a cesspool of lives ruined from addiction and incarceration.

There are no shortages of illicit drugs to be found and there is no shortage of those supplying it or using it… what is a rational explanation for this after 41 years of pumping untold amounts of money and manpower in to this bottomless pit?

The only reasonable answer is that there is no real attempt to stop drug abuse, and prohibition has never existed as a means to the end of bettering society.

It should have been readily apparent following the prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900′s, and it should have been a lesson that people never forgot… but such is the nature of forgetting history and by necessity, repeating it.

Prohibition began with such proponents backing it as the WCTU, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Anything but the demure and upstanding ladies their title might make them seem, this organization was notoriously racist, and staunch supporters of the KKK and eugenics.

The modern elite would be proud of them today… they believed in the controlled breeding of human population.

The results of Prohibition were disastrous… leading from a market once controlled by your average businessman, to a market being controlled by murderous gangs of thugs enabled by corrupt law enforcement.

Why should today’s prohibition be any different?

Well it isn’t… perhaps these days we are less likely to run into types like Al Capone cashing in on the forbidden substance than we are to find inner city street gangs, but that is where the dissimilarity ends.

Law enforcement and government are still the corrupt enablers of the drug trade.

Harry J Anslinger-

He was the Assistant Prohibition Commissioner who was later appointed as the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics which, incidentally, was an agency under the control of the Treasury Department.

From the beginning, drug control policies were linked hand in hand with monetary gain.

Anslinger in conjunction with Du Pont, a petrochemical company, and William Randolph Hearst, notorious for giving rise to “yellow journalism” propaganda, led a crusade against marijuana in the early 1930′s.

The target of this campaign was not an attempt to stop its recreational use, but an attempt to halt it’s production as a competitor against paper and petroleum producers as a cheaper and more abundant substitute for those products.

It is the propaganda of that day which still persists in the minds of the public when they think about marijuana.

As much of a joke as an old film called Reefer Madness might be now… it is shocking how well these ideas about a fairly innocuous, wild weed has shaped the public opinion of it now.

The public is still told that marijuana causes all manner of social disability, an inability to function as a responsible adult, brain damage, lack of self control, lung cancer, addiction etc.. None of those claims have ever been scientifically sound – but to suggest that they are not to your average person on the street, 74 years after that silly film, is equivalent to saying “I am a pro-drug, pot head heathen.”

The CIA and it’s Long Drug Love Affair-

The CIA has been caught in the midst of drug smuggling so many times that if that entity were a single average citizen they might be termed the most notorious drug dealer in history and imprisoned for life… but this is the CIA – and they are above such laws.

The CIA has been involved in smuggling opium from China to Thailand, from Vietnam and Cambodia to the US, and assisting Laotian drug lords.

It has been a regular practice for the CIA since the 1950′s to fly drugs out of Japan and the Middle East in to the US… if there is a question as to how such a steady stream of illicit drugs make it into a country with such strict policies against it, here is the answer.

The DEA, military, and State Department all have their part as well in enabling the CIA’s black market monopoly on drugs. Agents have repeatedly blown the whistle on this kind of activity within their ranks, but it continues to this day because the CIA, just like the mafia of the Prohibition era, has a tendency to “whack” their enemies and competition.

Drug running is a high level business. The idea that the strung out, unkempt, seedy man on the street corner is the problem is an extremely naive one.

It requires an international and powerful force of operations to succeed in laundering money from the billions of drug sales made from the top down… it requires the directive of international banking systems to make a monster machine like this smoothly run.

Presidents and vice presidents have been firmly invested in the business of dangling the forbidden substances, which their own laws control, in front the public… creating drug awareness campaigns which amount to advertising their product, rather than exposing the dangers of the drugs themselves.

“If George Bush is prosecuted, and goes to jail for the crimes he committed when he was the Drug Kingpin of the 1980s, this will be the single most important historical event in decades. It will define a realm of possible action that many people right now feel is impossible, or unfathomable – that it would ever happen. It can happen, it must happen. This is the responsibility of the American people.”
– Jeffrey Steinberg

The Bush’s have a history of connectedness to drug trafficking and drug lords. As a result of Bush Sr.’s secretive arms trade with Iran, thousands of tons of drugs were exported to the streets of America.

The total sales of illicit drugs in the years following were in the hundreds of billions, half of which occurred in the States. Bush Jr and his brother Jeb were videotaped picking up kilos of cocaine in Florida

In this country, one in every 18 males are in prison. 70% of those in prison are minorities. We have the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. While violent crime rates have remained steady… drug charges have skyrocketed and the War on Drugs is cited as the force behind this.

Incarcerated Americans 1920-2006

We have to come to a simple conclusion… a war against drugs in this country is not about keeping people off of drugs… it’s about greed, it’s about a need to control the masses, it’s about eugenics.

There is no coincidence involved in the fact that the highest incidence of drug use and incarceration on drug offenses occurs in the inner city, the poor areas of the country, the areas in which house minority groups… mostly black minority groups.

It’s easy for people to sit back in their comfortable suburban white town where “things like that don’t happen”, and blame a culture to which they have not been exposed, or in which they were not raised… but make no mistake, this inner city disease is a planned one… it’s just one more way to reduce the number of capable, thinking individuals who have historical reasons to distrust their rulers.

You are in no way safe from the atrocity of the so-called War on Drugs if you are not a minority though… it may be your well-educated, young middle-class white child who one day takes a ride with someone carrying a few bags of marijuana and ends up spending the rest of his life paying for laws designed to make criminals of everyone they can.

Do we really believe that the end of prohibition of drugs is going to lead to worse than we have in this country right now? Are people not capable of making decisions about what they choose to put into their own bodies whether or not the government intercedes to add to the unfortunate results by making it a crime punishable by losing years of one’s life behind bars?

Have we ever known the prison system to rehabilitate drug users? How far in the future is the day when your own home is broken into by overzealous militant police forces searching for a gram of weed because your ex girlfriend, coworker, friend, or some other grudge-holding person made an anonymous claim that you had drugs?

We need to rethink what it means to support this never-ending “War on Drugs”… because so far, the casualties have been human lives, not drugs.

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Why Parents Should Support Legalizing Pot

Map outline of California with a marijuana leaf.

Image via Wikipedia

As parents, we know that education is often more effective than punishment, and in some cases punishment is not effective at all.”

September 23, 2010 |
My son just started kindergarten. So naturally, I have been thinking a lot about the type of world and community in which I want him and our seven-year-old daughter to live. I am involved in a project to improve school lunches in our district to reinforce the nutrition lessons we teach in our home. I am a founding board member of a community group trying to improve our city’s parks. And I am working to help pass Proposition 19, the initiative to control and tax marijuana in California. It is important to me as a mother that my children grow up in a state—hopefully a country soon—that rejects the ineffective and damaging policy of marijuana prohibition. It may be counterintuitive, but legalizing marijuana will be better and safer for our children.

I would like to believe my kids won’t ever choose to use drugs. But whatever happens, it is certain that prohibition does not stop kids from using marijuana, and that my kids will be exposed to it along with other risky behaviors. After all, about a third of high school seniors have used marijuana within the last year, a figure that has been relatively stable over decades across the country and has not been affected by variations in laws and enforcement. Moreover, it has long been easier for kids to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol. The plain fact is drug dealers don’t require ID, and legitimate businesses do.  By taking marijuana out of the black market and placing it within the confines of safe, regulated, and licensed businesses that only sell to those 21 and over, Proposition 19 would actually reduce underage access to marijuana.

While we don’t want our kids to try marijuana, if they do later on it can lead to very harsh consequences if they are caught, even for actions that are not harmful to others. And this next part is really scary: when a person is convicted of a marijuana offense, he or she is precluded from receiving federal student loans, will forever have a drug record that diminishes job prospects, and is precluded from many other benefits, not to mention being arrested, possibly serving time, and other harsh and harrowing outcomes.  We don’t prevent even violent criminals from getting student loans. Or underage drinkers, for that matter. I don’t want people to have their lives derailed for a youthful indiscretion. Do you?

To truly serve public safety, we should control and tax marijuana, since under present policies, thousands of violent crimes go unsolved, while police spend valuable and scarce resources targeting thousands of non-violent adult marijuana users. Arrests for simple possession of marijuana have tripled over the last two decades. The $300 million California spends each year on marijuana enforcement would better serve our communities spent on solving and preventing violent crimes. Any new tax revenues would better serve our children if spent on drug education, drug rehabilitation, and of course shoring up our crumbling public education system


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