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    Stephen Young 9:13 am on August 20, 2010 Permalink  

    No Rational Basis: The Pragmatic Case For Marijuana Law Reform 

    By Eric Blumenson and Eva Nilsen, 17 Virginial Journal of Law and Public Policy 45 (2009)

    FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE AT: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1366422

    ABSTRACT: This article presents a critique of marijuana prohibition and suggests some alternative regulatory approaches that would be more productive and consonant with justice. Part I relies on a forty-year empirical record to demonstrate that (1) reliance on a law enforcement approach has aggravated rather than mitigated the risks involved with marijuana use, and (2) criminalization, which results in the arrest of more than 700,000 Americans annually for possession of any amount of marijuana, is an inhumane and destructive response to an act that almost 100 million Americans have committed. Part II assesses the relative merits of several alternative reform policies, including both decriminalization and legalization under a regulatory scheme.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 9:11 am on August 20, 2010 Permalink  

    Liberty Lost: The Moral Case For Marijuana Law Reform 

    By Eric Blumenson and Eva Nilsen, 85 Indiana Law Journal 279 (2010)

    FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE AT: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1366426

    ABSTRACT: Marijuana policy analyses typically focus on the relative costs and benefits of present policy and its feasible alternatives. This essay addresses a prior, threshold issue: whether marijuana criminal laws abridge fundamental individual rights, and if so, whether there are grounds that justify doing so.

    Over 700,000 people are arrested annually for simple marijuana possession, a small but significant proportion of the one hundred million Americans who have committed the same crime. In this essay, we present a civil libertarian case for repealing marijuana possession crimes. We put forward two arguments, corresponding to the two distinct liberty concerns implicated by laws that both ban marijuana use and punish its users. The first argument opposes criminalization, demonstrating that marijuana use does not constitute the kind of wrongful conduct that is a prerequisite for just punishment. The second argument demonstrates that even in the absence of criminal penalties, prohibition of marijuana use violates a moral right to exercise autonomy in personal matters – a corollary to Mill’s harm principle in the utilitarian tradition, or, in the non-consequentialist tradition, to the respect for personhood that was well described by the Supreme Court in its recent Lawrence v. Texas opinion. Both arguments are based on principles of justice that are uncontroversial in other contexts.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 1:18 pm on May 27, 2010 Permalink  

    Former Boy Scouts killed in border drug war 

    There’s so many gruesome and tragic stories about violence along the U.S.-Mexico border related to the drug war lately that it’s hard not to become desensitized.

    However, this story from the El Paso Times about a young U.S. citizen and his friend being gunned down in Juarez, Mexico regardless of their apparent clean living, is a reminder of how bad it is.

    Family members, who held his funeral Tuesday, said they did not know the reason behind the attack.  News reports said the two men were coming from a boy scout camp before they were gunned down.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 8:14 am on April 30, 2010 Permalink  

    New Zealand attempts to crush gardening industry 

    Police in New Zealand raided garden shops across the nation earlier this week, because some of the materials being sold may have been used to grow cannabis.

    Some people arrested in Wellington are charged with selling drug-growing equipment, including 600-watt lightbulbs, bottles of Superior Potash, Guano Superbloom and Budzilla, pH test kits, mite and aphid sprays, and High Times cannabis magazines.

    The two-year Operation Lime has resulted in more than 250 arrests on more than 700 charges and busted more than 100 commercial cannabis-growing operations.

    Certainly, residents of the nation feel much safer today, but one wonders if the police time might have been better used elsewhere.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 7:51 am on April 29, 2010 Permalink  

    The dismal truth about “buy-bust” operations 

    The SF Weekly in San Francisco takes a look at the city’s “buy-bust” program, which is supposed to take drugs off the streets.

    It would be more accurate to say the program takes police off the street who could be doing more important work:

    Buy-busts – in which teams of five to 11 undercover officers solicit drugs on the street – are a prized success story for the SFPD and the district attorney’s office, according to DA spokesman Brian Buckelew.  That’s one way of looking at it.  The other is that buy-busts are expensive wastes of time that accomplish little other than clogging up the courts with low-level addicts while providing gobs of overtime to narcotics cops, according to senior public defender Rebecca Young.  She figures that at least 150 cases like Mason’s go through the courts every month.

    The buy-bust program rounds up some professional criminals who deal drugs for a living, but these comprise “maybe 1 percent” of the total, according to Young.  Meanwhile, she says, this “dirty secret of the criminal justice system” accounts for 40 percent of the cases in San Francisco courts, and contributed to the fiasco at the SFPD crime lab, with overworked technicians forced to test dime bag after dime bag within 48 hours of seizure.  These include cases like that of a 30-year-old homeless man who sold a $60 eighth of marijuana to a cop on Haight Street last May, who faces prison time for the pot and the small quantity of psilocybin mushrooms he had stashed in a pocket.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 11:56 am on April 28, 2010 Permalink  

    New study: Drug war really does increase violence 

    It’s kind of like stating the obvious, but now there is an interesting study to validate what drug war critics have been saying for decades.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 7:31 am on April 21, 2010 Permalink  

    DrugWarRant gets ONDCP to clarify its innuendo 

    Nice work by Pete Guither over at DrugWarRant, my favorite drug war blog.

    Pete noticed that federal anti-drug officials were playing quite loose with language regarding “drugged driving,” making the problem seem more widespread than it really is.

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy replied to Pete and changed the wording in an official document to make it more accurate.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 8:00 am on April 20, 2010 Permalink  

    Chicago Tribune jumps on the K2-hype bandwagon 

    If everyone is really worried about this, it would save lots of trouble to just legalize that.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 11:29 pm on April 19, 2010 Permalink  

    Fox News slobbers over aged drug-sniffing dog 

    Many of the worst tendencies of mainstream journalism’s approach to drug policy issues are highlighted in this Fox News report. It’s about an Arizona woman who bought a retired police drug dog and is trying to convince local parents that they should pay her to drag the dog through their homes. This process, she claims, will alert parents to the presence of any illegal drug in the house.

    You can see the report here: canine p.i. – Fox News

    Where to start? I interviewed a lawyer who pointed out the many flaws of drug-sniffing dogs a few years ago for DrugSense Weekly. Basically, police don’t keep records on the accuracy of drug dogs, and there are many reasons to believe that the dogs are highly inaccurate. Indeed, accuracy decreases with age and when dogs are trained on too many scents – both problems for the pooch on Fox.

    But the interviewers didn’t ask about accuracy, nor did they challenge the entrepreneur’s suggestion that the dog could detect “any” illegal drug. They simply assumed drug dogs are infallible and admired the beauty of the animal.

    This report isn’t really worse than other sycophantic stories on drug-sniffing dogs. Sadly, virtually every story I’ve seen on this topic is done with the same approach and assumptions – and absolutely no sense of skepticism.

  • avatar

    Stephen Young 10:53 pm on April 18, 2010 Permalink  

    Reporter saves bad news for last in Colombia report 

    A story in today’s Boston Globe starts off by contrasting the glory of today’s Bogota, Colombia with the dark times before the U.S. anti-drug dollars really started flowing:

    But it is a remarkably different setting for Colombia’s capital than a few years ago, when many people rarely left their homes after dark for fear of bombings, homicides, and kidnappings by drug cartels, criminal gangs, and guerrilla fighters.

    With billions of dollars in military and development aid from the United States, Colombia’s image as one of the most dangerous destinations is fading.  And now, the Obama administration is hoping to transfer key elements of Colombia’s strategy to other nations in the region struggling with drug violence, lawlessness, and crushing poverty.

    Then there’s a lot more about how great everything is turning out.

    Until the very last paragraph where one observer’s concerns are compressed into a single sentence:

    “The government has taken strong action,” he said.  But it has had consequences.  Millions of Colombians have been displaced in recent years by government action against the cartels and insurgents, he said, while there remains strong evidence, corroborated by a recent United Nations investigation, of extrajudicial killings by government forces.

    What’s a little extrajudicial killing? Nightlife is back in Bogata.

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