David Kirkpatrick

July 25, 2010

This is one …

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:20 am

jaw-dropping statistic.

From the link:

Nearly 25,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since the government launched an offensive against cartels in late 2006.

So um, how is that North American “war on drugs” going again?

July 8, 2010

From the department of “no duh”

The only thing the title of this release left out is it would also reduce both crime and the caseload of the California court system.

The release:

Legalizing marijuana in California would lower the price of the drug and increase use, study finds

Legalizing the production and distribution of marijuana in California could cut the price of the drug by as much as 80 percent and increase consumption, according to a new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation that examines many issues raised by proposals to legalize marijuana in the state.

While the state Board of Equalization has estimated taxing legal marijuana could raise more than $1 billion in revenue, the RAND study cautions that any potential revenue could be dramatically higher or lower based on a number of factors, including the level of taxation, the amount of tax evasion and the response by the federal government.

Past research provides solid evidence that marijuana consumption goes up when prices go down, but the magnitude of the consumption increase cannot be predicted because prices will fall to levels below those ever studied, researchers say. Consumption also might rise because of non-price effects such as advertising or a reduction in stigma, researchers say.

In addition to uncertainty about the taxes levied and evaded, researchers do not know how users will respond to such a large drop in price. Even under a scenario with high taxes ($50 per ounce) and a moderate rate of tax evasion (25 percent), researchers cannot rule out consumption increases of 50 percent to 100 percent, and possibly even larger. If prevalence increased by 100 percent, marijuana use in California would be close to the prevalence levels recorded in the late 1970s.

The analysis, prepared by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, was conducted in an effort to objectively outline the key issues that voters and legislators should consider as California weighs marijuana legalization.

“There is considerable uncertainty about the impact that legalizing marijuana in California will have on consumption and public budgets,” said Beau Kilmer, the study’s lead author and a policy researcher at RAND. “No government has legalized the production and distribution of marijuana for general use, so there is little evidence on which to base any predictions about how this might work in California,”

The analysis also suggests that the annual cost of enforcing current marijuana laws is smaller than suggested by others. The RAND study estimates that the cost of enforcing the current laws probably totals less than $300 million.

“It is critical that legislators and the public understand what is known and unknown as the state weighs this unprecedented step,” said Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, a study co-author and co-director with Kilmer of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

Two proposals are pending that would legalize the production and sale of marijuana in California. Assembly Bill 2254 authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would legalize marijuana for those aged 21 and older and task the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control with regulating its possession, sale and cultivation. The bill would create a $50 per ounce excise tax and these funds would be used to fund drug education, awareness, and rehabilitation programs under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

In November, California voters will consider a ballot measure titled the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 that would make it legal for those aged 21 and older to cultivate marijuana on a 5-foot-by-5-foot plot, and possess, process, share or transport up to one ounce of marijuana. In addition, the initiative would authorize cities or counties to allow, regulate and tax the commercial cultivation and sales of marijuana. Such activities would remain illegal in jurisdictions that do not opt in.

In only two countries have there been changes in the criminal status of supplying marijuana. The Netherlands allows for sale of small amounts of marijuana (5 grams) in licensed coffee shops and in Australia four jurisdictions have reduced the penalties for cultivation of a small number of marijuana plants to confiscation and a fine. Neither has legalized larger-scale commercial cultivation of the sort California is considering.

In 1975, California was one of the first states to reduce the maximum penalty for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana from incarceration to a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. In 1996, California became the first state to allow marijuana to be grown and consumed for medical purposes.

RAND researchers say one effect of legalizing marijuana would be to dramatically drop the price as growers move from clandestine operations to legal production. Based on an analysis of known production costs and surveys of the current price of marijuana, researchers suggest the untaxed retail price of high-quality marijuana could drop to as low as $38 per ounce compared to about $375 per ounce today.

RAND researchers caution there are many factors that make it difficult to accurately estimate revenue that might be generated by any tax on legal marijuana. The higher the tax, the greater the incentives would be for a gray market in marijuana to develop, researchers say.

“A fixed excise tax per ounce may give producers and users an incentive to shift to smaller quantities of higher-potency forms of marijuana,” said study co-author Jonathan P. Caulkins, the H. Guyford Stever Professor of Operations Research at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and Qatar campus. Such a shift is another factor that could lower revenues collected from marijuana taxes.

In addition, since the November ballot initiative leaves it to local governments to set tax rates, the size of any levy could vary broadly. A jurisdiction with a low tax rate might attract marijuana buyers from elsewhere in the state or even other states, further complicating efforts to predict government revenues from the sale of legal marijuana, according to researchers.

The RAND report also investigates some of the costs to the state and society in general, such as drug treatment and other health expenses, that may change if marijuana is legalized in California.

It’s unclear whether legalizing marijuana may increase or decrease drug treatment costs, according to the study. More than half of the 32,000 admissions for treatment of marijuana abuse in California during in 2009 resulted from criminal justice referrals, which could drop if legalization is approved. However, an increase in marijuana use could cause a spike in those who voluntarily seek treatment for marijuana abuse, researchers say.

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The report, “Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets,” can be found at www.rand.org. Funding for this study was provided by RAND’s Investment in People and Ideas program, which combines philanthropic contributions from individuals, foundations, and private-sector firms with earnings from RAND’s endowment and operations to support research on issues that reach beyond the scope of traditional client sponsorship.

Other authors of the study are Robert J. MacCoun of the University of California, Berkeley, and Peter H. Reuter of the University of Maryland.

The RAND Drug Policy Research Center is a joint project of RAND Health and the RAND Safety and Justice program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment. The goal of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center is to provide a firm, empirical foundation upon which sound drug policies can be built.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. To sign up for RAND e-mail alerts: http://www.rand.org/publications/email.html

October 16, 2009

Alvarez v. Smith

Why is this Supreme Court case important?

I’ll let Cato’s Ilya Somin provide the details:

Today, the Supreme Court hears Alvarez v. Smith, an important case that will affect the constitutional property rights of many people around the country but has failed to attract the attention as it deserves.

In Alvarez, the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional for Chicago police to seize cars and other property and hold it for many months at a time a without giving the owners any chance challenge the seizure. The Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (DAFPA) allows the police to seize property that may have been involved in a drug-related crime and hold onto it for up to 187 days without any kind of legal hearing. This rule applies even to property owned by completely innocent persons who simply had their possessions caught up in a drug investigation through no fault of their own – for example, if someone else used their car to transport illegal drugs without their knowledge. The three car owners involved in Alvarez were never even charged with a crime, much less convicted. Under DAFPA, the authorities also don’t have to prove that keeping innocent owners’ property is necessary in order to prevent the loss of valuable evidence.

August 22, 2009

Mexico decriminalizes drugs …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 am

… in personal use quantities. The first recent drug policy action taken in the Western Hemisphere that actually makes sense. Hopefully this a start of a changing dynamic that leads to an end of the absolutely disastrous “war on drugs” on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

And begins to put an end to murderous black marketeers working in both nations.

From the link:

Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday—a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government’s grueling battle against drug traffickers.Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico’s corruption-prone police from extorting casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.

“This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty,” said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general’s office.

The new law sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution.

May 15, 2009

The “war on drugs” rebranded

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

The Obama administration has rebranded the “war on drugs.” The key being taking the loaded word, “war,” out of the equation. The moniker was stupid to begin with and as has been noted around the blogosphere gave rise to a martial us-versus-them in law enforcement circles.

It’s not much, but it is a baby step so Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske deserves some kudos.

Now let’s take a look at that “czar” thing …

From the Cato Insitute’s weekly dispatch:

White House Official Says Government Will Stop Using Term ‘War on Drugs’

The Wall Street Journal reports that White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske is calling for a new strategy on federal drug policy and is putting a stop to the term “War on Drugs.” “The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting ‘a war on drugs,’ a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use…. The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.”

Will Kerlikowske’s words actually translate to an actual shift in policy? Cato scholar Ted Galen Carpenter calls it a step in the right direction, but remains skeptical about a true change in direction. “A change in terminology won’t mean much if the authorities still routinely throw people in jail for violating drug laws,” he says.

Cato scholar Tim Lynch channels Nike and says when it comes to ending the drug war, “Let’s just do it.”

Cato scholars have long argued that our current drug policies have failed, and that Congress should deal with drug prohibition the way it dealt with alcohol prohibition. With the door seemingly open for change, Cato research shows the best way to proceed.

In a recent Cato study, Glenn Greenwald examined Portugal’s successful implementation of a drug decriminalization program, in which drug users are offered treatment instead of jail time. Drug use has actually dropped since the program began in 2001.

In the 2009 Cato Handbook for Policymakers, David Boaz and Tim Lynch outline a clear plan for ending the drug war once and for all in the United States.

May 1, 2009

Rogue narcs in Philly

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:59 pm

IF you haven’t been following this story — Reason has been doing a bang-up job on that front — it’s worth the time to hit the link and get all the sordid details. Dirty cops and one more black mark against the war on drugs.

The real question is there will always be bad cops and even entire bad law enforcement units, but where was the oversight? That’s the question Radley Balko asks in this post.

From the link:

Previously (here and here), I blogged about a rogue narcotics unit in Philadelphia that was raiding bodegas on the flimsy excuse that the stores were selling resealable zip-lock bags that could potentially be used by drug dealers. Bodega owners say the cops were cutting the lines to surveillance cameras, then stealing cash, alcohol, cigarettes, and snack food from the stores. The Philadelphia Daily News was able to obtain footage of the cops cutting off one of the cameras during a raid, then inquiring to the store owner about whether the camera feeds went to a computer that was on or off-site.

The lingering question, here, is how this unit was able to operate like this for so long without any oversight. Why wasn’t anyone questioning the use of such aggressive tactics in searches not for drugs, but for no more than an otherwise legal product? Why did no one in the department ask why an “elite” narcotics unit was wasting its time busting immigrant shop owners with no criminal record for selling plastic bags instead of pursuing actual drug distributors?

It’s one thing to have a few rogue cops that, once caught, are fired and—hopefully—criminally charged. It’s a more wide-ranging and serious problem if there are institutional failures in the Philadelphia police department that allowed Officer Jeffrey Cujdic’s scam of terrorizing immigrant shop owners to flourish.

Now, the Daily News has published the results of its review of the search warrants obtained by Cujdik’s unit over the last several years, and the results are troubling. They find a wholesale lack of supervision of Cujdik and his men, even as complaints against them mounted.

April 14, 2009

An update on the war on drugs

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:17 pm

Yep, it’s been totally worth the cost to U.S. culture, social fabric and simple dollars.

Oh wait, not so much.

My apologies to Katherine Mangu-Ward blogging at Hit & Run for reproducing her entire post. It’s short and says everything I would. If you don’t read Reason.com and like the idea of free markets and free minds it’s worth your time to check in on a regular basis.

Katherine’s post:

The prices of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine have been declining for two decades, despite billions of drug war dollars spent to restrict supply. Then there’s this headline today on CNN.com:

Heroin cheaper than six-pack of beer

Don’t worry though. The drug war is totally working.

Via Best of the Web

March 20, 2009

Cato on Obama and medical marijuana

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:02 pm

Drug policy news from the Cato Institute’s weekly dispatch. It’s a small step, but anything that serves to normalize the U.S. drug policy is worth mentioning.

Even though the GOP has historically been for state’s rights, the Federalist impulse tends to disappear when those pesky states pass laws against Republican Party doctrine. Party of less government and personal freedom? Not any longer. In this case it took a Democratic administration to implement Federalist ideals.

And the GOP wonders why the walk in the wilderness is full of nothing more than blind trails and stepping in its own poop.

From the inbox:

Obama to Stop Raids on State Marijuana Distributors  
 

Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the president would end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that were common under the Bush administration.

It’s about time, says Tim Lynch, director of Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice:

The Bush administration’s scorched-earth approach to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws was a grotesque misallocation of law enforcement resources. The U.S. government has a limited number of law enforcement personnel, and when a unit is assigned to conduct surveillance on a California hospice, that unit is necessarily neglecting leads in other cases that possibly involve more violent criminal elements.

The Cato Institute hosted a forum Tuesday in which panelists debated the politics and science of medical marijuana. In a Cato daily podcast, Dr. Donald Abrams explains the promise of marijuana as medicine.

March 13, 2009

End the “war” on drugs …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:43 pm

and save $77 billion.

March 12, 2009

Weekly roundup from the Cato Institute

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:05 pm

Another post fresh from the inbox. This week’s Cato Institute dispatch:

Head below the fold for the details. (more…)

March 9, 2009

Rethinking the war on drugs?

It’d be a great idea since the “war” on drugs is an abject failure, costing society in many ways and doing little more than propping up some third world thugs, perpetuating a criminal black market on U.S. soil and bankrolling elements of a police state in the “land of the free.”

It took the Great Depression to end Prohibition of alcohol. Will this economic downturn, certain recession and probable depression do the same for at least some of the current Class C chemicals and plants? There’s already some more than speculation talk about decriminalizing marijuana and reaping tax dollars while saving money on low-level enforcement.

Then you find studies like this that point out the efficacy of current Class C drugs that started out at therapeutic options. I know many psychotherapists were very disappointed when MDMA was completely criminalized in the mid-80s.

The release:

Ecstasy could help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

New research published in Journal of Psychopharmacology

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (March 9th, 2009) – Ecstasy may help suffers of post-traumatic stress learn to deal with their memories more effectively by encouraging a feeling of safety, according to an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology published today by SAGE.

Studies have shown that a type of psychological treatment called exposure therapy – where the patient repeatedly recalls the traumatic experience or is repeatedly exposed to situations that are safe but still trigger their traumatic feelings – can be effective in relieving stress responses in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxious conditions. The therapy works by helping the patient to re-learn the appropriate response to the trigger situation, a process known as extinction learning.

But this approach can take some time, and 40% of patients continue to experience post-traumatic stress even after their treatment. To improve outcomes, scientists have been investigating the use of drug therapies to enhance the effect of exposure therapy, making the result of exposure to the fear trigger easier, faster, and more effective. MDMA (the pharmaceutical version of Ecstasy) is one such drug.

“A goal during exposure therapy for PTSD is to recall distressing experiences while at the same time remaining grounded in the present. Emotional avoidance is the most common obstacle in exposure therapy for PTSD, and high within-session emotional engagement predicts better outcome,” explain authors Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Krebs, who are based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and supported by the Research Council of Norway.

Psychiatrists that have administered MDMA to anxiety patients have noted that it promotes emotional engagement; strengthens the bond between the patient and doctor, known as the therapeutic alliance; decreases emotional avoidance; and improves tolerance for recall and processing of painful memories.

According to Johansen and Krebs, “MDMA [ecstasy] has a combination of pharmacological effects that…could provide a balance of activating emotions while feeling safe and in control.”

They suggest three possible biological reasons why ecstasy could help individuals with PSTD. First, ecstasy is known to increase the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in trust, empathy, and social closeness.

Because people with PTSD often report feeling emotionally disconnected and unable to benefit from the supportive presence of family and friends or therapists – a situation that is likely to contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder – use of ecstasy might also help ameliorate these symptoms, suggest the authors.

“By increasing oxytocin levels, MDMA may strengthen engagement in the therapeutic alliance and facilitate beneficial exposure to interpersonal closeness and mutual trust,” they write.

The second biological explanation for ecstasy’s useful effect is that it acts in two brain regions to inhibit the automatic fear response (mediated by the amygadala) and increase emotional control (mediated by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and therefore permits bearable revisiting of traumatic memories.

Thirdly, ecstasy increases the release of two other hormones, noradrenaline and cortisol, which are known to be essential to trigger emotional learning, including the process that leads to fear extinction, on which therapy for PTSD relies. But, caution the authors, while these compounds enhance extinction learning they may also temporarily increase anxiety in people with PTSD because the hormones are naturally released as part of the body’s response to stress.

Ecstasy combined with psychotherapy is a treatment already being tested in clinical trials to help patients with PTSD. All of these trials have a similar design in which ecstasy or placebo is administered to patients a few times during their therapy sessions as part of a short term course of psychological treatment. According to the Johansen and Krebs, recent preliminary results from two of these randomized controlled trials shows that the therapy might have promise.

“Reduction of avoidance behavior linked to emotions is a common treatment target for all anxiety disorders. MDMA [ecstasy] has a combination of pharmacological effects that, in a therapeutic setting, could provide a balance of activating emotions while feeling safe and in control, as has been described in case reports of MDMA augmented psychotherapy….Future clinical trials could combine MDMA with evidence-based treatment programs for disorders of emotional regulation, such as prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD,” conclude the authors.

 

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How could MDMA (ecstasy) help anxiety disorders? A neurobiological rationale by PØ Johansen and TS Krebs is published today (Monday 9th March 2009) in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. To receive an embargoed copy of the article contact mithu.mukherjee@sagepub.co.uk, t:+44(0)207 3242223. The paper will be free to access online for a limited period from http://jop.sagepub.com/

The Journal of Psychopharmacology is a fully peer-reviewed, international journal that publishes original research and review articles on preclinical and clinical aspects of psychopharmacology. The journal provides an essential forum for researchers and practising clinicians on the effects of drugs on animal and human behavior, and the mechanisms underlying these effects. The Journal of Psychopharmacology is published by SAGE, in Association with British Association for Psychopharmacology

SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepublications.com

February 12, 2009

Arrests in Phelps case

This is among the worst use of police resources possible. Nothing more than moron sheriff jerking off and seeking cheap publicity.

All this does is provide yet another “exhibit A” on why US drug laws are asinine, illustrate how the scare tactics used against drugs are largely bullshit and expose just how much taxpayer money is wasted fighting a non-crime due to stupid politics and worse enforcement of the bad laws on the books.

From the link:

Authorities in the South Carolina county where Michael Phelps was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe have been arresting people as they seek to make a case against the superstar swimmer, lawyers for two arrested people said Thursday.

Attorneys Joseph McCulloch and Dick Harpootlian told The Associated Press they each represent a client charged with possession of marijuana who was questioned about the party Phelps attended near the University of South Carolina campus in November.

The lawyers said the two clients were renters at the house where the party apparently took place. Harpootlian said his client was at the party, but didn’t see Phelps smoke marijuana, while McCulloch said his client wasn’t there. The two have since moved and were arrested after police executed a search warrant at their new home and accused them of having a small amount of marijuana there.

“After they arrested him, they didn’t ask him, ‘Where did you get the marijuana?’ or ‘Who sold it to you?’ Almost all the questions they asked him were about Michael Phelps,” Harpootlian said.

I think an easy summation on this whole situation is Sheriff Leon Lott=douchebag extraordinaire.

Also from the link:

Lott has said Phelps should not get a break because of his fame. Harpootlian said that he believes police are being overzealous.

“I find it amazing the justification is they don’t want to treat him any differently just because he is a celebrity, and he is being treated far differently than any other Joe Blow who might have smoked marijuana four or five months ago.”

February 4, 2009

Phelps, pot and Lott

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:13 pm

An ill-advised move by Phelps and a cheap shot from whoever took and released the photo of his bong hit, but the inane grandstanding from the little sheriff is nothing more than a play for publicity.

And Michael Phelps is quite the poster boy for the ills smoking marijuana can cause a person. His story for 2008 was one of national failure — oh yeah, scratch that argument …

From the Reason link:

Like Jacob Sullum, I agree with most of Kathleen Parker’s column on Michael Phelps and marijuana prohibition. But this part, about Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott I think comes up a bit short:

Lott, meanwhile, is threatening action against Phelps because … he has to. Widely respected and admired as a “good guy” who came up through the ranks, Lott is in a jam. Not one to sweat the small stuff, he nevertheless has said that he’ll charge Phelps with a crime if he determines that the 14-time gold-medal winner did, in fact, smoke pot in his county.

December 11, 2008

The war on drugs and your tax dollars

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:17 am

Hard at work for epic failure. Sadly, this is the typical outcome of any effort by “drug warriors.” “Just Say No!” was a joke from day one — “Don’t Say No!”

“This is your brain on drugs” is a great parody on Robot Chicken today. And who can forget that oldie, but goodie — “Reefer Madness.”

The idiotic “war on drugs” would be a joke except people are are losing their lives and are being incarcerated at ridiculous rates. I’ m not personally a huge fan of drug use, but as a libertarian I completely defend the right for adults to self-medicate in whatever fashion they choose. And I deplore the collusion between law enforcement and legislators to create a a sub-class of criminals out of drug users feeding an ever growing penal system.

Take the black market out of the drug trade and many problems would immediately disappear. Not all by any measure, and new problems would certainly crop up, but what we have right now does not work. Time for a radical change. Couldn’t be any worse.

I’d drink to that.

The release from the link:

Success of anti-meth ads questioned by study

Review recommends campaign be put on hold, pending rigorous research

Washington, DC, December 11, 2008– An independent review investigating the effectiveness of a publicly funded graphic anti-methamphetamine advertising campaign has found that the campaign has been associated with many negative outcomes. The review was published in the December issue of Prevention Science, a peer reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR).

The Montana Meth Project (MMP) was created in 2005 to reduce methamphetamine use in Montana via graphic advertising showing extreme consequences of using meth “just once.” Initially the ad campaign was privately funded, but it has since received millions of dollars in state and federal support as the MMP has promoted the ad campaign as a resounding success to policy makers and the media. Based on the apparent success of the ad campaign in Montana, it has since been implemented in other states including Arizona, Idaho, and Illinois, with more states to follow.

The negative outcomes identified in the review include: following six months exposure to the MMP’s graphic ads, there was a threefold increase in the percentage of teenagers who reported that using meth is not a risky behaviour; teenagers were four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use; teenagers were more likely to report that taking heroin and cocaine is not risky; and up to 50% of teenagers reported that the graphic ads exaggerate the risks of using meth.

The review found that the MMP overlooked these unflattering results when promoting their research findings to policymakers and the media. Instead, the MMP focused on select positive findings.

The author of the review, David Erceg-Hurn, who is currently completing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Western Australia, came across the Meth Project while conducting research on graphic tobacco advertising. There was a mention of the Meth Project in an article he read. Erceg-Hurn followed up on that mention and closely scrutinized the Meth Project’s research reports. He said that it is important for organizations that are funding or considering funding the MMP’s ad campaign to be made aware of all of the MMP’s findings – positive and negative. To date, this has not happened.

Erceg-Hurn also criticized claims that the ad campaign has been responsible for reducing meth use in Montana. “Meth use had been declining for at least six years before the ad campaign commenced, which suggests that factors other than the graphic ads cause reductions in meth use. Another issue is that the launch of the ad campaign coincided with restrictions on the sale of cold and flu medicines commonly used in the production of meth. This means that drug use could be declining due to decreased production of meth, rather than being the result of the ad campaign.”

Erceg-Hurn also pointed out in his review that due to the way the MMP has conducted their research, it is impossible to conclude that the ad campaign had any effect on meth use. To draw such conclusions would require much more rigorous research. This would involve examining two groups of teenagers that were equivalent in terms of drug use, exposing only one group to the graphic ads, and then examining any differences between the groups in their drug use.

The theory underlying the MMP’s ad campaign was also criticized by Erceg-Hurn. “The idea behind the ad campaign is that teenagers take meth because they believe it is socially acceptable, and not risky – and the ads are meant to alter these perceptions. However, this theory is flawed because the Meth Project’s own data shows that 98% of teenagers strongly disapproved of meth use and 97% thought using meth was risky before the campaign started.”

The review also points out that considerable prior research has found that large anti-drug advertising campaigns can be ineffective and sometimes harmful. For example, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion since 1998. A Government Accountability Office report found that the ad campaign has not reduced drug use. The only significant results were in an unfavorable direction – some youths reported an increase in marijuana use upon increased exposure to the campaign.

Erceg-Hurn concluded in his Prevention Science review that based on current evidence, continued public funding and rollout of Montana-style anti-methamphetamine graphic ad campaign programs is inadvisable.

 

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Prevention Science is the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research, an international organization focused on the advancement of science-based prevention programs and policies through empirical research. The membership of the organization includes scientists, practitioners, advocates, administrators and policymakers who are concerned with the prevention of social, physical and mental health problems and the promotion of health, safety and well being.

December 5, 2008

It’s Repeal Day (of prohibition) …

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:05 pm

… so have an adult beverage tonight!

I touched on the subject here with a post on the war on drugs, but this a milestone — the 75th anniversary of the repeal of the ban on alcohol. An ill-advised and ill-fated excerise in social puritanism out of control. Somewhat like the ongoing war on drugs.

Cato-at-Liberty was so excited about today there were posts!

The first from Tim Lynch:

Today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. We are, alas, living in a time when way too many people think that the way to solve problems and improve the human condition is to enact more laws. Let’s remember that repealing certain laws can actually help to create a more free and prosperous society! 

Cato is celebrating today’s anniversary with an event this afternoon entitled “Free to Booze.” 

More thoughts on Repeal Day from Radley Balko and our friends at MPP. For Cato scholarship, go here, here, and here.

The second just minutes later from Brandon Arnold:

Today is a great day in American history. Exactly 75 years ago, the 21st Amendment was ratified, thus repealing Prohibition. But Prohibition isn’t a subject that should be studied by historians alone, as this failed experiment continues to have a significant impact on our nation. 

Groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a key force in the passage of Prohibition, survive to this day and continue to insist that Prohibition was a success and advocate for dry laws

Prohibition-era state laws, many of which are still on the books today, created government-protected monopolies for alcohol distributors. These laws have survived for three-quarters of a century because of powerful, rent-seeking interest groups, despite the fact that they significantly raise costs and limit consumer options. And because of these distribution laws, it is illegal for millions of Americans to have wine shipped directly to their door.

To learn more about the history and legacy of Prohibition, check out my podcast and watch the live webcast of Cato’s policy forum, “Free to Booze: the 75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition,” starting at 3:30 today.

The fantasy life of the “Drug Czar”

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:25 pm

Predictably the current “Drug Czar” (and what a stupid term that is), John Walters wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on today being Repeal Day (the end of prohibition of alcohol) to tout the “success” of the ongoing waste that is the war on drugs.

I guess the true lesson of Repeal Day didn’t sink into Walters thick skull.

At Reason’s Hit and Run blog Jacob Sullum rips his claims to shreds, and then rips Walters a deserved new one.

From the link:

“The good news in drug policy,” Walters writes, “is that we know what works, and that is moral seriousness.” Moral seriousness on this subject would require taking into account half a million nonviolent drug offenders behind bars, the victims of black market violence, avoidable deaths caused by the unreliable quality and unsanitary practices that prohibition fosters, the risk-premium subsidy to thugs and terrorists, the corruption of law enforcement officials, and the loss of civil liberties resulting from the drug war’s perversion of the Constitution. Walters’ claim to moral seriousness is therefore hard to take seriously. I’d settle for a little bit of intellectual seriousness from whomever Barack Obama chooses to succeed Walters, but it seems to be incompatible with the job.

July 30, 2008

Ron Paul sponsors bill to decriminalize pot

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:47 pm

Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Barney Frank have co-sponsored a bill to decriminalize possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. The “war on drugs” has been such an abject failure, I’m not even going to go into the issues here (for the very lazy who want more, here’s a Google search to get you started.)

It’s not surprising sensible, privacy respecting civil liberties legislation is coming from Ron Paul. The blatant hypocrisy of US drug laws is a joke. i doubt this bill goes anywhere, but I’m pleased Ron Paul’s new found name recognition and political clout with the public translates into actual policy every now and then.

There’s really no libertarian blueprint. That much is clear if you take even a sidelong glance at the big-L Libertarian Party. It’s full of all manner of cranks, malcontents, isolationists, druggies, tax dodgers and then a whole lot of otherwise average people who just want the government to stay out of their way.

I don’t participate in any party activities for a variety of reasons, most importantly I don’t think the Libertarian Party is honestly serious enough to achieve any real policy goals.

Here is a paraphrase of a common joke among party participants — I’ve read this somewhere, but can’t recall where. Maybe on Wendy McElroy’s blog.

(This block quote is just the joke, not a quote from anyone’s blog)

First time Libertarian Party meeting participant, “Oh my god, look at that table of Nazis!”

Old vet, “Yep, there’s always at least one.”

First-timer, “What? Nazis?”

Vet, “Nope, someone who bitches about ‘em.”

Ron Paul is a little bit Libertarian, and quite a bit more libertarian and is the most libertarian congressman, at least publicly. I hope he can translate a wildly successful (given the expectations) presidential bid into real policy results for his ideals.

March 6, 2008

Nanny state — er city — in action Chicago-style

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:50 am

It looks like Chicago is going to ban self-sealing plastic bags under two inches in height or width. A Chicago drug and gang unit commanding officer described the bags as “Marketing 101 for the drug dealers.”

Here’s the best part of the linked article:

Prior to the final vote, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) expressed concern about arresting innocent people. He noted that extra buttons that come with suits, shirts and blouses — and jewelry that’s been repaired — come in similar plastic bags.

Burnett was reassured by language that states “one reasonably should know that such items will be or are being used” to package, transfer, deliver or store a controlled substance. Violators would be punished by a $1,500 fine.

Because we all know authorities always use great judgement when determining how an item may, or may not, be intended for use. Hopefully for Burnett’s sake no mall cops search his bag after picking up a few new shirts. I’m guessing he’d be in possession of not only some tiny bags, but possibly powdered drugs cleverly formed to mimic buttons.

I know that example is over-the-top, but any law that criminalizes a common item when used a “certain” way and leaves the usage determination up to street level enforcement, the potential for abuse is huge. And I seriously doubt this new regulation is going to have any effect whatsoever on the availability of small quantities of illicit drugs on the streets of Chicago.

February 28, 2008

More than one in 100 jailed in US

Is the US a police state? For the first time in our history more than one in 100 United States citizens are incarcerated.

From a NYT article:

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

The report’s methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department’s methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars.

This situation is not cheap. Also from the linked article:

Now, with fewer resources available to the states, the report said, “prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets.” On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections, trailing only healthcare, education and transportation.

In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bond issues and from the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

It cost an average of $23,876 to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year for each inmate in Rhode Island to just $13,000 in Louisiana.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, a rate that will accelerate as the prison population ages.

Sure, a lot those behind bars ought to be there, but are we, as a nation, more criminal right now than any other period of our history? Asinine minimum sentencing rules, three-strikes laws and the utter failure and policy of suck that is the “war” on drugs contribute heavily to this situation.

As a society it would behoove us to remember when we turn a petty problem into a criminal offense (e.g., much of our drug statutes, turning a third-time convicted shoplifter into a felon, sentencing a women to six years for touching an adolescent’s hair) we are actually creating criminals. Maybe hardened criminals if they are forced to do hard time with actual criminals. You know — murderers, rapists, b-and-e specialists, armed thieves, child predators.

Since I’m in Texas I’d throw in cattle rustlers and trespassers, but those types don’t usually make it to trial.

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