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How do you define a victimless crime?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How do you define a victimless crime?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Question

I’m a Libertarian candidate for prosecuting attorney, and I’m seeking to craft short answers for my campaign. One of my campaign promises is that I will not seek to imprison persons accused of a victimless crime.

crime

How would you define ‘victimless crime’ when asked? Specifically, does that include negligent conduct that involves a risk of harming others? For example: driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and firing shots into the air.

Many types of negligent criminal conduct involve some risk of harming others. But often the risk is trivial. What is the dividing line between trivial risk and significant risk? There are no statistics on the risk of harm I know of.

Answer

A victim (by libertarian standards) is someone who is threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft. If there is no threat, there is no crime. A victimless crime, therefore, is one in which no one has been threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft.

Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Like drugs, raw milk has become the stuff of mad regulators. “It’s bad for you,” therefore, it needs to go — whether you like it or not.

CowBut raw milk is what it is: raw. It isn’t for for everyone — just like fried food, vegetables, or drugs. Why try to set a standard that isn’t universal and can’t be met by all?

Over the years, brave lawmakers like former congressman Dr. Ron Paul as well as current Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie attempted to put an end to the raw milk ban madness. But despite their best efforts, little was accomplished on the federal level.

That’s where state lawmakers enter the picture.

In Alaska, for instance, state lawmaker Geran Tarr is fighting the federal raw milk ban by pushing a bill through the House that would legalize the sale of raw milk across the Last Frontier state. The bill, known as House Bill 46 was introduced in the House on January 13. It stipulates that individuals across the state are free to sell raw milk to consumers.

This bill would render the federal ban on the sale of the “dangerous” product useless, while allowing Alaskans to make their own decision for themselves.

According to the bill, raw milk sellers would only be required to add a warning to the product’s label stating that the contents are not pasteurized and that they may cause health concerns.

Currently, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Alaska. But individuals are allowed to purchase cow shares if they want to consume unpasteurized milk. This legal option makes it difficult for the common consumer to have access to the product.

With this bill, this requirement would be lifted, allowing raw milk producers to sell directly to the final consumer.

HB46 should soon be referred to a committee and once it receives a committee assignment, it needs to pass by a majority vote before it moves to the House and Senate for a vote.

If signed into law, the ban upheld by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be nullified in practice.

To this day, the FDA maintains the ban by claiming that raw milk poses a health risk due to the susceptibility to contamination tied to cow manure. They claim that the possibility milk may be contaminated with E. coli is enough reason to keep consumers from making their own choices.

In 1987, with the implementation of 21 CFR 1240.61(a), the sale and consumption of unpasteurized milk was effectively banned federally by putting an end to the transportation of raw milk across borders or even within borders. If Alaska wins this battle, it would be a victory for liberty.

Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Marijuana is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “cash cow,” the former spokeswoman for the agency told the audience during a recent Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference in Colorado.

Marijuana

“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe. [But] it’s our cash cow and we will never give up,” she added.

According to Belita Nelson, she was hired by the agency in 1998 to become their “chief propagandist,” despite the fact reporters were unable to find professional links between her and the agency online. Nevertheless, Nelson was listed as the founder of a drug-awareness nonprofit in the 1990s, and was seen on TV regularly talking about the dangers of cannabis. Now, she advocates for the plant’s medical benefits.

While allegedly working for the DEA, Nelson claims, she learned a friend had developed cancer. To help him fight the consequences of chemotherapy, she reached out to her teenage son, asking him if he had access to marijuana.

Passing the substance on to her friend, both noticed that, over time, adding weed to his treatment worked. Instead of ignoring the evidence before her, the former drug warrior turned into an acolyte. In 2004, Nelson resigned from the agency due to a dispute involving the heroin epidemic. The agency had been investigating reports showing that addicts had an easier time getting off the opioids by using marijuana. But according to Nelson, the agency preferred to maintain its official line than to cave in after looking at the evidence that weed is safe.

Regardless of the agency’s lack of attention to the evidence at hand, the U.S. government holds a patent on cannabis, which was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But while this patent claims cannabis can protect the brain from damage tied to certain diseases, it has no bearing on drug-related laws. Instead of waiting on the federal government to reschedule cannabis, many pro-legalization advocates are using nullification methods to pass pro-marijuana bills in their states, putting an end to federal prohibition locally. This method could end up being much more effective than petitioning the federal government for a change.

But until all states have been successful in this effort, it’s hard to know whether the end to the drug war is nigh.

Over the decades, the arbitrary use of legislation to criminalize behavior has been responsible for great damage, especially in Black and Latino communities. If we’re serious about liberty, we’re also serious about putting an end to such rules. Allowing people to make their own decisions freely so they may live with the consequences of their actions on their own.

Ecstasy Might Be Approved as Relief for PTSD Patients, But Why Stop There?

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Ecstasy Might Be Approved as Relief for PTSD Patients, But Why Stop There?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The drug war’s consequences have produced a wide variety of ramifications.

VeteransWhile low-income communities, especially in the inner cities and rural, forgotten areas of the country, are often mentioned as some of the areas mostly impacted by the criminalization of certain drugs, another group highly affected is often ignored: Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD).

A small nonprofit created in 1985 has been advocating for the use of substances such as marijuana, LSD, and MDMA — also known as ecstasy — to treat PTSD patients. The group funded Phase 2 studies and is now working on funding Phase 3. Previously, the group helped 130 patients while now, it could help a total of 230 individuals.

During Phase 2 of the study, the group focused on helping combat veterans and others including sexual assault victims who do not respond well to traditional prescription drug treatments. On average, these patients — some of whom had struggled with PTSD for 17 years — reported 56 percent decrease of severity of PTSD symptoms. In order to help a greater amount of patients suffering with the disorder, the group is applying for therapy status with the Food and Drug Administration, claiming that psychotherapy often produces similar results but only after years of implementation. With the use of these substances, this group claims, patients have a better shot at recovering in a shorter amount of time, helping these individuals get back to their lives. If approved by the government entity, the drug could be available by 2021. But even then, the drug would only be used under a limited amount of times and only for the purpose of treating PTSD.

While many scientists claim that legalizing and regulating this therapy will encourage further drug use, only part of their concern is warranted and for reasons they do not even suspect.

With the drug war, illicit drug markets were created in the shadows, allowing drug manufacturers and salesmen to deal with supply and demand in an aggressive, violent manner. Pushing markets to the shadows often has this effect, making perfectly safe substances like marijuana become the reason why violent gangs operated for decades, killing and leaving countless innocent victims homeless, often pushing them to flee their own homes as a result.

If this therapy, and only this therapy is legalized, expect to see an uptick in schemes bringing dealers and doctors together, much like what is happening now with the opioid epidemic.

Unless the official war on drugs ceases to exist and groups like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies are able to experiment with all substances freely and without suffering due to government restrictions, patients who suffer from a variety of conditions won’t be able to have access to the treatment and help they deserve.

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

QUESTION: I am a long time supporter of ending the war on drugs. I advocate treating drug abuse the way we treat alcohol abuse, as a health and not a legal problem. I find that many of the people that I deal with who oppose the war on drugs and support legalization of marijuana want to outlaw tobacco. I try to tell them that the war on tobacco will be just as successful as the war on drugs, but they insist that it go ahead. They point out that tobacco is deadlier than pot. I point out that heroin and LSD are as dangerous as tobacco, if not more. What suggestions do you have to answer the pro war on tobacco people?

CigaretteANSWER: The power to ban something “bad” is also the power to ban something “good.” Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia for many years before it was “outlawed” via the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. As a result, this incredibly useful and inexpensive natural drug has been largely unavailable in the U.S. for the last 80 years.

By outlawing tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance, we pave the way for other “wars” based on political or economic gain. Special interests will lobby Congress to outlaw their competitors, just as William Randolph Hearst lobbied for hemp/cannabis prohibition so that his wood pulp forests would be used for paper manufacture instead of hemp.

The nicotine in tobacco is thought by some to be the most addictive substance known. If someone can’t stop smoking, isn’t it a health problem too? Why not treat it as such?

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A terribly tragic incident involving a man from Texas is receiving little attention from the media.

According to Yahoo! News, Patrick Joseph Brown, a 46-year-old man accused of stealing a guitar, was booked on a misdemeanor theft charge on April 3. Forty-eight hours after failing to post bail, Brown was found beaten to a pulp in the cell he shared with several other men, including three men who had been charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

PrisonWhile authorities in Harris County aren’t aware of what prompted the violent act, Brown was placed in a cell with violent suspects due to his failure to come up with $3,000. Brown’s teenage son is devastated.

To proponents of a comprehensive criminal justice reform, the financial burden tied to minor or drug-related crimes has become a reason of concern.

The drug war, for instance, has had a real impact on the poor across the United States. But the financial burden tied to other non-violent crimes has also been affecting low-income communities across the board.

Harriet Cleveland, a 49-year-old mother of three in Alabama, was arrested after not being able to pay a series of traffic tickets. She had accumulated a number of citations because she had been driving without a license for some time. She also had no insurance.

While Cleveland says she knew what she was doing “was wrong,” she had no choice. She had just found a job after some time, a part-time gig that paid her $7.25 per hour, and her son had to be taken to school. She felt that the tickets could wait. Unfortunately, the police didn’t agree.

After she was arrested, the judge sentenced her to two years of probation with Judicial Correction Services, a private probation company. Cleveland had to pay JCS $200 a month, the judge ordered. While Cleveland was able to make her payments throughout the first year, gathering whatever she could find to put the money together, she eventually fell behind on payments. After losing her part-time job, Cleveland had to turn in all of her income-tax rebate to JCS instead of fixing the holes in her bedroom walls. By summer of 2012, “the total court costs and fines had soared from hundreds of dollars incurred by the initial tickets to $4,713, including more than a thousand dollars in private-probation fees.”

In the past three decades, the size of America’s incarcerated population quadrupled. The overcriminalization of America has been, along with the drug war, partially to blame for this phenomena.

With federal agencies and state governments attaching jail time to otherwise non-criminal behavior, even private companies that rely on the criminal justice system like Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity to fill in the gaps by offering the state the services public law enforcement agencies are supposed to offer but are unable to. Instead of looking at the laws for an answer to this problem—identifying what kind of laws should be scraped, and what kind of behavior should be spared jail time—many justice activists believe that the solution is to put an end to what they call “policing for profit.”

But whether non-violent arrestees are trapped in a cycle of debt and incarceration because of mounting court debt or because of other probation company fees, we must look deeper into this matter by identifying ways of only arresting those who have committed crimes worthy of jail time.

Jail is not the best place for a mother of three who’s struggling to make ends meet but nor is it a safe place for a non-violent arrestee taken into custody for allegedly stealing a guitar. If criminal justice reformers are serious about their goals, tackling the overcriminalization problem in the United States is the only solution.

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.