Daniel Halliday
May 11, 2019 · Last update 10 mo. ago.

Could Colorado be leading international drug reform?

Following the referendum to decriminalise psilocybin “magic” mushrooms in Denver, Colorado this week, are we seeing the beginning of a revolution of international drug reform? tinyurl.com/y3jobagm
Stats of Viewpoints
The failure of the War on Drugs
1 agrees
0 disagrees
No, this may just lead to state legal issues
1 agrees
0 disagrees
No, this will only complicate the State’s social issues
1 agrees
0 disagrees
Yes, changing views on addiction call for a change in policy and strategy
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Yes, but this is part of long term ongoing reform
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The failure of the War on Drugs

America currently faces a multitude of social and political problems that are often interconnected. Drugs, mental health problems, unaffordable private healthcare, exploitative working conditions, immigration issues, racism issues, gun violence, all of which help feed into an atmosphere of terror and trauma in society, reinforcing drugs as a viable escape. Meanwhile a booming prison system reinforces many of these issues also instead of rehabilitating them. That is not even to mention the exploitative industries that have grown around the supply of such drugs, illegal and legal alike, in the form of Central American Drug Cartels and “Big Pharma” respectively; complicating and exacerbating the above issues massively.

All the interconnectedness of these social problems begs the question; could most of America’s social problems lie on a foundation of the 'war on drugs?' It is undeniable that this policy has its tentacles of influence extended into many of the continent’s most pressing social and political instabilities. Treating America’s relationship to drugs as an invading enemy that needs to be destroyed through “warfare” is therefore neither realistic nor helpful, the amount of deep social corruption in America is a sign of that, and decriminalisation of any substance is a tiny step away from this terrible societal catastrophe. War on drugs failed, it is now time to try something new.

theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/apr/18/the-war-on-drugs-has-failed-time-to-stop-fighting-and-start-thinking cosmicnovo.com/2017/08/11/war-drugs-failed

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 16
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DH edited this paragraph
America currently faces a multitude of social and political problems that are often interconnected. Drugs, mental health problems, unaffordable private healthcare, exploitative working conditions, immigration issues, racism issues, gun violence, all of which help feed into an atmosphere of terror and trauma in society, reinforcing drugs as a viable escape. Meanwhile a booming prison system reinforces many of these issues also instead of rehabilitating them. That is not even to mention the exploitative industries that have grown around the supply of such drugs, illegal and legal alike, in the form of Central American Drug Cartels and “Big Pharma” respectively; complicating and exacerbating the above issues massively.

No, this may just lead to state legal issues

Denver’s referendum on Initiative 301 to decriminalise psychoactive mushrooms passed by a very narrow margin of 0.6% and was arguably overshadowed by the more pressing mayoral elections in the city. However, due to the wording of Initiative 301 this law may be unenforceable as it bans state officials from using any state money to seek to prosecute cases surrounding psilocybin mushrooms. As decriminalisation is not legalisation possession still remains an offence, but this make law makes it an offense that cannot be enforced against in the same manner a criminal offence would be. This renders this passage paradoxical, as it doesn’t make sense to have a law that stop anyone upholding any law surrounding this substance.

This may leave room for legal pushback, as former Denver City Attourney Dough Friednash has pointed out “can you actually pass a law that says you cannot enforce laws?” [1]. Friednash has also expressed concern about the reputational risk this law may have on Denver as a city, possibly giving it the reputation as the “drug capital” of the United States. Denver’s law enforcement were not thrilled either, both District Attorney Beth McCann and Mayoral hopeful Michael Hancock have both said they oppose the law. So with genuine legal concerns surrounding the reform, and clear pushback in the political and law enforcement spheres, this may be a drug reform that leads nowhere and quickly gets reversed.

[1] youtu.be/ftNI7v0gMs4?t=263 washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2019/05/08/denver-voters-apparently-reject-decriminalization-magic-mushrooms/?utm_term=.a66ba0aae489

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 16
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DH edited this paragraph
Denver’s referendum on Initiative 301 to decriminalise psychoactive mushrooms passed by a very narrow margin of 0.6% and was arguably overshadowed by the more pressing mayoral elections in the city. However, due to the wording of Initiative 301 this law may be unenforceable as it bans state officials from using any state money to seek to prosecute cases surrounding psilocybin mushrooms. As decriminalisation is not legalisation possession still remains an offence, but this make law makes it an offense that cannot be enforced against in the same manner a criminal offence would be. This renders this passage paradoxical, as it doesn’t make sense to have a law that stop anyone upholding any law surrounding this substance.

No, this will only complicate the State’s social issues

Colorado already has social problems, amongst them a recent mass shooting, a problems that will have knock on effects feeding stress, fear, paranoia and complicating mental health issues making them more wide spread. Mental health is another complicated issue in the state, with high rate of teen suicide and one in four teens thought to have mental health issues. In addition America already has a country-wide opium epidemic; taking away more control over drug use will just leave police and government powerless to stop issues related to the abuse of drugs getting worse in time.

Decriminalisation may also lead to legalisation, further worsening these issues in time and possibly causing a further out of control spiralling of drug epidemics. Additionally, decriminalisation can lead to a fall in price and grow in production of the drug in question or other drugs, more drugs will be on the street and more people will be encouraged to try them, as can be seen with with Mexican drug cartels recent push in opium manufacture. What’s more any hope for decriminalising drugs and treating them as a health problem is misleading, as treatment resources are not currently at a level to deal with millions more drug addicts. Decriminalisation of any drugs will just lead to the proliferation of the use of drugs and complicate other social problems, drugs are linked to crime and drugs are linked to health problems, both of which look set to rise in Colorado.

nypost.com/2019/05/10/colorado-school-shooting-suspect-cracked-jokes-about-killing-classmates/amp gazette.com/education/mental-health-issues-mount-on-colorado-springs-area-college-campuses/article_ea0adb5e-dd3b-11e8-a2cb-3f11085de55d.html dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2599726/I-wish-Americans-stop-legalisation-Decriminalisation-marijuana-U-S-leads-surge-opium-farming-Mexico-increase-cheap-heroin-market.html

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 16
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DH edited this paragraph
Decriminalisation may also lead to legalisation, further worsening these issues in time and possibly causing a further out of control spiralling of drug epidemics. Additionally, decriminalisation can lead to a fall in price and grow in production of the drug in question or other drugs, more drugs will be on the street and more people will be encouraged to try them, as can be seen with with Mexican drug cartels recent push in opium manufacture. What’s more any hope for decriminalising drugs and treating them as a health problem is misleading, as treatment resources are not currently at a level to deal with millions more drug addicts. Decriminalisation of any drugs will just lead to the proliferation of the use of drugs and complicate other social problems, drugs are linked to crime and drugs are linked to health problems, both of which look set to rise in Colorado.

Yes, changing views on addiction call for a change in policy and strategy

A change of thinking on addiction, not just drugs, has arisen in recent years, with addiction being viewed as not really being caused by drugs at all, but by pain, trauma and various social issues. Professor Bruce K. Alexander a Canadian psychologist ran a series of experiments known as Rat Park in the 1970s, where rats were studied while being given the option to self administer drugs. Alexander found that rats in isolation would quickly develop drug addiction behaviours often to the point of death. But when the animals were given activities, things to do, meaning in life in the form of a “rat park”, none of them showed these signs of addiction, and merely self administered the drugs casually on occasion.

Prior to the Rat Park experiments Vietnam had turned people understanding of addiction on its head. 15% of US troops in Vietnam were reported to be heroin addicts, but then came back from Vietnam and didn’t continue their habit. The drug problem was maybe a symptom the wider problem of soldiers exposure to war, horrific circumstances make substances like herion much more appealing, as you don’t want to be present in your life as your life has become too much of a painful place to be. Alexander confirmed this in Rat Park finding that “today’s flood of addiction is occurring because our hyperindividualistic, hypercompetitive, frantic, crisis-ridden society makes most people feel social[ly] and culturally isolated” [1], and his work has changed modern thinking on addiction altogether with prominent figures in the such fields advocating for medical treatment rather than punishment. This amendment is a step towards that, decriminalisation.

[1] brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/rat-park/148-addiction-the-view-from-rat-park mayooshin.com/heroin-vietnam-war-veterans-addiction

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 15
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DH edited this paragraph
[1] https://brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/rat-park/148-addiction-the-view-from-rat-park https://mayooshin.com/heroin-vietnam-war-veterans-addiction/

Yes, but this is part of long term ongoing reform

States like Colorado may be leading drug policy reform but reform has a long history: Starting with the decriminalisation in the States of Oregon, Texas, Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California and Ohio throughout the 1970’s, through legalised medical use in 90’s and then the legalisation of cannabis in 2012 starting in Washington and Colorado spreading through many other states since. However along the same timeline the US has federally been leading the international War on Drugs, “since 1961, the global war on drugs has been defined by the U.N.’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which focused on the duty to “prevent and combat” the evil of drug addiction” [1]. Due to America’s leading role in forming, enforcing and endorsing international conventions on international drug enforcement, the dramatic legal change of three states and the District of Columbia, may force a change in US outlook on its support for harsh punishment based conventions.

Many countries are now moving to more harm-reduction strategies and the US is falling into a position of being a major world power to go one step beyond that even, which may prove to be increasingly influential. The latest push to decriminalise magic mushrooms may represent a jump ahead of many countries but arguably it is the decriminalisation of cannabis that could be most influential, with the US now exporting medicinal cannabis products to new emergent markets such as Japan. In addition Japan’s laws on cannabis are outside, being introduced under American occupation, making fostering a demand in such a country likely to help harsh drug laws fall under pressure, similar to what has happened in the US.

[1] ibtimes.com/marijuana-legalization-un-prepares-tackle-world-drug-problem-again-will-cannabis-laws-2334526 japanhemp.org/en/law.htm

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 14
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DH edited this paragraph
States like Colorado may be leading drug policy reform but reform has a long history: Starting with the decriminalisation in the States of Oregon, Texas, Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California and Ohio throughout the 1970’s, through legalised medical use in 90’s and then the legalisation of cannabis in 2012 starting in Washington and Colorado spreading through many other states since. However along the same timeline the US has federally been leading the international War on Drugs, “since 1961, the global war on drugs has been defined by the U.N.’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which focused on the duty to “prevent and combat” the evil of drug addiction” [1]. Due to America’s leading role in forming, enforcing and endorsing international conventions on international drug enforcement, the dramatic legal change of three states and the District of Columbia, may force a change in US outlook on its support for harsh punishment based conventions.
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