Following promises of miracles, Ohio’s weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich’s re-election bid
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ohio’s weakening economy could damage Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio Republican incumbents’ chances of reelection in 2014.
by German Lopez
Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is
criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex
marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with
no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General
takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is
a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the
deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal
treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon
Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs
taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June,
gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population
trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4
percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has
received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley,
Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two
finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are
perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down
by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati
chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted
religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities
since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and
inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with
increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to
experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the
organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged
two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than
$155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County
Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess.
One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion
of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after
comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
by German Lopez
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
by German Lopez
Turnout much higher than mayoral primary
Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with
minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept.
10 mayoral primary.
“There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing
highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of
Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent
around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the
county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still
unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours.
Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five,
according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John
Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.
But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the
primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will
ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election.
Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept.
10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the
Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing.
To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the
first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the
county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more
ballots are needed in different voting locations.
Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters
across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early
voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that
will reflect on the final turnout numbers.
The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will
elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s
results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years.
Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees.
Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website.
For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
by German Lopez
106 days ago
Pepper calls on DeWine to stop court battle against local gay couple
The debate over same-sex marriage came to the forefront of
Ohio’s attorney general race after Democratic candidate David Pepper
drew up an online petition calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to
drop a court battle against a local gay couple.
Pepper’s petition is in direct response to the legal
battle surrounding Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who legally married
in Maryland last year and won legal recognition of their marriage in
Arthur’s Ohio death certificate. (Arthur passed away after suffering
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes
muscles to rapidly deteriorate.)
The case originally applied only to Obergefell and Arthur,
but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited equal
protection grounds to force state officials to acknowledge gay marriages
in all Ohio death certificates.
With DeWine’s office acting as the attorneys in the case, the state intends to appeal the ruling.
The attorney general’s office told CityBeat it’s up
to the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to decide
whether to appeal the ruling. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s
office declined to comment on whether DeWine offered legal advice for
or against the appeal.
But DeWine previously defended his intention to uphold Ohio’s
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004.
“Our job is to defend Ohio’s constitution and defend what voters have voted on,” he told WKSU Public Radio.
In his petition, Pepper argues it’s DeWine’s duty to
uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the local couple’s
court-established marriage rights.
“What a waste of taxpayer dollars, and what a misuse of an
office whose duty is to stand up to — not for — the unconstitutional
treatment of Ohioans,” the petition reads.
While DeWine and Pepper will face off in the upcoming
November ballot, same-sex marriage could appear on the ballot as well — despite
disagreement among LGBT groups on the timing.Pepper’s petition can be read and signed here.
by German Lopez
95 days ago
Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures
In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to
hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the
nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who
sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run
marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young,
healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population
signs up for health insurance made more easily available through
Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of
signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.
The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report
card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed
student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to
be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the
authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its
internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and
the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in
state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the
issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation
into school data scrubbing.To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill,
Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the
Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the
groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the
shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours
required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a
difference, according to Water Works officials.
In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide
whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along
the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated
the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which
millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now
stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the
constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in
court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy
sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for
businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov.
John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a
tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent
governor.If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.
State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
96 days ago
State lags behind national average for enrolling young adults
In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in Ohio and
across the nation.
Prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obama
administration said it needs to enroll about 2.7 million young adults
out of 7 million projected enrollees — nearly 39 percent of all signups —
for the law to succeed.The reasoning: Because young adults tend to be healthier,
they can keep premiums down as sicker, older people claim health
insurance after the law opens up the health insurance market to more Americans.But the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services Monday — the first time the agency provided
demographic information — show the law missing the target both
nationally and in Ohio.Roughly 19 percent of nearly 40,000 Ohioans who signed up for Obamacare
were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the
report. Not only does that fall below the 39 percent goal, but it also
lags behind the national average of 24 percent.In defense of the demographic numbers, HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post Monday that enrollments are
demographically on pace with the 2007 experience of Massachusett, where state officials implemented health care reforms and systems similar to
Obamacare through Romneycare.Indeed, a report from The New Republic found just
22.6 percent of enrollees through the third month of Romneycare were young adults. That number rose to 31.7
percent by the end of the law’s first year.If Obamacare ends up at Massachusetts’ year-end rate, it will still
fall behind goals established by the White House. Still, Obamacare would be in
a considerably better place than it finds itself today.
The disappointing demographic figure comes after months of
technical issues snared HealthCare.gov’s launch. Most of the issues
were fixed in December, which allowed Obamacare to report considerably
better enrollment numbers by the end of the year.
But the enrollment numbers — nearly 2.2 million selected a
plan between Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — still fall below the administration’s
projections to enroll 3.3 million by the end of December.It’s also unclear how many of those signing up for
Obamacare actually paid for their first premium, which is the final step to becoming enrolled in a health
Given how Romneycare worked out in Massachusetts, it’s
possible signups for Obamacare could pick up before open enrollment
closes at the end of March. Based on previous statements from the White
House, Obamacare’s success could depend on it.
by German Lopez
97 days ago
State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics
Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked
tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run
in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the
stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new
law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was
put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers
upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County
Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight
felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court
documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s
already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long
Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be
replaced while the legal battle unfolds.Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and
the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point
to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate
low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of
supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local
officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps
through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that
voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a
broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted
in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say
would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking
feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at
EasternCorridor.org.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might
challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary,
discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the
right to sue in a local case that could have broader
implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight
between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could
resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.As local and state officials work to address the opiate
epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati
proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges
are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen
O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold
courts’ attempts at impartiality.Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
99 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:40 PM | Permalink
UC professor suggests different approach to addressing opiate epidemic
Rises in heroin and prescription
painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the
country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that
encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the
dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing
out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent
prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to
address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a
policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity.
CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic?
Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big
increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and
plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing
much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other
things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started
distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along
the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they
can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users
can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally
use. That’s No. 1.
No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to
be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re
used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge
about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if
the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons
CB: The governor unveiled an initiative
essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use
with students. And then the state legislature is considering
strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know,
do these kind of solutions work?
IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a
mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure
on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them.
They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for
users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people
were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something
They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug
distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before,
so they’ve changed to something else.
I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is
dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell
students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that
these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine
they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is
dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know
CB: As you alluded to, one study
found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use
heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug
or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in
respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot
of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do —
and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a
crackdown on that.
Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they
decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium. So
all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are
more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths
because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know
what the dosage is.
CB: Based on your research, what kind of
solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about
Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose
program.IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is
to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to
get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most
of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but
maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing
what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the
street and buying from black-market dealers.
CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go
after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties,
criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are
huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they
could be doing better in this regard?
IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug
problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The
disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a
social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease
of the brain.
I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the
root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like
to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves
what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict.
Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter. …
But addiction problems are real problems. People really do
become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But
most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are
We can’t really expect the government to figure out all
these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more
rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and
Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way.
CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year,
Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say
gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked
about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization
could help put an end to this kind of violence?
IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and
that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re
related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs.
Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have
these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that
are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal.
It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many
people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally
screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding
CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons?
IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually
going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in
prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a
massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s
CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I
mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort
to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But
you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are
worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000
worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that?
IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs
tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have
been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium-
or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from
losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but
they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible
revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those
organization will be weakened.
I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to
arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology
to thwart the high technology being directed at them. …
Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states.
But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that
sort of thing.