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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: June 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Government Reefer Madness

Its stories like these that make my blood boil. Here we have a young man who has found relief from serious pain with marijuana. I have yet to read a story where anyone has overdosed and died from smoking too much cannabis but for some reason, our federal government sees a need to prosecute those who dispense and use the drugs for medical and therapeutic purposes. The Republicans can talk all they want about how they are proponents of federalism but regrettably, their actions differ from their words when states like California decide a new direction when it comes to drugs.

What makes me even angrier is the thought that John McCain’s wife Cindy, was busted for stealing prescription pain killers (drugs many times more dangerous than marijuana, by the way) yet because she is married to John McCain, she gets a pass. One would think that Sen. McCain would be a little more sympathetic to those who seek relief from pain via marijuana or other means but the good senator seems to be content with the status quo double standard which currently exists. When asked if individuals such as Owen Beck should have access to medical marijuana, Sen. McCain “Just Said No!”

Despite these setbacks in what the federal government says that an individual can do with his or her body, there has been at least one recent victory on the medical marijuana front. Former 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate Steve Kubby recently wrote a post at Third Party Watch reporting that all the charges against him have been dropped and his record has been expunged.

Kubby writes:

Yes, you read that right, thanks to the incredible support of my fellow libertarians, I not only survived, I PREVAILED!

Because of those who cared enough to help me and my family, I survived an indictment for 19 criminal counts amounting to a minimum of 40 years to life in prison. That indictment was backed by a $10 million grant by the US government to put me, and the medical marijuana revolution, behind bars.

While Mr. Kubby’s fight appears to be over, the man who made it possible for Owen Beck to receive relief from his pain, Charlie Lynch, his fight is just beginning. Lynch is facing charges which could put him in prison for 100 years. And for what? Dispensing a product (marijuana) which California voters decided was acceptable for medicinal purposes?! Meanwhile, the average first degree murderer spends 20 years in prison in California.

This is madness. Foolish, disturbing, government reefer madness.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Barr/Root Campaign Ad

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Barr: “I Was Wrong About the War on Drugs”

For those of you who are concerned about Bob Barr’s position on the war on (some) drugs, maybe this article Barr posted at The Huffington Post will help allay some of your concerns. I am among those who would like the congressman to speak out more forcefully on this subject as I have seen him miss opportunities to explain why libertarians oppose the war on (some) drugs.

Barr writes:

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.

America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

Call me naive, but I think Mr. Barr gets it. The fact that Mr. Barr understands that so many tax dollars are being wasted on incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is evidence of this. According to the Bureau of Prisons, drug offenses account for 52.8% of all criminal offenses. How many of these are non-violent offenders and how many of the violent crimes would be dramatically reduced if drugs were legalized or decriminalized? With 1 in every 100 adults behind bars in the “land of the free,” America incarcerates more people than any country in the world. This needs to change.

However, because our government is divided into three separate branches, there is only so much a president could do in ending the war on (some) drugs. I can think of only three ways a Barr Administration could impact the war on (some) drugs at the federal level*:

1. Pardon all non-violent drug offenders en masse. This would have the effect of limiting law enforcement to going after violent drug offenders as any new offenders would be affected by the mass pardon. This is a question I asked Mr. Barr at the post debate press conference; you can listen to his answer here.

2. Veto any bill which funds the war on (some) drugs.

3. Direct the Justice Department, the DEA, and all other federal agencies not to enforce the existing federal drug laws. Not every law can be enforced; it’s the executive branch’s role to enforce the law. Rather than enforce unconstitutional, draconian drug laws the executive can direct all agencies to focus on keeping the American people safe from anyone who violates the individual’s rights of life, liberty, and property through force or fraud.

As Brad pointed out with some concern, Barr mentioned something about the “current” war on (some) drugs was a failure when he was a guest on the Colbert Report. Did Mr. Barr really mean the war on (some) drugs needs to be fought “smarter” rather than ended?

Barr continues using the tragedy of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit as an example of how a private organization can combat drug abuse without the help of government:

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.


In the wake of the tragedy, the head of the WWE, Vince McMahon, and its other leaders looked internally to recognize these problems and address them. Although in the two years before Benoit's death, dozens of wrestlers had been suspended, gone to rehab, or been dismissed under the WWE's recently adopted "Wellness Program," the WWE strengthened its drug policy further, re-emphasizing that its policy wasn't merely a document, but the internal laws of the company that would be enforced.


McMahon didn't wait for Congress to pass a law or parade his wrestlers in front of congressional committee hearings; he took the lead and assumed responsibility over the health and welfare of the individuals who work for the WWE.

As part of the WWE Wellness Program, wrestlers go through regular drug testing and even cardiovascular testing. The latter identified a previously unknown heart condition for the wrestler "MVP" and he was treated for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The government's War on Drugs wouldn't have done that.

This is one area where the government can and should combat drug abuse; not by locking people up but by allowing businesses and organizations to set their own policies. This means that an employer should have the ability to discriminate against anyone who they believe would harm his or her business (be it drug abuse, alcohol abuse, smoking, obesity, or whatever). Once again freedom is the answer to the drug problem (in this case, freedom of association).

I have only one major complaint with the Barr campaign remaining regarding the war on (some) drugs. I suspect that someone inside the Barr campaign is reading this. If so, please tell Mr. Barr to express these thoughts to the likes of Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, or anyone else on the Right that brings up the war on (some) drugs question.
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