Drugs

Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

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

Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

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Massachusetts voters chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use in November, putting an end to more than a century of prohibition in the region. This Wednesday, the state’s House leaders are going directly against their constituents, advancing a bill that would set the tax on recreational pot to 28 percent, double the amount currently allowed. On top of that, the proposal would also give municipal officials — or bureaucrats — power over which shops and farms can be banned, taking this authority away from local voters.

marijuana

Claiming that this piece of legislation actually better serves voters by protecting public health, safety, and the “best interests of the state,” lawmakers supporting the bill seem to ignore that the measures adopted in its text would have very different real-world consequences.

If the goal here is to boost the illicit marijuana drug market, the mandatory high taxes are enough to do the trick, and if what legislators want is to allow local government officials to be influenced by certain entrepreneurs to keep competitors from establishing shops or farms in certain locations in order to boost their own business, this bill also seems to be the perfect fit. In other words, if what Massachusetts lawmakers see as a victory is nothing but to create an environment where only gangsters and monied pot entrepreneurs are able to succeed, then they have hit the jackpot.

To advocates who have been working to legalize marijuana in the state for years, this bill represents a refusal to embrace what voters have already chosen to see implemented in 2016. Furthermore, they add that increasing taxes on marijuana sales will rise the cost of the final product to the consumer, who may choose to obtain his or her supply of weed from elsewhere.

Knowing consumers won’t buy pot if the cost is too high, many entrepreneurs who already run medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are beginning to reconsider plans to expand their business now that recreational marijuana is legal. But if legitimate businesses are disincentivized from opening their doors, consumers will then be at greater risk of experiencing health issues as they may end up purchasing marijuana in the black market, where products are often moldy or even adulterated.

Instead of protecting voters, lawmakers are making the marijuana market in the state more dangerous by both raising the overall cost of doing business and giving bureaucrats the power to pick and choose who may or may not do business in the state.

Unless lawmakers completely reword the bill, it’s poised to be passed this week before it goes to the Senate. If passed by both chambers, this bill could be signed by Governor Charlie Baker by the end of the month, putting an end to what anti-drug war advocates fought so hard to achieve.

Trump Praises Drug Warrior Duterte, Becoming The First US President To Be Honest About The Drug War’s Perverted Roots

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

Trump Praises Drug Warrior Duterte, Becoming The First US President To Be Honest About The Drug War’s Perverted Roots

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

Before becoming the president, candidate Donald Trump gave anti-drug war activists a sliver of hope.

DuterteWhen Merry Jane magazine ran an article saying the business mogul was more likely to help legalization advocates, in the long run, it based its argument on his past interviews.

Before running for president, Trump heroically attacked the drug war as a whole, Merry Jane reminded its readers, saying that to win the war, we should put an end to it. Unfortunately, President Trump seems to disagree with business mogul Trump — at least that’s what a recent conversation between him and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suggests.

During the phone call, Trump allegedly congratulated Duterte on the “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Furthermore, he said, “many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing.”

Unlike the business mogul, President Trump seems taken by excitement with the idea that a country like the Philippines isn’t just slaughtering anyone suspected of being involved in the commerce of drugs. Inspired by their president’s encouragement, many vigilantes and police officers are simply gunning down users and addicts in the streets, sometimes in front of the whole neighborhood and with no due process.

Officially, only a little over 2,000 people in the Philippines have been gunned down by cops this way, but vigilantes appear to also be doing the dirty work so that nobody keeps count. And it’s this type of horrific approach to the drug “problem” that got the U.S. president overjoyed.

In America, killings aren’t happening as often, but thanks to U.S. laws targeting use and commerce of drugs, many otherwise non-violent and productive individuals are wasting their lives away in jail. Perhaps, when Trump shows praise for Duterte, he is only being honest; a  first for a U.S. president ever since the drug war was officially launched by President Richard Nixon.

At the time, the administration claimed the drug war was about an ongoing public health crisis. Later, the crusade became much more violent, with presidents and advocates saying it was all about public safety. As this war became militarized, with surplus equipment from U.S. interventions abroad falling in the hands of local police departments, it also became bloodier. But as these same presidents stood there, defending the war on drugs, they also condemned brutal shows of violence abroad.

As they intervene in foreign countries’ affairs in the name of democracy, they even impose sanctions on countries that impose brutal sentences on alleged criminals. But not once has any of these elected presidents admitted how absolutely immoral, bloody, and insane U.S. drug war truly is.

When Trump congratulates Duterte for doing what we see happening in America fairly regularly, he’s at least showing how sickly perverted politicians and their policies are instead of trying to dress up the anti-drug crusade as a quixotic pursuit for health and safety for all. And for that, Trump deserves praise.

But not his policies or Duterte’s, though. After all, individuals own their bodies and only they have a say in what they will put in it — not bureaucrats or police officers.

 

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

in Drugs, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

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Starring Jennifer Aniston, Cake is a film that follows the life of a woman after a car accident took the life of her young son and left her with debilitating, chronic pain.

chronic Aniston’s character lives with visible scars, insomnia, and pain so intense that she can barely sit without help. The movie shows her daily struggles with herself and those around her while she tries to come to terms with her new ‘normal.’

One scene sticks out to me as an all-too-familiar example of how big government makes decisions for us in the name of “helping.”

Because Aniston’s pain is constant, she goes through prescription pain pills faster than her refill dates will allow her to get more. And because of the stigma that surrounds chronic pain patients, Aniston’s local pharmacy won’t provide her with her medicine out of the fear that she is misusing her prescriptions to sell them on the street.

Taking matters into her own hands, she convinces her housekeeper to drive her across the border into Mexico to obtain the medication she needs. Because she doesn’t have the prescription needed to claim the medicine at the border, she smuggles it through a false compartment in a statue of St. Jude.

In essence, she’s willing to break the law in order to enhance her quality of life.

Starting this year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will be enforcing new rules that limit the accessibility of almost every Schedule II opioid pain medication manufactured in the U.S. by 25 percent or more. This eliminates phone-in refills and mandates a check-in with a doctor every 90 days for a refill in an effort to curb opioid drug abuse and addiction.

In the United States, Schedule III and IV drugs, (like Xanax, Suboxone, etc.) are treated similarly. Moreover, a government ID must be presented in order to obtain things like cold medicine which could potentially be used to make Schedule I drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, etc.

If I were to buy nasal decongestant in my home state of Indiana, not only would I need to present my driver’s license to the pharmacist, but my name, address, license number, and other personal information must be reported to the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Meth Investigation System.

In an effort to continue the failed war on drugs, lawmakers are pushing regulations that have unintended consequences, specifically for those who suffer from chronic conditions. More regulations mean more time and money spent on unnecessary doctors visits. And for many, it means making those trips up to 12 times a year or more.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were able to make our own health decisions with our doctors rather than letting the government make them for us?

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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The drug war is a disaster on many levels, especially because it ignores the most basic principle there is, that the individual owns his body and only he has the right to do with it as he pleases.

marijuanaBut the drug war is also a failure when it comes to helping bring an end to violent crime, which stems from the black market created precisely because of the existence of restrictive laws concerning drug commerce and use in the first place.

And as it turns out, the disastrous war on drugs has also failed law enforcement, by giving officers incentives to be corrupt.

In California, two former Kern County deputies pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. What’s worse, they did so by abusing their positions within the law enforcement agency.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Logan August, 30, and Derrick Penney, 34, conspired with an informant for the police to steal marijuana that had been seized during investigations.

Once stolen marijuana was in their hands, August and Penney would then trim it then deliver it to one of their confidential informants who would then sell the stolen property. The proceeds were shared with August and Penney, along with another accomplice.

The instances involving theft and the distribution of marijuana happened more often, officials found, as an additional 25 pounds of marijuana had been stolen by the deputies.

The fact August served as a “peace officer” assigned to a narcotics unit helped, as he spent the period between March and December 2014 participating in marijuana-related operations.

According to the DOJ, he stole marijuana on at least ten separate occasions.

After this embarrassment to Kern County, officers involved in this scheme will spend only 5 years in jail for selling marijuana — not for stealing private property.

When laws meant to make us “safer” end up creating incentives for law enforcers to become criminals, you bet that they are also creating a lot of perverted incentives to those being hunted down by the police.

When government pushes a particular practice or substance into the shadows, they are also giving individuals incentives to distort the markets. Instead of working to beat the competition by providing better services and goods, they resort to simply killing their competitors, literally or figuratively by sabotaging their business. Corrupt law enforcement agents like the two deputies in Kern County saw a way to benefit from it, despite the fact they had sworn to uphold the law at all costs.

Ending the war on drugs is the only way to put an end to this vicious cycle.

 

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Have The Money To Go After Medical Marijuana States — But This Reality Could Change

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

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Have The Money To Go After Medical Marijuana States — But This Reality Could Change

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

The problem with political movements championed by libertarians is that, all too often, these victories are vulnerable.

Lawmakers come and go and so do their positions, prompting the new batch of freshly elected legislators to change the law as soon as a lobbyist is able to convince them that the current situation is “unsustainable.” With this, many rules protecting liberties are lost while others are added to the books. But due to this fluctuating system, it’s hard to keep legislators accountable, especially those who have grown used to Washington, D.C., spending more time with the powerful than with their constituents.

Sessions Under President Barack Obama, nullification advocates pushing for anti-drug war initiatives locally were able to pass a series of bills that helped to ease the federal government’s control over their property and personal choices. With that, a series of states passed medical marijuana laws while a few others legalized recreational weed.

But even as states made their own voices heard, telling the feds they were not their boss, Obama doubled down, breaking records that not even George W. Bush dreamed of breaking. Instead of respecting the states and their residents, the past administration dedicated many resources to go after pot farmers and weed sellers in states where the substance was legal.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, many speculated that things would only get worse, especially after he picked Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as his U.S. Attorney General.

But at least for now, it doesn’t seem that way.

Congress has, at least for the time being, blocked the U.S. Department of Justice from spending any taxpayer money on ventures that would interfere with states and their medical marijuana laws.

With the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, lawmakers made provisions that allow states to carry on with the pursuit of their own medical marijuana rules without the fear that the feds would try to restrict them.

So for now, and ever since 2014, the first year this provision was added to the budget, states are protected from rogue government agencies wanting to go after states for having passed their own medical marijuana laws. Even after Sessions issued a stringent warning saying that “it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

So as you can see, working hard for bills to pass so that our liberties are protected is, indeed, very much worth it. The problem is that with each new administration and every new Congress, we run the risk of losing those protections. That’s why it’s important to stay wary — and actively involved. After all, eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.

Drug Lab Scandal Leads To Thousands Of Drug Case Dismissals, But What Does This Prove?

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

Drug Lab Scandal Leads To Thousands Of Drug Case Dismissals, But What Does This Prove?

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On Tuesday, the biggest mass dismissal of wrongful convictions took place in a Boston courthouse. As a result, more than 23,000 low-level drug cases were dropped after it was proven that a rogue lab chemist had tainted evidence used to put these people in jail.

LabThis case doesn’t only showcase the tragic and perhaps inherently evil root of immoral laws such as the ones that comprise the U.S. anti-drug effort, it also helps us understand that even the illusion of unaccountability gives people enough incentives to produce poorly, no matter how damaging and nefarious their actions might be.

In this particular case, chemist Annie Dookhan — who worked for a private crime laboratory for ten years and whose co-workers always complained about — finally admitted to falsifying evidence tied to as many as 34,000 cases in 2013. But before then, she spent 10 years in that lab, helping prosecutors put innocent people in jail.

While the former chemist was arrested, she only spent three years in prison — a much shorter sentence than the ones handed to many of those she helped to convict.

But despite pressure to go over the cases impacted by Dookhan years earlier, prosecutors fought for a way to preserve the convictions. Thankfully, in this case, defense lawyers pressed on, helping to bring about 23,000 dismissals.

While Dookhan’s reasoning to have been involved in so many wrong convictions was never made clear, one can surely agree that prosecutors found no harm in accepting results from a chemist with a dubious track record. Why? Because their goal wasn’t to fight for justice but to uphold immoral laws.

When the state has the power to tell a consumer he or she isn’t allowed to do with their bodies what they will, the state also has the power to bend other rules. When not enough people are being convicted of drug-related charges, throwing caution to the wind and fabricating convictions out of thin air isn’t out of the question. With enablers such as Dookhan ready to please, it’s no wonder the number of drug convictions continues to rise, even as the number of overdoses also rise — because the state-sponsored war against drugs has nothing to do with safety but a lot to do with control.

So long as there’s a perverse incentive available, there’s always going to be a willing actor to take part in the show. After all, why would prosecutors go after the origin of the drug trade when they have so much low-hanging fruit at hand?

 

Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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

Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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A new bill under review by the Kansas legislature could help residents suffering from conditions that could benefit from medical marijuana. This piece of news is being met with enthusiasm by locals since many have been moving out of the state in order to obtain the help that they need elsewhere.

KansasAccording to the Kansas City senator who wrote the bill, the benefits of legalizing the plant “outweigh the detriments.” And he’s right. After all, what right does a bureaucrat have to tell a patient what drugs he or she are allowed to take?

According to local news sources, the bill being pushed through the senate could help residents like Tracy Marling, who left the state three years ago. Her move was ignited by her daughter’s rare form of epilepsy. Because the young girl wasn’t responding to traditional medicines, the mother decided to take her child elsewhere. Now that she can use cannabis, the child has been responding better, and the mom is now telling reporters how the lack of legal access to the plant forced her to leave the state.

In an interview, Marling told reporters that if there’s “something that helps somebody this much, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have access to it.”

In other 28 states, medical marijuana is already a possibility. And if Marling’s story is an indicator, many other families may be moving to one of these states in order to escape prohibitionist policies in their own homes.

Locals who believe that the choice should be up to the individual and not to a bureaucrat are being urged by former Kansas residents like Marling to contact their representative. Hopefully, lawmakers will finally understand the importance of giving the individual back the power to choose, giving locals more control over their own lives.

To marijuana and anti-drug war advocates, the decentralization of policy making has been the best of gifts. As more states join the likes of California, Colorado, and Washington in nullifying the federal prohibition of marijuana, more families will have access to the plant, allowing patients who are suffering from maladies that could be treated with the help of the plant feel more comfortable with trying the treatment without fearing to be the target of law enforcement.

This move toward more freedom will also help medical research in the future, giving researchers the opportunity of exploring cannabis’ full potential. After all, when substances are illegal, even medical researchers have a hard time having access to the material.

In other words, when government prohibition is en vogue, medical innovation also pays a price. But who ultimately pays the cost is always the consumer.

Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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

Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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Maryland could soon join the group of states putting an end to the federal ban on marijuana by passing a piece of legislation that would legalize the substance for recreational use. The bill would allow the state to regulate the sales and add a tax to recreational marijuana-related transactions.

RecreationalAccording to legislators behind the effort, adults ages 21 and older would be allowed to possess and even grow limited amounts of the plant if two pieces of legislation under consideration by the state legislature pass.

The goal, one of the legislators behind the effort told the press, is to end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition across the state, establishing what they call a sensible system. The pieces of legislation are based on the “lessons learned from other states,” which goes to show how important the nullification movement has been to the anti-drug war movement.

If the bills are approved by both chambers, marijuana retail stores would be regulated, requiring entrepreneurs to have a license to open a business. Local manufacturers, as well as testing and cultivating facilities, would also be subject to regulation. The state would also establish a 9 percent sales tax on retail marijuana while cultivators would have to pay an excise tax of $30 per ounce. Revenue created by the taxation of the industry locally would be used to back community school and workforce development programs, public education, and substance-abuse treatment and prevention.

If the One Line State chooses to pass these bills, the system that will be put in place will be similar to what is currently in use in Colorado. Maryland would then be joining others such as the states where voters have approved liberating marijuana for recreational use. They include California, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

Unlike other states, Maryland could be the first to approve the legalization of recreational weed on their own, without having to rely on the public to vote for a measure. But if legislators aren’t successful, a “Plan B” bill is also being considered, which would allow voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to legalize the plant for recreational use.

In 2013, Maryland approved marijuana for medical use, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts one year later. Despite the growing support for legalization even then, lawmakers killed a measure in the Maryland legislature in 2014 that would have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only time can tell whether this year’s measure will see the light of day.

 

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

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

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

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The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that police are allowed to destroy marijuana seized in criminal investigations, reversing the requirement that police store marijuana as personal property.

Property RightsAccording to the Associated Press, local police disliked the requirement that forced officers to care and store marijuana gathered as evidence correctly. As a result, the recent decision has been welcomed by local law enforcement.

The decision stems from a 2011 case revolving around a medical marijuana patient from Colorado Springs whose plants were seized after he was accused of having more plants than allowed by law. Currently, residents are allowed to grow up to 12 plants .

As a result of the investigation, the Colorado Springs resident lost more than 60 pounds, which were held by the police and then returned moldy. While the accused was later acquitted, he lost access to his possessions because of police’s lack of proper care to the product.

According to Colorado Justice Allison Eid, a possible Supreme Court nominee, the return provision that had been en vogue violates federal law. The decision supported that Colorado law enforcement should thus follow federal rules, despite comments made by dissenting judges who argued that the return provision does not violate federal law.

To libertarians, this decision sounds beyond appalling for a simple reason: it ignores property rights altogether in the name of the U.S. government’s long lasting war on personal choice — also known as the war on drugs.

While Colorado set an example to the entire country by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, restrictions concerning growth of the plant require law enforcement officials to violate property rights of the individual in question by not allowing individuals to do what they please in their own property. And by ruling that even during an investigation seized marijuana is not to be treated as personal property, the state’s highest court just emphasizes both the state and local governments’ lack of dedication to the individual’s right to the fruits of his labor.

Instead of spending precious resources seizing, investigating, and arresting individuals for exercising their right to keep and maintain personal property, it’s time to put an end to the madness that the nationwide war on substances seen as immoral or damaging. After all, it’s up to the individual whether he is willing to expose his own body to whatever substance available or not. And the government has no moral obligation to stop him.

Police Mistake Cat Litter for Meth, Won’t Apologize to Driver

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

Police Mistake Cat Litter for Meth, Won’t Apologize to Driver

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

Not all that glitters is gold. But how about sand? Is it always meth? To sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, it certainly is.

Cat litterAccording to a local ABC affiliate, Ross LeBeau made a right turn without coming to a complete stop in December of 2016, prompting local deputies to pull him over. LeBeau reportedly admitted to having a small amount of marijuana in his vehicle, but the “confession” was only produced after deputies said they were able to smell it. As the driver was arrested, deputies proceeded to search his car, finding 252 grams of sand.

“Meth!,” they must have thought. “We busted this guy!” It’s almost as if we can see them celebrating once they found that bag of sandy material. And we can! After all, the police reminded the public of the importance of “routine traffic stops” following the arrest.

While LeBeau denied having any meth in his car, deputies didn’t listen. Later, when the sandy substance was taken in for tests, lab workers found that the “meth” was really just cat litter. Seriously.

Thankfully, his arrest over meth charges was dismissed. Still, police continue to claim deputies acted appropriately, mentioning that field tests showed the sandy product was indeed, meth. Never mind the fact field drug tests used by law enforcement are completely bogus.

While LeBeau’s attorney claimed local law enforcement agencies are low on cash to purchase good testing devices, the problem with mistakes like this is that, more often than not, these arrests ruin the lives of people who would have otherwise been contributors to society.

Ultimately, drug laws have nothing to do with legitimate criminal activities such as murder or theft. Instead, all the drug laws do is to create crime out of a commercial and voluntary transaction.

In addition, drug laws help to create drug epidemics, artificially impacting the supply and demand of certain substances, and ultimately putting addicts in grave, deadly danger.

In the case of LeBeau’s story, this botched arrest may have been resolved, but law enforcement still hasn’t apologized for the mistake. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to the libertarians reading this piece. After all, it’s more common to see pigs flying — or at least trying to — than government and their employees taking responsibility for their mistakes.

Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

in Business and Economy, Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

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In 2016, marijuana sales grew 30 percent in the United States and Canada, reaching $5.86 billion in U.S. sales alone. As new rules regarding marijuana use and commerce begin to take effect in states like Florida, the year of 2017 promises to be the best in record for cannabis. And yet, the federal government continues to uphold its ban on the plant. Going as far as reassuring the public that CBD, one of the main ingredients in the cannabis plant used to manage pain, is also a Schedule I drug.

MarijuanaRegardless of the federal government’s lack of grasp, the market has chosen to ignore restrictions. Which is what the last big numbers tied to marijuana sales helps to prove.

By 2021, legal sales in the North American continent could reach the $20.2 billion mark, making the marijuana industry’s growth incomparable to the growth of other remarkable industries such as the the Internet. At this rate, the industry could be posting a 25 percent compound annual growth, experts say. But before marijuana, few industries showed this type of success.

In the 1990’s, one of the few consumer industry categories that reached the $5 billion mark in annual spending — only to produce the same rate of growth following the boom — was cable television. In the 2000’s, the Internet did the same, with a 29 percent compound annual growth. As the marijuana market continues to grow, however, the most important aspect of this story is often ignored.

As options become more widely available, and substances such as cannabis achieve legitimate statuses, consumers who rely on the product or who are simply curious now have options. When consumers have options and they are able to “shop around,” they are also less likely to be exposed to the evils of defective or corrupted products. Bad quality is often associated with items available in the black market precisely because the dealer selling products in obscurity has no incentive to compete.

When drugs and other products considered dangerous are decriminalized or legalized, consumers are the first to benefit.

Instead of standing in the way of personal choice, we must boost choice by simply letting the market decide where it goes first. Not because companies and entrepreneurs have a right to tell consumers what to do, but because consumers will lead the way, demanding better services and acting accordingly, by boycotting a certain product or service provider.

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.

DUI Arrest Over Caffeine? Time to Review These Silly Laws

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

DUI Arrest Over Caffeine? Time to Review These Silly Laws

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

DUI laws are often inefficient. Mostly because not all drivers react to certain substances like alcohol the same way, and because provoking injury or causing deadly harm to a fellow human being while behind the wheel is already against the law. Now, we have another reason to be skeptical of government’s “driving while under the influence” rules.

CaffeineA recent DUI case in California is catching the media’s attention for the police’s choice to pursue a case involving a driver under the influence of caffeine. Not drugs or alcohol, but caffeine.

According to the driver’s attorney, Joseph Schwab was pulled over in August of 2015 and charged with misdemeanor driving while under the influence of stimulants. As he and his attorney prepare to go to trial, the Solano County district attorney’s only evidence is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine in the driver’s system.

The motorist was on his way home from work when he was pulled over by a California department of alcoholic beverage control officer who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The official claimed Schwab had been driving erratically. She also said Schwab had cut her off before he was pulled over.

During the exchange between the official and the driver, he was given a breathalyzer test that eventually showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level. Nevertheless, he was booked into county jail where his blood was drawn. The toxicology report came back negative for THC, benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem, The Guardian reports. But officials weren’t over yet, sending the sample back for a second laboratory test in Pennsylvania, where they found that only caffeine had been running through the driver’s veins at the time of the arrest.

Despite the odd results, charges were brought against the man ten months after the incident, and the only evidence being used is the blood test. But in a statement, the local chief deputy district attorney said that “[t]he charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system.”

When we give the government power to criminalize what we do to our bodies, we also give way to authority abuse, allowing law enforcement to apply the law in an arbitrary way. Instead of relying on the rule of law, we now rely on flawed individuals in the justice system, giving them the power to say who’s to be held accountable. Isn’t it time to put an end to this waste?

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.

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

California could soon be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

If Proposition 64 passes this November, recreational marijuana would be legal in the Golden State for individuals aged 21 or older. Taxes would be established and then used to back government-run drug law enforcement, research, and what the architects of Prop 64 call “environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement efforts” resulting from illegal marijuana production.

PotWhile the initiative allows the state to profit from legalization, helping to boost the militaristic approach to the war on drugs locally, the law could benefit individual users and business owners who commercialize weed. And that’s what the startup community living in the heart of the American tech revolution is celebrating.

According to some reports, Silicon Valley’s class of pot entrepreneurs can’t wait until the votes have been all counted. Instead of sitting and waiting to see how things play out, they are already putting a “signature Valley spin on the age-old practice of selling marijuana,” using what they have learned from the social media explosion in order to prepare the market for consumers dying to use their smartphones to order some ounces of girl scout cookies, Bruce Banner, or perhaps sour diesel.

But they are not stopping there. They are also eager to develop software for growers and dispensaries, helping to “blow open the doors to innovation on the technology side of the cannabis industry,” says Chris Walsh, editorial director of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

While this enthusiasm shows the importance of allowing markets to let consumers make all decisions, it is also a risky business, considering marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

During the upcoming months and even years, many states will be joining the list of states legalizing marijuana, but federal regulators will, most likely, be the last ones to embrace the trend.

Estimates suggest that by 2020, marijuana sales in America will exceed $22 billion. While there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to join the industry, barriers lifted by the very laws removing the criminal element and regulating the sale and use of weed may make it difficult for those who aren’t already established or well-connected to succeed.

To those who are already in the business or getting ready to cash in, there’s still an issue with the financial aspect of the marijuana industry, considering the fact that most investment firms will steer away from marijuana entrepreneurs due to federal pressure. But companies like Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital have already thought of that, offering startups the means to get going with their ideas without having to worry about convincing powerful, well-connected men in suits their business plan will work despite all odds.

As more states join the legalization movement, opportunities will be made available. It’s up to those willing to take the risk of going against the feds to embrace them.

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

Rent-seeking, better known as the practice many companies embrace while trying to obtain benefits through the political machine, is, more often than not, the reason why our liberties are clipped, one by one, in the name of the greater good.

The war on drugs is the perfect example of this.

WeedEver since the idea of the drug war was first considered a valuable policy, politicians have used it as a way to bring their own enemies to heel. Much like major companies — whose profits suffer greatly whenever new competitors enter the market — these politicians often exploit their titles while claiming to hold an entirely different position in public.

With the war against marijuana, we have seen countless industries such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries step up their efforts to ensure the plant remains criminalized. As some begin to embrace the trend — even adding marijuana to their portfolio — others remain stubborn, fighting against the change and pushing Washington insiders to keep weed as a Schedule I substance.

Still, there’s one particular industry fighting marijuana legalization that, up until recently, had not made it to the news.

While the law enforcement and prison sectors have always been anti-drug legalization — with the exceptions of groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — yet another prison-related company has been investing in keeping weed illegal in at least one state: The prison food industry.

According to official Arizona state reports, Services Group of America has donated $80,000 last month to a campaign committee that hopes to defeat the legal cannabis measure on this year’s November ballot.

SGA’s subsidiary, Food Services of America, is tasked with preparing meals for correction facilities. And, in the past, it has been accused of offering meals that fail to meet basic nutritional standards set by the government. They do not seem too keen on allowing prison demands for their food reach a new low.

Local news reports also add that other groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce in Arizona have also donated heavily to the anti-marijuana effort, addressing a $498,000 check to the campaign.

Before both groups offered their financial support, opioid maker Insys Therapeutics had gone further, donating $500,000 to the anti-pot campaign.

Other groups listed as major anti-weed donors include the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association, and SAM Action, which is often described as the campaign arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Despite the heavy-handed efforts coming from these companies to defeat the marijuana legalization efforts, polls show voters are supporting the effort to legalize pot in the Grand Canyon state.

Will rent seekers win this time?

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

While campaigning for president, then Senator Barack Obama claimed that the federal government should not use its resources to prosecute marijuana providers in states where the substance was legalized for medical use. But after promising to put an end to the previous administration’s raids on medical pot providers, the current administration went on a witch hunt, cracking down on medical cannabis providers so aggressively that it managed to outdo the George W. Bush’s administration’s war on pot.

PotCurrently, medical marijuana is legal in 25 states in America, but according to the FBI, 2015 saw 574,641 marijuana-related arrests, resulting in one pot arrest every 49 seconds. In nine out of ten cases, the arrests were carried out for possession, not production or distribution.

Accounting for 38.6 percent of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2015, marijuana arrests happened more frequently than other drug-related arrests.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), only 19.9 percent of 2015 drug arrests were tied to heroin, and only 5.1 percent were tied to synthetic or manufactured drugs.

While the rate of marijuana-related arrests is still high, arrests have dropped 2.3 percent when compared to the data available 15 years ago, when 734,497 Americans were arrested “for marijuana offenses of which 646,042 (40.9 percent) were for possession alone,” the FBI reported.

Each year, taxpayers have to come up with $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana possession-related laws. And yet, ACLU reports, the drug war continues to be a failure.

Among many marijuana legalization advocates, the fact many states are gearing up to vote on recreational marijuana legalization is a major step forward. Nevertheless, the federal government is still reluctant to embrace the new trend, keeping marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.

To Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken, “state-level nullification efforts in the US within Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska, have weakened the US’s ability to insist on prohibition,” allowing other states and foreign governments to begin looking at marijuana-related laws under a different light. Prior to this major state-level movement to legalize marijuana locally, the US government’s drug war had been the major igniting force behind the drug wars across other countries in the continent. As more states embrace freedom, the federal government — as well as other governments — may finally begin looking at legalization as a feasible policy.

Until then, however, the US involvement with the United Nations may help to slow down the worldwide legalization trend, mainly because of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which legitimizes the US drug war.

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

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

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

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The opioid epidemic is a real issue in America. So much so that the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch started telling young folks that marijuana isn’t really the problem. Instead, Lynch explained, legally prescribed medications are to blame for the increase in opioid abuse.

But while learning that the head of the United States Department of Justice has just argued that weed does not represent a real threat may sound promising, it’s important to remember that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. Meaning that the federal government still sees marijuana as a substance “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

ManufacturingRecently, a group of marijuana legalization activists got an initiative known as Proposition 205 in the ballot in Arizona.

The initiative would allow Arizona residents who are older than 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public. Prop 205 would also allow consumers to grow up to six plants at home, giving them the option to give other adults up to an ounce at a time of its produce “without remuneration.”

But with the good news came another discovery.

The group that, alone, donated $500,000 to the effort to oppose the Arizona marijuana legalization campaign, is a local pharmaceutical company known as Insys, and it produces oral sprays used in the delivery of an opioid painkiller known as fentanyl.

According to Reason, the same company is planning on marketing yet another device that would deliver dronabinol, a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC: The main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis.

When donating to kill the initiative, the company contended that its opposition to marijuana legalization is due to Prop 205’s “[failure] to to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” According to Reason’s Jacob Sullum, what Insys is truly worried about is “the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products.”

And why is Insys so concerned? Perhaps because a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health contends that, in states where marijuana use is legal to a certain extent, fatally injured drivers are “less likely to test positive for opioids.” Sullum adds that this finding, along with the results of other studies show that “making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications.”

The data analyzed by researchers comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). By looking at the data gathered from 18 states where 80 percent of drivers who died in auto crashes were drug-tested, researchers found that, between 1999 and 2013, drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 were half as likely to test positive for opioids where medical marijuana laws had been implemented.

In these same states, researchers found that painkiller prescriptions fell by 3,645 daily doses per physician. Researchers concluded that “the passage of the medical marijuana laws” are directly associated with “the observed shifts in prescribing patterns.”

As the industry begins to fear the consequences of ending the drug war, we begin to understand that their dominance over the market is mainly due to their rent-seeking practices, which keep their leaders close to lawmakers, helping the industry to exert enough influence to sway public policy in a way that benefits them.

Without the presence of a government body giving companies special protections while outlawing particular drug transactions, drug providers are able to compete freely and in the open, giving consumers better and safer options.

It’s time to finally put an end to the drug war and admit that, rent-seeking will never help the nation heal from all of the negative consequences of our country’s ongoing romance with crony capitalism.

Drug War: CO Residents Treated as Criminals in Neighboring States

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

Drug War: CO Residents Treated as Criminals in Neighboring States

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

Colorado was the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. But while freer drug markets have also helped to boost other aspects of Colorado’s economy, issues associated with other state-run agencies were never fully addressed, mainly how law enforcement’s long-lasting love affair with targeting drug users and dealers hasn’t really changed.

Traffic StopEver since recreational marijuana was made legal, Tech Dirt reports, law enforcement agencies in neighboring states inched closer, considering any road coming out of Colorado a “drug corridor.”

Due to this approach to drug-related law enforcement, several unconstitutional stops and seizures have been taking place at the borders surrounding Colorado.

Recently, one of the incidents in which out of state officers attempted to send innocent travelers to jail turned sour—for the Kansas police.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a traffic stop carried out in Kansas was unconstitutional because the driver involved did not commit a crime by traveling from a state where marijuana is legal. After all, Tech Dirt adds, “it isn’t against the law to conspire to perform an act that is legal in another state.”

The incident that prompted the court’s decision involves Peter Vasquez. Originally, Kansas Highway Patrol officers claimed they pulled him over because his vehicle’s temporary tag was unreadable. But moments after his tag was verified, officers launched an expedition to find out whether the Colorado resident had any illegal substances in his vehicle.

While Vasquez was in the car, one of the officers told the second agent that Vasquez was “notably nervous,” urging the officer to “get a feel for him” to see “how nervous” he was. Once the second Kansas officer returned, he allegedly said Vasquez was “scared to death.” After checking Vasquez’s insurance and noticing he had added two new cars to his policy, one of the officers assumed Vasquez had been transporting illegal drugs. That’s when the K-9 unit was called.

During a quick interrogation, officers learned Vasquez owned a boutique, and that the newer car he had bought was given to his girlfriend. Once Vasquez told the officers he was moving to Maryland, they urged the driver to disclose the location of his belongings. Vasquez answered that he had already moved most of his belongings.

After issuing Vasquez a warning, officers continued to pressure him to give them consent to search the vehicle. But the attempts were fruitless. As a result, the officers decided to consider his stand was enough to prove Vasquez had something to hide.

Because one of the officers believed Vasquez was “probably involved in a little criminal activity,” they arrested him.

Once the dog was summoned, it failed to bark at anything in the vehicle. Nevertheless, cops went further, searching the vehicle on their own anyway. They also found nothing.

After the ordeal was finally over, Vasquez sued the Kansas Highway Patrol officers over their illegal search.

In their defense, officers involved claimed that the fact Vasquez was driving alone at night in a “known drug corridor” made him a suspect of taking part in illegal drug activities. Officers also claimed that, the fact Vasquez’s back seat “did not contain items” the law enforcement duo expected to see “in the car of someone moving across the country,” and the fact he seemed nervous, where all reasons for them to arrest him.

Thankfully for Vasquez, the judge ruled the officers’ conduct unreasonable and unconstitutional.

While this is a victory for this one individual, it’s disturbing to learn that law enforcement agencies see residents of a state where marijuana is legal as “instant criminals.”

When looking for what the drug war has accomplished over the years, look no further. Officers now consider anyone from Colorado a potential suspect. Even if drugs aren’t involved. That, and that alone, is what the drug war has produced.

Drug War Makes Criminals Out of California Physicians

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

Drug War Makes Criminals Out of California Physicians

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

To those who are born and raised in the City of Angeles, stories of violence set in motion due to poorly written drug and health-related laws aren’t particularly unique.

PillsOver the decades, Southern California has been in the news over instances of police brutality against minorities, wrongful killings by the police, deadly gang fights, and police union scandals. Los Angeles has also been the backdrop of countless gangster rap songs and videos, as well as the actual setting of several real life criminal conspiracies, so it’s not a surprise that even physicians are now being arrested for working directly with drug gangs.

According to a local NBC affiliate, two doctors working out of the Lynnwood area in South Los Angeles were arrested and charged for selling prescription drugs “without medical purpose.” The two physicians surrendered to federal authorities this past Friday and were later released on bond after appearing on court.

They were allegedly linked to gang members who were also arrested on the same day.

The United States Attorney’s Office’s Central District of California claimed that both physicians were “significant suppliers of drugs to a street gang.” Some of the drugs they allegedly helped gang members obtain include Vicodin, which is also known as Norco, Xanax, and Soma. The opioids, psychoactive, and barbiturate-like drugs were all prescribed “at or near maximum strength,” the report states.

One of the charged physicians was allegedly involved in these transactions between 2011 and 2015. The second doctor was accused of signing purposeless prescriptions in 2014 and 2015.

While the operation that led detectives to the gang members associated with the Lynwood doctors targeted East Coast Crips involved in California burglaries, officers looked into the relationship between the physicians and gangsters after learning that both doctors “served as large-scale sources of supply to [gang] members and associates.”

The doctors were allegedly caught after a series of undercover operations, meaning that officers or cooperating witnesses approached both physicians asking for these prescriptions. In most cases, officials stated, doctors failed to examine patients.

As the nation goes through one of its toughest drug epidemics in history, putting countless of drug users and addicts in morgues over tainted batches of opioids, stories like these remind us that, if there’s a market, even if the demand is for something considered illegal, there will always be someone willing to break the rules. Why? Because financial incentives often push otherwise decent people into breaking the law.

Even gang members are drawn into a life of crime over the promise of high turnouts for little work, even if the risks are also high. They might have never wanted to be part of a criminal gang, but when faced with the decision of becoming rich fast—even if it’s just a promise—they change their minds.

In a free society, these incentives also exist, but without prohibition, addicts and those who provide them with their drug of choice have freedom to do so in a peaceful manner. In the black market sprung out of prohibition, gangs use force to maintain contracts and fight over territory. They are also not worried about branding, making it easy for them to set morals aside to produce bad batches of whatever drug customers are after. In a free market setting, the opposite is true.

Also, addicts are more likely to be safe in an environment where drug consumers aren’t stigmatized. In a free society untainted by prohibitionist laws, drug users are more likely to look for help. Under the current laws, addicts are often afraid of being arrested—for a good reason. This fear pushes them deeper into their addiction, and the consequences are often deadly since they often become dealers themselves to sustain their habit.

Compassion can only exist in a society where people are free to develop their own sets of values. When forced upon us, morals are ignored. But when all we have is freedom, consumers and their welfare hold the key to good business practices.

Why make criminals out of inner city kids and doctors when you can put an end to the drug war?​

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