Legal Sector

Revitalizing anti-corruption efforts

Supporting anti-corruption efforts in Hong Kong was a major focus during Ms. Waly’s mission. In a speech delivered at the 8th Symposium of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong on the occasion of the Commission’s 50th anniversary, Ms. Waly said that “In this era of uncertainty, as crises rage and threats simmer, we need to re-think and revitalize anti-corruption efforts,” adding that “corruption underpins many of the biggest challenges facing humanity today.”

In her remarks, Ms. Waly outlined four key priorities that UNODC considers essential to pave a new path for anti-corruption efforts, namely to 1) future-proof responses to corruption by leveraging the positive role of technology and unleashing the potential of youth; 2) unlock the full potential of international and regional anti-corruption frameworks, and to streamline cross border cooperation; 3) addressing gaps in capacities through partnerships; and 4) better understand corruption and its trends, through robust measurement, research, and analysis.

“Corruption is undermining everything we fight for, and empowering everything we fight against,” she said. “As we stand at this historic crossroads of challenges and opportunities, we need to seize every chance […] to innovate in the face of growing corruption challenges, together.”

On the sidelines of the Symposium, Ms. Waly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ICAC Commissioner Woo Ying-ming to solidify their partnership and expand joint technical assistance to advance anti-corruption efforts in Asia.

Ms. Waly also met with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Mr. John KC Lee, to discuss the importance of coordinated regional action in the fight against organized crime.

Ms. Waly later visited the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) where she met its Executive Director of Racing and the Secretary General of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF).

Illegal betting in sports has become a global problem, helping to drive corruption and money-laundering in sports. By running the ARF and Anti-Illegal Betting and Related Financial Crime Council, HKJC is working to address issues like illegal betting and financial crimes that affect the integrity of sports and racing.

Ms. Waly invited the HKJC and ARF to support UNODC’s GlobE4Sport initiative, which will be launched this year. The initiative will create a global network which will support anti-corruption efforts in sport through the informal sharing of information between criminal justice authorities and sports organizations.

Ms. Waly also visited Hong Kong customs facilities, where she was briefed by Commissioner Louise Ho Pui-shan on the equipment and measures used by law enforcement to inspect cargo shipments and tackle trafficking in drugs and wildlife.

Supporting compassionate rehabilitation

With fewer than 20 per cent of people with drug use disorders in treatment globally, UNODC is committed to supporting non-stigmatizing and people-centred health and social services to people who use drugs, as reflected by Ms. Waly’s visit to the Association of Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers of Macau (ARTM).

ARTM is a civil society organization offering voluntary, evidence-based prevention, treatment and harm reduction services to affected communities in Macau, China. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a vital role in tackling drug related issues, including by combating stigma and delivering essential services to affected communities.

During the visit, Ms. Waly met with people in rehabilitation for drug use and learned about the work of ARTM in providing new life skills, such as painting, baking and ceramics classes, as well as treatment for women and classes for children.

ARTM was itself founded by a former user of drugs, Augusto Nogueira, whose experience helps the organization provide compassionate and inclusive rehabilitation. Augusto says that his main struggle when he was using drugs was not being able to identify a solution for his problem.

“My addiction was stronger than my will to stop using,” he said.

After undergoing his own challenging rehabilitation process, Augusto had ideas on how to professionalize the existing prevention and treatment activities in Macau. With the goal of providing evidence-based, personalized approaches to drug treatment and rehabilitation services, he founded ARTM in 2000.

ARTM belongs to the Asia-Pacific Civil Society Working Group on Drugs, supported by UNODC. Convened by the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC), the Working Group aims to strengthen civil society action on drug related matters and the implementation of joint international commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.

ARTM also works to bring the voices of civil society to the international stage, including by presenting civil society recommendations on how best to implement drug policies at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

During her visit, Ms. Waly acknowledged the call from grassroot civil society organizations like ARTM for greater investment in evidence-based prevention, including through the implementation of the CHAMPS initiative. Ms. Waly praised ARTM’s cooperation with UNODC, including by delivering a training workshop on UNODC’s family-based prevention programme, Strong Families.

Ms. Waly also met with the Secretary of Security of Macau to discuss how Macau’s experience can help inform regional responses in tackling organized crime, illegal online gambling, and drug trafficking.

Source: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2024/May/unodc-executive-director-highlights-anti-corruption–fight-against-organized-crime–and-drug-prevention-on-visit-to-hong-kong-and-macau–china.html

Australia won’t see any cannabis cafes selling brownies anytime soon, despite agreement that the use of marijuana should be prioritised as a health issue.

Eleanor Campbell  

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au

 

A push to legalise the recreational use of cannabis on a national scale has been knocked back after experts expressed concerns it would lead to more use of the drug among young people.

A Senate committee rejected a bill introduced by Greens senator David Shoebridge on Friday, which calls to allow for cannabis possession for personal use in Australia, as well as the establishment of a national agency to regulate the growing of plants.

After receiving over 200 submissions the committee noted evidence from peak medical bodies including the Australian Medical Association (AMA) that warned wider access could exacerbate health risks, particularly for adolescents.

“Ultimately, the committee is concerned that the legalisation of cannabis for adult recreational use would create as many, if not more, problems than the bill is attempting to resolve,” the report said.

“While endeavouring to do so, the bill does not address several significant concerns, for example, ensuring that children and young people cannot access cannabis (particularly home-grow), managing risky cannabis use, and effective oversight of THC content.”

Multiple countries, including half of all US states have legalised recreational marijuana use. Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

The committee report noted that the majority of submissions agreed that cannabis use “should be treated first and foremost as a health issue instead of a criminal issue.”

Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia, according to the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey, with more than 2.5 million people having used it recently.

In 2019, about 11.7 per cent of people aged 14 years reported having had used the drug at least once it in the past 12 months. The figure was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, at 16 per cent.

Under the Greens model, adults in Australia could legally grow six cannabis plants but it would remain a crime to sell the drug to anyone under the age of 18.

The bill also proposes the creation of licensed Amsterdam-style ‘cannabis cafes’ that sell marijuana products, such as edibles.

In his dissenting report, Senator Shoebridge argued the creation of a national cannabis market would generate thousands of jobs and remove “billions” from the black market.

“This inquiry shows clearly how evidence-based and human-centred reforms like this, we will need to break the stranglehold of politics as usual,” he said.

He said despite the committee’s findings the Greens plan to introduce the bill into parliament this year.

Senator Shoebridge claims up to 80,000 Australians could be flushed out of the criminal justice system if his Bill passed. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman.

“The majority report in this inquiry reasonably fairly covers the evidence we had in the inquiry, although it does not detail the hundreds of individual submissions to the inquiry that, almost unanimously, asked us to vote this into law and to finally legalise cannabis,” he added.

Medical cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016 and last year around 700,000 people reported having used cannabis for medical purposes.

Penalties for illicit use of marijuana, which remains illegal in all states and territories, vary based on jurisdiction.

In NSW, a first-time offender caught with a small amount of cannabis could be issued with a formal caution.

Offenders caught with up to 50 grams of cannabis in Queensland must be first offered a drug diversion program as an alternative to criminal prosecution.

In Western Australia, maximum fines can range from $2,000 to $20,000 and up to two years in prison.

 

Source: NCA NewsWire  June 3, 2024 – 5:10PM

 

The communication below was issued by John Coleman, Chairman of DrugWatch International, to summarise the position with CBD and its legal status, as reported on in May 2020.

The format, as an email, has been retained in this version.

 

From: drug-watch-international@googlegroups.com <drug-watch-international@googlegroups.com> On Behalf Of John J. Coleman, PhD
Sent: 21 May 2020 17:30
To: drug-watch-international@googlegroups.com
Subject: Is CBD a controlled substance? DEA: Yes- FDA: No

 

In April 2020, the FDA approved a labelling for Epidiolex that specifically stated (at sect. 9.1) “EPIDIOLEX is not a controlled substance.” (see attachment). The DEA’s list of controlled substances as of May 2020 shows “APPROVED CANNABIDIOL DRUGS, AS DEFINED IN 21 CFR 1308.15(f)” as Schedule V controlled substance. The Code of Federal Regulations section referred to defines this as: “(f) Approved cannabidiol drugs. (1) A drug product in finished dosage formulation that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that contains cannabidiol (2-[1R-3-methyl- 6R-(1-methylethenyl)-2-cyclohexen-1-yl]-5-pentyl-1,3- benzenediol) derived from cannabis and no more than 0.1 percent (w/w) residual tetrahydrocannabinols.” (See attachment)

 

It should be noted that the scheduling of Epidiolex and CBD was not done in the usual manner by both FDA and DEA performing medical and scientific evaluations and assessments of abuse potential but, instead, the placement of CBD in the Epidiolex formulation is Schedule V was done upon an Order by the Attorney General pursuant to notification by the Secretary of State that the drug is required to be controlled (i.e., scheduled) by virtue of its scheduling status in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The U.S. ratified this treaty and, as a result, the Constitution requires that treaty obligations be enforceable as domestic law. The Attorney General could undo the scheduling by simply rescinding his Order or issuing a replacement Order setting forth the removal of CBD and the approved formulation of Epidiolex from Schedule V.

 

I’ve checked the Federal Register and there is nothing indicating that the Attorney General has removed CBD or Epidiolex from Schedule V as of May 20, 2020. I will make additional inquiries to see what’s going on here. The FDA’s label (prescribing information) is a legal certification of an approved drug’s uses and indications – as is the Attorney General’s Order (delegated to DEA) of 9/28/2018, described in 83 FR 48953. (See attachment)

 

John Coleman

Source:  www.drugwatch.org

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<DEA>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Links to view the articles related to the above presentation:

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Ricky Klausmeyer-Garcia’s friends struggled to get him addiction treatment, leading to the creation of a law in his name. A year after his death, profound questions remain about how best to help those with substance use disorder

by Katia Riddle in Seattle

Mon 13 May 2024 15.00 BST

Sitting at his dining room table, Kelsey Klausmeyer, 41, looks at a picture of his late husband, Enrique Klausmeyer-Garcia, known to most as Ricky. He died almost exactly a year ago, at the age of 37.

Kelsey can’t make sense of it.

When they met, Kelsey was awed by Ricky’s story: his long battle with addiction, his years of sobriety, his advocacy for recovery.

Now, after his death and in the midst of a nationwide addiction crisis, the narrative around Ricky’s life is less tidy.

Ricky is the inspiration for a Washington state law – known as Ricky’s law – passed in 2017 that enables loved ones and public safety officials to compel people experiencing substance abuse to undergo treatment, even if they are unable or unwilling to do it themselves.

The US has been experimenting with these forced-commitment laws for decades. The debate over their efficacy, practicality and ethicality is seeing renewed urgency in states such as New York, California and Washington, where addiction and severe mental health disorders have become a highly visible and highly political issue.

Ricky’s story brings into sharp relief one of the fundamental and difficult questions that officials in these places are grappling with: to what extent should society override an individual’s rights in the name of saving their life and protecting public safety?

I thought so highly of Ricky, to suffer with that disease and then turn around and do something for the greater good

Kelsey Klausmeyer, Ricky’s husband

For Kelsey, Ricky’s story is not primarily about public policy. It’s a story of immense personal joy and loss, laid before him in a handful of pictures. Here they are with their dog, Otis, whom Ricky “treated like our child”, chuckles Kelsey. Here they are in 2022 on their wedding day, both smiling, fit and handsome at a sunny mountain resort 90 minutes from their home in Seattle. Two hundred of their friends and family came to spend three days celebrating.

Here is Ricky with members of his sprawling family. When the couple first started dating, they discovered, remarkably, that they were both from families of nine siblings, both raised Catholic. “We always thought we were kind of destined in a way,” says Kelsey.

Kelsey grew up in Kansas; Ricky’s family immigrated from Mexico. They met online. Ricky was direct about what he wanted, a quality Kelsey, a naturopathic doctor, found attractive. “He shared that his dream was to have a family, to have kids, have a dog, have a house, have a husband,” remembers Kelsey. Those were prizes neither of them had felt certain were winnable. Together, they brought that picture into focus.

In those early, heady weeks of dating, Ricky was candid with Kelsey about his history with substance use disorder and his journey of recovery. Kelsey was undaunted.

“I just thought so highly of that, for somebody to have suffered with that disease as much as Ricky did, and then to turn around and do something for the greater good like he did,” remembers Kelsey. “That got me. That was the moment I fell in love with Ricky.”

But within the first year of their marriage, and despite Kelsey’s relentless attempts to help him, Ricky would be gone.

Seventy-five hospital visits, and increasing desperation

With his good looks, his authenticity, his goofy enthusiasm for life and willingness to be vulnerable, Ricky was a charmer. Kelsey wasn’t the first person to fall for him.

More than a decade before he met his future husband, Ricky met Lauren Davis. Their friendship would become one of the most important relationships in his life, and the driving force behind the involuntary-commitment law created in his name.

The two were in their late teens in 2004, working as assistant preschool teachers in Redmond, Washington. “I had an enormous crush on Ricky and spent several failed years attempting to woo him,” says Davis of their early friendship. Once they’d established she wasn’t his type, Davis became his “wing woman” and accompanied him to gay clubs. “I’m a white girl who grew up in Washington,” she says. “I can’t dance to save my life, but I sure tried.”

In the next few years, as the two grew into young adults, Davis would become a different kind of wing woman for her friend. Ricky spiraled into a serious problem with alcohol and occasional opioids. “I knew I was feeling depressed,” he recalled years later, in a public radio interview with the Seattle station KNKX. “I was feeling really anxious; most of the time I just wanted to escape all that. I just started to self-medicate and take whatever it took to escape reality.”

The first time Davis called 911 and had her friend taken to the hospital, she remembers his blood alcohol was dangerously high – she would find out it was at a near fatal level. He was admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric unit. Davis sat with him in his room from 8am to 8pm. She described trying to leave Ricky’s hospital room, “hugging him and he wouldn’t let me go”.

Davis and Ricky hiking on Mt Rainier in the summer of 2007. They two met in their early 20s and quickly became friends. Photograph: Courtesy of Lauren Davis

This episode set off a corrosive cycle of hospitalization, brief sobriety and relapse. Eventually, Ricky became suicidal.

“I found myself consistently in a position of trying to catch him, before he died, essentially,” says Davis. “In the course of those two years, he was in the emergency department over 75 times. I was at his bedside for most of those visits.” Numerous doctors told her to plan for his funeral. Davis refused. She would not stand by and watch her friend die.

Ricky’s father had terminal cancer during this period and despite family members’ efforts to help Ricky, his addiction stressed relationships. Davis became his primary advocate and champion.

Watching Ricky’s struggle, Davis was horrified at how little she could do to help him. What she wanted was to put her friend into an addiction treatment facility, because he was too sick to do it himself.

But at that time, in 2011, Washington law only allowed for involuntary commitment based on a psychiatric diagnosis, not for a substance abuse disorder. Other states had more expansive criteria.

Davis remembers Ricky on his sixth psychiatric hospitalization. “He had this young psychiatrist who looked across at him and said, ‘You know, if we were in another state and I could involuntarily commit you for your addiction, I would.’”

But in Washington state, the doctor said, “his hands were tied”.

A contentious history

American public policy has grappled with the concept of involuntary commitment since at least the 1850s. As many as 14 states had laws on the books before the turn of the 20th century allowing for civil commitment for “habitual drunkenness”. Often, offenders would be locked in asylums.

Over time, enthusiasm for this approach began to fade “because of the lack of evidence that the facilities were really able to cure substance abuse”, says psychiatrist and historian Paul Appelbaum, who teaches at Columbia University and studies medicine and ethics. Legislators – and the public – stopped supporting the investment. The country saw another wave of these statutes in the 1960s. Today, though roughly two-thirds of states have civil commitment laws that specifically include substance use, many are rarely used.

In part, that’s because there is still little consensus about the efficacy of committing someone to treatment against their will. “There are almost no data indicating whether it works or for whom it works,” says Appelbaum. Policymakers, he says – chronically guilty of short-term thinking – have been reluctant to invest in meaningful efforts to evaluate these kinds of programs. Those that have tried have shown mixed outcomes, and they often don’t measure long-term results.

Many who study addiction and substance use have ethical concerns. Holding someone long enough for treatment to possibly be effective, say some, is immoral.

Dr Liz Frye, who practices addiction medicine in Pittsburgh, explains that substances such as alcohol and opioids hijack the brain’s decision-making abilities. Regaining them can take months. “I have not seen an involuntary hold that would be long enough to help people regain their choice about substances,” she says. “I have a hard time with involuntarily committing someone for that length of time.”

Another complicating factor is that treatment and recovery itself can vary widely. “A lot of times, the perception is that everybody needs residential treatment,” says Michael Langer, who works in behavioral health for the state of Washington. “That’s not true.” Often the best course of treatment, says Langer, is outpatient, or medication-based.

Ordering someone into treatment is just based on a delusion that there’s somewhere for them to go

Keith Humphreys, addiction researcher

But staffing and funding for treatment facilities of all kinds is in short supply, and getting someone to a short-term treatment facility, with or without their consent, is only a first step on a successful path to recovery. Incentivizing and supporting the individual’s choice to maintain treatment is an equally critical part of the process. That can only happen with a robust and well-funded system that includes many different pathways and interventions.

“I think people imagine there’s this whole massive treatment system,” says Keith Humphreys, who studies addiction and public health at Stanford University. The truth is, he says, most systems across the country – privately and publicly funded – for treatment of addiction are frail and underfunded and can’t accommodate the demand, even from those who are pursuing it voluntarily.

In the United States, a recent report shows that 43% of people willingly seeking treatment for substance use were unable to access it. “Ordering them into treatment is just based on a delusion that there’s somewhere for them to go,” says Humphreys.

Police check on a man who said he has been smoking fentanyl in downtown Seattle. The addiction crisis sweeping US cities has raised complex questions about how to get people treatment. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Ricky’s law takes shape

Lauren Davis helped to save her friend. In turn, he laid out the path for what would become her life’s work.

“I started to tell his story to anyone who would listen to me,” says Davis. Some of the people she demanded listen to her were legislators. They helped her introduce a bill for what became Ricky’s law.

After he eventually found his own way into treatment and long-term recovery, Ricky too became an advocate for his bill and Davis’s work. “If this law would have been in place back when I was in active addiction, I believe that my journey would have been cut that much shorter,” he would say in the interview with KNKX. “For a lot of addicts, they want to stop but they can’t. You could have loved ones tell you to stop. You could have all these consequences being behind your actions, and yet you won’t and can’t stop.”

The law amended Washington’s existing rule to allow for short-term, involuntary commitment not only for psychiatric disorders but also for those related to substance use. That meant people “gravely disabled” by addiction – and considered a danger to themselves – could now be committed against their will.

It designated tens of millions of dollars to creating a kind of holding place for detaining people under the law; there are now close to 50 “Ricky’s law” beds in four treatment facilities across the state.

But today, who needs these beds – and how to get them there – is not always clear.

“Someone who comes into the emergency department intoxicated on any substance who is a danger to themselves could be referred right off the bat under Ricky’s law,” says Paul Borghesani, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Harborview medical center, Seattle’s public hospital. “Practically, that doesn’t happen.”

The reasons are numerous, says Borghesani. Often after 12-36 hours in detox, people who were previously at risk of great harm to themselves “appear much calmer”. Many even say they plan to quit using. This puts the clinicians in a bind, he explains, forcing them to reckon with a philosophical question: is someone a danger to themselves if they claim not to be?

The law is also dependent on a team of mental health professionals called designated crisis responders, employed through state contracts with regional behavioral health agencies and counties. These responders are deployed when someone – often a loved one, community member or medical provider, though it can be anyone – requests an evaluation of an individual in a substance use-related crisis. It’s at the discretion of these crisis responders to decide whether that individual is in enough danger, or endangering others enough, to commit them to a treatment facility – sometimes for just a few days but up to several weeks.

But waits are long for these responders; some advocates for those struggling with substance use disorders report enduring weeks before a designated crisis responder arrives. Sometimes that’s time they don’t have.

Another reason Borghesani says the law isn’t used: hospitals are busy. “Physicians are rightfully very eager to keep people flowing through the emergency departments,” he explains. “So they might look at this as something that would just take a lot of time and not be beneficial.”

Despite these obstacles, Ricky’s law is put to regular use in Washington. According to the Washington health authority, the state has been admitting roughly 700 people annually to substance-use facilities under Ricky’s law.

That number does not reveal how many people have elected to stay in recovery after their forced detention – a fact that makes it hard to say with certainty how effective it has been in galvanizing sustained recovery.

New dilemmas for a new crisis

In 2024, the complex questions raised by Ricky’s law – and what helpful, compassionate addiction policy actually looks like – are more relevant than ever across the country. Recent CDC data shows a stunning national rise in alcohol-related deaths; more than 11% of adults had alcohol use disorder at some point in 2022, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A far more visible catastrophe of addiction is playing out in US cities overwhelmed in recent years by cheap, synthetic fentanyl. In Washington’s King county, home of Seattle, there were more than 1,000 overdose deaths in 2023, a nearly 50% increase from the previous year. Whole blocks are taken over by people buying, using and selling fentanyl. Arguably any one of these people is a grave danger to themselves.

Some outreach workers and medical providers on the frontlines of this problem would like to use the law to help this population, but say it’s not currently possible.

“We get stuck in this place of: what do we do?” says Cyn Kotarski, the medical director with a program called CoLead that helps people with housing and treatment. Kotarski often sees people with abscess wounds, days away from becoming septic. But with long waitlists for designated crisis responders, there’s no way to reach people in these crisis moments. “The option quite literally becomes: they stay outside until they die,” she says.

Frye, the addiction-medicine expert, says the problem is one of more than resources. The US, she says, needs an entirely new orientation to addiction treatment to underpin public policy, one that embraces methods such as harm reduction. “We have to stop being the moral police of people,” says Frye.

Public health addiction crises like the one that Seattle is battling, she argues, would be better addressed by tackling the surrounding problems – housing crises, trauma and mental health issues that give rise to substance use disorders. She imagines coupling this approach with accessible, compassionate therapeutic outpatient settings.

“The best way to help people reduce or stop using substances is to put the patient in the driver’s seat,” she says. “And we as healthcare providers are working towards helping them identify their own reasons to want to come back and quit.” Forced captivity, she argues, doesn’t meet that criterion.

But even Frye acknowledges a utility to saving a person’s life in certain circumstances without their consent. Sometimes her own patients are facing imminent death otherwise. “Transporting someone to the hospital involuntarily, getting that condition assessed, and helping make the hospital stay tolerable for the person – that’s warranted,” she says.

The exact circumstances in which to make this call are hard to define. Maybe impossible.

We get stuck in this place of: what do we do? The option quite literally becomes: they stay outside until they die

Cyn Kotarski, medical director with CoLead

Inspired by her work creating Ricky’s law, Lauren Davis decided to run for office, and was elected as a state representative in 2018. She has focused her policy efforts on expanding the state’s fragile system of treatment for substance abuse, an endeavor she continues today.

Davis acknowledges Ricky’s law needs course correction to be more useful, and she agrees that even if it’s improved, the law is not enough to adequately address the scope of addiction in places like Seattle.

“Do we just massively scale up Ricky’s law to address the scourge of fentanyl on the streets of Seattle?” she says. “No.”

Instead she’s focusing her current efforts on building a robust system of treatment that addresses comprehensive needs including housing and access to medications like methadone and Suboxone that can be provided over the counter to treat addiction. This effort also includes expanding a recovery navigator program, in which outreach workers build trust with people on the street and help them access resources – willingly.

Still, she firmly believes in the potential and power of Ricky’s law in certain circumstances. She’s seen it work first-hand, saying: “At the end of the day, I believe without a doubt that it has saved lives, that it has changed lives, that it has restored families.”

A devastating turn of events

By late 2020, Ricky had been sober nine years. Then came an episode that would test both Ricky’s relationship with Kelsey and the law created in his name.

Kelsey recalls coming home one day from work and finding his then boyfriend passed out in the stairwell of their condo. Kelsey believes the pandemic triggered the relapse. Ricky had built a network of friends and family in the world of recovery, support that quickly dissolved in social isolation.

“I had heard him talk about what active disease looked like,” says Kelsey. “When it showed up, I was like: ‘Oh my God, what is happening?’”

During that event, according to both Davis and Kelsey, Ricky’s law worked the way it was supposed to. He was put in a temporary, involuntary hold. After a number of days of sobriety, says Davis, her friend re-emerged. “His brain came back online. He was able to make healthy choices,” Davis recounts.

Kelsey says: “He chose our life together.” Kelsey worked to help Ricky gain access to a residential treatment program.

It was more than two years later, after he and Kelsey were married, that relapse came again for Ricky. To Kelsey, it seemed out of the blue. Ricky had gone back to school and had a new job working for an organization supporting recovery for others. “We were really living the dream we always wanted,” he says.

He wonders if his husband was suffering from a kind of existential vertigo. “The only way that I can make sense out of it is that sometimes when things are so good, it’s the fear of losing it,” he says. “That’s what Ricky would talk to me about sometimes.”

This time, in post-pandemic 2023, systems of emergency and crisis support were stressed. Kelsey spent hours on the phone trying to make the legal and healthcare wheels turn in his favor. One night, worried that Ricky was literally going to drink himself to death, he drove his husband to the emergency room. The following day, when there was a staff change, says Kelsey, “the attending physician was going to just release him back out onto the street”.

“I would beg and plead with healthcare staff, police officers. I would say: ‘Ricky’s law is literally named after him,’” says Kelsey.

After Kelsey finally had him committed, Ricky became far less reachable, even after days of forced withdrawal and sobriety. At one point, he fled all the way to Oregon, out of the reach of his own law. Kelsey spent nights with no idea where he was. “I really can’t see anyone living on the side of the street or under an overpass without thinking about Ricky,” he says.

Eventually, Ricky ended up in a residential treatment facility in a Seattle suburb. He went there willingly; Kelsey was expecting to see his husband the next day. Instead, Ricky was found dead.

The cause of Ricky’s death is under investigation. Kelsey is now suing the facility, alleging wrongful death.

Kelsey’s faith in the law named for his husband remains steadfast, as does his belief in the power of recovery. “For anyone dealing with this,” he says, “please know there is hope.”

That optimism has not made his first year as a widower easier. It’s been “hell”, as Kelsey describes it. “I just miss him.”

This story is part of a reporting fellowship sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists and supported by the Commonwealth Fund

 

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/society/article/2024/may/13/rehab-forced-addiction-treatment#navigation

This is the Executive Summary of the DEA’s 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment 

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced, killing nearly 38,000 Americans in the first six months of 2023 alone. Fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, like methamphetamine, are responsible for nearly all of the fatal drug overdoses and poisonings in our country. In pill form, fentanyl is made to resemble a genuine prescription drug tablet, with potentially fatal outcomes for users who take a pill from someone other than a doctor or pharmacist. Users of other illegal drugs risk taking already dangerous drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine laced or replaced with powder fentanyl. Synthetic drugs have transformed not only the drug landscape in the United States, with deadly consequences to public health and safety; synthetic drugs have also transformed the criminal landscape in the United States, as the drug cartels who make these drugs reap huge profits from their sale.
Mexican cartels profit by producing synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) and methamphetamine (a synthetic stimulant), that are not subject to the same production challenges as traditional plant-based drugs like cocaine and heroin – such as weather, crop cycles, or government eradication efforts. Synthetic drugs pose an increasing threat to U.S. communities because they can be made anywhere, at any time, given the required chemicals and equipment and basic know-how. Health officials, regulators, and law enforcement are constantly challenged to quickly identify and act against the fentanyl threat, and the threat of new synthetic drugs appearing on the market. The deadly reach of the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels into U.S. communities is extended by the wholesale-level traffickers and street dealers bringing the cartels’ drugs to market, sometimes creating their own deadly drug mixtures, and exploiting social media and messaging applications to advertise and sell to customers.
The Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (also known as CJNG or the Jalisco Cartel) are the main criminal organizations in Mexico, and the most dangerous. They control clandestine drug production sites and transportation routes inside Mexico and smuggling corridors into the United States and maintain large network “hubs” in U.S. cities along the Southwest Border and other key locations across the United States. The Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are called “transnational criminal organizations” because they are not just drug manufacturers and traffickers; they are organized crime groups, involved in arms trafficking, money laundering, migrant smuggling, sex trafficking, bribery, extortion, and a host of other crimes – and have a global reach extending into strategic transportation zones and profitable drug markets in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Source: https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2024-05/NDTA_2024.pdf May 2024

Nearly half of all U.S. citizens now live in a state where they can purchase cannabis from a recreational market, and all but 13 states have legalized medical use.  These state-level policies have all been developed and adopted under a federal prohibition, which may be changing soon as lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are developing federal proposals to legalize cannabis.

A new USC Schaeffer Center white paper shows how state-level cannabis regulations have weak public health parameters compared to other countries, leaving consumers vulnerable. Federal legalization is an opportunity to implement regulations that better protect consumers and promote reasonable use. Regulations policymakers should consider include placing caps on the amount of the main intoxicant (THC) allowed in products sold in the marketplace and placing purchase limits on popular high-potency cannabis products, like edibles and vape cartridges, as has been done in other legalized jurisdictions abroad.  

“Allowing the industry to self-regulate in the U.S. has generated products that are more potent and diverse than in other countries and has led to a variety of youth-oriented products, including cannabis-infused ice cream, gummies and pot tarts,” says Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, a senior fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center and Elizabeth Garrett Chair in Health Policy, Economics & Law at the USC Price School of Public Policy. “Current state regulations and public advisories are inadequate for protecting vulnerable populations who are more susceptible to addiction and other harm.”

High-potency cannabis products have been linked to short-term memory and coordination issues, impaired cognitive functions, cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, psychosis, and increased risks of anxiety, depression and dependence when used for prolonged periods. Acute health effects associated with high-potency products include unexpected poisonings and acute psychosis.

Policies should discourage excessive cannabis use

Product innovation within the legal cannabis industry has outpaced state regulations and our knowledge of health impacts of nonmedical, adult-use cannabis, write Pacula and her colleagues.  Cannabis concentrates and extracts can reach concentrated THC levels of 90% in certain cases – many, many times more potent than dried flower that ranges between 15-21%. These products are also increasingly popular – sales for concentrates like vape pens rose 145% during the first two years of legalization in Washington state.

But state approaches to regulation have insufficiently considered quantity and potency limits. Just two states, Vermont and Connecticut, have set potency limits on both flower and concentrates. Most states base sales limits on product weight and product type, an approach that allows individuals to purchase excessive amounts of high-potency products in a single transaction.

An individual in most states can purchase 500 10-milligram servings of concentrates in a single transaction. Six states allow purchases that exceed 1,000 servings. By comparison, a full keg of beer, which usually requires registration, provides 165 servings of alcohol.

“Voters in many of these states supported legalization because they were told we would regulate cannabis like alcohol, but in reality, when it comes to product innovation, contents and standard serving sizes, the cannabis market has largely been left on its own,” says Seema Pessar, a senior health policy project associate at the USC Schaeffer Center. “And that is what is concerning for public health.”

“We are seeing evidence of real health consequences from this approach, especially among young adults,” explains Pacula. For example, studies show a rise cannabis-related emergency department visits for acute psychiatric symptoms and cyclical vomiting in states that legalize recreational cannabis.

Key policies to support responsible cannabis use

To better regulate legal cannabis markets and products, researchers find four policy areas in which state laws and federal proposals can do more to encourage responsible use.

  • Placing limits on the amount of THC in legal products soldSetting clear and moderate caps on flower, concentrates and extracts.
  • Instituting potency-based sales limitsRestricting the amount of cannabis that a retailer can sell to an individual in a single transaction or over a period of time, based on the THC amount in the product.
  • Designing a tax structure based on the potency of productsTaxing cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, based on intoxicating potential rather than by container weight or retail price.
  • Implementing seed-to-sale data-tracking systems: Allowing regulatory agencies to view every gram of legal cannabis that is cultivated and watch it as it migrates throughout supply chain, including the comprehensive monitoring of ingredients added to products that are eventually purchased in stores.

While generating tax revenue and reversing damages from prohibition are important, so is prioritizing public health — and prolonged use of high-potency cannabis products has health consequences, the researchers write.

“It is difficult to implement restrictive health regulations in markets that are already operating, generating jobs and revenue,” Pacula says. “Now is when the federal government has the best chance of ensuring a market that fully considers public health.”

Source: Cannabis Regulations Inadequate Given Rising Health Risks of High-Potency Products – USC Schaeffer July 2022

The sale and use of illegal drugs are among the most serious problems facing the UK, indeed, the entire world, right now. This issue is particularly prevalent within Britain’s night-time economy, where even the most stringently law-abiding and responsibly run premises are not guaranteed to be completely free from the presence of drugs and/or drug dealers.

As a security operative, especially a door supervisor, you are in a unique position to spot potential drug deals and put a stop to them. This is of benefit to both the venue as well as its patrons. Overall, it also helps to keep the public safe.

In this feature, we’ll show you to spot a probable drug deal, identify a likely drug dealer and offer advice on what to do once you’ve confirmed your suspicions. We will also examine the laws around drugs, including what is and isn’t allowed and who is liable if those laws are broken on the premises you’re guarding.

Drug Dealers in Popular Culture

The sale of drugs has, of course, existed for thousands of years. However, in prehistory and antiquity drug use probably had at least some religious or spiritual connotations.

Nevertheless, recreational drug use dates back at least as far as Ancient Mesopotamia (and probably a lot further than that). Ancient Sumerians freely traded opium along with other commodities, while the ancient Egyptians prized blue water lotus flowers for their hallucinogenic properties (King Tutankhamun was even buried with some). These drugs were not illicit or illegal in their respective eras and traders would have bought and sold them openly.

Notable books concerning drug use and purchase include Thomas De Quincey’s autobiographical account ‘Confessions of an English Opium Eater’ (1821) and William Burroughs’ 1953 debut ‘Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict’.

In 1966, The Beatles released their ‘Revolver’ album, which featured a song called ‘Dr. Robert’. The song, inspired by real-life figure Dr. Robert Freymann, tells the story of a supposedly legitimate medical doctor who abuses his prescription pad in order to get his ‘patients’ any kind of drug they want. The song is notable for being one of the first times a drug dealer was depicted overtly, as well as in a generally positive light.

One year later, New York alternative band ‘The Velvet Underground’ released their debut album, which featured the songs ‘Waiting for the Man’ (which described a drug deal) and ‘Heroin’, the meaning of which ought to be self-explanatory. These songs were even more explicit and frank about illegal drugs and the people that use them.

The popular culture of the early 21st century is replete with examples of drug dealers. The 1983 gangster film ‘Scarface’ starring Al Pacino tells the story of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee and petty criminal who becomes a wealthy drug baron in America. Today, ‘Scarface’ looms large in popular culture, with its themes and iconography being referenced in everything from other movies and TV shows to poster art, video games and even song lyrics.

Drug use and the sale of drugs are staples of gangster movies, with the sale of illicit materials often being contrasted with the basic assumptions of American capitalism as a way to comment upon society in general.

Another good example of these themes can be seen in the 2007 film ‘American Gangster’ starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. This film also depicts drug dealing as a pathway to riches among the downtrodden and dispossessed.

‘American Gangster’s story, essentially, mirrors that of both ‘Scarface’ and any number of other movies of the genre, as well as, not incidentally, the typical experience of any addict. Drugs are initially seen as empowering and fun before becoming uncontrollable and eventually leading to the central character’s downfall.

The media treats street-level drug dealers, however, in a variety of different ways.

The 1993 movie ‘Trainspotting’ (an adaptation of the novel of same name by Irvine Welsh), starring Ewan McGregor, was praised for its frank and hard-hitting discussion of heroin addiction. The movie depicts a blurred line between using and dealing.

Perhaps popular culture’s best-loved drug dealers are Jay & Silent Bob. Beginning with the debut of comedy writer/director Kevin Smith, 1994’s ‘Clerks’, Jay (Jason Mewes) and his ‘hetero life-mate’ Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) appear in almost all of Smith’s movies, occasionally as central characters.

The pair, who mainly deal marijuana, are depicted as loveable, if crass, figures, who often attempt to resolve the issues of other characters via either heartfelt advice (‘Clerks’, ‘Chasing Amy’) or direct action (‘Mallrats’, ‘Dogma’). The pair appear to be stereotypical 1990’s-era drug dealers, usually peddling their wares outside the local convenience store, but their behaviour frequently upends audience expectations for comic effect.

The AMC TV series ‘Breaking Bad’, which began in 2008, depicts a grittier take on drug dealing. In the series, chemist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and resorts to manufacturing and selling methamphetamines as a way of securing his family’s finances after his death. This decision leads him down a bad road, which sees the character becoming progressively darker as the show continues.

Similarly, the Starz black comedy series ‘Weeds’ (beginning in 2005) details the misadventures of widowed mother-of-two Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), who takes to dealing marijuana as a way of supporting her family.

The legal drama series ‘Suits’, which began in 2011, features a drug dealer by the name of Trevor (Tom Lipinski), who is, at the series’ outset, best friend of main character Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). Unlike a stereotypical dealer, Trevor wears expensive suits and poses as a software developer to peddle his wares to a rich clientele. A failed drug deal involving Mike is the series’ inciting incident.

So, the portrayal of drug dealers in popular culture tends to vary, usually according to what drugs they are selling. Those selling marijuana are often depicted in a positive or comedic light (such as the episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ wherein Larry David buys marijuana for his father), while those selling cocaine, heroin and other, harder drugs are usually seen as villainous, or at least more complicated, characters.

On television, drug dealers (that are not main characters) are usually seen as scruffy, but still attired in the urban fashions of the period (punk style in the 80’s and early 90’s, Hip Hop fashions from the mid-90’s – 2000’s, etc). They are traditionally young males.

Sadly, a disproportionate number of television drug dealers are cast as ethnic minorities, which does not reflect reality and only serves to fuel any number of negative stereotypes.

Such stylistic choices are part of a visual shorthand that encourages the audience to make a quick ‘snap judgement’ about a character in order not to waste any time setting up the joke or scene. So, if a young man, dressed in urban wear approaches a character, the audience will understand that he is likely a drug dealer. By contrast, if an older woman, dressed perhaps in an evening gown, approached the character, they would have to remark on the perceived incongruity of this alleged dealer in order for the scene to work.

These sorts of visual codes may be very useful for the TV and film industries, but they don’t do any favours to the security operative that is hoping to spot -and stop – a real-life drug deal taking place.

So, what are drug dealers like in real life?

Drug Dealers in Real Life

After surveying 243 self-identified drug dealers, researchers from the American Addiction Centers created the following profile of the ‘average’ drug dealer.

According to this fascinating and insightful study, a drug dealer is slightly more likely to be male than female (their numbers were 63% male and 37% female) and is likely to start dealing at around the age of 19 and stop by 23. Drug dealing is much rarer over the age of 30, but it definitely does happen.

The principal motivations for drug dealing are apparently needing money (40%), wanting extra money (29%) and the dealers desiring popularity with their peers (19%). Other motivations include the idea that drug dealers live glamorous lives (5%), peer pressure (5%) and supporting their own addictions (2%).

Most dealers got started through a friend (57%), or else through their own dealer (27%), while 10% stated that they were introduced to drug dealing through a family member.

The average drug dealer’s clientele is primarily students (34%) and working professionals (28%), although high school students (remember that this study is American, so these students could be as old as 18) also featured prominently. 2% even claimed to have dealt drugs to law enforcement offers.

The study revealed that 43% of the average drug dealer’s clients were considered by them to be addicts, but that only 11% of females and 9% of males denied their wares to those they considered at risk of death.

In hindsight, 61% said that they felt regret for their actions, while 39% were at peace with them. Only 45% admitted to feeling guilty, however, with a 55% majority stating that they did not. A small percentage stated that their actions had resulted in the deaths of some friends or clients.

The data is clear. Whilst a drug dealer is statistically slightly more likely to be young and male, they can (and do) look like anyone. Where TV’s drug dealers often wear loud clothes and openly publicise their products like foul-mouthed market vendors, real-life drug dealers are usually very adept at simply ‘blending in’ to their surroundings and not drawing undue attention to themselves.

Pop culture often assumes that drug dealers must resemble stereotypical drug users, however this is also rarely the case. A lot of dealers don’t use any drugs themselves and sell their products after working all day at a regular, 9-5 job.

Drug dealers can range from relatively innocuous-seeming people who sell ‘soft’ drugs to a small group of friends and/or family, to individuals of considerable wealth and influence, who sell, indirectly, to large numbers of people.

Some dealers sell prescription pain medication for those who are addicted to it, or experience chronic pain, some sell drugs that they consider harmless (but are, in fact, quite dangerous) and others do not consider themselves to be drug dealers at all.

Drug dealers can be any sex, gender, age, race, or class. So how can they be spotted?

How to Spot a Drug Deal

Knowing what we now know, we must consider that drug dealers are likely to be hard to spot. A drug deal, on the other hand, usually displays certain distinguishing characteristics that can be readily identified.

One trait common to most drug dealers is that they tend to set up in the same place each time they visit a venue. They do this so that customers know where to find them. A drug dealer’s preferred location is usually somewhere dark, slightly away from prying eyes, as well as a place that is likely to always be available. In most cases, dealers will not set themselves up in direct view of bar staff or door supervisors.

Be aware of any regular who sets themselves up in one specific place all or most of the time and is visited by multiple, seemingly unrelated, patrons or makes regular trips to the toilet. This person is very possibly a drug dealer.

Watch also for conspiratorial behaviour, such as two or more people huddling together as if sharing a secret. More experienced dealers will avoid this type of behaviour, but some dealers can still be identified this way.

Some dealers use accomplices known as ‘runners’ or ‘minders’ who actually carry the drugs and/or money. In this way, if the dealer is searched, security operatives or police will find nothing on them. A runner may not liaise with the dealer directly, but if a suspected dealer is visited several times by the same person, you may be inclined to search that person as well.

Dealers will often have a larger-than-average amount of cash about their person (although online payment methods are making this trait less common than it was). If a person has an abundance of cash on them (and you don’t work security in a strip club), this could be a sign that they are a dealer.

In person, dealers are often friendly and amiable, many are even charming. They are, after all, salespeople. With many customers that are probably nervous, it stands to reason that a dealer would want to be somewhat approachable.

Drug dealers are often very uncomfortable around the subject of drugs, however. When spoken to on the subject, many dealers will assume that they’ve been found out and will avoid the subject before leaving in a hurry. If you approach a suspected dealer and ask them about drugs while dressed in your uniform, their reaction can be a good indicator of either innocence or guilt.

What the Law Says

The main laws surrounding illegal drugs, at least for the purposes of this feature, are the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Licensing Act 2003. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 states that heavy penalties can be imposed upon any premises found to be permitting the sale or use of illegal drugs

The act, which was created to ensure the UK’s adherence to various international treaty conditions, made it illegal to possess, sell, offer to sell, or supply without charge any controlled drug or substance.

Oddly enough, despite the act’s title, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 does not cover the actual use of illegal drugs, nor does it immediately define which drugs it is referring to. Instead, the act defines 4 classes of controlled substances.

Class A’ drugs (heroin, cocaine, MDMA, LSD, methadone, methamphetamines, and magic mushrooms) are the most dangerous and therefore carry the harshest sentences under the act.

Class B’ drugs (amphetamines, codeine, barbiturates, ketamine, cannabis, and related cannabinoids) and ‘Class C’ drugs (anabolic steroids, diazepam, piperazines) are seen as less dangerous and carry lesser sentences. The ‘4th’ class is a temporary class, intended for more specific requirements than the broad classifications found elsewhere in the legislation.

Alcohol and tobacco are subject to separate legislation and are not affected by the terms of the act.

Under the terms of the Licensing Act 2003, if any licensed premises is found to be permitting the sale or use of illegal drugs, either interim steps toward the suspension of the license will be taken, or else the outright suspension of the license will occur.

A premises can also be closed under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was preceded by both the Dangerous Drugs Act 1964 (which dealt primarily with the use of cannabis and was itself preceded by the Dangerous Drug Act 1951) and the Medicines Act 1968, this second law primarily discussed the prescriptions, quality control and advertising of legal medicine. Prior to this, the laws around drugs and drug use were somewhat lax and insufficient.

Also of note is the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which was created to stop the spread of so-called ‘legal highs’. ‘Legal highs’ were drugs created to exploit loopholes in the terms of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

These legal drugs gained popularity in the 2000’s and 2010’s and were readily available from a variety of sources. Despite their easy availability, they were also very dangerous, killing almost 100 people in 2012 alone. The Psychoactive Substances Act was created to make their manufacture, sale and use illegal.

At present, Home Office guidelines (specific to, but not limited to raves and other ‘dance events’) allow for free cold water to be given to patrons as requested, the availability of a space to cool down and rest, monitoring of temperatures and air quality, provision of information and advice regarding drugs, and door staff to be trained to handle drug-related issues that may arise. 

Is the Law Effective?

According to the government’s latest figures, drug offences are on the rise in the UK. From 2020-21, drug-related offences jumped up by a massive 19% from 2019 – 20.

However, while this data may indicate a worsening trend, we must also consider the effect of the current coronavirus pandemic on the data. During lockdown, while the sale of illegal substances no doubt occurred, it would have been at least partially diminished, gaining more momentum once lockdowns were lifted.

Historically, British authorities have taken multiple approaches to preventing the sale and use of illegal drugs.

In 1954, the Metropolitan Police set up the Dangerous Drugs Office. It comprised of just 4 officers. In fact, a 1961 report on drug addiction in the UK concluded that

“the incidence of addiction to dangerous drugs is still very small… no cause to fear that any real increase is at present occurring”.

By 1963, however, the Metropolitan Police had learned that some doctors were overordering medicinal drugs and selling the surplus for personal profit, as well as overprescribing to addicts. After the number of arrests for drug-related offences began to climb, Parliament passed the Dangerous Drugs Act 1964 and the Medicines Act 1968.  

Further legislation was passed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, as new drugs began to be featured in the national discourse. Solvent abuse began in earnest in the 1980’s, which prompted the passage of the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, while barbiturates, which had been a serious problem since the mid-late 1970’s, were added to the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1984.

By 1985, MDMA was beginning to appear, claiming its first life in 1986. Police were given extra powers of search and interrogation, with particular emphasis on drug-related crimes by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

1985’s Controlled Drug (Penalties) Act increased sentences for drug-related offences and the arrival of AIDS (which had existed since the 70’s, but was formally labelled an epidemic  in the 80’s) issued a public crackdown on needle sharing. Accordingly, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 came into effect in 1987. This act was partially intended to help recover the profits from drug trafficking. 

As we have seen, the issue of drugs exploded between the 1960’s and the 1990’s. By 1994, drug use was being seen as a global epidemic. The government published its ‘green paper’, titled ‘Tackling Drugs Together: A consultation document on a strategy for England 1995–1998′. This document outlined a ‘new approach to strategic thinking on drugs issues’, with an emphasis on reducing the availability of illegal drugs and keeping communities safer from drug-related offences.

The government also passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which attempted to control drug use in prisons, as well as at raves.

Some of these measures have been reasonably effective, others appear not to have worked at all. However, the problem continues to persist, at times worsening.

The law is certainly effective when it comes to arresting and detaining some dealers, but the fact that drug use continues to be so persistent and prevalent shows that no measure has ever been 100% successful.

Critics of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, for example, have suggested that the classification system is inadequate because it does not consider the relative dangers of the drugs it classifies. This argument was key to the decision to reclassify cannabis as a ‘Class C’ drug in 2004. Nevertheless, the drug was moved back to ‘Class B’ in 2009.

In this case, the law would appear to be somewhat out-of-step with public opinion. The Liberal Democrat Party has supported the legalisation and taxation of Cannabis since 2015, making them the first mainstream British political party to do so.

Public support has also drifted more towards sympathy with hard-drug users in recent years, as mental health issues and the nature of addiction become better understood by the public.

Britain’s anti-drug policies and legislation may appear harsh to some, but there are many other countries that are far less tolerant. In Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Iran, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia and The Philippines, drug dealers can be (and often are) executed by the state.  

Despite these brutal punishments, drug trafficking, dealing and use still occurs in all these countries. According to the U.N., domestic drug abuse in Vietnam has risen sharply since the 1990’s, while a 2020 review found that mental health conditions, arising from chronic drug use, are a problem in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to heroin and opium use, Thailand is currently facing the rise of a popular street drug known as ‘Yaba’, which is a mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine.

The notion that harsher punishments for crimes will somehow eliminate those crimes from occurring is a faulty one. It has been tried – and has failed, many times throughout history. The death penalty for murder, for example, does not prevent murder.

Is the law effective? Yes and no. As with drugs themselves and basically everything else, it depends on the individual.

Preventing Drug Dealing/Use on the Premises

There are a number of preventative methods that a bar, pub, club or venue can take if it wants to actively discourage drug dealers. Door supervisors are the first line of defence against these activities, so it is of vital importance that they remain vigilant at all times.

Firstly, we advise that proprietors keep their venues clean and tidy, with security cameras in clear view. A drug dealer is probably looking for a place with lax security. If it looks like the management can’t be bothered to clean up at the end of the night, a drug dealer may well feel more confident about ‘setting up shop’ there.

Ensuring that all CCTV, alarms, and other security equipment is up-to-date and functioning well is also a great way to deter drug dealers. 

We also recommend putting up notices that drug dealing on the premises will not be tolerated under any circumstances.  The venue should create a drugs policy and make every employee (including door staff) aware of it. All signage should reflect this policy.

Joining a local ‘Pubwatch‘ scheme is a great way for venues to share intel on specific troublemakers and get a sense of how widespread the problem is in the local area.

It is advisable also to always refuse entry to any known or suspected drug dealers. This can be part of the venue’s drugs policy. For example, it can be venue policy that any patron caught dealing drugs on the premises may be the recipient of a ‘lifetime ban’ and reported to other venues as well.

We also suggest that all security operatives keep an eye out for signs of drug use. Signs of drug use can include payment with tightly wound banknotes (occasionally showing a small amount of powder or blood at the edges), traces of powder left on surfaces (particularly in restrooms), as well as other ‘tell-tale trash’ left behind by drug users, such as small ‘sealie’ bags, torn beermats, empty pill bottles and sweet or chewing gum wrappers.

If the toilets turn up incongruous items such as burned spoons or tinfoil, drinking straws, lighters, razor blades, make-up mirrors, small squares of cling film, syringes or discarded tubes of glue, the venue has probably been visited by a drug user. Surfaces that have been wiped entirely clean before closing time can also be a giveaway.

You may also be alert to the signs of a person using drugs at the venue. These can include the more obvious behaviours (vacant expression, a sense of the person not truly being ‘present’, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, excessive chattering, giggling or noise for example), to ordering excessive amounts of water, sporting white marks around the nostrils, and appearing to be either hyperactive or extremely lethargic.

If your venue or premises appears to have a serious problem with drug dealing and/or use, we recommend contacting local police or drug squads. If these problems persist, the venue could lose its license, or be closed entirely. More importantly, lives could even be at stake.

A police licensing officer who has been informed of a potential situation at the venue will be far more likely to show compassion and sympathy to a venue that reaches out for help than they will if they must investigate it of their own volition. Where possible, we advise security staff and venue proprietors to liaise with police at regular intervals.

Door searches, though not always popular, may also be necessary in the more severe cases.

Of course, all drug-related instances, even small ones, must be recorded in the venue’s incident books and, where appropriate, referred to police.

Stopping a drug deal may seem like a small victory. Indeed, many security operatives simply deem it ‘part of the job’ and don’t give it much attention beyond that. However, there is no such thing as an inconsequential action. As the zen proverb has it, “the man who would move a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”.

Each drug deal thwarted contributes toward making Britain’s streets, establishments, and businesses safer, which in turn helps to ensure the safety of people everywhere – and that, more than anything else, is the reason security operatives do what they do in the first place.

Source: Drug Dealers: Dealing with Drugs and Dealers – Working The Doors

Source: 20-Reasons-to-Vote-NO-in-2020-SAM-VERSION-Cannabis.pdf (saynopetodope.org.nz) May 2020

Alex Azar
Secretary of Health and Human Services
US Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue SW
Washington D.C, 20201
November 5, 2019

Dear Secretary Azar:
This letter is to bring to your attention a study underway at the University of Washington referred to as the “Moms and Marijuana Study” and granted under the title: “Olfactory Activation and Brain Development in Infants with Prenatal Cannabis Exposure.” The Office of Human Research Protections issued a decision against opening a case on this research, and we are asking you, as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to overturn that decision based on the scientific concerns we outline in this letter.

Women who are in their first trimester of a pregnancy, who are frequent users of marijuana for morning sickness, are being recruited. The study seeks to assess the damage marijuana prenatal exposure may have on the babies by means of various testing, including an MRI scan of the infants at six months of age. The recruited women will receive $300.00 + for their participation. The study is solely funded by NIDA. This study calls into question serious issues over human rights and raises ethical questions, including mandatory reporting pertaining to substance abuse in pregnancy. This open letter seeks to gather support from you in seeing that this study is re-evaluated at the federal level. The study’s website is at the following link: https://depts.washington.edu/klab/infoMM.html

We are of the view that the Kleinhans study does not meet the requirements set forth by the Office of Human Research Protections (https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/regulations/45-cfr46/ ): “Subpart B presumption that pregnant women may be included in research, provided certain conditions are met. According to Subpart B, the permissibility of research with pregnant women hinges on a judgment of the potential benefits and risks of the research. Approval of proposed research carrying no “prospect of direct benefit” to the woman or fetus requires that the risk to the fetus be judged “not greater than minimal”. Fetal risk that exceeds that standard is permissible only when the proposed research offers a prospect of direct benefit to the pregnant woman, the fetus, or both.

Notably, if the proposed research does not fit within either of those two parameters, Subpart B offers an additional mechanism at the national level for approval by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

The federal definition of minimum risk reads: “That the magnitude and probability of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests.” Although the primary harm at issue is exposure to marijuana, the use of MRI or fMRI has not yet been proven safe for otherwise healthy infants, where an unknown risk would come with no benefit, as there is no diagnosis being sought. The UW study consent form reads on page 3:“There are no known side effects associated with MRI or fMRI when earphones are used to protect your hearing.” …. “There may be risks associated with the use of magnetic resonance which are not known at this time.” It is precisely questions about the potential for MRI risks that should be investigated in an animal model first. In principle, any study that recruits subjects and then tracks the consequences of drug transfer to a developing fetus should be carried out in animal models first, and not in humans until the animal results point towards safety. The evidence of decades of research on marijuana in pregnancy does not point to safety but rather to risk and harm.

Two basic principles in bioethics are relied upon to determine the merit of research that involves human subjects: Is the study necessary and can the research be done without the use of human subjects? There now exists a significant body of scientific evidence that warrants and justifies warning women not to use marijuana products at pre-conception, while pregnant, or breast-feeding. The University of Washington study is not necessary to conclude that marijuana use is associated with risk to the child (and also the mother). The National Academies, a lead authority, concluded in a scientific literature review in 2017: There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between maternal cannabis smoking and lower birth weight of the offspring. Studies have already shown that prenatal use is associated with a 50 percent increased likelihood of low birth weight. The Surgeon General’s advisory of August 29, 2019 is also relied upon here. What is the “necessity” that this study addresses? The conclusion has already been made by the findings of science – pregnant women should refrain from marijuana use in order to protect the life and health of their child.

Yet, in spite of existing scientific literature of concern, a highly misleading recruitment statement appears on the University of Washington study’s website introductory page: “We do not expect to find anything of medical concern during the infant MRI scans…If you’re interested in helping us learn more about whether cannabis is safe to use for morning sickness, click the Sign Up button and let us know!” Their lack of concern about the potential for adverse medical outcomes directly contradicts the findings of Grewen et al. (2015) which similarly evaluated postnatal outcomes using MRI scans on infants that had been exposed to marijuana in utero. As compared to controls, the exposed infants showed hypoconnectivity between brain regions: ” Marijuana-specific differences were observed in insula and three striatal connections: anterior insula–cerebellum, right caudate–cerebellum, right caudate–right fusiform gyrus/inferior occipital, left caudate–cerebellum. +MJ neonates had hypo-connectivity in all clusters compared with −MJ and CTR groups.” While an imperfect study because the cases included a proportion of women in the case group who used not only marijuana but also alcohol, tobacco, opiates and SSRIs, one of the two control groups was matched to the cases for use of those drugs, while the other was completely drug free. Notably, work in an animal model by Tortoriello et al. (2014) presents a plausible mechanism for the observed effect of marijuana seen between cases and controls. The combined evidence points towards harm, and confirmation could easily be sought in an animal model that parallels the intent of the University of Washington study.

Furthermore, the ethics are clearly different between the Kleinhans et al. and Grewen et al. studies, because unlike the protocol for the former, the study of Grewen et al. did not recruit women while the fetus was developing but recruited shortly before or after the time of birth. Being unaware of marijuana use until the time of birth, the researchers could not intervene to encourage abstinence for the sake of the fetus, whereas the University of Washington team could intervene, but their protocols do not allow them to. As a further point of distinction, the University of Washington protocol states that infants enrolled in the study will be screened and excluded if they have been in an NICU for 24 hours. This will, for obvious reasons, result in a biased outcome in reporting overall harm from marijuana use during pregnancy.

Typical morning sickness affects up to 91% of pregnancies (Castillo and Phillippi, 2015), and is regarded by many medical practitioners as being a reflex protecting against consumption of dangerous foods or beverages, as well as a sign of a healthy pregnancy because the absence of morning sickness is associated with a higher rate of miscarriage (reviewed by Sherman and Flaxman, 2002). The rare condition when morning sickness becomes pathologic, hyperemesis gravidarum, affects on average 1.1% of pregnancies, and is defined as a loss of 5% or more of the pre-pregnancy weight (Castillo and Phillippi, 2015). Maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance may become problematic in this situation and pharmacologic intervention may become necessary, both for the health of the mother and the baby. To date, the serious documented outcomes include an increased risk for preterm births and low birth weight (Dodds et al., 2006).

Thus, if the Kleinhans study were to be proposing to recruit only those with hyperemesis gravidarum, the ethics might be more favorable. They would, however, have to exclude women whose marijuana use may have triggered the hyperemesis, which may occur in a subset of pregnant users (Alaniz et al., 2015). The study recruitment website is definitely remiss in not making that possibility clear to those interested in enrolling, and the research protocol describes no effort to ascertain if marijuana might be triggering hyperemesis in their study subjects.

In summary, there is already sufficient scientific evidence to answer the question as to whether or not marijuana is safe to use for typical morning sickness. That answer is no. Please see additional references for numerous research publications showing harm at the end of this letter.
Complaints have been filed with NIDA, The University of Washington, The World Medical Association regarding the Helsinki Declaration, The Office of Human Research Protections, and two doctors have filed a human rights complaint on behalf of the children involved. Complaint documents will be forwarded on request.

Thank you for your time in reviewing this serious situation.

Best regards,
Pamela McColl
Child Rights Activist
pjmccoll@shaw.ca

and

Christine L. Miller, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist
MillerBio
6508 Beverly Rd
Baltimore, Maryland 21239
cmiller@millerbio.com

et al.

Correspondence with the OHRP in regards to the University of Washington study began in September
of 2019. On October an email was received from the OHRP to Pamela McColl:
October 25, 2019

Hello,
OHRP has reviewed the study and will not be opening a case.
Sincerely,
Division of Compliance Oversight OHRP

September 25, 2019
“OHRP is now reviewing your complaint and this study. We are currently gathering the information about the research being conducted before a full review is started. Once OHRP completes a full review of the study, the research conducted and the study’s approval process, we will contact you with our findings. Please remember, this does not mean you can’t contact OHRP again before we finish the full review. You can contact us using this email address to update your complaint at any time.
Thank-you,
Division of Compliance Oversight (OHRP)

September 17, 2019
Thank you for contacting the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). OHRP has responsibility for oversight of compliance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations for the protection of human research subjects (see 45 CFR Part 46 at
www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/guidance/index.html

In carrying out this responsibility, OHRP reviews allegations of noncompliance involving human subject research projects conducted or supported by HHS or that are otherwise subject to the regulations, and determines whether to conduct a for-cause compliance evaluation. For further details see OHRP’s guidance, “Compliance Oversight Procedures for Evaluating Institutions,” at www.hhs.gov/ohrp/compliance-and-reporting/evaluating-institutions/index.html.

OHRP has jurisdiction only if the allegations involve human subject research (a) conducted or supported by HHS, or (b) conducted at an institution that voluntarily applies its Assurance of Compliance to all research regardless of source of support. Since this requirement appears to be met by the circumstances described in your email, OHRP appears to have jurisdiction.
Sincerely,
Division of Compliance Oversight
cc. Surgeon General Jerome Adams
cc. Director NIDA Dr. Nora Volkow

In-text citations:
Alaniz VI, Liss J, Metz TD, Stickrath E. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome: a cause of refractory nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Jun;125(6):1484-6.
Castillo MJ, Phillippi JC. Hyperemesis gravidarum: a holistic overview and approach to clinical assessment and management. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2015;29(1):12-22.
Dodds L, Fell DB, Joseph KS, Allen VM, Butler B. Outcomes of pregnancies complicated by hyperemesis gravidarum. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;107(2, pt 1):285–292.
Grewen K, Salzwedel AP, Gao W. Functional Connectivity Disruption in Neonates with Prenatal Marijuana Exposure. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:601.
Sherman PW, Flaxman SM. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in an evolutionary perspective. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2002;186(5 Suppl Understanding):S190-7.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. 20001
Tortoriello G, et al. Miswiring the brain: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol disrupts cortical development by inducing an SCG10/stathmin-2 degradation pathway. EMBO J. 2014;33(7):668-85.

Additional references on specific neonatal outcomes:
Lower birth weight, animal studies
Benevenuto SG et al., Recreational use of marijuana during pregnancy and negative gestational and fetal outcomes: An experimental study in mice. Toxicology. 2017;376:94-101.
“Five minutes of daily (low dose) exposure during pregnancy resulted in reduced birthweight…..females from the Cannabis group presented reduced maternal net body weight gain, despite a slight increase in their daily food intake compared to the control group”

Lower birth weight, human studies
Gunn,JKL, Rosales CB, Center KE, Nunez A, Gibson SJ, Christ C, and Ehiri EJ. Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open 2016; 6(4):e009986.
“Infants exposed to cannabis in utero had a decrease in birth weight (low birth weight pOR=1.77: 95% CI 1.04 to 3.01; pooled mean difference (pMD) for birth weight=109.42 g: 38.72 to 180.12) compared with infants whose mothers did not use cannabis during pregnancy. Infants exposed to cannabis in utero were also more likely to need placement in the neonatal intensive care unit compared with infants whose mothers did not use cannabis during pregnancy (pOR=2.02: 1.27 to 3.21).”
Brown SJ, Mensah FK, Ah Kit J, Stuart-Butler D, Glover K, Leane C, Weetra D, Gartland D, Newbury J, Yelland J. Use of cannabis during pregnancy and birth outcomes in an Aboriginal birth cohort: a crosssectional, population-based study. BMJ Open. 2016;6(2):e010286.
“Controlling for education and other social characteristics, including stressful events/social health issues did not alter the conclusion that mothers using cannabis experience a higher risk of negative birth outcomes (adjusted OR for odds of low birth weight 3.9, 95% CI 1.4 to 11.2).”
Fergusson, D. M., L. J. Horwood, and K. Northstone. 2002. Maternal use of cannabis and pregnancy outcome. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 109(1):21–27.
“Over 12,000 women expecting singletons at 18 to 20 weeks of gestation who were enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood……the babies of women who used cannabis at least once per week before and throughout pregnancy were 216g lighter than those of non-users.”

Preterm birth, animal studies
Wang H, Xie H, Dey SK. Loss of cannabinoid receptor CB1 induces preterm birth. PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3320.
“CB1 deficiency altering normal progesterone and estrogen levels induces preterm birth in mice…. CB1 regulates labor by interacting with the corticotrophin-releasing hormone-driven endocrine axis.”

Preterm birth, human studies
Luke S, Hutcheon J, Kendall T. Cannabis Use in Pregnancy in British Columbia and Selected Birth Outcomes. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2019;41(9):1311-1317.
“Using cannabis in pregnancy was associated with a 47% increased risk of SGA (adjusted OR 1.47; 95% CI 1.33–1.61), a 27% increased risk of spontaneous preterm birth (adjusted OR 1.27; 95% CI 1.14–1.42), and a 184% increased risk of intrapartum stillbirth (adjusted HR [aHR] 2.84; 95% CI 1.18–6.82).”
Corsi DJ, Walsh L, Weiss D, Hsu H, El-Chaar D, Hawken S, Fell DB, Walker M. Association Between Selfreported Prenatal Cannabis Use and Maternal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Outcomes. JAMA. 2019;322(2):145-152.
“In a cohort of 661 617 women…. The crude rate of preterm birth less than 37 weeks’ gestation was 6.1%among women who did not report cannabis use and 12.0% among those reporting use in the unmatched cohort (RD, 5.88% [95%CI, 5.22%-6.54%]). In the matched cohort, reported cannabis exposure was significantly associated with an RD of 2.98%(95%CI, 2.63%-3.34%) and an RR of 1.41 (95% CI, 1.36-1.47) for preterm birth. Compared with no reported use, cannabis exposure was significantly associated with greater frequency of small for gestational age (third percentile, 6.1% vs 4.0%; RR, 1.53 [95%CI, 1.45-1.61]), placental abruption (1.6%vs 0.9%; RR, 1.72 [95% CI, 1.54-1.92]), transfer to neonatal intensive care (19.3%vs 13.8%; RR, 1.40 [95%CI, 1.36-1.44]), and 5-minute Apgar score less than 4 (1.1% vs 0.9%; RR, 1.28 [95%CI, 1.13-1.45]).”
Saurel-Cubizolles MJ, Prunet C, Blondel B. Cannabis use during pregnancy in France in 2010. BJOG. 2014;121(8):971-7.
“Cannabis users had higher rates of spontaneous preterm births: 6.4 versus 2.8%, for an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of 2.15 (95% CI 1.10–4.18).”
Leemaqz SY, Dekker GA, McCowan LM, Kenny LC, Myers JE, Simpson NA, Poston L, Roberts CT;

SCOPE Consortium. Maternal marijuana use has independent effects on risk for spontaneous preterm birth but not other common late pregnancy complications. Reprod Toxicol. 2016;62:77-86. “continued maternal marijuana use at 20 weeks’ gestation was associated with” spontaneous preterm birth “independent of cigarette smoking status [adj OR2.28 (95% CI:1.45–3.59)] and socioeconomic index (SEI) [adj OR 2.17 (95% CI:1.41–3.34)]. When adjusted for maternal age, cigarette smoking, alcohol and SEI, continued maternal marijuana use at 20 weeks’ gestation had a greater effect size [adj OR 5.44 (95% CI 2.44–12.11)].”

Impacts on the neonatal immune system, animal study
Zumbrun EE et al. Epigenetic Regulation of Immunological Alterations Following Prenatal Exposure to Marijuana Cannabinoids and its Long Term Consequences in Offspring. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2015; 10(2):245-54.
“Data from various animal models suggests that in utero exposure to cannabinoids results in profound T cell dysfunction and a greatly reduced immune response to viral antigens

Impacts on cortical wiring and development, animal studies
Tortoriello G, et al. Miswiring the brain: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol disrupts cortical development by inducing an SCG10/stathmin-2 degradation pathway. EMBO J. 2014;33(7):668-85.
“Here, we show that repeated THC exposure disrupts endocannabinoid signaling, particularly the temporal dynamics of CB1 cannabinoid receptor, to rewire the fetal cortical circuitry….these data highlight the maintenance of cytoskeletal dynamics as a molecular target for cannabis”
DiNieri JA, Wang X, Szutorisz H, Spano SM, Kaur J, Casaccia P, Dow-Edwards D, Hurd YL. Maternal cannabis use alters ventral striatal dopamine D2 gene regulation in the offspring. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Oct 15;70(8):763-9.
“we exposed pregnant rats to THC and examined the epigenetic regulation of the NAc Drd2 gene in their offspring at postnatal day 2, comparable to the human fetal period studied, and in adulthood…. Decreased Drd2 expression was accompanied by reduced D2R binding sites and increased sensitivity to opiate reward in adulthood”
Rodríguez de Fonseca F, Cebeira M, Fernández-Ruiz JJ, Navarro M, Ramos JA. Effects of pre- and perinatal exposure to hashish extracts on the ontogeny of brain dopaminergic neurons. Neuroscience. 1991;43(2-3):713-23.
“Perinatal exposure to cannabinoids altered the normal development of nigrostriatal, mesolimbic and tuberoinfundibular dopaminergic neurons, as reflected by changes in several indices of their activity”.

Impacts on cortical wiring and development, human studies
Grewen K, Salzwedel AP, Gao W. Functional Connectivity Disruption in Neonates with Prenatal Marijuana Exposure. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:601.

“+MJ (marijuana-exposed) neonates had hypo-connectivity in all clusters compared with –MJ (marijuana unexposed) and CTR (control) groups. Altered striatal connectivity to areas involved in visual spatial and motor learning, attention, and in fine-tuning of motor outputs
involved in movement and language production may contribute to neurobehavioral deficits reported in this at-risk group. Disrupted anterior insula connectivity may contribute to altered integration of interoceptive signals with salience estimates, motivation, decision-making, and later drug use.”
El Marroun H, Tiemeier H, Franken IH, Jaddoe VW, van der Lugt A, Verhulst FC, Lahey BB, White T. Prenatal Cannabis and Tobacco Exposure in Relation to Brain Morphology: A Prospective Neuroimaging Study in Young Children. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(12):971-9.
“prenatal cannabis exposure was associated with differences in cortical thickness….. it may be possible that the frontal cortex in cannabis-exposed children undergoes altered neurodevelopmental maturation (i.e., having differences in cortical trajectories) as compared with
nonexposed control subjects”
Wang X, Dow-Edwards D, Anderson V, Minkoff H, Hurd YL. In utero marijuana exposure associated with abnormal amygdala dopamine D2 gene expression in the human fetus. Biol Psychiatry. 2004; 56:909–915.
“Adjusting for various covariates, we found a specific reduction, particularly in male fetuses, of the D(2) mRNA expression levels in the amygdala basal nucleus in association with maternal marijuana use. The reduction was positively correlated with the amount of maternal marijuana intake during pregnancy.”

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Police forces in the province collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence.

One year after the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in Canada, the black market for the drug — as well as its use behind the wheel — continues to keep Quebec police forces busy.

In 2018, police collected 795 blood samples from motorists suspected of driving while under the influence, and sent them to Quebec’s medical legal centre for processing. That’s 254 more than in the previous year.

The presence of cannabis was detected in 46 per cent of those cases.

The Sûreté du Québec says cannabis is the most commonly detected drug in its traffic stops.

The provincial force said that since legalization, cannabis was detected in the systems of 113 persons pulled over for impaired driving, compared with 73 cases a year earlier — an increase of 54 per cent.

More than 670 officers trained in drug use evaluation have been deployed across the province.

In a statement issued Thursday detailing its operations over the past year, the SQ said it had opened 1,409 investigations into the illegal production, supply and distribution of cannabis, which led to 1,458 warrants being executed and charges filed against 1,403 individuals.

Meanwhile, raids on illegal outdoor cannabis fields were carried out in August and September, and saw 37,000 plants seized.

Over the past year, the SQ seized 71,500 cannabis plants, 161 kilograms of cannabis, 15.8 kilograms of cannabis oil and resin, 23,460 units of edible cannabis and $180,000 in cash.

Source:  https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/quebec-pot-arrests-behind-the-wheel-up-54-since-legalization October 2019

INTRODUCTION

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in fully regulating the marijuana market that now operates under state control.

In a Washington Post feature article on Uruguay’s cannabis laws, they reported that Uruguay is socially liberal and has a wide separation of church and state. Gambling and prostitution are legal and regulated. Uruguay is also the only Latin American nation outside Cuba that has broadly legalised abortion, and it was one of the first to recognize civil unions and adoption by same-sex couples. Uruguay also is accustomed to relatively high levels of regulation and a big state role in the economy, with an array of government-owned banks, gas stations and utilities. Over the years, activists began to argue: Why not weed?

As early as 1974, Uruguay decriminalised possession of “a minimum quantity [of illicit substances], intended solely for personal use.” Exactly what constituted a “minimum quantity” was never clarified, giving judges broad discretion in its interpretation.

The initiative of marijuana regulation was by the then president José Mujica. Lawmakers in Uruguay (population: 3.3m) signed the country’s cannabis bill into law in December 2013 and pharmacies began selling two strains of legal marijuana cultivated by two government-authorised firms in July 2017.

The text of the law expresses its goals through three main objectives, which included reducing drug trafficking-related violence by taking cannabis off the black market, and promoting public health through education and prevention campaigns, thereby “minimising the risks and reducing the harm of cannabis use”.

Uruguay was the first country to leave behind the global ban on non-medical cannabis that began with the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and despite repeated criticisms from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), as in the Board’s report for 2016, which states:

The Board notes the continued implementation by the Government of Uruguay of measures aimed at creating a regulated market for the non-medical use of cannabis… [T]he Board wishes to reiterate its position that such legislation is contrary to the provisions of the international drug control conventions… according to which States parties are obliged to ‘limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.’

Concerned that their policy would come under intense scrutiny from their neighbours and from the broader international community, Uruguayan authorities deliberately opted for a strict approach to regulation, such as a user registry and monthly sales limits.

In an attempt to reassure the international public opinion, President José Mujica, said that his government would not allow unlimited use of marijuana and illicit drug dealing: “And if somebody buys 20 marijuana cigarettes, he will have to smoke them. He won’t be able to sell them“.

And in order to convince the majority of the Uruguayan population, the President Mujica promised to launch at the same time “a campaign aimed at young people on how to consume marijuana. Avoid, for example, to smoke to not damage the lungs but inhale or consume it with food“.

In response to public opposition, the Open Society Foundation headed by the financier George Soros announced the launch of a massive media campaign across the nation to manipulate the public consensus. Time magazine (5 Aug 2013) reported that “a massive media campaign, with television ads funded partly by Soros’ Open Society Foundations group, were required to convince opponents of legalisation”.

STATE CONTROL – HOW IT WORKS

There are three ways to legally obtain cannabis in Uruguay. The first alternative is autocultivo, which allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants per household and yield an annual crop of 480 grams per year, or 40 grams per month. All individuals must register with the government agency for the regulation and control of cannabis—called the Instituto de Regulación y Control de Cannabis (Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute) to grow these plants in their home and no person may register more than one location for domestic growth. The second alternative is the Cannabis Club, which allows between 15 to 45 members of a duly-registered civil association to farm up to 99 marijuana plants in specific locations. Each club may not supply any individual with more than 480 grams of marijuana per year. The third alternative is sale through pharmacies. This alternative will allow a registered consumer to buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month and 480 per year in person from pharmacies that are registered with the IRCCA and the Ministry of Public Health. On July 19, 2017, Uruguay launched the last remaining stage of the cannabis law, with sales finally beginning in 16 pharmacies across the country.

PUBLIC DISAPPROVAL

Public opinion surveys have consistently shown most Uruguayans to be doubtful about the government’s initiative.

According to the results of the 2014 AmericasBarometer survey in Uruguay, only 34% of Uruguayans approved the new regulations regarding the liberalization of marijuana use, while 60.7% showed their disapproval to the new policies. Perhaps not surprisingly, approval for the new regulation of cannabis is closely related to previous personal experimentation with marijuana and a history of marijuana consumption among relatives and close friends.

PUBLIC SKEPTICISM

As of 2014, most Uruguayans remained skeptical about the benefits the new regulation will bring. For instance, 42% of Uruguayans considered that the general situation of the country would worsen as a result of regulation, while only 19% believed that the situation would improve. Among the most negative opinions expressed, 70% of Uruguayans stated that public safety and public health conditions would either worsen or remain the same. The issue that seemed to generate the most positive opinions was related to the fight against drug trafficking organisations.

Source: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights/ITB020en.pdf

PUBLIC USAGE

In 20015.3% of the population admitted to having consumed marijuana.

By 2014, life prevalence had quadrupled with 22.1% of Uruguayans acknowledging some consumption.

Since Uruguay legalised the sale of marijuana, underage use increased from 14% to 21%. Use by those aged 19 to 24 increased from 23% to 36% Those aged 25 to 34 increased from 15% to 25%.

Source: https://wdr.unodc.org/wdr2019/prelaunch/WDR19_Booklet_5_CANNABIS_HALLUCINOGENS.pdf

TEENS

Prevalence doubled among secondary school students from 2003 to 2014. In 20038.4% of students had consumed marijuana during the previous twelve months. in 201417% had.

Almost a quarter of the high-frequency users of Montevideo had their first experience with marijuana before age turning 15 (24.1%).

Prevalence is also higher among 18-25 year-olds than other age categories.

NON-COMPLIANCE

As at February 2018, 8,125 individuals and 78 cannabis clubs with a total of 2,049 members were registered in addition to the 20,900 people registered through pharmacy sales for cannabis. The system potentially provides cannabis to around 30,000 of the 140,000 past-month cannabis users estimated in Uruguay in 2014.

A recent survey found that almost 40% said they would probably or definitely flout the law which requires registration. (19.6% state that it is not probable that they will register, and another 19.6% said that they are certain that they will not register.)

MONITORING AND EVALUATION

A 2018 Brookings Institute report details how the Ministerio de Salud Pública is required to submit an annual report on the impacts of the legalization since 2014 – but the ministry has only submitted such a report once, in 2016, and the findings were not made public.

According to a report by WOLA (funded by Open Society Foundations – aka George Soros) and posted on the Monitor Cannabis Uruguay site, in spite of President Vázquez’s support for monitoring and evaluation, his administration has provided the public with relatively little in the way of hard data on the early effects of initial implementation of the cannabis measure.

The IRCCA’s limited staff – it has a team of six inspectors who are responsible for ensuring compliance – does not realistically allow the institute to check the annual plant yields for all 8,000+ homegrowers and approximately 80 registered clubs.

 PRODUCTS

A recent study of marijuana consumers in Montevideo found that users had consumed it in several different ways during the past year, including vaporizers (15.7%), edibles, such as brownies, cakes, cookies (26.4%), and drinks, such as mate, milkshakes, daiquiris (9.4%).

PERCEPTION OF RISK

The study of marijuana consumers in Montevideo also found that users had a very low perception of risk associated with undertaking several activities while under the influence of marijuana. For instance: 21.4% of respondents drove a car under the influence of marijuana; 28.4% rode a motorcycle; 11.2% operated heavy equipment. More than half of the respondents (55.4%) declared that they consumed marijuana and went to work before four hours had passed.

More than one in every four of those women who were pregnant (26.1%) reported to having continued consuming marijuana while pregnant.

BLACK MARKET

Three years after legalisation, seven out of every ten cannabis consumers still acquire the product on the black market. Authorities admit that “street selling points have multiplied in recent years, along with criminal acts related to micro trafficking.”

Marcos Baudeán, a member of the study group Monitor Cannabis Uruguay, suggests it may be worse than that: “Consider the fact that there are 55,000 regular consumers who are responsible for 80% of the marijuana consumption in the country, but currently only 10% are consuming from the legal market, the rest are buying the drug off the illegal market.”

Others have pointed to the very low concentration of THC in the legal drug as another reason why some users may turn to the black market. Though the price may be higher — a gram of high-potency illegal marijuana can cost as much as $20— some users may be willing to pay this premium in exchange for access to a more powerful drug.

Because sales to tourists are prohibited, some Uruguayan homegrowers and clubs have attempted to get around the ban by offering ‘cannabis tours’, which are framed more as social and educational experiences, in which participants are free to sample cannabis while on a paid tour. Others simply sell directly to tourists behind closed doors, a grey market quietly operating via word of mouth.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

An unexpected consequence of Uruguay’s marijuana law is that the U.S. government invoked the Patriot Act which prohibits U.S. banks from handling funds for distributors of marijuana.  In Uruguay, this is by way of the pharmacies only.  International banks – both those with U.S. headquarters such as Citibank and European banks such as Santander have advised their Uruguayan branches that they are prohibited from providing services to the distributors of marijuana.

As a result, pharmacies tasked with the sale and distribution of marijuana have been cut off from the entire financial services market because the banks in Uruguay announced that every business associated with the newly legal marijuana industry risked being in violation of the U.S. drug laws and would lose their access to U.S. banks and dollar transactions.

SUMMARY

What we have learned from the data so far indicates that frequency of consumption has significantly increased, especially in the 15-24 age group. The perception of risk with drug use is low, and risky behaviours have increased with the frequency of consumption, including use of marijuana during pregnancy. The black market is alive and well. And the overwhelming support for the regulation among high-frequency marijuana users does not immediately translate into willingness to comply with it. Of most concern is that monitoring and reporting of the effects of legalisation is minimal, and not made public.

The drug-friendly website CannabisWire in July 2018 summed it up perfectly. “What Have We Learned From the First Nation to Legalize Cannabis? Not Enough.”

Source: Uruguay – Say Nope to Dope 2019

 

(Image Credit: 7raysmarketing via Pixabay)

Contrary to advocates’ promises, legalizing pot has spurred new illegal enterprises. https://t.co/1k9twTCrmg via @cjstevempic.twitter.com/VKND92hjl5

— City Journal (@CityJournal) June 12, 2019

Unintended consequences of legislation are more commonplace than they should be, but minimizing them would require more nuanced political debate and that option has probably left us forever.

A new article in City Journal details just how legal marijuana is the gateway drug to illegal marijuana enterprises:

Though advocates claim that one of the benefits of  legalizing recreational marijuana is that the black market will disappear and thus end the destructive war on drugs, the opposite is happening. States that have legalized pot have some of the most thriving black markets, creating new headaches for law enforcement and prompting some legalization advocates to call for a crackdown—in effect, a new war on drugs.

Unlicensed pot businesses have already become a problem for Los Angeles just a year and a half after legalization. The city is devoting police resources that are already stretched thin to address the situation.

City Journal notes that it’s not just mom and pop scofflaws that are problematic:

Legal-pot states are attracting international criminal cartels. Mexican drug gangs have smuggled illegals into Colorado to set up growing operations, former U.S. prosecutor Bob Troyer  wrote last September, explaining why his office was stepping up enforcement. Rather than smuggle pot from Mexico, the cartels grow it in Colorado and smuggle it elsewhere—spurring violence. In 2017, seven homicides in Denver were directly connected to marijuana growers. “I would love to be able to shift some of my resources away from marijuana to other things,” Denver lieutenant Andrew Howard said last year. “But right now, the violence is marijuana or marijuana-related.”

More cartel violence and more illegal immigration…yay legal weed!

I’m no anti-pot Puritan, but I am on record as always having been frustrated by the discussions surrounding legalization efforts. They are rarely in-depth and mostly focus on marijuana’s medicinal uses. It is often portrayed as harmless, which is nonsensical. It’s not heroin, but it’s also not baby aspirin.

What were almost never discussed pre-Colorado were the consequences of legalizing a black market drug. It’s a bit naive to think that the major players from the black market would flee into the shadows once their commodity became legit.

Cartels may be illegal enterprises, but they are still businesses. They can adapt to changing markets. It would appear they are also adept at outreach:

Legal-marijuana businesses are getting in on the game, too. Last year, Denver authorities arrested the owners of a licensed chain of pot shops that employed 350 people for supplying the black market. In January, three owners of the business  pled guilty to drug and racketeering charges. In Oregon, federal prosecutors  arrested six individuals in 2018 and charged them with “vast” interstate-trafficking schemes that supplied black-market pot to Texas, Virginia, and Florida. Some of the suspects were also charged with kidnapping, money-laundering, and use of a firearm in a drug-trafficking crime.

So much for the harmless stoner sales pitch.

None of this is surprising for advocates of smaller government. Legalization and regulation were supposed to make the marijuana black market and its problems go away. Instead, as the City Journal conclusion observes, it’s merely created “Black Market 2.0.”

High times indeed.

Source:  https://pjmedia.com/trending/legal-marijuana-a-boon-to-illegal-cartels/  June 2019

The title of “Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach” contains an irony. In chapter after chapter in this multi-authored book written predominately by providers associated with mainstream medical facilities in Colorado, the authors point out the inadequacy of the evidence we have and the absence of the evidence we need to determine how – or even if – cannabis has medical legitimacy. The foreword’s title, “Losing Ground: The Rise of Cannabis Culture,” sets the tone. David Murray, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, argues convincingly that “the current experiment with cannabis, underway nationwide [is] leading us towards a future of unanticipated consequences, a future already established in the patterns of use ‘seeded’ in the population but as yet unmanifested.” In other words, the cannabis horse has not only fled the barn but has been breeding prolifically to the point that we couldn’t get rid of it and its progeny if we wanted to!

The 20 chapters following the foreword are divided into basic science (three chapters) and clinical evidence (17 chapters) sections. Over and over in the clinical evidence chapters, individual authors remind the reader of the lack of quality control in production, the dearth of strong evidence from adequately designed research trials, and the intensifying potency of cannabis with attendant dangers, particularly for youth. The organization of this section lacks consistency in that some chapters focus on specialty (e.g. pulmonary medicine), others on patient groups (e.g. the pediatric and adolescent population), others on physiological implications (e.g. clinical cardiovascular effects; neuropsychiatric effects), others on specific diseases (e.g. gastrointestinal disorders; ocular conditions), and still others on public health topics (e.g. cannabis-impaired driving). While all are relevant, a specialty or organ system focus, with a separate public health section might lend the book more coherence. It would also be worth exploring how “cannabis culture” has become in essence a parallel medical system, with many of cannabis’s most ardent proponents as dropouts from establishment medicine after its nostrums for diagnoses like chronic pain, anxiety, and depression have failed to bring them relief.

I would have liked a chapter specifically grappling with the porous boundary between federal and state jurisdictions over cannabis as medicine and marijuana as recreational substance. Lawyer David G. Evans’ admirable chapter on “The Legal Aspects of Marijuana as Medicine” moves in that direction when he writes that, “‘medical marijuana’ is not a ‘states’ rights’ issue.” To wit, for no other drug than cannabis has the federal government ceded regulatory responsibility to states that are variably (but mostly not) equipped to handle it. The truth, complex in its contradictions and inconsistencies, is that in the United States, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug without recognized medical value; the Federal Drug Administration overseeing American pharmaceuticals throws roadblocks in the way of studying it, thereby interfering with the development of a robust evidence base; the federal government has looked the other way and even colluded with the states as one after another has legalized cannabis medically, recreationally, or both; and physicians risk their federal licenses to prescribe if they do more than recommend this drug. In a nutshell, any effort to impose logic is doomed because the American scene vis-à-vis cannabis is seemingly irretrievably illogical.

The editor of this volume, Kenneth Finn, MD, a PMR and pain management specialist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is to be commended for encouraging individual chapter authors to develop encyclopedic bibliographies. The book can thus serve as a resource for practitioners wishing to delve into a vast and growing literature that continues to offer little that is conclusive. The book can also serve as a primer on what is known about cannabis as medicine, keeping in mind a slant throughout – not necessarily unjustified, at least from an allopathic or osteopathic perspective – that cannabis is neither legitimate as medicine nor safe, even for recreational use.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7723137/ Sept-Oct 2020

Hemp plants are visible inside several structures on Sept. 16, 2020, in Shiprock, New Mexico.

NOEL LYN SMITH/THE FARMINGTON DAILY TIMES USA TODAY NETWORK – NEW MEXICO

Leaders on the Navajo Nation have cracked down on one of its members who they say has used immigrant labor to transform 400 acres of crop land into hemp farms in the reservation’s northeastern corner.

The crops — illegal under Navajo law — have pitted residents and reservation officials against entrepreneur Dineh Benally, who has formed a partnership with a Las Vegas company that says it develops hemp and cannabis businesses on Native American lands.

Navajo Nation leaders took Benally to court and got an initial victory last week: District of Shiprock Judge Genevieve Woody granted a temporary restraining order halting the hemp farming.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the order grants tribal law enforcement officers’ authority to stop hemp production. Navajo Nation police have begun asking some workers on the hemp farms — people law enforcement officials claim are immigrant workers from Asia — to leave tribal land.  

The ruling appears to provide a brief break in the dispute that came to a head this summer over the legality of Benally’s operation, which he claims has also provided employment for more than 200 members of the tribal nation.

The hemp farms are located around Shiprock on the Navajo Nation, which encompasses northeastern Arizona, northwest New Mexico and a sliver of southeastern Utah. 

The farms have prompted protests and allegations that Benally is illegally growing marijuana under the guise of a hemp farm with the help of foreign nationals. 

Both crops are illegal on tribal land. “The hemp will not stay here,” Nez said. 

A few hundred Navajo tribal members also work on the farms, officials say.

The battle over the farms has resulted in protests and last week’s showdown in the District Court of the Navajo Nation Judicial District of Shiprock.

“We strongly urge everyone to respect the ruling of the court and move forward peacefully to ensure the safety of community members, police officers and everyone in the impacted area,” Nez said after the hearing.

Benally said in a statement that he was disappointed by the court’s decision, saying it will have a “chilling effect” on Navajo business and economic development.

But residents like Beatrice Redfeather, 75, said the hemp farms have made her fear opening her front door.

“I see marijuana plants. I see a bunch of foreign workers, armed security guards. I see a security patrol 32 feet from my front door,” Redfeather said during a court hearing last week. “Those security guards have made it known they will attack, and they have shown their guns to our family. We are mentally afraid to walk outside … The smell of marijuana is so strong that I have had to go to the hospital because of my severe headaches.”

In an investigation published Wednesday by Searchlight New Mexico, people who said they had worked on the farms described growing marijuana, and said some people who worked there were teenagers or younger. 

Legal marijuana: Pros and cons

An attorney for Benally says his client is growing hemp, a less potent form of cannabis. Products made from it are commonly used and sold across the United States at major supermarkets and convenience stores. 

Benally argued in court filings that the 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump, allows him to grow hemp on reservation land. 

But tribal leaders say harvesting both hemp and marijuana is illegal on the Navajo Nation — except for a government-backed pilot project.  Navajo law, however, has no penalty for growing hemp, Nez said, so the nation took Benally to court. 

Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul filed a lawsuit against Benally in June, charging Benally and his company of illegally growing industrial hemp and unlawfully issuing land use permits.

Nez said tribal leaders believe the potency of Benally’s crops is well above the federal threshold that defines hemp as no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol. or THC, the main active ingredient of cannabis. 

Regardless, the controversy has prompted heated skirmishes in recent months.

Benally has hired guards who patrol the farms wearing bulletproof vests and body cameras, according to court testimony that claimed arsonists torched at least one farm. Benally’s top security officer, Duane Billey, said in court that protesters have attacked him, but his force doesn’t carry guns. Locals say otherwise.

Officials also are critical of the use of what they believe are Asian migrants who have come to the reservation during a global pandemic and camped on the farms, where they work in greenhouses. 

Sonya Sengthong, a Glendale resident whose family lives near Shiprock, said relatives have told her vans and sport utility vehicles with California and Texas license plates continually drop off what she believes are workers for the farms.

The volcanic spire, seen from town in New Mexico.

MEGAN FINNERTY/THE REPUBLIC

“We are concerned some of these visitors may be mistreating our people,” Nez said in an interview with The Arizona Republic. “There are large areas that they are using to put up housing on these farms.” 

Nez said the laborers also are breaking the law as visitors have been banned from the reservation during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the Navajo Nation. 

Nez said he does not know when scores of workers started arriving on the reservation, adding that some live in nearby Farmington. 

“Workers are coming in and they are not citizens. They are from other areas,” Navajo Nation police Chief Philip Francisco said during last week’s hearing. “There’s a general worry about a criminal element coming in, and there’s a belief that the hemp is not hemp but marijuana.”

“We have seen a lot of Asian people working on the farms, and there’s a law in place to not allow visitors on the Navajo Nation,” Nez said in an interview. “Because of the high population of these visitors, there are concerns about human waste.”

Nez and other Navajo officials confronted some of the workers during an unannounced visit to one of the farms on Sept. 3.   “They claim they don’t speak English, so we started talking back to them in Navajo,” Nez said. 

Benally and his attorney, David Jordan, have declined to answer questions about how employees came to work on the farms. But Jordan claims the Asian workers have been racially profiled and attacked by Navajos who oppose Benally’s business venture. 

“They want to blame my client for the violent protests and that they threaten the safety of the Navajo Nation,” Jordan said in court. “But they have a fear of other people who are different.”

‘Blatant disregard’

Benally has used his position on the San Juan River Farm Board, which represents a half-dozen or so communities or chapters on the Navajo Nation, to grant land use permits to grow hemp, and his ownership of the Native American Agricultural Company to produce the crops.

The farm board on which Benally sits is composed of elected members from various chapters or communities within the Navajo Nation. Its purpose is to develop and sustain farmland and water systems for economic development.

The initial lawsuit filed against Benally says farm boards are not authorized to issue agricultural land use permits for hemp. Instead, according to Navajo law, it only is authorized to review and recommend approval of permits to the Resources Committee of the Navajo Nation Council, the legislative branch of the reservation’s government.

Tracy Raymond, a former farm board member, stated in a court filing that Benally has used his farm board position to “serve his personal interests without approval or authorization.”  “It is a great disappointment to me to have to watch those growing hemp openly flouting the law just to make a quick profit,” Raymond, a corn farmer, said.  

He added the farm board never took a vote to authorize the issuance of hemp licenses.

Benally, on his personal website, said he’s used his leadership position to “collaborate with government delegates, grazing officials, and chapter officials to protect native water rights and improve the economy and livelihood of the Navajo People.”

Benally’s business partners

His company partnered with One World Ventures, a Las Vegas-based penny-stock company with shares worth about 2 cents each, to operate the farms, financial records show. 

Some financing came from SPI Energy Co., a Hong Kong-based firm that specializes in solar panels but has diversified its portfolio.   One World Ventures placed Benally on its board in March 2019.

One World Ventures CEO DaMu Lin last year issued a news release lauding One World’s relationship with Benally’s company and the San Juan River Farm Board, stating the company was well positioned for the upcoming hemp growing season.  Calls to the company and Lin were not returned.

One World Ventures has posted combined losses of $1.48 million the past two years, financial records show.  After Benally and Lin struck a deal, they obtained financing from SPI Energy Co., a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ.

SPI launched a hemp business last year and agreed to invest $1.1 million into the Shiprock farms.   But investments from SPI dried up last year after Benally’s company failed “to deliver any of the hemp plants” and refused to return an initial instalment of $324,125, SPI financial records show. 

SPI officials visited the Shiprock farms after making their first payment by the July 31, 2019, deadline and found “the plants and growing operations appeared to be deficient and not up to industry standards,” according to a company filing. Further, SPI alleges Benally didn’t deliver updates or financial reports as required.

“Finally, NAAC failed to deliver any of the hemp plants by Nov. 30, 2019 … and refused to return the company’s down payment and to make whole the damages the company has suffered,” a filing says.

SPI said Benally’s company also did not respond to two demand letters late last year.

‘Crisis situation’

Benally — whose Facebook page describes him as a “politician” despite his losing races for Navajo Nation president and Congress — claims he’s become a political target.

Benally declined to be interviewed. Benally was scheduled to be a witness during last week’s hearing but didn’t testify. His attorney had a farm owner and a security guard to testify.

Redfeather was among those who testified against Benally. Others included Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency Director Oliver Whaley and the tribal police chief.   Whaley said in court that during a Sept. 9 visit to one of Benally’s farms, he found septic tanks discharging sewer water into soil and groundwater, pesticides not being properly applied and petroleum leakage. He also said Benally didn’t have permits to operate.

Francisco, the police chief, testified after Whaley and said about a year ago a “crisis situation” began in the community, noting his office has been flooded with calls to maintain peace on the Shiprock farms. All of the calls have taken officers from other emergencies, he said. 

Francisco has previously said his agency was working with the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement regarding potential criminal violations on the farms.

“It’s a disruption to the community, and the smell is causing problems. And there’s encroachment on people’s land,” Francisco said in court. “There has been discord and unrest.”  Residents near the farms said in court that Benally’s crews have flooded their fields, making it impossible to harvest, and destroyed a corn crop with constant dust from Benally’s operation.   Loretta Bennett, a 69-year-old farmer, said in court that the workers on Benally’s farms also don’t wear masks, and she’s concerned about the spread of COVID-19. 

Arlando Teller, an Arizona state representative from Chinle, said in an interview that while the hemp farms are in New Mexico, he’s concerned about “how the operation has taken place as far as the transparency of a business operation.”

Hemp farms may remain

Benally, a 43-year-old father of four, has said in press releases and on his website that he brought hemp farms to Shiprock as an economic driver, and he’s been successful in partnering with tribal members on his website. 

He has paid $2,000 a month to childhood friend and farmer Farley Blueyes to use up to 150 acres of his farm for hemp production.

Blueyes said his land was fallow until Benally put people to work. Security officers were needed because residents have become confrontational. 

Hoop houses at a hemp farm are visible from U.S. Highway 64 in Hogback, New Mexico, on Sept. 16, 2020.

NOEL LYN SMITH/THE FARMINGTON DAILY TIMES

Despite Friday’s ruling, the battle is likely not over. Attorneys for Benally say they will pursue “all legal channels” to keep fighting, and many Asian workers remained on the farms after Friday’s ruling.

Sengthong, the Glendale resident, said she went to visit her relatives near Shiprock on Saturday after learning about the court order.

She told The Republic that a hemp farm on a relative’s property, about 10 miles west of Shiprock, was still operating this past weekend. She said when Navajo Nation police visited the site, workers fled the farm.  Sengthong was taking pictures of the activity and said after police left, one of the workers tried to “smack” her cellphone and other workers were confrontational.   “I’ve been intimidated for what I did,” she said. “They are still working and the camp is huge.”

Benally’s attorneys said the court decision violated their client’s civil rights and put many tribal members out of work.  Jordan, Benally’s attorney, declined to say how his client would respond to the court order. Jordan said in court filings that such an order would destroy the “entire crop

Source:  https://eu.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2020/09/22 September 24, 2020

Three decades ago, I would have been over the moon to see marijuana legalized. It would have saved me a lot of effort spent trying to avoid detection, constantly looking for places to hide a joint. I smoked throughout my teens and early 20s. During this period, upon landing in a new city, my first order of business was to score a quarter-ounce. The thought of a concert or a vacation without weed was simply too bleak.

These days it’s hard to find anybody critical of marijuana.

The drug enjoys broad acceptance by most Americans — 63 percent favoured ending cannabis prohibition in a recent Quinnipiac poll — and legislators on both sides of the aisle are becoming more likely to endorse than condemn it. After years of loosening restrictions on the state level, there are signs that the federal government could follow suit: In April, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) became the first leader of either party to support decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, and President Trump (his attorney general notwithstanding) promised a Republican senator from Colorado that he would protect states that have legalized pot.

And why not? The drug is widely thought to be either benign or beneficial. Even many of those apathetic toward its potential health benefits are ecstatic about its commercial appeal, whether for personal profit or state tax revenue. Legalization in many cases, and for many reasons, can be a good thing. I’m sympathetic.

But I am also a neuroscientist, and I can see that the story is being oversimplified. The debate around legalization — which often focuses on the history of racist drug laws and their selective enforcement — is astoundingly naive about how the widespread use of pot will affect communities and individuals, particularly teenagers. In our rush to throw open the gate, we might want to pause to consider how well the political movement matches up with the science, which is producing inconveniently alarming studies about what pot does to the adolescent brain.

Marijuana for sale at a Colorado dispensary.    (Matthew Staver/Bloomberg Creative Photos)

I took a back-door route to the science of marijuana, starting with a personal investigation of the plant’s effects. When I was growing up in South Florida in the 1980s, pot was readily available, and my appreciation quickly formed the basis for an avid habit. Weed seemed an antidote to my adolescent angst and ennui, without the sloppiness of alcohol or the jaw-grinding intensity of stimulants.

Of the many things I loved about getting high, the one I loved best was that it commuted the voice in my head — usually peevish or bored — to one full of curiosity and delight. Marijuana transformed the mundane into something dramatic: family outings, school, work or just sitting on the couch became endlessly entertaining when I was stoned.

Like any mind-altering substance, marijuana produces its effects by changing the rate of what is already going on in the brain. In this case, the active ingredient delta-9-THC substitutes for your own natural endocannabinoids and mimics their effects. It activates the same chemical processes the brain employs to modulate thoughts, emotions and experiences. These specific neurotransmitters, used in a targeted and judicious way, help us sort the relentless stream of inputs and flag the ones that should stand out from the torrent of neural activity coding stray thoughts, urges and experience. By flooding the entire brain, as opposed to select synapses, marijuana can make everything, including the most boring activities, take on a sparkling transcendence.

Why object to this enhancement? As one new father told me, imbibing made caring for his toddler much more engrossing and thus made him, he thought, a better parent. Unfortunately, there are two important caveats from a neurobiological perspective.

As watering a flooded field is moot, widespread cannabinoid activity, by highlighting everything, conveys nothing. And amid the flood induced by regular marijuana use, the brain dampens its intrinsic machinery to compensate for excessive stimulation. Chronic exposure ultimately impairs our ability to imbue value or importance to experiences that truly warrant it.

In adults, such neuro-adjustment may hamper or derail a successful and otherwise fulfilling life, though these capacities will probably recover with abstinence. But the consequences of this desensitization are more profound, perhaps even permanent, for adolescent brains. Adolescence is a critical period of development, when brain cells are primed to undergo significant organizational changes: Some neural connections are proliferating and strengthening, while others are pared away.

Although studies have not found that legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana leads to increased use among adolescents, perhaps this is because it is already so popular. More teenagers now smoke marijuana than smoke products with nicotine; between 30 and 40 percent of high school seniors report smoking pot in the past year, about 20 percent got high in the past month, and about 6 percent admit to using virtually every day. The potential consequences are unlikely to be rare or trivial.

The decade or so between puberty and brain maturation is a critical period of enhanced sensitivity to internal and external stimuli. Noticing and appreciating new ideas and experiences helps teens develop a sense of personal identity that will influence vocational, romantic and other decisions — and guide their life’s trajectory. Though a boring life is undoubtedly more tolerable when high, with repeated use of marijuana, natural stimuli, like those associated with goals or relationships, are unlikely to be as compelling.

It’s not surprising, then, that heavy-smoking teens show evidence of reduced activity in brain circuits critical for  flagging newsworthy experiences, are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and are at substantially increased risk for heroin addiction and alcoholism. They show alterations in cortical structures associated with impulsivity and negative moods; they’re seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

Recent data is even more alarming: The offspring of partying adolescents, specifically those who used THC, may be at increased risk for mental illness and addiction as a result of changes to the epigenome — even if those children are years away from being conceived. The epigenome is a record of molecular imprints of potent experiences, including cannabis exposure, that lead to persistent changes in gene expression and behavior, even across generations. Though the critical studies are only now beginning, many neuroscientists prophesize a social version of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” in which we learn we’ve burdened our heirs only generations hence.

Might the relationship between marijuana exposure and changes in brain and behavior be coincidence, as tobacco companies asserted about the link between cancer and smoking, or does THC cause these effects? Unfortunately, we can’t assign people to smoking and nonsmoking groups in experiments, but efforts are underway to follow a large sample of children across the course of adolescent development to study the effects of drug exposure, along with a host of other factors, on brain structure and function, so future studies will probably be able to answer this question.

In the same way someone who habitually increases the volume in their headphones reduces their sensitivity to birdsong, I followed the “gateway” pattern from pot and alcohol to harder drugs, leaping into the undertow that eventually swept away much of what mattered in my life. I began and ended each day with the bong on my nightstand as I floundered in school, at work and in my relationships. It took years of abstinence, probably mirroring the duration and intensity of my exposure, but my motivation for adventure seems largely restored. I’ve been sober since 1986 and went on to become a teacher and scholar. The single-mindedness I once directed toward getting high came in handy as I worked on my dissertation. I suspect, though, that my pharmacologic adventures left their mark.

Now, as a scientist, I’m unimpressed with many of the widely used arguments for the legalization of marijuana. “It’s natural!” So is arsenic. “It’s beneficial!” The best-documented medicinal effects of marijuana are achieved without the chemical compound that gets users high. “It’s not addictive!”  This is false, because the brain adapts to marijuana as it does to all abused drugs, and these neural adjustments lead to tolerance, dependence and craving — the hallmarks of addiction.

It’s true that a lack of benefit, or even a risk for addiction, hasn’t stopped other drugs like alcohol or nicotine from being legal, used and abused. The long U.S. history of legislative hypocrisy and selective enforcement surrounding mind-altering substances is plain to see. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the first legislation designed to regulate pot, was passed amid anti-Mexican sentiment (as well as efforts to restrict cultivation of hemp, which threatened timber production); it had nothing do with scientific evidence of harm. That’s true of most drug legislation in this country. Were it not the case, LSD would be less regulated than alcohol, since the health, economic and social costs of the latter far outweigh those of the former. (Most neuroscientists don’t believe that LSD is addictive; its potential benefits are being studied at Johns Hopkins and New York University, among other places.)

Still, I’m not against legalization. I simply object to the astounding lack of scepticism about pot in our current debate. Whether or not to legalize weed is the wrong question. The right one is: How will growing use of delta-9-THC affect individuals and communities?

Though the evidence is far from complete, wishful thinking and widespread enthusiasm are no substitutes for careful consideration. Instead of rushing to enact new laws that are as nonsensical as the ones they replace, let’s sort out the costs and benefits, using current scientific knowledge, while supporting the research needed to clarify the neural and social consequences of frequent use of THC. Perhaps then we’ll avoid practices that inure future generations to what’s really important.

                                       By Judith Grisel,    May 25, 2018

Source:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/ posteverything/wp/2015/04/30/yes-pot-should-be-legal-but-it-shouldnt-be-sold-for-a-profit/   

(Denver, CO) – Today, a new study on the impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado conducted by the Centennial Institute found that for every one dollar in tax revenue from marijuana, the state spends $4.50 as a result of the effects of the consequences of legalization.

This study used all available data from the state on hospitalizations, treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), impaired driving, black market activity, and other parameters to determine the cost of legalization. Of course, calculating the human cost of addiction is nearly impossible, we can assume the cost estimated for treating CUD is a gross underestimate due to the fact that it is widely believed among health officials that CUD goes largely untreated…yet rates have been increasing significantly in the past decade.

That, in conjunction with the fact that there is no way of quantifying the environmental impact the proliferation of single use plastic packaging common within the marijuana industry, leads us to believe this is indeed a very conservative estimate.

“Studies such as this show that the only people making money off the commercialization of marijuana are those in the industry who profit at the expense of public health and safety,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “The wealthy men in suits behind Big Marijuana will laugh all the way to the bank while minority communities continue to suffer, black markets continue to thrive, and taxpayers are left to foot the bill.”

“The data collected in this study, as in similar studies before it, continues to show the scope of the cost of commercialization. The effects of legalization are far and wide, and affect just about every resident in the state directly and indirectly,” said Jeff Hunt, Vice President of Public Policy for Colorado Christian University.

“The pot industry doesn’t want this dirty truth to be seen by law makers and the taxpayers, who were promised a windfall in tax revenue,” said Justin Luke Riley, president of the Marijuana Accountability Coalition. “The MAC will continue to shine a light on the industry and urge our lawmakers to reign in Big Pot before it brings more harm on Coloradans.”

Source: New Colorado Report: Cost of Marijuana Legalization Far Outweighs Tax Revenues – Smart Approaches to Marijuana (learnaboutsam.org) November 2018

DRP0013

 1.Aims Cannabis Skunk Sense (also known as CanSS Ltd) provides straight-forward facts and research-based advice on cannabis. We raise awareness of the continued and growing dangers to children, teenagers and their families of cannabis use.

2.We provide educational materials and information for community groups, schools, colleges and universities; and guidance to wide range of professions, Parliament and the general public – with a strong message of prevention not harm reduction.

3.The Inquiry document says: ‘Government’s stated intention in its 2017 drug strategy is to reduce all illicit and other harmful drug use…….’

4.Missing from this Inquiry document is the following 2017 Strategy statement: ‘preventing people – particularly young people – from becoming drug users in the first place’. Prevention should be first and foremost in any statement as well as in the minds of us all. FRANK was mentioned just once in this strategy; ‘develop our Talk to FRANK service so that it remains a trusted and credible source of information and advice for young people and concerned others’. This claim will be challenged in this report.

5.If prevention (pre-event) were to be successful, there would be little need for a policy of reducing harmful use. Unfortunately, for fifteen or sixteen years now, prevention has taken a back seat.

6.In 1995 Prime Minister John Major’s government produced ‘Tackling Drugs Together’ saying, ‘The new programme strengthens our efforts to reduce the demand for illegal drugs through prevention, education and treatment’.

7.Objectives included: ‘to discourage young people from taking drugs’ and to ensure that schools offer effective programmes of drug education, giving pupils the facts, warning them of risks, and helping them to develop the skills and attitudes to resist drug use – all good common sense.

8.On harm reduction, the government said, ‘The ultimate goal is to ensure people do not take drugs in the first place, but if they do, they should be helped to become and remain drug-free. Abstinence is the ultimate goal and harm reduction should be a means to that end, not an end in itself’.

9.In 1998 the Second National Plan for 2001-2, ‘Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain’ was published. Although prevention was still the aim, the phrase ‘informed choice’ appeared, the downhill slide from prevention had started.

10.The` Updated Strategy in 2002 contained the first high-profile mention of ‘Harm Minimisation (Reduction)’. David Blunkett in the Foreword said, ‘Prevention, education, harm minimisation, treatment and effective policing are our most powerful tools in dealing with drugs’.

Some bizarre statements appeared, e.g.: ‘To reduce the proportion of people under 25 reporting use of illegal drugs in the last month and previous year substantially’. Is  infrequent use of drugs acceptable?

In October 2002 at a European Drugs Conference, Ashford, Kent, Bob Ainsworth, drugs spokesman for the Labour government, said that harm reduction was being moved to the centre of their strategy. Prevention was abandoned, ‘informed choice’ and ‘harm reduction’ ruled.

The official government website for information on drugs is FRANK set up in 2003. It continued with the harm reduction policy of the Labour Government.

From the beginning, FRANK was heavily criticised. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), founded by Iain Duncan-Smith MP in 2004, consistently criticised FRANK for being ill-informed, ineffective, inappropriate and shamefully inadequate, whilst citing a survey conducted by national treatment provider Addaction who found that only one in ten children would call the FRANK helpline to talk about drugs. Quite recently, when asked about sources where they had obtained helpful information about alcohol or smoking cigarettes, young people put FRANK at the bottom.

The CSJ recommended that FRANK be scrapped, and an effective replacement programme developed to inform young people about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse based on prevention rather than harm reduction.

The IHRA (International Harm Reduction Alliance) gives the following definition of harm reduction:

Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to minimise negative health, social and legal impacts associated with drug use, drug policies and drug laws. Harm reduction is grounded in justice and human rights – it focuses on positive change and on working with people without judgement, coercion, discrimination, or requiring that they stop using drugs as a precondition of support.   

The use of Harm reduction instead of Prevention is tantamount to condoning drug use – a criminal activity. The legitimate place for harm reduction is with ‘known users’ on a one to one basis as part of a treatment programme to wean them off completely and attain abstinence in a safer manner than abrupt stoppage which can be very dangerous. One example of this is to inhale the fumes of heroin rather than injection, thus avoiding blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis and septicaemia.

An opioid substitute drug for heroin addiction, methadone has the advantage of being taken orally and only once/day. As the dosage is reduced, abstinence will be attained more safely. However, methadone users are often ‘parked’ for months on this highly addictive drug without proper supervision or monitoring. In 2008 in Edinburgh, more addicts died of methadone than heroin.

Harm reduction is a green light. If children are encouraged to use drugs by being given tips on how to use them more safely, many will do it. The son of a friend told his mother. ‘It’s OK we go on to the FRANK website and find out how to take skunk safely by cutting our use and inhaling less deeply’. He is now psychotic!

Prevention works. Between 1997 and 1991 America saw drug use numbers plummet from 23 to 14 million, cocaine and cannabis use halved, daily cannabis use dropped by 75%.

In 2005, Jonathan Akwue of In-Volve writing in Drink and Drugs News, criticised the campaign for lacking authenticity; its ill-judged attempts at humour which try to engage with youth culture; and diluting the truth to accommodate more socially acceptable messages.

The conservatives regained power under David Cameron. FRANK did not change.

In 2005, Mr Iain Duncan Smith again criticised FRANK, saying “Drugs education programmes, such as Talk to FRANK, have failed on prevention and intervention, instead progressively focussing on harm reduction and risk minimisation, which can be counter-productive”

In 2011 it was announced FRANK would be re-launched and the team commissioned ‘A Summary of Health Harms of Drugs’ from The John Moore’s University Liverpool, a hotbed of harm reduction. A psychiatrist from The FRANK Team was involved. Their section on cannabis is totally inadequate, out of date, no recognition of deaths, brain shrinkage, violence, homicides, suicides, the huge increase of strength of THC etc. Professor Sir Robin Murray’s research on mental illness (2009) and the discovery that CBD is virtually absent from skunk are of vital importance.

Many worrying papers have been written since, especially about brain development, all of which are ignored.  CanSS met with the FRANK team prior to their re-launch in 2011 where it was agreed that the cannabis section would, with their assistance, be re-written. All but two very small points were ignored, one about driving after taking alcohol with cannabis and the effect on exam results. The harm reduction advice about cannabis was removed at the request of CanSS.

Scientific evidence detailing FRANK’s inaccuracies was given to the Government by CanSS and other drug experts over the years – all of it ignored. Complaints and oral evidence were submitted to the HASC in April and September 2012 and the Education Select Committee in 2014. Government drugs spokesmen have also been contacted with concerns about FRANK.

As the official government source of information on drugs for the UK public, the FRANK site must be regularly updated and contain the many new accurate findings from current scientific research. The public is owed a duty of care and protection from the harm of drugs, especially cannabis, the most commonly used.

The following list contains some of the glaring omissions and vital details from the FRANK website:

Deaths from cancers except lung, road fatalities, heart attacks/strokes, violent crime, homicides, suicides. Tobacco doesn’t cause immediate deaths either.

Alcohol with cannabis can be fatal. An alcohol overdose can be avoided by vomiting but cannabis suppresses the vomiting reflex.

Cases of severe poisoning in the USA in toddlers are increasing, mostly due to ‘edibles’ left within reach. Accidental ingestion by children should be highlighted.

Hyperemesis (violent vomiting) is on the increase.

Abnormally high levels of dopamine in the brain cause psychosis (the first paper on this was written in 1845) and schizophrenia, especially in those with genetic vulnerabilities, causing violence, homicides and suicides. Skunk-induced schizophrenia costs the country around £2 billion/year to treat.

Young people should understand how THC damps down the activities of the whole brain by suppressing the chemical messages for several weeks. It is fat soluble and remains in the cells. Messages to the hippocampus (learning and memory) fail to reach its cells, some die, causing permanent brain damage. IQ points are lost. Few children using cannabis even occasionally will achieve their full potential.

Serotonin is depleted, causing depression and suicides. The huge increase in the strength of THC in cannabis due to the prevalence of skunk (anything from 16% to over 20%) and the almost total lack of CBD is ignored as is the gateway theory, medical cannabis, passive smoking and lower bone mineral density, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.

They need to be taught that there is reduced ability to process information, self-criticise and think logically. Users lack attention and concentration, can’t find words, plan or achieve routines, have fixed opinions, whilst constantly feeling lonely and misunderstood. They should know of the risk of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

Amazingly, the fact THC damages our DNA is virtually unknown among the public. In the 1990s, scientists found new cells being made in the adult body (white blood, sperm and foetal cells), suffered premature ‘apoptosis’ (programmed cell death) so were fewer in number. Impotence, infertility and suppressed immune systems were reported.  This is important.

In 2016 an Australian paper discovered THC badly interferes with cell division i.e. where chromosomes replicate to form new cells. They fail to segregate properly causing numerous mutations as chromosomes shatter and randomly rejoin.  Many cells die (about 50% of fertilized eggs (zygotes). Any affected developing foetus will suffer damage. Resultant foetal defects include gastroschisis (babies born with intestines outside the body), now rising in areas of legalisation, anencephaly (absence of brain parts) and shortened limbs (boys are about 4 inches shorter). Oncogenes (cancer-causing) can be switched on. Bladder, testicle and childhood cancers like neuroblastoma have all been reported. The DNA in mitochondria (energy producers in cells) can also be damaged.

Parliament controls the drug laws, so why are the police able to decide for themselves how to deal with cannabis possession?

Proof of the liberalisation of the law on cannabis possession appeared in the new Police Crime Harm Index in April 2016, where it appeared 2nd bottom of the list of priorities. In the following November it fell to the bottom. Class ‘A’ drug possession was immediately above. Possession has clearly become a very low priority. In 2015, Durham Police decided they would no longer prosecute those smoking the drug and growing it ‘for their own use’. Instead, officers will issue a warning or a caution. Then Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton announced that his force will stop prosecuting all drug addicts from December 2017 and plans to use police money to give free heroin to addicts to inject themselves twice a day in a supervised ‘shooting gallery’.  This surely constitutes dealing. The police can it seems, alter and ‘soften’ laws at will. 

Several weeks ago, I happened to check the FRANK website. Quietly, stealthily and without fanfare, a new version had appeared – completely changed. Absent were the patronising videos, games and jokes. Left were A to Z of Drugs, News, Help and Advice (e.g. local harm reduction information) and Contact.

There is poor grammar, i.e. ‘are’ instead of ‘is’ and ‘effect’ where it should be ‘affect’. Mistakes like these do not enhance its credibility.

The drug information is still inadequate with scant essential detail, little explanation and still out of date. This is especially true of cannabis. THC can stay in the brain for many weeks – still sending out its damping-down signals.

What shocked me though were the following:

Our organisation recently received an email about a call to FRANK requesting advice. A friend, a user who also encouraged others to use as well, had lied in a court case where her drug use was a significant factor. He contacted FRANK about her disregard for the law for a substance that was illegal. The advisor raised his voice whilst stating the friend has the right to do what she wants in her own home and mocked him about calling the police. He was shocked and upset by the response.

Ecstasy – Physical health risks

  • Because the strength of ecstasy pills are so unpredictable, if you do decide to take ecstasy, you should start by taking half or even a quarter of the pill and then wait for the effects to kick in before taking anymore – you may find that this is enough.
  • If you’re taking MDMA, start by dabbing a small amount of powder only, then wait for the effects to kick in.
  • Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.

The ‘NEWS’ consisted of 8 pictures with text. In 2 of the 8 items, opportunity is taken to give more ecstasy harm reduction advice. One is titled, ‘Heading out this weekend with Mandy or Molly?’ This is blatant normalisation. The others aren’t ‘news’ items either, but more information about problems.

The section on each drug entitled, ‘Worried about drug x’ mostly consists of giving FRANK’s number. ‘If you are worried about your use, you can call FRANK on 0300 1236600 for friendly, confidential advice’. Any perceptions that FRANK is anything but a Harm Reduction advice site are dispelled completely.

Mentor International is a highly respected worldwide Prevention Charity.  Government-funded Mentor UK is in charge of school drug-education with their programme, ADEPIS (Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service). Mentor UK masquerades as a ‘Prevention’ charity but practices ‘Harm Reduction’ and has done so from its inception in 1998. A founding member, Lord Benjamin Mancroft, is currently prominent in the APPG: Drug Policy Reform, partly funded by legaliser George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.

Professor Harry Sumnall of John Moores University Liverpool, a trustee on Mentor UK’s board, signed a ‘Legalisation’ letter in The Telegraph 23rd November 2016 along with the university, Professor David Nutt, The Beckley Foundation, Nick Clegg, Peter Lilley, Transform, Volte-face and other well-known legalisation advocates. Eric Carlin, former Mentor UK CEO (2000-2009), is now a member of Professor David Nutt’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD). At a July 2008 conference in Vienna, he said “we are not about preventing drug use, we are about preventing harmful drug use”.

Examples of their activities:

The ‘Street Talk’ programme, funded by the Home Office, carried out by the charities Mentor UK and Addaction and completed in March 2012 was aimed to help vulnerable young people aged 10 – 19, to reduce or stop alcohol and drug misuse. Following the intervention, the majority of young people demonstrated a positive intention to change behaviour as follows: “I am confident that I know more about drugs and alcohol and can use them more safely in the future” – 70% agreed, 7% disagreed’.

 Two CanSS members attended a Mentor UK meeting on 7th January 2014 at Kent University, where Professor Alex Stevens, a sociology professor favouring the opening of a ‘coffee shop’ in Kent and supporting ‘grow your own’ was the main speaker. The audience consisted mainly of young primary school teachers. He became increasingly irritated as CanSS challenged his views, becoming incandescent when told knowledge of drug harms is the most important factor in drug education. The only mention of illegality (by CanSS) was met by mirth!

In a Mentor UK project ‘Safer at school’ (2013), the greatest number of requests from pupils, by 5 to 6 times, were: – effects of drugs, side-effects, what drugs do to your body and consequences. Clearly it had been ignored. Coggans 2003 said that, ‘the life skills elements used by Mentor UK may actually be less important than changing knowledge, attitudes and norms by high quality interactive learning’.

Paul Tuohy, the Director of Mentor UK in February 2013 emailed CanSS, ‘Harm reduction approaches are proven and should be part of the armoury for prevention……..there are many young people harming their life chances who are already using and need encouragement to stop, or where they won’t, to use more safely’.

In 2015 Mentor incorporated CAYT (Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions) with their ‘The Climate Schools programmes’. Expected Outcomes: ‘To show that alcohol and drug prevention programmes, which are based on a harm minimisation approach and delivered through the internet, can offer a user-friendly, curriculum-based and commercially-attractive teaching method’.

In November 2016, Angelus and Mentor UK merged, ‘The Mentor-Angelus merger gives us the opportunity to reach a wider audience through the delivery of harm-prevention programs that informs young people of the harms associated with illicit and NPS drug-taking, to help support them in making conscientious healthy choices in the future’.

The under-developed brains in young people are quite incapable of making reasoned choices. Nor should they. Drug-taking is illegal.

Michael O’Toole (CEO 2014 –2018) said in an ACMD Briefing paper.

Harm reduction may be considered a form of selective prevention – reducing frequency of use or supporting a narrowing range of drugs used’. “It is possible to reduce adverse long-term health and social outcomes through prevention without necessarily abstaining from drugs”. 

It is a puzzle that any organisation, including the Government, can condone drug-taking, an illegal activity, either by testing drugs or dishing out harm reduction advice, without being charged with ‘aiding and abetting’ a crime.

Mary Brett, Chair CanSS and Lucy Dawe,Administrator CanSS www.cannabisskunksense.co.uk    

Source: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/health-and-social-care-committee/drugs-policy/written/97965.html March 2019

DEA says Houston is both a big market for synthetic pot and a major source

More than 1 million packets of a dangerous, unpredictable new breed of drug were seized in the Houston area by the DEA in the past two years, yet criminal charges are rare for those who make, sell or use them.

The packets, sold as potpourri or incense, are among the more popular brands of so-called synthetic marijuana taking center stage in a new front in the war on drugs.

On a recent afternoon, glossy packets of strawberry-flavored “Kush” lay side by side in a lighted glass display case, just past the bongs and pipes, at a Houston-area shop. The mixture inside looks like dried, finely crushed green leaves. It is smoked like pot but packs a far different punch – and is fueling the never-ending search for ways to get high.

“This is a new frontier for drugs and drug traffickers,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “I want to shout it from the roof tops: This is nasty stuff.”

Despite pressure from law enforcement, users still don’t have to go to underground dealers to score. Instead, they just visit smoke shops and convenience stores that sell the products.

Houston has a key role in the popularity of the drugs. It is not only a large marketplace for them, but they are covertly made here and shipped to other regions, according to court documents.

Doctors said the substances – technically classified as synthetic cannabinoids – can be aggressive, unstable and damaging.

Hearts race. Blood pressure soars. Seizures can be unleashed.

Paranoia is known to grip some users, as well as agitation and suicidal tendencies that can last five or six hours and land them in emergency rooms.

“They come in, and they are wild and psychotic and sometimes have a distinct smell,” said Dr. Spencer Greene, director of medical toxicology for Baylor College of Medicine. “They are going to be kind of wild and kind of crazy, and potentially very sick.”

Part of the problem is that the potency of the drugs can vary so greatly, and that users can never be sure what they are smoking.

Emily Bauer, a 17-year-old former user who lives in Cypress, learned just how bad they can be on a Friday night in 2012.

She smoked a packet, as she had done many times before, and ended up suffering what her family has been told was a series of strokes.

“I am improving constantly, and my vision is getting better,” she said, noting that she continues with high school thanks to people who read textbooks aloud to her and help her write.

Bauer and her parents have been sharing her story publicly in hopes that others will avoid the drugs. She said it just is not accurate to compare what she smoked to marijuana.

“It is more like smoking bleach,” she said.

Banned at trade shows

They come in colorful packets with dozens of other brand names, including Scooby Snax and Hello Kitty. The packages look like packets of candy and cost from $6 to $20, depending on the size.

They carry warnings that the contents are not for human consumption and sometimes incorrectly note contents are legal.

Authorities contend the language is just an attempt to dodge state and federal laws.

In schemes reminiscent of the popular crime drama “Breaking Bad,” rogue chemists repeatedly tweak compounds to create new generations of designer drugs faster than laws can catch them.

“Trained chemists know exactly what they are doing,” said Jeff Walterscheid, a toxicologist with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

He noted that tweaking one molecule can make a new drug.

Dozens of such deviations of synthetic cannabinoids have been identified in the past few years, according to the DEA, and the list of what is out there is believed to be growing weekly.

To prepare the drugs for consumption, chemicals – usually white powdery mixtures – are often imported from China where they were prepared by chemists who keep an eye on U.S. laws, according to the DEA.

After U.S.-based manufacturers get those chemicals, they are often dissolved in acetone and then sprayed over leafy material, dried and spritzed with flavors such as grape, strawberry or cherry. Then they are poured into packages that are delivered in bulk to stock the shelves of retailers.

A manufacturing operation in Stafford was shut down by police in September after five day laborers staggered to an ambulance company looking for help. They had been overcome by fumes.

The factory was in an industrial park and a few hundred yards from a day care center. All that was left behind on a recent visit to the site was a scattering of crushed leaves in a carpeted office and a small black and blue packet labeled Amsterdam Dreams Potpourri.

Manufacturers of these substances aren’t considered nearly as violent as drug-cartel gangsters, but turf wars flare up.

Authorities point to a brutal dispute between two manufacturers. One stormed into the other’s business on Harwin, doused him with gasoline, and threatened to set him ablaze if he didn’t stop stealing a brand name.

The dispute faded. No one was arrested.

Jeff Hirschfeld, president of Champs, which holds national trade shows for thousands of smoke shop owners, said two years ago he decided to ban synthetic marijuana vendors from his events.

“There are so many states that don’t allow it, we just did not think it was proper,” he said.

“I am a grandfather of six, and I would not really recommend it for my grandkids,” he said. “I have not tried it, but I know people who have. Some say good, some say bad, but I’m not comfortable with it.”

Users vary from high school kids to working professionals. The drug also doesn’t show up in urine tests for marijuana, which might appeal to people on parole or job applicants.

Not meant for humans

In the past two years in Houston, synthetic cannabinoids were in the system of a person who hanged himself, another who was hit by an allegedly drunken driver while walking along a tollway, and another who was shot to death, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Users are playing roulette with their lives, said Walterscheid, the Harris County toxicologist.

“You cannot look at a container of Kush Apple and know what is in it,” he said. “When buying a package that looks the same every day for a year, you could be getting something different every single time.”

John Huffman, a South Carolina chemist who years ago led a team that developed synthetic cannabinoids while researching under a federal grant, said some strains now being copied could easily be 50 times more potent than marijuana.

“They are all dangerous. Don’t use them,” said Huffman, who retired four years ago. “They were never designed for this.”

The substances were tested on animals but were never to be used by humans.

Criminal charges rarely are filed as cases involving these emerging drugs bring on a host of new scientific, medical and legal complexities.

Clinical tests have not yet been conducted on humans on any of these drugs, so it can be tough to prove the extent of their harm. Experts could also clash over whether the ingredients of a given drug make it illegal, among other issues.

People who knowingly make or sell synthetic cannabinoids for human consumption can face federal charges. Possession of some of those substances, regardless of weight, can in some cases be a misdemeanor in Texas.

“We have been taking an active role trying to classify more of these, make more of them fall in the penal code,” said Marcy McCorvey, division chief of the major narcotics division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

She said that prosecutors are handcuffed by insufficient laws, but if they can make a case, they will take it to court.

“It is very frustrating. I know of police officers who are out there trying to combat the problem,” McCorvey said. “I understand parents who want it off the shelves. I wish I could prosecute sellers and suppliers in a more harsh manner, but the state law does not allow for a harsher penalty as it is written.”

Few criminal charges

Despite the DEA seizing more than 1 million packets of the drugs, as well as the pending forfeitures of more than $8 million, federal prosecutors in Houston have yet to charge anyone, according to officials.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, who is based in Houston, declined to comment.

In June, federal authorities in San Antonio announced Operation Synergy. At least 17 people were arrested in San Antonio, Houston and elsewhere for alleged roles in a synthetic cannabinod ring.

In another case, Houston resident Issa Baba was charged federally in Pennsylvania with using the Web to sell synthetic pot and other designer drugs. More than $5 million was seized from his bank accounts. Baba has signed a guilty plea.

Another Houston-area man has not been charged with a crime, but more than $2 million was taken from him in May on the grounds that it was proceeds from making synthetic cannabinoids. Bundles of $100 bills wrapped in rubber bands were stashed at his ex-wife’s home in La Marque.

Lawyer Chip Lewis, who represents Baba and the other man, said the cases against his clients come at a tricky time, as the Department of Justice has decided not to challenge laws that permit the medical and recreational use of marijuana.

“It is a slippery slope we are on here,” Lewis said. “Yes, we will prosecute you for this. No, we are not going to prosecute you for something else on the books.”

Javier Pena, chief of the DEA’s Houston Division, said getting this breed of drugs off the streets has become a moral mission as much as a legal one.

“We are trying to say to store owners: You know who you are. You need to stop selling this poison.”

Source: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Houston-gains-key-role-in-synthetic-marijuana-5024607.php  November 2013

An investor in a major Canadian cannabis company has had longstanding ties, including business dealings, with influential Mafia members and drug traffickers, Radio-Canada has learned.

Another investor in the same company has links with a prominent member of the Rizzutos, the powerful Montreal crime family.

In still another case, an individual managed to sell his cannabis business to one of the big players in the industry, despite his connections to drug traffickers. In return, he received shares in the company and rented out space for a cannabis grow-op.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legalization plan was supposed to cut out organized crime, but an investigation by Radio-Canada’s Enquête shows Health Canada has granted production licences to companies with individuals with links to the criminal underworld.

Enquête examined hundreds of documents as part of its investigation, including reviews conducted by Canadian securities oversight bodies. Enquête is not naming the companies or individuals involved.

For its part, Health Canada says it has not seen any cases of organized crime infiltration of more than 130 licensed cannabis producers since 2013.

To produce cannabis, those who hold certain positions in companies must first obtain a permit from Health Canada by taking a security screening.

Any past connections with individuals related to organized crime are part of the analyzed information.

Red flags raised

To secure a licence, Health Canada first checks if the individual has a criminal record.

Second, the RCMP consults police databases to review information that may indicate an applicant’s links to criminals.

Health Canada makes its final decision with the information provided by the RCMP.

The RCMP says it raised red flags on about 10 per cent of the applicants it was asked to check out in 2016 and 2017.

“It’s really criminal associations,” says Supt. Yves Goupil, who gives the example of a person “associated with individuals who have criminal records.”

In a statement, Health Canada said it can “categorically confirm” that it didn’t issue “security clearance to an individual when the RCMP provided evidence to the department that it was associated with organized crime.”

“Health Canada has found no evidence that organized crime has infiltrated one of more than 130 federally registered producers,” spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in an email.

Security checks only scratch the surface

Throughout the period in which Canada’s cannabis industry was developing, primarily for medical purposes, only individuals who directly ran the companies were required to obtain a security clearance.

This approach, says Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, demonstrates a naiveté about the workings of high-level organized crime.

“If there is someone who has a criminal record, it is not that person they will put to apply for the licence,” Carignan said. “It would be completely naive to think that.”

Last spring, Carignan and his Senate colleagues tried, unsuccessfully, to amend Bill C-45 on the legalization of cannabis in order to demand more transparency from companies entering the industry.

Several companies have opaque and complex structures.

“You never see who the real licence holders are,” said lawyer and tax expert Marwah Rizqy, who raised the issue before a Senate committee last spring and has since been elected Liberal MNA for the Quebec riding of Saint-Laurent.

The black hole of trusts

It’s not uncommon for cannabis companies to be funded through family trusts.

Originally designed for estate and tax planning, trusts are an ideal way to hide individuals with interests in a business, said Marie-Pierre Allard, who studies tax policy at the Université de Sherbrooke.

“The beneficiaries of the trust are not disclosed publicly. It’s anonymous,” she said, adding that it is “one of the great vulnerabilities of the Canadian legal system.”

“If we want to eliminate the Mafia cannabis market, we cannot allow them to use tax havens or trusts to enter indirectly through the back door,” Carignan said.

A report by the federal Department of Finance and several international organizations identifies trusts as one of the vehicles most at risk for money-laundering in Canada.

In a Senate appearance last April, Rizqy suggested refusing to grant production licences to companies financed through trusts.

“Maybe it would be wise to deny the licence outright because you are not able to unequivocally establish that the security clearance is really valid,” said Rizqy.

The recommendation was not accepted. The federal cannabis legislation adopted this summer, however, did include more extensive background checks into individuals who back cannabis companies.

Too many requirements for the cannabis industry?

Carignan has faced criticism for his efforts to make cannabis companies more transparent.

Line Beauchesne, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa, believes Health Canada’s investigations are adequate and consistent with the government’s desire to ensure the quality of the product and to prevent smuggling.

“Why especially for the cannabis industry?” Beauchesne asked.

If there were to be new rules of transparency, “all industries moving into Canada” should be affected, she said.

She acknowledged, however, that Health Canada “is absolutely not equipped to conduct financial investigations.”

Its traditional role is to ensure a product meets certain standards.

“Health Canada’s job is to make sure that when I eat cheese, it’s cheese. When it’s eggs, it’s eggs. And when [it comes to] cannabis, it’s cannabis.”

The limits of police investigations

The number of audits to be conducted in the cannabis industry is so great investigators have to make choices, said the RCMP’s Goupil.

The work of police is complicated considerably when the sources of financing for businesses come from abroad, including from tax havens.

“Technically, there is nothing illegal there. But it’s hard for [the RCMP] and for Health Canada to go out and check in those countries,” he said.

“Often, it’s going to be the janitor who will sign the company documents or a law firm in country X. At some point, we cannot do the research. It’s a lot of investment, a lot of time, a lot of money,” Goupil said.

“We cannot have a fully bulletproof system. If organized crime has an opportunity to make a profit, it will exploit it. “

Tax havens are not the only barrier to police work. Secrecy also exists in some companies in Canada.

“We need to use other more advanced techniques such as physical surveillance and wiretapping that will help us identify who is behind the company and who operates it,” he said.

These survey techniques, however, require considerable resources and cannot be deployed for all cannabis companies.

“We cannot afford it.”

Source: Licensed cannabis growers have ties to organized crime, Enquête investigation finds | CBC News November 2018

The fact that 1 in 6 infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure should concern Canadians as they move to legalization on 17 October. The dangers of 2nd-hand, carcinogenic and psychoactive chemically-laden marijuana smoke were ignored by the Trudeau government in its push to legalize pot, Pamela McColl writes.

PAMELA McCOLL’S STATEMENT IN FULL…

What About Us? October 17 2018

No amount of second-hand smoke is safe. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung diseases and other health problems.  Second hand-smoke is a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The fact that one in six infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure should be of grave to Canadians as they too have moved to legalization.

The dangers of second-hand, carcinogenic and psychoactive chemically-laden marijuana smoke were ignored by the Trudeau government in their push to legalize pot. This government in fact sanctioned the smoking of marijuana in the presence of children.

The government did not commission an in-depth child risk assessment of the draft legalization framework, a study called for by child advocates across the country.

The Alberta Ministry of Children’s Services’ – Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act Placement Resource Policy on Environmental Safety states; that a foster parent must be aware of, and committed to provide a non-smoking environment by not allowing smoking in the home when a foster child is placed; not allowing smoking in a vehicle when a foster child is present; and not allowing use of smokeless tobacco when a foster child is present. As the Alberta government’s policy contains all-inclusive language of “non-smoking environment,” the same rules have been extend to legalized marijuana. Some children in the province of Alberta have been protected under policy while the majority of Albertan children and other children in Canada should rightly ask: “What About Us?”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms secures the safety of children from threats to their health and their life. Section 15 of the Charter prohibits discrimination perpetrated by the governments of Canada. The Equality Rights section states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The provisions that protect children in foster care should extend to every child.

Section 7 of the Charter is a constitutional provision that protects an individual’s personal legal rights from actions of the government of Canada, the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The Cannabis Act fails to protect Canadian children’s right to security of the self. The right to security of the person consists of the rights to privacy of the body and its health and of the right protecting the “psychological integrity” of an individual.  Exposure to marijuana in poorly ventilated spaces exposes the non-user to the impact of a psychotropic high, including the distortion of one’s sense of reality.

Canada is a party to the Rights of the Child Treaty, the most widely ratified piece of human rights law in history.  The treaty establishes the human rights of children to health and to protection under law. Placing marijuana products and plants into children’s homes fails to protect their rights under international treaty obligations.

A petition, before the BC Government Legislative Assembly via the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, seeks to make all multi-unit dwellings in BC smoke-free. Smoke-free housing is needed to protect the non-user’s health. Smoke travels, it escapes and contaminates beyond a single unit. Law consists, primarily, in preserving a person from death and violence and in securing their free enjoyment of their property. The Cannabis Act fails to preserve the rights of non-users of marijuana. It rests with citizens to stand up for their rights and those of children. Be prepared this will be an ugly, costly and lengthy process.

“We think that the true rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his land and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril, and, if he does not do so, is prima facia answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. “ House of Lords Rule. Doctrine of Strict Liability of Dangerous Conditions Rylands versus Fletcher – 1868. Successful argued in Delta, Canada 1983. Individual prevented from smoking in his residence.

Provincial governments can correct the mistakes made by the federal government. Concerned citizens must see that they do.

Pamela McColl – www.cleartheairnow.org

Source: What about the children? | DB Recovery Resources October 2018

This Notice of Liability Memo and attached Affidavit of Harms give formal notification to all addressees that they are morally, if not legally liable in cases of harm caused by making toxic marijuana products legally available, or knowingly withholding accurate information about the multiple risks of hemp/marijuana products to the Canadian consumer.  This memo further gives notice that those elected or appointed as representatives of the people of Canada, by voting affirmatively for Bill C45, do so with the knowledge that they are breaching international treaties, conventions and law.  They do so also with the knowledge that Canadian law enforcement have declared that they are not ready for implementation of marijuana legalization, and as they will not be ready to protect the lives of Canadians, there may arise grounds for a Charter of Rights challenge as all Canadian citizens are afforded a the right to security of self.

Scientific researchers and health organizations raise serious questions about the safety of ingesting even small amounts of cannabinoids. Adverse effects include risk of harm to the cardio-vascular system, respiratory tract, immune system, reproductive and endocrine systems, gastrointestinal system and the liver, hyperemesis, cognition, psychomotor performance, psychiatric effects including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis, a-motivational syndrome, and addiction.  The scientific literature also warns of teratogenicity (causing birth deformities) and epigenetic damage (affecting genetic development) and clearly establishes the need for further study. The attached affidavit cites statements made by Health Canada that are grounded in scientific evidence that documents many harms caused by smoking or ingesting marijuana.  

Putting innocent citizens in “harm’s way” has been a costly bureaucratic mistake as evidenced by the 2015 Canadian $168 million payout to victims of exposure to the drug thalidomide. Health Canada approved thalidomide in 1961 to treat morning sickness in pregnant women but it caused catastrophic birth defects and death.

It would be instructive to reflect on “big tobacco” and their multi-billion-dollar liability in cases of misinformed sick and dead tobacco cigarette smokers. Litigants won lawsuits for harm done by smoking cigarettes even when it was the user’s own choice to obtain and smoke tobacco. In Minnesota during the 1930’s and up to the 1970’s tobacco cigarettes were given to generally healthy “juvenile delinquents’ incarcerated in a facility run by the state.  One of the juveniles, now an adult, who received the state’s tobacco cigarettes, sued the state for addicting him. He won.

The marijuana industry, in making public, unsubstantiated claims of marijuana safety, is placing itself in the same position, in terms of liability, as the tobacco companies.
In 1954, the tobacco industry published a statement that came to be known during Minnesota’s tobacco trial as the “Frank Statement.” Tobacco companies then formed an industry group for the purposes of deceiving and confusing the public.

In the Frank Statement, tobacco industry spokesmen asserted that experiments linking smoking with lung cancer were “inconclusive,” and that there was no proof that cigarette smoking was one of the causes of lung cancer. They stated, “We believe the products we make are not injurious to health.” Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick instructed the Minnesota jurors: “Jurors should assume in their deliberations that tobacco companies assumed a “special duty” by publishing the ad (Frank Statement), and that jurors will have to determine whether the industry fulfilled that duty.” The verdict ruled against the tobacco industry.

Effective June 19, 2009, marijuana smoke was added to the California Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) “determined that marijuana smoke was clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause cancer.”

Products liability and its application to marijuana businesses is a topic that was not discussed in the Senate committee hearings. Proposition 65, requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other types of reproductive harm. Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide their customers with notice of these cancerous causing chemicals when present in consumer products and provides for both a public and private right of action.

The similarities between the tactics of “Big Tobacco” and the “Canadian Cannabis Trade Alliance Institute” and individual marijuana producers would seem to demand very close scrutiny. On May 23, a witness testified before the Canadian Senate claimed that marijuana is not carcinogenic. This evidence was not challenged.

The International Narcotics Control Board Report for 2017 reads: “Bill C-45, introduced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada on 13 April 2017, would permit the non-medical use of cannabis. If the bill is enacted, adults aged 18 years or older will legally be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or an equivalent amount in non-dried form. It will also become legal to grow a maximum of four cannabis plants, simultaneously for personal use, buy cannabis from licensed retailers, and produce edible cannabis products. The Board wishes to reiterate that article 4 (c) of the 1961 Convention restricts the use of controlled narcotic drugs to medical and scientific purposes and that legislative measures providing for non-medical use are in contravention of that Convention….

The situation pertaining to cannabis cultivation and trafficking in North America continues to be in flux owing to the widening scope of personal non-medical use schemes in force in certain constituent states of the United States. The decriminalization of cannabis has apparently led organized criminal groups to focus on manufacturing and trafficking other illegal drugs, such as heroin. This could explain why, for example, Canada saw a 32 per cent increase from 2015 to 2016 in criminal incidents involving heroin possession….The Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse issued “Lower-risk cannabis use guidelines” in 2017. The document is a health education and prevention tool that acknowledges that cannabis use carries both immediate and long-term health risks.”

https://www.incb.org/documents/Publications/AnnualReports/AR2017/Annual_Report_chapters/Chapter_3_Americas_2017.pdf

Upon receipt of this Memo and Affidavit, the addressees can no longer say they are ignorant or unaware that promoting and/or distributing marijuana cigarettes for recreational purposes is an endangerment to citizens. Receipt of this Memo and Affidavit removes from the addressees any claim of ignorance as a defense in potential, future litigation.

Pamela McColl www.cleartheairnow.org

pam.mccoll@cleartheairnow.org

 

AFFIDAVIT May 27, 2018

I, Pamela McColl, wish to inform agencies and individuals of known and potential harm done/caused by the use of marijuana (especially marijuana cigarettes) and of the acknowledgement the risk of harm by Health Canada. 

Marijuana is a complex, unstable mixture of over four hundred chemicals that, when smoked, produces over two thousand chemicals.  Among those two thousand chemicals are many pollutants and cancer-causing substances.  Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, all are bioactive, and all may remain in the body’s fatty tissues for long periods of times with unknown consequences. Marijuana smoke contains carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances such as benzo(a)pyrene, benz(a)anthracene, and benzene in higher concentrations than are present in tobacco smoke.  The mechanism by which benzo(a)pyrene causes cancer in smokers was demonstrated scientifically by Denissenko MF et al. Science 274:430-432, 1996. 

Health Canada Consumer Information on Cannabis reads as follows:  “The courts in Canada have ruled that the federal government must provide reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes.”

“Cannabis is not an approved therapeutic product and the provision of this information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, or of marijuana generally, by Health Canada.”

“Serious Warnings and Precautions: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) contains hundreds of substances, some of which can affect the proper functioning of the brain and central nervous system.”

“The use of this product involves risks to health, some of which may not be known or fully understood. Studies supporting the safety and efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes are limited and do not meet the standard required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada.”

Health Canada – “When the product should not be used: Cannabis should not be used if you:-are under the age of 25 -are allergic to any cannabinoid or to smoke-have serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease -have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder-are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding -are a man who wishes to start a family-have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence Talk to your health care practitioner if you have any of these conditions. There may be other conditions where this product should not be used, but which are unknown due to limited scientific information.

Cannabis is not an approved therapeutic product and the provision of this information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the use of this product, or cannabis generally, by Health Canada.”

Prepared by Health Canada Date of latest version: February 2013, accessed May 2018. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medical-use-marijuana/information-medical-practitioners/information-health-care-professionals-cannabis-marihuana-marijuana-cannabinoids.html

A report published by survey company RIWI Corp. (RIWI.com) can be found at: https://riwi.com/case-study/measuringcanadians-awareness-of-marijuanas-health-effects-may-2018

The report measures Canadians’ awareness of marijuana’s health effects as determined by Health Canada and published on Health Canada’s website. RIWI data indicates: 1. More than 40% of those under age 25 are unaware that marijuana impacts safe driving. Further, 21% of respondents are not aware that marijuana can negatively impact one’s ability to drive safely. Health Canada: “Using cannabis can impair your concentration, your ability to make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive.” 2. One in five women aged 25-34 believes marijuana is safe during pregnancy, while trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding. • RIWI: “For women of prime childbearing age (25-34), roughly one in five believe smoking marijuana is safe during pregnancy, planning to get pregnant, and breastfeeding.” • Health Canada: “Marijuana should not be used if you are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. … Long-term use may negatively impact the behavioural and cognitive development of children born to mothers who used cannabis during pregnancy.” 3. One in three Canadians do not think that marijuana is addictive. • Health Canada: “Long term use may result in psychological dependence (addiction).” 4. One in three Canadians believe marijuana aids mental health. • Health Canada: “Long term use may increase the risk of triggering or aggravating psychiatric and/or mood disorders (schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder).” 5. One in two males were unaware that marijuana could harm a man’s fertility • “Marijuana should not be used if you are a man who wishes to start a family.”

ClearTheAirNow.org, a coalition of concerned Canadians commissioned the survey.

Affiant is willing to provide further sources of information about the toxicity of marijuana.

Pamela McColl

www.cleartheairnow.org

pam.mccoll@cleartheairnow.org

Source: From email sent to Drug Watch International May 2018

The Internet hosts many unregulated marketplaces for otherwise regulated products. If extended to marijuana (or cannabis), online markets can undermine both the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which bans marijuana sales, and the regulatory regimes of states that have legalized marijuana. Consequently, regardless of the regulatory regime, understanding the online marijuana market should be a public health
priority. Herein, the scale and growth trajectory of the online marijuana marketplace was assessed for the first time by analyzing aggregate Internet searches and the links searchers typically find.

METHODS
First, the fraction of U.S. Google searches including the terms marijuana, weed, pot, or cannabis relative to all searches was described monthly from January 2005 through June 2017 using data obtained from Google. Searches were also geotagged by state (omitting Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming because of data access restrictions). The subset of shopping searches was then monitored by tracking queries that also included buy, shop, and order (e.g., buy marijuana) in aggregate. Searches that included killer, cooking, or clay (e.g., weed killer) were considered unrelated and excluded from all analyses.
Linear regressions were used to compute pooled means to compare between time periods and log-linear regressions were used to compute average growth. Raw search volumes were estimated based on total Google search volume using comScore (www.comscore.com).
Searches in a Google Chrome browser without cached data were executed during July 2017 using the 12 combinations of marijuana and shopping root terms (i.e., buy marijuana). The results would be indicative of a Google user’s typical search results. The first two pages of links, including duplicates (N¼279, with seven to 12 links per page), were analyzed (because nearly all searchers click a link on the first two pages, with as much as 42% selecting the first link). Investigators recorded whether each linked site advertised mail-order marijuana (excluding local deliveries in legal marijuana states) and its order in the search results. Two authors agreed on all labels. Analyses were computed using R, version 3.4.1.

RESULTS
Marijuana searches grew 98% (95% CI¼84%, 113%) as a proportion of all searches from 2005 through the partial 2017 year (Figure 1). The subset of marijuana searches indicative of shopping grew more rapidly over the same period (199%, 95% CI¼165%, 243%), with 1.4–2.4
million marijuana shopping searches during June 2017. Marijuana shopping searches were highest in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada. The compounding annual growth rate for marijuana shopping searches since 2005 was significantly positive (po0.05) in 42 of
the 44 studied locations (all but Alabama and Mississippi), suggesting demand is growing across the nation. Forty-one percent (95% CI¼35%, 47%) of shopping search results linked to retailers promising mail-order marijuana (Table 1). Retailers occupied 50% (95% CI¼42%, 59%) of the first page results and for eight (of 12) searches, the first link led to a mail-order marijuana retailer. For some searches (e.g., order marijuana), all of the first-page links were marijuana retailers.

Table 1: Online Mail-Order Marijuana Retailers on Internet Search Engines, 2017

Search results
Retailer First link First page Second page Total
Yes 8 (67) 66 (50) 48 (32) 114 (41)
No 4 (33) 65 (50) 100 (68) 165 (59)

Note: Data were collected by executing searches in July 2017. Cells show the frequency and percent of links (by column) in the first two
pages of Google search results that claim to sell mail-order marijuana in response to 12 searches that contained unique combinations of the
following terms: cannabis, marijuana, pot, or weed with buy, order, or shop, such as buy cannabis, buy marijuana, buy pot, or buy weed.
Searches were executed on a new Google browser without cached data. Two authors agreed on the labels 100% of the time.

DISCUSSION
Millions of Americans search for marijuana online, and websites where marijuana can be purchased are often the top search result.
If only a fraction of the millions of searches and thousands of retailers are legitimate, this online marketplace poses a number of potential public health consequences. Children could purchase marijuana online. Marijuana could be sold in states that do not currently allow it.

Initiation and marijuana dependence could increase. Products may have inconsistent potency or be contaminated. State and local tax revenue (which can fund public health programs) could be negatively impacted.
Regulations governing online marijuana markets (even if policy changes favor legalized marijuana) need to be developed and enforced. Policing online regulations will require careful coordination across jurisdictions at the local, state, and federal level with agreements on how to implement regulations where enforcement regimes conflict. Online sales are already prohibited under virtually every regulatory regime—all sales are illegal under federal statute and legal marijuana states like Colorado ban online sales—yet the market appears to be thriving.
Government agencies might work with Internet providers to purge illicit marijuana retailers from search engines, similar to how Facebook removes drug-related pages. Moreover, online payment facilitators could refuse to support marijuana-related online transactions.
This study was limited in that who is buying/selling and the quantity of marijuana exchanged cannot be measured. Further, some searches may be unrelated to seeking marijuana retailers, and some retailers may be illegitimate, including scams or law enforcement bait. The volume of searches and placement of marijuana retailers in search results is a definitive call for public health leaders to address the previously unrecognized dilemma of online marijuana.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health (R21MH103603). Mr. Caputi acknowledges scholarships from the Joseph Wharton Scholars and the George J. Mitchell Scholarship programs. Dr. Leas acknowledges a training grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (T32HL007034). No other financial disclosures were reported by the authors of this paper.

Source: Online Sales of Marijuana: An Unrecognized Public Health Dilemma – American Journal of Preventive Medicine (ajpmonline.org) March 2018

National Drug Intelligence Center
North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment
April 2003

Marijuana

Marijuana is the most readily available and widely abused drug in North Carolina. Marijuana is abused by individuals of various ages in North Carolina. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is widespread in the state. Indoor cultivation occurs to a lesser extent. Mexican criminal groups, the dominant wholesale distributors of marijuana in the state, transport multiton shipments of Mexico-produced marijuana into North Carolina in tractor-trailers, primarily from Mexico and southwestern states. African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups and OMGs also transport marijuana produced in Mexico into North Carolina and distribute wholesale quantities. Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of marijuana produced in large outdoor grows in North Carolina. At the retail level marijuana is distributed by African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gangs; OMGs; and local independent producers and dealers including students, homemakers, and business people.

Abuse

Marijuana is the most widely abused illicit drug in North Carolina, and the drug is abused by individuals of all ages. According to the 1999 NHSDA, 4.7 percent of North Carolina residents reported having abused marijuana in the 30 days prior to the survey. The same figure was reported nationwide. The survey data also indicate that rates of marijuana abuse are highest among teenagers and young adults. Nearly 14 percent of North Carolina residents aged 18 to 25 surveyed reported having abused marijuana in the past month, while 6.8 percent of residents aged 12 to 17 surveyed reported the same. Of North Carolina residents aged 26 and older, 3.1 percent reported past month marijuana abuse.

The number of marijuana-related treatment admissions in North Carolina ranked second to the number of cocaine-related admissions each year from FY1996 through FY1999. Marijuana-related treatment admissions increased 70 percent from 7,285 in FY1996 to 12,382 in FY1999, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. (See Table 3.)

Table 3. Marijuana-Related Treatment Admissions, North Carolina, FY1996-FY1999
Fiscal Year Admissions
1996   7,285
1997   9,382
1998 11,150
1999 12,382

Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

According to 2000 ADAM data, 44.2 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana. Marijuana abuse was highest among male arrestees under 21 years of age; 84.4 percent of arrestees under 21 tested positive for marijuana.

Availability

Marijuana produced in Mexico or in North Carolina is readily available. Mexico-produced marijuana is relatively inexpensive and has a low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content (average 3.3%). According to local law enforcement, in 2001 a pound of Mexico-produced marijuana sold for $600 to $1,000 in North Carolina. A pound of marijuana produced from cannabis cultivated outdoors in North Carolina sold for $600 to $900. In North Carolina cannabis plants cultivated indoors using hydroponic operations usually yield marijuana with a higher THC content that is significantly more expensive. A pound generally sold for $2,400 in 2001.

The number of marijuana-related arrests was dramatically higher in 1999 than in 1994, particularly among juveniles. According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, juvenile arrests for marijuana possession likewise were significantly higher in 1999 than in 1994.

Table 4. Marijuana-Related Arrests, North Carolina, CY1994-CY1999
Year Arrests
1994 15,476
1995 17,462
1996 19,266
1997 22,924
1998 22,662
1999 22,728

Source: North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Note: Includes possession or sale/manufacturing.

Table 5. Juvenile Marijuana-Related Arrests, North Carolina, CY1994-CY1999
Year Arrests
1994 1,532
1995 2,286
1996 2,684
1997 3,173
1998 2,932
1999 3,004

Source: North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Note: Includes possession.

The amount of marijuana seized in the state increased dramatically from 1998 through 2001. Federal law enforcement authorities in North Carolina seized 801 kilograms of marijuana in 1998, 2,301 kilograms in 1999, 4,885 kilograms in 2000, and 3,826.8 kilograms in 2001, according to FDSS data. Additionally, the number of cannabis plants seized by state and local authorities increased 36 percent from 29,753 in 1999 to 40,464 in 2000.

The number of marijuana-related federal sentences in North Carolina ranked second to cocaine-related federal sentences from FY1996 through FY2000. According to USSC data, the number of marijuana-related federal sentences fluctuated from FY1996 through FY2000, with 113 in FY1996, 72 in FY1997, 79 in FY1998, 124 in FY1999, and 81 in FY2000

Violence

Cannabis growers take extreme measures intended to injure or kill intruders on cultivation sites. Cannabis growers frequently protect their grows by booby trapping them with explosives, trip-wired firing devices, and pits dug in the ground. The perimeters of cultivation sites frequently are littered with shards of glass and wooden boards with upright nails. Cultivation sites may also be guarded by aggressive dogs such as pit bulls. Law enforcement authorities report that weapons, usually firearms, are seized frequently from the homes of cannabis growers. Officials from the Asheville Buncombe Metropolitan Enforcement Group, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, report that cannabis growers frequently place animal traps among cannabis plants.

Production

Cannabis cultivation is widespread in North Carolina. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is more common than indoor cultivation because of the state’s long growing season, temperate climate, and rural areas that allow growers to conceal cultivation sites. Cannabis growers frequently use federal forest land, particularly in western North Carolina, to minimize the risk of personal property seizures if the plots are seized by law enforcement. Mexican and Caucasian criminal groups are the primary cultivators of outdoor cannabis. Reporting from law enforcement officials indicates that cannabis cultivation is widespread in areas including the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in the western part of the state. Outdoor cultivation sites in North Carolina are larger than before, according to law enforcement authorities. In July 2001 state and local law enforcement authorities seized more than 23,000 cannabis plants, ranging in size from seedlings to 9-foot-tall plants, from a large field that covered nearly 2 acres in Chatham County. This cannabis cultivation site was one of the largest ever seized in North Carolina.

Growers also cultivate high potency cannabis in indoor hydroponic operations. Indoor grows vary in size and number from dozens to several hundred cannabis plants. Indoor cultivation requires the grower to regulate light, heat, humidity, and fertilizer. Caucasian and African American independent producers are the primary cultivators of cannabis using hydroponic techniques.

 

Four Illegal Immigrants Arrested

In March 2002 local law enforcement officials arrested four individuals in Randolph County and seized approximately 1 kilogram of cocaine and more than 52 pounds of marijuana following a tip from an informant. The individuals were illegal immigrants believed to be from Mexico.

The informant’s tip led to a traffic stop and a joint investigation by the vice and narcotics units of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the High Point Police Department, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, and the Asheboro Police Department.

Based on the information, officers stopped and searched a minivan and seized approximately 1 kilogram of cocaine. After receiving consent from the suspects, officers searched a residence and seized 52.5 pounds of marijuana from a van that was parked at the residence.

All four individuals were charged with felony drug charges.

Source: Randolph County Sheriff’s Office.

 

 

Transportation

Mexican criminal groups are the dominant transporters of Mexico-produced marijuana into North Carolina. They primarily use tractor-trailers to transport multiton quantities of marijuana concealed among legitimate goods such as produce, furniture, and other items from Mexico and southwestern states. Law enforcement officials report that tractor-trailers carrying 1,000 pounds or more of marijuana are increasingly common. In March 2001 law enforcement authorities in Rowan County seized over 4 tons of marijuana from a tractor-trailer that was destined for a farmhouse in the county. The seizure was one of the largest marijuana seizures in North Carolina history.

 

North Carolina Legislators Stiffen Marijuana Laws

In 1999 North Carolina state legislators enacted a law making possession of 10 or more pounds of marijuana a felony offense. The change was in response to an increasing number of marijuana shipments totaling 1,000 pounds or more that were being transported into the state.

Source: North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission.

 

 

Mexican, African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups also transport marijuana in private vehicles. These criminal groups transport Mexico-produced marijuana directly from Mexico and southwestern states. They also transport marijuana from Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Transporters conceal marijuana in luggage or in false compartments and sometimes smear marijuana packages with food or liquid soap to conceal the distinctive odor. In May 2001 a sheriff’s deputy in Harrison County, Mississippi, seized 35 pounds of marijuana from a private vehicle and arrested two Mexican individuals who claimed to be traveling from Edinburg, Texas, to Charlotte. The marijuana was wrapped in packing tape and concealed in the gas tank, which contained two compartments: one for gasoline and one for contraband. In April 2001 a Louisiana state trooper arrested an individual driving a vehicle from Texas to North Carolina and seized 62 pounds of marijuana hidden in luggage in the trunk. The marijuana was wrapped in clear cellophane, smeared with mustard, and wrapped again with fabric softener sheets.

 

Marijuana Smuggled Through South Carolina Port

Guilford County sheriff’s deputies seized nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana and arrested five individuals in December 2000 in Greensboro. The marijuana had been smuggled on a ship arriving at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, from Mexico and was concealed in a container among packages of napkins and detergent. The marijuana had been transported into North Carolina by truck.

Source: Associated Press, 5 December 2000.

 

 

Criminal groups, particularly Jamaican, also transport marijuana into North Carolina on commercial airlines, employing couriers who conceal the drug in their luggage or strap packages of it under their clothing. The DEA San Diego Division reports that San Diego is a principal distribution hub for marijuana produced in Mexico supplied to Jamaican criminal groups in the southeastern United States. Mexican DTOs based in Mexico supply marijuana to Jamaican criminal groups in San Diego who then distribute the drug to other Jamaican criminal groups in North Carolina and other southeastern states. Jamaican criminal groups in North Carolina often falsely market Mexico-produced marijuana as Jamaican marijuana because Jamaican marijuana is reputed to be more potent and is, therefore, more expensive. Marijuana produced in Mexico sells for about $400 per pound in San Diego but sells for as much as $2,400 per pound as Jamaican marijuana in North Carolina.

Mexican, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups also transport marijuana into North Carolina from southwestern states via package delivery services. According to 2000 Operation Jetway data, law enforcement authorities in North Carolina seized at least 19 packages that contained multipound quantities of marijuana. The packages were sent from Texas and California, and most were destined for Charlotte. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, approximately one-half of the packages were sent to members of Mexican criminal groups, and approximately one-half were sent to members of African American criminal groups.

Mexican, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups also transport marijuana into the state on buses and passenger trains. In December 2000 Davidson County sheriff’s deputies stopped a bus traveling from Texas to North Carolina and seized 80 pounds of marijuana in a duffel bag. None of the passengers admitted to owning the bag. According to law enforcement authorities, the passengers were Mexican migrant workers traveling from Texas to North Carolina for employment.

Unknown quantities of marijuana produced in North Carolina are transported out of the state in private vehicles and via package delivery services into urban and rural areas in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Distribution

In North Carolina Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Mexico. African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of Mexico-produced marijuana. All of these criminal groups distribute marijuana to gang members and local independent dealers; they also distribute some marijuana at the retail level. These criminal groups sell marijuana to dealers of other races and ethnicities; however, in a small number of communities, they distribute marijuana only within their own ethnic group because they distrust outsiders. OMG members sell wholesale quantities to members of smaller motorcycle gangs and female associates who handle retail distribution.

Cannabis growers who cultivate large outdoor plots–usually Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups–sell wholesale quantities of locally produced marijuana to gang members and local independent dealers and occasionally sell retail quantities. Growers who cultivate small amounts of cannabis in their homes or tend small plots–usually Caucasian and African American independent dealers–abuse the drug themselves or sell it to friends, family members, and associates.

At the retail level marijuana is distributed by African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gangs; OMGs; and local independent producers and dealers including students, homemakers, and businesspeople. Law enforcement authorities report that marijuana is sold at various locations such as open-air drug markets; parking lots; bars and nightclubs; college, high school, and middle school campuses; and businesses and private homes. Law enforcement authorities report that high school students, in particular, are becoming increasingly involved in retail marijuana distribution on and near school grounds. In April 2001, law enforcement officers in Chapel Hill arrested a high school student who had concealed small plastic bags of marijuana in a sock that he had hidden in his pants. Law enforcement officers report that the student intended to sell the marijuana to other students on school grounds.

Marijuana – North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment (justice.gov)

Oregon farmers have grown three times what their customers can smoke in a year, causing bud prices to plummet and panic to set in
A recent Sunday afternoon at the Bridge City Collective 

Little wonder: a gram of weed was selling for less than the price of a glass of wine.

The $4 and $5 grams enticed Scotty Saunders, a 24-year-old sporting a gray hoodie, to spend $88 picking out new products to try with a friend. “We’ve definitely seen a huge drop in prices,” he says.

Across the wood and glass counter, Bridge City owner David Alport was less delighted. He says he’s never sold marijuana this cheap before.

“We have standard grams on the shelf at $4,” Alport says. “Before, we didn’t see a gram below $8.”

The scene at Bridge City Collective is playing out across the city and state. Three years into Oregon’s era of recreational cannabis, the state is inundated with legal weed.

It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis – too good.

In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the state’s database.

If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, that’s because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.

That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.

Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer – without much regard to whether there’s demand to fill.

The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.

Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.

For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.

But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product that’s a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.

“The business has been up and down and up and down,” says Don Morse, who closed his Human Collective II dispensary in south-west Portland four months ago. “But in a lot of ways it has just been down and down for dispensaries.”

This month, WW spoke to two dozen people across Oregon’s cannabis industry. They describe a bleak scene: small businesses laying off employees and shrinking operations. Farms shuttering. People losing their life’s savings are unable to declare bankruptcy because marijuana is still a federally scheduled narcotic.

To be sure, every new market creates winners and losers. But the glut of legal weed places Oregon’s young industry in a precarious position, and could swiftly reshape it.

Oregon’s wineries, breweries and distilleries have experienced some of the same kind of shakeout over time. But the timetable is faster with pot: for many businesses, it’s boom to bust within months.

Mom-and-pop farms are accepting lowball offers to sell to out-of-state investors, and what was once a diverse – and local – market is increasingly owned by a few big players. And frantic growers face an even greater temptation to illegally leak excess grass across state lines – and into the crosshairs of US attorney general Jeff Sessions’ justice department.

“If somebody has got thousands of pounds that they can’t sell, they are desperate,” says Myron Chadowitz, who owns the Eugene farm Cannassentials. “Desperate people do desperate things.”

In March, Robin Cordell posted a distress signal on Instagram.

“The prices are so low,” she wrote, “and without hustling all day, hoping to find the odd shop with an empty jar, it doesn’t seem to move at any price.”

Cordell has a rare level of visibility for a cannabis grower. Her Oregon City farm, Oregon Girl Gardens, received glowing profiles from Dope Magazine and Oregon Leaf. She has 12 years of experience in the medical marijuana system, a plot of family land in Clackamas county, and branding as one of the state’s leaders in organic and women-led cannabis horticulture.

She fears she’ll be out of business by the end of the year.

“The prices just never went back up,” she says.

Cordell ran headlong into Oregon’s catastrophically bountiful cannabis crop.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) handed out dozens of licenses to new farmers who planted their first crop last spring. Mild weather blessed the summer of 2017 and stretched generously into the fall. And growers going into their second summer season planted extra seeds to make up for flower lost to a 2016 storm, the last vestige of a brutal typhoon blown across the Pacific from Asia.

“That storm naturally constrained the supply even though there were a lot of cultivators,” says Beau Whitney, senior economist for New Frontier Data, which studies the cannabis industry.

It kept supply low and prices high in 2017 – even though the state was handing out licenses at an alarming rate.

“It was a hot new market,” Whitney says. “There weren’t a whole lot of barriers to entry. The OLCC basically issued a license to anyone who qualified.”

Chadowitz blames out-of-state money for flooding the Oregon system. In 2016, state lawmakers decided to lift a restriction that barred out-of-state investors from owning controlling shares of local farms and dispensaries.

It was a controversial choice – one that many longtime growers still resent.

“The root of the entire thing was allowance of outside money into Oregon,” Chadowitz says. “Anyone could get the money they needed. Unlimited money and unlimited licenses, you’re going to get unlimited flower and crash the market.”

As of 1 April, Oregon had licensed 963 recreational cannabis grows, while another 910 awaited OLCC approval.

That means oversupply is only going to increase as more farms start harvesting bud.

The OLCC has said repeatedly that it has no authority to limit the number of licenses it grants to growers, wholesalers and dispensaries (although by contrast, the number of liquor stores in Oregon is strictly limited).

Since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, many industry veterans from the medical marijuana years have chafed at the entrance of new money, warning it would destroy a carefully crafted farm ecosystem.

The same problem has plagued cannabis industries in other states that have legalized recreational weed. In 2016, Colorado saw wholesale prices for recreational flower drop 38%. Washington saw its pot drop in value at the same time Oregon did.

The OLCC remains committed to facilitating a free market for recreational marijuana in which anyone can try their hand at growing or selling.

“[The law] has to be explicit that we have that authority to limit or put a cap on licenses,” says OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger. “It doesn’t say that we could put a cap on licenses. The only thing that we can regulate is canopy size.”

The demand for weed in Oregon is robust – the state reeled in $68m in cannabis sales taxes last year – but it can’t keep pace with supply.

Whitney says it’s not unusual for a new industry to attract speculators and people without much business savvy.

“Whenever you have these emerging markets, there’s going to be a lot of people entering the market looking for profit,” he says. “Once it becomes saturated, it becomes more competitive. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to cannabis. There used to be a lot of computer companies, but there’s not so many anymore.”

Across rolling hills of Oregon farmland and in Portland dispensaries as sleek as designer eyewear shops, the story plays out the same: Business owners can’t make the low prices pencil out.

Nick Duyck is a second-generation farmer and owner of 3D Blueberry Farms in Washington county. “I was born and raised on blueberries,” he says.

But last June, Duyck launched Private Reserve Cannabis, a weed grow designed to create permanent jobs for seasonal workers.

“By starting up the cannabis business,” says Duyck, “it keeps my guys busy on a year-round basis.”

He invested $250,000 in the structural build-outs, lighting, environmental controls and other initial costs to achieve a 5,000 sq ft, Tier I, OLCC-approved indoor canopy.

Ongoing labor and operational costs added another $20,000 a month.

Weed prices were high: Duyck forecast a $1,500 return per pound. If Duyck could produce 20lb of flower a week, he’d make back his money and start banking profits in just three months.

October’s bumper crop tore those plans apart.

“We got in at the wrong time,” Duyck says. “The outdoor harvest flooded the market.”

By the start of the new year, Duyck was sitting on 100lb of ready-to-sell flower – an inventory trickling out to dispensaries in single-pound increments.

So he turned to a wholesaler, Cannabis Auctions LLC, which holds monthly fire sales in various undisclosed locations throughout Oregon.

Weed auctions operate under a traditional model: sellers submit their wares, and buyers – dispensary owners, intake managers and extract manufacturers – are given an opportunity to inspect products before bidding on parcels awarded to the highest dollar.

Duyck sent 60lb of pot to the auction block in December. He had adjusted his expectations downward: he hoped to see something in the ballpark of $400 a pound.

It sold for $100 a pound.

“The price per pound that it costs us to raise this product is significantly higher than the hundred dollars a pound,” says Duyck. (A little light math points to a $250-per-unit production cost.) “Currently, we’re operating at a $15,000-per-month loss,” Duyck says.

If prices don’t improve soon, Duyck says he won’t be able to justify renewing his OLCC license for another year.

“The dispensaries that are out there, a lot of them have their own farms, so they don’t buy a lot of product from small farms like us’” Duyck says. “If you really want to grow the product, you almost have to own the store also.”

Middlemen – store owners without farms – are also suffering. Take Don Morse, who gave up selling weed on New Year’s Eve.

Morse ran Human Collective II, one of the earliest recreational shops in the city, which first opened as a medical marijuana supplier in 2010. At times, Morse stocked 100 strains in his Multnomah Village location.

Morse lobbied for legal recreational weed and founded the Oregon Cannabis Business Council.

The shift to recreational was costly. With his business partner Sarah Bennett, Morse says he invested more than $100,000 in equipment to meet state regulations.

By last summer, new stores were popping up at a rapid pace. Morse’s company wasn’t vertically integrated, which means it did not grow any of its own pot or run a wholesaler that might have subsidized low sales.

“Competition around us was fierce, and the company started losing money, and it wasn’t worth it anymore,” Morse says. “At our peak, we had 20 employees. When we closed, we had six.”

Prices went into free fall in October: the average retail price dropped 40%.

Morse couldn’t see a way to make the numbers work. Human Collective priced grams as low as $6 to compete with large chains like Nectar and Chalice, but it struggled to turn a profit.

“When you’re the little guy buying the product from wholesalers, you can’t afford to compete,” he says. “There’s only so far you can lower the price. There’s too much of everything and too many people in the industry.”

So Morse closed his shop: “We paid our creditors and that was that. That was the end of it.”

Despite losing his business, Morse stands behind Oregon’s light touch when it comes to regulating the industry.

“It’s just commercialism at its finest,” he says. “Let the best survive. That’s just the way it goes in capitalism. That’s just the way it goes.”

Just as mom-and-pop grocery stores gave way to big chains, people like Morse are losing out to bigger operations.

Chalice Farms has five stores in the Portland area and is opening a sixth in Happy Valley. La Mota has 15 dispensaries. Nectar has 11 storefronts in Oregon, with four more slated to open soon.

Despite the record-low prices in the cannabis industry, these chains are hiring and opening new locations, sometimes after buying failed mom-and-pop shops.

The home page on Nectar’s website prominently declares: “Now buying dispensaries! Please contact us if you are a dispensary owner interested in selling your business.”

Nectar representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Because the federal government does not recognize legal marijuana, the industry cannot access traditional banking systems or even federal courts. That means business owners can’t declare bankruptcy to dissolve a failed dispensary or farm, leaving them with few options. They can try to liquidate their assets, destroy the product they have on hand and eat the losses.

Or they can sell the business to a company like Nectar, often for a fraction of what they’ve invested.

“This time last year, it was basically all mom-and-pop shops,” says Mason Walker, CEO of Cave Junction cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars. “Now there are five or six companies that own 25 or 30%. Stores are selling for pennies on the dollar, and people are losing their life savings in the process.”

Deep-pocketed companies can survive the crash and wait for the market to contract again.

“What this means is, the market is now in a position where only the large [businesses] or the ones that can produce at the lower cost can survive,” Whitney says. “A lot of the craft growers, a lot of the small-capacity cultivators, will go out of business.”

Oregon faces another consequence of pot businesses closing up shop: leftover weed could end up on the black market.

Already, Oregon has a thriving illegal market shipping to other states.

US attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, has said he has little interest in cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, but will prosecute those shipping marijuana to other states.

“That kind of thing is what’s going to shut down our industry,” Chadowitz says. “Anything we can do to prevent Jeff Sessions from being right, we have to do.”

Ask someone in the cannabis industry what to do about Oregon’s weed surplus, and you’re likely to get one of three answers.

The first is to cap the number of licenses awarded by the OLCC. The second is to reduce the canopy size allotted to each license – Massachusetts is trying that. And the last, equally common answer is to simply do nothing. Let the market sort itself out.

Farmers, such as Walker of East Fork Cultivars, argue that limiting the number of licensed farms in Oregon would stunt the state’s ability to compete on the national stage in the years ahead.

“We’re in this sort of painful moment right now,” says Walker, “but I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, we’re going to be better off for it.”

Walker and other growers hope selling across state lines will someday become legal.

Every farmer, wholesaler, dispensary owner and economist WW talked to for this story said that if interstate weed sales became legal, Oregon’s oversupply problem would go away.

Under the current presidential administration, that might seem a long shot. But legalization is sweeping the country, Donald Trump is signaling a looser approach, and experts say Oregon will benefit when the feds stop fighting.

“The thing about Oregon is that it is known for its cannabis, in a similar way to Oregon pinot noir,” Whitney says. “For those who are able to survive, they are positioned extremely well not only to survive in the Oregon market but also to take advantage of a larger market – assuming things open up on a federal level.”

Source: How do you move mountains of unwanted weed? | Cannabis | The Guardian May 2018

SEPARATING MARIJUANA FACT FROM FICTION IN NEW YORK RESPONSE TO THE “ASSESSMENT OF THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF REGULATED MARIJUANA IN NEW YORK STATE”

AUGUST 2018

Executive Summary
Recently, New York State (NYS) released what they claimed to be “an extensive assessment of current research and literature to evaluate the cost-risk benefit of legalizing the recreational adult use of marijuana.”
The overall conclusion of this assessment was that marijuana poses little public health risk and should be considered for legalization. But a closer look finds several flaws in the report that questions its purpose and conclusions. Unfortunately, it appears that the conclusion of the NYS report was written before the data were analyzed. The legalization of recreational marijuana is presented in the introduction as a fait accompli: “It has become less a question of whether to legalize but how to do so responsibly.” Much of the report discusses how to decrease the dangers of legal recreational marijuana. The best way to lessen the danger is to keep it from being commercialized, normalized, promoted – and legalized.
The report conflates the issues of medical marijuana and commercial sales of recreational marijuana. The potential medical benefits of medical cannabis are already available in New York. Adding indiscriminate recreational use does not increase any health benefit to New Yorkers.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is advised by a scientific advisory board of researchers from institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins. SAM believes in the need for rational, well-informed public policy – legislation that maximizes public health benefits and minimizes harms.
This state-issued report reads more like a marijuana lobbyist’s manifesto, as we found no credible opposing evidence cited.
Based on our findings, the reference to unlisted “subject-matter experts” that the report apparently relied on, and the fact that state medical groups like the New York Society for Addiction Medicine (NYSAM) were not consulted with, we are formally requesting that the state of New York publicly disclose all sources that were consulted and those that contributed to creation of the document. We believe that National Institute of Health (NIH) scientists, NYSAM physicians, and other experts should have the chance to review these findings.
Below are the top claims from the report and rebuttals.

CLAIM: “A 2017 Marist Poll showed that 52 percent of Americans 18 years of age or older have tried marijuana at some point in their lives, and 44 percent of these individuals currently use it.”
CORRECTION:
The best usage data are not found in polls, but rather scientific studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data, 10.58% of Americans 12 or older and 10.84% of New York State residents reported being current users and 44% of Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their life (NSDUH, 2016).

CLAIM: “In 1999 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a base of evidence to support the benefits of marijuana for medical purposes.”
CORRECTION:
This report is supposed to be about non-medical marijuana. We should not conflate the two issues. Still, there have been several reviews since this was published almost twenty years ago. The 1999 IOM report stated: “Because of the health risks associated with smoking, smoked marijuana should generally not be recommended for long-term medical use” and called for a “heavier investment in research.”
Released at the beginning of 2017, the most recent National Academy of Sciences report said: “Despite increased cannabis use and a changing state-level policy landscape, conclusive evidence regarding the short- and long-term health effects—both harms and benefits—of cannabis use remains elusive.” The July 24, 2018 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that “Americans’ view of marijuana use is more favorable than existing evidence supports.”
Again, this NYS report recommended recreational legalization, and we should separate the issue of the possible therapeutic benefits from this study.

CLAIM: “Most women who use marijuana stop or reduce their use during pregnancy.”
CORRECTION:
Dr. Nora Volkow, NIH’s drug abuse director, published a report last year in response to an alarming trend being seen across the country of increased cannabis use during pregnancy and warned of the detrimental health risks of in utero cannabis exposure (Volkow et al., 2017).
Even more alarming is a recent study that was not included in this report where researchers found nearly 70% of 400 Colorado dispensaries surveyed in a scientific, undercover study were recommending cannabis products to mothers experiencing morning-sickness in the first trimester (Dickson et al., 2018).
A clinically-controlled study published this year found that mothers vulnerable to mental illness who smoked during pregnancy put their child at higher risk to develop significantly more psychotic symptoms earlier in life compared to mothers who didn’t smoke marijuana, but had similar vulnerabilities (Bolhuis et al., 2018).

CLAIM: “Data from multiple sources indicate that legalization in Colorado had no substantive impact on youth marijuana use.”
CORRECTION:
Despite widely publicized reports by the state of Colorado, pro-legalization lobbyists, and others with revenue-producing interests; reliable data sources say otherwise. According to NSDUH state estimates, Colorado now leads the nation in the percentage of 12- to 17-year olds who have tried marijuana for the first time (NSDUH, State Estimates, 2017). In adolescents and adults, Colorado is well above the national average.
All state-collected data related to adolescent substance use is done via the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey – a state sponsored assessment to replace all other national and state surveys administered in school. Until 2017, these data have not met the CDC’s standard qualifications for sampling methodology since 2011 – the year before recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado. The 2015 HKCS has been widely criticized for misrepresenting and promoting misleading messages surrounding adolescent drug use (Murray, 2016).

As a result of questionable reports publicized by the state of Colorado and pro-legalization activists, local investigative journalists at the Denver Post interviewed numerous law enforcement officers, educators and advocates; in addition to analyzing databases. They ultimately concluded that state-produced data appears to be unreliable (Migoya, 2017). “Records do not account for many young offenders who either are not reported to police, are not ticketed because police say there’s too little to cite or have infractions that are not tabulated because of programs designed to protect minors from blemished records.”

CLAIM: “There has been no increase in violent crime or property crime rates around medical marijuana dispensaries.”
CORRECTION:
The relationship between marijuana establishments and crime is mixed at best. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the density of marijuana dispensaries was linked to increased property crimes in nearby areas (Freisthler, et al., 2017). Colorado Public Radio reported similar findings – particularly in Denver and Pueblo – and noted the visible association with increased gang violence seen in both cities likely due to a high density of dispensaries and illegal activity, including the black market (Markus, 2017).

CLAIM: “Marijuana is an effective treatment for pain, greatly reduces the chance of dependence, and eliminates the risk of fatal overdose compared to most opioid-based medications.”

CORRECTION:
This is inaccurate and is confounding medical and recreational use. This statement was based on a survey that 17 medical marijuana patients took while being prescribed opioids. Self-report data can be useful but have no value in informing serious public health risks. Several recent and widely-circulated studies show strong contradictory evidence to this claim.
Researchers found that patients reporting marijuana use actually experienced more pain on average when admitted to the hospital following a traumatic injury than those that did not. Compared to non-users, they required more opioid medication to cope with the pain and consistently rated their pain higher during the duration of their stay (Salottolo et al., 2018).
A 4-year prospective study in the highly respected Lancet journal followed medical marijuana patients with a dual opioid prescription and found that marijuana use did not reduce opioid use or prescribing. Users reported greater pain severity and more day-to-day interference than those that did not use marijuana (Campbell et al., 2018).

CLAIM: “Regulated marijuana introduces an opportunity to reduce harm for consumers through labeling.”
CORRECTION:
Non-FDA approved commercially-produced products have received only minimal regulatory attention. Recent studies have shown rampant mislabeling of the active cannabinoid ingredients in concentrates and edibles (Peace et al., 2016).
The FDA has published warning letters on the severe mislabeling of commercial products consistently seen on the market since 2015 (FDA, 2015-17). This claim was cited from the Drug Policy Alliance website. The DPA and its affiliates have directly funded campaigns to legalize all forms of marijuana including edible products throughout the US. They also call for the legalization of all drugs. This is not a credible source.

CLAIM: “The status quo (i.e., criminalization of marijuana) has not curbed marijuana use.”

CORRECTION:
Non-public, personal use of Marijuana is not criminalized in NYS nor are possession of small amounts for personal amounts – often a reason for imprisonment. In 2016 23.5% Americans reported using legal drugs compared to 10.6% using illegal ones – signaling that the law matters in preventing drug use (NSDUH, 2016). In 2017 in New York State, marijuana made up 0.003% of non youthful-offender felony sentences to prison. There were no youthful offender felony marijuana sentences for prison. Misdemeanor marijuana arrests made up 8.5% of all state
misdemeanor arrests (NY State Division of Criminal Services, 2018). The recent rush to legalization across the country has pushed marijuana to the number one spot for recent first-time drug users aged 12 or older in 2016 compared to any other illicit drug (NSDUH, 2016).

CLAIM: “Legalizing marijuana results in a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids.”
CORRECTION:
This claim is inaccurately attributed to the report Global Drug Survey which indicates that countries that decriminalize marijuana have lower rates of synthetic marijuana use. The claim cannot be found in that reference. And, even if there is an association between decreased synthetic use and decriminalized marijuana, it does not follow that legalizing marijuana will cause a reduction in synthetic use. We emailed Professor Adam R Winstock, Founder & CEO of the Global Drug Survey, to ask his opinion. He replied, ”It’s not clear cut,” indicating uncertainty. There is not much data on decreased synthetic use in countries with decriminalization (Zucker doesn’t even say “countries with legalization” which is actually the issue at hand because only Uruguay would fall into that category).

CLAIM: “The over-prosecution of marijuana has had significant negative economic, health, and safety impacts that have disproportionately affected low-income communities of color.”
CORRECTION:
Marijuana does not need to be legalized to address valid social justice concerns. Although overall drug-related offenses have decreased in states that have legalized; minorities have still disproportionately been targeted for the arrests that do still occur. Such as in 2014, two years after legalization in Colorado, the marijuana arrest rates for African‐ Americans (348 per 100,000) was almost triple that of Whites (123 per 100,000) (Co. Dept. of Public of Safety, 2016).
Colorado has seen an increase in crime in regions that attract recreational users. Although the rise in crime cannot be attributed to legalization of marijuana alone, much of the violence has been attributed to increased gang violence where dispensaries are densest (Markus, 2017). Current drug policies can be changed without legalization.

CLAIM: “The negative health consequences of marijuana have been found to be lower than alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs including heroin and cocaine.”

CORRECTION:
This statement is questionable because it was based on a theoretical model that estimated human consumption averages for each substance and calculated a risk ratio using lethal doses reported in animal studies. Basic research is necessary for understanding the biology underlying addiction; however, the transferability of dosing schedules between species has not been conclusively established. Much of the reason alcohol and tobacco exert more costs to society than many illegal drugs is because those two drugs are legalized and commercialized. As Dr. Nora Volkow, head of NIH’s drug abuse institute stated, “Repeated marijuana use during adolescence may result in long-lasting changes in brain function that can jeopardize educational, professional, and social achievements.
“However, the effects of a drug (legal or illegal) on individual health are determined not only by its pharmacologic properties but also by its availability and social acceptability.” “In this respect, legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) offer a sobering perspective, accounting for the greatest burden of disease associated with drugs not because they are more dangerous than illegal drugs but because their legal status allows for more widespread exposure.”

CLAIM: “The impact of legalization in surrounding states has accelerated the need for NYS to address legalization.”
CORRECTION:
This statement reads as if two wrongs somehow make a right. NYS should not be forced into legalizing marijuana because other states are considering it (several surrounding states, it should be noted, have considered and then defeated proposals to legalize marijuana). Even if a surrounding state or two legalizes marijuana, NYS can stand out as the state promoting health, well-being, family-centered tourism – not more drug use.
This statement totally ignores newer polls such as the 2018 Emerson College poll that found that the majority of New Yorkers do not support the legalization of marijuana. A plurality support either decriminalization or the current policy.
“The poll — conducted by the same college that recently conducted a poll for pro-marijuana groups Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) — reported that 56% of respondents did not favor legalizing the recreational sales of marijuana.”

REFERENCES
Bolhuis, K., Kushner, S. A., Yalniz, S., Hillegers, M. H., Jaddoe, V. W., Tiemeier, H., & El Marroun, H. (2018). Maternal and paternal cannabis use during pregnancy and the risk of psychotic-like experiences in the offspring. Schizophrenia research.

Campbell, G., Hall, W. D., Peacock, A., Lintzeris, N., Bruno, R., Larance, B., … & Blyth, F. (2018). Effect of cannabis use in people with chronic non-cancer pain prescribed opioids: findings from a 4-year prospective cohort study. The Lancet Public Health, 3(7), e341-e350.

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2017). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

Commissioner, O. O. (n.d.). Public Health Focus – Warning Letters and Test Results for Cannabidiol-Related Products. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm484109.htm

Colorado Dept. Public Safety. (2016, March). Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings. Retrieved from https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2016-SB13-283-Rpt.pdf

Copyright © 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved. (2017, November 08). Retrieved from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Activities/PublicHealth/MarijuanaHealthEffects.aspx

Dickson, B., Mansfield, C., Guiahi, M., Allshouse, A. A., Borgelt, L., Sheeder, J., … & Metz, T. D. (2018). 931: Recommendations from cannabis dispensaries on first trimester marijuana use. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 218(1), S551.

Emerson College. (2018, June). June 2018 Public Opinion Survey of New York Registered Voters Attitudes on Marijuana Policy. Retrieved from https://learnaboutsam.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/nyspoll-1.pdf Commissioned by Smart Approaches to Marijuana

Freisthler, B., Ponicki, W. R., Gaidus, A., & Gruenewald, P. J. (2016). A micro‐temporal geospatial analysis of medical marijuana dispensaries and crime in Long Beach, California. Addiction, 111(6), 1027-1035.

Green, M. C. (2018, June). Criminal Justice Case Processing Arrest through Disposition New York State January – December 2017. Retrieved from http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dar/DAR-4Q-2017-NewYorkState.pdf

Keyhani, S., Steigerwald, S., Ishida, J., Vali, M., Cerdá, M., Hasin, D., . . . Cohen, B. E. (2018). Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use. Annals of Internal Medicine. doi:10.7326/m18-0810

Markus, B. (2017, July 31). A Dive Into Colorado Crime Data In 5 Charts. Retrieved from http://www.cpr.org/news/story/a-dive-into-colorado-crime-data-in-5-charts

Migoya, D. (2017, December 22). Police across Colorado questioning whether youths are using marijuana less. Retrieved from https://www.denverpost.com/2017/12/22/police-across-colorado-questioning-youth-marijuana-use/

Murray, D. W. (2016, July 2). Misrepresenting Colorado Marijuana – by David W. Murray. Retrieved from https://www.hudson.org/research/12615-misrepresenting-colorado-marijuana

National Families in Action. (n.d.). Colorado | The Marijuana Report.org. Retrieved from http://themarijuanareport.org/colorado/.

Peace, M. R., Butler, K. E., Wolf, C. E., Poklis, J. L., & Poklis, A. (2016). Evaluation of two commercially available cannabidiol formulations for use in electronic cigarettes. Frontiers in pharmacology, 7, 279.

Salottolo, K., Peck, L., Tanner II, A., Carrick, M. M., Madayag, R., McGuire, E., & Bar-Or, D. (2018). The grass is not always greener: a multi-institutional pilot study of marijuana use and acute pain management following traumatic injury. Patient Safety in Surgery, 12(1), 16.

Volkow, N. D., Compton, W. M., & Wargo, E. M. (2017). The risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Jama, 317(2), 129-130.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization who want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. SAM was co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former Obama Administration senior drug policy advisor, Dr. Kevin Sabet. SAM has affiliates in more than 30 states.

Source: NY-Rebuttal-Absolute-Final.pdf (learnaboutsam.org) August 2018

America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history.

The information comes from a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States — from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city. The data provides an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths from 2006 through 2012.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by WAPO. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

[Top takeaways from The Post’s analysis of the DEA database]

Purdue Pharma, which the plaintiffs allege sparked the epidemic in the 1990s with its introduction of OxyContin, its version of oxycodone, was ranked fourth among manufacturers with about 3 percent of the market.

The volume of the pills handled by the companies skyrocketed as the epidemic surged, increasing about 51 percent from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. By contrast, doses of morphine, a well-known treatment for severe pain, averaged slightly more than 500 million a year during the period.

Those 10 companies along with about a dozen others are now being sued in federal court in Cleveland by nearly 2,000 cities, towns and counties alleging that they conspired to flood the nation with opioids. The companies, in turn, have blamed the epidemic on overprescribing by doctors and pharmacies and on customers who abused the drugs. The companies say they were working to supply the needs of patients with legitimate prescriptions desperate for pain relief.

The database reveals what each company knew about the number of pills it was shipping and dispensing and precisely when they were aware of those volumes, year by year, town by town. In case after case, the companies allowed the drugs to reach the streets of communities large and small, despite persistent red flags that those pills were being sold in apparent violation of federal law and diverted to the black market, according to the lawsuits.

Plaintiffs have long accused drug manufacturers and wholesalers of fueling the opioid epidemic by producing and distributing billions of pain pills while making billions of dollars. The companies have paid more than $1 billion in fines to the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration over opioid-related issues, and hundreds of millions more to settle state lawsuits.  But the previous cases addressed only a portion of the problem, never allowing the public to see the size and scope of the behavior underlying the epidemic. Monetary settlements by the companies were accompanied by agreements that kept such information hidden.

The drug companies, along with the DEA and the Justice Department, have fought furiously against the public release of the database, the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System, known as ARCOS. The companies argued that the release of the “transactional data” could give competitors an unfair advantage in the marketplace. The Justice Department argued that the release of the information could compromise ongoing DEA investigations. Until now, the litigation has proceeded in unusual secrecy. Many filings and exhibits in the case have been sealed under a judicial protective order. The secrecy finally lifted after The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, waged a year-long legal battle for access to documents and data from the case.

On Monday evening, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster removed the protective order for part of the ARCOS database. Lawyers for the local governments suing the companies hailed the release of the data. “The data provides statistical insights that help pinpoint the origins and spread of the opioid epidemic — an epidemic that thousands of communities across the country argue was both sparked and inflamed by opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies,” said Paul T. Farrell Jr. of West Virginia, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

In statements emailed to The Post on Tuesday, the drug distributors stressed that the ARCOS data would not exist unless they had accurately reported shipments and questioned why the government had not done more to address the crisis. “For decades, DEA has had exclusive access to this data, which can identify the total volumes of controlled substances being ordered, pharmacy-by-pharmacy, across the country,” McKesson spokeswoman Kristin Chasen said. A DEA spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday “due to ongoing litigation.”

Cardinal Health said that it has learned from its experience, increasing training and doing a better job to “spot, stop and report suspicious orders,” company spokeswoman Brandi Martin wrote.

AmerisourceBergen derided the release of the ARCOS data, saying it “offers a very misleading picture” of the problem. The company said its internal “controls played an important role in enabling us to, as best we could, walk the tight rope of creating appropriate access to FDA approved medications while combating prescription drug diversion.”

While Walgreens still dispenses opioids, the company said it has not distributed prescription-controlled substances to its stores since 2014. “Walgreens has been an industry leader in combatting this crisis in the communities where our pharmacists live and work, ” said Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesman.

Mike DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, said the plaintiffs’ allegations about the company have no merit and CVS is aggressively defending against them. Walmart, Purdue and Endo declined to comment about the ARCOS database.  A Mallinckrodt spokesman said in a statement that the company produced opioids only within a government-controlled quota and sold only to DEA-approved distributors.Actavis Pharma was acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in 2016, and a spokeswoman there said  the company “cannot speak to any systems in place beforehand.”

A virtual road map  –  The Post has been trying to gain access to the ARCOS database since 2016, when the news organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DEA. The agency denied the request, saying some of the data was available on its website. But that data did not contain the transactional information the companies are required to report to the DEA every time they sell a controlled substance such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

 

The drug companies and pharmacies themselves provided the sales data to the DEA. Company officials have testified before Congress that they bear no responsibility for the nation’s opioid epidemic. The numbers of pills the companies sold during the seven-year time frame are staggering, far exceeding what has been previously disclosed in limited court filings and news stories. Three companies distributed nearly half of the pills: McKesson with 14.1 billion, Walgreens with 12.6 billion and Cardinal Health with 10.7 billion. The leading manufacturer was Mallinckrodt’s SpecGx with nearly 28.9 billion pills, or nearly 38 percent of the market.

The states that received the highest concentrations of pills per person per year were: West Virginia with 66.5, Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7. West Virginia also had the highest opioid death rate during this period. Rural areas were hit particularly hard: Norton, Va., with 306 pills per person; Martinsville, Va., with 242;  Mingo County, W.Va., with 203; and Perry County, Ky., with 175.   In that time, the companies distributed enough pills to supply every adult and child in the country with 36 each year.

The database is a virtual road map to the nation’s opioid epidemic that began with prescription pills, spawned increased heroin use and resulted in the current fentanyl crisis, which added more than 67,000 to the death toll from 2013 to 2017. The transactional data kept by ARCOS is highly detailed. It includes the name, DEA registration number, address and business activity of every seller and buyer of a controlled substance in the United States. The database also includes drug codes, transaction dates, and total dosage units and grams of narcotics sold. The data tracks a dozen different opioids, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, which make up three-quarters of the total pill shipments to pharmacies.

Under federal law, drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies must report each transaction of a narcotic to the DEA, where it is logged into the ARCOS database. If company officials notice orders of drugs that appear to be suspicious because of their unusual size or frequency, they must report those sales to the DEA and hold back the shipments. As more and more towns and cities became inundated by pain pills, they fought back. They filed federal lawsuits against the drug industry, alleging that opioids from the companies were devastating their communities. They alleged the companies not only failed to report suspicious orders, but they also filled those orders to maximize profits. As the hundreds of lawsuits began to pile up, they were consolidated into the one centralized case in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The opioid litigation is now larger in scope than the tobacco litigation of the 1980s, which resulted in a $246 billion settlement over 25 years.

Judge Polster is now overseeing the consolidated case of nearly 2,000 lawsuits. The case is among a wave of actions that includes other lawsuits filed by more than 40 state attorneys general and tribal nations. In May, Purdue settled with the Oklahoma attorney general for $270 million. In the Cleveland case, Polster has been pressing the drug companies and the plaintiffs to reach a global settlement so communities can start receiving financial assistance to mitigate the damage that has been done by the opioid epidemic.  To facilitate a settlement, Polster had permitted the drug companies and the towns and cities to review the ARCOS database under a protective order while barring public access to the material. He also permitted some court filings to be made under seal and excluded the public and press from a global settlement conference at the outset of the case. Last June, The Post and the Charleston Gazette-Mail asked Polster to lift the protective order covering the ARCOS database and the court filings. A month later, Polster denied the requests, even though he had said earlier that “the vast oversupply of opioid drugs in the United States has caused a plague on its citizens” and the ARCOS database reveals “how and where the virus grew.” He also said disclosure of the ARCOS data “is a reasonable step toward defeating the disease.”

 Lawyers for The Post and the Gazette-Mail appealed Polster’s ruling. They argued that the ­ARCOS material would not harm companies or investigations because the judge had already decided to allow the local government plaintiffs to collect information from 2006 through 2014, withholding the most recent years beginning with 2015 from the lawsuit. “Access to the ARCOS Data can only enhance the public’s confidence that the epidemic and the ensuing litigation are being handled appropriately now — even if they might not have been handled appropriately earlier,” The Post’s lawyer, Karen C. Lefton, wrote in her Jan. 17 appeal. The lawyers also noted the DEA did not object when the West Virginia attorney general’s office provided partial ARCOS data to the Gazette-Mail in 2016. That data showed that drug distribution companies shipped 780 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone into the state between 2007 and 2012.

On June 20, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio sided with the news organizations. A three-judge panel reversed Polster, ruling that the protective order sealing the ARCOS database be lifted with reasonable redactions and directed the judge to reconsider whether any of the records in the case should be sealed.  On Monday, Polster lifted the protective order on the database, ruling that all the data from 2006 through 2012 should be released to the public, withholding the 2013 and 2014 data.

‘Prescription tourists’  –  The pain pill epidemic began nearly three decades ago, shortly after Purdue Pharma introduced what it marketed as a less addictive form of opioid it called OxyContin. Purdue paid doctors and nonprofit groups advocating for patients in pain to help market the drug as a safe and effective way to treat pain. But the new drug was highly addictive. As more and more people were hooked, more and more companies entered the market, manufacturing, distributing and dispensing massive quantities of pain pills. Purdue ending up paying a $634 million fine to the Food and Drug Administration for claiming OxyContin was less addictive than other pain medications.

 

Annual opioid sales nationwide rose from $6.1 billion in 2006 to $8.5 billion in 2012, according to industry data gathered by IQVIA, a health care information and consulting company. Individual drug company revenues ranged in single years at the epidemic’s peak from $403 million for opioids sold by Endo to $3.1 billion in OxyContin sales by Purdue Pharma, according to a 2018 lawsuit against multiple defendants by San Juan County in New Mexico.

During the past two decades, Florida became ground zero for pill mills — pain management clinics that served as fronts for corrupt doctors and drug dealers. They became so brazen that some clinics set up storefronts along I-75 and I-95, advertising their products on billboards by interstate exit ramps. So many people traveled to Florida to stock up on oxycodone and hydrocodone, they were sometimes referred to as “prescription tourists.”  The route from Florida to Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio became known as the “Blue Highway.” It was named after the color of one of the most popular pills on the street — 30 mg oxycodone tablets made by Mallinckrodt, which shipped more than 500 million of the pills to Florida between 2008 and 2012.

 When state troopers began pulling over and arresting out-of-state drivers for transporting narcotics, drug dealers took to the air. One airline offered nonstop flights to Florida from Ohio and other Appalachian states, and the route became known as the Oxy Express.

A decade ago, the DEA began cracking down on the industry. In 2005 and 2006, the agency sent letters to drug distributors, warning them that they were required to report suspicious orders of painkillers and halt sales until the red flags could be resolved. The letter also went to drug manufacturers. Even just one distributor that fails to follow the law “can cause enormous harm,” the 2006 DEA letter said. DEA officials said the companies paid little attention to the warnings and kept shipping millions of pills in the face of suspicious circumstances.  As part of its crackdown, the DEA brought a series of civil enforcement cases against the largest distributors.

The corporations to date have paid nearly $500 million in fines to the Justice Department for failing to report and prevent suspicious drug orders, a number that is dwarfed by the revenue of the companies.

But the settlements of those cases revealed only limited details about the volume of pills that were being shipped.

In 2007, the DEA brought a case against McKesson. The DEA accused the company of shipping millions of doses of hydrocodone to Internet pharmacies after the agency had briefed the company about its obligations under the law to report suspicious orders. “By failing to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that it received from rogue Internet pharmacies, the McKesson Corporation fueled the explosive prescription drug abuse problem we have in this country,” the DEA’s administrator said at the time.  In 2008, McKesson agreed to pay a $13.25 million fine to settle the case and pledged to more closely monitor suspicious orders from its customers.

That same year, the DEA brought a case against Cardinal Health, accusing the nation’s ­second-largest drug distributor of shipping millions of doses of painkillers to online and retail pharmacies without notifying the DEA of signs that the drugs were being diverted to the black market. Cardinal settled the case by paying a $34 million fine and promising to improve its suspicious monitoring program.

Some companies were repeat offenders.  In 2012, the DEA began investigating McKesson again, this time for shipping suspiciously large orders of narcotics to pharmacies in Colorado. One store in Brighton, Colo., population 38,000, was ordering 2,000 pain pills per day. The DEA discovered that McKesson had filled 1.6 million orders from its Aurora, Colo., warehouse between 2008 and 2013 and reported just 16 as suspicious. None involved the Colorado store. DEA agents and investigators said they had amassed enough information to file criminal charges against McKesson and its officers but they were overruled by federal prosecutors. The company wound up paying a $150 million fine to settle, a record amount for a diversion case.

Also in 2012, Cardinal Health attracted renewed attention from the DEA when it discovered that the company was again shipping unusually large amounts of painkillers to its Florida customers. The company had sold 12 million oxycodone pills to four pharmacies over four years. In 2011, Cardinal shipped 2 million doses to a pharmacy in Fort Myers, Fla. Comparable pharmacies in Florida typically ordered 65,000 doses per year.  The DEA also noticed that Cardinal was shipping unusually large amounts of oxycodone to a pair of CVS stores near Sanford, Fla. Between 2008 and 2011, Cardinal sold 2.2 million pills to one of the stores. In 2010, that store purchased 885,900 doses — a 748 percent increase over the previous year. Cardinal did not report any of those sales as suspicious. Cardinal later paid a $34 million fine to settle the case. The DEA suspended the company from selling narcotics from its warehouse in Lakeland, Fla. CVS paid a $22 million fine.  As the companies paid fines and promised to do a better job of stopping suspicious orders, they continued to manufacture, ship and dispense large amounts of pills, according to the newly released data. “The depth and penetration of the opioid epidemic becomes readily apparent from the data,” said Peter J. Mougey, a lawyer for the plaintiffs from Pensacola, Fla. “This disclosure will serve as a wake up call to every community in the country. America should brace itself for the harsh reality of the scope of the opioid epidemic. Transparency will lead to accountability.”

Aaron Williams, Andrew Ba Tran, Jenn Abelson, Aaron C. Davis and Christopher Rowland contributed to this report.

Scott Higham is a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter at WAPO; has worked on Metro, National and Foreign projects since 2000.

Sari Horwitz is a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter who covers DOJ, law enforcement &  criminal justice issues for WAPO, where she has been a reporter for 34 years.

Steven Rich is the database editor for investigations at WAPO; has worked on investigations involving the NSA,, police shootings, tax liens & civil forfeiture; reporter on two teams to win Pulitzer Prizes, for public service in 2014 and national reporting in 2016.

Source:   https://www.washingtonpost.com  Feb. 4th 2019

 

When Californians voted in 2016 to allow the sale of recreational marijuana, advocates of the move envisioned thousands of pot shops and cannabis farms obtaining state licenses, making the drug easily available to all adults within a short drive.

But as the first year of licensed sales comes to a close, California’s legal market hasn’t performed as state officials and the cannabis industry had hoped. Retailers and growers say they’ve been stunted by complex regulations, high taxes and decisions by most cities to ban cannabis shops. At the same time, many residents are going to city halls and courts to fight pot businesses they see as nuisances, and police chiefs are raising concerns about crime triggered by the marijuana trade.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who played a large role in the legalization of cannabis, will inherit the numerous challenges when he takes office in January as legislators hope to send him a raft of bills next year to provide banking for the pot industry, ease the tax burden on retailers and crack down on sales to minors.

Hundreds of new California laws take effect Jan. 1. How will they affect you? »

“The cannabis industry is being choked by California’s penchant for over-regulation,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a pro-legalization group. “It’s impossible to solve all of the problems without a drastic rewrite of the law, which is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.”

After voters legalized marijuana two years ago under Proposition 64, state officials estimated in there would be as many as 6,000 cannabis shops licensed in the first few years. But the state Bureau of Cannabis Control has issued just 547 temporary and annual licenses to marijuana retail stores and dispensaries. Some 1,790 stores and dispensaries were paying taxes on medicinal pot sales before licenses were required starting Jan. 1.

(Los Angeles Times)

State officials also predicted that legal cannabis would eventually bring in up to $1 billion in revenue a year. But with many cities banning pot sales, tax revenue is falling far short of estimates. Based on taxes collected since Jan. 1, the state is expected to bring in $471 million in revenue this fiscal year — much less than the $630 million projected in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget.

“I think we all wish we could license more businesses, but our system is based on dual licensing and local control,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, referring to the requirement that cannabis businesses get permission from the state and the city in which they want to operate.

Less than 20% of cities in California — 89 of 482 — allow retail shops to sell cannabis for recreational use, according to the California Cannabis Industry Assn. Cities that allow cannabis sales include Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego.

Coverage of California politics »

Eighty-two of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities prohibit retail sales of recreational marijuana, according to Alexa Halloran, an attorney specializing in cannabis law for the firm Solomon, Saltsman & Jamieson. Pot shops are not allowed in cities including Burbank, Manhattan Beach, Alhambra, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Compton, Redondo Beach, El Monte, Rancho Palos Verdes and Calabasas.

“While some cities have jumped in headfirst, we’ve taken a deliberate approach,” said Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano, “to see how things shake out elsewhere before further consideration. I think that’s proven to be the smart approach.”

Voters have also been reluctant to allow cannabis stores in their communities.

Of the 64 California cities and counties that voted on cannabis ballot measures in the November midterm election, eight banned the sale of cannabis or turned down taxation measures, seven allowed sales and 49 approved taxes on pot businesses, said Hilary Bricken, an attorney who represents the industry. Among them, voters in Malibu approved pot shops while Simi Valley residents voted for an advisory measure against allowing retail sales.

Javier Montes, owner of Wilmington pot store Delta-9 THC, says he is struggling to compete with a large illicit market unburdened by the taxes he pays as a licensed business.

“Because we are up against high taxes and the proliferation of illegal shops, it is difficult right now,” Montes said. “We expected lines out of our doors, but unfortunately the underground market was already conducting commercial cannabis activity and are continuing to do so.”

Montes, who received his city and state licenses in January, says his business faces a 15% state excise tax, a 10% recreational marijuana tax by the city of Los Angeles and 9.5% in sales tax by the county and state — a markup of more than 34%.

He says there isn’t enough enforcement against illegal operators, and the hard times have caused him to cut the number of employees at his shop in half this year from 24 to 12.

“It’s very hard whenever I have to lay people off, because they are like a family to me,” said Montes, who is vice president of the United Cannabis Business Assn., which represents firms including the about 170 cannabis retailers licensed by the city of Los Angeles.

DELTA-9 faces a 15% state excise tax, a 10% recreational cannabis tax by the city of Los Angeles and 9.5% in sales tax by the county and state, the shop owner says. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Sky Siegel, who operates a cannabis business in Studio City, said he recently gave up trying to open another store in Santa Monica because of its restrictions on such businesses.

“It turns into this ‘Hunger Games’ to try to get a license,” said Siegel, who is general manager of Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, which has a dozen employees in Studio City and also operates a delivery service.

He says his firm is up against thousands of unlicensed delivery services going into cities where storefronts are banned.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense” that many cities have prohibited shops, he said. “Banning does nothing. It’s already there. Why not turn this into a legitimized business, which is what the people want.”

Marijuana use is rising among pregnant patients. Not so fast, doctors warn »

California has also issued fewer cultivation licenses than expected in the first year of legalization, with about 2,160 growers registered with the state; an estimated 50,000 commercial cannabis cultivation operations existed before Proposition 64, according to the California Growers Assn. Some have given up growing pot, but many others are continuing to operate illegally.

The trade group hoped to see at least 5,000 commercial growers licensed in the first year, said Hezekiah Allen, the group’s former executive director who is now chairman of Emerald Grown, a cooperative of 130 licensed cultivators.

“We are lagging far behind,” Allen said. “It’s woefully inadequate. Most of the people in California who are buying cannabis are still buying it from the unregulated market. There just isn’t a reason for most growers to make the transition.”

 

Patrick McGreevy Dec 27, 2018

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Source:  http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-marijuana-year-anniversary-review-20181227-story.html

Abstract
Background—As an increasing number of states liberalize cannabis use and develop laws and local policies, it is essential to better understand the impacts of neighborhood ecology and marijuana dispensary density on marijuana use, abuse, and dependence. We investigated associations between marijuana abuse/dependence hospitalizations and community demographic and environmental conditions from 2001–2012 in California, as well as cross-sectional associations between local and adjacent marijuana dispensary densities and marijuana hospitalizations.

Source: Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 September 1; 154: 111–116. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.

 

(February 22, 2018 – Denver, CO) – The Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), along with Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), launched a new report today examining marijuana legalization in Colorado, joining Colorado Christian University and the Centennial Institute in an open press event. SAM honorary advisor, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, also delivered the report to Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran earlier today. MAC is an affiliate of SAM Action, SAM’s 501 c-4 organization, started by former Obama and Bush Administration advisors.

“We will continue to investigate, expose, challenge, and hold the marijuana industry accountable,” said Justin Luke Riley, founder of MAC. “We will not remain silent anymore as we see our state overtaken by special marijuana interests.”

 

The report also comes with a two-page report card synopsis giving Colorado an “F” on many key public health and safety indicators.

Future MAC initiatives include an effort to expose politicians taking marijuana industry money, and exposing the harms of 4/20 celebrations.

“I am increasingly concerned that legalized marijuana is wrecking our state. Communities across Colorado are suffering because of it, and it is absolutely necessary to continue to give voice to the people, families and communities being harmed. I’m glad MAC has stepped up to be that voice,”  said Frank McNulty, former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the U.S. State of Colorado.

The new report card discussed the following impacts in the state:

  • Colorado currently holds the top ranking for first-time marijuana use among youth, representing a 65% increase in the years since legalization (NSDUH, 2006-2016). Young adult use (youth aged 18-25) in Colorado is rapidly increasing (NSDUH, 2006-2016).
  • Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased (Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment [CDPHE], 2017).
  • Colorado marijuana arrests for young African-American and Hispanic youth have increased since legalization (Colorado Department of Public Safety [CDPS], 2016).
  • The gallons of alcohol consumed in Colorado since marijuana legalization has increased by 8% (Colorado Department of Revenue [CDR], Colorado Liquor Excise Tax, 2017).
  • In Colorado, calls to poison control centers have risen 210% between the four-year averages before and after recreational legalization (Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center [RMPCD], 2017 and Wang, et al., 2017).

“As a university we are entrusted to help shape and guide the minds of younger generations. Marijuana has been proven to be harmful to the developing brains of young people. We should not live in a state where marijuana companies have a financial interest in hooking as many people as they can on this dangerous drug,” said Jeff Hunt, Vice President of Public Policy, Colorado Christian University
Director, Centennial Institute.

“The promotion of marijuana use may be part of the driving force behind the negative societal effects Colorado has been seeing for the past several years which annually continues to worsen and include increased prevalence in overall and teen suicides,” said Dr. Kenneth Finn, a physician Board Certified in Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Pain Management in Colorado.

“Isn’t it sad to think about how we are more concerned with how many plants we are legally entitled to grow, rather than how this drug is devastating the growth and potential of MY generation, and generations to come? We are growing plants, yet stunting growth. And I’m sick of it. I am craving cultural redemption and a redefined identity,” said Courtney Reiner, Student at Colorado Christian University.

“My family, my community, and my state have not benefited from the legalization of marijuana. The costs and harms outweigh any tax revenue. Our state has developed a deep drug bias where the negative effects of marijuana are minimized,” said Aubree Adams, who is also part of a group of mothers called Moms Strong.

Other data highlighted in the report include:

  • In Colorado, the annual rate of marijuana-related emergency room visits increased 35% between the years 2011 and 2015 (CDPHE, 2017).
  • Narcotics officers in Colorado have been busy responding to the 50% increase in illegal grow operations across rural areas in the state (Stewart, 2017).
    • In 2016 alone, Colorado law enforcement confiscated 7,116 pounds of marijuana, carried out 252 felony arrests, and made 346 highway interdictions of marijuana headed to 36 different U.S. states (RMHIDTA, 2017).
  • The U.S. mail system has also been affected by the black market, seeing an 844% increase in marijuana seizures (RMHIDTA, 2017).
  • The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization (Mitchell, 2017), with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes (Colorado Bureau of Investigation [CBI], 2017).
    • The Boulder Police Department reported a 54% increase in public consumption of marijuana citations since legalization (Boulder Police Department [BPD], 2017).
  • Marijuana urine test results in Colorado are now double the national average (Quest Diagnostics, 2016).
  • Insurance claims have become a growing concern among companies in legalized states (Hlavac & Easterly, 2016).
  • The number of drivers in Colorado intoxicated with marijuana and involved in fatal traffic crashes increased 88% from 2013 to 2015 (Migoya, 2017). Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% between the four-year averages before and after legalization (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], 2017).
    • Driving under the influence of drugs (DUIDs) have also risen in Colorado, with 76% of statewide DUIDs involving marijuana (Colorado State Patrol [CSP], 2017).
 

www.MarijuanaAccountability.CO

__________________________________________________________________

About SAM Action

SAM Action is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to promoting healthy marijuana policies that do not involve legalizing drugs. Learn more about SAM Action and its work at visit www.samaction.net.

www.samaction.net

 Big things are happening for the humble marijuana (or cannabis) plant. On July 21, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level with Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Booker released a statement on the bill on July 21, saying this can undo the damage done by the War on Drugs.

Meanwhile anti-legalization advocates like Kevin A. Sabet are doing all they can to prevent the bill from passing the Senate and becoming law.

However, regardless of the outcome, this bill is likely to change the discourse around cannabis for years to come.

State legalization and subsequent commercialization of marijuana has given the drug a glow up. The drug, once associated with potheads, illicit dealings, and pungent herbal smells is fast becoming a legal, family-friendly, trendy, and Instagram-worthy herbal medicine.

The expectation was that after legalization, marijuana would become more controlled and safe. The states that have made moves to legalize first medical marijuana, then recreational marijuana, however, observed increases in illicit dealings, hospital admission rates, and cannabis addiction and use.

Potency and concentration of cannabis and its derivatives, car crashes involving cannabis and abuse, and use in young people have also met new highs.

Marijuana is getting a foothold into medicine and households. It has been the most-consumed illicit drug globally and in the United States (pdf) for decades, though marijuana use is still far behind alcohol and tobacco.

The two words cannabis and marijuana are often used interchangeably, but there are differences in nuance. Cannabis generally refers to the entire cannabis plant, while marijuana refers to products made from cannabis such as dried leaves, or flowers. The word marijuana also implies that it is a cannabis product high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main constituent and the psychoactive derivative of cannabis.

Since legalization and commercialization, the THC content of cannabis products has been increasing. It has gone up from less than 2 percent (prior to the 1990s) to the current levels of 17 percent, and possibly even 30 percent as consumers seek bigger highs.

Gummi Bears are displayed in a glass jar on April 3, 2009 in San Francisco, California. Candy with marijuana in it has been handed out by mistake to fifth-grade children. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Recreational Marijuana: A Changed Product

Some parents’, grandparents’, and educators’ memory of recreational weed is that of its humbler eras of 2 to 4 percent THC. There is a mismatch in perception, as high-THC level products are being packaged into innocent-looking gummies, candies, vapes, drinks, and many more. Though these are only legal for adult consumption, younger people are using it more than ever. Teenagers and young adults, whose brains are still in development, are consuming marijuana at unprecedented potencies. Marijuana use is linked with mental disorders, and memory and cognitive decline, with younger people the most at risk.

To add the cherry on top, researchers such as psychiatrist and professor Dr. Deepak D’Souza from Yale University, believes the high potencies, longer periods of use, may make findings from studies in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s irrelevant to the current marijuana landscape.

“It’s the potency…the weed that’s available now [is] so different from what it was in the 1960s,” D’Souza told The Epoch Times.

Back then, weed was less accessible, less potent, and most people used it sporadically. Today, marijuana is more accessible, easily obtained in both licensed and unlicensed stores, increasingly potent, with an increased demographic of people taking the drug in the long-term.

“Studies done in the past would suggest that only about one in 10 people would develop a cannabis use disorder (addiction to cannabis),” D’Souza said. “I think more recent studies … in the current landscape of marijuana would suggest that that number is actually a lot higher than we previously thought.”

An assortment of marijuana for sale at Catalyst Cannabis Dispensary in Santa Ana, Calif., on Feb. 18, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

How Marijuana Works

Marijuana acts on the endocannabinoid system that exists in the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers are not exactly sure how marijuana creates its euphoric effects, but studies suggest that it is the binding of THC to the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that creates euphoria. There are two endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 receptors are in the brain and CB2 receptors are in the spinal cord. THC and most cannabinoids can bind to both.

Apart from THC, there is also another common cannabinoid: cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD, the second most common cannabinoid, also interacts with the endocannabinoid system, though its actions are more complex. CBD, however, does not give users the high found in THC. CBD is generally the active ingredient in medicinal marijuana, and there are many studies linking the cannabinoid with therapeutic properties including pain and seizures.

Since the 1900s, the potency of THC in recreational marijuana has been increasing, while CBD percentage has decreased. One can find 99 percent THC oils being dispensed. Consumers can add this to their vapes, or for other forms of consumption.

Recreational Marijuana: The Young and Mental Health

Though the general advice for younger people is to stay off the drug until adulthood, D’Souza senses that an increasing number of younger people are using weed recreationally, often unaware of the exact implications of consumption.

“More and more young people … are using cannabis, and they are getting younger,” he said. “And they’re using more potent forms.”

He is not wrong. Cannabis use in young people is reaching record rates, increasing from 37 percent in 2014 to 43 percent in 2019. Teenagers of today are also more likely to consume marijuana than tobacco.

Many studies have suggested that cannabis, especially its THC component, may affect neurodevelopment in growing brains, as it disrupt processes in the brain. The brain only completes its full maturation at about the age of 25 to 26. Some studies suggest maturation may come even later than that. During adolescence, brains go through “pruning,” which is a process where necessary brain cells and connections are strengthened and the unnecessary neurons are removed.

“The process of pruning is important, it’s really important in preparing the brain for the demands of adulthood,” D’Souza said.

The endocannabinoid system is also important in neurodevelopment. In our bodies we produce two chemicals that can bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors.

“One is called anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word meaning bliss,” he said. “And the other is called 2-AG.”

When the endocannabinoid system is activated, these chemicals will be released and bind to the receptors.  The chemicals are specific. They act on a small targeted area and “produce the effects for just milliseconds before…they are inactivated.”

Researchers believe that the binding of these chemicals allows the brain to select what neurons will be strengthened and what neurons will be removed in neurodevelopment, according to D’Souza.

Whilst these two natural chemicals act for a very short, transient time, THC does not.

THC in the body can last for minutes to hours, smoked joints give a quick and strong burst in minutes but consumed THC in gummies and other food start slow and last for hours. THC is also non-selective and will bind to all the areas of the brain with these receptors, distorting the targeted communication in the brain.

“The scientific term we use is that THC produces effects that are … non physiological effects, and those … effects may have far reaching consequences.”

If the endocannabinoid system is, as researchers believe, “really important in directing … neurodevelopmental processes, you could imagine that when an adolescent whose brain is still maturing smokes cannabis, it may disrupt that process,” said D’Souza.

The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain in charge of critical thinking and decision making, is the last area to fully mature. Research suggests that the maturation in this area is what separates teenagers and young adults from fully matured adults.

Brain scans of drug abusers often show a decreased brain matter volume in the prefrontal cortex, suggesting increased in impulsivity and poor decision making.

Since younger people have immature prefrontal cortexes, this may be why early marijuana use increases risks of addiction and brain impairment. A study found 10.7 percent of teenagers between the age of 12 and 17 developed an addiction to cannabis within 12 months of use, and 20.1 percent developed addiction after 3 years.  For young adults aged 18 to 25, 6.4 percent developed addiction in a year, and 10.9 percent in three years.

Cannabis use is also linked to mental health disorders, especially in younger people, particularly those at risk of certain mental health disorders, including depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

Though it should be noted that not everyone who uses cannabis will develop mental health disorders and other health conditions, studies in younger people have linked the drug with various mental disorders including psychosisschizophrenia (some studies suggest a causal link)anxietyand depression. Some studies also link cannabis consumption with an exacerbation of present psychiatric symptoms. Schizophrenia has lifelong consequences and patients will need to be treated or monitored over their lifetime.

The majority of endocannabinoid receptors in the brain reside in the hippocampus, a seahorse structure deep in the brain important for memory formation and storage. Studies on long-term and short-term effects of cannabis have both found that cannabis affects learning and episodic memory.

Studies on adolescents have also found that cannabis use was associated with a reduced brain matter volume, a 2021 study found that it has been linked with brain aging, especially in the prefrontal cortex. Persistent use of cannabis in adolescence has also been associated with permanently reduced IQ by 5 to 13 points.

Topographical overlap between age-related thinning, cannabis effect, and cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor availability (courtesy of Dr. Matthew D. Albaugh and the Journal of the American Medical Association)

Though parenting plays a role in preventing teens from abusing cannabis and severe adverse effects, it can be hard for parents and educators to make the connection when their image of cannabis is mostly benign.

The industry is also trying to make cannabis appealing to the younger generations despite regulations prohibiting minor use.

D’Souza argued that the age limit that has been set is “disingenuous,” due to the investment in products that are enticing to pre-teens and teenagers.

“Companies are making gummy bears, gummy bears, I would hardly think that adults would be interested in gummy bears. That’s just a disingenuous way of marketing to young adults below the age,” D’Souza said.

“We really have done a poor job at educating the public.”

Marijuana is weighed at a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver, Feb. 5, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

Medical Cannabis: A Ticket to Becoming Recreational?

Studies shown that medicinal cannabis does have therapeutic effects against pain, chemo-therapy induced nausea and vomiting, and spasticity from multiple sclerosis.

There is also anecdotal evidence of the drug’s effects against seizures in neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy.

However, regulation of medicinal marijuana use varies drastically across different states.

Connecticut, for example, approves medicinal marijuana use for over 40 conditions including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, and many others. New York sets no limit on the number and type of conditions.

There are also states with strict laws; Wyoming only approved CBD-oils in 2015 and limited its use to seizures only.

Some studies also suggest benefits in Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and depression, but “for the overwhelming majority of those conditions, there is very little evidence to support the benefits of marijuana for these conditions, with some exceptions,” said D’Souza.

Studies also found that most (around 90 percent) people taking medical marijuana reported that it reduced their symptoms, and two-thirds of them used less prescription medicines.

For the medical marijuana users that report addiction, around 80 percent use recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana has helped people, but D’Souza argued that there are political motivations behind medicinal marijuana legalization. “Those who wanted to legalize marijuana realized and planned very early on that if they could get the public at large to accept medical marijuana, then it would be a very short step from there to make marijuana completely legal.”

“And that is exactly what is happening.”

Currently, 38 states have approved medical marijuana and 18 of these states also approved recreational marijuana use in adults.

The states first to approve marijuana medically were often also the first to approve it recreationally, with some exceptions:

Colorado and California were leaders in approving medical marijuana, doing so long before the movement for legalization gained momentum. Recreational approval only came after the movement gained momentum, thus these two states took 12 and 20 years respectively to legalize recreational marijuana. There are also states that were late to the overall medical marijuana program, but quickly approved recreational use, such as Massachusetts, and the district Washington DC. They legalized medical marijuana just ahead of the push for legal recreational marijuana use, and it took these two states only around 4 years to approve recreational marijuana.

Full legalization of cannabis often opened doors to commercialization. Each new policy further opened the doors for cannabis access, but these are not without health implications.

A study on youths from 2008 to 2016 in four states that legalized recreational cannabis (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon) found that cannabis addictions reported in teenagers 12 to 17 increased from 2.18 to 2.72 percent—a 25 percent increase.

Colorado: A Case Study

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000, and was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, before commercializing it in 2014.

Since its legalization, it saw increases in marijuana-involved traffic accidents, use and abuse in teenagers, hospital presentation from cannabis adverse effects, and poison center presentation for children and pets who unwittingly ingested cannabis from medicinal cabinets.

Hospitalizations for cannabis related adverse effects increased by 45 percent (pdf) between 2006 and 2008 (pre-commercialization of medical marijuana) to 2009 to 2012.

From Colorado’s post-commercialization period to 2013 to 2014 (legalization and commercialization period for recreational marijuana), hospitalizations for cannabis-related conditions increased by another 66 percent (pdf).

These hospitalizations do not come without repercussions, and hospitals are reporting financial losses from cannabis-related treatments. A study (pdf) examining one hospital in a municipality in Colorado found that from 2009 to 2014, hospitalizations from cannabis-related bills increased by 375 percent and emergency department (ED) submissions increased from 9 percent to 15.3 percent.

It should be noted that the municipality did not legalize cannabis under Amendment 64, however the hospital saw an increasing presentation to the ED for people experiencing adverse effects from marijuana, with the majority of hospitalizations mental health involved, including suicide ideation, depression, and so on.

From 2009 to 2014, the hospital incurred at least $20 million in losses from cannabis patients not paying their bills. Other studies examining hospital presentations in Colorado found that from 2000 to 2015, hospitalization rates with marijuana-related billing codes doubled from 274 in 2000 to 593 per 100,000 hospitalizations in 2015. ED visits from mental illness were five times higher for bills that had marijuana-related codes than bills without.

A study on poison center reports in Colorado found that child reports of cannabis ingestion doubled from 1.2 per 100 000 population in 2009 to 2.3 per 100,000 population in 2015, and half of these reports were from children ingesting cannabis-containing gummies, and brownies, both of which are appealing to children. Though arguably, the reports are less than crayon poisoning reports every year, however as legalization invariably increases marijuana exposures, poisoning from cannabis in children is only going to increase as the drug becomes increasingly socially acceptable.

Additionally, traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana also increased since legalization of recreational marijuana. Traffic deaths involving marijuana more than doubled from 55 people killed in 2013 to 115 in 2018. In 2019, there were 163 alcohol-impaired traffic deaths in Colorado.

Cannabis use in teenagers and young adults in Colorado have also mostly showed an increasing trend. In 2019, 15.5 percent of teenagers aged 15 and younger consumed cannabis in the past 30 days, compared to 15.4 percent in 2013. Teenagers aged 16 to 17, and 18 and older also saw general increases, reaching 24.4 and 27.5 percent respectively as compared to 22.5 and 25.3 percent in 2013.

D’Souza likened the popularity among the younger generation and commercialism of cannabis with tobacco and alcohol. “Even though alcohol is supposed to be sold only to people over the age of 21, it’s very easy for young people, adolescents to get their hands on alcohol, and likewise I would expect no different…with cannabis.”

Correction: A previous version of this article marked the 2009 to 2012 period as “(post-commercialization)” under the section Colorado: A Case Study. The terminology quoted from the report caused confusion and has since been removed. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012 and state-licensed retail sales, or commercialization, in 2014. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Epoch Health welcomes professional discussion and friendly debate. To submit an opinion piece, please follow these guidelines and submit through our form here.

Source: How Modern Marijuana Changes the Brain (theepochtimes.com)

BY HEALTH 1+1 AND MARINA ZHANG TIMEAUGUST 1, 2022

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today published new guidelines which are intended to support the safe prescribing and withdrawal of medicines that can cause dependence, including antidepressants, opioids, gabapentinoids and benzodiazepines.

There are several positive changes in this new guidance, including the need for doctors to offer alternatives to these drugs, as well as the requirement for a written management plan at the start of a prescription.

However, the guidelines fail to provide simple instructions for slow tapering, which is the most important intervention for safe withdrawal.  Currently many patients report being taken off their drugs too quickly, which can lead to devastating and long-lasting withdrawal symptoms.

This method of slow, ‘hyperbolic’ tapering (often over many months or longer) has been developed over many years based on the experience of thousands of patients, and is supported by several articles in medical journals.  And yet the new guidelines provide no information on how slowly to taper, how frequently to reduce and by how much. Without these details, doctors are unlikely to change their current practice.

NICE claims on its website that it takes ‘a comprehensive approach to assessing the best evidence that is available.’  However for these guidelines it has not done so.  The APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence wrote to the NICE committee as part of the guidelines consultation process to point out this failure to include this patient-developed evidence and to provide relevant links to published research.  

In response, the committee claimed that only ‘randomised controlled trials were prioritised’ and that our proposed evidence was not of ‘sufficient quality’ and as result ‘none of the suggested recommendations are relevant for inclusion’.

Yet NICE states on its website that acceptable evidence ‘can include qualitative and quantitative evidence, from the literature or submitted by stakeholders. It can also include observational data and testimonies from experts.’   

Danny Kruger, chair of the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence, said: ’It is very disappointing that these new guidelines fail to include the simple instructions for slow tapering which are desperately needed by doctors to support safe withdrawal from these drugs.  This is because important evidence developed with patient groups has been ignored, as it doesn’t meet NICE quality standards.  We will be urging NICE to reconsider both this evidence and their process to ensure that patient experience is properly represented in future.’

Source:  https://prescribeddrug.org/appg-for-prescribed-drug-dependence-press-release-new-nice-guidance-to-tackle-prescribed-drug-dependence-fails-to-listen-to-patient-evidence/

Date: April 2022

Medical marijuana in Florida was approved by Governor Rick Scott last month and now school districts statewide are struggling with one specific requirement of the legislation. Under the law, children with certain ailments can use cannabis while at school and the districts are obligated to make it available to students as needed.

While medical marijuana for children is legal in Florida, the schools are resistant to creating cannabis-use policy as the language used in the law is ambiguous and inconsistent. The law requires schools to store and manage cannabis like other medications but does not provide a clear definition as to who can administer it to students.

Only an authorized caregiver can give medical marijuana to a child, yet the law does not afford school employees the power to act as a caregiver. Mitch Teitelbaum, an attorney for the Manatee County School District, says making schools provide the drug to students makes no sense when the school has no legal power to do so.

“The district is compelled to adhere to all state and federal laws,” said Teitelbaum, as reported by the Bradenton Herald. “But how do we do so with such inconsistency?”

The original medical cannabis law approved by Florida voters in November did not contain the school requirement provision, but was later modified to include it. This added amendment is causing both confusion and controversy to the new marijuana law.

Most Florida school districts turn to consulting firm NEOLA for help creating school policy. Currently, the company is reviewing the law and deciding how to move forward before making any recommendations to district officials.

According to NEOLA CEO Dick Clapp, Florida’s medical marijuana law puts “schools in a real tough spot” by making them create a policy that potentially opens them up to lawsuits. Once one district comes up with solid guidelines regulating how cannabis will be given to students, other districts are likely to follow. However, Clapp says that isn’t likely to happen before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

As of now, not many children are affected by the medical marijuana law in Florida. Yet, the families that are impacted want the state’s school districts or the Florida Department of Education to make a decision.

“The number of people that will be impacted will be a small number, but they are in dire situations, so it is a tough human-relations thing,” Clapp said, per the report by the Bradenton Herald. “I don’t know what we do about that.”

It is likely the Florida school districts with the highest number of students will act first to create medical marijuana guidelines. For now, the most probable scenario will be treating medical cannabis like any other prescription medication.

The medical marijuana law in Florida allows children with severe epilepsy, cancer, and other qualifying conditions to be treated with cannabis oil, capsules, and edibles. Due to federal restrictions regarding prescribing weed for medical purposes, marijuana treatment is only available by recommendation from state-approved physicians to Florida patients.

Source: https://www.inquisitr.com/4399383/medical-marijuana-in-florida-creates-policy-smoky-challenge-for-states-school-districts/ July 2017

Question  Are US state medical marijuana laws one of the underlying factors for increases in risk for adult cannabis use and cannabis use disorders seen since the early 1990s?

Findings  In this analysis using US national survey data collected in 1991-1992, 2001-2002, and 2012-2013 from 118 497 participants, the risk for cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a significantly greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in states that did not.

Meaning  Possible adverse consequences of illicit cannabis use due to more permissive state cannabis laws should receive consideration by voters, legislators, and policy and health care professionals, with appropriate health care planning as such laws change.

Abstract

Importance  Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time.

Objective  To present national data on state MML and degree of change in the prevalence of cannabis use and disorders.

Design, Participants, and Setting  Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013). Early-MML states passed MML between NLAES and NESARC (“earlier period”). Late-MML states passed MML between NESARC and NESARC-III (“later period”).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Past-year illicit cannabis use and DSMIV cannabis use disorder.

Results  Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7–percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03). In the earlier period, illicit cannabis use and disorders decreased similarly in non-MML states and in California (where prevalence was much higher to start with). In contrast, in remaining early-MML states, the prevalence of use and disorders increased. Remaining early-MML and non-MML states differed significantly for use (by 2.5 percentage points; SE, 0.9; P = .004) and disorder (1.1 percentage points; SE, 0.5; P = .02). In the later period, illicit use increased by the following percentage points: never-MML states, 3.5 (SE, 0.5); California, 5.3 (SE, 1.0); Colorado, 7.0 (SE, 1.6); other early-MML states, 2.6 (SE, 0.9); and late-MML states, 5.1 (SE, 0.8). Compared with never-MML states, increases in use were significantly greater in late-MML states (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.6; P = .01), California (1.8–percentage point more; SE, 0.9; P = .04), and Colorado (3.5–percentage point more; SE, 1.5; P = .03). Increases in cannabis use disorder, which was less prevalent, were smaller but followed similar patterns descriptively, with change greater than never-MML states in California (1.0–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .06) and Colorado (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.8; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance  Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

Source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2619522 June 2017

Marijuana farming is a big business, and marijuana growers are raking in billions.

In California, the crop ranks between lettuce and grapes; total sales in the state, according the Los Angeles Times, will top $21 billion by 2021. In Colorado, where marijuana is also legal, revenues stood at just over $1 billion last year, adding $2.4 billion to the state’s economy.

Those numbers are for legal farms. Illegal marijuana cultivation is much larger. It is estimated that there may be as many as ten million illegal plants grown annually, yielding over $30 billion worth of product.

In California, illegal pot is being grown on literally thousands of acres of the state’s national and state forests and parks, including in Stanislaus National Forest adjacent to Yosemite National Park. A one acre illegal patch can produce well over $1 million worth of marijuana per year. Much of the illegal harvest is sold in states where marijuana remains illegal – but where there is also huge demand, jacking up prices. Commerce in illegal marijuana is often controlled by the same Mexican drug lords who sell cocaine, heroin and contraband opioids; to make things worse, their illegal plots are often tended by illegal immigrants who are virtual slaves, guarded by thugs with high-powered weapons.

Pot production may rake in billions of dollars, but at immense environmental cost. Research has documented that marijuana cultivation, legal and illegal, is polluting water, land and air at an alarming rate. Both legal and illegal growers use large amounts of pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals and fertilizers banned in the U.S., illegally divert streams, and discharge polluted waste into waterways, poisoning the water supply, fish and animals. Growers have also clear cut trees and excavated forests illegally creating vast wastelands. When they move on to another illegal site, the old one is often the equivalent of a toxic waste site, saturated with poisons and fertilizers.

Despite evidence of significant criminal toxic waste discharge and other environmental crimes, not surprisingly the Obama Justice Department largely ignored the problem. In the liberal mindset, marijuana, unlike coal, oil and gas, is sacred stuff and considered outside the reach of the law. And there is little noise from the environmental movement which, if oil and gas or timber were the product, would be all over the issue like a wet blanket. But not marijuana.

A good example of the problems is Calaveras County made famous by Mark Twain, in the foothills of California’s Sierra Mountains. About the size of Rhode Island, it has a population of some 44,000 people. The County Board recently voted to ban commercial marijuana production – a prerogative under California’s law legalizing it. Their sheriff estimates there are at least 1200 illegal farms scattered through the mountainous terrain, all discharging large quantities of chemical waste into the water supply (nearly 10% of California’s water originates in little Calaveras County) and fouling the surrounding land with illegal herbicides, insecticides and rodenticides. Cleaning up those sites – just in Calaveras County — will cost, according to U.S. Forest Service estimates, at least $240 million; perhaps much more. Expand Calaveras’s problems across 15 other Northern California counties and the problem becomes almost unimaginable.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council are nowhere to be found. Ironically it was these very mountains where Sierra Club founder John Muir hiked and studied for decades. I spoke with Dennis Mills, a member of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, who told me he has begged local and national environmentalist groups to get involved, but his pleas are always met, he said, with a yawn. Mills documented the abuses in a study Cultivating Disaster conducted by The Communications Institute.

So where is the federal government? Illegal and many legal marijuana farmers are likely in flagrant violation of numerous federal environmental criminal laws ranging from pollution crimes, wildlife and animal welfare crimes, and could be subject to large fines and restitution as well as lengthy prison sentences.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and Agriculture Department all have jurisdiction, and the Justice Department, complete with an Environmental Crimes Unit, together with California’s U.S. Attorneys, should be actively investigating these crimes, empaneling grand juries, and issuing indictments against these criminals.

The Trump Administration would do well to unleash its environmental lawyers on this nasty problem. It would greatly assist local and state agencies in dealing with the serious environmental mess caused by pot cultivation. It might not gain much support from marijuana users, but an aggressive campaign would undoubtedly create plenty of good will among the rest of the population and deal with a serious environmental problem.

Mr. Regnery, an Attorney, served in the Reagan Justice Department. He is Chairman of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

Source: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/02/25/regnery-feds-prosecute-california-marijuana-farmers-devastating-environment/February 2018

Ontario’s proposal to allow people to consume marijuana in hotel rooms opens the door to a boom in cannabis tourism, says lawyer Matt Maurer.

Maurer heads the cannabis law group at Minden Gross in Toronto, and says he knows businesspeople who are interested in opening cannabis-friendly hotels and resorts.

Maurer says he was surprised by the province’s proposal to loosen up the ban on consuming cannabis anywhere other than private homes. The government has also asked for public comments on whether to allow cannabis lounges.

Maurer said he assumed the provincial government would eventually consider exemptions to the cannabis act passed in December, which bans consumption in public places.

 “I was surprised that it happened so quickly.”

Maurer calls consumption in hotels “step No. 1” in the development of a cannabis tourism industry.

“You could come to Ontario, go to the government-owned retail store, pick up your cannabis, head out to the hotel room, consume it there and head out to where ever you are going that evening, to a show or an event.”

The provincial regulations unveiled last month propose that cannabis could be consumed by residents and their guests at rooms in hotels, motels and inns, as long as the drug is not smoked or vaped. Smoking and vaping marijuana would be allowed in designated smoking rooms.

The regulations have been posted for public comment. The government plans to put them into effect when recreational marijuana is legalized across the country, expected in July.

Ontario has also opened the door to cannabis consumption lounges, asking for public comments on the idea. There’s no time frame for the lounges, but rules won’t be in place be by July. The province says the comments it receives will “inform future policy development and consultations.”

Abi Roach, who runs a cannabis vaping lounge in Toronto called Hotbox Cafe, says she’s interested in opening more if they become legal. She dreams of the day when lounges will be allowed to sell single servings of cannabis, just like drinks are served in a bar or restaurant. 

At the Hotbox (slogan: “serving potheads since … ahh I forget”), guests pay a $5 entry fee and bring their own pot.

If Ontario allows lounges, they probably won’t feature smoking inside because of concerns over the health dangers of second-hand smoke to both customers and employees, said Roach. “I don’t like to be in a big smoky room, either.”

At the Hotbox, only vaping is allowed inside. Pot smokers puff at an outdoor patio.

Roach also sees a demand for pot-friendly hotels. She’s helping design a cannabis-themed room at a hotel to be built in downtown Toronto. Each room in the hotel is owned by a private investor and offers a themed experience. If cannabis consumption is made legal in hotel rooms, they’ll go ahead with that project.

However, Roach said she doubts if Canada will see a big influx of cannabis tourists from the U.S. because we’ll be competing with a growing number of American states that are legalizing pot, some of which have taken a more creative, freewheeling approach. Ontario plans to sell cannabis from behind the counter at a restricted number of government-run stores. That won’t appeal to people who want convenience and innovative products from craft producers, said Roach.

“Canada really has to be careful in terms of blocking innovation in this industry.”

Roach said she recently drove from Vancouver to Washington State, where she stopped at a gas station and bought a joint. “To me as a tourist, it was like, ‘Wow, this is great!’ ”

In the lvillage of Embrun 40 kilometres southeast of Ottawa, Frank Medewar says he plans to open a lounge if they are made legal. He already runs InfoCannabis, a service that advises people about medical marijuana, and Seed 2 Weed, a store that sells growing equipment.

Medewar says his lounge will be modern and upscale, similar to an old-fashioned cigar lounge.

At the headquarters of the world’s largest medical marijuana company, Canopy Growth Corp. in Smiths Falls, spokesman Jordan Sinclair said the company would love to make the huge grow-op a tourist destination.

Canopy is in a former Hershey chocolate factory that was famous for tours taken by thousands of schoolchildren and tourists.

Canopy plans to have the plant open for public tours this summer, said Sinclair.

The company would also like to run a retail store on site, so the experience would be similar to a winery tour. However, the province has nixed that idea.

At Ottawa Tourism, spokesperson Jantine Van Kregten said the legalization of cannabis is on the radar. However, she hasn’t heard of any specific plans for hotels or other tourist ventures. “I think everybody is kind of taking a wait-and-see approach. I haven’t heard a lot of talk, a lot of scuttlebutt, in the industry of what their plans are. I think a lot of questions are unanswered about exactly how the legislation will roll out.”

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ontario-proposal-to-allow-cannabis-consumption-in-hotel-rooms-could-jump-start-pot-tourism February 2018

If you’re a gun-owning Pennsylvania resident, the Pennsylvania State Police are urging you to turn in your firearms if you are seeking medical marijuana cards.

Sorry, what?

statement from the Pennsylvania State Police’s website is receiving a lot of local attention over what appears to be an erroneous statement concerning state and federal law.

The statement reads:

“It is unlawful for you to keep possession of any firearms which you owned or had in your possession prior to obtaining a medical marijuana card, and you should consult an attorney about the best way to dispose of your firearms.”

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski suggested seeking legal counsel if a citizen possesses firearms before seeking and receiving medical marijuana.

“It’s unlawful to keep possession of firearms obtained prior to registering,” Tarkowski said.

“The Pennsylvania State Police is not in the business of offering legal advice, but it might be a good idea to contact an attorney about how best to dispose of their firearms,” Tarkowski suggested.

Criminal defense attorney Patrick Nightingale told KDKA-TV on Monday that the suggestions being pushed by the state police disturb him.

“It disturbs me greatly to see the Pennsylvania State Police put on their website references to federal law while ignoring the fact that it is legal under Pennsylvania law,” Nightingale said.

“Firearms are woven into the fabric of our country,” Nightingale added. “It’s the second most important right in the Bill of Rights.”

Here’s the catch

According to Pennsylvania state law, the use of medical marijuana is legal, and not a hindrance to owning a firearm. However, according to the state police website, Pennsylvania’s legalization of medical marijuana is not federally recognized.

According to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) and 27 C.F.R. § 478.32(a)(3), possession of a medical marijuana card and the use of medical marijuana determines that a citizen is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.”

Federal law prohibits an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from purchasing, acquiring, or possessing a firearm.

In short, federal law says it is illegal for a citizen to attempt the purchase of a firearm if they are a medical marijuana cardholder.

This isn’t new information: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has held the position since 2011 that no one in possession of a medical marijuana card may also legally own a firearm.

Generally speaking, state police cannot enforce federal law unless a statute gives them express permission to do so. Pennsylvania law is somewhat ambiguous on this point, allowing the PSP make arrests “for all violations of the law,” without specifying whether this includes federal law.

If marijuana is considered a controlled substance — much like opioids — then one might wonder why are opioid users permitted to own firearms.

Attorney Andrew Sacks, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the same thing.

“It’s hypocritical,” Sacks said. “You can be an opioid addict, or buy a bottle of rum, drink it and go to a store and buy one. But a person who is registered as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania, and has a very small dosage of THC, can’t own a gun to protect themselves or hunt.”

You’re aware America is under siege, fighting an opioid crisis that has exploded into a public-health emergency. You’ve heard of OxyContin, the pain medication to which countless patients have become addicted. But do you know that the company that makes Oxy and reaps the billions of dollars in profits it generates is owned by one family?

The newly installed Sackler Courtyard at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most glittering places in the developed world. Eleven thousand white porcelain tiles, inlaid like a shattered backgammon board, cover a surface the size of six tennis courts. According to the V&A;’s director, the regal setting is intended to serve as a “living room for London,” by which he presumably means a living room for Kensington, the museum’s neighborhood, which is among the world’s wealthiest. In late June, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was summoned to consecrate the courtyard, said to be the earth’s first outdoor space made of porcelain; stepping onto the ceramic expanse, she silently mouthed, “Wow.”

The Sackler Courtyard is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio. There’s the Sackler Wing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the majestic Temple of Dendur, a sandstone shrine from ancient Egypt; additional Sackler wings at the Louvre and the Royal Academy; stand-alone Sackler museums at Harvard and Peking Universities; and named Sackler galleries at the Smithsonian, the Serpentine, and Oxford’s Ashmolean. The Guggenheim in New York has a Sackler Center, and the American Museum of Natural History has a Sackler Educational Lab. Members of the family, legendary in museum circles for their pursuit of naming rights, have also underwritten projects of a more modest caliber—a Sackler Staircase at Berlin’s Jewish Museum; a Sackler Escalator at the Tate Modern; a Sackler Crossing in Kew Gardens. A popular species of pink rose is named after a Sackler. So is an asteroid.

The Sackler name is no less prominent among the emerald quads of higher education, where it’s possible to receive degrees from Sackler schools, participate in Sackler colloquiums, take courses from professors with endowed Sackler chairs, and attend annual Sackler lectures on topics such as theoretical astrophysics and human rights. The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science supports research on obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, the Sackler institutes at Cornell, Columbia, McGill, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sussex, and King’s College London tackle psychobiology, with an emphasis on early childhood development.

The Sacklers’ philanthropy differs from that of civic populists like Andrew Carnegie, who built hundreds of libraries in small towns, and Bill Gates, whose foundation ministers to global masses. Instead, the family has donated its fortune to blue-chip brands, braiding the family name into the patronage network of the world’s most prestigious, well-endowed institutions. The Sackler name is everywhere, evoking automatic reverence; the Sacklers themselves, however, are rarely seen.

The descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, a pair of psychiatrist brothers from Brooklyn, are members of a billionaire clan with homes scattered across Connecticut, London, Utah, Gstaad, the Hamptons, and, especially, New York City. It was not until 2015 that they were noticed by Forbes, which added them to the list of America’s richest families. The magazine pegged their wealth, shared among twenty heirs, at a conservative $14 billion. (Descendants of Arthur Sackler, Mortimer and Raymond’s older brother, split off decades ago and are mere multi-millionaires.) To a remarkable degree, those who share in the billions appear to have abided by an oath of omertà: Never comment publicly on the source of the family’s wealth.

That may be because the greatest part of that $14 billion fortune tallied by Forbes came from OxyContin, the narcotic painkiller regarded by many public-health experts as among the most dangerous products ever sold on a mass scale. Since 1996, when the drug was brought to market by Purdue Pharma, the American branch of the Sacklers’ pharmaceutical empire, more than two hundred thousand people in the United States have died from overdoses of OxyContin and other prescription painkillers. Thousands more have died after starting on a prescription opioid and then switching to a drug with a cheaper street price, such as heroin. Not all of these deaths are related to OxyContin—dozens of other painkillers, including generics, have flooded the market in the past thirty years. Nevertheless, Purdue Pharma was the first to achieve a dominant share of the market for long-acting opioids, accounting for more than half of prescriptions by 2001.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fifty-three thousand Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, more than the thirty-six thousand who died in car crashes in 2015 or the thirty-five thousand who died from gun violence that year. This past July, Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, declared that opioids were killing roughly 142 Americans each day, a tally vividly described as “September 11th every three weeks.” The epidemic has also exacted a crushing financial toll: According to a study published by the American Public Health Association, using data from 2013—before the epidemic entered its current, more virulent phase—the total economic burden from opioid use stood at about $80 billion, adding together health costs, criminal-justice costs, and GDP loss from drug-dependent Americans leaving the workforce. Tobacco remains, by a significant multiple, the country’s most lethal product, responsible for some 480,000 deaths per year. But although billions have been made from tobacco, cars, and firearms, it’s not clear that any of those enterprises has generated a family fortune from a single product that approaches the Sacklers’ haul from OxyContin.

Even so, hardly anyone associates the Sackler name with their company’s lone blockbuster drug. “The Fords, Hewletts, Packards, Johnsons—all those families put their name on their product because they were proud,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine who has written extensively about the opioid crisis. “The Sacklers have hidden their connection to their product. They don’t call it ‘Sackler Pharma.’ They don’t call their pills ‘Sackler pills.’ And when they’re questioned, they say, ‘Well, it’s a privately held firm, we’re a family, we like to keep our privacy, you understand.’ ”

The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.

To the extent that the Sacklers have cultivated a reputation, it’s for being earnest healers, judicious stewards of scientific progress, and connoisseurs of old and beautiful things. Few are aware that during the crucial period of OxyContin’s development and promotion, Sackler family members actively led Purdue’s day-to-day affairs, filling the majority of its board slots and supplying top executives. By any assessment, the family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.


If you head north on I-95 through Stamford, Connecticut, you will spot, on the left, a giant misshapen glass cube. Along the building’s top edge, white lettering spells out ONE STAMFORD FORUM. No markings visible from the highway indicate the presence of the building’s owner and chief occupant, Purdue Pharma.

Originally known as Purdue Frederick, the first iteration of the company was founded in 1892 on New York’s Lower East Side as a peddler of patent medicines. For decades, it sustained itself with sales of Gray’s Glycerine Tonic, a sherry-based liquid of “broad application” marketed as a remedy for everything from anemia to tuberculosis. The company was purchased in 1952 by Arthur Sackler, thirty-nine, and was run by his brothers, Mortimer, thirty- six, and Raymond, thirty-two. The Sackler brothers came from a family of Jewish immigrants in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Arthur was a headstrong and ambitious provider, setting the tone—and often choosing the path—for his younger brothers. After attending medical school on Arthur’s dime, Mortimer and Raymond followed him to jobs at the Creedmoor psychiatric hospital in Queens. There, they coauthored more than one hundred studies on the biochemical roots of mental illness. The brothers’ research was promising—they were among the first to identify a link between psychosis and the hormone cortisone—but their findings were mostly ignored by their professional peers, who, in keeping with the era, favored a Freudian model of mental illness.

Concurrent with his psychiatric work, Arthur Sackler made his name in pharmaceutical advertising, which at the time consisted almost exclusively of pitches from so-called “detail men” who sold drugs to doctors door-to-door. Arthur intuited that print ads in medical journals could have a revolutionary effect on pharmaceutical sales, especially given the excitement surrounding the “miracle drugs” of the 1950s—steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, and psychotropics. In 1952, the same year that he and his brothers acquired Purdue, Arthur became the first adman to convince The Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the profession’s most august publications, to include a color advertorial brochure.

In the 1960s, Arthur was contracted by Roche to develop an advertising strategy for a new antianxiety medication called Valium. This posed a challenge, because the effects of the medication were nearly indistinguishable from those of Librium, another Roche tranquilizer that was already on the market. Arthur differentiated Valium by audaciously inflating its range of indications. Whereas Librium was sold as a treatment for garden- variety anxiety, Valium was positioned as an elixir for a problem Arthur christened “psychic tension.” According to his ads, psychic tension, the forebear of today’s “stress,” was the secret culprit behind a host of somatic conditions, including heartburn, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and restless-leg syndrome. The campaign was such a success that for a time Valium became America’s most widely prescribed medication—the first to reach more than $100 million in sales. Arthur, whose compensation depended on the volume of pills sold, was richly rewarded, and he later became one of the first inductees into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.

As Arthur’s fortune grew, he turned his acquisitive instincts to the art market, quickly amassing the world’s largest private collection of ancient Chinese artifacts. According to a memoir by Marietta Lutze, his second wife, collecting, exhibiting, owning, and donating art fed Arthur’s “driving necessity for prestige and recognition.” Rewarding at first, collecting soon became a mania that took over his life. “Boxes of artifacts of tremendous value piled up in numerous storage locations,” she wrote, “there was too much to open, too much to appreciate; some objects known only by a packing list.” Under an avalanche of “ritual bronzes and weapons, mirrors and ceramics, inscribed bones and archaic jades,” their lives were “often in chaos.” “Addiction is a curse,” Lutze noted, “be it drugs, women, or collecting.”

When Arthur donated his art and money to museums, he often imposed onerous terms. According to a memoir written by Thomas Hoving, the Met director from 1967 to 1977, when Arthur established the Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to house Chinese antiquities, in 1963, he required the museum to collaborate on a byzantine tax-avoidance maneuver. In accordance with the scheme, the museum first soldArthur a large quantity of ancient artifacts at the deflated 1920s prices for which they had originally been acquired. Arthur then donated back the artifacts at 1960s prices, in the process taking a tax deduction so hefty that it likely exceeded the value of his initial donation. Three years later, in connection with another donation, Arthur negotiated an even more unusual arrangement. This time, the Met opened a secret chamber above the museum’s auditorium to provide Arthur with free storage for some five thousand objects from his private collection, relieving him of the substantial burden of fire protection and other insurance costs. (In an email exchange, Jillian Sackler, Arthur’s third wife, called Hoving’s tax-deduction story “fake news.” She also noted that New York’s attorney general conducted an investigation into Arthur’s dealings with the Met and cleared him of wrongdoing.)

In 1974, when Arthur and his brothers made a large gift to the Met—$3.5 million, to erect the Temple of Dendur—they stipulated that all museum signage, catalog entries, and bulletins referring to objects in the newly opened Sackler Wing had to include the names of all three brothers, each followed by “M.D.” (One museum official quipped, “All that was missing was a note of their office hours.”)

Hoving said that the Met hoped that Arthur would eventually donate his collection to the museum, but over time Arthur grew disgruntled over a series of rankling slights. For one, the Temple of Dendur was being rented out for parties, including a dinner for the designer Valentino, which Arthur called “disgusting.” According to Met chronicler Michael Gross, he was also denied that coveted ticket of arrival, a board seat. (Jillian Sackler said it was Arthur who rejected the board seat, after repeated offers by the museum.) In 1982, in a bad breakup with the Met, Arthur donated the best parts of his collection, plus $4 million, to the Smithsonian in Washington, D. C.


Arthur’s younger brothers, Mortimer and Raymond, looked so much alike that when they worked together at Creedmoor, they fooled the staff by pretending to be one another. Their physical similarities did not extend to their personalities, however. Tage Honore, Purdue’s vice-president of discovery of research from 2000 to 2005, described them as “like day and night.” Mortimer, said Honore, was “extroverted—a ‘world man,’ I would call it.” He acquired a reputation as a big-spending, transatlantic playboy, living most of the year in opulent homes in England, Switzerland, and France. (In 1974, he renounced his U. S. citizenship to become a citizen of Austria, which infuriated his patriotic older brother.) Like Arthur, Mortimer became a major museum donor and married three wives over the course of his life.

Mortimer had his own feuds with the Met. On his seventieth birthday, in 1986, the museum agreed to make the Temple of Dendur available to him for a party but refused to allow him to redecorate the ancient shrine: Together with other improvements, Mortimer and his interior designer, flown in from Europe, had hoped to spiff up the temple by adding extra pillars. Also galling to Mortimer was the sale of naming rights for one of the Sackler Wing’s balconies to a donor from Japan. “They sold it twice,” Mortimer fumed to a reporter from New York magazine. Raymond, the youngest brother, cut a different figure—“a family man,” said Honore. Kind and mild-mannered, he stayed with the same woman his entire life. Lutze concluded that Raymond owed his comparatively serene nature to having missed the worst years of the Depression. “He had summer vacations in camp, which Arthur never had,” she wrote. “The feeling of the two older brothers about the youngest was, ‘Let the kid enjoy himself.’ ”

Raymond led Purdue Frederick as its top executive for several decades, while Mortimer led Napp Pharmaceuticals, the family’s drug company in the UK. (In practice, a family spokesperson said, “the brothers worked closely together leading both companies.”) Arthur, the adman, had no official role in the family’s pharmaceutical operations. According to Barry Meier’s Pain Killer, a prescient account of the rise of OxyContin published in 2003, Raymond and Mortimer bought Arthur’s share in Purdue from his estate for $22.4 million after he died in 1987. In an email exchange, Arthur’s daughter Elizabeth Sackler, a historian of feminist art who sits on the board of the Brooklyn Museum and supports a variety of progressive causes, emphatically distanced her branch of the family from her cousins’ businesses. “Neither I, nor my siblings, nor my children have ever had ownership in or any benefit whatsoever from Purdue Pharma or OxyContin,” she wrote, while also praising “the breadth of my father’s brilliance and important works.” Jillian, Arthur’s widow, said her husband had died too soon: “His enemies have gotten the last word.”


The Sacklers have been millionaires for decades, but their real money—the painkiller money—is of comparatively recent vintage. The vehicle of that fortune was OxyContin, but its engine, the driving power that made them so many billions, was not so much the drug itself as it was Arthur’s original marketing insight, rehabbed for the era of chronic-pain management. That simple but profitable idea was to take a substance with addictive properties—in Arthur’s case, a benzo; in Raymond and Mortimer’s case, an opioid—and market it as a salve for a vast range of indications.

In the years before it swooped into the pain-management business, Purdue had been a small industry player, specializing in over-the-counter remedies like ear-wax remover and laxatives. Its most successful product, acquired in 1966, was Betadine, a powerful antiseptic purchased in industrial quantities by the U. S. government to prevent infection among wounded soldiers in Vietnam. The turning point, according to company lore, came in 1972, when a London doctor working for Cicely Saunders, the Florence Nightingale of the modern hospice movement, approached Napp with the idea of creating a timed-release morphine pill. A long-acting morphine pill, the doctor reasoned, would allow dying cancer patients to sleep through the night without an IV. At the time, treatment with opioids was stigmatized in the United States, owing in part to a heroin epidemic fueled by returning Vietnam veterans. “Opiophobia,” as it came to be called, prevented skittish doctors from treating most patients, including nearly all infants, with strong pain medication of any kind. In hospice care, though, addiction was not a concern: It didn’t matter whether terminal patients became hooked in their final days. Over the course of the seventies, building on a slow-release technology the company had already developed for an asthma medication, Napp created what came to be known as the “Contin” system. In 1981, Napp introduced a timed-release morphine pill in the UK; six years later, Purdue brought the same drug to market in the U. S. as MS Contin.

“The Sacklers have hidden their connection to their product,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. “They don’t call it ‘Sackler Pharma.’ They don’t call their pills ‘Sackler pills.’”

MS Contin quickly became the gold standard for pain relief in cancer care. At the same time, a number of clinicians associated with the burgeoning chronic-pain movement started advocating the use of powerful opioids for noncancer conditions like back pain and neuropathic pain, afflictions that at their worst could be debilitating. In 1986, two doctors from Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York published a fateful article in a medical journal that purported to show, based on a study of thirty-eight patients, that long-term opioid treatment was safe and effective so long as patients had no history of drug abuse. Soon enough, opioid advocates dredged up a letter to the editor published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 that suggested, based on a highly unrepresentative cohort, that the risk of addiction from long-term opioid use was less than 1 percent. Though ultimately disavowed by its author, the letter ended up getting cited in medical journals more than six hundred times.

As the country was reexamining pain, Raymond’s eldest son, Richard Sackler, was searching for new applications for Purdue’s timed-release Contin system. “At all the meetings, that was a constant source of discussion—‘What else can we use the Contin system for?’ ” said Peter Lacouture, a senior director of clinical research at Purdue from 1991 to 2001. “And that’s where Richard would fire some ideas—maybe antibiotics, maybe chemotherapy—he was always out there digging.” Richard’s spitballing wasn’t idle blather. A trained physician, he treasured his role as a research scientist and appeared as an inventor on dozens of the company’s patents (though not on the patents for OxyContin). In the tradition of his uncle Arthur, Richard was also fascinated by sales messaging. “He was very interested in the commercial side and also very interested in marketing approaches,” said Sally Allen Riddle, Purdue’s former executive director for product management. “He didn’t always wait for the research results.” (A Purdue spokesperson said that Richard “always considered relevant scientific information when making decisions.”)

Perhaps the most private member of a generally secretive family, Richard appears nowhere on Purdue’s website. From public records and conversations with former employees, though, a rough portrait emerges of a testy eccentric with ardent, relentless ambitions. Born in 1945, he holds degrees from Columbia University and NYU Medical School. According to a bio on the website of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, where Richard serves on the advisory board, he started working at Purdue as his father’s assistant at age twenty-six before eventually leading the firm’s R&D; division and, separately, its sales and marketing division. In 1999, while Mortimer and Raymond remained Purdue’s co-CEOs, Richard joined them at the top of the company as president, a position he relinquished in 2003 to become cochairman of the board. The few publicly available pictures of him are generic and sphinxlike—a white guy with a receding hairline. He is one of the few Sacklers to consistently smile for the camera. In a photo on what appears to be his Facebook profile, Richard is wearing a tan suit and a pink tie, his right hand casually scrunched into his pocket, projecting a jaunty charm. Divorced in 2013, he lists his relationship status on the profile as “It’s complicated.”

When Purdue eventually pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2007 for criminally “misbranding” OxyContin, it acknowledged exploiting doctors’ misconceptions about oxycodone’s strength.

Richard’s political contributions have gone mostly to Republicans—including Strom Thurmond and Herman Cain—though at times he has also given to Democrats. (His ex-wife, Beth Sackler, has given almost exclusively to Democrats.) In 2008, he wrote a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journaldenouncing Muslim support for suicide bombing, a concern that seems to persist: Since 2014, his charitable organization, the Richard and Beth Sackler Foundation, has donated to several anti-Muslim groups, including three organizations classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (The family spokesperson said, “It was never Richard Sackler’s intention to donate to an anti-Muslim or hate group.”) The foundation has also donated to True the Vote, the “voter-fraud watchdog” that was the original source for Donald Trump’s inaccurate claim that three million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election.

Former employees describe Richard as a man with an unnerving intelligence, alternately detached and pouncing. In meetings, his face was often glued to his laptop. “This was pre-smartphone days,” said Riddle. “He’d be typing away and you would think he wasn’t even listening, and then all of the sudden his head would pop up and he’d be asking a very pointed question.” He was notorious for peppering subordinates with unexpected, rapid-fire queries, sometimes in the middle of the night. “Richard had the mind of someone who’s going two hundred miles an hour,” said Lacouture. “He could be a little bit disconnected in the way he would communicate. Whether it was on the weekend or a holiday or a Christmas party, you could always expect the unexpected.”

Richard also had an appetite for micromanagement. “I remember one time he mailed out a rambling sales bulletin,” said Shelby Sherman, a Purdue sales rep from 1974 to 1998. “And right in the middle, he put in, ‘If you’re reading this, then you must call my secretary at this number and give her this secret password.’ He wanted to check and see if the reps were reading this shit. We called it ‘Playin’ Passwords.’ ” According to Sherman, Richard started taking a more prominent role in the company during the early 1980s. “The shift was abrupt,” he said. “Raymond was just so nice and down-to-earth and calm and gentle.” When Richard came, “things got a lot harder. Richard really wanted Purdue to be big—I mean really big.”

To effectively capitalize on the chronic-pain movement, Purdue knew it needed to move beyond MS Contin. “Morphine had a stigma,” said Riddle. “People hear the word and say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not dying or anything.’ ” Aside from its terminal aura, MS Contin had a further handicap: Its patent was set to expire in the late nineties. In a 1990 memo addressed to Richard and other executives, Purdue’s VP of clinical research, Robert Kaiko, suggested that the company work on a pill containing oxycodone, a chemical similar to morphine that was also derived from the opium poppy. When it came to branding, oxycodone had a key advantage: Although it was 50 percent stronger than morphine, many doctors believed—wrongly—that it was substantially less powerful. They were deceived about its potency in part because oxycodone was widely known as one of the active ingredients in Percocet, a relatively weak opioid- acetaminophen combination that doctors often prescribed for painful injuries. “It really didn’t have the same connotation that morphine did in people’s minds,” said Riddle.

A common malapropism led to further advantage for Purdue. “Some people would call it oxy-codeine” instead of oxycodone, recalled Lacouture. “Codeine is very weak.” When Purdue eventually pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2007 for criminally “misbranding” OxyContin, it acknowledged exploiting doctors’ misconceptions about oxycodone’s strength. In court documents, the company said it was “well aware of the incorrect view held by many physicians that oxycodone was weaker than morphine” and “did not want to do anything ‘to make physicians think that oxycodone was stronger or equal to morphine’ or to ‘take any steps . . . that would affect the unique position that OxyContin’ ” held among physicians.

Purdue did not merely neglect to clear up confusion about the strength of OxyContin. As the company later admitted, it misleadingly promoted OxyContin as less addictive than older opioids on the market. In this deception, Purdue had a big assist from the FDA, which allowed the company to include an astonishing labeling claim in OxyContin’s package insert: “Delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets, is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug.”

The theory was that addicts would shy away from timed-released drugs, preferring an immediate rush. In practice, OxyContin, which crammed a huge amount of pure narcotic into a single pill, became a lusted-after target for addicts, who quickly discovered that the timed-release mechanism in OxyContin was easy to circumvent—you could simply crush a pill and snort it to get most of the narcotic payload in a single inhalation. This wasn’t exactly news to the manufacturer: OxyContin’s own packaging warned that consuming broken pills would thwart the timed-release system and subject patients to a potentially fatal overdose. MS Contin had contended with similar vulnerabilities, and as a result commanded a hefty premium on the street. But the “reduced abuse liability” claim that added wings to the sales of OxyContin had not been approved for MS Contin. It was removed from OxyContin in 2001 and would never be approved again for any other opioid.

The year after OxyContin’s release, Curtis Wright, the FDA examiner who approved the pharmaceutical’s original application, quit. After a stint at another pharmaceutical company, he began working for Purdue. In an interview with Esquire, Wright defended his work at the FDA and at Purdue. “At the time, it was believed that extended-release formulations were intrinsically less abusable,” he insisted. “It came as a rather big shock to everybody—the government and Purdue—that people found ways to grind up, chew up, snort, dissolve, and inject the pills.” Preventing abuse, he said, had to be balanced against providing relief to chronic-pain sufferers. “In the mid-nineties,” he recalled, “the very best pain specialists told the medical community they were not prescribing opioids enough. That was not something generated by Purdue—that was not a secret plan, that was not a plot, that was not a clever marketing ploy. Chronic pain is horrible. In the right circumstances, opioid therapy is nothing short of miraculous; you give people their lives back.” In Wright’s account, the Sacklers were not just great employers, they were great people. “No company in the history of pharmaceuticals,” he said, “has worked harder to try to prevent abuse of their product than Purdue.”


Purdue did not invent the chronic-pain movement, but it used that movement to engineer a crucial shift. Wright is correct that in the nineties patients suffering from chronic pain often received inadequate treatment. But the call for clinical reforms also became a flexible alibi for overly aggressive prescribing practices. By the end of the decade, clinical proponents of opioid treatment, supported by millions in funding from Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies, had organized themselves into advocacy groups with names like the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine. (Purdue also launched its own group, called Partners Against Pain.) As the decade wore on, these organizations, which critics have characterized as front groups for the pharmaceutical industry, began pressuring health regulators to make pain “the fifth vital sign”—a number, measured on a subjective ten-point scale, to be asked and recorded at every doctor’s visit. As an internal strategy document put it, Purdue’s ambition was to “attach an emotional aspect to noncancer pain” so that doctors would feel pressure to “treat it more seriously and aggressively.” The company rebranded pain relief as a sacred right: a universal narcotic entitlement available not only to the terminally ill but to every American.

The company rebranded pain relief as a sacred right: a universal narcotic entitlement available not only to the terminally ill but to every American. By 2001, annual OxyContin sales had surged past $1 billion.

OxyContin’s sales started out small in 1996, in part because Purdue first focused on the cancer market to gain formulary acceptance from HMOs and state Medicaid programs. Over the next several years, though, the company doubled its sales force to six hundred—equal to the total number of DEA diversion agents employed to combat the sale of prescription drugs on the black market—and began targeting general practitioners, dentists, OB/GYNs, physician assistants, nurses, and residents. By 2001, annual OxyContin sales had surged past $1 billion. Sales reps were encouraged to downplay addiction risks. “It was sell, sell, sell,” recalled Sherman. “We were directed to lie. Why mince words about it? Greed took hold and overruled everything. They saw that potential for billions of dollars and just went after it.” Flush with cash, Purdue pioneered a high-cost promotion strategy, effectively providing kickbacks—which were legal under American law—to each part of the distribution chain. Wholesalers got rebates in exchange for keeping OxyContin off prior authorization lists. Pharmacists got refunds on their initial orders. Patients got coupons for thirty- day starter supplies. Academics got grants. Medical journals got millions in advertising. Senators and members of Congress on key committees got donations from Purdue and from members of the Sackler family.

It was doctors, though, who received the most attention. “We used to fly doctors to these ‘seminars,’ ” said Sherman, which were, in practice, “just golf trips to Pebble Beach. It was graft.” Though offering perks and freebies to doctors was hardly uncommon in the industry, it was unprecedented in the marketing of a Schedule II narcotic. For some physicians, the junkets to sunny locales weren’t enough to persuade them to prescribe. To entice the holdouts—a group the company referred to internally as “problem doctors”—the reps would dangle the lure of Purdue’s lucrative speakers’ bureau. “Everybody was automatically approved,” said Sherman. “We would set up these little dinners, and they’d make their little fifteen-minute talk, and they’d get $500.”

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of OxyContin prescriptions in the United States surged from about three hundred thousand to nearly six million, and reports of abuse started to bubble up in places like West Virginia, Florida, and Maine. (Research would later show a direct correlation between prescription volume in an area and rates of abuse and overdose.) Hundreds of doctors were eventually arrested for running pill mills. According to an investigation in the Los Angeles Times, even though Purdue kept an internal list of doctors it suspected of criminal diversion, it didn’t volunteer this information to law enforcement until years later.

As criticism of OxyContin mounted through the aughts, Purdue responded with symbolic concessions while retaining its volume-driven business model. To prevent addicts from forging prescriptions, the company gave doctors tamper-resistant prescription pads; to mollify pharmacists worried about robberies, Purdue offered to replace, free of charge, any stolen drugs; to gather data on drug abuse and diversion, the company launched a national monitoring program called RADARS.

Critics were not impressed. In a letter to Richard Sackler in July 2001, Richard Blumenthal, then Connecticut’s attorney general and now a U. S. senator, called the company’s efforts “cosmetic.” As Blumenthal had deduced, the root problem of the prescription-opioid epidemic was the high volume of prescriptions written for powerful opioids. “It is time for Purdue Pharma to change its practices,” Blumenthal warned Richard, “not just its public-relations strategy.”

It wasn’t just that doctors were writing huge numbers of prescriptions; it was also that the prescriptions were often for extraordinarily high doses. A single dose of Percocet contains between 2.5 and 10mg of oxycodone. OxyContin came in 10-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and 80mg formulations and, for a time, even 160mg. Purdue’s greatest competitive advantage in dominating the pain market, it had determined early on, was that OxyContin lasted twelve hours, enough to sleep through the night. But for many patients, the drug lasted only six or eight hours, creating a cycle of crash and euphoria that one academic called “a perfect recipe for addiction.” When confronted with complaints about “breakthrough pain”—meaning that the pills weren’t working as long as advertised—Purdue’s sales reps were given strict instructions to tell doctors to strengthen the dose rather than increase dosing frequency.

Sales reps were encouraged to downplay addiction risks. “It was sell, sell, sell,” recalled Sherman. “We were directed to lie. Why mince words about it?”

Over the next several years, dozens of class-action lawsuits were brought against Purdue. Many were dismissed, but in some cases Purdue wrote big checks to avoid going to trial. Several plaintiffs’ lawyers found that the company was willing to go to great lengths to prevent Richard Sackler from having to testify under oath. “They didn’t want him deposed, I can tell you that much,” recalled Marvin Masters, a lawyer who brought a class-action suit against Purdue in the early 2000s in West Virginia. “They were willing to sit down and settle the case to keep from doing that.” Purdue tried to get Richard removed from the suit, but when that didn’t work, the company settled with the plaintiffs for more than $20 million. Paul Hanly, a New York class-action lawyer who won a large settlement from Purdue in 2007, had a similar recollection. “We were attempting to take Richard Sackler’s deposition,” he said, “around the time that they agreed to a settlement.” (A spokesperson for the company said, “Purdue did not settle any cases to avoid the deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, or any other individual.”)

When the federal government finally stepped in, in 2007, it extracted historic terms of surrender from the company. Purdue pleaded guilty to felony charges, admitting that it had lied to doctors about OxyContin’s abuse potential. (The technical charge was “misbranding a drug with intent to defraud or mislead.”) Under the agreement, the company paid $600 million in fines and its three top executives at the time—its medical director, general counsel, and Richard’s successor as president—pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. The executives paid $34.5 million out of their own pockets and performed four hundred hours of community service. It was one of the harshest penalties ever imposed on a pharmaceutical company. (In a statement to Esquire, Purdue said that it “abides by the highest ethical standards and legal requirements.” The statement went on: “We want physicians to use their professional judgment, and we were not trying to pressure them.”)

Fifty-three thousand Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, more than the thirty-six thousand who died in car crashes in 2015 or the thirty-five thousand who died from gun violence that year.

No Sacklers were named in the 2007 suit. Indeed, the Sackler name appeared nowhere in the plea agreement, even though Richard had been one of the company’s top executives during most of the period covered by the settlement. He did eventually have to give a deposition in 2015, in a case brought by Kentucky’s attorney general. Richard’s testimony—the only known record of a Sackler speaking about the crisis the family’s company helped create—was promptly sealed. (In 2016, STAT, an online magazine owned by Boston Globe Media that covers health and medicine, asked a court in Kentucky to unseal the deposition, which is said to have lasted several hours. STAT won a lower-court ruling in May 2016. As of press time, the matter was before an appeals court.)

In 2010, Purdue executed a breathtaking pivot: Embracing the arguments critics had been making for years about OxyContin’s susceptibility to abuse, the company released a new formulation of the medication that was harder to snort or inject. Purdue seized the occasion to rebrand itself as an industry leader in abuse-deterrent technology. The change of heart coincided with two developments: First, an increasing number of addicts, unable to afford OxyContin’s high street price, were turning to cheaper alternatives like heroin; second, OxyContin was nearing the end of its patents. Purdue suddenly argued that the drug it had been selling for nearly fifteen years was so prone to abuse that generic manufacturers should not be allowed to copy it.

On April 16, 2013, the day some of the key patents for OxyContin were scheduled to expire, the FDA followed Purdue’s lead, declaring that no generic versions of the original OxyContin formulation could be sold. The company had effectively won several additional years of patent protection for its golden goose.


Opioid withdrawal, which causes aches, vomiting, and restless anxiety, is a gruesome process to experience as an adult. It’s considerably worse for the twenty thousand or so American babies who emerge each year from opioid-soaked wombs. These infants, suddenly cut off from their supply, cry uncontrollably. Their skin is mottled. They cannot fall asleep. Their bodies are shaken by tremors and, in the worst cases, seizures. Bottles of milk leave them distraught, because they cannot maneuver their lips with enough precision to create suction. Treatment comes in the form of drops of morphine pushed from a syringe into the babies’ mouths. Weaning sometimes takes a week but can last as long as twelve. It’s a heartrending, expensive process, typically carried out in the neonatal ICU, where newborns have limited access to their mothers.

But the children of OxyContin, its heirs and legatees, are many and various. The second- and third-generation descendants of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler spend their money in the ways we have come to expect from the not-so-idle rich. Notably, several have made children a focus of their business and philanthropic endeavors. One Sackler heir helped start an iPhone app called RedRover, which generates ideas for child-friendly activities for urban parents; another runs a child- development center near Central Park; another is a donor to charter-school causes, as well as an investor in an education start-up called AltSchool. Yet another is the founder of Beespace, an “incubator for emerging nonprofits,” which provides resources and mentoring for initiatives like the Malala Fund, which invests in education programs for women in the developing world, and Yoga Foster, whose objective is to bring “accessible, sustainable yoga programs into schools across the country.” Other Sackler heirs get to do the fun stuff: One helps finance small, interesting films like The Witch; a second married a famous cricket player; a third is a sound artist; a fourth started a production company with Boyd Holbrook, star of the Netflix series Narcos; a fifth founded a small chain of gastropubs in New York called the Smith.

Holding fast to family tradition, Raymond’s and Mortimer’s heirs declined to be interviewed for this article. Instead, through a spokesperson, they put forward two decorated academics who have been on the receiving end of the family’s largesse: Phillip Sharp, the Nobel-prize-winning MIT geneticist, and Herbert Pardes, formerly the dean of faculty at Columbia University’s medical school and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Both men effusively praised the Sacklers’ donations to the arts and sciences, marveling at their loyalty to academic excellence. “Once you were on that exalted list of philanthropic projects,” Pardes told Esquire, “you were there and you were in a position to secure additional philanthropy. It was like a family acquisition.” Pardes called the Sacklers “the nicest, most gentle people you could imagine.” As for the family’s connection to OxyContin, he said that it had never come up as an issue in the faculty lounge or the hospital break room. “I have never heard one inch about that,” he said.

Pardes’s ostrichlike avoidance is not unusual. In 2008, Raymond and his wife donated an undisclosed amount to Yale to start the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences. Lynne Regan, its current director, told me that neither students nor faculty have ever brought up the OxyContin connection. “Most people don’t know about that,” she said. “I think people are mainly oblivious.” A spokesperson for the university added, “Yale does not vet donors for controversies that may or may not arise.”

In May, a dozen lawmakers in Congress sent a bipartisan letter to the World Health Organization warning that Sackler-owned companies were preparing to flood foreign countries with legal narcotics.

The controversy surrounding OxyContin shows little sign of receding. In 2016, the CDC issued a startling warning: There was no good evidence that opioids were an effective treatment for chronic pain beyond six weeks. There was, on the other hand, an abundance of evidence that long-term treatment with opioids had harmful effects. (A recent paper by Princeton economist Alan Krueger suggests that chronic opioid use may account for more than 20 percent of the decline in American labor-force participation from 1999 to 2015.) Millions of opioid prescriptions for chronic pain had been written in the preceding two decades, and the CDC was calling into question whether many of them should have been written at all. At least twenty-five government entities, ranging from states to small cities, have recently filed lawsuits against Purdue to recover damages associated with the opioid epidemic.

The Sacklers, though, will likely emerge untouched: Because of a sweeping non-prosecution agreement negotiated during the 2007 settlement, most new criminal litigation against Purdue can only address activity that occurred after that date. Neither Richard nor any other family members have occupied an executive position at the company since 2003.

The American market for OxyContin is dwindling. According to Purdue, prescriptions fell 33 percent between 2012 and 2016. But while the company’s primary product may be in eclipse in the United States, international markets for pain medications are expanding. According to an investigation last year in the Los Angeles Times, Mundipharma, the Sackler-owned company charged with developing new markets, is employing a suite of familiar tactics in countries like Mexico, Brazil, and China to stoke concern for as-yet-unheralded “silent epidemics” of untreated pain. In Colombia, according to the L.A. Times, the company went so far as to circulate a press release suggesting that 47 percent of the population suffered from chronic pain.

Napp is the family’s drug company in the UK. Mundipharma is their company charged with developing new markets.

In May, a dozen lawmakers in Congress, inspired by the L.A. Timesinvestigation, sent a bipartisan letter to the World Health Organization warning that Sackler-owned companies were preparing to flood foreign countries with legal narcotics. “Purdue began the opioid crisis that has devastated American communities,” the letter reads. “Today, Mundipharma is using many of the same deceptive and reckless practices to sell OxyContin abroad.” Significantly, the letter calls out the Sackler family by name, leaving no room for the public to wonder about the identities of the people who stood behind Mundipharma.

The final assessment of the Sacklers’ global impact will take years to work out. In some places, though, they have already left their mark. In July, Raymond, the last remaining of the original Sackler brothers, died at ninety-seven. Over the years, he had won a British knighthood, been made an Officer of France’s Légion d’Honneur, and received one of the highest possible honors from the royal house of the Netherlands. One of his final accolades came in June 2013, when Anthony Monaco, the president of Tufts University, traveled to Purdue Pharma’s headquarters in Stamford to bestow an honorary doctorate. The Sacklers had made a number of transformational donations to the university over the years—endowing, among other things, the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. At Tufts, as at most schools, honorary degrees are traditionally awarded on campus during commencement, but in consideration of Raymond’s advanced age, Monaco trekked to Purdue for a special ceremony. The audience that day was limited to family members, select university officials, and a scrum of employees. Addressing the crowd of intimates, Monaco praised his benefactor. “It would be impossible to calculate how many lives you have saved, how many scientific fields you have redefined, and how many new physicians, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are doing important work as a result of your entrepreneurial spirit.” He concluded, “You are a world changer.”

Source: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a12775932/sackler-family-oxycontin/ October 2017

  • In California, illegal marijuana farms are taking over thousands of acres of land as toxic wastes are increasingly corrupting ecosystems
  • California is responsible for the majority of illegal U.S. marijuana farming
  • New data says the state holds ‘731,000 pounds of solid fertilizer, 491,000 ounces of concentrated liquid fertilizer and 200,000 ounces of toxic pesticides.’
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2011 its planned to ban toxic fertilizers like zinc phosphide 
  • Chemicals of the kind have been linked to serious health effects in both animals and humans

Illegal marijuana farms are taking over thousands of acres of land as toxic waste continues to corrupt ecosystems in areas along the West Coast.

According to a new report accessed by Reuters, the state of California, which is responsible for more than ’90 percent of illegal U.S. marijuana farming,’ has shown a drastic increase in the use of nationally restricted fertilizers and pesticides such as carbofuran and zinc phosphide, ecologists say.

‘Increasingly, dangerous, unregistered pesticides are being encountered by law enforcement officers who investigate illegal marijuana grows,’ Special Agent-in-Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency criminal enforcement program, Jay M. Green, announced in a public release.

  • Illegal marijuana farms are corrupting ecosystems on the West Coast

  • Thousands of used butane cans used to process concentrated marijuana dumped in the forest in Humboldt County, California

  • Fertilizer seen in a makeshift pond with irrigation hoses attached in order to funnel water to grow sites in Mendocino County is California

‘Through their indiscriminate application, these unregistered pesticides pollute our lands and waters, create a significant safety risk to humans and animals, and present a mounting cleanup expense for taxpayers.’

Expert ecologist Mourad Gabriel, who reports over the issue for the U.S. Forest Service, said California is utilizing ’41 times more solid fertilizers and 80 times more liquid pesticides’ than the state’s initial reported cited in 2013.

Chemicals of these kind have been linked to health defects and death in both animals and humans.

The agency cited ‘a single swallow can be fatal to a small child, and carbofuran to be ‘highly toxic to vertebrates and birds. In granular form, a single grain will kill a bird; for humans, one quarter of a teaspoon is a sufficient dose to be fatal.’

  • Blue tinted water with fertilizer at an illegal marijuana growing site in Mendocino County, California

The Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2011 the department would ban the inorganic chemical compound zinc phosphide.

Included in the unpublished data accessed by Reuters, Gabriel said federal land in California currently holds ‘731,000 pounds of solid fertilizer, 491,000 ounces of concentrated liquid fertilizer and 200,000 ounces of toxic pesticides.’

Illegal pot growers could face jail time and numerous charges for growing illegally, while taxpayers could expect to be left with hefty bills to aid in the sterilization of the toxic waste sites.

  • A pot growing greenhouse is nestled into a clearing in Shelter Cove

  • Taxpayers could expect to be left with hefty bills to aid in the sterilization of toxic waste sites

Since marijuana was legalized in the state of California, officials have been pushing to properly license growers and carefully supervise the production, testing and distribution of hemp.

Supervisor of Trinity County Keith Groves said there are roughly 4,000 illegal growers in the region currently.

‘I’ll be happy if we can get 500 of them to become licensed,’ he told Reuters.

The expense and danger of cleanup has created a backlog of 639 illegal marijuana farms awaiting restoration in California, according to U.S. Forest Service data compiled for Reuters. Each farm covers up to 50 acres.

 ‘We’re getting contamination over and over again at those locations,’ said Gabriel, as toxins move from unsafe containers into the soil and water.

At sites that state officials said they had cleaned up completely, his team found 30-50 percent of the chemicals were still there.

‘They are like superfund sites,’ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar,

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4768664/Marijuana-farms-forming-toxic-waste-dumps-California.html August 2017

Dear David,

I am sending you below a copy of a letter I have sent to the Premiers of Canada – and other members of the worldwide drug prevention community, plus an email to UN HQ in New York.   Since they get so many letters I thought it would be sensible to send you a copy direct as it might take time for you to receive it through UN internal mail.

Dear Premiers,

As members of the worldwide drug prevention community we have been reading with increasing concern and disbelief the way that Canada seems to be bulldozing through legislation that can only damage the citizens of your country – not the least the children.

The Rights of the Child Treaty, under article 33 of the international drug conventions, would be breached if this legislation is allowed to be ratified.

Under the terms of the convention, governments are required to meet children’s basic needs and help them reach their full potential. Since it was adopted by the United Nations in November 1989, 194 countries have signed up to the UNCRC,

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an important international legal instrument that obligates States Parties to protect children and youth from involvement with illicit drugs and the drug trade.

Canada is a signatory to the CRC – which is a legally binding document.  Should your country go ahead with the decision to legalise marijuana – against all the evidence from respected scientists and Health authorities worldwide Canada would be an outcast by those 193 nations who have agreed and signed to Article 33.

We find it astonishing that the wealth of evidence and opinion in Canada and  worldwide,  on the harmfulness of marijuana would seem to have been totally ignored by your parliamentarians.   Indeed new evidence relating to the epidemic of gastrochisis was submitted in good time by our Australian colleague Dr. Stuart Reece and was not allowed to be presented.   Instead you have been persuaded by groups that want marijuana to be ‘the new tobacco’ – headed of course by George Soros, that this will not be harmful to your citizens, that it will bring in tax revenues and that it would destroy the black market. 

However, there was a study done a few weeks ago by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction finding that just in Canada alone, a much smaller country than the U.S. in population, marijuana-related car crashes cost a billion dollars. That’s just the car crashes, and those were directly related to marijuana. And the report came from a government think tank, not any kind of anti-drug group.

We heard many of these same promises in 2012 when Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Yet  in the years since, Colorado has seen an increase in marijuana related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room visits. The marijuana black market has increased in Colorado, not decreased. And, numerous Colorado marijuana regulators have been indicted for corruption.

New reports out of Colorado indicate that legal marijuana  is posing real risks to the safety of young people. As Colorado rethinks marijuana, the rest of the nation should watch carefully this failing experiment.

Healthcare officials representing three hospitals in Pueblo, Colorado, issued a statement on April 27 in support of a ballot measure that would end Marijuana commercialization in the city and county of Pueblo. “We continue to see first-hand the increased patient harm caused by retail marijuana, and we want the Pueblo community to understand that the commercialization of marijuana is a significant public health and safety issue,” said Mike Baxter, president and CEO of Parkview Medical Center.

Among their concerns are  a 51 percent increase in number of children under 18 being treated in Parkview Medical Center emergency rooms.  Furthermore, of newborn babies at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, drug tested due to suspected prenatal exposure, nearly half tested positive for marijuana.

Having read the above, how can Canadian legislators possibly believe that legalising marijuana would, in any way, be advantageous for their country ?

Yours faithfully,

Peter Stoker,  Director,  National Drug Prevention Alliance  (UK)

Source: A letter forwarded by Peter Stoker to David Dadge, spokesperson for UN Office ON Drugs and Crime (UNODC), originally sent to the Premiers of Canada  September 2017

WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced the establishment of six new enforcement teams focused on combatting the flow of heroin and illicit fentanyl. 

 “At a time when overdose deaths are at catastrophic levels, the DEA’s top priority is addressing the opioid epidemic and pursuing the criminal organizations that distribute their poison to our neighborhoods,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “These teams will enhance DEA’s ability to combat trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogues and the violence associated with drug trafficking.”

The enforcement teams will be based in communities facing significant challenges with heroin and fentanyl, including New Bedford, Mass.; Charleston, W.Va.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C.; and Long Island, N.Y.

In determining the locations for these teams, DEA considered multiple factors, including rates of opioid mortality, level of heroin and fentanyl seizures, and where additional resources would make the greatest impact in addressing the ongoing threat. While the teams are based in specific cities, their investigations will not be geographically limited. DEA will continue to pursue investigations wherever the evidence leads.

DEA received funding in its FY 2017 enacted appropriations to establish these teams, which will be comprised of DEA special agents and state and local task force officers. 

The abuse of controlled prescription drugs is inextricably linked with the threat the United States faces from the trafficking of heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. 

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, eclipsing deaths from motor vehicle crashes or firearms. According to initial estimates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, or approximately 175 per day. More than 34,500, or 54 percent, of these deaths were caused by opioids. 

The DEA continues to aggressively pursue enforcement actions against international and domestic drug trafficking organizations manufacturing and distributing heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Just last week, the Department of Justice announced indictments against two Chinese nationals and their North America-based traffickers and distributors for separate conspiracies to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and other opiate substances in the United States.  

Source: Email from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration <dea@public.govdelivery.com> October 2017

These are very shocking videos with information about some of the effects of drug legalisation in the USA.

 

 

While writing, I wondered what kind of details I should publish about the previous lives of people in the marijuana industry. Virgil Grant, one of the article’s subjects, told me stories about how he would sell marijuana from his family grocery store in Compton in the 1980s and 1990s by putting the weed in empty boxes of Lucky Charms. He mentioned, without much elaboration, that would-be competitors in Compton regretted going up against him.

It’s an awkward and confusing transition period in the marijuana industry. What was illegal yesterday in California may be legal today, but that’s of course not the way the federal government sees it. Mr. Grant has spent time in both federal and state prisons.

Since legalization of recreational sales came into effect in California in January, there have been stories about cities and counties that banned marijuana. But I had never seen reporting on the bigger picture. So I reached out to a company called Weedmaps, a website that hosts online reviews of cannabis businesses. When they added it up, the data surprised me: Only 14 percent of California’s cities and towns authorize the sale of recreational marijuana. By contrast, Proposition 64, the ballot measure that allowed marijuana legalization, passed with 57 percent voter approval in 2016, a seemingly solid majority.

The low acceptance of marijuana businesses strikes me as part of the liberal, not-in-my-backyard paradox in California. Yes, Californians want shelters for the homeless, but just not across the street. Yes, Californians want more housing built, but not if it changes the character of the neighborhood. A marijuana dispensary? Sure, preferably in the next town.

A New York Times reporter wanted to find out why California cities are taking such different approaches to legal pot. Previously, he covered a story about why California growers are so reluctant to leave the black market and seek a state license to become legitimate. He found that only about 10 percent have done so. The other 90 percent remain in black market. California is the nation’s biggest producer and consumer of marijuana. One estimate projects the state produces seven times the amount of pot it consumes and exports the surplus to non-legal states. Pursuing this story took the reporter to Compton, in Los Angeles County, where residents voted in January to ban marijuana businesses by a 3-to-1 margin. He compared this to Oakland, near San Francisco, which has embraced the marijuana industry. It’s as if the two cities had been asked the same question and come up with completely different answers, he opined. To get a bigger picture, he consulted Weedmaps to find out how common industry bans are. He was surprised to find that only 14 percent of California’s cities and towns authorize marijuana sales, even though legalization passed in 2016 with 57 percent voter approval.

It’s still early days — it’s been less than three months since legal sales started — but for now the trend is that larger cities like Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego are the hubs of the marijuana industry, while smaller cities and towns are ambivalent or outright hostile to the idea of opening marijuana dispensaries. Orange County, in Southern California, is a recreational marijuana desert, with only a handful of dispensaries allowed.

California has a reputation for very tolerant attitudes toward pot, and it’s the biggest consumer and producer of the drug in the United States by a wide margin. It is also the nation’s premier exporter to other states: By one estimate, the state produces seven times more than it consumes.

But the visit to Compton helped peel back another, more conservative set of attitudes toward marijuana.

At the Compton airport, Shawn Wildgoose, a former enlisted Marine who lives in Compton and works in the construction industry, told me he wanted to see the city focusing on its homeless problem and reducing crime, which is sharply down from previous decades.

Legal marijuana?

“Compton has other issues,” Mr. Wildgoose said. “We don’t need that distraction.”

Source: National Families in Action’s The Marijuana Report nfia@nationalfamilies.org 21st March 2018

For decades, attorney Richard Blau focused his legal savvy on the high-stakes business of booze. Alcohol-industry law was an attorney’s dream, full of unresolved questions and deep-pocketed players clawing their way to the top.

So when Florida’s talk turned to marijuana, another storied pastime with its own dubious history, Blau’s titan of a law firm, GrayRobinson, jumped at the opportunity. Blau now leads a special practice for clients wanting to capitalize on medical cannabis — and bend the laws to their advantage.

“The playbook is to get in and lend a hand in crafting those rules, so they read the way our clients want them to read,” Blau said. “The powerful people are the ones to get in on the ground floor.”

Months before the state’s November vote to legalize medical marijuana, some of Florida’s biggest law firms are already staking their claims to the lucrative legal minefield of the budding weed industry.

Orlando-based GrayRobinson, which employs 101 attorneys in Tampa Bay and nearly 300 across the state, will devote a core of its “regulated products” group to the nuances of marijuana law.

Attorneys with Holland & Knight, a prominent firm in Tampa with more than 1,000 lawyers across the world, last week released an alert for clients on the “legal landscape (and) complex marketplace for marijuana-related businesses.”

And Akerman, the Miami-based corporate-law giant and largest law firm in the state, recently launched a “regulated substances task force” with nearly two dozen senior attorneys and public-policy professionals ready to advise, among others, cultivators, private-equity groups and dispensaries.

“The shifting interplay between state and federal laws presents new challenges and unprecedented opportunities for Akerman clients,” managing partner Richard Spees said in a statement, “and we are positioned to help them capitalize.”

Groups with ostensible legal ties have filed for Florida business licenses with names like Medical Marijuana Business Lawyers and the Cannabis Law Group, joining a wave of “ganjapreneurs” grabbing for a piece of industry profits.

But the introduction of these powerhouse firms ups the ante, helping squash the images of two-bit, Breaking Bad-style “Better Call Saul” legal operations and legitimizing what could be a landslide of million-dollar corporate disputes.

“We’re not the ‘pot lawyers.’ This is not ‘reefer madness.’ It’s 100 percent professional, 100 percent legitimate . . . and we take it 100 percent seriously,” said Troy Kishbaugh, a health care specialist serving on GrayRobinson’s regulated-products group. “We have a large health care base . . . and they want their patients to get the best care possible. And if medical marijuana happens to be part of that medical regimen, they want to make sure they’re doing it right.”

The state’s biggest firms bolstered their practices this spring after Florida lawmakers passed a “Charlotte’s Web” bill legalizing a non-high-producing cannabis strain used to treat cancer and epilepsy.

An even bigger fight comes in November, when voters could pass Amendment 2 and legalize weed for a much broader slate of medical uses. Its prospects seem increasingly upbeat: A Quinnipiac University poll last week found 88 percent of Florida voters support adult medical-cannabis use.

If the vote passes, Florida could follow California in becoming America’s second-biggest medical-weed state, with around 400,000 patients spending an average of $3,000 a year, estimates from state regulators and a national cannabis-industry trade group show.

State regulators have several months to decide on the law’s little details, leaving a huge window for “cannabusiness” interests pushing to find an unserved niche. The state Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use, which is drafting the rules, discussed at a public hearing Friday a range of potential enterprises, from medical-cannabis testing to home delivery.

Lawyers wise to food and alcohol regulation are shoo-ins for the firms’ legal-weed practices: Many of the rules facing Big Pot, attorneys argue, could look a lot like those governing Big Tobacco, Big Food and Big Booze.
Joining them are lawyers with a vast range of expertise:

• Health care experts to address hospital and physician groups on how to protect themselves while administering, storing and suggesting the use of a drug still illegal under federal law.
• Banking and financial gurus to advise on securing investment, handling money and saving on taxes in what has long been an all-cash business.
• Land use attorneys who can help resolve zoning and landlord disputes over where growers and distributors can operate from seed to sale.
• Even intellectual-property specialists with knowledge on how to protect and preserve cannabis companies’ strains, brands and reputations, in much the same way consultants have long advised Budweiser or Marlboro.

For precedent, attorneys here are analyzing the legal laboratories of the 23 states, plus Washington D.C., that have legalized medical cannabis, and the two states, Washington and Colorado, that have okayed weed for personal use.

They also are following in the footsteps of nationwide firms versed in guiding the emerging trade. Seattle’s Canna Law Group, launched by international law firm Harris Moure in 2011, proved “profitable almost instantly,” partner Dan Harris told the Puget Sound Business Journal last year, adding, “We were shocked at the demand.” One of the group’s attorneys, a young University of Miami graduate, was voted “Marijuana Industry Attorney of the Year” in 2013 by Dope Magazine.

For the finer details, attorneys said, firms are following their clients’ requests to lobby their way into influence. Litigation seems likely: A proposed rule limiting Florida’s medical weed to five nurseries, chosen by lottery, has already stirred up legal wrath.
Attorneys have likened their legal timing to representing alcohol outfits near the sunset of prohibition, a potentially historical chance to mold law and make nice with the grateful captains of a new industry.

But GrayRobinson’s Blau, whose practice group is taking on three new clients a week, stops short of supporting the “green rush” of small-time entrepreneurs. He compares the early days of legal Florida weed to that of the American gold rush, in which organized business interests, not excited ground troops, ended up with the most to gain.

“All those individual wannabe miners thought (they’d strike it rich) when they pushed forward to mine the Klondike … but very few emerged out of that with anything,” Blau said. “In reality, it was the established gold-mining companies who took the ground, and made it their own.”

Source: www.tampabay.com 1st August 2014

Public Health and Safety Communities Applaud Move

DOJ Decision Will Dry Up Money To Marijuana Industry

(January 4, 2018 – Alexandria, VA) – The Department of Justice will announce today it will rescind lax marijuana policy guidance to US Attorneys (the so-called “Cole Memo”) and instead allow US Attorneys to exercise discretion in going after marijuana cases. The new memo will not call for arresting users or others with low-level involvement in marijuana, but instead makes investing in the marijuana industry a risky move.

“This is a good day for public health. The days of safe harbor for multi-million dollar pot investments are over,” said Kevin A. Sabet, a former Obama Administration drug policy adviser who is now head of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “DOJ’s move will slow down the rise of Big Marijuana and stop the massive infusion of money going to fund pot candies, cookies, ice creams, and other kid-friendly pot edibles. Investor, banker, funder beware.”

The Cole Memo and its compliance was blasted by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a 2016 report. The lead GAO author stated that DOJ “has not documented its plan for monitoring the effects of the state marijuana legalization.” A recent poll also found that when voters had more choices than just legalization or prohibition, support for legalization fell by 30%. Most voters were comfortable with laws removing criminal penalties for use but not legalizing sales, which the Cole Memo permitted.

“The Cole Memo had been waived around by money-hungry pot executives for years, searching for legitimacy among investors and banks,” remarked former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, a SAM Honorary Advisor. “It’s time we put public health over profits. This is a sensible move that now must be followed up with action so we can avoid a repeat of the nightmare of Big Tobacco.”

“Marijuana, along with alcohol and tobacco, are the three drugs we need to stop our youth from trying,” said Dr. Robert DuPont, the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and second White House drug czar. “DOJ is doing the right thing by putting a stop to this wink and nod policy of allowing marijuana legalization.”

Corinne Gasper, who lost her daughter Jennifer to a driver high on marijuana, stated, “All too often, marijuana has been seen as benign. An industry not unlike Big Tobacco has downplayed its harms, aided by laws allowing officials to look the other way. For the sake of so many families, I hope those days are now over.”

SAM, a non-profit organization founded by a former member of Congress and a former Obama Administration drug policy advisor, applauded the news. SAM’s Science Advisory board consists of more than a dozen top researchers in the field of marijuana policy ranging from institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the former President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, stated, “This is the right move by DOJ. To protect public health, we must choke the large amounts of funding spent by Big Marijuana to hook kids on highly potent THC products.”

Justin Luke Riley, the Denver-based leader of the Marijuana Accountability Coalition stated, “Recovery from addiction is so much harder when you are bombarded with the kind of pot commercialization we see here in Colorado. DOJ should be applauded for trying to put a stop to the shameless promotion and advertising that is killing our community.”

Ron Brooks, the former head of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, stated, “This is the kind of leadership that will save lives. For too long law enforcement has been handcuffed by vague and unenforced policy guidance.”

Will Jones, a DC-resident who is fighting for social justice in minority communities commented, “Since the Cole Memo was released, the pot industry has relentlessly opened more pot shops in poorer, communities of color. Arrests are even higher now in many jurisdictions than before legalization.”

“Focusing enforcement resources on incarcerating low-level, nonviolent offenders will always be wrong and counterproductive,” said Kevin Sabet, President of SAM. “But there is an urgent need for Federal officials to reassert targeted control over an exploding industry that is undermining public health and safety in our communities.

This is a major blow to an industry that is corrupting our politics and lying to voters in a steadfast pursuit to put profit over public health and safety. Today’s policy change will undoubtedly extend a chilling effect we have seen on marijuana legalization initiatives across the nation this year, and – hopefully – encourage lawmakers to stop and look at what science tells us about the unintended consequences of legal marijuana.

Like the tobacco industry before it, well-heeled lobbyists from the marijuana industry have been touting marijuana commercialization as the panacea for every contemporary challenge we face in America, but the truth is, the health and safety costs caused by the commercialization of cannabis are outweighing any tax revenues collected.”

Source: Press Release from SAM: info@learnaboutsam.org. 4th January 2018

Kevin Sabet, the president and CEO of Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has become arguably the most influential critic of marijuana legalization in the United States. But in an extended interview on view below, he fights against the perception that he’s a one-dimensional prohibitionist along the lines of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sabet stresses that he and his organization, shorthanded as SAM, take what he sees as a sensible approach to cannabis by arguing in favor of treatment rather than jail time for users in trouble and advocating for greater study of the substance to determine the best ways to utilize it medically.

We first spoke to Sabet in January 2013, just prior to SAM’s launch in Denver, when he appeared alongside co-founder Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island and a member of the Kennedy political dynasty. Sabet’s background is similarly stocked with connections to heavyweights. The author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, he served stints in the Clinton and Bush administrations and spent two years as senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s drug-control director before taking on the SAM cause.

In the more than four years since then, he’s made countless media appearances while lobbying behind the scenes to try and stop the momentum generated by the pot legalization bandwagon.

Sabet, who says SAM’s funding mainly comes from small donors and grants as opposed to hard-core drug-war groups or Big Pharma, doesn’t think it’s too late to accomplish this goal, in part because only a relatively small percentage of the populace actually uses marijuana. Moreover, he feels that plenty of those who abstain will more actively fight against pot’s normalization if public use (and its attendant smoke and scent) becomes more prevalent in cities such as Denver, which he sees as having been demonstrably harmed by legalization. He blames cannabis for turning the 16th Street Mall into a homeless haven that visitors actively avoid and suspects that in his heart of hearts, Governor John Hicklenlooper knows legalization was a terrible mistake but can’t admit it publicly because the right to toke is enshrined in the state constitution.

Likewise, Sabet considers it inarguable that the marijuana industry is targeting young people with colorfully packaged pot edibles and argues that simply keeping cannabis away from kids isn’t enough. He cites studies showing that the brains of 25-30 year olds are still developing — and can still be harmed by weed.

Continue to learn more about Sabet’s cause and the arguments he makes to support it.

Westword: SAM recently put out a release about the amount of tax revenue Colorado has collected as a result of the marijuana industry [in reference to a VS Strategies report estimating that the state has generated more than $500 million in cannabis revenue since legalization]. In it, you talk about how drug use and its consequences cost taxpayers $193 billion per year, with Colorado’s annual share being approximately $3.3 billion. But that’s for all drugs, correct?

Kevin Sabet: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But you need to look at the fact that marijuana is used far more than any of the other drugs, and look at the costs associated with driving, crashing, mental illness — and long-term costs we’re not able to account for. Marijuana isn’t correlated with mental illness overnight. If often takes time. And so the cost of that can’t be calculated in any way. There was a study done a few weeks ago by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction finding that just in

Canada alone, a much smaller country than the U.S. in population, marijuana-related car crashes cost a billion dollars. That’s just the car crashes, and those were directly related to marijuana. And the report came from a government think tank, not any kind of anti-drug group.

I honestly think it isn’t surprising coming from this group [VS Strategies]. It’s an industry group that wants to basically make money from marijuana — much more money than the State of Colorado will make after you account for costs. When you look at the actual number and context of just education alone, the marijuana revenue is barely newsworthy. The Department of Education in Colorado says they need $18 billion in capital construction funds alone. The reality is, the Colorado budget deficit is actually rising, not falling. This isn’t plugging a hole in the deficit. It’s actually costing money. There’s one area where I’d agree with [former Colorado Director of Marijuana Coordination] Andrew Freedman: You don’t do this for the money. But it’s a great talking point, and it polls well, just like the talking point of it being safer than alcohol polls well. This polls well, too, so you’re going to have an industry group that thrives off commercialization touting the numbers. That’s not surprising at all.

SAM is usually described as an anti-marijuana organization. Is that an accurate description from your viewpoint? Or is it pejorative in some way?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s pejorative, but I think it’s overly simplistic. It’s true that we don’t want to see the legalization of another illegal substance. We think that our experience with pharmaceuticals, which are, of course, legal, as well as alcohol and tobacco, has been an utter disaster from a public cost and public-policy point of view. We’ve never regulated those drugs in a responsible way. Lobbyists and special interests own the rule-making when it comes to these drugs. And what we’re saying is, do we really want to repeat history once again? It just happens to be marijuana. It really could have been any substance. And we will be talking about the legalization of other drugs if marijuana goes through. Because it doesn’t stop with marijuana in terms of the policy goals of many of these organizations. So I think it is overly simplistic. And we’re very concerned about commercialization.

Also, we don’t want to see a return to an enforcement-heavy policy that throws everybody behind bars or saddles young people, especially, with criminal records that prevent them from getting a job or being able to access public benefits or being able to go to school. We want to see people given another chance. But we also want to see this treated as a health issue, and you don’t treat marijuana as a health issue by ignoring it or facilitating its use. You do brief interventions if they’re needed, treatment if it’s needed. I don’t think everyone who uses marijuana needs treatment, just like everyone who drinks or uses other drugs doesn’t need treatment. But some people are using it in a way that is problematic, and they need an early intervention, perhaps, to prevent them from moving on to a substance-use disorder — or they need more intense treatment. It really just depends.

We also want to see research into components of marijuana that may have therapeutic value. We don’t want to see people needlessly suffering. But if Perdue Pharma or Pfizer said tomorrow that they have a new blockbuster drug but they don’t want it to go through the FDA and instead want to put it up to a vote, we’d be up in arms. And rightfully so. Everybody would be up in arms. And we don’t think marijuana should get a free pass because there are stories of it helping people. I don’t doubt that it helps some people — things like cannabidiol oil, etc., or even smoking marijuana to relieve pain. I don’t doubt that it helps some people. But we don’t want to turn back the clock to pre-FDA days, where we had snake-oil salesmen and wild claims about drugs. We want to put it through the same system, and if that system is problematic and difficult, then let’s look at what those barriers are and resolve them.

So I think we are a sensible organization that takes our cues from science. That’s why, on our board, you don’t see people benefiting from the policy position that we take. If anything, people like the doctors from Boston Children’s Hospital who are on our advisory board, or Harvard professors, they’re going to have more business if marijuana is legal, because they’re going to have people with more problems. We’re working counter to their self-benefit, if you think about it. That’s why we’re led by the science. And the reason we started this…. I left the White House and saw there was a huge disconnect between the public’s understanding of marijuana and what was being told to them by various sources, and we’re trying to bridge that gap. Many of the things you just touched upon are on the four items in the “What We Do” section of your website. But some things, such as “To promote research on marijuana in order to obtain FDA-approved, pharmacy-based cannabis medications,” we don’t hear your organization talking about very often. Is that the fault of the media, because they’re only focusing on the legalization-is-bad angle? Are you giving equal weight to some of these other goals?

I think that’s just people looking through the glasses they want to look through. I think the legalization groups are threatened by a sensible organization led by Harvard doctors that doesn’t want to put people in prison, so they want to paint us as the most irrational dinosaurs from the Stone Age on these issues. The reality is, we spend a lot of our time on all of these issues. In fact, we have released the most comprehensive document that any policy organization has released, I think, on the hurdles of medical marijuana research. That’s right on our website — the six-point plan. And we’ve also done a CBD guide — everything you need to know about CBD. After the guide to everything you need to know about CBD, we did a report on research barriers, and we got a lot of people from both extremes that didn’t like it. John Walters, my former boss, wrote a scathing editorial, saying we were off the mark in calling for more research. When we get criticized from multiple angles, I think people can decide for themselves whether that’s credible or not….

It’s just not sexy, though. I can’t remember the last time that someone from USA Today or Huffington Post said, “Oh, we want to cover the fact that you released a wonky policy document aimed at FDA senior scientists with ten letters after their name.” They’re not banging on the door to get that story. Instead, they’re banging on the door to say, “The governor of Nevada has just declared a state of emergency on pot. What do you think?”

I’m not going to say it’s the fault of the media. I think that’s overused these days. But we’re doing our best, and whether it’s noticed by USA Today or the Huffington Post or the Washington Post or not, that doesn’t matter as much. We’re getting it out there, and I know that hundreds of lawmakers have read it. In fact, three out of our six recommendations have been adopted since we released that report. I don’t think we’re the only reason they’ve been adopted, but I think us pushing and prodding and putting it down on paper gave some political cover to some people who may not have supported it in the past, and I’m very proud of that. I know it doesn’t satisfy Medical Marijuana Inc. or these hundreds of CBD manufacturers who are selling God knows what because they don’t get it looked at by the FDA; they’re not going to be happy about that. But I think the science speaks for itself, and scientists and others have noticed. That’s why they’ve asked to join my advisory board — top researchers who want to be part of this team not because we’re zealots, but because we look at the science and are able to get it out there….

Another of the talking points on your website says, “Alcohol is legal. Why shouldn’t marijuana be legal?” How do you answer that question?

To me, saying, “Alcohol is bad and it’s legal, so why shouldn’t marijuana be legal?” is like saying, “My headlights are broken, so why don’t we break the taillights, too?” It doesn’t make much sense. First of all, alcohol and marijuana are apples and oranges in many ways. They’re different just because of their biology and their pharmacology, but they’re also different in their cultural acceptance and prevalence in Western society. Alcohol has been a fixed part in Western civilization since before the Old Testament. The reason alcohol prohibition didn’t work — and that’s debatable….

What’s the debate?

If you look at scholars who studied Prohibition much more than I have, there is a vigorous debate. Alcohol use fell during Prohibition, harm fell as well. Cirrhosis of the liver, which is a top-ten killer of white men, wasn’t a top-ten killer. Organized crime had been in place, and obviously it was strengthened from Prohibition, although it isn’t like it caused it, and it certainly didn’t go away when Prohibition ended…. But it’s very difficult to prohibit something that 60 to 70 percent of the population are doing on a regular basis. Marijuana is still used by fewer than 10 percent of the population monthly, and so the idea that it’s the same in terms of acceptance is wrong. Right now, those 10 percent of users have convinced 55 percent of Americans that this is a good idea.  HOW

That also points to the fact that I think support for marijuana is very soft. I think the industry has overplayed its hand about things like public nuisance, public use, secondhand smoke, car crashes. Once these things become greater in prevalence, which they inevitably will if more states legalize and commercialize, then I think you’re going to have the backlash I think will come, and it will come because of the increased problems….

Alcohol is such an accepted part of society. We accept the negative consequences. Alcohol is not legal because it’s safe. Alcohol isn’t legal because it’s so good for you. Alcohol is legal because it’s been a fixed part of Western civilization for millennia. Marijuana has not been. Of course it was used thousands of years ago. Was it used by certain cultures? Absolutely. But there’s no comparison, complete apples and oranges, when it comes to alcohol’s culture acceptability. So that’s why alcohol is legal — not because we love the effects it has on society. No parent, no teacher, no police officer, says, “I’d be better if I was drinking all the time.” No police officer says, “Man, I wish more people drank.” No parent says, “I wish my kid drank more.” That’s not why it’s legal, because it’s so great.

And alcohol has done very little for our tax base. One of the reasons Prohibition was repealed was because the industrialists were convinced that it would help eliminate or mitigate the corporate tax or even the personal income tax. That’s laughable today. It doesn’t do that at all. Instead it costs us way more money than any revenue we bring in. I think marijuana would be the same story. It affects our bodies differently.

Alcohol affects the liver, marijuana affects the lungs. Alcohol is in and out of your system quite rapidly, but marijuana lingers in the system longer, and according to studies, the effects also linger for longer. They affect different parts of the brain. So they’re different in many ways, but in some respects, they’re the same. They’re both intoxicants, and unlike tobacco, they specifically cause changes in behavior. And that’s a difference with tobacco, another legal drug. Tobacco isn’t correlated with paranoia or obsessiveness or mental illness and car crashes, and obviously, marijuana is.

In some ways, legal drugs offer an interesting example. I think they offer an example of the sort of social and financial consequences that would come with legalizing other drugs.

Source:  http://www.westword.com  14th August 2017

Introduction  

On 31 July 2017 a court case commences in the Pretoria High Court about the constitutional legality of South Africa’s dagga legislation. The media is calling it the “Trial of the Plant”.

What is the “Trial of the Plant” about?

It is about the dagga plant and its prohibition in our society. Scientists have long since proven that the dagga plant is highly complex and dangerous and must be prohibited, but some believe it is not dangerous and even medicinal.

What does the law in SA say about dagga?

Except for medical and research exemptions, the possession, use, cultivation, transportation and distribution of dagga is criminalised in terms of the Drugs and drug trafficking act as well as the Medicines and related substances act.

Was the law not settled by the Constitutional court in 2002?

In 2002 a Rastafarian brought a case to the Constitutional Court about Dagga where he complained that the law prevented him smoking dagga as a religious observance and this violated his rights to religious freedom.

The court accepted that a Rastafarian’s religious rights were violated but dismissed the case as there is no objective way for law enforcement officials to distinguish between the possession or use of cannabis for religious or for recreational purposes.

The trial of the plant will in all likelihood be the final decider.

Why is that?

Because the Trial of the Plant will be the first and only case where there will be oral evidence given and tested, in the witness stand.

These other cases were fought and decided on affidavit evidence in a day or two.

The trial of the plant is very different and will take many days in court starting on 31 July and continuing through the month of August.

There are three legal teams comprising 6 attorneys, 11 advocates, 16 expert witnesses and as many as 12 other witnesses.  The trial will probably be recorded by the media and will also probably go all the way to the Constitutional Court to be finally decided.

DFL’s lead counsel is Adv Reg Willis instructed by the University of Pretoria Law Clinic.

How did this case start?

In 2010 a couple were arrested with approximately R500 000.00 worth of dagga in their home. They became known as the dagga couple.

To avoid prosecution they obtained an interdict in the Pretoria High Court against their prosecution, pending the outcome of a case to declare that all the SA dagga legislation is unconstitutional.

The case is against various government departments and against Doctors for Life International.

DFL joined this case to be of assistance to the State.

So for example DFL will lead the evidence of Harvard Professor Bertha Madras who is one of the foremost authorities on cannabis in the world. She contends that the legalisation of cannabis has to be resisted in the interests of the human brain.

Who is Doctors for Life and what does it do?

DFL is a non-profit relief and civil society organisation of doctors who care and give voluntarily of their own time and money to the many needs of the poor.

DFL serve the needs of the underprivileged communities they serve in South Africa and Southern Africa.  DFL also has an extensive track record of being involved in public interest cases predominantly as a friend of the court, especially to assist with scientific and similar evidence.

So then how is the dagga couple funding their case?

The dagga couple dragged the case out for some years, while they raised money.  They started an organisation called “Fields of Green for All” “FOGFA” which now has over 45000 supporters who are funding the case.

How important is this case for South Africa?

Given the role of dagga in crime, women and child abuse and the future of our youth, this trial is one of the most important to ever reach our courts.  If the dagga couple win their case as they want to, there will be no restriction on the possession, consumption, cultivation, transportation and distribution of cannabis.  A free for all.

Read our dagga court case press releases and more info on cannabis Media Release: High Court Blunders into Dagga Minefield

Source:  Letter from Johan Claassen  www.doctorsforlife.co.za) sent to Drugwatch International  27th July 2017

Sirs,

I believe that a state’s Attorney General and Secretary of State have the obligation to reject any petition that is obviously in violation of any law.

Whether a ballot initiative is properly worded or not, if it proposes, facilitates or allows the violation of any law – it is illegal.

EXCERPT:  “In an opinion dated Tuesday and released Wednesday, Rutledge said the ballot title of the proposal is ambiguous and “that a number of additions or changes” are needed “to more fully and correctly summarize” the proposal.

“The proposal [to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state] by Larry Morris of West Fork would allow for the cultivation, production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas.”:

As you can readily see, Mr. Morris’ proposal would violate federal law and place persons who engage in any of those activities at risk of federal prosecution or other liability.

I draw to your attention a  LEGAL PRIMER(BELOW) ON: ENFORCING THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ACT IN STATES THAT HAVE COMMERCIALIZED MARIJUANA by Mr. David Evans, Esq. in which he concludes that: “Anyone who participates in the growing, possession, manufacturing, distribution, or sales of marijuana under state law or aids or facilitates or finances such actions is at risk of federal prosecution or other liability.”

I ask that you continue to reject these illegal proposals to legalize marijuana in any form in our state of Arkansas.

I reiterate, it is your job to UPHOLD the LAW, not facilitate LAWBREAKING.

Jeanette McDougal

Board Member, Drug Watch, Intl.

Director, NAHAS – National Alliance of Health and Safety dems8692@aol.com

During the 2015 election, the Liberals campaigned on a plan to greenlight marijuana for recreational use to keep it out of the hands of children and the profits out of the hands of criminals.

The party’s election platform said Canada’s current approach — criminalizing people for possession and use — traps too many Canadians in the justice system for minor offences.

Last month, the government spelled out its plans in legislation, setting sweeping policy changes in motion.  The new law proposes setting the national minimum age to legally buy cannabis at 18 years old. It will be up to the provinces should they want to restrict it further.

Is it true, as Wilson-Raybould and the Liberals suggest, that legalization will in fact keep cannabis out of the hands of kids?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below)

This one earns a lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth. Here’s why:

THE FACTS

There is no doubt cannabis is in the hands of young people today.

In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of teenage and early-age adulthood use of marijuana, says Dr. Mark Ware, the vice-chair of the federally-appointed task force on cannabis and a medicinal marijuana researcher at McGill University.

“We don’t anticipate that this is going to eliminate it; but the public health approach is to make it less easy for young adolescents, young kids, to access cannabis than it is at the moment,” he said.

Bonnie Leadbeater, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria who specializes in adolescent behaviour, said as many as 60 per cent of 18-year-olds have used marijuana at some point in their lives.

The aim of a regulated, controlled system of legalized cannabis is to make it more difficult for kids to access pot, Ware said, noting the principle goal is to delay the onset of use.

So will a recreational market for adults coupled with a regulatory regime really keep pot out of the hands of kids?

THE EXPERTS

Public health experts — including proponents of legalization — say that probably won’t happen.

“I don’t exactly know what they are planning to do to keep it out of the hands of young people and I think some elaboration of that might be helpful,” Leadbeater said. “It is unlikely that it will change … it has been very, very accessible to young people.”

Benedikt Fischer, a University of Toronto psychiatry professor and senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, agrees the expectation that legalization will suddenly reduce or eliminate use among young people is counter-intuitive and unrealistic to a large extent.

“The only thing we could hope for is that maybe because it is legal, all of a sudden it is so much more boring for young people that they’re not interested in it anymore,” he said.

Increasing penalties for people who facilitate access to kids will help discourage law-abiding Canadians from doing so, says Steven Hoffman, director of a global strategy lab at the University of Ottawa Centre for health law, policy and ethics.

“That being said, when there’s a drug, there’s no foolproof way of keeping it out of the hands of all children,” Hoffman said. “For sure, there will still be children who are still consuming cannabis.”

Cannabis will not be legal for people of all ages under the legislation, he added, noting this means there may still be a market for criminal activity for cannabis in the form of selling it to children.

In Colorado, officials thought there would be an increase in use as a result of legalization, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer at the Department of Public Health and Environment, but he said there’s been no increase among either youth or adults.    Nor has there been a noticeable decrease.

“What it looks like is folks who may have been using illicitly before are using legally now and teens or youth that were using illicitly before, it’s still the same rate of illicit use,” he said.

THE VERDICT

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said the Liberal government could provide a more nuanced, realistic message about its plans to legalize marijuana.

“To suddenly go over to the rhetoric … that strict regulation is going to keep it out of the hands of young people doesn’t work,” he said.

“There’s a better chance of reducing the harm to young people through a … public health, regulatory approach. That’s ideally what they should be saying.”

Careful messaging around legalized marijuana — like the approach taken by the Netherlands — could make cannabis less of a tempting forbidden fruit for young people, said Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.

“What we know is that prohibition maximizes the engagement of youth, so if we did it well and skillfully and ended prohibition with a wise approach and made cannabis boring, it would keep it out of the hands of kids,” he said.

“It isn’t completely baloney, it just hasn’t gone far enough in terms of a rich, real discussion. It is just political soundbites.”

For this reason, Wilson-Raybould’s statement contains “a lot of baloney.”

METHODOLOGY

The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

· No baloney – the statement is completely accurate

· A little baloney – the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

· Some baloney – the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

· A lot of baloney – the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

· Full of baloney – the statement is completely inaccurate

Source:   http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/fact-check-will-legalizing-pot-keep-it-out-of-the-hands-of-kids-1.3397542   4th May 2017

In  2014, an estimated 22.2 million Americans aged 12 years or older had used marijuana in the past month.1

Under federal law, marijuana is considered an illegal Schedule I drug. However, over the last 2 decades, more than half of the states have allowed limited access to marijuana or its components, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, for medical reasons.2 More recently, 4 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

Currently, evidence for the therapeutic benefits of marijuana are limited to treatment and improvements to certain health conditions (eg, chronic pain, spasticity, nausea).3 Recreational use of marijuana is established by patterns of individual behaviors and lifestyle choices. In either case, use of marijuana or any of its components, especially in younger populations, is associated with an increased risk of certain adverse health effects, such as problems with memory, attention, and learning, that can lead to poor school performance and reduced educational and career attainment, early-onset psychotic symptoms in those at elevated risk, addiction in some users, and altered brain development.4- 7

In September 2016, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) released an issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report—Surveillance Summary describing historical trends in marijuana use and related indicators among the non-institutionalized civilian population aged 12 years or older using 2002-2014 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).8

During the last 13 years, marijuana access (ie, perceived availability) and use (ie, past-month marijuana use) have steadily increased in the United States, particularly among people aged 26 years or older, increasing from 54.9% in 2002 to 59.2% in 2014 and from 4.0% in 2002 to 6.6% in 2014, respectively. The factors associated with the national behavior patterns of marijuana use cannot be attributed solely to the heterogeneous body of state laws and policies that vary considerably with respect to year of enactment, implementation lag time, and access stipulations.

However, as state laws and policies continue to evolve, these data will be useful as a baseline to monitor changes in patterns of use and associated variables. Monitoring behavioral patterns is important given the possible increased risk of adverse health consequences due to potency changes—higher concentrations of THC (the psychoactive compound)—of the cannabis plant in the United States in the last 2 decades.9

Estimates from NSDUH data suggest that in 2014, 2.5 million persons aged 12 years or older had used marijuana for the first time within the past 12 months; this projected estimate suggests that there is an average of about 7000 new users each day (approximately 1000 more new users each day in 2014 compared with in 2002). In 2014, mean age at first use of marijuana was 19 years among persons aged 12 years or older and was 15 years among persons aged 12 to 17 years.8

During 2002-2014, the estimated prevalence of marijuana use in the past month, in the past year, and daily or almost daily increased among persons aged 18 years or older but

not among those aged 12 to 17 years, while the perceived risk from smoking marijuana decreased across all age groups. Conversely, the estimated prevalence of past-year marijuana dependence decreased from 1.8% in 2002 to 1.6% in 2014 among all persons aged 12 years or older and from 16.7% in 2002 to 11.9% in 2014 among past-year marijuana users.

Overall, the perceived availability to obtain marijuana among persons aged 12 years or older increased, and acquiring marijuana by buying the drug and growing it increased vs obtaining marijuana for free and sharing the drug. The percentage of persons aged 12 years or older perceiving that the maximum legal penalty for the possession of 1 oz or less of marijuana in their state of residence is a fine and no penalty increased vs perceptions that penalties included probation, community service, possible prison sentence, and mandatory prison sentence.8

These findings on perceived availability to obtain marijuana and fewer punitive legal penalties (eg, no penalty) for the possession of marijuana for personal use may play a role in the observed increased prevalence in use among adults in the United States. However, surveillance data do not reveal causal relationships; therefore, more granular research is needed.

As states adopt policies that increase legal access to marijuana, new indicators will be needed to understand trends in marijuana use and the risk of health effects. Questions regarding mode of use (eg, smoked, vaped, dabbed, eaten, drunk), frequency of use, potency of marijuana consumed, and reasons for use (ie, medical use, recreational use, or both) could be added to existing surveillance systems or launched in new systems.

Traditionally, understanding factors underlying the trends in marijuana use have been assessed by looking at 1 or 2 indicators (eg, perception of harm risk or dependence or abuse). A multivariable approach that includes environmental (eg, law enforcement, laws/policies) and cultural (eg, religion, individual choice) factors might be required to understand the relationship between the perceptions and attitudes toward marijuana and use behavior.

The health effects associated with marijuana use are still widely debated. Nonetheless, marijuana use during early stages of life, when the brain is developing, poses potential public health concerns, including reduced educational attainment, addiction in some users, poor education outcomes, altered brain structure and function, and cognitive impairment.4- 7

Given these potential health and social consequences of marijuana use, additional data sources at the federal and state levels may be required to assess the public health effects of marijuana use. These sources may include data from sectors such as health care (eg, emergency department data), criminal justice (eg, law enforcement data), education (eg, school attendance and performance data), and transportation (eg, motor vehicle injury data).

Assessing the prevalence and public health effects of marijuana use in the United States remains important given the evolving policies for marijuana for medical or recreational use at the state level. Therefore, it is vital to continue to monitor key traditional marijuana indicators but also to enhance public health surveillance to include monitoring of indicators that assess emerging issues so that public health actions could prevent adverse health consequences.

Given that legislation, types of products, use patterns, and evidence for potential harms and benefits of marijuana and its compounds are all evolving, clinicians need to understand the magnitude of marijuana use and associated behaviors so they can provide informed answers to patient questions, screen, counsel, treat, and refer patients to community treatment or counseling centers if abuse or adverse effects are identified.

Source: JAMA. 2016;316(17):1765-1766. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.13696

The “bud tender” had shoulder length black hair, a deep well of patience and a connoisseur’s pride in his wares as he spread tray after tray of marijuana-based products on the glass counter top.

There were fruit gums, chocolate caramels, granola packets, medicated sugar to drop in your coffee or tea in the morning, Rosemary Cheddar Crackers for a savoury taste, a bath soak and even sensual oil for the bedroom, Charles Watson explained.

Then he moved on to his dozen jars of green, frosted-looking marijuana lumps for smoking, all grown legally in Denver and all named and labelled with a percentage breakdown of their chemical composition to indicate their potency and character.

How marijuana changed Colorado

Mr Watson, a salesman for the prominent Colorado marijuana chain Native Roots, explained that he had a higher tolerance than most users to his products’ effects. For a novice he suggested Harlequin, which would be similar to the cannabis you would have found in the Sixties or early Seventies. It was milder than something like Alien OG with its sky-high THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, content. “Even smoking a tiny bit of that can get you nice and elevated,” Mr Watson said.

Almost anywhere else in the world Native Roots would be considered an unusually well-stocked drug den and Mr Watson could be facing time in jail. In Colorado, where sales of recreational marijuana to adults over 21 have been legal since January 2014, he is one of more than 27,000 people licensed to work in a booming new industry with global ambitions.

“We’re trying to show the world you can sell and regulate it in a responsible manner,” Mr Watson said. His clients are not only stereotypical stoners — they include everyone from the healthy guy that’s just run a marathon to wheelchair users who are inhaling oxygen.

Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, opposed legalisation at the time of the vote in 2012 and subsequently said that he wished he could wave a magic wand and abolish it. In May, however, he changed his tune. “If I had that magic wand now, I don’t know if I would wave it,” he said. “It’s beginning to look like it might work.”

By the end of this year, if a series of state referendums fall in favour of legalisation, recreational marijuana could be approved in nine states, including California, whose economy was the sixth largest in the world last year.

Colorado raised $135 million from marijuana fees, licences and taxes last year, a fraction of the overall state budget of $27 billion but welcome revenue all the same.

Recreational and medical marijuana customers pay a 2.9 per cent regular Colorado sales tax charge and any local taxes. Recreational consumers are also charged an additional 10 per cent state marijuana sales tax and the price of their marijuana includes a 15 per cent excise tax paid by the retailer when purchasing his wares from the grower. The revenue feeds into a state schools building programme. If it is legalised in California, voters will decide whether a portion of the taxes from recreational marijuana sales will go towards tackling the state’s homelessness problem.

There are still marijuana-related crimes in Colorado, for example where the supplier is unlicensed or the customer is under 21 but there are far fewer than previously. The total number of marijuana-related prosecutions fell by more than 8,000 a year between 2012 and 2015, and was down 69 per cent among the 10-17 age group.

Violent crime fell by 6 per cent and property crime dropped by 3 per cent between 2009 and 2014, the first year of the experiment, debunking pessimistic forecasts made before legalisation.

The state’s senior law enforcement official, Stan Hilkey, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, said he was surprised by the results. “During the debate there was a ‘sky is gonna fall’ mentality from a lot of us, including me,” he said. “I haven’t seen that.” He said, however, that after three decades as a police officer he found it difficult “to shed my cop glasses”. Asked if legalisation had brought any benefits to the public or to law enforcement, he said: “None that I’m aware of.”

In May the state’s county sheriffs, prosecutors and police chiefs wrote to Colorado legislators to complain about the extra workload foisted on them by legalisation. They called for a two-year break from the constant tweaks to the regulation of

medical and recreational marijuana. Their letter said that there had been 81 bills on the subject introduced in the previous four years.

They wrote: “Industry forces are working constantly to chip away at regulations put in place to protect public health and safety.”

Mr Hilkey added that legalisation had failed to defeat the black market, which continues to thrive because its product is cheaper and not restricted by age. It has also created new problems, including the illegal export of licensed and unlicensed marijuana to neighbouring states and almost certainly brought greater profits to organised crime activity in Colorado.

The ban on marijuana sales at national level means that officially at least, banks will not open accounts for marijuana growers or vendors, so the industry remained a cash business, he said. Therefore this made it ripe for criminals.

There were 2,538 licensed marijuana businesses in Colorado last December, many of which hire security to protect against armed robberies.

Last month a former Marine Corps veteran working as a guard at the Green Heart dispensary in Aurora, near Denver, was shot dead in a botched robbery, the first killing at a licensed marijuana business, though not the first robbery.

Two days later a small group of Republicans in Congress blocked a measure backed by both parties that would have effectively opened the banking system to marijuana businesses.

You get dirty looks if you smoke a cigarette in the street but people barely think twice if they smell weed

A spokesman for Blue Line Protection Group, one of the largest companies competing to provide security and compliance services to the new industry, said that it was a myth that there was no banking. In practice some local banks and credit agencies now feel comfortable offering services to the marijuana industry but the national chains are still waiting for approval from the federal government.

Andrew Freedman, the governor’s director of marijuana coordination, said that if California voters passed recreational legalisation, the federal government would feel compelled to step in to open up legitimate banking for the industry.

Mr Freedman, a lawyer who refuses to give a personal opinion on legalisation, said that Colorado had succeeded in creating a heavily regulated marijuana industry where consumers could safely buy a healthier product than was available on the black market.

He said that it was too early to answer many of the most pressing questions about legalisation, including what impact it had on alcohol, tobacco and opioid usage although he had been pleasantly surprised by how few tragedies there had been through marijuana overdoses.

His greatest worry is that over time people’s comfort with legalisation could make radically different patterns of marijuana use socially acceptable.

That may be happening already though. Evan Borman, 33, an architect who lives down the street from a medical marijuana shop, said attitudes in the state were shifting, though he claimed that he smoked “no less and no more” than he did before legalisation. He said: “You get dirty looks if you smoke a cigarette in the street but people barely even think twice if they smell weed.”

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/yes-it-s-legal-but-the-law-s-still-a-drag-j8rdh3nbj    August 22nd 2016

An ITV News investigation has uncovered how children as young as 12 are being ruthlessly groomed and exploited by organised crime groups who send them the length and breadth of the country to carry drugs and money.

Working round-the-clock as a 14-year-old drugs mule

ITV News has seen an internal Home Office document which describes this as a “new type of organised crime” that is “unreported”.

It also suggests the number of kids involved is “unrecorded”. And it contains a stark warning; suggesting that current government practice – including the inability of public services to work together – “might be making it easier for criminal gangs to exploit  vulnerable people”.

 Warning signs that your child may be involved in a gang

Speaking to ITV News, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield called for the same “mindset change” about these young adults being groomed to run drugs by gangs as that after child sex exploitation was uncovered across Britain in 2014.

One teenager described to ITV News how he was groomed by drug gangs.   We spoke to one 15-year-old boy, caught up in this dangerous world since the age of 13.

Daniel described how drug dealers groomed him, gave him gifts and made him feel part of their group.

“They’d pick me up around the corner from my house. They’d give me a lift to school and I’d get out and you just felt like you were important getting out of a nice big car.”

“Anything I ever wanted I got given and I thought it was all for free,” Daniel added.

But he soon realised they wanted something in return. They asked him to deliver shoeboxes of class A drugs and bags of pills, often having to travel long distances from home.

Daniel is still trying to escape this life.

And he’s not alone. We’ve discovered that young boys and girls are being sent out from major cities including Liverpool, London, Manchester and Birmingham to towns and coastal resorts right across Britain.

Others are directed from the capital to Winchester, Peterborough and towns along the south coast.

Children as young as 12 are being sent out from major cities. Credit: ITV News

We heard of boys being sent from Manchester to Aberdeen and Grimsby and teens from Liverpool turning up in Essex and Exeter. The police call it “county lines”, the children call it “going country”.

Home Office documents seen by ITV News describe it a “new type of organised crime” that is “unreported” and “unrecorded”. The department said the number of kids involved is “unrecorded” but our research suggests it runs into thousands.

Stephen Moore, a former senior detective at Merseyside Police and an expert in organised crime, says the drug syndicates see this as a business and children represent cheap labour, easy to exploit and easy to replace if anything happens to them.

“This is like mill owners using kids in Victorian times or sending kids down mines – cheap, easily replaceable labour, ” Mr Moore said. The gangs prey on school children but the Home Office documents warn they particularly target vulnerable young people from children’s care homes, or those who have been excluded from mainstream education.

It’s a growing problem. In just one small area of Essex around Clacton-on-Sea, police say there are as many as 19 ‘county lines’ running from Liverpool, London and Manchester Caroline Shearer runs the charity Only Cowards Carry, which works with young people to keep them safe.

“Once a child is in a drug ring it’s very hard to get out,” she told ITV News.

Really there’s three ways. You can run away and hope that nobody ever finds you. You can go to prison, which is probably the best bet to help you get out of it, unfortunately. You can die because you will not get out of it. And unfortunately this is something that most people don’t understand.

– CAROLINE SHEARER, CHARITY OWNER

Experts think many of the children who go missing every year in this country may have actually have “gone country”. In one London borough, Lewisham, the local authority believes half of its missing children have been groomed to carry drugs.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said there are parallels with child sexual exploitation and action is urgently needed to protect boys and girls.  The Children’s Commissioner said a mindset change is needed to tackle the issue.

“I think as a country we have had a very serious and overdue wake-up call about child sexual exploitation and saw that very starkly in areas such as Rotherham,” she said.

“There are youngsters involved in gangs who are in every other sense being groomed into that situation and being exploited and if we are going to protect them and prevent them being in those gangs and coming to harm we need that same scale of mindset change about them.”

It appears the UK’s drug trade has reinvented itself, expanding from inner cities to parts of the new country and exploiting children has allowed it to do this without detection.

In January we announced our Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation approach, which includes specific action to tackle county lines, protect vulnerable locations and safeguard gang-associated women and girls. The National Crime Agency published its first threat assessment of ‘County Lines’ in August 2015 and is working closely with the National Policing Lead for Gangs to ensure there is a national, coordinated response from law enforcement.

– HOME OFFICE STATEMENT

Source: http://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-29/going-country-itv-news-reveals-the-scale-of-children-being-exploited-and-sent-around-britain-to-carry-drugs/ 

States that have legalized marijuana are contending with a new criminal tactic — smugglers who grow and process it for export to states where it’s illegal and worth a lot more.

Colorado is the epicenter of the phenomenon, although it’s popping up in Oregon and Washington too. Now as Maine, Massachusetts and Canada consider legalizing recreational marijuana, the question arises — will the Northeast see a wave of new-age bootleggers?

During the Prohibition era, it was whiskey being run from Canada or Mexico to the U.S. Now it’s marijuana that’s being smuggled — from Colorado, where it has been fully legal since 2014, to neighboring states and beyond.

“It’s probably our No. 1 concern.” says Andrew Freedman, who directs marijuana policy for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Freedman says organized criminals are exploiting legal loopholes by collecting home-grow licenses that allow for as many as 99 marijuana plants each. And more generally, he says, criminals are using the state’s fully legalized pot economy as cover.

“Different ways you can use Amendment 20 and 64, the medical and the recreational, to kind of cloak yourself in legitimate growing. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who want to do that in order to sell out of state because there’s a huge economic incentive to want to sell out of state right now,” he says.

As in, a pound of pot, worth, say, $1,500 at the counter of a legal Colorado marijuana shop is worth $3,000 or more when it crosses the state border, instantly transmuted into a prized black-market commodity. And criminal gangs are moving in, creating a headache for Colorado law enforcement, danger to public safety and a field day for the media.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says last year, state highway patrols intercepted more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana that was destined for states beyond Colorado’s border. That’s just a tenth, they estimate, of the actual cross-border market, making it, conservatively, a $100 million-plus proposition. Those numbers do not include busts of some pretty big syndicates, many of them recently involving Cuban nationals shipping product to Florida.

And for Colorado’s neighboring states, it’s a doubly-frustrating problem, because it’s not of their own making.

“In Nebraska, Colorado’s become ground zero for marijuana production and trafficking,” says Jon Bruning, Nebraska’s attorney general, who with his counterpart in Oklahoma is trying to sue Colorado and force it to overturn its marijuana laws. “This contraband has been heavily trafficked in our state. While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost. Virtually every aspect of Nebraska’s criminal justice system has experienced increased expense to deal with the interdiction and prosecution of Colorado marijuana trafficking.” One Nebraska study found that border counties saw gradual increases in pot-related arrests, jailings and costs since medicinal marijuana was legalized in Colorado, and a surge in 2014, when the recreational pot law went into effect. But the U.S. Supreme

Court recently declined to review the complaint by Colorado’s neighbors, which are looking for other venues to pursue their case.

Meanwhile, here on the East Coast, voters in Massachusetts and Maine are considering full legalization on the November ballot, and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling for legalization there. If those measures are all approved, police in New Hampshire are wondering what it would be like to be nearly surrounded by legal pot territory.

Andrew Shagoury is Tuftonboro’s chief of police, and the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association’s point-man on pot. If Maine or Massachusetts does go for legalization, he expects that at the least, problems such as small-scale smuggling and intoxicated driving will spill over the border.

“If more does spill over, the direct effect I suspect will be more accidents with people under the influence — obviously that would be a public safety concern. And I think politically you’d see more pressure for it to pass here too,” he says.

And Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy expects organized crime to open up new fields of operation.

“What’s going to stop a drug cartel from purchasing property, renting property here and running an operation at the property? And that’s something that could be situated next to a school, next to a hospital, in a suburban neighborhood. That’s a real problem,” she says.

But some note that Colorado neighbors such as Nebraska and Omaha have relatively strict marijuana laws, creating a strong incentive for smugglers there. In New England there is a more relaxed culture around marijuana — every state in the region, except for New Hampshire, has decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot and allowed use of medicinal marijuana, perhaps reducing potential black-market demand.

Essentially, says Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Vermonters are already growing enough pot to meet most of their smoking needs. But Sorrell is worried about the introduction of edible marijuana products into the regional marketplace.

“And I really think the regulators have to do a lot more effective work on quality control so that buyers know what is the THC content, what is a legitimate serving or portion because I think there has been and will continue to be a problem with over ingestion of marijuana,” he says.

There are specific parts of the measures in Maine and Massachusetts that could make it harder for criminals to aggregate licenses for big grow operations. And advocates of ending pot prohibition point to what they believe would be the most effective way to end the black market economy — to legalize marijuana in every state.

Source: http://mainepublic.org/post/will-legalizing-marijuana-create-modern-bootlegger 21st Sept.2016

More of the U.S. workforce is testing positive for drugs, according to lab tests at Quest Diagnostics.

For the fifth straight year, the detection rate of amphetamine and heroin rose, while marijuana increased by 47 percent since 2013.

The analysis of 11 million workforce drug test results from 2015 shows a steady increase or a 10-year high in positive results, Quest said in a statement.

Here are some of the insights from the test results:

* Positivity rate was 4 percent in 2015, compared to 3.9 percent in 2014 for urine tests.

* The last year that positivity rate for urine tests was at or more than 4 percent was 2005.

* Post-accident urine test have been increasingly positive for drugs, from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 6.9 percent in 2015.

* An increase from 6.7 percent to 9.1 percent in marijuana positivity.

* Almost 45 percent of workforce tests were positive for marijuana in 2015.

“This report shows a welcome decline in workplace drug test positives for certain prescription opiates but a disturbing increase in heroin positives. This rise in heroin should concern both policymakers and employers. Substance abuse is a safety risk for everyone. This new workplace evidence is an additional sign of the rising national heroin problem, this time in the workplace,” said Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement through Quest.

Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, said the numbers underscore the threat to employers and employees from drug abuse and should provide a wake-up call to all.

Source: http://www.njbiz.com/article/20160916/NJBIZ01/160919875/greater-number-of-us-workforce-is-testing-positive-for-illegal-drugs     Sept.16 2016

By Christopher Ingraham

Source: Washington Post

USA — An appeals court ruled last week that a federal law prohibiting medical marijuana cardholders from purchasing guns does not violate their Second Amendment rights, because marijuana has been linked to “irrational or unpredictable behavior.”

The ruling came in the case of a Nevada woman who attempted to purchase a handgun in 2011, but was denied when the gun store owner recognized her as a medical marijuana cardholder, according to court documents. S. Rowan Wilson maintained that she didn’t actually use marijuana, but obtained a card to make a political statement in support of liberalizing marijuana law.

Federal law prohibits gun purchases by an “unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance.” In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms clarified in a letter that the law applies to marijuana users “regardless of whether [their] State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.” Though a growing number of states are legalizing it for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, which considers the drug to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the federal law passes muster with the Constitution, as “it is beyond dispute that illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior.”

The court then concluded that it is reasonable to assume that a medical marijuana cardholder is a marijuana user, and hence reasonable to deny their gun purchase on those grounds.

From a legal standpoint, the nexus between marijuana use and violence was established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Virginia, in the 2014 case of United States v. Carter. That case cited a number of studies suggesting “a significant link between drug use, including marijuana use, and violence,” according to the 9th Circuit’s summary.

In the words of the 4th Circuit, those studies found that: “Probationers who had perpetrated violence in the past were significantly more likely to have used a host of drugs — marijuana, hallucinogens, sedatives, and heroin — than probationers who had never been involved in a violent episode.”

“Almost 50% of all state and federal prisoners who had committed violent felonies were drug abusers or addicts in the year before their arrest, as compared to only 2% of the general population.”

“Individuals who used marijuana or marijuana and cocaine, in addition to alcohol, were significantly more likely to engage in violent crime than individuals who only used alcohol.”

Among adolescent males, “marijuana use in one year frequently predicted violence in the subsequent year.” The 4th Circuit argued that, on the link between drug use and violence, the question of correlation vs. causation doesn’t matter: “Government need not prove a causal link between drug use and violence” to block firearms purchases by drug users. A simple link between drug use and violence, regardless of which way the causality runs, is grounds enough. Still, the 9th Circuit did suggest causation was part of its decision, saying that irrational behavior can be “a consequence” of marijuana use.

This argument — that substance use increases risky behavior — applies to plenty of other drugs, too, and not just illegal ones. For instance, drug policy researchers Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken have pointed out that tobacco users also are more likely to engage in crime relative to the general population. “Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers have a higher rate of criminality,” they wrote in their 2011 book Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. “Smoking in and of itself does not lead to crime, but within the population of smokers we are more likely to find individuals engaged in illicit behavior.”

The authors also point out that there’s a much stronger link between violent behavior and alcohol than there is for many illegal drugs: “There is a good deal of evidence showing an association between alcohol intoxication and pharmacologically induced violent crime,” they write. They added: “There is little direct association between marijuana or opiate use and violent crime. … it is also possible that for some would-be offenders, the pharmacological effect of certain drugs (marijuana and heroin are often given as examples) may actually reduce violent tendencies.”

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Source: Washington Post (DC) September 7, 2016: 

On July 28 and July 29, agents of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office assisted by the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) responded to USFS property on Brush Mountain, Gainor Peak and Oak Knob in eastern Humboldt County after sighting marijuana being cultivated on USFS land. The deputies were also accompanied by three scientists, two from Integral Ecology Research Center, and one associated with UC Davis and Hoopa Tribal Wildlife Ecologist.

During the two days deputies seized 3,760 marijuana plants ranging in size from 18 inches to four feet. Deputies and scientists located water diversion, mounds of trash and 24 pounds of rodenticides, of which nine pounds were peanut butter flavored and 15 pounds were second generation rodenticide. Malathion and fertilizers were also located at the scenes. No suspects were located in the area of the trespass marijuana grows, however deputies obtained evidence from the scenes that is being processed and the investigation is ongoing.

The spring fed water sources, which had been diverted and used to water marijuana plants, flow into the South Fork of the Trinity River. The springs were part of a network of subterranean water sources. The scientists reported that impacts from the water diversions and chemicals used on the grows could affect Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead, foothill yellow-legged frogs and the western pond turtles.

The scientists reported the rodenticides could potentially kill fishes, Northern spotted owls, American black bears, black tailed deer and Humboldt martens.

Below are some quotes from Dr. Mourad Gabriel of the UC Davis Wildlife Ecologist/Integral Ecology Research Center, who was present with the deputies and USFS agents.

“The removal of this massive amount of killing agents within prime spotted owl and fisher habitat is pertinent for the conservation of these species.”                                                        

“The illegal diversion of this amount of water prohibits the flow of cool water into tributaries that support our salmon populations.”

In light of the current drought and high water temperatures, this represents another blow to our already taxed watersheds.”

“The remediation efforts are crucial in protecting our forest ecosystems.”

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office crime tip line at 707-268-2539.

Redwood Times  Posted:   08/11/2014

http://www.redwoodtimes.com/news/ci_26315593/trespass-grows-found-usfs-land

 

 

 

I continue to be puzzled by an attitude that if something is difficult to enforce then we should abandon attempts and just legalize it. That is apparently the attitude of Oregon’s politicians (Republican and Democrat alike) and is reflected in the comments of the official spokesman for the government elites – The Oregonian – in its August 23 edition:

“Oregon has had a wink-wink, nudge-nudge relationship with recreational marijuana use since 1998, when legalization for medical purposes created a wide, open system that distributes pot cards to just about anyone with a vague medical claim and the signature of a compliant physician. We’re not suggesting that marijuana has no palliative value to those with genuine medical problems. But let’s be honest: Recreational marijuana is all but legal in Oregon now and has been for years. Measure 91, which deserves Oregonians’ support, would eliminate the charade and give adults freer access to an intoxicant that should not have been prohibited in the first place.”

There it is. The marijuana advocates foisted a canard on Oregonians by exploiting the plight of those benefiting from the use of medical marijuana. Having convinced Oregonians that those is need should not be denied, they set up a system that guaranteed abuses and then urged others to look the other way when the abuses became obvious and widespread. Wink, wink, nod, nod. There’s a solid foundation for change. (For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in Portland public schools, that is what is meant by “sarcasm”.)

And now the second canard is upon us with the assertion that “everyone is already doing it” and that recreational marijuana is not harmful. When the push began, those supporting it chanted “nobody has ever died from marijuana.” And that folks, is just plain bulls—t.

A New York Times article on May 31, 2014, noted:

“Five months after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, the battle over legalization is still raging.

“Law enforcement officers in Colorado and neighboring states, emergency room doctors and legalization opponents increasingly are highlighting a series of recent problems as cautionary lessons for other states flirting with loosening marijuana laws.

“There is the Denver man who, hours after buying a package of marijuana-infused Karma Kandy from one of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana shops, began raving about the end of the world and then pulled a handgun from the family safe and killed his wife, the authorities say. Some hospital officials say they are treating growing numbers of children and adults sickened by potent doses of edible marijuana. Sheriffs in neighboring states complain about stoned drivers streaming out of Colorado and through their towns.”

On May 24, 2014, Newsweek reported:

“Wednesday’s move in Colorado to tighten rules on edible goods made with pot comes after two adult deaths possibly linked to such products. Meanwhile, a Colorado children’s hospital said it has seen an uptick in the number of admissions of children who ingested marijuana-laced foods since the start of the year.

“’Since the … legalization of recreational marijuana sales, Children’s Colorado has treated nine children, six of whom became critically ill from edible marijuana,’ the statement from Colorado Children’s Hospital said.”

And The Raw Story reported on April 2, 2014:

“A Wyoming college student visiting Colorado on spring break is the first reported death related to the legal sale of recreational marijuana.

“Levy Thamba, a student at Northwest College, fell to his death last month from the balcony of a Holiday Inn in Denver.

“Autopsy results released Monday showed the 19-year-old Thamba, who was also known as Levi Thamba Pongi, died from multiple injuries caused by the fall. But the coroner also listed ‘marijuana intoxication’ from a pot-infused cookie as a significant contributor to the student’s death.”

And finally, CBS reported from Seattle on February 4, 2014:

“According to a recent study, fatal car crashes involving pot use have tripled in the U.S.

‘Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,’ Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, and co-author of the study told HealthDay News.”

But the Oregonian is undeterred by the mounting evidence of harm:

“Opponents of the measure are right about a couple of things. Allowing retail sales of recreational marijuana inevitably will make it easier for kids to get their hands on the stuff, as will Measure 91′s provision allowing Oregonians to grow their own. It’s also true that outright legalization will increase the number of people driving under the influence, which is particularly problematic given the absence of a simple and reliable test for intoxication. There is no bong Breathalyzer.

“As real as these consequences are, Oregonians should support outright legalization. . .”

We have imposed safety requirements on a whole host of things including guns, automobiles, golf carts, children’s toys and food products that have a lower incident rate of death and injury than is being currently compiled by the unrestricted use of marijuana. Oregon is now tying itself in knots trying to eliminate the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) with no scientific evidence of harm and only a speculation as to what might become. But there is no apparent concern about the modification of marijuana to increase its potency which has resulted in numerous adverse health issues with children and adults alike.

And while the Oregonian acknowledges that there is no “simple and reliable test for marijuana intoxication” it fails to note that there is similarly no simple and reliable test for testing potency. There are no labeling requirements and no guidelines as to the limits of consumption and impairment. Contrast that with the liquor industry that has defined limits and labeling on the alcohol content of various beers, wine and liquors. There are exacting studies that demonstrate the effects of alcohol on a person given weight variations.

And yet the Oregonian ignores that in favor of addressing it sometime in the future – maybe.

And Oregon’s politicians are even less helpful because they are fixated on tax revenue opportunities from the unrestricted use of marijuana. Little thought is

being given to the problems that will be caused. Their sole focus is upon using regression analysis to determine how high the tax can be without seriously reducing the volume of consumption – it is the same myopic view used when determining the tax on tobacco. That amount of tax will increase over time as the use becomes more widespread and the dependency becomes more pronounced and as state government becomes more dependent on the revenue generated, the ability to correct the abuses of marijuana will be marginalized – just like tobacco.

In the end, this is all about the “me generation” and that pervasive attitude that “if it feels good, do it.” It furthers the myth of life without consequences. The only upside is for those who eschew getting high in favor of getting hired – your prospects for getting a good job and routine promotion are greatly enhanced.

Source: www.oregoncatalyst.com 27th August 2014

I live in Denver, where marijuana dispensaries outnumber pharmacies, liquor stores, McDonald’s and Starbucks. When I walk and drive the streets of this beautiful Rocky Mountain city, I often encounter the smell of marijuana smoke. Marijuana users are not allowed to smoke openly and publicly, but a bench in the front yard is considered private property, allowing the smell to pollute the clean mountain air. 

The problems in Colorado began 14 years ago with the passage of Amendment 20 legalizing medical marijuana. Abuse and fraud flourished under its provisions because medical marijuana became easily available for recreational use.

In November, Florida voters will be faced with the choice to legalize marijuana for “medical use.” Voters should instead ask themselves whether they want marijuana legalized in Florida for recreational use. That’s essentially what Amendment 2 will do. The amendment is so flawed that if it passes, medical marijuana will be readily available for anyone who wants to obtain it.

Like Colorado, Florida’s Amendment 2 allows “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers” to develop edibles. These food products have been developed intentionally to allow discreet consumption of marijuana in public places, at schools and in the workplace, and to introduce the product to a larger – younger – consumer base.

In Colorado, marijuana is sold in soda, salty snacks like nuts, granola bars, breakfast cereals, cookies, rice cereal treats, cooking oil and even salad dressing. Some companies buy commercially available children’s candies like Swedish fish, Sour Patch Kids, lollipops or lemon drops and infuse them with marijuana. Others make chocolate bars, Tootsie Rolls and truffles.   So now in Colorado, parents who once taught their children not to take candy from a stranger must tell their children not to take candy from a friend because it could very well contain marijuana. Our emergency rooms report a striking increase in children who have unintentionally ingested marijuana edibles and require medical treatment.

Florida’s Amendment 2 allows for any medical condition, not just terminal, chronic or debilitating conditions, to qualify for marijuana treatment, as long as “a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” This exception will result in patients who use marijuana to get high, despite the stated intention of the amendment to prohibit such conduct.

Colorado’s marijuana patient registry statistics show that only 1 percent of patients list HIV/AIDS; 2 percent, seizures; and 3 percent, cancer. A whopping 94 percent of those using “medical marijuana” claim to have “severe pain,” a subjective and unverifiable condition.

Sixty-six percent of users are male with an average age of 41, despite severe pain being a condition more closely associated with older, female patients. In Denver, it is common to see young, 20-something able-bodied men flocking to medical marijuana centers Friday and Saturday nights to get their “medicine.”  Since outright legalization in 2012 for all persons 21 or older, Colorado has seen an explosion of medical marijuana patients between 18-20 years old.

Moreover, the long-term health implications from youth marijuana use are troubling. A longitudinal study found an association between weekly marijuana use by persons under the age of 18 and permanent decline in IQ.

You might think Florida won’t go as far as Colorado and Washington, but it will be one step closer. Every state that passes medical marijuana laws believes they will be able to correct the errors of those who have paved the way. This has yet to be accomplished.

The Colorado experiment is failing our children, and so will Florida’s. Coloradans may not be able to go back in time, but you can stop yours before it starts.

Rachel O’Bryan is a Colorado resident and an attorney who spent 18 months serving at the request of Governor John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Revenue to aid in the development of recreational marijuana legislation and regulation. She is a founding member of SMART Colorado, a citizen-led nonprofit that protects Colorado kids from the unintended negative consequences of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Source:  http://www.pnj.com/story/opinion/2014/09/13/viewpoint-colorado-going-pot-let-florida/15534781/

Powdered alcohol was approved by a government agency on Tuesday, The Washington Post reports. The product, called “Palcohol,” could arrive in stores this summer. Last year the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved labels for powdered alcohol. It then said the approval had been a mistake.

Lipsmark, the company that makes Palcohol, plans to sell four powdered products: cosmopolitan, margarita, a vodka and a rum, the article notes. The product will be sold in foil pouches that can be used as a glass. A person pours in five ounces of water, zips up the bag and shakes it until the powder dissolves.

Several states, including Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont, have banned the use/sale of powdered alcohol, and a number of other states are considering similar legislation.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced a bill last year to ban powdered alcohol. Last May Schumer urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent federal approval of powdered alcohol. He said it could become “the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking.” Schumer noted the product can be mixed with water, sprinkled on food or snorted. He asked the FDA to investigate the potential harmful effects of the product.

In a statement released last May, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said it agreed with Schumer. “This product is the latest in a long list of specialty alcohol fads,” MADD said. “As with anything ‘new,’ this product may be attractive to youth. … In the case of Palcohol, we share Senator Schumer’s view that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should carefully review this product as it would seem to have the potential to increase underage drinking.” The FDA approved powdered alcohol last summer, the article notes.

Source: www.drugfree.org 12th March 2015

Filed under: Alcohol,Legal Sector,USA :

For decades, the Netherlands has been known for its tolerant cannabis laws – the poster nation for pro-pot advocates. Cannabis users from across the world have flocked to Amsterdam to patronize its many cannabis-selling “coffee shops.” Throughout this time cannabis has remained illegal in the Netherlands; although, the Dutch have not prosecuted anyone in possession of less than five grams of cannabis for personal use. This distinctive drug policy of tolerance toward cannabis is called gedoogbeleid, and known as the “Dutch model.”

Now, the U.S. now is the first, and so far the only, nation in the world to have fully legal production, sale, promotion, and use of cannabis for people 21 an older. In stark contrast, the Dutch are moving in the opposite direction, limiting the growth, distribution, and use of cannabis and showing no interest in “medical marijuana.” Cannabis with a THC level of more than 15 percent is now under consideration to be reclassified as a “hard drug.” In the Netherlands, that designation comes with stiff criminal penalties. Furthermore, the nation once had more than 1,000 coffee shops, 300 in Amsterdam alone. Now, there are fewer than 200 in the city and 617 nationwide. This is the result of the government’s actions to force coffee shops to choose either to sell alcohol or marijuana. Notably, many are choosing to sell alcohol.

While it has always been illegal to grow cannabis in the Netherlands, for years police acted as if they didn’t know where the shops were getting the drug. This is no longer the case. Now, new laws target even the smallest cannabis growers. In the past, anyone could grow up to five plants without fear of penalty. In 2011, the government issued new police guidelines declaring that anyone who grew cannabis with electric lights, prepared soil, “selected” seeds or ventilation would be considered a “professional” grower. This is a significant change because professional growers risk major criminal penalties, including eviction and blacklisting from the government-provided housing in which more than half of the country’s citizens reside.

What made the Netherlands make such a strong shift in its cannabis policy? The overall drug policy of the Netherlands – not just for cannabis but including cannabis – has four major objectives:

1. To prevent recreational drug use and to treat and rehabilitate recreational drug users.

2. To reduce harm to users.

3. To diminish public nuisance by drug users (the disturbance of public order and safety in the neighborhoods).

4. To combat the production and trafficking of recreational drugs.

The Netherlands has determined that its relaxed cannabis laws were a threat to these expressed public health objectives. The nation’s new, more restrictive laws on cannabis, including the banning of cannabis with THC levels of 15 percent or more, demonstrate that the government wants to reduce cannabis sale and use for reasons of public health.

As the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana spreads to more states in the U.S., we need to look anew to the Netherlands. The U.S. can benefit from what the lessons the Netherlands has learned about cannabis over the past four decades. How surprising is it that the American media frequently praised the Dutch cannabis policy when it seemed permissive but now that Dutch have become more restrictive their new cannabis policy is ignored?

Robert L. DuPont, M.D.

President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.

Former Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) Former White House Drug Chief (1973-1977)

Source: www.ibhinc.org 15th March 2015

Should heavy drinking in pregnancy be a crime? A recent test case in the UK was thrown out, but in the US hundreds of women have been imprisoned. We meet women and children affected by foetal alcohol syndrome

I’d had problems all my life and I didn’t know why,’ says Stella, who found out at 19 that she has foetal alcohol syndrome.

Stella was 19 when she discovered she has foetal alcohol syndrome. “I found out in a horrible way, to be honest,” she says. She had taken her boyfriend to meet her father for the first time. Stella and her father had only limited contact, but her boyfriend hoped that he might help to explain some of Stella’s erratic, unreliable behaviour, and asked him upfront, “What’s wrong with your daughter? Why is she the way she is?”

“That’s when he paused, and he breathed, and he said it,” Stella says, still distressed at the memory of the conversation. “I was shocked. I asked, ‘Why wasn’t I told about it?’ He said he didn’t want me to dwell on something like that.

“My heart felt like it was jumping out of my mouth,” the 25-year-old remembers. “It killed me inside. Why have I lived all my life without knowing about it? It was a really bad time.”

Stella and I arrange to meet at her friend’s flat, and she arrives two hours late, hugely apologetic that she forgot all about it. She tells me she has struggled with timekeeping all her life. Articulate and thoughtful, she gives no real indication of having the disorder, aside from occasionally trailing off and losing her train of thought, asking, “What was I just saying there?” But she describes how catastrophically her life has been affected by the legacy of her mother’s drinking.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the umbrella term for a range of birth defects associated with drinking in pregnancy. At the extreme end of the spectrum is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a very rare condition caused by heavy or frequent alcohol consumption during pregnancy. FAS can cause a range of physical and cognitive problems. Some babies are born with facial abnormalities – thin upper lips, a flatter area between the lip and the nose, smaller eyes. Babies with both FAS and FASD are often smaller than other babies, and typically remain small throughout their lives. Some children may have no physical signs of the condition, but a range of developmental disorders – attention deficit, hyperactivity, poor coordination, language problems and learning disabilities. There is no reliable research on how common it is in the UK; some doctors believe FAS may affect one child in 1,000, and FASD between three and four times more. Adolescents and adults with FASD are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

Stella spent much of her childhood in care, until she was 11, when her aunt took her in. Her mother died before her father broke the news, so she was never able to ask her about the past. Instead, she went to her GP, who looked at her files. “She said, ‘Yes, you do have this. Your mum was a heavy alcoholic.’” The GP printed out a document that said Stella had been diagnosed in 1993, aged three.

She took to researching the condition online. “It described things that made sense,” Stella says. “All my life, things had been happening to me, and it was suddenly explained. I’m not good with organisation, bills, day-to-day things. I can’t read and write. I’m not good at maths. I’d had these problems and I didn’t know why.” She has never had a job and wonders if she would manage. “I want everything to be simple. If it isn’t, my head feels scattered. I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate.”

Women shouldn’t be prosecuted – they should be given alcohol rehabilitation

At the end of last year, a controversial British court case hinged on whether a woman should be considered to be committing a crime if she drinks heavily during pregnancy. The case looked at whether the council caring for a seven-year-old girl with FAS was entitled to extract compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority on her behalf. Lawyers examined the legal rights of an unborn child and asked whether alcohol consumption by the mother constituted the crime of poisoning.

The court of appeal ruled in December that the mother, who inflicted lifelong damage on her child by consuming large quantities of alcohol while pregnant, had not committed a criminal offence, and that her daughter was not, therefore, entitled to compensation. To date, no woman has been prosecuted under English law for harm she caused to her child in utero, but hundreds of women in the US have been imprisoned for drinking or taking drugs during pregnancy. And the legal battle here is far from over; lawyers representing the seven-year-old (who remains anonymous), and around 80 other children affected by FASD, are considering whether to pursue the case in the supreme court.

We’re not talking here about the effects of drinking a couple of glasses of wine at a friend’s wedding. The test case involved a woman who drank, by her own account, half a bottle of vodka and several cans of strong lager daily. But there is a growing sense among politicians and doctors that drinking during pregnancy is an issue that is not taken seriously enough. In Westminster, politicians have been debating whether official guidance over drinking in pregnancy is sufficiently clear. The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists recently hardened its advice, saying women should avoid alcohol altogether in the first three months of pregnancy. NHS Choices, the government’s health advisory website, states that the UK chief medical officers’ advice is that abstinence is best, but adds, “If they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one or two units once or twice a week and should not get drunk.” The chief medical officer for England is currently reviewing these guidelines.

Lost in all these discussions, however, have been the voices of adults affected by the condition, and those of mothers who have given birth to, and brought up, children with FAS. Among them, there is little appetite for further stigmatising of mothers. But there is agreement that pregnant women need clearer guidance and help, and that affected children need much more support.

Stella thinks she can identify in herself the facial characteristics that sometimes go with the condition (although they are not discernible to others, or me; she looks lovely). But, she says, “It is more mental. I am not capable of doing things. I was hyperactive when I was young. I never listened. I got picked on a lot at primary school; there was a lot of spiteful behaviour. I went to a special needs secondary school – that was better – but I should have had more support as a teenager.”

Although she finds it painful to talk about her childhood, Stella is determined to raise awareness of the syndrome. Recently, she has spoken at conferences arranged by support group the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (Nofas), which has helped find a charity that provides regular support sessions, allowing her to live independently: “They help with finances and forms, things I am not capable of doing.”

Stella feels ambivalent towards her mother. “I feel some sort of hate and some sort of love,” she says. “I want to be able to go back and ask her questions – questions that will never be answered, because she is dead.” She wishes she had known earlier what the cause of her difficulties was, but she is clear that moving towards prosecuting women is not the right answer. “What difference will it make? She hasn’t committed a crime – she has an issue with alcohol.”

No woman I have met ever wants to harm her baby. This is an illness, not a choice

 Laura has two sons with FASD: ‘I need to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.’ Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Guardian

Laura has two teenage sons who were diagnosed with FASD a few years ago. She was pregnant with them in the 1990s, when – as she remembers it – there was real ambiguity about the levels of safe alcohol consumption for pregnant women, and she doesn’t remember being confronted by her midwives. Her partner was violent, she was beaten during the first pregnancy, and had panic attacks. “I was a social drinker, but increasingly I was using alcohol to cope. I went to all my appointments, they were aware that I drank – I was drinking beer, mainly, Holsten Pils. The midwife knew I was a four-times-a-week drinker.”

Laura’s first pregnancy progressed without any problems, and she “gave birth to a beautiful child”. Over the next few years, her relationship with the child’s father deteriorated, she lost her job and her home, and began to drink more and more. By the time she was pregnant with her second son, she was an alcoholic. “I had to go into hospital early, and by that time I was drinking 24/7 – mainly beer, a few cans a day, not massive binges. But nobody mentioned the drink: not the doctors, not the midwives. They didn’t advise about the risk of FAS. I had no suspicion that my child could be affected.”

Her second son was born a few weeks prematurely. Neither child had any of the physical features of FAS, and both went to mainstream schools, but their behaviour was very challenging. Gradually, as her life became more stable and she stopped drinking, Laura began to be aware that both her sons had serious issues.

Her younger son had learning difficulties and was diagnosed with ADHD. She had taken him to a hospital appointment and was carrying his notes from one doctor to another, when she spotted a note on his file that said: “Possible FAS.”

“I was devastated,” Laura says. “I knew in my gut that’s what it was.” Both children were later given a formal diagnosis at Great Ormond Street hospital.

Laura is dynamic and energetic; she has a good job now, as she did when she was first pregnant. We meet in a cafe near Hampstead Heath in London, at teatime, and it soon becomes obvious from the discreet twitching of other customers’ heads that her calm, powerful account of this rarely discussed subject has them all engrossed.

She knows people will blame her for her actions, and is very conscious of her own responsibility for her sons’ difficulties, but she is adamant that mothers need support, not criminalisation. “There is sometimes a witch-hunt to go after the mothers, but I am living with my guilt every day. That’s a real life sentence.” She has coped by devoting herself to making sure her sons get all the support they need, and by volunteering to help other mothers who also drank during pregnancy, through the European Birth Mother Network.

“I need to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people,” Laura says. “Women shouldn’t be prosecuted – they should be given alcohol-rehabilitation services. No woman I have ever met ever wants to harm her baby. This is an illness, not a choice. But people need to be told if they do drink, what will happen. There aren’t enough clear guidelines. I think midwives are scared sometimes to confront women.”

Although Laura drank more during her second pregnancy, she thinks her older child has struggled more with the consequences of his condition. “My younger son got support earlier. For the older one, it was harder – we didn’t understand, so he was always being told, ‘You are awful – why do you behave like that?’ He had an organic brain injury; he couldn’t read people’s facial expressions, he had problems with social skills, he was overwhelmed by noise. We didn’t understand that.”

“There is a witch-hunt to go after the mothers, but I am living with my guilt every day. That’s a real life sentence”

Twenty years on from Laura’s pregnancy, the medical guidance is still confusing and contradictory. There are those, such as paediatrician and former children’s commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green, who argue for total abstinence. “Exposure to alcohol before birth is the most important preventable cause of brain damage in children, that could affect up to one in every 100 babies in England,” he says. “Its effects range from devastating physical and learning disabilities to subtle damage causing bad behaviour, violence and criminality.”

At the other end of the spectrum are groups such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who point out that most women are already very sensible and warn against demonising their behaviour. According to BPAS, the main consequence of publishing excessively frightening advice is that women come to its clinics unnecessarily considering abortions, concerned about damage they might have inflicted on their foetus before they knew they were pregnant.

In the submission made by BPAS to the court case last year, it was pointed out that there are a wide variety of substances that may cause damage to an unborn baby, from food to plastics and household products. Lawyers in the case questioned whether demanding criminal injuries compensation for alcohol poisoning could mean by extension that “a pregnant mother who eats unpasteurised cheese or a soft-boiled egg, knowing that there is a risk of harm to the foetus might also find herself accused of a crime”.

At the frontline, Jo Austin, a midwife who works with vulnerable mothers in London, says it’s easier to get women to talk about heroin or crack addiction than it is to get them to confront their drinking during pregnancy. “We have lots of leaflets for women who take heroin and crack, who are quite a small minority of the women we see. But alcohol is more socially acceptable and it is legal. A large proportion of society drinks, at least socially. Our feeling is that it is a problem that women don’t admit to, perhaps because of stigma, guilt or fear of social services involvement.”

Austin says most of the pregnant women she sees are better informed about the risks of smoking during pregnancy. “There has been so much health promotion done on smoking, but the effects of alcohol are potentially much worse.”

Gail Priddey, CEO of Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol, which supports families affected by alcohol, says she is currently writing an advice leaflet for midwives that attempts to navigate a line between being straightforward with the facts without “scaring pregnant women witless”. “It is such an emotive and difficult subject,” Priddey says. “You say, ‘Best not to drink when you’re pregnant,’ then someone says, ‘Well, actually, I’ve been drinking heavily. I didn’t realise.’ Where do you go from there? Do you say, ‘You may have done some damage’? It’s an area professionals don’t want to touch.”

The flipside of this is that children with FAS and FASD are not diagnosed early enough, and often do not receive the help they need. Raja Mukherjee, a neurodevelopmental psychiatrist and lead clinician at the national FASD clinic, says awareness of the condition has risen dramatically in the 12 years he has worked in the area, but diagnosis remains complicated. He believes doctors are often unwilling to label a child as suffering from FASD because it is “too stigmatising”. “It is easier to say, ‘You have ADHD,’” he says.

Yet Mukherjee is uncomfortable about the fight for criminal injuries compensation for children, because “criminalisation just pushes it underground. We struggle already with people who tell us, ‘I didn’t drink at all in pregnancy’ – yet they were an alcoholic before and an alcoholic afterwards.”

Neil Sugarman, the lawyer for the unidentified local authority in the north-west that took the legal action, said they were motivated by a quest to get adequate funding for the girl’s care. “This wasn’t about trying to get women prosecuted,” he says. “My job as a lawyer is to look at the interests of terribly badly impaired children. We have a state scheme that if you can show you are a victim of a crime, you are entitled to compensation.

“The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme has never required someone to be prosecuted – no one needs to be taken to court, charged, sentenced or convicted. All it requires is that a judge has to be satisfied that what happened can be recognised as a crime. It is very difficult for young people to get access to their therapeutic needs on the NHS – the occupational therapy and speech therapy they need is not always readily available. The true benefit of compensation would be to open up access to private treatment for these children and enhance their lives.”

I didn’t know the kids’ mother was an alcoholic. She loved them, but couldn’t cope. It didn’t put me off adopting them

 Kay Collins adopted three children, two of whom have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Guardian

Kay Collins, 61, would also like to see more funding for children with FASD, but not if it means prosecuting their mothers. Ten years ago, she adopted three children, two of whom have the condition. She knew them before she adopted them, because they lived in a flat upstairs in the west London mansion block where they still live.

“We’d meet on the stairs and say hello, and I got to know them – they were lovely kids. I didn’t know their mother was an alcoholic. It was only as time went on, I realised. She was somebody who needed help, not someone to abuse or to judge.

“You saw that she loved the kids, but she couldn’t manage. She was in her 20s, the children’s father was there on and off. She never harmed the kids in any way. She loved them – she just didn’t know how to care for them.”

Eventually, the children were taken into care. Collins, who was working as a teaching assistant and had four, much older children of her own, decided to adopt them – a girl of 17 months and boys of four and five. She knew nothing about FASD until she was called by a paediatrician who was helping to prepare the adoption papers. She was told the two younger children might have learning disabilities and was asked how she would cope. “I said, ‘If I knew that now, I would be a genius. I can only know when I am dealing with it.’ It didn’t put me off. I knew that the children just needed a lot of love and attention.”

Now that she knows more about the condition, she can see some of the facial characteristics of FASD in pictures of the youngest as a baby. These have become less noticeable as she has grown up, but her cognitive problems have become more evident over time. “When they were about seven, it was clear things were not happening as with normal children. They both didn’t speak very well for a long time, they didn’t understand a lot of things. The younger one still doesn’t. Her brother understands better, but his behaviour is worse. If you try to correct him, he gets very angry.”

Collins is fighting for the youngest, now 12, to be given a place in a special needs school. “She has language difficulties. If things are not explained to her at a slower pace, she is not going to understand them. At the moment, I’m at loggerheads with the local authority and in a tribunal because they don’t think that’s necessary. They don’t want to pay for it. It’s down to cost.”

Collins thinks her 12-year-old daughter won’t take GCSEs and knows that, long-term, life will be complicated for her. “She will live independently, but she will need a lot of support – she is quite vulnerable because she thinks everyone is her friend.” But she doesn’t like the idea of fighting for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. “It would be nice to have the money; we could use it to get them educated in the right environment,” she says, but she is uncomfortable with the idea that this might be a step in the direction of criminalising troubled women. “Mothers who drink when pregnant need more support and understanding. No one sits down and just starts drinking. There has to be something that triggered it.”

Meanwhile, she just tries to help her children understand. “My daughter keeps asking, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ I say, ‘Yes, you have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.’” The middle child is angry about his mother’s role in his condition. “He says, ‘I hate my mum’, but I try to explain: ‘She couldn’t look after you. It doesn’t mean she didn’t love you. She was never a bad mum.’”

• Some names have been changed. To contact Nofas UK, call 020-8458 5951 or go to nofas-uk.org.

Source: http://gu.com/p/475mq April 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/04

Roll Call Video Advises Law Enforcement to Exercise Extreme Caution

DEA has released a Roll Call video to all law enforcement nationwide about the dangers of improperly handling fentanyl and its deadly consequences.  Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley and two local police detectives from New Jersey appear on the video to urge any law enforcement personnel who come in contact with fentanyl or fentanyl compounds to take the drugs directly to a lab.

“Fentanyl can kill you,” Riley said. “Fentanyl is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of our country. It’s produced clandestinely in Mexico, and (also) comes directly from China. It is 40 to 50 times stronger than street-level heroin. A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through your skin, can kill you.”

Two Atlantic County, NJ detectives were recently exposed to a very small amount of fentanyl, and appeared on the video.

Said one detective: “I thought that was it. I thought I was dying. It felt like my body was shutting down.”

Riley also admonished police to skip testing on the scene, and encouraged them to also remember potential harm to police canines during the course of duties.

“Don’t field test it in your car, or on the street, or take if back to the office. Transport it directly to a laboratory, where it can be safely handled and tested.”

The video can be accessed at: http://go.usa.gov/chBWW

More on Fentanyl:

On March 18, 2015, DEA issued a nationwide alert on fentanyl as a threat to health and public safety.

Fentanyl is a dangerous, powerful Schedule II narcotic responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths within the United States. During the last two years, the distribution of clandestinely manufactured fentanyl has been linked to an unprecedented outbreak of thousands of overdoses and deaths. The overdoses are occurring at an alarming rate and are the basis for this officer safety alert.

Fentanyl, up to 50 times more potent than heroin, is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it. As a result, it represents an unusual hazard for law enforcement.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate painkiller, is being mixed with heroin to increase its potency, but dealers and buyers may not know exactly what they are selling or ingesting. Many users underestimate the potency of fentanyl.

The dosage of fentanyl is a microgram, one millionth of a gram – similar to just a few granules of table salt. Fentanyl can be lethal and is deadly at very low doses.

Fentanyl and its analogues come in several forms including powder, blotter paper, tablets, and spray.

Risks to Law Enforcement

Fentanyl is not only dangerous for the drug’s users, but for law enforcement, public health workers and first responders who could unknowingly come into contact with it in

its different forms. Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder can also occur. DEA is concerned about law enforcement coming in contact with fentanyl on the streets during the course of enforcement, such as a buy-walk, or buy-bust operation.

Just touching fentanyl or accidentally inhaling the substance during enforcement activity or field testing the substance can result in absorption through the skin and that is one of the biggest dangers with fentanyl. The onset of adverse health effects, such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest is very rapid and profound, usually occurring within minutes of exposure.

Canine units are particularly at risk of immediate death from inhaling fentanyl.

In August 2015, law enforcement officers in New Jersey doing a narcotics field test on a substance that later turned out to be a mix of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, were exposed to the mixture and experienced dizziness, shortness of breath and respiratory problems.

If inhaled, move to fresh air, if ingested, wash out mouth with water provided the person is conscious and seek immediate medical attention.

Narcan (Naloxone), an overdose-reversing drug, is an antidote for opiate overdose and may be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or subcutaneously. Immediately administering Narcan can reverse an accidental overdose of fentanyl exposure to officers. Continue to administer multiple doses of Narcan until the exposed person or overdose victim responds favorably.

Field Testing / Safety Precautions

Law enforcement officers should be aware that fentanyl and its compounds resemble powered cocaine or heroin, however, should not be treated as such.

If at all possible do not take samples if fentanyl is suspected. Taking samples or opening a package could stir up the powder. If you must take a sample, use gloves (no bare skin contact) and a dust mask or air purifying respirator (APR) if handling a sample, or a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for a suspected lab.

If you have reason to believe an exhibit contains fentanyl, it is prudent to not field test it. Submit the material directly to the laboratory for analysis and clearly indicate on the submission paperwork that the item is suspected of containing fentanyl. This will alert laboratory personnel to take the necessary safety precautions during the handling, processing, analysis, and storage of the evidence. Officers should be aware that while unadulterated fentanyl may resemble cocaine or heroin powder, it can be mixed with other substances which can alter its appearance. As such, officers should be aware that fentanyl may be smuggled, transported, and/or used as part of a mixture.

Universal precautions must be applied when conducting field testing on drugs that are not suspected of containing fentanyl. Despite color and appearance, you can never be certain what you are testing. In general, field testing of drugs should be conducted as appropriate, in a well ventilated area according to commercial test kit instructions and training received. Sampling of evidence should be performed very carefully to avoid spillage and release of powder into the air. At a minimum, gloves should be worn and the use of masks is recommended. After conducting the test, hands should be washed with copious amounts of soap and water. Never attempt to identify a substance by taste or odor.

Historically, this is not the first time fentanyl has posed such a threat to public health and safety. Between 2005 and 2007, over 1,000 U.S. deaths were attributed to fentanyl – many of which occurred in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

The current outbreak involves not just fentanyl, but also fentanyl compounds. The current outbreak, resulting in thousands of deaths, is wider geographically and involves a wide array of individuals including new and experiences abusers.

In the last three years, DEA has seen a significant resurgence in fentanyl-related seizures. In addition, DEA has identified at least 15 other deadly, fentanyl-related compounds. Some fentanyl cases have been significant, particularly in the northeast and in California, including one 12 kilogram seizure. During May 2016, a traffic stop in the greater Atlanta, GA area resulted in the seizure of 40 kilograms of fentanyl – initially believed to be bricks of cocaine – wrapped into blocks hidden in buckets and immersed in a thick fluid. The fentanyl from these seizures originated from Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Recent seizures of counterfeit or look-a-like hydrocodone or oxycodone tablets have occurred, wherein the tablets actually contain fentanyl. These fentanyl tablets are marked to mimic the authentic narcotic prescription medications and have led to multiple overdoses and deaths.

According to DEA’s National Forensic Lab Information System, 13,002 forensic exhibits of fentanyl were tested by labs nationwide in 2015, up 65 percent from the 2014 number of 7,864.  The 2015 number is also about 8 times as many fentanyl exhibits than in 2006, when a single lab in Mexico caused a temporary spike in U.S. fentanyl availability.  This is an unprecedented threat

Source:  U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration dea@public.govdelivery.com  11th June 2016

April 20, 2015

For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact: Lana Beck (727) 828-0211 or (727) 403-7571

Weeds 3: A Documentary Showcasing Legitimate Scientific Research or an Infomercial to Legalize Marijuana?

(St. Petersburg, FL) Drug Free America Foundation stands with other major medical associations whose positions support the research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. These associations include: the American Medical Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association. However, Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary blurs the lines between legitimate research and propaganda. The important take-a-way from the show was that research on the potential benefits of marijuana is taking place today without the rescheduling of the drug. Unfortunately, the show failed to point out the multitude of harms of marijuana use and the impacts in states that have determined medicine by popular vote.

Two things about the documentary that really upset me as a medical professional are that Sanjay Gupta had a chance to drive home the point that because research is underway on the potential benefits of components in marijuana, there is no need to legalize it through referenda where dosages can’t be controlled and various strains can’t be cloned. Nor is it necessary to reschedule the drug,” said Dr. Eric Voth, an expert on drug policy and Chair of the Institute on Global Drug Policy.

The other disappointing aspect about this show is the lack of discussion about the myriad of scientific research out there that shows the other side of marijuana that is harmful and addictive,” continued Voth. “If we are going to have open dialogue about marijuana research, then Gupta shouldn’t muddy the water by sending an incomplete message to the public about the right and the wrong way to approach true scientific research. I think this was an intentionally missed opportunity by Gupta to further a less-than-scientific agenda,” concluded Voth.

By ignoring the potential harms of marijuana use and not acknowledging the big problems that Colorado and California have experienced since marijuana has been legalized in those states, CNN and Dr. Gupta failed to cover this issue honestly,” said Amy Ronshausen, Deputy Director of Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. and Save Our Society From Drugs. “This show failed to cover Colorado’s increases in drugged driving fatalities and emergency room visits because of marijuana use. Nor did the show discuss the alarming trend surrounding high potency marijuana edibles sold as ‘medicine’ and marketed to be appealing to youth,” continued Ronshausen. “There was a lot of discussion about how marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, but none about the mounting research on how the drug exacerbates psychotic symptoms,” concluded Ronshausen.

Source: Press Release DFAF 20th April 2015

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.

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.

Dakof G.A., Cohen J.B., Henderson C.E. et al.

Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment: 2010, 38, p. 263–274..

US researchers may have found a better way to support mothers at risk of losing custody of their children so they engage in and benefit from substance use treatment and meet family court requirements, meaning more children can safely stay with their parents.

SUMMARY The family environment of the children of problem substance users is often compromised by instability, neglect, and poor parenting. Improving parental functioning – especially reducing substance use – makes children safer and improves child welfare outcomes. However, substance use treatment completion rates among parents who come into contact with the child welfare system are low. For solutions to these problems, many communities have turned to family drug courts. Adapted from the adult drug court model, family drug courts were established to enhance the effectiveness of child welfare agencies by increasing enrolment and retention in substance use treatment, motivating parents to address their addiction, and coordinating the many services needed to stabilise families. Unlike typical drug courts, these courts do not operate in the criminal justice system, most participants are women, and the court addresses the dual issues of parental addiction/recovery and child safety and custody. Most family drug courts employ court counsellors who refer clients to substance use treatment and other services, develop a recovery plan, and monitor and report clients’ ongoing progress to the court.

 

Key points 

Family drug courts aim to enhance the effectiveness of child welfare agencies by promoting engagement in substance use treatment, motivating parents to address their addiction, and coordinating the services needed to stabilise families. 

To further promote treatment engagement and family court compliance of mothers facing loss of custody of their children, a programme was developed for court counsellors which involved the mother’s family and other significant figures in their lives. 

Compared to a more typical case management role, the tested programme led to more mothers retaining their parental rights and greater improvements in substance use, health, family functioning, and risk of child abuse. 

However, samples were small and by the end of the study several of the differences between the two sets of mothers were also small. 

The Engaging Moms Program – the focus of this study – is a family-oriented intervention shown to have succeeded in its objectives of facilitating treatment entry and short-term retention among mothers of infants who have been exposed to parental substance use. It was then adapted for use in a family drug court context and (relative to usual case management services) found in a non-randomised trial to improve completion of the drug court programme (72% versus 38%) and the proportion of mothers reunited with their children (70% versus 40%). Although the results were encouraging, this study had several limitations, leading to the current randomised trial comparing in a family drug court context the effectiveness of the Engaging Moms Program versus intensive case management of the kind recommended for such courts.

During the recruitment period of the trial, 62 of the 69 mothers who attended a family drug court in Miami in the USA agreed to join the study. They averaged 30 years of age, were mainly black or Hispanic, poor, unemployed and poorly educated. Just 1 in 10 were married. As children, many had been victims of physical and sexual abuse and most currently suffered serious mental health problems. They used a mixture of drugs including alcohol and cocaine and averaged about three lifetime arrests.

Mothers in the study were subject to the usual 12–15 month regimen of court hearings, supervision and support. Additionally, court counsellors were specially trained and supervised to deliver one of the programmes being compared as alternative ways to engage and retain these mothers in substance treatment and improve child and parental outcomes. The 62 women were randomly selected such that equal numbers were allocated to the Engaging Moms option or the comparator.

Neither option was a treatment in its own right, but sought to promote treatment entry, retention and benefit, as well as satisfactory completion of the drug court programme. Intensive case management counsellors aimed to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with the mother, assess her needs, plan support, link her to services, monitor progress, and advocate on her behalf. In contrast, the Engaging Moms Program (based on  multidimensional family therapy) engaged not just with the mother and with services but with the mother’s social network, especially her family. For example, in stage two of the programme focused on changing behaviour, counsellors conducted individual and joint sessions with the mother and her family and or partner. These dealt with: the mother’s motivation and commitment to succeed in drug court and to change her life; the emotional attachment between the mother and her children; her relationships with her family of origin; her parenting skills; her romantic relationships; and emotional regulation, problem solving, and communication skills. Considerable attention was devoted to repairing the mother’s relationship with her family, often damaged by hurts, betrayals, and resentments. Also the counsellor facilitated the mother’s relationship with court personnel and service providers and helped prepare her for court appearances, during which they advocated for the mother.

Regardless of the approach to which they had been allocated, during the trial mothers saw their counsellors for on average about 40 hours, but the Engaging Moms Program included seven hours of family sessions versus just under four in the case management option.

Research workers assessed the mothers several times up to 18 months following drug court intake (97% of assessments were completed), when information on child welfare status was extracted from court records. This primary outcome was defined as positive if the mother retained her parental rights, either having sole or joint custody of the children, or when the children were under the guardianship of a relative. Other outcomes considered not to be positive involved termination of the mother’s parental rights and the child being placed with a relative or in foster care.

The small number of mothers in this pilot study limited the chances of statistically significant findings, so the focus instead was on whether the differences between outcomes from the Engaging Moms Program and case management were large enough that with a bigger sample they might have proved statistically significant.

Main findings

Of the 31 Engaging Moms mothers, 24 had retained their parental rights compared to 17 of the 31 case management mothers, an advantage for Engaging Moms which narrowly missed the conventional criterion for statistical significance. These figures included 16 Engaging Moms mothers who had sole custody of their child compared to 12 allocated to case management. Over twice as many case management mothers had their children removed to foster care – 9 versus 4. Two-thirds of Engaging Moms mothers satisfactorily completed the drug court programme compared to about half the case management mothers.

Over the first three months both sets of mothers significantly improved in terms of their substance use, mental and physical health, family functioning, risk posed to child, and employment, improvements maintained or augmented through the remainder of the 18-month follow-up. In no case were these improvements significantly greater among Engaging Moms mothers, but several outcomes substantially favoured these mothers. They were more likely to further reduce their drinking, experience greater improvements in mental and physical health and family functioning, and more steeply decreased their risk of child abuse. At the three-month follow-up, on all three relationship dimensions they also reported significantly stronger therapeutic relationships with their counsellors.

The authors’ conclusions

The Engaging Moms Program delivered in the context of a family drug court increased the likelihood of positive outcomes for mothers (retention of parental rights and improved welfare and functioning) in comparison to intensive case management. In all domains of functioning, families assigned to Engaging Moms showed improvement that was equal to or better than families assigned to case management. Arguably the primary mechanisms leading to better results were a stronger therapeutic alliance with the counsellor and more extensive family involvement.

Although the results of this pilot study are encouraging, there are important limitations. The primary one is that a small sample size limits the scope for testing differences between outcomes in the two sets of mothers and weakens the reliability of the results; different results might be obtained with larger samples.
COMMENTARY Commending the Engaging Moms Program is its apparent non-punitive humanity and the plausibility of its strategy of repairing what may have been a damaging social network and engaging it in supporting the mother, promising not just the short-term gains which the study was able to document, but a more stable, long-term future for mother and child. Particularly encouraging is the non-diminution of the gains and sometimes their augmentation over the period after the interventions ended. As well as benefiting the families involved, long-term reduction in social costs can be expected. With family drug and alcohol courts spreading in the UK, the Engaging Moms model might be adapted to further improve their outcomes for parent and child.

However, convincingly demonstrating the advantages of the approach for maternal and child welfare is a difficult task when so much else is going on in the mothers’ lives, when the basic family drug court programme is the same for both intervention and comparison mothers, and when the comparator is itself seemingly a humane and well structured approach. Details below.

As the authors observed, if replicated with a larger sample, the difference in the retention of parental rights, and probably too in resort to foster care, would have been statistically significant, but also a larger sample may show these to have been unreliable findings. On the other measures of maternal welfare and family functioning and safety, though there were substantial extra improvements among the Engaging Moms group, in some cases this mainly reflected a drop from an initially higher level of severity. By the end of the study the differences in absolute terms between the two sets of mothers were generally very small. Several of the researchers were involved in developing the programme they evaluated, raising the possibility of their somehow favouring the programme, a  risk endemic  in substance use research. Also it has to be acknowledged that termination of a mother’s parental rights and placement of the child elsewhere is not necessarily a negative outcome from the point of view of the child’s long-term welfare. On this issue we can only rely on the professionalism and child-centredness of the Engaging Moms counsellors, and on the presumption that if there had been over-enthusiastic advocacy, the court would not have been unduly swayed.

UK research and practice

The first family drug and alcohol court in Britain was piloted at an inner London family court initially for three years to the end of 2010. Researchers concluded that more parents seen by these specialist courts than by comparison courts had controlled their substance misuse by the end of proceedings and been reunited with their children. They were also engaged in more substance misuse services over a longer period. Evidence of cost savings were noted in relation to court hearings, out-of-home placements, and fewer contested proceedings. Parents and staff felt this was a better approach than ordinary care proceedings. A  later report  from the same study with a longer follow-up of more families reinforced the earlier findings. More family drug and alcohol court parents had stopped misusing substances and dealt with other problems, and more mothers had been reunited with their children, but this 36% v 24% gap was not statistically significant.

The main weakness of this UK study is that in some known respects and perhaps in others not known, the comparison families differed from the family drug court families in ways which might have affected child welfare outcomes, regardless of the type of court proceedings. Also, through a preceding feasibility study the researchers had been involved in developing the programme they evaluated. As with the featured study, this raises the possibility of their somehow favouring the new intervention they helped to create.

Three NHS professionals who helped develop the first court in London  have explained that it differs from normal family courts in its multi-disciplinary assessment and intervention team made up of both child workers (child protection social workers and a child and adolescent psychiatrist) and adult workers (substance misuse workers and an adult psychiatrist), plus volunteers with personal experience of overcoming substance misuse, some of whom are court ‘graduates’. Court proceedings form an integral part of the treatment process. The family works with the same judge throughout and compared to normal courts, the court takes a less adversarial approach to care proceedings, the parent speaking directly to the judge in the absence of lawyers.

Similar courts have now opened in Gloucestershire and Milton Keynes and  as reported  in 2015, more were due to open in 2015/16 in areas including East Sussex, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, and West Yorkshire, funded by the Department for Education. Despite this significant expansion, as in London, these courts  will sit  once a week and hear relatively few cases.

Large-scale US evaluation

From the USA the  first large-scale outcome study  of a family drug court compared the progress (as revealed by court and administrative records) of mothers and children processed through three such courts with those processed through normal channels either in the same areas or in similar areas without a family drug court. An attempt was made to statistically even out relevant differences between the two sets of families. Findings favoured the family drug courts. Mothers processed through these courts were more likely to be unified with their children, who spent less time in out-of-home placements. More drug court mothers entered substance use treatment and they did so more rapidly, stayed longer and were more likely to complete the programme. However, the relative benefits arising from the family drug courts were at best a minor influence on child custody outcomes, and the study could not be sure that all relevant differences between the two sets of families had been accounted for.

An Effectiveness Bank hot topic  has explored  the issues involved in protecting children and offers one-click access to all Findings analyses relevant to child protection.

Source:   A randomized pilot study of the Engaging Moms Program for family drug court http://findings.org.uk/PHP/dl.php?file=Dakof_GA_2.txt Last revised 28 May 2015. First uploaded 20 May 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

 

no-one-serves-jail-time-for-smoking-pot

A currently hip cause is to rail against sentencing pot smokers to jail time. It sounds good considering alcohol is legal, smoking pot is not considered harmful to others, and our jails are already overcrowded, straining taxpayers’ wallets. The only problem is there isn’t a shred of truth to it.

Sadly, many on the right have fallen into this trap. Attend a Republicans for Liberty meeting and some young, charismatic leader will give an impassioned speech ranting and raving about how terrible it is that we lock up people for simply smoking pot. To a cheering audience, they declare it’s all about liberty and stopping big government from its unsuccessful war on drugs.

I was a prosecutor for several years, and the facts are quite different. Smoking pot has actually been “de facto” legalized across the U.S. The police look the other way, even if a neighbor rats on someone. There aren’t enough police officers to enforce marijuana possession laws. In fact, when states began legalizing pot for medicinal and recreational use, most pot smokers didn’t bother leaving their illegal dealers, because there is so little risk.

As a county prosecutor, I came across thousands of criminal cases (I frequently covered multiple hearings in different cases on a daily basis for other prosecutors assigned to those cases). I never saw a single defendant who was really sentenced to jail for marijuana possession. Former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley once said, “No first-time offender arrested in California solely for drug possession goes to prison — ever.”

Here is why there is confusion: the only time someone is sentenced to jail for smoking pot is if there is a more serious crime they are clearly guilty of, and the prosecutor or judge wants to give them a lighter sentence. Theft or burglary were the most common crimes I came across. Instead of being required to sentence a defendant to a year imprisonment for stealing, a defendant could plead guilty to marijuana possession instead and get a much lesser sentence. So on paper, it looks like they are serving time for drug possession, but in reality, they were let off the hook for a serious crime.

Police arrest individuals for other crimes and discover marijuana in the process — which can then, ironically, be used to the defendant’s advantage to get a lighter sentence! Additionally, no judge wants to go on record sentencing someone to jail for merely marijuana possession unless the defendant has a serious crime accompanying it.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the defendants I came across had long rap sheets; pages and pages of criminal history. Much of it was not permitted to be disclosed to the judge, it was considered inadmissible; things like arrests with no conviction, dismissals, juvenile crimes, convictions older than the statute of limitations, etc. Many defendants had been arrested 10 to 20 times and it was clear they had a pattern of theft or other crimes — and generally caught with drugs every time — but the outcome was always the same, they were allowed to plead guilty to some lesser crime and often escape any jail time. It was eye-opening to see how many crimes a defendant had clearly committed based on their rap sheet, yet they would only end up getting sentenced for one of them.

Additionally, it has been found that the average criminal is only caught once for about every 12 crimes committed. FBI crime data from 2013 reveals that only 13.1 percent of burglary offenses are ever solved. Add that to the crimes criminals do get caught committing, but escape consequences due to a good defense attorney, technical error by the prosecution, or other factor, and it becomes pretty clear that these folks are actually getting pretty lucky pleading guilty to marijuana possession.

Harder drugs and pot dealers don’t fare quite as well. But as long as they stay away from other criminal activity, they too are frequently left alone by the law. When caught, prosecutors also let them plea down to a lesser crime.

The problem is no one has the guts to stand up to this myth, afraid of being called a big government, authoritarian conservative. It’s much easier to look hip and make vague statements like “The war on drugs is not working.” There is no longer a war on drugs. There is the occasional ad campaign to warn teenagers against using drugs — and usually just hard drugs — but even those are directed at youth, not your average adult pot smoker. No one cares and no one enforces the law, it is treated like illegal immigration with law enforcement and the legal system looking the other way.

Obama is calling to end mandatory minimum sentencing, claiming there are too many nonviolent offenders behind bars. Several prominent Republicans are jumping on the bandwagon with him. Last month, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 “nonviolent drug offenders.” Does anyone actually believe even one of them was really serving time for drug possession, much less marijuana possession? Only the prosecutor and defense attorney will ever see their entire rap sheet, and are prohibited by law from disclosing it, so Obama gets away with this ruse.

Conservatives and libertarians shouldn’t buy into this typical rhetoric from the left, which is to stand for something because it sounds good on the surface, when in reality the truth is much different. Regardless of one’s position on drug legalization, stop saying that people are serving time behind bars for marijuana possession. You just look silly.

Source:  http://townhall.com/columnists/rachelalexander/2015/08/03/no-one-serves-jail-time-for-smoking-pot-   August 3rd 2015

Let us provide a rational answer to a nonsensical question. It is a nonsensical question because blood is never impaired by THC. Never. Alcohol doesn’t impair blood either. These drugs only impair the brain, not the blood.

We can only test for drug content in the brain by means of an autopsy, something most drivers would reasonably object to.

We test blood as a surrogate for what’s in the brain. For alcohol, blood is a very good surrogate. Alcohol is a tiny, water-soluble molecule that rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier and quickly establishes and maintains an equilibrium concentration between what’s in the blood and what’s in the brain.

Blood is a terrible surrogate for learning the amount of THC in the brain. It’s used because we blindly follow the precedence set by alcohol, perhaps even believing the pot lobby’s mantra that marijuana should be regulated like alcohol. It’s also used because we haven’t proven anything else that’s any better. Oral fluid likely is somewhat better, but that may only be because it can be collected more quickly at the roadside.

Blood is a terrible surrogate because unlike alcohol, THC is a very large fat-soluble molecule. This results in three major differences in behavior compared to alcohol:

  1. THC crosses the blood-brain barrier much more slowly than alcohol. This is why studies show that the blood level of THC can be dropping at the same time that the feeling of being high is increasing.
  2. THC migrates very rapidly from the blood to the body’s fat stores. This is why the THC level in blood drops by 90% within the first hour after smoking, even though the metabolic half-life of THC is estimated to be about four days.
  3. Because of the high fat content in the brain, THC remains in the brain long after it can no longer be detected in the blood. This is why pot users consistently have higher levels of THC in their brains than in their blood, according to autopsy results.

Perhaps this explains why researchers agree that marijuana impairs driving, but none claim there is a good correlation between blood levels of THC and impairment.

The fact is that there is no level of THC above which, everyone is impaired, and below which, no one is impaired.

The same is true of alcohol. In spite of common belief, the .08 BAC limit wasn’t determined by science. It can’t be, due to the reality of biological variability. The .08 BAC limit was determined by politicians, using scientific input as well as societal input. That explains why the alcohol per se limit varies from .02 to .08 gm/dl in various developed countries of the world, and those countries based their decision all on the same science! It’s other societal inputs such as risk tolerance and desire for freedom that come into play to make that decision.

None of this proves it’s safe to drive after smoking pot. It’s not. It simply explains why a defined per se limit of THC in blood that proves someone is impaired can never be supported by science.

This also may explain why the preferred means to deal with drug impaired driving is not to establish per se limits, but rather to establish a zero tolerance policy for mind altering drugs in a driver that has been shown to be impaired.

Source:  http://www.duidvictimvoices.org/   April 2015

New drunken-driving laws in British Columbia have led to a dramatic decrease (roughly 50%). Officials ramped up penalties on drivers who tested at a lower blood alcohol level (.05, as opposed to the current .08 legal standard) and authorized police to immediately impound cars.

TRANSCRIPT

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Six years ago, a terrible family tragedy occurred here in rural British Columbia.  But over time, it became much more than that. This tragedy set in motion dramatic changes to the laws governing drinking and driving — changes that supporters say have already saved dozens of lives. That tragedy involved a four year old girl. Her name was Alexa Middelaer

LAUREL MIDDELAER: Well, it was a beautiful May long weekend and my daughter, Alexa, loved this one particular horse and she really wanted to show her grandparents that horse.  I remember saying good bye to her, and then very shortly after that we heard all kinds of sirens. And at that moment I just– I just knew.  I said, “It– it’s Alexa.  Something happened to Alexa.”

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A 56 year-old woman doing nearly twice the speed limit, lost control of her car and smashed into the exact spot where Alexa stood feeding the horse on the side of the road.  The woman – – who was later convicted and sent to prison — admitted to police she’d had three glasses of wine before getting into her car.

LAUREL MIDDELAER: When we knew, roadside, that our daughter was dead, I remember my husband just — in the ambulance — we both held each other and he said, “This will not break us.  This will define us.  There will be some good in this.”

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: After the accident, Alexa’s parents – Michael and Laurel – launched a campaign to try and change the culture around drinking and driving … and to deter people from doing it….  Their events became a regular feature on local news

LAUREL MIDDELAER (from local news) We will honor our daughter and we will make the necessary changes that, number one…

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But they soon realized it would take more than that – they realized they’d have to change the drunk driving laws, which, like in the U.S., sets the legal blood alcohol limit at .08 percent.  After lobbying the government for nearly a year — alongside groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving – their efforts paid off.   In 2010, the Provincial Government not only stiffened penalties against driving at.08, but more importantly, it targeted drivers who fall below that level — to .05 — drivers who are not legally drunk.  The rationale?  Even a few drinks – as few as two for a woman, and three for a man — can impair your driving ability

The big change was that if you were now caught driving with a .05 blood alcohol level, the police were authorized – on the spot — to fine you, suspend your drivers license, and immediately impound your car for at least three days.  They’d get you out of the vehicle, and a tow truck would haul it away. 

In late 2010, police began enforcing the new laws, and police impound lots across British Columbia began filling up. The changes sparked an uproar.  Civil libertarians argued it gave the police too much power – and restaurant owners like  Mark Roberts said the new laws damaged the economy… he says his business dropped between 10 and 20 percent.

MARK ROBERTS: When the change of drinking-driving laws came out, we knew that was going to have a strong impact on our business.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What did you think?  That customers would suddenly be afraid and that they wouldn’t come to your door?

MARK ROBERTS: We thought that there was a lot of unknowns about what that meant.  How many drinks could people have?  There was very little information about how that was going to be enforced, how it was going to impact what people could drink. We were creating non-alcoholic drinks to make up for the lost sales.  It was a lot of fear, a lot of unknowns, and some real changes in people’s behavior.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And the impact was immediate.  During the first year the new law was in effect, the number of drunk driving deaths in British Columbia plunged. Critics argued that first year was just a fluke.  But the second year?  The number declined again.  A 55% reduction in deaths in just two years.

The message, it seemed, had started getting through to drivers

TIM STOCKWELL: So it was quite well-publicized.  And for deterrence to work it’s as much about knowing and expecting there being a consequence than it actually be likely.  People’s perception that they were likely to be caught was probably way higher than it actually was.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that’s key?

TIM STOCKWELL: That is key.  It’s very important….

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tim Stockwell is an expert on alcohol policy at the University of Victoria. He told us he can’t think of a single reform that’s had this big an impact, this quickly.  He and his colleagues recently published a peer-reviewed study of the effectiveness of the new laws.

TIM STOCKWELL: These laws epitomize a perfect deterrence theory in action.  And it is very important to understand that you don’t need draconian, severe penalties. They have to be severe enough.  It’s more important that they are certain, and that they are swift.  So on the spot, losing your car for three days, a week, that’s severe enough.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The new laws have faced some setbacks: the police had problems with some of their breathalyzers, the government had to ammend the laws when courts ruled that drivers deserved a better appeals process.  And last fall a judge ruled in favor of a driver who appealed his 2012 driving suspension.  Critics say that ruling that could force a rewriting of the laws.  For now, the heart of the new laws though remain intact.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What about the argument that there have been so many lives saved by these new rules that yes, it may have taken a hit out of your business, but that to save a bunch of people’s lives that that’s an OK price to pay?

MARK ROBERTS:  Yeah.  Well, it’s hard to argue that.  I’m certainly not going to sit here and say well, we should allow people to drink whatever, and whatever the consequences are, that’s the way it is going to be.  I certainly wouldn’t advocate that.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Why do you think this has been so effective?

LAUREL MIDDELAER: I think because the consequence is firm.  I think that people respond when there’s a harsher consequence.  And I think, too, because it’s aligned to a larger goal.  Just like secondhand smoke, we have no tolerance for that anymore, just like when seatbelts came in, there was that fundamental shift.  My goal has always been that there will be a fundamental shift that it’s not OK to drink and drive.  Drinking is fine.  Absolutely — drink whatever you like and enjoy and partake, but just don’t mix it with driving.

Source:   http://www.pbs.org/newshour  Jan.2014

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

Law enforcement officials would love to have a clear way to tell when a driver is too drugged to drive. But the decades of experience the country has in setting limits for alcohol have turned out to be rather useless so far because the mind-altering compound in cannabis, THC, dissolves in fat, whereas alcohol dissolves in water.

And that changes everything. “It’s really difficult to document drugged driving in a relevant way,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University, “[because of] the simple fact that THC is fat soluble. That makes it absorbed in a very different way and much more difficult to relate behavior to, say, [blood] levels of THC or develop a breathalyzer.”

When you drink, alcohol spreads through your saliva and breath. It evenly saturates your lungs and blood. Measuring the volume of alcohol in one part of your body can predictably tell you how much is in any other part of your body — like how much is affecting your brain at any given time.

That made it possible to do the science on alcohol and crash risk back in the mid-20th century. Eventually, decades of study helped formulate the 0.08 blood alcohol limit as too drunk to drive safely. “The 0.08 standard in alcohol is from decades of careful epidemiological research,” says Andrea Roth, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

But marijuana isn’t like that. The height of your intoxication isn’t at the moment when blood THC levels peak, and the high doesn’t rise and fall uniformly based on how much THC leaves and enters your bodily fluids, says Marilyn Huestis, who headed the chemistry and drug metabolism section at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Because THC is fat soluble, it moves readily from water environments, like blood, to fatty environments. Fatty tissues act like sponges for the THC, Huestis says. “And the brain is a very fatty tissue. It’s been proven you can still measure THC in the brain even if it’s no longer measurable in the blood.”

From her research, Huestis found that THC rapidly clears out of the blood in occasional users within a couple of hours. While they’re still high, a trickle of THC leaches out of their brains and other fatty tissues back into the blood until it’s all gone.

That means a lab test would only find a trace amount of THC in the blood of occasional smokers after a few hours. “You could have smoked a good amount, just waited two hours, still be pretty intoxicated and yet pass the drug test [for driving],” says Haney.

And if you eat the weed instead of smoking it, Haney says, your blood never carries that much THC. “With oral THC, it takes several hours for [blood THC] to peak, but it remains very low compared to the smoked route, even though they’re very high. It’s a hundredfold difference,” she says.

But daily users are different. Huestis says that heavy smokers build up so much THC in their body fat that it could continue leaching out for weeks after they last smoked. These chronic, frequent users will also experience a rapid loss of THC from their blood after smoking, but they will also have a constant, moderate level of blood THC even when they’re not high, Huestis says.

It gets trickier when you try to factor in the chronic effect of smoking weed, Huestis says. “We found [chronic, frequent smokers’] brains had changed and reduced the density of cannabinoid receptors,” she says. They were cognitively impaired for up to 28 days after their last use, and their driving might also still be impaired for that long. “It’s pretty scary,” she says.

The attitude difference between stoned drivers and alcohol drivers seems clear, Huestis

says. Pot smokers, she says, “tend to be more aware they’re impaired than alcohol users.” Drunk drivers are more aggressive, and high drivers are slower. But in her studies, she found that being blazed enough, as when a smoker’s blood THC level peaks at 13 nanograms per milliliter, could be just as a dangerous as driving drunk. The marijuana advocacy group NORML emphasizes that driving high can be dangerous, and  advises people to drive sober.

This all translates into a colossal headache for researchers and lawmakers alike. While scientists continue to bang their heads over how to draw up a biological measurement for marijuana intoxication, legislators want a way to quickly identify and penalize people who are too high to drive.

The instinct, Huestis says, is to come up with a law that parallels the 0.08 BAC standard for alcohol. “Everyone is looking for one number,” she says. “And it’s almost impossible to come up with one number. Occasional users can be very impaired at one microgram per liter, and chronic, frequent smokers will be over one microgram per liter maybe for weeks.”

The shaky science around relating blood THC to driving impairment is unfair for people living in marijuana-legal states that have absolute blood THC limits for driving, says Andrea Roth, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In states like Washington, if a driver is found to have over 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood, they automatically get a DUI-cannabis. “If we are going to criminalize DUI marijuana, we need to take information from scientific studies and use it to decide if that risk is sufficiently high to be so morally blameworthy that we call it a crime. But we don’t, so picking 5 nanograms per milliliter is arbitrary,” Roth says.

The complicated biology of THC makes current DUI cases very tricky.

“Blood isn’t taken in the U.S. until 1.5 to four hours after the [traffic] incident,” Huestis says. By then, THC levels would have fallen significantly, and these people might have been impaired but passed the test. At the same time, a heavy user living in a state like Washington would get a DUI even if she or he hadn’t smoked in weeks.

As a result, it gets difficult to even understand how risky blazed driving is. Traffic studies that rely on blood THC measures could also be inaccurate if blood is drawn too late and THC has already left the system. And some state traffic databases, including Colorado’s, according to state traffic officials, link accidents to 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, a byproduct of marijuana metabolism that marks only recent exposure and not intoxication. That might result in an overestimation of marijuana-related accidents.

In the meantime, Haney says, the challenge shouldn’t deter people from trying to find a marijuana DUI solution. People are working on breath tests, saliva, other blood markers and behavioral tests, just nothing that so far has stuck, she says. “We need something, because it’s an important public health issue. But how we’re going to get there? I just don’t know.”

Source:  http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/09/466147956  Feb.2016

Seeking a safe haven in Colorado’s legal marijuana marketplace, illegal drug traffickers are growing weed among the state’s sanctioned pot warehouses and farms, then covertly shipping it elsewhere and pocketing millions of dollars from the sale, according to law enforcement officials and court records consulted by The Associated Press.

In one case, the owner of a skydiving business crammed hundreds of pounds of Colorado pot into his planes and flew the weed to Minnesota, where associates allegedly sold it for millions of dollars in cash. In another, a Denver man was charged with sending more than 100 pot-filled FedEx packages to Buffalo, New York, where drug dealers divvied up the shipment. Twenty other drug traffickers, many from Cuba, were accused of relocating to Colorado to grow marijuana that they sent to Florida, where it can fetch more than double the price in a legal Colorado shop.

These cases and others confirm a longstanding fear of marijuana opponents that the state’s much-watched experiment in legal pot would invite more illegal trafficking to other states where the drug is still strictly forbidden.

One source is Colorado residents or tourists who buy retail pot and take it out of state. But more concerning to authorities are larger-scale traffickers who move here specifically to grow the drug and ship to more lucrative markets.

The trend also bolsters the argument of neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma, which filed a lawsuit in late 2014 seeking to declare Colorado’s pot legalization unconstitutional, arguing that the move sent a tide of illicit weed across their borders. The Obama administration last month urged the Supreme Court to reject the suit, saying that the leakage was not Colorado’s fault.

No one knows exactly how much pot leaves Colorado. When illegal shipments are seized, it’s often impossible to prove where the marijuana was grown. But court documents and interviews with law enforcement officials indicate well-organized traffickers are seeking refuge in Colorado’s flourishing pot industry.

“There’s no question there’s a lot more of this activity than there was two years ago,” said Colorado’s U.S. attorney, John Walsh.

Some in the legal industry say police have exaggerated the problem and put unfair scrutiny on people who legally grow pot on behalf of patients. Lawmakers last year limited unregulated pot growers to no more than 99 plants in an effort to crack down on those selling untaxed pot.

The federal government allowed Colorado’s experiment on the condition that state officials act to keep marijuana from migrating to places where it is still outlawed and out of the hands of criminal cartels. Federal authorities acknowledge that both things are happening but say that, because the state is trying to keep its industry tightly regulated, there’s no reason to end the legal pot trade.

(MY NOTE: This is an insane position to take. The feds are allowing large-scale manufacturing and distribution to take place in Colorado and elsewhere. All of it is in violation of numerous federal laws that bring mandatory minimum sentences to traffickers. This administration’s absolute failure to enforce federal law is catamount to aiding and abetting drug traffickers on a scale seldom seen in the drug trafficking world prior to legalization. DOJ’s initial claim was that federal resources would not be used to prosecute “patients”

who are in compliance with state “medi-pot” laws. In order words, it was supposed to be about leaving users alone. Nothing about the current situation is about “patients.” It is about commercialization and trafficking, with legalized states producing high-grade pot for the rest of the country.

The feds could immediately stop 90% of this nonsense for the cost of postage stamps — sending letters written on DOJ letterhead that provide notice of impending forfeiture of all property used in furtherance of large-scale trafficking and money laundering. This would include all drug proceeds (and arguably would include the seizure of drug proceeds disguised as “tax revenue.” I spent more than 20 years doing these cases in federal court, so I know what I am talking about. Back to the article.  Monte Stiles)

The pot industry also acknowledges the criminal activity and insists it is doing all it can to keep legally grown weed from crossing state lines. Among other safeguards, Colorado law requires growers to get a license and use a “seed-to-sale” tracking system that monitors marijuana plants at every stage.

Many of the illicit growers come from elsewhere, never obtain a growing license and “don’t even attempt to adhere to the law,” said Barbra M. Roach, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver field division.

“It’s like hiding in plain sight,” she said.  (EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG)

Authorities in Washington state, which also allows recreational marijuana, have noticed more marijuana leaving the state. But more reports are coming from Colorado, which has the nation’s most robust commercial market and an international reputation for producing premium, high-potency pot.

“It’s a brand name now,” Roach said.

Jason Warf, head of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, said people are “coming from out-of-state, buying products from licensed stores and being arrested on their way home.”

That “is really hard to curb,” he said. “We can’t essentially babysit adults and their behavior.”

The Colorado Department of Revenue’s marijuana-enforcement division cites shops if pot is unaccounted for but “after it’s sold, we have very little control what happens to the marijuana,” Director Lewis Koski said.

Police agencies seized nearly 2 tons of Colorado weed from drivers who had intended to take it to 36 other states in 2014, the year legal pot shops opened, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded drug task force. By comparison, they seized less than a ton in 2009.

U.S. postal inspectors seized about 470 pounds of Colorado pot from the mail in 2014, up from 57 pounds in 2010, according to the task force, whose findings are based on on voluntary submissions from law enforcement agencies and are largely anecdotal.

Some cases have comic overtones, like when a Wyoming patrolman discovered 7 ounces of high-grade weed in trick-or-treat bags the day after Halloween, or when police in northern Colorado seized stuffed animals full of marijuana destined for Florida.

Other operations are more sophisticated, like the one in which authorities say 32 people used skydiving planes and posed as licensed medical marijuana caregivers and small business owners to export tens of thousands of pounds of pot grown in Denver warehouses, usually to Minnesota. The organization made more than $12 million over four years, according to a state indictment.

When they busted illegal pot farms in southern Colorado in September, state and federal agents found 28 guns, more than 1,000 plants and $25,000 in cash.

A local UPS facility intercepts about 50 pounds of pot headed out of state each week, said Todd Reeves of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. “We don’t have the resources,” he said, “to be able to go after every single one of these cases.”

Source:   SADIE GURMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS DENVER — Jan 28, 2016, 2:11 AM ET  http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/drug-traffickers-seek-safe-haven-amid-legal-marijuana-36564435

After the Police Chief of Gloucester, Massachusetts announced the town will connect people with treatment when they come to the police station with illegal drugs and paraphernalia, instead of arresting them, 56 police departments in 17 states have started similar programs.

An additional 110 police departments are preparing to start programs that emphasize treatment over incarceration, The New York Timesreports. Two hundred treatment centers nationwide have agreed to be partners in these programs. In May 2015, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello posted on Facebook, “We will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an ‘angel’ who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.” Since then, Gloucester has developed a national network of centers that are willing to provide treatment beds and take referrals by police, whether or not a person has insurance.

Several local pharmacies have agreed to make the opioid overdose antidote naloxone available at a discount.

Most of the program’s costs are covered by the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which Chief Campanello founded with Gloucester businessman John E. Rosenthal. The initiative has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has also received millions of dollars in in-kind contributions, including placement in treatment centers.

The program has 55 volunteers in recovery or who are familiar with addiction, who listen and offer moral support. Local taxi companies provide free rides to treatment facilities or the airport, if the treatment facility is far away.

Since the program started, 391 people have turned themselves in at Gloucester’s police station. About 40 percent are from the local area. All have been placed in treatment, the article notes.

Source:  http://www.drugfree.org/join-together   26th Jan. 2016

By Mark H. Moore; Mark H. Moore is professor of criminal justice at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— History has valuable lessons to teach policy makers but it reveals its lessons only grudgingly.

Close analyses of the facts and their relevance is required lest policy makers fall victim to the persuasive power of false analogies and are misled into imprudent judgments. Just such a danger is posed by those who casually invoke the ”lessons of Prohibition” to argue for the legalization of drugs.

What everyone ”knows” about Prohibition is that it was a failure. It did not eliminate drinking; it did create a black market. That in turn spawned criminal syndicates and random violence. Corruption and widespread disrespect for law were incubated and, most tellingly, Prohibition was repealed only 14 years after it was enshrined in the Constitution.

The lesson drawn by commentators is that it is fruitless to allow moralists to use criminal law to control intoxicating substances. Many now say it is equally unwise to rely on the law to solve the nation’s drug problem.

But the conventional view of Prohibition is not supported by the facts.

First, the regime created in 1919 by the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, which charged the Treasury Department with enforcement of the new restrictions, was far from all-embracing. The amendment prohibited the commercial manufacture and distribution of alcoholic beverages; it did not prohibit use, nor production for one’s own consumption. Moreover, the provisions did not take effect until a year after passage -plenty of time for people to stockpile supplies.

Second, alcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.

Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.

Third, violent crime did not increase dramatically during Prohibition. Homicide rates rose dramatically from 1900 to 1910 but remained roughly constant during Prohibition’s 14 year rule. Organized crime may have become more visible and lurid during Prohibition, but it existed before and after.

Fourth, following the repeal of Prohibition, alcohol consumption increased. Today, alcohol is estimated to be the cause of more than 23,000 motor vehicle deaths and is implicated in more than half of the nation’s 20,000 homicides. In contrast, drugs have not yet been persuasively linked to highway fatalities and are believed to account for 10 percent to 20 percent of homicides.

Prohibition did not end alcohol use. What is remarkable, however, is that a relatively narrow political movement, relying on a relatively weak set of statutes, succeeded in reducing, by one-third, the consumption of a drug that had wide historical and popular sanction.

This is not to say that society was wrong to repeal Prohibition. A democratic society may decide that recreational drinking is worth the price in traffic fatalities and other consequences. But the common claim that laws backed by morally motivated political movements cannot reduce drug use is wrong.

Not only are the facts of Prohibition misunderstood, but the lessons are misapplied to the current situation.

The U.S. is in the early to middle stages of a potentially widespread cocaine epidemic.    (in 2001)   If the line is held now, we can prevent new users and increasing casualties. So this is exactly not the time to be considering a liberalization of our laws on cocaine. We need a firm stand by society against cocaine use to extend and reinforce the messages that are being learned through painful personal experience and testimony.

The real lesson of Prohibition is that the society can, indeed, make a dent in the consumption of drugs through laws. There is a price to be paid for such restrictions, of course. But for drugs such as heroin and cocaine, which are dangerous but currently largely unpopular, that price is small relative to the benefits.

Source:  http://nyti.ms/U1QHdN  Published October 16 1989

1.     Prohibited the commercial manufacture, and distribution of alcoholic beverages

It DID NOT prohibit use, or production for one’s own consumption

2.     Alcohol consumption declined dramatically during prohibition.

Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 inn 1929

Mental hospital admission for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.

Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conducted declined 50% between 1916 and 1922

Consumption of alcohol declined by 30 to 50%

3.     Violent crimes DID NOT increase dramatically during prohibition.  Homicide rates rose dramatically from 1900 to 1910 but remained roughly constant during prohibition’s 14-year rule.  Organized crime did become more visible during prohibition but it existed before and after.

4.     Following the repeal of prohibition, alcohol consumption increased.  Today alcohol is estimated to be the cause of 50% of traffic deaths and is implicated in more than half of the nation’s homicides.

Source:  J.McDougal 2001  –  re-printed Drug Watch International e-mails.

Few topics have been more distorted by politicians and media than claims about the criminal justice system in its various forms. When the offense involves illicit drugs (use, possession, or trafficking), the distortion becomes pronounced.

In large measure, a complicated set of data have been made even more difficult to grasp because of tendentious (and often false) assertions forwarded by drug legalization advocates, who seek to advance their own “reforms” by first misrepresenting the criminal justice facts. Moreover, though drug use overall is subject to confusion, distortion is even greater when marijuana is the drug in question. An example of agendas distorting understanding is the effort to blamedrug laws for the growth in incarceration. That effort seeks to convince a public otherwise disinclined to accept more drugs that current drug laws have created the supposed injustice of “mass incarceration.” This is demonstrably untrue.

To answer with the facts, we will address several distinct dimensions of legal institutions concerning illicit drugs: prison sentences, recidivism of released prisoners, and the relationship of drug use to the commission of criminal acts. (We addressed the parallel issue of drug arrests in a previous study, showing that they are far fewer in proportion to drug use than drug reform advocates claim.)

We start with prison inmates, found in both state and federal prisons, and contrast the cumulative numbers of those imprisoned with those entering in a single year. In all cases, we will find that the proportion of drug offenses to the overall number of prisoners has been much overstated. Cumulatively, all drug offenders in both systems constitute20 percent of inmates (303,800 out of 1,508,636 sentenced inmates).

THE FEDERAL PRISON SYSTEM:

The federal system holds 13 percent of all prisoners, but contains the larger proportion of drug offenders. This happens because many trafficking offenses, be they interstate or international, are specifically federal in nature. But even as the total number of prisoners has grown, the drug-offender percentage has declined steadily.

There were 52,568 federal prisoners in 1989 (those “under jurisdiction”), and by 2014, there were 191,374 (those “sentenced” – the categories shifted slightly over time, yielding slight variation in respective calculations). Yet the percentage of drug offenders in the total peaked in 1996, when it stood at 59.6 percent. A 2014 publication from the White House showing the cumulative total of federal prisoners broken down to show drug offenses as the most serious charge, reveals that the proportion of drug offenders had dropped to 44 percent of all offenders in 2011. By 2014, the most recent data on sentenced drug offenders in the federal prison system shifted back to 50 percent of all federal inmates, an increase from the previous ratio due largely to recent inmate releases.

When we turn to inmates entering federal prison in a single year, data are more current, but show the same trajectory. In 1998, the proportion of drug offenders incarcerated for that year was 41 percent (vs. 57.8 percent of the 1998 cumulative “jurisdiction” figure). By 2014, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), drug offenders (of all types) had fallen to only 32 percent (of 75,836 entering federal inmates, 22,193 were drug offenders). Importantly, 96.6 percent of entering inmates who were drug offenders were convicted of trafficking offenses, while only 0.9 percent were convicted of simple possession.

We can further break these data down by drug type, and by nature of the drug offense. Methamphetamine resulted in the largest subset of drug types with more than 6,304 incarcerations, while heroin produced 2,431.

Though recent legislative reforms have altered the mandatory sentencing guidelines regarding powder cocaine offenses (based on weight) compared to crack offenses (a former ratio of 100 to 1 has been amended to 18 to 1), there were only 4,959 powder cocaine convictions in 2014, compared to 2,439 crack convictions. Moreover, the number of crack cocaine inmates sentenced for simple possession was 0.3 percent, or no more than 7 people.

Finally, marijuana federal incarcerations totaled only 3,971. Marijuana offenses are overwhelmingly (97.6 percent) for trafficking, with a “simple possession offense” representing only 75 individuals (or 1.9 percent), with that conviction often resulting from downward plea-bargaining from more serious offenses.   To show the emphasis on traffickers, when asked in Congressionaltestimony how many drug possession offenders the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) refers for federal prosecution, Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley stated, “virtually none.”

What, then, is currently driving the changing distribution of the federal inmate population? To a large extent it is a rising number of immigration offenses, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service. This fact is echoed for single-year entry for prisoners as well: in 2014 the USSC shows 29 percent were immigration offenders, while 32 percent were drug offenders.

THE STATE PRISON SYSTEM: The state prison system is larger, holding 1,317,262 sentenced prisoners cumulatively in 2014. The state prison inmate population has also grown over time, and the absolute number of drug offenders within that total has nearly doubled since 1989 from 120,100 to 208,000 (sentenced) in 2014.

Yet just as with the federal system, the percentage of drug offenders has declined since the peak year 1990 when it stood at at 22 percent. For 2014, those whose most serious offense involved drugs were only 16 percent of sentenced state prison inmates (drug possession offenses are only 3.6 percent of all state inmates).

While there has been a marked increase in the state prison population over the past few decades as America has gotten more serious about combatting crime, the data do not support the idea that drug offenses are the primary driver of those increases. Further, with regard to the current push to decriminalize or legalize drug use, there is no support for the assertion that convictions for drug use/possession are responsible for the sharp increases in either state or federal prison inmates.

SENTENCING REFORM AND RECIDIVISM:

And what of sentencing reforms leading to the release of large numbers of federal drug offenders? A substantial problem is recidivism, or re-offending within a relatively short period of time, as we have elsewhere recently argued. Yet the press persists in misrepresentation. According to the Economist, advocating for prisoner release, “Given how high America’s incarceration rate is, it is fair to say reducing it won’t precipitate a crime wave. Many convicts serving long sentences were never generally dangerous, or have mellowed with age, and no longer pose a threat to the public.” But the data show otherwise. According to a Bureau of Justice Statisticsstudy of prisoners released in 2005 and tracked for five years, 32 percent were drug offenders.

Of these, fully 77 percent of those released re-offended within that five- year-period (57 percent of all offenders re-offended at only one year).

It is worth noting two features of a further breakdown of the 404,638 released prisoners in the study. First, the outcome is the same regardless of the type of drug offense (trafficking or possession); that is, either type of offense has comparable re-offense rates. Drug possession offenders had 78 percent recidivism, drug trafficking offenders, 75 percent.

Second, the percent of re-offenses where the subsequent crime specifically involved drugs reached 51 percent. More compelling, violent crimes were fully 25 percent of drug inmates’ recidivating offenses.

These data clearly show if drug offenders are released through sentencing reform, both drug and violent crime will follow; to the extent that they are released early, the effect is to compress their criminal impact into a shorter period.

Further, inmates’ prior arrest history matters. In this study, for all offenders, the mean number of prior arrests per released prisoner was nearly 11.

For those who had ten or more prior arrests, 86 percent re-offended within 5 years. (Even for those aged 40 and over, the recidivism for drug offenders was 71 percent.)

DRUG USE AND THE COMMISSION OF CRIMES:

Finally, there is the role of drugs in the commission of crime. According to another Bureau of Justice Statistics study, one third of state inmates and one quarter of federal inmates committed their offenses under the influence of illicit drugs. That holds for all crimes, not just drug offenses.

For state prisoners, 69 percent used drugs “regularly,” and for 59 percent, that drug was marijuana (with 30 percent using cocaine/crack).

For federal prisoners, 64 percent used drugs “regularly,” with 53 percent using marijuana (and 28 percent using cocaine/crack). Even for federal trafficking offenders, 34 percent were using drugs at the time of the offense.

The same pattern holds for violent offenders. Of them, 49 percent of both federal and state offenders used drugs in the month prior to the offense. The number using drugs at the time of the violent offense reached 28 percent of state and 24 percent of federal prisoners. Homicide-specific rates of drug use in the month prior to the offense were 49 percent and 45 percent, respectively for state and federal prison inmates, with a respective 27 percent and 17 percent using at the time of the homicide.

POLICY CONCLUSIONS:

By these data, we may conclude the following:

1. Sentencing reforms that result in the early release of prison inmates will increase the number of future crimes, and crime victims, through recidivism, while the effect will be concentrated in time, thereby stressing law enforcement and rehabilitation services.

2. Drug intoxication (including the most prevalent drug, marijuana), is deeply implicated in crime commission, including violent crime. It follows that enabling greater drug use

will magnify the criminal impact, with the corollary that efforts to reduce drug use prevalence should help lower the incidence of crime.

3. In particular, decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana will have virtually no impact on prison overcrowding, but the attendant increase in drug-use prevalence nationwide will likely lead to increased commission of crimes, including non-drug offenses and violent offense

Source:  http://www.hudson.org/research  Nov. 2015

Filed under: Legal Sector :

David W. Murray and John P. Walters

At a Manhattan fundraiser yesterday (as noted by The Hill), potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke of the rioting in Baltimore by invoking a theme of the Obama administration: the need for reform of the criminal justice system.  According to this critique, the current crisis in our cities, in particular focused on violence involving the police and African Americans, has its roots in America’s policies of criminal justice.Former Secretary of State Clinton insisted that we must “reform our criminal justice system” and, according to The Hill, “made a reference to ending ‘mass incarceration,’ but the specifics were drowned out by applause.”

The charge of “mass incarceration” is often attached to changes in criminal justice sentencing that were put in place in the mid-1990s, and led by political figures such as Vice President Joe Biden, a strong supporter of so-called “three strikes” laws and author (as a senator) of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

It should be remembered that such measures were politically popular during that decade, driven by the striking damage done to our cities (as well as to vulnerable women), by rising crime rates, in particular, crimes of violence. The circumstance  has changed for the better so dramatically that current politicians can perhaps be forgiven for losing sight of the problems that such measures were crafted to address.

Reform of unjust laws is a constant duty, but we should not forget the genuine suffering of criminal victims that led to efforts at protecting those at risk. The reality is that the tough laws were put in place for a reason, to shelter those being devastated by crime and drugs and predatory behavior.

Few doubt that a result of the application of those laws, beyond unintended injustices, was that a great deal of predatory behavior was stopped, though as a consequence, incarceration numbers grew accordingly. The intended effect was produced, as the rate of crime fell dramatically and continues downward to this day.

A graph of forcible rapes reported to the police as found in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports can represent the nature of the overall criminal threat, and the impact of sentencing “reform” (as it was called then) has been surely one of the social factors driving this steep decline in crime. As can be seen, the incidence of “forcible rape” was climbing steeply until the time (1993-1995) that the reforms were implemented.

These laws were strong measures, but surely the sense at the time was that they were necessary, given the dangers to which they were the answer. It would be ironic, indeed, if we now, the very beneficiaries of the decline of violent crime were to reverse such conditions, in the hope of applause.  An implication of falling crime is that America is unlikely to see a continuation of the rate of incarceration from those years, simply because the number of committed crimes has dropped so greatly. When crime falls, incarceration should level off, and then decline as a result. That is, in some respects, we could be on the verge of harvesting the benefits from those laws, and even entering a period where the number of incarcerations will decline.  Further, because the impact of violent crime has fallen so steeply, we might even see that necessary and long-sought “structural reforms” of our inner cities (jobs, better schools, strengthened family formation), might begin to gain traction.

Yet because the political pressure behind the imposition of those laws has declined first, we could be on the verge of making a tragic mistake, by carelessly reversing the very steps that made vulnerable neighborhoods safer. Whatever new “reforms” we undertake

now, we must take heed lest we re-start the original conditions of crisis, simply to serve political opportunism, often from the very people who called for the initial intervention.

To sum up, it is possible to argue that faced with a threat, we made an intervention, and to a large degree that intervention worked, albeit at considerable social cost. Now is not the time to abandon those efforts. If proto-candidate Clinton and her allies succeed in an effort to abandon effective law enforcement in our cities, very soon, no one will be applauding.

Walters and Murray direct 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.weeklystandard.com)  29th April 2015

Filed under: Legal Sector :

– and “It’s Time to Regulate E-Cigarettes,” by David A. Kessler and Matthew L. Myers (Op-Ed, April 23):

We applaud your editorial and Op-Ed essay for highlighting the rise in electronic cigarette use among high school students and for condemning the tobacco industry for aggressively targeting kids.

Unfortunately, the noxious tactics of Big Tobacco — flavored products, colorful packaging, kid-friendly advertising — are not limited to the marketing of e-cigarettes. They also characterize the commercialization of marijuana in states like Colorado, where pot has been legalized. Attempts to ban edible marijuana products that target youth, such as “Pot Tarts” or “Pot Lollipops,” have been met with fierce opposition from a burgeoning marijuana industry eager to hook kids early, and ensure a steady stream of future profits.

As we condemn the harms of e-cigarettes and their marketing to youth, we should also acknowledge that the legalization and mass commercialization of marijuana means yet another industry that thrives on addiction and recklessly targets the most vulnerable in society. We can reform our drug laws and address the currents pitfalls of prohibition without giving rise to the next Big Tobacco.

PATRICK J. KENNEDY

KEVIN A. SABET

Princeton, N.J.

The writers, a former congressman and a former White House drug policy adviser, respectively, are leaders of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Source: Letters to Editor  nytimes.com  5th MY 2015

With the medical marijuana law cutting profits for street dealers, police believe that drug-trafficking organizations are turning to far more dangerous drugs, flooding the streets with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Tempe Police, the DEA and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office attacked that trend in Operation Terminus, a 30-month investigation that resulted in the dismantling of what investigators described as an extensive drug trafficking network that stretched from Sinoloa, Mexico, to Phoenix, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff pointed out that the one missing item in this case is marijuana. During the investigation, there were 77 indictments, with authorities seizing $7.5 million cash, 485 pounds of methamphetamine, 50 Kilograms of cocaine, 4.5 pounds of heroin and 37 firearms. “Here, in Arizona alone, you can go to a strip mall and purchase marijuana,” Ryff said. “Drug cartels are sophisticated, they are a criminal enterprise. If the money is not there, they are going to change their tactics.” Ryff praised the Cronkite School at ASU for their work in evaluating the impact of drugs in Arizona as seen in their recent semester long project: Hooked, Tracking Heroin’s hold on Arizona. “They are plowing marijuana fields and planting opiates. It’s killing our youths. It’s an epidemic,” said Lt. Mike Pooley, a Tempe police spokesman. Police believe that drug addiction is the root cause of many property crimes, including burglary and shoplifting. Mesa police arrested a suspect last week who told them he used an air gun resembling a pistol to rob a bank in order to pay his heroin dealer. Operation Terminus started in 2012 with the arrest of an individual named Jesus who was picked up from a different criminal investigation,Tempe police Commander Kim Hale said. The drug-trafficking organizations are based in the Sinoloa state in Mexico, but the drugs are distributed by local syndicates throughout the Valley and as far away as Los Angeles and Indianapolis, he said. “Arizona is ground zero for for drugs and our border states have been impacted just as is the borders in California, Texas and News Mexico,” Hale said. Tempe police released a list of 70 defendants who were charged with a variety of drug trafficking crimes as the result of Operation Terminus.

Source:  www.azcentral.com   6th March 2015

Filed under: Legal Sector,USA :
A speaker at yesterday’s drugs conference has accused its organisers of being biased in favour of those who want to legalise all drugs. 
Speaking at Homerton College yesterday, Neil McKeganey told those at the Home Affairs Select Committee’s drugs conference that too many of the selected speakers were those who wanted to push forward drug law reform.  Mr McKeganey, of the centre for drug misuse research, asserted the conference programme was “overwhelmingly skewed” in favour of those who hope to see drugs legalised, particularly for medicinal purposes.
He said: “Their programme is so overwhelmingly skewed in favour of those in favourof drug law reform it has to be a fundamental compromise of that principle of the select committee.
“There’s no way with any justification whatsoever that the range of speakers overwhelmingly in favour of legalisation should stand as a contribution of the select committee’s discussion of drug misuse.  The case for drug policy reform is based on the drug laws having failed. In actual fact drug policies in the UK have not failed.
“We have witnessed the most substantial reduction in the prevalence of illegal drug use since records began. The statistics here are very clear. It’s completely dishonest to present that situation as indicative of government failure.”
Mr McKeganey continued that it was “preposterous” to suggest that existing drug policies were doing more harm than illegal drugs themselves.  He added: “It is said it is more effective to set up a regulated market.   That is said by people who are not considering the evidence of the impact of a regulated market.
“How on earth do you propose to regulate an unregulated market? There will still be illegal suppliers of drugs – how do you propose to regulate those individuals?”
However opinion at the drugs conference remained divided, with several speakers giving whole-hearted support to drug law reform.  The safety of drug users was one of the key reasons cited, with claims that regulating drug use would help prevent people from taking drugs which had been mixed with harmful cutting agents.
Health problems are also caused by cutting agents used to make the drug more profitable – including levamisole used to worm sheep – which can lower blood cell numbers and phenacetin which can cause kidney problems.
Imperial College London academic Prof David Nutt, who is also the chair and founder of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, was one of those who spoke out in favour of drug law reform.   Prof Nutt told the conference that almost everything which had been done in the past 30 years to tackle drugs had led to greater problems.
He said: “Prohibition of cannabis has driven us into much more dangerous drugs.
“It’s the same with MDMA. The prohibition of MDMA has led to the massive rise in deaths from PMA.  The perverse consequences of the laws must be taken account of. You cannot think there is a simple solution.
“I am very sympathetic to the idea of recovery but the abstinence recovery programme will lead to more deaths.  A policy which focuses simply on reducing use but does not take account of deaths is missing the key element of drugs policy.”
Sarah Graham, an addictions therapist and member of the advisory council on the misuse of drugs, also lent her support to the government regulating drugs.  Ms Graham said she agreed with the argument that drug users should not be criminalised.
The support for drug law reform comes after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in a report into the use of powdered cocaine in the UK and its impacts on society.
The report suggests powdered cocaine use remains most common among 20 to 29-year-olds.
 Source: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge-drugs-conference-accused-8216/story-26163142-detail/story.html#LvCZKJOoxrosfdYp.99

Though many young people seem to perceive marijuana as harmless, its use may pose serious risk for adverse behaviors and health consequences.

An extensive research review published June 5 in the New England Journal of Medicineconcluded that marijuana use is linked to multiple adverse effects—particularly in youth.

“Despite some contentious discussions regarding the addictiveness of marijuana, the evidence clearly indicates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction,” said lead author Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and three of NIDA’s top officials.

Stanimir G.Stoev/Shutterstock

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana is the most commonly used “illicit” drug in the United States, with an estimated 12 percent of people aged 12 or older reporting its use in the prior year. The 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey—supported by NIDA—found that 6.5 percent of 12th graders report daily or near-daily marijuana use, with 60 percent perceiving regular use of marijuana not to be harmful (Psychiatric News, February 6). Volkow and colleagues suggested that as more states move toward policies that legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, rates for marijuana use among teenagers and young adults will increase, as will the negative health consequences associated with its use.

“The regular use of marijuana during adolescence is of particular concern, since use by this age group is associated with an increased likelihood of deleterious consequences,” Volkow and colleagues cautioned.

The review, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” provided science-based reasoning to explain the onset of marijuana addiction and gave an overview of the adverse health consequences associated with marijuana use from data of 77 studies and literature reviews.

From animal studies, the authors concluded that exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis—in early life can recalibrate the dopaminergic system, the reward system of the brain, to become more sensitive to stimulation with drugs. The authors speculated that the findings may help to explain the increased vulnerability to abuse of marijuana and other substances in later life, which have been reported by adults who initiated cannabis use during adolescence.

The review also highlighted studies showing an association between marijuana use and impaired regions of the human brain, including the precuneas, a key node that is involved in alertness and self-conscious awareness, and the hippocampus, which is important in learning and memory. Other adverse consequences of cannabis use included impaired driving, lowered IQ scores into adulthood, and a potential risk to exacerbate psychotic symptoms in those with mental disorders. The review suggested that risks for adverse effects increase when the drug is used along with alcohol.

“Some physicians continue to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes despite limited evidence of a benefit,” noted Volkow and colleagues. “Because older studies are based on the effects of marijuana containing lower levels of THC, stronger adverse health effects may occur with the use of today’s more-potent marijuana.”

The authors emphasized that more research must be done on the potential health consequences of second hand marijuana smoke, the long-term impact of prenatal cannabis exposure, and the effects of marijuana legalization policies on public health.

“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said Volkow. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development.”

Source: http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/ June 26, 2014

This article, based upon the research of professor Troy Payne from the University of Alaska, documents facts that dispel these claims. I think you will find it extremely informative. Similar information should be available in every state fighting legalization. Monte Stiles, DrugWatch International.

 It’s complicated: Marijuana law enforcement numbers in Anchorage

There are numerous criminal justice statistics cited in support of and in opposition to Ballot Measure 2 (An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana). Recently, arrest numbers, prosecution outcomes, criminal sentencing practices, and incarceration rates, have all been referenced in ads, op-eds, and at debates.

Each of these statistics provides valuable information, but each represents only one aspect of the effect of marijuana on criminal justice in Alaska. The criminal justice system itself is comprised of multiple agencies (law enforcement, courts, corrections, each at local, state, tribal, and federal levels) which, while often working together, ultimately focus on separate tasks, then record, track, and monitor their progress differently and independently.

Focusing on arrests as the sole measure of the criminal justice impact of marijuana can be misleading. Often, marijuana crimes are accompanied by other criminal activity, so it is difficult to parse out what someone was actually “arrested for.” Many data sources will only report the most serious offense. Focusing on the number of prosecutions, convictions or incarceration rates does not provide an accurate overview either, because that number misses the people who had marijuana seized, but who were not prosecuted for marijuana offenses. Additionally, prosecutorial records, and any statistics drawn from them, may not be reliable indicators because as Dean Guaneli, former chief assistant attorney general for Alaska, pointed out in an Oct. 17 op-ed, to get the full view, “you have to look at the background facts in each case.”

As previous commentators have noted, no one in Alaska has completed a detailed analysis of marijuana-case processing from start to finish. Unfortunately, I do not currently have data for that either. But each piece of information is useful in light of the upcoming election. My goal is to bring another small amount of data to the public regarding this issue — a piece of data that illustrates one aspect of the effect of marijuana on criminal justice in Alaska: interaction with the Anchorage Police Department.

I looked at the beginning of the process — from the point police seized marijuana. Most other data sources (arrests, prosecution outcomes, sentencing, incarceration) deal with much later parts of the criminal justice system. None of these alone can provide a complete picture of marijuana-case processing in Alaska. Doing so is surprisingly complicated. (Readers are welcome to register for a few justice and legal studies classes at UAA to find out exactly why, but I will explain a few reasons here.)

I requested information on every incident in which APD seized any amount of marijuana from January 2010 through the latest date available, the end of June 2013. This allows me to describe all incidents in which marijuana was seized, regardless of whether an arrest was made or charges were ultimately filed — capturing all instances where individuals encountered law enforcement because of marijuana.

An “incident” can start with a citizen call to police or through proactive policing such as a traffic stop. “Incident” is the basic unit of police work. Marijuana is seized in less than one-half of 1 percent of all police incidents in Anchorage. Marijuana was seized in about 3,400 out of nearly 900,000 police incidents from January 2010 through midyear 2013, the latest data made available by APD. While that is a small percentage of overall police incidents, APD seizes marijuana between two and three times a day, on average.

The typical marijuana seizure in Anchorage involves a small amount of marijuana — 78.6 percent of incidents where marijuana was seized involved less than 1 ounce of marijuana. Over a third of incidents, 36.3 percent, involved less than 1/8 of an ounce of marijuana.

About three-quarters of incidents (76 percent) where marijuana was seized resulted in charges being referred to the prosecutor against at least one person. I examined what APD records noted was the primary, or most serious charge. The most common primary charge in these situations was use or display of marijuana (violation of AS 11.71.060(a)(1)). Nearly a third (31.4 percent) of persons had this as their primary charge. The next most common primary charges resulting from an incident where marijuana was seized were driving with no license or with a suspended license (10.6 percent), and possession of drugs within 500 feet of a school (10.2 percent).

Despite use or display of marijuana being the most common primary charge, most primary charges were for something other than marijuana use or possession. Over half (58 percent) of incidents where marijuana was seized began with a police response to something else, such as a disturbance or a burglary. Together with the primary charge data, this suggests either 1) that marijuana is most often seized during the investigation of other crimes which vary greatly, or 2) that marijuana use or display provides probable cause for a citizen to come to the attention of police, which then leads to more serious crimes being uncovered. Either way, the available evidence suggests that APD is not focused on making arrests solely for marijuana use, display, or possession.

Demographic data was available for incidents where a person was charged. Of persons charged, 18 percent were under the age of 18 at the time of the incident. Another 23 percent of persons were between the ages of 18 and 21 years. Persons over the age of 21 but under 30 were the largest group by age, comprising 32 percent of persons charged, with people in their 30s making up 15 percent of persons charged. Those 40 years and older made up 12 percent of persons charged. The available data on race is consistent with general trends in criminal justice, with minorities over-represented relative to their percentage in the Anchorage population.

 I hope this has provided voters with more information to consider before heading to the polls in November. As I stated at the outset, these data do not present a complete picture of marijuana-case processing — doing that requires collecting, reviewing, analyzing, and synthesizing data from police departments, the state Department of Public Safety, Department of Law, Department of Corrections and the Alaska Court System. We do not yet have a comprehensive criminal justice data platform that would allow such cases processing analyses to be completed quickly.

Troy C. Payne, Ph.D. is assistant professor of justice at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He teaches data analysis, criminology, and crime mapping. His research has examined the effectiveness of policing and crime prevention strategies.

Source: Troy Payne, University of Alaska 25th October 2014

The drugs sent 28,000 people nationwide to the emergency room in 2011.

Attorneys general are fighting the illegal sale of synthetic marijuana with their pens.

A letter signed by 43 attorneys general — including Roy Cooper from North Carolina — was sent to nine major oil companies last Tuesday, urging them to eliminate synthetic marijuana from their gas stations’ convenience stores and retail locations.

Use of the drugs is a national problem — sending 28,000 people to the emergency room in 2011.

“Given the significant danger synthetic drugs present to users, especially our young people, we are extremely troubled that these drugs have been readily available in well-known retail locations,” the attorneys’ letter said.

Synthetic marijuana is often marketed under names like “K2” and “Spice” and is not tested for safety, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which received 3,679 calls due to exposure to the drug in 2014.

Kelly Alanis-Hirsch, a researcher who studies substance abuse disorders at UNC, said the synthetic drug is not comparable to the organic drug, and the lack of regulation poses a serious threat to users’ health.

“It is created by spraying various chemicals on herbs or other leafy material,” Alanis-Hirsch said. “The chemicals mimic the effect of THC that appears naturally in organic marijuana, but the synthetic marijuana compounds vary by manufacturer.”

Federal and state laws prohibit the manufacture, sale and consumption of synthetic marijuana. Synthetic marijuana was made illegal in the state in 2011 when the N.C. General Assembly classified it as a controlled substance.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which categorized 26 synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act — outlawing the drugs at the federal level.

But Alanis-Hirsch said that drug companies have evaded the federal law by manufacturing substances similar, but not identical, to those prohibited by the federal government.

“Recipes are changed in response to governmental efforts to make the product illegal; thus, it’s marketed as a ‘legal high,’” she said.

Mary-Nel Saarloos, a medical doctor in Asheville, said she often treats patients who have overdosed, but the constantly changing chemical components make it difficult to diagnose. Blood and urine tests often can’t detect these components of the drug, she said.

The National Association of Attorneys General called for major oil companies to revoke franchises of gas stations that violate the federal controlled substances laws.

“Young people should not die or be seriously injured from using products bought at gas stations or convenience stores,” the letter says.

Source: www.dailytarheel.com17th February 2015

It is widely known that drug legalizers will not be content with the legalization of pot. Their ultimate goal is the legalization of all drugs.

In using a few of their favourite tactics, they now argue that:

LSD and other psychedelic drugs are “safer than alcohol” 

LSD and other psychedelics have “positive psychological benefits” and the ability to “defeat addiction”

The prohibition of psychedelics is a violation of “human rights” (including the right to “belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personality, and free-time and play.”

In other words – safer than alcohol, with medical properties, and fun.

According to long-time legalization advocate David Nutt, speaking at a briefing in London:

We’ve banned research on psychedelic drugs and other drugs like cannabis for 50 years. Truly, in terms of the amount of wasted opportunity, it’s way greater than the banning of the telescope. This is a truly appalling level of censorship.”

The movement to legalize drugs follows a predictable pattern that must be recognized. 

1.  Ignore existing laws

2.  Decriminalize use

3.  Open the door for medi-pot (CBDs)

4.  Expand medical use to include everything under the sun

5.  Full legalization of marijuana for recreational use

Despite overwhelming evidence of their intent, states seems to be following this pattern as if the pro-drug forces are interested in only the next step, when in fact their long game is “all drugs, by anyone, and all the time.”

This surrender to the drug culture, where we allow a very small minority of the population to dictate policy, laws, and even constitutions, is creating disastrous results and permanent damage to society.

Drug education works when we do enough of it. Surrender is not an option.

Source: Letter from Monte Stile to DrugWatch International 7th March 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: KEVIN@LEARNABOUTSAM.ORG

Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) President Kevin A. Sabet released a statement on the lawsuit brought law enforcement officials in Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska against Colorado’s Amendment 64:

“Big Marijuana must be feeling the heat, and I’m sure they are lawyering up. This is now the latest in a series of lawsuits against legalization, and we support this action because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans. The legalization of marijuana is not implemented in a vacuum. The current policy of denial about federal law is untenable. Surrounding states have seen a surge in marijuana-related trafficking activity. Dealers and traffickers are openly bragging about how they have been able to smuggle state-sanctioned marijuana out of Colorado. The underground market has thrived under Amendment 64, and ever-potent gummy bears, candies, and concentrates have flooded the national marijuana market.

“We don’t think people should go to jail for smoking a joint, but we also don’t want to create Big Tobacco 2.0. Although states should be able to determine appropriate penalties, we need uniform federal drug laws regarding legalization.

“We hope Attorney General-nominee Loretta Lynch will seriously consider the ramifications of ignoring federal law, and will understand that creating a Big Marijuana industry serves no one except the profiteers who hope to follow in Big Tobacco’s footsteps.”

Source: KEVIN@LEARNABOUTSAM.ORG 5th March 2015

It is widely known that drug legalizers will not be content with the legalization of pot. Their ultimate goal is the legalization of all drugs.

In using a few of their favourite tactics, they now argue that:

LSD and other psychedelic drugs are “safer than alcohol” 

LSD and other psychedelics have “positive psychological benefits” and the ability to “defeat addiction”

The prohibition of psychedelics is a violation of “human rights” (including the right to “belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personality, and free-time and play.”

In other words – safer than alcohol, with medical properties, and fun.

According to long-time legalization advocate David Nutt, speaking at a briefing in London:

We’ve banned research on psychedelic drugs and other drugs like cannabis for 50 years. Truly, in terms of the amount of wasted opportunity, it’s way greater than the banning of the telescope. This is a truly appalling level of censorship.”

The movement to legalize drugs follows a predictable pattern that must be recognized. 

1.  Ignore existing laws

2.  Decriminalize use

3.  Open the door for medi-pot (CBDs)

4.  Expand medical use to include everything under the sun

5.  Full legalization of marijuana for recreational use

Despite overwhelming evidence of their intent, states seems to be following this pattern as if the pro-drug forces are interested in only the next step, when in fact their long game is “all drugs, by anyone, and all the time.”

This surrender to the drug culture, where we allow a very small minority of the population to dictate policy, laws, and even constitutions, is creating disastrous results and permanent damage to society.

Drug education works when we do enough of it. Surrender is not an option.

Source: Letter from Monte Stile to DrugWatch International 7th March 2015

Can you put two and two together? Have a try. The authorities, and most of the media, cannot.

Did you know that the Copenhagen killer, Omar El-Hussein, had twice been arrested (and twice let off) for cannabis possession? Probably not.

It was reported in Denmark but not prominently mentioned amid the usual swirling speculation about ‘links’ between El-Hussein and ‘Islamic State’, for which there is no evidence at all.

El-Hussein, a promising school student, mysteriously became so violent and ill- tempered that his own gang of petty criminals, The Brothers, actually expelled him. Something similar happened in the lives of Lee Rigby’s killers, who underwent violent personality changes in their teens after becoming cannabis users.

The recent Paris killers were also known users of cannabis. So were the chaotic drifters who killed soldiers in Canada last year. So is the chief suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013.

I might add that though these are all Muslims, who for rather obvious reasons are to be found among the marginalised in Europe and North America, it is not confined to them.

Jared Loughner, who killed six people and severely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011, was also a confirmed heavy cannabis user. When I searched newspaper archives for instances of violent crimes in this country in which culprits were said to be cannabis users, I found many.

One notable example was the pointless killing of Sheffield church organist Alan Greaves, randomly beaten to death by two laughing youths on Christmas Eve 2012. Both were cannabis smokers.

By itself, the link is interesting. I wonder how many other violent criminals would turn out to be heavy cannabis users, if only anyone ever asked. But put it together with The Mail on Sunday’s exclusive story last week, showing a strong link between cannabis use and episodes of mental illness.

And then combine it with the confessions of two prominent British Left-wing figures, the former Tory MP and BBC favourite Matthew Parris, and Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, who both tried ‘skunk’ cannabis (by far the most commonly available type in the Western world) for a TV documentary.

Mr Parris wrote: ‘The effect was stunning – and not (for me) in a good way. Short-term memory went walkabout. I would forget what I was talking about even while talking. I became shaky. Time went haywire.’

But immediate effects are one thing. What about long-term use? Mr Parris recounted that he had ‘too many friends’ for whom cannabis had seemed destructive. He quoted one as saying: ‘I think it changed me permanently as a person.’

He said his mainly socially liberal friends, including health workers, generally agreed that ‘heavy use of cannabis, particularly skunk, can be associated with big changes in behaviour’.

Jon Snow said simply: ‘By the time I was completely stoned, I felt utterly bereft. I felt as if my soul had been wrenched from my body.

‘There was no one in my world. I was frightened, paranoid, and felt physically and mentally wrapped in a dense blanket of fog. I’ve worked in war zones, but I’ve never been as overwhelmingly frightened as I was when I was in the MRI scanner after taking skunk. I would never do it again.’

This is not some mild ‘soft’ thing. It is a potent, frightening mindbender. If it does this to men in late middle age who are educated, prosperous, successful and self-disciplined, what do you think it is doing to all those 13-year-olds who – thanks to its virtual decriminalisation – can buy it at a school near you, while the police do nothing?

And yet it is still fashionable in our elite to believe that cannabis should be even easier to get than it already is.

It is hard to think of a social evil so urgently in need of action to curb it. Why is nothing done? Need you ask?

 Source: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/02

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

Risk of developing psychosis up to five times greater for those who smoke ‘skunk’ cannabis every day