drug policy

Brave New World and the right to be unhappy; Island and sanity

Posted on: Wed, 09/23/2009 - 18:44 By: Tom Swiss

I've been re-reading Huxley's Brave New World. There's an exchange near the end, between Mustapha Mond, World Controller of the insane civilization that encompasses most of the world, and "the Savage", product of the lunatic barbarism outside, that rather sums it up:

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

I think I shall have to spend some time rereading Huxley's Island next to balance things out. Written near the end of Huxley's life, Island is in many ways his alternative to Brave New World, his portrayal of a thoroughly sane society.

You've probably not heard of this book; its positive outlook on the use of psychedelics, and its positive portrayal of free sexuality, means that you're unlikely to see it added to any high school reading lists. The philosophy found on Pala is a blend of secular humanism and Mahayana Buddhism; its key text, quoted throughout the novel, is Notes on What's What, and What It Might be Reasonable to do about What's What.

Me as I think I am and me as I am in fact---sorrow, in other words, and the ending of sorrow. One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that the person I think I am must endure is unavoidable. it is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world entirely indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death. The remaining two-thirds of sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.


Dualism. . . Without it there can hardly be good literature. With it, there most certainly can be no good life.

"I" affirms a separate and abiding me-substance; "am" denies the fact that all existence is relationship and change. "I am." Two tiny words, but what an enormity of untruth! The religiously-minded dualist calls homemade spirits from the vasty deep; the nondualist calls the vasty deep into his spirit or, to be more accurate, he finds that the vasty deep is already there.

Mexico decriminalizes drug possession

Posted on: Sun, 08/23/2009 - 16:19 By: Tom Swiss

I've seen surprisingly little discussion of this: as of Thursday, Mexico has eliminated criminal prosecution for possession of "personal use" amounts of illegal drugs. Those caught with drugs in amounts under the limit will be encouraged to seek "treatment". (Treatment is supposedly mandatory for a third offense, though there are no penalties specified penalties for noncompliance.)

Under previous law, possession of any amount of drugs was punishable by stiff jail sentences, but there was leeway for addicts caught with smaller amounts. In practice, nobody was prosecuted and sentenced to jail for small-time possession, said Bernardo Espino del Castillo, the coordinator of state offices for the attorney general's office.

"We couldn't charge somebody who was in possession of a dose of a drug, there was no way ... because the person would claim they were an addict," he added.


In the past, police sometimes hauled suspects to police stations and demanded bribes, threatening long jail sentences if people did not pay.

"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty ... for a practice that was already in place," Espino del Castillo said.


The maximum amount of marijuana considered to be for "personal use" under the new law is 5 grams — the equivalent of about four joints. The limit is a half gram for cocaine, the equivalent of about 4 "lines." For other drugs, the limits are 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD.


Mexico has emphasized the need to differentiate drug addicts and casual users from the violent traffickers whose turf battles have contributed to the deaths of more than 11,000 people during Calderon's term. In the face of growing domestic drug use, Mexico has increased its focus on prevention and drug treatment.

Sen. Pablo Gomez of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party praised the legislation: "This law achieves the decriminalization of drugs, and in exchange offers government recovery treatment for addicts."

two former Batlimore cops say: "It's Time to Legalize Drugs"

Posted on: Mon, 08/17/2009 - 10:13 By: Tom Swiss

Peter Moskos and Neill Franklin both served as Baltimore City police officers; Franklin is the former commanding officer at the police academy, and Moskos is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the Washington Post, they write:

We all learned similar lessons. Police officers are taught about the evils of the drug trade and given the knowledge and tools to inflict as much damage as possible upon the people who constitute the drug community. Policymakers tell us to fight this unwinnable war.

Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies -- and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men -- have we and other police officers begun to question the system.


Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all. In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have. If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes.

Save the Nag Champa!

Posted on: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 14:42 By: Tom Swiss

LOL. Save the Nag Champa!

All over India, there is a crisis of epic proportions. The poor and defenseless Nag Champa are being hunted and killed to create the oils for incense and candles. The wonderful musky odor of the Nag Champa has been a favorite of many spiritual leaders, new movement organizations, and young people all over the world. Little did anyone know until recently that the only way to produce the sent of Nag Champa is to capture and remove the sent gland from these poor little creatures? The Nag Champa has one natural enemy - the human. Please help me to stop this barbaric act against such a peaceful little animal. There are only 2000 Nag Champa left in the wild today

(And the origin of this gag seems to be local head shop. Now I've got to stop in there the next time I feel the need for a tie-dye t-shirt...)

(Speaking of Nag Champa...a few years back our good friend Cathy D. accidentally left a grocery bag with apples and a box of Nag Champa in her car for a few days. Just a hint of the incense infused itself into the apples. Delicious!)

Cannabis and coffee to prevent Alzheimer's

Posted on: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 12:44 By: Tom Swiss

At the Ohio State Department of Psychology, Gary Wenk and Yannic Marchalant have done a study showing that a low dosage of a certain cannabinoid reverses reverses memory loss in rats. (Not an endorsement of research on animals - but, I have to admit, giving rats cannabis is very far from the worst sort of experimentation.)

And Finnish and and Swedish researchers have found evidence that moderate coffer drinkers have a reduced risks of developing Alzheimer's disease.

But, drinking too much coffee - seven cups of instant or three cups of the real thing - greatly increases the likehood of experiencing hallucinations. Whether that's a benefit or a risk is up to you...

Berwyn Heights mayor victim of blitzkrieg drug raid

Posted on: Wed, 09/03/2008 - 16:14 By: Tom Swiss

In case you haven't heard about it yet, this Washington Post op-ed, by Vera Leone of the Drug Policy Alliance, lays out the story of Cheye Calvo. He's mayor of Berwyn Heights (where, BTW, I lived in 1989 when I was a student at UMCP ). A UPS package full of cannabis (part of a smuggling scheme that targets innocent customers) came to his door; when he brought it inside, SWAT thugs broke in, shot his dogs, held him in handcuffs for hours. Apologies from the county stormtroopers responsible? None.

Of course, the only reason this gets attention is because it was a white middle-class suburban guy with connections; if you're poor and black or brown, this is standard operating procedure in the "War on Drugs".

Obama's cannabis cowardice

Posted on: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 23:05 By: Tom Swiss

Reason magazine and StopTheDrugWar.org detail the sad story of Barack Obama's cowardice on the issue of marijuana decriminalization.

The Washington Times broke the story, reporting that in his 2004 Senate campaign Obama supported eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis use or possession. When the Times brought this up, the Obama campaign first stood by those remarks - then, within 24 hours, changed its story and declared that Obama does not support eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis.

If you thought Barack Obama was a man of courage, think again.

civil forfeiture woes

Posted on: Tue, 07/10/2007 - 14:14 By: Tom Swiss

The following tale of civil forfeiture woes was sent in by an anonymous correspondent. (Well, I guess someone who leaves a phone number isn't really anonymous...) I've cleaned up typos but otherwise this is as received. If anyone has leads please contact the querent. (I've already suggested contacting FEAR.)

On 12/04/06 I was served a forfeiture summons. I responded back to it on 12/14/06. IC 34-24-1-3.states that the state has 90 days from that date to file with the courts. They filed with the courts on 4/10/07. Do the math, that's 117 days from receiving my response to file. That is a state law in Indiana. How come the state can break these laws and take our hard working money? They forfeited my money yesterday. On 7/09/07. What can I do the system is failing me. I have not been convicted of any crime. How can they DO THIS..........CAN ANYONE HELP ME. The ICLU won't, who will? I need help. You can contact me if you have any advice at (317)246-7059. Please...I have all the paper work on this in my possession.

Daniel Pinchbeck's psychedelic shamanist apocalyptic vision

Posted on: Wed, 10/11/2006 - 14:07 By: Tom Swiss

As those who know me know, I have nothing against the appropriate use of "psychedelic" or "entheogenic" substances. Far from it. But I have to shake my head when someone starts taking their own feedback-saturated perceptions too seriously, as seen in this Rolling Stone profile of Daniel Pinchbeck:

This was all before Pinchbeck himself started making some very unusual claims. After separating from the heiress in 2003, he made a trip to Hawaii and the Amazon with an incredibly hot abstract painter and Santo Daime priestess, sunbathing nude with her by the Hawaiian cliffs. In the Amazon, he received a transmission from God, in the form of Quetzalcoatl, a mystical bird-serpent in Mayan myths. Quetzalcoatl told Pinchbeck that he is a prophet -- all those times in his life when he thought he was a loser, because his birthdate happens to be in June 1966 (666), and his surname happens to be a fancy word for "false gold," were signs that one day he'd be chosen to transmit some very special, intradimensional knowledge to the planet. Here it is: The world as we know it is about to end -- on December 21st, 2012, the last day of time in the Mayan calendar.

Grand jury decries 'arrests without merit'

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 11:45 By: Tom Swiss

The Baltimore Sun reports that a grand jury convened to "address the lack of confidence that exists between many members of the public and law enforcement", has decried a tremendous number of arrests made by city police without merit.

Just within the African-American population, over 21,000 arrests without charges being filed were made between April 2004 and April 2005.

The grand jury also handed down indictments of three cops: one accused of raping a woman brought to the station house in handcuffs, the other two accused of doing nothing to stop it.

Cops gone wild. Welcome to the police state, brought to you by the War on (Some) Drugs.

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