Weekend Thoughts - 8.1.15

Image by  Francois de Halleux , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by Francois de Halleux, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. California's Press Enterprise's editorial board penned an excellent editorial marking the 14th anniversary of Portugal's decision to decriminalize all drug use and possession. The article details the overwhelmingly-positive results of the country's harm reduction model. Portugal is the first nation to undergo an experiment like this. We can only hope that other nations will follow and reap the same benefits that Portugal has: declining rates of drug use, lower numbers of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, a reduction in drug-induced deaths, etc. 

2. On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spoke out against mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain crimes. He explains why we treat turkeys better than some low-level offenders. In a lot of these cases, the judges want to be able to hand out a softer sentence, but these laws prevent them from doing so. Definitely worth a watch.

3. I enjoyed this positive article from High Existence on how your spiritual growth is shaping human evolution. The general argument of the piece is that the individual actions we make have a significant impact on the overall evolution of the human species. There are some references to Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance theory, which has interested me for a long time. I have been really enjoying browsing High Existence the past week or so, which is a new website to me that has a lot of articles about topics that interest me, and would most likely interest the Think Wilder audience.

4. The issue of Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in sports and e-sports has been in the news this week, and I was interested to read an article on how research chemicals have made their way into the professional cycling world. Cyclists are purchasing PEDs from Chinese laboratories (similar to the psychoactive research chemical market) that are so new that the drug tests the World Anti-Doping Agency uses won't be able to identify them. It just goes to show that you cannot eliminate drug use—there are always going to be minor structural changes that can be made to the molecules that will produce a similar effect (or completely different effect, if that's what you're into) and won't be testable. This is a totally new application of research chemicals that is innovative and mischievous, and I am fascinated to see what happens next.

5. I never thought I would see something like the editorial arguing for cannabis legalization on the D.A.R.E. website earlier this week. It has been taken down, but here is a snapshot of the original page. The original piece talked about how criminalization has actually made it easier for children to obtain illegal substances (which has been a long-standing argument in the drug policy reform movement) and explains how a system that would actually control the substances is a better option. The tides are definitely turning.

6. Due to the recent passing of the USA Freedom Act, the NSA has agreed to no longer analyze call metadata obtained under the Patriot Act from November 29, 2015 onward. This won't prevent the agency from  continuing its mass surveillance, but it will prevent the NSA from digging through any data obtained before that date, which many critics believe should have never been collected in the first place. 

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.