The Washington Post Embarasses Itself

Let me start by saying that generally, I am a actually a big supporter of the Washington Post. One of my favorite data journalists, Christopher Ingraham is a reporter with them, and I generally find the coverage at WaPo to be well researched and informative.

... from the Washington Post editorial board.
… from the Washington Post editorial board.

That’s why this editorial board article is such a let down. Not only are they opposed to legalization, which might be forgiveable, their rationale is utterly junk.

Firstly, they cite a Project SAM article about legalization in Colorado. This article uses data from before legalization in Colorado to show “legalization’s adverse affects” which is obviously bunk. The Washington post is not the first paper to have made the mistake of using Project SAM “data” as though it actually meant what they claim it did. Still, they not only used this “data” in their rationale, they cited it publicly.

They also refused to speak with any proponents of the legalization effort in DC. Had they done so, these proponents, familiar with the tactics of Project SAM, may well have pointed this out to them, and saved the Washington Post a little bit of egg on its face.

Further, they advanced the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug. This is simply not true. Liberalization of marijuana laws reduces abuse of harder drugs, both in the United States and elsewhere. (Here’s a good, in depth report on it if you need more on the gateway drug hypothesis) At this point, citing the gateway drug hypothesis is like saying that the earth is flat. People used to believe it, but they were wrong and everyone knows that now.

It’s nothing short of embarrassing for the Washington Post, and it seems unlike them to listen only to one side of a story. I hope that this is a blip and not the start of a bold new direction their taking.

Roger Christie Released to Half-Way House

Watch this story at KITV.

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Roger Christie has been released to an Oahu half-way house.

The police and federal law enforcement treated Roger Christie as a threat to the community, and kept him locked away in a federal penitentiary for 50 months.  While he was away, things have been changing. Colorado, Christie’s home state where he once ran for mayor of Denver, legalized recreational marijuana. In time, the state of Hawaii and the nation as a whole may recognize that what happened to Roger Christie was unconscionable, but until then, he will have to hope that his sacrifice was not in vain, and that he can help to effect change in Hawaii’s marijuana laws.

Ethan Nadelmann Talks about Decriminalization

Ethan Nadelmann is the Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, a group that works on drug policy issues nationwide. Here is a video of him speaking about the decriminalization of marijuana on Democracy Now.

It seems to me that Hawaii should look towards taking the approach used by Washington D.C. for its next decriminalization bill.

Colorado Struggling to Adjust the Supply of Marijuana

Read the original story at the Denver Post.

costeffectiveColorado has done nearly everything right, and we’ve been seeing a flurry of hopeful signs coming in. One problem however, seems to be that prices of cannabis in Colorado are too high.

Unlike Washington, where high prices are because of exorbitant taxes, in Colorado, the problem seems to have more to do with the limitations on growers. Some in Colorado say that the current system privileges the established growers at the expense of smaller start-ups, and that’s probably true. The long and short of it, though, is that as long as these regulations are a barrier to entry and a limit on scale, the whole-sale price of marijuana will remain high and the black market will thrive. For Colorado to regain the high levels of tax revenue it was seeing in the early days of legalization, it will need to reconsider these policies. Colorado should look for policies that keep wholesale prices as low as possible, and keep the price of marijuana in the legal market at a comparable price with the black market.

 

New York Times Writer is Not Impressed by White House Response to Editorial

I have already posted Christopher Ingraham’s superb article entitled “The Federal Government’s Incredibly Poor, Misleading Case for Prohibition.

That piece broke down, point by point, what was wrong with the the federal response to the New York Times editorial calling for us to repeal prohibition again. Still, if you weren’t convinced by that piece, here is an interview with a writer at the New York Times, (brought to us by Huffington Post) saying many of the same things.

The truth is that its beside the point to say that underage use of marijuana and drugged driving are bad, because that’s a big part of why legalization makes so much sense. Drug dealers don’t card, but dispensaries and adult use stores do. In legal states we can encourage users not to drive under the influence, but elsewhere they’re already breaking the law.

Saying that marijuana is bad is not the same as saying that legalization is bad. You can’t argue with the results in Colorado, and increasingly in Washington. Violent crime is down. Teen use is down. Traffic fatalities are down.

If the federal government wants to keep punishing users of marijuana, they’ll need to come up with something better than that.

Marijuana and Domestic Violence

Let me start by saying this: I’m not saying marijuana use is good for you. I think there are many circumstances, especially for young people, where marijuana use is a bad decision, and can lead to other bad decisions.

That said, maybe its time to recognize that there are good social impacts from wider spread use of marijuana. This study, the abstract of which is available online, suggests marijuana use may prevent domestic violence.

Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent [incidence of domestic violence] perpetration.

Generally speaking, controlling for other factors, more frequent marijuana use in a couple reduces the likelihood of domestic violence. I don’t think that this implies causality. It may be a certain selection bias, in which the types of people who like to consume marijuana are also the types of people less likely to engage in domestic violence.

That being said, there is likely also a causal relationship, as couples consume more marijuana, they also likely consume less alcohol. We’ve already seen that liberalization of marijuana laws reduces the number of automobile accidents, the incidence of dependence on prescription pain medication, etc. How long will it be before we realize that, while marijuana is not safe, it is a lot safer than the alternatives?

How Washington is Taking Notes on Legalization

This story comes to us because of a report by the Brookings institution, it is definitely worth reading here:

wa_marijuana_timelineWe’ve been giving a lot of attention to Colorado. As I’ve said before, Colorado’s experiment with legalization has been impressive, and they’ve been a very good role model.

We’ve been a little more suspicious of how Washington will turn out. Washington’s policies are a bit more conservative than Colorado’s, and their process has been slower and (seemingly) less successful. Still, Brookings makes the case that what Washington offers is a compelling attempt to collect the kind of data that lawmakers in other aread will want. In that way, perhaps their legalization effort is even more important than Colorado’s. We thank them both.

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Registration for Harm Reduction Conference is Now Open!

Harm Reduction 2014: The Tipping Point  November 7, 2014

HFH-Symposium1_zps12de066eRegistration for this excellent conference put together by our friends at CHOW project is now open! This should be an event to check out. We’ll be working with our partners to present a breakout session on marijuana.

Click here to register or learn more.

8:00 – 4:30 Friday, November 7th 2014

Honolulu Community College

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction is a philosophy and set of strategies for working with people engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. The main objective is to reduce the potential dangers and health risks associated with such behaviors, even for those who are not willing or able to completely stop.  Harm reduction uses a non-judgmental, holistic and individualized approach to support incremental change & increase the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

The Tipping Point

The tipping point is the time when many small changes become significant enough to create larger, more important changes. Many in Hawaii and across the country feel we are at the tipping point in our response to drug use, drug users and recovery. A collaboration of service providers, community organizations, and concerned citizens will convene for a one-day interactive conference to discuss ways of developing more holistic and culturally appropriate evidence-based interventions in the context of harm reduction practice.

Conference Topics Include:

  • Housing first, homelessness & drug use
  • Harm reduction and recovery
  • Trauma informed care
  • Youth and drug use
  • Marijuana and medicinal cannabis
  • Drugs and sex work
  • Prescription drugs and overdose
  • Self-care for harm reduction workers
  • Kupuna and drug use
  • Overview of harm reduction

Conference Partners Include:

AIDS Education Project * AIDS Community Care Team * Community Alliance on Prisons * Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i * Gay Straight Alliance Hawai’i * Gregory House Programs * Hale Kipa *Harm Reduction Hawai’i * Hawai’i Appleseed * Hawai’i Department of Health’s Injury Prevention and Control Section * Hawai’i Department of Health’s STD/AIDS Prevention Branch * Hawai’i Island HIV/AIDS Foundation * Hawai’i Pacific University’s School of Social Work * Hawai’i Public Health Association * Hawai’i Youth Coalition * Hawai’i Youth Services Network * Hep Free Hawai’i * Hepatitis Support Network of Hawai’i * Hina Mauka * Kawai Foundation * Life Foundation* Mālama Pono * Maui AIDS Foundation * Mental Health America of Hawai’i * Planned Parenthood of Hawai’i * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene *Waikiki Health Care-A-Van Program

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Why Does Everyone Always think Hawaii is Ready To Legalize?

The people in Hawaii are ready for legalization. That is certainly true. The state could really use the boost in tourism that Colorado and Washington have been getting. That’s also true.

Here’s the problem, and this is why it is frustrating to work on this issue in Hawaii: we don’t have a statewide ballot initiative process.

This article, and apologies if this is second hand content, I tried to find the original source material, says about legalization in Hawaii:

Staying out west — way out west, that is — Hawaii should be one of a handful of states to opt for legalization. Hawaiians are famous for growing some of the most famous marijuana in the world, and it’s a plant that is fairly heavily ingrained in the island culture. Although legalization efforts have been stopped short thus far, it’s hard to believe that prohibition laws will remain intact very much longer, especially considering Hawaii’s fiercely independent ideals regarding self-reliance and governance.

A bill to legalize was brought before legislators earlier this year, although it died shortly thereafter. Once again, it looks like the voters of the state will need to pass a voter-backed initiative in order for legalization to happen. Legislators will most likely need to take a close look at the revenue Colorado and Washington are bringing in to sway them back to the idea, and with the amount of tourists the state sees annually, there’s a lot of potential for heavy tax revenues that could be convincing.

And most of that’s true. The problem is that they proposed the wrong solution. Hawaii has no ballot initiative, so there is no way to simply put the matter to a vote, or as they say, “pass a voter-backed initiative.” In Hawaii, legalization will never be as simple as voting yes to proposition 2. Legalization here will take an immense amount of personal encouragement by constituents to their representatives and senators. So here’s the real story:

Source: Thinkstock
This is what sources like these think it’s like.

Hawaii is ready for legalization, but our legislators are not, and there’s only one way to make them. We have to all learn the name and number of our representative, especially before an election, and tell them that legalization needs to happen now.

This is what will actually change the laws in Hawai’i.

If you are a voter in Hawaii, call, write or email your representatives today. The more individual constituents they hear from, the more they’ll understand that simply doing nothing won’t work. Click here, and enter your street name in the upper right to find their names and numbers.

Prohibitionists Fail to Find the Problems With Legalization in CO.

Check out this story by Jacob Sollum at Reason.

The truth is that Legalization in Colorado has gone almost implausibly well. All of the things that we were warned about have failed to come to fruition. Traffic fatalities are down, adult use marijuana stores haven’t been selling to kids, violent crime is down, teen use is down, and even the governor admitted:

It seems like the people that were smoking before are mainly the people that are smoking now. If that’s the case, what that means is that we’re not going to have more drugged driving, or driving while high. We’re not going to have some of those problems. But we are going to have a system where we’re actually regulating and taxing something, and keeping that money in the state of Colorado…and we’re not supporting a corrupt system of gangsters.

So I think maybe we could be forgiven for being about smug, now that legalization really has done what it says on the tin. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people working as hard as possible to prove the opposite. Enter the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Here’s their website.

First, I’ll point out that according to their website, “The mission of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA is to support the national drug control strategy of reducing drug use.” Here’s a picture from their website:

This image is taken from the main page of RMHIDTA.org
This image is taken from the main page of RMHIDTA.org

So let’s say I’m not kidding when I call them prohibitionists. They released this 166 page document, subtitled “The Impact” about legalization in CO. It purports to find all manner of dirty dealings and negative consequences, but … it doesn’t. Even the handful of cherry picked examples are taken out of context, or intentionally misleading. Again, I’ll point you to Jacob Sollum’s excellent point by point breakdown. Still, when the prohibitionists have to work this hard to twist the facts, its worth taking a moment to appreciate how well this all went. Our thanks go to all of the people in Colorado who have understood that all eyes would be on them, and taken their responsibility seriously.