– Radley Balko discusses the lawsuits against Seattle-area police agencies by Somali immigrants who were targeted in an effort to crack down on the use of khat, a mild plant-based stimulant popular in East Africa and the Middle East. Charles Mudede wrote about the war on khat back in 2007.
– The Spokesman-Review writes about the legal troubles that two medical marijuana providers from the Spokane area are facing. These two men are openly defying the one-patient-per-provider statute of the medical marijuana law, but this restriction can make it very difficult for new patients to obtain marijuana (as Dale Rogers put it at the patient Hempfest panel, if you’re 70 and you’re diagnosed with cancer, you don’t have time to learn how to be a gardener). And not everyone can find someone willing and able to grow for them. People who are told by their doctors that marijuana might be beneficial still have to resort to the black market – especially when the people who are willing and able to provide for multiple patients are arrested.
Despite the arrests in Spokane, a group in Richland is requesting the ability to open up a dispensary, but were told by the City Attorney to take it to the Legislature, which failed miserably in its attempt to improve the law in 2008.
– Gene Johnson from the AP writes about the world of helicopter smuggling along the Washington-British Columbia border.
– John H. Richardson from Esquire talks to a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and outlines the argument for legalizing drugs from the standpoint of saving lives and keeping communities safe. Predictably, Mark Kleiman takes the bait and makes a fool of himself. Pete Guither hammers him pretty good here, but Kleiman responds with an update where he writes:
My objection is to the claim that there’s a hideous monster out there called “prohibition,” and that the main drug policy task is to slay that monster with the magic sword of “taxation and regulation.” That claim is just as stupid as the drug-warrior claim that there’s a hideous monster out there called “drugs” and that the main drug-policy task is to slay that monster with the magic sword of a “a drug-free society.”
First of all, both “prohibition” and “drug abuse” are “hideous monsters”. Prohibition is such because it takes a commodity that has significant demand from both responsible adults and people with addictions and hands it to criminals who have significant income with which to fight over their share of the marketplace. Drug abuse is a “hideous monster” because human beings are flawed creatures who often make mistakes and end up without the control to help themselves overcome an addiction. Both are things that we need to deal with as problems in our society, but the important difference is that one of the two is a basic human tendency that we can’t stop while the other is a creation of government that we most certainly can stop.
Second, one only needs to look at the example of alcohol prohibition to see where the “magic sword of taxation and regulation” has slayed the monster of prohibition. No one is arguing that people will never die from overdoses or from driving while intoxicated if we end prohibitions on other recreational drugs. What’s being argued is that the collateral damage of the cat and mouse games we play with the criminal enterprises who distribute and sell them (our massive murder rates and our unsustainable and self-perpetuating prison overcrowding problems) far outweigh mild upticks in drug addiction rates. And there’s absolutely no clear evidence that drug addiction rates would even go up, especially if you enact smart regulations.
Yes, alcohol kills many, many people every year – from drunk driving accidents to liver diseases – but liquor distributors don’t get shot by the police or by competing liquor distributors, and law enforcement officers don’t get shot while raiding speakeasies and backwoods stills. This is because of the magic sword of “taxation and regulation”.
And finally, the latter part of the analogy doesn’t even make sense. “Taxation and regulation” is a means for achieving an end, while “a drug-free society” is an end with no realistic means for achieving it. Mark can keep pretending that the people who advocate for drug legalization collectively envision some spiritual nirvana that can only be achieved by legalizing drugs, but the reality is that the people who advocate for legalizing the use and regulating the distribution of currently illegal drugs – whether they be law enforcers like the folks in LEAP or computer geeks like me – do so because it appears to be the most progressive, most cost-effective, and most humane solution to the problem of drug abuse in our society. All of us recognize that even when you do it, people will still have drug problems and people will still die of drug overdoses. But as we’ve already seen in places that have taken incremental steps toward legalization – especially in places that have stopped treating heroin addicts as criminals – we tend to see fewer deaths from overdoses, not more. And the collateral damage from people who decide to buck the regulations tends to be negligible, and don’t usually end with people being shot.
At this point, I don’t know if anyone still considers Kleiman an authoritative source on this subject. I’d be curious to know how the panel he was on at Netroots Nation ended up, but it’s just sad to see him repeatedly breaking out this obnoxious strawman in order to belittle those who have come to a very reasoned and very rational conclusion that prohibition is an ineffective government solution for drugs that have an established level of popular demand.