Economic

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

Appointing Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General infused new life into those of us who know that marijuana is destroying our nation from within. But were we premature in believing that Donald Trump would put an end to what Barack Obama and George Soros inflicted on this nation in the last eight years? After eight months, we still don’t have federal drug policy flowing from the President.

The pattern of past presidents is familiar. Bill Clinton moved the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to a backwater, and reduced its size by about 75 per cent. In 1996, with help from Hillary Clinton and investor George Soros, Clinton allowed California to violate federal laws and become the first victim of the ‘medical marijuana’ hoax. Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling, all out-of-state billionaires, financed that campaign with close to $7million (£5.3million).

Obama downgraded the position of Drug Czar from cabinet level to reporting to the Vice President. He then allowed, or directed, Attorney General Eric Holder to ignore the inherent responsibility of the Executive Branch to enforce federal law. Drug strategy in ONDCP was changed to focus on ‘harm reduction’, the subversive ploy of Soros to focus on treatment and rehabilitation, at the expense of primary prevention. The President espoused the claim that ‘marijuana is no worse than alcohol’, leaving most people with a flawed impression. Federal agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) spent their fortunes on anything other than marijuana. Congress passed the Rohrabacher/Farr Bill which withheld federal dollars from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) so they couldn’t even enforce the law. The result? Twenty-nine states now have some form of legalised pot. Marijuana users had increased from about 15million to 22.3million Americans at the last count.

Now comes President Trump. During the campaign he indicated he felt legalising marijuana should be a state’s right. He is wrong, but could be forgiven if he took the time to learn why. He was building a hotel empire while many of us have been fighting the drug problem for 40 years. The truth about marijuana has been so misrepresented and suppressed for the last 20 years that he, like most people, doesn’t know what to believe. He has the best scientific information in the world available to him, but the question is: who is giving him advice? Anyone? Or drug legalisers such as Rohrabacher, Peter Theil, Trump confidant Roger Stone? Or even George Soros?

The truth is, marijuana was a dangerous drug 50 years ago, when the potency was only 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent. Today’s highly potent pot, with an advertised range of 25 per cent (+/-) of the active ingredient THC, and up to 98 per cent as wax or oils used in edibles, dabbing and vaping, has the potential to destroy the country by ruining our collective health and intellectual capacity.

Experts such as Dr Stuart Reece from Australia or Dr Bertha Madras of Harvard will attest that marijuana use by either parent can cause congenital abnormalities in a foetus. What’s worse, these abnormalities can affect the next four generations.

Psychotic breaks, mental illness and addiction caused by marijuana have led to a substantial increase in crime, homelessness, erosion of the quality of our inner cities, academic failure, traffic fatalities and public health costs. The combined economic impact in the US is well over $1trillion per annum.

Only the federal government has the resources to combat billionaire-backed legalisation campaigns and the illicit drug trade; the enforcement of federal laws is the only thing that will save California and the nation. Hopefully the President will step up and get us back on track without further delay.

Roger Morgan

RogerMorgan is the Chairman of the Take Back America Campaign http://www.tbac.us

Source: https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/roger-morgan-trump-must-clamp-marijuana-america-doomed/ October 2017

Kratom, in powder form, can be taken in capsules or brewed into a tea.

A kratom leaf, the source of an herbal supplement that users say can provide pain relief and relieve insomnia, among other uses.

Vivian Allen sought chronic pain relief.

A car wreck left the 55-year-old grandmother immobilized. Six subsequent back surgeries led to severe nerve damage. A doctor advised implanting a morphine pump but Allen, from Walker, Louisiana, worried about the southern climate. A morphine pump implant could not withstand 90-degree heat and could kill her.

She felt desperate.

When a friend from a Facebook group suggested kratom, the herbal supplement derived from leaves of a Southeast Asian tree, Allen decided to try it.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It alleviated my symptomatic problems and it helped me have a functional life without having to get the implant.”

Kratom, which she began taking in 2015, also allowed her to wean herself from the Xanax pills she’d been prescribed for more than two decades.

“People take kratom because they need it,” she said. “It’s that simple. Very few people take it recreationally.”

But if lawmakers have their way, Allen and other kratom users throughout Louisiana could be out of luck.

A bill set to criminalize kratom in Louisiana was passed several weeks ago.

The legislation, prompted by a Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) report and pushed through by state Rep. Chris Turner, R-Ruston, was passed unanimously by the Senate and the House and signed into law June 11 by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Kratom will be banned under the act if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. The category, which includes drugs like heroin, ecstasy and peyote, indicates a lack of medical use and suggests a high potential for abuse.

This move to classify kratom as Schedule I has been attempted before. In 2016, the DEA listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern” and temporarily banned it. It’s currently illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Other states, including Colorado, Nevada, Illinois and Florida, have outlawed kratom in certain jurisdictions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved kratom for human consumption either. In June, the FDA expressed disdain when addressing kratom distributors in Folsom, California and Wilmington, North Carolina for making false medical assertions.

“Despite our warnings, companies continue to sell this dangerous product and make deceptive medical claims that are not backed by science or any reliable scientific evidence,” FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement. “As we work to combat the opioid crisis, we cannot allow unscrupulous vendors to take advantage of consumers by selling products with unsubstantiated claims that they can treat opioid addiction or alleviate other medical conditions.”

The FDA continued to state that “substances” in kratom have opioid properties “that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence.”

“There are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom,” the statement said. “The FDA encourages more research to better understand kratom’s safety profile, including the use of kratom combined with other drugs.”

The FDA also has recommended classifying kratom as a Schedule I drug.

So what exactly is kratom?

Originating from a Southeast Asian evergreen tree, kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) leaves contain mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, organic compounds that target opioid receptors in the brain. It can be taken in capsule or powder form or brewed into a tea. There are several strains including Maeng Da, which is said to boost energy; Red Vein Kali, commonly taken for sedation; and Green Vein Kali, known to treat pain.

Although they work on the same receptors as opiates, they don’t have the same chemical properties.

Wesley Nance, 26, a singer who lives in New Orleans and works at The Herb Import Company in Mid-City, said he used two strains of kratom to ease scoliosis pain.

He took 2 grams of Green Vein Kali in the morning for his aching, and 2 grams of Red Vein Kali at night so he could sleep without discomfort.

“It made my pain go away,” he said. “I was amazed.”

Nance was wary of pharmaceutical drugs after seeing his mother’s addiction to opioids, he said. “Kratom helped me change the family history,” he said. “It helped me heal naturally.”

Scott Ploof, 35, publisher of Big Easy Magazine, began using it after the death of his grandfather.

“It helped me alleviate anxiety and depression in a natural way,” he said.

Ploof believes a partisan political climate is undermining the reality of the drug’s benefits and possible risks. “Politics is getting in the way of reason,” he said. “Kratom is a safe, natural, herbal alternative supplement that can be used to treat a variety of issues and is better than a lot of what else is out there.”

Kratom also has been praised by former opioid users.

Neal Catlett, 39, of Lexington, Kentucky, became hooked on oxycodone and morphine in 2015 after a shoulder injury. He credits kratom with helping him kick the prescription medications by easing withdrawal symptoms and physical pain.

“It’s a lifesaver for those who suffer from drug addiction,” he told Gambit. “It’s an amazing plant.”

The LDH, however, outlined different results of kratom use. The department’s 14-page report, released in February, points to dangers.

In 2017, the FDA reported 44 to 47 deaths related to kratom use, with one caused by “pure kratom.” The rest resulted from mixing other drugs with kratom, including fentanyl, diphenhydramine, caffeine, and morphine. Kratom also was associated with a national salmonella outbreak from January 2017 to May 2018 that affected 199 people ranging from 1 to 75 years old. No deaths were recorded but one-third of the individuals needed hospitalization, the report said.

“Heavy users of kratom often lose weight, become tired and suffer constipation,” the report said. “Facial redness may also occur. Repeated doses of 10 to 25 grams of dried leaves cause perspiration, dizziness, nausea, and dysphoria (a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life), which become quickly replaced by a state of calm, euphoria and a dreaming state which may last up to six hours. The LDH concluded by advocating for a ban.

“Kratom currently has no accepted medical uses,” it goes onto say. “Therefore, the Louisiana Department of Health recommends that kratom be banned from general consumption in the state, with exceptions made only in the context of well-designed scientific studies with appropriate oversight, data safety monitoring boards and regulatory approval.”

LDH spokeswoman Mindy Faciane told Gambit the decision was made with consumer well-being in mind. “The Louisiana Department of Health supports any efforts that help make Louisiana residents safer,” Faciane said.

Kratom has been a boon for New Orleans businesses that sell it, despite any risks. Uxi Duxi in Mid-City and Mushroom New Orleans in Uptown sell kratom products to loyal customers.

Ashley Daily, who owns the Euphorbia Kava Bar in Riverbend, said kratom accounts for more than 50 percent of her business. A ban “wouldn’t shut me down,” she said, “but it would make me very broke and it would affect my employees.”

After five years in business, she is making a profit for the first time, largely because of kratom — but Daily said it’s about more than commerce. “It’s what [a ban] would do to my customers who depend on kratom,” she said. “Twenty percent of my clientele use it as a natural painkiller. Other ex-users get off opioids with it and it truly helps them.”

Christopher Hummel, owner of Mushroom New Orleans, began selling kratom about seven years ago but only saw a sales uptick in the past two years.

“People are now trying to avoid prescription painkillers, and they take kratom so they don’t have to [take them],” he says. “Banning it would cause a major health issue.”

Reza Hardinata, 20, a native of Pontianak, Indonesia, told Gambit kratom is his family’s main source of income. His father harvests it and Hardinata sells kratom to local companies that export the substance each month. “Kratom is very helpful in terms of health, addiction and pain relief and also improves the economy of my family and also the community,” he said. “This [ban] is very unfortunate.”

Others who study the science behind kratom believe the FDA is amplifying adverse effects while ignoring empirical data. Marc T. Swogger, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, conducted peer-reviewed research on kratom. Although no clinical trials to examine kratom’s benefits have been directed in America, he said, “observational studies” in the United States and Southeast Asia have been “compelling.”

“Across samples, people report pain relief, relief of anxiety or depressed mood, and the utility of kratom to serve as an opioid replacement, easing symptoms of opioid withdrawal,” he said.

Swogger believes criminalization would set up a “new and vibrant black market” for kratom.

“In addition to being ineffective, a kratom ban would be wrong,” he said. “People are using kratom to help with difficult conditions and reporting success. For some of them, lack of access to kratom would lead to the increased use of classical opioids, setting the stage for yet more overdoses.”

The Kratom Information & Resource Center (KIRC) last week launched a campaign to get journalists to cover kratom with “fair and balanced” reporting. 

“This is a legal product that is being used by informed adults in the privacy of their homes and dedicated commercial establishments,” KIRC spokesman Max Karlin said in a statement. “If kratom were as much of a problem as it has been made out by some organizations engaging in reckless ‘Leafer Madness’ rhetoric, America’s hospitals and ERs would be choked. … Instead, experts can’t agree whether there has been even one kratom-related death in the U.S.”

McClain “Mac” Haddow, senior fellow on public policy at the American Kratom Association (AKA), agrees, and believes the approximately 5 million kratom users in the U.S. should have access to a regulated product.

That’s why Haddow and the AKA are working with politicians to enact the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which aims “to regulate preparation, distribution, and sale of kratom products” to prohibit adulterated or contaminated kratom. He believes selling to people over 18 and ensuring the purity of the kratom would be more helpful than a ban.

“If you ban it, people in the kratom community will die,” he says.

Instead, he believes in regulatory measures and thinks kratom advocates in Louisiana will prevail in the end.

“The Louisiana ban is not as bad as it sounds,” he said. “We’re pretty comfortable on the federal side that there is movement. We’re more and more confident that we’re being heard.”

Haddow said he plans to work with Rep. Turner’s office to enact the Kratom Consumer Protection Act in Louisiana during the next legislative session.

Allen, who testified in a June judiciary hearing in Baton Rouge about kratom use, said passing the act would be the most effective compromise. “Having the Kratom Consumer Protection Act is the best thing for Louisiana,” she says. “Consumers need to be protected but they shouldn’t lose what helps them. Mine is only one of 5 million stories. People shouldn’t be denied the ability to heal.”

Source:  https://www.theadvocate.com/gambit/new_orleans/news/the_latest/article_b6261ece-b23e-11e9-8739-6f4af0786d5a.html   5 Aug. 2019

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

Drug Free America Foundation is launching its new digital advertisement campaign targeting viewers in Illinois. The digital animated ad is the second in a series titled “Marijuana…Know the Truth” and discusses the real dangers of marijuana use.  

As you know, Illinois is a state that is considering legalizing recreational marijuana this year. We hope this ad campaign will help address the misconceptions about the real dangers of marijuana use

This digital advertising campaign will utilize banner ads to drive viewers to our website where they can view the 2-minute ad. We are excited to say that through a generous donation, this campaign will provide over 10 million digital impressions in Illinois. We are hopeful that through additional donations, we are able to expand this campaign to other states and continue to spread the word on the dangers of marijuana.

Email from Drug Free America Foundation https://www.dfaf.org/ March 2019

Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek signed legislation Monday to recriminalize the possession of small amounts of certain drugs as the state grapples with a major overdose crisis, ending a legalization experiment backed by voters four years ago.

The new law makes keeping drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. It also enables police to confiscate the drugs and crack down on their use on sidewalks and in parks.

Back in 2020, voters backed Measure 110, which made minor possession of personal-use amounts of certain drugs a non-criminal violation on par with a traffic ticket.

It took effect in February 2021, making Oregon the first state to officially decriminalize minor drug possession. Since then, the Beaver State has seen a significant uptick in homelessness, homicides and overdose deaths.

In 2020, unintentional opioid overdose deaths clocked in at 472 and hit at least 628 in 2023, according to state data.

In 2022, Portland set a new record for murders with 101 — breaking the mark of 92 set the previous year. Back in January, Kotek declared a fentanyl state of emergency in the city, saying at the time: “Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond.”

The new law, which will take effect Sept. 1, will let local law enforcement decide whether to give violators the chance to pursue treatment before booking them into jail .

Another bill Kotek signed Monday, Senate Bill 5204, allocates $211 million to mobilize resources for behavioral health and education programs, including expanded access to substance abuse treatment and prevention education.

“Success of this policy framework hinges on the ability of implementing partners to commit to deep coordination at all levels,” Kotek emphasized in a letter to legislative leaders.

The governor further called on the Department of Corrections to ensure a “consistent approach for supervision when an individual is released” from detention and to “exhaust non-jail opportunities for misdemeanor sanctions.”

 

Source: Oregon recriminalizes drugs after upswing in overdose deaths (nypost.com)

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

In a study published this week, researchers asked tens of thousands of individuals over 12 years of age about their use of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and their health, and conducted follow-up questions over three years.1 They found the development of lung problems like emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in individuals who had used e-cigarettes in the past or currently use them. Combined use of e-cigarette and tobacco products dramatically increased lung disease risks by an incredible 330 percent. The researchers concluded that, “Use of e-cigarettes is an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to combustible tobacco smoking.” The study’s senior author, Stanton Glantz, told CNN, “I was a little surprised that we could find evidence on incident lung disease in the longitudinal study, because three years is a while but most studies that look at the development of lung disease go over 10 to 20 years.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that, as of December 10, 2019, there are 2,409 hospitalization cases of vaping-related lung injuries in the U.S., resulting in 52 deaths across 26 states and Washington, D.C.2 The FDA has found THC in most of the samples it’s studying from these cases and has highlighted Vitamin E acetate as a chemical linked to some of the lung injuries. But the CDC warns that it still does not know how many other chemicals and products may be involved, and says that, “the best way for people to ensure that they are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.” NIDA just reported that 3.5 percent of 12th graders and 3 percent of 10th graders say they vape on a daily basis, with 14 percent of 12th graders also saying that they vaped marijuana in the previous month. That figure is twice as large as it was last year.

Though federal officials have reportedly backed away from banning flavored vaping products3, some states have implemented such restrictions. And other national lawmakers are still considering similar options to confront the vaping epidemic.4 Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA Commissioner, has now recommended banning all cartridge-based e-cigarette products, which would include popular devices like Juul.5 Gottlieb, along with other experts, is worried about the epidemic of youth vaping, nicotine use and dependence which can lead to the use of tobacco-based products, the number one cause of preventable death, and other substances later in life.

Stories about vaping-related severe lung diseases, the epidemic of youth use, and public policy responses are important for patients, families, medical professionals, and consumers to follow. But we should also continue to monitor research that paints an even more distressing picture of e-cigarette products. In a recent study, researchers looked at the association between e-cigarette use and cancer.

What did this study find about e-cigarette use and cancer in mice?

This study found that exposure to e-cigarettes led to tumors and precancerous growths in the lungs and bladders of mice. The nicotine vapor from e-cigarettes damaged DNA in the exposed mice’s organs.

When tobacco burns, it can change nicotine into carcinogens called nitrosamine ketone. In individuals who use electronic cigarettes, these carcinogens in saliva and urine are 95 percent lower than they are individuals who smoke tobacco. That’s why the UK government says that electronic cigarettes are 95 percent safer than tobacco products. But it’s not as certain that nicotine from e-cigarettes gets turned into these carcinogens, so it’s also not clear if their levels in saliva and urine of individuals using e-cigarettes are a good guide to possible damage. The body can also absorb these carcinogens in other ways, as harmful to DNA. This study looked at DNA damage in mice to see if e-cigarettes might cause lung and bladder cancer, instead of carcinogenic impact in blood and urine. It’s also important to note that no experts suggest that vaping or smoking is good for you.

Researchers exposed the full bodies of 40 mice to e-cigarette vapor for 54 weeks. 22.5 percent of these mice developed lung tumors and, in their bladders, 57.5% ended up with precancerous growths. 20 mice in a control group, subjected to e-cigarette vapor but not nicotine, did not develop tumors. E-cigarette exposure in this study is comparable to human e-cigarette use over three to six years. The study’s authors believe that the results probably indicate e-cigarette aerosol nicotine reaching far into lung tissue and causing DNA damage. They also say that, “The public should not equate the risk of ECS [e-cigarette smoke] with that of TS [tobacco smoke]. Our data simply suggest, on the basis of experimental data in model systems, that this issue warrants in-depth study in the future.” This study also had limitations. It used a small sample size and did not focus on the inhalation of e-cigarette nicotine vapor. And animal studies are not necessarily clear guides for related effects in humans.

Why is this important?

This is the first study finding an association between e-cigarette use and cancer. Though the authors are careful to offer caveats about the research’s limitations, not drawing inferences about the relative safety of e-cigarettes and tobacco products, and the need for more extensive studies, this is still a significant and troubling result.  It took many decades for experts to agree that tobacco smoke caused cancer. It seems more logical to assume that smoking and vaping are dangerous until proven otherwise. Some countries have seen enough and banned e-cigarettes completely, such as Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore. Others do not think it is safe but consider e-cigarettes as part of a harm reduction strategy. The study’s lead, New York University’s Dr. Moon-Shong Tang told CNBC, “It’s foreseeable that if you smoke e-cigarettes, all kinds of disease comes out. Long term, some cancer will come out, probably. E-cigarettes are bad news.” He also suggested that because e-cigarette products have only existed for a relatively short period of time, it may take a while for more research to measure their health effects more comprehensively—possibly up to a decade.

It’s always appropriate for researchers to be cautious about their findings and to point to countervailing factors and the need for supplemental work and corroborating studies. Even experts can be surprised. But more studies continue to indicate the dangers of e-cigarette use. It’s also worth pointing out that there are dangers beyond these studies: inhaling nicotine vapors is likely to stimulate its own continued use, while costing time, energy and money. The cost of a pack of cigarettes is quite cheap even with current taxes. Actual costs are difficult to understand. In general, we assume smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for 20 years is more expensive than the $75,000 for the cost of the cigarettes. The long-term costs are closer to $2 million, after factoring in treatments for tobacco-related cancer, lung and heart disease, and the reduction in lifespan and productivity of the individual using cigarettes.

Prevention of adolescent smoking initiation is a very important health goal, one that we were much closer to attaining before vaping. Experts warn that vaping is causing a new nicotine addiction epidemic.6 They estimate, for example, that, because of vaping, almost 500,000 individuals between the ages of 12 and 29 who used e-cigarettes also end up using tobacco products.7 Use of e-cigarettes paves the way for use of tobacco-based cigarettes, as research suggests.8 If the full costs to society were included at the point of purchase, each pack of cigarettes would cost at least $75. Very few people would choose to spend $75/pack. Similarly, we could find a price at which vaping is less attractive to consumers. The science, in other words, is clear about the risks, and tobacco-like public health-related tax initiatives may be appropriate. Vermont recently passed a 92% wholesale tax on vaping and e-cigarette products. Federal lawmakers are also considering tax changes.

Keeping in mind that it took decades, if not centuries, to prove that cigarette smoking causes cancer, these new e-cigarette studies suggest that the products aren’t just understudied and possibly dangerous, but increasingly just dangerous, associated more frequently with chronic disease, heart problems, and even cancer.9 This study is also interesting in its full-body exposure of mice to e-cigarette vapor, which suggests that secondhand vaping may be dangerous, too. Other reports are coming out suggesting that e-cigarette inhalation is dangerous for everyone, include individuals who do not use the products but may be exposed to them. Mounting evidence shows that e-cigarette use is a highly risky proposition for current and potential consumers and that officials and experts are justified in pursuing ways to curb use. Reversing use trends will require a great deal of work given the near exponential increases in youth vaping.

References:

  1. Bhatta, D.N., Glantz, S.A. (2019) Association of E-Cigarette Use With Respiratory Disease Among Adults: A Longitudinal Analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2019) Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

  3. Karni, A., Kaplan, S. (2019) Trump Warns a Flavor Ban Would Spawn Counterfeit Vaping Products. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/health/trump-vaping.html

  4. Hellmann, J. (2019) House Democrats to vote on flavored e-cigarettes ban next year. The Hill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/474184-house-democrats-to-vote-on-flavored-e-cigarettes-ban-next-year

  5. Florko, N. (2019) Former FDA commissioner calls for a full ban on pod-based e-cigarettes. Stat. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2019/11/12/gottlieb-ban-pod-based-e-cigarettes/

  6. Dinardo, P., Rome, E.S. (2019) Vaping: The new wave of nicotine addiction. Cleve Clin J Med.

  7. Soneji, S., Wills, T.A. (2019) Challenges and Opportunities for Tobacco Control Policies in the 21st Century. JAMA Pediatr

  8. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018) Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC

  9. Proctor, R.N. (2012) The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll. Tob Control

Citation:

1. Tang, M., et al. (2019) Electronic-cigarette smoke induces lung adenocarcinoma and bladder urothelial hyperplasia in mice. PNAS

Source: We know vaping can cause serious lung problems. A new study says it might also cause cancer (addictionpolicy.org) December 2019

30 July 2019

I had forgotten how much I disliked cannabis until I found myself under its influence, in the rain, trying and failing to find Toronto’s Union Train Station so I could get to the airport and go home. The plan had been to enhance my mood for a long journey, floating back to the UK in a higher state of consciousness. In practice, I just got confused, wet and was lucky to make my flight.

I had intended to purchase the kind of low-THC, high-CBD weed that disappeared from Britain’s black market when skunk took over in the 1990s. Put simply, THC is the psychoactive component that gets you high but is associated with psychosis, while CBD is the antipsychotic component that gave cannabis its natural balance before it was bred out of the plant by drug dealers. Alas, laziness prevailed and I settled for a ready-rolled joint which my vendor candidly admitted was made up of scrapings from whatever they’d been chopping up that day.

In truth, the spliff had been bought on the ‘when in Rome’ principle. Recreational cannabis has been legal in Canada since last October and I was on a fact-finding trip with a BBC film crew and a cross-party group of MPs, including Norman Lamb, David Lammy and Jonathan Djanogly. In a few months time, Illinois will become the eleventh US state to legalise recreational marijuana. With the dominos falling, it is only a matter of time before a European country, possibly Britain, follows suit. We were there to see how it works.

Only two of us sampled the product. Norman Lamb received a knighthood for his work on mental health while we were there and marked the occasion by becoming the first British politician to be filmed buying and taking cannabis. I wish I could claim that it was a wild party, but the truth is more mundane. Struggling with jet lag and keen to get a decent night’s sleep, he tried a little cannabis oil. I am told the results were satisfactory.

Being male, middle-aged and more or less law-abiding, Sir Norman and I are demographically just the kind of chaps to dabble in the legal marijuana market. More people are consuming cannabis in Canada since it was legalised, with prevalence rising from 14 per cent to 18 per cent in the last year. In the first quarter of 2019, 646,000 people, most of them men and half of them aged over 45, tried cannabis for the first time. The most common reason given by these debutants for buying cannabis on the legal market is ‘quality and safety’. It is not so much that the law was an effective deterrent – everybody knew the police barely enforced it – rather that would-be consumers were put off by the idea of buying an unregulated product from a criminal supply chain.

The problem is that there are more than four million Canadians who are used to buying on the black market and have been given little incentive to stop. An illicit cannabis market that was worth $1,289 million in the last full quarter before legalisation was still worth $1,014 million in the first quarter of this year. The legal, recreational market was worth a mere £377 million. The illicit trade is proving hard to shake off.

Everyone I spoke to in Ontario was eager to point out that these are early days. Canada is only the second country to legalise cannabis (after Uruguay) and there were bound to be teething problems. There is a temporary shortage of both cannabis and shops from which to buy it. Toronto, a city of three million souls, has just four recreational cannabis shops. Nevertheless, the primary goal of legalisation was to take out the criminal element and so it is concerning that most of the country’s weed continues to be sourced on the black market.

Things are unlikely to improve until prices fall. The average gram of cannabis on the street costs $6.37. The average gram in a shop costs $9.99. Casual smokers might be prepared to pay ten bucks for government-approved cannabis, but the costs of switching to the legal market start to add up if you’re one of the two million Canadians who consume the drug at least once a week.

Marijuana is being produced on a truly industrial scale in Canada. Factories are turning seeds into six foot plants in a matter of weeks. The legal product could easily be sold cheaper than its illicit competitors, but over-regulation, taxation and a lack of competition have got in the way. Politicians hoped to smash the black market while regulating the product in such a way that it would not attract new punters. These two goals were never easy to reconcile, and neither has been achieved. High prices, plain packaging and restrictive licensing conditions have deterred long-term users from switching to the legal market while new customers have given it a try anyway.

Everything about Toronto’s cannabis shops feels regulated to the last inch. Browsing their shelves gave me a fresh appreciation for the subtle nudges of consumer capitalism. With logos and colours stripped from the packaging, there is nothing to signal quality, economy or potency; nothing to remember. The windows are blacked out. Edible and vaped cannabis cannot be sold. Small quantities of marijuana are held in over-sized plastic tubs, apparently to provide enough room for large yellow warning labels. The only concession to branding is that some of the tubs are white and some are black.

It all amounts to a concerted effort to suck the fun out of cannabis shopping, which makes sense if your aim is to deter people from buying the stuff, but not if your aim is to switch people from street cannabis to high street cannabis.

On an Indian reservation outside Toronto things could not be more different. Here, in a settlement of 4,100 people, there are no fewer than nineteen cannabis shops. Although it is illegal for visitors to take their shopping off-site, the authorities turn a blind eye to it as part of their efforts to atone for historic wrongs done to the indigenous population. As far as the proprietors are concerned, the unique selling point is their organic, homegrown product which they have reverse-engineered into the Indian way of life, but the real difference between these shops and their state-sanctioned counterparts is variety, low prices and an unabashed pride in selling something that is pleasurable.

All the weed sold here is unlicensed and therefore technically illicit, but when we visited, eight months after federal legalisation, it was doing good business. Until the Canadian government loosens up and allows a little more consumerism into its noble experiment, neither they nor the rest of the unlicensed sector have much to fear.

Source: Christopher Snowdon Spectator Magazine July 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

The House of Representative threw a pot party in Washington last week under the guise of a hearing on the racial impact of marijuana laws. Shamefully, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler refused to allow groups opposed to the mass commercialization of marijuana to participate.

Equally disturbing was the behavior of ranking Republican Doug Collins, who refused to invite witnesses who could offer a counterpoint to Big Marijuana and its Big Tobacco investors.

Had these lawmakers not bought the industry’s propaganda and allowed the committee to hear opposing viewpoints, they would have heard the truth about how an addiction-for-profit industry has been targeting and victimizing minority communities across the country, not providing social justice.

The reality is that marijuana legalization is going too far, too fast. We need to press pause.

In one moment of reality, Dr. Malik Burnett, who previously worked on staff for the pro-pot lobbying group Drug Policy Alliance and now profits from the pot industry, acknowledged that the people making money off of the commercial pot industry are wealthy men — not minorities. He also highlighted that the industry’s federal legalization bill, the STATES Act, being pushed by former Speaker of the House John Boehner, includes no provisions for social justice or equity.

Let’s get real: Legalizing pot isn’t about social justice. It’s about making money. Period. And it’s about profit, usually off the backs of low-income and minority communities and other vulnerable populations, like young people. The idea that opportunity, equality and justice will spring from bongs, joints and drug-laced gummy bears is simply nonsensical. If common sense doesn’t make that case, the facts do.

Grand promises of social justice have repeatedly failed to materialize in states that have legalized.

African-American arrest rates for marijuana-related crimes in Colorado are nearly twice that of whites. And despite claims that pot legalization can cure mass incarceration, most states that have legalized marijuana have seen no corresponding drop in prison population.

Like its predecessor, Big Tobacco, the pot industry sees low-income and minority communities as profit centers. In Los Angeles, the majority of pot shops have opened in predominantly African-American communities. In Denver, where there are now more pot shops than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined, shops are located disproportionately in lower income and minority neighborhoods.

Even more concerning is the connection between pot shops and crime. Studies have shown that the density of marijuana retailers is directly linked to increased rates of property crimes. In Denver, neighborhoods adjacent to pot businesses saw roughly 85 more property crimes each year than neighborhoods without a pot shop nearby.

Big Pot doesn’t want the public and lawmakers to know these facts. Apparently, neither do congressmen Nadler and Collins. The industry has spent millions of dollars employing well-heeled lobbyists and PR teams to convince lawmakers and the general public that marijuana use is safe, and legalization has no appreciable negative consequences. It’s a lie.

Today’s high-potency pot products, up to 99 percent THC, is being mass produced and mass marketed in kid-friendly forms such as gummies, candies, sodas and ice creams. The use of these products has recently been linked in a growing body of medical research to the onset of severe psychosis.

These consequences are real. States with “legal” pot are now seeing dramatic increases in mental health issues, emergency room visits due to children accidently ingesting pot products (pets too), and spikes in drugged driving fatalities.

Marijuana legalization and normalization has the money-hungry titans of addiction salivating. Altria, Big Tobacco giant and maker of Marlboro cigarettes, has already dumped billions into a Canadian pot grower. Alcohol conglomerates are doing the same. Even the former head of OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma went on to lead a commercial marijuana business. If you think these guys care one bit about racial or social equity, think again.

Marijuana policy can be reformed without creating another legal addiction-for-profit industry. Expunging prior records and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot is a start. Effective drug policy discourages use and gets people the help needed for issues with substance abuse. That’s true social justice.

Getting real social justice requires a real debate about this issue, not a sham, one-sided congressional hearing stacked in Big Marijuana’s favor.

Source: Time to Hit Pause on Marijuana Legalization – InsideSources July 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

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

A growing number of countries are deciding to ditch prohibition. What comes next?

In an anonymous-looking building a few minutes’ drive from Denver International Airport, a bald chemotherapy patient and a pair of giggling tourists eye the stock on display. Reeking packets of mossy green buds—Girl Scout Cookies, KoolAid Kush, Power Cheese—sit alongside cabinets of chocolates and chilled drinks. In a warehouse behind the shop pointy-leaved plants bask in the artificial light of two-storey growing rooms. Sally Vander Veer, the president of Medicine Man, which runs this dispensary, reckons the inventory is worth about $4m.

America, and the world, are going to see a lot more such establishments. Since California’s voters legalised the sale of marijuana for medical use in 1996, 22 more states, plus the District of Columbia, have followed suit; in a year’s time the number is likely to be nearer 30. Sales to cannabis “patients” whose conditions range from the serious to the notional are also legal elsewhere in the Americas (Colombia is among the latest to license the drug) and in much of Europe. On February 10th Australia announced similar plans.

Now a growing number of jurisdictions are legalising the sale of cannabis for pure pleasure—or impure, if you prefer. In 2014 the American states of Colorado and Washington began sales of recreational weed; Oregon followed suit last October and Alaska will soon join them. They are all places where the drug is already popular (see chart 1). Jamaica has legalised ganja for broadly defined religious purposes. Spain allows users to grow and buy weed through small collectives. Uruguay expects to begin non-medicinal sales through pharmacies by August.  

Canada’s government plans to legalise cannabis next year, making it the first G7 country to do so. But it may not be the largest pot economy for long; California is one of several states where ballot initiatives to legalise cannabis could well pass in America’s November elections. A majority of Americans are in favour of such changes (see chart 2).

Legalisers argue that regulated markets protect consumers, save the police money, raise revenues and put criminals out of business as well as extending freedom. Though it will be years before some of these claims can be tested, the initial results are encouraging: a big bite has been taken out of the mafia’s market, thousands of young people have been spared criminal records and hundreds of millions of dollars have been legitimately earned and taxed. There has so far been no explosion in consumption, nor of drug-related crime.

To get the most of these benefits, though, requires more than just legalisation. To live outside the law, Bob Dylan memorably if unconvincingly claimed, you must be honest; to live inside it you must be regulated. Ms Vander Veer points to a “two-inch thick” book of rules applicable to Medicine Man’s business.

Such rules should depend on which of legalisation’s benefits a jurisdiction wants to prioritise and what harms it wants to minimise. The first consideration is how much protection users need. As far as anyone has been able to establish (and some have tried very hard indeed) it is as good as impossible to die of a marijuana overdose. But the drug has downsides. Being stoned can lead to other calamities: in the past two years Colorado has seen three deaths associated with cannabis use (one fall, one suicide and one alleged murder, in which the defendant claims the pot made him do it). There may have been more. Colorado has seen an increase in the proportion of drivers involved in accidents who test positive for the drug, though there has been no corresponding rise in traffic fatalities.

The chronic harm done by the drug is still a matter for debate. Heavy cannabis use is associated with mental illness, but researchers struggle to establish the direction of causality; a tendency to mental illness may lead to drug use. It may also be the case that some are more susceptible to harm than others.

Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University has found that cannabis users are more likely than alcohol drinkers to say the drug has caused them problems at work or at home. It is an imperfect comparison because most cannabis users are, by definition, lawbreakers, and therefore perhaps more prone to such problems. Nonetheless it is clear that pot is, in Mr Caulkins’ words, a “performance-degrading drug”.

What’s more, some struggle to give it up: in America 14% of people who used pot in the past month meet the criteria by which doctors define dependence. As in the alcohol and tobacco markets, about 80% of consumption is accounted for by the heaviest-using 20% of users. Startlingly, Mr Caulkins calculates that in America more than half of all cannabis is consumed by people who are high for more than half their waking hours.

To complicate matters, the public-health effects of cannabis should not be looked at in isolation. If taking up weed made people less likely to consume cigarettes or alcohol it might offer net benefits. But if people treat cannabis and other drugs as complements—that is, if doing more pot makes them smoke more tobacco or guzzle more alcohol—an increase in use could be a big public-health problem.

No one yet knows which is more likely. A review of mostly American studies by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, found mixed evidence on the relationship between cannabis and alcohol. Demand for tobacco seems to go up along with demand for cannabis, though the two are hard to separate because, in Europe at least, they are often smoked together. The data regarding other drugs are more limited. Proponents of the Dutch “coffee shop” system, which allows purchase and consumption in specific places, argue that legalisation keeps users away from dealers who may push them on to harder substances. And there is some evidence that cannabis functions as a substitute for prescription opioids, such as OxyContin, which kill 15,000 Americans each year. People used to worry that cigarettes were a “gateway” to cannabis, and that cannabis was in turn a gateway to hard drugs. It may be the reverse: cannabis could be a useful restraint on the abuse of opioids, but a dangerous pathway to tobacco.

More bong for your buck

Danger and harm are not in themselves a reason to make or keep things illegal. But the available evidence persuades many supporters of legalisation that cannabis consumption should still be discouraged. The simplest way to do so is to keep the drug expensive; children and heavy users, both good candidates for deterrence, are particularly likely to be cost sensitive. And keeping prices up through taxes has political appeal that goes beyond public health. Backers of California’s main legalisation measure make much of the annual $1 billion that could flow to state coffers.

Setting the right level for the tax, though, is challenging. Go too low and you encourage use. Aim too high and you lose one of the other benefits of legalisation: closing down a criminal black market.

Comparing Colorado and Washington illustrates the trade-off. Colorado has set its pot taxes fairly low, at 28% (including an existing sales tax). It has also taken a relaxed approach to licensing sellers; marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks. Washington initially set its taxes higher, at an effective rate of 44%, and was much more conservative with licences for growers and vendors. That meant that when its legalisation effort got under way in 2014, the average retail price was about $25 per gram, compared with Colorado’s $15. The price of black-market weed (mostly an inferior product) in both states was around $10.

The effect on crime seems to have been as one would predict. Colorado’s authorities reckon licensed sales—about 90 tonnes a year—now meet 70% of total estimated demand, with much of the rest covered by a “grey” market of legally home-grown pot illegally sold. In Washington licensed sales accounted for only about 30% of the market in 2014, according to Roger Roffman of the University of Washington. Washington’s large, untaxed and rather wild-west “medical” marijuana market accounts for a lot of the rest. Still, most agree that Colorado’s lower prices have done more to make life hard for organised crime.

Uruguay also plans to set prices comparable to those that illegal dealers offer. “We intend to compete with the illicit market in price, quality and safety,” says Milton Romani, secretary-general of the National Drug Board. To avoid this competitively priced supply encouraging more use, the country will limit the amount that can be sold to any particular person over a month. In America, where such restrictions (along with the register of consumers needed to police them) would probably be rejected, it will be harder to stop prices for legal grass low enough to shut down the black market from also encouraging greater use. Indeed, since legalisation consumption in Colorado appears to have edged up a few percentage points among both adults and under-21s, who in theory shouldn’t be able to get hold of it at all; that said, a similar trend was apparent before legalisation, and the data are sparse.

If, starved of sales, the black market shrinks beyond a point of no return, taxes could later go up, restoring the deterrent. There is precedent for this. When the prohibition of alcohol ended in 1933, Joseph Choate of America’s Federal Alcohol Control Administration recommended “keeping the tax burden on legal alcoholic beverages comparatively low in the earlier post-prohibition period in order to permit the legal industry to offer more severe competition to its illegal competitor.” After three years, he estimated, with the mob “driven from business, the tax burden could be gradually increased.” And so it was (see chart 3).

Those taxes reflected the strength of what was for sale; taxing whiskey more than beer made sense as a deterrent to drunkenness. Here, so far, the regulation of cannabis lags behind. The levies on price or weight used by America’s legalising states are easy to administer, but could push consumers towards stronger strains. In the various lines sold by Medicine Man, for example, the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound that gets you high, varies from 7% to over 20%. The prices, though, are mostly the same, and there is no difference in tax. Some like it weak, but on the whole, Ms Vander Veer says, the stronger varieties are what people ask for. If they cost no more, why not? The average potency on sale in Denver is now about 18%, roughly three times the strength of the smuggled Mexican weed that once dominated the market.

Barbara Brohl, the head of Colorado’s Department of Revenue, says THC-based taxation is something the state may try in the future. But the speed with which the regulatory apparatus was set up—sales began just over a year after the ballot initiative passed in November 2012—meant that they had to move fast. “We’re building the airplane while we’re in the air,” she says. Uruguay, clear that it wants to be “a regulated market, not a free market”, as Mr Romani puts it, plans a more direct way of discouraging the stronger stuff. Dispensaries will sell just three government-approved strains of cannabis, their potencies ranging from 5% to 14%.

Another issue for regulators is the increasing number of ways in which cannabis is consumed. The star performer of the legalised pot market is the “edibles” sector, which includes THC-laced chocolates, drinks, lollipops and gummy bears. There are also concentrated “tinctures” to be dropped onto the tongue and vaping products to be consumed through e-cigarettes. Foria, a California company, sells a THC-based personal lubricant (“For all my vagina knew, I was laying on one of San Diego’s fabulous beaches!” reads one testimonial).

The popularity of these products looks set to grow; users appreciate the discretion with which they can be consumed, producers like the ease with which their production can be automated (no hand-picking of buds required). But edibles, in particular, make it easy to take more than intended. A hit on a joint kicks in quickly; cakes or drinks can take an hour or two. Inexperienced users sometimes have a square of chocolate, feel nothing and wolf down the rest of the bar—only to spend the next 12 hours believing they are under attack by spiders from Mars.

The three cannabis-related deaths in Colorado all followed the consumption of edibles. Hospitals in the state also report seeing an increasing number of children who have eaten their parents’ grown-up gummy bears. In response the authorities have tightened their rules on packaging, demanding clearer labelling, childproof containers, and more obvious demarcation of portions.

A second concern about new ways of taking the drug is that they could attract new customers. Ms Vander Veer says that edibles offer a “good way to get comfortable with how THC makes you feel”; women, older people and first-timers are particularly keen on them. If you see cannabis as a harmless high, this is not a problem. If you want to keep usage low, it is.

The innovation seen to date is just a taste of what entrepreneurs might eventually dream up. On landing in Denver—which, uncoincidentally, is now the most popular spring-break destination for American students—you can call a limo from 420AirportPickup which will drive you to a dispensary and then let you smoke in the back while you cruise on to a cannabis-friendly hotel (some style themselves “bud ‘n’ breakfast”). You can take a marijuana cookery course, or sign up for joint-rolling lessons. Dispensaries offer coupons, loyalty points, happy hours and all the other tricks in the marketing book.

Legalisation has also paved the way for better branding. Snoop Dogg, a rap artist, has launched a range of smartly packaged products called “Leafs by Snoop”. The estate of Bob Marley has lent its name to a range of “heirloom marijuana strains” supposedly smoked by the man himself.

Roll up for the mystery tour

Branding means advertising, which may itself promote use. Many in America would like to follow Uruguay’s example and ban all cannabis advertising, but the constitution stands in their way. When Colorado banned advertising in places where more than 30% of the audience is likely to be under-age cannabis companies objected on the grounds of their right to free speech, though the suit was later dropped.

As well as moving into advertising, the industry is growing more professional in its lobbying. In legalisation initiatives the “Yes” side increasingly outspends the “No” side: in Alaska by four to one, in Oregon by more than 50 to one. Rich backers help—in California Sean Parker, an internet billionaire, has donated $1m to the cause. In some states, ballot initiatives have been heavily influenced by the very people who are hoping to sell the drugs once they are legalised. In November 2015 voters in Ohio soundly rejected a measure that would have granted a cannabis-cultivation oligopoly to the handful of firms that had backed it.

Worries about regulatory capture will increase along with the size of the businesses standing to gain. Big alcohol and tobacco firms currently deny any interest in the industry. But they said the same in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, it has since been revealed, were indeed looking at the market. Brendan Kennedy, the chief executive of Privateer Holdings, a private-equity firm focused on the marijuana industry, says that several alcohol distributors have invested in American cannabis firms.

Even without such intervention big companies are likely to emerge. Sam Kamin, a law professor at Denver University who helped draft Colorado’s regulations, suspects that eventual federal legalisation, which would make interstate trade legal, could well see cannabis cultivation become something like the business of growing hops, virtually all of which come from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Big farms supplying a national market would be much cheaper than the current local-warehouse model, driving local suppliers out of the market, or at least into a niche.

The industry has so far been helped by the fact that many on the left who might normally campaign against selling harmful substances to young people are vocal supporters of legalisation. That could change with the growth of a business lobby that, although understanding that an explosion in demand would trigger a backlash, may have little long-term interest in restraint. The prospect of such a lobby could also serve as an incentive for states to take the initiative on legalisation, rather than waiting for their citizens to demand it. Fine-tuning Colorado’s regime, Mr Kamin says, has been made harder by the fact that the ballot of 2012 enshrined legalisation in the state constitution. Other states “might want [their rules] to be defined instead by legislation, not citizens’ initiative,” suggests Ms Brohl, the Colorado tax chief.

Different places will legalise in different ways; some may never legalise at all; some will make mistakes they later think better of. But those that legalise early may prove to have a lasting influence well beyond their borders, establishing norms that last for a long while. It behoves them to think through what needs regulating, and what does not, with care. Over-regulation risks losing some of the main benefits of liberalisation. But as alcohol and tobacco show, tightening regimes at a later date can be very difficult indeed.

Source:  http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21692873   13 Feb. 2016

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

Tell Your Children:
The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

by alex berenson

free press, 272 pages, $26

The smoking of marijuana, with its careful preparation of the elements and the solemn passing around of the shared joint, was the unholy communion of the counterculture in the late 1960s, when our present elite formed its opinions. Many of them allowed their children to follow their bad examples, and resent that this exposes their young to a (tiny) risk of persecution and career damage. As a result, those who still disapprove of marijuana are much disliked. The book I wrote on the subject six years ago, The War We Never Fought, received a chilly reception and remains so obscure that I don’t think Alex ­Berenson, whose book has received much friendlier coverage, even knows it exists. As a writer who naturally covets readers and sales, I find this mildly infuriating.

But let me say through clenched teeth that it is of course very good news that a fashionable young metropolitan person such as Mr. ­Berenson is at last prepared to say openly that marijuana is a dangerous drug whose use should be severely discouraged. For, as ­Berenson candidly admits, he was until recently one of the great complacent mass of bourgeois bohemians who are pretty relaxed about it. He confesses in the most important passage in the book that he once believed what most of such people believed. He encapsulates this near-universal fantasy thus:

Marijuana is safe. Way safer than alcohol. Barack Obama smoked it. Bill Clinton smoked it too, even if he didn’t inhale. Might as well say it causes presidencies. I’ve smoked it myself, I liked it fine. Maybe I got a little paranoid, but it didn’t last. Nobody ever died from smoking too much pot.

These words are a more or less perfect summary of the lazy, ignorant, self-serving beliefs of highly educated, rather stupid middle-class metropolitans all over the Western world in such places as, let’s just say for example, the editorial offices of the New York Times. Thirty years from now (when it’s too late), they will look as crass and irresponsible as those magazine advertisements from the 1950s in which pink-faced doctors wearing white coats recommended certain brands of cigarettes. But just now, we are in that foggy zone of consciousness where the truth is known to almost nobody except those with a certain kind of direct experience, and can be ignored by everyone else.

One of the experienced ones, thank heaven, is Alex ­Berenson’s wife Jacqueline. She is a psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating mentally ill criminals. One evening, the Berensons were discussing one of her cases, a patient who had committed a terrible, violent act. Casually, Jacqueline remarked, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.” Alex doubtfully interjected, “Of course?,” and she replied, “Yeah, they all smoke.” (She didn’t mean tobacco.) And she is right. They all do. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know this. You just have to be able to do simple Internet searches.

Most violent crime is scantily reported, since local newspapers lack the resources they once had. The exceptions are rampage mass killings by terrorists (generally in Europe) and non-political crazies (more common in the United States). These crimes are intensively reported, to such an extent that news media find things out they were not even looking for, such as the fact that the perpetrator is almost always a long-term marijuana user. Where he isn’t (and it is almost always a he), some other legal or illegal psychotropic, such as steroids or “antidepressants,” is ­usually in evidence. But you do have to look, and most people don’t. Then you have to see a pattern, one that a lot of important, influential people specifically do not want to see.

That husband-and-wife conversation in the Berenson apartment is the whole book in a nutshell, the epiphany of a former apostle of complacency from the college-­educated classes who suddenly discovers what has been going on around him for years. What he repeats over and over again is very simple: Marijuana can make you permanently crazy. (This is a long-term cumulative effect, not the effect of immediate intoxication.) And once it has made you crazy, it can make you violent, too.

You’ll only find out if you’re susceptible by taking it. It is not soft. It is not safe. It is one of the most dangerous drugs there is, and we are on the verge of allowing it to be advertised and put on open sale. Berenson has gotten into predictable trouble for asserting that the connection is pretty much proved. Alas, this is not quite so. But the correlation is hugely powerful. The chance that it is meaningful is great. Who would be surprised if a drug with powerful psychotropic effects turned out to be the cause of mental illness in its users? Correlation is not causation, but it is one of the main tools of ­epidemiology. Causation, ­especially in matters of the brain, is extraordinarily difficult to prove, and so we may have to base our actions, or our refusals to take action, on something short of total certainty.

Tell Your Children is filled with persuasive, appalling individual case histories of wild violence, including the abuse of small children. It also lists and explains the significance of powerful, large-scale surveys of Swedish soldiers and New Zealand students, which connect the drug to mental illness and lowered school performance. Berenson provides facts and statistics about violent crime in places where marijuana is widely available, and anecdotes so repetitive that they cease to be anecdotes. The puzzle remains as to why it is necessary to say all this repeatedly when a sensible person would listen the first time.

Perhaps it is because of the large, and very well-funded, campaigns for marijuana legalization described by Berenson. People who drink fair-trade coffee and eat vegan, who loathe other greed lobbies—such as pharmaceuticals, tobacco, fast food, or sugary drinks—smile on this campaign to make money from the misery of others.

Berenson shows how mental illness has grown in our midst without being noticed in public statistics. A comparable growth in, say, measles or tuberculosis would have shown up. But deteriorating mental health does not, thanks to privacy concerns, and to the fact that mental illness is not easily classified. It is also a sad truth that rich, advanced Western societies nowadays begrudge money for the mental hospitals needed to house and protect those who have overthrown their own minds. They are reluctant to record the existence and prevalence of the very real suffering that ought to be treated in the hospitals they have sold off, demolished, or never built.

Berenson also witheringly describes the propaganda devised by those who want to legalize the drug, from the mind-expanding zealots who view drug use as liberating to the hard-headed entrepreneurs and political professionals. Argue against them at your peril. Your audience may learn something, but your opponents will not. Wilful ignorance is the most powerful barrier to communication. It seals the human mind up like a fortress. You might as well read the works of Jean-Paul Sartre to a hungry walrus as try to debate with such people. I have attempted it. They don’t hear a word you say, but they hate you for getting in their way.

Berenson gives a fairly thorough account of the “medical marijuana” campaign, an almost comically absurd attempt to portray a poison as a medicine. This campaign is so bogus that it will vanish from the earth within days of full legalization, because in truth there is very little evidence that marijuana-based medicines are of much use. Berenson quotes one refreshingly candid marijuana defender as admitting, “Six percent of all marijuana users use it for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is a way of protecting a subset of society from arrest.”

In the U.S., legalizers are poised to win the modern civil war over the legalization of marijuana which has been dividing the country for half a century. It looks now as if marijuana will soon be legalized, on general sale, advertised and marketed and taxed. This worrying process has already begun in Canada. The United States has approached the issue sideways, conceding states’ rights in a way that would have delighted the Confederates.

The United Kingdom has taken a similar route: It pretends to maintain the law and, when asked, insists it has no plans to change it. But the police and the courts have gradually ceased to enforce it, so that it is now impossible to stroll through central London without nosing the reek of marijuana. Europe has gone the same way, with minor variations. Among the free law-governed nations, only Japan and South Korea still actively and effectively enforce their drug possession laws, and benefit greatly from it. But how long can they hold out?

The legalization campaigners are working like termites to undo the 1961 U.N. Convention that is the basis of most national laws against narcotics, using all the money and dishonesty at their command. They have plenty of both. So, besides the two disastrous, irrevocably legal poisons of alcohol and tobacco, we shall before long have a third—and probably a fourth and fifth not long afterward. If marijuana is legal, how will we keep cocaine and ecstasy illegal for long? Next will come heroin and LSD.

One reason for the default in favor of legalization and non-enforcement is the false association made by so many between marijuana and liberty. The belief that a dangerous, stupefying drug is an element of human liberty has taken hold of two, perhaps three generations. They should know better. Aldous Huxley warned in his much-cited but infrequently read dystopian novel Brave New World that modern men, appalled by the disasters of war and social conflict, would embrace a world where thinking and knowledge were obsolete and pleasure and contentment were the aims of a short life begun in a test-tube and ended by euthanasia. He predicted that they would drug themselves and one another to banish the pains of real life, and—worst of all—come to love their own servitude. In one terrible scene, the authorities spray protesting low-caste workers with the pleasure drug soma, and the workers end up hugging one another and smiling vaguely before returning to their drudgery. (Soma, unlike its real-life modern equivalents, is described as harmless, something easier to achieve in fiction than in reality.) What ruler of a squalid, wasteful, unfair, and ugly society such as ours would not prefer a stupefied, flaccid population to an angry one? Yet somehow, the freedom to stupefy oneself is held up quite seriously by educated people as the equal of the freedoms of thought, speech, and assembly. This is the way the world ends, with a joint, a bong, and a simper.

Whatever was wrong with my intense little segment of the 1960s revolutionary generation (and plenty was wrong with it), we believed that when we saw injustice we should fight it, not dope ourselves into a state of mind where it no longer mattered. But my tiny strand of puritan Bolsheviks was long ago absorbed into a giggling mass of cultural revolutionaries, who scrawled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” on their banners instead of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” or even “Workers of All Lands, Unite!”

While Berenson’s facts are devastating, his own response to the crisis is feeble. He opposes marijuana legalization—and what intelligent person does not? He babbles of education and warning our children. But he declares that “decriminalization is a reasonable compromise.” Actually, it is not. It cannot be sustained. If matters are left as they are, legalization—first de facto and then de jure—will follow, because there will be no impetus to resist it. Unless the law decisively disapproves of and discourages the actual use of the drug, it is neither morally consistent nor practically effective.

The global drug trade would be nowhere without the dollars handed over to it by millions of individuals who are the end-users. We search for Mr. Big and never catch him. But we ignore or even indulge Mr. Small, regarding him as a victim, when in truth he keeps the whole thing going. In the end, the logic leads relentlessly to the stern prosecution and deterrent punishment of individual users. It is because I recognize this grim necessity that I remain a pariah. It is because he doesn’t that Alex Berenson is still just about acceptable in the part of the Western world that believes marijuana is a torch of ­freedom. 

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for The Mail on Sunday.

Source:  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/05/reefer-sadness

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

Kevin Sabet was a drug control policy adviser in the White House for both Republicans and Democrats

When most people talk about Canada’s impending legalization of marijuana, they talk about the future. When Kevin Sabet talks about it, he worries about history repeating. 

“There are huge misconceptions, I often feel like we’re living in 1918, not 2018,” he said.” When I say 1918, I mean 1918 for tobacco when everyone thought that smoking cigarettes was no problem and we had a new industry that was just starting.”

In 1918, soldiers returning home from the trenches of the First World War brought cigarettes home with them and unwittingly sowed the seeds of one of 20th century’s biggest health epidemics. 

“We hadn’t had tobacco related deaths before the 20th century because we hadn’t had a lot of cigarettes, which actually gave us the most deadly form of tobacco we’ve ever seen. I feel like we’re like that with marijuana.”

Kevin Sabet is the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, a non-profit agency in the United States devoted to ‘preventing another big tobacco.’ (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)

A former drug control policy adviser to the White House under both the Democrats and Republicans, Sabet is the President and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a public health organization opposed to marijuana legalization and commercialization in the United States. 

He said the sudden about-face by Ontario’s newly-elected Progressive Conservative government away from a public monopoly on marijuana sales to a mixed public-private is “a really bad move.” 

“When I see the government monopoly being tossed out the window in favour of a private program that really puts private profit over public health.. I worry about that,” he said. “I think it’s a really bad move.” 

“They are moving from a government monopoly to private retail and that’s going to open the door to all the marketing and promotion and normalization that already is a huge problem for our already legal drugs.”

“We’ve seen how that turned out for pharmaceuticals like opiates, which are highly dangerous and we’ve seen how that turned out for tobacco and alcohol.”

Big investors lining up to cash-in on pot

With legalization still months away, there are growing signs that marijuana and big business are starting to become best buds. (Nicolas Pham/Radio-Canada)

In fact, Sabet points out, some of the same players have already expressed their willingness to provide Canadians with legal marijuana on a massive scale. 

Constellation Brands, the maker of some of the most popular wines and beers in the world, has already paid $5 billion for Canopy Growth, the world’s largest publicly traded licensed producer of marijuana in Smith Falls, Ont. 

Several notable Canadian brands have also expressed an interest in legal bud, including Molson, which has mused publicly about a THC infused beer and Shopper’s Drug Mart, which hopes to branch out in sales of medical marijuana online. 

“We’re already seeing the private market salivating in Canada, waiting to be that next addiction for profit substance and I don’t see how that helps us.” 

‘Not your Woodstock weed’

Why that worries Sabet is the combination of savvy corporate marketing and increasingly intense levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. 

“Today’s marijuana is not your Woodstock weed,” he said. “I think there’s a wild misperception about what today’s marijuana experience really is.” 

There are signs too that marijuana sold on the street is stronger than it used to be. According to a 2017 report from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, an American healthcare organization that helps people struggling with addiction, said the concentration of THC in marijuana has risen three-fold in the last two decades, from four per cent in 1994 to 12 per cent in 2014. 

Sabet notes that marijuana sold commercially in some states goes even further and is available in highly concentrated forms, such as hash, wax, or shatter with no rules or limits on the concentration of marijuana’s active ingredient. 

“It’s not four per cent THC, which is the ingredient that gets you high. It’s up to 99 per cent THC and there are no limits on THC,” he said. “I’m really concerned especially how today’s high potent marijuana is going to contribute to mental illness.” 

Potent pot and drug-induced psychosis

Anecdotally, one only has to look as far as the story of Mark Phillips, a lawyer from a prominent Toronto family, who pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in April, after he attacked a St. Thomas family with a baseball bat, calling them terrorists. 

During Phillips’ court appearance, his lawyer and psychiatrist said he was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis.

His lawyer, Steve Kurka told Justice John Skowronski that Phillips, whose mental health had been declining in the months and weeks leading up to the December 2017 baseball bat attack, smoked three or four joints before driving to London and then nearby St. Thomas, getting into arguments with people he believed to be Muslims targeting him along the way.

“[It] doesn’t shock me,” Sabet said of the Phillips case. “Today’s highly potent THC can have an aggressive violent effect. I’m not going to say everybody is going to have a psychotic breakdown. We’re going to see stuff like this become more and more common.”

Despite his concerns about pot, Sabet said he doesn’t want to see Canada go back to the days of arresting people for simple pot possession, nor does he see a problem with people growing the plant at home on a small scale either. 

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “The issue is when you make this a legal market and advertise it and throw it to the forces who are in the business of promotion. They are in the business of advertising and commercialization and pot shops next to your kid’s school and billboards and coupons and products, that’s my worry.” 

Sabet believes the real Reefer Madness is giving private companies control of retail sales, where they can use marijuana as a tool in their pursuit of profit at the cost of public health. 

“I worry that Canada is following the example of the United States in terms of this new industry which promotes, recklessly advertises, makes wild claims, ignores all harms and absolutely focuses on advertising to kids.” 

Source: Ontario’s new retail pot plan ‘puts profit over public health’ says former Obama drug adviser | CBC News August 2018

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

From a Colorado Springs Gazette Opinion

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Colorado’s decision to sanction the world’s first anything-goes commercial pot trade.

Five years later, we remain an embarrassing cautionary tale.

Visitors to Colorado remark about a new agricultural smell, the wafting odor of pot as they drive near warehouse grow operations along Denver freeways. Residential neighborhoods throughout Colorado Springs reek of marijuana, as producers fill rental homes with plants.

Five years of retail pot coincide with five years of a homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country. Directors of homeless shelters, and people who live on the streets, tell us homeless substance abusers migrate here for easy access to pot.

Five years of Big Marijuana ushered in a doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana, based on research by the pro-legalization Denver Post.

Five years of commercial pot have been five years of more marijuana in schools than teachers and administrators ever feared.

“An investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network shows drug violations reported by Colorado’s K-12 schools have increased 45 percent in the past four years, even as the combined number of all other violations has fallen,” explains an expose on escalating pot use in schools by Rocky Mountain PBS in late 2016.

The investigation found an increase in high school drug violations of 71 percent since legalization. School suspensions for drugs increased 45 percent.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, scoring well above the national average.

The only good news to celebrate on this anniversary is the dawn of another organization to push back against Big Marijuana’s threat to kids, teens and young adults.

The Marijuana Accountability Coalition formed Nov. 6 in Denver and will establish satellites throughout the state. It resulted from discussions among recovery professionals, parents, physicians and others concerned with the long-term effects of a commercial industry profiteering off of substance abuse.

“It’s one thing to decriminalize marijuana, it’s an entirely different thing to legalize an industry that has commercialized a drug that is devastating our kids and devastating whole communities,” said coalition founder Justin Luke Riley. “Coloradans need to know, other states need to know, that Colorado is suffering from massive normalization and commercialization of this drug which has resulted in Colorado being the number one state for youth drug use in the country. Kids are being expelled at higher rates, and more road deaths tied to pot have resulted since legalization.”

Commercial pot’s five-year anniversary is an odious occasion for those who want safer streets, healthier kids and less suffering associated with substance abuse. Experts say the worst effects of widespread pot use will culminate over decades. If so, we can only imagine the somber nature of Big Marijuana’s 25th birthday.

Source: Five Years Later, Colorado Sees Toll of Pot Legalization (illinoisfamily.org) February 2017

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

Foreign gangs are finding that black-market marijuana is profitable even in states that have legalized cannabis.

An El Paso County sheriff’s deputy processes bags of distribution-ready marijuana seized from an illegal grow house in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 15, 2018.Andrew Blankstein / NBC News

Source: Foreign cartels embrace home-grown marijuana in pot-legal states (nbcnews.com) May 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

POT SHOPS will soon be officially open for business in Massachusetts. While this may be good news for the marijuana industry and its lobbyists, state officials need to proceed with caution — especially when regulating high-potency pot products such as gummies, lollipops, and other treats aimed at children. The fact is that we really don’t know what’s in these products, nor do we know about their long-term effects. More awareness is desperately needed about the dangers of today’s highly potent marijuana. Public health — not the pot industry — should be leading this conversation.

Make no mistake: Pot is no longer about Woodstock — it’s about Wall Street. Replicating the playbook of Big Tobacco, the marijuana industry routinely manufactures and markets kid-friendly products with the intent of creating life-long customers. Some of these new edibles and vaping extracts are 99 percent THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. Compare this to the 5 percent potency of the average joint in the 1970s.

While more research and data are needed to understand what these newly engineered products do to your brain, the negative impact of marijuana commercialization is already being felt in other legalized states. In the years since these states moved to liberalize their pot laws, drugged driving deaths have increased, emergency room visits have risen, and more young people are using marijuana. Last month, the National Institutes of Health released a study finding that 1 in 4 12th-graders reported that they would try marijuana for the first time, or use it more often, if marijuana were legalized.

What the marijuana industry will not tell you is that regular, heavy marijuana use during adolescence is associated with an 8-point drop in IQ — a loss that is not reversed when marijuana use stops. We also know from several studies that heavy marijuana use among adolescents is associated with lower grades and exam scores, and a lower satisfaction with life. People who use marijuana are less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college and more likely to earn less income.

Pot potency should be capped. The marijuana industry’s influence on rule-making should be halted. And protections for vulnerable populations should be established and strictly enforced. In Colorado, an undercover study recently found that 69 percent of randomly selected marijuana stores recommended THC products to treat pregnancy-related nausea in the first trimester. Fewer than 1 in 3 of these stores recommended consulting a doctor.

Our choice was never between locking up users or commercializing an addictive substance. But now that we have forsaken a sensible policy of decriminalization for a commercial regime that thrives on addiction, the stakes are too high to let the marijuana industry define the terms of regulation. Public officials have a responsibility to curb industry influence, enforce rigorous THC standards, protect vulnerable populations, and launch comprehensive public health campaigns. Our children, communities, and families deserve nothing less.

Kevin Sabet is a former three-time White House drug policy official and president of SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Source: The dangers of pot – The Boston Globe July 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

Businesses are gearing up as previously prohibited cannabis-infused drinks, cakes and candies are about to become a legal alternative to smoking marijuana

These days, the “pot brownie” is as outdated as Betty Crocker, with cannabis edibles reaching new highs in innovation and tastes. At Portland dispensary Oregon’s Finest, cannabis-infused root beer, artisan cake bites, chocolate truffles, gummy candies and even cold brew coffee are among the delicacies.

Recreational cannabis, in the form of flower (or “bud”), has been legal to purchase in Oregon since October 2015, but edibles have remained the forbidden fruit, available only to medical marijuana cardholders. From Thursday all that’s about to change.

Oregon has approved the sale of marijuana edibles to recreational consumers and sellers are preparing to unleash everything from cannabis-infused ice cream and frozen pizza to beef jerky on to the market.

Megan Marchetti of Oregon’s Finest said the shop is expecting a bump in sales, not least from customers who previously took the 10-mile pilgrimage across the bridge into Washington state – where edibles have been recreationally available since 2014.

Oregon becomes fourth US state to legalize recreational marijuana

It’s Marchetti’s opinion that Oregon will be the natural leader in cannabis snacky treats because, simply, it’s got better bud. “I lived in the Netherlands and all over the country, trying to figure out where the best weed in the world is. It’s in Oregon,” said Marchetti. “You combine that with Oregon’s need to have everything artisan and crafted, so you have really great products. Of everything I’ve seen our game is the tightest.”

As more US states move to legalization of cannabis, edibles have worried the authorities because they could potentially fall into the hands of children or prove worryingly strong for some users.

Oregon has arguably gone the furthest in its attempts to address these concerns. The temporary rules for 2 June – as determined by the Oregon health authority (OHA) – permit dispensaries to sell one cannabinoid edible containing a maximum of 15mg THC (the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) per customer per day. “Fifteen mg can be too high for a lot of people who are new to THC edibles,” said David McNicoll, producer of Dave’s Space Cakes, a gluten-free cupcake. “You really need to start with 5mg and learn what your dosage level is.”

Oregon Responsible Edibles Council (Orec), of which McNicoll is a member, has launched a “Try Five” campaign, which encourages first-time users to consume edibles containing only 5mg THC – and avoid overindulgent freak-outs.

Protecting cannabis users also extends to their children, which is why the OHA requires all edibles, whether retail or medical, to be sealed in child-resistant safety packaging.

The number of reported marijuana exposures in children under the age of six in Oregon increased from 14 in 2014, to 25 in 2015 and already 10 cases have been reported in the first three months of this year. Rob Hendrickson, associate medical director at the Oregon Poison Center, said it’s possible that incidents will increase after 2 June, as edibles can be easily mistaken for regular baked goods or candy.

Packing rules will change again towards the end of 2016, when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) absorbs the recreational market, as will potency levels. An entire package (or edible) will be limited to 50mg THC, with each serving capped at 5mg. That’s half the strength of medical edibles, and half the dosage permitted in Washington and Colorado.

The shifting rules are causing confusion. Producers of ice cream or soda, which is difficult to divide or score into 15mg THC servings, might have to sit this round out.

Yet some vendors are fast to adapt, like the producers of Sour Bhotz, a robot-shaped gummy edible which is among the top sellers at Oregon’s Finest. The fat-free and gluten-free candy will morph into something closer to “sour bitz” – robot parts – to qualify for the provisional THC limits. But the rewards on offer are huge.

Marijuana millionaires cashing in on cannabis legalisation

Edibles will be a big market, says John Kagia, director of industry analytics at New Frontier, a cannabis data-collecting firm. The reason, he explained, is multifold: edibles are attractive to non-smokers, they offer a discreet way to consume cannabis, and their selection and quality is as appealing for taste as it is for psychoactive effects. In Washington, edibles make up 10% of sales in the recreational market, but that number is growing rapidly. Oregon is expected to follow suit.

“It’s going to be huge,” said Laurie Wolf, founder of Laurie & MaryJane, which produces both sweet and savory edibles. “I think it’s going to be crazy in the beginning,” said Wolf, a professional chef and food author.

“My dream was to become the Martha Stewart of edibles,” said Wolf, whose Nut Mix and Almond Cake Bites took first and second prize at the Seattle DOPE Cup last year. “Since marijuana became recreationally legal, the edibles sales have dropped considerably,” she said. “We’re looking forward to them being back on the market.”

Yet before it can reach watering mouths in food form, all marijuana sold in Oregon must be screened for about 60 pesticides commonly used in cannabis cultivation, along with potency levels. Edibles, like Wolf’s cake bites, will undergo various lab tests, first as bud then as butter.

But that’s where the protocol gets hazy. Most edible producers are operating with small teams, limited funds and under little oversight, contributing to discrepancies between labeling and actual dosage.

According to a 2015 report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, of 75 edible products from 47 different brands across the country, 17% were accurately labeled, 23% were under-labeled, and 60% were over-labeled with respect to THC content.

“It’s complicated, because on a national level weed is illegal,” said Rodger Voelker, lab director at Oregon Grower’s (OG) Analytical, which tests cannabis for dispensary sales. “There is no level playing field in regards to quality, and no accountability. Until somebody tells them you can’t be deceiving customers, it’s going to continue to happen.”

A critical step in producing consistent edibles involves a finished product test. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. Instead, labs have devised their own methods – none of which have been validated by any national regulatory body, like the FDA, which is yet to step into the edibles sector.

OG Analytical is working with other laboratories to devise a uniform set of tests that can shared among states where marijuana is legal. In the meantime, Voelker warns edible producers: “Study up on what you’re supposed to be doing as though the feds were already involved, because I guarantee you that’s the direction it’s going to go.”

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/02/oregon-cannabis-edibles-marijuana-law June 2016

 

(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

The Colorado Attorney General announced another round of indictments, this time over marijuana tax evasion. Only recently the state indicted 74 individuals and facilities that were growing marijuana legally but shipping it illegally out of state. That was the largest marijuana black market bust in the state’s history.

In this case, thirteen people were charged with allegedly running a criminal enterprise that distributed 200 pounds of marijuana. Those indicted include the owners and others affiliated with a head shop called Hoppz’ Cropz in Colorado Springs. They allegedly sold small items like a lighter worth 5 cents for $15 and gave away an ounce of marijuana for free, and evaded paying fees associated with the retail marijuana licensing system in Colorado and avoided paying excise taxes.

Hoppz’ Cropz owners, managers, and employees also allegedly avoided paying wage withholding taxes by receiving “under the table” wages. Managers allegedly told employees to tell government officials who might inquire that they were volunteers who worked for free.

At the announcement of the indictments, a district attorney said marijuana is the gateway drug for murder. Colorado Springs had 22 homicides in 2016. Eight were directly connected to illegal marijuana grows, he said. Local authorities are overwhelmed trying to stop marijuana crimes. Colorado pot is pouring out of the state, and is worth more on New York streets than in Denver, he added. Homelessness has gone up 50 percent a year since the state legalized.

Read KKTV.com story here.

Source: Email from National Families In Action The Marijuana Report The Marijuana Report.Org August 2017

California will launch a fully legal, commercial marijuana industry January 1, 2018. TV celebrity Montel Williams, who has advocated for medical and recreational legalization for the past two decades, is entering the business with a brand of his own called LenitivLabs.
 
He’s not in it for the money, he says. “A lot of people are jumping into the green rush and want to make as much cash as fast as they can. I am a person who helped create this green rush. But I want to sell medication. You want to buy some Bob Marley or some O.G. Kush — go ahead. If you want to pick up something for your aunt who has epilepsy, get something produced with the highest standards.”
 
Because no uniform, national standards for purity, safety, or efficacy exist for marijuana produced in states that have legalized it, it is difficult to say how the highest standards might be reached, and Mr. Williams does not enlighten us.
 
His line of products, already available at select dispensaries, include “cannabinoid oils” of varying potency. Some oils, he explains, contain THC levels of 70 percent, CBD levels of 30 percent while others reverse those ratios.
 
He has attracted to his advisory board such heavy hitters as a former CIA director, a retired vice admiral, a former congressman, and an ex-NFL player – all good men but none with the pharmacological expertise to guide the development of the “medicines” Mr. Williams is marketing.

Source: Email from National Families In Action The Marijuana Report The Marijuana Report.Org August 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

Dear Friend, 

Let’s take a second to talk about Colorado. 

As you know, Colorado was the first state to commercialize the marijuana industry – and today it stands as the top state in the country for first-time youth marijuana use. The state also suffers from record stoned driving crashes, increased workplace drug positives, and unprecedented levels of opioid deaths.

The pot industry has taken Colorado hostage

A few days ago, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced he had appointed Ean Seeb to serve as the state’s new “Special Adviser on Cannabis.” From this position, he will help guide Governor Polis’ position on bills as they move through the legislature. 

An example of one such bill is presumably HB 1230 – a bill that would exempt bars, restaurants, and other public places from the Clean Air Indoor Act and allow marijuana use indoors

What is so concerning about this appointment?

You see, Mr. Seeb has been profiting from marijuana for more than a decade. He is a two-time chair of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a former co-owner of Denver Relief dispensary and Denver Relief Consulting. He has lobbied in the past in support of pot deliveries, loosening restrictions on investments into then industry, and social consumption – better known as pot bars. 

The Colorado Springs Gazette stated that this is “like the Marlboro Man monitoring cigarette sales.” I couldn’t agree more.

The fact is, in the short years since it was implemented, legalization in Colorado has been a disaster. Traffic deaths from marijuana-impaired driving have skyrocketed. Emergency room visits from high potency marijuana are through the roof. There has been a 400% increase in exposure of children less than nine years old to the drug. 

The overwhelming majority of pot shops are located in minority and low-income communities and they are recommending highly potent pot to pregnant mothers. Criminal gangs and foreign cartels are setting up shop in housing developments and on public land to grow illegal marijuana next to legal grows and law enforcement is being stretched to its limits to combat the thriving black market. 

And now Governor Polis chooses to put an industry lackey in an oversight position to regulate the industry.

SAM and our Colorado affiliate, the Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), are working tirelessly to combat the industry as it moves to oppose any form of regulation it once favored being imposed on it. We have begun an awareness campaign by covering Denver with billboards pointing out the failures of the marijuana industry in Colorado to help convince Coloradans and Governor Polis to wake up and take action. 

You can help take action, too. Click here to send an email to your member of Congress telling them to oppose legalization of marijuana at the federal level and prevent the spread of this addiction-for-profit industry nationwide. Once you have done that, click here to chip in with a tax-deductible gift to help SAM continue educating lawmakers and the public on the failures of marijuana legalization. 

The industry is strong and deceptive, but together, we can push back,beat them at their own game, and save lives.

All the best, 

Kevin Sabet, PhD

Source: Email from SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) <reply@learnaboutsam.org> May 2019

People who are mentally ill or addicted can’t work effectively, if at all, so they have to turn to crime and/or public support for survival.  Marijuana escalates the risk of mental illness 5 times.[i] On average, 17% of adolescents and 9% of adults  will become addicted.[ii]Based on federal research  7,000 people use marijuana for the first time each day.[iii] Taking an average of 13%, nationally over 332,000 new marijuana addicts will be created.  California’s share at 13% of the population will be over 33,000 new addicts annually, adding another 1.3 billion in cost at $40,000 each.  Instead of preventing these problems, we can expect more academic failure, lost productivity, mental illness, addiction and crime. In Sacramento, 59% of all arrestees for any crime tested positive just for marijuana; 83% for any drug[iv]. Jail overcrowding is also a factor as those deemed mentally ill languish there for weeks and months, waiting for space in a mental health facility.

Marijuana causes permanent brain damage and loss of IQ for anyone under 25.[v]  It causes psychotic breaks leading to gruesome acts, including decapitations, stabbings, mass murders and suicides. Other harms include DNA damage causing birth abnormalities[vi] not just in the next generation, but the next four (100 years).  Because marijuana is fat soluble, it stays in the body and brain for one month, compounding with each additional use.  The impairment adversely affects cognition, judgement and memory all of which contribute to traffic deaths. [vii]

MARIJUANA – THE ECONOMIC COSTS 
Aside from the devastating environmental cost, the social costs are huge.  For alcohol and tobacco, the social costs exceed tax revenues by 9 to 1. The black market won’t disappear. In Colorado the black market is still about 50% of the total.  In California only about 16% of cultivators have signed up to be licensed and taxed. The rest will avoid taxes and sell to the black market throughout the US. In 2009, a study called Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Governments[viii] was done which showed in 2005, California spent 19.5% of its budget ($19.9 billion) on substance abuse, of which only $38 million (1/3rd of 1%) on prevention, and the rest shoveling up the damage. This is horrible economic policy, and its much worse today.  Instead of preventing this preventable disease, we cultivate it.

Voters bought the Gavin Newsom lie that Prop 64 would be a good thing. The orchestrated legislative analysis, approved by our Attorney General, Secretary of State, et al., suggested the state would save $100 million in prison costs, get rid of the black market and earn up to $1 billion in tax revenues. No mention of the environmental devastation and reclamation costs.  It outrageously suggested marijuana had no serious health impacts.  To cap it off, the illicit drug trade and out-of-state billionaires spent $35 million to back the campaign. If we care about our kids, and our future, its time to fight back.

[i] https////health.harvard.edu/Teens who smoke pot at risk for later schizophrenia

[ii] www.drugabuse.gov

[iii] www.theatlantic.com/Everyday 7,000 Americans try weed for the first time

[iv] www.ncjrs.gov/pdfiles1/ondcp/ADAMII Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program

[v] www.healthline.com.  The Effects of Marijuana on your body.

[vi] www.sciencedaily.com.  Marijuana Damages DNA and may cause cancer

[vii] www.nbcnews.com/health/healt-news/Pot Fuels Surge In Driving Deaths

[viii] www.casacolumbia.org/Shoveling Up:  The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets

Source: http://tbac.us/2018/09/15/marijuana-causes-mental-illness-and-addiction-in-turn-more-homelessness-poverty-and-crime/ September 2018

Estimated reclamation costs in Calaveras County California alone could reach $2 billion for 1,200 grow sites. 50,000 grow sites in the state could amount to over $50 billion, according to the Calaveras County study (www.silentpoison.com/CultivatingDisaster).

Aside from killing wildlife, fish and depleting streams and water tables, the poisons seeping into the ground are contaminating watersheds that serve farm animals and millions of people.  Poisons are also decimating the famed spotted owl that shut down the lumber industry.  Money and manpower for reclamation are non-existent.      

Our national forests are no longer safe. Millions of birds, animals and fish are essentially murdered. Pristine ecosystems are being destroyed. Poisons and fertilizers seeping into the soil are contaminating streams that serve millions of people while our federal and state governments stand on the sidelines.

Under the guise of medicine, at the end of 2017, produced 8 times more pot than is consumed within our own borders. California supplies 60 to 75% of the entire US black market for marijuana, 93% of which is known to be contaminated with pesticides.  Rather than limit production, in the 1st quarter 2018, the state issued 2,000 additional licenses to grow pot, obviously to serve export markets. In the meantime, Congress is withholding funds for federal enforcement of their own laws.  The FDA and EPA have done nothing to protect the people and planet.  Now, contrary to federal laws which he is supposed to enforce, the President unwisely says States have a right to set their own marijuana laws.  Then, is it OK that California has become a cartel, bigger than all others combined?

The nation has been hijacked. We have become a lawless, narco nation where money for personal political futures is more important than an oath to defend the constitution and protect the people.   To the chagrin or our international allies, the US is now a rogue nation in violation of three international treaties. Unless America returns to the rule of law, the America will never regain its former glory.

Don’t Believe It?  Please take 11 ½ minutes and watch Youtube.com/Environmental Damage of Marijuana In the West.

Source: http://tbac.us/2018/09/15/californias-ill-conceived-marijuana-program-has-inflicted-irreparable-environmental-human-and-economic-harm-on-our-once-fine-state/ September 2018

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

University of Pennsylvania researchers performed Internet searches for slightly more than a month in 2016 to identify CBD products that displayed contents on their labels and were for sale online. They bought 84 products from 31 companies, blinded their labels, and had their contents tested.

A full 70 percent of the labels turned out to be incorrect. The products either contained more CBD than their labels specified, or less. Thirty percent of the labels were “accurate” within a range of 10 percent.

Of particular concern was that testing detected THC in 18 of the 84 samples, and the amounts of THC in some products were sufficient to cause intoxication or impairment, especially in children.

The publication of this article in JAMA took place just days after the FDA sent warning letters to four major CBD producers asking them to eliminate all medical claims they make for their products. All have been marketing their products with unproven medical claims. They have 15 business days from last week to remove the claims or FDA can seize their merchandise and put them out of business.

Source: Email from National Families In Action http://www.nationalfamilies.org November 2017

U.S. marijuana growers’ and processors’ greatest fear has just been realized. One of the largest international producers and marketers of beer, wine, and spirits, Constellation Brands, has bought a 9.9 percent stake in a Canadian marijuana grower, Canopy Growth Corporation. The two companies plan to develop a line of marijuana-infused drinks to sell in Canada, expected to legalize the drug for recreational use in 2018

US marijuana growers and processors have long feared that mega corporations like those that make up the alcohol and tobacco industries would swoop in and put them out of business if pot is legalized nationwide. They just didn’t think it would happen in Canada first.
 
Business analysts say this is a smart move on the part of Constellation Brands, given now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to legalize the drug if elected.
 
Whether parents, public health officials, scientists, and doctors agree is another matter. Marijuana beverages being marketed by an alcoholic beverages company with Constellation Brand’s clout is hardly likely to reduce auto traffic injuries and deaths.
 
Read story here and here.

Source: Email from National Families in Action http://nationalfamilies.org November 2017

MOUNT SHASTA, Siskiyou County (KPIX 5) — It’s happening in the shadow of Mount Shasta — hundreds of marijuana gardens pockmarking the landscape in neighborhoods that have little in the way of housing.

For law enforcement officials in Siskiyou County, it’s a state of emergency.

“This is a monumental effort but, then again, we’ve got a monumental problem,” says Sheriff Jon E. Lopey.

What’s unfolding in this county is a race between growers and the law to see who can get to the countless grow gardens first.

“We’re in harvest season. We’re really putting a lot of resources into it and a lot of personnel, trying to take out as much as we can before it gets harvested and goes off back east or wherever it’s going,” said Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Gilley.

You can see the enormous extent of the grow gardens from space. Fire up Google Earth and you can count grow after grow dotting the high desert landscape like an outbreak of measles.

“I have a one-mile-square photograph and you can pick out 80 gardens in that one square mile,” said Sgt. Gilley.

All of this is happening in a county that is decidedly not part of the “Emerald Triangle.” In fact, elected officials and voters have passed laws aimed at keeping marijuana out of Siskiyou County.

“Our county does not allow outdoor cultivation of cannabis,” asserts Sheriff Lopey.

Siskiyou County has some of the cheapest — as well as most scenic — land you can find in California. You can purchase nearly three acres for about $16,000. That brings in people who see an opportunity. The sheriff thinks those people represent a nationwide problem.

“I think … that this is an organized-crime effort. (They) basically take over large geographic areas to grow illegal marijuana. That’s basically what it amounts to,” Lopey said.

Source: https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/10/27/marijuana-illegal-grow-mount-shasta-siskiyou-county/(contains video report)  October 2017

Trevor Hughes

CALISTOGA, Calif. — Marijuana farmers and dispensary owners across Northern California are nervously watching as wildfires burn through some of the state’s prime cannabis growing areas and destroy valuable crops, which could drive up prices for consumers across the country.

“This is right smack in the middle of people’s harvests,” said Eli Melrod, the CEO of Solful Dispensary in Sebastopol, in northern California. “It couldn’t have been worse timing, frankly.”

A single marijuana plant can be worth up to $5,000, but pot growers can’t get crop insurance like traditional farmers or the vintners whose grapevines tend to get most of the attention here.

Wildfires are burning across parts of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, which are known for both wine and marijuana, particularly among high-end consumers willing to pay a premium for the name.

Complicating matters: Marijuana farms are built in remote areas with poor road access and don’t necessarily appear on firefighters’ maps of buildings to be protected. The growers often live largely off the radar, without health insurance or access to traditional job support systems such as unemployment insurance. Black market growers may be reluctant to tell friends and family members of the losses they’ve suffered.

“It’s just sad that we live in this underground world where we can’t discuss the true extent of the damage,” said Jessica Lilga of Alta Supply, a statewide wholesale cannabis distribution based in Oakland. “All remaining growers who did not literally lose their crops will be affected.”

A helicopter drops water on a wildfire in Sonoma County outside of Geyserville, Calif., on Oct. 11, 2017.
Paul Kitagaki Jr., The Sacramento Bee, via AP
It’s unclear exactly how many people work in the cannabis industry in northern California and how many cultivation operations exist. Lilga said she’s aware of “thousands” of grow operations but was reluctant to speculate, given the industry’s secretive nature.

But any interruption could have widespread implications for American marijuana consumers, legal or otherwise.

Millions of Californians consume medical marijuana, but even more pot is illegally shipped across state lines for black markets around the U.S. California’s legal cannabis market is worth an estimated $2.76 billion, according to marijuana analytics firm New Frontier Data, while the state’s black market is worth $13.5 billion, according to GreenWave Advisors.

GreenWave estimates that nearly $11 billion worth of the state’s black-market cannabis is grown in Northern California, with a “significant” amount of that shipped to neighboring states. In comparison, the California wine industry is worth an estimated $114 billion nationally, although the two industries are hard to compare side-by-side because one is illegal.

Lilga, who lives in Santa Rosa, was evacuated herself when the wildfire ran over her neighborhood. She’s not sure she has a home to return to: “That cash that all these growers should be bringing in next month would help rebuild our burning cities if it were not all taken away.”

Lilga predicted that an otherwise good crop year means the state’s overall supply should be enough to meet demand without significantly impacting price. Still, many cannabis dispensaries and distributors are setting up GoFundMe accounts to help growers who have lost their crops.

Farmer Kim Tate of One Feather Ranch in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley said wildfires forced her to evacuate with her horses, leaving behind her entire year’s crop that was expected to yield about 350 pounds of cannabis. About two-thirds of the crop had been harvested and stored before the fire broke out, she said, but the rest remained in the fields and growing rooms.

As with wine, marijuana contaminated by wildfire smoke may leave behind an unpleasant taste for consumers, Melrod said. Tate said she hoped to use ozone to flush her organically raised plants of any toxins. Every bit will matter: A pound of high-quality marijuana is worth about $1,200 on the wholesale market.

“We’re going to see have to see how smoky it is,” she said as she tried to return to the ranch Thursday.

Source: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/10/12/californias-marijuana-farmers-fear-crops-could-go-up-smoke/758721001/ October 2017

Moe Ainsley, a grower with Kaya Collection, tends to marijuana plants at the company’s Wacky Tabacky facility near Gold Bar. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Washington’s pot is a bit more potent than the national average. And the state’s teens are more likely to smoke marijuana than young people nationwide.

Although we have the same problems with marijuana as we do with liquor abuse, no blockbuster conclusions came from a recent report on Washington’s marijuana universe.

But a couple of somewhat unexpected environmental wrinkles from Washington’s marijuana industry — both legal and illegal — also emerge in the second annual look at the state’s experience since passage of a 2012 initiative allowing recreational pot sales.

Marijuana growers and processors use 1.63 percent of the state’s electricity, which is a lot, according to the report by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — a combined effort by several federal, state and local government agencies. By way of comparison, all forms of lighting — in homes, commercial buildings and manufacturing — account for just 7 to 11 percent of electrical consumption nationally. Or, as the report puts it, the power is enough for 2 million homes.

The high power consumption stems from the heat lamps and the accompanying air conditioning for indoor marijuana growing operations. “They are exceedingly energy-consumptive,” said Steven Freng, manager for prevention and treatment for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

The carbon footprint, according to the report, equals that of about 3 million cars.

And illegal pot growers siphoned off 43.2 million gallons of water from streams and aquifers during the 2016 growing season — water that tribes, farmers and cities would otherwise use as carefully as possible, in part to protect salmon.

Sixty percent of Washington’s illegal pot was grown on state-owned land in 2016. That’s because black-market growers tend to worry about gun-toting owners on private lands, according to Freng and Luci McKean, the organization’s deputy director. The black-market operations use the water during a roughly 120-day growing season.

Marijuana purchases have boomed in Washington. Legal marijuana sales were almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2016 and were on track to be about $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017, which ended June 30. As of February, the state had 1,121 licensed producers, 1,106 licensed processors and 470 licensed retailers.

What Washington’s marijuana users are getting is above average in potency. According to the report, nationwide marijuana products average a THC percentage of 13.2 percent, while Washington state’s THC average percentage was 21.6 percent.

Teen use of marijuana has grown slightly. Depending on how the numbers are crunched, marijuana use among Washington’s young adults and teens ranges from 2 to 5 percent above the national average. Five percent of Washingtonians age 18-to-25 use pot daily, slightly above the national average, the report said.

According to a survey cited in the report, 17 percent of high school seniors and 9 percent of high school sophomores have driven within three hours after smoking pot.

Adult use before driving is still a fuzzy picture. A third of Washingtonians arrested for driving under the influence had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their bloodstreams. One study found an increase in dead drivers with THC above the legal limit in their blood from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 12.8 percent in 2014.

“Adults still don’t understand the effects of impairment behind the wheel of a car,” Freng said.

McKean said that one major unknown is marijuana-laced edibles, which authorities believe have become a significant factor in THC-impaired drivers, but has not been studied enough to provide solid numbers.

Another major unknown, McKean and Freng said, is how marijuana consumption contributes to emergency room and hospital cases because the state hospitals have not agreed to release that data to government officials.

This story has been updated since it first appeared to add a link to the report.

  Source: https://crosscut.com/2017/10/washingtons-pot-industry-not-environmentally-friendly-marijuana October 2017

Oxford academics say sales of synthetic opioid drug are proliferating on illicit websites, with Britain a significant player

Drug paraphernalia seized by North Yorkshire police in a recent case. Photograph: North Yorkshire police/PA

The UK is the largest host of fentanyl sales on the darknet in Europe, with 1,000 trades being made in the last few months, research shows.

Experts at the Oxford Internet Institute said the UK was a “significant player” in the trade of the synthetic opioid, a controlled class A drug that can be up to 100 times stronger than heroin. They warned that the drug was increasingly appearing on illicit websites.

It follows repeated warnings from the National Crime Agency for people to be “vigilant about fentanyl to protect themselves and their loved ones”, following at least 60 deaths linked to the substance.

A team at the institute has been scraping the world’s largest darknet marketplaces since April 2017. It found that the US accounts for almost 40% of global darknet trade, followed by Canada (15%) and Australia (12%). The largest seller in Europe is the UK (9%), followed by Germany, accounting for 5% of sales.

Joss Wright, a research fellow at the institute, said: “Why is the UK a significant player? … It’s because we have a relatively strong tech sector and users of the web, but also geographically the UK is quite well placed for trade coming from the US.”

He said that since data gathering began in April, there had been 4,850 trades in the US and about 1,000 in the UK.

Darknet markets or cryptomarkets have been operating since the launch of Silk Road in February 2011. On the darknet, those selling substances are able to remain relatively anonymous as their IP addresses are masked. People buy drugs using the online currency bitcoin.

Mark Graham, a professor of internet geography at the institute, said: “Many of the sellers in places like the US, Canada, and western Europe are likely intermediaries rather than producers themselves. While darknet marketplaces can, in theory, be accessed from anywhere in the world, our data suggests that there is often a local geography of trading. In other words, buyers tend to buy from domestic rather than international sellers.”

Two men were jailed last month for importing fentanyl and other class A drugs before selling them on the darknet. Ross Brennan, 29, from York, was sentenced to more than 13 years after making hundreds of thousands of pounds with 27-year-old Aarron Gledhill from Huddersfield, who was sentenced to just under four years for his part in the crime.

In what has been described as the first case of its kind in the UK because of their sophisticated use of technology, police searched Brennan’s property and found drugs with a street value of tens of thousands of pounds. They also seized a Chemistry for Dummies book, address labels, bags of cutting powder, a mixing machine, a microscope, a set of scales and packages from around the world.

The offences took place between 2013 and 2016. Between June and September 2015 alone, Brennan made 225 transactions using a dark website called AlphaBay, which has since been shut down.

Wright said fentanyl was appearing “more and more” on the dark web. “There has been a rise in the number of sales of that product … the darknet is a good place to buy things with extra guarantees of security and there is increasing trade there,” he said.

In response, some darknet marketplaces – including the drug market Hansa, which was shut down in July – had started banning fentanyl sales amid concerns it would attract too much attention from law enforcement, he said.

Judith Aldridge, a criminologist at the University of Manchester, said she would be surprised if sales of fentanyl did not increase. “Interestingly, over the past 12 months we’ve seen a demonisation of fentanyl, with many in the darknet community opposed to their sales on crypto-markets.”

Dr Andres Baravalle, from the University of East London, said research showed that 398 of 36,000 darknet adverts had mentioned fentanyl so far in 2017.

The Global Drug Survey 2017 said: “Despite disruptions from law enforcement efforts and scams, the size and scale of darknet markets for drugs continues to grow. At the time of the report there were over 20 functioning markets, according to dnstats.net.”

Graham, from the institute, said this had not deterred dealers. “Our research so far shows that shutting down these marketplaces has not reduced the total amount of trade. It’s a whack-a-mole game, so it is not reducing demand and supply … when you shut down one website another pops up. There is no indication it’s radically reducing demand or supply on these markets.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/16/uk-accounts-for-largest-share-of-darknet-fentanyl-sales-in-europe October 2017

Drug Free America Foundation launched its new Marijuana and the Workplace Tool Kit this morning at a forum co-sponsored with Drug Free Manatee and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce at Pier 22 in Bradenton FL.  The forum featured a presentation by Amy Ronshausen, Deputy Director of Drug Free America Foundation who unveiled the Tool Kit and discussed how the implementation of Florida’s medical marijuana program will affect employers in the state. The forum also included a panel discussion with a group of experts that includes healthcare and labor attorneys, insurance representatives and a state legislator.

            As marijuana legalization efforts gain traction around the country as it has in Florida, the business community needs to be prepared.  “Employers must be diligent and proactive in understanding how the use of marijuana affects individuals, the overall influence to their business, and the level of financial liability that is acceptable,” according to Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation.  “It is critical that an evaluation be completed based upon legitimate science, the safety-sensitive nature of the business, and risk analysis as opposed to perception and emotion,” she said.

Employees that use marijuana and other drugs negatively impact the bottom line for employers due to increased workplace accidents, injuries, and other effects, increasing the cost of doing business.  “The safety of all employees, vendors, customers, other drivers, pedestrians, or generally anyone encountering an employee while driving under the influence of pot could be impacted,” said Fay.

The tangled web of conflicting and diverse laws and statutes being drawn across the country varies from state to state, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, making this issue very confusing for all concerned.  No two states’ marijuana laws are identical, further complicating the issue.

Identifying and defining liability related to marijuana use is perhaps one of the most evolving areas of risk management and insurance practices.  “From the viewpoint of an insurer, the conflicting laws are particularly troublesome for insuring a business against unexpected loss with no clear best practice and can potentially impact workers compensation claims and well as health, life and other business insurance coverage and premiums,” Fay suggested.

A smart approach for employers is to implement workplace practices that encourage safe, healthy lifestyles, and discourage behaviors that are counter-productive, both from a personal and a business standpoint. “In this tumultuous time of conflicting laws, confusion, and change, employers are encouraged to stay the course where a drug-free workplace is concerned,” continued Fay.  “We also encourage employers to remain consistent and fair in the application of workplace rules and procedures and to regularly review their program in relation to applicable laws, regulations and statutes that may have changed,” she concluded.

The Marijuana and the Workplace Tool Kit can be found at http://www.ndwa.org/resources/marijuana-in-the-workplace-toolkit/ 

Source: Email from Drug Free American Foundation

September 2017

Source http://www.learnaboutsam.org

In 2016, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a $9.75 million grant to McKesson Corporation. Now, Texas is among the states investigating the giant drug distributor’s role in a growing opioid crisis

In the early months of 2016, as U.S. overdose deaths were on track to break records and the number of Texas infants born addicted to opioid painkillers climbed steadily higher, Gov. Greg Abbott was courting a massive pharmaceutical company, McKesson, with a multimillion-dollar offer.

At the time, the two stories — Texas public health officials grappling with an overdose epidemic while the governor’s office worked on economic development — seemed unrelated. When Abbott announced he would give McKesson a $9.75 million grant from the state’s Enterprise Fund to woo the pharmaceutical distributor into expanding its operations in North Texas, he mostly received favorable news coverage for promising nearly 1,000 jobs to the local Irving economy.

But as the state and nation’s focus on the opioid crisis has sharpened in recent months, McKesson and other drug companies have come under legal scrutiny and the deal has put Abbott in an uncomfortable position.

Texas has since joined a multistate investigation into pharmaceutical companies, including McKesson, over whether they are responsible for feeding the nation’s opioid crisis and whether they broke any laws in the process. Several Texas counties have moved to sue McKesson and other companies for economic damages, alleging that manufacturers downplayed addiction risks and their distributors failed to track suspicious orders that flooded communities with pills.

The state grant to McKesson, worth about $10,000 for each job it brought to North Texas, is the largest Abbott has doled out from the Enterprise Fund, the controversial deal-closing incentives program created in 2004 under former Gov. Rick Perry. No U.S. state or local government has publicly given McKesson a more generous grant since 2000, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First, a Washington D.C.-based group that tracks government subsidies and other economic incentives.

In statements at the time, Abbott said the company’s expansion would “serve as an invaluable contribution to the Texas economy.”

But if Texas decides to sue McKesson, as several of its counties have, lawyers for the state will likely argue the opposite has happened — at least in the context of the company’s distribution of opioids. Across the country, local and state governments have begun to argue they are bearing the financial burden associated with opioid addiction.

One state lawmaker suggested Abbott’s office should have more closely scrutinized McKesson’s record before issuing the grant — even though the grant happened more than a year before Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Texas was joining the multistate investigation.

“There needs to be better oversight here,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, an El Paso Democrat and member of the new House panel examining the opioid crisis. “You’re in the middle of the opioid crisis, and we’re issuing an enormous grant that comprises a significant amount of grants this company is getting across the country.” 

Abbott’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Faced with the lawsuits and investigations, McKesson — headquartered in San Francisco but with a sizable Texas footprint — has denied any wrongdoing and insisted it is trying to work toward halting the opioid crisis, not fuel it.

“Our partnership with the state remains strong,” said Kristin Chasen, a company spokeswoman. “We certainly agree that the opioid epidemic is a national public health crisis, and we’re cooperatively having lots of conversations with AG Paxton and the others involved in the multistate investigation.”

A nationwide emergency

Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers like hydrocodone as well as illicit drugs like heroin. Last Thursday, President Donald Trump declared a nationwide emergency to address the surging human and financial toll of opioid addiction.

U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2015 far outnumbered deaths from auto accidents or guns, and opioids account for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths — nearly 100 each day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That death toll has quadrupled over the past two decades. 

“Beyond the shocking death toll, the terrible measure of the opioid crisis includes the families ripped apart and, for many communities, a generation of lost potential and opportunity,” Trump said Thursday

In Texas, opioids have claimed proportionately fewer lives than in other states, and the growth of opioid-related deaths has been slower, according to U.S. mortality data. Still, the casualties in Texas — 1,107 accidental opioid poisoning deaths in 2016 — have seized the attention of state policymakers.

Last week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus ordered lawmakers to form a select committee on opioids and substance abuse to examine an issue that he said has had a “devastating impact on many lives.” The announcement came after Paxton joined a 41-state investigation into whether a slew of drug manufacturers and distributors broke any laws in allegedly fueling the crisis.

“This is a public safety and public health issue. Opioid painkiller abuse and related overdoses are devastating families here in Texas and throughout the country,” Paxton said when he announced the probe in June.

Some Texas counties have already taken the drug companies to court.

In late September, Upshur County, population about 40,000, sued a slew of painkiller manufacturers and distributors — including McKesson. Seeking to recoup an unspecified amount in financial damages, the East Texas county argues the drug companies broadly “ignored science and consumer health for profits,” meaning the county “continues to spend large sums combatting the public health crisis created by [a] negligent and fraudulent marketing campaign.”

More specifically, the suit argues McKesson and other distributors “did nothing” to address the “alarming and suspicious” overprescription of drugs.

Bowie County, a rural slice of East Texas nudging Arkansas, has since joined the lawsuit, with other East Texas counties expected to follow. El Paso County isalso mulling legal action, and Bexar County, home to San Antonio, has announced plans to sue.

In an interview last week, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he couldn’t immediately offer a complete list of companies his county would target, but “I’m sure McKesson is one of them.”

Wolff chuckled when asked about the company’s grant from the state. “That’d give us $10 million more that we could get out of their hides in our lawsuit, if you look at it that way.”

In teaming up to probe drug companies, some experts suggest governments are following a playbook similar to one used during the 1990s to sue tobacco companies for their role in fueling a costly health crisis — an effort that resulted in a settlement yielding more than $15 billion for Texas alone.

“It’s like a polluter externalizing all his risk,” said Mike Papantonio, a Florida-based lawyer with experience in tobacco litigation. 

“He makes a lot of money because he pours the poison right into the river,” said Papantonio, who now organizes a legal conference for groups interested in suing pharmaceutical companies. “The shareholders love it, but then the taxpayers have to come back and fix it.”

“McKesson is a great company”

At the April grand opening of the new McKesson campus in Las Colinas, near Irving, local leaders gathered alongside Abbott and company executives for a ribbon-cutting at the $157 million, 525,000-square foot campus.

“McKesson is a great company,” Abbott said on the stage of a large meeting room at the newly renovated headquarters. 

“I am proud of the work McKesson is doing,” he went on, “and make a commitment of my own to continue to ensure Texas attracts further business and expanding enterprise.”

Beth Van Duyne, then the mayor of Irving, now a U.S. Housing and Urban Development administrator under Trump, defended the city’s decision to give the pharmaceutical company a more than $2 million incentives package on top of the state’s Enterprise Fund gift.

“Having to offer incentives is always a difficult decision to make, but as long as the return on that investment is strong, we can support it,” Van Duyne said in a video recorded from the grand opening.

Even though the promise of taxpayer funds came before Paxton launched his investigation, Moody, the Democratic lawmaker, said Abbott’s office should more carefully vet companies before granting them taxpayer money, and in McKesson’s case, it should have considered the drug company’s alleged role in the opioid crisis.

“We know there’s a problem with drug distribution. These drugs being taken out of the regular route, finding their way into other people’s hands — leading to deaths, leading to overdoses,” he said, later adding, “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask that to be part of the evaluation at all. Part of the conversation of growing the economy is what types of companies, businesses do you want?” 

State Rep. Kevin Roberts, a Houston Republican and fellow member of the House panel studying opioids, said he did not know what went into Abbott’s decision making, so he couldn’t comment on the wisdom of the grant. But he agreed that the state should also consider wider issues when deciding which businesses are awarded grants from the enterprise fund.

“I do believe that there is some ethical responsibility in that process as well,” he said. “Just because things look profitable doesn’t mean you do them.”

The fact that McKesson got the state grant doesn’t shield it from liability if Texas ultimately files an opioid lawsuit, Roberts added. “If General Paxton goes forward, the fact that they got a TEF grant does not excuse them.”

Pressure to act

McKesson is also facing legal challenges outside of Texas.

In a recent report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company noted an opioid-related lawsuit brought by the State of West Virginia and nine similar complaints filed in state and federal courts in West Virginia against McKesson and other large distributors. McKesson also listed a federal lawsuit in which the Cherokee Nation alleges the company oversupplied drugs to its population.

In January, McKesson agreed to pay $150 million and revamp its compliance procedures to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice after prosecutors alleged the company failed to detect and report “suspicious orders” of opioids.

The company paid $13.25 million to settle a similar Justice Department suit in 2008. McKesson did not admit wrongdoing in either case.

Chasen, the spokeswoman, said McKesson is “really proud of our controlled substances monitoring program today,” and the recent scrutiny addresses conduct “that was really far in the past at this point.”

Chasen added that the company reports all orders “in real time” to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, flagging suspicious ones. 

Mark Kinzly, a co-founder of the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative, which educates police officers and the public on overdose prevention, has been critical of the state’s mixed response to the opioid epidemic. In 2015, for example, Abbott drew the ire of Kinzly and other advocates when he vetoed a “Good Samaritan” bill that would have protected someone from prosecution, even if they possessed a small amount of drugs, when they called 911 to help a friend in the throes of overdose.

Abbott said at the time that the bill had an admirable goal but did not include “adequate protections to prevent its misuse by habitual drug abusers and drug dealers.”

Kinzly said Trump’s declaration of a national opioid emergency may lead more politicians to demonstrate support for expanding drug treatment programs. “That will put some pressure on Republican governors, I would imagine,” he said.

Trump, for his part, suggested Thursday that pharmaceutical companies remained in the federal government’s crosshairs.

“What they have and what they’re doing to our people is unheard of,” he said. “We will be bringing some very major lawsuits against people and against companies that are hurting our people.” 

Source: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/10/31/during-opioid-crisis-texas-subsidized-drug-company-its-now-investigati/

October 2017

TO ALL OUR READERS: THE NDPA WOULD URGE YOU TO READ THE REPORT MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE BELOW, (Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters), WHICH GIVES A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF HOW MARIJUANA BECAME THE NUMBER ONE DRUG OF CHOICE FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WORLDWIDE, HOW IT BECAME ‘BIG BUSINESS’ IN THE USA AND WHY WE NEED TO DISSEMINATE THIS INFORMATION WIDELY.

Report by National Families in Action Rips the Veil Off the Medical Marijuana Industry
Research Traces the Money Trail and Reveals the Motivation Behind Marijuana as Medicine

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters documents state-by-state financial data, exposing the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 U.S. states.

• NFIA report reveals three billionaires — George Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling — who contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives during a 13-year period, with the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot.
• Report shows how billionaires and marijuana legalizers manipulated the ballot initiative process, outspent the people who opposed marijuana and convinced voters that marijuana is medicine, even while most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal.

• Children in Colorado treated with unregulated cannabis oil have had severe dystonic reactions, other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures.

• A medical marijuana industry has emerged to join the billionaires in financing initiatives to legalize recreational pot.

ATLANTA, March 14, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favor legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana. NFIA is an Atlanta-based non-profit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.

The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period. The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal.

The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states. The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent — sometimes by hundreds of times — the people who opposed marijuana.

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs. And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot. In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).

Unravelling the Legalization Strategy: Behind the Curtain

In 1992, financier George Soros contributed an estimated $15 million to several groups he advised to stop advocating for outright legalization and start working toward what he called more winnable issues such as medical marijuana. At a press conference in 1993, Richard Cowen, then-director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, “The key to it [full legalization] is medical access. Because, once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically, under medical supervision, the whole scam is going to be blown. The consensus here is that medical marijuana is our strongest suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us toward the legalization of marijuana for personal use.”

Between 1996 and 2009, Soros, Lewis and Sperling contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives. Their financial contributions, exceeding $15.7 million (of the $19.5 million total funding), enabled their groups to lie to voters in advertising campaigns, cover up marijuana’s harmful effects, and portray pot as medicine — leading people to believe that the drug is safe and should be legal for any use.
Today, polls show how successful the billionaires and their money have been. In 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, voters and, later, legislators have shown they believe marijuana is medicine, even though most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal. While the most recent report, issued by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), finds that marijuana may alleviate certain kinds of pain, it also finds there is no rigorous, medically acceptable documentation that marijuana is effective in treating any other illness. At the same time, science offers irrefutable evidence that marijuana is addictive, harmful and can hinder brain development in adolescents. At the distribution level, there are no controls on the people who sell to consumers. Budtenders (marijuana bartenders) have no medical or pharmaceutical training or qualifications.

One tactic used by legalizers was taking advantage of voter empathy for sick people, along with the confusion about science and how the FDA approves drugs. A positive finding in a test tube or petri dish is merely a first step in a long, rigorous process leading to scientific consensus about the efficacy of a drug. Scientific proof comes after randomized, controlled clinical trials, and many drugs with promising early stage results never make it through the complex sets of hurdles that prove efficacy and safety. But marijuana legalizers use early promise and thin science to persuade and manipulate empathetic legislators and voters into buying the spin that marijuana is a cure-all.

People who are sick already have access to two FDA-approved drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, that are not marijuana, but contain identical copies of some of the components of marijuana. These drugs, available as pills, effectively treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting. The NAS reviewed 10,700 abstracts of marijuana studies conducted since 1999, finding that these two oral drugs are effective in adults for the conditions described above. An extract containing two marijuana chemicals that is approved in other countries, reduces spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. But there is no evidence that marijuana treats other diseases, including epilepsy and most of the other medical conditions the states have legalized marijuana to treat. These conditions range from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Crohn’s disease to Hepatitis-C, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even sickle cell disease.

Not So Fast — What about the Regulations?
Legalizers also have convinced Americans that unregulated cannabidiol, a marijuana component branded as cannabis oil, CBD, or Charlotte’s Web, cures intractable seizures in children with epilepsy, and polls show some 90 percent of Americans want medical marijuana legalized, particularly for these sick children. In Colorado, the American Epilepsy Society reports that children with epilepsy are receiving unregulated, highly variable artisanal preparations of cannabis oil recommended, in most cases, by doctors with no training in paediatrics, neurology or epilepsy. Young patients have had severe dystonic reactions and other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures that can be so severe that their physicians have to put the child into a coma to get the seizures to stop. Because of these dangerous side effects, not one paediatric neurologist in Colorado, where unregulated cannabidiol is legal, recommends it for these children.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta further clouded the issue when he produced Weed in 2013, a three-part documentary series for CNN on marijuana as medicine. In all three programs, Dr. Gupta promoted CBD oil, the kind the American Epilepsy Society calls artisanal. This is because not one CBD product sold in legal states has been purified to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, tested, or proven safe and effective. The U.S. Congress and the FDA developed rigid processes to review drugs and prevent medical tragedies such as birth defects caused by thalidomide. These processes have facilitated the greatest advances in medicine in history.

“By end-running the FDA, three billionaires have been willing to wreck the drug approval process that has protected Americans from unsafe, ineffective drugs for more than a century,” said Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action and author of the report. “Unsubstantiated claims for the curative powers of marijuana abound.” No one can be sure of the purity, content, side effects or potential of medical marijuana to cause cancer or any other disease. When people get sick from medical marijuana, there are no uniform mechanisms to recall products causing the harm. Some pot medicines contain no active ingredients. Others contain contaminants. “Sick people, especially children, suffer while marijuana medicine men make money at their expense,” added Ms. Rusche.

Marijuana Industry — Taking a Page from the Tobacco Industry
The paper draws a parallel between the marijuana and tobacco industries, both built with the knowledge that a certain percentage of users will become addicted and guaranteed lifetime customers. Like tobacco, legalized marijuana will produce an unprecedented array of new health, safety and financial consequences to Americans and their children.

“Americans learned the hard way about the tragic effects of tobacco and the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry. Making another addictive drug legal unleashes a commercial business that is unable to resist the opportunity to make billions of dollars on the back of human suffering, unattained life goals, disease, and death,” said Ms. Rusche. “If people genuinely understood that marijuana can cause cognitive, safety and mental health problems, is addictive, and that addiction rates may be three times higher than reported, neither voters nor legislators would legalize pot.”
The paper and the supporting data are available at www.nationalfamilies.org.
About National Families in Action

National Families in Action is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977. The organization helped lead a national parent movement credited with reducing drug use among U.S. adolescents and young adults by two-thirds between 1979 and 1992. For forty years, it has provided complex scientific information in understandable language to help parents and others protect children’s health. It tracks marijuana science and the marijuana legalization movement on its Marijuana Report website and its weekly e-newsletter of the same name.

Source: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/03/14/936283/0/en/New-Report-by-National-Families-in-Action-Rips-the-Veil-Off-the-Medical-Marijuana-Industry.html

Submitted by Andy Travis

This forthright editorial in the journal ‘Addiction’ joins over 500 public health leaders and 27 organisations in questioning the role of the global alcohol industry in making alcohol policy. Conflict with the tobacco industry is well documented, where vested interests have fought an aggressive rearguard action against efforts to reduce tobacco harm. Alcohol interests are now seen to be moving intensively into areas of policy making. Addiction’s editorial raises the strong suspicion that these moves are designed mainly to impede effective control and protect commercial interests. The WHO’s Global Strategy on the Harmful Use of Alcohol was endorsed unanimously in 2010, but in 2012 the alcohol producers issued their own strategy and claimed that the adoption of the WHO strategy, ‘…has legitimated industry’s ongoing efforts and has opened the door to the inclusion of producers as equal stakeholders’. Leading health professionals responded with dismay, arguing that the producer’s actions are weak, mostly lacking an appropriate evidence base and unlikely to reduce harm. Dr Chan, Director General of WHO, recently commented on the role of big business.

As the new publication makes clear, it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics. Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt. Tactics also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public.

Concern has also been expressed over ‘aggressive marketing strategies’ in areas of the world with minimum alcohol and tobacco policies in place, such as many countries with emerging economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America (see Prevention Hub link below). The ‘Addiction’ editorial highlights the marketing of alcohol to young people and promotion of products such as alcopops.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/international-outcry-grows-over-alcohol-industry-role-policy-making

Filed under: Alcohol,Economic :

Washington’s pot is a bit more potent than the national average. And the state’s teens are more likely to smoke marijuana than young people nationwide.

Although we have the same problems with marijuana as we do with liquor abuse, no blockbuster conclusions came from a recent report on Washington’s marijuana universe.

But a couple of somewhat unexpected environmental wrinkles from Washington’s marijuana industry — both legal and illegal — also emerge in the second annual look at the state’s experience since passage of a 2012 initiative allowing recreational pot sales.

Marijuana growers and processors use 1.63 percent of the state’s electricity, which is a lot, according to the report by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — a combined effort by several federal, state and local government agencies. By way of comparison, all forms of lighting — in homes, commercial buildings and manufacturing — account for just 7 to 11 percent of electrical consumption nationally. Or, as the report puts it, the power is enough for 2 million homes.

The high power consumption stems from the heat lamps and the accompanying air conditioning for indoor marijuana growing operations. “They are exceedingly energy-consumptive,” said Steven Freng, manager for prevention and treatment for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

The carbon footprint, according to the report, equals that of about 3 million cars.

And illegal pot growers siphoned off 43.2 million gallons of water from streams and aquifers during the 2016 growing season — water that tribes, farmers and cities would otherwise use as carefully as possible, in part to protect salmon.

Sixty percent of Washington’s illegal pot was grown on state-owned land in 2016. That’s because black-market growers tend to worry about gun-toting owners on private lands, according to Freng and Luci McKean, the organization’s deputy director. The black-market operations use the water during a roughly 120-day growing season.

Marijuana purchases have boomed in Washington. Legal marijuana sales were almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2016 and were on track to be about $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017, which ended June 30. As of February, the state had 1,121 licensed producers, 1,106 licensed processors and 470 licensed retailers.

What Washington’s marijuana users are getting is above average in potency. According to the report, nationwide marijuana products average a THC percentage of 13.2 percent, while Washington state’s THC average percentage was 21.6 percent.

Teen use of marijuana has grown slightly. Depending on how the numbers are crunched, marijuana use among Washington’s young adults and teens ranges from 2 to 5 percent above the national average. Five percent of Washingtonians age 18-to-25 use pot daily, slightly above the national average, the report said.

According to a survey cited in the report, 17 percent of high school seniors and 9 percent of high school sophomores have driven within three hours after smoking pot.

Adult use before driving is still a fuzzy picture. A third of Washingtonians arrested for driving under the influence had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their bloodstreams. One study found an increase in dead drivers with THC above the legal limit in their blood from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 12.8 percent in 2014.

“Adults still don’t understand the effects of impairment behind the wheel of a car,” Freng said.

McKean said that one major unknown is marijuana-laced edibles, which authorities believe have become a significant factor in THC-impaired drivers, but has not been studied enough to provide solid numbers.

Another major unknown, McKean and Freng said, is how marijuana consumption contributes to emergency room and hospital cases because the state hospitals have not agreed to release that data to government officials.

Source: http://crosscut.com/2017/10/washingtons-pot-industry-not-environmentally-friendly-marijuana/

NEW REPORT BY NATIONAL FAMILIES IN ACTION RIPS THE VEIL OFF THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY

Research Traces the Money Trail and Reveals the Motivation Behind Marijuana as Medicine

  • Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters documents state-by-state financial data, exposing the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 U.S. states.
  •  NFIA report reveals three billionaires—George Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling—who contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives during a 13-year period, with the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot.
  •  Report shows how billionaires and marijuana legalizers manipulated the ballot initiative process, outspent the people who opposed marijuana and convinced voters that marijuana is medicine, even while most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal.
  •  Children in Colorado treated with unregulated cannabis oil have had severe dystonic reactions, other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures.
  •  A medical marijuana industry has emerged to join the billionaires in financing initiatives to legalize recreational pot.

Atlanta, Ga. (March 14, 2017)—A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favour legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana. NFIA is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.

The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period. The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal.

The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states. The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent—sometimes by hundreds of times—the people who opposed marijuana.

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs. And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot. In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).

Unravelling the Legalization Strategy: Behind the Curtain In 1992, financier George Soros contributed an estimated $15 million to several groups he advised to stop advocating for outright legalization and start working toward what he called more winnable issues such as medical marijuana.

At a press conference in 1993, Richard Cowen, then-director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, “The key to it [full legalization] is medical access. Because, once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically, under medical supervision, the whole scam is going to be blown. The consensus here is that medical marijuana is our strongest suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us toward the legalization of marijuana for personal use.”

Between 1996 and 2009, Soros, Lewis and Sperling contributed 80 percent of the money to medicalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives. Their financial contributions, exceeding $15.7 million (of the $19.5 million total funding), enabled their groups to lie to voters in advertising campaigns, cover up marijuana’s harmful effects, and portray pot as medicine—leading people to believe that the drug is safe and should be legal for any use.

Today, polls show how successful the billionaires and their money have been. In 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, voters and, later, legislators have shown they believe marijuana is medicine, even though most of the scientific and medical communities say marijuana is not medicine and should not be legal. While the most recent report, issued by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), finds that marijuana may alleviate certain kinds of pain, it also finds there is no rigorous, medically acceptable documentation that marijuana is effective in treating any other illness. At the same time, science offers irrefutable evidence that marijuana is addictive, harmful and can hinder brain development in adolescents. At the distribution level, there are no controls on the people who sell to consumers. Budtenders (marijuana bartenders) have no medical or pharmaceutical training or qualifications.

One tactic used by legalizers was taking advantage of voter empathy for sick people, along with the confusion about science and how the FDA approves drugs. A positive finding in a test tube or petri dish is merely a first step in a long, rigorous process leading to scientific consensus about the efficacy of a drug. Scientific proof comes after randomized, controlled clinical trials, and many drugs with promising early stage results never make it through the complex sets of hurdles that prove efficacy and safety. But marijuana legalizers use early promise and thin science to persuade and manipulate empathetic legislators and voters into buying the spin that marijuana is a cure-all.

People who are sick already have access to two FDA-approved drugs, Dronabinol and Nabilone, that are not marijuana, but contain identical copies of some of the components of marijuana. These drugs, available as pills, effectively treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting. The NAS reviewed 10,700 abstracts of marijuana studies conducted since 1999, finding that these two oral drugs are effective in adults for the conditions described above. An extract containing two marijuana chemicals that is approved in other countries, reduces spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. But there is no evidence that marijuana treats other diseases, including epilepsy and most of the other medical conditions the states have legalized marijuana to treat. These conditions range from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Crohn’s disease to Hepatitis-C, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even sickle cell disease.

Not So Fast – What about the Regulations?

Legalizers also have convinced Americans that unregulated cannabidiol, a marijuana component branded as cannabis oil, CBD, or Charlotte’s Web, cures intractable seizures in children with epilepsy, and polls show some 90 percent of Americans want medical marijuana legalized, particularly for these sick children. In Colorado, the American Epilepsy Society reports that children with epilepsy are receiving unregulated, highly variable artisanal preparations of cannabis oil recommended, in most cases, by doctors with no training in paediatrics, neurology or epilepsy. Young patients have had severe dystonic reactions and other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures that can be so severe that their physicians have to put the child into a coma to get the seizures to stop. Because of these dangerous side effects, not one paediatric neurologist in Colorado, where unregulated cannabidiol is legal, recommends it for these children.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta further clouded the issue when he produced Weed in 2013, a three-part documentary series for CNN on marijuana as medicine. In all three programs, Dr. Gupta promoted CBD oil, the kind the American Epilepsy Society calls artisanal. This is because not one CBD product sold in legal states has been purified to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, tested, or proven safe and effective. The U.S. Congress and the FDA developed rigid processes to review drugs and prevent medical tragedies such as birth defects caused by thalidomide. These processes have facilitated the greatest advances in medicine in history.

“By end-running the FDA, three billionaires have been willing to wreck the drug approval process that has protected Americans from unsafe, ineffective drugs for more than a century,” said Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action and author of the report. “Unsubstantiated claims for the curative powers of marijuana abound.” No one can be sure of the purity, content, side effects or potential of medical marijuana to cause cancer or any other disease. When people get sick from medical marijuana, there are no uniform mechanisms to recall products causing the harm. Some pot medicines contain no active ingredients. Others contain contaminants. “Sick people, especially children, suffer while marijuana medicine men make money at their expense,” added Ms. Rusche.

Marijuana Industry – Taking a Page from the Tobacco Industry The paper draws a parallel between the marijuana and tobacco industries, both built with the knowledge that a certain percentage of users will become addicted and guaranteed lifetime customers. Like tobacco, legalized marijuana will produce an unprecedented array of new health, safety and financial consequences to Americans and their children.

“Americans learned the hard way about the tragic effects of tobacco and the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry. Making another addictive drug legal unleashes a commercial business that is unable to resist the opportunity to make billions of dollars on the back of human suffering, unattained life goals, disease, and death,” said Ms. Rusche. “If people genuinely understood that marijuana can cause cognitive, safety and mental health problems, is addictive, and that addiction rates may be three times higher than reported, neither voters nor legislators would legalize pot.” NDPA recommends readers to read the whole report Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters

Source: www.nationalfamilies.org. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: Addiction,Economic,USA :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: Economic,Social Affairs,USA :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNICORN PROMISES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘NECESSARY REFORM’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘SEED TO SALE’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under: Economic,Heroin/Methadone,USA :

Avoiding a New Tobacco Industry

SummaryPoints

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

OPEN ACCESS

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

Framework for Legalized Retail Marijuana Based on

the US Experience: Avoiding a New Tobacco

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

journal.pmed.1002131

Published: September 27, 2016

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

access article distributed under the terms of the

Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits

unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any

medium, provided the original author and source are

credited.

Funding: This work was supported in part by

National Cancer Institute grant CA-061021 and UCSF

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

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

Provenance: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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

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

Likely Effect of Marijuana Commercialization on Public Health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) controlling availability of marijuana and marijuana products;

4) promoting services to help marijuana users quit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) use language appropriate for low-literacy adults.

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

Avoiding a Private Market

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Acknowledgments

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

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

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

Industry Taking Advantage of Opiate Problem to Entrap More People

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana Registry Identification Cards 

December 31, 2009 – 41,039

December 31, 2010 – 116,198

December 31, 2011 – 82,089

December 31, 2012 – 108,526

December 31, 2013 – 110,979

December 31, 2014 – 115,467

Colorado: 

505 medical marijuana centers (“dispensaries”)1

322 recreational marijuana stores1

405 Starbucks coffee shops2

227 McDonalds restaurants3

Denver: 

198 licensed medical marijuana centers (“dispensaries”)1

117 pharmacies (as of February 12, 2015

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

 

 

 

Findings 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Findings 

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

2013 o National average for youth was 7.15 percent

o Colorado average for youth was 11.16 percent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6th. 2015

Dear Jessica McDonald

President and CEO BC Hydro:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pamela McColl

Member of the Advisory Council of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada

samcanadanet@gmail.com

 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC) Mission:

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

 

SAMC’s Vision is to:

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

 

SAMC Will Advocate For:

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

 

SAMC’s Actions Will Consist Of:

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

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

 

Marijuana and Public Health:

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

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

 

Marijuana and the Criminal Justice System

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

 

Marijuana and Big Business

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Source:   www.learnabout.ca  June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sin is in!

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

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

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

 

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

Change the rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: THECHERRYCREEKNEWS.COM 10th June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: www.The Marijuana Report.Org  February 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The MarijuanaReport.org 22nd April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional increases

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

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

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

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

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

New strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Methadone millionaires’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importantly, Colorado, following marijuana “legalization,” has become a black-market magnet, and is currently supplying marijuana, including ultra-high-potency “shatter” to the rest of the U.S., leading to law suits by adjacent states. Legalization 

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

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

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

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

CLEARING THE HAZE

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

Source:   http://gazette.com/clearingthehaze

 

REGULATION STILL INEFFECTIVE

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

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

 

NO APPROVED MEDICINE IN MARIJUANA

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

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

 

LEGALIZATION DIDN’T UNCLOG PRISONS

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

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

 

DRUG USE A PROBLEM FOR EMPLOYERS

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

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

 

MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY STILL GROWING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLAIM:Legalisation will fund prevention, education.

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

CLAIM:Regulation works.

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

CLAIM:Legalisation of marijuana will unclog prisons.

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

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

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

CLAIM:Legalisation of marijuana will hobble drug cartels.

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

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

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

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

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

CLAIM:Medical marijuana works, only legalisation allows research.

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

CLAIM:Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Source:

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

10th March 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Functioning addicts

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

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

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

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

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

More money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: www.drugabuse.gov October 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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