Saturday, January 07, 2006

Students should be involved in setting drug policy, but...

Via The Agitator, a state legislator in Missouri wants to ban the sale of cold beer in an effort to cut down on drunk driving. He got the idea from an elementary school student.
He said the idea came from a fifth-grade student in Jefferson County who was participating in a program to teach elementary students about state government. He sought their suggestions for new laws and chose the cold beer ban from a list of the top three ideas.


"You never know what's on the mind of young kids - some of them are pretty smart," he said.
Full article here.

The Drug War helps schools, eh?

The Governor of Wisconsin thinks he's doing students a favor by forcing law enforcement to give a portion of asset forfeiture seizures to school libraries across the state.

A law signed this week by Gov. Jim Doyle makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to collect money from drug crimes. A portion of that money is then funneled to the Common School Fund, which gives money to the state's school libraries.

Previously, law enforcement agencies could sell property confiscated from a drug crime. A portion of that money went back to the law enforcement agency, while the rest went to the Common School Fund. But in drug busts in which $5,000 or less in cash was confiscated, neither benefited.

Well, this is just precious, but I've got a better idea. How about if we stop wasting taxpayers' money on waging the harmful and ineffective War on Drugs? Then we'd have a lot more resources to improve our schools, wouldn't we?

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Drug Czar is sooooo hip

The Drug Czar announced the launch of his new podcast this week.
I am pleased that we will be able to provide this service to the increasing number of Americans who use personal audio players to stay up-to-date on the latest issues affecting our Nation. President Bush and I know that most of the work to reduce the harms drugs cause to our society is done at the local level.
Harm reduction, eh? I thought that type of language was off limits for drug warriors...

Anyway, I wonder why they haven't archived Czar Walters's Wednesday appearance on C-SPAN yet. Maybe it's because caller after caller raked him and the policies he supports over the coals.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Students make a difference

As reported below by Joe Bartlett, Rhode Island became the 11th state to effectively protect medical marijuana patients from arrest yesterday. This historic legislative action comes after two years of intense work by many people. Patients, doctors, legislators, lobbyists, nurses, opinion columnists, nonprofit organizers, and many other people all played important roles in making this victory a reality.

But one category of advocates has thus far gone unrecognized: Students.

While the medical marijuana bill certainly would not and could not have passed without the important work of the abovementioned people, the effort never would have gotten off the ground if it weren't for the ideas and ambition of a small but dedicated group of SSDP members from the University of Rhode Island and Brown University.

It was these students who first realized that Rhode Island was primed for legislative change. They made a clear and convincing case to national advocates to invest time, energy, and resources into the small state. And it worked.

But the students didn't just realize that Rhode Island was ready for action, they took action themselves. These full-time college students somehow found the time to build an impressive coalition of prominent organizations and medical professionals under the banner of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. They developed important relationships with legislators. And they kept working as hard as they could until the bill passed.

While I am one of the handful of students who got this campaign off the ground, I am only one of the many who eventually dedicated so much time, energy, and emotion to ultimately fostering this historic victory. When I moved to Washington, DC last year to work in the SSDP national office, I was sad that I wouldn't be able to devote as much of myself to the Rhode Island medical marijuana effort as I previously had. But I am absolutely in awe of the URI and Brown students who kept the campaign going stronger than ever before. You should be proud of yourselves. I'm sure as hell proud of you.

And what happened in Rhode Island is only one example of the power SSDPers have to make change. For proof, look no further than the successful marijuana initiatives passed in Columbia, MO or the anti-drug testing bill passed in California, just to name a few examples.

I want all the students reading this from around the country to fully realize that their valiant efforts can make and are truly making a difference. I know in my heart that SSDPers won't stop until we end this unjust and destructive Drug War. Too much is at stake for us to give up now.

Onward to the next battle!

Rhode Island latest state to be swept up in unstoppable tide of common sense

2006 is still only a few days old, and already there's great news from Rhode Island, as that state's legislature voted to overturn a gubernatorial veto on the legalization of medical marijuana. Rhode Island is the first state to pass medical marijuana legislation since last summer's Gonzales v. Raich Supreme Court decision. I know I'm not the first blogger to throw drug czar John Walters's words back in his own face, but it turns out that his declaration of "the end of medical marijuana as a political issue" last June may have been a bit premature.

The elected officials of the people of Rhode Island apparently didn't see the SCOTUS decision as the end of the issue. Certainly the brave workers, activists and patients in California who continue to combat the federal government didn't see it as the end of the issue. While Gonzales v. Raich was certainly a setback for everybody fighting to provide sick patients with their medication, the hard work and dedication of those in the reform movement ensured that we're far from seeing the end of medical marijuana as a political issue.

Peer-reviewed medical and scientific studies have shown time and time again that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for myriad illnesses and symptoms. But you don't even have to take their word for it; just ask the patients and their family members who have found out firsthand just how well medical marijuana works. Many have found it to be the most effective treatment, and for some it's the only effective treatment they've found. Given all of that, I can't help but wonder why John Walters ever insisted on making medical marijuana a political issue in the first place.

Studies have disproven his hysterical prediction that legalizing medical marijuana would cause marijuana use by minors to skyrocket. And they've demonstrated that medical marijuana is not just propaganda from legalization advocates. So, since Mr. Walters is so interested in ending medical marijuana as a political issue, why doesn't he just look at the actual scientific research that's been done on the matter and stop his ONDCP's campaign of politicizing it? Here's a hint for you, Mr. Walters: medical marijuana as a political issue isn't going to go away until our government's stance toward it is in line with science, reason and the will of the people. As long as you and your office of propaganda continue to stand in the way of all three, you'll continue to have a fight on your hands. Your propaganda has not deterred us. Neither has the federal goonery that's been going on in California. So, just in case you haven't figured it out yet, Mr. Walters, this is a fight you will lose. The hard work, dedication and actual (as opposed to your feigned) compassion of the activists, volunteers and patients involved in this movement will see to that. Happy New Year, Mr. Drug Czar!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ongoing MDMA hysteria

I just this absurd article about MDMA on a website called "The Conservative Voice."

You know, I consider myself a "conservative" person - I seek to conserve government influence, human freedom and dignity, and collective resources. At some point, the word "conservative" took on a different meaning, and its use in relation to drug policy varies wildly.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse issued its latest research report this year focusing on ecstasy abuse, citing that past-year use decreased from 3.2 million people over the age of 12 to 2.1 million. The same report said past-month users dropped by more than 200,000.
The article starts out by citing the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which to me is an inherently anti-conservative entity: Why does the government have an "institute" of drug abuse and how can we expect it will be truthful?

If we are to believe this report, it certainly runs counter to the (completely ridiculous) claim that independent research of MDMA will lead to increased use of it, since MAPS (probably my second-favorite DPR org) has been raising funds, conducting research, and getting great coverage of it, including a great Peter Jennings special which explored the subject in-depth in April of '04.

The second paragraph is just classic:
This is good news, but ecstasy (MDMA) abuse has spread to a wide range of other settings and demographic subgroups than just raves in the past few years. Despite growing evidence of its harmful effects, ecstasy still has a deceptive reputation as a “safe” drug among its abusers. The idea of just taking a pill with a design stamped on it makes it more attractive and appear less harmful. Additionally, popping a pill is more socially acceptable than snorting, smoking or injecting a drug.
Shameless but transparent editorializing mixed with sub-student newspaper writing and unsubstantiated hyperbole is a favorite cocktail of prohibitionists, but not usually conservatives. It's only the second paragraph and already they have given conservatism a bad name.

Is "popping a pill" more socially acceptable than smoking? I think not. It totally depends on the drugs in question, the setting, and the company. In general, popping pills of illicit drugs is much less socially acceptable than smoking cannabis or even tobacco.

I want to carry the last three paragraphs in full because together, they really do have comedic value:
There are other short-term effects of the drug such as impaired memory, difficulty processing information and trouble performing skilled activities such as motor vehicle operation. According to NIDA, ecstasy users report feeling anxiety, restlessness, irritability, sadness and depression in the week following moderate exposure to the drug.

Regular MDMA abusers demonstrate elevated levels of anxiety, impulsiveness, aggression, sleep disturbances, lack of appetite, and reduced interest in and pleasure from sex. The cycle of addiction continues by taking more of the same drug to escape the condition brought on by that drug, all the while causing more damage mentally and physically.

One former ecstasy user summed up the drug's effects oh him saying, "I felt so much emotional pain and was so depressed that I wanted to end my life and take all of the world's pain with me." The young man has since become drug-free, but not without help.
Again, lots of extreme information left completely unsubstantiated, unless you consider government propaganda to be substantiation.

The second of these paragraphs in particular demands laughter inclusive of spitting out whatever is in the subject's mouth. According to whom do regular MDMA "abusers" demonstrate these qualities? Are we still borrowing from NIDA? Do we care to quote some kind of study or paper, or is this still a part of the report on use?

And what is the obsession with connecting MDMA and sex? It becomes more of a crutch every time we hear about it. MDMA has never made me feel sexually aroused or even sexual. MDMA, to me, is a plutonic but euphoric experience. For what it's worth, I agree that something is fishy about MDMA in a spiritual sense - I think the euphoria may actually get in the way of discovery, but I have never heard anyone describe reduced interest or pleasure from sex as a result of MDMA.

The implication of the next sentence is that people use MDMA to escape this reduced interest and pleasure, and from there we might imply that MDMA is a sex drug, which of course is how it has been painted by people who fear it over the years.

The very last paragraph might be the most puzzling of all. Typos aside, it sounds like something Joe Biden would say, and he is an unabashed spineless liberal (and a jerk). Since when do conservatives rely on sob-story anecdotes from individuals who are clearly extreme cases?

And what's this? He needed help? Why didn't he pull himself up by his bootstraps? I'm all for drug treatment, but I don't have any interest in making the government a part of it. I think that the nationwide community of experienced drug users, in the absence of government influence, could provide all the drug treatment and guidance we need. The last paragraph seems to suggest that government "help" would be sound policy, although it's hard to tell.

Either way, this article deviates squarely from what I would consider conservative values. Does drug policy represent a divide in conservative thought?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

As another year comes to a close and a new one begins, I wanted to take a brief moment to thank everyone who's ever been involved with SSDP, from its humble beginnings through today.

Because of you -- your hard work and dedication -- SSDP has become a leader on college campuses across the country changing the direction of the War on Drugs. Our mission statement says, "SSDP is committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems."

Everyday, we do just that.

As we begin 2006, on the heels of a partial reform to the HEA drug provision, SSDP looks forward to new campaigns and new beginnings. Changes to campus drug policies, improving drug education for young people everywhere and many other projects will keep today's SSDPers busy, while providing a new platform for the SSDPers of tomorrow to leap off from.

We look forward to regional conferences in New Paltz, NY and Columbia, MO and of course, to our 2006 SSDP National Conference next fall. As always, your National Staff are here to serve and support you and your chapter, in any way that we can.

May 2006 bring us all joy and happiness as we move closer to an end to this terrible tragedy known as the War on Drugs.

Dan Goldman
SSDP Director of Outreach and Alumni