Dose of Tolerance

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What does it say about America when even Russia has a more enlightened drug policy? As of Wednesday, the country's notoriously tough-on-drugs government has eliminated criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of illegal intoxicants. "Under the old law," the Drug War Chronicle reports, "possession of even a single marijuana cigarette could garner a three-year prison sentence." Now possessing up to 10 times the "average single dose" of an illegal drug will be treated as an "administrative infraction," punishable by a fine. According to the Drug War Chronicle, the amounts for that category are as follows:

heroin: 1 gram
cocaine: 1.5 grams
marijuana: 20 grams (dried)
hashish: 5 grams
ecstasy: 0.5 gram
methamphetamine: 0.5 gram
mescaline: 0.5 gram
LSD: 0.003 gram
psilocybin: 0.005 gram

People with between 10 and 50 doses will be subject to larger fines and community service, but not jail time–as long as they're not caught selling the drug. Meanwhile, penalties for drug sales were raised, perpetuating the widespread but puzzling practice of treating people who actually use drugs less harshly than the people who merely help them do so. Still, eliminating the possibility of jail time for users of all these drugs is a big deal, going further than any U.S. state (even those that have "decriminalized" marijuana possession).

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  1. Now when someone tells me to “Go back to Russia” I might actually consider it!

  2. Czar Putin is suddenly enlightened on marijuana and heroin — which is great — but the Duma is modeling itself on the U.S. Congress with the way it treats cigarettes: http://www.mosnews.com/feature/2004/05/11/smokes.shtml .

  3. Ok, you’ve “decriminialized” the ownership of small amounts of drugs, but the black market still exists by forbidding the sale and manufacture of said drugs.

    Somehow, I fail to see this as much of a reform,

  4. It won’t happen here. We are getting the reeducation camps ready.

  5. Mark S, you have a good point about the black market still existing, but it sure as hell beats sitting in prison for three years for smoking a joint. Even here in california you can go to prison for posessing any detectable amount of any of the listed drugs, other than pot and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).

  6. Mark S is totally right. But it is movement toward less government in a totalitarian state, which is good.

  7. Yeah, I’m not going to be moving to Russia anytime soon, due to their many other problems, but things like this really make me scratch my head about how our government can still be so adamant about keeping some drugs illegal.

    Oh wait, I forgot about all the money certain folks make keeping some drugs illegal…

  8. Mark S.,

    A large portion of the resources devoted to the drug war are currently directed toward surveillance of the citizenry at large to prevent casual drug use. For the average person, eliminating this part of the drug war would mean a drastic increase in freedom.

    BTW, does anybody besides Joe Friday actually use the term “marijuana cigarette”?

  9. My grandpa claimed he lived to be a 82 because his “lips never touched a marijuana cigarette.” But, other than that I just say lets smoke a joint, which reminds me…..

  10. hmmm its the weekend…where did I put my little baggie labeled ‘Food of the Gods…’

  11. So the Ruskies are going to pot…beats getting arrested, fined $450, and having your name published in the local paper (for 2 joints)that happened to me in sweet Virginia. Will it ever change here?

  12. It will change when it becomes a “litmus test” issue for enough congresspeople (I know I didn’t capitalize it–on purpose).

    Now, excuse me while…

  13. A large portion of the resources devoted to the drug war are currently directed toward surveillance of the citizenry at large to prevent casual drug use.

    Yes, but not because the drugs in question are illegal. Most of the screening and monitoring for drug use is done, in both the public and private sector, for two reasons: for liability prevention, and to discourage drug users from working there. Neither of those factors will be changed by making pot (or any other drug) legal.

    If you want to eliminate drug screening, two things are necessary: reform the tort system so that it is no longer possible to sue a company because some drug-addled employee screwed up, and reform employment law to allow companies to fire employees more easily. Until then, expect companies to continue to view drug users as undesirables; they have good reason to.

  14. +
    Just remember – it took 20 years to get rid of Carter’s double nickle.

  15. Here’s an idea: we do the Russians one better, by making EVERYTHING technically illegal, but then reducing the level of offense for some of the more common things to simple administrative infractions, with fines the maximum punishment. The government can make a science of “adjusting” the level of penalty and fine, so as to remain within the tolerance zone of the citizenry, thus precluding rebellion.

    How would that differ, in practice, from the current situation, where the government assumes the authority to control and/or tax virtually every aspect of life, with the only real constraint being the speed with which they can get around to focusing on one particular subject or another? In theory, the people can fire their representatives and challenge the government’s unwarranted arrogation of authority. In practice, however, the incumbent retention rate is amazingly high, and the success rate of court challenge to bogus assertions of governmental authority depressingly low.

  16. DAN: Most of the screening and monitoring for drug use is done, in both the public and private sector, for two reasons: for liability prevention, and to discourage drug users from working there.

    SinC: For some companies this may be so. But our data shows that the driving motivators for companies to drug test are:

    -Compliance with federal or state mandates, most often related to having a DOT drivers license.
    -Being able to qualify in defined cases for reductions of up to 5% in workmens compensation insurance premiums.

    Since it can be reasonably shown that the vast majority of jobs do not contain increased exposure to workmens comp claims based on whether or not the employee has certain drugs in his bloodstream, this second motivator only applies for certain companies or sectors.

    For all other jobs, the cost of doing the drug testing is becoming outweighed by any potential savings in premiums.

    This is likely why the number of companies who drug test is at its lowest point since a high in 1992.

    DAN: If you want to eliminate drug screening, two things are necessary: reform the tort system so that it is no longer possible to sue a company because some drug-addled employee screwed up, and reform employment law to allow companies to fire employees more easily.

    SinC: I can’t reasonably imagine that drug screening will ever be eliminated. But as demonstrated above, the demand for it is waning slowly. I agree with you that if the two suggestions you make were actually implemented the slide would likely continue.

    DAN: Until then, expect companies to continue to view drug users as undesirables; they have good reason to.

    SinC: Well it all depends on the drug, doesn’t it?
    Most employers I’ve met that are not subject to the federal sanctions referenced above tell us they are far more interested in the integrity of the employee’s job performance than they are in what drugs the employee uses.

    If the job performance is on or above par, they in fact will forgive the use of most any drug as long as any illegal ones are not brought onto company property which can expose the company to legal problems.

    I do get your inference though, which is that you believe most companies frown upon the use of certain drugs and those who use them.

    I can’t say I agree, given that use of the two most dangerous and commonly abused drugs – alcohol and tobacco – are rarely cause for disqualifying a potential applicant or for dismissing a current employee.

    A related note would be that any companies or HR departments who wish to have a well manned IMT department won’t be so silly as to screen for marijuana, given that surveys show upwards of 40% of computer and related tech workers are routine cannabis users.

    Supporting interviews demonstrate that for a significant portion of this group, the cannabis is seen as enhancing job performance rather than diminishing it.

    For more on this topic, see: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/drugtest.htm

    beginning with Fact #6

  17. {Meanwhile, penalties for drug sales were raised, perpetuating the widespread but puzzling practice of treating people who actually use drugs less harshly than the people who merely help them do so.}

    Ah, but it makes it so much easier to pretend it’s a “war on drugs” instead of a “war on people.”

  18. In my business (General Contractor), I tend to hire pot smokers for one simple reason. I have been a long time smoker myself, roughly 3-4 times per week, I don’t need some good for nothing kid narcing on me when I get on his ass for poor performance. Admittingly, I once was the victim of a blackmail attempt from this very scenario. The kid caught on to my and a couple of my employees vice, so when it came time to get on his butt for habitual tardiness, he said this is how its going to be, or else…

    Lesson learned, character and morals don’t change based on what you put or don’t put into your body. A fuck up comes from all walks of life, trust nobody.

  19. Sounds good on the face of it, but given organized crime’s reaches into almost every aspect of Russian governance, I would also wonder whether the law changes were not for other reasons…can’t sell product if your customers are doing jail time…don’t jump so hastily into conclusions that may not be backed up by realities on the ground that are little understood in this country. Of course, maybe this all was done because of an enlightened view of prosecuting crime, but I would take the Russian box apart on this before declaring it so.

  20. Here’s a cynical thought: The Russian Mafia realized that if there are reduced penalties for consumption, but sale and manufacture are kept illegal, they keep their monopoly and maximize their market.

  21. A couple of things:

    1. My previous post was missing a sentence at the end of the first paragraph: With everybody always being guilty of SOMETHING, and thus always “owing” money to the government, who needs a tax code, when a bail schedule will do just fine?

    2. Eddy makes an interesting point. For the same reason that he only hires pot smokers, perhaps we should think seriously about only hiring pot smokers to go to Washington. If Eddy’s policy is effective in guarding against small-time extortion, perhaps it can help protect us against the world-class racketeering that is practiced in our nation’s capital.

  22. Eddy makes my point in one more way I had not thought of: The wur on durgs needs to be simply “off,” not on a dimmer switch.

  23. “psilocybin (mushrooms to you and I): 0.005 gram for an average single dose??? Somebody’s on drugs.”

    Wrong. Erowid lists a “threshold” dosage as 2mg=0.002g.
    http://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_dose.shtml

    The chemical (psilocybin) is only a very small component of mushrooms.

    The average single dose for LSD is overestimated by a factor of about 10–usually around 300 micrograms or 0.0003g. Perhaps the listed dosage for meth (0.5g) is the average among extreme addicts, but I rarely use more than 20mg. Then again I’m not looking to get high, just stay up and work better.

  24. And I hear their tax code is based on the Laffer Curve. In other words it’s okay to talk about “trickle down.”
    Then I read that there are more billionaires there than anywhere.
    I’m thinking if Putin could just lose his hard on for Chechnya, Russia could be Utopia.

    (I still must disagree with the camel’s nose under the tent method for ending the insane war on drugs. The war is not on a dimmer switch. It’s either off or on. It should be off.)

  25. psilocybin (mushrooms to you and I): 0.005 gram for an average single dose??? Somebody’s on drugs.

  26. I like the term “jazz cigarette”.

    CW Steve: you’ve just described my techie BF. VG programmer for subsidiary of major major corp, just back from E3, very bright, responsible college grad, lives-breathes-sleeps-eats VGs, esp. RPGs. (Jeez, I’m making him sound like a personals ad.) He’s also a daily (well, nightly) smoker, 1/4 oz per week. His healthy (not astronomical) salary means he can spring for the good stuff, and he always does. He maintains that this mutually beneficial talent-compensation arrangement would not exist today had his bosses asked him to whiz in a cup upon or before starting employment.

  27. Remember: “My choice: Drug free”

    How about…

    My choice: High as a kite.

  28. Mmmmm… sounds like it’s time for a vacation!

    I’ve always wanted to see St. Petersburg. 🙂

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