Currently viewing the tag: "drug war"

potThe drug war rhetoric is improving in 2014. Let’s see if actual policy ever catches up.

In a New Yorker profile published this month, President Obama admitted that marijuana was not that bad and the enforcement of anti-weed laws was skewed against minorities. Similarly, on Thursday Texas Governor Rick Perry voiced his support for decriminalizing marijuana and letting states craft drug laws free of federal intervention. On January 16, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had changed his mind and that medical marijuana was a fine thing after all. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was trying to drown his state’s medical marijuana program in the bathtub not three months ago, spent part of his inaugural address delivered on January 21promising to end the war on drugs. New York Senator Chuck Schumer just said on MSNBC that states should be allowed to “experiment” with legalization. What the hell is happening? How did the war on drugs go from a fringe issue five or six years ago to this current race to out-chill your political competitors when it comes to weed policy? It’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like Americans as a whole have decided that marijuana should be legal (or at least partially legal), while our leaders’ views have lagged behind. Now we’ve reached a tipping point where it’s safe for elected officials to embrace an end to prohibition—politicians’ minds aren’t changing, but poll numbers are.

The rest of the crankiness, along with bad cops of the week, over here

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And today’s video:

Hurray for the Alan Lomax archives.

  • 6.Mencken drinking-I’ve had an impressively mediocre two weeks of travel, and really should have updated the blog more, but sickness, plus relatives, plus just bad travels didn’t really bring on the writing itch. Few highlights include: being stuck in a Kafaesque loop of being sent from House desk to Senate desk to House media gallery to Senate media gallery on Capitol Hill, plus having Capitol police having pick up one my socks; firing some satisfyingly huge guns in North Carolina and shopping at an endearingly sketchy military surplus store (cash only, for paranoia purposes); and of course screaming “SHUT UP ABOUT GLUTEN” at the Museum of Sex in New York City. But really, that was mostly it. Somehow the whole of my journeys was not what the parts promised to be.
  • In other news about people The Stag Blog likes, Radley Balko is moving to Washington Post, which is both great for him, great for libertarianism, and rough for those of us who will now feel obligated to read WaPost.
  • Kennedy and Matt Welch will be cohosting a new Fox Business show called The Independents, so for the ill-fitting suit jackets and the mismatched patterns alone (if you know me, you know this is high praise indeed), it will be worth a watch. Here is a snotty, lazy Gawker summation of things. I assume the comments are horrifying beyond words, so don’t bother with that.
  • In humbler news, brother Joe has been told to get a webcam, so that The Stag Blog’s new Google+ show can finally get started. It’s called Politics for People Who Hate Politics, and if you want to be a guest, annoying me about it is encouraged. More details will come. It should be fun.
  • Hey, my latest VICE piece is about how Homeland Security are being assholes to Canadians with past mental health problems.
  • What’s happening in the world? Hmmm.
  • Well, stop pretending the drug war is over, because this guy’s ruined life begs to differ.
  • NYPD mistakes Brooklyn man’s breath mints for ecstasy.
  • Is this is true, I can’t even began to process how horrifying it is. Read with caution: “I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic”
  • Here is a decent Gawker response to the is that woman who wrote the not-very-good-sorry poverty essay actually poor or not kerfuffle.
  • 1920s prosthetic limbs
  • I want to live in J.D. Tuccille’s society. He makes anarchy sound fun, God save his crazy bootlegging family.
  • This Orange County reporter is covering/livetweeting the trial of the cops who killed Kelly Thomas.
  • Prohibition slang.
  • Currently reading this ancient Vanity Fair piece on the mysterious, sordid death of Hitler’s way too beloved half-niece.

Pam sums up the feeling of not having a reaction ready for the death of notable person:

Today’s video:

No, don’t ask questions.

potMarijuana possession of up to 28g for personal use was decriminalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative passed on November 4th, 2008.  I watched the returns sitting in a postpartum room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—my first child had been born earlier that day. We had hired a courier to deliver my wife’s ballot to City Hall while she was in labor. Minor pot possession in Massachusetts is now punished by a $100 civil fine, arguably the one of the most libertarian state marijuana laws on the books prior to the 2012 legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.

In 2008, I also voted for the Libertarian ticket for President. In fact, I’ve voted for the Libertarian Party Presidential ticket in almost every election since I could legally vote, starting with Harry Browne in 1996. I’ve attended, as a Massachusetts voting delegate, every Libertarian Party National Convention since 2004. I’ve also backed many Libertarian and liberty-minded candidates for smaller offices locally and across the country. Needless to say, I became used to backing candidates that lost; I even came to accept this as part of the reality of taking radical, principled, libertarian political positions. The unfortunate reality is that Libertarians often get crushed on Election Day. After all, we’re not in anybody’s pocket, no special interests have anything to gain from electing us, and a litany of pork recipients have every reason to vote for other candidates (who will continue government’s culture of largess).

Marijuana policy has always been a key libertarian issue for me. In 2008, I made a substantial financial contribution to the Massachusetts marijuana decriminalization campaign. I donated this money under the same mentality I had for years backing Libertarian candidates: we’re probably going to lose, but we have to try. But, as Election Day got closer, the polling indicated that we were still in the lead, and I began to believe the campaign actually had a shot. Supporting a winning campaign was still a foreign experience for me, and I expected a long grind of returns on election night, with a narrow chance of winning. Instead, The Boston Globe called it for the pro-decriminalization side with only a few percent of precincts reporting. When the final results were in, we had won with a much larger percentage than most had expected (almost 63 percent of the vote). I was stunned and elated, but with a newborn baby, had no time to celebrate.

By 2012, I’d smelled the blood of marijuana prohibition in the water for four years, and I was hungry for another ballot initiative win. The main 2012 campaign that I was involved with—the Amendment 64 legalization campaign in Colorado—was the biggest prize to date. However, every prior marijuana legalization ballot initiative had gone down in defeat, and (private) doubts persisted about Amendment 64’s chances of success, even within the legalization movement. Some suggested the campaign didn’t have enough money for ads. Others argued the initiative was too generously written, for example allowing limited non-medical home growing (a freedom notably absent from the similar legalization initiative in Washington State, I-502, which I also supported and for which I have the utmost respect). And some even said (my personal favorite caveat) that Amendment 64 lacked enough endorsements from law enforcement!

However, despite the hand-wringing, the campaign’s polling data—which I obsessively analyzed on a daily basis over the weeks prior to Election Day—indicated that we were mostly likely going to win. In fact, the returns on Election Day 2012 in Colorado were very similar to the returns from 2008 in Massachusetts: major news networks called victory for our side early in the evening. We ended up winning with over 55 percent of the vote—a total that exceeded the predictions of myself and others closely involved with the campaign. I was gobsmacked to the point of tears. Years of work and tons of money had come to fruition. (I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for, worked on, and supported the Amendment 64 campaign, especially the late Ashawna Hailey.)

It didn’t used to be this way. The history of marijuana reform is littered with philanthropists putting huge amounts of cash into losing campaigns. By 2012, numerous important marijuana reform donors (many of whom are not libertarians), disenchanted by past failures, were experiencing donor fatigue. But following major wins in Colorado and Washington, they should approach similar initiatives going forward with greater confidence, as it now appears that public sentiment has genuinely changed. Polling now heavily favors legalization in many states (even Texas!). The next major ballot initiative campaign I expect to participate in is the 2014 campaign to regulate marijuana in Alaska.

Barring a major shift in public opinion over a short time period, we are likely to see a steady drumbeat of states legalizing marijuana until the federal government is forced to abandon cannabis prohibition.

R. Antonio Ruiz is  is a major donor and volunteer with the Marijuana Policy Project.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent MPP. Follow him on twitter: @annoyingcats

Acoustic Music Works in Pittsburgh, PAWhen I was younger I read Dave Barry’s weekly Miami Herald column every week. I remember it resting somewhere in the entertainment section — I think the Sunday section? Maybe Saturday? I don’t know, but I read first, and then comics and the stupid advice columns, then the front page, then the back page of the paper. (Never Sports or Business.)

Regardless of where and when it was, somewhere in those pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review for many years was Barry’s humor column. In it, for 600-odd words, he waxed poetic on the words “booger” or “weasel” and mused about the horrors of toilet snakes, exploding pop tarts, and other things completely up the ally of anyone either 11 or with a particular ease of access to the 11-ness in their souls.

And at some point, once my second generation libertarian brain-washing kicked in and I became one as well (that’s the short version. There were lots of conservative Christian fellow-homeschoolers, then a lot of liberal college professors who helped in the “oh God, not them!” way, as well as a score of different pundits, authors, and thinkers who pointed me in the right direction). And at some point I realized, holy shit, this Barry guy was a libertarian, too! Besides my dad, John Stossel, and my friend Bob who voted for John Kerry the God damned traitor (Bob, not Kerry) in 2004 anyway, who the hell was a libertarian anywhere?

Later still — either online, or more likely in Reason magazine’s compilation Choice — I found the 1994 interview Barry did with Reason. And it was, and remains, fucking amazing.

Within it, Barry talks about minor, but infuriating government money-sucks like the strategic helium reserve. He again mentions the IRS. He describes his generation being “the problem”, thanks to Medicare and Social Security. He has a delightful comment on the absurdity of so-called job creators, and the press who dutifully record that exactly 47 million jobs were created in December. Barry says, “Of all the wonderful things government says, that’s always been just about my favorite. As opposed to if you get to keep the money. Because what you’ll do is go out and bury it in your yard, anything to prevent that money from creating jobs.” And by saying that he — a humorist — demonstrated a better understanding of economics than half the “economists” alive and making money from their dismal grasp of the dismal science.

Most daring and subversive when combined with that economic good sense, he says this:

After a while, the way this country deals with drugs is just not funny. What a waste of everyone’ s time and effort. What a waste of a lot of people’s lives. The way we deal with drugs and sex. I saw one of these real-life cop drama shows, and they mounted a camera in this undercover agent’s pick-up truck, right under the gear shift, and they sent him out to pick up prostitutes.

So the whole show consisted of this guy, who’s quite a good actor, driving to this one street, and young prostitutes come up to him and solicit him. He says OK. They get in. They’re trying real hard to be nice. He’s going to pay $23, that’s all he’s got and they said that’s OK. Meanwhile, behind him the other cops, these fat men with walkie-talkies, are laughing and chuckling because here they are about to enforce the law and protect society. They take her to some street and then of course they come up and arrest her. This poor woman–I don’t know whether she’s feeding her drug habit or feeding her kids or whatever. And the cops are so proud of themselves, these big strapping guys.

It just made me sick to see this. To treat these people who are trying to make a living, one way or another, this way, and to be proud of it. It’s on television and we’re all supposed to watch this and feel good about it. It’s just disgusting.

 

The anti-drug war stuff is a libertarian favorite for good reason. But the prostitution part is what gets me me here. Barry watched this show — COPS, or whatever — and he didn’t root for the the “good guy.” He didn’t cheer them on as they tackled some poor, shirtless buffoon or invited the audience to gawk at some pathetic, screaming loony. He didn’t laugh and cringe at some dumb crackwhore, the way most people would in private and in media. Barry’s sympathies were in the right place, and so was his condemnation.

The woman was trying to make money — maybe not in a good way, maybe not for good reasons, we don’t know. And we don’t need to know. We just need to know the real question: Why the hell is someone getting paid to hurt this woman? To jail her and definitely to shame her? Why are the people paid for by tax dollars, imbued with the use of legal, lethal force, and given great respect in society spending that time and respect and money on fucking over this woman who is trying to make a little money and nothing else?

And that humanity brings us to the other Dave Barry secret of humanity. We see that Barry knows freedom. He knows the stupidity and waste of government bureaucracy. He even knows the cruelty of which police officers are capable. But with his essay on crazy Elvis fans, Barry also demonstrates that even without the “coercion or not” question, he is smart enough to rise above the obvious knocking down of people who seem to be “asking for it” when they dare to not confirm to cool. Like Jon Ronson with his sympathetic, but not endorsing wild ride through the world of weirdos, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Barry didn’t want to sit back and crack wise and broad about the crazy Elvis fans. He doesn’t want to shoot polyester-clad fish swimming in a lard barrel. Those fish never hurt anyone.

So he wrote “Hearts that are True.” (To be found in Dave Barry is Not Making This Up).

The way he tells it in the italics before the essay, he really was all set to write some obvious jokes about fat Southern housewives who can’t untwist their Granny panties over Elvis long enough to realize he’s dead and buried. (And before that he was bloated, drug-addled, and seeping talent from every sequined pore.) But Barry looked closer and he saw the people who cared so much that it hurt, about this dead musician. Intrigued and puzzled, he set out to find the why.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTRzrdkvCr4

And — spoiler alert — he doesn’t really discover anything, except maybe a little reminder that there are a lot of good Elvis tunes. But God is it a killer journey — to Graceland, and to Elvis’s boyhood home, and to lots of friendly, kind folks, to find that unanswer. Barry is subtle and sad and sweet in his writing and it’s just the loveliest thing, this essay. I’ve read it three or four times, but I try to save it up so it doesn’t lose its punch.

That’s what it is. It’s like a really great song you can’t waste. And you can’t say that about a whole lot of simple, on the page writing, especially not the personal-essay-ish stuff.*

Barry is a humorist. I will always fancy his investigations into UFOs and lawnmower races. Hell, his description of Florida could be why I have never been there or wanted to go. But the Barry of “Hearts That are True” is one I want to spend a little more time with, one I wish we had a few more essays by. I’m envious of that piece. If I had made it, I could be satisfied for at least a little while as a writer.

Do you see what I mean? Why I tie that Reason interview — especially the excerpt above — together with the crazy Elvis fans essay?  Why no matter what else Barry wrote, before or since, even if it didn’t strike the same note in my guts, he will always get me on this one? That I will always feel like he understands something that most people never will?

There’s plenty of room for mocking. Even mocking of people who haven’t performed the sort of life-ruining an IRS agent or a cop has done. Mock reality show stars, or members of Nickelback and I am not necessarily going to be outraged on their behalf. It’s fun to scoff and play High Fidelity-snob or culture warrior about things you think are childish, or stupid, or lacking talent. And it’s easy. It’s so fucking easy.

Yet Barry, the humorist who knows economics better than economists, didn’t take the asked-for punch line. He looked at sad, moaning, obsessive people in the South and said hey, why the hell do they care so much about sad, dead Elvis?

And the end result breaks my damn heart every time.

Dave Barry knows how we should treat each other. He knows whose backs we should have: the drug users, the hookers, and the guys crankily doing their taxes each April — and the people who just fell in love with a Tennessean and never would let death get in the way of a relationship like that.

And, since he’s not soft or meek, Barry also knows who deserve to be ashamed: the politicians, the taxman, and the police with nothing better to do.

Can’t they just listen to a fucking Elvis song or something?

 

 

 *(Mike Riggs’ Awl essay about suicide is up there, the bastard.)

As my esteemed older brother noted below, moderately famous actor and political wannabe Kal Penn — who should have stuck with being boring on House — recently tweeted his support of the New York City Police Department’s now-unconstitutional stop and frisk policy that disproportionately affects minorities. (People responding to Penn’s tweet seemed incredulous, at least. One suggested that Penn forgot the #snark hashtag. Penn responded with a slur against “activist judges” so clearly that’s a thing for Democrats to be mad about now.)

Joe forgot another important reason to loathe Penn — besides his inability to realize that brown people who aren’t famous actor friends of Obama may be getting the short end of the authority stick — his bullshit on the drug war. A man made famous for being the Cheech for a new generation also  acted the sniveling weasel apologist for Obama the drug war war hypocrite.

As Mike Riggs wrote at Reason.com last September:

Actor Kal Penn and President Barack Obama were both raked over the coals yesterday for their collaboration on a campaign video teasing Penn’s upcoming appearance at the Democratic National Convention. In that video, Penn reprised his role as Kumar from the Harold and Kumar movies, and takes a phone call from Obama while stoned, watching cartoons, and eating junkfood. The subtle implication is that marijuana users are easily swayed, lazy idiots.

Reason, the Marijuana Policy Project, LEAP, and several others criticized Penn and Obama for the video, as Obama has utterly failed to live up to his promise to deprioritze federal prosections of medical marijuana.

In an interview with Chris Moody of Yahoo! News, Penn said

“I think that the president’s been pretty consistent with that. He’s not in favor of legalization, we should be open about something like that. But what the president has done is take a really smart look at the Department of Justice and said, given the fact that the federal government has limited resources, we should be allocating them toward violent criminals and not towards non-violent criminals. We can see that not just in things like marijuana but in things like immigration reform where he’s going after and deporting violent criminals and making sure that if you’re a Dream Act eligible student that you know that you can apply for your deferred status. Wherever the federal government has an appropriate role, I think the president’s been very consistent in that. That’s something that I think folks should know.”

Penn should have stuck to the world of fiction, because his political views lie entirely in that realm as well.