Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

More Claptrap From the Drug Czar

September 25th, 2008 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Tuesday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy sent out an email and put up a post on its blog (yes, ONDCP really has a blog, but unlike ours, they don’t let readers post comments — why, I wonder?) promoting a new “Marijuana Awareness Kit.” Actually, it’s mostly a rehash of old material, but still an interesting window into ONDCP’s thought process.

The packet’s introduction, for example, warns, “The fact is, cigarettes and marijuana are now tied as the illegal substance kids report is the easiest for someone their age (12 – 17) to buy.”

That’s roughly true, give or take a little and depending on what survey you look at. It also demolishes ONDCP’s rationale for maintaining marijuana prohibition: that in order to “protect the children,” we must keep marijuana illegal for adults, and any lessening of adult penalties will lead to an explosion of marijuana use among our kids. Read the rest of this entry »

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Research, Tax and Regulate

Brace Yourself: Kids Know Where to Find Marijuana

August 14th, 2008 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

No real surprises in the latest National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, the annual National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse survey of teens’ and parents’ attitudes on drug use. But it does confirm what we’ve long known about the availability of illicit drugs for kids – including marijuana – compared to that of regulated drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

According to the report, half of the 16- and 17-year-olds surveyed said their peers use marijuana more than tobacco. More teens say it’s easier to acquire marijuana than beer. And there’s a 35% increase from last year in the number of teens who say they can buy marijuana within an hour and a 14% increase in the number of teens who say they can find it in a day.

Like I said – no big surprise; tobacco and alcohol have realistic controls placed on them. We enforce rules prohibiting sales to minors, and we talk honestly with our children about the dangers and responsible use of these substances by adults .

But marijuana is illegal. That means we must leave it up to drug dealers to determine what – if any – age limit ought to be placed on its sale, and we must lie to kids in order to justify the fallacy that marijuana is too dangerous to control or regulate.

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Tax and Regulate

Congressmen and economists and travel writers? Oh my!

August 5th, 2008 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

In case you’ve missed it, MPP-TV has been busy over the last couple of weeks producing a slew of new videos.  We’ve got Rep. Barney Frank and Rob Kampia discussing H.R. 5843, the “Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act,”  a couple of videos featuring an exclusive interview with Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, and a video of our chat with travel guru Rick Steves and his thoughts on marijuana prohibition.  Check them out, let us know what you think, and send us your ideas for the kinds of videos you’d like to see!

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Reformers’ Press Conference Gets Under ONDCP’s Skin

July 30th, 2008 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

This morning’s press conference, at which MPP and other marijuana policy reformers joined U.S. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) to call for an end to federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession, was a rousing success, as this CNN story shows.

And apparently it got under the skin of our overlords at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Having not gotten much media pickup on their preemptive press release issued yesterday — filled with the usual half truths and deception they’re rightly famous for — ONDCP sent David Murray and two other staffers to the news conference to try to convince everyone that marijuana is “the greatest cause of illegal drug abuse.” That CNN seems to have ignored him can’t be a good sign for ONDCP, but Raw Story has this rather amusing take on Murray’s appearance.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Just How Scary Is Prohibitionists’ ‘Nightmare’ Scenario Really?

July 24th, 2008 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

We struggled a little bit with what to make of this very long, very comprehensive New Yorker feature by David Samuels on the murkier aspects of California’s medical marijuana business.

The piece is well reported and provocative, but it comes nowhere near presenting a full picture of the situation.

Samuels focuses on what to many represents the worst abuses of California’s medical marijuana laws, and demonstrates that the results aren’t that horrible: adults purchasing a drug that’s magnitudes safer than alcohol under at least a quasi-legal structure, paying taxes on the product and avoiding dangerous street dealers. Meanwhile, manufacturers and distributors operate under definable regulations, observe zoning restrictions and prohibitions on sales to minors.

Nobody dies. Nobody gets hurt. The main dangers anybody faces are from law enforcement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tax and Regulate

The Netherlands’ Treatment of Marijuana

July 7th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

In the marijuana reform movement, one of the comments I often overhear in conversations, see posted in online message forums, or read in blog comments relates to the Netherlands and their treatment of marijuana. “Treat marijuana like the Netherlands does” seems to be the rallying cry for lots of misinformed people.

Jeffrey Stinson recently did a short piece on how marijuana is treated in the Netherlands for USA Today. Though brief, the story zeroes in on one important fact: Marijuana in the Netherlands is illegal; the government simply chooses to ignore its sale and use.

I respect that the Netherlands treats marijuana more in accordance with the potential harms than America does, but I still strongly believe that as Americans we should work toward creating sensible policies to tax and regulate marijuana rather than making a conscious effort to ignore it. Let’s look for solutions, not stopgaps.

What do you think?

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Terminology Matters

July 3rd, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Those of us working to reform marijuana laws often criticize government officials and the news media for using inaccurate or misleading terminology, but occasionally we pick up some of those bad habits ourselves. I just fell into this trap myself, in a column I just wrote for AlterNet about a recent WHO study and its implications for our drug laws. I used the phrase “whenever a state considers liberalizing its marijuana laws,” to refer to proposals to tax and regulate marijuana like alcoholic beverages.

But, as a colleague pointed out, there is nothing either liberal or conservative about laws that simply make sense, and plenty of people on the political right, such as the late Milton Friedman, have supported such proposals. In addition, “liberalize” may be taken to mean “loosen” or “give up control,” when taxing and regulating marijuana would increase control — taking a market that’s now completely unregulated and establishing commonsense rules and licensing of marijuana businesses.

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Prohibition, Research, Tax and Regulate

We’re Number One!

July 1st, 2008 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Guess what?

A report just published in the journal of the Public Library of Science says more Americans have tried marijuana – as well as cocaine – than people in any of the other 16 countries studied.

That includes the Netherlands – where 20% of the population have tried marijuana, compared with 42% of Americans – despite the drug’s quasi-legal status there. And while U.S. officials regularly badmouth the Dutch system, in which adults can purchase marijuana from regulated businesses, here’s another startling statistic: American kids were nearly three times as likely to try marijuana by age 15 as their Dutch counterparts.

Given these discrepancies, the study authors concluded that drug use rates might not even be related to drug policy at all.

Strange. Then why go to all the trouble and expense to arrest marijuana users? Why insist on handing this lucrative market to organized criminals rather than impose commonsense regulations as we do with alcohol and tobacco?

Rather than defend his office’s obsession with arresting users as a necessary means to fighting drugs, drug czar spokesman Tom Riley practically concedes the point:

“The U.S. has high crime rates but we spend a lot on law enforcement and prison. Should we spend less? We’re just a different kind of country. We have higher drug use rates, a higher crime rate, many things that go with a highly free and mobile society.”

That’s right: Our drug use rates are higher than just about anyone else’s because – unlike the Dutch, who may choose to use marijuana without the threat of arrest – we’re just so gosh darned free.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Growers May a Get Raise, Courtesy of the Feds

June 27th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Hank Sims of the North Coast Journal in Humbolt County, Calif., makes a good point about the true likely consequences of the gaudy, high profile federal raids on marijuana grows in Southern Humboldt County this week:

“We’ll know soon whether the operation has any connection to actual, bad crimes — violent crimes. Perhaps it does; more likely it does not. In which case, what will it accomplish? Well, the price of dope has fallen steadily over the last few years, and the regular Mom ‘n’ Pop marijuana farmers populating the hills around Humboldt County have had to plant more and more to keep their income up. The reason? Oversupply. Everyone and their uncle is a dope grower, at least in Arcata. As always, the net effect of prohibition-style federal operations will be to reestablish a decent, inflated price for the product. Growers who don’t end up in jail might end up sitting pretty this time next year.”

The idea that we can simply “eradicate” all the marijuana growing in our parks, forests, backyards, attics, and bedrooms and wipe it off the face of the earth forever is pure fantasy. This is America’s largest cash crop after all. In California alone, we’re talking about more than $12 billion that’s up for grabs to anyone willing to assume the risk.

Still, it obviously comforts some to have a small army running around town brandishing uprooted plants as though they were war trophies. Despite the fact that the feds are only just packing out of town today, and no arrests have even been made yet, the Eureka Reporter editorial board has already declared the operation a “success,” gushing about how “impressive” the whole spectacle was.

Less impressive, but far more effective, would be to stop playing cops and robbers and bring the whole marijuana industry out of the shadows and into the legitimate market. Until we do, count on more law enforcement-induced windfalls for drug dealers.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Will Our Next Vice President Be a Marijuana Reform Advocate?

June 27th, 2008 12 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Short answer: Don’t hold your breath!

It could certainly be interesting though if Senator Obama offered the slot to Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.), who says the following in his new book: “The time has come to stop locking up people for mere possession and use of marijuana. It makes far more sense to take the money that would be saved by such a policy and use it for enforcement of gang-related activities.”

Other then Webb, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands out for his yeoman’s work on getting his state to become the 12th to allow medical marijuana access.

On the Republican side, the pickings are pretty slim although most people would probably be interested to know that although former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is no reformer on this issue, he has a very interesting history with medical marijuana and his own personal use in the 1970’s when he admitted, “Smoking marijuana was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era.”

Of the above listed, the safe bet says Senator Webb is probably the only one even being seriously considered for the gig. We will see.


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