Fresh thinking on the war on drugs?

September 3, 2009

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –There are times when silence can be as eloquent as words. Take the case of Washington’s reaction to announcements, in quick succession, from Mexico and Argentina of changes in their drug policies that run counter to America’s own rigidly prohibitionist federal laws. No U.S. expressions of dismay or alarm.Contrast that with three years ago, when Mexico was close to enacting timid reforms almost identical to those that became effective on August 21. In 2006, shouts of shock and horror from the administration of George W. Bush reached such a pitch that the then Mexican president, Vicente Fox, abruptly vetoed a bill his own party had written and he had supported.What has changed? Was it a matter of something happening in August, when most of official Washington is on holiday? Or was it a sign of greater American readiness to rethink a war on drugs that has, in almost four decades, failed to curb production and stifle consumption of illicit drugs? And that despite law enforcement efforts that resulted in an average of around 4,700 arrests for drug offences every single day since the beginning of the millennium. (Just under 40 percent of those arrests are for possession of marijuana).Or was it a matter of more countries realising that, as drug reform advocate Ethan Nadelmann puts it, “looking to the United States as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid-era South Africa for how to deal with race.” Nadelmann heads the Drug Policy Alliance, one of several groups lobbying for reform of U.S. drug policies.Under the Mexican law that took effect in August, it is legal to possess small, precisely specified amounts, for personal use, of  marijuana, heroin, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. In Argentina, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional criminal sanctions for the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use. The ruling opened the door to legislation similar to Mexico’s.Brazil decriminalised drug possession in 2006; Ecuador is likely to follow suit this year. In much of Europe, drug use (as opposed to drug trafficking) is treated as an administrative offence rather than a criminal act. America’s hard-line approach has helped to make the United States the country with the world’s largest prison population.Advocates of more flexible policies say they feel the winds of change beginning to rise in the administration of  Barack Obama, a president who has admitted that in his youth, he smoked marijuana frequently and used “a little blow”(of cocaine) when he could afford it. But hopes for a break from long-standing orthodoxy might be premature, even though a recent Zogby poll showed 52 percent support for treating marijuana as a legal, taxed and regulated drug.AMSTERDAM’S SCHIZOPHRENIC PRAGMATISM “As regards to legalization, it is not in the president’s vocabulary and it is not in mine,” Obama’s drug czar, former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske said in July. “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefits.”Oddly, he made the statement in California, where an estimated 250,000 people can legally buy marijuana with a letter of recommendation from their physician. The drug is used for a variety of illnesses, from chronic pain to insomnia and depression. There is extensive academic literature on the medical benefits of marijuana.Medical opinion, however, conflicts with the congressionally-mandated job description Kerlikowske inherited when he took up the post. It says that the director of the Office of National Drug Policy, the White House group in charge of drug war strategy, must “oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act.”Schedule I of the act, which took force in 1970 during the administration of Richard Nixon, the president who formally declared “war on drugs”, places marijuana alongside powerfully addictive drugs such as heroin. The wrong-headed classification matches that of an international treaty, the 1961 United Nations Single Convention of Narcotics Drugs. The convention is a major obstacle for signatory countries that want to legalize drugs.No country has actually done that. Even the Netherlands, the Mecca of marijuana aficionados, operates on a system best described as schizophrenic pragmatism. Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” are allowed to have 500 grams of marijuana on the premises and sell no more than 5 grams per person to people over 18. The runners who re-supply the shops routinely carry more than the legal quantity and violate the law. So do importers.While the failure of the drug war and the prohibitionist ideology that drives it have been analysed in great detail in scores of sober assessments by academics and government commissions, there have been few studies of the “how to” of legalization. What, for example, would happen to the criminal mafias that are now running a violent illicit business with a turnover estimated at more than $300 billion a year?Some drug traffickers would switch to other criminal activities and it is realistic to expect increases in such areas as cyber crime and extortion, according to Steve Rolles, Head of Research of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a British think tank. “But the big picture will undoubtedly show a significant net fall in overall criminal activity in the longer term,” he said in an interview. “Getting rid of illegal drug markets is about reducing opportunities for crime.”Rolles is author of the optimistically titled “After the war on drugs: Blueprint for Regulation,” a book scheduled for publication in November and meant to kickstart a debate on what he sees as something of a blank slate – the specifics of regulation for currently illegal drugs.On a global scale, nothing much can happen unless there are changes in the world’s largest and most lucrative market for drugs, the United States. If they happen, they won’t happen fast. “I see this as a multi-generational effort, with incremental changes,” said Nadelmann, who has been involved in drug policy since he taught at Princeton University in the late 1980s. “But for the first time, I feel I have the wind in my back and not in my face.”(You can contact the author at


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

And here I thought you were going to say that the FDA had suddenly re-evaluated its position on such things as nutritional supplements, and ceased its efforts to alter the landscape in favor of prescription drugs. I have attempted to help addicts. They are the “first victims” of a drug policy that opens the door to more, easier to obtain mind-altering drugs. Keep in mind that you are not merely discussing marijuana, but also the various opium-type drugs and coca derivatives–AND synthetics, such as methamphetamine. Where marijuana proliferates, so do these other drugs. I am not necessarily opposed to legalizing marijuana, but I think that despite your impressive knowledge, you do not accept the fact that there is a connection between marijuana use and the use of “hard drugs.” I have confirmed this connection anecdotally many times in my conversations with addicts, and it is an important consideration in any change in drug policy.

Posted by Steven Bradley | Report as abusive

I am just so glad I am not a poppy plant in Afganistan, I wouldn’t be able to handle so much attention and people fighting over me.

Posted by Casper Lab | Report as abusive

No country has actually done that. Even the Netherlands, the Mecca of marijuana aficionados, operates on a system best described as schizophrenic pragmatism. Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” are allowed to have 500 grams of marijuana on the premises and sell no more than 5 grams per person to people over 18. The runners who re-supply the shops routinely carry more than the legal quantity and violate the law. So do importers.

Posted by saqibg | Report as abusive

legalizing all drugs that have the same detrimental affect as alcohol would be a good start. the police would rather arrest someone smoking some marijuana then deal with some rowdy drunk. Most drug use is for escapism from misery or boredom release. The war on drug marches on with every more losses of freedoms, They cant even keep drugs out of prisons….yeesh. Becoming slaves to laws that deprive us of privacy and freedoms under the guise of moral or good intentions doesn’t make for a better world. I prefer the the little dangers in life….no seat belts, riding without bike helmets, free speech…from terrorist to drug cartels, they dont care about laws, and will circumvent them, meanwhile we have to abide and dance to the tune of government till even the dance is made illegal.

Posted by juha | Report as abusive

Obama need to fire his “drug czar” His prejudice and his thinking is tainted by his years in Seattle. Legalization and the reduction in street crimes, would equal less officers needed, layoffs etc and that would not be a good thing for the industry of law enforcement and prisons. Busting some poor pot puffer is a lot easier than taking on some of the thugs that really need attention. Am I being tough on law enforcement? YUP I am. Gils gotta go!!!

Posted by rl | Report as abusive

[…] of the wind that determines which way we will go.” – Jim Rohn Click Here for More Broken News Obama’s tacit consent to Latin America’s decriminalizing drugs. Obama: You can keep your health insurance. Actual Bill: That’s up to the ‘Health Choices […]

Posted by Obama’s tacit consent to Latin America’s decriminalizing drugs. | Daily Danet | Report as abusive

I live in California, and I thank the Lord God for his merciful gift of medical marijuana, and it’s availability. He gives all things for us (but to use responsibly).

Posted by Mickey | Report as abusive

Its not about the drugs and their differences. Its not about the addicts. The persistence of drug policy in the US is entirely due to the infrastructure that has been built around the law enforcement of those policies. Since Prohibition was repealed and marijuana was demonized in the obvious effort to discriminate against Latinos (the predominant group of users of marijuana in the 30s) a massive industry grew around the “control” of “illicit” drugs. At this point, there are so many thousands of people who directly earn their living off of the continued, however ridiculous, drug policies that any change must be incremental, like this Nadelmann says.Hoping for sudden change on this subject is quite pointless until we address what will be done with the industry of drug law enforcement.

Posted by Koby | Report as abusive

“Drug” reform is long past due. Legalize MJ, tax it, regulate it, smoke it and use it to our advantage. Once it becomes legal it will completeley whipe out all of the negative effects we are seeing today, in terms of organized crime and the individuals that are making tons of money by growing and distributing. Once it becomes legal they are out of business.. That would be a job well done and a strategy that makes sense.In addition it would be a great way to create jobs, boost the economy, educate our children and decrease crime. The taxes could generate over a billion dollars a year.

Posted by Aloo Matar | Report as abusive

@Steven Bradley: Correlation is not causation. That heroin users have also used marijuana some point in their lives does not mean that marijuana has caused them to move to stronger drugs. This is a very important point. It’s only correlation.

Posted by Pedro | Report as abusive

The marijuana laws in the United States are racist and uninformed. They are happily being kept propped in place by drug lords, politicians, and many corporations(like medical/pharma scared about medical marijuana toppling there patented prescription poisons).Here is how we know the law is pure idiocy, if every single person who uses marijuana medically and casually was to stand up, go to their local police office and demand to be arrested, it would be almost impossible arrest everyone, our prisons would become even more overflowing then they already are.What this seems to lead to is a great disparity in how some police officers treat it, bets are if your white, clean cut, and unassuming you have a much better chance to skate by with just a warning compared to someone with brown skin who in many cases faces much harsher penalties when so much personal latitude is allowed in applying the laws of the drug war.If the law can not actually be enforced unilaterally and realistically, then it needs serious revision or removal. Any good leader knows you don’t give an order that you know won’t be obeyed.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Pass the bong!

Posted by Dain Bread | Report as abusive

Sure. Legalize it all, like in Canada’s Police no-godistrict.Then the socialized degeneration will be almost complete.No longer slaves to drugs and drug Lords. You will have a new drug Lord. Obama. Seems fitting.

Posted by Napoleon | Report as abusive

6,000 people were murdered by the cartels last year, at least 7,000 more will be killed by them this year – many of these victims are children, police officers and politicians. We MUST do what we can to end these murders,The ONLY way to end these deaths is by eliminating the cash flows that fund the cartels, and as two-thirds of the cartels’ incomes come from selling marijuana in the U.S. our only option to end this needless carnage is by undercutting cartel prices, stripping them of their customers and eliminating the $8 – 10 billion a year that they receive from marijuana.We MUST demand the right to commercially produce and sell marijuana to adults. We MUST undercut cartel prices, and we MUST end these brutal murders of so many innocent people!

Posted by EndtheProhibition | Report as abusive

Cigarettes and alcohol are legal. Both are seriously detrimental to your health. Yet, I cannot puff on my marijuana, which has been proven to inhibit cancer,because some guy says its bad for me? Or is it to protect the American cotton fiber. Hemp fibers are softer and more durable, its a shame the best hemp didn’t start off in America or perhaps we would have a much different policy on drugs.

Posted by Cameron | Report as abusive

The Single Convention must be repealed! How can we allow ourselves to be controlled by an obsolete piece of paper when support for its prohibition is dying in every country that signed it?If we are free men then we must be free to decide what laws we want to control us. We must NOT allow our freedom to be constrained by the mistakes of those who preceded us.

Posted by EndtheProhibition | Report as abusive

Hey Cameron: you forgot the mafia? You think those “vatos” that are blowing people away, the 17 recently in Mexico, are just going to go and call their CPA’s and write off their losses?They’re going to come to your cute “StarPuff”s shop and shove the sign up your nether regions if they don’t get their cut.Sure MUST is a good word. Lot’s of MUST in this world. It’s the appetite that runs the machine.Talk about that, as obama said “a little blow”.That little blow, is what is blowing away people.Why not put a MUST on that.

Posted by Napoleon | Report as abusive

The amount of crimes committed directly because someone is using the drugs pales in comparision with the massive crimes and corruption and broken families caused directly by the policies. There will always be addicts. Make no mistake that that is what our government is trying help. These policies are big self fulling cycles that make lots of jobs at the expense of the people. I can think of many better ways to use those resources. The crimes that are committed while under the influence will still be punishable, just not ones choice of drug.Just take the bull by the horns legalize it, regulate it, tax it same as alcohol. People are going to use them either way. It is sick that our “free” country has so many people locked up for drugs.

Posted by Mrs. M | Report as abusive

The writer of this article is obviously high on dope.What’s next, legalized abduction and sex trafficking? Then that won’t be a crime either – we could let those criminals out of jail too.This article is sickening.

Posted by thinker | Report as abusive

@Steven Bradley – have you considered that, by making marijuana illegal, those who wish to use it will have to go to the black market to find it, and when they do, they shall find more than just marijuana. If we decriminalized marijuana, you could then find it without running into the other drugs, which would reduce the (already low) number of folks who want to chase bigger highs.By the way, a cursory query of google for “gateway theory” debunks the myth quite thoroughly. Certainly, some small number of people will move on, but those people would have likely moved on from cigarettes, or alcohol, or sky-diving, etc.

Posted by DCX2 | Report as abusive

legalize health care first. and then weed, stop making criminals out of top-notch individuals.If you ask me this whole country has been screwed up by people such as Richard Nixon, and his whole generation. It is time to fix it.

Posted by Kyle | Report as abusive

There is no perfect solution to the drug issue. But the current system is not working. Look at the forest fires in Southern California, caused by a cooking fire an Mexican weed-growing camp ..Prohibition of alcohol was a failure, and so is prohibition of marijuana.

Posted by SackofCrap | Report as abusive

in addition to throwing Gil out, toss this out, too:Medical opinion, however, conflicts with the congressionally-mandated job description Kerlikowske inherited when he took up the post. It says that the director of the Office of National Drug Policy, the White House group in charge of drug war strategy, must “oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act.”

Posted by terry | Report as abusive

People obviously aren’t reading the article clearly; the author is saying legalize marijuana, NOT cocaine, heroin and all the other horrible drugs out there. That will have the knock-on effect of lowering: Prison population; crime syndication; police ineffeciency (which is to say, if cops aren’t looking for tiny joints on otherwise law-abiding people, they can be at other places for other reasons).Also I think it’s worth noting that medical scientists have been offering evidence for years that marijuana can have some beneficial effects in certain circumstances. I can’t think of a single doctor who would prescribe alcohol or tobacco for any reason whatsoever.

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive

I have heard it said that if mj is legal, there will be an increase of usage. Duuuuuuh??? Of course there will – beeeecauuuuse – people like me who are to chicken to get smoke on the street corner will be buying a boat load at the local liquor store!! Toke on friends

Posted by Elly | Report as abusive

@thinkerThink harder, and don’t be ignorant. A responsible individual who decides to spark a bowl in the privacy of his/her home has no direct impact on the lives of others, much different from your non-relatable examples of abduction and sex trafficing. Our lives are OURS to live, and so long as our decisions do not negatively affect those of your life, then it is really none of your business. Smoking marijuana is NOT a criminal activity.

Posted by Realist | Report as abusive

I have never found a reasonable answer to the question of why pot is illegal in the first place. Can’t be health, otherwise alcohol and tobacco would surely be banned. In 2000 or so years of documentation there are no cases of deaths from marijuana.So, who are we supposed to be protecting? Me? No thanks, I can make my own decisions.

Posted by Me | Report as abusive

@ thinker, you are an idiot. The demand for drugs is directly realted to…guess what?…drug violence. Be it weed, heroin, hashish, etc. A lot of finance for terrorist organizations come from narcotics. You are fool to believe that hop head sitting in his mother’s basement “sparking a bowl” doesn’t contibute to the killing of law enforcement, military, and civilians. Is there no tv in your mother’s basement? And God forbid you read a magazine, newpaper, or book. Get educated about YOUR life, the decisions YOU make, and how it affects the world.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Interesting point of view Napoleon, limiting government power and deregulating means socialism in your mind. Well I guess Socialism, much like Liberalism and Conservatism, no longer have definitions they’re just words to use as taglines based on nothing.As others have already said, who’s the #1 group in favor of the continuing criminalization of drugs? Murderous drug cartels filled with terrorists, if you support those groups, continue supporting the war on drugs.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Our current drug laws are defunct and costly. We spend billions each year, thousands of lives are lost, and deprive other thousands from a real medical treatment, and the irony is that it does little to curb the use of pot.I smoked weed in high school when I was 16, and didn’t start drinking until I was 19. It was actually way easier for me to get a hold of pot than it was alcohol.Then you have to think of the effects of either one. When drunk many of my friends would get very violent, and things could get ugly. When we were stoned, we were excessively happy, hungry, and would shortly fall asleep after eating.No, drug laws are used to control people, much like how drug laws governing the crimes of possessing crack and cocaine differ by an extreme level even though they are the same thing. Wake up people.

Posted by willdabeast | Report as abusive

Those that want it smoke it already. There are some of us waiting for it to be legalized but we’re not holding our breaths either.The fact that tobacco and booze is acceptable and pot is not is laughable, but not really funny. The laws against it are stupid and it should be taxed and regulated to keep it from minors.The rest of the world looks at us like we’re a bunch of dummies. Rightfully so on this subject.

Posted by RealNeil | Report as abusive

If there has ever been an example of “Failure” by government, it’s the war on drugs. Billions of dollars, thousands of lives, stupidity piled upon stupidity for three generations and for what? Not a damn thing has changed.Remember it the same people who want to be responsible for our health care.

Posted by Old Cynic | Report as abusive

@Bob-You wrote “@thinker” but your message seems inteneded for myself, so I will reply assuming such.The demand itself doesn’t lead to drug violence. As others have stated, if pot were legal and available in smoke shops etc, this would completely eliminate a user’s dependency on their dealer, which is where the drug violence starts. There is zero “alcohol violence”, because anybody of age can drive to their closest gas station and pick up a 6 pack when desired. There is no need for violence when a substance is available under regulation and control. Which is ironic, because an intoxicated drunk creates far more violence under their unfluence than does a pot-smoker under his, but that’s a separate issue.Also- nobody said anything about Mom’s basement. We all know what happens when you assume things, so don’t. Nor does reading have anything to do with pot usage. A large setback for marijuana advocates is the false public stigma associated with pot smoking, one I’m lead to believe you endorse. Smoking pot does not doom you to sit on your couch and stare at a wall. Pot, like nearly anything in this world, is safe and beneficial when used responsibly, by responsible people. It is the abuse of the drug that creates problems, no different than alcohol, tobacco, sex, money, power, etc. Certain people will always abuse thier privlidges, guarenteed, and this will not change. After all, people sniff markers and drink excess amounts of cough syrup. That doesn’t make cough syrup or markers bad for society, it simply means that some people are just plain stupid. Once again, I repeat- With smart and fair regulation, marijuana usage by responsible people is no more a crime than drinking coffee.

Posted by Realist | Report as abusive

I agree, that in order to further the war on drugs, we need to make sacrifices.Legalize pot, then put an excise tax on it. Use the funds collected from the legalization of one drug to further the fight of the other drugs.Think it wont help? For a minor pot conviction a police officer spends about three hours, between the actual arrest, the booking (paperwork), arraignment, preliminary and other hearings he has to be a witness to.i am not saying everyone should be high, but we should redirect the funds from the drug traffikers to drug enforcement.what is the worst that happens? this plan blows up in our face? if it does, just go down to the smoke shop, take a couple of tokes and it wont matter… lol

Posted by phil | Report as abusive

There are more Killings in Chicago alone than both wars we are fighting. Our society started going down hill the day do gooders thought by making alcohol illegal would help. No it made this 100 times worse & the drug war has made things 100,000 times worse. Millions of people have been killed just to keep people from getting high. Let’s kill a million more people just to stop one kid from trying weed!

Posted by JEFF | Report as abusive

The illegality of marijuana serves a benevolent purpose – keeping law enforcement persons gainfully employed.The legalization of this substance (good or bad) would result in a full-scale economic depression, large groups of people in the ‘War on Drugs’ would be out of work.Which is one of the reasons, I believe, this arcane law is still on the books. (The more laws. The better).Keep the lid on marijuana.Drew

Posted by Drew Kreutzweiser | Report as abusive

We were right then and we are right now. Legalize It!

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

The reason marijuana is illegal is because of the lobbyists. The state sponsored legal drug, alcohol and tobacco industries stand to lose a lot of money. That’s who owns the politicians, the lobbyists, not “we the people.” Let’s make cigarettes and alcohol illegal. How many thosands of people die from those products? We should make all legal drugs illegal, they kill more people than illegal drugs. Of course drug company lobbyists wouldn’t stand for that. The police don’t like it either, their budgets will be cut, police will lose their jobs and how will they get all of our names into a database. We lose all of our civil rights too. Don’t like your neighbor, call the police and tell them they have a grow house and bingo the police are kicking in your door. Goverment get out of our lives!!!

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Drug prohibition is too much of a tool for the government to pry into other aspects of your life. That is precisely why marijuana has remained illegal. They couldn’t get Al Capone on murder; so they got him on tax evasion – same principal.I as a 44 year old man don’t need the govt. to tell me right from wrong. There is no harm in burning one in the privacy of your living room on a Saturday night. God forbid I then order a pizza and listen to some Pink Floyd.Also, do you think the owners / shareholders of privately run prisons (for the govt.) want to see drugs decriminalized ? They want that as much as they want to reduce recidivism or to rehabilitate prisoners. No, they want a full Big House.

Posted by Gentile_Joe | Report as abusive

Mr. Ham..your right. Power is colorless. It just is. Labels are the colors introduced for identification purposes only by the particulars involved.That is why I will always vote for Pedro.

Posted by Napoleon | Report as abusive

Kudos, dude, kudos. Great article, I concur completely.

Posted by Debbie | Report as abusive

I am a Bible Christian. We are not recognized by any Church or Government….Thank God! The bible says “GOD gave man every herb bearing seed…” and I will NOT let the humans TAX what GOD gave me. So that they can use the money to promote whatever evil project they want. It cost about $50 an ounce if you buy from street dealers, I grow my own for about .17 cents an ounce (I DO NOT SELL IT). If the FEDs tax it, it will cost $100 to $200 an ounce. The government has run this country into the ground with their money schemes. Just say NO! (To taxation).Michael Scott

Posted by Michael Scott | Report as abusive

Currently, there are more people in US jails than there are in Chinese jails. How much bigger is the population of China? Three times the size? And less ‘criminals’?Smoking pot doesn’t hurt anyone. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a crime. Simple as that.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

So Napoleon is it safe for me to assume that you’d like to take back the comment you made about moving closer towards socialism by the lessening of government in the drug war and the lessening of regulation on people?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

@Pedro: Exactly, well put.Napolean wrote:”They’re going to come to your cute “StarPuff”s shop and shove the sign up your nether regions if they don’t get their cut.”So why isn’t organized crime taking a cut from all of the bars now since alcohol prohibition was lifted? Oops, forgot about that?@thinker: ‘thinkers’ traditionally use logic, your comment lacks any. BTW, we ARE letting criminals out of jail now because we wasted so many resources and prison space with the Drug War.

Posted by Jared | Report as abusive

It’s refreshing to see that this issue is finally being examined. It is a large well organized entity that has both supporters and detractors. It’s time for a thorough examination of all the facts. A “Truth Commission” could be established to prevent the better funded groups (drug importers/dealers, law enforcement organizations) from dominating the conversation. There is too much power and money to leave it all to chance. The vacuum that would follow any major change would need containment. Legalization/Decriminalization has consequences but people are finally coming to the conclusion that those consequences may not all be bad. In fact they may even be far better than the status quo but we won’t ever know unless we take the first step. THINKING is the first step.

Posted by Rocky Rococco | Report as abusive

great article. there is also a great film titled; the union about the business and politics of this big mess and the film answers many questions, raises more, loved it. saw it on netflix.

Posted by waytogomexico | Report as abusive

Is there any other job for which Congress dictates a policy position that must be held by an individual? As sort of a mirror image of this, Bush’s Federal Election Commission guy, Bradley Smith, was a strong opponent of McCain-Feingold, which he was charged with implementing.Kerlikowske should challenge the law that created his job.

Posted by Makisupa Policeman | Report as abusive

The evidence from Portugal since 2001 is that decriminalisation of drug use and possession has benefits and no harmful side-effects.source:

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

They should just decriminalise marijuana.If all the evidence regarding mental illness is incorrect, then there is no harm with using it.If all the evidence is correct, then these users deserve to develop mental illness. Serves them right for ignoring inconvenient evidence. Plus they get to be role models, by serving as a warning to potential users.Either way, problem sorted.

Posted by JoeyJoe | Report as abusive

[…] The Great Debate » Debate Archive » Fresh thinking on the war on … […]

Posted by The Connection Between Panic and Anxiety and “Self Medicating” | Panic Attacks Blitz | Report as abusive

Michael Scott, $50 an ounce? That’s all you pay? Are you sure it wasn’t a bag of salad or clove cigarettes?

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

They should just give hopeless addicts a prescription for their drugs and let them work at MacDonalds to pay for it all. That way there would be no illegal drug industry working hard to addict the next generation. As to marijuana, it should be legal to grow and to give away, or to buy with a prescription, but no mass marketing industry should be allowed to form around it.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

[…] The Great Debate » Debate Archive » Fresh thinking on the war on … […]

Posted by The Connection Between Panic and Anxiety and “Self Medicating” | Anxiety Tips Blog | Report as abusive

While the US has a military presence in Afganistan, the opportunity to erradicate the opium fields there should not be squandered. This scourge of humanity can now be crippled. Maybe it will begin anew after our mission is completed but so many slaves could be freed long enough to get a second chance in life. Make no mistake, these plants are yet another avenue to corrupt our youth, our commerce and is truly a clear and present danger. Whatever is spent will pale in comparison to the price we pay already. We need to act in our own interests. now.

Posted by Burnerjack | Report as abusive

The government will never win the war on drugs because it is not a war against drugs at all – you cannot wage war against inanimate objects – it is a war against people – the people that use drugs. The government will never win through its bully tactics of intimidation and coercion because people will simply continue to do as they please regardless of what some trumped up “Drug Czar” says. This war on people has only served to criminalize otherwise peaceful citizens, create a trade vacuum that was promptly filled by violent and bloodthirsty mobsters instead of peaceful proprietors, and pointlessly waste military and diplomatic capital on entangling and convoluted Latin American foreign policies. The government must at some point come to terms with its second prohibition failure and finally realize that the enormous human and monetary costs of this ridiculous policy have vastly outweighed any perceived benefit.

Posted by matthew | Report as abusive

As a person with contemporarily defined “dis-order”ADHD who has experienced “it” for a lifetime, the frustration can be literally disableing at times. Although by no means stupid, I seem slow to some oraloof and off-track which has caused me social wreckageas well as occupational detrement. In the past, potuse eased the full-time burden of (catching up) or getting up to speed as some of you out there may know. Pot was instrumental in helping me put others to ease as well as myself and put my mental books in alphabetical order. Adderall is great, but balance is better. Enoughis “enough” when the desired effects are aquired, notlike alcohol which is a death sentence for me. Let’s go.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

No “fresh thinking” is needed – just some old fashion thinking from the time when George Washington farmed hemp. It’s this: Government has no business telling adults what they may eat, drink, smoke, or otherwise ingest. Neither does it have any business telling adults what substances they may buy and sell.Thomas Jefferson would be outraged to know that the Commerce Clause is routinely used to justify control of completely private and personal behavior.

Posted by Jive Dadson | Report as abusive

thinker: tee, hee, hee, hee. Of course we all know that it’s the same kind of wrong to pick up a penny found on the ground (‘cus you know -it’s kinda like stealing), as it is to murder someone; wrong is just wrong. Any thinking person is clearly aware of this.the Shah: not being facetious in your case, but there is actually one use for alcohol that I do know of. When someone ingests methanol (wood alcohol, bad moonshine), ethanol (grain alcohol, vodka) is infused intravenously as an antidote. But yeah, for any primary sort of illness, not so much.

Posted by Veem | Report as abusive

Ok, Mr. Ham, yes I take it back. I must have inhaled.Mr. Jared: Who says they’re not?Mr. Scott. HE also gave us poison ivy, you roll in some lately? Leave God out of this. If there were not a “Law” you would not know what is wrong and what is right.Don’t the police upold HIS Law?Try to steal, perjur, and murder, won’t they lock you up?But of course, you’ve been tokin so much you have breakfast with Gabriel.Say hello to Carlos Castaneda and Elvis.

Posted by Napoleon | Report as abusive

I believe that Obama wants to do something about this, and I hope he does it soon. Because once he does not pass his health care package (which he is not going to do) and when the Afghan war spirals down the toilet (which it is destined to do) he will find himself, as so many Democrats before him, unwilling to spend any political capital doing something this risky..

Posted by Josh Geller | Report as abusive

How many people do you know died from someone drinking alcohol? How many people you know have died from someone smoking pot?

Posted by Dennis S | Report as abusive

@ Michael Scott:What country in this world can you by it on the street @ 50 dollars an OUNCE?In Ireland its 50 euro per 3.5 grams, that 100 per QUARTER of an ounce! :(

Posted by Johnny Be Good | Report as abusive

John Murray – Burnerjack (or who ever you really are)The Connection Between Panic and Anxiety and “Self Medicating” [website]How many pharmaceutical companies buy their base product from Afganistan farmers? And why are you aligned with the pill pushers, which have more side effects than cures? We only pay $50 an ounce to American Farmers during droughts, otherwise WE GROW OUR OWN! Smile for the cameras in England mate. The Bible Christians know who you are! Just say NO! (To taxation).

Posted by Michael Scott | Report as abusive

People opposed to legalization simply dont understand our own history, or economics, or reality. You cannot prohibit the mutual exchange of goods by consentual parties. If one person has an item and another wishes to buy it, a sale will occur. It doesnt matter if that item is food, gas, drugs, prostitution, alcohol, or anything else. We learned that lesson in the 20’s, but people refuse to see history repeating itself. Whens the last time you saw gangsters in the street gunning each other down over whiskey distribution? When the law tries to interfere with commerce, violence ensues. Legalize, regulate, and tax it. Its NOT going to go away, so stop spending money trying to stop it, and start figuring out how to profit from it.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Or for that matter, how many people drank too much and had a car accident. I know of none who smoked marijuana and did any such thing.You might end up eating a whole box of Twinkies however ! This whole illegal American policy on soft drugs is nothing but a farce to illegally line the pockets of corrupt government officials at the expence of innocent citizens trying to take a little break not to mention overcrowding the prisons where the real criminals should be.

Posted by laurence | Report as abusive

It should be a crime against Democracy to arrest and Jail individuals for Laws no Longer supported. I hope down the road we can take all the politicians who knowingly ignored the will of the voters to court.

Posted by todd | Report as abusive

Napoleon I hope the day comes that you realize not everyone who’s pro-freedoms are big potheads. I’ve never smoked weed in my life, never will, I hate the smell of it. I just don’t like the idea of government being so powerful they can regulate what plants grow in your yard or what type of air it is you breath in.Here’s some points that have always amazed me.1.) People who call themselves “fiscal conservatives” are the ones saying the trillions we’ve spent on the War on Drugs isn’t enough.2.) The people who say they want “limited government” are the ones who want government to control what natural plants you buy, what you grow, what you breath in, what your doctor prescribes to you, etc. It’s amazing.3.) The people who say they’re big on “personal liberties” want personal things you do in the liberty of your own home regulated.What’s going on here?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I believe many politicians are making money from pharmecutical companies that want marijuana illegal. Those companies know how good marijuana is, but want to keep their profits high, no pun intended.This is about the greed of American politicians. On the upside though, many more people are speaking out in favor of legalizing marijuana. Those same politicians can’t hang on anymore. It’s like herding cats or putting the genie back in the bottle.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Call in VOTE for Medical Cannabis973-409-3274Call, listen, and press #One million votes and demandletter goes to ObamaDownload Florida petition at: ort – Police Against Prohibition

Posted by scottportraits | Report as abusive

It is simple really – D is for Drugs – D is for Death – D is for don’t do it…..end of….

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

Yes, but Larry, this is not about whether one should or shouldn’t use drugs. D is also for Disastrous unintended consequences – and if one wishes to avoid death as long as possible, one should also avoid alcohol, driving a car, eating fatty foods skiing and any number of other recreational activities that are fun but carry a small element of risk, and which nobody thinks it would be productive to make it a criminal offense to indulge in. The disastrous unintended consequences of prohibition also include death – really quite a lot of death if you look at the murder rates in Mexico, Columbia, Afghanistan… would you really say to the family of someone killed in the crossfire of a fight between drug-trafficking gangs who (exist only because of prohibition) that their death was worth paying?

Posted by David | Report as abusive

[…] in Daily life, Drug laws, Government at 8:42 am by LeisureGuy Interesting commentary in Reuters by Bernd Debusmann. It begins: There are times when silence can be as eloquent as words. […]

Posted by Fresh thinking in the war on drug? « Later On | Report as abusive

Rocky, you suggest that a “Truth Commission” be established and that thinking is a first step. Along this thought process, a website ( has been established to encourage a debate on Drug Prohibition and to create a new drug policy online.

Posted by Jim Hilsenteger | Report as abusive

War on Drugs its a big JOKE. WHY?? You get a person on trail for selling and it goes on for years and they are on bail doing the same thing to pay the lawyer to fine loop-holes.Just like driving D.U.I.They post a bond go in front of the Judge get a fine walk out don’t pay the fine can’t Drive for 6 months and BINGO in front of the Judge again now they post bond pay a lawyer receive a letter stating you are unable to drive until 2011. I know a person that the date has been push up to the year 2019 his son will be driving before the father.SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE TO PROTECT OUR KIDS WALKING TO AND FROM SCHOOL.

Posted by Jacklou59 | Report as abusive

Ya know, I keep hearing about job losses, unemployment and closing businesses doors, but one set of doors you don’t see closing is bars. Even the folks that have lost their jobs stop in for a beer or six. So, imagine if there were an Amsterdam style coffee shop on the way from the unemployment office. Stop in, toke up a doobie and head on to the house. We have just doubled the size of the intoxication business. We’ve just created more jobs. This country’s un and underemployment rate is 16.8. That’s a heap of people. Legalize the weed and create jobs.

Posted by Freddie | Report as abusive

Look at the current legislation in America. Randomly pick any law out of the bunch, and you will see a freedom which has been restricted.To think that Americans have at any point in history had the complete liberty to do as they please is false. America has always had laws which control the community.In order for everyone to have equal protection and freedom under the law, they must all submit themselves to the laws of the nation. It is the rule of law which makes our society.So to think that the government can restrict the possesion or use of a substance is not unusual. Even substances with genuine medical applications can be subject to regulation.Marijuana is restricted by the law because of the strong correlation of mental illness and other health effects. This correlation is well established in the medical community, and is not something which can be overturned by a single study.If medical study (comprehensive study, mind you) overturns this correlation, then there will be no further reason to restrict the possession or use of marijuana. That’s just common sense.People try to put up a smokescreen by saying correlation does not equal causation. True. But all medical, scientific and business theory uses correlation as the chief way of determining relationships between variables. So to say a strong correlation should be ignored is just silly.People also try to redefine this debate by saying it is a matter of liberty, or democracy, or medical rights, or their opinion, on whether or not they choose to believe medical information which contradicts their desire to have a drug habit.But until the link presumption between marijuana and mental illness is overturned by medical study, none of these excuses will cut it.The government has the power and reasons to restrict marijuana, and so it is done.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

A lot of people argue for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.I wonder how many actually would use it for medicinal purposes?I also wonder how many would instead use it for ‘medicinal’ purposes by telling a few little fibs to their local GP. But a few lies here and there isn’t bad when you need to get high, right?The other argument being thrown around is that most legal medical drugs are available to the public, even those with a couple of nasty side effects.Of course, what the supporters of that argument fail to mention is that most of those drugs are subject to regulation and oversight. And most of these regulations, if applied to marijuana, would prevent most potheads from getting their hands on it anyway.But whatever. Those arguments arn’t supposed to stand up to scrutiny anyway. Just for preaching to the converted, who realise that the real reason is a bit hollow.

Posted by Drugbert | Report as abusive

Anon,Most people view being an alcoholic as a disease, why doesn’t government go back to prohibition to save these poor people from their disease?Anon for being such an intelligent person that you are, I’m amazed how on every single issue you have the upmost faith in government.Drugbert,How many people use alcohol or cigarrettes for medicinal purposes? ZeroPeople shouldn’t have to lie to bureaucrats to be able to smoke weed in the freedom of their own home, hurting no one. That’s the problem.Your argument is against people who only want it to be used medicinally, I’m a non-smoker and I want weed available at every grocery store/pharmacy/gas station for people to have the liberty to purchase.This debate will never go anywhere until the pro-big government crowd starts to realize that not everyone who wants to have the freedom to choose whether or not to smoke isn’t a pothead. I’ve never smoked pot in my life, but it should be legal.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

There are 2 very powerful lobbies that want to keep drugs illegal. First people within the banking lobbies realize that most of Latin America and especially Mexico and Columbia could not make their huge loan payments without the laundered proceeds from the cartels. Second, the wine and spirits lobby has pointed out to congress that the per capita consumption of alcohol in the US has been a downward slope for over 30 years. The only thing keeping these companies alive has been the population increase.SNL had the best take on the subject years ago with Eddie Murphy saying “I’m gonna bust a cap in yo ass, just as soon as I finish eating these Doritos”. Everyone knows some mean drunks but no one ever has seen a marijuana induced rampage. No wife beater beat his wife after getting high. Alcohol does more damage to society than pot ever could. The war on drugs hasn’t stopped people from self-medicating with what they choose. It has just made the drugs more expensive.

Posted by Henry in Virginia | Report as abusive

Johnny Be GoodSorry, I haven’t bought Marijuana from gangsters in years. And you are paying way too much, so you should GROW YOUR OWN! Secret: Don’t show off your plants, don’t tell your girlfriend, and don’t sell it! IF Marijuana is so dangerous, why is the company (Trichrome Technolgies) that grows for the government, growing 27% THC content, the highest (pun intended) THC content in the world?

Posted by Michael Scott | Report as abusive

Like I said. Americans have never had the liberty to do as they please. They have always been subjected to laws which regulate society.If people want the freedom to take Marijuana, then there needs to be proper study done over a long period, to look at links between mental addiction and mental illness.That shouldn’t be so hard, should it? If the exhaustive study is done, and no correlation found, there will be no further reason to restrict possesion and use.To all those who say “it doesn’t harm anyone” or “it isn’t addictive”, I say again that study should be done. Then your arguments will have some basis aside from opinion and isolated studies.Yet even though this solution seems easy, supporters seem strangely reluctant to go for it. Possibly because they are afraid that if the study fails, they will completely destroy their chances of success.So instead they go for the unconditional liberty angle. The gist of their argument being that even though the government restricts thousands of substances and activities, for some reason marijuana shouldn’t be.I also find it amusing that a person can spend money on drugs and directly fund crime and suffering. But even as their money leaves their very hand, they refuse to accept blame. They blame the law for the fact they commit a crime. Does that seem empty to you?This issue will never go anywhere until the pro-marijuana croud realise that this issue is about mental health and addiction.Until further study is done, no other excuses will cut it. If they think they can somehow push through decriminalisation without this medical study, they count on a popular support they do not have.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

as far as the 1961 United Nations Single Convention of Narcotics Drugs, all laws should be revised and updated with every new generation (35 years)and law enforcement persons can begin getting trained to fill the new job openings that will become available with the regulation of all recreational drugs or production, distribution and sales

Posted by Rosa Urroz | Report as abusive

Anon: you are right. There are thousands and thousands of laws as stupid as those which are described as the “War On Drugs”. The difference is that we don’t imprison 1.5% of our population for anything other than drugs.Your taste is that people not do drugs. That’s fine. If it’s important to you, pay for it. But don’t expect me to pay for your outrageous conceit that all people everywhere should be forced to live by your values.The life of a human being is an expression of his values, through his actions. To take from him the freedom to choose takes from him a vital piece of who he is. It also takes from him a vital opportunity to learn. If people are always “leanin’ on his dream”, then how is he to determine that his dream is faulty?I’ve got a suggestion for you. Mind your own damn business.

Posted by Rich | Report as abusive

[…] the US to change, you need to wait for a few generations. Fresh thinking on the war on drugs? […]

Posted by Portugal’s Liberal Drug Laws: A Better Way? | Report as abusive

Rich.At no time did I ever say that you, or anyone, needed to conform to my values.All I said was that society imposes laws on the individual which they must obey. America is, and has, always been that way. And not all those laws are ones you or I will agree with.What you choose to do is none of my business, I agree.But I also have a suggestion for you. If you breach a law which society chooses to impose on you, then your conduct becomes society’s business.If people want to decriminalise a drug with a known correlation with mental illness and psychological addiction, the only way they can do it is with medical study which rebuts this correlation.Now what can you possibly find offensive about that? If the study is done, there is no issues.That, or argue in court that the government doesn’t have the power to make laws regarding drugs. Just don’t expect it to work.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

All drugs used to be legal in America. At one time a 10-year-old could buy morphine and cocaine from the corner drugstore. Marijuana grew (and still grows) wild. Nobody thought anything about the elderly smoking marijuana to alleviate the aches and pains of old age. Few people ever got high or addicted; certainly not enough to cause any trouble. Drug addiction became a problem only after the government made certain drugs illegal. Addiction is now viewed as a moral and social problem rather than a health problem. If all drugs were legal, those with addictions would be more apt to come forward with their problem rather than keep it hidden. Like prostitution, as long as such behavior is illegal the black market will thrive. How many drug dealers or addicts have you heard say that they want all drugs legalized? They don’t because a drug addict doesn’t want his addiction revealed to the whole world, and the dealer doesn’t want anyone butting in on his profits. As for me, I don’t believe a government has a right to tell me what I can and cannot put into my body. Any government which can declare marijuana and cocaine illegal can also declare aspirin, cough syrup,and herbs illegal as well. Do you want your government to have that kind of power?

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

I have always thought it was funny that the U.S.A. has the largest drug and alcohol in the world and we are the ones with the most laws and more people in prison for these crimes. When will lawmakers understand tht half the attaction to drugs and alcohol is the fact that its against the law, therefore, when kids want to defy their parents guess where they turn.I was once asked if I would rather work with people who smoked pot or drank alcohol. I choose smoking pot because if someone had a hard day and went home and smoked a joint to relax he was fine the next day at work. Those who drank alcohol to relax were either still drunk or to hung over to work.When I was overseas I seen kids going into stores to buy wine yet Europe don’t have half the problem with alcohol as the U.S.A. does. The same is true with drugs.I beleive that if pot was legal we would have fewer crack and meth heads walking around committing crimes. People choose these drugs because they can get high for a small amount of money. The different is that pot is not addicting like crack and meth is.So lawmakers need to get a clue.It’s time to update the laws.

Posted by Tina | Report as abusive

Anon–A 2005 meta analysis ( sf/resources/TR_18/$file/TR.121.PDF) of available data which evaluated several hypotheses regarding the correlation of cannabis and psychosis found that there is no support for the hypothesis that cannabis can cause cases of psychosis which would not have occurred otherwise. Marijuana studies generally yield one of two conclusions–those who favor marijuana claim it is harmless, and those who do not favor it claim it is harmful. But to suggest that yet another pointless study is needed to determine whether marijuana is safe enough for the public is asinine; life itself is inherently dangerous, as are cigarettes, alcohol, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and coal dust, all of which are legal yet proven unsafe. Your argument is misplaced.

Posted by jb | Report as abusive

JB. That study was an interesting read.Unfortunately, it had a flaw. It operated far too generally.It simply looked at total mental illness recorded, and total marijuana use recorded, and concluded that there is no apparent relation to the two figures.The study failed to account for:- not all marijuana users end up with a mental illness,- not all mental illness is diagnosed.- mental illness can be caused by a variety of causes and other drugs.- there has been improvement in mental illness treatment over the years.So it is no wonder that such a general study failed to find any relation. So it’s conclusion regarding the marijuana and the creation of mental illness is far from concrete.And regarding other theories, such as the aggravation or relapse of existing mental illness, it makes no real conclusion.Perhaps if this study looked at specific individuals, it would have been more convincing. As it stands, it is far too general to be of much use in this debate.At best, it shows how research will NOT be done regarding this issue.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

the drug trade should be legalized and tax ,etc.,the same way they did with alcohol . I f they decrimialized the drug trade then there is no ” atraction’ to be in the drug bussines.

Posted by r. salinas | Report as abusive

Anon,Literally 100’s of studies have been already published in highly-credible, peer-reviewed medical journals investigating the measurable neurobiologic effects of smoking dope.Why so many? Because the pharmaceutical industry has identified that marijuana exerts a positive reduction in anxiety mechanisms.Keep in mind that patented antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications represent a nearly $50 billion annual market. That is on the low side. And the profits are huge. Really, really huge. Even after accounting for inflated research costs, greater than 90% of the gross sales revenue of these medications is pure profit.The rate of publication has accelerated markedly. Much of it is focused upon presumed links between marijuana use and schizophrenia. The evidence of such a link, at least from my view (and that of many others who work in this field), is weak. Remarkably weak.Patented medications produce a much stronger negative effect on manic and schizophrenic symptoms. That is, giving someone a Prozac-type drug, has a much higher potential of resulting in a ‘freak-out’ than smoking marijuana or ingesting it in laboratory-grade oral preparations.My own personal belief is that marijuana is a safer and more effective means of managing depression and anxiety than anything one might get from a prescription pad.Of course, that is just my opinion.

Posted by joel taylor | Report as abusive

sounds like were between the devil and the deap blus sea, were wrong if we tolorate it and wrong if we don’t. yes we could legalize it and hopefully have less people in prison. but with this we will have other conquences, a more permissive society who will ignore morality more and crime will find other and deeper avenues of worthless endeavers to make easy money. what about government health care [and it will come sometime] who is going to pay for all the drug related health care problems which is really bad allready and will get worse.people just giveing into doing what they dam please, getting worse as it goes aloung. i say keep drugs illeagal.

Posted by louis kayser | Report as abusive

OUR DRUG LAWS WERE WRITTEN BY “CRACKERS”!!”Crackers” also “wrote” the “Jim Crow” laws that enslaved Blacks in the U.S. before, during, and long after, the U.S. Civil War. So, is there any wonder why we still have these Medieval drug laws on the books?Governments don’t like to change. They don’t like their laws to change either. Change has always come from the bottom up… when the people DEMAND it. We are going to have to DEMAND that our drug laws be changed to suit the “will of the people”. Nothing else is going to work. Change came when the Civil Rights Movement DEMANDED change. Change came to the Voting Rights Movement when women and Blacks DEMANDED a right to vote. Prohibition ended when we DEMANDED it end.Politicians usually don’t stick their neck out for change because they want to be reelected. They change “positions” when the people DEMAND change, or when they think they will be voted out of office.The bottom line for change in Marijuana drug laws is for the people to DEMAND it from their representatives in all levels of government. Only when we stop listening to their bullshit are we going to see any real change.That happened to the Republican Party in the last two elections, and it will happen to Obama if he recants on his campaign promises.Change doesn’t come easily, and simple talk has never changed anything. We have to DEMAND that Marijuana be legalized. Nothing else will work!!

Posted by AlteredStates | Report as abusive

Anon–That is exactly my point; as decriminalization invites moral, ethical, social, and political bias, few if any studies will ever prove satisfactorily conclusive, as suggested by the given example. Consequently, I am unwilling to oblige yet another study, either public or private, whose results are invariably if not obviously alloyed by supernumerary agenda. That said, I thank you for taking the time to read the study, albeit flawed.

Posted by jb | Report as abusive

I firmly believe the drug war is not winnable! Prohibition does not work. Sure, using drugs can lead to self destruction, an financial ruin, that’s life.The largest group of drug dealer’s in the U.S. today, goes by the name of doctor. Yes prescription drug abuse is a worse problem than the illegal stuff. I think drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem, instead of a criminal one.It’s time to rethink this drug war, let people choose for themselves how to live their lives.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

I used pot to cure my alcohol addiction, control my anxiety & my insomnia.For five years now I have not wanted to stick a fork in someones eye or light them on fire.For the first time ever I am living a happy normal life.It makes no sense for any government to make me a criminal because I smoke pot.Come on I 51 years old it helps me live a normal life.

Posted by Samual | Report as abusive

People have to find their own way to make their own mistakes. If America is “the land of the free” and based on the principles of God, then it should follow his principle of freewill. People who want drugs are going to find a way to get them no matter how much money is thrown into the drug war. Look at prohiition…if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. The problem is the DEA makes so much money busting a dealer with one joint in their house and assumes that everything in that house is/are ill-gotten gains. What i do in my house is my business, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anothers persuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happines, let me pursue mine.

Posted by RC | Report as abusive

Steve Rolles almost seems like he thinks he’s doing drug users a favor. He realizes the war is ridiculous. Fair enough. But to think that some how there needs to be a procedure in place in order to “allow” people to uses drugs seems a bit dumb.Stop arresting people for it. That would be a good start. Allow producers to produce. The government doesn’t HAVE TO have it’s hand in EVERYTHING people do. It would seem reasonable that some kind of regulation should take place. But it needs to be case by case. There are some fields of endeavor for which regulation is suited. No one wants for example, to have a surgeon operating on them under the influence of any drugs.But for other areas of life where neither the safety, or general well being of another are adversely affected, there is no need for regulation.The article seems to speak to the idea that you as a person can’t just be allowed to do as you will so long as you harm no one. You aren’t mature enough for that. “They” (US govt) have to figure out how to “ease” you into it. You must remember to pay uncle Sam his cut in taxes for what he used to put you in jail for using.There need be no “regulation” of the users. There needs to be prosecution of the criminals. That is to say, those that bring violence, or take away the freedoms and choices of others to live in peace.

Posted by Benny Acosta | Report as abusive

Join us in California by donating or volunteering for the California Cannabis Initiative who is working hard at bringing us the Tax, Regulate, and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 to the ballot box. Lets end this needless war that has drained our local, state and federal treasuries and has destroyed more families and lives than any drug itself could have ever done.To join or help the fight go to www.californiacannabisinitiative.orgOsca r ChavezCalifornia Cannabis InitiativeSan Bernardino County Coordinator

Posted by OscarC | Report as abusive

I’d like to ask a question to everyone who’s about to post.First state your age, then answer this: What was easier for you to get in middle school and high school, marijuana or alcohol?For me it’s not even close, I went to rural school and I could’ve smoked weed everyday for free in middle school and high school if i wanted. Alcohol, never in middle school and we were lucky to have a party every 2 or 3 months where it was available.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

America has a growing and crippling problem. It is bogged down in a war which it cannot win. A social undertaking which has drained the coffers of this great nation.The war I refer to, of course, is the war against theft.How many untold billions have been wasted in combating theft? Yet as anyone can see, the amount of theft in America has only grown in the last decade. Every drop of this money has been completely wasted.Americans, from the young to the old, use theft. It is convenient, and allows us to easily satisfy our impulsive desires. It allows us a chance to increase our own personal pleasure, at the cost of other innocent people.Look at the result these laws have had on our society. We know people will steal. But now the theft of jail makes it more likely thieves will use violence to avoid being punished.All the theft-related violence and murder in the last decade is a direct result of the laws against theft. I think we can all agree that it is not the thieves that hurt these people, it is the prohibition of theft.Yet as we speak, thousands of Americans languish in jails, simply for obeying their basic nature. Does that seem fair to you? Go out into the streets and ask any thief if the law is fair. You know how they will answer.The laws against theft in this nation is splitting families. Theft harms nobody. It is essentially a victimless crime. It happens to a person we do not know, or do not care about. And that means it never happened at all.I think that all of us can agree that the laws against theft are wrong. In fact, countless criminals have been worsened by being jailed, because we took the obscene decision to punish them for breaking the law.America is supposed to be the land of the free. Instead, our liberty is being trodden on. We have the liberty to steal, and the freedom from having to consider the consequences our conduct may have on other people.Vote now America! Legalise theft and save this great nation!And no, I don’t mean government stimulus (Though it comes a damn shade close…)

Posted by Anonlogy | Report as abusive

Michael Ham, I agree completely.As Marijuana is much more easily accessable to children then alcohol, it is logical that Marijuana should be subject to stricter restriction then alcohol.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

[…] involved with. It’s already getting very positive pre-launch coverage – there’s this from Reuters, and an article in next week’s New […]

Posted by August – quiet on the blog, busy elsewhere « Disappearing into use | Report as abusive

Haha,This is why I would think everyone who’s worried about the effects of Marijuana should want it to be legalized, put the decision of who to sell to in government and store clerk’s hands rather than Drug Cartel and street thugs hands.Oh and I’m 24 by the way, so i’m sure schools are pretty much the same as when i went.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

[…] 09/09/03/fresh-thinking-on-the-war-on-dr ugs/ […]

Posted by Tuoretta ajattelua huumesodasta? « Kannabisuutiset | Report as abusive

If you were truly concerned about the possible health effects, Michael, you wouldn’t want the drug sold to anyone.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Haha,Well I’m not concerned about the health effects, but if I were I wouldn’t put my concerns over people’s freedoms.Some people are concerned about drivers hitting 65 mph, or concerned about people drinking, doesn’t mean anything should be done to change it.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

@Anonlogy – Your argument is without merit and logic. Smoking Marijuana and stealing are not the same. How about driving a car and stealing? Or cooking dinner and stealing? They too have the same amount of logical connection – None. Unless you had to steal to perform any of those tasks – and still they are not directly related.Your argument although is an attempt to be funny and ironic to make a point is neither. Because you don’t understand irony or logic.

Posted by George | Report as abusive

I fail to see your point.Society has issue with people who drive dangerously. This is why people who speed end up getting fined.Society also has issue with the negative effects of alcohol. People who are drunk and disorderly get arrested.Society also has a problem with the health issues of marijuana. That is why the possession and use is against the law.Were you to argue that people have the liberty to speed, or be drunk and disorderly, or drunk behind the wheel, you would be laughed out of the room.Why should we treat this differently? Why should liberty be given for Marijuana, but not other things? Why not speed? Or cocaine? Why not theft, or murder, or fraud?Do you believe people should have the liberty to do as they please, regardless of the effects on society and other individuals?

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Stealing involves satisfying your own desire, regardless of the cost it may have on other people.Drug use involves satisfying your own desire, without any care as to how it may effect other people.The thief does not care about the effect he has on others. Many times, he does not even know who he steals from.The person who purchases drugs, finances untold suffering. But he does not care, because he never sees the faces of those he effects. And when confronted by this truth, he blames the law for his conduct.My comment was designed neither to be ironic, or funny.It was designed to upset those who use drugs, by drawing a painful analogy with other criminal behavior. To point attention to the similarities which many people might decide they don’t want to dwell on.And for that purpose, I think my comment succeeded.

Posted by Anonlogy | Report as abusive

Anon, while I understand what you’re trying to say, your analogy is still flawed. Theft, regardless of legality, has a victim. If drug use and posession was decriminalized there would be no harm done to anyone besides the users. I would think, given the gist of your analogy, that you would be all for decriminalization and regulation. If the money spent on drugs went to legal farmers and means of production, it wouldn’t be going to terrorism or the cartels any longer.

Posted by drug-free | Report as abusive

Haha,You expanded what I said to better suit your argument.Society has a problem with marijuana because of lies spread about it. I’ve yet to hear any argument as to how marijuana causes more health problems than alcohol and cigarettes.If someone wants cigarettes and alcohol legal, yet has problems with marijuana being illegal they’re a hypocrit.If you’re against all of them being legal I respect that point of you, but disagree completely.Anonlogy,So if someone grew their own marijuana, then smoked it in their own home, you’d be 100% with that right since it’s affecting no one?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Rather then respond and continue a visibly circular debate, I will simply summarise the debate itself:”Marijuana should be allowed.”-Why?”People should have the liberty to use marijuana.”-Laws are used to prevent harm to society.”But Marijuana is harmless.”-Actually, there is a known correlation with the occurrence or worsening of mental illness.”Study has rejected this.”-No, one or two studies have been inconclusive. The general consensus has not been changed.”But marijuana is harmless.”-If there is a correlation with mental illness, then no it isn’t harmless.”The mental health issue is irrelevent, because it doesn’t harm other people.”-If people get or worsen mental illness, this effects both other people and society.”People should have the liberty to use marijuana.”-Not if it harms other people.”Marijuana is harmless.”-Haven’t we already addressed this?[And so forth…]

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Haha,That was cute and all but I’ve still yet to hear anything as to how marijuana in any form is as bad or worse than cigarettes or alcohol.Cigarettes and alcohol make life worse for those with mental illness as well.If this is going nowhere because you want them all to be illegal, then let me know.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Alcohol can only create mental illness in very large and long term abuse. Cigarettes do not cause mental illness at all.Alchohol and cigarettes can possibly worsen mental illness in high doses. But not to the extent that marijuana is suspected of doing.You seem to be trying to argue that as cigarettes and alcohol also cause harm, they are hence equal to marijuana. And that as they are legal, marijuana also should be legal.Your argument fails because:1. It oversimplifies the matter. These substances cause different forms of harm, and in different amounts.2. Society accepts the harm caused by alcohol and cigarettes. This does not mean it needs to accept the harms caused by marijuana.I believe your next line should be “we should have the liberty to use marijuana.”. Or possibly “marijuana is harmless”.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

In my opinion, soft drugs and alcohol are competitive substances and not complementary: someone who partakes in marijuana is usually a non-drinker and conversely an alcoholic is usually anti-drug. All being said marijuana is in direct competition with alcohol and the tax revenue generated for government. The harm of a regulated product like alcohol is that it has produced a whole generation of young kids taking far worse drugs: ecstasy and others. Drugs that can easily be obtained at any street corner. These kids will all be fed to the wolves as GenXs like myself take advantage of these poor souls (too fried in the sack to know any better).

Posted by Drew Kreutzweiser | Report as abusive

Haha,Good friend of mine had an alcohol problem long before he was 21, got in an awful car wreck and is mentally handicapped now. I can promise you it doesn’t take long term use to have awful effects. He was completely addicted, DUI’s and jail didn’t fix the problem and he was barely an addict for a year.Marijuana use hurts a teeny tiny section of America and could help a greater number of people through prescriptions. Alcohol and cigarettes kill 5.5 million people every year.And again, the main point all the big government marijuana criminalizers fail to ever touch upon is how much more marijuana is available to kids than alcohol is. If you like marijuana in middle schools, if you like drug cartels and shootouts in broad daylight, if you like billions going to terrorists every year, keep the stance that you have.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Your logic is that because people can access something illegally, it should be legal. In other words, because someone commits a crime, such conduct should not be a crime.What if someone shoots another person, and takes their money? Will you then argue that it is the law against theft which is responsible for the shooting?The reason people do not address that logic, is because it is flawed logic.Regarding your ‘friend’, my sympathy. But the fact your friend harmed himself through alcohol is not relevent to the decriminalisation of marijuana. Once again, false logic. If it is relevent at all, it is an argument to more strongly restrict alcohol (something beyond this debate).Were it simply about the number killed by alcohol vs marijuana, you might be getting somewhere.But the debate is not about that, and has never been about that. And the attempts by the pro-marijuana supporters to redefine the debate in this manner is quite noticable. Far be it from me to guess at motives.The crux of this debate has always been the harm of marijuana, period. The debate is not on how it compares to other substances, or any other non-health issues, or whether the substance has legitimate purposes (which is unlikely to apply to most users anyway).The medical profession know the harms caused by marijuana. Society has chosen to restrict the substance as a result. It is a law, breaching it is a crime, and by definition those who do are criminals.Until the correlation known by the medical profession is overturned, the pro-crowd are just spinning their wheels in mud. It is not for the anti-crowd to justify their position. Their position was justified by research years ago.People who want to legalise marijuana should not waste their breath saying “marijuana is harmless” over and over, or quoting one of several flawed studies thinking it means something. Instead they should get a professor with a graduate degree in medical science, get some credible medical research going, and go fight it out with the doctors.But the pro crowd do not want to fight this issue over the uncertain grounds of medical research. So they restrict their fight to other, irrelevent issues. As long as they do, they will never see any progress.On the other hand, if they try and fail regarding medical research, they will see no progress anyway. So perhaps one is as good as the other….who can say?

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

You also have commited a logical hypocrisy. You accuse others of over simplifying when you are doing that much more yourself. Can you say what are really the detriments to society of it being made legal? Okay how about this, our economy is sh*t. We hardly export anything and we are in the biggest recession since the Great Depression. I bet you didn’t know if the United States could tax illicit drugs at the same rate it taxes for alcohol and tobacco, the government could save that $44 billion a year in fighting the war and it could generate an additional $33 billion a year and marijuana’s implementation into the industrial world would create thousands of new jobs for the economy. In the UK in 1991, 42,209 people were convicted of marijuana charges, clogging courts and overcrowding prisons, and almost 90 percent of drug offenses involve cannabis. The British government spends 500 million pounds a year on “overall responses to drugs” but receives no taxes from the estimated 1.8 billion pound illegal drug market. This arguement isn’t just about ideology.

Posted by vince | Report as abusive

Not to take sides here, however, I believe a study could not link marijuana with lung cancer. The reason is the healing synergies this mysterious drug has.Also, a U.K. study showed no correlation between marijuana use and driving impairment. This is not to say that marijuana is kid stuff. Alcohol is equally a damaging drug, maybe more so.But the legality of marijuana as well could have problems, I envision a whole society, stoned out of their gourd, looking at all the pretty colours when the next war hits their shore.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

@ Drew: “I envision a whole society, stoned out of their gourd, looking at all the pretty colours when the next war hits their shore.”Obviously your observation isn’t based on personal experience then. Pretty Colors? Get real, and get off the slippery slope.Legalization would have good points and bad points, just like evrything else. The real question at this point is what, if any, are the good points of keeping marijuana illegal?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Smoke another joint and don’t be so sensitive.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

The entire western civilization is on drugs. We are a stoned nation. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, meth, prescription drugs. And why is this? Why the escape? Yes, it’s a stressful world. I’m not going to be drawn into the legality question. Obviously you know nothing about me. You are a fool. Drugs are drugs. They are addictive and mind altering.I’m against the legality of marijuana simply because fools like should be using their whole brain and not a fraction of. You might be best to double up on your smart pills. I can get any drug anywhere and it makes no difference to me whether its legal or not.Like I said: Smoke another joint and then come back to the computer.Try breaking the chain addiction. It will give you strength.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

I don’t know of anybody who smokes marijuana for recreation only. Everyone I know is a chronic user. Why? Because drugs are addictive.Fortunately, I stayed away from drugs as a teenager because they were (gasp) bad. Things might have different if they were legal (and okay). I might have turned out like you.How about this. Name one inventor who was a marijuana user? I can’t think of one. Can you? Name one person who advanced technology or medicine and was soft drug user. Do you think Guttenberg, the inventor of the printing press smoked drugs? How about Fulton, the steamship inventor? Who invented the modern rocket? Timothy Leary doesn’t count. Probably none of them did. Why is that in the West we can’t make anything anymore? Its because we are stoned nation. That’s why.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

Capitalism punishes the stupid. That’s why you have to be sharp. You can’t walk around stoned all day long. This world will roll you. This is only my opinion.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

Pardon me for my rudeness toward Anonymous,”Get real..”Put down your joint, Anonymous and you get real. I’m real. You real?I’m not smart enough to have the answer to the drug legality debate. But all actions have consequences.Should drugs be legal?Pro: The legality of small quantities of drugs would free up law enforcement for more important matters. I would personally welcome less intrusion in my life. Less people will be in prison. More money saved for the common good. Regulating and taxing small amounts of soft drugs could pay off a substantial portion of our debt.Con: Governments will just piss away that money on other things. Governments and deficits are like bread and butter. Like Germany and a quality automobile. Like Britain and a good pub.Pro: Everybody is doing it and therefore its okay.Con: The slippery slope mentioned, there has been a decline or decay of our post-economic society. Once being the great navies, armies and industrial base, we are now embracing an information economy. (Whatever that means). Drugs are a main reason for this decay.Pro: Drugs will increase production: a happy workforce is a productive workforce.Con: Most people will just stay home and shortcut to their escape. No longer working. Government will no longer be able to support the poor on less revenue generated. Thanks in large part to our stoned nation.Pro: Our new drug culture could win the hearts and minds of others.Con: Our care-free drug culture has already enraged certain groups around the world and could add more fuel to the fire.Pro: Marijuana has healing synergies and is needed for the sick.Con: Marijuana will create a whole new society of addicted. Which begs the question? Do drugs create mental illness or do people with mental illness gravitate towards drugs in the first place?Pro: Regulated drugs would theoretically keep drugs away from minors.Con: The government should not be in the drug business. Period. In Ontario, our province is the largest drug dealer. They regulate, control and monopolize the sale of beer, wine and spirits. Its depressing to see the addicts lining up everyday at the state run store. Governments are equally addicted to the revenue generated. Read: taxes. I wouldn’t want have to go to a Pot Store. And government will destroy any good ideas pertaining to the freedom of access of this drug. Governments should not be in the drug business or the gambling business.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

Drew–Actually, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Dr. Francis Crick, Pythagoras, Richard Feynman, and William Shakespeare are all reported to have smoked marijuana, and this is to name only a few. I’m not taking sides, but to suggest that our country is intellectually impotent because everyone is smoking marijuana is patently absurd. Could it be that we in the U.S. don’t make anything anymore because we’ve put money ahead of everything else?

Posted by jb | Report as abusive

Why in the hell are people making a moral problem out of drugs? And what does it matter if one drug is legal and the other illegal? A drug is a drug regardless of whether or not a government sanctions its use! My god, people, act like you got some sense! It is not the government’s role to decide what you can and cannot put into your body; that’s for you and only you to decide. Those of you who drink coffee, tea, or caffeinated cola cannot throw stones at those who smoke marijuana or take other illegal substances because you yourself are consuming a drug for recreation. The effects of your drug (caffeine) may be different from those of other drugs, but the addiction is real. Try starting the morning without your Java and see what happens. All drugs should be legal and on the shelves at all retail pharmacies for anyone to buy. And for all you damn liberals who like to tax everything you don’t like, No! Drugs should not be taxed at all.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

O! Wow man change is a-comin !

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Also,You made everything in the first place because you put money ahead of everybody else. But I did not mean intellectual impotent because there is a difference.My comment came about from watching old black and white footage of the U.S. Once a mighty power, now just a power. Could there be one causation? Of course not. But something has happened since The Sixties and the drug revolution. Is the U.S.A. losing a step?

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

are any of you even aware of the circumstances under which marijuana was illegalized? blatant racism, and a move by media mogul hearst to stamp out the hemp industry. it was not illegalized because society had a problem with it. try reading up on your topic before making arguments about it based on propaganda.maybe you dont hear about any brilliant drug users (besides carl sagan, who admitted marijuana use) because most of them are too smart to mention they are involved in an illegal activity. DUH

Posted by jack | Report as abusive

To Jack,I reiterate “people who invent – who advance technology or medicine”, not writers or astronomers.There are many people. Can you name one who is an outspoken drug user?Drugs might carry the inspiration. But one has to be off drugs to put a brilliant inspiration to production. This is an opinion.I would think not that Edison was a pot user? What about the inventor of the modern rocket: Goddard. The Manhattan Project: Oppenheimer. Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter.Drugs. Lets be specific. Marijuana. Makes you good at one thing. Smoking, obtaining and working to achieve more of the drug.Get your head out of the sand, man.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive

Here are a couple of names, Carl Sagan and Abraham Lincoln. And then there was a U.S. swimmer who seems to have won a few Olympic gold medals, not to mention the current U.S. president. By the way, if there were more people “looking at all the pretty colours,” there wouldn’t be any more wars.

Posted by Mike Stroup | Report as abusive

It’s so funny to see americans spending HUGE amounts of tax payers money into drug war that only profits those who are into illegal drug business. There is no connection between strict drug laws and low usage of illegal substances as you can see by examining data from countries with more loose drug policies.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and last year a study came out that shows what decriminalization has done to the country.

quote from ald_whitepaper.pdf :

“The data show that judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been resounding success. Within this success lies self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.”

What are the differences in other countries that would cause this same course of action to fail if you dont believe in decriminalizing drugs?

Posted by Axal | Report as abusive

[…] thinking on the war on drugs? Fresh thinking on the war on drugs? Bernd Debusmann | – Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own – […]

Posted by Fresh thinking on the war on drugs? – Chronic Pain Revolutions Forums | Report as abusive