Devon Wallace | Pittsburgh City Paper

Devon Wallace 
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Re: “John Fetterman: What I've learned on my recreational marijuana listening tour

Heroin is legal, as morphine. Opioids are similar and routinely to prescribed to millions of American of all ages.

Near the turn of the century Portugal proposed decriminalizing all drugs. Prohibitionists said it would be a complete disaster. Portugal actually decriminalized all drugs in 2001, including heroin, and shifted to treating the situation as a public health problem instead of a criminal justice problem. What happened? Problematic drug use decreased, so did new HIV infections, teen usage rates have decreased, drug related crime also decreased. From 2001 to 2007 reported 12-month drug use overall only went up from 3.4% to 3.7%. Most of that increase was cannabis/hash use which went from 3.3% to 3.6%, and was less of an increase than that of nearby countries that did not decriminalize, Italy and Spain [Hughes and Stevens 2010]. Overall Portugal considers it a success and has no plans to revert.

Clearly our militarized, war on our own citizens, approach has not worked. For the most part it just creates more problems (and makes some very powerful groups rich on both sides). Decriminalizing all drugs and adopting a policy like that of Portugal is worth exploring. The organizations LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership) and DPA (Drug Policy Alliance) strongly support ending all drug prohibition in its current form. However, hard drugs are much more dangerous than cannabis and alcohol, and they are used by a much smaller portion of the population, so I, like these organizations do not support full, commercial legalization like alcohol, though other policies should be examined at some point. America has already "drawn the line" at alcohol, which is closer to being a hard drug than cannabis. I and most Americans agree that alcohol should be legal for adults and therefore, as a majority of Americans also agree, so should cannabis...in a just society.

As of 2018, Portugal now has far less drug related problems than the U.S.:

"Portugal now has the lowest drug-related death rate in Western Europe, WITH A MORTALITY RATE A TENTH OF BRITAIN'S AND A FIFTIETH [1/50TH!] OF THE UNITED STATES'. The number of HIV diagnoses caused by injection drug use HAS PLUMMETED BY MORE THAN 90 PERCENT."

"You cannot work with people when they're afraid of being caught and going to prison," says psychologist Francisco Miranda Rodrigues, president of the Ordem dos Psiclogos Portugueses. "It's not possible to have an effective health program if people are hiding the problem." -American Psychological Association

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Devon Wallace on 05/22/2019 at 4:33 PM

Re: “Can Pennsylvania marijuana bill balance the scales of justice?

Americans don't have to like cannabis, but they should hate its prohibition. This prohibition law strikes at the very foundation of our society. It is a tool of tyrants, used to violate core American beliefs and nearly every aspect of the Bill of Rights.

A populace that accepts and becomes accustom to overreaching government policies, such as the prohibition of relatively safe, popular substances, becomes more accepting of overreaching, powerful government in general. This devastates America, not a plant that has been used by mankind since the beginning of recorded history.

Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American, fraudulently enacted cannabis prohibition experiment. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.


Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis "easy to get" for decades. This prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, has had little of its intended effect. In many cases cannabis prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless 'crimes', public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which is devastating our country.

Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, 'correctional' services, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

Regardless of legal status, a large market for cannabis will continue to exist as it has for decades. Either the underground controls the market and profits from it, or the state does...all while ending their assault on our citizens. Let's end this costly, futile attempt to eradicate a plant that a majority of Americans believe should be legal.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Devon Wallace on 04/17/2019 at 6:59 PM

Re: “Expansion of conditions to qualify for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania could be far off

There should not be a list of qualifying conditions at all. It should be left up to patients and their doctors. Big Pharma medicines, much more harmful than cannabis, are routinely prescribed...and often for off-label use.

Even back in 1988 DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young concluded after two years of hearings on cannabis rescheduling said:

"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.... Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."

10 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Devon Wallace on 04/17/2019 at 2:25 PM

Re: “John Fetterman: What I've learned on my recreational marijuana listening tour

Americans don't have to like cannabis, but they should hate its prohibition. This prohibition law strikes at the very foundation of our society. It is a tool of tyrants, used to violate core American beliefs and nearly every aspect of the Bill of Rights.

A populace that accepts and becomes accustom to overreaching government policies, such as the prohibition of relatively safe, popular substances, becomes more accepting of overreaching, powerful government in general. This devastates America, not a plant that has been used by mankind since the beginning of recorded history.

Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American, fraudulently enacted cannabis prohibition experiment. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.


Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis "easy to get" for decades. This prohibition, like alcohol prohibition has had little of its intended effect. In many cases cannabis prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless 'crimes', public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which is devastating our country.

Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, 'correctional' services, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

Regardless of legal status, a large market for cannabis will continue to exist as it has for decades. Either the underground controls the market and profits from it, or the state does...all while ending their assault on our citizens. Let's end this costly, futile attempt to eradicate a plant that a majority of Americans believe should be legal.

15 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Devon Wallace on 04/16/2019 at 5:04 PM

Re: “John Fetterman: What I've learned on my recreational marijuana listening tour

RE: Gateway Drug

It's not any particular substance. Drug abuse has much more to do with personality, genetics, and who people associate with. Use of any "gateway" drug is linked to a greater likelihood of hard drug use in the future, including alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, which are generally used before cannabis. The vast majority of those who use cannabis do not abuse hard drugs. The gateway drug "theory", that a unique pharmacological effect of cannabis causes the use of hard drugs, has been discredited by the many peer reviewed studies that have examined it.
[Joy et al. 1999; Morral et al. 2002; Cleveland HH & Wiebe RP. 2008; Reissig et al. 2008; Wen et al. 2014; Tristan et al. 2012; Tarter et al. 2006; Van Gundy K & Rebellon CJ. 2010; Vanyukov et al. 2012; Barry et al. 2016]

Putting cannabis in the underground market only further exposes its consumers to hard drugs. This is like going to a beer distributor who also sells opioids, cocaine, and meth. Also, when people realize that they were for the most part lied to about the negative effects of illegal cannabis, respect for all laws, especially drug laws, is eroded. This further increases the likelihood of experimentation with other illegal drugs.

Given an interest in recreational substances combined with a willingness to try illegal substances, cannabis is predictably, due to its popularity, the first illegal substance encountered. This does not mean that cannabis caused later drug use, cannabis use was simply a result of the same influencing factors as illegal hard drug use. The "gateway theory" is a simple observation of a typical sequence and has no utility in reducing drug abuse. A recent extensive review concluded that: "The promotion of the erroneous gateway theory ultimately does the public a disservice, including the hindering of intervention." [Vanyukov et al. 2012]



Colorado and Washington State legalized recreational cannabis in Dec 2012. Legal sales began in Jan 2014 for Colorado, July 2014 for Washington.
Clearly legal cannabis has not caused a surge in opioid deaths. It may have had a protective effect (as published studies support).

Opioid Overdose Death Rate per 100,000 (age adjusted):

National
2012: 7.4
2017: 14.9 (increased 101%)

Pennsylvania
2012: 6.8
2017: 21.2 (increased 212%)

Washington State
2012: 9.7
2017: 9.6 (decreased 1%)

Colorado
2012: 7.7
2017: 10.0 (increased 30%)

[SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation]


Any drug Overdose Death Rate per 100,000 (age adjusted):

National
2012: 13.1
2017: 21.7 (increased 66%)

Pennsylvania
2012: 19.0
2017: 44.3 (increased 133%)

Washington State
2012: 13.7
2017: 15.2 (increased 11%)

Colorado
2012: 15.0
2017: 17.6 (increased 17%)

[SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation]


Studies have shown that cannabinoids can help treat those addicted to hard drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol, and that it is an "exit drug" for some.

This recent study found cannabis helped people stop using opioids completely in 59.3% of instances; another 18.4% reported reducing opioid use by at least 75%:

"increased regulated access to medical and recreational cannabis can result in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances"
[Lucas et al. 2019]

Legal medical cannabis has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from prescription opioid painkillers by reducing opioid use:

"States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws." [Bachhuber et al. 2014]

Many other studies also support the notion that cannabis can be used as an 'exit drug': [Boehnke et al. 2016; Gruber et al. 2018; O'Connell TJ & Bou-Matar CB. 2007; Wiese B, Wilson-Poe AR. 2018; Reiman A. 2009]

20 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Devon Wallace on 04/16/2019 at 5:04 PM

Re: “What does the medical-cannabis community think of Pennsylvania’s new push for recreational marijuana?

Americans don't have to like cannabis, but they should hate its prohibition.


Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American, fraudulently enacted cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis "easy to get" for decades. This prohibition, like alcohol prohibition has had little of its intended effect. In many cases cannabis prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless 'crimes', public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which is devastating our country.

Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, 'correctional' services, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

A vote to end cannabis prohibition is a vote to condemn a costly prohibition that causes more harm than it prevents.

8 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Devon Wallace on 03/05/2019 at 6:24 PM

Re: “Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is going on 67-county listening tour about legal marijuana

Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis "easy to get" for decades. This prohibition, like alcohol prohibition has had little of its intended effect. In many cases cannabis prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless 'crimes', public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which is devastating our country.

Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, 'correctional' services, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Devon Wallace on 01/25/2019 at 9:56 AM

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