a wiser course

The following is the outline for the report generated by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in a publication called The Record in June 1994. Read the full article HERE.

This outline which is also the table of contents in the printed report with 83 pages and 203 footnotes of sources and authorities.

A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition

      1. New York State
      2. Other States
      3. Federal Courts
      4. The Judiciary is Impatient with the Present System
      5. Efforts to Handle Court Congestion
      1. Perception of Ineffectiveness
      2. Perception of a Self-Perpetuating System
      3. Police Corruption
      4. Poor Children are Victims of the “War on Drugs”
      5. Selective Prosecution
      6. Erosion of Constitutional Rights
      7. Forfeiture’s Heavy Hand
      8. Erosion of Privacy Rights
      1. Spread of Disease
        1. Sharing Needles
        2. Trading Sex for Drugs
        3. Neglect of Health
        4. Avoidance of the Health-Care System
      2. Lack of Information and Quality Control
        1. Adulterated Drugs, Designer Drugs, and Drugs of Unknown Potency
        2. Lack of Knowledge About Safer Use
        3. Using Alcohol and Tobacco Instead of “Soft Drugs”
      3. Injuries Due to Violence
      4. Diversion of Resources from Treatment and Prevention
      5. The Sense of Treating Drugs as a Public Health Problem
        1. Treatment Works
        2. Self-Help Groups
        3. Therapeutic Communities
        4. Other Inpatient Drug-Free Treatment Programs
        5. Outpatient Methadone Maintenance Programs
        6. Outpatient Drug-Free Therapy
      6. Empirical Research on Effective Drug Treatment
        1. Studies Examining the Effects of Treatment on Substance Abuse
        2. Studies Examining the Effects of Drug Treatment on the Consequences of Drug Abuse
      7. Education Works
        1. Life Skills Training Program
        2. Students Taught Awareness and Resistance
        3. Project Healthy Choices
        4. Student Assistance Program
        5. Smart Moves
        6. Seattle Social Development Project
        7. Programs for Children of Addicts

In addition, there were some dissenting voices. Read their comments here:

intellectuals support legalization 4

This interview with Milton Friedman is found at the Shaffer Drug Library

Interview with Milton Friedman on the Drug War 

The following is an excerpt from “Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs.” It is from a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national public affairs talk show that appears on public television stations. Randy Paige is an Emmy Award-winning drug reporter from Baltimore, Maryland; Professor Milton Friedman has been a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford since 1977, and is considered the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics. Professor Friedman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976, and is also the recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the U.S. government in 1988.

Paige: Let us deal first with the issue of legalization of drugs. How do you see America changing for the better under that system?

Friedman: I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, ten thousand fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there’s a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts not being subject to becoming criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they’re sure of the quality. You know, the same thing happened under prohibition of alcohol as is happening now.

Under prohibition of alcohol, deaths from alcohol poisoning, from poisoning by things that were mixed in with the bootleg alcohol, went up sharply. Similarly, under drug prohibition, deaths from overdose, from adulterations, from adulterated substances have gone up.

Paige: How would legalization adversely affect America, in your view?

Friedman: The one adverse effect that legalization might have is that there very likely would be more people taking drugs. That’s not by any means clear. But, if you legalized, you destroy the black market, the price of drugs would go down drastically. And as an economist, lower prices tend to generate more demand. However, there are some very strong qualifications to be made to that.

The effect of criminalization, of making drugs criminal, is to drive people from mild drugs to strong drugs.

Continue reading intellectuals support legalization 4

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Walter Cronkite, recognized as one of the most trustworthy men in America during his news career, published a letter (found in the Huffington Post) telling why the war on drugs was wrong.

Telling the Truth About the War on Drugs

Excerpt from the article:

“I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost – and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.

I am speaking of the war on drugs.

And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.

While the politicians stutter and stall – while they chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people and knocked down more doors – the Drug Policy Alliance continues to tell the American people the truth – “the way it is.”

I’m sure that’s why you support DPA’s mission to end the drug war. And why I strongly urge you to support their work by giving a generous donation today.

You see, I’ve learned first hand that the stakes just couldn’t be higher.

When I wanted to understand the truth about the war on drugs, I took the same approach I did to the war in Vietnam: I hit the streets and reported the story myself. I sought out the people whose lives this war has affected.”

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A. C. Grayling

Following is an essay I used in my introduction to philosophy classes. I used it because of the clear logic and aim at the rights of individuals to exercise freedom where that exercise did not impinge on the rights of others. The essay is short and well done.

Why A High Society is a Free Society

Found at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. This essay of his appeared in The Observer on May 19, 2002.
By Dr. A.C. Grayling
Dr Anthony Grayling MA DPhil (Oxon) is Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford.

Drugs Should Be Legalised – Their Prohibition Is An Intolerable Intrusion Into Private Behaviour

One measure of a good society is whether its individual members have the autonomy to do as they choose in respects that principally concern only them. The debate about heroin, cocaine and marijuana touches precisely on this. In my submission, a society in which such substances are legal and available is a good society not because drugs are in themselves good, but because the autonomy of those who wish to use them is respected. For other and broader reasons, many of them practical, such a society will be a better one.

I have never taken drugs other than alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and medicinal drugs. Of these, I have for many years not taken the two former. I think it is inimical to a good life to be dependent for pleasure and personal fulfilment on substances which gloss or distort reality and interfere with rationality; and yet I believe that heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and cognates of these should be legal and available in exactly the same way as nicotine and alcohol.

In logic [there] is no difference between legal and currently illegal drugs. Both are used for pleasure, relief from stress or anxiety, and ‘holidaying’ from normal life, and both are, in different degrees, dangerous to health. Given this, consistent policy must do one of two things: criminalise the use of nicotine and alcohol, in order to bring them in line with currently illegal substances; or legalise currently illegal substances under the same kinds of regime that govern nicotine and alcohol.

On civil liberties grounds the latter policy is preferable because there is no justification in a good society for policing behaviour unless, in the form of rape, murder, theft, riot or fraud, it is intrinsically damaging to the social fabric, and involves harm to unwilling third parties. Good law protects in these respects; bad law tries to coerce people into behaving according to norms chosen by people who claim to know and to do better than those for whom they legislate. But the imposition of such norms is an injustice. By all means let the disapprovers argue and exhort; giving them the power to coerce and punish as well is unacceptable.

Arguments to the effect that drugs should be kept illegal to protect children fall by the same token. On these grounds, nicotine and alcohol should be banned too. In fact there is greater danger to children from the illegality of drugs.

Almost everyone who wishes to try drugs, does so; almost everyone who wishes to make use of drugs does it irrespective of their legal status.

Opponents say legalisation will lead to unrestrained use and abuse. Yet the evidence is that where laws have been relaxed there is little variation in frequency or kind of use.

The classic example is Prohibition in the USA during the 1920s. (The hysteria over alcohol extended to other drugs; heroin was made illegal in the USA in 1924, on the basis of poor research on its health risks and its alleged propensity to cause insanity and criminal behaviour.) Prohibition created a huge criminal industry. The end of Prohibition did not result in a frenzy of drinking, but did leave a much-enhanced crime problem, because the criminals turned to substances which remained illegal, and supplied them instead.

Crime destabilises society. Gangland rivalry, the use of criminal organisations to launder money, to fund terrorism and gun-running, to finance the trafficking of women and to buy political and judicial influence all destabilise the conditions for a good society far beyond such problems as could be created by private individuals’ use of drugs. If drugs were legally and safely available through chemist shops, and if their use
was governed by the same provisions as govern alcohol purchase and consumption, the main platform for organised crime would be removed, and thereby one large obstacle to the welfare of society.

It would also remove much petty crime, through which many users fund their habit. If addiction to drugs were treated as a medical rather than criminal matter, so that addicts could get safe, regular supplies on prescription, the crime rate would drop dramatically, as argued recently by certain police chiefs.

The safety issue is a simple one. Paracetemol is more dangerous than heroin. Taking double the standard dose of paracetemol, a non-prescription analgesic, can be dangerous. Taking double the standard medical dose of heroin (diamorphine) causes sleepiness and no lasting effects.

A good society should be able to accommodate practices which are not destructive of social bonds (in the way that theft, rape, murder and other serious crimes are), but mainly have to do with private behaviour. In fact, a good society should only interfere in private behaviour in extremis.

Until a century ago, now-criminal substances were legal and freely available. Some (opium in the form of laudanum) were widely used. Just as some people are damaged by misuse of alcohol, so a few were adversely affected by misuses of other drugs. Society as a whole was not adversely affected by the use of drugs; but it was benefited by the fact that it did not burden itself with a misjudged, unworkable and paternalistic endeavour to interfere with those who chose to use drugs.

The place of drugs in the good society is not about the drugs as such, but rather the freedom and the value to individuals and their society of openness to experimentation and alternative behaviours and lifestyles. The good society is permissive, seeking to protect third parties from harm but not presuming to order people to take this or that view about what is in their own good.


My notes found at my education site (PDF). These notes contain the skeleton of his argument in (mostly) his own words.

His argument goes beyond just the legalization of marijuana. And to be logical about our laws and behavior, it should. And though the purpose of this blog centers around marijuana, it is clear that the purposes surrounding the entire drug war and all its targets must be accounted for in the same or similar way as that which I propose for marijuana.

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William F. Buckley, Jr.

From Wikipedia (numbers cite references on Wikipedia page)

Buckley was an advocate for the legalization of marijuana and some drug legalization as early as his 1965 candidacy for mayor of New York City.[121][122] He wrote a pointed pro-marijuana legalization piece for National Review in 2004 where he calls for conservatives to change their views on legalization, stating, “We’re not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws. What is required is a genuine republican groundswell. It is happening, but ever so gradually. Two of every five Americans […] believe ‘the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children.'”[123]

Here is an interview on Buckley’s thoughts.

Click if video below does not play.

“the problem with pot”

(I posted this article originally in my personal blog http://olena.com/blog on July 18, 2013.)

I speak in response to an article in the Pentecostal Evangel dated a few days from now. I get them as a courtesy of AGWM Communications where I work. I am entirely sympathetic with the goals and aims of the Assemblies of God World Missions team and their claim to be founded on the Bible as the Word of God. This denomination is one of the most progressive and vigorous groups aimed in this world at the propagation of the good news of Christ non-prejudicially to the whole world. There is complete and sincere concern for the welfare of people and a flourishing future for individuals. I happily subscribe to their missions philosophy, the leadership, and working people engaged in this ministry.

That said, I do not always subscribe to the less than clear thinking of the magazine they put out, though for the most part it is well researched and carefully produced. The Evangel this time, focussing on Convoy of Hope has a distracting little article near the end called “The Problem With Pot.”

Let me start with a good part of the article. Andrew Carpentieri’s story is that he first became acquainted with illegal drugs through marijuana. This is not an unusual story. The good part of his story is that he found salvation in Christ and was released from the bondage of addiction to much stronger drugs into a life of liberty in Christ. I applaud him and God for this transformation. I do not dispute the facts of this story.

Now, to the bad part… Andrew’s story is woven into a fabric of half truths and misinformation that makes it look like marijuana is at fault for his downfall. Information is offered in the article that blames marijuana for Andrew’s inevitable decline into a criminal underworld, captive to addictive substances and contrary to all good sense. The chief argument used is that marijuana is a gateway drug.

In case you haven’t been listening for the last 43 years since Richard Nixon started the war on drugs, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads into the inevitable decline and further drug abuse of anyone who uses it. Dr. Mitch Earleywine1 asks the question whether marijuana use can be a “cause” of further drug abuse. He concludes that on David Hume’s criteria of causality, marijuana cannot be a cause of further drug abuse because studies do not show that. Instead there is no statistically relevant correlation between marijuana use and, as Earleywine demonstrates, cocaine use. If the gateway theory is to be believed, then there should be a strong correlation between marijuana use and cocaine use. But Earleywine shows good statistical evidence that only about 2% of all marijuana users go on to use powdered cocaine on a monthly basis. (I am condensing the statistical arguments here.) Even fewer have used crack cocaine in the last month.

If then it is statistically improbable that marijuana is the cause of addictive monthly cocaine use, then, what is the reason for calling marijuana a gateway drug? It certainly is a gateway, but not in the way the author John W. Kennedy wants you to think, (as the federal government also wants you to think). Marijuana is a gateway into the criminal underworld of illicit drug use, thievery, robbery, fraud, etc. that permeates the gray areas of modern American life. Once a person uses marijuana, they have entered the underworld economy. Outside the distaste this brings to some of us, and the harm to people it actually causes, what does it mean that marijuana is a gateway to this realm?

The story is fairly simple. It has to do with whether someone in authority is a plausible witness to the truth. (The government claims that it is a plausible witness to the truth. It claims that it knows the truth about currently illicit drugs and can decide for you how to behave when it makes laws to punish you for using them.) There is a moral sense in all of us, atheist and theist alike, that knows when it is being lied to. When the government and those who agree with it about marijuana tell the public that marijuana has no medically redeeming virtue, it is lying. We have 5000 years of evidence that people have been using marijuana for medical purposes. There was even a large section on marijuana in the medical compendium before the 1940s in the USA that described the medical value of marijuana.

Here’s the modern kicker. When a teen tries marijuana, they often say that the D.A.R.E. program has mislead them. Marijuana is not as harmful as is claimed.

[Is marijuana not harmful as the Evangel article says people claim? No, marijuana, as a psychoactive drug has potentially dangerous effects that make it necessary to avoid exposing undeveloped humans. Every group seeking legalization of marijuana, including N.O.R.M.L., Drug Policy Alliance, and the Marijuana Policy Project insist that any legalization scheme must follow a similar trajectory as lawful alcohol restrictions, preventing underaged persons from purchasing the drug. No considerate adult would recommend allowing the use of marijuana to minors except in cases of medical expediency. The Evangel article states that marijuana may cause the early onset of schizophrenia to minors who use it. That has been attested in statistically relevant ways. But in these cases, schizophrenia would have presented for those individuals before the age restrictions on legalized marijuana would have allowed them to use the drug, usually by the age of 18. But statistically relevant also is the fact that the increased public use of marijuana shows no increase in the incidence of schizophrenia. Here’s a bit I know you will like, most high school students find it easier to acquire marijuana (black market) than cigarettes or alcohol (both regulated by law). I digress…]

The young person who tries marijuana and finds that it is not as harmful as they have been told, will believe that they have been lied to. They will believe that they have also been lied to about heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, about which they may not have been lied to. You must see the dilemma this places the users of illicit drugs and the authorities in.

Marijuana has been drafted as the gateway drug. It is certainly not the cause of further drug use if we’re to take the statistics seriously, though it has been claimed to be. But the lie of the authorities leaves young people unprepared to encounter stronger and more dangerous drugs and the criminal element they have been introduced to. The legitimacy of the government message has been diluted by a patent lie and further obfuscation. It has disqualified itself from making claims of the sort it does. The fault here lies with the government not with the drug itself.

In the end of the article, Kennedy almost comes clean. He claims that the only authority that suffices to redeem a person is God, and that other authorities are not efficacious. He also moves people toward self-control. I applaud these remarks. They are correct in the best biblical and moral senses. So, I ask why has he bought the terrible story the federal government tells. Why has he woven his story into theirs, when they have done nothing well concerning this drug. He has told truths and half truths, but obscured the real truths that would cause suspicion on the authority of our government. Agreeing with the naughty government, he therefore waffles when it comes to committing to Christ the power of our own resurrection, our healing and security.

Kennedy recommends trusting Christ, but he damages his claim by siding with the fallible and clearly problematic government view about a drug it has lied about for over sixty years. Is Christ and self-control sufficient for living the life of freedom, or do we need the government to control our behavior?

My suggestion is to stick to the message of Christ and avoid the faulty “conservative” bent that seeks to lord it over people. The war on drugs is in reality a war against people who use drugs, people that we as Christians claim to care about. What a terrible hypocrisy. “The greatest among you is the servant of you all.” The federal government, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is in its own service lately, not yours.

Note: If you or anyone you care about is entangled in addictive behaviors, you may find this page or this page helpful. A look at this well documented page of effects of drugs on neonatal development, and attendant complications is useful partly because the scientific papers referenced are also linked. My inclusion of these rehab sites are not endorsements of them, only a place to start for those who are interested. In contrast, some rehab institutions (not necessarily the ones noted here) have been accused of turning addicts into profit. Read this article. (note inserted 5/6/2019, edited 6/5/2019 and 9/4/2019.)

1 Mitch Earleywine, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), pps. 50-60.

10 years

I became interested in the problem of the drug war after being disaffected with life, incapable of studying, reading, or being interested in society for about 10 years. Then I saw Judge James P. Gray on a talk show. Instantly my imagination and not incapable brain caught fire with an idea, the idea that the war on drugs was morally wrong. Then I read Gray’s book, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs, (you can get the older edition on Amazon.com for a penny + shipping).

“Judge Gray’s thorough and scholarly work, based as it is on his personal experience, should help considerably to improve our impossible drug laws. [His] book drives a stake through the heart of the failed War on Drugs and gives us options to hope for in the battles to come” – Walter Cronkite

Then I knew part of the reason why America was failing as a country, why it was not exceptional, or the new kingdom of God, or fair, just, righteous and deserving a pass for international and local peccadillos. At its core it justified the control and eradication of individuals that didn’t fit its stereotypes, the stereotypes of the American dream. It believed that its version of purity was what God wanted and approved. It believed that its status quo was the high moral ground. So racism, sexism, and prejudice of every variety continued to be lauded and written into law, and the subjects of America’s ire were rendered, sent to jail, quietly allowed to be killed, and in the extraordinary circumstance killed them. All the while, America claimed to be exceptional, and shrugged off criticism without a second thought.

It took me about five years to study, analyze, and understand the drug war, its proponents and detractors, the science, the law, the practice. Then I started the Marijuana Memo, this site. In it, I attempted to vent my outrage and give reasons why the drug war was not only a bad idea, but it was immoral, unjust, and prejudicial. It was all these things without reason, justification, or science. All the drug war had going for it was socio-moral disgust whipped up into a frenzy of politicking, funding, and law writing, denigration of the Bill of Rights, militarization of the police force, and an entirely irrational “cure by incarceration.”

See this video on YouTube. This is a start. “The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one.”

After you’ve taken the video break, let me resume with a few recommendations that persist after 10 years of my initial assessments in 2005 and 2006.

  • Restore the Bill of Rights to its rightful place as a preventative of overweening federal power over our private lives.
  • Hold the authorities accountable for their deception, lying, outright abuse of power.
  • We need to let the non-violent prisoners out of jail, those who were wrestled up into the failed drug war, many of them spending more time in jail than their raping, murdering, and otherwise violent cohorts.
  • Allow any adult over 21 who wishes to use marijuana, to do so under a fair regime of laws and taxes that will not foster the continuation of the black or even gray market.
  • Allow doctors in every state to prescribe marijuana in its variety of forms for whatever reason they wish, without any more legal hocus pocus than that which is required for non-opioid pain relievers.
  • Do modern science, and take away from the profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies the exclusive ownership of drugs derived from marijuana. Marijuana is a publicly available plant that grows in a wide variety of climates.
  • Allow anyone to grow marijuana for medical or non-medical use, with the stipulation that none of it be distributed to those below the legal age.
  • Allow all the academic and corporate studies of the drug, whose sole purpose was not to justify the ludicrous federal policy, to be available publicly, and make them the basis of any rubric of drug laws. Many of the studies were publicly funded, and so the public should be able to have access to them as a ground of law.
  • Restore the redacted parts of the US pharmacopeia that dealt with marijuana and use it as the beginning of a better one.
  • Keep in place all the regulations that bring sanctions against people for violence, or reckless endangerment. That is, there are laws against violence of a variety of kinds. Don’t make the arrest about the drugs, even as the arrest for vehicular manslaughter is not (or should not be) about the alcohol.

There are dozens of more recommendations I could make to move the US toward a more just, consistent, a kinder society. Something of our violence has to do with our insecurity. Nietzsche said it (with some complexity, but the point is sharp.)

But most of all the attempt, ever more determined, to fix a price for every offense, and thus to dissociate, up to a certain point, the offender from his offense—these are the traits which characterize with increasing clarity the development of penal law. Whenever a community gains in power and pride, its penal code becomes more lenient, while the moment it is weakened or endangered the harsher methods of the past are revived.1

On these grounds America has become increasingly weak over the past 50 years. It has become a badge of pride or the gorilla beating his chest for the US to come down on drug users. It is politically expedient, and good for political fundraising to participate in the War on Drugs.

The harsher methods, ones that many of us are familiar with, the dramatic rise in incarceration, the persistent violence of the death penalty even in the face of fair and strong criticism of its lack of usefulness and persistent injustice, the contemporary militarization of the police with its attendant “shoot and coverup” mentality, show how true Nietzsche’s criticism was. The tendency, of course, is to cover up Nietzsche’s criticism instead of addressing the inherent insecurity that has ensued from fair mistrust of governmental authority. In the contemporary movie, Suffragettes the protagonist says to the policeman who is interrogating her, “Give us laws that are respectful and we will respect the laws.” Admitting you are wrong amounts to losing your job in the vicious business and political climate, becoming the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, all in the interest of maintaining the high moral appearance of authorities.

This all looks so grubby and medieval. But, “shouldn’t the local lord be able to kill whoever he thinks needs it to secure his power and maintain his hegemony?” Of course he shouldn’t be able to do that any more than a husband has some supposed right to beat or kill his wife if she displeases him.

To leave this on a much lighter note, I quote from Mitch Earleywine’s Understanding Marijuana, “Individuals are no more aggressive [than they were] after smoking marijuana.”2

1Fredrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, ch 2 section X.
2Mitch Earleywine, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002), 272.