Here’s a great example of the stupidity of public officials in many countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands – when it comes to drugs, and more specifically, marijuana policy.
In the US, marijuana is “classified” as being as risky as heroin and meth for a person. So, the Congressman above keeps asking the top administrator of the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) a simple question: are heroin and meth more dangerous and addictive than marijuana? Watch the reaction of the administrator as she keeps selling the “official” answer.
One wonders how long these fact-free policies can go on. In the Netherlands, kids are now on the streets selling marijuana, because of a government-enforced registration of marijuana smokers. We have, among others, the Christian Democrat party to thank for that. The smaller Christian Union is even proposing, out of pure religious zeal, to abolish the distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs, which will result in the same idiotic charade as witnessed in the video above.
I keep coming back to the same question: what goes on in the brains of these people? If anybody has an answer, I’ll be glad to hear it.
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.”
Redelijke mensen, vreest met grote vreze: het lang aangekondigde drugsdebat in de Tweede Kamer is aan de gang. Hét moment waarop alle leugenachtige rechtse politici hun op angst en onwaarheden gestoelde praatjes kunnen debiteren in hun queeste Nederland tot een land te maken waar één drug getolereerd is (de meest schadelijke van alle): alcohol, en de rest vanuit een vaag, ongemotiveerd en subjectief gevoel van burgermansonveiligheid VERBOTEN wordt.
Er is geen enkel ander beleidsterrein waarop conservatieve politiek zó door de mand valt als het drugsbeleid. Rechtse Kamerleden en hun aanhangers verliezen het vermogen na te denken – hun hersens te gebruiken – als het over dit onderwerp gaat. Hun meest recente wapenfeit, het paddoverbod van 2008, was een ongekend staaltje populistische emotiepolitiek waar geen empirisch feit aan te pas kwam. Hoewel het simpelwegniet waarwas dat de incidenten van destijds aan paddo’s te wijten waren – GGD en rechters hebben dit ontkracht – werden deze aangegrepen om tegen adviesorganen in tot een totaalverbod van een schadeloze en in de natuur voorkomende schimmel te komen. Had dat intelligenter gekund? Ja, natuurlijk, maar daar doen VVD en CDA het niet voor.
Hetzelfde patroon is nu te ontwaren rondom hasj, en uiteindelijk rondom alle “drugs” (behalve alcohol uiteraard): VVD en CDA zijn op weg naar een totaalverbod. Prohibition, drooglegging. Dit tegen alle globale trends in, in de wereld, in Europa en in de Verenigde Staten. Ze doen dit geleidelijk, maar met een duidelijk zichtbaar pad. Begonnen met het paddoverbod, met vervolgens de volstrekt idiote regel dat coffeeshops niet een paar honderd meter bij scholen vandaan mogen staan (leidend tot sluiting van de meerderheid van coffeeshops in Nederland), tot het verbod op zwaardere marihuana, het quatverbod, tot nu het hasjverbod. En tot, uiteindelijk, het is erop wachten: de afkondiging in Nederland door de rechtse partijen van een Totaalverbod op Alle Drugs, behalve die met koolzuur en waar “Heineken” op staat. Ik gok 2013 of 2014.
De feiten: er is inmiddels stapels wetenschappelijk onderzoek waaruit blijkt dat middelen als marihuana, hasj, xtc en paddo’s veel minder schadelijk zijn voor het individu en de maatschappij dan alcohol. In de V.S. is medicinale marihuana wijd en zijd verkrijgbaar. Aan topuniversiteiten over de hele wereld wordt onderzoek verricht naar de positieve en therapeutische effecten van middelen als lsd, xtc en paddo’s, met positieve resultaten. In Groot-Brittannië roepen voormalige hoofden van MI5, het Openbaar Ministerie, Hogerhuisleden, zorgorganisaties en wetenschappers op tot matiging van het repressiebeleid. Idem dito op wereldschaal, waar mensen als Javier Solana, Kofi Annan, George Schultz, Paul Volcker zich verenigd hebben in hun oproep aan Westerse politici hun antidrugsbeleid te herzien. In Portugal en Tsjechië is drugsbezit al meer dan tien jaar gedecriminaliseerd, met zeer positieve resultaten zowel in termen van dalend drugsgebruik als in aanpak van criminaliteit. De globale War on Drugs, daarentegen, waar VVD en CDA Nederland bij aan willen doen sluiten, kost miljarden, verwoest honderdduizenden mensenlevens, en is contra-effectief.
Dit zijn de FEITEN. Maar rechtse politici, en hun aanhangers, geven niet om feiten. Waar ze om geven is gehoor geven aan de veronderstelde wens van de angstige burger – die wel bier zuipt, de openbare ruimte vernielt en z’n vrouw slaat – tot een “cleane”, naar zijn subjectieve normen conformerende maatschappij. Daarbij schrikken ze er niet voor terug om leugens te gebruiken. Lees bijvoorbeeld dit stuk in De Groene, waaruit blijkt dat Opsteltens elitecorps de Taskforce Georganiseerde Hennepteelt cijfers over de export van cannabis naar het buitenland uit haar duim zuigt om de beeldvorming te manipuleren. Dit volgens het Trimbos Instituut, dat net als het ministerie van Volksgezondheid langzaam haar greep op het drugsbeleid aan het verliezen is. Een zelfde gemankeerde argumentatie vinden we rondom hasj, waarvan beweerd wordt dat criminele organisaties in Afghanistan en Marokko (hoe! eng!) ervan profiteren. Tell you what: in Marokko en Afghanistan rookt iederéén hasj! Dat is daar al eeuwenlang normaler dan alcohol. En dan nog: waar zijn de cijfers? En kan het wel als we het in Nederland telen?
Nederland heeft al veertig jaar een succesvol en pragmatisch drugsbeleid. De Nederlandse cijfers qua drugsgebruik liggen nu nog lager dan in andere landen (wat betreft alcohol liggen die overigens veel hoger!). Waar er een miljoen alcoholisten zijn, gaat de Nederlandse drugsgebruiker over het algemeen verstandig om met zijn middelen, die hij of zij met matiging en na testen gebruikt. Waar een groep over de schreef gaat, wordt ingegrepen met behulp van preventie en voorlichting, in de sfeer van volksgezondheid. Dát is rationeel beleid, en het wordt nu over de hele wereld gekopieerd. Met een thuisteler, en met een kleine coffeeshop, waar een volwassen persoon naar believen een middel van zijn keuze kan genieten (dat minder destructief is dan het overal gepromootte alcohol), is niets mis. Natuurlijk, echte criminaliteit moet worden aangepakt, maar dat doe je door juist de achterdeur te reguleren, en niet door een onhandhaafbaar, peperduur, hypocriet en immoreel totaalverbod. Dat bovendien nooit zal werken, omdat ongecontroleerde, ongereguleerde middelen de markt zullen overspoelen. Desalniettemin is dat waar rechts naartoe gaat. En waarom? God knows. Ik begrijp die mensen niet.
‘The freedom to explore your own consciousness’, dat is waar het om draait. Dit is tegengesteld aan mensen willen vormen en modelleren in een op particularistische, subjectieve normen gebaseerde mal, waar het in ieder geval de religieus-conservatieven van het CDA uiteindelijk om te doen is. Die vrijheid is een recht dat op een ongevaarlijke, onbedreigende manier uitgeoefend kan worden, met verantwoordelijkheid over eigen lichaam, met zorg en informatie, zonder dat daar groteske leugens of ideologisch gekleurd beleid op hoeven te worden losgelaten. Of zonder dat je productie en distributie in handen geeft van de criminaliteit. Het zou voor dit land een zegen zijn als dit kabinet, dat op allerlei terreinen maar vooral op deze, regressieve ideologie laat prevaleren boven op feiten en rede gebaseerde politiek, voortijdig ten val zou komen. Laten we behouden en uitbouwen wat we hebben, in plaats van het voor niets om zeep te helpen.
- Edit: Hier een mooi stuk op DeJaap over het hasjverbod.
- Edit 2: Boris van der Ham (D66) over het drugsbeleid: “Wij waarschuwen voor deze blinde ideologische benadering van drugs, die praktische oplossingen in de weg staat.”
Watch this moving video of an old man giving a speech while completely fried. Seriously: at certain points he truly sounds like The Dude, man. I can’t decide whether he’s drunk or high, though; it’s probably hard to distinguish with a Texan.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry raised some eyebrows Friday night with a speech performance in Manchester, N.H., that was unusually expressive. A Huffington Post reporter was in the audience for the speech but did not have a chance to review video footage of the Texas governor’s remarks until Saturday afternoon when a montage of moments in the speech surfaced on YouTube.
The video below is not a full version of his remarks. It is a carefully edited montage designed to highlight the giddiest and strangest moments of a roughly 25-minute speech. The owner of the YouTube account, CharlieJohnson1986, did not respond to a message sent to the account.
But while the video is designed to make Perry look bad, it does capture elements of his speech that were widely remarked upon in the crowd by those who saw the speech.
“It was different,” Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas told HuffPost after the speech.
It’s not the first time: sanity from Great Britain in the drugs debate. The Liberal Democrat party – currently in government – is expected to pass a motion calling for an independent inquiry into the decriminalization of drug possession at its fall conference. This is supported by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The motion is based on Portuguese drug reforms (blogged about those here and here) enacted a decade ago, which through decriminalization have succesfully pushed back problematic drug use, whilst leaving alone unproblematic users. Drugs are considered a health issue instead of a criminal one, except in the case of big-time dealers.
That is not to mention the Global Commission on Drug Policy, consisting of the former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, former EU High Representative Javier Solana, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, Richard Branson and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others. It’s noteworthy that a lot of politicians come out in favor of drug decriminalization after their tenure.
Drug reform advocates could be about to secure a significant victory in their campaign to liberalise the law after a Liberal Democrat motion for full decriminalisation was submitted.
The party is likely to overwhelmingly back the motion to establish a panel to urgently consider the decriminalisation of personal drug use at its conference this autumn.
The move would likely prompt friction with the Lib Dems’ Conservative coalition partners, whose rank-and-file membership are strongly opposed to any change to drug laws. The party would need Conservative support before the panel could be established.
David Cameron’s record as a backbencher was distinctly liberal when it came to drug reform. He called for heroin ‘shooting rooms’ and a public health approach to drug use before taking the leadership.
Drug liberalisation views are surprisingly popular in Westminster circles, but it has been considered politically impossible for several years, mostly due to fear of the tabloid reaction and the views of ‘middle-England’ voters.
Former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth quickly came out against the “disaster” of drug regulation after leaving his front bench position.
Nick Clegg is understood to be distinctly relaxed about the motion, however, suggesting the Lib Dem leadership will not back down in the event of a yes vote.
There is “increasing evidence that the UK’s drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost-effective but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalised”, the motion reads.
“Individuals, especially young people, can be damaged both by the imposition of criminal records and by a drug habit, and… the priority for those addicted to all substances must be healthcare, education and rehabilitation, not punishment.
“One of the key barriers to developing better drugs policy has been the previous Labour government’s persistent refusal to take on board scientific advice, and the absence of an overall evaluative framework of the UK’s drugs strategy.”
The demand comes amid unparalleled change internationally on drug laws, with several highly-respected figures and institutions calling for a more liberal policy on narcotics.
The Global Commission on Drugs Policy, headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan recently called for world governments to consider regulating the drug trade.
Under decriminalisation, people caught with drugs would no longer be given fines or jail sentences but rather treatment and counselling. Dealers would still face the current legal penalties, however.
A similar policy was recently adopted in Portugal, and led to surprising results, with some sources suggesting cannabis use has decreased by 50%.
The Lib Dems have a long track record of an evidence-based policy on drugs and called for the legalisation of cannabis in 2002. But with the party now in power, their vote is likely to play a much more significant role in the public debate.
The motion will be put forward by Ewan Hoyle, founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, and backed by Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson
Really looks more like a candy box than anything else…
The Dangerous Drugs—Identification Kit contains harmless facsimiles of the more commonly abused dangerous drugs. The Kit was designed to be used primarily as an instructional aid in educational and training programs directed toward combating the existing narcotics and dangerous drugs problem. It consists of a plastic container which is transparent and durable. Plainly visible within the container are facsimiles of amphetamines and barbituates, reproduced with exacting fidelity in terms of color, size, shape, and other distinguising characteristics.
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.
The Awl has a very cool and interesting interview with Eddie Einbinder, author of the book How to Have Fun and Not Die, about responsible drug use, which won the New York Book Festival’s grand prize in 2008. At the release of the second edition in May, Einbinder will also debut a related documentary.
For his book, Einbinder travelled across the US exploring various party scenes. He’s an advocate of drug use, but in an adult and responsible way: that is, measured, and one at a time (that is, never in combinations). How to Have Fun and Not Die is therefore full of tips and tricks for the ‘safe’ use (between brackets because to some extent it’s never safe) of several drugs, including the most tricky ones.
Einbinder does this proceeding from a public health perspective – you can’t prevent drug use, so you better make it safe (while of course not encouraging the use of the really dangerous stuff). For similar, older endeavours in Dutch, by the way, check out veteran psychonauts Gerben Hellinga’s and Hans Plomp’s voluminous website Uitjebol.net; and of course there are test centers in the Netherlands, which are lacking in the US, hence the need for such a book.
The interview with Einbinder is pretty entertaining, so here it is:
Tell me about this trip you just got back from.
I was in upstate New Hampshire, somewhere really rural, for six days at a gathering for people to just, well, do drugs in peace. There was a lot of DMT, MDA, acid, mescaline…
What are DMT and MDA?
DMT is as serious a hallucinogen as acid, but it only lasts ten to 15 minutes. MDA—also known as “sass rocks”—is like MDMA, but less emotional and more hallucinogenic and stimulating.
It’s hard to draw the line sometimes, you know, between work and play for me.
I can imagine. So did you do a little bit of everything while you were there?
No, no, no. I was watching a lot of people doing things. I did try Ether for the first time. Ether gives you a horrible headache. It’s useless. Don’t do it. Oh, and I numbed my gums with some sass rocks. Other than that, I was just drinking, getting high on hash, and playing dominoes a lot.
How old were you when you had your first drug experience?
That’s oddly not a common question. I tried cigarettes the summer I was 11. That was probably one of the more emotional drug experiences I’ve had. My 12-year-old girlfriend introduced them to me. That year I also started dipping. I was in that palace in the woods kids make for themselves as a retreat to hook up, do drugs, and eat deli sandwiches, when I packed a lip for the first time. I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was given no guidance, so I kept it in way too long—30 minutes maybe—and I passed out. I was totally unconscious. I woke up and thought, I’m definitely never dipping again.
Did you ever dip again?
Yeah. In the summer of 2003. There were 80 of us living in the woods in conjunction with a minor in Environmental Studies in the Northwest.
How’d take two go?
I remembered why I don’t like dipping much.
What other memorable drug initiation experiences come to mind?
Trying acid for the first time at 19 was a big deal. I tried coke at 20 in college at Lehigh. I have a pretty mindful approach to trying things. I believe in moderation, and knowing your limits. And doing something with a purpose rather than out of habit, or to get a fix.
Can pleasure be a purpose?
Sure. It’s about having good relationships with drugs.
So what inspired you to pursue your special brand of drug education?
It was on that trip to the woods in 2003 I mentioned that I realized that my friends and I were not putting the necessary amount of thought into our drug use. I thought to myself, why haven’t I Googled “most common ways kids are going to die today,” and put it up on my fridge? I was right that there are some blanket rules that can seriously up your odds of surviving. If you can take one sentence from the lecture I give, it should be that the vast majority of overdoses result from two or more substances at once in your body. That right there, on top of keeping in mind that what’s billed as either heroin or coke or ecstasy includes multiple substances—whatever they’re cut with for profit—is key. When people do a drug respectfully, in the way it’s meant to be done, they rarely die.
What have been the best resources for researching the new book and making the movie?
ER doctors are great. I realized that in 2006 when a girl I dated ended up hospitalized. She’d been doing a lot of coke that summer, as well as Ambien, and Valium. And drinking. I’ve since developed several relationships with ER doctors who keep me informed about what kids are overdosing on. Watching drug use firsthand is important, too. Oh, and dentists. You should talk to your dentist about meth mouth. They have the most horrible stories.
Are you ever treated like an outsider by the kids you observe?
Nope. I only ever get to observe because I’m welcomed in the first place. The participants are people who understand that my message is to educate.
And these people want to be on camera taking drugs?
They sign contracts six weeks prior to filming, when sober. This is not Girls Gone Wild. No one’s face will be fuzzy.
Are you ever an active participant during filming?
No, not while filming. Things would veer off track. It’s a more structured setting.
What do your parents think about what you do?
As long as I’m working hard, they’re fans. They realize—like most rational teachers and doctors and people I speak to—that this is absolutely necessary. I’m trying to promote honest, open health education. They understand that.
What are your thoughts on addiction?
I feel lucky I’ve never been addicted to anything. I think it’s probably genetic. Only 1.3% of Americans are addicted, though. It’s the minority. Most people are just casual drug users who might accidentally overdose, which is what we’re trying to prevent.
Do you get any backlash? If so, where from?
Institutions. It’s one of the most upsetting issues to me. Colleges are running businesses. They’re trying to ensure the safety of the school’s reputation more than the welfare of their student body by refusing to acknowledge that drugs are being done and refusing to educate kids on the safest ways to handle drugs.
Do you think people are naive to the differences between black market and prescription drugs?
People think prescription drugs are much safer. Though the misuse of prescription drugs is black market. There’s a dealer at most high schools nowadays. And kids steal them from their parents. Prescription pills have replaced weed in a lot of areas because they’re so accessible and there’s nothing easier than swallowing a pill. It’s like vitamins! It’s everywhere, and it’s causing a lot of problems. I talk a lot about how marijuana is not at all a transitional drug. People like to label weed as “the gateway” drug, but that’s a farce. I think it’s actually prescription pills that make for a smooth transition to other drugs. Adderall to coke. Oxycontin to heroin.
If you were charged with designing an effective drug awareness campaign, what would it look like?
It certainly wouldn’t have an awful, misleading slogan like “Hugs not drugs” or “Drugs are bad.” Those messages don’t work for the same reason abstinence sex-ed is ineffective. You have to be open and honest. Educate. I’d create a mandatory year-long course based on the lecture I give with a textbook version of my book. And I’d show my film, which depicts real situations supplemented with dialogue about safety measures. It also incorporates commentary from lawyers and doctors about legal and medical ramifications. We’re looking to get some interviews with people in positions of extreme opposition, too.
Like the dude who prosecuted Paris Hilton for cocaine possession and was then caught purchasing crack?
At what age would you educate your own kids about drugs?
Most professionals say by middle school it’s advisable, so at least by then. I don’t think I can say without knowing my child. It will have more to do with his or her behavior and level of curiosity.
What’s your favorite drug?
Alcohol’s the easiest thing to continuously have fun on and not get too crazy.
How about other than alcohol? Weed?
No. I’m useless on weed. Hash is a favorite. It’s an incredibly chill high and I’m still able to have a good time and be social. On the other extreme of alcohol, I think LSD can be one of the more rewarding experiences one can have.
How about uppers?
I’ve been into them before.
Is there a drug you haven’t tried?
Me neither! Want to do it together when we’re 75?
Maybe 90. After nicotine, heroin is the drug with the most potential to become addictive. And who wants to trust themselves injecting something?
So when’s the last time you purchased a drug?
Truthfully, since I’ve gotten into this work more formally, I haven’t purchased a drug.
Are they given to you?
If I am doing something, it’s because I’m going with the flow. So yeah, it’s usually given to me.
So you’re not a frequent drug user?
If you leave me alone to write for a week, the only thing I’d do is tea. I’m really into tea these days.
[Laughs] You’re mocking, but tea is a drug. And it’s a good one.
What do you think compels a person to try a drug?
Boredom, and because it’s the cool thing to do.
What’s the coolest drug to do right now? What’s trending on college campuses?
Alcohol will probably always be the biggest problem on college campuses because of its social acceptance. As I was traveling west in 2009, I heard more and more about Salvia and DMT. But your traditional popular drugs are still prevalent, like cocaine, mushrooms, and acid. And weed is absolutely everywhere.
One of the strategies you suggest to marketing representatives hired to sell your book at schools is to throw a Celebrity Overdose party where people dress up as dead celebrities. Who would you dress up as at such an event?
I’m pretty sure it’s never happened. But I think John Belushi would be the most fun to portray.
Cause he was a party animal. I’m just picturing Animal House.
Do you think you’ll encounter a problem continuing this work as you age?
I’m able to do whatever the fuck I want right now, which works well. But I’m well aware that as I get older, I might not be able to blend into the college crowds as much. I’ll figure it out. There’s a lot to be done.
Who funds your work?
The work funds the work. Speaking fees. The book. There are some private investors in the film.
Any parting words?
Yeah. I think cocaine’s a bigger issue for 20-somethings in finance than it is on college campuses. The social scene surrounding finance in general lends itself to those drugs more than any other environment I’ve witnessed. Like certain religions use psychedelics. Oh, and the people trying to pass legislature for random drug testing on campuses in New York state are moronic.
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.
Kijk, dit vind ik nou mooi. Terwijl voor het overige een gure, rechtse wind door het land waait, gaan we in de vrijzinnige oases Amsterdam en Utrecht gewoon door met zinnig beleid. Het college in Utrecht (GroenLinks-PvdA-D66) bereidt een experiment voor met legale wietteelt. Daarbij wordt het mogelijk gemaakt om in een besloten club, op een gereguleerde en gecontroleerde manier, wiet te telen. Voordelen: je beschermt de volksgezondheid door voorlichting en het naar beneden brengen van het thc-gehalte, en je haalt de teelt uit de criminaliteit. Voor probleemgebruikers (want die zijn er) is de gemeente ook bezig met het ontwikkelen van beleid. Sanity.
Volgende week donderdag is er trouwens een debatavond in Trianon, georganiseerd door de gemeenteraadsfracties van PvdA en D66, over de toekomst van het coffeeshopbeleid. De partijen willen een ‘open discussie’ voeren over lokale experimenten met het reguleren van de achterdeur.
En voor de potentiële kwekers: bij de Movie Max op de Nachtegaalstraat ligt al tijden een koop-dvd te verstoffen over ‘Hoe teel ik wiet’. Kun je voor een klein prijsje denk ik wel meenemen.
De gemeente Utrecht gaat wietgebruikers de mogelijkheid geven om binnen gesloten clubs legaal cannabis te kweken. Dat maakte de gemeente donderdag bekend. Omdat de plannen voor het experiment nog in een vroeg stadium verkeren, is over de concrete uitwerking nog weinig bekend, aldus een woordvoerster.
De gemeente wil volwassen recreatieve gebruikers de mogelijkheid bieden om in kleinschalige verenigingen op een gereguleerde en gecontroleerde manier wiet te telen. Het belangrijkste doel daarvan is volgens de voorlichtster het beschermen van de volksgezondheid, door gebruikers invloed te geven op de kwaliteit van de cannabis. Ander bijkomend voordeel in de ogen van de gemeente is dat de hennepkweek daarmee ook uit de illegaliteit wordt gehaald.
Er zullen zo’n honderd tot honderdvijftig gebruikers bij het experiment worden betrokken, zo verwacht de gemeente. De bedoeling is dat het experiment nog deze collegeperiode van start gaat.
Wethouder Volksgezondheid Victor Everhardt: ‘De gemeente wil ruimte voor deze experimenten met het oog op het verminderen van de schade van cannabisgebruik voor de gezondheid. Ook hopen wij hiermee de criminaliteit en overlast rond cannabis te beheersen.’
Het college wil ook het beleid veranderen met betrekking tot risicogroepen voor cannabisgebruik, bijvoorbeeld mensen die in behandeling zijn voor schizofrenie. Het doel van dit experiment is het excessief cannabisgebruik om te buigen naar gecontroleerd gebruik, aldus de gemeente. ‘Dit heeft plaats onder medisch toezicht of onder toezicht van een instelling voor geestelijke gezondheidszorg. Het cannabisgebruik onder medisch toezicht maakt onderdeel uit van het behandelplan voor deze groep.’
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.
Wat een waanzin. Zullen we dan ook alle plekken waar alcohol verkocht wordt op 350 meter afstand van scholen sluiten?
Als je niet wilt dat minderjarigen blowen (wat ze niet zouden moeten doen, net zomin als alcohol drinken), moet je een pasjessysteem en eventueel een aankooplimiet instellen. Dit is niets dan zeer agressieve symboolpolitiek.
In gemeenten met veel coffeeshops moeten er zes op de tien sluiten als het kabinet het plan uitvoert om 350 meter afstand tussen coffeeshops en scholen te houden. Dit blijkt uit een inventarisatie van NRC Handelsblad.
Medewerker Enzo van Steenbergen onderzocht veertien Nederlandse gemeenten met tien of meer coffeeshops. De steden hebben samen 442 van de ruim 660 coffeeshops in Nederland; 57,9 procent van de zaken in de veertien steden zou moeten sluiten. Alleen al in Amsterdam zouden 187 van de 223 coffeeshops moeten sluiten.
Het kabinet wil nog deze maand een drugsnota presenteren. Daarin zal duidelijk gemaakt worden hoe het in het regeerakkoord genoemde afstandscriterium tussen scholen en coffeeshops moet worden ingevuld. Onduidelijk is nog hoe de afstand gemeten moet worden en of het om alle scholen gaat.
Bij de inventarisatie door deze krant is uitgegaan van een loopafstand van 350 meter tot middelbare scholen en basisscholen. Het is een voorzichtige berekening, omdat het kabinet ook een afstand van 350 meter hemelsbreed kan opleggen. Sommige gemeenten rekenen alleen middelbare scholen mee. Ook voor hen kan het aantal sluitingen hoger uitvallen.
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.