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posted by takyon on Wednesday April 20 2016, @08:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the longer-than-81-blunt-papers dept.

takyon writes:

It's that time of the year again. Time to talk about drugs and the war on them because some stoners declared a holiday or something.

A recent article in Harper's Magazine includes the following gem that sums up the modern Drug War's origins. The journalist interviewed John Ehrlichman, one of the Watergate co-conspirators:

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. "You want to know what this was really all about?" he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

[Oh yes, it continues...]

The War on Drugs has persisted nearly unabated for decades, but signs of change can be seen. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the "World Drug Problem", called by Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala, began yesterday and ends tomorrow. On the agenda this time around? The legalization of drugs, 18 years after a previous summit declared its goal of ridding the world of illicit drugs. The special session's April 19th start date coincides with "Bicycle Day", the anniversary of Albert Hoffman's first LSD trip. One group, the Psychedelic Society of Brooklyn, will be leading a bike ride ending at the United Nations building in New York to promote the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and demonstrate that drug legalization isn't just about majority-approved cannabis.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called for a global overhaul of drug policies, including a ban on the death penalty for drug offenses and focus on rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. Santos proposes that nations should be more free to reform their drug laws, rather than being beholden to international conventions (such as the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971). He has also announced that following nearly four years of peace negotiations, his government will collaborate with Farc rebels to eradicate coca production within Colombia. President Santos will speak at the UN General Assembly Special Session today regarding his proposals.

Other Latin American leaders such as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto are pushing for decriminalization and legalization. President Nieto says that Mexico will soon increase the amount of cannabis citizens are allowed to possess, and legalize medical cannabis. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales says he wants nations to focus on demand reduction and not just supply reduction. A commission set up by the Lancet medical journal and Johns Hopkins University published a report (DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00619-X) that found that decriminalization in Portugal and the Czech Republic has led to significant financial savings, health benefits, less incarceration, and has not significantly increased drug use. On the other hand, nations such as Indonesia and China are against eliminating the death penalty as well as any legalization of narcotics. An outcome document adopted by member states on Tuesday included no specific criticism of the death penalty. Also, UN security guards have reportedly been ordered to confiscate copies of an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon supporting drug reforms signed by over a dozen former heads of state, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, former UN officials, celebrities, business leaders, etc.

Throughout the past year, we have seen extensive reporting of a "heroin epidemic" in the northeastern United States. Deaths due to heroin overdose are today being blamed for a 0.1 year decline in life expectancy among white Americans in 2014. The overdose (of any drug) rate among white adults aged 25-34 is five times the 1999 rate, and the same rate among white adults aged 35-44 tripled since 1999. Advocacy by groups and individuals, particularly the parents of overdose victims, has helped move public sentiment towards supporting drug treatment rather than incarceration. There is greater bipartisan support for allowing the wide distribution of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, and for introducing previously unthinkable public safety measures such as government-run needle exchanges to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

One measure of success in "post-war" Afghanistan has been the fate of the opium poppy crop, used to produce heroin. In 2014, the poppy plant was Afghanistan's biggest export, valued at $2.8 billion, 13% of the country's GDP. The Taliban have since surged into Afghanistan's southern provinces in order to take control of the growth and export of poppies. 3,000 government soldiers and policemen have died in the past 11 months in Helmand province alone, which accounts for over 60% of the world's heroin supply.

The estimated purity of illicit heroin has crept up in recent years as the price has fallen. However, while heroin might be cheap and plentiful, the heroin epidemic has been spurned on by the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. Opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, and last month the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines that recommend reducing the use of opioid painkillers. Effective bribes in the form of "speaking fees" given to doctors have exacerbated the problem. Additionally, drug companies have been fined over misleading claims made about their opioid products, such as downplaying of addiction potential.

In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency is once again considering whether to reschedule cannabis (a decision will be made by July). Petitions to reschedule the drug have been denied over the years, but the supposed Schedule I criteria, such as "The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," look increasingly strained now that nearly half the nation has legalized medical or recreational cannabis. In an all-too-common example of uncritical irony, an LA Times editorial on the subject notes that Schedule I "[lumps] cannabis in with heroin and LSD," as if LSD wasn't one of the safest recreational drugs and has no medical uses.

Investigating potential medical uses is needlessly difficult and expensive when a drug is listed as a controlled substance. This remains true even for the increasingly accepted drug cannabis, which has led 27 U.S. senators and congressmen to sign a letter to President Obama this week recommending a "fair" review of the Schedule I status of cannabis, as well as the end of the DEA/NIDA monopoly on cannabis supplied for medical research. Research into other controlled substances is slowly being conducted after decades of neglect. A new study (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1518377113) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows the effects of LSD as recorded in the brain scans of 20 human subjects. One of the study's authors, the neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, was dismissed from the UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) for his analysis (NCBI) showing that alcohol is far more dangerous in terms of both physical and social harms than cannabis, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, or ecstacy. The ACMD is under the purview of the Home Office, led by the tyrannical Theresa May.

Other groups are also pushing the research boundaries. For example, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is sponsoring research into the use of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The EmmaSofia organization in Norway successfully crowdfunded nearly $40,000 to promote and manufacture MDMA and psilocybin. The couple behind EmmaSofia, Pal-Orjan Johansen and Teri Krebs, have published studies showing no link between common psychedelics like LSD and an increase in psychosis or suicide (DOI: 10.1177/0269881114568039), as well as investigating the use of LSD to treat alcoholism (DOI: 10.1177/0269881112439253) .

On the campaign trail, a few presidential candidates linger. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders appears to have the strongest pro-cannabis policy positions, supporting descheduling, decriminalization, legalization of medical cannabis, and not obstructing states from legalizing recreational cannabis. Hillary Clinton holds similar positions, but has appeared more cautious about both medical and recreational legalization. Republican candidate Donald Trump has supported medical cannabis, but criticized "trouble" in Colorado which legalized recreational cannabis. Ted Cruz's position on cannabis has evolved from criticizing Obama for allowing Colorado and Washington to legalize it, to supporting states as "laboratories of democracy" while opposing legalization personally. John Kasich appears to broadly oppose legalization, but is also nowhere near to winning the nomination unless his party's establishment chooses to anoint him after Trump fails on the first convention ballot.

Oregon's 25% sales tax on cannabis purchases has resulted in $3.48 million in revenue for the month of January, outpacing the revenue projected for the entire year. However, Oregon's Department of Revenue spent around that amount to refurbish a building and hire employees and security to collect revenue from recreational cannabis businesses, much of it in the form of paper money. The uncertainty involved with banking anywhere in the nation means that cannabis dealers often pay their taxes with large bags of cash. This also means that unless these businesses lie about the nature of their revenue or find a bank willing to risk a federal crackdown, the cannabis businesses are prime targets for thieves.

Colorado's recreational cannabis law has remained intact, despite efforts by Nebraska and Oklahoma to have a case against Colorado heard by the Supreme Court. Colorado's Department of Public Safety has measured an increase in emergency room visits "possibly" related to cannabis from 739 to 956 per 100,000. The authors of the mandated report say that a decrease in stigma may lead to better reporting of cannabis-related ER visits.

Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical cannabis on Sunday. On the state ballot initiative front, the only cannabis-related measure confirmed to be on a November 8th ballot is the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would legalize and tax recreational cannabis and allocate the revenue to education. The Massachusetts Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Initiative may require additional signatures if the legislature does not approve the initiative by May 3rd. Florida will see the re-introduction of a medical ballot initiative, which failed in 2014 with 57% support. Other ballot initiatives in states like California and Arkansas may still have months to submit the signatures required to appear on the ballot this year. In a small reversal, Washington state voters may get to decide whether to restrict production and sales of cannabis in certain residential neighborhoods. Last year, Ohio voters rejected a legalization amendment that would have created a cultivation oligopoly.

Finally, I leave you with what's truly important: Loafy, chillin' after curing his munchies (image courtesy of Gravis).

🍄 🌵 Here's last year's article. 💉 💊

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Thursday April 21 2016, @04:54AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 21 2016, @04:54AM (#335048) Journal

    Should a person be expected to behave in the same way after years of forcibly opening their mind? Do people self-report having trouble thinking in the way they intend to after sustained periods of LSD use?

    Can a person discern between the thinking troubles cause by LSD and the ones caused by the sleep apnoea [] he developed just because he's getting old?

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  • (Score: 2) by patella.whack on Thursday April 21 2016, @06:29AM

    by patella.whack (3848) on Thursday April 21 2016, @06:29AM (#335074)

    Ok. Colo, I modded you troll because at first glance it seems absurd. But since you're a frequent beneficial contributor here, I want to ask you to say some more..

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21 2016, @02:04PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21 2016, @02:04PM (#335223)

      Waking up every morning feeling more tired that you when you went to sleep, takes about one hour to get connected to the reality.
      Highish blood pressure, tinnitus - having coffee in the morning just makes the matter worse.
      Short term memory becomes fuzzy... where the hell did I left my keys?

      You'll get there, you only need a bit of patience.

      btw, it's c0lo

    • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday April 21 2016, @03:23PM

      by sjames (2882) on Thursday April 21 2016, @03:23PM (#335258) Journal

      I believe the question boils down to is it the acid or is it something else and the acid provides a convenient (but wrong) explanation. If those people had never done acid but had the same scattershot thinking, you might say it was excess drinking, too much coffee, or whatever comes to hand.

      It could even be that the same traits that lead to the cognitive decline lead to using so much acid. I have seen people you would swear must use every recreational drug known to man daily based on their thinking, and it turns out they never did drugs.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21 2016, @10:10PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21 2016, @10:10PM (#335477)

        ISTM, people who engage in life-threatening activities or who purposely take their own lives AND are using drugs have a mental condition and are self-medicating.

        In this context, I point to that lying piece of shit, Art Linkletter.
        That high-profile asshole kept repeating that LSD killed his daughter.
        Even after he had the autopsy results, he continued to bloviate with his bullshit until his death.

        a toxicology test later determined that Diane Linkletter had no drugs in her system the day she died. []

        -- OriginalOwner_ []

        • (Score: 2) by patella.whack on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:17AM

          by patella.whack (3848) on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:17AM (#337317)

          Re: your ISTM (yep, hadda look it up) I think your first 1/2 statement assumes that one *knows* that one is engaged in a life-threatening activity. LSD is not life-threatening per-se. Keep in mind the social "pressure" (for lack of a better word) and the minimizing "knowledge" that maybe some people have had a bad trip, but no big deal.

          Re: people who take their own lives-- I don't think that subject has a real link to our discussion.

          Re: Linkletter, and daughter-- I don't know of the circumstances, but ISTM that you're pointing out a situation where dad had to find an external reason for daughters death.

      • (Score: 2) by patella.whack on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:26AM

        by patella.whack (3848) on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:26AM (#337321)

        You're certainly right.
        The problem is there's been little research at all.
        Besides the anecdotal evidence that I mentioned above, I'll also point out that a drug will go out of favor once there's a general consensus that it's no longer worth it (or out of fashion, sometimes), in some sense. (but do a google search for a Harper's article which points to a fairly recent lab bust in america that cut off the source of 99% of the acid for a contrary reason.)
        What I observed over the course of 20 yrs in Kesey country was a social disfavor for acid because people had seen what it had done to overexposed users in the community. Now, whether those were the people who were predisposed to excess wasn't really the concern. The concern was their handicap, and because of the sheer number of them (anecdotally..) the result was social dissapproval.

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Thursday April 21 2016, @08:53PM

      by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 21 2016, @08:53PM (#335430) Journal

      FWIW, I have sleep apnea. I didn't realize that my thought processes had gotten all foggy and uncertain until after I was treated for it. Now I sleep with a CPAP machine, and go into a panic if it doesn't work for some reason.

      I do not know what features of thought you attribute to LSD, but fogginess and lack of ability to concentrate is reasonable for sleep apnea. OTOH, it's more closely connected to weight than to age. When I'm able to drive my weight low enough, I stop needing the CPAP machine. Unfortunately, I've been unable to coerce myself into STAYING at a low enough weight. And perhaps the weight that's "low enough" decreases as I get older (and the muscles get weaker).

      That said, anecdote is not the singular of data, and this is purely based on personal experience. Butsleep apnea as the cause may not be an unreasonable suggestion.

      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 2) by patella.whack on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:40AM

        by patella.whack (3848) on Tuesday April 26 2016, @05:40AM (#337324)

        hi there, HiThere,

        It's interesting that you brought sleep apnea into this conversation. I can tell you what I've seen re: features of thought w/ too much LSD. Lack of ability to concentrate is the BIG one. And if you read personal accounts or "aside" comments of people other than proponents, you'd find they say that besides concentration, the most difficult thing to do is "to put themselves back together again." Jerry Garcia himself mentioned it took him six months at a certain point... So besides lack of concentration, the big thing is what psychiatrists call "de-personalization."

        The only other thing I can say in response is that lack of sleep can cause all sorts of cognitive problems. We're only beginning to understand why. Sleep is a mystery unexplained by modern science. But we do know a little about lack of sleep: Confusion, hallucinations, appetite irregularities, moodiness.

        Some docs feel very strongly that sleep apnea is one of the major undiagnosed problems with us, currently.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Tuesday April 26 2016, @06:43PM

          by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 26 2016, @06:43PM (#337581) Journal

          Well, I didn't bring sleep apnea into the thread, I was responding to someone else. But it sure can wreck your thought processes, without you being aware of it.

          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.