Recently in Drugs Category

Remember Edward Dorsey?  He was the defendant in Dorsey v. United States, in which the Supreme Court, 5-4, walked past the federal Savings Statute, 1 USC 109, to find that the Crack Pushers Bonanza Bill Fair Sentencing Act applied retroactively for the benefit of those convicted on or after the day it was signed into law, regardless of its effective date.

What happens when we make lighter drug sentencing retroactive?  Easy  --  the druggie gets out earlier.  And what happens then? Easy again  --  he gets back in business.  Why would he do anything else when he sees that we've lost our nerve?

The Sentencing Commission, in its rush to give breaks to drug dealers, has danced and pranced around their actual recidivism rate.  In fact, although the Commission understandably seems a bit reluctant to say so out loud, the drug recidivism rate is a staggering 77%.

With that in mind, I bring you today's news in the form of a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois, home of our friend, Mr. "We Know He'll Go Straight From Now On" Edward Dorsey (emphasis added):

D.C. Set to Legalize Pot...........Ooooops.

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On election day, the District of Columbia overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that would legalize small amounts of recreational dope.  Potheads all over the city celebrated.

That was then.  As of today, Congress is set to effectively overturn the District's action.  It has the right to do so under the city's Home Rule Charter.  It is exercising that right because, apparently (and justifiably), it believes that the seat of the federal government should abide by federal law.  Imagine that.

As noted many times before, CJLF takes no position on pot legalization.  My personal view is that it should remain just as illegal as it is now, to wit, not a whole lot, but some.  Essentially no one in this city goes to jail for privately smoking a joint, and legalizing would send a message of de facto endorsement that society is better advised to withhold.

The Legalization Lobby Parodies Itself

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Those preferring to see more widespread use of pot are, naturally, for legalizing it, thus removing one of the barriers to broad consumption.

In the course of their campaign (upon which CJLF takes no position), they have claimed that pot affirmatively makes you healthier.  Indeed, it's something of a wonder drug!

Thus I guess this was bound to happen, but I still feel like I should pass it along:  "Smoking Marijuana Can Protect You From Ebola."

I swear I am not making this up.
Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland (Australia) Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research has a monograph with the above title in the journal Addiction.  Here is the abstract:

Aims:  To examine changes in the evidence on the adverse health effects of cannabis since 1993. Methods:  A comparison of the evidence in 1993 with the evidence and interpretation of the same health outcomes in 2013. Results:  Research in the past 20 years has shown that driving while cannabis-impaired approximately doubles car crash risk and that around one in 10 regular cannabis users develop dependence. Regular cannabis use in adolescence approximately doubles the risks of early school-leaving and of cognitive impairment and psychoses in adulthood. Regular cannabis use in adolescence is also associated strongly with the use of other illicit drugs. These associations persist after controlling for plausible confounding variables in longitudinal studies. This suggests that cannabis use is a contributory cause of these outcomes but some researchers still argue that these relationships are explained by shared causes or risk factors. Cannabis smoking probably increases cardiovascular disease risk in middle-aged adults but its effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco. Conclusions: The epidemiological literature in the past 20 years shows that cannabis use increases the risk of accidents and can produce dependence, and that there are consistent associations between regular cannabis use and poor psychosocial outcomes and mental health in adulthood.
In olden times, proponents of marijuana prohibition ridiculously exaggerated its harmful effects, a campaign reaching its unintentionally hilarious peak in the film Reefer Madness.  Today, proponents of legalization engage in equal and opposite propaganda, trying to convince us that marijuana is completely harmless.  I call this campaign Reverse Reefer Madness.  CJLF takes no position on the legalization issue, but we should be basing our decisions on science, not propaganda.  Hall says:

Our best estimate is that the risk of developing a psychosis doubles from approximately 7 in 1000 in nonusers [102] to 14 in 1000 among regular cannabis users.
Schizophrenia is a terrible disease.  It wrecks people's lives.  It has a profound impact on the lives of people close to them.  Doubling the risk is no trivial matter.

Hat tip to Michael Tremoglie, who has this article at Main Street.

The Zombie Defense

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Park Dietz & Associates, forensic psychology experts, have an email newsletter.  The current issue has an article on Ambien:

The "Ambien Defense" has been getting a lot of press in 2014.  Sometimes called the "Zombie Defense," it's the argument that someone charged with a crime--and the crimes have ranged from DWI to child sexual abuse to murder-- took Ambien (or generic zolpidem) beforehand and had no memory of the crime.
 •  August 19:  A Montana man was sentenced to 100 years for murdering two sisters in their early 20s.  He stabbed one victim over 130 times, including 34 times in the face, and beat, gagged, strangled, and stabbed the other.  A judge called the killings "ritualistic" and "systematic."  The man said he took Ambien before the killings and had no memory of them, but pleaded no contest to avoid a trial.
A few similar examples follow. 

Godfather Tactics By Pot Growers?

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One of the most memorable scenes in the original Godfather movie is when the Corleone family pressures a movie mogul by killing his prized horse.  Something similar may have happened for real in rural Humboldt County, California.  The dog of ecologist Mourad Gabriel was killed by red meat laced with rat poison thrown into his back yard.  Gabriel had been studying this poison and showing its detrimental effects on the environment.  Vivian Ho has this story in the SF Chron, headlined "Was scientist's dog poisoned by pot growers to silence him?"

According to Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity, "many of those most affected by Gabriel's research into brodifacoum are illegal marijuana growers who pollute public lands with their illegal farms ...."
About six weeks ago, I testified before the House Task Force on Over-Criminalization.  The focus of the hearing was on mandatory minimum sentencing in federal law and, more generally, on whether federal drug sentences are "too long."  

I closed my remarks by asking Congress to wait for the results of a couple of recent developments (the AG's effective abandonment of mandatory minimums for many drug crimes, and the USSC's two-level guidelines reduction for drug offenses).  For those who believe in "evidence-based" sentencing, it would seem natural to want to see some, well, evidence:  Maybe these new measures would work out, and maybe not.  Time would tell.

I can't say that Congress took my advice exactly, but the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would lighten if not cripple drug sentencing, has stalled in Congress over the summer.  And sure enough, evidence from the new norm of lighter sentencing has started to come in, reported by, of all things, the NYT.

The story, and the evidence, is underneath this headline:  "Second Thoughts for Lighter Sentences for Drug Smugglers".

My goodness.

Only in Berkeley (So Far)

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Lauren Raab reports on the L. A. Times Now blog:

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley must give some of their pot free of charge to low-income patients under an ordinance approved by the City Council.

At least 2% of the marijuana each dispensary doles out needs to be given free to dispensary members who have "very low" incomes and are Berkeley residents, the ordinance, approved Tuesday, says.

The ordinance also stipulates that free pot must be the same quality, on average, as the pot that other members buy.

According to NBC Bay Area, the City Council has defined very low income as $32,000 a year for one person and $46,000 a year for a family of four.

Berkeley had three permitted dispensaries as of early 2012, according to the ordinance.

Keep in mind that in California "medical" marijuana is defined so loosely than anyone who wants weed just to get high can qualify.  So now it's an entitlement.

A Parody of Drug "Strategy"

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The White House has come out with its 2014 edition of the National Drug Strategy.  

In a sense, I have to take my hat off to anyone who can write 79 pages of pure mush, using every left wing shibboleth for the last generation, and never come up for air. The idea that a sensible strategy might include putting meth (etc.) traffickers in the slammer is all but invisible.
 
Still, I'll give the authors credit for a sense of embarrassment (for once).  Out of all 79 pages, they could only choke out four sentences buried in the middle to give a pat on the head to Eric Holder and "smart" sentencing.  Part of this, of course, stems from their unwillingness to understand that any kind of sentencing might be useful.
 
I'm truly astonished that they can find someone to sit at a computer all day and churn out this stuff.  The job market must be even worse than the White House is admitting.

Libertarian Silliness on Drugs

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Libertarianism is a growing and welcome element of American politics.  It exists, so far as I know, only in the Republican Party, as the Democrats fade into a collection of snarling grievance groups.  But it's not at the center of Republican thinking and will never get there until it quits honing in on fringe issues and takes on the real threat to liberty  --  the explosive growth of the administrative/regulatory/entitlement/welfare state.

The chief fringe issue that preoccupies libertarians is the legalization of drugs.  As John Hinderaker puts it, libertarians:

...have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement...because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile, [in addition to supporting dumbed-down drug sentences]....

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn't going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters.

A New Way to Smuggle Drugs Into Prison

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To heck with body cavities.  Technology carries the day.  And the drugs.
The Las Cruces [New Mexico] Sun-News reports:

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation Wednesday formally designating nearly half a million acres of land in Doña Ana County as a national monument -- a move that comes after years of heated local debate over the proposal.
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"Anyone who's ever seen the Organ Mountains that overlook Las Cruces, New Mexico, will tell you that they are a spectacular sight," he said in a short speech before the signing. "You got massive rocks that jut up 9,000 feet in the air and stretch for 20 miles, like the organ pipes of a giant. And they're home to many of God's smaller creatures, as well. Deer and antelope roam -- falcons, mountain lions."
A personal aside here.  I lived in Las Cruces in my college years (cue the Beatles "There are places I'll remember...), and this description is correct.  But there is more to it  ...

While praised by environmentalists, the move is generating criticism from some lawmakers in the West and local law enforcement agents who see Obama's use of power as a threat to security in a region where the influence of Mexican drug cartels, human smuggling and illegal immigration are all apparent.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison recalls the times his deputies and federal agents were shot at as they pursued suspected drug smugglers through the area that will now be known as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. He also talked about the dozens of stolen cars that have been used to ferry drugs along pathways that lead through the desert and past border patrol checkpoints.

"If we have no ability to patrol that area, crime is going to increase. It will be akin to the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. I wonder how many years it will be before we have to post signs that say 'Enter at your own risk.' That's my concern," Garrison said.

A proclamation intended to protect the area may have unintended consequences that are just the opposite.

Plaintiffs' Lawyers, Ready for Action

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John Walters and Tom Riley suggest in the Weekly Standard how Big Dope might follow Big Tobacco off the tort liability cliff:

[C]ommunities are not helpless before [the legalization] onslaught. Even when the criminal law has been compromised at the state level, resort to civil procedure might offer protection. Legal or illegal, marijuana injures users--researchers call it a "neurotoxin"--and those who distribute it for profit are liable for its known effects. Its production and distribution, after all, are still federal crimes. America's tort attorneys could respond by suing drug retailers for the harm done by their product to particular addicts, then collecting damages for the clients and legal fees for themselves.

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If you think trial lawyers made a windfall on tobacco, just wait until they get a handle on marijuana. The scientific and medical evidence against marijuana now dwarfs what we knew about tobacco at the time of the surgeon general's report of 1964. No warning label in the world could shield marijuana growers and sellers from the tsunami of tort liability they should face from distributing a product with so many known harmful effects. 

Tort lawyers versus pot pushers is a match I'd pay good money to see.
When pot legalizers keep telling us that dope just ain't that bad, sooner or later the message gets through.  And  acted upon.  

From Healthline News:  "College Freshmen Drive and Get in Cars with Drivers After Marijuana Use."

Today's teens face many challenges when trying to drive safely, whether it's distracting texts or loud car companions. But many teens also report getting behind the wheel after drinking or using marijuana, or getting in the car with a driver who's under the influence, adding yet another obstacle on the road to safety.

I thought it was pretty interesting that the study was conducted in Washington state, in which  the Pot Is Wonderful lobby has been both active and successful.

I also have no doubt what the reaction to this story will be, because I've seen it before: To dismiss or minimize it, or claim that the authors are really fascists masquerading as scientists.  Legalizers simply will not brook dissent from The Orthodoxy.  

What Pot Legalizers Really Want

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I just ran across this disquieting story, which starts:

A study of calls for assistance to poison control centers, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, reveals dramatic increases [in requests] for help with pediatric accidental ingestion of marijuana in states that legalized or decriminalized it.

According to the report, there were "985 calls to U.S. poison centers for unintentional marijuana exposure in children ages 9 and younger between 2005 and 2011, according to an analysis of data from the National Poison Data System (NPDS)." Although this is a relatively low number the researchers learned that the rate of calls "in states that had passed legislation legalizing marijuana use for recreational or medicinal purposes before 2005 more than tripled over this period."


There's an old jury instruction to the effect that members of the jury "may infer that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his acts."  If that's true  -- and it is  --  the picture is beginning to take shape of what legalizers really want.



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