Recently in Drugs Category

Pot Tourism

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As expected, Colorado's legalization of marijuana is producing an influx of tourists.  College student Levy Pongi, 19, traveled with friends from Wyoming to Denver to try it.  He jumped to his death from a hotel balcony.  AP reports:

DENVER (AP) -- A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony.

A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

The two recent deaths have stoked concerns about Colorado's recreational marijuana industry and the effects of the drug, especially since cookies, candy and other pot edibles can be exponentially more potent than smoking a joint.

"We're seeing hallucinations, they become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious," said Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

Incidents such as this do not, of course, establish that prohibition enforced by criminal law is necessarily the best policy.  What they do establish is that the pro-pot crowd is engaging in a propaganda campaign.  I call it "reverse reefer madness."  Just as in the past proponents of prohibition ridiculously exaggerated the harmful effect of marijuana, proponents of legalization today falsely minimize or even deny the harmful effects.  Distortion of the truth is wrong whichever way it goes.  We need to move forward in this debate with our eyes wide open.

And why would anyone drive all that way for legal marijuana?  Surely illegal marijuana is readily available in Wyoming.

Legal status does make a difference to some people, clearly.  Legalization will increase consumption.  Pretending it won't is yet another distortion.

Abolitionism, Meet Reality

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Pro-criminal interest groups and academics are constantly admonishing us that we should use "evidence-based sentencing."  The problem is that they don't want consideration of what any normal person would consider "evidence."  Instead, the "evidence" upon which we are told we should rest our gaze inevitably turns out to be  --  guess what  --  some tendentious "study" or "report" done by these self-same groups.

Actual evidence is not hard to come by, however.  You can find it just by opening your local paper, as I did over lunch.  Here's the headline I saw:

Maryland jury finds Darrell Bellard guilty in drug-related quadruple slaying.

The story is as depressing as it is instructive.

Reefer Madness, Literally

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Advocates of increased use of pot through legalization often mock the 1930's film, "Reefer Madness."  The idea seems to be that only Puritanical, moralistic, anti-science zealots could think the pot might adversely affect brain development.

Today comes news from that citadel of Puritanical, moralistic, anti-science zealotry, Northwestern University:

Casual marijuana use may come with some not-so-casual side effects.

For the first time, researchers at Northwestern University have analyzed the relationship between casual use of marijuana and brain changes - and found that young adults who used cannabis just once or twice a week showed significant abnormalities in two important brain structures.

The study's findings, to be published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, are similar to those of past research linking chronic, long-term marijuana use with mental illness and changes in brain development.


Ooooooops.  



A Tale of Two Days

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Day One, April 9, 2014  --  Sheriffs warn of violence from Mexican cartels deep into interior of U.S.:

Outmanned and outgunned, local law enforcement officers are alarmed by the drug and human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping and money laundering that Mexican drug cartels are conducting in the U.S. far from the border.


The United States Sentencing Commission voted today at a public meeting to reduce the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders...The Commission voted unanimously to amend the guidelines to lower the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types.

Somebody, please, wake me up.  My nightmares didn't used to be this weird.




Some things are not that important, but too delicious to pass up.  This is one of them, from Roll Call:

Capitol Police stationed outside the Senate gallery got a surprise Thursday afternoon when they asked one visitor to empty his pockets in accordance with procedure.

Sherman Tyrone Edwards Jr., 32, placed a bag of marijuana on the stand next to the security checkpoint, manned by three uniformed officers.

According to sources on the scene, Edwards pulled out a bag of bud big enough that the U.S. Attorney could probably hold onto it and bust him for distribution, rather than tossing the evidence, as normally happens when lesser amounts -- such as joints -- are confiscated.

Sources also said that based on his demeanor and expression, they were not too shocked that this particular Capitol visitor would be in possession of large quantities of dope.

A Tribute to Drug Legalizers

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If we legalize drugs, we will remove one barrier to their availability.  When we remove that barrier, more will be consumed.  The idea that they'll be "taxed and regulated," and thus safe, is baloney, though frequently peddled baloney.  They'll be as taxed and regulated, and as safe, and as far removed from use by people too immature to handle them, as "taxed and regulated" booze is now.  If you want to see how much that is, sneak into any high school party where the parents are away for the weekend.

Strict libertarians support legalization, and not limited to pot.  This is a growing belief in the academic world where I spend part of my time.  They are good-hearted people, but too captured by ideology.  They think legalization will bring freedom. This is  what it will actually bring.
The Smarter Sentencing Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would substantially reduce the mandatory minimum sentences that must be given defendants convicted of dealing in Schedule  I drugs  --  everything from pot to methamphetamine and  heroin.

Proponents of the Act say that we have gone too far with mandatory minimums, and that they impose excessively harsh terms on low-level, non-violent offenders without permitting the judge to tailor the sentence to individual circumstances. Opponents say that mandatory minimums  have helped bring  down crime, are imposed  only  on serious or repeat offenders, are essential in securing cooperation against higher-ups, and  rein in irrational disparity among judges of various ideologies.

Supporting the SSA will be John Malcolm, a former Assistant US Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration.  John is now Director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Opposing the SSA will be yours truly.

The teleforum begins at 2 pm EDT.  The call-in number is 888-752-3232.  All should feel welcome to join.

First Pot, then............

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Heroin.

The drug legalization camp breaks down into several components.  There are those who would legalize everything and say so.  I admire these people for their honesty if not their judgment.  Then there are those who would legalize only pot and keep the harder drugs illegal.  I admire their judgment, as far as it goes, which for my money is not far enough.

Then there are those who would legalize pot, but remain silent or remarkably fuzzy about what they want to do about the harder drugs.  I admire their shrewdness in recognizing a dumbed-down culture.  Their judgment, while poor, vastly outstrips their honesty.

For a better look at what's coming up after pot gets the green light, take a look at this article.

Hat tip to former Philadelphia police officer Mike Tremoglie.

Is Marijuana Really "Medical"?

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The main active ingredient in pot, THC, does have some legitimate medicinal properties.  For one, it can stimulate appetite (known among pot smokers as getting the munchies), and thus help out with wasting diseases such as AIDS.

But the idea that smoked marijuana  --  which has no controls on dosage, potency, or adulteration  --  is "medical" is so much nonsense.  It is for this reason that the AMA has come out explicitly against legalization.  

And there's this:  We didn't really need the AMA to tell us.  When "medical" pot is available after a 30 second visit with a "healing professional"  --  advertised by a fellow wearing a green pot leaf costume accosting potential customers on the sidewalk  --  we all get the idea.

So the question arises:  What is the best analog to the true "healing power" of "medical marijuana"?

The Internal Revolt Against Eric Holder

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I promised in an early post that I would link the letter from the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys to the Attorney General.  In that letter, NAAUSA lays out an unambiguous case against the AG's support for legislation that would trash mandatory minimum sentencing.  Not surprisingly, career federal prosecutors oppose giving a windfall to heroin and meth dealers.  Also not surprisingly, they couch their opposition in respectful language; he is, after all, the boss.

But make no mistake about it, this is a revolt.

The letter is here.

Not a Peep

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Suppose a politically appointed bigwig at the Justice Department made a decision on a major, hot-button issue that was unpopular with Liberal Orthodoxy, and did so contrary to the advice of, say, half a dozen of so of the career lawyers working under him?  Do you think the mainstream media might do a story about that?

Let's get more specific.  Suppose, say, Alberto Gonzales had gone before Congress to ask it to water down voting rights laws, contrary to the advice of dozens of career lawyers in the Civil Rights Division.  Do you think the mainstream media might do a story about that?

Let me revise that question.  Do you think the mainstream media would go ballistic, and that, say, the New York Times would run a ten-part series on how politics had overtaken sound, experienced judgment in running the Justice Department?

One more question.
I joined the Department of Justice straight out of law school in 1974.  I spent 25 years there, split between Main Justice in Washington and the US Attorney's Office. Today something happened that, in my experience, is unprecedented. Hundreds of career lawyers broke into open revolt against the Attorney General on a matter of prepossessing importance to federal sentencing.  If something like that had happened in the Bush Administration, I guarantee you it would be a Page One story. Whether it gets any coverage at all in the present Administration remains to be seen.

The Attorney General announced last week that he would support the Durbin-Lee bill pending in the Senate.  That legislation would drastically cut back on mandatory minimum sentences for drug pushers  --  not just for pot, but for all drug offenses, including major and repeat trafficking in heroin, meth, PCP and other extremely dangerous, and often lethal, drugs.

As career DOJ prosecutors know, strong mandatory minimum statutes are essential to rein in the sometimes ideological, sometimes naive, and sometimes careless decisions of sentencing courts.  I explained why here, here and here, keying off a recent discussion by the Second Circuit.

When the Attorney General decided to join the effort to kneecap mandatory minimums, career attorneys could remain silent no longer.


What Didn't Get Said

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President Obama gave his State of the Union speech tonight.  Its full text is here.

I've always found it instructive to listen for what I don't hear.  Tonight, I didn't hear a word about criminal justice or sentencing, except for a for what might have been a reference to school shootings, and thus a pitch for gun control.  But it was barely mentioned and opaque.

Why is it interesting that criminal justice and sentencing went unremarked? Because Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has a hearing scheduled in 36 hours on the Durbin-Lee bill (to which he has added his name). That legislation would dramatically slash mandatory minimum sentences for even the most serious and deadly drug offenses, including major trafficking in heroin, PCP and meth.  

Leahy has been pushing this "reform" for months, after his own proposal (with libertarian Senator Rand Paul) exploded on the launching pad because of its radicalism.

Leahy heard the same omission from the President that I did.  He must be furious. Good.

The Fraud of Drugs as a "Victimless Crime"

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The massive overreach of government fuels skepticism about almost everything it does, including law enforcement and, especially, drug enforcement.

The mantra  --  not without appeal, especially to those, like me, with libertarian sympathies  --  is that, "What I put into my body is my business.  It doesn't affect anyone else, so they can keep hands off."

The idea that drugs affect only the user is simply false.  And I'm not talking just about impaired driving collisions, either.  What I'm talking about  --  the social effects of drug use  --  is captured in the harrowing story (from Quora) that follows the break. It's about a mother's addiction to cocaine, and it's not pretty.

Barack Obama Gets Groovy, Part II

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Not everyone was thrilled at the President's quasi-endorsement of pot in his New Yorker interview.  One of those in dissent was none other than Michele Leonhart, Obama's appointed head of the DEA.  The Weekly Standard blog carries a story about Ms. Leonhart's comments last week titled, "DEA Chief Rips Obama's Pot Remarks."  It starts:

The head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is now openly criticizing Barack Obama for his recent comments over the question of marijuana legalization, according to multiple reports.

The Boston Herald reports it has sources who heard DEA chief Michele Leonhart "slam" Obama at last week's National Sheriffs' Association winter meeting in Washington. The Herald reports the sheriffs in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and Kern County, California, both reported that Leonhart was critical of the president's claim that marijuana's affects are no different than alcohol's.


I have known Michele for years.  I met her during the Bush Administration, when I was Counselor to the DEA Administrator and she was Deputy Administrator.

I came to have great admiration for her incredible work ethic, knowledge and integrity.  I am prouder than ever to be her friend.

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