Recently in Drugs Category

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.

"Racist" Drug Enforcement

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One reason offered for legalizing drugs (or for legalization lite, a/k/a the Smarter Sentencing Act) is that drug enforcement is racist.  Sometimes the argument is that enforcement is explicitly racist, thus mirroring arguments in the stop-and-frisk debate in New York City. Other times, it's that the racism is implicit, because the police focus resources in areas that are certain to produce a disproportionate number of minority (mostly black) arrests.

My own experience is that drug enforcement agents go where reasonable suspicion leads them, which is exactly what any rational person would want.  That would certainly appear to be the case today, arising from the area (Main Line Philadelphia) where I grew up.

How Legalized Pot Is "Carefully Regulated"

The title of this post is, of course, a joke.  Legalized pot was never intended to be carefully regulated, and the promises made to voters in the legalization campaigns were just blowin' smoke, as it were.

On Easter Sunday, the Capital of Legalization, Denver, hosted a huge throng of potheads who made the point.  As this CBS News story recounts (emphasis added):  

Tens of thousands gathered for a weekend of Colorado cannabis-themed festivals and entertainment, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup, to 4/20-themed concerts - acts include Snoop Dogg - to a massive festival in the shadow of the state capitol.

Although it is still against the law to publicly smoke marijuana in Colorado, police only reported 63 citations or arrests on Sunday, 47 for marijuana consumption. They said they had issued 21 citations on Saturday. All were for public consumption of marijuana. One person was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempting to distribute the drug.

The pot holiday started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event had an official city permit, was organized by an events management company and featured booths selling food, hemp lollipops and glass pipes.

There is zero chance the officials who granted the permit did not know this was going to turn into a very big and very public pot party.  They lied when they were going on and on to the voters about "careful regulation."  But they knew that  --  guess what  --  no one would hold them to account.  When you're a druggie, there's no problem checking the "truth optional" box.

Pot Tourism

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

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 anything a 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 slanted "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.


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

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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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.

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