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Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War

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

Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War


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

The opioid crisis in America is real and it has been putting thousands of people in grave danger yearly with 33,000 dying of overdoses in 2015 alone. But despite the high rates of drug abuse in certain states, others have been reaping the benefits of pot legalization. In states where cannabis is legal either for medical, recreational purposes or both, the rate of opioid abuse is actually lower.

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Now, reports claim that employers have been having a hard time finding skilled blue collar workers because a high rate of them simply cannot pass random drug tests.

According to the latest Fed’s regular Beige Book surveys, employers in the manufacturing and hospitality industries have been unable to find enough workers who pass drug screenings.

Employees and potential employees who are subjected to these screenings are often tested for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol. And in places like Ohio, where the opioid crisis hit locals especially harder, manufacturing companies such as Warren Fabricating & Machining have been experiencing the worst crisis in their history, with two out of every five qualified applicants failing routine drug tests.

To Edmond O’Neal, who is with the education and skills-training non-profit Northeast Indiana Works, the problem is that many employees or potential employees simply do not view pot as a drug.

“I’ve heard kids say pot isn’t a drug. It may not be, but pot will prevent you from getting a job,” he told reporters.

But because weed and many other substances are still seen as illicit drugs under federal law, these companies are compelled to be rigorous in their screening process. After all, having employees making use of illicit drugs is a liability and an insurance problem.

While performing any job under the influence of drugs has its consequences, individuals who use certain substances for medical or recreational purposes such as cannabis in their time off may find it hard to maintain a job.

In many cases, employees in fields where they are expected to go under great physical stress feel the pressure to let go of their cannabis use, a relatively safe way to obtain relief for muscle and other types of pain, just to stay employed. In no time, these same workers may end up turning to prescription drugs for relief, stepping into the never-ending cycle of legal opioid use triggered by doctors who are more than happy to prescribe highly addictive opioids but whose hands are still tied when it comes to medical marijuana.

While we don’t know exactly what percentage of employees fail drug tests over cannabis use, we can only assume that many are failing, especially in these fields, because they are directly affected by the work they do and turning to marijuana as a way to relieve stress and pain actually works. But thanks to the federal government’s continued effort to fight a failed war against drugs, both blue collar workers and their potential employers are the ones paying for these failed policies.

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

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

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.

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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

The US Food and Drug Administration and its very foundation have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for quite some time, and yet the agency’s power appears to never be brought into question in a significant way.

IdahoFrustration, however, is often the best incentive. With that in mind, a group of Idaho lawmakers decided to join several other states by defying the FDA’s powers by proposing a piece of legislation that would practically nullify some of the agency’s rules prohibiting terminally ill patients from having access to experimental treatments. The bill would allow Idaho residents to have access to these experimental treatments, regardless of what the FDA has to say on the matter.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the House of Delegates Health and Welfare Committee introduced House Bill 481 on February 12. On February 29, the bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Access to experimental drugs and treatments is restricted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. While the law keeps the general public from having access to experimental drugs and treatments, a provision known as 21 U.S.C. 360bbb gives patients with serious or life-threatening diseases access to experimental drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Drugs that haven’t been approved by the agency, however, remain out of reach.

If HB 481 passes, the FDA’s rules would not apply to Idaho residents seeking access to experimental drugs. Instead, state laws would protect manufacturers and physicians involved in aiding the terminally ill. By protecting all parties involved from liabilities for their participation, the state may effectively nullify the FDA’s rules locally.

The bill states that eligible patients may “request, and a manufacturer may make available to an eligible patient under the supervision of the patient’s treating physician, the manufacturer’s investigational drug … which shall be clearly labeled as investigational; provided however, that this chapter does not require that a manufacturer make available an investigational drug to … an eligible patient.” With this piece of legislation in place, health care providers that agree to participate, whether by administering the treatment or by giving the patient the resources necessary to carry on with the experimental treatment, will be protected from possible legal actions. By protecting providers and physicians from sanctions, license troubles, or lawsuits, the state of Idaho joins other 24 states that have passed the “Right to Try” legislation in their states.

To the Tenth Amendment Center, this rapid evolution indicates that Americans of all walks of life are coming together to put an end to rules that put individuals in danger and that undermine their liberties.

HB 481 should move to the Idaho Senate for further consideration before the piece of legislation heads to the desk of Governor Butch Otter.

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

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

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders by two offense levels and, a few months later, voted to make the change retroactive. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, some 10,000 federal prisoners were eligible for re-sentencing under the new guidelines. Applicants were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approximately 6,000 were released between the end of October and early November.

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For decades, bad laws passed by well-intentioned lawmakers have ravaged mostly poor and minority communities and have cost taxpayers billions while doing little to stem drug use or stop the drug trade. Several states, both red and blue, are turning to drug treatment and rehabilitation to address drug crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s revision of its guidelines, known as “All Drugs Minus Two,” is just one of many that either have been adopted by the federal government or are currently under consideration in Congress to reform the criminal justice system.

Although the U.S. Sentencing Commission should be applauded for the change, some are directing fire at the Obama administration. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for example, is making the release of the prisoners an issue against his Democratic opponent in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatter, R-Va., blasted the commission in a recent piece at the conservative publication, National Review.

“The problem with the Sentencing Commission’s changes to federal drug-sentencing requirements is that they are applied without regard to the inmate’s criminal history and public safety,” Goodlatte wrote. “Consequently, criminals set to be released into our communities as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s amendment include inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy, and even murder.”

Goodlatte may come across like a hardened drug warrior determined to punish anyone whose life got off track, but, to his credit, he recently introduced the Sentencing Reform Act. His bill would expand the safety valve for certain drug offenders so they can avoid lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

At least one member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission says Goodlatte and others who are criticizing the retroactivity of the new guidelines. Judge William Pryor was appointed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2004 as a recess appointment. Pryor was one of the judicial appointments stalled by Senate Democrats because they were deemed “too conservative.” When Senate Republicans threatened to go nuclear on the filibuster in 2005, an agreement was reached to ensure the filibuster would remain intact and the controversial judges would receive a confirmation vote.

Pryor set the record straight about what the process and the decision to make the new guidelines retroactive.

“When the commission votes to amend the sentencing guidelines, its decision becomes effective no sooner than six months later — that is, only after Congress has had an opportunity to exercise its statutory authority to reject the proposed change. Congress, of course, did not exercise that authority last year after the commission proposed modest changes in sentencing for drug cases. Instead, several members of Congress publicly supported those changes, and few said anything in opposition,” Pryor explained. “In fact, Chairman Goodlatte did not even schedule a hearing to review our decision.”

“Chairman Goodlatte objects to making the changes in drug sentencing retroactive, but he fails to mention that Congress gave the commission that authority,” he noted. “Indeed, Congress required the commission, whenever it lowers any guideline.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been preparing for these prisoners to re-enter society for a year. In October, the Washington Post reported that “[a]bout two-thirds of [of the prisoners] will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”

While there is no guarantee that these prisoners won’t re-offend, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken a step in the right direction and the Bureau of Prisons has provided them with support necessary to put their lives on the right track. The rest is up to them.

But it brings up a point worth considering, perhaps at another time, what steps should Congress and the Bureau of Prisons take to ensure that prisoners, once released, won’t re-offend. Re-entry programs that help with job placement and other policies, including “ban the box,” would go a long way to reducing recidivist behavior and turning these one-time offenders into taxpaying citizens.