Currently viewing the tag: "drug war"

potConservatives are not just hypocrites about immigration or war, they also ignore the brutal effect that the drug war has on families. Today the internet offered up not one, but two of my favorite writers telling drug war horror stories. Let’s play the bleakest game ever and decide which one is worse!

First, Mike Riggs of Reason on some desperate-sounding parents “stealing” back their own children:

Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife Sharyn Hakken are on the run in Florida after kidnapping their own two children from Sharyn’s mother this morning. Patricia Hauser has had legal custody of her grandchildren, four-year-old Cole and two-year-old Chase, since 2012, when Joshua and Sharyn lost custody for displaying pot in front of their sons at an “anti-government rally” in Louisiana.

And Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic on a father facing 25 years in prison for selling a few pain pills to an undercover cop:

James Horner, a 46-year-old fast-food restaurant worker, lost his eye in a 2000 accident and was prescribed painkillers. Years later, he met and befriended a guy who seemed to be in pain himself. His new friend asked if he could buy some of Horner’s pain pills. Naturally, the friend was a police informant.

It helps to be reminded, when things lately seem so promising in terms of drug war progress, that this sort of lunacy is happening all the time in the country that professes to be the land of the free. So no, Ann Coulter, I am not going to focus on privatizing garbage collectors now, and the drug war once we’ve solved every single fiscal problem (the drug war being one of those as well, come to think of it). If you care about people, about families, and about choice, you care about the drug war. If you do not, even if you think it’s something to get to “later” you’re a cold,partisan hack, or a at least a very unserious thinker.

  • I wish you would drink a 20-oz Vicodin soda, sir. Apropos of my post from yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to restrict the use of prescription painkillers in New York City hospital emergency rooms. He’s a doctor…of entire cities…right?
  • David Frum is so scary-retro-hypocritical in his objection to drug legalization. His live chat with Daily Beast readers makes me want to burn my keyboard. 
  • “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is one of my dad’s favorite mottoes  but dammit, Andrew Kirell rants so beautifully against Glenn Beck’s new “libertarianism.”
  • On the other hand, Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, welcome to (moderate) libertarianism. Yes, please. We want you. Conor Friedersdorf can teach you the ways. 
  • Yes, I am about to link to an article that is technically about Lindsay Lohan, but this, (ahem, Esquire), is how you write about entertainment and actresses. Show, be restrained, don’t get all pretentious about the meaning of actress x, just tell the story. Make them a human, as Lohan actually is, turns out.
  • Also: Girls is moderarately entertaining and sometimes funny, this Slate television critic writing about it makes me want to pull my own teeth out.
  • Peter Suderman really liked Zero Dark Thirty and dammit, I still feel conflicted (albeit not Glenn Greenwald level conflicted) about it. I guess, if the CIA is going to give you way too much access, why wouldn’t you take it?
  • Guns don’t protect people.  
  • Thaddeus Russell mourns the current lack of leftists like Howard Zinn. Yeah, I’ll take Code Pink over Obamatrons,  but hmm… Well, read it.
  • Smoking children as art. Awesome.

2012 saw two states legalize (and regulate) recreational marijuana.These victories — this amazing feeling that something is really shifting on the drug war, albeit far too slowly — are heady for the anti-drug war advocate. But they should not make anyone soft on the other horrors of the drug war. Especially those that stem from crackdowns on stronger, more dangerous and controversial drugs, in particular prescription drugs — especially painkillers.

Advocates for Amendment 64 in Colorado did heroic work all last year and they took an unprecedented step towards ending the drug war. I don’t mean to bash anyone who has done better work than most pure libertarians up in their think tank towers have in 70 years, but I confess to cringing a little at the Marijuana Majority‘s  “regulation works” signs [Edit: Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell says he was “proud to hold” those signs, but the Amendment 64 campaign people were the ones who made them.] Good for the getting the moderates on your side, but — does it work? What about painkillers?

Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has done a great job shedding light on those who get caught in the machinery of restrictions on painkillers. So has Huffington Post’s Radley Balko, who noted that fear of prescription drug abuse is not dissimilar to any other drug moral panic. From crack babies to bath salts, the thing about drug panics is that they tend to be overblown and they tend to ignore either the people in jail or the people who actually need the drug.

In fall of 2011, the LA Times breathlessly reported that drug overdoses killed more people than car wrecks (37,485 vs. 36,284) in 2009. Indeed, mixing of depressants is dangerous. Informing people of this is important. (Also, yay, fewer car wrecks!) But the answer to that danger, in state fashion, is to punish people in pain and frighten doctors into violating their oaths to help. Freaking out and demanding that people just do something, dammit, doesn’t hurt. (Nor does reporting that completely ignores the issue of people in pain who are not getting the help they need. As Sullum wrote in 2011:

There is an unavoidable tradeoff here between relieving the suffering of innocents and saving people from their own stupidity, and the morally correct choice should be obvious.

It isn’t.)

The Obama administration suggested that every state have computerized prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently 42 do. This sort of legislating is par for the course for Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske’s faux-benevolent “third way” when it comes to drug policy. That is, we keep the drug war right on going, but don’t use such unseemly (accurate) terms as “war.”

As Reason‘s Mike Riggs has previously reported, Kerlikowske’s “nicer” policies still mean a life can be wrecked by possession of a single unprescribed painkiller, even when that individual escapes jail.

These monitoring programs don’t even appear to do much good in reducing overdoses, either. Though “a 2010 survey found that 73 percent of Kentucky law enforcement officers who used the prescription database called the tool ‘excellent’ for obtaining evidence.”

Pain is not quantifiable, and people build up a tolerance to opiates. So the very legitimate fear of Drug Enforcement Administration eyes on these databases makes doctors more afraid to give pain-relief seekers all that they want. This isn’t fair to doctors, since it forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their oaths to help people.  And it sure as hell isn’t fair to people who are suffering. (Today Riggs blogged this story, the headline: “Moments After Utah Man’s Wife Dies of Cancer, Cops Show Up to Confiscate Her Pain Pills“. It’s as bad as it sounds.)

The paraplegic Richard Paey is well-known case of near-life-ruin thanks to these restrictions. Paey, thankfully spent three years in prison for his “crime” of acquiring enough painkillers, instead of his original sentence of 25 years. But it doesn’t take a lot of pills, sometimes it takes two. @lakeline pointed me towards a story from last week the the death of the pregnant Jamie Lynn Russell. She died in jail after initially seeking help at a hospital due to severe abdominal pain:

Hospital staff reported Jamie wouldn’t cooperate, in too much pain to even lie down, so employees asked a Pauls Valley police officer to assist.

Unfortunately, when police found two prescription pills that didn’t belong to Jamie, police took her to jail for drug possession.

That’s where Jamie sat for less than two hours before being found unresponsive.

Oklahoma City KFOR reports that it was the hospital who released Russell and said she was medically fit to go to jail. Initial reports have already found that the jail staff were not negligent. The hospital staff have more blood on their hands, perhaps, since their purpose is to heal, not to follow every law.

Opiates are more dangerous than marijuana simply because you can overdose on them and die. When you mix them with alcohol you are risking a lot more than the spins. So when arguing for reduced restrictions on opiates, you don’t have the luxury of pointing to marijuana’s zero death toll. But this fight is just as essential as continued fighting for marijuana legalization, even apart from a moral objection to government deciding what substances an adult may ingest.

Fundamentally, when you give the government the power to control drug distribution  even in the kinder-sounding prescription-only way, you will always have stories like the ones above. And many, many more. Prohibition causes pain and suffering — it crushes freedom and it kills — but sometimes so does regulation.

  • Obama is so cool, check out what his DOJ has done to people who try to provide medical marijuana in states where it is legal to do so.
  • David Frum is a comfort in this world, because he is wrong about everything.
  • Cato’s Trevor Burrus on guns.
  • What the Institute for Justice was made for.
  • Kennedy and Matt Welch are on Red Eye tonight (3 a.m. EST) which should make it well worth watching. 
  • “DNA testing from as early as 2000 excluded Starks as the perpetrator, former Lake County prosecutors repeatedly refused to acknowledge the results, coming up with improbable theories to deny Starks’ innocence.”
  • The Onion knows.
  • Good point, good issue, no context, no introduction, just snippiness and loaded language (accurate or not) — the continued inability of Lew Rockwell writers to blog well. 
  • Oh, hell no.
  • Since I spent New Year’s Eve with ’em, four of my photos are up at the Old Crow Medicine Show website in their fan gallery. I flatter myself by saying mine are the best.
  • Jeffrey Tucker is coming to Pittsburgh! Woo!
  • Infowars titling this “Shock Video: Cop Protects First Amendment” cracks me up in super depressing fashion. Looooow standards! However, over here, when the cop says the words “he doesn’t have to show you his identification” — well, when I wear my minarchist hat I love that so much.
  • Speaking of things that shouldn’t be celebratory but are: Patricia Spottedcrow spent almost two years in prison for selling 31 dollars worth of weed, but now she is free. Two years caged would be horrifying except that Spottedcrow was facing 12 years.
  • Once again, libertarians, privatizing prisons does not fix the problem of prisons. Don’t be that guy, you know, like the libertarian whose biggest problem with war is how expensive it is.
  • Jon Ronson on the artist who did those 50 self-portraits while on drugs which you may have seen on Buzzfeed or some other internet locale. 
  • Sometimes Bill Maher proves that he almost knows better and maybe doesn’t have to be such a hack.
  • Oh, the things on facebook that could help prove I am a scary radical. Ugh.
  • Islamic theocracies are not funny, but this is still sort of an amazing headline.
  • Go follow my friend Andrew Blake for Bradley Manning hearing tweets and reporting. Bradley Manning is important, pay attention.