The economy of the rural Northern Californian region is dominated by marijuana, and many growers are worried that when pot becomes legal, prices will plummet and they’ll lose their livelihoods.
When people talk about ending the drug war, they usually mean “no one should go to prison for marijuana.” There’s no doubt the public has shifted its collective opinion on pot—currently, a majority of Americans believe it should be as legal, regulated, and taxed as tobacco and alcohol—and naturally, politicians are beginning to sense the way the wind is blowing. But elected officials, like people at large, are less gun-ho about legalizing the harder drugs.
First, let’s clarify that no one is recommending that we all follow Philip Seymour Hoffman’sexample and start shooting up. Heroin is awful. Don’t do heroin. It fucks up your life. But as the case of the fentanyl-cut heroin that has killed 22 people in Pittsburgh illustrates, the only thing worse than legal heroin is illegal heroin.
In the aftermath of Hoffman’s death, Jeff Deeney, a former drug addict who now works as a social worker, wrote a piece in the Atlantic that calls for treating heroin like a health issue, not a criminal act. All the nasty effects of this drug—and all the reasons not to do it—are magnified by the threat of prison, the stigma that leads to shame and secrecy, and the increased of HIV and infection that comes with sharing needles. According to Deeney, if Hoffman had access to a space where it was legal to shoot heroin and where doctors could supervise users, he might still be alive. Why doesn’t the US have any such sites, though Vancouver, Canada, does? Why the hell isn’t Naloxone, the much-touted miracle drug that stops opioid overdoses, not available over the counter? Why isn’t it passed out in urban health clinics like candy? Out of the 1.5 million peoplearrested for drug crimes in 2012, 82 percent were for possession, and 16.5 percent of those were for cocaine, heroin, or associated drugs. Did those arrests do anyone any good?
One reason legalizing pot is more popular than legalizing heroin is that far more people smoke than shoot. At least 100 million people in the US have done marijuana, while the number of frequent heroin users has stayed under half a million for decades. But use (which isn’t necessarily addiction) has nearly doubled since 2007—one survey calculated that 669,000 Americans had done heroin in 2012, compared with 373,000 in 2007. (This may be because some former pill addicts move on to heroin, as Hoffman did).
That’s what prohibition (which includes policies that levy draconian punishments for pill possession) does—it causes rippling effects in human behavior. It does not stop drug use, though it may change a user’s drug of choice. Regardless, it’s time to give up trying to scare addicts into getting healthy and do what Portugal did in 2001 and decriminalize all drugs. Laws can’t stop people from using drugs, they can only make drug use a more harrowing experience for addicts who have to deal with jail time and police harassment and products that, thanks to a lack of oversight, may contain dangerous chemicals.
This country needs to grow up and realize that the legal system is a hammer, and drug users and addicts are not nails. End the drug war. End it all.
Buying Your Drugs Online Is Good for You
Silk Road 2.0, the successor to the deep web’s most infamous marketplace, just passed a new milestone. Despite a dramatic holiday season, when three of its staff and several vendors were arrested on conspiracy charges, there are now over 10,000 narcotics listings on its pixelated shelves. And, according to its acting administrator “Defcon”, traffic to the website has doubled since December.
So it appears that the site—where you can anonymously get your hands on pretty much any substance you want, as well as a bunch of other illegal stuff that you’d usually need Turkish mob connections to access—is just as resilient to the feds as its current ownershad promised it would be.
And far from the digital trap house many have depicted it to be, Silk Road 2.0 has continued its predecessor’s aim of allowing drug users to make informed decisions about their use of psychoactive substances, both by providing products that are open to quality checks and through the spread of honest information about how to take those products as safely as possible.
Property seized in drug raids can help fund police operations, but now that marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado there are going to be fewer drug raids, which means fewer seizures, which means less money for the cops. Good.
A Tale of Two Drug Wars
This guy just bought legal weed.
This Guy Is Mapping London’s Drug Use with a Discarded Baggie Map
What do you do with your leftover drug paraphernalia? Unless you’re one of those ambitious stoner hoarders who insists on keeping stems for pots of weed tea you’ll never brew, chances are you throw everything away. And if you’re homeless—or someone who enjoys getting high around strangers, or in parks—it’s likely you chuck your empty baggies on the floor or into a bush, kindly leaving them for 10-year-olds to bring into school and use as props in stories about their fictional weekend exploits.
Since January of this year, photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been taking photos of all the discarded baggies he finds throughout south-east London. He’s also been jotting down their geographic coordinates with the aim of eventually mapping out all the bags he’s found and working out whether any patterns emerge. I had a quick chat with Dan about his project.
A map we made out of the baggie coordinates that Dan has gathered so far (Click to enlarge)
VICE: Hey Dan. So far, what has the project taught you about Londoners’ drug use?
Dan Giannopoulos: I’ve been working on it since about January this year, and I haven’t had a chance to map everything fully yet, so at the moment it’s isolated to south-east London. But I tend to find more bags in more of the working-class areas I’ve been to—the kind of areas that have a reputation for drug use. But then I’ve had bags show up in places like Blackheath, which is quite a posh area. It’s quite random at the moment, but I was going to carry on working on it for a year or so and map any patterns that show up.
Is there a variation of drugs between those areas?
It tends to be more weed around the well-to-do areas.
Inside the Heroin Epidemic Sweeping Through Vermont
One Saturday afternoon this fall, the two of us drove toward Burlington, Vermont, on a narrow highway that snakes through the Green Mountains. Rolling fields gave way to hardwood forests, maple trees aflame with red and orange leaves—the kind of bucolic scenery that brings in nearly 14 million tourists and $1.7 billion of their money every year. Our destination was a small farm in Colchester that looks like something right out of a postcard: a red barn, a sign that said “Community Pig Roast,” even chickens and dogs running around in the yard.
Josh was waiting for us at a table on the porch in a flat-brim hat and hoodie. He’s a Vermonter born and bred, a 23-year-old with an easygoing stoner charisma familiar to anyone who grew up in the area. The stories he told, on the other hand, sound like they could have come out of the worst drug- and crime-infested neighborhoods of a big city.
He’s run heroin to Vermont from New Jersey six times in the last 18 months. His suppliers hand Josh 25 bricks of the stuff and tell them it’s his responsibility until he gets to Vermont and to “hide it good.” Heroin is much cheaper in the big cities to the south than it is in the Green Mountain State, and Josh takes full advantage of this—he can make $600 off of $10 worth of the raw he buys. He doesn’t have much in the way of professional ethics. “I’ve ripped people off by throwing hot cocoa in an empty bag,” he told us. “Scoop a little dirt off the ground and throw that in there, dude.”
Canada’s New Medical Weed Program Puts the Poorest Patients Last
At the moment, 40,000 Canadians are currently authorized to possess medical marijuana. Until April 2014, these patients can purchase their supply from a licensed personal producer, or they can get permission to grow it themselves, but soon every Canadian medical marijuana user will be forced to comply with a new medical program that will push them to buy legal medical weed from commercial government-regulated facilities.
Canada’s new “Marihuana for Medical Purposes” (yes, they spell it with an ‘H’ for some reason) program is creating an emerging for-profit market that will regulate crop control, dump money into the economy, and attempt to position Canada as one of the world’s top exporters of medical marijuana. But it’s the patients who are caught in the middle of an evolving system that threatens to make medical weed so expensive many will no longer be able to afford it, forcing them to continue growing their own personal stashes—which will be illegal as of April 2014—or buying it from regular ol’ pot dealers.
According to Health Canada, no one’s trying to turn sick Canadians into criminals with these new laws. It was more in response to problems with the current Marihuana Medical Access Program(MMAP), which a Health Canada spokesperson says is “open to abuse.”
I Went on a Hash Making Holiday in Northern Morocco
Until the Spanish occupation of northern Morocco in the 1920s, Chefchaouen was basically a closed city. In fact, when troops first arrived, they found Jews in the area speaking a medieval form of Castilian Spanish that hadn’t been heard on the Iberian peninsula for around 400 years, and a population that was more opposed to Christianity than reddit’s entire swamp of militant keyboard atheists.
But thanks to the Spanish valiantly wiping out decades of cultural heritage, the city has now opened up to become a popular tourist spot. Backpackers flock in from around the world to take selfies next to its beautiful blue-washed architecture, eat its famous regional goat cheese, and—more than anything else—take advantage of the thriving local hash industry.
Morocco is said to produce nearly half of the world’s hashish, and it’s estimated that around 800,000 Moroccans work in the industry—mostly in the Rif, the mountainous region of northern Morocco where Chefchaouen is located. The debate about decriminalizing that industry has been bubbling away in parliament for a while, with a member of the opposition saying in August that his party hopes to legalize cannabis production within the next three years.