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Reader Feedback On Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

December 28th, 2011 32 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last month, we asked you for your take on laws that require welfare recipients to take and pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. It was a hot topic, generating more comments than any blog posting since the U.S. attorney crackdown in California. We also set up a survey, which over 700 of you responded to.

So, what were the results? The vast majority of you, about 74%, were opposed to drug testing aid recipients altogether. The rest of you split roughly evenly between support for testing recipients for all drugs and support for testing for “hard drugs,” but not marijuana. The survey results skewed along the same lines as the views of our commenters, most of whom were opposed to testing altogether. Here’s a sampling of some other thoughts from our commenters:

Commenter Justin wants to look past ideology and focus on results:

Of course we would all likely prefer people receiving government assistance not use that aid to purchase anything besides the bare essentials. And if there were any indication that drug testing prevents drug use I would fully endorse its use. But the reality is every indication points to drug testing as being a very poor deterrent to drug use, in other words it simply doesn’t work

Reader David says if you’re going to drug test, do it consistently and equally:

I think anybody who receives government money, this includes all politicians and elected officials, should be subjected to random drug screens. What’s fair is fair.

Many of you agreed with Patrick in singling out companies that conduct testing:

 … the real beneficiary of drug testing welfare recipients is the dirty drug testing industry who I personally would love to see destroyed … We all know that the drug testing industry lobbies hard to maintain marijuana prohibition as they have a vested interest in doing so.

Thanks to all of you for responding to the survey and to those of you who took extra time to leave your thoughts in the comments section. As an organization focused on optimizing policy with respect to marijuana, we agree with the overwhelming majority of our members that drug testing aid recipients is intrusive, ineffective, and wasteful, and we will continue advocating against bills that require testing as a condition for receiving benefits.

We welcome our supporters’ feedback on this and other issues. If you’d like to share your opinion, leave your comments here at the blog or contact us directly. We can’t do our work without you, so it’s important to us that we have your support. Thanks again!

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Prohibition, Video

Ron Paul Argues for Ending Prohibition on “The Tonight Show”

December 19th, 2011 16 Comments Morgan Fox

People who are familiar with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul have probably heard him speak about the need to end marijuana prohibition in the past. In fact, he mentions it quite often these days. Considering that only one other Republican candidate shares this opinion, it isn’t unusual to hear Paul bring this up in debate. Not only does this set him apart from the other candidates, but it is very telling to hear the rest of the field claim to be “conservatives” in favor of limited government and personal freedom, while supporting what is arguably the most intrusive, expensive, and wasteful government policy in existence.

This weekend, however, Ron Paul shared that message with a significant portion of America while speaking with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.” Judging from the audience response (not to mention a recent Gallup poll that shows a majority of voters support making marijuana legal), the need to end marijuana prohibition is becoming more obvious. Read the rest of this entry »

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Research, Tax and Regulate

Teen Marijuana Use Continues to Rise Despite High Arrest Rates

December 14th, 2011 5 Comments Morgan Fox

Marijuana use by 8th, 10th and 12th grade students increased again in 2011, with more American teenagers now using marijuana for the fourth year in a row, according to numbers released today by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan as part of the annual Monitoring the Future survey. In 2011, a slightly larger percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the last 30 days, while slightly less had used alcohol. Marijuana use continues to rise among youth despite the continued policy of arresting nearly a million people every year for marijuana violations.

“This report, once again, clearly demonstrates that our nation’s policymakers have their heads buried in the sand when it comes to addressing teen marijuana use,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.  “Political leaders have for decades refused to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren’t required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people. The continued decline in teen tobacco and alcohol use is proof that sensible regulations, coupled with honest, and science-based public education can be effective in keeping substances away from young people. It’s time we acknowledge that our current marijuana laws have utterly failed to accomplish one of their primary objectives – to keep marijuana away from young people – and do the right thing by regulating marijuana, bringing its sale under the rule of law, and working to reduce the easy access to marijuana that our irrational system gives teenagers.”

Since the survey’s inception, overwhelming numbers of American teenagers have said marijuana was easy for them to obtain. According to the 2011 numbers, the use of alcohol – which is also regulated and sold by licensed merchants required to check customer ID – continued to decline among high school seniors, as did tobacco use.

“Arresting people for marijuana simply does not stop young people from using it, and it never will,” said Kampia. “It is time for a more sensible approach.”

To read the report, go here.

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Medical Marijuana

Attorney General Insists Medical Marijuana Not a Priority

December 12th, 2011 8 Comments Morgan Fox

At a hearing discussing the controversy surrounding Operation Fast & Furious, which allowed numerous firearms to be transferred to operatives for Mexican drug cartels, the attorney general got some questions on another drug war problem: the crackdown on medical marijuana.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) asked Attorney General Holder if the Department of Justice intended to leave medical marijuana states alone as was promised in the Ogden Memo in 2009, as well as whether the recent crackdown in California on medical marijuana providers would be extended to other states.

Holder’s response was the same one that has been parroted by the administration again and again: medical marijuana is not an enforcement priority, given the department’s limited resources.

If that is true, what are the U.S. attorneys in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Michigan doing? It seems as if they’ve been spending a lot of time and effort on a “low priority” lately.

Is Holder lying, or has he let the dogs at DOJ off the leash while he tries to explain why the federal government allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico that were later used to murder U.S. law enforcement agents? Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition

Small-time marijuana arrests: A feast for the beast

December 8th, 2011 8 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the CATO Institute’s “Ending the Global War on Drugs” conference. The event featured a number of prominent scholars and international leaders who spoke about the impact of the U.S.-led drug war, both here and abroad. One of my favorite speakers of the day was Dr. Harry Levine, professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Dr. Levine has been researching the history and sociology of alcohol and drug policies for thirty years, and most recently has been working on the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which collects and analyzes data on the immense number of marijuana possession arrests that the NYPD has made since 1996. (It should be noted here that possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in the state of New York since 1977 — making it a violation, rather than a crime, so long as the marijuana is not in public view.) According to Levine, in New York City, misdemeanor marijuana possession accounts for more arrests than for any other crime, and because of the recent increase in the number of arrests, “it is appropriate to call this a marijuana arrest epidemic, and to describe what the NYPD has been doing as engaging in a marijuana arrest crusade.”

Dr. Levine’s lecture focused on the how and why of these marijuana possession arrests, explaining the various ways in which such arrests benefit police departments. In sum, police departments are pressured to show productivity, and these kinds of arrests are relatively safe and easy, involving “clean,” high-quality arrestees. Moreover, these arrests provide good training for rookies, deliver overtime pay for cops, allow supervisors to account for their underlings, and act as a net to get as many people into the system as possible, all at a cost borne entirely by the victims — the arrestees.

The federal government, according to Dr. Levine, actively supports these practices through the grant funding it provides to police departments. If departments receive these funds, they must justify how the money is spent, and what better, easier way to do that than with hordes of marijuana possession arrests? In short, this amounts to what LEAP board member (and fellow speaker at the conference) Leigh Maddox described as the “prostitution of the police peacekeeping mission for federal drug arrest dollars.” Dr. Levine suggests changing police productivity measures so as not to include small-time marijuana possession arrests. The punch line, Levine contends, is that rather than ending marijuana prohibition to put an end to marijuana arrests, it’s the inverse – by removing incentives for marijuana arrests we can move closer to ending marijuana prohibition.

But the answer of how to transform this tangled web of power, profit, incentive, and corruption remains unanswered. Sadly, such change is unlikely to be initiated by truth-telling law enforcement officers, or at least, active-duty ones. Last week, the New York Times reported on the consequences faced by two law enforcement officers who dared to express dissent with current drug policies. Both Bryan Gonzalez, a Border Patrol agent in New Mexico, and Joe Miller, a probation officer in Arizona, were fired from their positions — Gonzalez for questioning the war on drugs (specifically, the war on marijuana), Miller for expressing support for the decriminalization of marijuana. Fortunately, organizations like LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) provide a forum for current and former members of law enforcement to express their frustrations with the harms and futility of our present drug policies and to support a system of drug regulation rather than prohibition. Unfortunately, many active-duty law enforcement members are reluctant or unwilling to speak out, and with good reason, in light of the sanctions faced by Gonzalez and Miller noted above.

On a positive note, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that low-level marijuana possession arrests have fallen 13 percent in New York City since a September directive issued from Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly cautioning officers to lay off the wrongful arrests of those possessing a small amount of marijuana concealed from public view. Hey … at least it’s something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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