The prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, had a Youtube just like Obama did a few months ago. Questions were added and voted on by the public on youtube.com/talkcanada. With nearly 170,000 votes on over 6000 questions marijuana legalization took the top 4 spots. Cannabis prohibition also ranked high on the US version but the question was not included in the final Obama interview. Surprisingly the question of marijuana legalization was asked tonight, Harper’s response was not surprising.

The question was,

“A majority of Canadians when polled say they believe marijuana sould be legal for adults and taxed just like alcohol. Why don’t you end the war on drugs and focus on violent criminals.”

What we got was pretty much the kind of response you would expect from a guy like Harper.

He started out ranting about his kids.  Harper went on to say,

[Marijuana use] is the last thing I want to see for my kids or anyone else’s children.

First of all the question said marijuana should be legal for adults. What the fuck does that have to do with his or anyone else’s children. Second, prohibition does absolutely nothing to keep drugs out of the hands of children. High school students continually claim that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol.

“I’ve been very fortunate to live a drug free life and I don’t meet many people who’ve lived drug free life and regret it …”

OK that is your opinion, Harper.  So when you made a bet with Obama during the Olympics involving a case of beer you weren’t going to drink it, right?  What he meant to say is “I’ve been very fortunate to live an illicit drug free life”.  When asked in 2004 if he had ever smoked pot Harper has this to say (source),

No I have not. I was offered a joint once and I was too drunk.

Even though alcohol is a much more dangerous drug it is perfectly acceptable, but marijuana will murder babies in South America.

He basically said the same thing when asked about his proposed mandatory minimum sentences. “We think its bad and we’re going to punish people for it.” He’s going for the moral approach here just like his role model George W Bush.

When people are buying from the drug trade they are not buying from their neighbor they are buying from international cartels that are involved in unbelievable violence and intimidation, social disaster and catastrophe all across the world.

Wow! So my neighbor who grows weed and sells it to me is actually a terrorist in disguise? I guess we’ll just have to take your word for it, Harper. Wonder where he got that idea? It is true that drug cartels and many terrorist groups are funded by drug profits that does not mean drugs = terrorism.

Canada is a marijuana exporter, nearly 100% of the marijuana consumed in Canada is grown in Canada. So we really are buying weed from our neighbor. If it was not for the prohibition induced black market we would have a very successful domestic marijuana economy. Gangs reap massive profits and control the majority of the marijuana black market exactly the same as they did during alcohol prohibition. The organized crime element is caused by prohibition not a reason for it.

I know that some people say if you legalized it you would get the money and all would be well. But I think that rests on the assumption that somehow drugs are bad because they are illegal. The reason drugs are illegal is because they are bad.

Here he used the old debater’s trick, the straw man. He built up a phony aspect of the argument (the straw man) and easily knocked it down. Nobody thinks drugs are bad because they are illegal and nobody would argue that. The question is not whether drugs are bad or not. The question is, why is marijuana illegal when 1/6 Canadians are using it? Good or bad people are going to be using it. The prohibition approach has done nothing to stop people from using pot. Prohibition has done very little in preventing drug use, in fact it has failed completely. Prohibition has made billionaires out of villans and ruined the lives of countless good honest citizens.

… and even if these things were legalized I predict with great confidence that these would never be respectable businesses run by respectable people, because of the very nature of the dependency that they create, the damage that they create, social upheaval they create.

So Harper thinks the marijuana business could never be respectable. I wonder if he thinks all the breweries, wineries, bars, and liquor stores in Canada are respectable? This is another example of his moral objection to marijuana. It is also absolutely false.

To sum up Harper’s arguments

I don’t give a fuck if Canada votes to legalize marijuana I think it is morally wrong.

It’s nice to see someone like you steering the ship Harper. Here’s one more question for you, what is the shelf life for bad legislation?

A new hydroponics store opened in Oakland California on January 28.  The thing that sets this store apart from all the other hydroponics stores is that it is huge.  This store is in a 15,000-square-foot warehouse.  iGrow is based their store design on Ikea, they have a variety of hydroponic systems layed out on display.  There is a doctor on site who can issue a medical marijuana card as well as technicians who will travel to your house and help you set up your new pot growing equipment.  The only thing this store doesn’t have is clones.  Check out this video,

So what its a huge pot growing store.  The store itself is not all that significant but the media coverage that it is getting is.  It is one more notch in the belt of the legalization movement and perhaps a glimpse of what the post-prohibition world will be like.

2009 hosted several firsts in the legal marijuana industry. In March 2009 the first publicly traded medical marijuana company, Medical Marijuana Inc, was founded.  It is a consulting company for medical marijuana businesses.  Last year in Colorado a gourmet marijuana restaurant opened called Ganja Gourmet.  It is the first marijuana restaurant.

Each of these businesses helps get society ready for the legal marijuana industry that is to come.  Recreational marijuana possession is still illegal throughout the US.  Pot is decriminalized in many states for non-medical use but it is still against the law and trafficking and cultivation are met with long prison sentences.  Up here in Canada it is 100% illegal for non-medical use.  There are not any marijuana producing corporations yet unless you count gangs and cartels which have multi-billion dollar market share on the black market.

Last night (Dec 28) I caught an anti-marijuana commercial while watching TV. Nothing unusual except this was put on by the Canadian government. It showed a kid being offered a pull on a joint, he then had flashbacks of getting busted for ecstasy and other drugs. You can watch the ad below.

Incidentally I witnessed the beginning of Prime Minister Harper’s new anti-drug media campaign. Anotner step towards the americanization of Canada. The campaign includes advertisements in buses, trains, subways and shopping malls across Canada, as well as Internet banners on websites popular with teens. The strategy is an exact copy of the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) which has been going on since the 80s and has been proven to be ineffective. The PDFA brought us such ads as “this is your brain on drugs” and the recent “above the influence” camaign. The not4me.ca website is clearly inspired by abovetheinfluence.com. It uses a more appealing website design than standard Canadian government pages to keep young people’s attention. Compare this site to this one and you’ll see what I mean.

A major, and critical, difference between PDFA and the new Conservative campaign is that PDFA is sponsored by corporations not governemnt. Check out the list of sponsors for Harper’s campaign, SPONSOR LIST. Many contributers are Canadian police groups including: Canadian Police Association, Justice Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Another one that really stands out is Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Nearly all the sponsors are organizations funded by taxpayer money. Harper is once again using our own money against us.

To Harper’s credit the “facts” section stays closer to the real facts than PDFA and DEA. While the PDFA says,

Marijuana is addictive with more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.

The Conservative campaign uses carful wording using words like “may” and “has the potential”. The not4me.ca website says,

Cannabis has the potential to be psychologically and physically addictive.

Here’s another quote that really disturbed me,

Marijuana has over 400 chemicals and some of the same toxic substances found in tobacco smoke that can cause cancer.

If you read that sentence carfully it does not actually say marijuana causes cancer. Although the sentence is technically true it gives a very negative impression of marijuana.  That is exactly what Harper is counting on.  Marijuana has not been proven to cause cancer, in fact it has been proven to cure cancer (articleRick Simpson). The Conservative government has launched a Canadian war on drugs. Its a little late in the game though, the US is taking baby steps towards legalization and the rest of the world is easing their pot laws. I don’t think Harper got the memo.

The national anti-drug srategy is new government plan to ramp up the war on drugs in Canada. Only a few years after the Liberal government tried to decriminalize in 2004 (shot down by pressure from the US) the Harper regime took a U-turn. Look at the budget on this thing, from the drug strategy backgrounder,

The Government of Canada has committed $30 million in new funding over five years to support the Prevention Action Plan.

Conservatives introduced legislation like bill C-15 (mandatory minimum sentences, increased maximums), increased justice budgets and put more cops on the street. They are also promoting DEA style drug courts and other tenants of the failed US drug war. Drug courts promote court-monitored rehab over prison (more on rehab).

Harper is Canada’s George W Bush. We need to get that fucker out before its too late!

What a year for marijuana!  More progress has been made in 2009 than the previous three decades combined. Marijuana discussion has hit the mainstream with major articles in publications like Fortune Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News, CNN, the Economist and dozens of others!  Let’s take a look at the top ten news stories of this momentous year.

1. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps Caught Smoking Bong

The photo of Michael Phelps hitting a bong was on the front page of every newspaper in February.  The sight of the world’s greatest Olympic athlete smoking pot got people talking.  This story broke less than a year after he won the most Olympic medals in history.  Phelps lost some major sponsors, including Kelloggs, but some stayed behind him.  Subway capitalized on the media attention and released TV ads starring Phelps with the slogan “Be Yourself” (Youtube).  Kellogg’s reputation sank after dropping Phelps largely due to a boycott in support of the athlete (link). Not even an industry-wide peanut scare inflicted as much damage on the food company’s reputation.

2. US Federal Government Stops Medical Raids

Until 2009 the DEA was raiding medical marijuana dispensaries even though they were legal under state law.  Under the Bush regime these raids peaked.  Thirteen US states have allowed the sale of medical marijuana with California being number one.  There are over 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in LA alone.  Obama stated early in the year that he opposed  these raids but it was not till October that it became official.  Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

3. American Medical Association Calls for Government to Review Marijuana Restrictions

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drugs in the US.  That means it has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug.  Cocaine and methamphetamine are in the lower classification Schedule II.  The official AMA statement reads

The AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.

The AMA statement shows that marijuana has undeniable medical uses and federal law should reflect that reality.

4. Marc Emery Gets Fucked Over by US Feds

The Prince of Pot was arrested in Canada on orders from the US DEA.  He was arrested in 2005 and the long extradition battle finally ended this year.  Marc was targeted because of his involvement in the marijuana legalization movement.  He was the leader of the BC Marijuana Party and publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine.  The charges against Emery include Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering.  He was the owner of Emery Seeds a company that sold marijuana seeds to Canadian and US customers over the internet.  Canadian authorities have not pressed charges.  Marc expected to be sentenced to five years in US federal prison.  DEA does not dispute that Emery is a political prisoner they issued a press release lauding his arrest as a blow to the legalization movement.  More on Marc Emery.

5. Latin America Ex-Leaders Say Drug War is a Failure

Cesar Gaviria, former president of Columbia, has joined with former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo to try to change the debate on drugs in Latin America.  Trafficking gangs have killed tens of thousands of people and weakened democracies through corruption. The presidents form a group called Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.  They say

the war against drugs is failing and the U.S. government should break with prohibition policies that have achieved little more than cram its prisons and stoke violence.

The commission’s report was successful in changing they way Latin America thinks about illicit drug use.

6. Mexico and Argentina Decriminalize Marijuana and Other Drugs

Mexican congress voted to decriminalize marijuana and other drugs in June.  The bill says users caught with small amounts( 5 grams of marijuana, 500 milligrams of cocaine, 40 milligrams of methamphetamine or 50 milligrams of heroin) of drugs will not be criminally prosecuted.  Argentina followed Mexico’s lead in August of this year.  The Argentine supreme court ruled that drug laws were in conflict with the constitution.  Possession and consumption of small amounts of narcotics were decriminalized. In exchange, the government will publicly fund drug treatment programs for minor offenders and addicts, much like other nations, including the Netherlands and Spain.  Brazil and Ecuador have plans to decriminalize as well.

7. California Proposes Bill to Legalize Marijuana

In February Tom Ammiano of the California State Assembly proposed a bill titled The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act.  This bill would legalize marijuana and tax it in the same way as alcohol.  If passed marijuana would be legally sold to anyone over the age of 21.  To obtain a commercial grow license one would pay an initial $5,000 fee, then a $2,500 fee each year after that. A tariff of $50 per ounce would also be placed on all sold and grown marijuana.  An estimated $1 billion in annual revenue would be made.  The bill has been delayed and is expected to be heard by state committee in early 2010.  The press jumped on this story broadcasting it all over the world.  It got people talking about the financial benefits of legalization.

8. Breckenridge, Colorado Voters Legalize Marijuana and Paraphernalia

The small ski town in Colorado voted 3 to 1 for the legalization measure.  It was placed on the ballot after campaigners turned in a petition with almost three-times the number of signatures required.  Breckenridge is the first place to legalize paraphernalia in the US. Possession of marijuana is already decriminalized in Colorado, up to 1 oz results in nothing more than a $100 fine.  Drug laws are not determined at the municipal level but this measure makes marijuana possession a low priority for police.

9. Five Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results

In 2001 Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs.  The country was facing rising levels of HIV and drug related deaths.  They took the bold move in an effort to focus on treatment and prevention instead of incarceration.  A report published in the spring of 2009 by the Cato Institute, a Washington libertarian think tank, showed the real world benefits of decriminalization.  Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006.  The report shot down the assumption that liberalizing drug laws will create an increase in drug use and addiction, one of the DEA’s top ten reasons against legalization.

10. British Drug Advisor Fired for Saying Pot is Safer Than Alcohol.

David Nutt was chair of the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and a professor of neuropsychopharmacology.  The British government moved cannabis from Class C to the more restrictive Class B in opposition to Nutt’s recommendations. According to Nutt, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made “completely irrational statements” about the dangers of marijuana use. According to Nutt:

“I’m not prepared to mislead the public about the harmfulness of drugs like cannabis and Ecstasy.”

His opponents say he embarrassed the British government, which toughened the penalties for possessing marijuana earlier this year.  The decision to fire David Nutt was no doubt tied to the upcoming general election.  After all, it’s hard to convince voters you’re on their side when your own drug advisor is going about telling them you’re full of shit.

Runner Up

Drug Czar Calls for End to the War on Drugs

The head of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, aka the drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske said in an interview that the Obama government wants to make changes to the drug war.  The new strategy will spend more money on treating addiction and scale down the war on drugs rhetoric as part of an overhaul of U.S. counternarcotics strategy. He emphasized the point that “legalization is not on the table” and that the war will continue but they don’t want to use the title “War on Drugs” any more.

American drug laws are being threatened by anti-prohibition groups.  People are beginning to wake up to the evils of prohibition.  The DEA published this booklet, Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization.  It is available online HERE.  The DEA says this booklet is “designed to cut through the fog of misinformation with hard facts”.  Let’s take a look at the top ten “facts” about legalization.

1. We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts.

They go on to say “Ninety-five percent of Americans do not use drugs.”

The exact opposite of that is true. An estimated 117,325,000 Americans aged 12 or over (47% of the US) have used illicit drugs in their lifetime. The lion’s share being marijuana use (41% of total US population).   Marijuana use has declined slightly in recent years but heroin use has grown significantly as well as cocaine.  Drug use follows trends for which change over time.  For example acid was popular in the 60s and again in the 90s but not right now.  Speed and meth were popular with the artsy crowd in the 60s and now meth is seen as a hillbilly drug.

Lets not forget the legal drugs.  The DEA only combats illicit drug use but the scope of drug use in America paints a picture.  Over 66% of US adults drink alcohol on a regular basis and 82% have tried it. 90 billion is spent on alcohol annually in the US alone. Tobacco use is also alarming, 173,927,000 Americans have used tobacco in their lifetime. In addition the use of menthol cigarettes among smokers is on the rise. Caffeine use is also alarming, approximately 70% of Americans are addicted to caffeine. Caffeine is an addictive and abused drug, in fact there are four caffeine-induced psychiatric disorders recognized by psychiatric professionals.

2. A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.

Prohibition has never worked. Alcohol prohibition created a lucrative black market run by organized crime groups, corruption among law enforcement and politicians, and did little to curb alcohol use. Drug prohibition has taken all these problems to the next level.

The DEA continually promotes it’s special drug courts. These courts often sentence people to forced rehab. While that is better than prison many people don’t need or want rehab. In the case of marijuana the unnecessary treatment is used to create statistics that show marijuana is addictive, which it is not. (see marijuana rehab industry)

3. Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.

Absolute bullshit. The legal drugs are more harmful than the majority of illegal drugs. In the case of marijuana the DEA uses myths and half-truths to show it is harmful.  Here is a quote from the DEA site:

smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette.

That is not true at all (see joint/cigarettes myth).  Another DEA tactic is emergency room mentions. Emergency room mentions are not reasons for visiting the hospital. If you go to ER, lets say for a broken leg, and mention marijuana verbally or on a survey it goes to this statistic. That is a loose measurement of prevalence of use not an argument for harm related to the drug. The DEA’s arguments that marijuana is harmful are 100% false. The lethal dose for marijuana is about 900 joints in one sitting (physically impossible), it is not addictive, and there has never been a recorded death or case of cancer as a direct result of marijuana use.

The DEA’s lies are immoral. A publicly funded agency should not lie to the public to stay in business. They are going after the children too, check out justthinktwice.com.

Alcohol is the drug that society has the most problems with. It is addictive, poisonous, has a high potential for abuse and no medical value. Four in ten criminal offenders report alcohol as a factor in violence. 43% of Americans have been exposed to alcoholism in their families. Tobacco is physically worse. Nicotine addiction is harder to quit than heroin. These drugs are harmful and kill millions every year but they are legal, why?

This chart sums it up. It ranks drugs based on the amount of drug it takes to get high vs how much it takes to kill you:

4. Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.

Marinol is a synthetic form of THC in a pill.  It is not popular among those who need medical marijuana.  There are three major complaints.  First, vomiting patients have trouble swallowing a pill. Then, if a patient does swallow the pill, the good effects don’t kick in for hours. And when the pill finally starts to work – buckle up. “A 2.5 milligram Marinol pill absolutely knocked me out,” reports one man with AIDS. “I wound up lying on the sofa for days, just totally drugged and unproductive.”  Patients prefer smoked marijuana because it is cheaper, more effective, works almost instantly, and easier to dose.  Here’s a good article “Marinol: The Little Synthetic That Couldn’t“.

Marinol costs $652 U.S. for 30 doses while cannabis can be bought for less than $100 for the equivalent amount.  Marinol was first made in 1985 when a company called Unimed bought the patent and began producing.  The reason a pill was created is a plant cannot be patented.  The pharmaceutical industry is based entirely on patents.  If you could grow your own medicine why would you pay thousands of dollars per year to a drug corporation?

The American Medical Association has recently stated that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance must be reviewed (article).  The DEA suffered a blow and has been working to remove references to the AMA’s stance on marijuana from their website and publications (article).

5. Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.

What?!?  The DEA’s annual budget was $2.4 billion in 2006 and increases every year.  That’s just the DEA, the cost of maintaining the extreme amount of prison space required for drug war POWs is enormous, as well as local police, judges, prosecutors etc.  In 2003 the US federal government spent over $19 billion on the drug war, that’s $600 per second.

Drug prohibition is the lifeblood of many private industries as well including the private prison industry, private rehab, anti-drug advertising, drug testing, and many others.  There are countless other corporations who benefit from drugs being illegal; big pharma, alcohol and tobacco companies to name a few.  Of course there are the organized crime groups who actually sell the illicit drugs.  The money involved here is insane!

6. Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.

The “legalization” that was tried before was actually the decriminalization of marijuana in Alaska that started in the 70s but they deliberately did not tell the whole story. As the DEA correctly points out Alaskans passed a referendum to recriminalize the personal use of marijuana by a slim margin in 1990. However, in 1993 the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that a popular vote could not change a constitution amendment. The court has upheld this decision on several occasions. As the law currently stands in Alaska you are legally allowed up to one ounce of marijuana in the privacy of your home and up to 25 marijuana plants.  In Amsterdam you are only permitted to have 5 grams of marijuana without facing prosecution.  The DEA knows this and purposely lied in their “fact sheet”.

Decriminalization does not remove the “forbidden fruit” appeal of  drugs.  Some rebellious teens do drugs because they are illegal.  Under decriminalization people arrested for small amounts of pot don’t get a criminal record but they still pay a fine and it is still illegal.  It was not just an experiment either, twenty one states in the US have decriminalized marijuana to some degree.

The argument that legalization will lead to higher levels of addiction assumes that prohibition limits demand.  That is not the case.  Drugs are available in an absolutely uncontrolled market. High school students frequently claim that pot is easier to get than alcohol.  The law is not much of a deterrent.  When alcohol prohibition was removed in the 1930s did everyone become a drunk?  Absolutely not.

Let’s try a thought experiment.  If a big bucket of heroin and one of cocaine were left unattended on a busy street corner how many people would use the drugs?  Probably the same amount that are using it now.  Less than 1% of the population have used heroin and nearly 10% have tried cocaine.

7. Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand

That’s true but not for the reasons they say it is.  Illegal drugs are available only in the black market created by prohibition.  In a black market you can’t rely on the cops or other agencies to solve disputes so violence is the only option.  This market is run by criminal gangs who have built up massive amounts of money due to prohibition.  Drug users do not have to be criminals.  If you could go to a gas station and by a pack of “greens” the criminals would not be involved.  You don’t see Starbucks (one of the biggest drug dealers in the world) shooting up the competition do you?

8. Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.

This argument is used frequently by prohibitionists.  Well why is alcohol legal then?  I’ve already pointed out some of the problems with alcohol.  The truth is marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol and the DEA prevents this alternative from getting to the public.  To me this argument is an admission of guilt.

For info on the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol look no further than SAFER.  Or get yourself a copy of the new book “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Drunk driving is a major problem but studies show that stoned drivers are more cautious and safer drivers.  Each drug has its own unique pros and cons. If you can’t compare apples to apples the argument breaks down.

9: Europe’s more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.

Europe has different forms of decriminalization and harm-reduction.  These policies have already made their way into the US.  The American stance of militarized outright prohibition with no compromise has not worked.  It is pretty ignorant to ignore alternatives when the system is failing.  What is the shelf life for bad legislation?

10. Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.

Again they are tooting their own horn about the “drug courts”.  The DEA thinks that treatment over incarceration shows mercy.  They won’t let you forget it either.  That does not change that hundreds of thousands of non-violent users are in jail for extremely long sentences.  (see marijuana vs rape).  The US imprisons more of their own people than any other nation past or present.  The drug war is the main recruiter for the growing US prison population.  Jail or not they still get a criminal record and that is just as bad.

The DEA’s arguments against legalization are weak.  I thought they could do better with a $2 billion/year budget.  But why are they arguing about the law anyway?  DEA is the drug enforcement agency they are supposed to enforce the law not rationalize it. As David Bratzer of LEAP said “If police officers are qualified to comment on anything it lies merely in the area of arresting criminals and helping people in distress.” Laws are supposed to be determined by the legislative branch of the government and in a more general sense the voting public, not the cops.  That just shows how fucked up the DEA is.

Marijuana and other drug users are sentenced to treatment they don’t need on a regular basis.  The private addiction treatment industry thrives on the thousands of “addicts” coerced into treatment by courts. Drug courts frequently give defendants the option to take rehab or prison time. Nearly 300,000 people each year choose drug rehabs over prison when charged with marijuana possession in Canada and the US. Marijuana is not considered an addictive drug (Addiction Myth) so why send people to rehab?

The DEA, PDFA and other anti-drug groups use these statistics to show that marijuana is addictive. From the DEA website:

In 2003, 20 per cent (185,239) of the 919,833 adults admitted to treatment for illegal drug abuse cited marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.

Very few of those sentenced to rehab need or want treatment. In fact the US Department of Health and Human Services admits that 37% of nearly 300,000 people who entered drug treatment for cannabis in 2007 had not reported using the drug in the 30 days previous to their admission (detailed pie chart). The corporations that run addiction treatment facilities like all corporations only care about making money. Many addiction centres have unqualified staff who are members of the program themselves.

Source: 2002 SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

This graph shows marijuana admissions compared to other drugs. It is clear which ones are addictive (Opiates, Cocaine I’m looking at you). Check out this graph showing the sources of rehab program admission in the US: Pie Chart

For centuries addiction was treated as a demonic possession. It was assumed that addiction was the cause of possession by evil spirits. Treatments included exorcism and trepanation (drilled holes in addicts head to release the demons). It is clear to us now why the evil spirits model was abandoned but the disease model is not much better.

Rehab centres promote the disease model of addiction. This method ignorantly assumes that drug addiction can be treated as an illness. And the illness led people, through no fault of their own, to problematic substance abuse. Through this model blame on the addict is minimized and the importance of medical treatment is emphasized. You don’t here anyone telling an AIDS patient to “Snap out of it” or “Go cold turkey”. Addiction is not caused by bacteria, virus, or genes as real diseases are. Major drawbacks of the disease model include increased risk of relapse and dependence on medical treatments. It is easy to see why the rehab industry likes this model.

One rehab company, Narconon, is actually run by the church of Scientology.  It is basically a recruiting program for the church.  Patients spend from $10,000 to $30,000 and spend 3 to 4 months at Narconon facilities (Sources link1, link2).  Another company Straight inc. used a very aggressive approach to drug rehabilitation. They would continually humilate patients and used brainwashing techniques.  Over 40 suicides have been committed in Straight facilities.  Hundreds of cases of physical, mental and sexual abuse eventually led to Straight Inc going out of business.  From Wikipedia:

The Fairfax, Virginia location was cited and shut down for 76 violations of client’s rights, including, but not limited to educational neglect, sleep, food and water deprivation, unlawful physical restraints, inadequate medical care, lack of trained or qualified staff, and allegations of non-reported sexual and physical abuse that resulted in paid lawsuits to several former clients. Many former patients of Straight have formed ‘survivor groups’ assembling themselves in small numbers seeking a means to understand the trauma suffered and supporting one another in grasping the reality of what happened in their lives.

Several clones of Straight Inc popped up after it was sued out of existence. One such facility Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC) in Calgary, Alberta is still in operation. AARC uses a controversial “tough love” approach which involves humiliation, constant confessions and confrontational therapy. Graduates and near graduates of the AARC program, called “peer councillors”, handle many of the sessions. Internet, TV, reading and calendars are banned. Patients are continually broken down until they admit that they have a disease. All this for $50,000 per year.

One young woman was admitted to AARC and labelled a “stage 4 addict” when she wasn’t addicted to any drugs. She was abused daily and raped once. Rachel escaped after 5 months and later came forward to the media and police. Several former AARC patients have reported physical and sexual abuse. (Article, “Powerless” Documentary)

Drug problems for most of human history have been treated as bad habits similar to chewing your fingernails.  That is really what an addiction is.  Early in the twentieth century beginning in the United States the medical industry stepped in and declared addiction a medical condition.  This gave power and money to medical communities.  Other human troubles have been dragged into the medical realm as well.  Overmedicalization seems to have taken Western society hostage. There are real drug addicts out there who need help; chose your help carefully. Sending people to rehab just to create statistics does not help anyone.

The average sentence for rape in Canada is 3.85 years and 6 years in the US. The maximum in Canada is 10 years for non-violent rape, 14 years for violent, and life in prison for
aggravated sexual assault. The maximum sentence permitted by law upon conviction for rape in the United States is life imprisonment.  Marijuana laws in Canada and USA  institute punishments that equal, and in many cases exceed, the punishments for rape and other violent crimes.

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Marijuana sentences in the US vary significantly from state to state.  Here are some examples for simple possession:

  • Texas: 180 days to 99 years
  • Florida: 1 to 15 years
  • Utah: 6 months to 15 years
  • Missouri: 1 year to life
  • California: less than 1 oz $100 fine; 6 months maximum for more than 1 oz

In DEL RIO, Texas in 2007 a man was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for trafficking marijuana (LINK).

In June 2009, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk proposed legislation that would give harsh sentences to offenders in possession of high potency pot.  High potency is defined as marijuana that exceeds 15% THC.  This law would impose up to 25 years in prison for a first-time offence (LINK).  Higher potency pot is in fact much safer for the consumer as it takes less plant material to get high (see Potency Myth).

Drug laws in Canada are controlled by the federal government and are the same for the entire country.  Although Canada has a reputation for lenience on pot there is nowhere in Canada where you can legally possess marijuana.  Decriminalization has been proposed in the past but was shot down by pressure from the US.

The maximum sentence in Canada is 5 years for possession for over 1 oz; 6 months for less than 1 oz.  The absolute max for cultivation is 7 years.  The current government has proposed legislation that will double that to 14 years (same maximum sentence as violent rape) and add a mandatory sentence of 6 months for as little as 6 plants.

It is clear that governments feel marijuana is at equally detrimental  to society as rape.  I don’t think I need to explain how horrible the aftermath of rape is on the victim and their family.  What about the negative consequences of marijuana?  There are essentially no negative consequences of marijuana use other than those imposed by prohibition.  Marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution are all victimless crimes.  Any and all violence and organized crime involvement are the direct result of prohibition and in no way initiated by the plant.

Although the drug war has absolutely failed in reducing demand, consumption and supply of any illicit drugs the number of POWs grows every year.  See graph:

The drug war is irrational and unjust.  It is a war on the people.  The DEA and other organizations who benefit from this war lie and lie and lie just to keep this war going.