HARD Summer and legal belligerence

3 die after attending HARD Summer rave near Fontana (http://lat.ms/2aKrN6q)

I just attended this concert, and lived. There was around 150,000 people. HARD Summer is an annual festival for electronic dance music, ordinarily thrown in the Los Angeles fairgrounds but moved to Fontana this year. Three twenty-year olds died during the two day event, presumably from drug overdoses; another two died last year, and eight have died from drug-related causes within LA county since 2006.

The intuition is simple: drugs are so popular at concerts is because it is one of the very few public places to actually engage in use without fearing legal consequences; few people get arrested while hidden in a crowd. Recreational effects are secondary, because recreational considerations account for all gatherings. It’s also a great way to make new friends, and factors as part of the culture, etc. The criminalization of drugs means that they are taken covertly instead of publicly, and thus much more dangerously and ignorantly. So, concert-goers, to satisfy their adventurousness and recreational fixation, must purchase their drugs in the streets and sneak them through security, instead of buying them safely inside from some reputable dealer. And there are cops on the premises, and not medical practioners and drug safety experts. (Cops that are especially incompetent with public health, as this article suggests.) 

And so young adults die at these events, and their parents blame the management, the county, the city – for “failing to protect” the rave’s attendees from pushers distributing drugs. A lawsuit was filed last month, citing negligence and wrongful death, in the case of woman who consumed “what she believed to be pure ecstasy,” after she died of multiple drug intoxication. The promoter’s owner, Live Nation, the city, the County Fair Association, down to the security, Staff Pro, face the suit. There could possibly be a measure of protective failure. The management doesn’t make promises or guarantee welfare to the individual attendees, but the police, also known as public safety officers, were not able to effectively use CPR, according to a witness in the parking lot. In California, law enforcement is required, under Police Officers Standards and Training, to be accredited to perform CPR. Yet, even if legal responsibility was on the officer, moral responsibility rests on no one.

The risk-taking behavior was entirely in the hands of the attendees. Health as a consequent of personal risk-taking is inherently a personal responsibility. When consuming drugs – which are infinitely more dangerous because of criminalization – the consumer also incurs a perceived risk (based on subjective probability), proportionate to several external factors. One of these factors is the hospitality and security of the local environment. If it could be shown that assurance of protection had been made on behalf of nearby staff or officers, resulting in a reasonable estimation of security, a moral duty would be invested. No such guarantee existed though. On a side note, the staffers even provided free water, which is actually rare at these events, and vital for safe drug use. (But not as an antecedent necessarily resulting in safety, nor even enough to lower the perceived risk substantially such that otherwise drugs would not be consumed.) 

The parents of the deceased twenty-year olds are planning to sue whoever could legally be held accountable, but I think it’s easy to see the difficulty in assigning meaningful blame. I know, also, that many people, more reasonable than the parents but not wholly impartial, want to blame the consumers themselves. I don’t think it is an altogether correct judgment to blame drug consumers for their deaths, simply for trying to squeeze more pleasure out of a state-suppressed existence. There exists responsibility, but the blame is incalculable and worthless to investigate. Who can rightfully be held accountable? The event organizers, for trying to suppress drugs but inevitably failing at whole prohibition? The pushers, in their harsh realism, living dangerously to supply wealthy and risky (but competent) young adults with their demands? The drug “kingpins”, for functioning productively in an open market with high demand, with full consent of all involved parties? The basement scientists, for discovering new chemical arrangements – agents that can be used medicinally as well as recreationally; agents that are inherently neutral to their alteration, route or variety of consumption? The Earth, and Nature itself, for creating the ingredients? I believe the chain of thought concludes with a puritanical condemnation of human nature. Human nature as something to be escaped, battled with religion or values; at the very least it must be vehemently detested by society. This is the conclusion of those who would want to sue others for their children’s use of drugs. 

There are those too, that want to simply change the United State’s drug culture: our alcoholism, our designer drug scene. This not through laws necessarily. It’s worth pointing out, however, that whenever someone expresses the desire to change a cultural aspect, he or she can only be saying, in veiled language, that their ideology should replace the current ideology. There is no society, there are only individuals in that society; talking about battling “society” can only mean pushing on a new ideology to others. Society’s temperament and exclusive nature can be chalked up solely to psychological states in the brains of its members. When recognized as a useful fiction to describe coordinated groups of people, instead of an emergent quality, cultural attitudes can be critized. Otherwise, writing polemics about society, and not individuals in the social sphere, makes clear an authoritarian intent: group all these people together and inflict my rules; empower me with merciless authority; subjugate dissenters to anonymity.

(For a brief aside, this is one of the idealistic problems of progressive movements: their unceasing condemnation of an unreal entity. The great majority of people blame their problems on society. There’s a classic idiom, occasionally attributed to Neitzsche, that “God is in the details”; used to stress the significance of detail, it can also be used rather literally to describe man’s desperate search for God. In early history, the Western world thought its God lived in the clouds above, e.g., the tower of Babel. After the invention of the telescope, the world moved its God back to outer space. Now, with our advanced technology, we can see billions of light-years into space – with ourselves at the radius of the observable universe, of 45 billion light-years – and still cannot find God. So, the theological theories have changed (now God is “all around us,” or “in another dimension,” and he breaks the laws of physics and logic). The way that people brood on their social problems is similar. Without the ability to accurately pinpoint an antagonist, the invincible figure of Society is summoned to scapegoat problems that may not have any material instances. Thus, “institutional” is really a synonym for “individual.”) 

It is detestable to enforce, legally or idealisticaly, a new ideology upon others. But the true moral repugnancy of this entire situation, rather than resting on event administrators, rests on those that would sue others – and thus attempt to prevent another 149,997 people from having a good time next year – for a grand payout because they cannot cope with their children’s choices, after they themselves raised them. 

Growing Weed in Humboldt County (and the Economics of Prohibition)

And yet California, long the marijuana movement’s pacesetter, and a haven for high-capacity growers, finds itself in the perhaps-unwelcome position of losing outlaws like Ethan. Should the state follow Colorado’s and Washington’s leads in legalizing recreational use, as is expected, already-fragile economies in the north—specifically in the “Emerald Triangle” of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, home to some quarter of a million people—could be crippled. The “prohibition premium” that keeps marijuana prices, and those economies, aloft would fall, possibly so precipitously that many growers would lose their incentive and (perhaps ironically) leave for more-punitive regions. In recent years, many growers have reportedly left California for places like Wisconsin and North Carolina—markets where a pound of marijuana might fetch double what it does in the Golden State. Legalization helps keep growers out of jail, but regulation slashes their profit margins.

This is from Lee Ellis in The Believer. Read the whole thing, it’s a great piece of journalism, although I don’t link to this because I think it’ll teach readers anything new. I just like it because it reports on one of my old stomping grounds. I don’t smoke much pot anymore, but there is nothing quite like smoking weed from Humboldt County.

I Supported Ron Paul Because of Weed… So What?

When Ron Paul campaigned for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, I had no idea who he was nor did I care much for politics, let alone his. Like many recent high school grads, the extent of my interest in politics didn’t go much further than the U.S. Government class I was required to take to graduate. I was what you would call a single issue voter.

The only issue that I really cared about at the time was, admittedly, marijuana legalization. Yes, I was one of the kids that spent his days before–sometimes during–and after school smoking weed. I literally sat through school sleeping until I could leave and go smoke. You could say I was bored with my education. I tired of listening to teachers and their sometimes ludicrous assignments and consigned myself to sitting in the back of the classroom so that I would be allowed to sleep, undisturbed. Apathy dictated my high school years. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy learning, but I was bored and didn’t really give a shit.

Fast forward to the 2012 Republican primaries. It was campaign season, and the debates between Republican candidates Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul were just starting to heat up. To be honest, I was mostly interested in seeing if any of these candidates embraced marijuana legalization. President Obama had never actually opined for the plant’s legalization, but his pro-marijuana statements were enough to get many young peoples’ votes, crucial to his being elected in 2008. This somehow led to the erroneous belief that Obama would push for legalization of the plant, which never happened.

Personally, I wasn’t disappointed. I mean, it’s not like he had promised to legalize. No promises were broken. With the Republican primary race in full swing, I wanted to see whether I actually had any real hope of seeing marijuana legalized, or if I would have to wait yet another four years to get my hopes up. It was soon after that I started to pay attention to Dr. Paul.

Here was this stoop-shouldered, old Texan with a slight stutter who spoke with such passion and reason I couldn’t help but pay attention. Mostly, he talked about economic and foreign policy issues that I had little knowledge of. Even before I knew his stance on ending the War on Drugs, for some reason Dr. Paul’s honest delivery and conviction stood out to me. I knew that he had been in Congress for years, but beyond that I defected to my parents’ opinion of him: crazy.

I started to do some research on Dr. Paul’s background and found that he was a man of extremely reputable character. He was an anomaly from the get-go. Defying conventional opinion of politicians; a brief look at his voting record betrayed the saying that all politicians are liars. With voting records now published online and easily accessible, I would have been able to find out right away if he had voted contradictorily to what he said. Here was a politician that held an ideology that sometimes went against his personal views, yet defended it to the death because of his conviction in its power to affect widespread positive societal improvement.

I suppose at this point it’s important to iterate my own opinions on liberty. Mostly, I don’t think it’s proper to glorify the idea of liberty to the extent that some do, and I think that it even hurts the movement as a whole when some consider themselves missionaries of the ideology. I don’t worship liberty, but I do see it as a fundamental right for humanity—and liberty to me means the ability to make decisions regarding your own social, economic, and political lifestyle, as long as they’re peaceful.

I researched Dr. Paul online, found YouTube videos of him speaking, and was instantly hooked. Beyond marijuana legalization, I found that I agreed with everything that he pushed for: his main issues that stood out to me were a non-interventionist foreign policy, ending the War on Drugs, returning to some semblance of budgetary balance, accountability of the Federal Reserve, and free markets. As I know now, these very ideas form the primary backbone of the liberty movement. Before, liberty was just something I included in the Pledge of Allegiance and was told that it was somehow crucial to being American. I had never bothered to ask why. Once I did, I came upon entire organizations devoted to spreading the ideas of liberty. They’re dedicated to educating any who might listen on the importance of social, economic, and political freedom.

Since initially paying attention to Ron Paul and happening upon the liberty movement, I feel like it is almost my civic duty to at least inform others of these ideas, even if they disagree. These ideas are founded in reason and logic. These days, you’ll find me telling any like-minded friends who will listen how a lazy stoner like me was motivated by liberty not only to get off my ass, but to learn. I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideas are ultimately important beyond me. Although I find it wrong to tell others they hold erroneous opinions, all I can do is to try to help inform and see where that takes them. I don’t think I’m alone in finding Dr. Paul’s passion contagious. At the same time, I’m not glorifying the man, but the ideas that he manages to deliver are powerful, and it’s these ideas that are worth paying attention to.

Even though Dr. Paul did not win the 2012 Republican primary, he instilled something far more important, affecting an entire generation still in its intellectual infancy. I truly believe that these ideas will come to reach more people in the future and will affect many in the same way that they have moved me.

I think it’s only fitting that I end this article in Dr. Paul’s own words:

Ideas are very important to the shaping of society. In fact, they are more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that government and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts.