Rightwing political activist, televangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson (81) – a guy who is more conservative than the Dutch political parties of VVD, CDA, PVV and SGP combined times two, squared – has yesterday spoken out in favor of marihuana legalization.
That makes mr. Robertson – a Southern Baptist founder of, among others, the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and 1988 Republican Party candidate – more progressive than the current cabinet in the Netherlands and the parties supporting them.
Well, join the club, Pat. You’re in good company, as former liberal conservative statesman Frits Bolkestein (VVD), is also an ardent support of marihuana legalization.
His argument is as clear as it is simple: treat marihuana the way we treat alcohol. Since marihuana is less harmful than alcohol, it couldn’t be more straightforward than that, could it?
Of the many roles Pat Robertson has assumed over his five-decade-long career as an evangelical leader — including presidential candidate and provocative voice of the right wing — his newest guise may perhaps surprise his followers the most: marijuana legalization advocate.
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”
Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.
“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Robertson said he was “not encouraging people to use narcotics in any way, shape or form.” But he said he saw little difference between smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, a longstanding argument from far more liberal — and libertarian-minded — leaders.
“If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?” he said.
Mr. Franklin, who is a Christian, said Mr. Robertson’s position was actually in line with the Gospel. “If you follow the teaching of Christ, you know that Christ is a compassionate man,” he said. “And he would not condone the imprisoning of people for nonviolent offenses.”
We wrote about Portugal’s succesful drug decriminalization experiment before, and a couple of days ago this success was once again confirmed. At the press conference marking the tenth anniversary of the law, Portuguese health experts have shown that drug addiction has hugely declined, that drug-related infections have declined, and that drug-related crimes have declined.
The facts: the number of frequent hard drug users has declined from 100,000 in the early 1990s to 50,000 now. The reduction in numbers of infections and crimes is deemed “spectacular”.
In short, along almost every conceivable line, decriminalizing drugs has been a success. It should be stressed that Portugal’s policy does not consist of decriminalization alone: the core is treating drug use as a health problem instead of a crime. People getting caught with a sufficient amount of banned substances have to appear before special addiction panels rather than a criminal court. Here, it is determined whether a person is a casual user or an addict. Personal possession was decriminalized, allowing police authorities to focus on large-scale drug trafficking.
Conservative politicians need to recognize this objective, measurable success. The facts are clear for all to see: drug criminalization does. not. work. It just doesn’t. Battling drug use through criminal law alone only results in stigmatization, unnecessary financial costs, people’s lives wasted in jail and a neglect of the health problem. Moreover, it fails to distinguish between casual users who are no problem to society at all, and addicts.
Read more about the empirical success of Portugal’s drug policy here and here. Also see Glenn Greenwald’s report on the effects of drug decriminalization in Portugal.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.
The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.
“This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies.”
Portugal’s holistic approach had also led to a “spectacular” reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added.
A law that became active on July 1, 2001 did not legalise drug use, but forced users caught with banned substances to appear in front of special addiction panels rather than in a criminal court.
The panels composed of psychologists, judges and social workers recommended action based on the specifics of each case.
Since then, government panels have recommended a response based largely on whether the individual is an occasional drug user or an addict.
Of the nearly 40,000 people currently being treated, “the vast majority of problematic users are today supported by a system that does not treat them as delinquents but as sick people,” Goulao said.
In a report published last week, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said Portugal had dealt with this issue “in a pragmatic and innovative way.”
Drug use statistics in Portugal are generally “below the European average and much lower than its only European neighbour, Spain,” the report also said.
“The changes that were made in Portugal provide an interesting before-and-after study on the possible effects of decriminalisation,” EMCDDA said.
Many of these innovative treatment procedures would not have emerged if addicts had continued to be arrested and locked up rather than treated by medical experts and psychologists. Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients and fine-tuning a whole new canon of drug treatment knowledge at the same time. None of this is possible when waging a war.
The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.
And finally, one last reference to the recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which has come to the same conclusions.
Purely symbolic and without any chance of succeeding, of course, but still good: a bill to end the federal ban on marihuana and let states decide whether to legalize it has been introduced in Congress today. It’s been done in a bipartisan effort, notably, by the liberal Democrat Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and libertarian Republican Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas).
The proposed legislation would reduce the federal government’s role in marihuana enforcement to fighting cross-border smuggle, and allow people to grow, use and sell marihuana in states where it is legal. It’s the first bill to end federal criminalization of personal use of marihuana introduced in Congress since 1937.
This bipartisan effort comes just three weeks after the report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which rightly called the international War on Drugs a costly disaster, and called for an end to the criminalization and marginalization of drug users, encouraging governments to embark on policies stressing the public health aspect.
What a stretch from the situation in the once-rational Netherlands, where the far right-wing government is advised to declare certain brands of marihuana ‘hard drugs’ (comparable to heroin and cocaine), close dozens of coffee shops, and is planning to implement a nationwide system for the registration of marihuana purveyors…
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) will introduce legislation on Thursday to end the federal ban on marijuana and let the states decide whether to legalize it.
“The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for pot legalization. “The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.”
More than a dozen states allow the sale of medical marijuana, but the practice is not legal under federal law, leading to confusion and clashes between local and federal authorities.
This despite the Obama administration’s announcement two years ago that it would not arrest or prosecute medical marijuana users or suppliers who are not violating local laws — a reversal of the Bush administration’s policy that federal drug laws should be enforced even in states that had legalized medical marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he will clarify the Justice Department’s position.
The bill by Frank and Paul comes 40 years after President Richard Nixon first declared a war on drugs. Last week, to commemorate the anniversary, a group of former law enforcement officials unveiled a new report detailing the failures of the government’s long battle against illegal drugs and denounces the Obama administration’s current drug policies.
“Since President Nixon declared ‘war on drugs’ four decades ago, this failed policy has led to millions of arrests, a trillion dollars spent and countless lives lost, yet drugs today are more available than ever,” said Norm Stamper, former chief of police in Seattle and a speaker for legalization-advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
It’s official now: the global War on Drugs has failed. So says the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a transnational body consisting of the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, Richard Branson and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others.
Their report states that “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
The report also calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.
But tell all this to the tenaciously stupid governing parties in the Netherlands today (Christian Democrats and conservative liberals, of course), who are taking a country that for forty years has been on the vanguard of a sane, rational drugs policy now back into retrograd repression.
While in the rest of the world, increasingly voices are heard calling for an end to a hyper-costly, completely failing War on Drugs; while in more and more countries in Europe, with proven success possession and use of small amounts of drugs is decriminalized, and public policy starts to revolve around health issues; in the Netherlands, the government is closing down coffee shops and implementing a nationwide system for the registration of drug users. It’s not hard to see what the next step will be.
And of all of this out of a mistaken sense of ideology. Because they don’t like you to take drugs. It would be saddening if it wasn’t so maddening – and maddeningly irrational.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes several former heads of state and UN officials, has released a report calling the global war on drugs a failure.
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the report reads. “Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
Among the members of the commission are former presidents of Columbia, Mexico and Brazil, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others.
The report calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.
“Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime,” the report says. “Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights - and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.”
In a comment to The Guardian, a spokesman for White House drug tsar Gil Kerlikowske disagreed with the report’s conclusions.
“Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available – as this report suggests – will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” the spokesman said.
So say a group of prominent British public figures, including former heads of MI5, the Crown Prosecution Service, the BBC, the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council. The group also includes Members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords, including Conservatives. Together they have formed an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, which calls for new drug policies in the United Kingdom based on scientific evidence.
Since Britain’s prisons, like those in the United States, are overcrowded and full of people convicted on (small) drug charges, it’s possible that the parliamentary group’s calls will receive a ‘sympathetic audience’ in Whitehall, where the government is trying to cut the numbers and costs of the prison population.
In that respect, they can look to Portugal, where a rather succesful experiment with decriminalization of drug possession has reached its tenth year. Here, there has been a 63 percent increase in drug users getting treatment, and a 499 percent increase in amount of drugs seized (by focusing on the big fish).
Either way, present UK (and US) policy – the full criminalization of drug possession and use – is a very costly disaster. A big societal issue that some people should finally start to think rationally, rather than ideologically about.
Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.
Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.
The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.
The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.
It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.
Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.
The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.
The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told The Daily Telegraph: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.
“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.
“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of Young people’s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”
Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.
“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don’t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”
Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.
Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.
The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.
They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.
As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.
Vorige week berichtten wij over het lovenswaardige experiment dat de gemeente Utrecht van plan is te beginnen met legale wietteelt. Geheel binnen de kaders van het gedoogbeleid, waarbij thuiskweek tot vijf planten is toegestaan, wil de gemeente kleine thuistelers bij elkaar brengen en, zonder er een cent aan uit te geven, hun krachten bundelen teneinde de toevoer aan lokale coffeeshops – de zogenaamde ‘achterdeur’ – te rationaliseren en reguleren.
Om nog maar eens de voordelen van dit beleid, dat niet op ideologie maar op een nuchtere afweging van feiten gestoeld is, op te sommen: je controleert zo het thc-gehalte en de kwaliteit van wiet, hetgeen de volksgezondheid bevordert, en je haalt wietteelt uit de grootschalige criminaliteit. De spagaat van het huidige gedoogbeleid is dat kopen en gebruiken mag, maar dat aanlevering gecriminaliseerd is. Een paradijs en miljoenenmarkt voor criminelen, uiteraard, waar we vanaf moeten.
Met wiet roken is niets meer of minder mis dan alcohol gebruiken. Erop tegen zijn is gebaseerd op ideologie. Drooglegging is per definitie onzinnig en contraproductief beleid. De intentie van het gedoogbeleid, ooit, in de jaren zeventig was om wiet roken voor de thuisgebruiker mogelijk te maken, middels kleinschalige coffeeshops. En de gemeente Utrecht wil juist naar die situatie terug! (Waarbij ze ook nog bezig zijn met beleid ontwikkelen voor probleemgebruikers.)
Maar wat doet regent Opstelten van het reactionaire kabinet-Rutte? Die zegt, uiteraard na vragen van een CDA-Kamerlid: VERBOTEN. Het is “niet mogelijk” om hier “toestemming voor te geven”. En aangezien Koning Opstelten “toch niet van gedachten gaat veranderen”, heeft “overleg geen zin”.
Omdat Opstelten “toch niet van gedachten gaat veranderen”, heeft overleg “geen zin”.
OK… Ik zeg we’ll see about that, regent. Als ik de gemeenteraad (GL-PvdA-D66) was zou ik lekker doorgaan met dit experiment, en mij aan een dergelijke bruuskering niets gelegen laten liggen. Hebben we nog wetten en regels in dit land, en is er nog sprake van coöperatie tussen verschillende bestuurslagen in het belang van de burger? Laat Opstelten dan maar eens juridisch hard maken waar staat dat kleine telers zich niet in een vereniging mogen aaneensluiten. Als het probleem hem erin zit dat het niet in één ruimte mag (en dát zal dan ergens moeten staan), fine, dan doen we het toch vanuit meer ruimtes? Los van deze juridische finesses is het, gezien recente geweldsincidenten in Noord-Brabant, de hoogste tijd dat regulering van de achterdeur op de agenda komt, waarbij alle opties serieus moeten worden overwogen. De gemeente in Utrecht neemt in die context een goed initiatief, dat meer verdient dan een regentesk ‘Njet’.
Ik ben benieuwd naar het vervolg. Light Sound Dimension houdt je op de hoogte.
De gemeente Utrecht mag geen eigen wietkwekerij opzetten. Minister van Veiligheid en Justitie Ivo Opstelten (VVD) gaat burgemeester Aleid Wolfsen (PvdA) daarop wijzen. Dat heeft Opstelten dinsdag aangekondigd tijdens het wekelijkse vragenuur in de Tweede Kamer.
“Het is niet mogelijk om hier toestemming voor te geven”, zei Opstelten op vragen van CDA-Kamerlid Coskun Çörüz. Opstelten voelt weinig voor overleg met Utrecht, zoals het gemeentebestuur wil. Overleg heeft geen zin, omdat hij toch niet van gedachten zal veranderen, zei Opstelten.
Utrecht kondigde vorige week aan dat de stad een eigen kwekerij wil. Die moet gaan vallen onder een besloten vereniging, waarvan de leden wiet kunnen gebruiken die in de kwekerij voor eigen gebruik is geteeld.
Het idee achter het experiment is dat iedereen voor eigen gebruik in principe vijf wietplantjes mag kweken. Dat past binnen het gedoogbeleid, zegt Utrecht. Door de teelt te laten plaatsvinden binnen een besloten vereniging kunnen leden ieder vijf plantjes inbrengen, hoopt de gemeente.
Volgens Opstelten past het plan helemaal niet binnen het huidige gedoogbeleid. Bij meer dan vijf plantjes in een kwekerij stelt het Openbaar Ministerie vervolging in.
The Netherlands’ drug policy is often perceived to be the most liberal in Europe. Not only is that not true in the sense that the Netherlands is getting increasingly regressive; it’s also not true in the sense that there are other European countries with more liberal drug policies. In the Czech Republic, for example, since 2009 possession of small amounts of marihuana and mushrooms, as well as some hard drugs is only a misdemeanour. And in Portugal, possession of all drugs has been decriminalized since 2000.
The Boston Globe has an interesting article on the effects of this policy on Portugal’s public health and crime rate. Here, ten years ago politicians decided to decriminalize personal possession, in order to allow police authorities to focus full-time on distribution and trafficking. The overarching goal was to treat drug use as a public health concern. And it seems to have paid off! There has been a 63 percent increase in Portuguese drug users getting treatment, and a 499 percent increase in amount of drugs seized. Portuguese society has not collapsed because of drug decriminalization; instead, drug addicts, not having to fear going to jail anymore, are getting treatment.
To be clear: this is not a solution I advocate. I’m in favour of a complete legalization of relatively innocent drugs, such as marihuana, hashish, mushrooms, xtc and lsd, and a continuing ban on hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Legalization allows for regulation, bringing for example the thc level of weed down and getting clean xtc on the market, and making it available strictly to over-18s (I think that should go for alcohol too, by the way). For psychologically more difficult stuff, like shrooms or lsd, I’d advocate some sort of permit, or examination, to prepare people for the experience. But then on hard drugs that are dangerous to the individual and society, I’m still in favour of treating possession, distribution and trafficking as a criminal matter.
But anyway, here’s the article on Portugal’s experiences:
Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal’s elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
As the sweeping reforms went into effect nine years ago, some in Portugal prepared themselves for the worst. They worried that the country would become a junkie nirvana, that many neighborhoods would soon resemble Casal Ventoso, and that tourists would come to Portugal for one reason only: to get high. “We promise sun, beaches, and any drug you like,” complained one fearful politician at the time.
But nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon’s troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized — indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
“Often, there are lot of fears, misconceptions, and mythology around decriminalization and what might be the consequences,” Hughes said. “This reform has shown that it is possible to decriminalize illicit drugs…without necessarily increasingly drug-related harm, without increasing the burden on the criminal justice system, and without increasing drug use.”
The total number of people who have ever used drugs, though, has increased. The article evaluates that as ‘not positive’. I don’t see it as a problem, as long, as said above, it’s the relatively innocent stuff. But for that, you need to regulate.
But the numbers aren’t all positive. According to the latest report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the number of Portuguese aged 15 to 64 who have ever tried illegal drugs has climbed from 7.8 percent in 2001 to 12 percent in 2007. The percentage of people who have tried cannabis, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD all increased in that time frame. Cannabis use, according to the drug report, has gone up from 7.6 to 11.7 percent. Heroin use jumped from 0.7 to 1.1 percent, and cocaine use nearly doubled — from 0.9 to 1.9 percent. In other words, said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, the changes in Portugal have had a somewhat expected outcome: More people are trying drugs.
Although all media on the right vehemently refuse to discuss the possibility, it seems the extent to which Tea Party and Palin militant and violence-drenched rhetoric about socialist tyrannical government and the right of people to turn to ‘Second Amendment remedies’ has been a contextual influence on Loughner pulling the trigger is still an open question.
At the same time, it is true that some medical research lately seems to point towards marihuana use possibly exacerbating schizophrenic disorders in patients. That is: if you are somebody with a disposition for or history of schizophrenia, it might be the case that marihuana use is bad for you. Although this blog has consistently been in favour of marihuana legalization, this is a topic that needs to be addressed. One thing that should be clear is that marihuana does not cause schizophrenia. That idea should immediately be done away with. But it seems that people who have a disposition for schizophrenia are more prone to smoke marihuana, which may then trigger the disease earlier and exacerbate it. On the other hand, other research indicates that smoking marihuana actually may have beneficial effects on schizophrenic patients. So in addition to being a chicken-egg question, medical results are pretty unclear. But it’s probably not a good idea to recommend these people to smoke a lot of pot; nor drink a lot of alcohol; nor recommend this to anyone.
But what’s the most unfortunate thing about this whole affair is that arguments about the context and causes of a political murder attempt now become fodder in the political culture wars themselves. According to ‘the right’, Loughner was a Communist Manifesto reading left-wing anarchist pothead; according to ‘the left’, he was a Tea Party inspired violent gun-toting paramilitary. Although it’s absurd to leave the political context out of this issue – since this was a plot to murder a political figure – and portray this as a lone gunman situation, maybe every position shouldn’t be driven to the extremes.
Because one fact is that left and right wing paranoid anti-authoritarianism are lying close together, and Loughner seems to be someone who doesn’t necessarily lean towards either one, but picked up pieces from both strands. And another fact is that in the hyperbole of both sides in the debate about what caused this, some truth may reside. Yes, smoking a lot of marihuana is bad for people with a disposition for psychotic disorders. Yes, swamping the airwaves with talk about ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’, and painting political disagreement as Armageddon, and delegitimizing the democratic process is reckless and irresponsible, as it might drive people who have difficulty separating rhetoric from reality to crazy deeds.
So maybe at a minimum, that can be admitted. And maybe then everybody can behave civil again and engage each other in normal debate about the future course of the country.
Over at Andrew Sullivan, the conservative and Catholic blogger has recently compiled a nice little book composed of readers’ submissions about their marihuana use. The goal is to, in a country (the US) in which smoking pot is still frowned upon by large segments of society, show that marihuana use is actually way more mainstream than people think. The stories in the book, appropriately called The Cannabis Closet, are all about (middle class) people smoking weed to gain insight, to relax, to enjoy music or a social setting, or of course to cure pain. Frequenty in family settings, or with traditional events like Christmas. And why not?
The book is a compilation of first-person pot use testimonials, from top executives to responsible parents, from entrepreneurs to A-students, from unwinding suburbanites to the very sick. In more than 120 personal stories, it demolishes every hoary “stoner” stereotype of the regular pot-user. It doesn’t glide over the downsides of pot-use, but it does explain more graphically and powerfully how marijuana-use has become as American as, er, brownies and milk. It shows how responsible pot-use is already compatible with middle-class life and its obligations. Browse and buy it here.
Sullivan advocates – and I wholeheartedly agree with him – that marihuana be no longer seen as either ‘stoner’ or cool or semi-underground, or as despicable, dangerous and wrong. It is just a natural product that has downsides and upsides, and deserves no special status alongside other drugs like alcohol and cafeine (although like them it requires regulation). In the US, and in the Netherlands too, a large section of the public, under the influence of the mainstream media, is still too prejudiced to see this.
But anyway, now that this praiseworthy book has been compiled, Sullivan’s readers are also sending in stories of experiences with other drugs. Mushrooms, for example. And this is another department than weed. Way stronger, but with the potential to gain much more insight from it. Read this, for example:
Shortly after my first marijuana experience, I tried LSD and mushrooms. I skipped class a couple of times to day-trip (4/20 anyone?), but in contrast to pot, the most endearing quality of these hallucinogens is what I once heard called “the progress-checker.” While I now love the occasional joint for relaxation, it took me far too long to realize that I shouldn’t make decisions while high. The opposite is true of hallucinogens. Trips were the most lucid and honest evaluations of my life during those two years. In fact, I can attribute at least in part my eventual modest success in college to the times I realized with horror while tripping how badly I was screwing up my life. Pot is for checking out; hallucinogens are for checking in. Way in. I was forced to think about school, about family, about my life. It was terrifying, but in the way I imagine therapy can be.
Your contributor mentioned the journey. During a (good) trip, the vastness and beauty of the individual journey is simply staggering. Acid is the only time I have actually wept with joy; it is also the only time I was convinced I was about to die and accepted my fate. They helped me through the existential muck – I made peace with impermanence and insignificance. Hallucinogens helped make me who I am: They opened my eyes to the intricate depths and fantastic surrealism of nature (psilocybin while hiking the Zion Narrows – I’m an atheist but that’s the closest I’ve been to god); they’ve helped forge deep, permanent friendships through shared, unique and utterly insane experiences.
Not to mention the staggeringly beautiful visuals. I will never forget a young Sean Connery speaking plainly to me from his James Bond poster on the wall, or a brick wall flapping in the breeze.
Sometimes I think the world would be a better place if everybody would trip hard just once.
I’ve done psychedelics a handful of times. Each time, I have come to know myself better. I’ve come to understand a lot about where I view myself in terms of humanity, the world, and the universe. I finally was able to come around to understanding, for example, that the debate I’d been having with myself for a long time – whether or not I believe in God – was less important than what I think of the life that exists either because or in spite of God. I know that sounds like old stoner claptrap, but these are insights I either couldn’t comprehend formerly or had spent most of my life fighting.
Honestly, the reader’s worry about “wisdom” achieved through drug use is well-founded; there is no substitute for gaining knowledge through experiences. Neither is there a shortcut around mediation or healthy living. Psychedelics, I believe, should never be used as such. To me, a trip is more a chance to reorient oneself – to gain a specific kind of perspective while having a ridiculously wild ride. But let’s be honest about it, too: taking mushrooms or acid a few times a year is very, very different than holing oneself up in a bedroom for a week and devouring a double hit ever twelve hours.
I think we should have more of this. Hopefully, The Mushroom Closet is next.
What’s next? De JOVD pleit voor gratis openbaar vervoer? De Jonge Democraten voor winkelsluiting op zondag?
Maar ik zeg: CDJA, welkom in de gelederen van de weldenkende mensen!
Want laten we wel wezen: het is duidelijk welke richting dit vraagstuk opgaat. In Californië, de achtste economie ter wereld met 37 miljoen mensen, stemde onlangs 46 procent van de bevolking vóór legalisering van marihuana. In de Verenigde Staten wordt immer duidelijker dat de uit de nieuwe Drooglegging voortkomende War on Drugs alleen maar miljarden kost, en niets oplevert, behalve overvolle gevangenissen en verwoeste levens van tienduizenden jongeren die om niets de cel in draaien. Legalisering is de enige, redelijke weg. Dat hebben we in Nederland lange tijd begrepen, maar de laatste tijd lijken we op de terugtocht te zijn.
Wiet is namelijk gewoon een consumptiemiddel, net als alcohol, tabak en koffie, en zou als dusdanig behandeld moeten worden. Iets anders is hypocrisie. De problemen met drugscriminaliteit komen nu voort uit de illegale status van wiet. Wil je dat probleem in één klap oplossen, dan moet je legaliseren. Zo neem je criminele bendes de wind uit de zeilen. Problemen op persoonlijk niveau met wiet komen nu voort uit het te hoge, ongecontroleerde thc-gehalte. Wil je dat probleem oplossen, dan moet je legaliseren en reguleren teneinde dit thc-gehalte omlaag te brengen. Gecontroleerde teeltplekken, of zoals Pim Fortuyn wilde, een staatsboerderij. Dit kan zelfs een half miljard jaarlijks aan belasting opleveren. Met een pasjessysteem voorkom je daarnaast, zo goed als mogelijk, dat minderjarigen wiet gebruiken – iets wat niet zou moeten, net zo min als met alcohol.
In een dergelijke wereld is het gebruik van een mild jointje niets raarder dan het drinken van een biertje of een kop koffie. We moeten af van het idee dat, enerzijds, wiet ‘cool’ en semi-underground is, en anderzijds dat het verderfelijk en gevaarlijk is. De Amerikaanse conservatieve blogger Andrew Sullivan heeft onlangs een boek, The Cannabis Closet, samengesteld met inzendingen van lezers, over het mainstream-gebruik van wiet. Dat is namelijk wijdverbreider dan menigeen denkt. Mensen gebruiken het om bij na te denken, om rustig te worden, om van muziek te genieten, of met bijzondere gelegenheden, zoals nu met Kerst en Oud en Nieuw. En waarom niet? Waarom zou dit door andere mensen, die zich wél het recht voorbehouden om van een andere drug als alcohol te genieten, verboden moeten worden?
Daar is geen reden voor, en daarom is het mooi dat het CDJA dat nu ook inziet. Het is jammer dat ze dan wel voor de harde bestrijding van sommige andere relatief onschuldige middelen zijn, zoals xtc, maar goed. Laten we hopen dat ze nog veel CDA-politici voortbrengen.
I was aware that you had places in California with a lot of medical marihuana dispensaries, that rename themselves into Dutch-sounding names like Oaksterdam. But I didn’t know there’s a town high up in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, that is actually called Nederland, and is a countercultural outpost where even recreational marihuana use is legalized.
Millions of Americans expressed their feelings about marijuana last week. In Colorado, 24 communities voted to ban or restrict shops selling legal medical marijuana. In California, voters wrestled with the question of legalization for recreational use — with issues of health, crime and taxes all coming into play — then voted no.
But here in Nederland, it was just another beautiful day high in the mountains.
Marijuana has been mainstream in this outpost of the counterculture, 8,000 feet in the Rockies and an hour northwest of Denver, since the days of Bob Marley’s cigar-size “spliffs” and the jokes of Cheech and Chong.
And to judge by the numbers, things have not changed all that much.
An explosion of medical marijuana sales over the last year in Colorado as well as the District of Columbia and the 13 other states where medical use is allowed has certainly brought a new element into the mix. Dispensaries like Grateful Meds, one of seven medical marijuana providers in Nederland, population 1,400, now have legal compliance lawyers on retainer and sales tax receipts in the cash drawer.
But marijuana is still marijuana, and Nederland’s perch overlooking what John Denver immortalized as “the Colorado Rocky Mountain high” has not budged.
State records show that by some coincidence, the concentration of medical marijuana patients and dispensaries selling medicinal cannabis is higher here in Colorado’s old hippie heartland than in any other corner of the state.
Way, way more important than the Congressional elections next Tuesday is the outcome of Proposition 19 in California: whether marihuana will, for the first time in modern history, be legalized in a major state (the 9th economy in the world, with a population of 37 million). If so, it would be a major advancement to civilization and rationality.
Here’s police chief McNamara encouraging voters to vote YES:
I accidentally found this one year old video in which Fox’s Glenn Beck defends legalization of marihuana in the U.S. Didn’t see that one coming. It’s interesting to watch because the discussion on marihuana in California/Mexico is very similar to the current debate in The Netherlands on legalization.
Before you start liking Beck, here’s yesterday’s Glenn Beck Show, in which he is ranting about Iran and the Antichrist, and defending Premillennial Dispensationalists and calling Obama “the clown from Chicago”: