Tag: War on Drugs

Policing for Profit: How Civil Asset Forfeiture Has Perverted American Law Enforcement


Picture this: You’re driving home from the casino and you’ve absolutely cleaned up – to the tune of $50,000. You see a police car pull up behind you, but you can’t figure out why. Not only have you not broken any laws, you’re not even speeding. But the police officer doesn’t appear to be interested in charging you with a crime. Instead, he takes your gambling winnings, warns you not to say anything to anyone unless you want to be charged as a drug kingpin, then drives off into the sunset.

This actually happened to Tan Nguyen, and his story is far from unique. It’s called civil asset forfeiture and it’s a multi-billion dollar piggybank for state, local, and federal police departments to fund all sorts of pet projects.

With its origins in the British fight against piracy on the open seas, civil asset forfeiture is nothing new. During Prohibition, police officers often seized goods, cash, and equipment from bootleggers in a similar manner to today. However, contemporary civil asset forfeiture begins right where you’d think that it would: The War on Drugs.

Steven Malanga joins Seth Barron to discuss expanding efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use, a movement helped along by extensive misinformation about the drug’s supposed health benefits.

This year, at least eight states are debating laws that would permit recreational pot. Marijuana advocates claim that the drug is therapeutic and that legalizing it will end the unjust imprisonment of casual users, especially in minority communities. But as Malanga writes in City Journal, “Even as the legalization push gains momentum, scientific journals report mounting evidence of the drug’s harmful psychological effects and social consequences.”

Is America going to pot? Probably. In response to recreational marijuana recently being made legal in Canada and Michigan, and record numbers of Americans supporting legalization, the Young Americans debate whether we should celebrate these trends or be more skeptical of them. Call it a “pot-cast.”

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The distinguishing feature of war is that it’s the one time that most people recognize that it becomes appropriate to do inappropriate things. It’s wrong to kill another man, unless you’re doing it in war, at which point it becomes okay due to necessity at best and at worst something you need to take up […]

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FDA Asks Diarrhea Treatment to Contain Itself


Over a year ago, I noted that both the DEA and NIDA had expressed concern over the diarrhea treatment loperamide, widely known by the brand name Imodium. Loperamide is an opioid that, with normal use, mostly stays in the gut where it belongs, but which, if it’s taken in massive doses or combined with a P-glycoprotein inhibitor, works its way into the bloodstream and crosses the blood-brain barrier for a pathetic sort of high. Or, if you believe methadone treatment works, the high becomes somewhat less pathetic: loperamide has gotten a reputation among addicts as the poor man’s methadone, a means of easing withdrawal for those done with the dope.

One reason methadone is supposed to work as an addiction treatment is that it’s metabolized so slowly. It has an extremely long half-life (15-55 hours) compared to heroin’s (2-3 minutes). This smooths out the highs and lows to help those treated establish a normal life. Since methadone treatment is dispensed at clinics, not by pushers, it redirects addicts’ dependency toward authorized channels, which regularizes their life in another way. Loperamide has a half-life between heroin’s and methadone’s (9-14 hours). That half-life makes loperamide tempting as “DIY methadone treatment”.

This AEI Events Podcast features the release of AEI’s new report, “Kingpins and Corruption: Targeting Transnational Organized Crime in the Americas.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivers opening remarks and discusses with AEI’s Roger F. Noriega how Congress and the executive branch can proactively address the threats posed by transnational organized crime.

Following Sen. Rubio’s remarks, a panel of experts discuss some of the case studies featured in the report, including the Venezuelan regime’s widespread involvement in criminal activity, Hezbollah’s growing involvement in illicit networks regionally, and the role of FARC dissident in continued criminal activity in Colombia. Panelists include Douglas Farah (IBI Consultants), Joseph Humire (Center for a Free Society), Roger F. Noriega (AEI), and Celina Realuyo (National Defense University). The discussion is moderated by AEI’s Kirsten D. Madison.

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Tonight on the US national news, it was announced that a new form of heroin that is 10,000 times stronger is now hitting American streets. You read that correctly – 10,000 times stronger than plain heroin! Is that even possible? Apparently so, and where was the story from? The brutal inner cities of Los Angeles […]

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Did Decriminalizing Pot Cause the Heroin Crisis?


ap070120018687Let me say at the outset that I’m dubious. But Don Winslow makes an interesting case in El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis:

If you wonder why America is in the grips of a heroin epidemic that kills two hundred people a week, take a hard look at the legalization of pot, which destroyed the profits of the Mexican cartels. How did they respond to a major loss in revenue? Like any company, they created an irresistible new product and flooded the market. The scariest part: this might not have happened with El Chapo in charge.

He argues that the Sinaloa Cartel — whose flagship product had been weed — found itself suddenly unable to compete against a superior American product with dramatically lower transport and security costs. “Once-vast fields in Durango now lie fallow.” This of course was supposed to be a selling point of decriminalization: It would put the cartels out of business. Except that it didn’t. Instead of taking up gainful employment as insurance adjustors or chartered accountants, they analyzed the US market and saw an unfilled niche. A growing number of Americans were addicted to expensive prescription opioids:

Bad Guys Will Still Be Bad Guys


Detroit_police_prohibitionMegan McArdle has an excellent post describing one of the best consequentialist arguments for ending the war on drugs:

… I consider the reduction of violent crime to be the main benefit. Deprived of the ability to enforce contracts through the relatively peaceful legal process used by other markets, black markets are accompanied by high levels of violence: Gangs fight for territory, enforce business agreements and try to defer defections. The more profitable the black market is, the more incentive there is to use violence to protect your profits, which may be one reason that the introduction of crack cocaine was accompanied by such a huge increase in violent crime. Legalizing drugs cuts into the profits and gives industry players legal means to settle their disputes, so in theory, this should reduce the prevalence, and the brutality, of violent gangs.

I find the logic of this nearly unassailable. Just as there’s no inherent reason why the alcohol trade should be violent, there’s little inherent reason why the market for other intoxicants should be. Give people the opportunity to work within the confines of the law — and to enjoy its protections — and the worst sorts of behavior become unnecessary. Deny them those confines and protections, and we quickly descend into a petty Hobbesianism that drives out all the nice guys and rewards the worst.

To Hell with Your War on Drugs


My father is visiting us here in Schenectady. While my he’s traveling, my mother is staying with my sister in Gettysburg. As some of you may know, my mother has some health problems, and as a result, is on serious pain medications.

Last night, my sister posted the following on Facebook:

Book Review: Chasing The Scream


Johann Hari’s new book, Chasing The Scream,CTS provides a broad (but not deep) history of the War on Drugs. He offers not only a convincing case for why it is counterproductive and self-defeating (it’s been said before) but why everything we think we know about addiction is wrong and why — without addressing addiction and its causes — the the war is an exercise in futility.

The book engages with a variety of viewpoints from both sides: Not just the usual prohibitionist and harm reduction positions, but also the viewpoints of law enforcement officials as well as (unusually) those of a variety of drug users.

The book comes with endorsements (on the cover, no less) from Glenn Greenwald, Stephen Fry, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and — somewhat be musingly — Elton John. I know that one or more of these names is the mark of doom for many Ricochetti, but the book contains compelling arguments and statistics worth addressing nonetheless.

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To my wife’s chagrin, I spent part of the long weekend in an email argument with a libertarian friend about whether cops and the War on Drugs are to blame for the violence in our culture.  Then, just yesterday three interesting articles spoke to the issue: First, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson explains “How Sociologists Made […]

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What is the Problem with Illegal Drugs?


shutterstock_154594889My father was a cocaine addict who died of an overdose. He began using when I was about eight, and died when I was 24. He tried to quit a couple of times — twice he went into treatment centers — but he was not successful.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the problem of illegal and addictive drugs but have avoided drug-related threads because they’ve just been too painful to read. When I was younger and still considered myself a libertarian, I was very sympathetic to legalizing drugs. The “War on Drugs” is extremely expensive and its success is debatable. At this point, I’m just not sure which way is best. (For whatever it’s worth, according to this ngram, the phrase “war on drugs” didn’t become widely used until after 1980. Thanks to Mike H for that interesting link.)

Though — as I said — I haven’t followed all the arguments as closely as I should have, I think there’s a “supply and demand” aspect to illegal drug use that gets overlooked, mostly because both sides focus so much on the “supply-side” arguments, aruging either in favor of continuing or removing restrictions on the amount of drugs.