In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs
In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:
Possessing a crack pipe
Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
Having a single crack rock at home
Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
Selling a single crack rock
Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills
These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.
Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.
Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 
As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.
And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.
How is this possible?
Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.
The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.
The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 
These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.
Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."
How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?
Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.
A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.
While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 
The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.
Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs

In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills

These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.

Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.

Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 

As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.

And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.

How is this possible?

Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.

The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.

The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 

These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.

Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."

How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?

Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.

A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.

While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 

The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.

Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

-dearfriend:

DRUGS by Bryan Lewis Saunders.

Each self portrait is drawn under the influence of different drugs taken daily. Within weeks of this experiment he became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. He continues to work on this series but with much more time between doses.

One of my favorite things

(Source: sixgrams)

wildcat2030:

New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise
A drug known as SR9009, which is currently under development at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), increases the level of metabolic activity in skeletal muscles of mice. Treated mice become lean, develop larger muscles and can run much longer distances simply by taking SR9009, which mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. If similar effects can be obtained in people, the reversal of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and perhaps Type-II diabetes might be the very welcome result.
The drug was developed by Professor Thomas Burris of TSRI, who found that it was able to reduce obesity in populations of mice. It binds to and activates a protein called Rev-ErbAα, which influences fat and sugar burning in the liver, production of fat cells, and the body’s inflammatory response.
(via New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise)

wildcat2030:

New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise

A drug known as SR9009, which is currently under development at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), increases the level of metabolic activity in skeletal muscles of mice. Treated mice become lean, develop larger muscles and can run much longer distances simply by taking SR9009, which mimics the effects of aerobic exercise. If similar effects can be obtained in people, the reversal of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and perhaps Type-II diabetes might be the very welcome result.

The drug was developed by Professor Thomas Burris of TSRI, who found that it was able to reduce obesity in populations of mice. It binds to and activates a protein called Rev-ErbAα, which influences fat and sugar burning in the liver, production of fat cells, and the body’s inflammatory response.

(via New drug mimics the beneficial effects of exercise)

The Origins of Marijuana


[…]

Controversial but sound hypotheses have been put forward suggesting that humans and marijuana coevolved. The University of California at Berkeley describes coevolution in simple terms:

“The term coevolution is used to describe cases where two (or more) species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution. So for example, an evolutionary change in the morphology of a plant, might affect the morphology of an herbivore that eats the plant, which in turn might affect the evolution of the plant, which might affect the evolution of the herbivore…and so on.” (3)

If this hypothesis is correct, it would mean that the existence of the marijuana plant as we know it today was directly influenced by modern humans, and vice versa; a concept not easily accepted in a world where the machinations powering the War on Drugs still tout the plant as a dangerous evil to be persecuted and eradicated out of existence. However, there is significant evidence to support the idea of man and cannabis coevolving.

For instance, consider the fact that the cannabis plant is a colonizer. This means that in the wild the plant generally needs open, cleared soil in order to grow. As Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal point out, cleared patches of fertile ground do not occur often in nature; perhaps after a storm, flood, fire or some other type of disaster. As a colonizer, cannabis would also be short-lived once larger growth vegetation moved in. This means that the plant’s ideal environment is a patch of clear ground that stays clear.

Did cannabis lead to civilization?

Enter our early human ancestors. With their newfound habit of clearing land for agricultural-based settlements, cannabis found an unlikely partner in man, who provided more clearings and fertile patches of ground than the plant would encounter naturally. (1) This meant that interactions between the two species were virtually assured at least as far back as the Neolithic period.

Interestingly, some powerful figures have even speculated that the newly developed agricultural lifestyle of Neolithic man was probably focused on cultivation of cannabis directly, and was likely mankind’s very first – and often only – crop. Carl Sagan, famed author, astronomer and astrophysicist, even goes one step further and suggests that if cannabis led to agriculture, then it therefore led us to civilization. (4)

Humans are Physiologically Linked to Cannabis

If the previous theories on the coevolution of man and marijuana aren’t convincing enough, there is also the fact that cannabis is literally, physically part of human genetic makeup. It is widely known that there are thousands of cannabinoid receptor sites spread throughout the human body, with most located in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors bind with cannabinoids to produce various effects throughout the central nervous system – cannabinoids that are generally only present when marijuana is consumed. According to a study by the University of Auckland, these cannabinoid receptors are found in the brain at nearly all stages of human growth:

“Cannabinoid receptors were distributed in a heterogeneous fashion throughout the adult human brain and spinal cord. The allocortex contained very high concentrations of cannabinoid receptor binding sites in the dentate gyrus, Ammons’s horn and subiculum of the hippocampal formation; high concentrations of receptors were also present in the entorhinal cortex and amygdaloid complex. Cannabinoid receptor binding sites were also present throughout all regions of the neocortex…” (5)

Marijuana supporters often cite the fact that because of the presence of these cannabinoid receptor sites, humans must be “designed” to use marijuana. However, the deeper question often posed is this: Did humans evolve cannabinoid receptor sites naturally, or did these sites evolve as a result of our ancient relationship with the cannabis plant?

If humans developed these cannabinoid receptor sites as a result of thousands of years of cultivation, veneration and consumption of the plant, then the idea that man and cannabis coevolved would appear to be factual. In fact, suggesting that these receptor sites evolved independently and coincidentally probably doesn’t make much sense considering the complete lack of supporting evidence or logic.

[…]

Read the full article

Western leaders study 'gamechanging' report on global drugs trade

European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.

Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs. It spells out the effects of the policy on many countries and examines what the global drugs trade will look like if the status quo continues. It notes how rapidly countries’ unilateral drugs policies are evolving, while at the same time there is a growing consensus over the human costs of the trade. “Growing media attention regarding this phenomenon in many countries, including on social media, reflects a world in which there is far greater awareness of the violence and suffering associated with the drug problem,” José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, says in a foreword to the review. “We also enjoy a much better grasp of the human and social costs not only of drug use but also of the production and transit of controlled substances.”

Insulza describes the report, which examines a number of ways to reform the current pro-prohibition position, as the start of “a long-awaited discussion”, one that experts say puts Europe and North America on notice that the current situation will change, with or without them. Latin American leaders have complained bitterly that western countries, whose citizens consume the drugs, fail to appreciate the damage of the trade. In one scenario envisaged in the report, a number of South American countries would break with the prohibition line and decide that they will no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels, having concluded that the human costs of the “war on drugs” is too high.

The west’s responsibility to reshape global drugs policy will be emphasised in three weeks when Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the president of Colombia, who initiated the review, arrives in Britain. His visit is part of a programme to push for changes in global policy that will lead up to a special UN general assembly in 2016 when the scenarios of the OAS are expected to have a significant influence.

Experts described the publication of the review as a historic moment. “This report represents the most high-level discussion about drug policy reform ever undertaken, and shows tremendous leadership from Latin America on the global debate,” said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Foundation’s Global Drug Policy Program, which has described its publication as a “game-changer”.

“It was particularly important to hear president Santos invite the states of Europe to contribute toward envisioning a better international drug policy. These reports inspire a conversation on drug policy that has been long overdue.”

The report represents the first time any significant multilateral agency has outlined serious alternatives to prohibition, including legal market regulation or reform of the UN drug conventions.

“While leaders have talked about moving from criminalisation to public health in drug policy, punitive, abstinence-only approaches have still predominated, even in the health sphere,” said Daniel Wolfe, director of the Open Society Foundation’s International Harm Reduction Program. “These scenarios offer a chance for leaders to replace indiscriminate detention and rights’ abuses with approaches that distinguish between users and traffickers, and offer the community-based health services that work best for those in need.”

In a statement, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which campaigns for changes in drug laws and is supported by the former presidents of several South American states, said that publication of the review would break “the taboo that blocked for so long the debate on more humane and efficient drug policy”. The Commission said that it was “time that governments around the world are allowed to responsibly experiment with regulation models that are tailored to their realities and local need”.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co) will introduce a bill tomorrow in the US House of Representatives that will regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol federally.

abaldwin360:

SEATTLE (AP) — An effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a federal pot tax.

While passage this year could be a longshot, lawmakers from both parties have been quietly working on several bills, the first of which Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado plan to introduce Tuesday, Blumenauer told The Associated Press.

Polis’ measure would regulate marijuana the way the federal government handles alcohol: In states that legalize pot, growers would have to obtain a federal permit. Oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it’s legal to one where it isn’t.

The bill is based on a legalization measure previously pushed by former Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Ron Paul of Texas.

Blumenauer’s bill would create a federal marijuana excise tax.

Last fall’s votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational marijuana should push Congress to end the 75-year federal pot prohibition, Blumenauer said.

“You folks in Washington and my friends in Colorado really upset the apple cart,” Blumenauer said. “We’re still arresting two-thirds of a million people for use of a substance that a majority feel should be legal. … It’s past time for us to step in and try to sort this stuff out.”

read more

I highly doubt this particular bill will go anywhere (how I would love to be wrong about that) but this is a step in the right direction, and the fact that we are even talking about it at this level is a good sign, in my eyes.

Prohibition is obviously a pointless disaster, but what about alcohol regulation? Instead of an arbitrary ban, we have sensible regulations on liquor: Who can buy, who can sell, where it can be sold and consumed etc etc… 

It’s a false dichotomy to assume the only choices are full deregulation or drug war style prohibition.

Prohibition is obviously a pointless disaster, but what about alcohol regulation? Instead of an arbitrary ban, we have sensible regulations on liquor: Who can buy, who can sell, where it can be sold and consumed etc etc…

It’s a false dichotomy to assume the only choices are full deregulation or drug war style prohibition.

azspot:

Breaking The Taboo - Film

Featuring interviews with several current or former presidents from around the world, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States led War on Drugs and expose what it calls the biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Uruguay government announces plan to sell marijuana | The Telegraph

Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica’s leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. [In a radio interview on Thursday, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro seemed to backtrack, saying the registry “sounds a little authoritarian and perhaps we should avoid it,” according to the WSJ.]  
Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.
“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself,” Fernández Huidobro told reporters late on Wednesday. 
Fernández said the bill would soon be sent to Congress, which is dominated by Mujica’s party, but that an exact date had not been set. If approved, Uruguay’s national government would be the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to its citizens.
full article

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Uruguay government announces plan to sell marijuana | The Telegraph

Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica’s leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. [In a radio interview on Thursday, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro seemed to backtrack, saying the registry “sounds a little authoritarian and perhaps we should avoid it,” according to the WSJ.]  

Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.

“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself,” Fernández Huidobro told reporters late on Wednesday. 

Fernández said the bill would soon be sent to Congress, which is dominated by Mujica’s party, but that an exact date had not been set. If approved, Uruguay’s national government would be the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to its citizens.

full article