Cannabis: the case against decriminalization

Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018

☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜

A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.

If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.

Prohibition is Ineffective

We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis

The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol

The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.

“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.” (Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)

I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.

Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.

Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element

Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.

“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).

Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.

Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.

I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.

If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.

There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.

Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.

In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)

It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the “nasty women” out there. All of them.

Now, put away your pitchforks and torches and listen to this amazing video by Aya Korem (it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, but you’ll have to read fast because she does the equality run in less than 12 parsecs¹:

I asked this question over on Facebook:

Answer me this: why should more than 50% of the earth’s population be given a single day of celebration? Just sayin’.

Listening to Ms. Korem, I was reminded of the following exchange Morgan Freeman had with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes:

WALLACE: Black History Month, you find …
FREEMAN: Ridiculous.
WALLACE: Why?
FREEMAN: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I’m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn’t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?

So yes, I get it. Happy International Women’s Day. It’s never inappropriate to celebrate the accomplishments of anyone. But in today’s world of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it seems jejune to celebrate half (more than half, statistically) of humanity by giving them a single day.

When we achieve the kind of gender equality that people of humanity strive for, the kind of equality that Morgan Freeman was alluding to, then we can truly celebrate.


¹ Any respectable Star Wars fan knows that a parsec is a measure of distance, not speed. It’s a joke.

A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets – from On the Media.”

On the Media is “WNYC’s weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view. Veteran journalists Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield give you the tools to survive the media maelstrom.”

A recent segment intriguingly addresses the PEOTUS’ twitter-storm, and how the media should appropriately respond.

As we all know, Donald Trump’s tweets have become a potent force in our new era. On the one hand, a single tweet can cripple opponents, activate supporters, move markets, and subsume the news cycle. On the other, they’re a window into Trump’s wee-hours, unfiltered id. But when his tweets are full of half-truths, distortions, and often bold-faced lies, should journalists treat them as normal presidential utterances, or something else? Cognitive linguist George Lakoff believes that the press must understand how Trump uses language if we’re to responsibly report on his tweets, not just magnify their misinformation. He talks with Brooke about the categories he’s come up with for thinking about Trump tweets.

A summary of the categories:

  1. Preemptive Re-framing – Trump’s tweet stated, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This was rated “Pants on Fire” by Politifact, but it effectively re-frames the popular vote in the minds of those who see the tweet, thus distorting the facts in the public arena.
  2. The Diversion Tweet – This kind of tweet is akin to the magician’s misdirectional “nothing up my sleeve.” While you’re busy looking at his or her sleeve to be sure, jiggery-pokery is happening elsewhere. A good example is focusing on Hamilton, as Trump did when he tweeted “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” In this way, people focus on Hamilton rather than the $25 million settlement in the case of  fraud allegations against Trump University.
  3. The Trial Balloon – Send up something and see how the public reacts, so you’ll know what to do in the future. When Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he watched to see how the public responded to this idea; in this case there was a brief discussion about nuclear policy which quickly faded from the public consciousness.
  4. Deflection – In which you attack the messenger. After being pointedly called out by Meryl Streep for mocking a disabled reporter, Trump attacked the messenger: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!The video is out there; no matter how much he denies it, Trump’s actions can not be interpreted as anything other than cruel mockery of a man’s afflictions – but attacking Ms. Streep, one of the most accomplished and versatile actresses of this generation, deflect’s the public’s view from the issue at hand. This was also evident as Trump attacked Buzzfeed, CNN, and the BBC around reports on the supposed Russian dossier.

Lastly, Lakoff presents an example of a Trump tweet that uses all four strategies at once:

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

  • Pre-emptive framing: “This is fake news.”
  • Diversion – Getting the public to discuss whether or not this is fake news rather than addressing the issue itself.
  • Deflection – Attacking the messengers
  • Trial balloon – Will the intelligence agencies be stopped, and are they working like Nazi Germany?

And, of course, tucked away in the tweet is the invocation of a corollary to Godwin’s Law: In any online discussion, whoever first brings up a reference to Hitler has lost the argument, and the discussion is ended.

Lakoff’s suggestions for the press on how to handle the onslaught of 3 AM tweets, as well as the entire podcast (it’s only about 8 minutes long) are well worth the listen.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Warren Burger on the Second Amendment

Updated 2/23/2018 after the Pennsylvania school shooting and the Las Vegas Massacre.

An image has resurfaced on Facebook lately highlighting a quote from former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger:

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I did a litte digging just to make sure this wasn’t Snopes-worthy, and it turns out that this quote came from a PBS News Hour interview in 1991 and is correctly attributed to Chief Justice Burger.

With two school shootings in two weeks, (Oregon last week, and Arizona yesterday), it seems only right to be asking questions.

An article originally published in Parade magazine in 1990, asks some really good ones (excerpt below), and I submit it here for consideration. At the time of this update, you can still see the full article at Google Books (click the link for page 377):

 

The Constitution does not mention automobiles or motorboats, but the right to keep and own an automobile is beyond question; equally beyond question is the power of the state to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. In some places, even a bicycle must be registered, as must some household dogs.

If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable:

  1. to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions?
  2. to required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued?
  3. that the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle?
    to have a “ballistic fingerprint” of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so
  4. that, if a bullet is found in a victim’s body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit?

These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the “domestic tranquillity” promised in the Constitution.

By Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States (1969-86)
Parade Magazine, January 14, 1990, page 4

What is clear is that in today’s society, the domestic tranquility is not being preserved, nor are the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. School shootings appear in the news regularly, but less-reported is the daily slaughter in our inner cities and elsewhere, for example the recent murders of a dog walker and a backpacker by three drifters in California. Articles like this surface, are news for a day, and are then forgotten, and nobody seems to care that gang-bangers are killing each other and innocent bystanders with reckless abandon. For the victims of such acts of violence, somehow those inalienable rights are failing to apply, and it must stop.

The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment can be summarized by two flags that I’ve seen flying in my own neighborhood:

41N9RURhEWL

Molon Lave

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both of which echo the “cold dead hands” sentiment originated by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and popularized by Charlton Heston.

One of my European colleagues asked, at a Facebook discussion of this issue,

You do realize that, seen from abroad, you all seem to have taken leave of your senses?

A libertarian friend of mine responded,

And from an American’s perspective, … you appear to be incredibly vulnerable.

These are the views from the polar opposites. We have to find a middle ground, and we have to stop the carnage. Not to do so is to sacrifice our humanity at the altar of death. With the words of Warren Burger ringing in my ears – and it’s to be remembered that he was a conservative justice, not a liberal one – the questions he asks appear both valid and sane.

My additional thoughts on the subject can be found at Guns are in America’s DNA

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Dear Congress: In case you forgot, reproductive freedom is the law.

In January of 2015, Washington DC approved D.C. ACT 20-593, effectively modifying the Human Rights Act of 1977 to ensure that people could not be discriminated against for their use of reproductive technologies (contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.). To wit:

“(c) For the purposes of this section, the term “reproductive health decisions” includes a decision by an employee, an employee’s dependent, or an employee’s spouse related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device, or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.”

On April 8th of this year, Joint Resolution H.J. Res. 43 issued by congress “disapproves” of the DC amendment.

It appears that Congress is trying to pry open the door allowing bosses to fire workers if they disagree with their employees’ reproductive choices.

Let no one think that by my posting this that I am in favor of abortion. With the exception of rare medical conditions affecting mother and/or child, or in cases of rape or incest, I sincerely wish people would opt for adoption. But until SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, it’s legal, and employers have no right to discriminate against anyone for their reproductive behavior.

The ACLU may be taking things a bit too far with this article, which trumpets “Congress Just Launched Its First Strike Against Women and LGBT People Under the Guise of Defending Religious Liberty.” On the other hand, knowing how polarized the political and theological divide in this country is, they may be spot on. Only time will tell.

I could think of a hundred issues that I’d rather see Congress spending their time on.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Stacia A. Hylton, what are you going to do now?

hylton-216

This is  Stacia A. Hylton, Directorn of the US Marshals Service.

south-gate-marshal-camera.si

This is a disgraceful scumbag, identified as a US Marshal, ripping a smartphone away from a woman who was recording police about 15 feet away. In the video this was captured from, he throws the device on the ground and kicks it away.

Ms. Hylton, since you don’t provide a general contact email address, this will have to be an open letter.

This individual has brought disgrace to your entire outfit, if your training program allows such wanton behavior. Reports say that federal agents are “investigating.”

Please, in the name of all that’s holy, don’t let this event fade away with a “proper procedure was followed.” How this abuse of power is dealt with will say a lot about your administration.

I will be watching.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Myth of “Administrative Leave”

Police-badge-generic

Every time I see an article posted about bad police behavior, someone chimes in about the officer being given “paid vacation” for his or her transgression.

It is not “paid vacation.”

Below a comment from redditor /u/thatsnotminesir, a police officer who gave a comprehensive explanation of what “administrative leave” really means, at least in his department – and it sounds like this is how it should work.

The myth I see the most of reddit is that when officers get in trouble, they just get “paid vacation.”

When an accusation of misconduct comes up, especially criminal misconduct, the officer is placed on Administrative Leave with pay. This is NOT the punishment. This is to get them off the streets while the investigation is being conducted, while at the same time, not punishing them (financially at least) until the accusations are investigated and proven.

When an accusation of Police Misconduct is investigated, there are TWO separate investigations. One is an Administrative Investigation, the other is a Criminal Investigation. They have to be separate because of Garrity.

Garrity is like the evil twin of Miranda for government employees, mostly police. After the Garrity admonitions are read to us, we MUST answer all questions, and MUST answer them truthfully. If we refuse to answer, or lie, we can be fired just for lying or refusing to answer.

That completely violates our 5th Amendment Right against self incrimination. Because of that, nothing said after Garrity can be used against us in criminal court. It can only be used in administrative actions against our employment.

Therefore, two separate investigations are conducted. An Administrative Investigation where they read us Garrity, and a Criminal Investigation where they read us Miranda. Nothing found in the administrative investigation can be used against us in the criminal, but things found in the criminal CAN be used against us in the administrative. So the criminal is usually done first, then the administrative afterwards.

Because the administrative is usually done after the criminal, that’s why it often takes time for the firing to happen, because the firing won’t happen until after the Administrative. While that seem strange to the laymen, if the Administrative was done first, and officer could say “Yeah I stole the money” under Garrity and it couldn’t be used against him in court. But if the criminal is done first, and he says “Yeah I stole the money” after Miranda, it can be used to prosecute him AND to fire him.

Once the two investigations are complete, THEN the punishment is handed down if the charges are sustained. Media articles don’t always follow up on the case, so all people read in papers is “officer got in trouble, is on paid leave.” Administrative Leave is just the beginning, not the end of the story.

Even then, the Administrative Leave isn’t fun. The take your badge and gun and you are basically on house arrest between the hours of 8am and 5pm on weekdays. You cannot leave your home without permission of your superiors, even it its just to go down the street to the bank or grocery store. You must be available to come into the office immediately at any time for questioning, polygraphs, or anything else involved in the investigation. Drink a beer? That’s consuming alcohol on duty, you’re fired. So even when officers are cleared of the charges and put back on the street, Admin. Leave still isn’t “paid vacation.”

EDIT: I did not realize the wiki explained garrity, but gave such a poor example of the admonitions, leading to some confusion. Here is a much better example.[3]

EDIT:#2 I changed the Garrity wiki link because the wiki had a very poor example of the warnings, which led to a lot of confusion. Plus the change has a lot of links to more information on garrity for those wanting to learn more about it.[4]

Here’s the original wiki[5] for those who wonder what I changed.

This was an eye-opener for me. Anyone who has watched cop shows knows about Miranda rights, but I had never heard of Garrity. The post was a good education – forever after, I will never wince the same way I used to when a news article mentions administrative leave.

There are a lot of stories in the media this year about police misconduct. That may be a good thing, but a lot of it seems like clickbait, low-hanging fruit for getting eyeballs on ads. It would be critical for our nation for every police department in the country to weed out its rotten apples and bad actors, but even if this were to happen, the number actually purged would be very small in comparison to the majority of men and women who entered law enforcement for better motives.

Let’s not forget what Jon Stewart recently said:

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“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.