What struck me about this story was the officers’ frustration that sentences are too light to persuade those arrested to turn informant:

Agents along the border had long been frustrated by what one ATF supervisor later called “toothless” laws that made it difficult to attack gun-trafficking networks. Straw buyers — people with no criminal record who purchase guns for criminals or illegal immigrants who can’t legally buy them — are subject to little more than paperwork violations. Even people convicted of buying AK-47s meant for the cartels typically just get probation for lying on a federal form attesting that they were buying the guns for themselves. With such a light penalty, it is hard to persuade those caught to turn informant against their bosses…

I’ve been watching the Canadian series ‘Intelligence’ recently.  It really drives home the extent to which the war on drugs, and the corruption and the violence that attend it, combined with our technological capabilities to spy and snoop like never before, have completely transformed how police work is undertaken.  I thought that proportionality was a basic tenet of justice- that severity of the sentence is related to the severity of the crime.  Since when should the severity of a sentence be correlated with its ability to blackmail a defendant into cooperation?


The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have just published a literature review on the social harms of khat use.  Key findings:

1. The review found a general lack of robust evidence on the link between khat use and social harms.
2. Reported social harms associated with khat remain a concern among the UK’s immigrant Somali community, yet beyond often contradictory anecdotal statements, this review found no evidence to show a causal relationship between khat and the various social harms for which its consumption is supposedly responsible.
3. Inferences about khat’s social harms have largely been drawn from the experience of the Somali population, as less research has been undertaken on other communities who are also consumers of khat.
4. As well as khat, many other variables might contribute to the social problems confronting the relevant communities, i.e. the effects of civil war, displacement, gender relations, and problems of integration. These need to be more fully considered in any further research.
5. Legislating against khat in Europe and North America has had little success in curbing demand and has taken place with little consideration of evidence. In those countries where the greatest evidence on khat use has been compiled (the UK, the Netherlands and Australia), import and consumption are still permitted, albeit under the control of a permit system in the case of Australia.

Hopefully this review of the evidence is enough to prevent any moves to criminalize khat sales.  See previous discussions here and here.


Legalize Marijuana 600

Ryan asked me to post this, in support of  US House Bill HR2306 to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.  It’s the first time marijuana prohibition has been debated in Congress since 1937. For more information, check out the Norml blog post on the Bill. As an observation, I don’t think number 5 is correct. There aren’t any countries where marijuana is legal, just some where the penalties aren’t enforced. Regardless, it’s a fun infographic in support of a good piece of legislation. Pedantry over, back to work…

Admittedly, I was in a vicodin cloud for quite some time.  (Mmmmm, vicodin) but that’s not why I haven’t been blogging.  Sadly, my job has actually required that I do some real work over the past few weeks, so I haven’t had so much time during the day. That, plus the fact that it’s now gorgeously sunny at the weekends and in the evenings means that I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be back posting here rather than outdoors enjoying the summer.  Maybe when the weather gets dark and shitty again?

In the meantime, here are the blogs that I usually read:

Cop in the Hood

Dare Generation Diary


Drug Law Reform News from the ACLU news feed

Drug War Chronicle

Drug War Rant

La Reprobate

Mexico’s Drug War

Marijuana Policy Project


Transform Drug Policy Foundation (and in particular, their mini blog for a daily dose of news and views)

The UKCIA newsblog

I’d never heard of 4/20 until I moved here, but it seems to be a pretty established day of toking celebration on this side of the Atlantic. The story of its origins are great– a bunch of high school guys in the 70s met at 4.20 every day after school to go hunting for a mythical marijuana field. The term 4.20 became synonymous, amongst their gang, for getting baked.  They happened to hang out with the Grateful Dead, so the term has spread amongst the toking community. Now 4/20 is a day to celebrate the weed. Tony Newman  of the DPA also wants stoners to take a moment today to recognize the political context of  their use.

The US Drug Czar launched a plan yesterday to counter the growing levels of abuse of prescription medication. The Harm Reduction Coalition criticized the plan for not including harm reduction strategies such as making naloxone more widely available to prevent overdoses. I want to write something more insightful and analytical than this, but I had a wisdom tooth removed yesterday and now I’m totally whacked out on Vicodin and can barely think straight. Seriously, this stuff is awesome.

  1. It’s a waste of money 
  2. It’s not up to the challenge
  3. It damages US diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

via the Atlantic, Rolling Stone and the Cato Institute