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.

What do Legalization and Marriage Equality Have in Common?

There’s more than just the demographic trend showing that marriage equality and the fight for legal marijuana are following similar paths.

This article from US News makes the case that the fight to legalize marijuana is in some ways reminiscent of the fight for marriage equality, which, it should be said, is still far from won.

Still, what both issues are confronting is a deeply rooted cultural opposition. Its hard to dispute either on policy grounds. The legalization of Marijuana in Colorado has so far been the cause of a huge revenue boom, reduced traffic fatalities, and lowered rates of teen marijuana use.

The facts may not all be in yet, but it is beyond silly to oppose legalization on those grounds.

The real reason that people oppose the legalization of marijuana is that when they hear the word, this is what they picture:

Cheech and Chong in "Up in Smoke"
Cheech and Chong in “Up in Smoke”

That is, unless this is what they picture:

Gary Oldman in True Romance
Gary Oldman in True Romance

It is difficult to win a policy discussion without first overturning the cultural stereotypes and bigotry that uphold the misguided policies in the first place. So yes, Legalization and Marriage Equality have a lot in common.  The article at US News is certainly well worth a read, but if you prefer a video, maybe check out this old one from Stephen Colbert:

 

The New Age of Advertising Marijuana

The always excellent Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post has written a brief but interesting article about two ad campaigns that are running right now.

Left ad, Leafly; Right ad, GrassIsNotGreener.com
Left ad, Leafly; Right ad, GrassIsNotGreener.com

One of the interesting things about these ads is that they are both actively trying to make a point that marijuana is now mainstream.

I think that perhaps Christopher Ingraham has missed the mark slightly, by saying that these two paradigms are in agreement. If anything, I think they are inversions of one another. While leafly would prefer to present a world where the customers are brownstone dwelling businessfolk and the marijuana itself is presumeably purchased at a farmer’s market, the Grass is not greener ad wants us to believe that a faceless corporation is pulling the strings, but still feel a contemptuous disdain for the “hippies” that smoke it.

In my opinion, the latter is not a convincing case. Prohibitionists are not fooling anyone when they claim to be the David instead of the Goliath. Last year, Project SAM flew Kevin Sabet (as slick and corporate a gentleman as you would care ever to meet) to Hawaii for a few speaking engagements. While here he talked several times about how the legalization movement was being run by shadowy interests from the east coast. He is from Florida, and as far as I know, all of the people pushing for legalization in Hawaii live here.

Strategically, it is best for us if they stick with the obvious untruths. The problem is, advertising and marijuana are starting to be a problem. Below, I have put the first ever medical marijuana telivision ad spot.

It isn’t bad, and it isn’t trying to convince anyone in particular to consume marijuana that wasn’t already doing so, but it raises my hackles. Even more problematic is this commercial for Crop King Seeds, which, again, restates the argument for legalization, but does so in a for-profit, and clearly disingenuous way.

As we move forward, especially in states like Hawaii without a ballot initiative, it is critical that we create a system that won’t embarrass us with rampant and exploitative advertising. We don’t want children to consume marijuana recreationally. We don’t want a world where marijuana is marketed the way cigarettes were in the 1950′s.

This is a chance for us to make the right laws now, and in doing so, we quiet the prohibitionists that would like to make us out to be agents of Phillip Morris.
 

The Case for Marijuana Reparations

Read the full article at Slate.com.

140728_POL_FairnessEqualityAct.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeMarijuana prohibition has never been fairly applied. As we all know, the harms of prohibition have long fallen disproportionately upon blacks and Latinos. In Hawaii the demographics are different, but the disparity remains. While marijuana use is fairly consistent across racial groups, punishment for marijuana use is generally reserved for those Americans that are targeted by the police for other reasons.

Image from a silent march to end stop and frisk and racial profiling.
Image from a silent march to end stop and frisk and racial profiling.

It is unsurprising that in Seattle we have found that the homeless account for nearly all of the public smoking arrests.

Stop and Frisk, a policy in New York City was fraught with racial profiling and helped to increase the disproportionate burden of marijuana arrests on non-white Americans.

Jamelle Bouie writes in this article for slate about why legalization may not go far enough. Ameliorating the future harm done by marijuana laws is a step in the right direction, but the communities have been systematically targeted are still suffering the effects of marijuana prosecution. Marijuana arrests are put into a database of drug arrests which will prevent those arrested from finding jobs, scholarships, and housing. These laws have done long-term harm, and so perhaps its time to make up for that.

The New York Times’ Groundbreaking Series of Editorials about Marijuana

nyt_logo2If you have not yet heard about or seen the New York Times series of editorials about marijuana, it is time to do so.

The first of the series of these editorials by the New York Times editorial board is entitled: States’ Rights, and focuses on how the federal head-in-the-sand mentality toward marijuana is serving only to make the national law seem outdated and misguided, while states pursue liberalization of marijuana laws in the shadow of a potential federal crackdown.

The New York Times is the paper of record, and so even if they are saying the same things that we have been yelling for decades, it shows that we aren’t the lunatic fringe anymore. Instead, the prohibitionists are now the ones out of step with America.