Economic

Just a few miles from where President Trump will address his blue-collar base here Tuesday night, exactly the kind of middle-class factory jobs he has vowed to bring back from overseas are going begging.

It’s not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test.

The fallout is not limited to the workers or their immediate families. Each quarter, Columbiana Boiler, a local company, forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders for its galvanized containers and kettles because of the manpower shortage, it says, with foreign rivals picking up the slack.

“Our main competitor in Germany can get things done more quickly because they have a better labor pool,” said Michael J. Sherwin, chief executive of the 123-year-old manufacturer. “We are always looking for people and have standard ads at all times, but at least 25 percent fail the drug tests.”

Source:   https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/07/24/business/economy/drug-test-labor-hiring.html

Legalizing marijuana not only harms public health and safety, it places a significant strain on local economies and weakens the ability of the American workforce to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

Today, a growing class of well-heeled lobbyists intent on commercializing marijuana are doing everything they can to sell legal weed as a panacea for every contemporary challenge we face in America. Over the past several years we’ve been barraged by claims that legal pot can cure the opioid crisis, cure cancer, eliminate international drug cartels, and even solve climate change.

One seemingly compelling case made by special interest groups is that legal marijuana can boost our economy too: after all, marijuana businesses create jobs and bring in millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue.

Yet, a closer look at the facts reveals a starkly different reality. The truth is, a commercial market for marijuana not only harms public health and safety, it also places a significant strain on local economies and weakens the ability of the American workforce to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

We already know that drug use costs our economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public health and safety costs. The last comprehensive study to look at costs of drugs in society found that drug use cost taxpayers more than $193 billion – due to lost work productivity, health care costs, and higher crime. A new study out of Canada found that marijuana-impaired driving alone costs more than $1 billion. Laws commercializing marijuana only make this problem worse and hamper local communities’ ability to deal with the health and safety fallout of increased drug use.

“So far in Colorado, marijuana taxes have failed to shore up state budget shortfalls. The budget deficit there doubled in the last few years, despite claims that pot taxes could turn deficit into surplus.”

This isn’t just a theory – it’s already happening. As marijuana use has increased in states that have legalized it, so has use by employees, both on and off the job. Large businesses in Colorado now state that after legalization they have had to hire out-of-state residents in order to find employees that can pass a pre-employment drug screen, particularly for safety-sensitive jobs like bus drivers, train operators, and pilots.

And now drug using employees – supported by special interest groups – are organizing to make drug use a “right” despite the negative impacts we know it will have on employers and the companies that hire them.

And what about that promised tax revenue? So far in Colorado, marijuana taxes have failed to shore up state budget shortfalls. The budget deficit there doubled in the last few years, despite claims that pot taxes could turn deficit into surplus.

Collected pot taxes only comprise a tiny fraction of the Colorado state budget— less than one percent. After costs of enforcement and regulation are subtracted, the remaining revenue used for public good is very limited.

Even viewed solely in the context of Colorado’s educational needs, pot revenue is not newsworthy. The Colorado Department of Education indicates their schools require about $18 billion in capital construction funds alone. Marijuana taxes do not even make a dent in this gap.

In Washington State, half of the $42 million of marijuana tax money legalization advocates promised would reach prevention programs and schools by 2016 never materialized. We’ve seen this movie before: witness our experience with gambling, the lottery, and other vices.

We should also care about the human fallout of increased marijuana acceptance. Recent evidence demonstrates that today’s marijuana isn’t the weed of the 1960s. It is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents.

Moreover, in states that have already legalized the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashes and youth marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana also continue to see a thriving black market, and are experiencing a continued rise in alcohol sales despite arguing users will switch to a “safer” drug.

Over the past several months, the Trump Administration has signaled it is considering a crackdown on marijuana in states where it is legal. We don’t yet know what this policy change may look like, but one thing we know for sure is that incarcerating low-level, nonviolent offenders in federal prisons is not the answer. Individual users need incentives to encourage them to make healthy decisions, not handcuffs.

But we do need to enforce federal law. Indeed, by reasserting federal control over the exploding marijuana industry, we know we can make a positive difference in preventing the commercialization of a drug that will put profits over public health and fight every regulation proposed to control its sale and use. Marijuana addiction is real, and simply ignoring this health condition will only cost us down the road. We should assess marijuana users for drug use disorders as well as mental health problems, and assist those into recovery. This can’t happen in a climate that promotes use.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/27/trump-should-crackdown-on-legal-weed-commentary.html

Substance use disorders affect businesses in surprising ways. Although there are obvious signs that an employee is struggling with a substance use disorder, there are other factors affecting their workplace performance that may be less obvious. Unfortunately, a survey from the National Safety Council found that employers underestimate how prescription drug abuse affects their businesses. Employers may not realize some of the facts illuminated in the study, such as:

• Employees with substance use disorders miss nearly 50 percent more days than their peers and up to six weeks of work annually.

• Healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are three times the costs for an average employee.

• Getting an employee into treatment can save an employer up to $2,607 per worker annually.

The survey serves as a reminder that although some employees need support, they may not ask for it. “Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business.”

The National Safety Council alongside NORC at the University of Chicago and Shatterproof created a tool to show how the substance use disorder crisis can affect your workplace.

The Substance Use Cost Calculator is a quick and easy way to track the potential cost of substance use disorders. Employers input basic statistics about their workforce, such as industry, location, and number of employees. The tool then calculates the estimated prevalence of substance use disorders among employees and dependents. Once you have all that information on hand, you can figure out a way to prioritize helping those who are struggling with a substance use disorder. If you are worried about addressing such a difficult problem, remember that leaders ask how they can help others and utilize subject-matter resources.

Source:  https://images.magnetmail.net/images/clients/CADCA/attach/SubstanceUseCosts.pdf April 2017

Filed under: Economic,Social Affairs,USA :

I totally agree that we all need to let Attorney General Jeff Sessions know that the majority of Americans suffer because of marijuana …. whether they choose to use it or not.  It is a factor in crime, physical and mental health, academic failure, lost productivity, et al.  American cannot be great again if we continue to allow poison to be grown and distributed to the masses.

The President has taken a position that “medical marijuana” should be a State’s right, because he is not yet enlightened on the reality of what that means.  If asked to define “medical marijuana” that has helped his friends, I doubt that he would say gummy bears, Heavenly brownies and other edibles with 60 to 80% potency, sold in quantities that are potentially lethal; smoked pot at 25% THC content; or waxes and oils used for dabbing and vaping that are as high as 98% potency that cause psychotic breaks, mental illness, suicides, traffic deaths and more.

Further, if states are to have a right to offer “medical marijuana”, it has to be done under tightly controlled conditions and the profit motive eliminated.  Privately owned cultivation and dispensaries must be banned … including one’s ability to grow 6 plants at home.  6 plants grown hydroponically with 4 harvests a year could generate 24 lbs of pot, the equivalent of about 24,000 joints. That obviously would not be for personal use.  We would just have thousands of new drug dealers, with more crime, more child endangerment, more BHO labs blowing up, more traffic deaths, et al.

Source:   Letter from Roger Morgan to DrugWatch International  Feb. 2017

THE level of people being hospitalised after taking cannabis and related ‘legal highs’ has reached a 10-year peak, according to official figures from the Scottish Government.  More than 900 acute stays in general hospitals – as opposed to psychiatric admissions – involved the drug last year.

The Scottish Tories said the data showed cannabis was not the benign drug some claimed.

The latest figures show that in 2015-16 there were 7537 hospital stays in Scotland with a diagnosis of drug misuse, involving 5922 people, some admitted more than once.

Of these stays, 913 or 12 per cent, involved “cannabinoids”, which include synthetic highs such as Spice as well as the plant form of cannabis.   This was the highest percentage involving cannabinoids since 13 per cent in 2005-06.

Cannabinoids were the most common cause of drug stays among children – accounting for 45 per cent of cases involving under-15s.

The health boards with the most stays were NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (306), NHS Lothian (165) and NHS Lanarkshire (106).  Although still sometimes called a legal high, synthetic cannabis was criminalised last May, with its production and sale made punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Hospital admissions associated with cannabis were almost double those linked to cocaine.

Acute stays involving cocaine were at their highest since 2008-09 last year, but involved 553 admissions, or 7 per cent of all general drug-related cases.

The drugs most associated with hospital admissions were opioids, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.

Last year, opioids were behind 4656 stays, or 62 per cent of the drug-related total.  The number and prevalence of opioid admissions has increased hugely in the last 20 years.  In 1996-97, opioids accounted for just 791 stays, then equal to 34 per cent of drug admissions.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Douglas Ross criticised campaigns to decriminalise cannabis and Police Scotland taking a soft touch approach to its use.  The force said in 2015 it might give people caught with cannabis on-the-spot recorded warnings as an alternative to prosecution.   Mr Ross said: “It’s quite alarming that quite so many people are being hospitalised through using cannabis, a drug many people feel authorities are going soft on.

“Not only is it dangerous in its own right, as these statistics prove, but it’s a gateway drug to even more harmful substances.

“We have a massive fight on our hands in Scotland both with illegal drugs and so-called legal highs.   “Now is not the time to give in and wave the white flag.  “We need to crack down on those circulating drugs of all kinds on our streets, and reinforce the message about just how damaging taking these substances can be.”

Scottish LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was a concern that the figures were rising, but said the Conservatives’ solution was “completely wrong and regressive”.  He said: “If anything these figures show that the LibDems have been right in calling for this dark market to be brought out of the shadows.  “If the Tories had their way then they would drive the market further underground exposing people to more dangerous drugs and endangering more lives leading to more hospitalisations.

“The answer is to educate and regulate not to punish as the Tories want to do.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said drug use continued to fall in the general population.  She said: “We have greatly reduced drug and alcohol waiting times with 94 per cent of people now being seen within three weeks of being referred.

“We have also invested over £630m to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008 and over £150m over five years to improve mental health services in Scotland.”

Source: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15005884.Hospital_stays_linked_to_cannabis_at_10_year_high/   Jan,2017

Ben Cort, an addiction treatment specialist from Colorado, speaks in opposition to Proposition 64 during a panel about the legalization of marijuana at the Anaheim Convention Center.

An addiction expert from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, Cort is drowning in a sea of concern over Proposition 64, California’s ballot initiative that would allow recreational weed.

Once an addict himself, Cort can’t believe the Golden State appears on the verge of legalizing something that terrifies him. Though he’s no fan of pot, it’s not so much the plant that scares Cort. What worries him is that science allows THC – the active ingredient in marijuana that gets you high – to become nuclear-charged.

A little THC wax or oil, he cautions, can go a very long way, especially when it’s ingested.

“We’re the canary in the coal mine,” says Cort, a manager with the University of Colorado Hospital’s rehab program. “We’re treating more addicts for cannabis than we are for opiates.”

Cort says he’s seen THC levels in so-called gummy bears 20 times higher than levels that are legal in Oregon, another state where recreational marijuana is law but where THC percentages are controlled.

Prop. 64, Cort says, will legalize dangerously high THC. That’s not Snoop Dogg cool. That’s emergency room serious.

The federal National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, “These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to users, and their use has sent some people to the emergency room.” Such high THC levels, institute officials warn, also can turn what many consider a relatively benign drug into something addictive.

UNICORN PROMISES

While writing about marijuana, I’ve interviewed doctors, lawyers, pot growers, medical marijuana dispensary owners, officials with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and patients in pain.

Until I attended a two-hour informational panel discussion Tuesday sponsored by the Anaheim Police Department, I figured I knew all about pot. Speakers included Cort; Police Chief John Jackson of the Greenwood Village, Colo., Police Department; Chief Justin Nordhorn of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board; Attorney Robert Bovett of Oregon Counties Legal Counsel; Lauren Michaels, legislative affairs manager

for the California Police Chiefs’ Association; and Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association.

When a speaker asked who had read Prop. 64, only one hand went up and it wasn’t mine. So to prepare for this column I also read – OK, I skimmed some chunks – all 62 pages. A lot of Prop. 64 is wonky and details who can do what and where. But some reads more like dreams of fairies and unicorns than reality.

“Incapacitate the black market,” the proposal promises “and move marijuana purchases into a legal structure with strict safeguards against children accessing it.”

Untrue, said Jackson, who stressed that illegal sales continue in Colorado.

“Revenues will,” Prop. 64 predicts, “provide funds to invest in public health programs that educate youth to prevent and treat serious substance abuse.”

Wrong, Jackson said. More teens in Colorado are being sent to emergency rooms because of THC-laced edibles.

Revenues will pay to “train local law enforcement to enforce the new law with a focus on DUI enforcement.”

Incorrect again. Jackson said his department is busier than ever dealing with more drivers high on weed and handling more THC-related traffic fatalities.

Other parts of Prop. 64 are just dumb and dumberer.   Like allowing radio and television advertising.

“Make no mistake,” Jackson said of Prop. 64. “This whole thing is about money.

“A drug dealer in a suit is still a drug dealer.”

‘NECESSARY REFORM’

Once marijuana became legal in Washington in 2012, Nordhorn said, children and teens considered it less harmful, and that had ripple effects.

With the advent of vaping, for example, young people inhale THC without anyone knowing if they are taking in an innocent type of e-juice or marijuana.

“Legal marijuana,” Nordhorn said, “is not a silver bullet to get rid of marijuana problems.”

Bovett echoed other panelists, saying that Oregon also has seen an increase in impaired driving, although he added that has been going up since the state approved medical marijuana.

The Oregon Poison Center also reports increases in marijuana-related calls.

Even Bradley, the lone pro-Prop. 64 voice on the panel, admitted he’s concerned about edibles.

Instead of THC levels, Bradley focused on dollars. He said the initiative will take $100 million out of the hands of criminals and the measure will generate $300 million for law enforcement to focus on such things as protecting children.

Bradley has plenty of backers. Among the most visible are Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. Our local representative has said, “Current marijuana laws have undermined many of the things conservatives hold dear – individual freedom, limited government and the right to privacy.”

Rohrabacher went on to say, “This measure is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”

‘SEED TO SALE’

The most sobering speaker was Michaels of the chiefs’ association. She simply defended California’s newly revamped medical marijuana policies.

Called “seed to sale,” three new laws inked last year shoot down the need for Prop. 64, Michaels said. She stated California now has an enhanced working system to distribute medicinal marijuana legally.

California, Michaels said, already allows local control, protects current producers and includes checkpoints at distribution.

In contrast, she said, Prop. 64 is vertically integrated, favors big business and independent distribution, appoints the state as sole actor for operating licenses and ensures regulatory confusion. Research, learn, vote. Contact the writer: dwhiting@scng.com

Source:   http://www.ocregister.com/articles/marijuana-731244-thc-prop.html   5th October 2016

Drug cartels are selling lethal doses of fentanyl disguised as street heroin and counterfeit OxyContin pills, two U.S. government agencies are warning.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice are cautioning people who buy illegal drugs and painkillers on the street or in Tijuana, Mexico, that cartels are using fentanyl because they can produce it more cheaply. Just a few grains of fentanyl can be lethal, the agencies said. In September, authorities confiscated more than 70 pounds of fentanyl and 6,000 counterfeit pills, NBC 7 reports.

“It’s extremely profitable for the cartels. They aren’t having to wait for harvest. They aren’t having to harvest the poppy plants. They’re not having to manufacture that paste into heroin. They are literally just getting a chemical from China,” DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick told NBC 7.

Source:  www.thepartnership@drugfree.org  13th October 2016

Filed under: Economic,Heroin/Methadone,USA :

Avoiding a New Tobacco Industry

SummaryPoints

• The US states that have legalized retail marijuana are using US alcohol policies as a model for regulating retail marijuana, which prioritizes business interests over public health.

• The history of major multinational corporations using aggressive marketing strategies to increase and sustain tobacco and alcohol use illustrates the risks of corporate domination of a legalized marijuana market.

• To protect public health, marijuana should be treated like tobacco, not as the US treats alcohol: legal but subject to a robust demand reduction program modelled on successful evidence-based tobacco control programs.

• Because marijuana is illegal in most places, jurisdictions worldwide (including other US states) considering legalization can learn from the US experience to shape regulations that prioritize public health over profits.

Introduction

While illegal in the United States, marijuana use has been increasing since 2007 [1]. In response to political campaigns to legalize retail sales, by 2016 four US states (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon) had enacted citizen initiatives to implement regulatory frameworks for marijuana, modelled on US alcohol policies [2], where state agencies issue licenses to and regulate private marijuana businesses [2,3,4]. Arguments for legalization have stressed the negative impact marijuana criminalization has had on social justice, public safety, and the economy [5].

Uruguay, an international leader in tobacco control [6], became the first country to legalize the sale of marijuana in 2014, and, as of July 2016, was implementing a state monopoly for marijuana production and distribution [7]. None of the US laws [2], or pending proposals in other states [8], prioritize public health. Because marijuana is illegal in most places, jurisdictions worldwide (including other US states) considering legalization can learn from the US experience to shape regulations that favor public health over profits.

PLOS Medicine | DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002131 September 27, 2016 1 / 9a11111

OPEN ACCESS

Citation: Barry RA, Glantz S (2016) A Public Health

Framework for Legalized Retail Marijuana Based on

the US Experience: Avoiding a New Tobacco

Industry. PLoS Med 13(9): e1002131. doi:10.1371/

journal.pmed.1002131

Published: September 27, 2016

Copyright: © 2016 Barry, Glantz. This is an open

access article distributed under the terms of the

Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits

unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any

medium, provided the original author and source are

credited.

Funding: This work was supported in part by

National Cancer Institute grant CA-061021 and UCSF

funds from SG’s Truth Initiative Distinguished Professorship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Provenance: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

In contrast, while legal, US tobacco use has been declining [1]. To protect public health,

marijuana should be treated like tobacco, legal but subject to a robust demand reduction program modelledon evidence-based tobacco control programs [9] before a large industry (akin to tobacco [10]) develops and takes control of the market and regulatory environment [11].

Likely Effect of Marijuana Commercialization on Public Health.

While the harms of marijuana do not currently approach those of tobacco [12], the extent to which legal restrictions on marijuana may have functioned to limit these harms is unknown. Currently, regular heavy marijuana use is uncommon, and few users become life time marijuana smokers [13]. However, marijuana use is not without risk. The risk for developing marijuana dependence (25%) is lower than for nicotine addiction (67%) and higher than for alcohol dependence (16%) [14], but is still substantial, with rising numbers of marijuana users in high income countries seeking treatment [15]. Reversing the historic pattern, in some places, marijuana has become a gateway to tobacco and nicotine addiction [15]. This situation will likely change as legal barriers that have kept major corporations out of the market [10] are removed. Unlike small-scale growers and marijuana retailers, large corporations seek profits through consolidation, market expansion, product engineering, international branding, and promotion of heavy use to maximize sales, and use lobbying, campaign contributions, and public relations to create a favorable regulatory environment [2,11,16,17,18,19]. By 2016, US marijuana companies had developed highly potent products [15] and were advertising via the Internet [11] and developing marketing strategies to rebrand marijuana for a more sophisticated audience [20].Without effective controls in place, it is likely that a large marijuana industry, akin to tobacco and alcohol, will quickly emerge and work to manipulate regulatory frameworks and use aggressive marketing strategies to increase and sustain marijuana use [10,11] with a corresponding increase in social and health costs.

Public perception of the low risk of marijuana [21] is discordant with available evidence.

Marijuana smoke has a similar toxicity profile as tobacco smoke [22] and, regardless of whether marijuana is more or less dangerous than tobacco, it is not harmless [2]. The California Environmental Protection Agency has identified marijuana smoke as a cause of cancer [23], and marijuana smokers are at increased risk of respiratory disease [24,25]. Epidemiological studies in Europe have found associations between smokingmarijuana and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke in young adults [15,26]. One minute of exposure to marijuana smoke significantly impairs vascular function in a rat model [27]. In humans, impaired vascular function is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes including atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction [27,28,29].

Acute risks associated with highly potent marijuana products (i.e., cannabinoid concentrates, edibles) include anxiety, panic attacks, and hallucinations [15]. Other health risks associated with use include long-lasting detrimental changes in cognitive function [13,15], poor educational outcomes, accidental childhood ingestion and adult intoxication [26], and auto fatalities [30,31]. US Alcohol Policy Is Not a Good Model for Regulating Marijuana The fact that US marijuana legalization is modelled on US alcohol policies is not reassuring. In 2014, 61% of US college students (age 18–25) reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 19% for marijuana and 13% for tobacco

[32]. Binge drinking is a serious problem, with 41% of young Americans reporting heavy episodic drinking in the past year [33].

Aggressive alcohol marketing likely contributes to this pattern [34]. Even though the alcohol industry’s voluntary rules prohibit advertising on broadcast, cable, radio, print, and digital communications if more than 30% of the audience is under age 21, this standard permits them to advertise in media outlets with substantial youth audiences [35], including Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, resulting in American youth (ages 12–20) being exposed to 45% more beer

and 27% more spirits advertisements than legal drinking-aged adults [36]. If such alcohol marketing regulations were applied universally to marijuana, consumption would likely be higher, not lower, than it is now [26].

Using a Public Health Framework from Evidence-Based Tobacco Control to Regulate Retail Marijuana

Table 1 compares the situation in the four US states that have legalized retail marijuana to a public health standard based on successes and failures in tobacco and alcohol control. A public health framework for marijuana legalization would designate the health department as the lead agency with, like tobacco, a mandate to protect the public by minimizing all (not just youth) use. The health department would implement policies to protect nonusers, prevent initiation, and encourage users to quit, as well as regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of marijuana products, with other agencies (such as tax authorities) playing supporting roles.

Because public health regulations are often in direct conflict with the interests of profit driven corporations [19], it is important to protect the policy process from industry influence. In contrast to what states that have legalized retail marijuana have done to date, a public health framework would require that expert advisory committees involved in regulatory oversight and public education policymaking processes consist solely of public health officials and experts and limit the marijuana industry’s role in decision-making to participation as a member of the “public.” Including the tobacco industry on advisory committees when developing tobacco regulations blocks, delays, and weakens public health policies [37].

TheWorld Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global public health treaty ratified by 180 parties as of April 2016, recognizes the need to protect the policymaking process from industry interference:

“[Governments] should not allow any person employed by the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to be a member of any government body, committee or advisory group that sets or implements tobacco control or public health policy.” [37, Article 5.3]”

A marijuana regulatory framework that prioritizes public health would have similar provisions. A public health framework would avoid regulatory complexity that favors corporations with financial resources to hire lawyers and lobbyists to create and manipulate weak or unenforceable policies [11]. To simplify regulatory efforts, including licensing enforcement, implementation of underage access laws, prevention and education programs, and taxation, a public health framework would create a unitary market, in which all legal sales, regardless of whether use is intended for recreational or medical purposes, follow the same rules [38]. Unlike Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, in 2015,Washington State accomplished this public health goal when it merged its retail and medical markets [39].

Earmarked funds to support comprehensive prevention and control programs over time,  hich are not included in the four US states’ regulatory regimes, will be critical to reduce marijuana prevalence, marijuana-related diseases, and costs arising from marijuana use. A public health framework would set taxes high enough to discourage use and cover the full cost of legalization, including a broad-based marijuana prevention and control program. Using a public health approach, the prevention program would implement social norm change strategies, modelled on evidence-based tobacco control programs, aimed at the population as a whole—not just users or youth [9].

Key: ✓ Required by law or regulation; X Not required by law or regulation; –Pending legislative approval or rulemaking process Demand reduction strategies applied to marijuana would include:

1) countering pro-marijuana business influence in the community;

2) reducing exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke and aerosol and other marijuana products (including protecting workers vulnerable to these exposures);

3) controlling availability of marijuana and marijuana products;

4) promoting services to help marijuana users quit.

A public health framework would protect the public from second hand smoke exposure by including marijuana in existing national and local smoke free laws for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Local governments would have authority to adopt stronger regulations than the state or nation. There would be no exemptions for indoor use in hospitality venues, marijuana retail stores, or lounges, including for “vaped” marijuana. To protect the public from industry strategies to increase and sustain marijuana use, a public health framework would prohibit or severely restrict (within constitutional limitations) marketing and advertising, including prohibitions on free or discounted samples, the use of cartoon characters, event sponsorship, product placement in popular media, cobranded-merchandise, and therapeutic claims (unless approved by the government agency that regulates such claims).Marketing would be prohibited on television, radio, billboards, and public transit and restricted in print and digital communications (e.g., internet and social media) with the percentage of youth between ages 12 and 20 as the maximum underage audience composition for permitted advertising (roughly 15% in the US) [35]. These advertising restrictions are justified and would likely pass US Constitutional muster because they are implemented for important public health purposes, are evidence-based[35], and have worked to promote similar goals in other contexts. Legal sellers of the newly legal  marijuana products would be permitted to communicate relevant product information to their legal adult customers.

A scenario in which a public health regulatory framework is applied to marijuana would require licensees to pay for strong licensing provisions for retailers, with active enforcement and license revocation for underage sales. As has been done in the four US states (Table 1), outlets would be limited to the sale of marijuana only to avoid the proliferation and normalization of sales in convenience stores or “big box” retailers. No retailer that sold tobacco or alcohol would be granted a license to sell marijuana products. Based on best public health practices for tobacco retailers [40], marijuana retail stores would be prohibited within 1,000 feet of underage- sensitive areas including postsecondary schools, with limits on new licenses in areas that already have a significant number of retail outlets. Electronic commerce, including internet, mail order, text messaging, and social media sales, would be prohibited because these forms of non traditional sales are difficult to regulate, age-verification is practically impossible [41], and they can easily avoid taxation [42].

Central to a public health framework would be assigning the health department with the authority to enact strong potency limits, dosage, serving size, and product quality testing for marijuana and marijuana products (e.g., edibles, tinctures, oils), with a clear mission to protect public health. Additives that could increase potency, toxicity, or addictive potential, or that would create unsafe combinations with other psychoactive substances, including nicotine and alcohol, would be illegal. Unlike US restrictions on marijuana products, flavors (that largely appeal to children), would be prohibited.

A public health model applied to marijuana would include health warning labels that follow state-of-the-art tobacco requirements implemented in several countries outside of the United States, including Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, and Australia [43]. Public health-oriented labels would:

1) be large, (at least 50% of packaging) on front and back and not limited to the sides,

prominently featured, and contain dissuasive imagery in addition to text;

2) be clear and direct and communicate accurate information to the user regarding health risks associated with marijuana use and secondhand exposure; and

3) use language appropriate for low-literacy adults.

Health messages would include risk of dependence [2], cardiovascular [2,44,45], respiratory [25], and neurological disease [46], and cancer [23], and would warn against driving a vehicle or operating equipment, as well as the risks of co-use with tobacco or alcohol. While there is already adequate scientific evidence to raise concern about a wide range of adverse health effects, there is more to learn. Earmarked funds from marijuana taxes would also provide an ongoing revenue stream for research that would guide marijuana prevention and control efforts and mitigate the human and economic costs of marijuana use, as well as better define medical uses as the basis for proper regulation of marijuana for therapeutic purposes.

Avoiding a Private Market

Privatizing tobacco and alcohol sales leads to intensified marketing efforts, lower prices, more effective distribution, and an industry that will aggressively oppose any public health effort to control use [47,48]. Avoiding a privatized marijuana market and the associated pressures to increase consumption in order to maximize profits would likely lead to lower consumer demand, consumption, and prevalence, even among youth, and would reduce the associated public health harm [49].

Governments may avoid marijuana commercialization by implementing a state monopoly over its production and distribution, similar to Uruguay’s regulatory structure for marijuana [3,50] and to the Nordic countries’ alcohol control systems [51], which are designed to protect public health over maximizing government revenue. The state would have more control over access, price, and product characteristics (including youth-appealing products or packaging, potency, and additives) and would refrain from marketing that promotes increased use [3,52].

In cases where national laws cause concern about local authority’s ability to adopt government monopolies, a public health authority could be used as an alternative [53].

It is important to avoid intrinsic conflicts of interest created by state ownership. As is the case with state-ownership of tobacco, without specific policies to prioritize public health, a state’s desire to increase revenue often supersedes public health goals to minimize use [51,52]. Beyond mitigating potential conflicts of interest inherent in state monopolies, a public health framework for marijuana would instruct the government agency that manages the monopoly to minimize individual consumption in order to maximize public health at the population level. (Similar public health goals are explicit in Nordic alcohol monopolies [51].)

While a state monopoly is an effective approach to protect public health [51,54], in practice, however, even the strongest government monopolies for alcohol (i.e., Nordic Countries) have been eroded over time by multinational companies that argue such controls are illegal protectionism under international and regional trade agreements [4,51].While trade agreements have been used to threaten tobacco control and other public health policies [55], clearly identifying protection of public health as the goal of the state monopoly would make it more difficult to challenge these controls, especially if sales revenues were used to help fund evidence-based demand reduction policies [49] (Table 1).

Conclusion

It is important that jurisdictions worldwide learn from the US experience and implement, concurrently with full legalization, a public health framework for marijuana that minimizes consumption to maximize public health (Table 1). A key goal of the public health framework would be to make it harder for a new, wealthy, and powerful marijuana industry to manipulate the policy environment and thwart public health efforts to minimize use and associated health problems.

Acknowledgments

This paper is based on an invited presentation at the Marijuana and Cannabinoids: A Neuroscience Research Summit held at the National Institutes of Health onMarch 22–23, 2016.

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PLOS Medicine | DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002131 September 27, 2016 9 / 9

Source:  http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1002131

Industry Taking Advantage of Opiate Problem to Entrap More People

Medical marijuana proponents have a nationwide effort to add opiate addiction to the list of conditions for medical marijuana.  They aren’t just saying medical marijuana is a replacement for opiates; they are now pitching it as a medical treatment for opiate addiction.  The marijuana industry’s savvy marketing campaign is bigger, trickier and even more devious than Big Tobacco and Big Pharma ever dreamed.   Yet people who get addicted to opiates were already addicted to drugs via marijuana. Mixing marijuana with other drugs is becoming so routine that “drugged and stoned” is a new normal.  When Pennsylvania college student Garet Schenker of Bloomsburg University recently died, it was the combination of marijuana wax and Xanax that killed him.   References to  his death and the toxicology report have been removed from the Internet.  Just because another person didn’t die  from doing  “dabs” and mixing it with Xanax doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn our children of this dangerous practice. Justin Bondi, one of the young men who died in Colorado last year, was a hiker and adventurer who also mixed marijuana with Xanax and other drugs.   In fact, marijuana users have such an affinity for Xanax that doctors should be questioning patients about marijuana use  and wonder if marijuana is the primary cause of the anxiety. The addiction-for-profit industry, i.e., the marijuana industry, is trying every tactic imaginable to promote drug usage.  The current propaganda that pretends marijuana is treatment to opiate abuse is EVIL.  We condemn those shameless promoters who encourage people to use marijuana based on the theory that it doesn’t cause toxic overdose deaths.   Recent deaths have put a dent into that theory, however.   In Seattle, Hamza Warsame jumped six stories to his death, after he the first time he tried marijuana in December, 2015. Drugged and Stoned Many marijuana driving fatalities are caused by drivers on a cocktail of drugs in addition to pot.  The driver that killed two and injured several others in Santa Cruz had marijuana and an unnamed prescription drug.  The driver responsible for a 3-car crash in Indiana had marijuana, Xanax and drug paraphernalia on him.

Demolished building in Philadelphia, July, 2013. A crane operator was impaired from mixing marijuana with codeine. Six died and 13 were injured in the accident. Photo: AP  A crane operator in Philadelphia killed 6 people while high on marijuana and a codeine painkiller pill, in July 2013.  This accident highlights the inability to see accurate perception of depth when stoned.  The crane operator hit the wall of the Salvation Army thrift store next to the  building he was demolishing. He had no intention to harm people.  Operating any type of heavy machinery under the influence of drugs puts all of us in danger. Diane Schuler  The worst car accident by a driver in recent memory was caused by a driver who used both marijuana and alcohol.  Driver Diane Schuler killed 8, including 5 children, in the Taconic State Parkway crash in New York on July 26, 2009.   It appears that the driver was in pain.  Schuler, three of her nieces, her 2-year old daughter and three men in the oncoming minivan died.   Schuler used marijuana regularly to deal with insomnia.  (Insomnia is a condition promoted by medi-pot advocates.)  Marijuana lobbyists try to portray marijuana customers as single drug users.  This is an entirely false characterization.   Multi-substance addiction is the norm today.   STOP THE LIES! Parents Opposed to Pot is totally funded by private donations, rather than industry or government. If you have an article to submit, or want to support us, please go to Contact or Donate page.

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2016/05/23/drugged-stoned-deadly-combination/

 

Pot for the poor! That could be the new slogan of marijuana legalization advocates.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. There are now 25 states that permit the use of marijuana, including four as well as the District of Columbia that permit it for purely recreational use.

Colorado and Washington were the first to pass those laws in 2012. At least five states have measures on the ballot this fall that would legalize recreational use. And that number is only likely to rise with an all-time high (no pun intended) of 58 percent of Americans (according to a Gallup poll last year) favoring legalization.

The effects of these new laws have been immediate. One study, which collected data from 2011-12 and 2012-13, showed a 22 percent increase in monthly use in Colorado. The percentage of people there who used daily or almost daily also went up. So have marijuana-related driving fatalities. And so have incidents of children being hospitalized for accidentally ingesting edible marijuana products.

But legalization and our growing cultural acceptance of marijuana have disproportionately affected one group in particular: the lower class.

A recent study by Steven Davenport of RAND and Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon notes that “despite the popular stereotype of marijuana users as well-off and well-educated . . . they lag behind national averages” on both income and schooling.

For instance, people who have a household income of less than $20,000 a year comprise 19 percent of the population but make up 28 percent of marijuana users. And even though those who earn more than $75,000 make up 33 percent of the population, 25 percent of them are marijuana users. Having more education also seems to make it less likely that you are a user. College graduates make up 27 percent of the population but only 19 percent of marijuana users.

The middle and upper classes have been the ones out there pushing for decriminalization and legalization measures, and they have also tried to demolish the cultural taboo against smoking pot. But they themselves have chosen not to partake very much. Which is not surprising. Middle-class men and women who have jobs and families know that this is not a habit they want to take up with any regularity because it will interfere with their ability to do their jobs and take care of their families.

But the poor, who already have a hard time holding down jobs and taking care of their families, are more frequently using a drug that makes it harder for them to focus, to remember things and to behave responsibly.

Legalization and our growing cultural acceptance of marijuana have disproportionately affected one group in particular: the lower class.

The new study, which looked at use rates between 1992 and 2013, also found that the intensity of use had increased in this time. The proportion of users who smoke daily or near daily has increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 3. As Davenport tells me, “This dispels the idea that the typical user is someone on weekends who has a casual habit.”

Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale, says that “it is ironic that the people lobbying for liberalized marijuana access do not appear to be the group that is consuming the bulk of it.” Instead, it’s “daily and near-daily users, who are less educated, less affluent and less in control of their use.”

In fact, the typical user is much more likely to be someone at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, whose daily life is driven, at least in part, by the question of how and where to get more marijuana. Just consider the cost. Almost a third of users are spending a tenth of their income on marijuana. And 15 percent of users spend nearly a quarter of their income to purchase the drug. The poor have not only become the heaviest users, but their use is making them poorer.

To all the middle-class professionals out there reading this: Do you know anyone who spends a quarter of their income on pot? Of course not. But these are the people our policies and attitudes are affecting.

As the authors of the study note, marijuana use today actually more closely resembles tobacco use than alcohol use. Cigarette smoking has completely fallen off among the educated and well-off, while the poor and working class have continued their habits. Even as far back as 2008, a Gallup poll found that the rate of smoking among people making less than $24,000 a year was more than double that of those making $90,000 or more.

But at least the rates have been going down for everyone. Thanks to a cultural shift on the acceptability of smoking, awareness campaigns about its dangers and a variety of legal measures regarding smoking in public facilities, smoking is significantly less popular. You could object to some of these public policies on the grounds that the government should mind its own business. But the truth is that Americans across all incomes are now less likely to suffer from the harmful effects of smoking.

Maybe the upper classes in this country have some romantic notion of what marijuana can do to the mind (though we once thought cigarettes were terribly classy too). But it is time to get over such silliness and consider the real effects of our attitudes.

As Manhattan Institute fellow and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple says, this is like the 1960s all over again. He tells me, “I’m afraid I can’t hear all that stuff about ‘tune in, drop out’ without being infuriated because the people affected really deleteriously [are] people at the bottom.”

Source: http://nypost.com/2016/08/20/legalized-pot-is-making-americas-lower-class-poorer-and-less-responsible/

Researchers argue that the lack of available treatment and understanding around cannabis dependency is a major public health concern, with users often being ignored

Health experts have warned that the public health care system is unprepared and ill-equipped to provide help for cannabis users, despite a rapid increase in the number of people seeking treatment for problems relating to the drug.

Researchers gathering at a conference at the University of York highlighted the discovery of “concerning, unexpected” new symptoms reported by intensive users of cannabis and synthetic alternatives, including agitation and impulse control problems, contradicting the perception of cannabis as a suppressive drug.

One new study presented to the group demonstrated that while the use of cannabis has fallen in recent years, those smaller numbers of people are using the drug more intensively, with 73 per cent of all cannabis consumed by 9 per cent of users.

We’re effectively seeing a surge of people presenting for treatment but centres are not sure what to do with them,” explained Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health in the Department of Health Sciences at York University, a member of the research group. “It’s like going in for heart surgery but finding the doctors don’t have the necessary equipment to do it.”

While previous studies show that one in 10 dependent cannabis users now seek treatment, researchers at the Cannabis Matters meeting said access and routes into treatment remain unclear and even when they could be traced they were varied.

“We noticed something strange going on with the drug statistics,” said Mark Monaghan, a Social Sciences researcher at Loughborough University. “While fewer people were seemingly using cannabis, more people were lamenting to treatment services to cannabis related problems, but when we started to explore the literature around this, it was pretty unclear as to why this was happening – and what was happening to users once they were getting into treatment.”

Another pattern acknowledged by the researchers was that an increasing number of people seeking help for drug use are citing cannabis as their primary problem, yet the drug is still not taken seriously by many healthcare professionals.

“At a time when cannabis treatment demand is rising there is also increasingly competitive tendering between treatment providers for these contracts,” said Mr Hamilton. “This has created a disincentive for services to share intelligence with each other about good practice and potential solutions with their competitors.”

“Once in treatment it was clear that the response users had was variable in terms of interventions, in particular how seriously cannabis problems were viewed by treatment staff, with the consistent view being that cannabis was a benign drug.”

“It was people using cannabis who had the knowledge and expertise of the drug and its effects, rather that the treatment staff.”

The group of researchers argue that the lack of available treatment and understanding around cannabis dependency is a major public health concern, and should be treated on the same level as alcohol or smoking addiction. The health risks for cannabis

are exacerbated by the fact it is often used in conjunction with tobacco, putting users at increased risk of nicotine addiction and other associated health problems.

“Despite the success of initiatives to reduce tobacco use in the general population, cannabis users have largely been ignored,” The researchers said. “Treatment may offer an opportunity to intervene on both tobacco and cannabis use.”

Of those seeking treatment for drug use in 2014, 43 per cent of the 18-24 age group named cannabis as their primary drug, compared to just 16 per cent for opiates including heroin.

Synthetic cannabinoids such as ‘spice’ have also been named as a potential factor for the suggested increase in dependency among intensive users. According to Professor Harry Sumnall from the Centre for Public Health, SCRAs – which are now banned under the psychoactive substances act – work differently to organic cannabis, their chemicals acting on different neuro-receptors to produce distinct physical and psychological effects.

Over half of those using SCRAs more than 50 times in last year who tried to stop reported withdrawal symptoms, according to the most recent Global Drug Survey.

Synthetic cannabinoids are more likely to lead to emergency medical treatment than any other drug, with one in eight weekly users seeking emergency medical treatment.

In a statement, Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health England said: “It is clear that while substance misuse treatment is working well for many, there is a need for increasingly specialist approaches to support a range of complex needs, especially among the more vulnerable in our communities.”

“It’s vital that local authorities continue to invest so those in need of help are supported on the road to recovery, giving them the best possible chance of living a better, healthier life. Public Health England continues to support local areas in delivering effective tailored services, which increasingly need to meet the needs of older drug users and younger people for whom drug use is just one of many problems.”

Source:  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families   25th June 2016

The impact that so-called medical marijuana and later the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado, USA has had serious consequences, a few are show in snippets below.  The items shown are taken from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report.  The complete report can be found at:

http://www.rmhidta.org/default.aspx/MenuItemID/687/MenuGroup/RMHIDTAHome.htm.

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Vol. 3 Preview 2015 

Medical Marijuana Registry Identification Cards 

December 31, 2009 – 41,039

December 31, 2010 – 116,198

December 31, 2011 – 82,089

December 31, 2012 – 108,526

December 31, 2013 – 110,979

December 31, 2014 – 115,467

Colorado: 

505 medical marijuana centers (“dispensaries”)1

322 recreational marijuana stores1

405 Starbucks coffee shops2

227 McDonalds restaurants3

Denver: 

198 licensed medical marijuana centers (“dispensaries”)1

117 pharmacies (as of February 12, 2015

  • In one year, from 2013 to 2014 when retail marijuana businesses began operating, there was a 167 percent increase in explosions involving THC extraction labs.

 

 

 

Findings 

There has been an upward trend of marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations since medical marijuana was commercialized in 2009.

There has also been a significant increase in both categories in the first six months of 2014 when retail marijuana businesses began operating

It is important to note that, for purposes of the debate on legalizing marijuana in Colorado, there are three distinct timeframes to consider. Those are:

The early medical marijuana era (2000 – 2008), the medical marijuana commercialization era (2009 – current) and the recreational marijuana era (2013 – current).

2000 – 2008: In November 2000, Colorado voters passed Amendment 20 which permitted a qualifying patient and/or caregiver of a patient to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and grow 6 marijuana plants for medical purposes. During that time there were between 1,000 and 4,800 medical marijuana cardholders and no known dispensaries operating in the state.

2009 – Current: Beginning in 2009 due to a number of events, marijuana became de facto legalized through the commercialization of the medical marijuana industry. By the end of 2012, there were over 100,000 medical marijuana cardholders and 500 licensed dispensaries operating in Colorado. There were also licensed cultivation operations and edible manufacturers.

2013 – Current: In November 2012, Colorado voters passed Constitutional Amendment 64 which legalized marijuana for recreational purposes for anyone over the age of 21. The amendment also allowed for licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation operations and edible manufacturers.

Findings 

Youth (ages 12 to 17 years) Past Month Marijuana Use,

2013 o National average for youth was 7.15 percent

o Colorado average for youth was 11.16 percent

Colorado was ranked 3rd in the nation for current marijuana use among youth (56.08 percent higher than the national average)

In 2006, Colorado ranked 14th in the nation for current marijuana use among youth

In just one year when Colorado legalized marijuana (2013), past month marijuana use among those ages 12 to 17 years increased 6.6 percent.

THE methadone programme has failed drug addicts in Clydebank, a leading addictions worker said this week.

methadone-is-a-monsterDonnie McGilveray is the manager of Alternatives, a West Dunbartonshire charity that helps reform drug addicts, many of them methadone users.

He told the Post the methadone programme used to treat heroin addicts has gone unregulated — and described the green liquid as a “monster” that keeps people hooked for good.

His comments come after shock statistics were released last week showing that Clydebank pharmacies claimed £153,000 for methadone prescriptions in 2014.

Donnie told the Post: “I think methadone is helpful for a small cohort of people, the five to ten per cent of people who are chaotic, suicidal or maybe sex workers being used and abused by people. There is a small group of people who need to be made safe.

But that’s not what is happening. We’ve got this monster, a jolly green giant, that many, many addicts are stuck on. And again, it’s not just them who are stuck in this it’s the doctors and nurses who have an obligation to keep them safe.”

National data obtained by BBC Scotland showed pharmacists were paid £17.8 million for handling nearly half a million prescriptions of methadone in 2014. In Clydebank, £153,000 was paid to eight pharmacies to deliver 3,165 prescriptions of the heroin substitute. In Dalmuir Lloyds, £31,671 was claimed for prescribing and supervising methadone to addicts in 2014. But topping the chart was Lloyds Pharmacy on 375 Kilbowie Road which received £38,207 in payments. Pharmacists are paid around £2.32 for dispensing every dose of methadone and about £1.33 for supervising addicts while they take it. Chemists pay the wholesale cost of buying methadone from the government money they claim.

Around 60 per cent of the cash they are paid is made up of their handling fee for the drug and their charges for dishing it out to addicts. In 2013, pharmacies claimed back more than £17.9 million from the Scottish Government for handling 470,256 prescriptions of methadone — 22,980 prescriptions more than in 2014.

Donnie also told the Post he believes West Dunbartonshire, which has a long history of drug problems, is making progress tackling addiction. He said: “At the end of the day, the statistics don’t tell you how many people are on methadone or any details of the prescription, but what we can tell is the drug companies are making a killing from it.”

Figures released by the NHS in 2012 revealed that methadone-implicated deaths increased dramatically in cases where the individual had been prescribed the drug for more than a year.

The addictions worker told the Post he believes methadone should be reserved for the chaotic drug users and other substitutes such as Buprenorphine, Subutex and Dihydrocodiene should be implemented. He continued: “Methadone is not just a medical or pharmaceutical matter but a human rights issue. “The dilemma is that if you reduce someone’s methadone they become unstable and could relapse. Some of the people we work with at Alternatives have relapsed, it’s a regular situation.

If you start to reduce this person they could relapse and relapse significantly, and they might think they can go back onto heroin and inevitably could end up overdosing.”

He added: “That’s my position and I don’t envy the medical side of it in trying to square this problem.”

Top researcher Dr Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said the methadone programme “is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing”.

The statistics of methadone prescriptions can be viewed online at:    www.marcellison.com/bbc/methadone

Alternatives is an organisation funded by West Dunbartonshire Council that helps bring recovering addicts back into society. The project has been around since January 1995, firstly covering Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven, latterly broadening out to Clydebank.

Source: http://www.archive.clydebankpost.co.uk/ 7th April 2015

June 6th. 2015

Dear Jessica McDonald

President and CEO BC Hydro:

I am writing to bring to your attention the fact that there are 93+ illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the City of Vancouver. If your company is supplying these illegal businesses with hydro power you should seriously consider seeking advice from your legal counsel for being in conflict with the drug laws of Canada and laws pertaining to and potential penalties for facilitating criminal enterprises.

You will find it of benefit to review several court cases that have been filed by plaintiffs in the State of Colorado. These pleadings advance claims for damages from parties who are engaged in aiding and abetting marijuana businesses operating in violation of federal law. The Canadian Federal Government has verified, and made well publicized public statements that the marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver are illegal enterprises. BC Hydro customers should not be known illegal operations.

In Parksville BC, the RCMP closed down a marijuana dispensary and issued a warning to the landlord that if they rent to the company or a company conducting illegal business they could face charges under the provisions of Canadian law that prohibit any business from profiting from crime.

It is the position of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada – a national organization with representation from the medical and legal sectors, that these illegal businesses should be closed and federal drug laws be respected, adhered to.

We ask BC Hydro to comply with Canadian Federal Drugs Laws. We ask that BC Hydro disconnect all hydro service to these illegal businesses immediately and a public statement be made of this action. We respectfully also request that a letter be sent to the Mayor and Council, and the Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose that clearly states your actions on this matter.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/256277197/Colorado-marijuana-legalization-lawsuit-Civil-Action-No-15-349-Safe-Streets-Alliance-lawsuit-1

https://www.scribd.com/doc/256279229/Colorado-marijuana-legalization-lawsuit-Civil-Action-No-15-350-Safe-Streets-Alliance-lawsuit-2

Pamela McColl

Member of the Advisory Council of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada

samcanadanet@gmail.com

 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC) Mission:

The mission of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC) is to promote a health-first approach to marijuana policy that neither legalizes marijuana, nor demonizes its users. SAMC’s commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy is based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety. At SAMC we reject dichotomies — such as “incarceration versus legalization” — that offer only simplistic solutions to the highly complex problems stemming from marijuana use. Our aim is to champion smart policies that decrease marijuana use, like prevention and early intervention. Yet in rejecting legalization, we also do not believe that low-level marijuana users should be saddled with criminal records that stigmatize them for life.

 

SAMC’s Vision is to:

  • inform the public on the science of today’s marijuana;
  • have an honest conversation about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to criminal records;
  • prevent the expansion of a Big Tobacco-like industry that will target children and vulnerable populations;
  • promote scientific research on marijuana in order to obtain scientifically-approved, cannabis-based medications.

 

SAMC Will Advocate For:

  • a complete Health Canada assessment of the impact of marijuana use on Canadian society;
  • a public health campaign focused on the harms of marijuana, including the devastating impact on mental and physical health, especially for youth;
  • sensible policies that do not legalize marijuana

 

SAMC’s Actions Will Consist Of:

conducting information briefings for the public and decision makers about the science of today’s marijuana and the evidence of effectiveness for different law makers;

  • engaging with the media, key stakeholders, the business community, families, and other sectors of society on the issue of smart marijuana policy;
  • advocating, alongside leaders in the medical and scientific fields, for smart marijuana policies that do not legalize nor demonize marijuana;
  • advocate for medical education addiction and the harms of marijuana.

 

Marijuana and Public Health:

People often refer to their own experiences with marijuana, rather than to what science has taught us. No matter what people think about the drug and the policies surrounding it, it is vitally important to be well-versed in the science and public health and safety impacts of marijuana use and addiction:

  • Today’s marijuana is four to five times stronger than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • One in eleven adults and one in six adolescents who try marijuana for the first time will become addicted to marijuana.[1]
  • Because their brains are in development, marijuana acutely affects young people before age 25. Marijuana use directly affects memory, learning, attention, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 28 days after abstinence from use.[2]
  • Marijuana use can contribute to psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.[3]
  • Marijuana use can reduce IQ by six to eight points among those who started smoking before age 18.[4]

 

Marijuana and the Criminal Justice System

Statistics show that very few people are actually in prison for simple marijuana-only possession. Majority of offenders in Canada who are sentenced to prison have a prior criminal history or are found in possession of marijuana while committing other serious offences such as impaired driving or domestic violence. For instance, in 2011 in British Columbia, only 3% of founded cases of marijuana possession were cleared by a charge. And of that 3%, only seven cases (1.3% of the 3%) resulted in a custody sentence.[5]

 

Marijuana and Big Business

Tobacco companies lied to Canada for more than a century about the dangers of smoking. They deliberately targeted kids and had doctors promote cigarettes as medicine. And today we are paying the price.  Tobacco use is our nation’s top cause of preventable death and contributes to about 37,000 deaths each year. Tobacco use costs our country at least $17 billion annually — which is about 3 times the amount of money our state and federal governments collect from today’s taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. If it is legalized, marijuana will be commercialized just as tobacco was. The examples of tobacco and alcohol should teach us that legalizing any third substance would be a public health disaster

 

Hall W & Degenhard L. (2009). Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use.  Lancet, 374.

Andréasson S, et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574).

Meier, M.H. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pauls, K., et al. (2013). The nature and extent of marijuana possession in British Columbia. University of Fraser Valley Center for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research.

 

Source:   www.learnabout.ca  June 2015

[1] Wagner, F.A. & Anthony, J.C. (2002). From first drug use to drug dependence; developmental periods of risk for dependence upon cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. Neuropsychopharmacology 26.

[2] Hall W & Degenhard L. (2009). Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use.  Lancet, 374.

[3] Andréasson S, et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574).

[4] Meier, M.H. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[5] Pauls, K., et al. (2013). The nature and extent of marijuana possession in British Columbia. University of Fraser Valley Center for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research.

It’s the largest cash crop in the United States…

Bigger than corn, bigger than wheat, and bigger than cotton.

From 2013 to 2014, it experienced a growth rate of 77%, and an estimated 700% growth rate is anticipated by 2018.

I’m talking about cannabis, and if you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know I’m extremely bullish on the potential of this burgeoning market.

That being said, we’re still in the earliest stages, and right now there are a lot more pitfalls than profits — one of which is the direct result of the federal government’s labelling of marijuana as a schedule 1 substance.

As a schedule 1 substance, it is illegal for any person to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana. As a result, almost every bank in the nation refuses to do business with the cannabis industry due to fear of being shut down by the feds.

So because of the federal government’s insistence on continuing the drug war and denying citizens the right to medicate and recreate as they wish, marijuana dispensaries and growers are unable to conduct business with commercial banks. All transactions must be done in cash, and security companies must be used to move and store this cash. This impediment alone is one of the biggest hurdles for the industry. But if and when that hurdle can be crossed, prepare to see the cannabis market get a major shot of steroids.

Sin is in!

A few months back, while attending a cannabis investment summit, groups of lawyers, accountants, and entrepreneurs devoted hours upon hours to discussing possible solutions to this problem. There was a lot of head scratching and a lot of frustration.

To be honest, after conducting a few interviews, I was at a loss as to how this problem could be rectified in the absence of the federal government re-scheduling marijuana.

But then, last week, a potential solution was found. And it was found in a place where out-of-the-box thinking spawned an oasis of wealth creation and greed.

 

I’m talking about Nevada, home of legalized gambling and legalized prostitution — two “sin” industries that have turned risk-taking entrepreneurs into multimillionaires. And now, it looks like the Silver State may be ready to facilitate the growth of the marijuana industry by creating new banks that could solve a lot of the banking issues dispensaries and growers face today.

Change the rules

Right now there’s an amendment to a mortgage lending bill that, according to Marijuana Business Daily, would change the rules so savings and loan companies wouldn’t have to obtain insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The legislation would also remove a provision from state law that limits the operation of savings and loan companies (called “thrifts” in the banking world) to those that received a license prior to 1997:

Thrifts could potentially become the go-to financial institutions for cannabis companies – and if the experiment works in Nevada, other states might adopt similar legislation.

Under the amendment, thrifts would be allowed to seek deposit insurance from private insurers rather than the FDIC, and more closely resemble credit unions than traditional banks.

To be sure, non-traditional banking hasn’t exactly been the saviour for cannabis companies, as some credit unions have failed at attempts to work within the industry. They must also have in place agreements with the U.S. Federal Reserve to take their cash, which can prove problematic.

Still, if they work as well as the amendment’s co-sponsors hope, savings and loan companies could potentially alleviate a very large problem for cannabis businesses that are about to open in the state since banks aren’t openly taking deposits from marijuana companies.

Mark my words: If this works out, other states will follow. And so, too, will savvy investors.

Source: THECHERRYCREEKNEWS.COM 10th June 2015

A recent example of the logical abandon of today’s backers of legal marijuana is the plan to defund the Drug Enforcement Administration’s program to eradicate illegal marijuana (DEA/CESP), an $18 million program that eliminates millions of plants a year and arrests thousands of criminals, many of whom were brought here to labor for Mexican drug cartels controlling the marijuana black market.

Yet Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) wants to end the effort as a “ridiculous waste” of federal resources, when multiple states “have already legalized marijuana,” use of which should “no longer be a federal crime.” Clearly, the congressman has not thought this through. He is, in fact, arguing against his own legal marijuana case.

A central tenet of the legalization movement is that criminal marijuana was to be supplanted by “safe, regulated and taxed” marijuana under careful control. It is a contradiction of that principle to foster, by cutting the DEA program, the proliferation of unregulated, untaxed and “unsafe” marijuana plants controlled by violent criminals, thereby corrupting the entire point of a “legalized” marijuana market.

While a “regulated and taxed market” was the position sold to legislators, the real objective seems to be a dope-growing paradise, unregulated and unopposed. Congressman Lieu doesn’t even try to explain how this is supposed to advance America’s well-being.

For years now, Americans have been subjected to efforts by advocates for legalized marijuana to make their case. Today, the arguments often come from legalization lobbyists, often with legal or political training, seeking to legitimize what they hope will become a billion-dollar business in addictive toxins – repeat customers guaranteed.

Or consider the argument that marijuana is “safer to use” than alcohol. That alcohol is dangerous all acknowledge, costing the health of thousands. But the proper argument is that each intoxicant presents its own unique threats. It is not productive medically to “rank” them. But what is the logical implication of the alcohol talking point?

The regulation of alcohol is precisely the idealized model that lobbyists put forth for legal drugs. Hence, every time they insist that alcohol is the more damaging substance, what they are actually showing is that the model of legal, regulated sales of addictive substances produces widespread harm to adults and adolescents.

A major dimension of alcohol damage is the sheer prevalence of use, some six times greater than the prohibited marijuana, driving up the “disease burden.” Were regulated marijuana to reach the proportions of use of alcohol, the public health impact would be staggering.

One cannot argue simultaneously that marijuana should be treated like alcohol in order to reduce societal harm, and then reveal this model fails as policy, as witnessed by the ensuing alcohol damage (to be compounded by vastly expanded cannabis use). Once again, one suspects that the regulated alcohol model is but a stalking horse, useful to advance the cause, but not to be taken as serious policy.

Further, advocates claim that a legalized regime will better keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Yet a recent pediatric journal reported on the nearly 147 percent rise in emergency episodes for children from marijuana “edibles” nationwide.

Marijuana lobbyists counter that poisoning happens “in all states,” and therefore legalization in some states can’t be blamed. But in states with medical marijuana dispensaries, the rate increase was four times greater (610 percent) than in states without.

Repeatedly, when such facts are presented, they are ignored by the marijuana lobbyists.

In like fashion you hear “marijuana is medicine” (case not made by medical standards); that the criminal element will be eliminated (the black market cartels are thriving in Colorado); that legalization will not promote nationwide smuggling of high-potency dope (it’s rampant, even leading to interstate lawsuits); or that legal drugs will do more good than harm to America (What family is stronger or safer or healthier with drug use?).

If marijuana legalization were a good idea, the facts would support it, and the arguments of advocates wouldn’t be so lame.

Murray and Walters direct the Hudson Institute’s Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research. They both served in the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration.

Source:   By David W. Murray & John P. Walters  San Diego UT July 30, 2015

Definition of a Nightmare: Trying to Enforce Colorado’s Conflicting Marijuana Regulatory Laws
The Police Foundation and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police released the above report this week to guide law enforcement about marijuana in other states. The report points to the Byzantine layers of regulations that evolved from constitutional amendments voters passed to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 (Amendment 20) and recreational marijuana in 2012 (Amendment 64).

From June 1, 2001 to December 21, 2008, Colorado issued medical marijuana cards to 4,819 patients. Each cardholder could designate a caregiver to grow marijuana for up to five patients. In 2009, a court decision overturned the limit of five patients per caregiver. That year, with virtually no limits on the number of patients caregivers could supply, 41,039 citizens obtained medical marijuana cards, an increase of 762 percent.

The legislature responded by passing bills in 2010 and 2011 to create the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code. Among other things, the Code legalized commercial medical marijuana centers to grow and sell medical marijuana, reinstated the five-patient limit for caregivers, set up a business-licensing regimen, and allowed for marijuana-infused products to be sold to patients. In 2012, citizens passed Amendment 64, legalizing recreational marijuana, and new sets or regulations were created for both home growers and commercial growers, processors, and retail sales outlets. This resulted in four models of regulation.

Caregiver/Patient
Caregivers can grow medical marijuana for up to five patients and themselves.
Patients licensed by the Department of Public Health and Environment
Regulatory authorities: Department of Public Health and Environment & local law enforcement

Medical Commercial
Businesses, owners, and employees licensed
Regulatory authority: Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division

Recreational Commercial
Businesses, owners, and employees licensed
Regulatory authority: Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division

Recreational Home Grows
Anyone age 21 or older can grow up to six plants
Law enforcement seeing “co-op cultivations” where many home growers are growing at one location
No license required
Regulatory authority: local law enforcement

Caregivers must register the location of their cultivation sites, but no punishment is specified for those who do not, and many don’t. Because of privacy laws, patient information cannot be accessed to check for whom caregivers are growing. Caregivers have no cards and no sanctions if they fail to register. Attempting to establish probable cause under conflicting regulatory mechanisms makes it difficult to prosecute those who ignore the regulations.

Data kept by the Denver Police Department and the Department of Revenue show the number of marijuana facilities in Denver and statewide:

Medical Centers–Denver 198, Statewide 501
Infused Medical Product Factories–Denver 78, Statewide 158
Medical Cultivations–Denver 376, Statewide 739

Recreational Stores–Denver 126, Statewide 306
Infused Recreational Factories–Denver 44, Statewide 92
Recreational Cultivations–Denver 190, Statewide 375
Labs Checking Recreational for THC–Denver 9, Statewide 15

Total Marijuana Facilities–Denver 1,021, statewide 2,186

The result of trying to enforce conflicting regulatory laws can be seen in another recently released Colorado report. It estimated that demand for marijuana in Colorado in 2014 was 130 metric tons but legal supplies could only account for 77 metric tons. The rest, according to press reports, came from criminals in the black market or legal cultivators selling under the table in the “grey” market.

“Colorado law enforcement officials . . . are convinced that the black and the grey markets are thriving in Colorado primarily through unregulated grows, large quantities of marijuana stashed in homes, and by undercutting the price of legitimate marijuana sales. In fact, police have stated that legalized marijuana may have increased the illegal drug trade.”

Source: www.The Marijuana Report.Org  February 2015

By legalizing “recreational” marijuana in 2012, Colorado challenged marijuana policy, not just for the United States but for the world. Even earlier, Colorado legalized “medical marijuana,” with a full blown commercial industry beginning in 2009. Today, three years into fully legal marijuana, it is time to ask, “How’s that working out?”

While there is dispute over just about everything related to marijuana in Colorado, three facts stand out.

First the advent of legal marijuana did not eliminate the illegal market for marijuana. Illegal marijuana is cheaper than legal marijuana because of the taxes paid and the regulations required for the legal product. A common, half-joking, observation is that the legal marijuana sales are mostly to people from out of state and senior citizens. Among the many users the illegal market serves are those underage. But the illegal market doesn’t impact only Colorado. Marijuana from Colorado is trafficked to 40 other states. As the problems created by marijuana multiply, the increasing regulation of legal marijuana products will further empower the illegal suppliers who face none of the costs or restrictions placed on legal marijuana.

Second, legal marijuana has unleashed a new gold rush with big money pouring into the marijuana industry fuelling shameless and dishonest commercialization that makes the sellers of tobacco and alcohol look downright timid. Big money is pushing out the hippie entrepreneurs who used to characterize local marijuana growers. This new money has powerful political consequences that are increasingly shaping the public reactions to marijuana and making any restrictions on the industry more difficult.

Third, any hope that more marijuana use would decrease alcohol use is now being dispelled. Data from the Colorado Department of Revenue Alcohol use confirms that alcohol consumption has not declined since marijuana legalization. The use of alcohol – and other drugs – is positively correlated with marijuana use. Alcohol and marijuana are economic complements. National survey data confirms that people who use marijuana are more likely to use alcohol than those who do not use marijuana, instead of less.

The hopes that marijuana legalization would end the black market, that legal marijuana would escape the worst abuses of the sale of alcohol and tobacco and that more marijuana would translate into declines in alcohol have been dashed by Colorado’s dramatic three year experiment.

The disputes over marijuana policy go on. There is abundant data showing increases in underage marijuana use, increases in marijuana-related poison control calls, emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and increases in the prevalence of marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado. These outcomes will not dim the widely promoted claims about the benefits from marijuana legalization.

The citizens of Colorado are left with the disturbing consequences of their dangerous experiment.

Source:  http://www.hudson.org/research/12039-lessons-from-pot-experiment

Sanjay Gupta, MD, has gone off the rails and taken CNN with him. To promote his third documentary on the subject, Weed 3, he wrote an article titled “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution” on CNN’s website datelined April 20. Yes, that 4/20, the day marijuana smokers nationwide gather outside to flout federal and state law by openly smoking pot. (Even the four states and DC that have legalized recreational marijuana prohibit smoking in public.)

In his call for a medical marijuana revolution, he morphs from less-than-objective reporter to shameless huckster, concluding, “We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.”

As CNN’s chief medical correspondent, a practicing neurosurgeon, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, and associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, he understands how medicine works.

In covering the admission of the nation’s first Ebola patient, American Dr. Kent Brantley who fell ill while caring for Liberians stricken with the disease and was flown to Emory University Hospital for treatment, Dr. Gupta noted how unusual it would be to administer an experimental drug that hadn’t gone through the rigorous FDA process, even to patients with an incurable disease.

But his infatuation with marijuana somehow enables him to suspend the tools of modern medicine that protect people from unsafe, ineffective drugs. Anderson Cooper interviewed Dr. Gupta to promote Weed 2 shortly before it aired last year.

“It’s really fascinating, Anderson,” Dr. Gupta said, “because we’re used to an FDA process where you have the trials that take place and then you’re given a certain dosage and all that stuff. That hasn’t happened with cannabis. What happens is you have these different strains [of marijuana] and they [the producers] will create these hybrids . . . and then, you know, the people who are the dispensers will often times be talking to the patients who come in, finding out what works for them . . . . But, you know, the trial and error of this just feels so nascent and new in what they’re trying to do and really something like this hasn’t been done before, at least not for a long time, in this country.”

Dr. Gupta fails to mention that the dispensers, called “budtenders” – the marijuana equivalent of bartenders – have no medical training whatsoever. Welcome to the brave new world of word-of-mouth medicine: tell me which marijuana strain relieves your (name any of the 50 illnesses legislators have approved marijuana to treat despite lack of FDA approval) and I’ll pass it on to the next person with a similar complaint.

It is the responsibility of all medicine makers, whether pharmaceutical companies or “medical” marijuana growers, to submit their medicines to FDA for approval before marketing them to the public. What Dr. Gupta fails to see is that if a government legalizes “medical” pot, marijuana growers are free to promote and sell their “medicines” without bothering to prove they are safe or effective. But then, when you are so enamored with “medical” weed that you call for it to be legalized, you can forget that love is blind.

Source: The MarijuanaReport.org 22nd April 2015

The methadone programme in Scotland is “out of control”, an expert has warned.

Prof Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said “it is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing”. Data obtained by BBC Scotland showed pharmacists were paid £17.8m for dispensing nearly half a million doses of methadone in 2014.

In response, the Scottish government said both doses and costs linked to opioid treatment had been dropping. Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the BBC: “Fewer Scots are taking drugs – numbers are continuing to fall amongst the general adult population, and drug taking among young people is the lowest in a decade.”

However, a lack of data to measure the programme’s impact was the focus of criticism from Prof McKeganey. He said: “We still don’t know how many addicts are on the methadone programme, what progress they’re making, and with what frequency they are managing to come off methadone.

“Successive inquiries have shown that the programme is in a sense out of control; it just sits there, delivering more methadone to more addicts, year in year out, with very little sense of the progress those individuals are making towards their recovery.”

But David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drug Forum, disputed claims that addicts were parked on the methadone programme. He said: “What we know is the level of methadone being dispensed continues at the same level, but it’s not the same individuals. “Our sense is that of the 20,000-plus people on methadone, it will be less than half who are on it for a very long period of time.” However Mr Liddell admitted that, unlike England, there is currently no data in Scotland on whether users are relying on the programme indefinitely.

Regional increases

In 2013, pharmacies claimed back more than £17.9m from the Scottish government for dispensing 470,256 doses of methadone – 22,980 doses more than in 2014.

But despite this overall decrease, new data – obtained from National Services Scotland through a freedom of information request – revealed the amount of methadone dispensed has increased in more than a third of Scottish local authorities over the last two years.

The Edinburgh council area saw the largest increase in doses (2,949), followed by Falkirk (421) and Argyll and Bute (405). The largest decreases were found in Renfrewshire (5,842), Inverclyde (5,611) and East Ayrshire (5,598).

And while fees paid to pharmacies for dispensing methadone have declined over a four-year period, Prof McKeganey said the average annual outlay does suggest users are parked on the drug.

Prof McKeganey said: “The aspiration contained within the government’s ‘Road to Recovery’drug strategy explicitly said that the goal of treatment must be to enable people to become drug-free rather than remain on long-term methadone. These figures show you that we are not achieving that goal – we are not witnessing large numbers of people coming off the methadone programme.”

New strategy

Methadone has been at the heart of drug treatment strategies since the 1980s, but its use has been widely criticised by recovering addicts and drugs workers.

Methadone is by far the most widely used of the opioid replacement therapies (ORT), with an estimated 22,000 patients currently receiving it, but some users take it for years without being weaned off it altogether. Howevera review commissioned by the Scottish governmentin 2013 concluded methadone should continue to be used to treat heroin addicts.

There are alternatives, including prescribing medical heroin, but many in the drugs field say the debate should move away from these to an examination of how the wider needs of drug users can be met. Prof McKeganey said methadone does have a role to play in helping addicts wean themselves off heroin, but it should not be prescribed as widely as it is now.

An estimated 22,000 people are currently on Scotland’s methadone programme

He said he would like to see a two-year reassessment implemented so that if the “highly addictive” methadone does not seem to be working for an individual, they can then either try the more expensive suboxone, or enter a drug-free residential home. “That seemed preferable to me than leaving people on a methadone prescription for years – and then the worry is that you’ve turned your heroin addicts into methadone addicts.”

Figures released by the NHS in 2012revealed that methadone-implicated deaths increased dramatically in cases where the individual had been prescribed the drug for more than a year.

Recent figures from the National Records of Scotland also revealmethadone was implicated in nearly the same number of deaths as heroin in 2013.

‘Methadone millionaires’

The methadone data obtained by BBC Scotland reveals how much each individual pharmacy claimed back in fees from the Scottish government.

Last year more than £102,000 was claimed by just one pharmacy on Glasgow’s Saracen Street in Possilpark – an area ranked the third most-deprived in Scotland. The largest claims were made by pharmacy giants Boots and Lloyds, who reclaimed £3.8m and £3.3m respectively from their hundreds of branches across the country.

The fees paid back to pharmacies are not only for the dispensing of methadone, but for oral hygiene services, and the services of a supervisor to ensure the dose is taken onsite and not sold on the street. Pharmacies apply to enter into a contract with their health board to provide methadone services and must justify the need for such a service within that locality. Pharmacists in Greater Glasgow are currently paid £2.16 for dispensing every dose of methadone and £1.34 for supervising addicts while they take it.

The fees are negotiated with individual health boards to suit local needs, and are lower than in England.

But a spokesman from Community Pharmacy Scotland dismissed the“methadone millionaire” tagplaced on such pharmacies in the past by certain media outlets.

He said: “Methadone is an NHS prescription medicine and as such a community pharmacy is obliged to provide it when it has been prescribed for a patient by a GP.

“While community pharmacists are paid to administer the program, the income is far outweighed by the time, administration and difficulties that can often be encountered by taking on a role in this difficult area. The argument is not a financial one – but a health and social issue.”

A statement by the Scottish government did not address the lack of data to prove the programme was enabling addicts to become drug-free. However, Mr Wheelhouse said: “Both the number of items and the number of defined daily doses of opioid treatment have dropped steadily over the past five years and the cost of methadone is down 19% since 2010-11. He added: “Independent experts advise that opioid replacement therapy is a crucial tool in treating opiate dependency. However, we believe it is important that there are a range of treatments available that suit the unique needs of individuals.

“Prescribing opioid replacement therapy is an independent decision for individual clinicians, in line with the current UK guidelines on the Clinical Management of Drug Misuse and Dependence.”

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31943109 24th March 2015

President Obama this week told an audience in Jamaica that U.S. efforts against illegal drugs were “counterproductive” because they relied too much on incarceration—particularly for “young people who did not engage in violence.”

In what the president termed “an experiment … to legalize marijuana” in Colorado and Washington state, he said he believed they must “show that they are not suddenly a magnet for additional crime, that they have a strong enough public health infrastructure to push against the potential of increased addiction.”

In regard to Jamaica and the entire Caribbean and Central American region, he said, “a lot of folks think … if we just legalize marijuana, then it’ll reduce the money flowing into the transnational drug trade, there are more revenues and jobs created.”

To some of us, Jamaica hardly seems an auspicious location for encouraging “experimentation” with drugs, in particular because of the challenges already faced by their deficient institutions of public health and criminal justice. The U.S. Department of State 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report(INCSR) states:

Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States and local Caribbean islands. Although cocaine and synthetic drugs are not produced locally, Jamaica is a transit point for drugs trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets. In 2014, drug production and trafficking were enabled and accompanied by organized crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption. Illicit drugs are also a means of exchange for illegally-trafficked firearms entering the country, exacerbating Jamaica’s security situation.

Drugs flow from and through Jamaica by maritime conveyance, air freight, human couriers, and to a limited degree by private aircraft. Marijuana and cocaine are trafficked from and through Jamaica into the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and other Caribbean nations. Jamaica is emerging as a transit point for cocaine leaving Central America and destined for the United States, and some drug trafficking organizations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine. . . .

The conviction rate for murder was approximately five percent, and the courts continued to be plagued with a culture of trial postponements and delay. This lack of efficacy within the criminal courts contributed to impunity for many of the worst criminal offenders and gangs, an abnormally high rate of violent crimes, lack of cooperation by witnesses and potential jurors, frustration among police officers and the public, a significant social cost and drain on the economy, and a disincentive for tourism and international investment.

This does not seem like a place where “legal” marijuana would contribute to “reduced money flow” to the transnational drug trade, or “create jobs.”  The president apparently thinks Jamaica should consider allowing more drugs, based on a faulty understanding of what is actually happening in Jamaica and in the U.S.

His charge of high incarceration rates for non-violent offenders is not factual. For instance, data show that only a fraction of one percent of state prison inmates are low-level marijuana possession offenders, while arrests for marijuana and cocaine/heroin possession and use were no more than 7 percent of all arrests,nationwide, in 2013.

Though critics of drug laws claim that hundreds or even thousands of prisoners are low-level non-violent offenders unjustly sentenced, the reality was shown recently by the President’s inability to find more than a handful of incarcerated drug offenders who would be eligible for commutation of their sentence because they fit the mythological portrait of excessive or unjust drug sentences.

Further, since 2007, the US is currently experiencing a surge in daily marijuana use, an epidemic of heroin overdose deaths (with minorities hardest hit), while the southwest border is flooded with heroin and methamphetamine flow, as shown by skyrocketing border seizures.

Importantly, Colorado, following marijuana “legalization,” has become a black-market magnet, and is currently supplying marijuana, including ultra-high-potency “shatter” to the rest of the U.S., leading to law suits by adjacent states. Legalization has not reduced criminal activity nor the threat of financial corruption.

As for Central America, Obama’s policies have shown stunning neglect. Actual aid for counter-drug activities, and for resources for interdicting smugglers have all diminished, while the countries of Central America have become battlegrounds for Mexican cartels, with meth precursors piling up at the docks, the cocaine transiting Venezuela to Honduras is surging, and violence is at an all-time high, with families fleeing north in unprecedented numbers. The Caribbean/Central American region has become deeply threatened, as noted by the State Department report above—torn apart by drug crime.

In this context the president encourages governments in the region to make drugs more acceptable and more accessible in their communities, and with even greater legal impunity?

Moreover, these developments have been accompanied by a steady drumbeat of medical science reports increasingly showing the serious dangers of marijuana use, especially for youth.   Yet President Obama speaks in a manner increasingly disconnected from the domestic and international reality of the drug problem.

Source:  David W. Murray and John P. Walters  WEEKLY STANDARD  April 11, 2015

CLEARING THE HAZE

….The ugly truth is that Colorado was suckered. It was promised regulation and has been met by an industry that fights tooth and nail any restrictions that limit its profitability.”  Ben Cort, Director of Professional Relations for the Center for Additction Recovery and rehabilitation at the University Of Colorado Hospital

Source:   http://gazette.com/clearingthehaze

 

REGULATION STILL INEFFECTIVE

But how it would work was described only in general terms and sound bites before voters headed to the polls to make a decision Gov. John Hickenlooper later would call “reckless” and “a bad idea” and new Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman declared “not worth it” to dozens of state attorneys general last month.

Source:http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/regulation-still-ineffective/article/2562323?custom_click=rss

 

NO APPROVED MEDICINE IN MARIJUANA

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a physician serving as president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, does not mince words: “There is no such thing at this point as medical marijuana,” he said. It’s a point he has made routinely for the past decade, as advocates for marijuana legalization have claimed the drug treats an array of serious illnesses, or the symptoms of illnesses, including cancer, depression, epilepsy, glaucoma and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Source:http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/no-approved-medicine-in-marijuana/article/2562336

 

LEGALIZATION DIDN’T UNCLOG PRISONS

Of all the misunderstandings about marijuana’s impact on the country, perhaps none is greater than the belief that America’s courts, prisons and jails are clogged with people whose only offense was marijuana use. This is the perception, but statistics show few inmates are behind bars strictly for marijuana-related offenses, and legalization of the drug will do little to affect America’s growing incarceration numbers.

Source:http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/legalization-didnt-unclog-prisons/article/2562326

 

DRUG USE A PROBLEM FOR EMPLOYERS

“This is a very troublesome issue for our industry, but I do not see us bending or lowering our hiring standards,” Johnson said. “Our workplaces are too dangerous and too dynamic to tolerate drug use. And marijuana? In many ways, this is worse than alcohol. I’m still in shock at how we (Colorado) voted. Everyone was asleep at the wheel.”

Source:http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/drug-use-a-problem-for-employers/article/2562334

 

MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY STILL GROWING

And amid all the hoopla around legalized recreational pot, its older cousin, the medical marijuana (MMJ) industry — with 505 stores throughout Colorado — quietly continued to grow, adding patients by the thousands who seemingly had no problem finding physicians willing to diagnose what critics say are often phantom medical conditions. Statewide, the number of people on the Medical Marijuana Registry grew 4 percent in 2014 — the first year of legal recreational sales — from 111,030 to 115,467 by year’s end.

Source:http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/medical-marijuana-industry-still-growing-in-colorado/article/2562335

The most obvious characteristic of marijuana-legalisation campaigners – apart from billionaire interests on the scale of Big Tobacco – is that their lobbying and promises are based on theories not facts.

Legalisers regularly use the words “science” and “evidence base” but rarely cite research references. Never has this chasm between theory and fact been so powerfully and conspicuously exposed as in the March analysis by local media in Clearing the Haze of events a year after marijuana was legalised for recreational use in Colorado.

Here in the UK, a decade-long follow up by researchers into Britain’s disastrous 2004 ‘Lambeth experiment’ of depenalisation proved that it led to more crime and hospitalisations not less. The Colorado aftermath of legalisation is on a vaster scale.

CLAIM:“We view our top priority as creating an environment where negative impacts on children from marijuana legalisation are avoided completely,” Colorado’s governor promised.

FACT:There are growing concerns over exposure, potency and availability of marijuana to children. Even before legalisation, Governor John Hickenlooper predicted the need for “a project to analyse the correlation between marijuana use during pregnancy and birth defects” (FYI, here’sa listand one on perils tochildren). Colorado hospitals have admitted more children for marijuana harms. A June 2014 survey of 100 Colorado school officers found that 89 per cent witnessed a rise in marijuana-related incidents since legalisation.

CLAIM:Legalisation will fund prevention, education.

FACT:Colorado budgeted only about $34,000 for its Office of Behavioral Health’s prevention work in the 2014-2105 fiscal year; nothingwas received. Its Department of Public Health and EnvironmentGood to Knowcampaign, crafted with marijuana business owners, tells children how to use pot. “It’s like inviting a tobacco company to help us learn how to use tobacco and develop our next anti-smoking campaign.”

CLAIM:Regulation works.

FACT:How regulation would work was described only in soundbites before voting. Hickenlooper later admitted it was “reckless” and “a bad idea”. This February, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman declared it “not worth it”. Ben Cort at the University of Colorado Hospital disclosed that “Colorado has been met by an industry that fights tooth and nail any restrictions that limit profitability. Like Big Tobacco, the marijuana industry derives profits from addiction and its survival depends on turning a percentage of kids into lifelong customers.”

CLAIM:Legalisation of marijuana will unclog prisons.

FACT:There aren’t enough offenders in prison for simple possession of pot to unclog the system if they were freed: only 103. In 2011, the federal government convicted only 48 marijuana offenders with under 5,000 grams of marijuana: almost 12,000 joints.

CLAIM:Legalisation will produce new revenue for the general fund.

FACT:Tax revenues failed to meet projections – taxpayers could even get two refunds. The Governor’s Office of Marijuana Coordination director said the first priority for tax revenue is to cover regulatory costs. Moreover, Colorado isn’t equipped to gather cost-benefit analysis to quantify costs linked with cannabis abuse. This is alongside lawsuits against the state, manufacturing hazards, pressured resources for the homeless, concerns over children’s welfare and more: “Voters didn’t understand how difficult, resource-intensive and costly the enforcement of even just marijuana driving laws would be”.

CLAIM:Legalisation of marijuana will hobble drug cartels.

FACT:Cheaper marijuana prices mean cartels turn to ‘harder’ drugs including ‘black tar’ heroin and methamphetamine, as well as cybercrime and continued people-trafficking.

CLAIM:By regulating sales of marijuana, Colorado will make money otherwise locked into the black market.

FACT:Black-market sales are booming so much that they are blamed for cannabis tax revenues falling short of claims. “Don’t buy the argument that regulating sales will eliminate the black market, reduce associated criminal activity and free up law enforcement agencies’ resources,” Coffman urged in February. Worse is that “Colorado is the black market for the rest of the US”: neighbouring Denver suffered an almost 1,000 per cent spike in marijuana seizures.

CLAIM:Legalisation and regulation will see people using lower strengths of drugs.

FACT:Colorado permits one ounce of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient giving a euphoric high. Many people envision an ounce of dried marijuana plant, about 40 standard cigarettes. But one ounce of concentrated THC equals over 2,800 average-size brownies or candy; an ounce of hash oil is roughly 560 standard ‘vaping’ hits.

CLAIM:Medical marijuana works, only legalisation allows research.

FACT:Treating marijuana – sold in dispensaries without FDA approval and shown to be more carcinogenic than tobacco when combusted – as if exempt from the approval process others drugs must undergo for public safety, is seen as derailing legitimate research on specific parts of the marijuana plant for new clinically-proven medicines without addiction risks. As the prevention charity, Cannabis Skunk Sense, puts it: “it’s like getting penicillin by eating mouldy bread”. Non-legalisation has not stopped 70+ scientific studies on cannabinoids elsewhere, and the National Institutes of Health awarded over $14million for such research.

CLAIM:Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

FACT:“Not when it comes to driving – and officers are seeing people using both substances, which is worse,” revealed one police chief.In the first six months of 2014, 77 per centDUIDs (driving under influence of drugs) involved marijuana. Accident risk doubles with any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream, rising when alcohol is added.

The tragic fact above all else is that these downsides were predicted by authoritative individuals and organisations – and ignored. The good of many people was sacrificed for the greed of a few: be it for money, power or a drugged delusion. Deirdre Boyd

Source: www.conservativewoman.co.uk 1st April 2015

 

 

The liberal billionaire George Soros is well known for funding groups world wide who promote the legalization of drugs.  It is rare for him to be sued – he usually decides to settle ‘out of court’.  This story beautifully describes  the character of the man.

 

A Syracuse, N.Y., restaurant owned by the liberal billionaire George Soros doesn’t pay its tipped employees fair wages, some of those employees alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

Those employees signed on to a class suit lodged this week against the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant chain, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported on Monday

 

The suit claims Dinosaur failed to properly use the “tipped credit” provision in federal law, which requires employers to make up the difference between tips and pay to meet minimum wage standard. It also says Dinosaur required tipped employees to spend more than 20 percent of their work day doing “side work,” which includes setting up dining areas, for which they do not get tipped. The suit says workers should be paid minimum wage for that work.

The suit also claims Dinosaur failed to properly pay overtime wages, “misappropriated” tips belonging to the tipped workers, wrongly required tipped workers to share tips with managers for large events and failed to properly pay workers for shifts exceeding 10 hours. The suit also claims Dinosaur failed to keep accurate records of tips and wages.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in New York City by the Fitapelli & Schaffer law firm, according to the firm’s web site. It says it seeks to represent “servers, bussers, runners, bartenders” and other tipped employees.

 

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is majority owned by Soros Strategic Partners, an investment firm run by George Soros, who bankrolls liberal groups that complain about unfair wages for tipped workers.

Source: http://freebeacon.com/  31st March 2015

You would not tie an anchor to a drowning man and claim you were helping him swim. Yet the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has done something quite similar with a determination that Native American reservations may become centers for “legal” marijuana sales and use, notwithstanding that this policy stands in stark violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

This new push for expanding marijuana use is legally suspect. Prior DOJ memoranda suspending enforcement of federal drug laws, such as in Colorado, were contingent on the alignment of marijuana sales and use with prevailing state laws or regulatory regimes. But Native American reservations are not legally equivalent to states; rather, they are “dependent domestic sovereigns,” broadly subject to federal law.

But there is worse in store. The impact on both Native Americans and the broader principles of political and economic integrity will be deeply damaging.

Native American history teaches that many tribes have suffered as much from well-intentioned but devastating policies offered by “friends” as they have from malign attacks by those who sought to destroy their culture. To this litany of harm from good intentions can now be added “legal” dope and the fanciful notion that drug proceeds will lift Native American economies more than they will worsen their health and criminal-justice burden.

There is the threat to Native lives from substance abuse, which has a history of degradation, violence, and pathology for First Americans. Alcohol abuse is pronounced, while heroin and methamphetamine are established threats, especially for tribes adjacent to Southwest Border smuggling routes. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the Native American rate of past-month illicit-drug use is 29 percent higher than the rate for whites (12.3 percent vs. 9.5 percent), while the Native rate of past-year drug abuse or dependence is 77 percent higher (14.9 percent vs. 8.4 percent).

Such afflictions are worse for the vulnerable. Natives suffer disproportionately from the harms of drugs due to poverty, remoteness, and inadequate public-health resources, including the limitations of the Indian Health Service. Effective reporting from Sari Horowitz of the Washington Post documents the pathologies of reservation life among the 566 federally recognized Native groups (found in 35 states), including high rates of poverty, unemployment (reaching 87 percent at Pine Ridge, S.D.), domestic abuse, sexual violence, school dropout, early death, and suicide.

How conceivably could adding increased supply (and acceptability) of an addictive drug associated with psychosis, IQ and learning loss, increased susceptibility to suicide, school failure, and greater need for drug treatment be anything other than a needless disaster?

In addition to the damage from addiction, there is damage to the wider community. Internationally, “legal” drug markets are known to be accompanied by organized crime, prostitution, theft, violent coercion, neighborhood degradation, and economic loss, as documented by the Netherlands’ “cannabis cafes.” Meanwhile, Colorado is already experiencing lawsuits filed by businesses claiming harm from marijuana sales operations, based on racketeering and organized-crime statutes.

Consider that Southern California alone is home to nearly 30 recognized Indian tribes, with a total population of nearly 200,000. Were they to become purveyors of marijuana, by the experience of Colorado, they could quickly become smuggling centers for black-market marijuana distribution to surrounding communities and states. Reservation boundaries could turn into “domestic borders” comparable to international borders, where drug operations by criminal organizations thrive in driving illegal cultivation and trafficking.

This determination also presents an obvious course for fueling corruption in reservation politics, and equally worrying, U.S. financial affairs, for the emerging market in illicit drugs threatens our economic integrity nationwide. Not only has the DOJ set about dismantling, in states that have legalized, basic banking and money-laundering protections against criminal organizations penetrating the financial system, but there is further risk from another center of illicit finance and money-laundering: the cash business of casinos.

There are nearly 500 Indian “gaming” operations found in nearly 30 states, and while the revenues are great (estimated at $27 billion annually), many are in serious debt. What would another cash business, dealing in addiction and in violation of federal law, presumably paying no federal taxes, do to tribal integrity? What could this contribute to the power of transnational criminal cartels?

Already, marijuana-related law firms from Colorado are guiding those tribes with casinos in setting up high-potency marijuana operations. The potential for public corruption is high, as is the certainty of increased suffering among America’s longest victims.

Legal reservation dope is the most dangerous and shameful policy that has yet been proposed by the Obama administration.  By John P. Walters & David W. Murray

 

David W. Murray and John P. Walters direct the Hudson Institute’s Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research. They both served in the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration.

Source:

http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/legal_dope_for_native_americans_1226.html

10th March 2015

This article shows how drug use in an area can impact more than the individual and their families and friends.  The local economy and small businesses are having to cope with lower productivity due to ‘functioning’ drug dependents in the workforce.    NDPA

New Hampshire drug czar: Addiction dragging state’s economy down

Providing more treatment and recovery options for drug addicts is as much about the addicts as it is about helping spur the state’s economy, said the state’s new drug czar.

“For me, it’s all about the money,” said John G. “Jack” Wozmak, senior director for substance misuse and behavioral health.  Wozmak was appointed in January by Gov. Maggie Hassan. The position is funded by a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Wozmak spent nearly a decade as the administrator of the Beech Hill substance abuse treatment facility in Dublin, and since 1998 had been the Cheshire County administrator.

“With a broad range of experience dealing with substance misuse through his roles in the public sector and in private substance abuse treatment, Jack will help strengthen our efforts to improve the health and safety of Granite Staters, and I thank him for his commitment to serving the people of New Hampshire, as well the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for making his position possible,” Hassan said in a statement.

Wozmak’s task: Get a host of agencies and organizations to work together to reduce the state’s drug abuse, particularly heroin addiction.  Wozmak takes the post at a time when heroin overdoses and deaths are at an all-time high in New Hampshire. The Centers for Disease Control reports that New Hampshire is among 28 states that saw big increases in heroin deaths.

But Wozmak said drug addiction is more than the headline-generating heroin overdoses and drug-related burglaries and robberies that dominate the news.
“Yes, the number of heroin deaths is doubling (from the previous year). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg” of the state’s drug epidemic, he said.

Functioning addicts

The underlying problem – and what the drug czar said will help him get more money for treatment and prevention efforts from state legislators – is the thousands of drug abusers who do not necessarily overdose but drive up costs for employers, he said.
“You don’t hear about the day-to-day drug exposure that companies have because it’s all below the surface, like an iceberg,” he said.

Employers see everything from diminished production to having to overstaff or pay overtime to cover for employees addicted to drugs who miss work, he said. This hurts profit and, in turn, decreases the state’s revenue from business profits taxes. He said estimates from the state’s hospitality sector indicate that as many as 20 percent of that field’s employees may have drug addiction issues.

“I want to increase jobs and this is getting in the way,” he said. “It’s just interfering with productivity. It’s interfering with the economy.”  Wozmak said the drug problem as been exacerbated by a myriad of issues, including budget cuts for treatment programs, along with insurance companies cutting or capping policy coverage for substance abuse treatment.

In the 1980s, he said, the state had more than 600 beds at six private centers providing treatment for substance abuse. After all the cuts by insurance companies, the state now has 62 beds available, he said.

Further, the state ranks second-to-last – after Texas – in providing treatment for drug addiction and has the lowest rate in the country – 6 percent – of people who get treatment for their addictions.  “We have decimated the system of treatment and recovery, and we have to rebuild it,” he said. “Imagine the outrage if diabetes were treated this way.”

More money

Hassan has proposed more than tripling the state’s spending for the Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery in her proposed two-year budget, from a total of nearly $2.9 million in the 2014-15 budget, to nearly $9.6 million in 2016-17.

The way to convince legislators that the funding is necessary is by appealing to their desire for job growth in a state that has had anemic population growth, Wozmak said.  To get population and job growth, he said, the state has to make its work force healthier and the best way to do that is to reduce drug addiction.

“If you ran on a platform of job growth, you have to deal with this issue,” he said. “If (job growth is) not going to be from people moving here, then you have to improve the work force that’s here.  “If you’re not looking to take care of this problem, then you’re falling down on your promise,” he said. “If you want to create jobs, you have to make the work force more viable.”

Wozmak said the problem can be solved. He said his role includes getting the affected parties – including law enforcement, public resources, private or nonprofit organizations, charities and treatment facilities – working together. He said a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to cover substance abuse again should help spur private investment in treatment and recovery facilities.

“There is no easy answer, but I believe there are many opportunities to make the change now on a variety of levels and a myriad of fronts,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”  He said getting help from the state’s medical professionals will also be key, as most heroin addicts, he said, start with addictions to prescription painkillers. He said medical professionals are “not the sole source” of the issue, but could be involved in changing the way pain is managed to help prevent addictions.

“None of them wanted to become addicts,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/    8th March 2015

Nick Clegg’s most recent contribution to the drugs debate has been to call for an end to imprisonment for the possession of drugs for personal use, and to move leadership of the UK drug strategy from what he sees as an enforcement obsessed Home Office to a treatment focused Department of Health. His rationale for this is that we are currently wasting resources locking up the ” victims “of the drug trade while allowing “health harm to go untreated”. 

Ending the use of imprisonment to protect people from themselves has much to commend it. The detailed legal drafting will be trickier than the deputy PM seems to realise, and it is unlikely to free up much resource, given the small numbers involved and the short periods actually served in custody. Nevertheless this reform, particularly if it were allied to amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to prevent minor convictions having a disproportionate impact on people’s future life chances, offers a sensible measured step to correct the negative consequences of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Furthermore this could be achieved without opening the Pandora’s box of legalisation, from which may flow increased drug use, and increasing harm, reversing the trend of young people turning away from drugs we have seen over the last decade.

So three cheers for proposal number one. Proposal number two, at first glance seems like common sense. If you want to focus on treatment the Department of Health is the obvious home for policy. My view based on 12 years in Whitehall responsible for the English treatment system is that it could be a disaster. Here is why.

Drug policy and drug treatment has never been a priority for the Department of Health or the NHS. The financial crisis, the interface between health and social care, waiting times, cancer, dementia, and a host of other issues dominate the DH/NHS agenda. Even when policies focus on the wider social determinants of health in an effort to reduce the burden on scarce NHS resources the priorities are :smoking: 80,000 deaths a year, obesity 30,000 deaths a year, alcohol 6500 deaths a year, not illegal drugs: 2000 deaths a year. Drug use simply doesn’t kill enough people or cause as much ill-health as over risky behaviours, and the priority accorded to it by successive Health leaderships reflects that.

Although illegal drug use causes less health harm than either alcohol or tobacco it is neither safe nor harmless. Overall, government estimate drug misuse causes £15 billion worth of harm to society, dwarfing the 5 billion of health harm from smoking. 13 billion of this is the cost of drug-related crime. Home Office research estimates that 50% of the marked rise in crime that occurred in the 1980s and 90s is attributable to the successive waves of heroin epidemics that swept over the country during those decades. Addressing this escalation in criminality by making treatment readily available across the country was the rationale behind the government’s hugely increased investment in treatment following 2001, up from 50 million a year to 600 million. Public Health England estimate that providing rapid access to treatment for around 200,000 individuals, more than twice as many as in 2001, currently prevents almost 5 million crimes each year.

Given the Home Secretary’s responsibility for crime it is not surprising that the Home Office have a very different view of the priority of drug treatment to the Department of Health. The private view in the Department of Health is that the current level of drug spend is a misdirection of scarce health resources which are needed to respond to more pressing health priorities. The Home Office view is that the current spend on treatment is cost-effective yielding, according to the National Audit Office, £2.50 worth of value for the taxpayer from every £1 invested, largely from reduced crime.

Put simply the Home Office see drug treatment as value for money the Department of Health see it as a misallocation of resources. On a number of occasions over the last decade the Department of Health has sought to disinvest from drug treatment, only stepping back when this has been resisted by successive Home Secretaries. These different orientations are particularly important at the moment as the resources currently spent on drug treatment across England come under threat of disinvestment by hard-pressed Local Authorities(who were given responsibility for drug treatment under the Lansley NHS reforms) looking to raid their public health grants to prop up core services.

So what may appear at first sight as commonsense will be very likely to result in drug policy becoming the responsibility of a department that isn’t very interested, has a wealth of competing priorities, and a track record of seeking to disinvest from the very intervention that the proposal is designed to promote. Meanwhile a department that has a powerful rationale for championing treatment, and a track record of doing so, is sidelined. If Mr Clegg is as committed to drug policy based on evidence as he maintains, perhaps he needs to reconsider.

Source:  www.huffingtonpost.co.uk  9th March 2015

The last time Derrick Bergman came to Amsterdam to buy cannabis, he did so behind a locked door with a long, thick curtain obscuring his activity from the canal-lined residential street outside, in the quiet Lastage neighborhood. The secretary of the Netherlands’s Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, Bergman comes here to weekly gatherings of a two-month-old—and seriously clandestine—“cannabis social club” called the Tree of Life, because it’s the only place in town he can find one of his favorite strains: Super Silver Haze.

Since 1976, authorities across the Netherlands have chosen to openly ignore that cannabis use is illegal here, and they prosecute no one in possession of less than five grams of marijuana for personal use. The policy, called gedoogbeleid, is known as the “Dutch model,” and it’s why hundreds of “coffee shops” sprung up across Amsterdam and the Netherlands, luring marijuana connoisseurs from across the globe to one of the few places they could roll and smoke a joint without fear. But that’s no longer the case.

Cannabis with more than 15 percent of the THC that makes it intoxicating is now under consideration to be reclassified as one of the “hard drugs” that come with stiff penalties. The government has also forced coffee shops where marijuana is sold to choose between alcohol and pot, prompting many to choose the former. Amsterdam once played host to nearly 300 coffee shops, of more than 1,000 scattered across the country. There are now fewer than 200 in the city and only 617 nationwide. While it’s always been illegal to grow marijuana in the Netherlands, authorities passively allow coffee shops to sell weed, often pretending not to know where the shops’ cannabis comes from.

But no longer. New laws target even the smallest of marijuana growers in Holland. In the past, people could grow up to five plants without fear of retribution. In 2011, the government issued new police guidelines and declared anyone who grew with electric lights, prepared soil, “selected” seeds or ventilation would be considered “professional.” It’s a significant change, as professional growers risk major penalties, including eviction and blacklisting from the government-provided housing in which more than half of the country’s citizens reside.

The result: Coffee shops are increasingly buying buds from criminal organizations willing to absorb the risk of prosecution by growing large amounts of cannabis in shipping containers buried underground, with little regard for quality or mold abatement. “It’s amazing how bad the quality has become,” says Bergman. “And the price is up. It’s what we’ve all predicted.”

That’s why Bergman travelled from his native Eindhoven to Amsterdam on a recent Monday, both to convene with other activists and to pick up five grams (the legal limit) of Super Silver Haze. Because the club is not-for-profit, its members can focus their efforts on finding and buying the best product and providing it to their members at much better prices than the coffee shops.  

Modelled after a proliferation of similar establishments in Spain, the social clubs offer a new way to subvert the harsher laws. As in Holland, cannabis is illegal in Spain, but the government doesn’t prosecute anyone for personal consumption and there’s no implicit limit on the number of plants a person can grow, meaning the government doesn’t care if you grow one plant or 15. In fact, signs point to the government not caring at all. Barcelona is developing a reputation as “the new Amsterdam,” meaning the old Amsterdam is losing out on a significant source of revenue: drug tourists.

Inside an Amsterdam coffee shop called The Rookies, 22-year-old John Bell rolls a spliff of tobacco and a strain called Dutch Kashmir, which Bell can’t find in his native Liverpool. Bell has been to Amsterdam 11 times in the past three years, not because it’s hard to find weed in the U.K., but because the quality here is better. He wouldn’t visit the city at all if not for these coffee shops and Amsterdam’s quasi-legal cannabis, adding: “It’s too expensive to drink here, for a proper night out.”

Such drug tourists represent a major element of the city’s economy. The union of coffee shops in Maastricht commissioned research in 2008 that found foreign visitors to the city’s coffee shops spent money in other businesses there as well: €140 million (approximately $170 million) annually. It’s a significant number and one of the reasons government officials in Amsterdam have fought to keep the coffee shops from going out of business.

About a third of all visitors to Amsterdam step into one of its coffee shops at some point; nationally, the number is one in five. Banning such visitors would hit tourism revenues hard, chasing off travellers who tend to be well-behaved. “If you’re really a deadbeat hippie punk, a no-money kind of guy, how are you going to afford a ticket to Amsterdam?” Bergman says.

Cities such as Maastricht, on the other hand, have banned foreigners from coffee shops since 2005. The result, insists Bergman and other critics, is a proliferation of street dealers. People still come from neighboring countries to score marijuana, but now they stock up and head back home in a day, instead of spending any time in local hotels and restaurants.

How did Holland get here? Some trace the backlash to 9/11. The world’s global panic about terrorism in the wake of the attacks on New York City and Washington led to a surge in the power of conservative political parties in places as far away as the Netherlands. Ever since Holland’s People’s Party for Liberty and Democracy began to consolidate influence here, its leaders have pushed for zero tolerance drug laws. “Our last prime minister [Jan Peter Balkenende] believed in his heart that weed comes from Satan,” says Mila Jansen, a legendary figure in Amsterdam, who once invented a way to make hash in a washing machine.

Other factors influencing the government crackdown are pressure from outside nations, especially France, which has pushed the International Narcotics Control board to sanction Holland for violating international treaties on drug laws with its permissive pot policy. Ironic, argues Bergman, because the rate of marijuana use is twice as high in France as it is in the Netherlands, and Holland has one of the lowest number of drug-related deaths in Europe.   

“Hard drugs are still illegal in Holland, but we also see that there are still many people who want to try drugs on occasion,” said the city’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, in a statement provided to Newsweek. “This is a reality we cannot ignore. And this is one of the key principles to our country’s drug policies: Drug use is first and foremost an issue of public health. By not focusing on the criminal aspects of drug use, as is the case in many other countries, we can be more effective when it comes to informing the public, testing drugs and prevention.”

Unfortunately, van der Laan’s federal counterparts don’t agree. They also don’t see that prohibition amounts to little more than, as they say here, “mopping with the tap on.”

Now, activists like Bergman are trying to convince Holland to consider the American model—the legalization and regulation of all components of marijuana cultivation and sale. Citing Oregon’s law, which allows residents to grow as many as four plants, Bergman says: “I’m sort of jealous.”

That’s because America seems to be learning from Holland’s mistakes. Holland’s passive-aggressive policy doesn’t stop illicit activity or drug tourism or make anyone safer, say activists: It actually has the reverse effect. Quasi-legalization leaves too many entry points for criminals to line their own pockets from the drug trade. State by state, the U.S. is legalizing pot with initiatives that clearly spell out who is allowed to manufacture, distribute and consume it. That’s the key to a successful policy, and it’s one Dutch activists are now working to implement in their own country, before things swing too far the other way.

This article appears in the latest Newsweek Special Edition, “Weed Nation: Is America Ready For a Legalized Future?” by Executive Editor Jeff Ashworth of Topix Media Lab.

 Source: http://www.newsweek.com/marijuana-and-old-amsterdam- 22nd Feb.2015

As social acceptance and public policy around marijuana shift, and especially if legalized recreational use becomes more widespread, we will need to consider the influence and potential regulation of its marketing.  For this, we should use what we already know from the science to guide our decisions and policies to minimize harm, because inevitably, advertising is going to reach children and adolescents, people who are addicted to marijuana, and those of all ages who are on their way to becoming addicted.

Ads for addictive substances—including tobacco and alcohol and fattening foods—have the obvious intent of generating new customers as well as enticing current users to use more, but that’s not all they do. Marketers know that by associating such products with other pleasurable stimuli and situations, ads contribute to reinforcing those positive associations in the brains of users, and thus contribute to the process of developing an addiction. 

Drug addiction is a disease of learning—learning to associate drugs with positive feelings and to associate cues that signal drug availability with similar feelings, ultimately leading to craving for the drug.  This part of the addictive progression is known as conditioning, discovered in the 1890s by Pavlov. Today we also understand the brain mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon: Once a person becomes conditioned to drug-related stimuli, those stimuli independently become associated with increases in dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway (i.e., without the drug even being present). These dopamine bursts fuel drug-seeking and craving. The same process can cause such stimuli to act as triggers contributing to relapse in those who are already addicted and are struggling to recover.

When there are salient advertisements for a product, it’s very hard to contain them, because images don’t even need to reach the level of conscious awareness to stimulate the urge to use that product. Recent neuroimaging research has confirmed the brain’s extraordinary sensitivity to “unseen” rewarding stimuli: A 2008 fMRI study by Anna Rose Childress and colleagues confirmed that limbic circuitry respond to drug (as well as sexual) reward cues that are too fleeting to be consciously registered. Also, because of the reach of the Internet, it will be hard to restrict exposure to marijuana advertising just to people in states where it is legal, or just to people old enough to purchase it.

For decades we have seen the harmful effects that alcohol and tobacco ads can have, especially those that target young people; similar associations have been found between exposure to food advertising and obesity. The relative harm of marijuana compared to other legal drugs remains hotly contested, but its potential addictiveness—especially to young people—is undisputed. Thus, it is crucial that states consider the lessons learned from tobacco and alcohol policy research and restrict (or preclude) marijuana advertising to reduce as much as possible the development of newly addicted individuals and avoid inducing relapse in people who are already addicted.

Source: www.drugabuse.gov October 23, 2014

The 50 states are sometimes called “laboratories of democracy”. Although the expression is intended to highlight in flattering terms how innovative they can be, it also suggests that the states’ political experiments can and do fail. In the event of failure, the hope must be that damage can be stopped at the state line. Today, the experiment of state-by-state marijuana legalization is failing before our eyes—and failing most signally where the experiment has been tried most boldly. The failure is accelerating even as the forces pushing legalization are on what appears to be an inexorable march.

In November 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the sale of marijuana to any adult consumer. Advocates of legalization carried the vote with a substantial campaign budget, a few million dollars, and a brilliant slogan: “Drug dealers don’t ask for ID.” The implied promise: Marijuana legalization would be joined to tough enforcement to keep marijuana away from minors. After all, persistent and heavy marijuana use among adolescents has been shown to reduce their IQ as adults by 6 to 8 points. An Australian study of identical twins found that a twin who started using cannabis before age 17 was 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than the twin who did not. People in Colorado had good reason to worry about teen drug use. Colorado voters had approved a limited experiment with medical marijuana in 2000. A complex series of judicial and administrative decisions in the mid-2000s overthrew most restrictions on the dispensing of marijuana. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of dispensaries jumped past 500, and the number of medical cardholders multiplied from roughly 1,000 to more than 108,000. 

With so many medical-marijuana card-holders walking about, it was simply inevitable that some would re-sell their marijuana to underage users. A 2013 study of Colorado teens in drug treatment found that 74 percent had shared somebody else’s medical marijuana. The number of occasions on which they had shared averaged over 50 times. According to a report by the Rocky Mountain High-Intense Drug Trafficking Area, Colorado teens, by 2012, were 50 percent more likely to use marijuana than their peers in the rest of the country.

Debates about marijuana tend to travel pretty fast into the domain of libertarian ideology: I’m a consenting adult, why can’t I do what I want? Yet the best customers for the marijuana industry are not adults at all. The majority of people who try marijuana quit by age 30. Adults in their twenties are significantly less likely than high school students to smoke; 14 percent of twenty-somethings say they smoke marijuana, while 22.7 percent of 12th-graders smoke at least once a month, and 6.5 percent say they smoke every day. 

Why do people quit using marijuana as they mature? Your guess is as good as anybody else’s, but whatever the reason, the trend presents marijuana sellers with a marketing problem. Yet there is promising news from the emerging marijuana industry’s point of view: People who start smoking in their teens are significantly more likely to become dependent than people who start smoking later: about 1 in 6, as opposed to 1 in 10. Start them young; keep them longer. Very rationally, then, the marijuana industry is rolling out products designed to appeal to the youngest consumers: cannabis-infused soda, cannabis-infused chocolate taffy, cannabis-infused jujubes.

The promise that legalization will actually protect teenagers from marijuana is false. So, too, are the other promises of the legalizers. It is false to claim that marijuana legalization will break drug cartels. Those cartels will continue to traffic in harder and more lucrative drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Criminal cartels may well stay in the marijuana business, too, marketing directly to underage users. Public policy is about trade-offs, and marijuana users need to face up to the trade-off they are urging on American society. Legal marijuana use means more marijuana use, and more marijuana use means above all more teen marijuana use.

Proponents of marijuana legalization often question why the law bans marijuana but not alcohol or tobacco. One important difference is that alcohol and tobacco are drugs on the decline. Since 1980, per capita consumption of alcohol has dropped almost 20 percent. One-third of Americans smoked tobacco in 1980; fewer than one-fifth smoke today. The progress against drunk driving is even more remarkable: Fatalities caused by drunk drivers have decreased by more than half since 1982.

The reduction in tobacco and alcohol use has been hastened by increasingly restrictive laws that govern where and how these products may be consumed. Tobacco-smoking has been banned on planes, in restaurants, and in almost all public places. The drinking age, reduced in the 1970s from 21 to 18 in most states, was restored to 21 by federal action in the 1980s. Tobacco taxes have been steeply hiked. Bars that served intoxicated patrons face rising tort risk.

With marijuana, however, the law is heading in the opposite direction, and has been for some time. Since 1996, 20 states and the District of Columbiahave approved “medical marijuana” laws, whereby people who obtain a prescription from a doctor can legally use or purchase marijuana. As in Colorado, many of these supposed medical regimes are degenerating into legalization by another name. Oregon, for example: At the end of 2012, it was home to 56,531 medical-marijuana patients. The majority of these 56,000-plus permissions were approved by only nine doctors. One doctor—an 80-year-old retired heart surgeon in Yakima—approved 4,180 medical-marijuana applications in a span of 12 months. Only 4 percent of Oregon’s medical-marijuana patients, as of the end of 2012, suffered from cancer. Only 1 percent were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The large majority, 57 percent, cited unspecified “pain” as the ailment for which treatment was sought. Yet none of the nine doctors who wrote the majority of the marijuana prescriptions was a pain specialist.

Fewer than 2 percent of California card holders have HIV, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, or cancer: One survey found that the typical California medical-marijuana patient was a healthy 32-year-old man with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Here, too, some doctors are signing thousands of recommendations after only the scantiest examination—or none at all. An NBC news investigator in Los Angeles visited one dispensary, was examined by a man who later proved to be an acupuncturist and massage therapist, and then received a prescription signed by a doctor who lived 67 miles away.

In the words of Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck, most dispensaries are “for-profit businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.” By early 2012, Los Angeles contained almost eight times as many dispensaries as Starbucks coffee shops. The city became alarmed that the customers who congregated at these dispensaries were active in crimes from robbery to murder. By July, the City Council voted unanimously to shut down all of the nearly 800 known dispensaries in the city. The marijuana lobby succeeded in preventing that ban from going into effect, so the next year, the city government tried a different approach: a local referendum called Proposition D to cap the number of dispensaries at 135, raise taxes on marijuana sales, and forbid dispensaries to locate near primary, middle, and high schools. 

The proposition was approved, but this approach also proved ineffective. In the words of Medical Marijuana Business Daily (yes, it exists): 

Officials have actually only forced about 70 dispensaries to close so far. While some other dispensaries shut down on their own to avoid legal troubles, most did not. That means at least 700—possibly more—illegal shops are still open.

“What happened is that we’re really trying to put a Band-Aid on some crazy open wound, and it’s not big enough to stop the bleeding,” said Adam Bierman, who runs the consultancy MedMen. “Prop D as a concept is half decent, but there’s really no way to enforce it.”

Marijuana does possess certain medicinal properties. So does opium. But we don’t allow unscrupulous quacks to write raw opium prescriptions for anyone willing to pay $65. And if we did, would anybody be surprised that the vast majority of opium buyers were not recovering from surgery—and that many of them shared or resold some of their opium to underage users?

Some older adults have a hard time crediting the dangers of marijuana use because they imagine the marijuana on sale today is the same low-grade stuff they smoked in college. The marijuana sold in the 1980s averaged between 3 and 4 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient. Today’s selectively bred marijuana averages over 12 percent THC, with some strains reaching 30 percent. Hundreds of YouTube videos will show you how to combust a marijuana wax with butane, to boost the THC content to 90 percent. As marijuana consumers shift from smoking to ingesting marijuana, they can ingest larger and larger doses of THC at a time. Since 2006, Colorado emergency rooms have seen a steep rise in the number of patients arriving panicked and disoriented from excess THC, including a near doubling of patients ages 13 and 14.  

It’s said that nobody ever died from a marijuana overdose. Nobody ever died from a tobacco overdose either, but that doesn’t prove tobacco safe. Of all the dangers connected to marijuana, the most lethal is the risk of automobile accident. Marijuana-related fatal car crashes have nearly tripled across the United States in the past decade.Marijuana legalizers may counter: Can’t we just extend laws against drunk driving to stoned driving?

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. What exactly defines marijuana impairment remains fiercely contested by an increasingly assertive marijuana industry. It took Colorado four tries to enact a legal definition of marijuana impairment: five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Yet even once enacted, the standard remains very difficult to enforce. Alcohol impairment can be detected with a Breathalyzer. Marijuana impairment is revealed only by a blood test, and long-established law requires police to obtain a search warrant before a blood test is administered.

More important than catching impaired drivers after the fact is deterring them before they get behind the wheel. In the absence of a blood-testing kit, marijuana users themselves will find it difficult to know how much is too much. Time recently quoted a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation: “It’s not like alcohol. People metabolize it differently. There are different potencies,” the official said. “So there’s really no solution in terms of saying ‘you’re now at the limit.’ I just don’t think there’s enough research that we can say, ‘Wait x amount of hours before getting on the road.’ I don’t know whether it’s five hours or 10 hours or the next day. We just don’t know.” Back in 2007, a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that on any given Saturday night, about 12 percent of drivers tested positive for alcohol; about 6 percent for marijuana. Since then, 10 more states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical-marijuana regimes, which surely means even more buzzed drivers on the roads. 

Yet the most pervasive harm of marijuana may be psychic rather than physical. A battery of studies have found regular marijuana use to be associated with worse outcomes at school, social life, and work. I use the cautious phrase “associated with,” because it’s far from clear whether marijuana use is a cause or an effect of other problems—or (most likely) both cause and effect. An isolated, underachieving kid starts smoking marijuana. That kid then descends deeper into isolation and underachievement. Marijuana may not have been the “cause” of the kid’s malaise, but it intensifies the malaise and may inhibit or even prevent his emergence from it.

The negative spiral of despondency leading to marijuana use, leading to deeper and more protracted despondency, makes the present moment a particularly unpropitious one for marijuana legalization. The United States is currently recovering feebly from the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Prospects for young people especially have narrowed. Are we really going to say to them: “Look, we haven’t got jobs for you, your chances at marriage are dwindling, you may be 30 before you can move out of your parents’ place into a home of your own, but we’ll make it up to you with pot, video games, and online porn”? They want to start life, but they are being offered instead only narcotic dreams.

As human beings, our judgment is not only imperfect, but is prone to fail in highly predictable ways. Insert a recurring charge onto our phone bill, and we will soon cease to notice it. We evolved under conditions where sugars and salt were scarce, and so we will eat far more than we need if given the chance. We overestimate our luck and will gamble our money in ways that make no mathematical sense. Our brains are wired for addictions. If a substance can trigger that addiction, it can overthrow all the reasoning and moral faculties of the mind. 

Lucrative industries have arisen to exploit these weaknesses in ways highly harmful to their customers. And the bold irony is that when their practices are challenged, they’ll invoke the very principles of individual choice and self-mastery that their industry is based on negating and defeating. So it was with tobacco. So it is with casino gambling. So it will be with marijuana. 

Proponents of marijuana legalization do make a valid point when they worry that marijuana laws are enforced too punitively—and that this too punitive approach inflicts disparate punishment on minority users as compared with white users. Ordinary marijuana users should receive civil penalties; repeat users belong in treatment, not prison; communities should experience law enforcement as an ally and supporter of local norms, not an outside force stamping young people with indelible criminal records for mistakes that carry fewer consequences for the more affluent and the better connected. It’s also true, however, that these alternative methods can succeed only if the background rule is that marijuana is illegal. It’s very often the threat of criminal sanction that impels users to seek the treatment they need, while still young enough to turn their lives around. 

The illegal U.S. market for marijuana is already twice as big as the market for coffee. As that market is legalized, it will expand, and the industry that serves the market will be emboldened to hire lobbyists to promote its continued expansion. The vision offered by some academics of a legal but non-commercial marijuana market shows little realism about American government. American legislatures exhibit notoriously poor resistance against check-book-wielding special interests. 

The resistance will be all the weaker since the costs of marijuana legalization will be borne by people to whom American legislatures pay scant attention anyway. Marijuana retailers will be located most densely in America’s poorest neighbourhoods, just as liquor and cigarette retailing is now. Out of whose pockets will the marijuana taxes of the future be paid? Whose addiction and recovery services will be least well funded? In a society in which it is already sufficiently difficult for people to rise from the bottom, who’ll find that their rise has become harder still?

David Frum is the author, most recently, of the novel Patriots (2012) and is a commentator for CNN and the Daily Beast.

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/dont-go-to-pot/

Because when it comes to weed, our vision may have gotten more than a little cloudy.

The author, Patrick J. Kennedy, is a former United States congressman from the state of Rhode Island.

There has been a lot of talk recently about marijuana legalization — increasing tax revenue for states, getting nonviolent offenders out of the prison system, protecting personal liberty, and the benefits for those with severe illnesses. These are good and important conversations to have, and smart people from across the ideological spectrum are sharing their perspectives. But one key dimension of the issue has been left out of the discussion until now: the marketing machine that will spring up to support these now-legal businesses, and the detrimental effect this will have on our kids.

Curious how this might work? Look no further than Big Tobacco. In 1999, the year after a massive legal settlement that restricted certain forms of advertising, the major cigarette companies spent a record $8.4 billion on marketing. In 2011, that number reached $8.8 billion, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. To put it into context, the auto industry spent less than half of that on advertising in 2011, and car ads are everywhere.

Why do we think the legal marijuana industry will behave differently from Big Tobacco?

At the same time, despite advertising bans, these notoriously sneaky tobacco companies continue to find creative ways to target kids. Data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the most heavily marketed brands of cigarettes were also the most popular among people under 18. This is not a coincidence, and gets to the very core of Big Tobacco’s approach: Hook them young, and they have a customer for life.

Why do we think the legal marijuana industry will behave differently from Big Tobacco? When the goal is addiction, all bets are off. In Colorado, where there are new rules governing how legal marijuana is advertised in traditional media, there are still many opportunities to market online and at concerts, festivals and other venues where kids will be present. Joe Camel might be retired, but he’s been replaced by other gimmicks to get kids hooked — like snus and flavored cigarettes. The marijuana industry is following suit by manufacturing THC candies, cookies, lollipops and other edibles that look harmless but aren’t. Making marijuana mainstream will also make it more available, more acceptable and more dangerous to our kids.

A billboard touts the supposed relative “safety” of marijuana alongside Route 495 in Secaucus, N.J.

SOURCE Carlo Allegri/Corbis

Addiction is big business, and with legal marijuana it’s only getting bigger.

Not surprisingly, Big Tobacco is also getting on the marijuana bandwagon. Manufacturers Altria and Brown & Williamson have registered domain names that include the words marijuana and cannabis. Imagine how much they will spend peddling their new brand of addiction to our kids. We cannot sit by while these companies open a new front in their battle against our children’s health.

Can we really afford to ignore its consequences in the name of legalization?

Why is this an issue? There is a mistaken assumption that marijuana is harmless. It is not. Marijuana use is linked with mental illness, depression, anxiety and psychosis. It affects parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention and reaction time. Developing brains are especially susceptible to all of the negative effects of marijuana and other drug use. In fact, poison control centers in Colorado and Washington state have seen an increase in the number of calls regarding marijuana poisoning. This isn’t a surprise — with legal marijuana comes a host of unintended consequences.

I’ve spent the last several years after leaving Congress advocating for a health care system that treats the brain like it does any other organ in the body. Effective mental health care, especially when it comes to children, is critically important. Knowing what we now know about the effects of marijuana on the brain, can we really afford to ignore its consequences in the name of legalization? Our No. 1 priority needs to be protecting our kids from this emerging public health crisis. The rights of pot smokers and the marijuana industry end where our children’s health begins.

I’m not alone in my concerns about this trend toward legalization. Even Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said that marijuana legalization in his state was “reckless,” and reaffirmed his opposition to it during his campaign for re-election. He also said he will “regulate the heck” out of it. For that, I applaud his leadership and courage. Five more states have legalization ballot measures up for a vote this fall. I hope common sense will prevail, and they choose a better path than making addiction the law of the land. 

At the end of the day, legalizing and marketing marijuana is making drug use acceptable and mainstream. Just as Big Tobacco lied to Americans for decades about the deadly consequences of smoking, we can’t let “big marijuana” follow in its footsteps, target our kids and profit from addiction.

Source: www.OZY.com Nov. 27, 2014.

Abstract

Background:

There has been an increase in non-daily smoking, alternative tobacco product and marijuana use among young adults in recent years. Objectives: This study examined perceptions of health risks, addictiveness, and social acceptability of cigarettes, cigar products, smokeless tobacco, hookah, electronic cigarettes, and marijuana among young adults and correlates of such perceptions. Methods: In Spring 2013, 10,000 students at two universities in the Southeastern United States were recruited to complete an online survey (2,002 respondents), assessing personal, parental, and peer use of each product; and perceptions of health risks, addictiveness, and social acceptability of each of these products.

Results:

Marijuana was the most commonly used product in the past month (19.2%), with hookah being the second most commonly used (16.4%). The least commonly used were smokeless tobacco products (2.6%) and electronic cigarettes (4.5%). There were high rates of concurrent product use, particularly among electronic cigarette users. The most positively perceived was marijuana, with hookah and electronic cigarettes being second. While tobacco use and related social factors, related positively, influenced perceptions of marijuana, marijuana use and related social factors were not associated with perceptions of any tobacco product.

Conclusions/Importance:

Marketing efforts to promote electronic cigarettes and hookah to be safe and socially acceptable seem to be effective, while policy changes seem to be altering perceptions of marijuana and related social norms. Research is needed to document the health risks and addictive nature of emerging tobacco products and marijuana and evaluate efforts to communicate such risks to youth.

KEYWORDS:

addiction; health risk; marijuana use; social norms; tobacco use; youth

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25268294 14 Sept 2014

US News and World Report reported today that George Soros plans to invest an additional $50 million to fundamentally change the way drugs are dealt with in society. Along with the support of the ACLU and other pro-pot groups, the goal is to decriminalize all drug use – paving the way to release thousands of drug dealers from prison. 

This follows California’s disastrous passage of Proposition 47. Now they want to replicate this in other states.We know how the country has fared in following California’s example on drug policy.  

As the commercialization of pot expands exponentially, the pro-pot groups have grown in power and influence. The only way to stop this madness is for the federal government to enforce laws relating to the large-scale manufacturing and sale of drugs. It is the inaction of the US Department of Justice that has allowed states to join in a drug trafficking conspiracy that disguises drug proceeds as “taxes.” It is a national tragedy. Monte Stiles 

Pot Legalization: Gateway to What?

Advocates look to further reduce drug-related arrests, incarceration.

Buying marijuana is now about as easy as shopping for liquor in Denver and Seattle.  Soon, four states will regulate and tax sales of joints and pot brownies, and drug policy campaigners see deeper reforms on the horizon. Flush with new funding and optimistic that Americans have turned a page, the American Civil Liberties Union plans to lead the charge.  “What the marijuana legalization votes tell us is the door is open to reconsidering all of our drug laws,” says Alison Holcomb, national director of the ACLU’s new nationwide campaign against “mass incarceration.”

A $50 million grant from billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations will fund the effort.

Holcomb wrote Washington state’s pot legalization initiative, which voters approved in 2012 along with a Colorado ballot measure. Residents of Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted last week to follow.

“These votes are not about whether or not voters think marijuana is wonderful and that people should be using marijuana,” Holcomb says. “Instead they are really rejections of the laws that have existed for the last four decades.”  Marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has allowed broad leeway for states to allow recreational sales, despite President Barack Obama’s reluctance to administrativelychange the 1970 congressional classification of pot as among the most dangerous drugs.

The legalization votes, Holcomb says, “are a harbinger of a deeply felt desire on the part of the American voters to do something completely different.”  The ACLU plans to stay on the sidelines of future pot legalization campaigns – already supported by well-organized groups plotting about a half-dozen ballot campaigns in 2016 – and to instead pour resources into less-advanced fights for criminal justice reform.

One model the group hopes to replicate is California’s Proposition 47, approved by 58 percent of state voters last week to lower penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes. The proposition allows for retroactive reclassification of felony convictions as misdemeanors and sentencing reductions for current inmates.

Lenore Anderson, a co-author of Proposition 47 and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, says she’s aware that people from other states are seeking to replicate the successful amendment.  “When it comes to criminal justice and drug policy, Americans are thinking differently about these issues,” she says. “The main message for policymakers is some of the old ways of thinking around prison-first policies and using the criminal justice system to deal with something like drug addiction is something the public doesn’t think is wise anymore.”

Holcomb says the ACLU plans to support measures similar to Proposition 47 in 2016, and – ideally – measures that would not only de-felonize but also decriminalize drug possession, meaning eliminating criminal penalties like jail time for drugs other than marijuana. She says, however, the group will not press to regulate the sale of all drugs like marijuana.

“We would love to be able to have ballot initiatives in a number of states that may look very similar to Proposition 47,” Holcomb says. “Hopefully we will be able to find states where we can go further and say, ‘Let’s decriminalize the possession of drugs and let’s talk about what we can do to address drug use and abuse.’”Most Americans behind bars are there for violating state laws, so that’s where the ACLU plans to focus.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says his organization would support decriminalization ballot measures in any state where polling indicates majority support.  But, he says, broad drug decriminalization probably lacks such support in any state-level jurisdiction aside from the District of Columbia.   Nadelmann says the pot legalization wins are “creating a sense of momentum, but with the other drugs it’s really about reducing dependence on arrest and incarceration.” He doubts there will be majority support in the near future for legalizing drugs other than marijuana, with the possible exception of certain hallucinogens.

Nadelmann’s group, a major national leader on marijuana legalization alongside the Marijuana Policy Project, has smaller steps in mind for drug policy reform. It supported an initiative approved this month by New Jersey voters to reform the state’s bail system so that low-income residents arrested on nonviolent charges be released pending trial and plans to push for Good Samaritan laws to encourage the reporting of drug overdoses and, ultimately, the establishment of harm-reduction measures such as safe injection sites.

“Drug policy reform has evolved from being the black sheep of criminal justice reform to being the cutting edge of criminal justice reform,” he says. “Basically, a majority of Americans clearly believe there are too many people behind bars for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses.”

About one in every 200 Americans was arrested for an alleged drug-related offense in 2013, according to data released Monday by the FBI. About 46.2 percent of those 1,501,043 drug-related arrests were for marijuana.  The U.S. famously has the largest prison population in the world. A September report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports about 16 percent of the 1,314,900 inmates warehoused in state facilities in December 2012 were convicted of drug crimes. About 51 percent of the 193,775 federal prison inmates in September 2013 were jailed on drug charges.

State-level action isn’t the only front for drug policy reform. There’s federal-level sentencing and criminal justice reform efforts, too, and the ACLU hopes to help make the issue a presidential election year issue in 2016.

Localities are also creeping toward reform. New York City’s government announced Monday a discontinuation of using arrests to punish citizens caught with small amounts of pot – opting instead for court summons – following the July decision by Brooklyn’s district attorney to stop prosecuting most small-scale pot cases. District of Columbia voters’ decision to legalize weed will likely test the congressional waters for more permissive policies early in 2015.

In addition to pushing particular reforms, the ACLU campaign will seek to assemble better data. Some of the group’s campaign will focus on non-drug offenses.  As leading drug reform campaigners seek to either take a sledgehammer or chisel to current U.S. drug laws, idealists foresee a not-too-distant future where a comprehensive tax-and-regulate structure is established for most currently illegal drugs, a scenario that seemed implausible for marijuana not long ago.

“Legalizing all drugs and establishing a controlled and regulated market is what would really, really put the cartels out of business,” says Sean Dunagan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence specialist.  Dunagan worked five years on the front lines of the war on drugs in Guatemala and Mexico and came to the realization it’s impossible to smash the black market for illegal substances or permanently drive down drug consumption.

“You can get cocaine in just about any school, there are heroin arrests in small towns across the country,” he says. “There’s really no way to arrest and incarcerate our way out of the problems associated with illegal drugs. It doesn’t work and if it doesn’t work, common sense would dictate we look for alternatives.”  Dunagan, now affiliated with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, says the small user populations for drugs such as cocaine compared with marijuana makes it difficult to see how significant public pressure for legalization would mount in the near term, but he’s confident the day will come.  “For the government to do something that is so ineffective, and so costly and so deadly, I can’t believe that that policy would continue to exist in perpetuity,” he says.

Source:;  e-mail from Monte Stiles,  DrugWatch International  Nov.2014

Binge Drinking

Alcohol-fueled tailgates attract students at colleges around the United States. 

 

Despite decades of research, hundreds of campus task forces and millions invested in bold experiments, college drinking in the United States remains as much of a problem as ever.

More than 1,800 students die every year of alcohol-related causes. An additional 600,000 are injured while drunk, and nearly 100,000 become victims of alcohol-influenced sexual assaults. One in four say their academic performance has suffered from drinking, all according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The binge-drinking rate among college students has hovered above 40 percent for two decades, and signs are that partying is getting even harder. More students now drink to get drunk, choose hard liquor over beer and drink in advance of social events. For many the goal is to black out.

Drinking is so central to students’ expectations of college that they will fight for what they see as a basic right. After Syracuse University, named the nation’s No.1 party school by The Princeton Review, tried to limit a large outdoor gathering, outraged students labelled the campus a police state.

Why has the drumbeat of attention, effort and moneyfailed to influence what experts consider a public-health crisis? It is not for lack of information. Dozens of studies show exactly why, when, where and how students drink. Plenty more identify effective intervention and prevention strategies. A whole industry has sprung up around educating students on the dangers of alcohol abuse.

For the most part, undeterred by evidence that information alone is not enough, colleges continue to treat alcohol abuse as an individual problem, one that can be fixed primarily through education.

Institutions of higher education are still really committed to the idea that if we just provide the right information or the right message, that will do the trick, despite 30 or 40 years of research that shows that’s not true,” said Robert F. Saltz, a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center, part of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. “The message isn’t what changes behavior. Enforcement changes behavior.”

Yet many colleges still look the other way. Few have gone after environmental factors like cheap and easy access to alcohol or lenient attitudes toward underage drinking.

At some colleges, presidents are reluctant to take on boosters and alumni who fervently defend rituals where drinking can get out of control. Administrators responsible for prevention often are not equipped with the community-organizing skills to get local politicians, bar owners and the police to try new approaches, enforce laws and punish bad actors.

A student’s death or an unwelcome party-school ranking might prompt action, but it is unlikely to be sustained or meaningful. A new prevention program or task force has only so much impact.

Even at colleges that try to confront these issues comprehensively, turnover and limited budgets pose significant obstacles. When administrations change, so do priorities.

In the 1990s college presidents routinely declared alcohol abuse the greatest threat to campus life, and the federal government demanded that they do something.

The first large-scale examination of alcohol use among college students began in 1993. Run by Henry Wechsler, a social psychologist at the Harvard University School of Public Health, the College Alcohol Study surveyed 17,000 students at 140 colleges on why and how they drink.

The following year, Mr. Wechsler pronounced 44 percent of all college students binge drinkers, using that term to mean consuming four or five drinks in a row. The results set off a storm of news coverage and helped shift public understanding of college drinking from a relatively harmless pastime to a public-health concern. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which financed the first survey, invested millions in further surveys and research.

Mr. Wechsler and his team painted a complex portrait of campus culture, one in which the environment fueled excessive drinking. More than half of the bars surrounding campuses, they found, used discounts and other promotions to lure in students. Higher rates of binge drinking were associated with membership in a fraternity or sorority, a belief that most students drink and easy access to alcohol.

At the same time, the studies made clear that much is beyond colleges’ control. Half of students had started binge drinking before they got to campus.

Advocates and policy makers sensed an opportunity. The United States Department of Education established the Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Use and Violence Prevention, which provided research, training and technical assistance. Mr. Wechsler’s findings sparked a 10-campus experiment to try to bring drinking under control. Focusing on colleges with higher-than-average rates of binge drinking, the project aimed to prove that by working with community partners to change the environment, colleges have the power to shift student behavior. The Johnson foundation put more than $17 million into the project, which was conducted with the American Medical Association over a 12-year period.

Binge drinking

But early results showed that in the first few years, half of the colleges involved did not try much of anything. The other half reported “significant although small” improvements in drinking behavior. Meanwhile, a survey of about 750 college presidents found that they were sticking to what they had always done, focusing on arguably effective “social norming” campaigns, which aim to curb students’ drinking with the message that their peers do not drink as much as it seems. Today a number of colleges that participated in the lengthy experiment still struggle with students’ alcohol problems.

Several colleges developed new programs: training servers, notifying parents when underage students were caught drinking and coordinating enforcement with the local police. Setbacks, however, were common. Louisiana State University found local bar owners hostile to the idea of scaling back happy hours or drink specials. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, the campus-community coalition had little authority. To appeal to local businesses, a new mayor in Newark, Del., weakened regulations on selling alcohol near dormitories at the public flagship university.

The following years saw the end of several major projects. Mr. Wechsler’s College Alcohol Study wrapped up in 2006, having surveyed 50,000 students and produced reams of research. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shifted its attention elsewhere. The Amethyst Initiative, a campaign by more than 100 college presidents to reconsider the legal drinking age, came and quickly went. And in 2012, funding cuts eliminated the federal center that had guided colleges on preventing alcohol and drug abuse.

Jim Yong Kim, a physician with a public-health background who was president of Dartmouth College, attempted to drag the issue back into the spotlight, announcing an intensive, public-health and data-driven approach to dealing with campus drinking. He used his influence to drum up participation from 32 institutions in the National College Health Improvement Program’s Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking and secured money to keep it going for two years. But when he left Dartmouth to lead the World Bank, in 2012, the leadership and the money dried up. The project issued its first and final report this year.

Educators and researchers who lived through this period say a combination of exhaustion, frustration, inertia, lack of resources and campus and community politics derailed the national conversation about college drinking. Taking on the problem proved tougher than anyone had thought.

All those efforts caused some issue fatigue,” said John D. Clapp, director of the federal alcohol and drug center when it closed. The feeling, he said, was “Hey, we tried this, and it’s time to move on.”

Today, fewer than half of colleges consistently enforce their alcohol policies at tailgates, in dormitories and at fraternity and sorority houses. Only a third do compliance checks to monitor illegal alcohol sales in nearby neighborhoods. Just 7 percent try to restrict the number of outlets selling alcohol, and 2 percent work to reduce cheap drink specials at local bars, according to the Minnesota researchers.

Philosophically, many educators are resistant to the idea of policing students. They would prefer to treat them as young adults who can make good choices with the right motivation. Traci L. Toomey, who directs the alcohol-epidemiology program at Minnesota’s School of Public Health, recalls visiting a campus that had long prided itself on letting students monitor the flow of alcohol at social events. “As if somehow magically they’d do a great job,” she said.

In the Minnesota surveys, only about 60 percent of campus law-enforcement officials said they almost always proactively enforced alcohol policies. Half cited barriers such as understaffing and students’ easy access to alcohol at private parties and at bars that don’t check IDs. Only 35 percent of colleges’ law-enforcement units almost always issue criminal citations for serious alcohol-related incidents, preferring instead to refer cases to other offices, like judicial or student affairs.

Students themselves say more-aggressive enforcement could change their behavior. One survey of those who had violated their colleges’ alcohol policies found that parental notification, going through the criminal-justice system or being required to enter an alcohol treatment program would be more of a deterrent than fines and warnings.

Duke University was home to an all-day party known as Tailgate, which raged in a parking lot before and after every home football game. Wearing costumes, cranking up the music and funneling beer, students left behind a mess so huge it required front-loaders to clear. Administrators tried all sorts of things — cars versus no cars, kegs versus cans, shorter and longer hours, food and entertainment — in a futile effort to rein in bad behavior. In 2010, a 14-year old sibling of a student was found passed out in a portable toilet. Administrators shut it down.

Fraternities and sororities remain a third rail for many college presidents. “Even though the Greek system was identified as the highest area of risk in terms of harm and rates of drinking, we didn’t have many schools touch that,” said Lisa C. Johnson, a former managing director of the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking. “It’s fraught with politics. It’s fraught with, Are we going to lose funding from alumni who value the traditions? Also, it’s complex because Greek houses may be owned by the fraternities, not the university.”

Some prevention advocates hope that scrutiny of sexual assault on campuses may result in more attention to alcohol abuse, because the connection has been well documented. It took a series of federal complaints and investigations, supporters say, for colleges to begin revising and better enforcing their sexual-assault policies.

Others are betting that money will talk. Jonathan C. Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, calculated that alcohol abuse cost $1 million in staff time and lost tuition over a recent four-year period. Putting a price tag on the problem, he said, helped keep people motivated to crack down on off-campus parties, work with local law enforcement and raise expectations among students.

The different forces at play nationally may not be enough to focus attention on dangerous drinking in college, but culture change can happen. It’s just slow, said John Porter, director of the Center for Health and Well Being at the University of Vermont, which has grappled with alcohol abuse for more than two decades. Asked to lead a new campus wide approach to the problem, Mr. Porter remains hopeful. When he was a child, he said, he used to sit on his mother’s lap in the front seat of their Buick. She’d be smoking cigarettes. Nobody was wearing seat belts. “Today we’d be aghast,” he said.

Source: THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION DEC. 14, 2014

Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance. We should not overlook, however, valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.

In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century, almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer.

This drastic rise in the prevalence of smoking can be attributed to a number of successful business strategies. Hand-rolling of cigarettes, a technique that limited production potential, was supplanted by machine manufacturing. Changes in the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive. Aggressive marketing techniques sought to build a larger consumer base. Advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to quell public fear over smoking-related health concerns; other campaigns targeted children or adolescents, who represented potential lifetime customers. Finally, the industry created powerful lobbying groups to protect their profits from regulations aimed at curbing consumption.

Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies. New methods of consuming marijuana (such as vaporization) are said to represent a healthier way to get high — though little research supports this claim — encouraging individuals to consume more marijuana in one sitting. The percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (the euphoria-inducing compound associated with many adverse health effects) in marijuana is much higher than it was a few decades ago. Just as tobacco companies featured doctors in advertisement campaigns, marijuana advocates have appealed to medical authority by successfully lobbying in many places for the approval of “medical marijuana” for a plethora of conditions, even when little or no scientific evidence supports its use.

Although it is laudable that Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, it is also disturbing that the marijuana industry quickly mounted powerful legal efforts to challenge these restrictions in court.

The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.

Important lessons can also be drawn from the Netherlands, where marijuana has been decriminalized since 1976. Following decriminalization, the Dutch government strictly enforced guidelines prohibiting advertising and transactions above a certain quantity (to discourage mass production and distribution). For about a decade, marijuana consumption rates remained stable. However, in the mid-1980s, waning enforcement of these guidelines coincided with a drastic increase in both the commercialization of marijuana and rates of consumption. The overriding lesson from the Netherlands is that it was commercialization, not decriminalization itself, that led to sharp increases in use.

If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities. Advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.

While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.

Samuel T. Wilkinson is a resident physician in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. This first appeared in The Washington Post.

Source: http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-marijuana-mimics-big-tobacco-1214-20141212-story.html

Filed under: Economic,Political Sector :

Two dozen doctors in Arizona are responsible for making medical marijuana available to more than 34,000 patients according to a new report, with several writing recommendations at the rate of one an hour for every business hour of the day.

The study being released today by the Arizona Department of Health Services finds these 24 doctors, most of them naturopaths, wrote close to two-thirds of all the recommendations in the most recent fiscal year.

State Health Director Will Humble said his agency has reported 30 of these doctors to their state licensing boards. But Humble said these were doctors where there was clear evidence that they were not following laws which require them to check a website run by the Arizona Board of Pharmacy to see whether their patients had prescriptions for other drugs. He does not know whether the boards ever followed up.

One physician, a naturopath, over that last fiscal year, did almost 3,000 certifications,’’ Humble said. `It does make you raise an eyebrow.”

Humble said he has no independent authority to investigate whether the doctors that are writing out the lion’s share of the recommendations are in fact complying with requirements that they adequately examine patients to ensure that marijuana is appropriate.

The new report also finds that the highest concentration of medical marijuana users is in Yavapai County, with close to 1.5 percent of the total population there having a state-issued card entitling them to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. Gila County was a close second. At the other extreme, 0.3 percent of Yuma County residents are medical marijuana users.

Source:http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/arizona/politics/article_9140c3c3-34b7-5ac7-a46f-969eb5569091.html 13th Nov.2014

Filed under: Economic,Legal Sector :

The drugs arrest case is a serious case of drug use/abuse in a work place and clearly reflects the seriousness of the local drug problem.

Already one of the defendants in the case has appeared in court and has volunteered to start a drug rehabilitation programme. This is another indication of the many people of all ages, all walks of life and employment in Gibraltar with drug issues who need help, where it has taken an arrest of this kind for that person to seek help.

The arrest of people at work, taking or abusing drugs should not shock those who know something about the local drug problem, because it has been a related drug issue that has grown on par with the general substance abuse problem. The fact that many people in Gibraltar prefer to bury their head in the sand and hope this serious social problem will go away has compounded many aspects of drug control locally.

Gibraltar’s Growing Drug Problem

The fact remains, the Rock has serious substance abuse problem that will continue to grow and blossom like a poisonous mushroom unless the Government takes immediate action in putting together a national plan to combat drug abuse in Gibraltar. People affected, individuals and whole families who are caught up in the lethal local drug syndrome as a whole, have not been effectively protected!

In fact Gibraltar cannot wait another year or when the government thinks it’s fit to unfold a substance abuse programme based on data taken from up to date research. This serious problem had been steadily creeping into local society, specifically attacking young people and the not so young. In fact, I go further, unless a determined and drastic action is taken, the Rock could lose the potential and the contribution of hundreds of young people and the fibre of the Gibraltarian family will be seriously impaired.

Nearly two decades have passed since the local drug problem really came into its own, what has wavered, and has been just as damaging as consuming drugs itself, is the manner Gibraltar has reacted to the problem. Over the years hundreds of young people have been asking and required help that never came. Many young people now adults were on their own or with their families struggling against the terrible habit, many are now paying dearly for the consequences. Too many young people are now going through the same cycle and like others in the same predicament, are going to waste.

What is Society Going to do About It!

What are we going to do about it? That “we” embraces the whole of society, from the law enforcers to the drug pushers and the drug abusers, to parents and their friends, their teachers, their employers, the owners of bars, nightclubs and squeaky-clean establishments or hotels where transactions are possible made, and where at some momentous times in their lives, youngsters or their elders take the horrendous decision to “try one, to see how it feels”.

It remains strange that a nation of the size of ours, the pushers and the traffickers and the big ones remain difficult to track down, although much has been done and is being done by the police. One big step remains to be taken: nailing down the Big Fish himself/herself to break the back of the drug problem in Gibraltar. Easier said than done; that much is obvious!

Its incredible, that the Government has not thought it important in nearly 3 years in office to compile Statistics to show the estimated number of problematic drug users, much of what we know in this sense is guesswork, empirically based or taken from police arrest and court attendance figures which has never been or will ever be an accurate picture of the real problem with drugs out there.

At the social level, the level of family, friendship and employment, that is, the habits of a “daily drug user” ought to be identifiable, his or her performance or behaviour at school or in the workplace ought to be detectable in one way or another: Lack of productivity, absence of concentration, inability to function normally to take but three characteristics that should show up. If I am correct, the implications are that there may be friends, teachers, parents and employers walking on the other side of the road, a morally and ethically alarming thought.

Everyone Should be Pulling at the Same Rope!

All Government agencies, organisations, NGOs, the Church, and schools should all be pulling the same rope and working closely together in a coordinated manner. Of course people who have overcome an addiction and are now rehabilitated would have an important story to tell.

For the above reason, I would also like to see more holistic and perceptive treatment of social welfare cases. “For instance, if a person applies for the social housing scheme, s/he should not simply be provided with a house. Further investigations should take place to determine whether the person in question has succumbed to additional problems, such as drug abuse etc. Because already in this sense, there have many problems regarding one relatively new estate where many social cases were transferred without properly looking into these social issues effecting them.

In my book, National Drug Policies should no longer be drafted solely by academics. Even after drafting and implementation, a national policy remains an on-going process, in need of constant evaluation. Aspects which are not working or having the desired effects should be identified and the authorities should have the courage to acknowledge the flaws and strive to find alternative strategies, this was never the case with the previous drug strategy that went flat before it even started.

Gibraltar Continues to Fail on this Important Social Problem

There are clear indicators that we’re failing somewhere. We therefore need more research to find out what’s really happening. It could be that 16-year-olds are emulating their peers and drinking alcohol because it’s the hip thing to do. But there could also be instances where this tendency has deeper roots…A properly coordinated outreach programme should get off the ground, with agencies actively seeking out those in need and not merely awaiting to be approached!

Employers should also be enticed to shoulder their responsibility by closely following their employees and identifying and referring cases such as drug abuse. They would be helping society as well as the workplace.

The Government recently informed Panorama “the strategic drug-working group focuses on substance misuse i.e. drug and alcohol not just drugs. We are committed to conducting a Drug Prevalence survey within the current term of office. Priority issues include reduction in drug consumption, emphasis on enforcement, increased awareness and comprehensive review of rehabilitation services. The strategic response (national drug strategy) is currently being developed to include all these issues many of which are interrelated and require clear coordination between different governmental bodies and statutory bodies”.

The Government further adding, “this is an important document, which needs to be done thoroughly but it will certainly be completed before the end of this term of office. The Government also confirmed that the public will be invited to contribute given this is an issue of general public concern as highlighted by successive Police Authority surveys”.

Frankly I do not agree that this serious social issue should have to wait until the end of the term of office of the present administration before a national drug strategy is in place, if that actually happens?

Because even today no one knows the real extent of the substance abuse problem in Gibraltar! Similarly, no one even now, appears to be in any great hurry to find out the extent of the problem either. A situation that is an incomprehensible because you would think that after nearly three years in office the Government would want to know what they are facing when it comes to drug abuse in Gibraltar.

Panorama has been asking for years for these important drugs findings to be carried out. Why should we have to wait a few months or weeks before an election to get this vitally important information? Data or research that may reveal that someone or vulnerable group in society requires immediate attention and not wait before the next election, which may be over a year away and come to late for the desperate person concerned!

Source:    http://www.panorama.gi/localnews/  05-09-14

As part of the big push for drug legalisation in the USA,  it is becoming very clear that this is not only being funded  by organisations and individuals who have been pushing for this for years, but also by those who expect to make a great deal of money out of it.  Parent groups and others in the drug prevention field are horrified that financial gain is being put above the health and welfare of their children – and of society in general.   The following comment was sent to the New York Times following their  editorial agreeing with the legalisation of marijuana.

 

In, the United Kingdom, we have not legalised marijuana for spurious so-called ‘medical reasons or for ‘recreational use’. Guess what – the findings of a report just released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows that drug use amongst secondary school students in England has plummeted by 50% since 2003….  In stark contrast to what is happening to students in the USA.   If you want your young people to continue using marijuana take note that research shows this will reduce their IQ points – and for heavy, regular users they are statistically more likely to move on to using cocaine.

Those standing to make big bucks out of the sale of marijuana will tell you soothingly that the relaxation of your drug laws will only be for adults and that minors will be protected….. yes, like they are not supposed to be able to purchase tobacco and alcohol products ?

The younger a person is when they start to use an addictive substance the more likely they are to become problem drug users.

 

Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Big Oil has one. Big Telecom has one. Big Pharma has one. If you’re an industry with a true foothold in Washington—a “Big” lobby, in other words—you’ve got to have a “revolving door.”

And increasingly, it seems like the $2.5 billion-a-year (and growing) American cannabis trade is building its own—let’s call it a “revolving hotbox,” to use the pot smoker’s parlance—attracting a growing number of ex-politicians and former political staffers to the industry’s cause.

Earlier this summer, Jack Lavin, former chief of staff to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, resigned to become a lobbyist. One of his first three clients was a marijuana start-up company, which hired Lavin specifically to lobby the governor’s office. Read MoreWARNING!!! Legalizing pot will make income inequality a lot worse

William Delahunt, a former U.S. representative from Massachusetts, started a nonprofit medical marijuana company last year. That outfit became the subject of controversy last month, when the state pulled its three dispensary licenses, after public outcry over its financial ties to a consulting firm Delahunt runs.

Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate, recently became CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a publicly traded marijuana company whose stock price has been skyrocketing of late.

“Overall, I don’t see a downside to any of this,” Johnson said of the increasing involvement of people like him. “From the standpoint of the legalized environment nationwide, it is all headed that way, and it is headed that way very quickly.”

Steve Katz, an upstate New York Assembly member, has boasted of his intentions to get into the weed business after his term in office expires. Read MoreThe New York Times calls on US to legalize marijuana

And the National Cannabis Industry Association, the nation’s leading marijuana trade group, hired Michael Correia, a former GOP congressional staffer, to be its first full-time lobbyist.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/101886620  August, 1, 2014.

Barcelona City Hall has ordered the closure of almost 50 cannabis clubs in a bid to stem an industry that has the Catalan capital rivalling Amsterdam as a “potheads’ paradise”   Barcelona City Hall has ordered the closure of almost 50 cannabis clubs in a bid to stem an industry that has the Catalan capital rivalling Amsterdam as a “potheads’ paradise”.

Authorities, concerned about Barcelona’s fast-growing reputation as a weed smokers’ haven, ordered the closures after an inspection of 145 cannabis clubs in the city found a third of them had “deficiencies” in their management.  The clubs facing closure are accused of various violations, among them selling cannabis illegally, attempting to attract non-members onto the premises and poor ventilation.   The number of cannabis clubs in Spain has soared over the past few years, ballooning from an estimated 40 associations in 2010 to more than 700 across the nation, according to estimates by smokers’ groups.

Barcelona is home to more than half of these clubs, which vary from elegant cocktail-style bars to sparsely furnished basement rooms in apartment blocks.   They have sprung into existence because of a legal loophole which allows marijuana to be cultivated and distributed among members forming a not-for-profit association. Members must pay an annual subscription plus a variable fee to cover the cost of cultivating the cannabis they consume.

Without clear regulations in place, however, some clubs have ventured beyond the spirit of the law and actively encourage tourists by allowing them to sign up for club membership online ahead of their arrival in the city and to buy drugs when they visit.   Barcelona now tops the rankings on WeBeHigh, a travel advice website for soft drug users, beating traditional stoners’ favourite Amsterdam.

Earlier this year Barcelona’s city hall imposed a year moratorium on associations opening premises for smoking the drug and regional authorities also want new rules on cannabis.  Recent figures show that in Catalonia alone there are 165,000 registered members of cannabis clubs bringing in an estimated 5 million euros (£4 million) in revenue each month.

City Hall announced plans in June to tighten control of the cannabis clubs, which include ensuring that they do not open premises near schools and that they are well ventilated. Authorities are also seeking to control opening hours of club premises and set maximum membership numbers.

The associations themselves have also called for better regulations to be introduced to avoid malpractice such as leafleting on the street to lure in new members and dealing in black market cannabis rather than produce homegrown specifically for use by the association.

Martin Barriuso, the spokesman for the Spanish Federation of Cannabis Associations, acknowledged that some “bad practices” have emerged.  “We have reported them,” he told AFP last month. “But it is hard to control without a clear regulation that separates the wheat from the chaff.”

Following the closures on Wednesday, the Catalan federation of cannabis associations, CatFAC, appealed for dialogue between the authorities and the clubs.  “We are aware that the administration does its job well and ensures the common good but this situation would be easier if, before it acts, it set clear rules for all cannabis associations,” it said in a statement.

The more reputable clubs have doctors on hand to advise those who may be using marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as easing the side effects of chemotherapy.

Catalonia’s Ministry of Health will in September present a draft law to the regional parliament calling for the regulation of cannabis consumption.

Source:  www.telegraph.co.uk  14.08.2014 

“Medical” marijuana is approved in 21 states and the District of Columbia for numerous conditions, including glaucoma, Crohn disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, Alzheimer disease, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Both the number of states and the number of approved indications for medical marijuana are expected to increase. Physicians will bear the responsibility of prescribing marijuana and thus have an obligation to understand the issues involved in its “medicalization.”

Medical marijuana differs significantly from other prescription medications. Evidence supporting its efficacy varies substantially and in general falls short of the standards required for approval of other drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some evidence suggests that marijuana may have efficacy in chemotherapy-induced vomiting, cachexia in HIV/AIDS patients, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and neuropathic pain. However, the evidence for use in other conditions—including posttraumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, Crohn disease, and Alzheimer disease—relies largely on testimonials instead of adequately powered, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials. For most of these conditions, medications that have been subjected to the rigorous approval process of the FDA already exist. Furthermore, the many conditions for which medical marijuana is approved have no common etiology, pathophysiology, or phenomenology, raising skepticism about a common mechanism of action.

There is no clear optimal dose of marijuana for its various approved conditions. The concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids in each marijuana cigarette, the size of cigarettes, and the quantity of smoke inhaled by users can vary considerably. The relative lack of controlled clinical trial data makes finding the appropriate dose even more challenging. Furthermore, given that medical marijuana is approved for mostly chronic conditions that require long-term dosing, physicians must be aware of the development of tolerance and dependence (as evidenced by downregulation of the brain cannabinoid receptors), as well as withdrawal on discontinuation.

Prescription drugs are produced according to exacting standards to ensure uniformity and purity of active constituents and excipients. Because regulatory standards of the production process vary by state, the composition, purity, and concentration of the active constituents of marijuana are also likely to vary. This is especially problematic because unlike most other prescription medications that are single active compounds, marijuana contains more than 100 cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids that produce individual, interactive, and entourage effects. Although THC is believed to be the principal psychoactive constituent of marijuana, other cannabinoids present in marijuana may have important effects that may offset THC’s negative effects. For instance, cannabidiol has been shown to have anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects that might offset the anxiogenic and psychotogenic potential of THC. Yet cannabidiol is sometimes bred out to increase the THC potency of some medical marijuana strains.

Benefits notwithstanding, the potential harms associated with medical marijuana need to be carefully considered. No other prescription medication is smoked; concerns remain about the long-term risks of respiratory problems associated with smoking marijuana, which are a subject of active investigation. THC is already available in a pill approved by the FDA, yet this form seems to be less desirable to those seeking medical marijuana; this may in part be because its euphoric effects are not immediate and cannot be reliably controlled, unlike smoked marijuana. Furthermore, there is evidence that marijuana exposure is associated with an increased risk of psychotic disorders in vulnerable individuals. Clearly, some but not all individuals are at risk of psychosis with exposure to marijuana, but it is not possible to identify at-risk individuals. In individuals with established psychotic disorders, marijuana use has a negative effect on the course and expression of the illness. Furthermore, recent findings suggest that long-term marijuana exposure is associated with structural brain changes as well as a decline in IQ.

The current system of dispensing marijuana does not safeguard adequately against the potential for diversion and abuse. Many states, for instance, allow patients to grow their own marijuana. Furthermore, marijuana may be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, or fungi, the latter being especially dangerous to immunocompromised individuals such as patients with HIV/AIDS or cancer. Central regulatory oversight by the FDA makes possible the recall of harmful drugs or contaminated batches and the dissemination of new information about drug safety. Is there sufficient oversight to monitor potential contamination of marijuana, especially when patients are permitted to grow it themselves?

A significant but largely overlooked problem with the medical marijuana movement is the message the public infers from its legalization and increasing prevalence. There is an increasing perception, paralleling trends in legalization, that marijuana is not associated with significant or lasting harm; data from 3 decades indicate that among adolescents, risk perception is inversely proportional to prevalence of cannabis use. As legalization has spread for medical or recreational purposes, it is possible that the perception of risk by adolescents will continue to decrease, with a subsequent increase in use. This is especially problematic given that many of the negative effects of marijuana are most pronounced in adolescents.

Projections of substantial revenue rather than evidence-based medicine may explain the eagerness of many states to legalize medical marijuana. Physicians have been invited to participate in the development of medical marijuana programs late in the process. In some instances (eg, Connecticut), legislators approved medical marijuana but consulted physicians with relevant expertise only afterward.

An unmet need remains for treatments of a number of debilitating medical conditions. Specific constituents of marijuana may have therapeutic promise for specific symptoms associated with these disorders. However, if marijuana is to be used for medical purposes, it should be subjected to the same evidence-based review and regulatory oversight as other medications prescribed by physicians. Potentially therapeutic compounds of marijuana should be purified and tested in randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled clinical trials. Toward this end, the federal government should actively support research examining marijuana’s potentially therapeutic compounds. These compounds should be approved by the FDA (not by popular vote or state legislature), produced according to good manufacturing practice standards, distributed by regulated pharmacies, and dispensed via a conventional and safe route of administration (such as oral pills or inhaled vaporization). Otherwise, states are essentially legalizing recreational marijuana but forcing physicians to act as gatekeepers for those who wish to obtain it.

 Source:  jama.jamanetwork.com   May 20th 2014

 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that excessive alcohol drinking accounts for one in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the U.S.

This is a horrible waste of lives and the CDC is working with partners to support the implementation of strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use as recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force.

The CDC says excessive drinking includes binge drinking (four or more drinks on an occasion for women, five or more drinks on an occasion for men); heavy drinking (eight or more drinks a week for women, 15 or more drinks a week for men); and drinking while underage or pregnant.

 Annually from 2006 to 2010, excessive alcohol use led to an average of 87,798 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost. Excessive drinking shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.

 Most of the deaths (69 percent) involved adults 20 to 64 years old. About 5 percent of the deaths involved people younger than 21.

These deaths were due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as breast cancer, liver disease and heart disease, as well as health effects from drinking too much in a short period, such as violence, alcohol poisoning and motor vehicle crashes.

The findings were based on an analysis of data from the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact application for 2006-2010.

 The ARDI provides national and state-specific estimates of alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost. It currently includes 54 causes of death for which estimates of alcohol involvement were either directly available or could be calculated on the basis of existing scientific information.

The national annual average death rate due to excessive alcohol use was 28 deaths per 100,000. State-specific estimates of deaths and years of potential life lost because of excessive drinking by condition are available at apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DACH_ARDI/default/default.aspx

 Unfortunately, the estimates for 2006 through 2010 are similar to the 2001 estimates, which emphasize the substantial and ongoing public health impact of excessive drinking.

According to the CDC, excessive drinking cost the U.S. about $224 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006. Most of these costs were due to lost productivity, including reduced earnings among excessive drinkers as well as deaths due to excessive drinking among working-age adults.

 The real question is how to manage this problem. Prohibition has already been tried and was a dismal failure. Laws are already on the books to regulate the sale and use of alcohol. Yet it continues to injure and/or kill too many of those who use it.

Now, many states have chosen to disregard the lessons offered by alcohol and are choosing to allow recreational marijuana use in addition to alcohol, in spite of the fact that there is nothing in place to reliably measure the level of intoxication from marijuana.

In a few years, I hope that we are not going to look back on the injury and fatality statistics for marijuana and wonder why we let yet another dangerous drug out into our world, and especially the world of our children. Dr. Terry Gaff is a physician in northeast Indiana

 Source: kpcnews.com 2nd August 2014

To the Editor, New York Times:

Much of the country — with The New York Times regrettably in the vanguard — is advocating the reckless addition of a third drug, marijuana, to two drugs currently legal for adults: alcohol and tobacco. These two legal drugs are the leading causes of preventable illness.

The legal status of a drug has dramatic impact on its use. In the last 30 days, 52 percent of Americans 12 and older used alcohol, 27 percent used tobacco and only 7 percent used marijuana. The dramatically lower level of marijuana use reflects its illegal status, not its appeal. Why is it in our nation’s interest to see marijuana use climb? Since when is smoking a program that we promote?

The best policy to protect public health is one that reduces, not increases, marijuana use. There are plenty of ways to achieve this goal, including a strong public education effort focused on the negative health effects of marijuana.

There are reasons why employers, including the United States government, prohibit marijuana use in the workplace. There are reasons why marijuana emergency room admissions are reported at the rate of 1,250 a day and 455,000 a year, and why highway crashes double for marijuana users.

We cannot ignore the negative effects that legalization would have on under-age use and addiction, highway safety, treatment costs, mental health problems, emergency room admissions, workplace accidents and productivity, and personal health.

PETER BENSINGER
ROBERT L. DuPONT
Chicago, July 30, 2014

 Mr. Bensinger was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration from 1976 to 1981. Mr. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, was director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse from 1973 to 1978. They are co-founders of Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, which provides employee assistance program, gambling helpline and drug-testing services.

Overall crime in the City and County of Denver has increased nearly 7 percent in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to new analyses of Colorado crime data.

 The numbers, released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), differ markedly from widely published reports claiming crime in the Mile High City has dropped since the state opened its first recreational marijuana shops Jan. 1. (This April 7 report in the Washington Post is a great example of how journalists have jumped the gun — so to speak — on declarations that “crime is down across the board.”)

 Before unpacking the numbers, HIDTA officials said they do “not infer causality” between the increased crime rates they found and the opening of Colorado’s recreational pot shops, most of which are concentrated in Denver. Similarly, marijuana proponents should not claim the drug’s legalization has caused crime to drop.

 OK, so why such sharp discrepancy between the numbers reported by marijuana-interest groups, marijuana-cheerleading reporters and the HIDTA analyses, which are based on data collected by the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and prepared to Denver Department of Safety Public Information Standards?

Rocky Mountain HIDTA Director Tom Gorman explains:

“The marijuana advocates’ claims boil down to old-fashioned cherry picking. What they are not telling everybody is that they are not looking at all reported crime categories in Denver, or even at all the crimes that fall under those categories. They are taking the numbers that favor their position — and in their case, those numbers are some of the crimes included in the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Part I.

 “If you want a true and complete picture of all crime in Denver, you have to look at the Denver report that uses the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIRBS) because the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) captures only about 50 percent of all crimes reported — and tracked — in Denver.”

 To illustrate how much more thoroughly NIRBS data are tracked than the UCR data, Mr. Gorman’s office provided this quick chart listing only two categories of crime. The numbers in parenthesis refer to the number of subcategories of crime tracked under that larger category. (Note: For example, the FBI report looks at four subcategories of “violent crime,” while the Denver Police Department tracks those four subcategories and three others under the heading “crimes against persons.”)

 The NIRBS data show overall crime in Denver is up 6.7% when comparing the first six months of 2014 to the first six months of 2013.

We encourage you to review all of the numbers for yourself, but here are some highlights:

Crimes against people in Denver County increased more than 18 percent. Under this category:

There were 21 murders in the first six months of 2013 and 13 in the same period of this year. That’s a drop of 38 percent.

Aggravated assault was up 2.2 percent, from 1,167 reports to 1,193.

Simple assault increased 35 percent, from 1,634 reports to 2,207.

Reports of intimidation jumped 45 percent, from 370 reports to 537.

Forcible sex offenses dropped from 419 reports to 340 reports, or 18.9 percent.

Non-forcible sex offenses declined from 12 to 7, or 41.7 percent.

Reports falling under the category of crimes against property fell 8 percent. However, subcategories of crime often involving marijuana were on the rise, Mr. Gorman noted. Among them were reports of stolen property, which increased 16.4 percent.

Criminal offences reported under the category of crimes against society increased 22.8 percent. Under this category:

Drug/Narcotics Violations increased 20.6 percent, from 1,069 reports to 1,289 reports.

Weapon law violations jumped 43 percent from 209 reports to 299 reports.

Criminal offences falling under the category titled “all other offenses,” nearly doubled with an increase of 96.2 percent. Under this category:

Reports of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace skyrocketed 214 percent from 234 reports in the first six months of 2013 to 735 reports in the same period of this year.

Family offences considered nonviolent jumped 30 percent from 174 to 227 reports.

Criminal trespassing also rocketed up 162.4 percent from from 274 reports to 719.

Liquor law and drunkenness violations were up 237 percent from 27 reported offenses to 64.

Like the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals has examined the NIRBS data. Researchers affiliated with that organization compared the first six months of each of the last five years and found that reports of simple assault and domestic violence have risen steadily.

“We are not inferring causality between these increases … just like legalization proponents should not infer causality regarding the downward trend observable when isolating just the UCR’s Part One Crime Index,” NADCP Chief Executive Officer West Huddleston recently wrote. “However, we are promoting the position that the question remains open, and at best we can say there is contradictory evidence when trying to draw conclusions about the effect marijuana legalization has had on crime.”

It’s past time for news organizations to report this more accurate picture of crime in Denver — and not just the numbers handed to them by marijuana proponents or the numbers they select to build their preferred narratives.

 Source:drthurstone.com 23rd July 2014

Two of the larger social trends of our time — the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana — have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty, and they serve the interests of an expanding government.

The ideological alliance behind these changes is among the strangest in U.S. politics. Libertarians seek to lift governmental restraints on consensual acts. State governments seek sources of revenue without the political inconvenience of requesting broad tax increases. Both find common ground in encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses and addictions of citizens. (And business interests and their lobbyists, of course, find new ways to profit from reliable vices.)

The financial appeal is forthright. Maryland did not legalize gambling to expand the realm of personal autonomy. It collects a 61 percent tax on slot machine revenue. Colorado expects about $114 million in taxes and fees during its first year of marijuana legalization. “If Colorado is able to rake in substantial amounts of tax revenue,” according to one news account, “legalization advocates’ pitches to legislatures in Oregon, Massachusetts and Alaska become that much easier.”

Consider the perspective of a state legislator. Your state has incurred a variety of unfunded obligations. Voting to raise taxes might cost you your job. Legalizing gambling or pot, in contrast, will bring in new revenue and perhaps new campaign donations. And some people will call it the advance of freedom!

This is a tribute to a hardy weed — in this case, the hardy weed of government, which can grow in any political environment. If you are a progressive who wants universal health coverage, government expands. If you are a libertarian who wants people to be able to waste their money at casinos, or smoke and ingest whatever they damn well please, government expands as well.

But this particular enlargement depends on minimizing and dismissing the consequences for individuals and communities.

Gambling is described as entertainment, though modern slot machines are really sophisticated computer programs designed to elicit Pavlovian responses until victims “play to extinction.” An estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of slot revenue comes from problem gamblers. And casinos are often sited to attract working-class people.

Pot is called harmless, though we really have little information on the health and cultural effects of the widespread legal distribution of modern, potent methods of consuming THC (the chemical name). We do know that the substance is addictive in about one of nine cases (more like one in six when use starts in the teens); that it can make structural changes in portions of the brain controlling emotion and motivation; and that regular use undermines memory, attention span, problem-solving skills and the ability to complete complex tasks. What possible use could these attributes be in a modern economy?

There is also little doubt that an expanded legal market in pot also expands the illegal market for reselling (or giving) to children and teens. And the product — especially Colorado’s ingestible pot lollipops and gummy bears — is particularly suitable. The social message of normalization, of banalization, is intended — and received by young people. The first $40 million of Colorado’s pot revenue is slated for public school construction. What were once “drug-free school zones” are becoming drug-funded schools. Will there be a celebratory plaque in seventh-grade classrooms: “Brought to you by the potheads of the Centennial State”?

Parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children. But now some states are profiting from actively undermining those norms. Apparently, only consenting adults matter. Libertarian utopias are always childless.

For the strongest ideological advocates of this approach, the outcomes are largely irrelevant. It ultimately doesn’t matter if teen drug use increases by X percent or gambling addiction rises Y percent. Ending “consensual crimes” is a matter of principle — not just on pot and slots but on heroin and meth. The idea of a political community upholding standards, in order to help other institutions (such as families) pass healthy cultural norms between generations, is anathema.

But libertarians are now, paradoxically, providing ideological cover for irresponsible government. State officials just want the money, however it is blessed, without requesting it through the normal democratic process. Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned. And that deserves contempt, not applause.

Source:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-corrupting-citizens-for-fun-and-profit/2014/07/14/da321826-0b87-11e4-b8e5-d0de80767fc2_story.html

When Edward Madewell’s mother asked him to come home after five years of homelessness and drift, he bought a Greyhound bus ticket and headed for Missouri.

Halfway there, his mother told him he would have to give up the marijuana he uses to control seizures and switch to prescribed medicine. Madewell changed his plans and headed for Colorado, where recreational weed has been sold legally since Jan. 1. “I’m not going to stop using something organic,” he said. “I don’t like the pills.”

Madewell is among the homeless lured to Colorado by legal marijuana who are showing up at shelters and other facilities, stressing a system that has seen an unusually high number of people needing help this summer.Of the new kids we’re seeing, the majority are saying they’re here because of the weed. They’re traveling through. It is very unfortunate,” said Kendall Rames, deputy director of Urban Peak, a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and other services to young people in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Younger visitors to Father Woody’s Haven of Hope, which serves people age 18 and older, typically are more demanding and difficult than their elders, director Melinda Paterson said. “Typically, they have an attitude. But we are really strict here. We treat you with respect, … and if they are not respectful, we ask them to leave,” she said.

Combined with an increase in those who arrive penniless and seeking jobs in the state’s strengthening employment market, the homeless influx is straining a service network already under stress, said Murray Flagg, divisional social services secretary for the Salvation Army’s Intermountain Division. Not everyone who works with the homeless singles out marijuana as a contributing factor to their arrival here. “We have had an influx, and the majority of them have been from out of town. I have no idea if the marijuana law has had an impact,” Paterson said.

But homeless advocates agree that numbers have swollen, sometimes dramatically, over the past year.

The number of those who go to Father Woody’s normally rises by about 50 people per month during the summer, Paterson said. This year, she said, “we have gotten 923 new homeless over the last three months,” more than 300 a month.

About two months ago, she added, the shelter began bringing those who eat breakfast and lunch there to the table in shifts to accommodate the increase. “It is worrisome in the sense that how are we going to clothe and feed and find shelter for them?” she said.

Between May 1 and July 15, Urban Peak’s drop-in center, where homeless people 15 through 24 can get a meal, do laundry, shower or take GED and other classes, saw the number of new visitors jump by 5 percent over the same period last year, Rames said. Last summer, the Salvation Army’s single men’s Crossroads Shelter in Denver housed an average of 225 men each night.

This summer’s average is about 300 per night, and when other shelters are full, the organization provides a bed for as many as 350, Flagg said. In the past, the shelter’s residents averaged between 35 and 60 years old. “Now we are seeing a much larger number of 18- to 25-year- olds.”

An informal survey performed at the shelter suggested that about 25 percent of the increase in population was related to marijuana, Flagg said.

While many come to smoke without worrying about the law, others “are folks looking to work in the industry, a lot of them have an agricultural background,” or other experience they expect will be in demand, he said. They may also have a felony on their record that automatically disqualifies them from getting a job in the highly regulated business.

Those who do find jobs in pot shops and grow houses often don’t earn enough to pay rent or buy a home in Denver’s expensive housing market, Flagg said. They, too, can end up homeless. The shelters don’t require anyone to explain why they came to Colorado, but some do volunteer their reasons. On the list of reasons given at St. Francis Center, a daytime shelter, marijuana trails only looking for work, said Tom Leuhrs, the executive director.

While marijuana use contributes to the number of homeless, the growth in their numbers indicates that people are having difficulty moving into the workforce from high school and college, Leuhrs said. “The economy is not supporting them. There are not enough jobs,” Leuhrs said. He sees an almost even split between those, like Madewell, who say they use pot for medical reasons, and others who crave easy access to a legal high.

Dusty Taylor, 20, who was standing in line for breakfast at Urban Peak this week, said he came back to Colorado, where he grew up and had been homeless in the past, after hearing weed had been legalized. “I said, I should go back. It was, like, I don’t want to catch a felony for smoking.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/News/ci_26216037/Legal-pot-blamed-for-some-of-influx-of-homeless-in-Denver-this-summer :   07/25/2014 

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.”

-Alice In Wonderland

Why is it that all of the conversation nowadays on the subject of medical marijuana leaves me feeling like we have all fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole? Voices in the discussion, who would normally have been considered sensible and sane, are now being made to seem provincial, prudish, callous and even crazy. All the while, those who once were considered “a little crazy” in their views are being held up as open-minded, wise, sensible and compassionate. How have we, in so short a time, come to a point where the whole debate seems to be turned upside-down?

It seems to me this curious turn has come about by blowing a lot of smoke at the State Legislature and among Nevada voters. Unfortunately after tumbling down that rabbit hole, we have come to this strange place where nothing can be seen as what it is, and everything seems to be nonsense.

Here are just a few of the strange myths and misperceptions which have actually gotten traction on the subject of medical marijuana.

It’s Just a Harmless Little Vice

The advocates of medical marijuana often are the same folks who downplay the effects of cannabis products; both on public health and on society as a whole. They would say, “Lighten up, man! It’s not a big deal. It’s just a modest vice, no different from alcohol or tobacco.” They would argue that marijuana’s mild consequences affect only the person who takes it. Overall societal consequences are minimal.

Of course, the more savvy advocates among them would quickly change the subject and say that this really isn’t about the free recreational use of marijuana. All that is irrelevant. Rather, it is about the rights of a small group of seriously ill people to derive some comfort or benefit from using marijuana as a medicine. No doubt, they would produce studies showing that marijuana has helped people through terminal illnesses or severe pain. They will cite other studies that show children prone to seizures deriving benefits from marijuana products. Some studies might even claim that the substance has curative powers against cancer or other terminal diseases.

Of course, it’s hard to argue with this. Medical studies are a dime a dozen nowadays; and it seems you can find a study to prove any point you want to make. Still, I, for one, won’t reject the idea that the marijuana plant may have important and valid medicinal uses. I believe that every plant is here on earth for an intended good purpose. So there may indeed be severe cases where marijuana is helpful in managing pain or bringing comfort to a suffering patient. I doubt anyone would deny such a person the one treatment that might help, just because it happens to be marijuana.

On the other hand, I also know human nature all too well. Common sense dictates that there are always a lot of people out there trying to game the system. And I’d predict that a majority of medical marijuana cardholders will not be those extreme cases we are talking about. Rather they will be people willing to say whatever is necessary to have access to the substance. Let’s face it, the use of medical marijuana will become much more widespread than just those few extreme and justifiable cases. It will undoubtedly have a way of spilling over its bounds onto people who have no medical need for it whatsoever.

And that kind of marijuana use is just what bothers most of the medical marijuana naysayers. That’s because it comes at a huge cost to society.Marijuana has been shown to dull the senses, slow down productivity, degrade intelligence and disable employees in the workforce. It has also been shown to cause an increase in certain types of crimes in the neighborhoods and communities where it is present; including violent crimes. Marijuana does NOT only affect the one who takes it. It affects homes, families and schools. It affects children, spouses, neighbors and other innocent bystanders.

So don’t let the proponents of medical marijuana downplay the real effects of this substance on the community.Make no mistake. This is not just a harmless little vice we are talking about. Marijuana use is a bad thing for communities, for the nation and for society as a whole.

 The Myth Of Regulation

Of course, there is the argument that the full regulation of marijuana would be far better than the black market model of distribution we have now. This concept may have merit. But numerous problems with the state law, and careful observation of other states where marijuana has been legalized, seem to indicate that marijuana can’t really be regulated in a meaningful way at this point by the states.

The fact that federal law prohibits the use of marijuana; medical or not; makes regulation by the states problematic to say the least. In the case of medical use, it requires the establishment of an alternative state distribution system outside of the standard FDA-regulated pharmacy distribution.

Coming up with a problem-free system for that is a tall order. Recently passed Nevada state law has tried to tackle it; but there are still a multitude of unintended loopholes and catch-22s that have come up.

Meanwhile, it comes as no surprise that medical marijuana has become an emerging big business opportunity in Nevada.And wherever there is a lot of money involved, there will also be those who will exploit the loopholes and catch-22s. That leads to plenty of unintended consequences.

Moapa Valley is on track to become a victim to at least one of these unintended consequences. One provision in the law allows registered marijuana cardholders to grow their own medical supply if there is not a registered dispensary within 25 miles of their home. Of course, the local town advisory boards have wisely stood firm in saying ‘No!’ to marijuana dispensaries in these communities. Even if their answer had been ‘yes,’ it is doubtful whether a dispensary operator would choose to locate here due to such low demand and minimal profit potential.

So what does that mean? Well, without a licensed dispensary around, anyone with a doctor’s note can obtain a medical marijuana card allowing them to legally grow far more marijuana here in their local basement than they would ever use for medical purposes. And “Dr. Reefer” (of Las Vegas billboard fame) is reportedly giving those cards out to anyone who claims to have a headache.

So what happens when some of these urban cardholders find out (as they inevitably will) that there is a quiet little town nearby where they could legally cultivate an ongoing crop of marijuana with minimal regulation? What’s more, by selling the excess of said crop on the black market, they could easily add $1,000 a month or more to their household income! Well, as Mesquite Mayor Al Litman said last week in a city council meeting, we are “bound to see some budding entrepreneurs moving into the community.” And they probably won’t be the type to join the Chamber of Commerce or flip pancakes at Rotary Club Breakfasts.

As the state law is now, this will change things for Moapa Valley, beginning early next year. The home-growers will move in and set up shop. And eventually all of those adverse effects of marijuana at-large in the community will begin to be felt here in these little towns.

The state law, as currently written, leaves no good option for towns like Moapa Valley and Moapa in combatting this catch-22. It is not a matter of choice whether we want marijuana in our community or not. We will have it.

Fortunately, there have been some recent efforts begun by local leaders to appeal to our State Legislators asking for changes to be enacted in the law at next year’s session. A few small revisions in the wording of the law could provide better options for small outlying communities in this matter. We applaud these efforts by town board members and other leaders; and we hope they will be successful.

 The Elephant In The Room

Finally, we must address the concept that everyone sees, but no one wants to admit is there. Whether it’s advocates confess it or not, medical marijuana is just a brief sleight of hand to divert public attention away from the real goal which is the enactment of full recreational use.

With that being so obviously the case; and the whole medical marijuana discussion being a flim-flam sham leading up to it; the whole thing feels even more like we are falling down Alice’s rabbit hole into a strange world of nonsense.

Honestly! How is a sensible person supposed to engage in an intelligent conversation about the medical benefits of marijuana; and talk about how we will all be better off if it is regulated by government agencies; when we all know that we aren’t just talking about medical use at all. It’s obvious that once a medical use distribution system is established, well regulated or not, it will be just one more little nibble of the mushroom before the conversation will have suddenly expanded into full recreational use right before our eyes. And that would be truly nothing short of madness.

At that point, the once sensible voices in the debate will exclaim, like Alice did in Lewis Carroll’s classic story book, “But we don’t want to go among mad people!”To which marijuana proponents will respond as did the famous Hatter, “Oh, you can’t help that, my dear. We’re all mad here!”

Source: http://mvprogress.com/ 16 July 2014

http://mvprogress.com/2014/07/16/from-the-editors-desk-down-the-rabbit-hole/

 The latest statistics provide no surprises. Almost all of the top marijuana-using states have already legalized pot in some form or have a legalization bill on the ballot for 2014. This is especially true for youth use rates.   Proof that where marijuana is legalised youth use escalates – and there is much research evidence that shows that marijuana is especially harmful for adolescents.  The evidence also shows that the younger a person is when they begin to use drugs they are statistically much more likely to become dependent and problem users.

 It is critical that we understand that only 7.3% of the population are current marijuana users, and yet the legalization of pot consumes the headlines and public debate around the country. Should massive changes in public policy, laws (and even state constitutions) be made in order to cater to the wishes of 7.3% of the population? This only makes sense if greed is the primary motive for doing so. 

 We need to help the general public understand that smoking pot is not the norm, that a relative few consume all of the pot being smuggled into and grown in the United States, and that there are serious consequences for surrendering to the drug culture. 

 Where Americans smoke marijuana the most 

Forget Colorado or Washington — tiny Rhode Island is the marijuana capital of the United States, at least as measured by the percent of state residents who regularly use marijuana.

Marijuana use by state

State-level statistics from the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health  show that just over 1 in 8 Rhode Island residents over age 12 smoke marijuana monthly. This is more than three times the rate in Kansas, where only 4 percent of residents regularly indulge.

Nationally about 7 percent of Americans over age 12 have used marijuana in the past month. Western states tend to have the highest rate of usage, at 9 percent, followed by the Northeast. The South has the lowest overall rate at 5.83 percent.

In what will surely not be a surprise to anyone who has ever been young, 18- to 25-year-olds use marijuana the most. Nearly 19 percent of that group has used marijuana in the past month, according to the NSDUH. But again, the state-to-state variation in those numbers are considerable. More than one third of Vermonters in that age bracket regularly use marijuana, compared to less than 10 percent of Utah’s 18- to 25-year-olds.

But usage rates drop off considerably for people age 26 and older: Only 5 percent of Americans in that age group smoke marijuana regularly. Alaska’s 26-and-over crowd is the most likely to regularly use marijuana, at 11.18 percent. To put it another way, Alaska’s adults are more likely to use marijuana than Utah’s college-age crowd.

Both Oregon and Alaska have marijuana legalization measures on their ballots this fall. Not coincidentally, these are the two states with the highest rates of 26-and-over marijuana use.

Source:  Comment from Monte Stiles to Drugwatch International   August 2014

Marijuana use in the past month (%), by age group and state 

State

Total 12+

   12 to 17

    18 to 25

      25+

 

Total U.S.

7.13

7.55

18.89

5.05

Alabama

5.07

5.62

14.34

3.38

Alaska

12.97

10.01

24.77

11.18

Arizona

7.22

8.37

17.20

5.33

Arkansas

5.30

6.01

14.71

3.61

California

9.08

8.83

21.74

6.74

Colorado

10.41

10.47

26.81

7.63

Connecticut

8.44

8.72

23.66

6.01

Delaware

7.49

9.58

20.95

4.95

District of Columbia

10.45

9.35

24.49

7.24

Florida

6.65

7.03

19.02

4.73

Georgia

5.96

7.20

16.65

3.88

Hawaii

7.57

9.69

18.15

5.69

Idaho

5.29

6.21

13.09

3.77

Illinois

7.03

6.94

20.27

4.79

Indiana

6.20

6.25

16.78

4.31

Iowa

6.10

6.65

16.84

4.13

Kansas

4.06

5.47

11.34

2.55

Kentucky

5.63

6.06

17.35

3.65

Louisiana

4.62

5.01

13.00

3.02

Maine

8.38

8.94

22.66

6.29

Maryland

5.81

7.54

17.53

3.66

Massachusetts

9.37

10.58

25.77

6.34

Michigan

8.89

8.89

22.13

6.61

Minnesota

6.30

7.27

17.58

4.33

Mississippi

5.80

6.32

15.86

3.88

Missouri

5.94

7.28

17.41

3.83

Montana

10.45

9.56

26.51

7.94

Nebraska

5.51

6.53

14.83

3.74

Nevada

8.36

8.77

20.01

6.44

New Hampshire

8.37

9.61

26.37

5.41

New Jersey

6.05

6.85

19.26

3.96

New Mexico

9.14

9.82

21.35

6.94

New York

8.24

7.86

21.35

5.98

North Carolina

6.49

7.69

19.28

4.24

North Dakota

5.15

6.02

14.44

3.07

Ohio

7.37

7.53

19.22

5.39

Oklahoma

6.04

6.37

14.14

4.55

Oregon

12.16

9.86

25.81

10.25

Pennsylvania

6.18

6.87

17.54

4.20

Rhode Island

13.00

12.44

30.16

9.74

South Carolina

7.20

7.24

19.24

5.15

South Dakota

5.79

6.44

13.95

4.28

Tennessee

5.41

5.92

14.70

3.81

Texas

5.11

6.32

13.76

3.30

Utah

4.41

5.12

9.83

3.04

Vermont

12.86

13.36

33.18

9.34

Virginia

5.54

6.61

17.06

3.44

Washington

10.21

9.45

23.44

8.11

West Virginia

5.27

6.63

17.55

3.29

Wisconsin

6.69

7.78

18.18

4.65

Wyoming

5.68

6.00

13.06

4.36

Christopher Ingraham is a data journalist focusing primarily on issues of politics, policy and economics. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center. 

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/05/where-americans-smoke-marijuana-the-most 

 Source:  Comment from Monte Stiles to Drugwatch International   August 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/05/where-americans-smoke-marijuana-the-most

Lawmakers have expressed concern over a new form of alcohol that could hit the market as early as the fall. In early April, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved labels for seven varieties of Palcohol, a brand of dehydrated alcohol, ranging from straight vodka to a powdered margarita. Derided as “the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking,” lawmakers and other concerned parties say Palcohol poses a particular risk for youth who may be attracted to this easily portable, easily hidden form of alcohol. 

Dehydrated or powdered alcohol is not a new product. Patents have been held for various formulas since 1970, but never came to market due to either a lackluster market or difficulty with government regulation. However, the labelling approval of Palcohol, which the TTB has since revoked, drew attention to the many dangers inherent in dehydrated alcohol, many of which seemed to be not only acknowledged, but advertised by Palcohol creator Mark Phillips.The original Palcohol website, written in language Phillips describes as “edgy,” encouraged users to sneak the product into banned venues, sprinkle it onto food, and even discussed snorting the product. From the original website: “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.”This flippant approach of the manufacturer only highlighted growing concerns with the product, particularly: youth access, spiking food or beverages, and snorting or inhaling the product. The Palcohol site has now been modified to remove the offending remarks and provide more information on how the product will be difficult to abuse.

The modified FAQ section on snorting now reads: “Can I snort it? We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don’t do it! You wouldn’t want to anyway. It would take you approximately 60 minutes of painful snorting to get the equivalent of one shot of vodka up your nose. Why would you do that when drinking a shot of liquid vodka takes about two seconds?”

While Phillips has modified his marketing approach and resubmitted Palcohol for TTB review, concerned lawmakers, such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are calling for the product to be banned before it enters the market.

“It’s absurd. It’s scary,” Schumer told WCBS Radio and other news outlets recently. “I’m calling on the Food and Drug Administration to immediately step in, investigate Palcohol based on its obvious health risks and prohibit this ludicrous product from going to market.”

Schumer was a driving force behind the ban of Four Loko and other dangerous caffeinated alcohol products, the last alcoholic fad abused by teens and young adults.

CADCA agrees with Sen. Schumer.

“Palcohol is a ridiculous product and really just an attempt to appeal to young people. CADCA believes that there’s nothing good that can come out of powdered alcohol and we support efforts to restrict it.  It’s important to remain vigilant about new and emerging novelty products like these and that’s why it’s critical that we have community coalitions across the country that are alerting us to these products and trends before they wreak havoc on our communities,” said Gen. Arthur T. Dean, CADCA Chairman and CEO.

While Palcohol is being resubmitted to the TTB for further review, some states are working to ban the product before it enters the national market. While Mark Phillips notes that Palcohol would federally be processed and sold in the same venues as traditional alcohol, in Vermont, state Senator Kevin Mullin is concerned that current state laws only address liquid alcohol, making the powdered form difficult to regulate, and more accessible to youth.

“You can’t buy a bottle of gin at the liquor store if you’re 16. But there’s nothing that I can see in Vermont statute that would prohibit you from buying powdered alcohol, if it was available,” he told Vermont’s NPR affiliate.

In Minnesota, state Representative Joe Atkins has introduced a bill to enact a statewide ban as quickly as possible, noting “with how quickly this is moving, we shouldn’t wait until next session to deal with this issue. We need to move quickly to protect public health.”

Alcohol Justice, an alcohol industry watchdog group, agrees that immediate action is necessary to prevent powered alcohol from ever reaching the market. The group has asked concerned parties to write letters to federal officials through their online tool, calling for the ban of powdered alcohol before it ever is available to teens or young adults.

Source:  CADCA May 07, 2014

The United States is divided over the legalization of marijuana. Arguments in favor include protection of individual rights, elimination of criminal sentencing for minor offenses, collection of tax revenue, and elimination of the black market. Counterarguments include the possible escalation of use, adverse mental and physical health effects, and potential medical and social costs.

Some steps have already been taken to reduce harsh and racially biased sentencing. There is growing support in Congress to eliminate federal mandatory minimums for drug offenses, and 19 states have either decriminalized or eliminated jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Furthermore, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana.

Washington State and Colorado went further, authorizing the retail sale of marijuana and opening the door to a legal marijuana industry. Given the lessons learned from the 20th-century rise of another legal addictive substance, tobacco, we believe that such an industry could transform marijuana and its effects on public health. Like tobacco, marijuana harms health and is addictive; unlike alcohol, both tobacco and marijuana came of age after the Industrial Revolution. And although the United States has, since tobacco’s rise, adopted regulatory structures designed to protect consumers, they do not apply to marijuana, in part because marijuana use and sales remain illegal under federal law. Colorado and Washington are developing regulatory infrastructures to fill this gap, but the goals and potential effectiveness of their proposed regulations are unclear. No evidence exists regarding which regulations might minimize population harm from marijuana. The marijuana industry’s trajectory could therefore repeat tobacco’s.

In its current form, smoked marijuana is less deadly than tobacco. Although case–control studies have found increased mortality associated with heavy marijuana use — attributable to vehicle crashes from driving while high, suicide, respiratory cancers, and brain cancers  the nonfatal adverse effects of marijuana use are much more prevalent. These include respiratory damage, cardiovascular disease, impaired cognitive development, and mental illness. These harms are very real, though they pale in comparison with those of tobacco, which causes almost 500,000 U.S. deaths annually. Marijuana is also less addictive than tobacco. About 9% of cannabis users meet the criteria for dependence (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) at some time in their lives, as compared with 32% of tobacco users.

But tobacco was not always as lethal or addictive as it is today. In the 1880s, few people used tobacco products, only 1% of tobacco was consumed in the form of manufactured cigarettes,3 and few deaths were attributed to tobacco use. By the 1950s, nearly half the population used tobacco, and 80% of tobacco use entailed cigarette smoking; several decades later, lung cancer became the top cause of cancer-related deaths.  This transformation was achieved through tobacco-industry innovations in product development, marketing, and lobbying.

The deadliness of modern-day tobacco stems from product developments of the early 1900s. Milder tobacco blends and new curing processes enabled smokers to inhale more deeply, facilitated absorption by lung epithelia, and boosted delivery of nicotine to the brain. Synergistically, these changes enhanced tobacco’s addictive potential and increased intake of toxins. In addition, the industry added other ingredients, including toxic substances that enhanced taste and sped absorption — without regard for safety. When tobacco was a cottage industry, cigarettes were either “roll-your-own” or expensive hand-rolled products with limited market reach; after industrialization, machines rolled as many as 120,000 low-cost, perfectly packaged cylinders daily.

The burgeoning marijuana industry is already following the same successful business strategy by increasing potency and creating new delivery devices. The concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s principal psychoactive constituent, has more than doubled over the past 40 years.   Producers are manufacturing strains that they claim are less addictive or less harmful to mental health, but no supporting scientific evidence has been published. New vaporizer delivery systems developed by some manufacturers may reduce lung irritation from smoking but may also allow users to consume more THC (the component most closely associated with euphoria, addictive potential, and mental health side effects) by enabling them to inhale more often and more deeply. The business community recognizes these innovations’ economic potential: a recent joint venture between a medical-marijuana provider and an electronic-cigarette maker sent stock prices soaring.

Marketing strategies go hand in hand with product innovation. The market for marijuana is currently small, amounting to 7% of Americans 12 years of age or older, just as the tobacco market was small in the early 20th century. Once machines began mass-producing cigarettes, marketing campaigns targeted women, children, and vulnerable groups by associating smoking with images of freedom, sex appeal, cartoon characters, and — in the early days — health benefits.

There is reasonable evidence that marijuana reduces nausea and vomiting during cancer treatment, reverses AIDS-related wasting, and holds promise as an antispasmodic and analgesic agent.  However, marijuana manufacturers and advocates are attributing numerous other health benefits to marijuana use — for example, effectiveness against anxiety — with no supporting evidence.

Furthermore, the marijuana industry will have unprecedented opportunities for marketing on the Internet, where regulation is minimal and third-party tracking and direct-to-consumer marketing have become extremely lucrative. When applied to a harmful, addictive commodity, these marketing innovations could be disastrous. This strategy poses a particular threat to young people. Adolescents are more likely than adults to seek novelty and try new products. The developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to the development of addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), children who use marijuana are up to four times as likely as adults to become chronic, heavy users — the type that would generate consistent sales for the marijuana industry.

Today, nearly one in five U.S. adults still smokes, despite extensive public health campaigns focused on reducing uptake and increasing cessation. The tobacco industry has provided a detailed road map for marijuana: deny addiction potential, downplay known adverse health effects, create as large a market as possible as quickly as possible, and protect that market through lobbying, campaign contributions, and other advocacy efforts.

The tobacco industry, bolstered by enormous profits, successfully lobbied to be exempted from every major piece of consumer-protection legislation even after the deadly consequences of tobacco were established. With nothing to sell or profit from, health advocates had difficulty fighting a battle that was clearly in the best interest of the public.  The marijuana industry has already formed its own advocacy organization — the National Cannabis Industry Association — to protect and advance its corporate interests.

It took the medical and public health communities 50 years, millions of lives, and billions of dollars to identify the wake of illness and death left by legal, industrialized cigarettes. The free-market approach to tobacco clearly failed to protect the public’s welfare and the common good: in spite of recent federal regulation, tobacco use remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

Addictive substances with known harms may merit completely new policy approaches. For example, the government of Uruguay’s marijuana program will restrict sales to government-produced strains, limit prices in order to undercut illicit markets, and closely monitor individual consumption. The effects and side effects of this approach, however, remain to be seen. At present, we should accelerate collaboration among the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, SAMHSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other agencies to fully understand current harms and forecast the effects of industrialization.

 In theory, any revenues from sales of marijuana products should pay for all regulation and harms so that society will not have to pick up the tab for damage done by the product. However, we know from the history of tobacco that this is hard to implement in practice. 

History and current evidence suggest that simply legalizing marijuana, and giving free rein to the resulting industry, is not the answer. To do so would be to once again entrust private industry with safeguarding the health of the public — a role that it is not designed to handle.

 Source:   N Engl J Med 2014; 371:399-401   July 31, 2014

Colorado’s tax collections from recreational marijuana sales in the past fiscal year came in more than 60 percent below early predictions, and now a state lawmaker says it may be time to reconsider the tax formula.
State Rep. Dan Pabon, who is leading a special legislative committee on marijuana revenue, said the medical-marijuana system also may come under scrutiny.
“There’s some real impact that the medical marijuana market is having on the recreational marijuana market,” said Pabon, D-Denver. “I think it’s worth looking at the taxation on the recreational side but also looking at the rules and regulations on the medical side.” Tuesday marked the first meeting of the committee, which is studying how Colorado spends its marijuana tax money.

The first item of business: Why is there so much less of it than predicted?

When Colorado voters approved special taxes on recreational marijuana in November, the official fiscal analysis estimated the taxes would bring in a combined $33.5 million through that fiscal year, which ended this summer. Budgeters for Gov. John Hickenlooper had similarly optimistic projections.  But the actual number came in at just more than $12 million.  A market study for the Colorado Department of Revenue says the lower-taxed medical-marijuana market, which continues to outpace the recreational market in sales, is to blame.  Rather than pulling consumers out of the medical-marijuana market, the recreational market largely has feasted on tourists and people who previously bought pot on the black market.  “I think our original assumption about the cannibalization was wrong,” Colorado Legislative Council economist Larson Silbaugh said at Tuesday’s committee meeting.  The result, suggested David Blake of the Colorado attorney general’s office, is that the resilience of the medical-marijuana market “is being driven by avoidance of that tax.”

Dorinda Floyd, the chief financial officer for the Department of Revenue, said recreational sales continue to rise and eventually are expected to surpass medical sales “in the out years.” Meanwhile, state economists have adjusted their predictions. A forecast in June significantly dialed back expectations for the current fiscal year — $30.6 million in special recreational marijuana taxes, compared with the roughly $100 million that Hickenlooper’s office had predicted this year. A new forecast is due in September.  “While I think our forecasts are getting better,” Silbaugh said, “they’re still based on just six months of data.”

Source: denverpost.com 12th August 2014

 As has been said, sometimes the only causes worth fighting for are the lost ones. 

Stopping the passage of Amendment 2 — the medical marijuana initiative — seems to be one of those causes. The growing forces pushing for its legalization have the momentum and are already making plans to divide the spoils of war.

Make no mistake, while those seeking its passage cite altruistic reasons, the majority are motivated by their desire to make money, their desire to get high, or both. If it somehow helps some truly ill people, well, that’s just a nice bonus.

This — at the moment — losing battle is but one more example of the fact that those Americans who still believe in traditional values, the rule of law, secure borders, smaller government, fiscal responsibility and personal accountability are becoming the silent minority in a nation they no longer recognize. Like ancient Rome, we are witnessing the fall of what was once the greatest nation on Earth, and those pushing for this law can make the transition into anarchy fast enough.

Voices of reason no longer matter. Instead, they are to be mocked and belittled to hasten the desired results. A case in point on this issue being the statement just released by the Florida Medical Association, an organization representing more than 20,000 doctors. The FMA said, “Providing compassionate care to our patients is something we do every day. We believe the unintended consequences of Amendment 2 are serious and numerous enough for us to believe they constitute a public health risk for Floridians.”

The leadership of the FMA voted unanimously to oppose the amendment for the most rational of medical reasons and yet their argument is being dismissed or ignored as white noise by those desperate to profit from this drug. The voices of these doctors seeking to protect the health of you and your family are being drowned out by trial lawyers, in-state pot “entrepreneurs” and out-of-state interests infiltrating Florida like uncontrollable weeds.

Said one politician in Tallahassee about the “green rush” stampede of greed: “None of these folks have come to us and said I have an interest in helping kids with pediatric intractable epilepsy. This is all about what they can get for themselves, not for helping patients.”

If and when Amendment 2 does pass, the worst is yet to come.

If Colorado is any example — and it serves as the poster child for all that can go wrong — a flourishing black market is sure to follow the passage of Amendment 2. The taxes imposed on legal medical marijuana create all kinds of openings for home-growers and others who will work overtime to illegally beat the system and deliver a cheaper product.

Beyond that coming reality, should anyone care to look, dangerous parallels can be found between Big Tobacco and Big Marijuana. As highlighted in The New England Journal of Medicine, the pot industry is diligently following the blueprint of Big Tobacco by continually increasing the potency of its product while creating new delivery systems to make it more addictive and drive up the profit margin.

Unfortunately, like its role model in tobacco, smoked marijuana continues to increase mortality rates, whether the deaths are from vehicular crashes, suicide or respiratory disease, according to the Journal.

And the nonfatal adverse effects eclipse the fatal effects.

Despite the negatives — lethal and otherwise — with less than three months to go before Floridians go to the polls to vote on this amendment, stopping it looks like a lost cause. But until the polls close, there is always hope that 41 percent will square off against the trial lawyers, well-funded politicians, in-state pot merchants and out-of-state hucksters and say, “Not in my state.”

If not, the slippery slope becomes a mudslide covering all in its path.

Source:   Tampa Tribune    http://tbo.com/list/columns-mackinnon   9th August 2014

By Ben Cort, Board Member, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM); Director of Business Development/CeDAR at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Last month I was honored to speak at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum about marijuana legalization in my home state.  When people hear what is going on, when they see the pictures and advertisements, the reactions are inevitable: shock, outrage, anger and even fear.

I live in Colorado, work inside of substance abuse treatment, am in recovery myself and I have three young children in public school, that’s my platform.

Make no mistake about it, we did not just legalize weed in Colorado we christened the commercialization and industrialization of the marijuana industry in Colorado.  We welcomed in a new industry that knowingly promotes an addictive and harmful substance SO THAT PEOPLE COULD MAKE MONEY. The business of business is to make money and when there is money to be made people will signup no matter how messed up the means are.  Let’s take a quick look at how the money is and will be made inside of this industry.

As of this writing there are 47 stores in Colorado that can sell recreational weed, there are about another 300 in the queue. Already the competition is fierce and the marketing wars are heating up, imagine what will come next. Right now we have everything from free T-shirts with your weed purchase and take-out orders to home delivery and a $1 joint when you show your ski pass for the day. For these businesses to continue making the huge money they are making they will need to do two things: 1) engage new users, 2) convert current users to more frequent users.

To differentiate themselves from the competition they will offer the most amount of THC they can for the lowest price possible, sound like some potential for trouble? Our weed in Colorado is so strong (20-30 percent THC in its smoked form) that we have a strain called “green crack.” We also have a full range of edibles and concentrates, these businesses are diversifying and engaging with new (and younger) customers through new products.

Our concentrates, which are advertised aggressively, are 80-90 percent THC, and are often smoked on a super-heated needle and puts the smoker on their back with one hit.  Our edibles come in gummies, fruit sodas, suckers, candy and yummy looking baked goods that are so potent that a single pot brownie in Colorado comes with a warning that it has to be cut into fourths before consuming.   I’m guessing the 2-year-old child who ended up in the ER a few miles from my house last month didn’t read the label on the weed cookie she found before eating it.

A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man from the mistakes of others. Consider that old saying and the plight of Colorado when considering legalization in your home state.

Source: www.thoughtful-living.org  30th March 2014

Filed under: Economic,USA :

It looked less like a Cheech and Chong movie than a junior chamber of commerce meeting as would-be marijuana entrepreneurs — ganjaneurs, as many of them call themselves — gathered in West Palm Beach on Saturday to plan for the day when weed is legal in Florida.

Heartened not only by a proposed state constitutional amendment that would permit medical use of marijuana but by three bills before the Legislature running the gamut from easing restrictions on industrial hemp to outright legalization of the drug, about 100 potential businessmen met to trade tips on the new almost-industry.

Once upon a time, conversation among marijuana dealers mostly ran along the lines of cigarette boats, Glocks and cash-counting machines, the tools of an illegal trade. But Saturday’s chatter was about convertible stocks, vertical integration and other trappings of an industry that now is at least partly legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.   And the crowd having the conversation was practically indistinguishable from an Amway conference in the same hotel. “I’m so glad I didn’t wear my tie-dyed clothes and dreadlocks today,” cracked Miami filmmaker Billy Corben as he started a speech on the campaign for the constitutional amendment.

“These aren’t people who want to sell a couple of bags of weed in the parking lot to defray the cost of their own smoke,” said Robert Platshorn, who organized the $400 a pop conference. “These are businessmen who want to make serious money.”   Platshorn himself made serious money in the marijuana industry while running the infamous Black Tuna Gang, a 1970s smuggling operation so wildly profitable that its headquarters — the Presidential Suite in the Fontainebleau Hotel — was equipped with a grand piano and a spiral staircase. He eventually served more than 30 years in prison, one of the longest sentences for a marijuana conviction in U.S. history.

There were signs that a few of the people at the conference might share a bit of his adventurous history. When an attorney asked, hypothetically, whether an old conviction for narcotrafficking would be enough to keep somebody from getting a license to sell medical marijuana, several shouts of “Hell, yes!” — accompanied by knowing chuckles — rang out across the room.

But most of the group was decidedly non-outlaw in outlook. “I don’t like growing,” said Oscar Fonseca, 27, who was there in hopes of finding a tenant for warehouses he owns in Medley, Hialeah and Doral. “I’m not a huge fan of the product. But I am a fan of money.”  And at least one potential marijuana merchant came from the other side of the fence. A law enforcement officer who, prudently, identified himself only as “James,” said he got interested after the prices of stocks of companies associated with the industry in Colorado, where marijuana became completely legal on Jan. 1, went through the roof.

“Some of them jumped 1,000 percent almost overnight,” he said. “I was impressed enough to take a $20,000 loan against my retirement to buy into some of them.” Not impressed enough, however, to tell his buddies back at the station that he was going to Saturday’s conference: “I don’t know if they’d disapprove, but, well …”

There was general agreement that Florida will be a lucrative market when — nobody seemed to think it was “if” — one of the medical marijuana measures is enacted later in the year.  “You’ve got so many older people here, people with all kinds of illnesses,” said one man, a former flower-grower who has knocked around at various jobs since foreign imports killed off his industry a decade or so ago. “That’s a business-driver. Cancer! Bone diseases! If you had those, what would you rather take for the pain? Something easy and organic like cannabis? Or an addictive opiate?”

But many of the experts who addressed the conference warned attendees that they’re getting into a business that’s a lot more complicated — not to mention hazardous — than it looks.  “I want people to watch out,” said Norm Kent, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who has been defending marijuana cases for more than 40 years. “It’s a pioneering industry, with rewards to be had, but risks to be dealt with.”

Many of the risks stem from the peculiar legal twilight zone in which the marijuana industry exists. Even in the states that have legalized it, it remains against federal law — a fact that makes other businesses shy away.  “There’s a word for you that they use at the federal level, and that’s ‘felon,’ ” said John Makris, a Palm Beach County accountant.

Because the federal government considers anybody who knowingly does business with marijuana industry to be accessories to narcotrafficking, even legitimate businessmen will find it difficult to open banks accounts or find landlords, he warned.

Much of his speech was devoted to arcane bookkeeping tricks to minimize taxes for an industry that’s specifically prohibited by federal law from taking ordinary business deductions like payroll and rent.  Others cautioned that states squirmy about removing criminal sanctions against marijuana have compensated by hyper-regulating it, turning it into a bureaucratic swamp of fingerprints, fines and fees.

“They’re looking for a three-ring binder full of documentation,” said Stuart attorney Michael C. Minardi, describing the maze of business permits and licenses required to go into the marijuana business in other states. “You can’t show them pictures of your closet grow. That’s not gonna do it.”

Source: www.MiamiHerald.com  March 2014

Filed under: Economic,USA :

The NDPA have been concerned for some time about the easy availability of drugs online.   There are sites actively promoting the legalization of drugs, misinformation about drugs, and even sites showing young children smoking cigarettes and encouraging others to do so.   Shocking research showed recently that 8 out of 10 of  UK youngsters watch porn online.   The world wide web has been a tremendous force for good in many ways – but there is a very dark side to the internet.  The following items show the extent of  big business involved in making money out of selling illegal drugs online.   (is Google the Tesco of  the internet ?)

——————————————————————————————–

The article below from today’s Wall Street Journal shows the effectiveness of going after companies that aid and facilitate the illicit drug trade. Several years ago, I queried Amazon.com for a book on a particular drug that I was interested in learning more about and along with the responses from the Amazon.com search engine came a pop-up offering to sell me the very drug I was asking about — a Schedule II controlled substance – without a prescription! I wrote a letter to Amazon.com indicating that this could be interpreted as a “facilitation” violation of the Controlled Substances Act and needed to be stopped immediately.

Back came a nice letter (by FedEx) from Amazon.com’s chief counsel  advising me that the company was just as upset and concerned as I but was powerless to stop these “pop-ups.” The chief counsel said that the ad likely was inserted by one of the anonymous servers used to transmit my Internet request to Amazon.com. It seems that data mining software used by the servers detect key words used in emails and unencrypted messages that pass through them and automatically generate unsolicited return messages to the sender offering, as in my case, something for sale. On the basis of what little I knew about all this, I concluded nothing further could be done.

I was wrong! Fortunately, in the interim, brighter minds at my alma mater (DOJ) and elsewhere figured this out and concluded that Google was one of several companies at fault.

A fine of $500  million is a drop in the proverbial bucket for Google. Of potentially greater interest here may be what happens after Google settles the current criminal case. Unlike a civil case in which a defendant may settle without having to admit wrongdoing, a settlement in a criminal case usually requires admissions of guilt to specific law violations. If this is the case, will there be subsequent state actions filed against Google on behalf of harmed residents? Will we begin seeing TV ads asking “If you or a loved one ever ordered drugs via the Internet, call the law offices of so-and-so; you may be eligible for a cash settlement, etc.”?

Given the fact that unregistered Internet “rogue” pharmacies more often than not sell counterfeit drugs or outdated, toxic, and/or ineffective drugs and, in doing so, accept only credit cards or international money orders in payment, I’m sure there are retrievable records of such purchases and possibly aggrieved patients who may have been harmed by products illegally advertised and sold via the Internet and facilitated by the advertising services provided by Google. When all is said and done, the total payout for these potential claims, if indeed they are viable, could be several times the amount of the proposed settlement in the current criminal case against Google. Better yet, it should be enough to end or severely curtail this aspect of modern-day drug dealing.

John J. Coleman, PhD  President, Drug Watch International  2011

Google Near Deal in Drug Ad Crackdown

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576319572448399628.html#ixzz1MGNqwAfe

Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Internet company disclosed in a cryptic regulatory filing earlier this week that it was setting aside $500 million to potentially resolve a case with the Justice Department. A payment of that size would be among the highest penalties paid by companies in disputes with the U.S. government.   Google gave few details in its filing about the probe, saying only that it involved “the use of Google advertising by certain advertisers.”   The federal investigation has examined whether Google knowingly accepted ads from online pharmacies, based in Canada and elsewhere, that violated U.S. laws, according to the people familiar with the matter.

A Google spokesman declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokeswoman.     WSJ’s Thomas Catan reports that Google is close to settling with the government over allegations that the company made millions from illegal ad companies.

Search engines can be liable if they are found to be profiting from illegal activity. In December 2007, the three largest Internet companies, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. agreed to pay a combined $31.5 million fine to settle civil allegations brought by the Justice Department that they had accepted ads from illegal gambling sites.

Prosecutors can charge such acts under a number of different statutes. From a legal standpoint, a key distinction for Google would be that the illegal activity allegedly took place through its paid advertising service, not just the results that its search engine produces.

There are scores of websites that offer to sell prescription drugs. Some violate U.S. laws by selling counterfeit or expired medicines or dispensing without a valid doctor’s prescription.  One question under investigation is the extent to which Google knowingly turned a blind eye to the alleged illicit activities of some of its advertisers—and how much executives knew, the people familiar with the matter said.   The probe has been conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island and the Food and Drug Administration, among other agencies, according to these people. A spokesman for Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the FDA said the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment further.

Google generated nearly $30 billion in total ad revenue in 2010, largely from its AdWords system. AdWords helped revolutionize online advertising, offering marketers the chance to bid to display their ads when people searched for certain keywords on the Google search engine. An advertiser only pays when a user clicks on the ad.

Google, like other Internet companies, has struggled for years to deal with what it calls “rogue online pharmacies.” In 2003, for instance, Google said it banned ads from U.S. companies that offer drugs like Vicodin and Viagra without a prescription.   Google acted after rivals, including Yahoo and Microsoft, made similar moves as the FDA began publicly pressuring sites to accept only drug ads from licensed Internet pharmacies.

But Google said in 2004 it would continue carrying ads for Canadian pharmacies that send medicines to U.S. customers. The decision riled some U.S. druggists and drew criticism from regulators.  After the FDA began its latest investigation, Google made changes last year to its policies for drug ads, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Google said in February 2010 it would begin allowing ads only from U.S. pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and from online pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.   In September Google filed a federal lawsuit in San Jose, Calif., seeking to block individuals running illegitimate pharmacies from advertising on its search engine and to recover damages.

“Rogue pharmacies are bad for our users, for legitimate online pharmacies and for the entire e-commerce industry—so we are going to keep investing time and money to stop these kinds of harmful practices,” Google lawyer Michael Zwibelman wrote on the company blog at the time.

Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder and a current high-ranking executive and board member, sidestepped questions about the investigation at a conference Wednesday and alluded to the fact that Larry Page is now running the company.

“Luckily, since we changed roles a few months ago, I don’t have to deal with filings, and the DOJ, the SEC or other acronyms,” Mr. Brin said, using the initials for the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

The current investigation is Google’s latest brush with law enforcement and regulatory agencies in both the U.S. and abroad. The company is facing multiple investigations into possible antitrust and privacy violations in several nations. Google maintains that its breakneck growth will inevitably attract greater regulatory scrutiny, and that it’s done nothing wrong in connection with other probes.    There are other signs the government is serious about cracking down on illegal online pharmacies. On Thursday, entering the words “no prescription required” into Google’s search engine produced an ad that led to a Justice Department alert reading: “Prescription Drugs. Buying online could mean doing time.”

Source:  Wall Street Journal     MAY 13, 2011

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES — Chris Folkerts started selling electronic cigarette-like devices from the trunk of his car two years ago. Now he and two partners own one of the biggest brands in the business, with products in 4,000 stores nationally, an art deco office on the city’s fashionable Miracle Mile and an endorsement deal with rapper Snoop Dogg.

The rapid success of Grenco Science, the privately held company Folkerts founded, mirrors the fast growth of the business it is in — marketing devices that allow marijuana users to vaporize their psychoactive weed rather than smoke it.  “This is a big industry — it is the future,” Folkerts, 31, says. “We’re really on the cusp of exploding.”

With Grenco’s “G Pen” line and a vast marketplace of competitors, marijuana users can avoid the hassles, hazards and telltale smell that goes with lighting up a pot pipe or cigarette, as well as the uncertain dosage and delayed effects that come with ingesting marijuana-infused food and drink.

Just as e-cigarettes have transformed the business and national debate over tobacco smoking, e-cig technology and vaping are bringing major change to cannabis culture and business — even altering the way pot is packaged and sold in states where it is legal for medical or recreational purposes.

Steve DeAngelo, a marijuana entrepreneur and activist who founded the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, says the arrival of compact, portable, microprocessor-controlled vaporizers and advances in extracting active ingredients from cannabis plants have caused a shift in consumer demand.

Some dispensaries such as his and many in Colorado, where recreational pot is legal, now do roughly 50% of their business in raw marijuana leaf or flowers, and the rest in edibles and concentrates, some prepackaged in cartridges for use in vape pens, he says. “The percentage of raw (pot) flowers we sell has been dropping steadily,” DeAngelo said. “The percent of extracts and concentrates … has been rising steadily.”

Grenco Science is headquartered in the fashionable Deco Building in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. Chris Folkert started selling electronic cigarette-like devices from the trunk of his car two years ago. Now he and two partners own one of the biggest brands in the business, with products in 4,000 stores nationally.(Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)

A TRUE GROWTH INDUSTRY

The transformative technology comes at a time when marijuana is gaining in legal and public acceptance.  While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Colorado and Washington have made it legal to possess and use, and 20 states have made it legal for medical uses. Alaska has scheduled a vote on full legalization in August, and legal changes for pot are afoot in several other states. Recent public opinion polls for the first time show majority support for ending pot prohibition, and President Obama recently said marijuana was no worse than alcohol.

The rise of marijuana e-cigs coincides with the development in recent years of potent new forms of concentrated marijuana extractions in liquid, viscous and waxy forms. Those concentrates lend themselves easily to vaporization and are used to fuel many of the vape pens on the market, though there also are many vaporizers made for consuming marijuana leaves and flowers.  Vaping’s growth, ease of discreet use and high-strength concentrates raise alarms among pot’s opponents.

“This really portends the next generation of marijuana use,” says John Lovell, a Sacramento attorney and lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and California Police Chiefs Association.  Those law enforcement groups remain strongly opposed to marijuana legalization, and Lovell says the rise of high-strength concentrates for vaporizing “gives the lie to the allegation that somehow marijuana use is benign.” Home manufacturing of the concentrates can be dangerous if flammable solvents such as butane are used, he notes, and their potency can deliver a fast and powerful high to the user.

The concentrates can be composed of as much as 80% or even 90% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient of the cannabis plant. Advocates such as DeAngelo say the extraction process can be designed to concentrate another ingredient, CBD (cannabidiol), for non-psychoactive medical uses.

A DANGER FOR CHILDREN?

Some parents are alarmed that pot concentrates may be discreetly vaporized by children.”It’s a perfect combination — it’s so easy (and) there’s no odor,” says Marcie Beckett, a San Diego mother of two who is part of a coalition opposing marijuana legalization. “People beware: Kids can now use these vaping devices to use marijuana, and you’ll never know.”

So far there’s been little scientific research on the use of vaporizers, though the federal Food and Drug Administration has announced its intention to examine and regulate e-cigarettes. Many cities, including Los Angeles, have moved to prohibit e-cig use in public.

Some doctors who support marijuana’s medical use recommend vaping with reservations. Bob Blake, a San Diego-area physician, says he advises patients against vaporizing concentrates because of unknown health risks with some types of vape pens. He says the long-term health effects of smoking marijuana are far less than smoking tobacco, but he recommends vaporizing cannabis flowers and leaves to many patients who don’t smoke. He hands out an informational paper on vaporizing to patients, including some in their 80s, and recommends certain vaporizers he thinks are safest.

But the biggest market for vaporizing may be for those who wish to consume marijuana without detection by others.  “People want discretion,” Blake says. “With vaporizers, in a large room a person can be medicating without offending the other person in the room.”  Because of marijuana’s legal status, finding reliable estimates of the size of the marijuana business and pot vaporizers market is difficult. But the money involved speaks volumes.

High Times magazine, which chronicles pot culture, recently expanded to its largest size ever, up 26 pages to 152 pages, to make room for vaporizers ads, Managing Editor Jen Bernstein says.  “These pens are great,” she says. “We definitely increased the book size to accommodate this growing corner of the market.” In Denver, more than 600 people showed up last week for a job fair by a vaping device maker expanding staff.

HIGH-END VAPING

Investors are attracted to the growth potential of vaporization.  Seibo Shen quit his Silicon Valley tech and software work less than two years ago to form a vaporizer start-up, VapeXhale. He raised $143,000 in 40 days through a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com, he says, then raised more from private investors. He met his partners through an online forum for vaping enthusiasts.

He said he has been vaporizing pot since the late 1990s, but only in the last few years has the technology become smaller and consumer friendly. He estimates three-quarters of the tech executives he knows in Silicon Valley use marijuana, and that health-conscious white-collar workers who don’t like smoke are his target market.  “People are trying to be healthier in general,” he said. “Why shouldn’t their cannabis consumption follow suit?”

He is working the high end of the market. G Pens have a retail price of around $100, and many cheap imports go for as little as $20, while the first model from Shen’s VapeXhale sells for more than $450. It is a heating unit attached to bong-like liquid-filled glassware, designed to deliver a maximum high without concern for portability or discretion.

At Grenco Science, now housed in a landmark former bank building on Wilshire Boulevard called the Deco Building, Folkert declined to reveal Grenco’s sales or revenue figures. But with an office in what was the bank vault, he says business is booming, even as the company battles cheap knockoffs from China and counterfeit sales.

The company sells its pens through thousands of smoke shops, head shops and other retailers as well as directly online. He is creating fashion, art, music and extreme sports marketing tie-ins to extend the product’s reach into new sales outlets, such as at South By Southwest, the tech and music festival in Austin this month.  Snoop Dogg, the rapper who flaunts marijuana use, has his own line of G Pens sold by Grenco. The rapper stars in an instructional video and is the brand’s public face.

The rise of handy vaporizers has boosted retailers, too. “I’ve been in the business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything impact the market like this,” says Tony Van Pelt of Pomona, Calif., who sells vaporizers and related items online and in stores.  “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for,” he says. “This vaporizing thing has changed the whole world.”

WHAT IS VAPING?

*  Vaporizers, often powered by battery or electricity, extract the active ingredients from marijuana by heating it to a temperature lower than required for combustion.

•     Cannabis leaves or concentrates are heated to around 338 to 356 degrees Fahrenheit, less   than the approximately 450 degrees required to burn.

•    When air is drawn through cannabis heated to the proper temperature, it emits a vapor that is inhaled.

•    Because there is no fire or combustion, there is no smoke.

•   They can be as small as a ballpoint pen or as large as a toaster. Some have digital controls for precise temperature controls.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/15/marijuana-vaporizing-gains/6042675/

Filed under: Economic,USA :

Lisbon, 05.03.2014

Europol and the EMCDDA have issued today early-warning notifications about two synthetic drugs that have recently been linked to serious harms in the EU.

The first concerns a new psychoactive substance associated with 18 deaths in the United Kingdom and eight in Hungary in 2013. 4,4′-DMAR — the para-methyl derivative of 4-methylaminorex — is not currently controlled by drug legislation in EU Member States. Also known as  ‘4-methyl-euphoria’, ‘4-methyl-U4Euh’, ‘4-M-4-MAR’, ‘4,4-dimethylaminorex’ or ‘Serotoni’, the substance has been found in Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom since it was first detected in 2012.

The use of other drugs in combination with 4,4’-DMAR appears to have been a factor in most of the fatalities recorded. A range of adverse effects associated with 4,4’-DMAR have been reported, including agitation, hyperthermia, foaming at the mouth, breathing problems and cardiac arrest.

4,4’-DMAR has been found as a powder and in tablet form, with tablets having a variety of logos, colours and shapes, as detailed in the early-warning notification. Concern over this substance has led to the European Union Early-warning system (EWS) on new psychoactive substances — operated by the EMCDDA and Europol — to launch a joint exercise to better understand the harms posed by this substance.

The second warning focuses on ecstasy tablets that have been found with dangerously high levels of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine) in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The potentially toxic levels of MDMA present in these tablets could lead to serious harm, and there have already been deaths associated with such tablets in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

MDMA tablets in the EU typically contain between about 60 and 100 mg of MDMA (2012 figures), however, tablets containing between 150 and 200 mg of MDMA are currently available and some have been found to contain even higher amounts, e.g. 240 mg. It is important to note that no illicit tablets can be considered safe as they can contain unexpected ingredients in unpredictable amounts.

This development is particularly concerning in light of the significant increase in the production and availability of MDMA in the EU. As outlined in Europol’s 2013 Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) and the 2013 EU Drug Markets Report, Belgium and the Netherlands remain centres for synthetic drugs production in the EU and are also among those Member States most affected by the recent resurgence in MDMA availability. Full news release and more information can be found on the Europol website.

Source:  http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/news/2014/europol     5th March 2014

Filed under: Economic :

Drug tourism has always been a big issue, and a big business, in the Netherlands

That land of  “laissez-faire,” with its reputation as a haven of drug tolerance, is not only mired in internal political discord over a nationwide extension of the prohibition against “soft” drug sales to tourists but also facing serious border disputes around the development of “weed ghettos” in areas near its neighbors.

Currently, only the country’s southern provinces have implemented last year’s ban outlawing the sale of drugs to tourists by the infamous coffee shops and limited sales to government-issued “weed pass”-carrying locals.

But the law created conflict mainly with an active lobby of coffee shop owners who decided to openly defy the law, triggering month-long suspended jail sentences and fines during the summer.

The battle between coffee shop owners and Onno Hoes, mayor of Maastricht (the regional capital of the south) and a stalwart supporter of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, ended at the Supreme Court in The Hague, which last week invoked a Solomon-like compromise: Move the coffee shops from the city center to so-called “coffee corners” on the edge of town.

Three coffee shop owners agreed to relocate immediately to an industrial park near the Belgian border.

However, five nearby Belgian towns weren’t amused – and the mayor of one even threatened to close roads crossing the border due to “international risk.”

“I can make all the cars returning from Maastricht undergo checks,” he told local journalists.

The national law banning foreigners from buying weed at the legal coffee shops has been widely ignored in most of the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the two largest cities whose mayors refuse to comply with the central government’s decision.

The battle’s been most intense in Maastricht, where Hoes claims that the 1.6 million foreign “drugs tourists” visiting the city’s 13 licensed coffee shops every year created “an unacceptable nuisance” and brought filth, noise and crime to the city.

The coffee shop owners argue that the ban has devastated their business, damaged the local economy and led to an increase in illegal street dealing.

A Dutch News article comparing “police and city council figures“ reports that “the decision to ban foreigners not resident in the Netherlands from the country’s cannabis cafes has led to an ‘explosion’ in drug-related crime in the south of the country. The government’s decision to turn the cafes into “members’ only clubs” in the southern provinces last May led to a sharp rise in street dealing.

In Maastricht, at the forefront of efforts to reduce drug tourism, the number of drug crimes has doubled over the past year while in Roermond they are up three-fold with at least 60 active street dealers.”

According to other surveys recently published in the local Dutch press, two-thirds of the country’s 478 cannabis cafes continue to sell marijuana to tourists, creating a new and sharp north-south divide.

The ban appears to leave a loophole for a local, ‘tailor-made’ approach, permitting licensed coffee shops to continue selling small amounts of cannabis to any adult for personal use. And while possession is not legal, the police turn a blind eye to people with less than five grams.

Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, for example, has made clear that his city will not ban tourists from its 220 coffee shops because “the legislation makes it possible to take local circumstances into account.” The mayors of many other towns support and follow his position.

Although Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten declared his ministry is not yet planning to impose a deadline on city councils to implement the ban, he also warned that he will not tolerate mayors refusing to ban tourists from buying marijuana.

At least 10 of Netherlands’ local councils, among them some of the biggest cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague have called for regulated growing, arguing that legalized production would remove organized crime from the equation.

Minister Opstelten has already said he will not approve that plan either.

Source: 24th Sept.2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/ceciliarodriguez/2013/09/24/weed-ghettos-for-tourists-anger-netherlands-neighbors/

Filed under: Economic,Europe :

By Join Together Staff | September 5, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs

Laboratories in China are becoming a significant source of synthetic drug production, according to Time.com. Drugs produced in China can easily be shipped to North America or Europe, using international courier services.

Chinese chemists are staying one step ahead of law enforcement, creating new variations of substances in anticipation of current versions being declared illegal. Wynbo Shi, Senior Regulatory Affairs Manager for a chemical inspection and regulation service, says dozens of labs in China produce synthetic drugs without meaningful government regulation. In June, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report that concluded the increasing popularity of designer drugs is an alarming public health problem. The number of new synthetic drugs rose by more than 50 percent in less than three years, the report states.

The drugs are a particular cause for concern because in many places they are legal, and are sold openly on the Internet. They have not been tested for safety, and can be much more dangerous than traditional drugs, according to the UNODC. The harmless names of the drugs, such as “spice” and “bath salts,” encourage young people to think they are low-risk fun. “The adverse effects and addictive potential of most of these uncontrolled substances are at best poorly understood,” the agency wrote in its 2013 World Drug Report.

Source:  www.drugfree.org/join-together  Sept. 2013

The Dutch government said Friday it would move to classify high-potency marijuana alongside hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the latest step in the country’s ongoing reversal of its famed tolerance policies.

The decision means most of the cannabis now sold in the Netherlands’ weed cafes would have to be replaced by milder variants. But skeptics said the move would be difficult to enforce, and that it could simply lead many users to smoke more of the less potent weed.  Possession of marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police do not prosecute people for possession of small amounts, and it is sold openly in designated cafes. Growers are routinely prosecuted if caught.

Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said weed containing more than 15 percent of its main active chemical, THC, is so much stronger than what was common a generation ago that it should be considered a different drug entirely.

The high potency weed has “played a role in increasing public health damage,” he said at a press conference in The Hague .  The Cabinet has not said when it will begin enforcing the rule. Jeffrey Parsons, a psychologist at Hunter College in New York who studies addiction, said the policy may not have the benefits the government is hoping for.  “If it encourages smoking an increased amount of low-concentration THC weed, it is likely to actually cause more harm than good,” he said, citing the potential lung damage and cancer-causing effects of extra inhalation.

The Dutch Justice Ministry said Friday it was up to cafes to regulate their own products and police will seize random samples for testing.   But Gerrit-Jan ten Bloomendal, spokesman for the Platform of Cannabis Businesses in the Netherlands, said implementing the plan would be difficult “if not impossible.”   “How are we going to know whether a given batch exceeds 15 percent THC? For that matter, how would health inspectors know?” he said. He predicted a black market will develop for highly potent weed.

The ongoing Dutch crackdown on marijuana is part of a decade-long rethink of liberalism in general that has seen a third of the windows in Amsterdam’s famed prostitution district shuttered and led the Netherlands to adopt some of the toughest immigration rules in Europe.

The number of licensed marijuana cafes has been reduced, and earlier this year the government announced plans to ban tourists from buying weed. That has been resisted by the city of Amsterdam, where the marijuana cafes known euphemistically as “coffee shops” are a major tourist draw. Marjan Heuving of the Netherlands’ Trimbos Institute, which studies mental health and addiction, said there is a growing body of evidence that THC causes mental illnesses.   She said it stands to reason “the more THC the body takes in, the more the impact.” But it has not been demonstrated scientifically that high THC weed is worse for mental health, she said.

Parsons of Hunter College said it remains difficult to be sure whether marijuana causes mental problems or whether people predisposed to, say, depression seek it out as a form of self-medication.

The Trimbos Institute says the average amount of THC in Dutch marijuana is currently around 17.8 percent. It has been declining since 2004 after increasing steadily from 4 percent or so in the 1970s.By comparison, in the United States the average level of THC in marijuana is around 10 percent and rising, according to the last measure released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2009.

Heuving agreed with Ten Bloomendal that determining THC levels outside of a laboratory setting would prove difficult, as exact content varies widely from batch to batch and even within a single plant.   “I don’t know of any home test,” she said. “How this is going to work in practical terms, I have no idea.”

Source:   www.independent .co.uk    Oct. 2011

If you could get 70 percent of Americans addicted to your drugs and rake in $280 billion a year in the process, would you do it? If you could come up with a “pill for every problem” and charge Americans twice as much for those pills as people in other countries pay, would you do it? If you could make more money than you ever dreamed possible by turning the American people into the most doped up people in the history of the planet, would you do it? In America today, the number of people hooked on legal drugs absolutely dwarfs the number of people hooked on illegal drugs. And sadly, the number of people killed by legal drugs absolutely dwarfs the number of people killed by illegal drugs. But most Americans assume that if a drug is “legal” that it must be safe.  After all, the big pharmaceutical companies and the federal government would never allow us to take anything that would hurt us, right? Sadly, the truth is that they don’t really care about us. They don’t really care that prescription painkillers are some of the most addictive drugs on the entire planet and that they kill more Americans each year than heroin and cocaine combined. They don’t care that antidepressants are turning tens of millions of Americans into zombies and can significantly increase the chance of suicide (just look at the warning label). All the big pharmaceutical companies really care about is making as much money as they possibly can. The following are 20 signs that the pharmaceutical companies are running a $280 billion money making scam… #1   According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug. An astounding 20 percent of all Americans are on at least five prescription drugs. #2   According to the CDC, approximately 9 out of every 10 Americans that are at least 60 years of age say that they have taken at least one prescription drug within the last month. #3   The 11 largest pharmaceutical companies combined to rake in approximately $85,000,000,000 in profits in 2012. #4   During 2013, Americans will spend more than 280 billion dollars on prescription drugs. #5   According to Alternet, last year “11 of the 12 new-to-market drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration were priced above $100,000 per-patient per-year”. #6   The CDC says that spending on prescription drugs more than doubledbetween 1999 and 2008. #7   Many prescription drugs cost about twice as much in the United States as they do in other countries. #8   One study found that more than 20 percent of all American adults are taking at least one drug for “psychiatric” or “behavioral” disorders. #9   The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than in any other country in the world. #10   Children in the United States are three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than children in Europe are. #11   A shocking Government Accountability Office report discovered that approximately one-third of all foster children in the United States are on at least one

psychiatric drug. In fact, the report found that many states seem to be doping up foster children as a matter of course. Just check out these stunning statistics… In Texas, foster children were 53 times more likely to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications at the same time than non-foster children. In Massachusetts, they were 19 times more likely. In Michigan, the number was 15 times. It was 13 times in Oregon. And in Florida, foster children were nearly four times as likely to be given five or more psychotropic medications at the same time compared to non-foster children. #12   In 2010, the average teen in the U.S. was taking 1.2 central nervous system drugs. Those are the kinds of drugs which treat conditions such as ADHD and depression. #13   The total number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled between 1996 and 2005. #14   All of those antidepressants don’t seem to be working too well. The suicide rate for Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 rose by close to 30 percent between 1999 and 2010. The number of Americans that are killed by suicide now exceeds the number of Americans that die as a result of car accidents. #15   According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 36 millionAmericans have abused prescription drugs at some point in their lives. #16   A survey conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that more than 15 percent of all U.S. high school seniors abuse prescription drugs. #17   According to the CDC, approximately three quarters of a million people a year are rushed to emergency rooms in the United States because of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs. #18   According to the Los Angeles Times, drug deaths (mostly caused by prescription drugs) are climbing at an astounding rate…. Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, years for which more detailed data are available. Deaths more than tripled among people aged 50 to 69, the Times analysis found. In terms of sheer numbers, the death toll is highest among people in their 40s. #19   In the United States today, prescription painkillers kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined. #20   Each year, tens of billions of dollars is spent on pharmaceutical marketing in the United States alone.  The American people deserve better than that. Every year, the United States spends more on health care than Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia combined. In fact, if the U.S. health care system was a separate nation it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet. For all the money that we spend, we should be the healthiest people in the world by a wide margin. Instead, life expectancy is higher in dozens of other countries and we have very high rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. For much more on the colossal failure of our health care system, please see my previous article entitled “50 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is A Gigantic Money Making Scam“. So what do you think about the pharmaceutical companies that are making billions of dollars by getting the American people addicted to their super-expensive legal drugs?      (Gigantic money-making scam!)     Michael Snyder  –  American Dream

Source:  e-mail sent from Drug Watch International  June 22 2013

Filed under: Economic,USA :

 

Not many of us are chemists. Yet by removing one oxygen atom average people here in Missouri regularly are turning common decongestants like Sudafed and Claritin-D into the illicit drug methamphetamine. Nationwide those explosive mom and pop meth labs were estimated by a Rand study to cost taxpayers more than $23 billion a year in health care costs, child endangerment and clean-up. But as St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports a local pharmaceutical company may have the answer.

In a non-descript office building in suburban St. Louis a little company was busy developing big technology; a binding agent to make a tamper-resistant drug. They weren’t yet sure exactly what drug Westport Pharmaceuticals they would tackle. Paul Hemings is the General Manager and Vice President of the Highland Pharmaceuticals subsidiary. He says looking back, it was staring them in the face.

“It started with our patent attorney who also has a chemistry background and lives out in Pacific where this meth problem is huge and one day she just mentioned ‘have you thought about this?” That is how to prevent pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in nasal decongestants, from being turned into methamphetamine. Zephrex-D was the result.

How It Works

Hemings points out the pills’ waxy white coating. He says the new drug works just as well as other pseudoephedrine products, but meth cooks can’t extract the key ingredient. That means they can’t make meth. “We can end meth labs in the U.S. starting right here in our backyard where the problem is the biggest,” Hemings said. Last year alone law enforcement seized more than 1,800 clandestine labs in Missouri, the most of any state in the country. Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner is with the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit and is considered the expert on Missouri’s meth lab epidemic.Grellner says he was skeptical of Zephrex-D after years of being told by large pharmaceutical companies that a tamper-resistant drug couldn’t be made.

Now he says he’s a believer. “I’ve seen the testing by independent laboratories; I’ve personally tested the product in a one-pot meth lab setting; and I know of other testing that has been done,” he said. “They have manufactured a product that is meth lab resistant.”

Requiring A Prescription?

Grellner doesn’t expect “big pharma,” as he calls it, to change their pseudoephedrine products, at least not yet. He says for now the best way to keep the pills that still can be converted into meth away from criminals is to require prescriptions. “They have manufactured a product that is meth lab resistant.” – Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner

That faces strong opposition, including from the St. Louis Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. “We do know that meth is a terrible problem in Missouri, we just disagree on how to take care of this,” said Joy Krieger, the foundation’s executive director and a registered nurse. Krieger says they support a proposed law to further limit the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy each month, but she says getting a prescription is an expensive hassle. “Pseudoephedrine is safe for those purchasing it for proper reasons, so penalizing

residents and citizens who have done nothing wrong we think is not a fair way to look for a solution,” she said.

The Legal Perspective

State Representative Jeff Roorda has sponsored legislation for the state-wide prescription law every year since 2005. The Democrat from Jefferson County, the heart of Missouri’s meth country, says with Zephrex-D, there is a good alternative available for cold and allergy sufferers, so there can be no more excuses. “Now we have a pseudoephedrine that’s incapable of being converted into methamphetamine, I mean arguments against this just hold absolutely no water anymore,” Roorda said. The impact of Zephrex-D remains to be seen.

Westport Pharmaceuticals officials say they’re open to selling their binding technology to other drug-makers. Right now Zephrex-D is only available in Missouri and the Metro East. Officials say they plan a national roll-out this summer.


Source: http://www.news.stlpublicradio.org 13th March

 

 


The article below mentions cocaine use increasing in the UK and the EU report states the cocaine is the second most popular illicit drug in Europe after cannabis. It has been known since the 1990s that heavy cannabs users are 66% more likely to use cocaine than non-user of cannabis. Contact the NDPA for references to these studies.

IRELAND has one of the highest rates of cocaine use in Europe, a new report shows. The country has also been identified by international law enforcement agencies as a gateway for cannabis smuggled from Morocco into the rest of Europe.

In the first overview of drug trafficking throughout the continent, the report from Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) also found:

* Ireland is a hotbed for Vietnamese and Chinese organised crime gangs cultivating home-grown cannabis.

* We top the poll for use of new drugs or “head shop” highs.

* Polish and Lithuanian gangsters are increasingly trafficking drugs from the Netherlands into Ireland.

In the study, Ireland is identified as among a “handful” of countries, also including the UK and Spain, where cocaine use remains “relatively high”, particularly among young adults. The EU drugs market survey shows cocaine is the second most popular illicit drug in Europe after cannabis. The reports warns: “Labelled as the ‘champagne of drugs’ because of its high price and associations with the rich and famous, cocaine snorted in powder form has found acceptance among drug users in recreational settings.”

Ireland is also one of a number of countries that has seen a phenomenal rise in home-grown cannabis over the past five years. The study says Vietnamese-organised crime gangs have in recent years become prominent in the indoor cultivation of cannabis in many countries, Ireland among them.

“Chinese nationals have also been reported to grow cannabis commercially in countries including Ireland and the United Kingdom,” the report states. Polish and Lithuanian gangs are also trafficking drugs from the Netherlands into Ireland and the UK. Turning to new psychoactive substances – or “legal highs”, often sold in “head shops” – the study found young people, aged between 15 and 24, in Ireland were three times more likely to have taken them than in most other European countries.

Legacy

Meanwhile, experts say they aren’t surprised by the report’s findings. Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency and preventative medicine at Cork’s University and Mercy hospitals, said: “We’re still seeing plenty of long-term cocaine use. It’s the legacy of the Celtic Tiger.”

New figures also show that the number of illegal drugs seized here is on the rise. Drugs worth €55.3m were seized in 2011, with cannabis the most commonly found drug. Cocaine worth €7.9m was also found. The total seized was up on 2010, when drugs worth €45m were taken.

www. Independent.ie February 01 2013

Filed under: Economic,Europe :


Eastern European gangs are becoming “prominent” traffickers of drugs into Ireland, according to a report. It also claims Ireland is a distribution point for the supply of cannabis resin from Morocco to Britain. Research by EU police and drugs agencies confirms that Vietnamese and Chinese organised criminal gangs (OCGs) are heavily involved in cannabis cultivation across the continent, including Ireland. The EU Drug Markets Report said criminal gangs were exploiting the legitimate, commercial transport sector to move drugs and that the internet was emerging as an “online marketplace for drugs”. Action was needed to address this, it said. The report said while heroin was in overall long-term decline and cocaine use was falling in high-prevalence countries including Ireland, the trade in synthetic drugs and domestically produced cannabis was growing. The 158-page report, the first EU market analysis of its kind, said Dutch, British, and Belgian OCGs seemed to control much of the trade in western Europe in amphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). But it said Eastern European gangs were muscling in on the trade, including to Ireland: “Intelligence suggests the growing prominence of Polish and Lithuanian OCGs in trafficking drugs obtained in the Netherlands to various Nordic and Baltic States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.” The report, jointly compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and Europol, said their reach was extending as far as the US and Russia. It said Lithuanian OCGs were brokers for “numerous illicit commodities” and had links with Russian gangs. Last November, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan warned that Irish gangs were joining forces with Russian outfits in the supply of drugs and cigarettes, while Eastern European networks were involved in supplying firearms and narcotics. The report said Ireland was being used to smuggle cannabis resin from Morocco into the UK. “Average seizure sizes greater than 1kg suggest that Ireland is also an entry point for Morocco resin into Europe,” it said. “Resin seizures represent about 15% of estimated national consumption; it is likely that some of the resin entering Ireland eventually ends up in the United Kingdom.”

Source: Irish Examiner Friday, February 01, 2013

Filed under: Economic,Europe :

Next November, Californians will ballot on allowing people 21 years and older to possess, cultivate and transport cannabis for personal use, as well as enable its commercial production and sale. Professor Keith Humphreys of Stanford University School of Medicine’s psychiatry and behavioural sciences departments, discusses the potential consequences.

He recently returned to Stanford after a one-year stint in the White House as a senior adviser on national drug control policy – and was a key speaker at the UK/European Symposium on Addictive Disorders inLondon last May.

Click here for related facts, also CannabisSkunk Support

Q: There are estimates that, with legalisation, marijuana use could rise 50-100 percent%. Are those projections reasonable?

Humphreys: We know very well from other commodities that if you make something illegal, the price of it goes up. And when you make it legal, it becomes much cheaper. So the findings are credible. Why they’re scary is that big drops in price tend to affect mainly people with less disposable income…teenagers, the unemployed, other people who have just a small amount of extra money. This will drop marijuana to something they could easily afford to do on a daily basis.

It is not just legalising consumption; it is legalising production. That means you’re going to have an industry, like the tobacco industry, that will have lobbyists and marketers and lots of money. In fact, I wonder if tobacco companies might go into this business. They are well-positioned. They have the outlets and the pricing power. It will become a mass-produced, very cheap product.

Q: But the proposition also allows people to grow their own marijuana…

Humphreys: For the vast majority of people, if there’s a refined product in a nice package down at the store that costs 1/10th as much, and you don’t have to water or worry about sunlight, then they will buy it.

Q: What about the argument that taxing marijuana will provide much-needed revenue?

Humphreys: We should be legalising child pornography and human trafficking? There’s lots of awful things that raise money, and that doesn’t make them right. The second point is that taxes never recoup the harm from substances. If you look at all estimates of alcohol and tobacco taxation, it never even touched a fifth of the amount of health damage. So you get a little money in the short term, but in the long term, someone’s got to pay for car accidents and kids flunking out of school and things like that.

Q: What about the notion that by legalising it you take it out of clandestine operations?

Humphreys: You will probably get rid of some gun violence, for example. But look at the example of a tobacco company. You could have substantially more death. There’s lots of ways to do violence in this world. You can weaken government regulations in a way that results in thousands of people dying.

In terms of its medical use, I have compassion for patients; I was a hospice worker for many years. But I don’t feel that’s the typical person getting medical marijuana. A paper in the Harm Reduction Journal that profiled about 4,000 such people said the prototypical patient was a 30-year-old male who had been smoking pot for about 15 years and wasn’t seriously ill – that group is riding on our compassion for the people who have Aids, MS or cancer.

To me, it’s a pretty big jump to go from saying that this plant has some medical value, to saying that its consumption — and also its production and advertising — should be legalised.

Source:    Addiction Today   August 6th2010

Illegal drugs not only harm a user’s mind and body, they devastate families, communities, and neighborhoods. They jeopardize public safety, prevent too many Americans from reaching their full potential, and place obstacles in the way of raising a healthy generation of young people.

To address these challenges, today we are releasing the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy — the Obama Administration’s primary policy blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences in America. The President’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new direction in our approach to drug policy. Today’s strategy builds upon that approach, which is based on science, evidence, and research. Most important, it is based on the premise that drug addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. Simply put, we are not powerless against the challenge of substance abuse — people can recover, and millions are in recovery. These individuals are our neighbors, friends and family members. They contribute to our communities, our workforce, our economy, and help make America stronger.

Our emphasis on addressing the drug problem through a public health approach is grounded in decades of research and scientific study. There is overwhelming evidence that drug prevention and treatment programs achieve meaningful results with significant long-term cost savings. In fact, recent research has shown that each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.

But reducing the burden of our nation’s drug problem stretches beyond prevention and treatment. We need an all of the above approach. To address this problem in a comprehensive way, the President’s new strategy also applies the principles of public health to reforming the criminal justice system, which continues to play a vital role in drug policy. It outlines ways to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and arrest by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment, bolstering support for reentry programs that help offenders rejoin their communities, and advancing support for innovative enforcement programs proven to improve public health while protecting public safety.

Together, we have achieved significant reform in the way we address substance abuse. And the Affordable Care Act will — for the first time — require insurers to cover treatment for drug addiction the same way they would other chronic diseases. This is a revolutionary shift in how we address drug policy in America.
Over the past three decades, we have reduced illegal drug use in America. Over the long term, rates of drug use among young people today are far lower than they were 30 years ago. More recently cocaine use has dropped nearly 40 percent and meth use has dropped by half. And we can do more. As President Obama has noted, we have successfully changed attitudes regarding rates of smoking and drunk driving, and with your help we can do the same with our illegal drug problem.

Source: R. Gil Kerlikowske
Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy 18th April 2012

More than 20 cannabis farms and factories were discovered by police every day last year as they seized drugs which could sell for £100 million on the streets, figures showed today.

Senior police chiefs said the size and scale of the farms were reducing as criminals producing cannabis were spreading the risk and minimising losses by employing a large number of so-called gardeners to manage small sites across multiple residential areas.

Over the two years since the last report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), some 1.1 million plants have been seized with a street value of £207.4 million.

A total of 7,865 farms were found across the UK in 2011/12, up 15% from 6,866 in 2009/10 and more than a 150% increase from the 3,032 identified four years ago, the study by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) found.

There has been a “move back to the use of residential property” and dismantling factories was seen as “a short term solution, with missed opportunities for further investigation into potentially linked factories”, the police chiefs said.

The number of offences related to cannabis production is also increasing, up from 14,982 in 2010/11 to 16,464 last year.

Scotland Yard Commander Allan Gibson, the lead on cannabis cultivation for the police chiefs, said: “Commercial cannabis cultivation continues to pose a significant risk to the UK .

Increasing numbers of organised crime groups are diverting into this area of criminality but we are determined to continue to disrupt such networks and reduce the harm caused by drugs.

This profile provides a detailed analysis of the current threat from commercial cultivation of cannabis and the work undertaken by law enforcement agencies to combat the threat.”

The highest number of farms (936) were found in the West Yorkshire force area, equivalent to 42 factories per 100,000 people, the Acpo figures showed.

But South Yorkshire had 64 farms per 100,000 people, the highest ratio in the UK , with 851 farms.

The two forces were followed by other heavily-populated force areas, including West Midlands (663 farms, or 25 per 100,000 people), the Metropolitan Police (608 farms, or eight per 100,000 people) and Avon and Somerset (653 farms, or 40 per 100,000 people).

But the Devon and Cornwall force recorded the highest rise in the number of farms since the last report in 2009/10, with the number of farms identified rising 1,664% from 11 to 183 (11 farms per 100,000 people)

Source: www.Independent.co.uk  30th April 2012



Latest in an impressively coherent and persistent series of studies of how US courts specialising in supervision and treatment of drug-related offenders can do more to reduce drug use and crime. Triaging offenders to more or less intensive programmes and then adjusting based on actual progress made significant differences.

Summary Drug courts specialise in closely supervising (through regular urine tests and court appearances) and ordering the treatment of drug-related offenders to improve compliance with treatment as an alternative to prosecution or imprisonment. Judges impose sanctions or offer praise or more tangible rewards and adjust treatment depending on progress. However, in the USA this intensive process is available to only a small minority of potentially suitable offenders. Extending the reach of drug courts may be more feasible if intensive supervision and treatment are reserved for offenders who need them in order to do well, and if these decisions can to a degree be routinised rather than made on an individual basis.

Background to the study

One step towards this is to match intensity to the risk that the offender will fail to meet the requirements of the court, imposing stricter supervision on offenders assessed as high risk before the start of their sentences. As described by Findings, this has been trialled by the research group responsible for the featured study. They found that high risk (antisocial personality disorder or a history of treatment for drug abuse problems) offenders were more likely to test negative for drugs and to complete their court orders when they had been randomly assigned to fortnightly court progress hearings rather than hearings ‘as needed’ in response to infractions. A further trial implemented this matching procedure and again found better outcomes among high risk offenders matched to fortnightly hearings.

However, predicting in advance how offenders will react to different drug court requirements is an imperfect science. Another step forward is to adapt these to how offenders actually do respond, if possible based on pre-set criteria derived from research findings. For example, if a participant misses a set number of counselling sessions, an ‘adaptive’ regimen might stipulate a motivational enhancement intervention. Treatment staff retain authority to override or alter an adaptation, but typically have to explain their decisions. The featured study was the first major test of adaptive programming in a drug court.

Deciding who needs more supervision or treatment

The criteria for adapting the drug court regimen and the adaptations were developed by the drug court team and research staff with a view to being feasible as well as effective. As in earlier studies in the series, first offenders were categorised as high or low risk and assigned on this basis to fortnightly or as-needed hearings. Monthly assessments identified those who did not comply with the court’s requirements, indicated by two or more unexcused missed counselling sessions or failures to provide a valid urine specimen. In these instances it was assumed that judicial supervision was inadequate and it was stepped up to fortnightly or, if already fortnightly, further infractions would result in conviction for the original offence.

At other times offenders might attend treatment and comply with tests, but still carry on using illegal drugs, indicated by two or more positive urine tests. In these instances it was assumed that the treatment A minimum of four months (approximately 18 weeks) of weekly group psychoeducational counselling sessions covering the pharmacology of drug and alcohol use, progression from substance use to dependence, the impact of addiction on the family, treatment options, HIV/AIDS risk reduction, and relapse prevention strategies. Participants could also attend group or individual treatment sessions based on clinical need. was inadequate and its intensity was stepped up to include clinical case management entailing an additional two therapeutic group sessions per week and one individual session per month focused on motivational enhancement and relapse-prevention techniques.

A pilot study demonstrated the feasibility and promise of this approach, paving the way for the featured study.

About the study

Essentially the featured study tested whether in addition to triaging based on starting risk levels, adjusting treatment and supervision based on the offender’s actual progress improved outcomes. Both the pilot and the featured study were conducted in a drug court in the city of Wilmington, the largest in the USstate of Delaware. It accepted adult local residents charged with a misdemeanour Less serious offences such as possession or use of cannabis or possession of equipment related to drug use. without a history of a serious violent offending, and who drug court treatment staff assessed as meeting criteria for substance abuse or dependence. Defendants plead guilty but will be absolved if they satisfactorily complete Minimum requirements are attending at least 12 weekly group counselling sessions, providing at least 14 consecutive weekly drug-negative urine specimens, remaining arrest free, obeying programme rules and procedures, and paying a $200 court fee. the drug court programme and are not arrested for the next six months. Failing this they are convicted, have a criminal record, stand to lose their driving licences, and to be sentenced to a period on probation.

In 2009 and 2010 researchers approached 335 consecutive drug court defendants of whom 130 agreed to join the study (risking allocation to more intensive supervision and treatment than usual) and 125 actually started the programmes it tested. All were triaged based on their risk levels As in previous studies, antisocial personality disorder or prior treatment for drug problems indicated high risk and fortnightly hearings. to fortnightly or as-needed hearings and their progress was monitored monthly by researchers and reported back to the drug court.

Using the criteria outlined above, for a randomly selected 62 offenders, these monthly assessments determined Unless the drug court team or judge decided otherwise. whether those failing to comply with attendance and testing requirements were subject to more frequent or stricter supervision, and whether those still using drugs were directed in to more intensive treatment. Remaining offenders were subject to the court’s usual procedures.

Primarily at issue was whether adapting treatment/supervision to progress reduced drug use, as indicated by weekly urine tests over the first 18 weeks of the drug court sentence, the minimum needed to complete it.

Main findings

The key finding was that offenders subject to the predetermined adaptations were less likely to use illegal drugs. Of the urine tests they took, 68% indicated they were drug free compared to 49% of comparison offenders. Assuming missed tests would have indicated drug use, the figures were 61% and 46%. Under either assumption, offenders whose supervision and treatment were adapted to their progress were over twice as likely as other offenders to submit a urine test negative for illegal drugs, a statistically significant difference, and one which was apparent over the entire 18 weeks.

In contrast, the proportions of offenders who satisfactorily completed the drug court programme within 18 weeks (31% in the adaptive regimen, 23% of the remainder) or within a year (68% and 67% respectively) did not significantly differ.

Just over a third of both sets of offenders at some time failed to meet criteria for complying with attendance or urine test requirements. These infractions were much more likely (64% v. 30%) to be responded to by the court when offenders were subject to the adaptive regimen and the court had been alerted to the infraction by the researchers. Also, roughly the same proportions (a fifth to a quarter) of offenders continued to use illegal drugs, though in this case the court was no more likely impose consequences on offenders in the adaptive programme.

There was a (not statistically significant) tendency for more offenders in the adaptive programme to see the drug court’s procedures as fair, but otherwise no differences in perceptions of how effectively these acted as deterrents, attitudes to the judge, and satisfaction with drug court services, all of which were generally positive.

The authors’ conclusions

Findings confirmed that adaptive programming can promote abstinence from illegal drugs among misdemeanour offenders sentenced by a drug court. This improvement in drug abstinence rates appears to have been attributable to more intensive supervision of offenders who failed to comply with attendance and testing requirements, rather than to more intensive and individualised treatment in response to continued drug use.

As intended, the criteria set for adapting the regimen, alerts to when these were breached, and the clear structure for how the court should respond, seem to have helped staff identify and rectify mismatches between offenders and the supervision schedule they had been assigned to on the basis of their anticipated risk of failure. In theory, drug court staff could have made these adjustments on their own initiatives, but were much less likely to do so without the guidance and assistance of the adaptive structure. Lacking this, they imposed consequences in respect of less than one in three of the times when offenders failed to show up for treatment or testing, a ratio unlikely to optimally promote compliance with supervision requirements. The adaptive regimen meant fewer offenders ‘slipped through the cracks’ to continue noncompliant behaviour with relative impunity. There was no indication (if anything, the reverse) that this greater strictness jaundiced offenders’ views of the court or its procedures.

Strangely, while offenders whose programmes were adapted were more likely to test abstinent, they were no more likely to satisfactorily complete the drug court programme, despite the fact that a run of 14 ‘clean’ urine tests was perhaps the primary requirement. It could be that the adaptive regimen failed to affect the other criteria offenders had to meet to satisfy the court and expunge their offence, or that the court took other factors in to account in making these decisions.

One methodological concern is that under 4 in 10 of the offenders asked to join the study did so, reducing the degree to which the findings can be assumed to be representative of what would happen if such procedures were applied across the board. It seems likely that refusers were less motivated to comply with the court’s requirements or felt (perhaps due to their addiction) that they would be unable to satisfy the court if more intensively supervised. Also, rather than persisting impacts, these findings reflected periods when many offenders had recently ended or were still on drug court sentences.

There may be scope to improve criteria used to adapt supervision and treatment. For example, the assumption that non-attendance for counselling or testing does not require more intensive treatment may be false if offenders who have lapsed try to hide this by not turning up. And while supervision and treatment could be intensified in response to poor progress, there was no mechanism for good progress to trigger the reverse.

Marlowe D.B., Festinger D.S., Dugosh K.L. et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior: 2012, 39(4), p. 514–532.

 This is the latest in an impressively coherent and persistent attempt to evidence howUSdrug courts can do more to reduce drug use and crime, including ways to conserve resources by reserving intensive intervention for offenders who need it. These studies have shown that triaging on the basis of initial risk and then adjusting in the light of experience, based on simple and clear criteria and feasible treatment and supervision enhancements, are both possible for US drug courts and effective in promoting abstinence from illegal drugs. In turn this finding confirms that some kind of courts are more effective than others. Generally drug court sentences are associated with lower crime and drug use rates than comparison sentencing options, but there are not enough rigorous and convincing studies to be sure that this is due to drug court procedures as opposed to the type of offenders seen by drug courts or some other factor. Feeling more the weight than the quality of the evidence, generally reviewers have cautiously concluded that drug courts are more effective then conventional sentencing, but this largely US evidence is of doubtful relevance to the UK, where negative findings from Scotland may have contributed to a waning in enthusiasm at a national level for extending the drug court model to more offenders. Details below.

About the study

While the strategies tested by the featured study and its predecessors may seem obvious, deciding on the criteria for risk, the dividing line between poor versus good progress, and corresponding adjustments to supervision and treatment, is not straightforward. In the US context, and particularly in the context of a court trying less serious offences, triaging on the basis of antisocial tendencies and prior drug treatment and then adjusting on the basis of two missed appointments or urine tests had in some respects the desired impact. As the authors pondered, the puzzle is why this impact did not extend to what for the offender is probably the critical outcome – successfully completing the sentence.

For society and Britainin particular, crime-reduction is probably the critical outcome. Whether the full adaptive regimen reduced criminal recidivism is as yet unreported, but a prior study found that the first step – triaging high-riskUS misdemeanour offenders to fortnightly supervision – did not do so to a statistically significant degree. According to their confidential accounts to researchers, among high-risk offenders in this study the reduction in the proportion who offended was greater (down by 23% v. 7%) when they had been left to the court’s usual (roughly monthly) hearings.

The authors of the featured study suggest that rather than intensified treatment, imposing tighter supervision and more certain sanctions was how the adaptive regimen helped offenders avoid illegal drug use. This raises the issue of whether for these types of offenders, treatment can be dispensed with altogether and supervision and sanctions relied on to enforce compliance. For what seems to have been a mainly methamphetamine using caseload, this was essentially the proposition tested in Hawaii. Where the featured study reserved more intensive treatment for offenders with positive urine tests, inHawaii they took this a step further by reserving treatment as such. There intensive urine testing allied with swift and certain but not severe sanctions for non-compliance dramatically curbed drug use, prison time and re-arrest rates among a high risk group of drug using offenders. Treatment was available for offenders who wanted it or whose repeat positive drug tests suggested it was needed, but few did want or need it – perhaps 1 in 10.

British policy and experience

In the featured study’s drug court it seems that most offenders confined their regular illegal drug use to cannabis. In Hawaii, a stimulant was the main problem drug and opiate use was rare. These caseloads are very different from the dependent heroin users who have committed serious and/or repeated offences who constitute the major part of the caseload in drug courts in England and Scotland. It seems unlikely that many in the UK would be considered at low risk of reoffending, that fortnightly classes would be considered an adequate treatment for their addictions, or that many could sustain four months without registering some form of illegal drug use in at least two weekly urine tests. Generally they would be considered to warrant at least the intensity of treatment reserved for the minority of poor responders in the featured study. Though this means that in the British context, risk criteria and adaptive responses would have to be different, the principle of establishing these, and doing so on the basis of evidence rather than intuition, is likely to be applicable. If costly sentence failure and imprisonment are to be avoided, it seems critical that such adjustments are made before offenders get to the point where their breaches lead the court to revoke the drug court order and re-sentence for the original offence.

Drug courts have operated in Englandand Scotlandfor several years but are not widespread. In six pilot English courts, involved offenders and professionals felt the courts were a useful addition to the range of initiatives aimed at reducing drug use and offending. They set concrete goals for offenders to meet, raised self-esteem, and imposed a degree of accountability for their actions on offenders. They were also seen as facilitating partnership working between agencies. However, Scottish courts too were seen as useful and effective, yet there was no reliable evidence that (despite costing substantially more per order and per successfully completed order) their sentences were any more effective than similar orders made by other courts, as assessed by the proportions of offenders reconvicted and the frequency of convictions.

The 2010 English drug strategy made no specific mention of drug courts. For more details on criminal justice policy it referred to a Ministry of Justice green paper, which warned that drug courts “will only be continued if they genuinely make a difference and are cost effective”. Evidence gathered for the paper was equivocal about the applicability of international evidence to England and Wales and did not list drug courts among its “promising approaches”. The applicability of reasonably promising evidence from overseas (primarily the USA) was also questioned by the UK Drug Policy Commission in its review of programmes for problem drug-using offenders.

Scotland’s drug strategy published in 2008 looked forward to the assessment of the country’s pilot drug courts cited above, which found no reliable crime-reduction impact but increased cost. A review of interventions for drug using offenders produced for the Scottish Government accepted these findings, and warned that the most rigorous international trials which randomly allocated offenders to drug courts or other judicial options found only weak crime reduction impacts which fell short of statistical significance.

Given the negative crime reduction findings in Scotland, the lack of evidence in the rest of Britain, and doubts about the validity and applicability of mainly USinternational evidence, the national-level impetus apparent a few years ago for trying drug courts in Britainmay have waned. Treatment allied with urine or other biological tests for drug use remain high on the UKagenda, but drug courts no longer appear to be seen as a prime means of ensuring and supervising such programmes. Nevertheless, such courts could be seen as one way to ensure offenders enter and comply with the treatment programmes (and specifically addiction treatment) the Ministry of Justice saw as effective in reducing the costs of crime, or one way local areas may choose to pursue the crime reductions which it suggested could attract financial rewards in ‘payment by results’ schemes.

Recent reviews

Reservations in the Scottish review cited above over the evidence for drug courts from randomised trials were echoed in a review conducted by British experts for the Swedish Council for Crime Prevention. It was able to synthesise crime-reduction results from just two high quality trials. Together these registered an advantage for drug courts versus comparison judicial options, but not one which was statistically significant. According to this analysis, treatment in general had been shown to reduce drug-related crime, but the same could not yet be said of treatment delivered via a drug court.

Mandated by USlaw, in 2011 the USGeneral Accounting Office investigated how well US adult drug courts have reduced crime and substance use and their associated costs and benefits. They reported that compared to alternative dispositions, generally studies found drug courts were associated with lower rates of criminal recidivism and relapse to drug use, but few studies were free of possible bias arising from non-random selection of drug court versus comparison offenders. Due mainly to reduced future victimisation and justice system expenditures, benefits to society expressed in financial terms usually but not always outweighed costs. This balance was partly dependent on the expense of the alternative disposal; if community sentences supervised by a drug court replaced prison, the cost savings were likely to be positive and substantial.

In hedging its cost-benefit findings, the General Accounting Office touched on a fundamental criticism of US drug courts – that most exclude violent or drug dealing offenders or those with extensive criminal histories and serious mental health issues. The upshot is often a caseload of low-level drug offenders who are otherwise generally law-abiding, many of whom might have been more cheaply and appropriately diverted out of the criminal justice system altogether. The report also echoed a general finding in other research syntheses – that the more sound the study, the less likely it is to find any substantial recidivism reductions due to drug courts.

How far most studies fall short of the gold standard randomised controlled trial was commented on by (at the time of writing) the latest synthesis of drug court studies. Among this “methodologically weak” body of work, just three of 92 studies of courts Other than those dealing with traffic-related offences. trying adults had randomly allocated offenders to these versus alternative judicial procedures. Across these three, recidivism was lower among drug court offenders, but the finding was not statistically significant. The next most sound studies typically attempted instead to match drug court and comparison offenders on key variables, or to adjust the findings for their relative risks of offending. Across these 20 studies, recidivism was modestly and significantly lower among drug court offenders, but such research designs have limited power to iron out the most important differences between offenders who are or are not referred to (or choose to be processed by) drug courts. Presumably crucial variables – like how committed the offenders is to succeed, their social and family support, or professional assessments of how well suited they are to a drug court regimen – are rarely available to researchers. Echoing the featured study, this synthesis found that drug use was lowest in courts which supervised offenders frequently and which – like the court in the study – could hold out the prospect that success would expunge the original offence. These too were among the effective ingredients identified in a major study funded by the US Department of Justice of 23 drug courts.

For Findings drug court analysis run this search. In particular see these background notes with a detailed consideration of one of the most methodologically rigorous studies to date, conducted in Baltimore with a caseload unusually relevant to the UK because it consisted mainly of heroin addicts with extensive criminal records. Though methodological concerns remained, it found that over the three years after offenders had been allocated to the court or to normal proceedings, the average numbers of new arrests and charges were significantly fewer among drug court offenders and drug use was lower.  

Source  www.findings.org.uk  30 March 2012

 

 

Filed under: Economic,Legal Sector,USA :

The true cost of Scotland’s drug habit has been set out by a leading academic, who says a single addict sets the country back more than £60,000 a year.

Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, has criticised Scottish Government policy and said the nation is “paying a massive price” for its drugs problem.  Scotland has some 55,000 addicts, so the annual bill in health care, criminal activity, drug driving and other social costs comes to almost £3.5 billion.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, Prof McKeganey argues Scottish society has grown too accepting of all forms of drug abuse and needs instead to preach a doctrine of abstinence. He questions the Scottish Government’s reliance on methadone as a substitute for heroin abusers and argues more effort is required to get addicts off drugs through abstinence.

“At the moment, we have about 22,000 addicts on methadone in Scotland,” he says. “When Scottish ministers are asked whether they have any plans for reducing that number, the typical answer is to say that prescribing methadone is the responsibility of individual doctors.  “Our political leaders, surrounded by those who counsel them on the benefits of methadone, find themselves passing responsibility for our national methadone programme on to the shoulders of those who are prescribing the drug in the first place. This situation is going to get worse.”

Prof McKeganey says Scotland’s drug problem is “virtually without equal anywhere in Europe” and that concern over “legal high” mephedrone, a substance sold as plant food which has become popular as a recreational drug and has been linked to a number of deaths, is just another symptom of the “culture of addiction”.

“What… should we make of a situation in Scotland where young people are prepared to consume plant food to obtain a desired high?” he says.

The Centre for Drug Misuse Research has estimated each problem drug user costs £60,703 a year, while a recreational drug user costs the state only £134.  The costs were calculated by considering the addict’s actions in terms of health, work, driving, crime and other social consequences, such as children in care and even addicts’ deaths.

In 2007, for example, problem drug users made 45,034 visits to accident and emergency departments at a total cost of £9,804,388, while the annual shoplifting bill is £50,611,921.

Prof McKeganey believes that key to tackling Scotland’s drug problem lies in a greater focus on abstinence. “If we are going to change the culture of acceptance around drugs, we need to do something that is almost beyond comprehension – we need to normalise abstinence,” he says.

The growing culture of middle-class drug use, where users argue it is a just reward for personal success, must he tackled, he argues, and there should be more visits to schools by drug addicts and their families to highlight the consequences of addiction.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Drugs Forum defended the use of methadone for drug addicts and the necessity for support systems to help drug addicts, even during times of financial hardship.  “Methadone – along with psycho-social support to supplement the pharmaceutical prescription – has an important part to play in helping many people stabilise chaotic drug use, but other approaches must be available, including abstinence-based treatment, for people who want them and who could benefit from them,” she said.  “What matters most is having a range of high-quality and readily accessible treatment which best meets the needs of each individual at each stage of their journey away from harmful drug use.”

Tim Richley, of offenders’ charity Sacro, supported Prof McKeganey’s long-term goal, but said it would require gradual change. “I do understand the argument he is making and I would come down on the side of total abstinence as a good goal that we are trying to achieve, but other factors can help,” he said. “If they were to ditch methadone overnight, there would be a huge rise in criminal activity as addicts seek the money to buy heroin.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it had invested a record £28.6 million in drug treatment and services. He went on:  “It is for individual clinicians to decide on the most appropriate medical treatment for any person, taking into account their lifestyle and what stage they are on the road to recovery.

“The Scottish Government’s new drugs strategy offers a blueprint for all our drug treatment and rehabilitation services based on the principle of recovery, not extending addiction, tailored to the personal needs of individuals.”
Source:  www.scotsman.com 29th March 2010

 

Nine people accounted for 2,678 of the emergency room visits in the Austin, Texas, area during the past six years at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and others, according to a report by the nonprofit Integrated Care Collaboration, a group of health care providers who care for low-income and uninsured patients.  The average emergency room visit costs $1,000.  Hospitals and taxpayers paid the bill through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Eight of the nine patients have drug abuse problems, seven were diagnosed with mental health issues and three were homeless.
Source:  St.Petersburg Times. 4th April 2009

Filed under: Economic :


California is capturing national media coverage as the state debates the issue of legalizing and taxing marijuana. A legislative bill (AB 390) and three potential ballot initiatives propose different strategies to allegedly profit financially from marijuana. Promotion of those measures rely on a biased study. The study suggesting potential revenue gains is not only questionable, but also neglects to identify societal costs associated with marijuana.

In a written response to an article published by the Sacramento Bee, Police Chief Scott C. Kirkland addresses what the pro-drug lobby and the study they promote have neglected. His response may have been written to specifically address issues in California, but his points are relevant to other states considering similar measures.

Can your state afford to gamble on legalizing marijuana? After reading what Chief Kirkland has to say, I think you will agree the answer is NO; our nation cannot afford the damaging cost such efforts would have on society.

On August 6, 2009, the Sacramento Bee published an editorial by F. Aaron Smith entitled, “Legalized pot is more than a tax bonanza.” I would like the opportunity to present the other side.

My name is Scott C. Kirkland and I am currently the Police Chief in El Cerrito. I am on the Board of Directors for the California Police Chiefs Association as well as the California Peace Officers’ Association. Moreover, I am currently the Chair Person of the California Police Chiefs Medical Marijuana Task Force. The task force is comprised of representatives from the California Peace Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriff Association, California District Attorneys’ Association, California Narcotics Association, and other interested parties.

The purpose of this article is to write specifically about the financial aspect of the issue. I would be more than happy to contribute other articles that discuss the Assembly Bill specifically, the substance itself, or any other aspect of this issue should you so desire.

The advocates on this issue have once again selected a very well crafted message to the public. In essence, they are saying that the State of California should legalize and tax marijuana and that this action would allow the State to remain solvent. The argument would then be that with a solvent State, police officers, firefighters, and teachers will not be laid off. Mr. Smith states that there would be $1.4 billion in new tax revenue available to solve the state budget crises. But, let us examine those numbers and see if the State of California could afford such a gamble.

Yes, the Board of Equalization did identify a potential revenue stream from the sale of marijuana but are those numbers accurate? In their bill analysis, the sole report that is cited as the basis of their revenue projections is entitled, Marijuana Production in the United States (2006). The report was written by Jon Gettman, who served as President for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He writes the “Cannabis Column” for the HighTimes.com. Mr. Gettman owns DrugScience.com which he cites six times in his report. Upon reading the report and comparing the report to various law enforcement data that is published, his estimates of marijuana crops are more than twice as high.

I believe it is and was irresponsible for the individuals that wrote the bill analysis not to have known who the author of the report was and to have questioned his credibility. In this day of Internet usage I have become in the habit of doing a “Google” search on authors upon reading their work. It is important to me to know where the author is coming from and it should be important for those who complete a bill analysis. It took me ten minutes to glean information about Mr. Gettman. I believe it is important for all who delve into this emotional issue to fully research it and failure to do so results in a slanted and inaccurate analysis.

Since the Bill Analysis is utilizing a study that shows double the estimates of any other law enforcement data, the Board of Equalization’s initial projections are simply wrong. I believe it is this type of financial forecasting that has caused the State of California so much trouble today.

In May of 2009, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University released a report entitled, “Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets.” This one hundred and seventy-six (176) page report documents for the first time the costs of the two legal substances that are abused today (Alcohol and Tobacco). The costs are substantial!

In 2005, the State of California spent $19.9 billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction or $545.09 per capita (population of 36.5 million). Once again I am talking specifically about Alcohol and Tobacco. But, the State of California collected $1.4 billion dollars of tax revenue or $38.69 per capita on the sale of Alcohol and Tobacco products. Yes, the costs far exceeded the revenue!

I believe it is also worth mentioning that as of June 19, 2009, California’s Carcinogen Identification Committee of the Office of Environmental Health and Assessment Science Advisory Board issued a ruling that listed marijuana smoke as causing cancer. This is just another reason why the financial analysis of the bill does not make economic sense. From a public health stand point, why would we, residents of California, want to legalize a crude substance that is known to cause cancer when the costs of substance abuse of the psychoactive drug will far outweigh the amount of monies the state receives? Are we that short sighted? How is the State of California going to find the monies to pay for the costs of abuse, treatment, and damage to youth? These are all unanswered questions that must be addressed in order for there to be a fair and impartial analysis that voters rely on when they go to the polls.

Source: Source: Save Our Society From Drugs Oct 2009

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