Drug Policy

Obama's 'Innovative, Compassionate, and Evidence-Based Drug Policies'

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Rafael Lemaitre, communications director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, puts a "progressive" gloss on the Obama administration's approach to politically incorrect intoxicants. Lemaitre begins his Huffington Post piece by quoting Providence, Rhode Island, police Lt. Daniel Gannon, "who told us something many Americans might not expect from a law enforcement officer." According to Gannon, "not every drug offender belongs in prison," which is only "for the bad guys." Where do the nonbad drug offenders belong? In court-ordered treatment, of course. And if they refuse such treatment, perhaps because they do not view their drug use as a problem? Well, then they belong in prison. How else can we force them to accept our help? The Obama administration, Lemaitre says, is all about "innovative, compassionate and evidence-based drug policies" like that one, which conceal the iron fist of the state inside a doctor's plastic glove:

We have pursued a variety of alternatives that abandon an unproductive enforcement-only "War on Drugs" approach to drug control and acknowledge we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem and, further, that drug addiction is a disease of the brain, not some "moral failing." This strategy is vital because by recognizing drug addiction as a chronic and progressive disease, we can actually work to prevent and treat substance use disorders and break the cycle of drug-related crime.

Here Lemaitre adopts the language of many drug policy reformers, proving once again the dangers of medicalizing drug policy: Because drug users suffer from a "progressive disease" that impairs their will, the government need not respect their choices, which are not really choices at all. To the contrary, it has a moral duty to force them into treatment for their own good. Furthermore, the people who supply drugs are "the bad guys" because they are making people sick or preventing them from recovering. Unless they are lucky enough to be addicts themselves, thereby qualifying for the government's compassion, they deserve to rot in jail. Lemaitre nevertheless professes to be troubled by the size of the prison population and by the fact that "African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated for drug offenses." 

"Since day one," Lemaitre declares, "the Obama Administration has been engaged in an unprecedented government-wide effort to reform our nation's drug policies and restore balance to the way we deal with the drug problem." But the balance he is talking about, to the extent that it has any practical implications at all, involves mixing different forms of coercion, as opposed to reconsidering whether it is appropriate to use force in this context. "It makes more sense to prevent and treat drug problems before they become chronic than simply to legalize drugs altogether or keep filling our prisons with drug offenders over and over again," he writes. "Neither of these extremes are sound or humane drug policies." If you can't understand why it is inhumane to stop locking people up for engaging in consensual transactions with other adults, you cannot claim to be as enlightened as Barack Obama.

For more on the ways Obama has disappointed supporters who hoped he would de-escalate the war on drugs, see my story in the October issue of Reason.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  1. Because drug users [insert whatever the regime desires(e.g., Ron Paul supporters)] suffer from a “progressive disease” that impairs their will, the government need not respect their choices, which are not really choices at all.

    FTFY

    1. See, also, “false consciousness”.

  2. Obama’s every bit, and worse, the drug warrior Richard Nixon and George Bush were. I hope Ron Paul starts making ads dedicated to announcing it and reiterating it to the world until Obama drowns in his own sea of bullshit.

    1. A hopefullier, changier machine gun hand?

      1. Yes, with Lotus Notes…and freeway on-ramps for arms.

    2. Obama’s ‘Harry Anslinger-Based Drug Policies’

      FIFY’d.

  3. I wonder if the medical marijuana supporters have helped the libertarian cause by helping erode opposition to pot, or whether they have instead created a limitation from which we will never escape.

    1. Why can’t it be both?

  4. I am so high

    1. YOU’RE a towel!

  5. Good point regarding court ordered treatment–it is simply another iteration of locking people up for using drugs, because the only mechanism the courts have to compel people to get “treatment” is the threat of incarceration.

    Drug courts seem to be all the rage these days, but it would be nice to see an objective article that asks difficult questions, rather than just parrotting a press release. For example, do they work (e.g. what are relapse rates for drug court participants vs. those in voluntary treatment vs. those left untreated)? What type of “treatment” is provided? (My guess is that the huge majority are 12 step programs which lack evidence of effectiveness.) How can it be constitutional to compel someone to participate in a religious program (which all 12 step groups are)?

    1. “How can it be constitutional to compel someone to participate in a religious program (which all 12 step groups are)?”

      They can’t anymore. There was a whole Bullshit episode about it. 12 step programs are statistically as effective as no treatment at all.

      1. That, and the religious freedoms part. Reason covered this already.

    2. I was arrested for growing my own MJ in Missouri back in 2002.

      Got a 5 year suspended sentence for either a class C or D felony possession with intent to distribute. Technically, I don’t have a felony conviction as I completed the probation period without incidence.

      Along with my 5 years probation I had to attend some counseling along with some other court mandated seminar (can’t recall the name).

      I think I went to counseling two, maybe three times. I got the sense that if my profile had showed more family disconnect, I would have been required to see the counselor more often.

      The whole approach assumes that there is some emotional hurt from your past that is the root cause of a person’s drug usage. It assumes that no one in their right mind would choose to break the drug laws, so there has to be something that drives you to use drugs.

      Sort of like how Bill Clinton medicalized Jerry Garcia’s drug use at the time of Garcia’s death. He said something about “We may never know what demons led him to use drugs”. It doesn’t seem to cross the mind of the Caring Class that personal demons aren’t always the reason behind drug usage. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this given we live in a culture where pleasure for pleasure’s sake is considered an evil.

      I also had the chance to present to my PO why the drug laws where wrong. She didn’t bother with a response as I think she likley agreed. I got the sense that cops, parole officers, etc. that I came in contact with during all this is that they know that the whole thing is BS, yet it pays the bills and it’s what the public wants so they trudge on.

      1. Let me add that I’m a white male, middle-aged with only a misdemeanor pot arrest from the 1990’s when this happened. My guess if I’d been younger and/or black I might have rec’d harsher sentencing.

        1. If you’d been John Ashcroft’s nephew, you wouldn’t even have had probation, let alone counseling.

          1. …or Al Gore’s kid, for that matter.

            1. Of course, we should be given preferential treatment. You expected otherwise?

      2. The whole approach assumes that there is some emotional hurt from your past that is the root cause of a person’s drug usage. It assumes that no one in their right mind would choose to break the drug laws, so there has to be something that drives you to use drugs.

        Sort of like how Bill Clinton medicalized Jerry Garcia’s drug use at the time of Garcia’s death. He said something about “We may never know what demons led him to use drugs”. It doesn’t seem to cross the mind of the Caring Class that personal demons aren’t always the reason behind drug usage. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this given we live in a culture where pleasure for pleasure’s sake is considered an evil.

        Well stated observation. Pretty much the reason the progressive idea of ‘treatment over jail time’ is a failed solution. It assumes untrue rationales at its very core.

        Why can’t it be neither jail, nor treatment? The vast majority of drug users are not psychopaths needing to be put behind bars, nor are they loss souls needing the benevolent hand of the state to guide them. Both approaches are advocated by those who see people as a means to their policy ends, and neither fascist nor progressive will look you in the face and deal with you honestly for who you are.

      3. Pretty much every cop with whom I have discussed the issue agrees that the drug war is a failure. You are right, they enforce these laws because that’s their job and the public wants it. The more sociopathic ones have told me they do so because it is “fun.”

        1. hey, i do know some cops who are 100% for the drug war. heck, i know plenty of people who are 100% for it.

          they ARE out there.

          most cops i know could not care less about MJ

          that’s why it needs to be the first step in the war against the WOD so to speak

          and it has been

          medical MJ is a perfect FIRST step.

  6. So, the ONDCP flack is a lying tub of shit?

    Color me shocked.

    1. Every ONDCP flack has been full of shit. Under Bush, under Obama, under the next Hood Ornament, they’ve ALL been smarmy mouthpieces for the War on Drugs.

      Including Joe Biden:

      The Director of National Drug Control Policy, colloquially known as the Drug Czar, heads the office. “Drug Czar” was a term first used in the media by then-Senator Joe Biden in October 1982. (from the Wiki ONDCP page)

      Yeah, I used Wiki. But facks are facks.

      1. I’m proud as fuck to pass laws that put people in prison for taking drugs!

        1. kerlikowske was a craven cop-o-crat political appointee who would do whatever his handlers wanted him to do then

          thus, he was a perfect pick for the obama admin

          he has kris kime’s blood on his hands
          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Mardi_Gras_Riots

  7. Doesn’t “Lemaitre” mean “The Master?”

    1. He’s Lemaitre de Baitre!

  8. Actual addiction is a medical problem. Drug use does not equal addiction. Most people can use drugs or alcohol freely and put it down when needed.

    Either way, people should be free to seek treatment on their own.

    1. If by “actual addiction” you mean “physical dependence”, I would agree.

      I believe the number of recreational drugs that cause physical dependence is vanishingly small, though.

      1. Addicts are those who have a whole slew of negative consquences resulting from their using (losing job, divorce, kids taken away, DUIs, etc) and still continue to use. They usually want to quit very badly, but every time they try with their own willpower, they eventually fail and go back to using. 12-step programs are highly successful for those who want it. But it cannot be coerced. You have to want to stop using and change your life.

        1. “You have to want to stop using and change your life.”

          Which suggests you might well accomplish that without X-step programs.

          1. Yes you certainly can, but for whatever reason, many people have more success through a structured program.

            I guess it’s because for people that could quite easily, they already would have.

  9. “It makes more sense to prevent and treat drug problems before they become chronic than simply to legalize drugs altogether or keep filling our prisons with drug offenders over and over again,”

    Uh. Has anyone noticed any dimunition in the rate at which the US has been “filling our prisons with drug offenders over and over again.”?

  10. “that drug addiction is a disease of the brain, not some “moral failing.” This strategy is vital because by recognizing drug addiction as a chronic and progressive disease, we can actually work to prevent and treat substance use disorders”

    How come they just let all those homeless schizos do their thing instead of involuntarily committing them like they used to? That’s a disease of the brain, too, and there’s much more apparent burden on others.

    1. Arrest those fat diabetics and put ’em on a monitored low carb diet “for their own, and society’s, good.

  11. According to Gannon, “not every drug offender belongs in prison,” which is only “for the bad guys.” Where do the nonbad drug offenders belong? In court-ordered treatment, of course. And if they refuse such treatment, perhaps because they do not view their drug use as a problem? Well, then they belong in prison. How else can we force them to accept our help?

    What we in Mexico call Herod’s law: You’re either screwed or you’re fucked.

    1. how about? i know, shocking idea… government leaves drug users alone to do what they want?

      if and when they start breaking REAL laws, then deal with them.

      if somebody wants to use a recreational drug, that should not be the concern of govt.

      1. “if somebody wants to use a recreational drug, that should not be the concern of govt.”

        But you’ll still make it the concern of the gov’t when ordered to for your paycheck, shit-face.

        1. as will a doctor, a pharmacist and many others.

          and so it goes…

          1. “Other people do it due to the threat of having their professional licenses revoked, so that makes it perfectly OK that I do it voluntarily for money!”

  12. drug addiction is a disease of the brain

    Indeed, every drug warrior suffers from serious brain damage.

  13. I’m innovative! Can I help?

  14. Completely OT: I see from Balko’s Twitter feed that LoneWhacko has a Twitter account. In this particular case, he was lambasting Balko for not challenging the HuffPo crew on immigration.

    I applaud LoneWhacko’s dedication to his cause. It’s kind of inspiring, in a batshit crazy monomaniacal way.

    1. I feel nostalgic all of the sudden.

    2. Jackoff should be involuntarily committed. Inspiring only because it makes me feel good to not be him.

  15. These Nurse Ratched fuckers are worse than the drug warriors in some ways. At least the latter are just straightforwardly oppressive, they don’t try to fuck with your head too.

  16. This bears repeating:

    Karl Hungus|12.5.11 @ 3:52PM|#|show direct|ignore
    I’ve never done anal. Something about poop throws me off. Plus, I’d be horrified if I peed out a brown plug the next morning.

    Do we have a Hall of Fame by any chance?

    1. ???

      1. You may want to check out the sexting thread.

  17. Let’s not let the allegedly perfect be the enemy of the good. “Medicalizing” is much preferable to criminalizing. Ideally we should not treat drug use as the medical issue, but drug addiction (since that’s what it is). Mandatory treatment for addicts is superior to mandatory incarceration, though best of all would be to treat all intoxicants the way we treat alcohol.

    1. You finally made a mostly-sensible post, Tony, but it’s your Team using Team Red drug war strategy at the moment.

      1. Hence the rationalizing.

        Plus Tony’s never been an opponent of compulsion.

        1. True… liberals love to force people to do things just as much as Team Red does.

      2. As long as your team says the right things, that’s what counts. Achieving something is less important than you feeling good about yourself.

        1. When is your Team going to say – let alone do – the right things?

          1. And, on this topic… again… why does your Team keep using the Team Red Drugs Are Bad, M’kay? handbook?

    2. Even better would be deregulating alcohol as well. I don’t think our current tax and regulation heavy management of alcohol is all that great. Also the retarded drinking age that says you can drive a car, get married, vote and join the military but can’t have a beer.

      1. imo, the evidence is strong that we’d be better served with a drinking age of 18 than 21.

    3. tony, drug USE =/= DRUG ADDICTION (or “abuse”)

      it is not only Possible, but quite common for people to responsibly use any # of illegal (and legal) drugs without either being an “addict’ or an “abuser” unless one defines “abuser” as a person who uses any illegal drug, which many drug warriors do.

      yes, even evul drugz ™ like heroin, meth (less likely), cocaine etc. can be used recreationally and responsibly without people becoming addicts.

      1. I seem to recall “use is abuse” as a slogan tossed about regularly by the drug warriors about 20 years ago.

        1. yup. anti-science nonsense with a political goal… see also those ad campaigns that claimed ANYBODY can get AIDS and it was equal opportunity, or the flack that summers got when he dared suggest the two genders might have different math skillz on average

      2. That’s because they conclude that if you have to break the law to do it, you must be powerfully driven to do so.

      3. Yeah that’s what I said. I think a good way to judge government policy is in terms of body count. Alcohol kills so many more people than other intoxicants, our approach is absurd on its face.

        1. Then you should, in theory, be in favor of making alcohol illegal.

  18. I really didn’t think he’d be worse than Bush. I didn’t go so far as to vote for him but I thought he’d be just another bad president instead of what he is.

    1. ‘Waaaay back when Bush Version 2.0 was just a candidate, he made the mistake of saying states should have the right to set their own medical-pot policies… and virtually that same day, his handlers walked it back.

      Team Blue is nearly as guilty as Team Red when it comes to states’ rights on this issue – let alone other issues. Why anyone would give either Team an Atta-Boy for effort, is a fool.

  19. Did anyone expect the statist prick to say something different? Liberals don’t believe in freedom, they believe in government intervention in all aspects of our unmanageable lives. The Treatment industry’s dirty hands are all over this piece.

  20. You’ve got to admire the approach. The boundaries are set by the same people bound by them.

    We don’t want to put drug users in prison, we want to treat them. If they don’t want to be treated, it only shows that they aren’t making sound decisions and we’re justified in forcing them into treatment.

    I can’t wait for the day when this quote has at least a small amount of trouble being relevant:
    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    1. ^That^

      Good post, Brandon.

    2. Solid quote, Brandon.

      I still think “boot stomping on a human face-forever” is more applicable.

    3. I finally googled WHERE that quote was from ie., what book or paper and found a second paragraph:

      They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
      ?C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock

      http://politicalsmacktalk.blog…..ranny.html

      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi…..16-9461647

    4. epic quote. i will use it.

    5. So the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Who knew?

    6. Only works if you equate all government with tyranny. Even then, something exercised “for the good of its victims” might include a prohibition on murder. Call it tyranny if you want but at some point you’ll take it over the robber barons/murdering gangs.

      1. Those of us who are not anarchists (of course, to a liberal, one less bit of current-level government = anarchy), don’t subscribe to the only choices of huge, bloated, nanny-state uber-snoopers or robber barons/murdering gangs.

  21. Didn’t President Obama admit to doing drugs himself? How then can his policies be other than the rantings of a drug-addled mind, garbled nonsense that should be at least ignored, if not corrected for his own good and that of the Nation?

    1. “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack [heroin] though.”
      Barack Obama
      Admitting taking cannabis and cocaine as a teenager, in 1995 memoir ‘Dreams from My Father’.

      1. Here’s a question. Does anyone know if Dave Chappelle supported Obama? He had a hilarious skit comparing Clinton and Bush where he said he could vote for someone who smoked pot but not someone who did coke.

  22. My coworkers tell me that my tolerance for Obama cock is the strongest of all. I can go the full nine inches without gagging.

    1. You do it 3 times?

      1. Give it up for Chatroom Crank, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

        And now… the comedic stylings of… Jason Godesky!!!

  23. “conceal the iron fist of the state inside a doctor’s plastic glove”

    Very nice turn of a phrase, Jacob.

  24. Not even a second thought is given to the notion that maybe the government has no business telling people what they may or may not ingest. That idea is simply beyond their comprehension and, apparently, beyond the comprehension of most Americans. God, fucking, help us.

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