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Can Marijuana Help With Anorexia?

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 10:50
You might want to put that vape pen down, but some newer studies might be useful, too.

Given the proven power of cannabis to promote weight gain in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, it’s reasonable to ask whether weed might help in cases of anorexia nervosa. The clinical evidence, though slight, is a resounding No! No, no, no, no, no. It is a bad idea. Terrible. Wretched. Did we mention it’s not so great?

The source of this alarm is a 1983 study of 11 subjects who added doses of THC to their standard anorexia treatment. None gained any weight, but three experienced “significant psychic disturbance,” including “paranoid ideations.” In other words, they had the dope fear, and they had it bad.

Munchies-induced eating can help some people who suffer from anorexia reexamine their loathing of food and even enjoy it again.

Unlike AIDS and chemo patients, who want to eat but are too nauseated or lack hunger signals, an anorexic’s identity is tied to the desire not to eat. That’s essentially the whole illness. Anorexia is about control—counting calories, disciplining appetites, compelling the body to fit the dictates of the will. Accordingly, while, in some cases, the intoxicant aspect of marijuana can ease that ironclad self-discipline and allow an anorexic to let go, in other instances, it poses a terrifying threat to the sense of self.

Similarly, munchies-induced eating can help some people who suffer from anorexia reexamine their loathing of food and even enjoy it again. With others, however, the postprandial remorse only intensifies the negative emotions associated with the disease. It can even lead to self-harm.

Anecdotally, marijuana has helped individual anorexics. But the clinical evidence suggests that more than a quarter of those who try the cannabis cure will have horrifically bad experiences. Those are not inspiring odds.

 

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Amazing Graphic Shows Why Cannabis Is a Medication Worth Legalizing

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:19
Click here for reuse options! The graphic included here lays out the arguments.

Medical marijuana has been legalized by many countries around the world, including 28 states in the US. Some have even legalized the recreational use of the drug.

Practicing in the area of drug offenses, Toronto Defense Lawyers have been successfully defending countless marijuana related drug offenses over the years under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Meanwhile, the clinical studies discussed below have taken a deeper look as to why cannabis is a medication worth legalizing.

According to clinical studies, the chemical compounds found in cannabis (CBD and THC) can successfully treat chronic pain and many other health ailments. This was evidenced in the largest ever study on cannabis which examined over 10,000 studies on the drug. The results found that, not only is cannabis an effective defense to chronic pain, but also a wide range of other health problems such as: muscles spasms in those suffering from multiple sclerosis, nausea in those undergoing chemotherapy, inflammation, arthritis, fibromyalgia, anxiety, stress, and PTSD.

Additionally, medical marijuana has been proven to lower opioid prescriptions and opioid-related deaths. Coinciding with this evidence, states that have legalized medical marijuana suffer from fewer opioid-related deaths. Also, profits to organized crime groups would be cut off by legalizing cannabis.

It is also important not to ignore the current lack of regulation involving medical marijuana. The legal gray area has caused many suppliers to not feel pressured in meeting Health Canada standards. This is true for approximately 1/3 of dispensaries in Toronto. This lack of regulation has led to cannabis containing yeast, mold, and bacteria commonly found in sewage and intestinal tracts of humans. Regrettably, a study of a popular dispensary in Toronto found that the marijuana being dispensed contained 9 times the acceptable amount of yeast and mold, as well as large traces of bacteria found in sewage.

While the history of cannabis worldwide has been long and complicated, the benefits of its legalization cannot be ignored. In April 2017, the liberal government passed a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, which is expected to come into effect in July of 2018, however it remains to be seen whether we will begin to perceive cannabis as an effective form of treatment against a large number of health ailments and a defense against opioid deaths.

The graphic below, courtesy of TorontoDefenceLawyers.com, summarizes these arguments:

 

This browser does not support inline PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF

 

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Don't Take Opioids Off the Market -- Make It Harder to Abuse Them Instead

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:12
Removing access to these powerful pain relievers isn't the solution. Millions of people in pain need them.

How can we combat the opioid epidemic?

One of the government’s most recent suggestions is to take Opana ER, an opioid indicated for very severe pain, off the market. The request, filed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, was linked to concerns of abuse-related HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks.

But removing access to opioids altogether isn’t the solution. There are individuals suffering from chronic pain who need or strongly benefit from these drugs. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that a fourth of the nation’s population suffers from pain lasting longer than 24 hours. Millions more suffer from acute pain.

As a researcher who studies how pharmaceuticals are used and what effects they have, I believe it makes more sense to reduce both the supply and demand side of prescription drug abuse – without interfering with their safe and appropriate use. We can do this by reimagining how we design and prescribe addictive drugs.

Redesigning the pill

Opioids such as morphine typically relieve pain by acting on opioid receptors distributed throughout the central nervous system.

The FDA has come up with a number of ways to deter abuse by changing the way drugs work. For example, manufacturers could include an opioid antagonist in the formulation. This is essentially a drug that blocks the opioid’s effect by binding to the same receptors in the brain that the opioid would. Changing the formulation in this way would reduce the chances of experiencing the euphoric high that leads to addiction.

A good example of an opioid that does this is Targiniq ER. If Targiniq ER is crushed or dissolved, it releases Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effect of the opioid.

Another option is to redesign the drug so it must be injected or implanted, instead of taken orally. That way, the drug would potentially have to be delivered under medical supervision. Requiring the drugs to be delivered under medical supervision could also potentially reduce the improper use of needles and related outbreaks.

Even so, no method is foolproof; abusers can sometimes manipulate a changed drug. For example, Opana ER was designed to be difficult to crush, but abusers began to dissolve the drug into a solution and injecting it. To deter drug abuse, Opana ER’s manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, devised a new medication formula that made the coating more difficult to crush or dissolve. Unfortunately, abusers still found a way to remove the coating and inject the drug.

Required prescription monitoring

Prescription drug monitoring programs have shown considerable promise in tracking potential abusers.

These programs provide emergency departments and physicians with information about a patient’s past use of controlled substances at the point of care. This can immediately flag any potential for abuse, making the doctor’s decision to prescribe opioids – or not – much easier.

Now, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has funded at least nine states to combine their prescription monitoring programs with local hospital electronic health records and other systems already in place. These collaborations provide clinicians with a comprehensive history of controlled substance, so they can make informed decisions about patient health.

This has already had some success. For example, Illinois saw a 22 percent decrease in number of opioid prescriptions issued by prescribers and a 41 percent decrease in the number of patients who received at least one opioid prescription.

More information on the nature of the epidemic – particularly its link to rural areas – could yield clues about where and how to intervene. However, publicly available data have limited geographical information and don’t cover all information we might need, such as data about dose or treatment duration. What data are available are restricted to protect the identity of individuals.

Rather than look at patients with opioid issues, we decided to look at the doctors who prescribe the drugs. Our group has been working with the state of South Carolina to combine our prescription drug monitoring program, called South Carolina Reporting and Identification Prescription Tracking System, or SCRIPTS, with Medicaid data.

While we were able to combine only two years’ worth of data, our research led to important insights into the abuse potential within South Carolina.

By geocoding state prescription information, we found that a relatively small percentage of providers, concentrated in a few counties, accounted for most opioid prescriptions. In 2010, the top 10 percent of prescribers wrote more than half of all opioid prescriptions.

This group represents a potential target for physician education and engagement in handling pain management and appropriate use of opioids.

Rethinking how we assess patients

Many solutions to the opioid crisis tend to focus on how far it has come and how to mitigate it. However, a more sustainable approach would be to rethink the process of care and engage the patient – who is at the center of it all.

When patients are engaged in the care process, they tend to adhere more to their prescribed regimens and experience better health outcomes.

In most primary care settings, it is considered standard practice to ask patients to rate their pain on a scale from one to 10. This is a very crude measure, but now we need a more sophisticated method. Medical care should consider not only the providers’ preferences, but the patient’s, too.

We need a tool that gets at not only the level of pain an individual experiences, but also their preferences in dealing with pain. Studies show that patient-provider communication plays an important role in pain management. If patients could share their specific concerns regarding their pain and their goals for treatment, then clinicians would be able to find the best treatment plan that is tailored to individual patient preferences.

Rather than using a standardized approach that matches pain level to doses of an analgesic or opioid, clinicians should assess each patient individually, looking at their tolerance for pain, their priorities for treatment and how they value outcomes.

By centering pain management on individual patients, we can give them a voice in the decision-making process. Given the issues with opioid abuse, I think such a pain management tool would yield a multitude of benefits, such as cutting down unnecessary prescriptions, matching the therapy to the patient’s needs and improving outcomes.

 

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How Californians Consume Marijuana: The 4 Most Common Methods of Getting High

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 12:58
Click here for reuse options! The traditional method remains the favorite, but alternatives are gaining market share.

Even though legal recreational marijuana sales won't officially begin until next year, California is already the largest pot market in the country, generating more than $680 million in sales in three months this spring, according to a new report from industry watchers BDS Analytics.

That's on pace to make 2017 a $2.5 billion year for the Golden State pot industry, a number that will only increase next year as even the tiny obstacles to purchase imposed by the state's extremely relaxed medical marijuana system vanish and the floodgates for retail sales open.

But what will Californians be buying at the pot shop? There is an ever-increasing variety of ways to consume marijuana—and an endless supply of eager entrepreneurs seeking to find a niche—but if the BDS Analytics report is correct, the traditional form of consuming marijuana is still preferred.

Here, according to BDS, are the four most common forms in which pot is purchased in California, along with each method's market share.

1. Dried flowers, 55%. Also known as buds, this form of marijuana can be rolled into a joint or smoked in a pipe, bong, or one-hitter. This is how people traditionally consumed marijuana, and while it is slowly declining in popularity in the face of health concerns about smoking and access to alternative pot products, smoking pot remains the number-one way Californians get high—to the tune of more than a billion dollars' worth a year. 

2. Concentrates, 25%.This is a surprisingly rapidly growing sector. It includes not only super-potent products such as shatter and wax, with THC levels above 90%, but also distillate cannabis consumed in vaporizers. In California, vaping drives the concentrates market, accounting for 61% of all concentrate sales. We're talking about more than half a billion in annual concentrates sales here. 

3. Edibles, 15%.These products include everything from pot beverages to ganja gummies and other candies to a whole panoply of baked goods. Given all the attention edibles get, it's a bit of a surprise that they rank below concentrates. As with concentrates, edibles purchasers avoid having to—cough, cough—smoke their marijuana, but concentrates have the advantage of producing a high quickly, like smoked marijuana, but unlike edibles.

4. Pre-rolls, 5%.For the lazy or unskilled pot smoker. Pre-rolled joints are made with buds (one hopes!), so they should theoretically be included in the dried flowers sector, but they're not. For every $20 Californians spend on weed, $1 is for pre-rolls. 

 

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Liquid Genocide Destroyed the Pine Ridge Reservation -- Then They Fought Back

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 11:43
For years, 11,000 cans of beer a day were poured into the South Dakota Indian reservation, causing untold damages. This summer, it stopped.

Dashing through wild sunflowers and tall grass, Joe Pulliam slid through the barbed-wire fence that marks the state border. With two large wooden tipi poles slung over his shoulder, sweating in the morning sun, he knew it was trespassing. But this was about something bigger.

Behind him, to the south, was the Pine Ridge Indian reservation – a vast, 3,500-sq mile rectangle of land at the south-western base of South Dakota, home to 20,000 Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe members and where the sale of alcohol is banned.

In front of him, on the ground he was now striding across, was Whiteclay, Nebraska. The town has no local government and only 14 residents. For over a century, its primary purpose has been to sell alcohol to the reservation’s residents. Four million cans of beer left the stores here each year – 11,000 a day. Activists have long argued it has decimated the tribe.

This summer marked the first time that the four liquor stores in Whiteclay had stopped selling. In April, after a history of lawlessness and a recent spate of unsolved murders, the Nebraska state liquor commission voted to temporarily revoke all four licenses.

On this day, as the last days of a long, humid summer had started to evaporate, the state’s supreme court would hear arguments on whether to make the closures permanent. As Pulliam and a group of six other Lakota men went about planting the poles in the ground, wrapping rope around the apex, they wanted to make a lasting statement.

“This tipi rising here represents the end of that oppression, the end of that colonialism,” he said, regaining his breath. “Whiteclay was the destruction.”

“I’m hoping that Nebraska can look at themselves and their Christian ways and ask themselves: will they continue to profit off our people’s addiction?”

On Friday, the Nebraska supreme court ruled unanimously to keep Whiteclay’s liquor stores closed.

Addiction is endemic here. Up to two-thirds of adults live with alcoholism. One in four children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Life expectancy is just 66.8 years. Fueled by poverty and addiction – the unemployment rate hovers around 80% – the suicide rate is over four times the national average.

During dozens of interviews during a week spent on the reservation, every single person who spoke to the Guardian said they had either battled addiction themselves or had a family member who had.

Whiteclay had become the focal point of the tribe’s attempts to target abuse head on. Its closure, even if it turned out to be temporary, marked a victory for campaigners who have pushed for years to see the liquor stores gone.

But already many here, just as on other Indian reservations in America, are coming to terms with a struggle that will get even harder in an era of federal budget cuts and austerity. The Trump administration has already made clear its intention to roll back federal funds, a move likely to have a devastating effect on people here, who rely on grant money to keep many basic public programs in operation.

Pine Ridge is the only reservation in South Dakota where the sale and possession of alcohol is illegal. A tribal vote in 2013 to legalize sales was never implemented and “dry” status has been enforced almost entirely since foundation in 1889.

Whiteclay, established around the same time, was created as a non-permanent 50-mile buffer zone to prevent the sale of alcohol close by. But in 1904, after an executive order signed by Theodore Roosevelt reduced the dry zone to a single mile, traders poured into the area, building so-called whiskey ranches that plied the nearby Lakota community with liquor.

Olowan Martinez, a 43-year-old Lakota woman, was 11 the first time she visited the town, accompanying her alcoholic mother, who came almost every day. She recalled sitting in the back seat of their car, watching her mother drink and witnessing brawls from out the window.

“Whiteclay is a hole,” she said, standing in a prayer camp just inside the reservation that was constructed by Pulliam and others shortly after the liquor licenses were revoked. “It’s been based on liquid genocide for generations.”

Martinez started drinking at 14, but sobered up 12 years ago when her mother died, in her early 50s, due to chronic liver damage. “The town killed her. But it wasn’t just alcohol. It was the historical trauma that happened to our nations, too.”

History simmers to the top of many conversations here – from the systemic destruction and criminalisation of Lakota culture through federal laws in the late 19th century, to the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, in the reservation’s south, where up to 300 Lakota men, women and children were mowed down by US cavalrymen, their frozen bodies dumped in a mass grave days later.

The cluster of at least four unsolved murders in the past two decades at Whiteclay, where no permanent police presence led to a de facto state of lawlessness, is also etched in people’s memories.

Pulliam lost two uncles, Wallace Black Elk and Ron Hard Heart, whose body was found mutilated in a ditch just outside the town in 1999.

“It was such a dangerous place,” he said looking at the site their bodies were recovered. “It was so violent and dirty. It was really hell on earth.”

But today, the town is almost silent. Tumbleweed rolls across the dusty streets, the front doors to State Line Liquor, D&S Pioneer Service and the Arrowhead Inn bolted shut, each behind reinforced iron gates.

“I feel a sense of pride when I look at it now,” said Martinez. “Because I don’t see my relatives littered on the street like trash.”

The lawyers representing the four store owners did not return requests for an interview. But Loren L Paul, a Nebraskan county commissioner who supported the owners and had voted to try to keep their businesses open, argued the issue was simply supply and demand.

“It’s market forces,” said Paul at his home in the small city of Gordon.

“I don’t think there’s racism involved. [Whiteclay] is there because there’s a need and somebody is going to supply that need.”

*****

The calls came in at a frantic pace as Lt Jason Lone Hill struggled to understand just what sort of emergency he was speeding towards. The late shift is the loneliest and most dangerous patrol for the tribal police on the reservation.

The department is already stretched beyond its limit. After a loss of grant money under the George W Bush administration, there are now just 32 officers in the entire department – 10 years ago, it was more than 100.

That evening, just three officers were patrolling the entire western sector, an area of around one and a half thousand square miles – larger than the state of Rhode Island. The night before, Lone Hill, a Lakota man who has lived on the reservation his entire life, had been called out to a gang brawl in one of the higher-crime areas in the reservation’s centre.

The homicide rate almost doubled here last year, from nine murders in 2015 to 17 in 2016. Police partially attribute the rise to a surge in methamphetamine abuse.

But just as Whiteclay’s closure has brought hope and opportunity to people here, so has it intensified other problems.

Bootlegging has surged. In every housing cluster, in every district, Lone Hill said, there were now people selling alcohol illegally.

“They’re killing our people, over greed and money,” he said.

Vodka has become the drink of choice, over the beers that were once on sale at Whiteclay. Local bootleggers now travel further afield, to the towns of Rushville and Chadron in Nebraska, about 30 miles from the south of the reservation, to buy gallons of cheap spirits, dilute them with water and sell a 500ml bottle for around $10 – about a 1,000% markup.

This summer the police department reassigned its specialist drug taskforce of four officers to target bootleggers by running undercover stings. But the demand supersedes resources here, and the cops are fighting a losing battle.

As Lone Hill pulled up to the small three-bed home in the Old Crazy Horse neighbourhood in the reservation’s south, following more than a dozen 911 calls, the scene was one of distressing familiarity. A man in his 30s lay prone on the floor outside. His brother was passed out in the doorway while a group of eight young children scampered around in the darkness.

It was difficult to tell if the two men were alive or dead.

“Hey! Wake up!” Lone Hill shouted. “Wake up! It’s the police.”

Eventually both men stirred and Lone Hill was forced to place one in handcuffs and send him off to jail for detox. “Taking him to jail ain’t helping, because we’re going to be back tomorrow night. And the next night. It’s a revolving door.

“Nowadays,” Lone Hill said, “nine out of ten people will be like that, in that condition, because it used to be beer, and now it’s vodka, and vodka gets in your system and messes you up a lot faster.”

******

Donald Trump’s fraught history with Native Americans continues to resonate here.

In 2000, as the expanding Native American casino industry in upstate New York threatened his own gambling interests in New Jersey, the businessman took aim at the St Regis Mohawk tribe. Trump secretly spent $1m on local newspaper adverts that portrayed the tribe as organised criminals and cocaine pushers. Under a photograph of syringes and lines of powder ran the question: “Are these the new neighbors we want?”

“It showed us what he really thinks of us,” said Eileen Janis, a community leader who runs the Oglala Lakota’s only suicide intervention program with her colleague Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory.

Now in office, Trump threatens to decimate the small gains ushered in by the closure of Whiteclay.

“We know a young mother who used to get together $5 and go up to Whiteclay and buy a big can of beer all the time. One of those big cans gets you drunk. But now she can’t do that. So now she spends her money on her kids, or buys food with it. That is progress,” said Janis.

But Trump’s proposed 25% budget cuts to the food stamp programme (on which at least 49% of people here relied in 2009) would make many more children go hungry here, she said. The administration is also proposing a range of cuts to federal departments the tribe relies on for grant money attached to a range of public services including education, public health and policing.

“It’s going to be bad,” Janis said. “And that’s for all of us.”

Janis lost the federal health grant that paid her salary earlier in the year and is now essentially a full-time volunteer.

She and DeCory work seven days a week, mentoring children and providing mental health outreach in the absence of specialist facilities in the reservation’s only hospital. They often accompany police to domestic disturbances and mental health emergencies. Janis, 56, recently bought a Taser as the intensity of their late-night callouts has grown.

That afternoon, the pair headed deep into the reservation’s centre to a vigil for 22-year-old Tyler Dubray, a college student who had taken his own life four days earlier.

It was the 11th suicide on the reservation since April.

Dubray’s death took people here by surprise. The Lakota man, with bright green eyes and deep dimples, mentored younger children and taught them traditional weaving. His friends and family all referred to him as outwardly content.

“He was full of life,” DeCory told the roughly 200 people clutching candles and lanterns on the grass outside the Dubray family’s small home, where complete darkness engulfed the surrounding empty expanse. “And you all should know that you loved him unconditionally. Know that you were good to him, and you have no regrets for the way you treated him.”

*****

The tipi still stood on the entrance to Whiteclay days after Pulliam had built it up. The men had placed a sign next to it that fluttered in the wind and read: “Sober Indian, Dangerous Indian”.

Olowan Martinez, optimistic the supreme court would keep the liquor stores closed, was among a minority of people who refused to worry about a new era of austerity.

“He could cut whatever he wants. We already know who our oppressor is. That [government] is the oppressor.

“This is our land, our territory, and we’ll be fine,” she said.

“I wish Mother Earth would shake her back and we’d have to start all over. Only the strong will survive.”

 

In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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The Real Reason Some People Get Addicted to Drugs

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 11:21
We need to reframe how we think about addiction.

Why do they do it? This is a question that friends and families often ask of those who are addicted.

It’s difficult to explain how drug addiction develops over time. To many, it looks like the constant search for pleasure. But the pleasure derived from opioids like heroin or stimulants like cocaine declines with repeated use. What’s more, some addictive drugs, like nicotine, fail to produce any noticeable euphoria in regular users.

So what does explain the persistence of addiction? As an addiction researcher for the past 15 years, I look to the brain to understand how recreational use becomes compulsive, prompting people like you and me to make bad choices.

Myths about addiction

There are two popular explanations for addiction, neither of which holds up to scrutiny.

The first is that compulsive drug taking is a bad habit – one that addicts just need to “kick.”

However, to the brain, a habit is nothing more than our ability to carry out repetitive tasks – like tying our shoelaces or brushing our teeth – more and more efficiently. People don’t typically get caught up in an endless and compulsive cycle of shoelace tying.

Another theory claims that overcoming withdrawal is too tough for many addicts. Withdrawal, the highly unpleasant feeling that occurs when the drug leaves your body, can include sweats, chills, anxiety and heart palpitations. For certain drugs, such as alcohol, withdrawal comes with a risk of death if not properly managed.

The painful symptoms of withdrawal are frequently cited as the reason addiction seems inescapable. However, even for heroin, withdrawal symptoms mostly subside after about two weeks. Plus, many addictive drugs produce varying and sometimes only mild withdrawal symptoms.

This is not to say that pleasure, habits or withdrawal are not involved in addiction. But we must ask whether they are necessary components of addiction – or whether addiction would persist even in their absence.

Pleasure versus desire

In the 1980s, researchers made a surprising discovery. Foodsex and drugs all appeared to cause dopamine to be released in certain areas of the brain, such as the nucleus accumbens.

This suggested to many in the scientific community that these areas were the brain’s pleasure centers and that dopamine was our own internal pleasure neurotransmitter. However, this idea has since been debunked. The brain does have pleasure centers, but they are not modulated by dopamine.

So what’s going on? It turns out that, in the brain, “liking” something and “wanting” something are two separate psychological experiences. “Liking” refers to the spontaneous delight one might experience eating a chocolate chip cookie. “Wanting” is our grumbling desire when we eye the plate of cookies in the center of the table during a meeting.

Dopamine is responsible for “wanting” – not for “liking.” For example, in one study, researchers observed rats that could not produce dopamine in their brains. These rats lost the urge to eat but still had pleasurable facial reactions when food was placed in their mouths.

All drugs of abuse trigger a surge of dopamine – a rush of “wanting” – in the brain. This makes us crave more drugs. With repeated drug use, the “wanting” grows, while our “liking” of the drug appears to stagnate or even decrease, a phenomenon known as tolerance.

In my own research, we looked at a small subregion of the amygdala, an almond-shaped brain structure best known for its role in fear and emotion. We found that activating this area makes rats more likely to show addictive-like behaviors: narrowing their focus, rapidly escalating their cocaine intake and even compulsively nibbling at a cocaine port. This subregion may be involved in excessive “wanting,” in humans, too, influencing us to make risky choices.

Involuntary addicts

The recent opioid epidemic has produced what we might call “involuntary” addicts. Opioids – such as oxycodone, percocet, vicodin or fentanyl – are very effective at managing otherwise intractable pain. Yet they also produce surges in dopamine release.

Most individuals begin taking prescription opioids not for pleasure but rather from a need to manage their pain, often on the recommendation of a doctor. Any pleasure they may experience is rooted in the relief from pain.

However, over time, users tend to develop a tolerance. The drug becomes less and less effective, and they need larger doses of the drug to control pain. This exposes people to large surges of dopamine in the brain. As the pain subsides, they find themselves inexplicably hooked on a drug and compelled to take more.

The result of this regular intake of large amounts of drug is a hyperreactive “wanting” system. A sensitized “wanting” system triggers intense bouts of craving whenever in the presence of the drug or exposed to drug cues. These cues can include drug paraphernalia, negative emotions such as stress or even specific people and places. Drug cues are one of an addict’s biggest challenges.

These changes in the brain can be long-lasting, if not permanent. Some individuals seem to be more likely to undergo these changes. Research suggests that genetic factors may predispose certain individuals, which explains why a family history of addiction leads to increased risk. Early life stressors, such as childhood adversity or physical abuse, also seem to put people at more risk.

Addiction and choice

Many of us regularly indulge in drugs of abuse, such as alcohol or nicotine. We may even occasionally overindulge. But, in most cases, this doesn’t qualify as addiction. This is, in part, because we manage to regain balance and choose alternative rewards like spending time with family or enjoyable drug-free hobbies.

However, for those susceptible to excessive “wanting,” it may be difficult to maintain that balance. Once researchers figure out what makes an individual susceptible to developing a hyperreactive “wanting” system, we can help doctors better manage the risk of exposing a patient to drugs with such potent addictive potential.

In the meantime, many of us should reframe how we think about addiction. Our lack of understanding of what predicts the risk of addiction means that it could just as easily have affected you or me. In many cases, the individual suffering from addiction doesn’t lack the willpower to quit drugs. They know and see the pain and suffering that it creates around them. Addiction simply creates a craving that’s often stronger than any one person could overcome alone.

That’s why people battling addiction deserve our support and compassion, rather than the distrust and exclusion that our society too often provides.

 

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Marijuana Munchies: Pot Buyers' 5 Favorite Fast-Food Joints

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 22:46
Click here for reuse options! Where do you head when you've just scored and your stomach is rumbling?

Here's some evidence that pot really does give you the munchies: According to a new study, people who buy marijuana at pot shops head for fast-food joints more often than people who don't. And they have a definite favorite.

In the study, from Green Market Report and Consumer Research Around Cannabis, 27,500 people from selected metropolitan areas where marijuana is legal responded to an online survey about their pot-buying and fast food consumption habits.

The Green Market Report focuses on cannabis financial and economic information, while Consumer Research Around Cannabis is a Houston-based research firm that tracks the demographics of the marijuana industry.

Almost all of the top 10 fast-food big boys (which doesn't include Big Boy, sorry) saw more visits from pot shoppers, who apparently really crave salty, fatty, taste sensations like Big Macs and Whoppers. And market share in the industry means marker share among pot buyers. One notable exception was the health-conscious Subway, shunned by stoners in search of greasier treats.

Here, according to the study, are the top five pot-buyer fast-food chains, ranked by the percentage of  recent purchasers who visited each in the past month. There is a decided favorite. It should be noted, though, that the second-, third- and fourth-place contenders are so close we might as well call it a three-way tie for second:

  1. McDonald's, 43.4%
  2. Taco Bell, 18.3%
  3. Wendy's, 17.8%
  4. Burger King, 17.6%
  5. Subway, 8.7%
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Marvin Washington Connects the Dots: Marijuana, Athletes, Activism, NFL Protests and Drug War Policing

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:25
Click here for reuse options! It's time for the NFL to change its harmful, outdated marijuana policy.

Drug Policy Alliance's podcast Drugs & Stuff is back with a timely new episode. This week we sat down with Marvin Washington, former NFL player and Super Bowl champion, to talk about the war on drugs, marijuana policies in sports, socially conscious athletes, and this past week’s display of solidarity across the NFL in response to Donald Trump’s comments calling players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches.”

Listen to the episode.

A piece from 2015 by Washington and two other Super Bowl champs, "The NFL Needs to Rethink Marijuana,” was the beginning of a more serious discussion re: the NFL’s backward marijuana policy.

One of Marvin’s biggest concerns is CTE—chronic traumatic encephalopathy—a brain disease that develops from repeated head traumas (like concussions). The recent results showing that Aaron Hernandez had developed Stage 3 CTE, and that his brain “had deteriorated enough that it was on par with 67-year-old brain trauma patients,” did not surprise Marvin. In fact, he says he called it when Hernandez was arrested for murder a few years ago. Bennet Omalu, the doctor who first discovered CTE and was portrayed by Will Smith in the movie Concussionwas also not surprised.

Marijuana may be able to help prevent CTE. As Marvin says, if there is one sport that should be experimenting with marijuana and its ability to help treat the health of the league’s players, it’s the NFL.

We also talked with Marvin about Trump’s comments on the movement started by Colin Kaepernick last year when he took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color, particularly black people. The violent policing in communities of color and the militarization of police are rooted in the war on drugs. You can read on our website in more detail about recent times marijuana or other drugs have been used to justify police killings in the cases of Sandra BlandKeith Lamont ScottTerence Crutcher, and Philando Castile. Marijuana use was also used to justify killing Trayvon Martin.

I am encouraged by the progress made in the last couple years fighting to change the NFL’s marijuana policy, and I think the dialogue started by Kaepernick’s protest is necessary. I wish more athletes could see how the war on drugs affects us all, on and off the field.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

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Marijuana Is Now a Driving Engine of the American Economy

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:05
Click here for reuse options! From increased tax revenue to rising home prices, legalization is stimulating economic growth.

The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes is having a positive impact on states’ economies in ways that go well beyond tax revenue. From job creation to increased tourism, marijuana legalization is driving economic markets. Here’s how.

TAX REVENUE

Nine Nevada, where retail sales became legal on July 1, retailers reported over 40,000 transactions in just the first weekend and $3.5 million in taxes in the first month. In Alaska, legal cannabis sales have generated $1.2 million in tax revenue over the first eight months.

In Washington and Colorado, tax revenues from the legal cannabis market are well above initial projections. In Washington, tax revenue totaled $220 million for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2016. In Oregon, marijuana-related tax revenues are yielding about $4 million per month – about twice what regulators initially predicted.

In Nevada, where retail sales became legal on July 1, retailers reported over 40,000 transactions in just the first weekend. In Alaska, legal cannabis sales have generated $1.2 million in tax revenue over the first eight months.

JOB CREATION

The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of nearly 150,000 new full-time jobs, according to data compiled by the online content provider Leafly.com. Their September 12 analysis identified 149,304 jobs in the marijuana sector – a 22 percent increase over the number of jobs that existed one year ago. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).

TOURISM

The state of Colorado has experienced an unprecedented increase in tourism following the passage of marijuana legalization. According to data released last year by the Colorado Tourism Office, a record-setting 77.7 million people visited the state in 2015, spending over $19 billion. It is the fifth year in a row that tourism has set records in the state, which is experiencing a rapid growth in toursm that is nearly double the national average. And while not all of Colorado’s visitors are coming there for legal weed, many of them are. Among vacationers surveyed by the state’s Tourism Office in 2016, 49 percent responded that marijuana’s legal status positively influenced their decision to visit the state, and 22 percent of Colorado vacationers said that marijuana’s legal status was “extremely influential” in shaping their decision.

WORKPLACE PARTICIPATION AND WAGES

Lifting cannabis criminalization is linked with greater participation in the workforce and an increase in weekly income. A 2016 University of California at Irvine study reported that ending marijuana possession arrests is associated with an increased probability of employment, particularly among young African American males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. According to separate data published last year in the journal Health Economics, medical cannabis regulatory laws are associated with fewer workplace absences. Data published by the National Bureau of Economic research similarly reports that medicalization is associated with a"9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over 50 years of age. “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women,” researchers concluded.

HOME VALUES

The growth in the number of cannabis retail facilities is associated with an increase in nearby home values. That’s according to a just published economic analysis by researchers at the University of Georgia at Athens, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and California State University Sacramento. They reported that single family residences within 0.1 miles of a retail marijuana establishment saw an increase in value of approximately 8.4 percent compared to those located slightly further – between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles – from the site. That increase in property value was estimated to be almost $27,000 for an average house in the area.

"In addition to sales and business taxes generated by the retail marijuana industry, the associated increase in property tax revenues represents another potentially appealing selling point for legalization,” they concluded. Their findings are similar to those of a University of Mississippi paper, published earlier this year, which determined, “[L]egalizing retail marijuana leads to an average 6 percent housing value appreciation.”

REDUCED CRIME

Legal marijuana is associated with reductions in criminal activities. According to a 2017 study published by the IZA Institute of Labor, “the legalization of recreational cannabis enacted in Washington caused a decrease in crime rates” – a result that authors speculated was due to reduced alcohol consumption by the general public. In Denver, incidences of violent crime and property crime fell 10.6 percent in the months immediately following legalization compared to that same span one year earlier. A 2014 assessment of state-by-state crime data similarly reported that jurisdictions experienced a drop in violent crime following medical marijuana legalization. Researchers also report that marijuana retailers play a role in reducing crime within their immediate vicinity. According to a 2017 paper published in the Journal of Urban Economics, “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

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What Does DEA Chief Rosenberg’s Resignation Mean For Marijuana?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:53
Trump now needs to replace the man who called 'medical marijuana a joke.'

The Washington Post broke an article that acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Chuck Rosenberg plans to resign within a week. Rosenberg is an Obama administration holdover going back to 2015, so the news was not totally unexpected.

President Trump will be tasked with selecting a successor, which will lead to a confirmation hearing process, which will lead to yet another public referendum over U.S. law and policy regarding cannabis and other controlled substances. Such a referendum occurred most recently during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing, and had begun to ramp up again with Trump’s recent nomination of Terrible Tom Marino to the post of National Drug Control Policy Director (a.k.a., the “Drug Czar”).

The DEA Administrator and the Drug Czar are both important government posts, with the DEA Administrator wielding considerably more power. The Drug Czar coordinates anti-drug propaganda and advises the President and the DEA Administrator is head of the chief U.S. agency for Controlled Substances Act enforcement. The DEA is seated within the Department of Justice (DOJ), directly down line from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump can, and probably will, appoint someone with retrograde views on marijuana to fill Rosenberg’s vacant seat. It would be a surprise if he did not. That said, cannabis supporters should not be sad to see Rosenberg go, as his views on cannabis were none too enlightened.

As Rosenberg packs up his office, here are a few of his greatest hits and misses:

  • May 2015. President Obama taps Rosenberg, a former FBI official, to lead DEA. This happened because DEA agents were participating in sex parties with prostitutes supplied by drug cartels in Colombia. Rosenberg was expected to focus less on marijuana than his predecessors. Cannabis boosters cheered.
  • November 2015. Rosenberg called medical marijuana “a joke.” Cannabis boosters collected 160,000 signatures demanding his resignation, and high-ranking officials called for his head, but Rosenberg survived.
  • December 2015. Rosenberg opined that marijuana is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin. This was an outlandish statement, but one that his predecessor refused to concede. A few days later Rosenberg caved to public ridicule, telling reporters that “heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana.” Cannabis boosters cheered, a bit.
  • December 2016. DEA issued a final administrative rule, establishing a controlled substances code for “marijuana extract.” That rule maintained marijuana, hemp and their derivatives as Schedule I substances. Cannabis boosters booed. And sued.
  • August 2016. DEA pledged to make it easier for private companies to grow and obtain marijuana for study. This was welcome news at the time, although nothing much has happened over the past 13 months, apparently due to DOJ stonewalling. But on August 11, 2016, at least, cannabis boosters cheered.
  • August 2016. DEA teamed up with a few other agencies to author the Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp, which construed the 2014 Farm Bill to permit cultivation for “industrial purposes (fiber and seed)” and not to authorize sales “for the purpose of general commercial activity.” Cannabis boosters booed.
  • August 2017. Rosenberg instructed DEA agents to disregard President Trump’s call to be rougher with suspects, including those suspected of drug crimes. Cannabis boosters cheered.

The record shows Rosenberg was no friend of cannabis. Still, given the posture of recent Trump appointees regarding the plant, we may wish him back one day. Industry advocates should watch the pending developments closely.

Aside from Jeff Sessions, Trump’s next DEA appointee could have more impact on the cannabis industry than anyone in the current administration. We should know more very soon.

This story first appeared on Canna Law Blog.

 

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Should Making a Music Video Keep Luke Scarmazzo in Prison?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:51
Click here for reuse options! His partner was pardoned by Obama, yet Scarmazzo remains behind bars.

In 2008 Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Ruiz Montes were found guilty of drug charges for operating a medical marijuana dispensary and both sentenced to 20 years in federal prison with the possibility of life behind bars.

In his own words Luke wrote about his arrest “On a crisp September morning in 2006, federal agents in military fatigues, carrying automatic weapons and draped in tactical gear, were at their staging area going over the final details of their plan. They were preparing to take down their target. I just didn’t know when I answered my door bell at 6 a.m. that I, in fact, was their target. They stormed into my home, slammed me against the wall, and handcuffed me.”

It was the end of life as Luke knew it. According to Peter Hecht of the Sac Bee before his arrest Scarmazzo hired a production company to make a spectacular-looking music video, which depicted hip entrepreneurs packing boxes of cash, filthy rich from marijuana.

Dapper in shades, a braided ponytail and business suit, Scarmazzo rapped boastfully about riding in high-priced wheels, suggesting he kept “a weapon on me” to keep robbers at bay. He presided over a board room with seductive women and delivered this mocking testimony before a tribunal seemingly depicting unwelcoming city officials:

I’m a business man

I mean business, man

Let me handle my business, damn!

In the five-minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube, Scarmazzo brags of making $4,800 per pound – or “bow” – of marijuana, adding a rhyme: “Now that’s what I call incorporating dough!” He celebrated smoking joints in the face of federal marijuana intolerance and, with flipping fingers, delivered his kicker: “F—- the feds!”

Just weeks after the release of the video Federal and local drug agents raided his California Healthcare Collective. Both Luke and Ricardo went to prison. They fought for their lost freedom for years exhausting all of their legal remedies. His young daughter Jasmine even started a petition to set him free. The only chance to regain their freedom was through an act of mercy from President Obama in the form of clemency. Both Luke and Ricardo applied. I wrote a letter last year in support of them telling the president that:

“I want to particularly bring to your attention that neither Ricardo nor Luke would be charged with a federal crime today if they were operating a medical marijuana dispensary in California. Both federal law and Department of Justice charging practices have changed to the extent that their business activity would be legal today”.

In January of 2017 Ricardo was granted clemency by President Obama, Luke was not. Why? Both were convicted of the same crime. I strongly believe the video sunk any chance of Luke receiving clemency.

Today twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the most expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Most recently, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana. California’s Prop. 64 measure allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. Other tax and licensing provisions of the law will not take effect until January 2018.

The question I now ask is should creating a video keep someone in prison for many years?

Luke’s video will be featured in a piece titled “Martyr or Drug Dealer” in my upcoming art installation next month at Drug Policy Alliance’s International Reform Conference in Atlanta.

For more info about the DPA Conference visit www.reformconference.com

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Why the Decriminalization of Marijuana is a Civil Rights Cause

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:44
Generations of Americans – mostly people of color – have been crushed by aggressive laws on marijuana. It’s time for that to change

In a year where the forces of racism, xenophobia and hate are ascendant, and our rights are under siege, it has become understandably difficult for many to envision a future beyond the latest injustice of the week.

But the impressive resistance movement that has risen to challenge the Trump administration – and the inspiring number of first-time and long-time activists who have powered it – has grown strong enough to dream bigger than countering the president’s latest insult.

There is no greater act of resistance than continuing to march towards the sweeping, systemic victories that have changed our nation’s trajectory for the better: voting rights, anti-employment discrimination measures, and most recently, President Obama’s success in securing health coverage for the 20 million Americans who were previously denied this universal human right.

Determined to punish the rising majority of Americans he thinks have slighted him, our president may erode these freedoms, but he will not succeed in taking them.

This is why I am proceeding undaunted towards our country’s next transformative victory – a fight I planned to pick under a Democratic administration, but one we should pursue just as vigorously in the reactionary Trump era: decriminalization of marijuana. It is a civil rights cause that we should not postpone, but accelerate during these dark and difficult times.

For Democrats and progressives, the arguments have always been clear: generations of Americans, overwhelmingly people of color, have been imprisoned and starved of access to higher education, housing, and economic opportunities, and stripped of their inalienable right to vote thanks to non-violent acts. Billions of dollars in funding have been diverted from healthcare, jobs, and schools and have entrenched a prison-industrial complex built on a foundation of racism.

But in truth, the conservative case for marijuana decriminalization is no less resonant. Archaic drug laws have fueled wasteful government spending, and made millions of Americans who dream, achingly, of being their family’s breadwinner dependent on the charity of others. And they have given rise of the epidemic of opiate drugs – often legally manufactured and prescribed – devastating communities that pundits have taken to calling the ‘white working class.’

The often-repeated reference to the ‘white working class’ has grown counterproductive as it focuses on a narrowly defined group instead of using more broader, inclusive categories. It also stifles the creative thinking and organizing needed to guide our efforts for the remainder of this presidency.

On the issue of medical marijuana, a more accurate term for the residents of these hard-hit towns and regions – many of whom voted for President Trump – would be natural allies to the movement to decriminalize marijuana. 

In the coming weeks, I will be joining Decode Cannabis, a powerful new alliance of faith leaders, criminal justice reformers, healthcare practitioners, medical marijuana industry leaders and labor unions. For years, these groups have labored toward shared goals, but have too often done so in their respective silos.

This initial coalition is impressive, but it is not enough to succeed. At least not on its own.

To notch proactive policy wins in the Trump era, we must not retreat to the comfort of those of share our viewpoints. We must enter the lion’s den – even uninvited – to confront and cultivate the prospective allies who will mutually benefit from this cause. We must not allow the unique opportunities resulting from the intensifying rift between the White House and conventional Republicans to be squandered.

I am not willing to compromise or concede on this, nor any other civil rights issue. But I am willing – and eager – to engage with those whose views I find objectionable, and who likely view me with no less animosity – to advance this cause.

Doing so will determine whether or not the next generation of black Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and yes – the ‘white working class’ – fall victim to same racist and classist drug enforcement policies that brought oppression on their parents.

 

n a year where the forces of racism, xenophobia and hate are ascendant, and our rights are under siege, it has become understandably difficult for many to envision a future beyond the latest injustice of the week.

But the impressive resistance movement that has risen to challenge the Trump administration – and the inspiring number of first-time and long-time activists who have powered it – has grown strong enough to dream bigger than countering the president’s latest insult.

There is no greater act of resistance than continuing to march towards the sweeping, systemic victories that have changed our nation’s trajectory for the better: voting rights, anti-employment discrimination measures, and most recently, President Obama’s success in securing health coverage for the 20 million Americans who were previously denied this universal human right.

Determined to punish the rising majority of Americans he thinks have slighted him, our president may erode these freedoms, but he will not succeed in taking them.

This is why I am proceeding undaunted towards our country’s next transformative victory – a fight I planned to pick under a Democratic administration, but one we should pursue just as vigorously in the reactionary Trump era: decriminalization of marijuana. It is a civil rights cause that we should not postpone, but accelerate during these dark and difficult times.

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10 Celebs You Probably Didn’t Know Smoke Marijuana

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 11:28
It helps them tap into the creative process. Or something.

It’s really not a head-scratcher that Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and Willie Nelson all enjoy a toke or two now and again, but while smoking weed is not exactly an obscure occurrence in Hollywood, there are a few celebrities you might actually be surprised enjoy a hit now and again. Here are 10 famous types who have no issue with their cannabis consumption.

Kirsten Dunst

In 2007, the actress went on record with MTV saying:

I do like weed. I have a different outlook on marijuana than America does. My best friend Sasha’s dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius.

I’ve never been a major smoker, but I think America’s view on weed is ridiculous. I mean — are you kidding me? If everyone smoked weed, the world would be a better place.

I’m not talking about being stoned all day, though. I think if it’s not used properly, it can hamper your creativity and close you up inside.

More recently, she “accidentally” got high while smoking a “prop” on the set of her new movie.

Cameron Diaz

During an interview on Lopez Tonight, the actress says Snoop Dogg used to be her dealer (probably), saying: “We went to high school together, he was a year older than me…I’m pretty sure I bought weed from him. I had to have.”

Justin Timberlake

In 2011, JT told Playboy:

“The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking. Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high.”

Lady Gaga

During an interview with 60 Minutes, Gaga told Anderson Cooper: “I smoke a lot of pot when I write music. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for ’60 Minutes’ that I’m some, like, sober human being, because I’m not.” (skip to the 10:54 mark)

Morgan Freeman

A longtime advocate of marijuana, Freeman told Newsweek back in 2012 that the criminalization of marijuana is just plain dumb:

It’s just the stupidest law possible, given history. You don’t stop people from doing what they want to do, so forget about making it unlawful. You’re just making criminals out of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. And we’re spending zillions of dollars trying to fight a war we can’t win! We could make zillions, just legalize it and tax it like we do liquor. It’s stupid.

Ilana Glazer

The Broad City broads, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, certainly toke a bunch on their show, but in real life? Yeah, they smoke weed off set, too.

Listen to them tell Jimmy Kimmel how they score their IRL weed.

Matthew McConaughey

We’re still a little hazy on this one, but in 2013, the Dazed and Confused actor, who was arrested while (presumably) high and playing the congas naked in 1999 told GQ magazine: “Of course I still play the congas naked, I just close the windows.”

Sarah Silverman

Not only does she smoke weed, so have her parents. She shared a few stories with Conan in 2015, noting that, unlike her dad, she doesn’t smoke out of a bong because “I’m a grown woman!” Youtube

Jennifer Lawrence

Of course everyone’s favorite relatable  “every woman” smokes pot, because she’s just like us, you know? She’s real, you guys. Unlike most people, she was snapped smoking a joint in Hawaii in 2013.

George Clooney

While filming Oceans Twelve in Amsterdam, the owner of a nearby weed shop told reporters that Clooney was no stranger to them. It’s also been reported that he visits that same shop several times a year. No word, however, if that’s still the case, now that he’s the father of twins.

 

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10 Celebs You Probably Didn’t Know Smoke Marijuana

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 11:28
It helps them tap into the creative process. Or something.

It’s really not a head-scratcher that Snoop Dogg, Rihanna and Willie Nelson all enjoy a toke or two now and again, but while smoking weed is not exactly an obscure occurrence in Hollywood, there are a few celebrities you might actually be surprised enjoy a hit now and again. Here are 10 famous types who have no issue with their cannabis consumption.

Kirsten Dunst

In 2007, the actress went on record with MTV saying:

I do like weed. I have a different outlook on marijuana than America does. My best friend Sasha’s dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius.

I’ve never been a major smoker, but I think America’s view on weed is ridiculous. I mean — are you kidding me? If everyone smoked weed, the world would be a better place.

I’m not talking about being stoned all day, though. I think if it’s not used properly, it can hamper your creativity and close you up inside.

More recently, she “accidentally” got high while smoking a “prop” on the set of her new movie.

Cameron Diaz

During an interview on Lopez Tonight, the actress says Snoop Dogg used to be her dealer (probably), saying: “We went to high school together, he was a year older than me…I’m pretty sure I bought weed from him. I had to have.”

Justin Timberlake

In 2011, JT told Playboy:

“The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking. Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high.”

Lady Gaga

During an interview with 60 Minutes, Gaga told Anderson Cooper: “I smoke a lot of pot when I write music. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for ’60 Minutes’ that I’m some, like, sober human being, because I’m not.” (skip to the 10:54 mark)

Morgan Freeman

A longtime advocate of marijuana, Freeman told Newsweek back in 2012 that he the criminalization of marijuana is just plain dumb:

It’s just the stupidest law possible, given history. You don’t stop people from doing what they want to do, so forget about making it unlawful. You’re just making criminals out of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. And we’re spending zillions of dollars trying to fight a war we can’t win! We could make zillions, just legalize it and tax it like we do liquor. It’s stupid.

Ilana Glazer

The Broad City broads, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, certainly toke a bunch on their show, but in real life? Yeah, they smoke weed off set, too.

Listen to them tell Jimmy Kimmel how they score their IRL weed.

Matthew McConaughey

We’re still a little hazy on this one, but in 2013, the Dazed and Confused actor, who was arrested while (presumably) high and playing the bongos naked in 1999 told GQ magazine: “Of course I still play the congas naked, I just close the windows.”

Sarah Silverman

Not only does she smoke weed, so have her parents. She shared a few stories with Conan in 2015, noting that, unlike her dad, she doesn’t smoke out of a bong because “I’m a grown woman!” Youtube

Jennifer Lawrence

Of course everyone’s favorite relatable  “every woman” smokes pot, because she’s just like us, you know? She’s real, you guys. Unlike most people, she was snapped smoking a joint in Hawaii in 2013.

George Clooney

While filming Oceans Twelve in Amsterdam, the owner of a nearby weed shop told reporters that Clooney was no stranger to them. It’s also been reported that he visits that same shop several times a year. No word, however, if that’s still the case, now that he’s the father of twins.

 

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AlterNet Is Leading the Fight for Drug Reform: Please Help

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 11:04
Click here for reuse options! It's a battle on multiple fronts.

As a subscriber to AlterNet's drugs newsletter, you know that independent media is a key ingredient for social change when it comes to reform. Whether the issue is legalization or ending mass incarceration, the journey starts with educating people, changing minds, inspiring people to become activists, and breaking through social taboos, racist mind-sets and powerful government agencies and business interests that stand in the way of progress. And media needs to be there every step of the way as reforms and changes begin to happen. 

AlterNet has been a media leader for almost two decades on drug reform issues. Can you make a generous contribution to support our work?

Every day, we push back against the massive onslaught of corporate propaganda that dominates the airwaves. With unique, original reporting, in-depth analysis and editorials, and a curated mix of the best content from select publishers and grassroots organizations around the globe, AlterNet is recognized as one of the best on this issue. 

We are a great bang for your buck. But we simply can't do it without your supportCan you help?

In solidarity,

Phil Smith, AlterNet Drugs Editor

 

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AlterNet Is Leading the Fight for Drug Reform: Please Help

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 11:04
Click here for reuse options! It's a battle on multiple fronts.

As a subscriber to AlterNet's drugs newsletter, you know that independent media is a key ingredient for social change when it comes to reform. Whether the issue is legalization or ending mass incarceration, the journey starts with educating people, changing minds, inspiring people to become activists, and breaking through social taboos, racist mind-sets and powerful government agencies and business interests that stand in the way of progress. And media needs to be there every step of the way as reforms and changes begin to happen. 

AlterNet has been a media leader for almost two decades on drug reform issues. Can you make a generous contribution to support our work?

Every day, we push back against the massive onslaught of corporate propaganda that dominates the airwaves. With unique, original reporting, in-depth analysis and editorials, and a curated mix of the best content from select publishers and grassroots organizations around the globe, AlterNet is recognized as one of the best on this issue. 

We are a great bang for your buck. But we simply can't do it without your supportCan you help?

In solidarity,

Phil Smith, AlterNet Drugs Editor

 

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New FBI Report: One Arrest for Drug Possession Every 25 Seconds in 2016, As Drug War Rages On

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 08:00
Click here for reuse options! Criminalizing drug use hurts families and communities.

You may have heard that President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are “re-starting” the drug war.  Well, it never actually ended.

According to the FBI’s new Uniform Crime Report, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made more than 1.57 million arrests for drug law violations in 2016, a 5.63% increase over the previous year – and over three times more arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

More than four out of five of those arrests – 84.6%, or 1,330,401 arrests – were simply for drug possession.  Marijuana arrests also increased – about 41% of all drug arrests were for marijuana, the vast majority for simple possession.

These massive numbers are way out of sync with national public opinion, as a majority of Americans now support not just legalizing marijuana, but also ending criminal punishment for drug use.  As detailed in a recent Drug Policy Alliance report, there’s an emerging political and scientific consensus that otherwise-law-abiding people should not be arrested, let alone locked away behind bars, simply for using or possessing a drug.

Discriminatory enforcement of drug possession laws has produced profound racial and ethnic disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population and use drugs at similar rates as other groups – but they comprise 29% of those arrested for drug law violations and 35% of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession.

Drug criminalization also fuels mass detentions and deportations.  For noncitizens, including legal permanent residents – many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades and have jobs and families – possession of any amount of any drug (except first-time possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana) can trigger automatic detention and deportation, often without the possibility of return.

Several countries have successful experience with ending criminal penalties for drug use and possession, most notably Portugal.  In 2001, Portugal enacted one of the most extensive drug law reforms in the world when it decriminalized low-level possession and use of all illegal drugs.

Today in Portugal, no one is arrested or incarcerated for drug possession, many more people are receiving treatment, and addiction, HIV/AIDS and drug overdose have drastically decreased.

Polls of U.S. presidential primary voters last year found that substantial majorities support ending arrests for drug use and possession in Maine (64%), New Hampshire (66%) and even South Carolina (59%).  In 2016, the first state-level decriminalization bill was introduced in Maryland and a similar version was reintroduced in 2017. The Hawaii legislature, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approved a bill last year creating a commission to study decriminalization.

Earlier this year, the United Nations and World Health Organization released a joint statement calling for repeal of laws that criminalize drug use and possession. They join an impressive group of national and international organizations who have endorsed drug decriminalization that includes the International Red Cross, Organization of American States, Movement for Black Lives, NAACP, and American Public Health Association, among many others.

The FBI’s new data lays bare how the drug war continues to be a major driver of not just mass incarceration, but mass criminalization more broadly.  Criminalizing drug use hurts families and communities, compounds social and economic inequalities, and unfairly denies millions of people the opportunity to support themselves and their families.

What we’re doing doesn’t work – and actually makes things worse. Our limited public resources would be better spent on expanding access to effective drug treatment and other health services. As overdose deaths skyrocket all over the U.S., people who need drug treatment or medical assistance may avoid it in order to hide their drug use.  If we decriminalize drugs, people can come out of the shadows and get help.

We now have a federal administration determined to ramp up the drug war – but most drug enforcement is carried out at the local and state levels, so jurisdictions across the U.S. are responding to Trump and Sessions by moving drug policy reforms forward with increasing urgency.  This week’s latest FBI report gives us more than a million reasons why these reforms are so crucial.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

 

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New FBI Report: One Arrest for Drug Possession Every 25 Seconds in 2016, As Drug War Rages On

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 08:00
Click here for reuse options! Criminalizing drug use hurts families and communities.

You may have heard that President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are “re-starting” the drug war.  Well, it never actually ended.

According to the FBI’s new Uniform Crime Report, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made more than 1.57 million arrests for drug law violations in 2016, a 5.63% increase over the previous year – and over three times more arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

More than four out of five of those arrests – 84.6%, or 1,330,401 arrests – were simply for drug possession.  Marijuana arrests also increased – about 41% of all drug arrests were for marijuana, the vast majority for simple possession.

These massive numbers are way out of sync with national public opinion, as a majority of Americans now support not just legalizing marijuana, but also ending criminal punishment for drug use.  As detailed in a recent Drug Policy Alliance report, there’s an emerging political and scientific consensus that otherwise-law-abiding people should not be arrested, let alone locked away behind bars, simply for using or possessing a drug.

Discriminatory enforcement of drug possession laws has produced profound racial and ethnic disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population and use drugs at similar rates as other groups – but they comprise 29% of those arrested for drug law violations and 35% of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession.

Drug criminalization also fuels mass detentions and deportations.  For noncitizens, including legal permanent residents – many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades and have jobs and families – possession of any amount of any drug (except first-time possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana) can trigger automatic detention and deportation, often without the possibility of return.

Several countries have successful experience with ending criminal penalties for drug use and possession, most notably Portugal.  In 2001, Portugal enacted one of the most extensive drug law reforms in the world when it decriminalized low-level possession and use of all illegal drugs.

Today in Portugal, no one is arrested or incarcerated for drug possession, many more people are receiving treatment, and addiction, HIV/AIDS and drug overdose have drastically decreased.

Polls of U.S. presidential primary voters last year found that substantial majorities support ending arrests for drug use and possession in Maine (64%), New Hampshire (66%) and even South Carolina (59%).  In 2016, the first state-level decriminalization bill was introduced in Maryland and a similar version was reintroduced in 2017. The Hawaii legislature, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approved a bill last year creating a commission to study decriminalization.

Earlier this year, the United Nations and World Health Organization released a joint statement calling for repeal of laws that criminalize drug use and possession. They join an impressive group of national and international organizations who have endorsed drug decriminalization that includes the International Red Cross, Organization of American States, Movement for Black Lives, NAACP, and American Public Health Association, among many others.

The FBI’s new data lays bare how the drug war continues to be a major driver of not just mass incarceration, but mass criminalization more broadly.  Criminalizing drug use hurts families and communities, compounds social and economic inequalities, and unfairly denies millions of people the opportunity to support themselves and their families.

What we’re doing doesn’t work – and actually makes things worse. Our limited public resources would be better spent on expanding access to effective drug treatment and other health services. As overdose deaths skyrocket all over the U.S., people who need drug treatment or medical assistance may avoid it in order to hide their drug use.  If we decriminalize drugs, people can come out of the shadows and get help.

We now have a federal administration determined to ramp up the drug war – but most drug enforcement is carried out at the local and state levels, so jurisdictions across the U.S. are responding to Trump and Sessions by moving drug policy reforms forward with increasing urgency.  This week’s latest FBI report gives us more than a million reasons why these reforms are so crucial.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

 

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