Recently in Drugs Category

Heroin Deaths, Out of Control

The Washington Examiner has the grim story:

Heroin deaths are spiking in the U.S., concerning lawmakers who proclaim it an epidemic and public health issue.

Between 2012-13, the number of U.S. drug overdose deaths resulting from heroin spiked from 5,900 to 8,200, said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy Center.

"I've been with [the] DEA almost 30 years, and I have to tell you, I've never seen it this bad," Jack Riley, acting deputy administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said at a House judiciary subcommittee hearingTuesday.

Only in a parallel universe could our lawmakers be considering lighter sentencing for heroin at a time that its lethal impact has never been more appalling.

If there is to be a vote in Congress on lowering drug sentences, it should be taken one drug at a time.  There may be many who would vote to lower sentences for pot. But if there are those who also want to lower sentences for heroin (or meth or Ecstasy or numerous other hard drugs), it would improve visibility and accountability if legislators would stand up, one at a time, and say so, drug-by-drug.

There was a day when liberals and libertarians agreed that visibility and accountability were valuable qualities in government.  We may see soon if that is still their view.

Those who think it's time to roll back sentencing for drugs might want to take in next Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing about the on-the-ground realities with one of America's most notorious drugs, heroin.

But please remember what a person puts into his own body is no one else's business.  If the person happens to be an addict, on on his or her way to addiction, or is a teenager prostituting herself to get money for the next fix, or is one hit away from an overdose death, hey, look, that's the way the cookie crumbles.  

Here is the notice of the hearing.
The National Association of Assistant US Attorneys has a report with the above title, issued last Friday.  NAAUSA President Steve Cook wrote a reply op-ed in  USA Today, in opposition to the main editorial which says all the same stuff you would expect.  David Murray and John Walters have this post on the Weekly Standard's blog.
I don't think I need to say a great deal about this Washington Post story, which begins:

A Silver Spring man was sentenced to 80 months in prison Friday following a February crash in which the man drove his SUV onto a downtown Washington sidewalk during afternoon rush hour, striking and killing an attorney on his way to night classes at Georgetown University's law school...Prosecutors said [the defendant, James] Chandler, was high on PCP at the time of the crash....

According to prosecutors, on Feb. 23, around 4:50 p.m., Chandler drove his SUV at nearly 60 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone west on H Street NW, between Second and Fourth streets, striking two other vehicles without stopping. As Chandler crossed Fourth Street and struck the curb of the corner of Fourth and H streets NW, his vehicle mounted the sidewalk.

Prosecutors said evidence showed that Chandler never tried to apply his brakes or take any actions to avoid the crash.

It could just as easily have been me.  I have walked that street many times on the way to teach.

This comes at the same time Congress is set to consider lowering drug sentences, because everyone should have the right to control what he puts into his own body, etc.

A discussion of pot always stirs the pot, as it were, but perhaps even more interesting, from the professorial point of view, is a discussion of the current dispute between Oklahoma and Nebraska, on the one hand, and Colorado, on the other. The state law in the former two forbids pot,  as does federal law.  Colorado state law permits recreational use of the drug.

Oklahoma and Nebraska have sued Colorado in the Supreme Court  --  one of the few types of cases in which the Court has original jurisdiction  --  alleging unhealthy and illegal spillover effects into their states of the latter's more permissive law. The Court has invited the United States to submit its views.  Eric Holder got out of Dodge before a decision had to be made on this hot potato. 

CJLF takes no position on pot legalization itself, but the federalism, supremacy, Commerce Clause and preemption issues at stake in the case are irresistible.  What position the feds take here is likely to reverberate in similar supremacy and spillover cases involving, for example, DOJ's position on state laws affecting water pollution, firearms regulation and immigration policy.

Prof. Zac Bolitho of Campbell Law School in Raleigh, NC takes an astute and fair-minded look at the case in his op-ed today in the Los Angeles Times.  Take a look.
Just when the "Drugs-Aren't-That-Bad-and-Besides-Drug-Laws-Are-Racist" gang is pushing to lower sentences for "non-violent" drug offenses, reality steps in.  Hence I bring you this story from today's Washington Post, titled, "DC Wants Synthetic Drug Suppliers to Get More Than Just a Slap on the Wrist'."  DC, of course, is run entirely by liberal Democrats; this is not Chuck Grassley or Mitch McConnell we're talking about.

The story notes:

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser vowed Monday to crack down hard on suppliers of synthetic drugs after a spike in overdoses sent dozens to area hospitals in the past month.

Bowser plans to introduce emergency legislation this week that would give the D.C. police chief authority to shut down any business found selling the drugs for a period of 96 hours while police investigate.

The legislation would also institute a "two-strike rule," allowing the police chief to shut down any two-time offenders for a period of up to 30 days, coupled with a $10,000 fine -- five times as much as the current penalty.

The Destruction of Baltimore

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Actions have consequences.  So do failures to act.

When rioters smashed their way through Baltimore, supposedly as an exercise of First Amendment "protest," Mayor Rawlings-Blake chirped that they would be given "space to destroy."  They heard her loud and clear, and took advantage.  The police stood down.  

The cynical among us believe, however, that the "protesters" were less interested in the First Amendment than in just looting.  Not being dummies, among the most coveted items for them were the drug supplies of smashed-in pharmacies.

Now those drugs are fueling a turf war among traffickers, much increased drug abuse, and --  guess what  --  a murder spree unlike anything Baltimore has seen in decades.

If you think, however, that this will change the narrative that the whole problem is racism, cops, and thuggish prosecutors using mandatory minimum sentences, you haven't been keeping up with Al Sharpton and his enablers in Congress and academia.

Former AUSA to Head DEA

I've been so busy with the Tsarnaev death sentence and the Baltimore police prosecution that I am remiss in having failed to report a happy development for the DEA.

The President last week appointed Chuck Rosenberg to be DEA Administrator.  It's a superb choice.  Chuck and I were AUSA's together in the Eastern District of Virginia for several years.  He went on to become US Attorney there (and in Texas).  His most recent post was as chief of staff to another former colleague of mine from EDVA, now-FBI Director Jim Comey.

Like Comey, Chuck is non-ideological and non-political.  I have no idea whether he's a Republican or a Democrat.  He was a tough and fair prosecutor, a straight shooter and a gentleman.  When he was appointed US Attorney, the confirmation vote was unanimous.

I understand from the linked USA Today article that the drugs-are-wonderful lobby is "holding its breath" to see whether Chuck will be an "improvement" on outgoing DEA had Michele Leonhart (also a friend and once a colleague of mine).

I have no doubt Chuck will be an excellent leader for the DEA, just not in the way the drug lobby is hoping for.

Big Weed

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Wonders never cease.  Gerald Uelmen, professor of law and former dean at Santa Clara University School of Law, is someone I have disagreed with, sometimes vehemently, many times over many years and don't recall ever agreeing with.

But there is a first time for everything.  Professor Uelmen has this review in California Lawyer of a book titled Big Weed by Christian Hageseth, and I find myself nodding in agreement with just about every word.

Marijuana is not a harmless substance....  Just like the alcohol and tobacco industries, the marijuana industry will be built on the backs of its most frequent users, and turning casual users into frequent users will be the marketing strategy that drives the industry, just as with alcohol and tobacco. Hageseth makes no effort to assess the potential harmful consequences of promoting marijuana use to the consuming public, which will fuel the billions of dollars in sales that he foresees.
In my view, this promotion by a legal marijuana industry is a far greater threat than legalization as such.  We are pretty close to de facto legalization in California already.

When states legalized alcohol after the 21st Amendment, many of them monopolized retail sales in state-run stores.  When states legalized the numbers racket, they monopolized the "manufacturer" level although using private retailers.

Why not make the legal marijuana business a government monopoly?  I don't see a single good reason not to.

Of Drug Legalization and Flying Saucers

I have occasionally said here that support for the legalization of hard drugs is so low that it's never even been polled.

I was wrong.

I just found out that it was polled by the Huffington Post last year.

Also polled, by a different organization, was the belief that Earth has been visited by flying saucers.

Although a small majority now believes that pot should be legalized, flying saucers beat hard drugs by a fat margin.
CJLF takes no position on pot legalization.  Kent has said he regards it as inevitable. My view is that pot became de facto legal long ago, and that the whole debate is therefore mostly academic.  But. yes, if you light up on the steps of the US Attorney's Office, you'll probably get a summons, anyway.  Then, in all likelihood, some AUSA will get in your face  --  before he dismisses the case or settles for a $50 fine.

One of the items I frequently see from legalizers is the assertion that pot never killed anyone.  Of course that's not the point; shoplifitng never killed anyone either, but, if it's not habitual, it's a minor crime deserving minor punishment.  Same deal with pot.

As to the "never-killed-anyone" argument itself......well......apparently not.

The Flood Begins

If you like your drug dealing, you can keep your drug dealing.

That's the message President Obama sent with the numerous drug clemencies he granted yesterday, as detailed in this article from USA Today. And plenty more are coming:

[I]t could represent the crest of a new wave of commutations that could come in Obama's last two years in office. Last year, the Justice Department announced a new clemency initiative to try to encourage more low-level drug offenders to apply to have their sentences reduced. That resulted in a record 6,561 applications in the last fiscal year...

It's scarcely news that this Administration is as soft on drugs as it is on deserters  -- that's depressing but not surprising.  What's surprising is this, also from the article:

Obama wrote each of the 22 Tuesday, saying they had demonstrated the potential to turn their lives around...."Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will encounter many who doubt people with criminal records can change," Obama wrote. "I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong."

Question:  Did Obama ever write a warm, personal note to the soldiers who risked life and limb trying to recover Bowe Bergdahl?

Victimless Crime?

AP reports:

MILLVALE, Pa. (AP) -- A 9-month-old boy found dead in a Pittsburgh-area apartment is believed to have starved after his mother died of an apparent overdose, leaving no one to care for him, authorities said Friday.

The woman's brother found the two dead early Friday morning when he went to check on his sister, Sara Kessler, 22, after not hearing from her for several days, Assistant Allegheny County police Superintendent James Morton said.

Morton said Kessler may have died a week or two earlier. She was found on her bed, with the son, Casey, in the living room. He said there were no signs of foul play.

A Smear Job by a Sitting Federal Judge

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Are you in favor of the system of stern federal sentencing that has helped reduce crime to levels not seen since the Baby Boomers were in grade school?

If so, you're not merely mistaken, misguided or misinformed.  You're in bed with lynching.

That is the level of "argument"  --  indeed, that is exactly the argument  --  put forth in a new article by a sitting US District Judge, Mark Bennett of Iowa.  The article, available here, is titled, "A Slow Motion Lynching? The War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration, Doing Kimbrough Justice, and a Response to Two Third Circuit Judges."

Never one to appeal to emotion or fiction, Judge Bennett starts his hatchet job on those who disagree with him with this:

The 2014 Best Picture Oscar winner, 12 Years a Slave, is based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup.1 Northrup, a black freeman in New York, was kidnapped and sold into Southern slavery.2 There is an eternally haunting, prolonged, and grueling scene in the movie where Northup has a noose around his neck and strains for breath by tiptoeing on the ground to keep from being lynched.3 Other slaves on the plantation are paralyzed by fear and ignore him. Like a ballerina en pointe, Northup spends long hours in this slow motion lynching dance until he is rescued by his owner.

This article is supposed to be about modern federal sentencing, mind you.

Of course, a number of paragraphs later, Bennett inserts the obligatory if limp disclaimer, a disclaimer embarrassing for its blase' insincerity:

This Article does not suggest that incarcerating almost exclusively black men for unprecedented lengthy terms of incarceration, for crack cocaine offenses they illegally committed, is the equivalent of lynching innocent blacks. It does, however, suggest both actions have strong racial overtones; both share a lack of public outcry; both share tacit public complicity; both share governmental complicity; both share devastating effects on families, children, and neighborhoods; and both have been accomplished largely at the hands of those unknown--at least to the general public.

Can the AG Take Pot Off Schedule I?

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The question whether the Attorney General can, strictly on his own initiative, take pot off Schedule I of the federal schedule of controlled substances has been kicking around for some time now.

As with everything inside the Beltway, it's hard to get a straight answer.  The Washington Post at least gives it a good college try today.  The key part of its piece is here (emphasis added):

Under federal law, the attorney general can move to add, reschedule or remove drugs on his own, at the request of the health and human services secretary or in response to a public petition. But the law also requires the attorney general to gather data and scientific and medical evaluation from the HHS secretary before doing so.

Congress can pass laws to change the scheduling of drugs. Even if the attorney general does decide to move toward rescheduling, Congress can overturn his decision, experts say.

The Drug Enforcement Administration already has denied a petition to reschedule the drug, based on findings by HHS. HHS determined that marijuana has a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," leading the DEA to reject the petition in 2011. The petition was filed nearly a decade earlier, in 2002.

I would add four observations.  First, pot is already de facto legal, as you can find out by going to any of a zillion frat parties this weekend.  Second, the incoming AG, Loretta Lynch, has said firmly that she opposes pot legalization  --  a quite direct answer, given the entirety of her testimony.  Third, it was several years into the present Administration that the federal government refused a request to take pot off Schedule I.  Fourth, a Congress vastly more liberal than this one (2006-2010) made absolutely no move to remove pot from Schedule I.

The facts being what they are, this is not that hard to figure out, unless you're stoned.

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