Boing Boing 

John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture

As always, John Oliver's take on something newsworthy, corrupt, and jaw-droppingly absurd manages to nail it straight through the beating heart.

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America is crazy when it comes to drugs

Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, delivered this TED Talk at TEDGlobal 2014 about the insanity of the drug war.

The reason some drugs are legal and others are not has nothing to do with science or health or the risk of drugs, and everything to do with who uses, and is perceived to use, certain drugs. If the principal smokers of cocaine were affluent older white men and the principal users of Viagra were young black men, using Viagra would land you time behind bars.

City Attorneys train local cops to use "wish lists" for civil forfeiture


In "continuing education" seminars, cops are instructed to be on the lookout for people with nice stuff that can be easily resold, figure out a crime that those people might be guilty of, and tell the City Attorney so that that stuff can be grabbed through "civil forfeiture."

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Weed prohibitionists caught telling lies

Carrying on the sleazy tradition of professional liar Harry J. Anslinger (first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics), weed prohibitionists are stretching the truth and outright fibbing in a desperate attempt to reverse the nationwide trend towards legalization.

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SWAT team murders burglary victim because burglar claimed he found meth


The Laurens, GA County Sheriff's Dept broke down David and Teresa Hooks' door and fatally shot David Hooks on a tip from Randall Garrett, a burglar with multiple felony convictions, who said he saw meth while robbing their house.

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Seattle prosecutor drops all public marijuana tickets

As reported here, almost all of them were issued by a single cop, who hates legal weed and subjected his victims to humiliating rituals like flipping a coin to see which ones would get the ticket and which would walk away free.

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CBC warns Canadians: US cops will pull you over and steal your money

62,000 US drivers have been pulled over and had their cash seized by small-town American cops in the past 13 years, under civil forfeiture laws that let them declare anyone to be a probable terrorist and/or drug dealer and take their money without charge or evidence; the only way to get it back is to hire a lawyer and return, over and over again, to the tiny town you were passing through when you were robbed at badgepoint.

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DEA's D&D-themed patches


They may be corrupt, authoritarian, racist and sleazy, but their FPRG-inspired mission patches are cool -- but of course, square-ass pinks who take jobs as DEA spooks are so lame that they flog them on Ebay, for your ironic fashion pleasure.

Dungeons and Dragons-themed DEA Patches

NY DA says he won't prosecute minor drug possession; NYPD officers ordered to go on arresting

The memo -- requiring Brooklyn cops to continue their racist, brutal stop-and-frisk campaign to make minor drug busts -- is required reading for beat officers.

Last year, the NYPD made over 8,000 minor marijuana possession arrests. As Matt Taibbi documents in The Divide, these arrests are part of a racist, all-out war on young people of color. Even if the DA won't prosecute the people that Brooklyn cops take into custody, the busts will continue to beef up the department's arrest statistics.

DA Thompson's order really doesn't eliminate that many possession arrests. His memo stated that those smoking in public (especially around children), 16-17-year-old offenders (who will be placed into a diversion program) and people with existing criminal records will still be prosecuted. This just leaves mainly the truly harmless: recreational users.

But the War on Drugs is every bit as essential to the NYPD as the War on Terror, and the NYPD (with new chief Bill Bratton's blessing) will continue to make meaningless arrests -- arrests made even more meaningless by DA Thompson's announcement.

If nothing else, this ensures the sort of job security that's usually only touted in sarcastic tones by the deeply cynical. According to the New York Times, arresting recreational users is full-time work for Brooklyn cops.

NYPD Tells Brooklyn Officers To Continue Making Low-Level Drug Arrests DA Has Stated He Won't Prosecute [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]

(Image: NYPD Occupy Wall Street Eviction, Nick Gulotta, CC-BY)

Colorado's booming legal weed economy


It's not just the $10M in taxes the state's earned in four months -- it's also the $12-40M in law enforcement savings from not busting and imprisoning pot smokers.

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Small town sheriff buys tank: "the United States of America has become a war zone"

Rural counties across Indiana have been purchasing Afghanistan-surplus tanks with gunner turrets and heavy armour; most recently, it was Johnson County, whose Sheriff, Doug Cox, justified the purchase by saying, "The United States of America has become a war zone."

The 55,000lb "mine resistant ambush protected" tank (MRAP) was a steal at $5,000 (original price: $733,000), part of a bizarro-world peace dividend from the Afghanistan and Iraq drawdown, which sees the toolsuite of a military occupying force being flogged at knock-down rates to macho shithead sheriffs across the American heartland for deployment against American civilians.

For example, Johnson County SWAT used their MRAP to break up a fight between two drunks, and in Morgan County, the requisition for their MRAP said it was to be used for a variety of purposes, including "drug search warrants and felony arrest warrants." By and large, counties acquiring these tanks have no formal policy about when and how they can be used.

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Surveillance state: the NSA doesn't stand alone


The NSA is supposed to be America's offshore spy agency, forbidden from spying on Americans. But as an important article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Nadia Kayyali points out, the FBI, DEA and other US agencies have closely integrated the NSA into their own efforts, using the NSA's mass surveillance to gather intelligence on Americans -- as Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide discloses, the NSA isn't a stand-alone agency, it is part of an overarching surveillance state.

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Weed growers versus the environment

Michael from Mother Jones writes, "Most people who use marijuana probably don't give much thought to where it comes from. Alas, a huge chunk of it comes from environmentally devastating 'trespass grows' in the national forests, where the growers cut down trees, divert waterways for irrigation, and deploy rodent poison that makes its way into species that are under threat, including birds and weasel-like mammals called fishers. 'I would consider it the No. 1 threat to salmon' in Northern California, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist tells Josh Harkinson, who reported the story for Mother Jones."

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First clinical LSD trial in 40 years shows positive results in easing anxiety of dying patients

In Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases, a new paper published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, a Swiss psychiatrist named Peter Gasser and his colleagues report on the first controlled trial of LSD in forty years. Gasser used LSD therapeutically to treat 12 people nearing the end of their lives, and concluded that their anxiety "went down and stayed down."

Many psychopharmacologists believe that psychedelics such as LSD have therapeutic benefits that could be realized if the strictures on them were loosened. David Nutt, the former UK government drugs czar, called the ban on psychedelics in therapeutic settings "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo". He devotes a whole chapter to psychedelics in his brilliant book on drug policy, Drugs Without the Hot Air. If you only read one book about drug policy, read that one.

Gasser's trial is positioned as a major move in the struggle to end the damage the War on Some Drugs has wrought on legitimate medicine. It used a randomized double-blind protocol to dose some dying patients (most with terminal cancer) with LSD as part of an anxiety-reduction strategy. The results were dramatic and positive. In a NYT story, some Gasser's patients relate their experiences with the therapy:

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DEA reveals "parallel construction" techniques the "taint team" uses to disguise its reliance on NSA surveillance data

Michael from Muckrock sez, "MuckRock user CJ Ciaramella stumbled upon some recently interesting documents with a recent FOIA request: The DEA's training materials regarding parallel construction, the practice of reverse engineering the evidence chain to keep how the government actually knows something happened away from prosecutors, the defense, and the public. 'Americans don't like it,' the materials note, when the government relies heavily on classified sources, so agents are encouraged to find ways to get the same information through tactics like 'routine' traffic stops that coincidentally find the information agents are after."

Hilariously, the squad who engage in this obfuscation are called the "taint review team."

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HSBC settlement approved: no criminal charges, 5 weeks' profit in fines, deferred bonuses for laundering billions for narco-terrorists


Remember when HSBC got caught laundering billions for Mexican narco-terror cartels? Remember how they offered to pay five weeks' profits in fines and to defer their executive bonuses to escape criminal charges?

The crime-fighting legal eagles at the Department of Justice approved the settlement last week. Remember, though, if you are suspected of laundering money or selling drugs, the DoJ will take your house away and put you in jail for the rest of your life. Nice to be "too big to jail." Still, deferring multimillion-dollar bonuses has gotta hurt, huh?

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Smoke-a-Bowl tees commemorate a Superbowl between two legal pot states, and raise money for NORML


Kyle from Bumperactive writes, "On February 2, Washington and Colorado, the first two States to legalize recreational marijuana, compete in... The Smoke-A-Bowl! Bumperactive is celebrating the historic event with a special edition of three Smoke-A-Bowl IVXX tees, and a sticker set. $5.00 from the sale of every tee, and $2.00 from every sticker pack, benefits the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). 'Cause it ain't just about feelin' groovy. It's also about ending half a century of disastrous and inhumane drug control policy. We're 4% of the way there. Orders ship via USPS next business day!"

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Texas governor Rick Perry moots pot decriminalization

Texas Governor Rick Perry has endorsed the idea of decriminalizing marijuana. Note that this is not Colorado/Washington-style legalization (which would give Texas access to a flood of tax-dollars from a legal industry), rather, it's decriminalization, which means that you will get a ticket if you get caught with small amounts of pot. That deprives the state of tax revenue, but saves the state some money on the prison system, and allows police the all-important discretion to disproportionately hassle brown people and anyone they find suspicious. (via Reddit)

$1.6M for man who repeatedly anal-probed by NM cops who thought he had drugs

Remember David Eckert, the New Mexico man who got multiple anal probes after a cop decided he must be hiding drugs because a dog "alerted" on him? Well, he's gotten $1.3 million out of the city and county. He's still suing the hospital for its role in his nonconsensual, warrantless enemas, colonoscopy, X-ray, and forced public defecation. If they won't settle, he's prepared to go to a jury trial. You get the impression that Eckert is out to make a point here: if your town cops and/or doctors participate in illegal, sadistic war-on-drugs torture, the victims will take all your money and destroy you, so cut it the fuck out. Techdirt's Tim Cushing has more:

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Nostril-wedged maggots of Portsmouth: Otorhinolaryngologist's expert opinion explained

More on yesterday's story about a nasal-wedged maggot scare in Portsmouth, RI's middle school (refresher: the Portsmouth Middle School sent parents a terrifying letter warning of a student Smartie-snorting epidemic and predicting that children would end up with maggots in their noses that feasted upon the sugar residue).

John McDaid, the investigative blogger who broke the story, tracked down Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was quoted in the letter the school sent home as warning that "frequent snorting could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose."

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David Nutt wants to make non-addictive, safer synth-booze that comes with a sober-up pill


"Risk of addiction," fotoknips/Shutterstock.

David Nutt is a brilliant psychopharmacologist who once served as the UK's drug czar, until he was ousted for refusing to suppress the data that showed that many legal drugs were as bad or worse for you than illegal drugs, and that the war on drugs was a losing battle that wasn't reducing abuse or crime.

Now he's back in industry, and he's got an awesome idea he's trying to get funded: a tailored variation on alcohol that has exactly the same intoxicating effect but inflicts none of the physical damage of booze, and lets you get instantly, totally sober just by taking an antidote.

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TSA may allow in-flight marijuana

As more states pass medical marijuana laws, or legalize it outright, the TSA is heading for a don't-ask/don't-tell police on weed at airports. The official policy is to refer drug possession to local law, but where the law doesn't care, that's rather pointless.

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Top UK cop calls for end to war on drugs, legalization of Class A substances

Pity the British establishment. Like their American counterparts, they keep insisting -- against all evidence -- that they're winning the war on drugs, that drugs are an unimaginable scourge and far worse than tobacco or booze, and that the real problem is that we're not jailing enough addicts for long enough. Despite this, well-informed, respected people continue to publicly state that the war on drugs is a public health, economic, and legal disaster. Last time, it was UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, who called banning marijuana and psychedelics "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" and wrote an amazing book about the awful state of drug policy.

Now, Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, one of the UK's most senior police officers, has published an editorial in the Observer comparing the war on drugs to the American alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s. He calls for drugs to be legalised, so that their sale will no longer fund criminal gangs, and for the NHS to distribute drugs -- including Schedule A drugs (cocaine, morphine, mescaline, LSD, oxycodone, psilocybe mushrooms, and many others).

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Former UK drug czar calls banning marijuana and psychedelics "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo"

Former UK drug czar David Nutt (and author of the amazing and indispensable Drugs Without the Hot Air) has published a paper in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience called "Effects of Schedule I drug laws on neuroscience research and treatment innovation" where he, and his co-authors (Leslie A. King and David E. Nichols) call modern drug policy "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo." The Independent summarises the paper:

The paper, which is published to coincide with a conference on scientific research with psychedelics at Imperial College London, points to evidence that cannabis, MDMA and psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin (the compound found in magic mushrooms) have unexplored medicinal benefits and argues that laws should be updated.

Small clinical studies of MDMA, which was originally used in the USA in the 1970s to improve communication in psychotherapy sessions, suggested that it could play a highly beneficial role in the treatment of PTSD patients. The paper’s authors said the drug could also help with “end of life anxiety” and couples therapy”.

Medical use of marijuana is already legal in 17 US states, and the drug has been shown to have benefits such as anxiety reduction and pain relief. However, Professor Nutt said that UK restrictions had blocked development of therapeutic applications for any of cannabis’ 16 active ingredients.

LSD, meanwhile, was widely researched in the 1950s and 1960s, with more than 1,000 papers investigating outcomes for more than 40,000 patients, with evidence suggesting that the drug might be an effective treatment for alcoholism, before bans on the drug around the world ended further research.

'The worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Galileo': Scientists call for drugs to be legalised to allow proper study of their properties (via Reddit)

Immigration woes for Amy's Bakery co-owner

More on Amy's Bakery, the restauranteurs who staged a world-beating social-media meltdown: Sami "Mr Amy" Bouzaglo faces deportation -- tl;dr: he's an Israeli citizen who's been banned from Germany and France for drug offenses and faces an immigration hearing in the USA. (Thanks, Matthew!)

If you're suspected of drug involvement, America takes your house; HSBC admits to laundering cartel billions, loses five weeks' income and execs have to partially defer bonuses


Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is brilliantly incandescent in his column about the HSBC drug-money-laundering settlement with the US government. HSBC was an active, knowing participant in laundering billions in drug money, and was fined a small percentage of its net worth (five weeks' income). Meanwhile, private individuals who are suspected of being incidentally involved in the drug trade routinely have all of their property confiscated, down to their houses and cars, under America's insane forfeiture laws. Then they often go to jail.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC's Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn't protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most "reputable" banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can't be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department's response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way...

... So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me? That's the punishment? The government's negotiators couldn't hold firm on forcing HSBC officials to completely wait to receive their ill-gotten bonuses? They had to settle on making them "partially" wait? Every honest prosecutor in America has to be puking his guts out at such bargaining tactics. What was the Justice Department's opening offer – asking executives to restrict their Caribbean vacation time to nine weeks a year?

...How about all of it? How about every last dollar the bank has made since it started its illegal activity? How about you dive into every bank account of every single executive involved in this mess and take every last bonus dollar they've ever earned? Then take their houses, their cars, the paintings they bought at Sotheby's auctions, the clothes in their closets, the loose change in the jars on their kitchen counters, every last freaking thing. Take it all and don't think twice. And then throw them in jail.

Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke (via Dan Hon)

(Image: [HSBC], a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from willsurvive's photostream)

Drugs: Without the Hot Air, now in the USA!

I wrote last June about Drugs: Without the Hot Air, the best book on drug policy I've read, written by David Nutt, the UK drug czar who was fired because he refused to bow to political pressure to repudiate his own research on the relative harms from illegal drugs and legal activities. Nutt's book has now been published in the USA. As I said in June, this is a book that everyone should read. From my review:

Like the other writers in the series, Nutt is both committed to rigorous, evidence-based policy and to clear, no-nonsense prose that makes complex subjects comprehensible. He begins and ends the book with a look at the irrationality of our present drug policy, recounting a call he had with then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was furious that he'd compared horseback riding harms to the harms from taking MDMA. Smith says that "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." When Nutt asks why not, she says, "because one is illegal." When he asks why it is illegal, she says, "Because it is harmful." So he asks, "Don't we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal?" And Smith reiterates, "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." Lather, rinse, repeat, and you'll get our current drugs-policy disaster.

Nutt has been talking about harm reduction and evidence-based policy for drugs policy for years, and he often frames the question by pointing out that alcohol is a terrible killer of addicts and the people around them, and a disaster for society. But if he was to synthesize a drug that produced an identical high to alcohol, without producing any of the harms, it would almost certainly be banned and those involved in producing, selling and taking it would be criminalised. We ban drugs because they are harmful and we know they are harmful because they are banned. Drugs that we don't ban -- tobacco, alcohol -- are "harmful" too, but not in the same way as the drugs that are banned, and we can tell that they are different because they haven't been banned.

Nutt has choice words for the alcohol and tobacco industries, who often frame their activity as being supported by responsible choice, and claim that they only want to promote that sort of responsibility. But as Nutt points out, if Britain's drinkers hewed to the recommended drinking levels, total industry revenue would fall by 40% -- and the industry has shown no willingness to regulate super-cheap, high-alcohol booze, nor alcopops aimed at (and advertised to) children and teenagers.

Nutt compares the alcohol industry's self-regulated responsible drinking campaigns to a campaign that exposed students in East Sussex to factual information about the industry's corruption of public health messages, its ferocious lobbying efforts, and the cost of drinking to wider society. It turns out that exposing alcohol industry sleaze is vastly more effective at discouraging student drinking than anything sponsored by the industry itself.

From his discussion of legal drugs, Nutt moves on to factual accounts of the impact of illegal/controlled drugs, from "legal highs" like "meow meow" to opiods to cocaine to prescription painkillers and steroids to psychedelics. Each chapter is a bracing, brisk, no-nonsense inventory of what harms and benefits arise from each substance, the history of their regulation, and the ways in which changes to the means of taking the drugs changes the outcome. Laid out like this, it's easy to see that prohibition isn't ever the right answer -- not for science, not for society, not for justice, and not for health.

There's also a sense of the awful, tragic loss to society arising from the criminalization of promising drugs. A chapter called "Should Scientists Take LSD?" surveys the literature preceding the evidence-free banning of LSD, and the astounding therapeutic benefits hinted at in the literature.

The book closes with the War on Drugs, and the worlds' governments own frank assessments of the unmitigated disaster created by Richard Nixon's idiotic decision 40 years ago. Nutt analyzes the fact that policymakers know that the War on Drugs is worse than the drugs themselves (by a long shot), but are politically incapable of doing anything about it, not least because politicians on all sides stand poised to condemn their opponents for being "soft on drugs."

Drugs: Without the Hot Air

Drugs Without the Hot Air: the most sensible book about drugs you'll read this year

Cambridge's UIT Press has established a well-deserved reputation for publishing clear, engaging, evidence-based books on controversial subjects. Titles like Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air and Sustainable Materials - with Both Eyes Open remain two of the best books I've read on the relationship between environmental responsibility, climate, material wealth, science and engineering -- books that profoundly changed the way I understood these subjects.

The latest in this series is Drugs: Without the Hot Air (UK), by David Nutt. If Nutt's name rings a bell, it's because he was fired from his job as UK drugs czar because he refused to support the government's science-free position on the dangers of marijuana, and because he wouldn't repudiate a paper he wrote that compared the harms of taking Ecstasy to the harms of horseback riding (or "equasy").

Like the other writers in the series, Nutt is both committed to rigorous, evidence-based policy and to clear, no-nonsense prose that makes complex subjects comprehensible. He begins and ends the book with a look at the irrationality of our present drug policy, recounting a call he had with then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was furious that he'd compared horseback riding harms to the harms from taking MDMA. Smith says that "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." When Nutt asks why not, she says, "because one is illegal." When he asks why it is illegal, she says, "Because it is harmful." So he asks, "Don't we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal?" And Smith reiterates, "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." Lather, rinse, repeat, and you'll get our current drugs-policy disaster.

Nutt has been talking about harm reduction and evidence-based policy for drugs policy for years, and he often frames the question by pointing out that alcohol is a terrible killer of addicts and the people around them, and a disaster for society. But if he was to synthesize a drug that produced an identical high to alcohol, without producing any of the harms, it would almost certainly be banned and those involved in producing, selling and taking it would be criminalised. We ban drugs because they are harmful and we know they are harmful because they are banned. Drugs that we don't ban -- tobacco, alcohol -- are "harmful" too, but not in the same way as the drugs that are banned, and we can tell that they are different because they haven't been banned.

Nutt has choice words for the alcohol and tobacco industries, who often frame their activity as being supported by responsible choice, and claim that they only want to promote that sort of responsibility. But as Nutt points out, if Britain's drinkers hewed to the recommended drinking levels, total industry revenue would fall by 40% -- and the industry has shown no willingness to regulate super-cheap, high-alcohol booze, nor alcopops aimed at (and advertised to) children and teenagers.

Nutt compares the alcohol industry's self-regulated responsible drinking campaigns to a campaign that exposed students in East Sussex to factual information about the industry's corruption of public health messages, its ferocious lobbying efforts, and the cost of drinking to wider society. It turns out that exposing alcohol industry sleaze is vastly more effective at discouraging student drinking than anything sponsored by the industry itself.

From his discussion of legal drugs, Nutt moves on to factual accounts of the impact of illegal/controlled drugs, from "legal highs" like "meow meow" to opioids to cocaine to prescription painkillers and steroids to psychedelics. Each chapter is a bracing, brisk, no-nonsense inventory of what harms and benefits arise from each substance, the history of their regulation, and the ways in which changes to the means of taking the drugs changes the outcome. Laid out like this, it's easy to see that prohibition isn't ever the right answer -- not for science, not for society, not for justice, and not for health.

There's also a sense of the awful, tragic loss to society arising from the criminalization of promising drugs. A chapter called "Should Scientists Take LSD?" surveys the literature preceding the evidence-free banning of LSD, and the astounding therapeutic benefits hinted at in the literature.

The book closes with the War on Drugs, and the worlds' governments own frank assessments of the unmitigated disaster created by Richard Nixon's idiotic decision 40 years ago. Nutt analyzes the fact that policymakers know that the War on Drugs is worse than the drugs themselves (by a long shot), but are politically incapable of doing anything about it, not least because politicians on all sides stand poised to condemn their opponents for being "soft on drugs."

After this, there is a frank chapter on talking with your children about drugs. Nutt is a parent and has some regrets about how he approached the subject with his own children (one of his sons was stalked by a British tabloid journalist, who tricked him into friending him on Facebook, which gave the journalist the opportunity to gank photos of the young man smoking marijuana). As a parent, this stuff really resonated with me -- sensible advice that focuses on establishing and maintaining trust.

Drugs: Without the Hot Air

Russell Brand testifies to Parliament about drug policy, channels Groucho Marx

Here's some of Russell Brand's wonderful, thoughtful, funny, and acerbic testimony to the UK Parliament on the subject of combatting addiction and setting sensible drug policy. Brand is a former heroin addict, and he was questioned by MPs over his views on the subject:

* I don't think we need a carrot or a stick. Both of those things seem to be to be bizarre metaphors. I think what we need is love and compassion.

* Being arrested isn't a lesson, it's just an administrative blip

* Again mate, what we need to identify is a degree of authenticity and compassion in the way we deal with this problem, otherwise you just seem like you don't know what you're talking about.

* You can tell what party they're in from the questions, innit? "What about the victims of the crime!"

* [After the committee chair tries to restore order by declaring that they're running out of time, and without missing a beat.] Time is infinite. You cannot run out of time. Who's next? [Home Secretary] Theresa May? She may not show up. Check she knows what day it is.

You've got to listen to the recording, which starts at about 5:55 in this episode of the BBC's Today in Parliament. It's like a chirpy cockney Groucho Marx discussing drug policy with a bunch of Margaret Dumont-esque Tories, and running silvertongued circles around them.

Russell Brand says drug addiction should be treated as a health matter

Latin American leaders, Obama to discuss ending the war on drugs

The upcoming Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, which will be attended by many latinamerican heads of state as well as Barack Obama, is set to be an historic debate over the legalization of drugs and the end of the war on drugs. Jamie Doward writes in the Guardian:

He insists, however, that prohibition has failed and an alternative system must be found. "Our proposal as the Guatemalan government is to abandon any ideological consideration regarding drug policy (whether prohibition or liberalisation) and to foster a global intergovernmental dialogue based on a realistic approach to drug regulation. Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption and production should be legalised, but within certain limits and conditions."

The decision by Pérez Molina to speak out is seen as highly significant and not without political risk. Polls suggest the vast majority of Guatemalans oppose decriminalisation, but Pérez Molina's comments are seen by many as helping to usher in a new era of debate. They will be studied closely by foreign policy experts who detect that Latin American leaders are shifting their stance on prohibition following decades of drugs wars that have left hundreds of thousands dead.

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, has called for a national debate on the issue. Last year Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, told the Observer that if legalising drugs curtailed the power of organised criminal gangs who had thrived during prohibition, "and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it".

'War on drugs' has failed, say Latin American leaders