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Silk Road running again

An interview with the new Dread Pirate Roberts:

You will hunt me — but first ask yourselves is it worth it? Taking me down will not affect Silk Road — back-ups have already been distributed and this entire infrastructure can be redeployed elsewhere in under 15 minutes, and you will gain nothing from our database.

So, if you want to go after the real criminals, such as the rapists, the violent street thugs, and child abusers, then go ahead… but if you come after us, then all you will have done is take the unadulterated drugs away from people who will simply turn to more dangerous supplies.

I am peaceful. I will be donating money to charity; I will be providing free testing services for users and vendors — so if law enforcement wish to turn this into a PR disaster for themselves, then I will not stop their self-destruction. […]

The recurring theme [at] Silk Road is that we provide honest, unadulterated products to people who want them, and whether we [were] here or not, most people would have access to them anyway from shady street dealers who lie through their teeth.

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Legalization is pro-environment

One of the desperate measures taken by prohibitionists was the attempt to get liberal environmentalists on their side by talking about the destruction of public lands and use of toxic chemicals in illegal marijuana grows, etc. This meme was pushed by the ONDCP, by law enforcement, and at times, by some media.

Of course, they were assuming that people would be too dumb to see the obvious — that it was prohibition that was causing this.

It seems pretty clear now that this particular obnoxious ploy has run its course. This article in Mother Nature Network shows why: Why the legalization of marijuana may be good for agriculture

Energy-efficiency isn’t the only benefit that may come with legalization. From better management of irrigation to monitoring of fertilizer runoff, bringing the industry out in the open has the potential to greatly mitigate the harmful impacts of cultivation. As I’ve speculated before, marijuana growing may also provide a gateway for some young people into horticulture as a profession.

And just in case you aren’t sure how geeky pot growers can get, here’s an example of the kind of in-depth discussion that’s been going on in the industry . Who knows, maybe our tomato growers could learn a thing or two?

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A Complete Lack of Accountability in the Criminal Justice System

Radley Balko has a disturbing piece about the recent horrific anal probe case in New Mexico: Anal Probes And The Drug War: A Look At The Ethical And Legal Issues

Oddly, according to constitutional scholars and medical ethicists I’ve consulted, the indignities imposed upon Eckert and Young were both illegal and unethical. And yet it also may be that (a) none of the law enforcement officials or medical personnel responsible for the violations are likely to be held accountable in any way, and (b) they could probably do it all again tomorrow, and still wouldn’t likely be held accountable.

Our system is so corrupt, largely due to the drug war, that the rule of law has become a joke. Public officials can break the law and violate human rights without consequence, while average citizens have to plea bargain to avoid massive sentences for minor drug charges.

This is another huge motivating factor for ending the drug war. A chance to clean up the criminal justice system.

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Moral crusade, business problem, or something else entirely?

There’s an interesting, though completely fatally flawed OpEd in the Detroit News by former federal prosecutor Mark Osler:

Drug policy: Moral crusade or business problem?

At the root of this failure is a simple error: We have treated narcotics as an issue of morality rather than business. Our efforts have been focused on punishing relatively minor actors through mass incarceration rather than on the very different goal of shutting down drug businesses. A starting point as we reconsider our efforts should be the simple recognition that narcotics trafficking is first and foremost a business.

That means that we need to put business experts in charge of the effort to close down narcotics businesses. This change might make all the difference.

A business expert, for example, would know enough to identify a proper measure of success or failure. The only real way to know if narcotics interdiction is working isn’t how much cocaine is piled up in a bust, or how many people we lock up. Rather, the best measure is an economic one: the price of narcotics on the street. If we are successful at restricting supply, the price should go up (given a rough consistency of demand). Hiking the price is important. We have learned from cigarettes that raising the price of something addictive reduces usage rates. Still, governments continue to measure success by narcotics seized, arrests made, and sentences imposed rather than the street value of illegal drugs.

Mark Osler is right in his criticisms of the moral crusade approach, and also about some of the stupid things we’ve been doing in the drug war (measuring success in piles of cocaine, sweeping up low-level dealers, etc.).

However, the notion of winning the drug war by putting business leaders in charge, while novel, is simply out of touch with reality.

Yes, we would be better off if those involved in setting policy understood economic principles better (supply and demand, etc.) — they’d then realize that the drug war can’t work.

But putting business leaders to work utilizing their business skills to combat drug trafficking is a non-starter, for the simple reason that the black market exists outside the realm (and the civilized rules) of the business economy.

Where business leaders would employ lawyers, traffickers employ gunmen. And so on.

The only way to make this idea work is to take drug trafficking out of the black market through legalized regulation. Then business models would apply and could have a great impact on how drugs were marketed and sold (of course, that’s exactly the kind of thing that terrifies people like Mark Kleiman and Kevin Sabet).

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Thanks, Mark

I don’t usually post links to stories for which I am only able to read the teaser and the rest is behind a subscription paywall, but… I just couldn’t resist this opening, where Patrick Radden Keefe of the New Yorker appears to tell us the driving force behind legalization in Washington State.

One morning in August, Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at U.C.L.A., addressed the Seattle city council on the subject of marijuana. Kleiman is one of the country’s most prominent and outspoken analysts of drug policy, and for three decades he has argued that America’s cannabis laws must be liberalized. Kleiman’s campaign used to seem quixotic, but in November, 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado passed initiatives legalizing the use and commercial sale of marijuana.

Who knew?

Now the title of the piece is “Buzzkill: Washington State discovers that it’s not so easy to create a legal marijuana economy.”

So in the remainder of the article I can’t read, I can only guess that the hero of our story begrudgingly discovers that legalization is full of uncertainties and concerns.

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