More on the DEA’s Failure to Reclassify Marijuana

This is a follow-up to my previous blog post on the decision by the DEA not to reclassify medical marijuana.  I came upon this piece in the Scientific American Blog by “a resident physician specializing in mental health.”  He writes that every day he “screens patients for substance use. . . . During my medical training, I’ve learned which substances to worry about, and which ones matter less.”

Alcohol “is usually the first substance” he asks about.  Whether it is the “roughly 88,000 deaths in the US each year” from excess alcohol consumption or the effects when heavy drinkers attempt to cut back and go into alcohol withdrawal, alcohol is a very serious problem.

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Did They Crucify It?

ben hur

Ben-Hur is basically three films in one. The first is an action-adventure tale. The second is a family drama. And the third is a story of the redemptive power of the love of Christ. It’s an absorbing adaptation of the novel that a former general of the Union army, Lew Wallace, published in 1880, called Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

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Graduate Student Unions Undermine the Ideal of a University

Fall College Campus. University student dorm with autumn leaves

It is hard to suppress schadenfreude about the recent ruling of the National Labor Relations Board giving graduate students the right to organize labor unions.  Elite universities are united in their opposition, but these same institutions are dominated by left-liberals who want to expand the reach of unions in businesses. Most of their professors approve of increased regulation on everyone but themselves. The NLRB is giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Universities are in fact a much more hierarchical world than most businesses with a vast gulf in compensation, prestige, and autonomy between tenured professors and everyone else.   If critical university theorists were as much in vogue as critical race theorists and radical feminists, we would be treated to endless papers on the oppression of university hierarchies. But for some reason universities don’t produce such advanced thinkers.

Nevertheless, given the baleful effects of this ruling, we should contain our glee.  First, the university is not the factory floor, and graduate students are essentially students, not employees. Teachers are mentors of students, not their bosses.

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Do Judicial Deference Doctrines Actually Matter?

Judge  gavel with books in the background

A central principle of modern administrative law is that federal agencies—not the courts—are the primary interpreters of ambiguous federal statutes that Congress has charged the agencies to administer. The Supreme Court crystallized this deference doctrine in its 1984 Chevron decision, though some variation had existed since the 1940s (and maybe even longer, or perhaps not). In 2005, Justice Thomas framed Chevron’s practical significance:

If a statute is ambiguous, and if the implementing agency’s construction is reasonable, Chevron requires a federal court to accept the agency’s construction of the statute, even if the agency’s reading differs from what the court believes is the best statutory interpretation.

That opinion, National Cable and Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, upheld and expanded the doctrine of Chevron deference. But in recent years Justice Thomas has led the way in expressing skepticism about it.

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Capitalism: The Case of Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

With the closing ceremonies over, we can breathe a sigh of relief about Rio. The worst snafus of the Olympics were the algae in the diving pools and vandalism by a mendacious American swimmer. As with the Sochi games, the press ran scary pre-competition reports of substandard conditions. In the event, the Russian and the Brazilian just-in-time habits of organizing an international spectacle turned out to be good enough to get by.

There was extra nervousness with Brazil, a country in the midst of economic and political turmoil that claimed the presidency of the recently impeached Dilma Rousseff. According to Moody’s, the credit rating agency, in the wake of the 2016 summer games, the city of Rio de Janeiro gained by its new infrastructure and transportation projects but Brazil will “wake up once again to its deepening recession.”

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Admit More Talented Immigrants

Immigration offers many potential advantages both for immigrants and for United States citizens.  Many immigrants increase their human capital just by coming to our shores, because our superior laws allow them to earn more and retain more of what they earn. Many also gain more opportunities for collaboration with our highly educated work force. Still others escape from oppression and benefit from the freedom to practice their religion and avoid forms of state sponsored, invidious discrimination.

Our citizens gain advantages from immigration as well because most immigrants contribute to greater economic growth and many become forces for innovation.  Welcoming people who choose to embrace our ideals can at its best also help renew the American project.  Nevertheless, immigration can impose some costs, both to particular citizens and to the nation as a whole. Here are four categories of costs, two of which have grown with the decline of limited government and of our own confidence in American exceptionalism.

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The DEA’s Classification of Marijuana as a Schedule I Substance

Recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency once again declined to change marijuana’s classification from Schedule I to Schedule II.  While not unexpected, to my mind this is one of the least defensible decisions of current government policy.

A bit of background may be helpful.  Schedule I substances are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”  Examples of substances in this category are heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy.

Schedule II substances are defined as having “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Examples in this category are methadone, OxyContin, morphine, and Adderall.  While schedule II substances can be prescribed for medical treatments, schedule I substances cannot because there are “no currently accepted medical uses.”

Schedule III substances are defined as having “a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II [where] abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.” Examples include Vicodin and anabolic steroids such as Depo-Testosterone.

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Bludgeoning Aspiration to Get to Equality

Meritocracy concept. No entry. Stairs up blocked.

There is no more fateful failure of modern political thought than its failure to distinguish between elitism and social exclusivity. From this failure stems an enormous, costly, and increasingly intolerant attempt to rectify what is not wrong in the first place. One fights chimeras the better to avoid confrontation with real enemies.

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The View from Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

My preceding post noodled over non-German authors’ contributions to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s “Crumbling Europe” series.  Today, a few of the Germans. Their contributions are charitably described as disappointing; if you’re seriously worried about the EU, hair-raising is a better adjective. The general pattern is 1) a resolute unwillingness to re-think the EU project, coupled with 2) an unnerving insistence of projecting Germany’s political preferences and attitudes onto the EU and 3) not one word of acknowledgment that the EU is confronting a central, blazingly obvious German problem (see my earlier post).

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A Campaign for a Seamless Rule of Law

Justice Statue

In this year’s presidential campaign, it would be a wonderful contribution to the republic and perhaps a winning move to run credibly on a rule of law platform. This kind of platform is to be distinguished from a “law and order” one, because it emphasizes that in a well-ordered republic that government must enforce order only through law.  And this slogan also underscores that the problem we face is not simply or indeed mainly lawlessness on the streets, but lawlessness in government. Respect for law must begin at the top.

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