Friday, June 08, 2007

Good idea, bad idea

How many of you watched the Animaniacs when you were younger? Remember that segment, Good Idea, Bad Idea? I hope that most of you are raising your hands right now, unless you're the type of person who knows better than to react physically to someone who's not physically talking to you - you're no fun.

Anyway, the ACLU hosted a discussion forum about the War on Drugs in Vermont yesterday. Lawyers and cops sparred over the subject. (Spar is such an excellent word.) One of the sparrers had an interesting proposal, which brings me to:

It's time for another Good Idea, Bad Idea.
GOOD IDEA: Legalizing marijuana. (Cartoon civilians are released from prison while cartoon scientists conduct research, cartoon patients recieve medication, cartoon policies quit being invasive and disrespectful, and cartoon communities become safer with the absence of black market crime. Mr. Skullhead saves cartoon tax dollars.)
BAD IDEA: Instituting the death penalty for heroin and cocaine dealers. (Cartoon executions galore, no cartoon reduction in the cartoon supply or cartoon demand for cartoon cocaine and heroin or the amount of cartoon dealers and users and addicts. Mr. Skullhead, naturally, dies a grisly cartoon death.)

What? Back up a little. Who came up with this Good Idea, Bad Idea?
Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon, a public accountant who was elected in May 2006... recently came out in support of legalizing marijuana and instituting the death penalty for heroin and cocaine dealers.
... Oh. Um. Um. I like the legalizing marijuana because the drug war has been ineffective and its harms far exceed the harms of the drug itself bit. But, um, the uh, second part, well, um, I don't think he really thought that one through.

As a whole, though, it's an interesting spar, and I don't mean a stout pole such as that used for masts.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

You know you're a student drug policy activist when...

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our premier episode of "You know you're a student drug policy activist when!" This series will continue in future posts, so stay tuned.

You know you're a student drug policy actvist when:

  • Nothing you own is safe from drug policy reform paraphernalia. Not your car, your fridge, your backpack, your bookshelf, your wall, not even your teddy bear. If you're the type of person whose underwear is seen the least bit publically, you will have drug policy skivvies.
  • You will cut your hair for the cause, or at least wear a suit.
  • You have procured a file cabinet, file box, book shelf, set of drawers, or other organizational tool for the specific purpose of storing drug policy information.
  • You check your email and your facebook. Then maybe your myspace/blog/newspaper/webcomic/youtube. Then you search for the latest updates on Morse v. Frederick, student drug testing, the Higher Education Act aid elimination penalty, etc.
  • You are willing to travel across several states to attend an SSDP conference.
  • Much like a lively audience member at a midnight cinema showing of some long-anticipated epic movie, you cheer and hoot whenever a great drug policy reformer is quoted in the media.
  • Likewise, when representatives from the DEA, ONDCP, DARE program, and other diabolical characters appear in the media, you snarl, bare your teeth, and bristle your fur. You might even throw popcorn, if you happen to have any.
  • You have become excited about a research paper because you can write about the drug war.
  • Your friend says, "This is my mom/extensive Kevin Smith collection/dick in a box." You respond, "This is your mom/extensive Kevin Smith collection/dick in a box on drugs."
  • You have automatic responses to certain phrases. For example, you respond to "No more" with "Drug war", to "cannabis" with "can o' beer", to "drug education" with "safety first", to "drug problem" with "harm reduction", to "prison" or "military" with "-industrial complex", to "bong hits" with "4 Jesus", and to "Micah Daigle" or "Kris Krane" or "Tom Angell" or "Jacob Roland" with "is a sexy beast/my hero/the bee's knees/the cat's pajamas."
Wow, am I at ten already? Well then. That wraps up today's episode. I will accept suggestions for future episodes, but be warned that I've already got like 40 of these lined up. You know you're a drug policy activist when you come up with a stupid list like this in the shower and then post it in the Dare Generation Diary.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ah, pseudoscience.

According to the FBI, the "meth epidemic" is responsible for a whopping 1.3% increase in violent crime over 2005:
"There was an increase in the usage of methamphetamine. We think there may be a correlation to the increase in violent crime," says FBI Assistant Director Dan Roberts.
I concur wholeheartedly with these findings, and applaud the FBI's use of the scientific method. I strongly encourage scientific thinking, since I find it to be quite useful in my daily life. For example, this morning I noticed that somebody drank the rest of the protein smoothie I bought. I also noticed that I have an unsightly pimple developing over my breastbone. I deduced, since these things occurred more or less simultaneously, that stolen beverages result in pimples.

Now this makes me mad! Nobody likes pimples. So people ought to stop drinking things that I buy without asking. I should spend my next couple of paychecks on a hidden camera to install on the refrigerator door so that I can catch the scurvy thief* in action. In the mean time, I should tell every potential drink-stealer that if they take my protein shake, I will soon be beset with acne as a direct result of their delinquency. And upon catching them, I'll kick 'em in the shins. It's tough to lay down the law, but it beats being pus-encrusted. Yup. Gross.

Coincidentally, meth usage also causes global warming. No really. Global temperatures have been rising, so has meth usage, it's a simple matter of putting two and two together. Duh.

In all seriousness, though, we all know one great way to reduce violent crime. How about: We end drug prohibition, because prohibition causes violent crime by creating a profitable black market that attracts violent criminals. Thanks, high school US History!

*P.S. If you're the person who took my smoothie, it's all good. I don't mind at all. No really, stop apologizing. I just needed an example of a pseudo-scientific conclusion for this blog here, and I happened to think of that. No harm done. I hope it was refreshing. Mi casa es su casa.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bad news on repeat/How to piss off a rape survivor

People like to quote Einstein a lot. Among the favorite Einstein quotes is the one defining insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Three students have died of drug overdose at Southern Methodist University in the last five months.

Here are the problems:

On Dec. 2, Jacob Stiles, a 20-year-old sophomore from Naperville, Ill., was found in his room at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on campus. He overdosed on a mixture of cocaine, alcohol and the synthetic opiate fentanyl.

On May 2, SMU freshman Jordan Crist, 19, also from Illinois, was found unconscious in an SMU dorm room and later died at a local hospital. His death was ruled alcohol poisoning

The Texas Rangers announced Monday that Ms. Bosch died from an accidental overdose of cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone, an addictive pain pill and respiratory depressant... Police believe Ms. Bosch was last with James McDaniel, 46, who was paroled in 2001 after serving 22 years for a Dallas murder. He is identified in police affidavits as a drug dealer who targets SMU students and supplied Ms. Bosch with drugs. Mr. McDaniel has also been charged in a 2005 sexual assault case in Dallas. The victim in that case, which is unrelated to the Bosch inquiry, says Mr. McDaniel drugged and raped her. Police affidavits say Ms. Bosch was spotted at Mr. McDaniel's house apparently high on drugs the day before she was reported missing. The next day, a witness said he saw Ms. Bosch unconscious and barely breathing on Mr. McDaniel's bed.

Here are the solutions currently in place:

"Like colleges and universities across the nation, we are concerned about illegal drug use among some students, habits sometimes developed before they begin college," she [the Dean of Student Life] said. "For this reason, SMU offers numerous programs and services aimed at prevention, education, assistance and enforcement."

"Essential to our efforts, however, is the commitment by students, as young adults, to abide by laws and regulations and to make decisions in their own best interests."

"Those with drug policy violations are subject to fines, suspension and expulsion," said SMU spokeswoman Patricia LaSalle. "Those who are allowed to stay may be subject to drug testing as a condition of continuing as a student at SMU."

Here are the problems with those solutions:

Prevention, or the strong recommendation to abstain from certain drugs, is only part of harm reduction. All three of the students died of an overdose, not from moderate use. Additionally, two of the three students overdosed on multiple drugs. Education needs to address the specific effects of all types of drug use, and students need a resource center where they can safely ask questions about what they may intend to take.

It is true that we as students need to commit to making decisions in our own best interest, but with only poor information available to us, it is no surprise that many make poor decisions. Indoctrination does not count as information. Also, not all drug use in itself counts as poor decision-making. If the best argument administrators can give for not using illegal drugs is that they're illegal, then we'll merely wonder why they're illegal.

Fines, suspension, and expulsion do not prevent drug use. Obviously, they did not deter these three students from using and abusing. These punitive measures make no sense. The only result of fining a drug user is a drug user with an empty wallet. Of course, one of the fastest ways of filling an empty wallet is to sell drugs on the black market. Equally obvious is the fact that blocking access to higher education does not block a former student's access to drugs, leaving the expelled students more vulnerable to drug abuse than they were before. And then there's student drug testing, that good old invasion of privacy that pushes many students to use less detectable, but more harmful substances.

Finally, and most importantly: WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE SEX OFFENDER? Why isn't he behind bars for allegedly drugging and raping a woman? Why was Ms. Bosch drugged and lying on his bed? Didn't anybody find that shady? Would the witness have spoken of this before her death if he/she had not been afraid of getting punished, or getting Ms. Bosch punished, for using illicit drugs? Should we maybe take care of punishing sex offenders instead of harmless drug offenders? Oh, and the victim's family and friends noticed months earlier that she was becoming withdrawn. Could that have been the drugs, or possibly a combination of the drugs and her correspondence with a sex offender who happened to give her the drugs? Why was she getting drugs from a sex offender anyway? Couldn't she have just gone to the corner store, presented her ID, and... Oh, wait, no, no she couldn't have. Why not? and how is punishing students for drug offenses going to keep them safe from real criminals, i.e. murderers and sex offenders? and why couldn't anybody help her? God damnit. Why isn't anyone asking those questions?

Meaghan Bosch was a student like us and a victim, possibly in more than one way, not of drugs, but of the drug war. She died at age 21 after possibly suffering sexual assault. Last time I checked, sexual assault is not a side effect of any drug. Also, although Mr. McDaniel is innocent until proven guilty in this particular case, it's worth reminding the world that rape is always the rapist's fault. The woman, the clothes she's wearing, the drugs she's taken, and any other choices she's made are not to blame for her victimization. She does not "get raped"; the rapist rapes her.

History and her story keep repeating in spite of their best efforts to blame it all on drugs instead of bad policy and bad social conventions that really wouldn't kill anyone to change. Let's get the real perpetrators out of school communities, start treating students and the powerful drugs they're inclined to use with respect, start treating addiction as a public health issue, and stop insulting sexual abuse survivors by making headlines out of "Dead student's dad asks SMU to step up drug abuse prevention" rather than the more relevant "Rapist and murderer suspected in death of student" or "School policies fail to adequately address criminals on campus and drug use among students." Thanks.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Winning the war on drugs

Great news, guys! The town of Bastrop, Louisiana got an ambulance for their police department. According to the article, this ambulance will be a huge asset in fighting the war on drugs. The article doesn't get much into how - something about vehicular maneuvers - but it makes perfect sense to me. Now if only we could equip all police departments with one ambulance each, as well as several drug testing kits and a few rubber chickens, America's drug war will be won in no time.

Sort of like it's being won in the Midwest, as drug enforcement agents battle the meth epidemic. Although that article from the Baltimore Sun focuses largely on addiction, it does mention some policy failures:
In the two years since the state enacted a law limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine, a major ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine, the number of homemade meth lab seizures across the state has plummeted. At the same time, though, investigators say imports of a more powerful meth called "ice," from the Southwest U.S. and Mexico, are soaring.
Fancy that.

The article's case study conveys the view that use of drugs - any use of any drug, not just meth - will result in the user looking like him, a 25-year meth addict. He tells this to his five-year-old. As any member of the DARE generation can testify, even protective lies can be dangerous.