Recently in Drugs Category

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.



One of the many pleasures of having been Counselor to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration was the opportunity to work with the then-Deputy Administrator, Michele Leonhart. She started her career decades ago as a line patrol officer on the streets of Baltimore.  A few years back, President Obama named her DEA Administrator. A more heartening story of success through devotion would be hard to find.

Yesterday, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she proved that's she's still the courageous person I came to know.  Although her boss, the Attorney General, and the powerful Committee Chairman, Patrick Leahy, both vocally support slashing mandatory minimum sentences, Michele was having none of it.  As the Washington Post reports (at the dead end of its long story):

Leonhart also spoke out in support of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, an issue Holder has highlighted recently as part of his initiative to reduce prison crowding and foster equity in criminal sentencing.

Holder has instructed his 93 U.S. attorneys to use their discretion in charging low-level, nonviolent criminals with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.

Leonhart, in response to a question from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said: "Having been in law enforcement as an agent for 33 years [and] a Baltimore City police officer before that, I can tell you that for me and for the agents that work at the DEA, mandatory minimums have been very important to our investigations. We depend on those as a way to ensure that the right sentences equate the level of violator we are going after."

I was always proud to be a friend of Michele's, but never prouder than I am today.

Taking It Easy on Pot in Colorado

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Colorado has decided to be Real Groovy and take it easy on pot.  What could go wrong?

From today's CBS News in Denver (emphasis added):

A Denver medical marijuana dispensary and three other buildings linked to four men accused of laundering money from Colombia to buy a grow house were raided Wednesday.

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One Denver industrial building is linked to one of the suspects, David Furtado, an attorney.

Video and photos from CBS4 during the VIP Cannabis raid showed firefighters breaking into two safes in the parking lot of VIP Cannabis. The dispensary was also raided during a larger federal operation in November.

Prosecutors allege VIP's operators Gerardo Uribe, 33, and his brother Luis Uribe, 28, along with Furtado, 48, wired and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colombia to buy a Denver grow house.

Also charged in the case is Hector Diaz, an associate of the men who was arrested on a weapons charge during the November raids after investigators unearthed photos of him wearing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency cap while holding two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns


There must be a mistake in this story, since, as we have been told so many times, the legalization of pot will put the Colombian cartels out of business and end the dangerous connection of drugs and guns.



How Do You Conduct a Phony Pot Survey?

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By sneaking in at the very end that it's simply a collection of responses from "site visitors" who wanted to put in their two cents.

Sentencing Law and Policy has up an entry touting a supposed poll by WebMD.  I went to WebMD's site and found its article, which begins as follows:

A majority of doctors say that medical marijuana should be legalized nationally and that it can deliver real benefits to patients, a new survey by WebMD/Medscape finds.

WebMD's web site for health professionals surveyed 1,544 doctors as more than 10 states consider bills to legalize medical marijuana. It is already legal in 21 states and Washington, DC. 


Now this got me a little suspicious, since (1) the AMA only recently came out against legalization, saying point-blank that pot is a "dangerous drug," and (2) I couldn't figure out how a website could conduct a random survey.

Here's the trick.  Way down at the very end, the WebMD entry says this (emphasis added): "WebMD's survey was completed by 2,960 random site visitors from Feb. 23 to 26, 2014. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.8%."

How cute.  There is no such thing as a "random" site visitor.  The people who visit a site are the ones who decide to click on it, and the people who decide to answer a poll on said site are the even narrower subset of those who want to be heard.

In other words, this "poll" has all the validity of a Glenn Beck site poll asking "random site visitors" whether Obama should be impeached.  Anyone wanna guess the answer?

The idea that doing drugs is a victimless crime is doubtless the most frequently peddled totally preposterous notion out there.  And I'm not just talking about impaired driving, although that's a big part of the problem.  I'm talking about something more fundamental: You can be part of a perfectly ordinary family, take drugs in the privacy of your home, simply sit there to get the high you wanted, and do grotesque damage to other people.

Here's the latest example.  The Associated Press story begins:

A woman whose two young sons died in a bathroom flooded with scalding water while she was in a drug-induced stupor is trying to get her infant daughter back from child welfare authorities, saying she's turned her life around.

Too bad the two boys won't get the chance to "turn their lives around."

The More You Know About Pot...

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...the less you like it.

Last week it was the damage pot causes to brain development.  Today we learn of hazards to the heart as well:

In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.

Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But on Wednesday, cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. warned that "clinical evidence ... suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use." And with a growing movement to decriminalize marijuana use, they called for data-collection efforts capable of detecting and measuring marijuana's cardiovascular impact among American users of cannibis setiva.

"There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people," said Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the French study...


For years, pot legalizers loudly insisted that we should ignore all those Puritans and listen to scientists.  I'm having more and more trouble hearing that insistence today.




Thank God for Your Enemies

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In my first year at the Justice Department, one of the senior lawyers  --  seeing that I was frustrated by all the amicus briefs that had been filed opposing the government's position -- told me, "Thank God for your enemies."

It was a tremendous insight.  From that day forward, I spent a lot of time hoping and praying that any organization aligned with, say, Al Sharpton, would line up against me.  The more furiously it denounced the argument I was making, the surer I was that I was right.

I got that same feeling this morning when I found out that President Bartlett, a/k/a the left wing actor Martin Sheen from "The West Wing," has endorsed the Smarter Sentencing Act. Mother Jones, appropriately enough, has the story.

With any luck, by the end of the week, Hell's Angels  --  an organization with not a few drug traffickers in it  --  will hold a press conference with a similar endorsement, which ought to be enough to sink this awful thing once and for all.

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