“With New York’s law, 15 states and Washington, DC, have now legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, although DC doesn’t allow recreational sales. (South Dakota voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in November, but that measure’s future is uncertain as it’s caught up in legal battles.)”
““From Seattle to Los Angeles, a “shoplifting boom” is hitting major retailers, which deal with thousands of thefts, drug overdoses, and assaults each year. Since 2010, thefts increased by 22 percent in Portland, 50 percent in San Francisco, and 61 percent in Los Angeles. In total, California, Oregon, and Washington reported 864,326 thefts to the FBI last year. The real figure is likely much higher, as many retailers have stopped reporting most shoplifting incidents to police.
Drug addiction is driving this shoplifting boom. In recent years, West Coast cities have witnessed an explosion in addiction rates for heroin, fentanyl, and meth; property crime helps feed the habit. According to federal data, adults with substance-abuse disorders make up just 2.6 percent of the total population but 72 percent of all jail inmates sentenced for property crimes. Addicts are 29 times more likely to commit property crimes than the average American. Furthermore, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics found, “[39 percent of jail inmates] held for property offenses said they committed the crime for money for drugs”—the most common single motivation for crime throughout the justice system.
Unfortunately, as West Coast cities grapple with an addiction epidemic, the shoplifting boom has only accelerated because of decriminalization. California’s Proposition 47, approved by nearly 60 percent of voters statewide in 2014, reclassified many drug and property felonies as misdemeanors, effectively decriminalizing thefts of $1,000 or less. Many criminals now believe, justifiably, that they can steal with impunity. For example, in San Francisco, police reported 33,000 car break-ins last year; the city now leads the nation in overall property crime. In Portland, a repeat offender nicknamed the “Hamburglar” stole $2,690 worth of meat in one year. He bluntly told police officers: “I know the law. I know the rules. I know what I can and can’t do . . . I’m never going to get over $1,000 at any store.” The Portland Police Department, which doesn’t assign officers to retail theft cases, admits that official statistics vastly underreport actual crime.
Some retailers have adopted a policy of private decriminalization, in many cases prohibiting their security guards from physically apprehending shoplifters. Liability losses, they believe, outweigh property losses. When I asked the manager of Seattle’s 96,000-square-foot Target if employees followed a “no touch, no chase” policy, he responded: “Officially, I can’t tell you our policy, but if you watch our front door for an hour, you’ll see pretty clearly what’s happening.” According to reports, the store likely has ten to 40 “security incidents” a day, including a dramatic incident last year when a drug-frenzied man went on a 15-minute rampage, destroying displays and merchandise, only to walk out the door with duffel bags full of goods. Police never arrived.
The shoplifting crisis isn’t limited to the West Coast. Retailers across the nation report $16.7 billion in losses to shoplifting. In many cases, they simply pass along the cost to consumers, with one study suggesting that this “shoplifting tax” costs the average family $400 a year. In Seattle, the shoplifting boom has forced some retailers to close stores in the downtown commercial district, citing massive losses and the threat of violence against employees. Another store, Outdoor Emporium, called 911 more than 200 times last year, but the city prosecuted only one of the incidents. Other retailers have stopped reporting shoplifting altogether—in a recent survey, downtown Seattle businesses reported “less than 5 percent of the daily crime they experience.”””
“if Biden really believes what he said and wants to do something about it, he has myriad options. Instead, he talks a good game on decriminalizing drugs while doing nothing of consequence.
For a first step, Biden could absolve prisoners serving time in federal facilities for using criminalized drugs. The president needn’t wait until his term is up to issue pardons and clemencies; why not start freeing victims of the U.S. war on drugs right now?
Biden could also encourage members of Congress and leaders in his party to introduce and support measures that could help end America’s failed, discriminatory, and disastrous drug war. These could include “moving marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a category supposedly reserved for exceptionally dangerous drugs with no accepted medical use, to Schedule II, which indicates that a drug has a high abuse potential but can be used as a medicine, might facilitate research” notes Reason’s Jacob Sullum. And if that change can’t make it past Congress, perhaps Biden could endorse “a less radical approach, embodied in a 2017 bill that attracted bipartisan support in the House, [that would] revise the CSA’s marijuana ban so that it does not apply to state-legal conduct.”
Biden could also bypass Congress on some aspects of ending the drug war. The American Civil Liberties Union urges the new president to “issue an executive order declaring an end to the war on drugs, directing federal prosecutors to no longer pursue drug cases, commuting the sentences of people serving time for drug-related cases, and pardoning people with past criminal convictions for drug-related offenses.””
“Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley examined what happened when Medicare beneficiaries faced an increase in their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. They found that a 34 percent increase (a $10.40 increase per drug) led to a significant decrease in patients filling their prescriptions — and, eventually, a 33 percent increase in mortality.
The rise in deaths resulted from people indiscriminately cutting back on medications when they had to pay more for them, including drugs for heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes.
“We find that small increases in cost cause patients to cut back on drugs with large benefits, ultimately causing their death,” the authors — Amitabh Chandra, Evan Flack, and Ziad Obermeyer — wrote. “Cutbacks are widespread, but most striking are those seen in patients with the greatest treatable health risks, in whom they are likely to be particularly destructive.””
“This finding challenges an important assumption embedded in American health care policy. In the 1970s and ’80s, the RAND Health Insurance Experiment concluded that small copays encouraged patients to use fewer health care services without leading to worse health outcomes. That helped establish a new economic argument for insurers to ask their customers to put more “skin in the game”: it would encourage more efficient use of health care services with no downside.
But that premise presumed people would be rational. For example, if they are being asked to pay more money for prescription drugs, they would cut back on less-valuable medications first. The Harvard/Cal study didn’t detect any such rationality. When costs went up, people just stopped filling their prescriptions for statins — high-value drugs that are effective in preventing heart attacks.
The researchers explained it like this: The way patients behaved when faced with higher out-of-pocket costs would suggest that they placed very little value on their lives. They literally stopped taking high-value drugs because of the price.”
“If patients can’t make good value judgments, the economic argument for cost-sharing starts to crumble, and it starts to seem like eliminating cost-sharing — increasing the likelihood patients will continue to take the medications they need to stay alive — would be a cheap way to “buy” people more health. As the researchers wrote, “improving the design of prescription drug insurance offers policy makers the opportunity to purchase large gains in health at extremely low cost per life-year.””
“Eliminating out-of-pocket costs would come with a price: Insurers would likely charge higher premiums to offset the loss of the copays and coinsurance that currently reduce their direct costs. But if the goal is better health outcomes, that is arguably a price worth paying.”
“Which brings me back to my trip.
I was in my living room when the drugs kicked in, wearing a sleep mask and listening to spacey, ethereal, electronic music. Suddenly, I was like Billy Pilgrim, the time-and-space-traveling G.I. hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Every trip is different, and for the next several hours I roamed the known and unknown universe and commingled with the living and the dead, with an emphasis on the latter.
I spent time with an old friend who committed suicide by gun years ago. (His apartment had been surrounded by the police due to overdue rent and antisocial behavior brought on by unchecked alcoholism.) I revisited dark, booze-sloppy periods during which I was distant and inattentive to my sons when they profoundly needed me. I shared a brief-but-welcome hug with my own long-dead father, who, like Vonnegut, served in Europe during World War II and participated in suffering and carnage that I thankfully will never personally know.
Never for a second did I lose touch with basic reality, but past sounds, sights, smells, and especially emotions were all around me. For the first time in more than a quarter-century, I experienced my father’s scent, an idiosyncratic blend of Brut deodorant, Barbasol shaving cream (the “beard buster”), Pall Mall Red cigarettes, and denture powder. I knew it wasn’t real, but it unlocked memories and moments I hadn’t thought about in forever. Later, my girlfriend and I lay down together and shared what we were seeing and what we were feeling, which produced a sense of closeness that was intense and even a little scary in its power. Even at their best, trips are always a workout, in the sense that a long hike up a mountain is a workout. You feel good and tired afterward.
I could go on, but let’s be honest: Descriptions of drug trips, even more than conventional travel stories, are boring as hell to read because they are so ultra-personalized, so filled with barely coherent symbolism, and so indeterminate in their meaning. (As with life itself, you may not know whether something really important happened for days, months, or even years.) The significance of any particular trip is far less than the sum of all of them. Fortunately, we will be taking more and more as support for the war on drugs declines and cities and states (and, eventually, the federal government) move toward legalization. If you’re interested in giving shrooms a try, read Mike Riggs’ “How to Take Shrooms,” first.”
“Unlike smokers of weed or tobacco, a meth smoker doesn’t apply flame directly to the drug; one heats up the outside of the paraphernalia. Traditional pipes, bongs, or bubblers wouldn’t get the job done. Only a narrow range of glassware, such as test-tube-looking devices or “bubble” pipes, are good for meth consumption.
Yet Dawson’s bill applies the same heavy tax to all smoking implements, regardless of whether they could be used to smoke meth. Meanwhile, meth users still have ways to smoke without buying devices subject to that 40 percent tax. The glass tubes that cigars come in can work in a pinch. So can aluminum foil and a plastic straw.
Dawson, who also works as an investigator with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, candidly acknowledges that home-made paraphernalia exists, but seemingly argues that pushing people toward using them would be a virtue.
Using aluminum foil to smoke meth would “create a residue on there, so that would be drug paraphernalia,” he told Radio Iowa. “But what people are doing now is they are buying these glass pipes because if they encounter law enforcement, they can throw it on the ground and smash it right away and destroy the evidence.””
“Having passed the state senate, Dawson’s bill is currently working its way through the committee process in the Iowa House.”
“In a close 27 to 25 vote (with one abstention)..members of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) backed a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal to take cannabis and cannabis resin off the list of Schedule IV drugs—i.e., those which the international body says are “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects” and should therefore be most strictly controlled around the world. Schedule IV drugs include heroin, fentanyl, and—from 1961 until now—cannabis.”
“While the U.N. vote “doesn’t totally free the plant from treaty control, it’s a giant step toward the normalization of cannabis in medicine above all but also in our societies generally””
“These recommendations might not be legally binding, but they can wield significant influence around the globe.
For instance, after the WHO change, Argentina’s government “issued a decree authorizing sales and self-cultivation of cannabis for medical use, and the justification explicitly refers to the outcome of the critical review and the WHO recommendation to delete cannabis from schedule IV,” noted Jelsma.”
“The rescheduling “is even more important when you consider that cannabis was placed into Schedule IV without ever having been subject to any scientific assessment,” suggests For Alternative Approaches to Addiction Think & do tank (FAAAT) in a press release. “Schedule IV for cannabis is a relic of the most extreme international drug laws inherited from 1950s morals … The removal from Schedule IV is, therefore, phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics.””
“The 2020 election was an important milestone in unraveling America’s disastrous war on drugs. Across the country, by overwhelming margins, voters came out for legalizing marijuana, removing criminal penalties for psychedelic use, and treating drug addiction as a public health rather than a criminal concern.
The biggest victory was in Oregon, where voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 110, making it the first state to eliminate the possibility of jail time for possessing small amounts of heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, and every other narcotic. Instead, violators could be hit with at most a $100 fine.”
“In Washington, D.C., voters opted by a margin of 3 to 1 to make the use, possession, and cultivation of entheogenic plants and fungi, such as psilocybin mushrooms, law enforcers’ lowest priority.
“It does not change law in any way. It simply says, ‘Look…we, the people, think that the police and the district attorneys should stop arresting and prosecuting people for psychedelic plants. So please do that,” says Moore.
Mississippi, Arizona, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Montana all passed initiatives allowing marijuana to be sold for either medical or recreational use.”
“Voters Oregon approved Measure 109, making it the first state to legalize psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.”
“In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana.
In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses.
In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.
With its vote, Oregon became the first state in the US to decriminalize all drugs in modern times. And marijuana is now legalized in 15 states and DC, although DC still doesn’t allow sales.”