Archive for the Drug Reform Category
Medical Marijuana is a topic that comes up when talking drug reform and policy. Currently 14 states have decriminalized medical Marijuana. Is this a good idea? In California one can go into a Marijuana dispensary and have a brief phone consultation with a doctor and they will give you a prescription for just about anything that ails you. There are those who say this is a thin veneer for legal marijuana; that this is a not so clever street corner scam. I am not so sure. I think more research is needed but there does seem to be some medicinal value, especially for cancer patients.
Illinois is the latest state to take on the medical marijuana issue. It may not fly there. The police are warning that this will only lead to “more crime”. That is a weak and frankly stupid argument. In one of the more bizarre comments I have seen, Phil Cline, former Chicago police superintendent says, “ The passing of this bill is going to lead to more crime and drug use. Street gangs (and by that he means black people) will open marijuana dispensaries and they’ll use the profits to buy guns and drugs and to bail out other gang members (again, black people). Too bad he said this because there are people who will believe this because Cline has been a high-ranking police official. What is the truth about the legalized medical marijuana? Are they a good idea? Do they help people? Or are they, what people say, just a way to legalize marijuana.
If we have learned anything from prohibition it should be that taxing and regulating reduces crime. Has Cline not read the history of his own city where blood and violence in the alcohol trade were part of the daily life in Chicago during prohibition? Let’s say gang members open medical marijuana dispensaries. On a way, they have marijuana dispensaries already. They do dispense the product. If they dispensed the product out of a medical dispensary they have to pay taxes and don’t need guns. Kind of like, oh, alcohol a far more damaging substance than Marijuana. As a side note, ALL states have decriminalized, taxed, and regulated alcohol. So in other words, yes, medical marijuana dispensaries are a thinly veiled way to legally distribute the product, but is legally dispensing the product legally a bad idea? No, no it is not.
Who would dare to complain about D.A.R.E.? It’s an organization whose sole mission is to keep kids off drugs, what could be wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, except that they leave a few things out, minimize the problem, exclude people already impaired, shame children of alcoholics and perhaps worst of all, eclipse and consume potential because after all, we must be addressing the drug issue in schools, we have D.A.R.E.
The program itself is standard “Just say No!” fare. It does little to educate about the complexities of the problem, nor does it present it as a health issue. It presents it as a “choice”, don’t make the wrong choice and do drugs, play sports, dance, support your school!! All great ideas but really are we going to combat a complicated biological disease with dance? C’mon kids, dance those blues away! Dance that depression away! Dance your abusive parents away! Dance! Dance! Dance!! I am too old to be a graduate of the D.A.R.E. program but if it had been around when I was in school, I wonder what it would have done. There were individuals and systems letting me know that drinking was bad but it wasn’t doing anything for my internal world, my isolation and feelings of being disenfranchised but that keg party was working a fucking miracle.
The D.A.R.E. message is clear. Drugs are bad. Dumb people do drugs; lazy people do them as well. In other words “bad” folks get themselves involved with drugs. I am not sure what blameless holy virtuous people do, I assume they dance because the DARE website really promotes dance. Does the DARE program have happy feet? Why all the dancing? The message is shaming and shame never helps with drug issues. Additionally there is no mention made of disease, the AMA, treatment or recovery. Nowhere is the message: “not their fault but their responsibility’ delivered. Just don’t be bad, dance!
The advisory boards with the DARE program include: education (makes sense), Law enforcement (Oh, Jesus, not this again) and scientific. There seems to be something missing here. How about a doctor, people in recovery, social workers, family therapists, the kind of people who are on the front line of the drug culture in America. Shall we hear from them? It makes no sense to me – the greatest success of living drug free has been people in recovery. For some it’s 12 step participation, others find their own road. Somehow I would think that government agencies would want to hear from people who live drug free. Never do I see ‘recovery advisory board” in any of this and DARE is no exception.
The cost of the program is unclear. DARE itself estimates anywhere from 438 million to 604 million. I guess that is the cost of running the program, paying for the officers who facilitate it etc. Also I think they have a dog mascot, maybe it’s a lion, one of those creepy American kabuki things. I’m sure those things don’t come cheap. What is the net result of DARE? I don’t know. I don’t know if it keeps anyone off drugs or not. What I think is it is a gross oversimplification of the problem, and the added value is not much. Additionally, I can’t imagine being a school aged child listening to how bad and dumb alcoholics are when they are holding a family secret. That must be torture. Unless of course they are deeply engaged in expressive dance. Thank God DARE isn’t into hiking. I can’t tell you how many conferences I go to where people try to treat mental illness with hiking. Frankly, I hate hiking; I’m not crazy about bugs or dirt. I do however like the comfort of knowing I can order Chinese food at any moment which is why I live in New York but OK if DARE knows something I don’t, let them hike, dance, whatever it takes. In any event, is this the best allocation of funds? Maybe, but it seems lopsided to me. The other thing I wonder about is the kids there will most likely agree with the basic concepts of the program but what about the tortured iconoclasts? Do they agree? Do they challenge the ideas? I don’t think we know because I think those kids are out smoking weed, missing the dance-a-thon.
My biggest issue with DARE is that it has become some kind of sacred cow in American culture. You see their t-shirts, their corporate partnerships, we all know their logo and their bumper sticker, often next to those obnoxious “my kid is a (whatever)’ sticker. DARE has become a fairly powerful lobby, rejecting any idea other than “just say no”, they are the Christian right of all those interested in drug policy. They oppose reform, damn to hell the idea of tax and regulate and shun discourse about the drug issue in America. I was not surprised that all regional directors are white and male with the exception of an Asian female. Lets see some black people on these boards, children who have grown up fatherless as a result of the drug war, overworked grandmas left to care for children of drug war casualties. Where is their voice? As a side note, DARE was listed by the US surgeon generals office in the category of ‘ineffective programs” furthermore the government accountability office reported in 2003 that there are ‘no significant differences in illicit drug use (this would exclude alcohol) between students who received DARE and students who did not.
While well meaning, DARE misses the mark, stifles progress, shames us children of alcoholics and the government calls it “ineffective”. Maybe it’s just incomplete. Maybe education needs to expand to families and schools about how to handle a substance misuse issue. Of course we would have to be honest and assume that all schools and communities have some range of substance misuse. I will chair the committee to design the curriculum, make the board of many people from many disciplines. My fee will be HUGE but no matter, we will partner with Perdu Pharma (makers of Oxycontin), I am sure they won’t mind my fee and giving me the keys to the jet, me and my board will be busy and we will need to travel. DARE? You have got to be fucking kidding.
California, took another step closer to legalizing recreational use of Marijuana. A 4-3 vote by the assembly public safety committee kept the bill moving. Jared Huffman (D. San Jose) summed the baby step up pretty well, voting for the measure but distancing himself from it. In a bold statement, Huffman declared, “I don’t want my kids to use it”. Solid parenting assemblyman. I am not sure that anyone wants a kid, whose brains are like wet cement to use a dangerous psycho-reactive drug but that is not what the legalization movement is about. To me it’s about honesty. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people”, well, the people like to get high, relax, unwind, whatever you’d like to call it with cannabis. Should we make our own people criminals because they would like to do that with cannabis rather than alcohol?
One of the dissenting votes called the 1.4 billion dollars in potential tax revenue “blood money”. What would the money spent on incarceration and paramilitary tactics be if taxing and regulating is blood money?
In my own smug way I like to distance myself from the marijuana smokers. For a variety of reasons, I have been intoxicant free for nearly 13 years but in all that time, I don’t think I have gathered the opinion that everyone should be. It’s really not my business, and frankly, I find the marijuana culture insultingly stupid, complacent, and boring, but I don’t think we should shoot people because they like it or want to participate in it. So if any of you hippies are out there reading this are thinking we will be friends, forget it. Just play with your xbox in your apartments and let me be your champion from up high, from my lofty perch.
To me, legislating people into a specific intoxicant goes against the foundational ideas of America. When did we become a nation of judgment and shame? Bay area politicians hemming and hawing and apologizing for their vote? Good work with the vote but why not sound off like you got a pair, step up and have an opinion. Is that so hard?
“Billions upon billions of U. S. taxpayers dollars have been spent over the years to combat the drug trade in Latin America and the Caribbean. In spite of our efforts, the positive results have been few and far between”. So Says Eliot Engle, representative from New York, and author of a bipartisan bill that will create an independent commission to evaluate U.S. policies and programs aimed at reducing the supply of narcotics in the Western Hemisphere. Engle goes on to say, “Cleary the time has come to take a fresh look at our counternarcotics efforts”. No shit congressman. How is it that the government does not know what any dope fiend can tell you? The drug trade is really very simple economics, it’s about as complex as a lemonade stand. To date the policies have tried to repeal the law of supply and demand because we don’t like the culture that surrounds people who like to get high. That’s my best guess anyway. Why we cherish people who swill booze and treat people who shoot dope like the unwashed, I will never understand. The law of supply and demand is just one of those things, that seems to just be the way it is. In other words, millions of people want to get high so somebody will meet that need/want or want that becomes need.
Engle, who is also a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on health, goes on top say “ To tackle our nation’s horrific drug problem, we can not simply look to solutions on the supply side”. That’s a good thought and I am glad there is someone in Washington having it. The bill passed unanimously so it seems that Engle isn’t the only one having the thought.
Let’s not pull any punches. I think I should be on the commission. Actually, it’s not important that I am on the commission but it is important that the voice of recovery be heard. As a nation we have tried “just say no”, military tactics, incarcerating an entire generation, shooting people, shaming people, demonizing them, we have tried a lot, since Nixon made his declaration of war on drugs. What we have not tried is taxing, regulating, treating, and providing continuing care. Why not? We have not tried to support people in recovery build the infrastructure to sustain their recovery. No, not really. This should be national news, but it’s buried on the internet being read maybe by a few reformers. Well done Eliot, come on over to the loft, lets talk some policy reform, just don’t bring us wine when you come over for dinner because unlike most systems in America, we live intoxicant free. Is anyone in government the least bit curious as to how we do that?
Google “Death toll in the drug war”. Not much comes up, mostly the content is about the number of people killed in Mexico. What about here in The US?
It was Nixon who declared war on drugs, which means the war on drugs has been going on for a very long time now. Sure there are statistics or records of some kind kept as to the numbers of people who die in the drug war. What is the body count? Does anyone know, and if not, how come? Why is there no discourse in political arenas about this? It’s staggering, really. I can’t come up with a good answer. How did the “just say no” culture win over science, logic, personal freedoms? Have we just accepted this as the way it is? Will we ever have a cultural first step?
An article in Esquire by John H. Richardson tries to come up with some numbers about the death toll in the drug war. The numbers, rough unresearched, and speculative are amazing. With overdoses the estimate is 15,223 dead, annually. The number in Iraq is 4,684 over the last seven years. The estimate for what the drug war costs is $52 billion, yes, billion. That seems like a lot of money to spend trying to control a personal choice. More offending then the cost of life and financial resources is that the war is completely ineffective. In other words, we pay a huge tab to kill people, shatter families, incarcerate our own people, all because we don’t like that people get high?
I am never quite sure which layer of the drug war bothers me the most. At the moment I think it’s that we just keep accepting this, keep letting government leaders brush it under the rug and not really take on the issue. Will there be a time in history when we look back on the drug war with shame? Will future generations look at it as a form of genocide? They might. ‘There was an era when we used to shoot drug users or try to incarcerate them, we denied them fourth amendment protection because we didn’t like them.” Email your senator, your congressman, and while you’re at it, shoot an email to Gil Kerlikowske and ask: “What is the death toll of the drug war?” Go on, just ask.
I say it not less than 5 times a week, “the AMA has recognized alcoholism as a disease for decades”. It’s an arrow in my quiver used to penetrate denial in some way. Sometimes it’s just a wiseass comment. I like to pull it out when people say ‘I don’t think alcoholism is a disease”. “Really Dr., the AMA disagrees”. IS the AMA a friend to our culture, our cause, to us pinko reformers?
While the AMA is asking for more clinical trials regarding the medicinal value of marijuana, they are careful to distance themselves from the long-haired, twinkee eating, Cheech and Chong loving complacent pot culture. The AMA is clear that they do not endorse any state based medical marijuana programs and does not support the legalization of marijuana. Why not AMA? It doesn’t take an MD to know that many of the substances that freely flow out of doctors offices are way more dangerous and harmful than Marijuana, so why would a doctor not feel comfortable writing a Marijuana prescription? How may lives are claimed by Percocet, Vicodan, Oxycodon and/or Zanax? More than we know, certainly more than people are honest about. How many marijuana overdoses are there annually? ZERO, ZERO!!!!
Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive of five schedulings. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medicinal use (tell that to someone having chemo), and a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug. Another schedule 1 drug is heroin……. Less restrictive substances in the schedule 2 arena include cocaine. What? Our government believes that marijuana needs more restriction than cocaine? Does anyone really believe that drug policy is working? Where is the outcry for the massive reform of drug policy in this country? The lack of discourse is staggering. Where, oh where, does alcohol fall into all of this? It seems again, that it gets a free pass.
Looks like California will be the first to vote on legalization of marijuana. Ok, Cali, let’s see it.