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Alabama Town's Brazen Scheme to Stop Speeders, Accuse Them of Drugs, and Steal Their Cash and Cars

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:18
Not in the name of justice, but in the name of revenues. And now there's a revolt.

The police department of a small Alabama town was nearing bankruptcy due to a lack of ticket revenue, according to AL.com. The cash-strapped department and city council took drastic measures with an assets forfeiture program for those caught speeding.

Now the mayor of the city is blaming the bad press about the sketchy scheme and a seven-plaintiff lawsuit for a drop in revenue, Reason reported. What the department would do is impound vehicles they pulled over using the state’s assets forfeiture law. It allows them to keep 100 percent of the items taken by police. The claim would be that there was a suspicion of drugs or anything they could come up with. That then required owners of those vehicles to pay a $500 impound fee.

The town hired officers and worked with a judge to maintain the program. Those that were hired were often dressed in camouflage that was tucked into dark assault boots. One alleged victim was Trey Crozier, who lost $1,750 to the Castleberry Police Department.

The 550-person town was so furious about the program Mayor J.B. Jackson, who came up with the idea to stop and confiscate vehicles, was booted from office. A municipal court judge and prosecutor were also ousted. Police chief Tracy Hawsey was forced to resign in February.

Lead attorney Richard Nix thinks more than 100 people were probably impacted by the city’s program. All of the belongings and alleged drugs that were seized by police haven’t been located in the investigation. The totality of cash taken estimates $5,500. He claimed that the chief didn’t follow minimal procedural requirements to perform an asset forfeiture.

One plaintiff claimed police stole $3,800 from her vehicle because they said the cash was obviously part of “proceeds from an illegal drug dealing or activity.” She still doesn’t have her car back but there was no record of a civil forfeiture request being filed.

“We didn’t have much so Hawsey come to me and said ‘There is a lot of crime in this town and a lot of drugs coming through this town,'” Jackson told AL.com. “So he said why don’t we set up a court system to get some money coming in.”

The department was created in 2009. At least five police officers were paid more than five times the national per capita average.

“We hired our own DA and own judge,” Jackson revealed. “The revenues started to grow and we built out the police department.”

There’s even evidence of Hawsey gloating on Facebook, according to Nix. He allegedly posted photos of those he arrested and videos showing him joking with them about the arrests. Jackson never denied the department’s program was set up to garner money and turn the department into “policing for profit.”

In wake of the town’s financial crisis, word of the lawsuit spread fast. Suddenly the city was slapped with $60,000 in unpaid bills and six figures in debt. The town is split on whether or not to keep the police department, but townspeople are split on where to go moving forward. The city council voted 3-2 to keep the police department active on a “limited basis.”

Former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was one of the greatest proponents of civil forfeiture in the Senate.

“With care—we’ve gotta be careful—and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures,” Sessions told a crowd of law-enforcement officials in Minneapolis in July.

 

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To Fight the Opioid Epidemic, Take Big Pharma to Court?

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 10:39
There have been more than a hundred cases filed by state and local governments.

Litigation against drug manufacturers that produce and distribute opioids could be a promising option in the fight against the opioid addiction crisis, according to a new article.

In the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Rebecca Haffajee of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, along with Michelle Mello of Stanford University, analyze the history of litigation efforts to hold those parties accountable.

To date, lawsuits have enjoyed limited success, at best settling for amounts not likely to financially harm manufacturers and distributors in the $13 billion-a-year industry enough to prompt change, says Haffajee, assistant professor of health management and policy and an attorney. She also is affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“Early litigation brought by individuals harmed by prescription opioids against drug companies was minimally effective at mitigating the epidemic, in terms of guilty verdicts, large payouts, or industry changes in behavior,” she says. “However, in more recent years, litigation holds greater promise to succeed and reduce public health opioid harms, thanks to the large numbers of suits waged by governments and innovative legal theories they employ.”

Haffajee says there have been more than 100 cases filed by state and local governments, and more are in the pipeline.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription pain pills and illicitly manufactured substances like heroin and fentanyl. According to the authors, more than 300,000 people have died from opioid-related overdoses since 2000, and it’s expected another half million lives will be lost in the next decade. Health professionals across the country are attempting to slow the epidemic by encouraging physicians to prescribe fewer of the medications and raising awareness about the dangers with the public.

In the piece, the authors note that opioid lawsuits bear similarities to tobacco litigation, in that the suits involve addictive substances and are being brought by classes of similarly situate individuals and by governments.

Treat opioid addiction in hospital ED for better results

Some of the legal arguments are also similar: that the companies were fraudulent in how they represented the harms of these products and promoted product use in a manner that enabled unjust enrichment—or company profiting at the expense of the government.

“But prescription opioids differ from tobacco, in that they are FDA-approved substances,” Haffajee says. “So many claims around defective design and failure to warn (such as on packaging) are less credible for opioids than they were for tobacco.”

Add to this that individuals that opioids harm often did not take them as prescribed and doctors overprescribed them, and company liability is a bit more difficult to establish, she says.

“The most promising legal claims are those that avoid plausible opioid company defenses—such as that the products were FDA-approved, or that individuals and physicians misused or misprescribed the drugs,” Haffajee explains.

How to treat pain in people struggling with addiction

“So government claims of fraud, misbranding, public nuisance, unjust enrichment, and failure to maintain effective controls (under the Controlled Substances Act) stand the best chance of success,” she says.

Source: University of Michigan

Original Study DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1710756

 

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A Million People Convicted of Marijuana-Related Crimes in California Could Soon See Their Records Wiped Clean

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 09:31
Click here for reuse options! Prop 64 could provide huge benefits to communities disproportionately targeted for arrest.

Californians who enjoy cannabis have a lot to celebrate this new year. Recreational sales become legal January 1st, and the $5 billion industry and could provide the state with $1 billion in revenu, so both the business sector and state government stand to profit handsomely. But it could be an especially important day for the hundreds of thousands of individuals in California with a drug crime on their record, who may be getting a second chance at a clean slate.

Beginning in 2018, the state will offer anyone convicted of a marijuana crime the opportunity to have the charge dropped or reduced through Prop 64. For decades, even minor charges like marijuana possession have held back many from employment. The state sees the opportunity to have their records expunged as a fresh start, and it could affect up to a million people, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The organization estimates that there have been 500,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in California over the past 10 years.

The policy could especially benefit Californians of color who have been targeted for drug arrests. The Drug Policy Alliance writes that "in 2015, black people were more than twice as likely as white people to be arrested for a marijuana misdemeanor and nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana felony." As for the Hispanic population, "Latino people are arrested for marijuana offenses 35 percent more often than white people in California."

The expungement rule is a common sense measure that shows the state is in step with the times. Possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is legal now in California, so it’s only fitting that those who have a criminal record for similar amounts have this charge erased. With California as the latest state to enact such a rule, there are now nine states that offer expungement to those convicted of marijuana crimes. It’s part of a growing awareness of the hypocrisy of these convictions, at a time when legalization is growing in popularity nationwide. In the past five years, sixteen states have modified their marijuana laws to reduce penalties for possession.

Advocates for criminal justice reform have been especially vocal about seing California adopt this new rule. The Post describes a few such champions:

Last year, prosecutors in San Diego searched for people convicted of marijuana offenses in the prior three years who would be eligible for reductions. When the measure passed, prosecutors got their petitions before a judge as soon as possible.

“We absolutely didn’t want people to be in custody who shouldn’t be in custody,” said Rachel Solov, chief of the collaborative courts division in the San Diego district attorney’s office. She said that as of mid-December, the office has handled nearly 600 reductions.

Of course, those best poised to benefit from Prop 64 are those with the time, money, and access to take their cases back to court. “What I see is the people who have more means are the ones who are taking advantage of this, and the people who have more basic struggles in their everyday life, the last thing they’re thinking about is cleaning up their criminal history for their old marijuana convictions,” one defense attorney told the Post. Still, progress is progress.

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5 Holiday Tips on How Not to Get Arrested in New York City

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:51
This is just common sense stuff, but let's review it anyway, shall we?

 

 

5 Holiday Tips On How Not To Get Arrested In NYC

Many people come to New York City for the holidays. ... it, smoking marijuana in public is not legal. Personal possession has been decriminalized, but that doesn’t mean you can smoke it in public. Never smoke a joint on the streets of NYC. You risk being arrested ...

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How Safe Is It to Smoke Marijuana Every Day?

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:11
If you have questions about your cannabis use, ask yourself these questions.

We hear a variation of this question a lot. “Am I an addict if I smoke marijuana every day?” As with most questions, answers will be all over the place. But the most important answer is how you answer it yourself.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive research that you can point to for the complete answer. Someone who has been waking and baking for years is totally different than a cancer patient medicating with cannabis to relieve pain or nausea. So you really need to ask yourself the question and be honest with yourself. And, if possible, have the conversation with your general practitioner or a trusted doctor.

Check out the questions below and use them as a springboard to learning. Once again, everybody reacts to marijuana in different ways. The key is to accurately self-analyze your consumption. And if you think you may have a problem, chances are you might be correct.

How Addictive Is Marijuana?

According to one government-supported study, nearly 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become abusers. But let’s take a slightly deeper look at the answer.

About 15 percent of people who consume alcohol will become addicted. For cocaine, 17 percent; for heroin, 23 percent; and for nicotine, 32 percent.

It is possible that you are among the 9 percent who struggle with addiction. It is more possible that you are among the 91 percent that will not get hooked on weed. Cannabis is less addictive than neatly every legal or illegal drug.

Research has demonstrated that daily marijuana use can lead to increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop.

So be honest with yourself. If you have the slightest concern that you have developed a physical or mental dependence on marijuana, be proactive. Ween yourself off daily use. Take a tolerance break and recalibrate your system. If this becomes too difficult, it is possible you are among the 9 percent.

Does Daily Use Cause Physical Changes To The Brain?

Research is mixed on this question. However, the latest study in 2015, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found “daily marijuana use is not associated with brain morphometric measures in adolescents or adults.”

According to this study, earlier research did not control for alcohol use. When that variable was included, the study suggests “it is possible that alcohol use, or other factors, may explain some of the contradictory findings to date.”

The study concluded that “while the literature clearly supports a deleterious short-term effect of marijuana on learning and memory, it seems unlikely that marijuana use has the same level of long-term deleterious effects on brain morphology as other drugs like alcohol.”

Does this mean daily consumption of cannabis is OK? No. The research does not say that. The data is not definitive on what longtime daily use does to cognitive development.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a professor at the University of Florida, is an addiction specialist and an ardent opponent of the medical use of marijuana, promotes a loss of attention, focus and concentration.

While the medical community continues to study the issue, one thing is clear: Young, developing minds should refrain from cannabis use. And daily consumption for an adolescent or teen is not advised.

Should I Steer Clear Of Waking And Baking?

Similar to morning use of alcohol among alcohol-dependent individuals, morning use of marijuana may indicate dependence and increased cannabis-related impairment, according to a 2016 study in the journal Addiction and Research Theory.

The report, co-authored by cannabis researcher Mitch Earleywine, suggests that “morning users reported significantly more problems than non-morning users, and morning use accounted for significant unique variance in problems.”

The positive news, according to the study, shows that “morning use also has the potential to lend itself to straightforward intervention. … Exploratory mediational analyses did not support the idea that morning use led to problems via withdrawal.”

So if this is one of your habits, now may be the time to wean yourself fr0m it. There are potential negative outcomes, but not in everybody.

Does My Bad Cough Mean I Am Getting Lung Cancer?

While it is true that daily consumption will irritate your lungs and give some users a chronic hacking cough, research shows that smoking marijuana does not cause lung cancer.

“Although cannabis does increase symptoms of bronchitis like coughing and wheezing, it does not appear to elevate risk for lung cancer,” according to Professor Mitch Earleywine, a cannabis researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Albany, NY.

The Journal of the American Medical Association conducted the largest and longest study ever to consider the issue in 2012. According to Dr. Mark Pletcher, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and the lead author of the study, marijuana use did not harm lung capacity. In fact, the study suggests some test subjects experienced improved lung capacity.

“There are clearly adverse effects from tobacco use and marijuana smoke has a lot of the same constituents as tobacco smoke does so we thought it might have some of the same harmful effects. It’s a weird effect to see and we couldn’t make it go away,” Pletcher said.

If you want to minimize your coughing jags, cutting back on cannabis will most likely help. The coughing is a clear sign of an agitated lung, but it is not cancerous.

 

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Is Kratom Safe Enough for the Fight Against Opioids?

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:56
A new study says "yes," and finds it relieves anxiety and reduces negative moods, too.

A review of 57 years of international scientific evidence may help change the perception of kratom and restore its potential as a public health tool that deserves more research.

As the nation grapples for solutions to the opioid epidemic—now claiming more than 33,000 American lives each year—the potential of the psychoactive plant kratom to become a useful tool in the battle has been the subject of hot debate.

While some in the medical field and many in the general public attest to kratom’s ability to help curb opioid addiction and relieve pain, governmental agencies continue to warn against its dangers to mental health, citing links to psychosis and addiction. In 2016, the DEA briefly recommended criminalizing kratom possession and distribution, before withdrawing the proposal.

The study not only points to the potential benefits of kratom as a safer substitute for opioids, but also suggests the plant’s potential to reduce negative mood and relieve anxiety. Published online this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, it represents the largest systematic review of the scientific literature on kratom use and mental health.

“There is a lot of confusing information about kratom in the media that makes it difficult for clinicians and the public to make informed choices,” says lead author Marc T. Swogger, associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center’s psychiatry department. “This study clarifies that there is no good scientific basis for claims that kratom causes psychosis, suicide, or violence, and the available data do not indicate that kratom is a significant public health problem.”

Coauthor Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia notes that current approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic are leaving large numbers of high-need individuals without effective treatment.

“We need to explore all options, and our findings suggest it’s time to carefully examine the potential of this ancient plant,” says Walsh.

3 harmful myths about the opioid epidemic

Swogger and Walsh reviewed the combined results of 13 studies conducted between January 1960 and July 2017, using data from 28,745 individuals.

“There is a clear need for more rigorous, well-controlled, prospective studies to support a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the plant,” says Swogger. “But data across cultures indicated that kratom has a legitimate role to play in mitigating harms associated with opioid dependence. The bulk of the available research supports kratom’s benefits as a milder, less addictive, and less-dangerous substance than opioids, and one that appears far less likely to cause fatal overdose.”

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa; also known as krathom or ketum) is part of the coffee family and has been used medicinally for centuries in Southeast Asia to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, to relieve pain, diarrhea, and cough, and increase stamina and energy. People chew raw leaves of the kratom plant, boil them to serve as tea, smoke, or vaporize them.

How 30 opioid pills for surgery turn into a habit

In recent years, kratom’s use has expanded beyond Asia, and its leaves, powders, gums, capsules, and extracts are widely accessed through retail outlets and the internet in North America and Europe.

“We need more and better research to be able to outline the risks and benefits of kratom in greater detail,” Swogger says. “Only through well-controlled studies can we elucidate kratom’s potential for good and harm, and give the public, policy makers, and health care professionals the information needed to make informed decisions.”

Source: University of Rochester

Original Study DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.10.012

 

 

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These Are the Best Pot Products in 2017

Sat, 12/16/2017 - 12:28
Many old-time favorites are still the most popular with cannabis consumers.

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The 3 States Best Positioned to Legalize Marijuana in 2018

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 14:39
Click here for reuse options! Next year should see more legal marijuana states and also the first state to legalize pot at the statehouse.

Election Day 2016 was a big day for marijuana. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all supported successful legalization initiatives, doubling the number of states to have done so since 2012 and more than quadrupling the percentage of the national population that now lives in legal marijuana states.

Marijuana momentum was high, national polling kept seeing support go up and up, and 2017 was expected to see even more states jump on the weed bandwagon. That didn't happen.

There are two main reasons 2017 was a dud for pot legalization: First, it's an off-off-year election year, and there were no legalization initiatives on the ballot. Second, it's tough to get a marijuana legalization bill through a state legislature and signed by a governor. In fact, it's so tough it hasn't happened yet.

But that doesn't mean it isn't going to happen next year. Several states where legislative efforts were stalled last year are poised to get over the top in the coming legislative sessions, and it looks like a legalization initiative will be on the ballot in at least one state—maybe more.

There are other states where legalization is getting serious attention, such as Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, but they all have governors who are not interested in going down that path, and that means a successful legalization bill faces the higher hurdle of winning with veto-proof majorities. Similarly, there are other states where legalization initiatives are afoot, such as Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio, but none of those have even completed signature gathering, and all would face an uphill fight. Still, we could be pleasantly surprised.

Barring pleasant surprises, here are the three states that have the best shot at legalizing pot in 2018.

1. Michigan

Michigan voters shouldn't have to wait on the state legislature to act because it looks very likely that a legalization initiative will qualify for the ballot next year. The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has already completed a petition campaign and handed in more than 365,000 raw signatures last month for its legalization initiative. It hasn't officially qualified for the ballot yet, but it only needs 250,000 valid voter signatures to do so, meaning it has a rather substantial cushion.

If the measure makes the ballot, it should win. There is the little matter of actually campaigning to pass the initiative, which should require a million or two dollars for TV ad buys and other get-out-the-vote efforts, but with the Marijuana Policy Project on board and some deep-pocketed local interests as well, the money should be there.

The voters already are there: Polling has shown majority support for legalization for several years now, always trending up, and most recently hitting 58% in a May Marketing Resource Group poll.

2. New Jersey

Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R) was a huge obstacle to passage of marijuana legalization, but he's on his way out the door, and his replacement, Gov.-Elect Phil Murphy (D), has vowed to legalize marijuana within 100 days of taking office next month.

Legislators anticipating Christie's exit filed legalization bills earlier this year, Senate Bill 3195 and companion measure Assembly Bill 4872. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) has also made promises, vowing to pass the bill within the first three months of the Murphy administration, and hearings are set for both houses between January and March.

But it's not a done deal. There is some opposition in the legislature, and marijuana legalization foes will certainly mobilize to defeat it at the statehouse. It will also be the first time the legislature seriously considers legalization. Still, legalization has some key political players backing it. Other legislators might want to listen to their constituents: A September Quinnipiac poll had support for legalization at 59%.

3. Vermont

A marijuana legalization bill actually passed the legislature last year, a national first, only to be vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott (R) over concerns around drugged driving and youth use. Legislators then amended the bill to assuage Scott's concerns and managed to get the amended bill through the Senate, only to see House Republicans refuse to let it come to a vote during the truncated summer session.

But that measure, House Bill 511, will still be alive in the second year of the biennial session, and Gov. Scott has said he is still willing to sign the bill. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) is also on board, and the rump Republicans won't be able to block action next year.

Johnson said she will be ready for a vote in early January and expects the bill to pass then. Vermont would then become the first state to free the weed through the legislative process. 

 

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9 Ways Scientists Are Exploring the Body’s Relationship with Marijuana

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 11:12
Better living through endocannabinoid science.

In recent years, cannabis has been at the center of one of the most important developments in modern science, which has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease.

Research on marijuana’s effects led directly to the discovery of a major biochemical signaling system in the human body – the endocannabinoid system – which plays a pivotal role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes that affect our mood, our blood pressure, our bone density, our metabolism, our intestinal fortitude, our energy level, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and much more.

“By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance,” says Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam. “We wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant.”

Described by Mechoulam as “a medicinal treasure trove,” cannabis contains more than 100 unique biologically active compounds known as “cannabinoids,” including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC causes the high that cannabis is famous for, CBD does not; both have important therapeutic attributes.

In addition to phytocannabinoids produced by the plant, there are endogenous cannabinoids – marijuana-like molecules – that occur naturally in the human brain and body. And there are also synthetic cannabinoids created by pharmaceutical researchers, who are developing new medicines that target the endocannabinoid system for therapeutic benefit.

Some of these novel synthetic compounds activate the same cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 – in the brain and body that respond pharmacologically to THC and other cannabis components.1

Medical scientists are also experimenting with synthetic drugs designed to improve “endocannabinoid tone” without binding directly to cannabinoid receptors.

Here are nine strategies that scientists are currently pursuing in an effort to harness the healing potential of the endocannabinoid system:

1. Single-molecule plant cannabinoids

Dronabinol, marketed in pill form as Marinol, is a single-molecule THC extract combined with sesame oil. It got fast-tracked for approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985 in response to rising patient demand for medical marijuana.

Other THC preparations are also on the FDA’s radar, including Syndros, a liquid THC drug produced by Insys. But patented single-molecule THC is a poor substitute for whole plant cannabis.

Even though it is highly psychoactive and potentially dysphoric, pharmaceutical THC is legally accessible in all 50 states as a prescription medication.

Cannabidiol, unlike pure THC, is not yet legal in all 50 states. But CBD will soon become a legal pharmaceutical, as the FDA is poised to approve Epidiolex, a botanically derived anti-seizure medication produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. Epidiolex is pure CBD with a dash of cannabidivarin (CBDV), a “minor” cannabinoid that also has potent anti-epileptic properties.

Along with the imminent advent of pharmaceutical CBD, several R&D firms have begun to harvest single-molecule cannabinoids, such as CBDV, from a yeast substrate. As this biotechnology improves, drug developers and pharmacists will have access to numerous single-molecule cannabis compounds.

2. Synthetic cannabinoid analogs

Scientists have created synthetic analogs of plant cannabinoids for research purposes and for commercial sale and distribution. Nabilone, a synthetic THC analog, was developed by Eli Lilly and Co. as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Marketed under the trade name Cesamet, this synthetic cannabinoid is used as an adjunct therapy for chronic pain management in Canada and other countries. Clinical trials of Nabilone have indicated some effectiveness for fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, PTSD-related nightmares, irritable bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers are using various synthetic analogs to investigate the biochemical pathways and molecular mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system. Some of these compounds (such as WIN55,212-2 and CP55,940) bind to both cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 – much like THC. Other experimental drugs target only one type of cannabinoid receptor and not the other. 2

A cannabinoid agonist binds to a cell receptor and causes it to initiate a signaling cascade that modulates various physiological processes and protects neurons against toxic insults. A cannabinoid antagonist binds to a cell receptor and prevents it from signaling.

3. Synthetic cannabinoid antagonists

Cannabinoid CB1 receptors, which mediate the psychoactive effects of THC, are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system. When THC binds to CB1, it can make a person feel stoned – and hungry. The “munchies,” scientists confirmed, are linked to stimulation of CB1 receptors in areas of the brain that regulate hunger and satiety. If activated, CB1 receptors induce appetite; if blocked, they reduce it.

“SR141716,” a synthetic CB1 antagonist developed by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, was initially utilized as a research tool: By blocking CB1 and monitoring which functions were altered, scientists advanced their understanding of the endocannabinoid system.

Sanofi strategists believed they had invented the perfect diet pill, and they promoted SR141716 as an appetite suppressant in Europe. But the diet drug, sold as “Rimonabant,” proved to be too blunt an instrument. Before long, the synthetic CB1 antagonist was pulled from circulation because of dangerous side effects – high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, mood swings, depression, headaches, seizures, sleep disorders, and a heightened risk of suicide.

If nothing else, the CB1 antagonist debacle provided vivid evidence that a well-functioning endocannabinoid system is essential for good health.3

4. Peripherally restricted CB1 agonists

Cannabinoid CB1 receptors, the most prevalent protein receptors in the human brain, influence many neurological functions, including marijuana’s mood-altering effects. CB1 receptors are also expressed in the enteric nervous system (the gut), the liver, kidneys, heart and other peripheral organs.

Stimulating CB1 receptors can deliver significant therapeutic benefits, but THC’s psychoactivity limits its medical utility, according to Big Pharma catechism, which defines the CB1-mediated marijuana “high” as an adverse side effect that drug designers should avoid if they hope to win regulatory approval of their patented synthetic novelties.

So pharmaceutical researchers have created peripherally-restricted CB1 agonists (such as AZ11713908) that only activate CB1 receptors outside the central nervous system, but don’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

A peripherally restricted CB1 agonist won’t cause side effects such as disconcerting dysphoria or useless euphoria. But such a compound has never been approved for therapeutic use by the FDA.

5. Selective CB2 agonists

Scientists have been hot on the trail of another type of synthetic cannabinoid – a “selective CB2 agonist” – that will bypass the brain while acting on the peripheral nervous system, where CB2 receptors are concentrated. CB2 receptors regulate immune function, pain perception, and inflammation.

Tinkering with synthetic compounds (such as HU308 and JWH 133) that selectively stimulate CB2receptors raises the prospect of healing without the high because CB2 receptors are localized primarily outside the brain and thus do not induce psychoactivity.

Cannabinoid researchers have their eyes on the ultimate prize, the pharmaceutical Holy Grail – a non-addictive painkiller bereft of adverse side effects. Animal experiments focusing on the CB2 receptor initially showed promise.

Thus far, however, drug companies have not been able to synthesize clinically effective CB2-selective compounds, though not for lack of trying. “If drug discovery is a sea, then CB2 is a rock that is surrounded by shipwrecked-projects,” remarked Italian scientist Giovanni Appendino.

6. Water-soluble cannabinoids

In their natural form, plant cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are oily, hydrophobic substances that don’t dissolve in water. But these lipid molecules can be structurally altered so that they become water soluble without diminishing their therapeutic attributes.

Scientists have developed several ways of synthesizing water-compatible derivatives of THCand other cannabinoids that are more bioavailable and thus potentially more potent than their oily, naturally-occurring counterparts.

The first water-soluble version of THC was created in 1972. Subsequent research found that water-friendly cannabinoid derivatives can lower intraocular pressure in rabbits. A water-soluble cannabinoid ester, “O-1057,” exhibited stronger analgesic properties than THC in preclinical experimentation.

Internet retailers are claiming to sell water-soluble CBD formulated as a nanoemulsion. Pure CBD delivered via nanotechnology is supposed to provide exceptionally high bioavailability and remedial effect compared to a hydrophobic CBD oil extract.

But a CBD isolate typically requires a much higher dose for therapeutic efficacy than a whole plant CBD-rich concentrate – and this factor may cancel out the alleged advantages of nanoemulsified single-molecule CBD.

7. Allosteric cannabinoid receptor modulators

Because direct, full-on stimulation of cannabinoid receptors in the brain may trigger undesirable psychoactive effects, scientists have developed synthetic compounds that change the shape of the CB1 receptor and influence how it signals without causing a THC-like high. These compounds, known as allosteric modulators, can either amplify or decrease a receptor’s ability to transmit a signal.

A “positive allosteric modulator” increases the potency and/or efficacy of CB1 receptor activation by anandamide and 2AG (the two main endogenous cannabinoids), thereby boosting the protective effects of the endocannabinoid system.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have synthesized a positive allosteric modulator of CB1to treat pain and neurological disorders. When researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University tested this experimental drug (“ZCZ011”) on mice, it reduced inflammatory pain by magnifying the CB1 receptor’s response to anandamide.

But allosteric effects are rarely consistent across species, which significantly impedes drug development in this area.4

8. Inhibitors of endocannabinoid metabolizing enzymes

Medical scientists are experimenting with synthetic designer drugs to enhance endocannabinoid tone without binding directly (or allosterically) to cannabinoid receptors.

Pharmacological augmentation of endocannabinoid signaling can be achieved by inhibiting fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and/or monoglycerol lipase (MAGL), the catabolic enzymes that break down the brain’s own marijuana-like molecules, anandamide and 2AG, respectively.

Simply put, less FAAH and MAGL means more anandamide and 2AG, resulting in greater cannabinoid receptor activity throughout the body. Drugs that suppress endocannabinoid-metabolizing enzymes indirectly boost cannabinoid receptor signaling, causing a natural high without the vivid psychoactive effects associated with synthetic and plant-based CB1 agonists.

Preclinical research suggests that indirect modulation of endocannabinoid signaling could become a treatment option for various inflammatory conditions and stress-related disorders. FAAH and MAGLinhibition have been shown to ease pain, anxiety, colitis, hypertension, opiate withdrawal, diarrhea and arthritis in animal models.

While drug developers investigate synthetic FAAH-inhibitors (such as URB597) and MAGL-inhibitors (such as JZL 184), one need look no further than the kitchen spice rack for phytonutrients that regulate endocannabinoid tone by inhibiting the same catabolic enzymes. Nutmeg, one of many culinary spices that interact with the endocannabinoid system, inhibits the breakdown of both anandamide and 2AG, the brain’s own marijuana.

9. Endocannabinoid reuptake inhibitors

Another way to augment endocannabinoid tone entails delaying the reuptake of anandamide and 2AG. Scientists have synthesized reuptake inhibitors (such as AM404) that target transport molecules known as fatty acid binding proteins. These membrane-penetrating fatty acid binding proteins facilitate the intracellular transport and reuptake of endogenous cannabinoids.

By blocking access to these critical transport molecules, synthetic reuptake inhibitors increase endocannabinoid levels in the brain’s synapses. This results in heightened cannabinoid receptor 

signaling and endocannabinoid-induced protective effects.

THC and CBD also inhibit endocannabinoid reuptake. Enhancing endocannabinoid tone via reuptake inhibition may be a key mechanism whereby plant cannabinoids confer protective effects against seizures and neurodegeneration, as well as many other health benefits.

Fool’s gold?

Despite repeated setbacks, the possibility of healing without the high persists as an idée fixe among cannabinoid scientists and pharmaceutical researchers.

The lack of success with selective CB2 agonists, peripherally restricted CB1 agonists, allosteric modulators, CB1 antagonists and other non-euphoric cannabinoids underscores the challenges and limitations of synthetic, monomolecular medicine that targets a single protein receptor while forsaking whole plant synergies.

Synthetic CBD analogs are also in development. By tweaking the mother molecule and removing, adding or editing a molecular side chain, pharmaceutical researchers hope to create a marketable compound that is more potent and more effective than botanical CBD.

But a CBD isolate is not inherently superior to a whole plant CBD-rich extract. Preclinical studies that compare the efficacy of single-molecule CBD and full spectrum CBD-rich oil concentrates indicate that CBDsolo is effective only at precise, high doses – whereas whole plant CBD-rich extracts have a much wider and safer therapeutic window and are effective at significantly lower doses. Problematic drug interactions are also much likelier with high dose single-molecule CBD.

Regulatory policy should not privilege single-molecule meds over full spectrum cannabis remedies. Patients are best served by having access to a wide range of cannabinoid-based therapeutic options, including artisanal whole plant preparations and synthetic isolates, if and when they become available.

Martin A. Lee is the director of Project CBD and the author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific.

Footnotes

  1. Only four cannabis compounds bind directly to either one or both cannabinoid receptors. THC activates CB1 and CB2. Cannabinol (CBN), a THC breakdown component, activates the CB1 receptor, though with less potency than THC. Tetrahydracannabivarin (THCV), the propyl variant of THC, binds to both cannabinoid receptors, activating CB2 while blocking CB1. And beta caryophyllene, an aromatic terpene found in many cannabis strains, green leafy vegetables, and common kitchen spices, activates CB2. Other cannabinoids, including CBD, interact with the endocannabinoid system indirectly without binding like lock and key to a cannabinoid receptor.
  2. Developed as a research tool to study that endocannabinoid system, JWH-018 is a synthetic cannabinoid compound that activates the CB1 receptor but not CB2. After the formula for this potent CB1 agonist was published in the scientific literature, JWH-018 surfaced as a street drug known as “Spice” or “K2.” Media accounts typically mischaracterize Spice as “synthetic marijuana.”
  3. U.S. government scientists have not given up entirely on Rimonabant. The fact that this compound blocks the euphoric effects of cannabis is a big plus to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has sponsored research on utilizing CB1 blockers to treat various addictions, including “cannabis dependence.”
  4. Canadian scientists have identified CBD as a “negative allosteric modulator” of the CB1 receptor based on in vitro research. This means that CBD, when administered in combination with THC, will alter the shape of the CB1 receptor in a way that weakens its binding affinity for THC. As a negative allosteric modulator of CB1, CBD lowers the ceiling on THC’s psychoactivity, which might be why people don’t feel as high when using CBD-rich cannabis as compared to a THC-infused product.
Sources

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• Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Baillie GL, Kinsey S, Crowe M, Ghosh S, et al. A Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor-Positive Allosteric Modulator Reduces Neuropathic Pain in the Mouse with No Psychoactive Effects. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Dec;40(13):2948-59. PubMed PMID: 26052038; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4864630.
• Mitjavila J, Yin D, Kulkarni PM, Zanato C, Thakur GA, et al. Enantiomer-specific positive allosteric modulation of CB<sub>1</sub> signaling in autaptic hippocampal neurons. Pharmacol Res. 2017 Nov 20;PubMed PMID: 29158048.
• O’Hearn S, Diaz P, Wan BA, DeAngelis C, Lao N, et al. Modulating the endocannabinoid pathway as treatment for peripheral neuropathic pain: a selected review of preclinical studies. Ann Palliat Med. 2017 Aug 31;PubMed PMID: 29156899.
• Pertwee RG, Gibson TM, Stevenson LA, Ross RA, Banner WK, et al. O-1057, a potent water-soluble cannabinoid receptor agonist with antinociceptive properties. Br J Pharmacol. 2000 Apr;129(8):1577-84. PubMed PMID: 10780961; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1572002.
• Schindler CW, Scherma M, Redhi GH, Vadivel SK, Makriyannis A, et al. Self-administration of the anandamide transport inhibitor AM404 by squirrel monkeys. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2016 May;233(10):1867-77. PubMed PMID: 26803499; NIHMSID: NIHMS754451; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4846479.
• Wasilewski A, Misicka A, Sacharczuk M, Fichna J. Modulation of the endocannabinoid system by the fatty acid amide hydrolase, monoacylglycerol and diacylglycerol lipase inhibitors as an attractive target for secretory diarrhoea therapy. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2017 Aug;68(4):591-596. PubMed PMID: 29151076.
• Yu XH, Cao CQ, Martino G, Puma C, Morinville A, et al. A peripherally restricted cannabinoid receptor agonist produces robust anti-nociceptive effects in rodent models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Pain. 2010 Nov;151(2):337-44. PubMed PMID: 20696525.</

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Sessions Wrong About Drugged Driving

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 10:59
The attorney general claimed there were more traffic deaths from drugs than alcohol last year. But the reports he cited don't back him up.

 

 

Sessions Wrong About Drugged Driving

By Vanessa Schipani – FactCheck.org Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that more car accidents were "caused" by drugs than alcohol for the first time in 2016. ... difficult to prove a person is under the influence of drugs than alcohol while driving. Unlike alcohol, testing positive for a drug - marijuana in particular - doesn't prove intoxication. Marijuana can ...

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Texas Cops Let Handcuffed Man on LSD Pound His Head 50 Times Before Dying

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 11:38
And then they tried to cover up their negligence.

Police officers watched an 18-year-old Texas man undergoing a bad trip on LSD bang his head repeatedly but did nothing to stop him before he died — and then tried to prevent the man’s parents from finding out what happened.

Mesquite police found Graham Dyer pounding his head on the ground outside a middle school Aug. 13, 2013, and he died the following day in police custody, reported the Austin American-Statesman.

Witnesses reported seeing Dyer ramming his head into a building earlier, and a friend told police the young man was experiencing a negative reaction after taking psychedelic drugs.

Dyer was handcuffed and loaded into the back of a police car, where he continued pounding his head into any available surface 19 times.

Halfway to the jail, police said they pulled over and tried to calm Dyer down — and one officer shocked him on the testicles with a Taser.

The police continued driving Dyer to jail, without a medical observation and without using additional restraints — and he banged his head against the patrol car’s interior another 27 times.

Offices unloaded Dyer — his hands cuffed and his legs bound — onto the floor at the city jail, where they then watched him bang his head against a concrete pad.

Despite watching Dyer pound his head about 50 times while in their custody, police didn’t alert jail staff or call for a medical evaluation at the jail.

A guard noticed Dyer unresponsive in his cell about two hours later, and he died the following day at a Dallas hospital.

His death was ruled an accident due to self-inflicted blunt-force trauma.

Dyer’s parents filed a fatal medical negligence lawsuit, alleging that officers used excessive force and ignored their son’s medical needs.

The suit also notes several inconsistencies in the initial police reports.

Kathy and Robert Dyer’s efforts to seek justice for their son has been thwarted at nearly every turn by the police department’s refusal to turn over records related to the young man’s death.

Police cited a Texas law stating law enforcement agencies aren’t required to release records in cases that don’t result in a conviction, and the city argued those records could be withheld because Dyer had died before his case could be heard.

Without those documents, the couple’s initial lawsuit was quickly dismissed.

State lawmakers failed to pass a bill this year that would have closed that loophole, the American-Statesman noted.

The Dyers were finally able to obtain videos from the arrest after asking the FBI to intervene, and while federal investigators decided not to bring a civil rights case against Mesquite police, the couple asked to see the records they reviewed.

Those came two years after their son’s death, and the newspaper’s reporting on those videos and other documents resulted in a new lawsuit that has been allowed to proceed.

The Dallas County District Attorney also found sufficient evidence to file criminally negligent homicide charges against Mesquite officers for shocking Dyer in the testicles and failing to restrain the disoriented man — but the three-year statute of limitations had already passed.

All of those officers continue to work for Mesquite police.

 

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THC Could Keep HIV Patients Mentally Sharp

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 10:37
Compounds in marijuana act as anti-inflammatory agents. That's a good thing.

Researchers have found that a chemical in marijuana, called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, could potentially slow the process of mental decline that affects up to 50 percent of HIV patients.

“It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain,” says Norbert Kaminski, director of the Institute for Integrative Toxicology at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal AIDS.

“This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease,” Kaminski says.

Kaminski and his coauthor, Mike Rizzo, a graduate student in toxicology, discovered that the compounds in marijuana were able to act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the number of inflammatory white blood cells, called monocytes, and decreasing the proteins they release in the body.

“This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer,” Rizzo says.

The two researchers took blood samples from 40 HIV patients who reported whether or not they used marijuana. Then, they isolated the white blood cells from each donor and studied inflammatory cell levels and the effect marijuana had on the cells.

“The patients who didn’t smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use,” Kaminski says. “In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV.”

Kaminski has studied the effects of marijuana on the immune system since 1990. His lab was the first to identify the proteins that can bind marijuana compounds on the surface of immune cells. Up until then, it was unclear how these compounds, also known as cannabinoids, affected the immune system.

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, infects and can destroy or change the functions of immune cells that defend the body. With antiretroviral therapy—a standard form of treatment that includes a cocktail of drugs to ward off the virus—these cells have a better chance of staying intact.

Yet, even with this therapy, certain white blood cells can still be overly stimulated and eventually become inflammatory.

“We’ll continue investigating these cells and how they interact and cause inflammation specifically in the brain,” Rizzo says.

“What we learn from this could also have implications to other brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s since the same inflammatory cells have been found to be involved,” he adds.

Knowing more about this interaction could ultimately lead to new therapeutic agents that could help HIV patients specifically maintain their mental function.

“It might not be people smoking marijuana,” Kaminski says. “It might be people taking a pill that has some of the key compounds found in the marijuana plant that could help.”

Source: Sarah Derouin for Michigan State University

Original Study DOI: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001704

 

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So... What Is Trump Doing About the Opioid Crisis?

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 10:31
Faced with the worst drug crisis in U.S. history, the president looks boldly backward.

 

 

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For-Profit Medical Companies Are Making Tons of Money Taking Poor People's Blood

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 14:10
Click here for reuse options! Donors hope to get $30 a pop for their plasma, but sometimes they aren't even paid what they're promised.

Here’s another example of wealthy corporations sucking poor people dry—literally. While many good samaritans donate blood or bone marrow out of good will, others sell their bodily fluids on a biweekly basis just so they can make ends meet. Multimillion-dollar medical companies know this, and eagerly take advantage. The for-profit plasma donation industry has been quietly targeting poor Americans for decades, and sometimes, the donors aren’t even paid what they’re promised.

Plasma is used to manufacture medicines that help people with diseases like blood-clotting and immune deficiency disorders. According to ABC, 94 percent of the plasma used internationally comes from the U.S. Four out of 5 American plasma centers are located in poorer neighborhoods around the country, and are frequented mainly by poor people who need to supplement their income with the extra money they receive from donating. These donors receive $30 to $40 per donation on average. Compare that to the biotech companies that turn a profit from the plasma, estimated to be a $19.7 billion global industry.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, who wrote in a piece for the Atlantic that he donated plasma to pay his rent one month, explains how for-profit plasma companies are well aware they are making money off of poor donors. He writes, “the number of centers in the United States ballooned during the Great Recession, with 100 new centers opening and total donations leaping from 12.5 million in 2006 to more than 23 million in 2011.”

Some reports show that donors who frequent these for-profit plasma donation centers don’t end up being paid the amount they were promised.

At this point big business is stealing blood from the poor through plasma centers. They say they'll pay blood donors (in poor areas) but do so on debit cards with high fees. Actual blood money. https://t.co/BlOOavDt5E

— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) December 8, 2017

As one plasma donor wrote in a complaint on RipoffReport:

“Bio life plasma Mankato pays $20 the first donation of the week and 50 for the second[. T]he problem is you can't get to all your money because of the car[d] that they use to pay you is in $10 increments which no ATMs around have so therefore you have to pay every time you use the stupid card when you happen to have a week where it's off also they charge You a monthly fee just for having the card therefore if you do get a $50 donation and are able to take it out for whatever reason you have overdraft on said card so therefore you can't get your money you have to use their card and guess what they make money off of it these people are bloodsucking vampires.”

Wellington confirms this unfair payment process: "'Plassers' [donors] receive payments on a special debit card that extracts a surcharge whenever they use it.”

It’s a cruel move for people who come to plasma donation centers as a last resort. One donor told ABC, “I donate specifically for the money because I work a minimum wage job. I work as a cashier and a stocker. I used to work as a repair technician for 14 bucks an hour, so I’m used to more than what I’m getting.”

Another donor in Kansas City who has a day job at Burger King said he makes donating a regular part of his routine. “I go Fridays and Sundays. Right arm I use Friday. Other I use Sunday. I switch up every time.”

Not everyone in the health industry is a fan of for-profit plasma. The Atlantic writes, “Hospitals, Red Cross units, and nonprofit agencies relying on voluntary donations reject the plasma center model because cash incentives for whole blood may give donors an incentive to lie [about their health histories], heightening risks of a tainted supply. Such risks are higher overall for whole blood, too.”

One expert on the subject finds the practice notably creepy. “For a majority of people, apparently, it’s relatively safe. We really don’t know the long-term effects because it’s a relatively new phenomenon," Roger Kobayashi, a clinical professor of immunology at UCLA, told ABC. However, he said that what used to be “a simple gift of life has now evolved into a multi-national, highly profitable corporate enterprise.”

“What was once an act of altruism has now evolved into an act of necessity or desperation,” Kobayashi said.

The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association said in a statement to ABC News, "Source plasma donation is safe and is highly regulated. Donors must meet criteria defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and voluntary industry standards. Healthy, committed donors are the foundation of plasma-derived therapies."

Yet if donors are desperate enough, there’s no way to monitor the possibility that they’ll lie about their medical history.

The plasma industry has a surprisingly shady history. In the '60s and '70s, the Atlantic writes, for-profit plasma companies used to source donors from prisons, sometimes paying them just $5 per donation to cut costs. As a result, many people got sick. According to the Atlantic, “Roughly 50 percent of American hemophiliacs contracted HIV from bad plasma-based pharmaceuticals (a much higher infection rate than that suffered by gay men at the time).”

One plasma donor told the Atlantic, “Hearing all this, I never want to walk into those places again.”

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Looking Back: The Biggest Domestic Drug Policy Stories of the Past 20 Years

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:26
Click here for reuse options! Progress has been made on a number of fronts, but the war on drugs still grinds on.

As the Drug War Chronicle marks the publication of its 1,000th issue (with yours truly having authored 863 of them going back to 2000), we reflect on what has changed and what hasn't in the past couple of decades. This piece recounts our domestic drug policy evolution in the US; a companion piece looks at the international picture.

A lot has happened. We've broken the back of marijuana prohibition, even if we haven't killed it yet; we've seen medical marijuana gain near-universal public acceptance; we've seen harm reduction begin to take hold; we've fought long and hard battles for sentencing reform—and even won some of them.

But it hasn't all been good. Since the Chronicle began life as The Week Online With DRCNet back in 1997, more than 30 million people have been arrested for drugs, with all the deleterious consequences a drug bust can bring, and despite all the advances, the drug war keeps on rolling. Serious progress has been made, but there's plenty of work left to do. 

Here are the biggest big-picture drug stories and trends of the past 20 years.

1. Medical Marijuana

It was November 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, five years after San Francisco became the first city in the country to pass a medical marijuana measure, thanks in large part to the efforts of activists who mobilized to make its use possible for AIDS patients. Two years later, Alaska, Oregon and Washington came on board, and three years after that, Hawaii became the first state to allow it through the legislative process. Now, 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico allow for the use of medical marijuana, and public support for medical marijuana reaches stratospheric levels in polls.

But the battle isn't over. The federal government still refuses to officially recognize medical marijuana, potentially endangering the progress made so far, especially under the current administration, efforts to reschedule marijuana to reflect its medical uses remain thwarted, some of the more recent states to legalize medical marijuana have become perversely more restrictive, and in some of the more conservative states, lawmakers attempt to appease demands for medical marijuana legalization by passing extremely limited CBD-only laws.

2. Marijuana Legalization: In the War on Weed, Weed is Winning

Twenty years ago, pot wasn't legal anywhere, and Gallup had public support for legalization at a measly 25 percent. A lot has changed since then. It took repeated tries, but beginning in 2012, states started voting to free the weed, with Colorado and Washington leading the way, Alaska and DC coming on board in 2014, and California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada joining the ranks last year. Now, about a fifth of the country has legalized weed, with more states lining up to do so next year, including most likely contenders Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, and Vermont.

Now, Gallup has support for legalization at 64 percent nationwide, with even a slight majority (51 percent) of Republicans on board. The only demographic group still opposed to pot legalization is seniors, and they will be leaving the scene soon enough. Again, the battle is by no means over. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and congressional efforts to change that have gone nowhere so far. But it seems like marijuana has won the cultural war, and the rest is just cleaning up what's left of the pot prohibition mess.

3. Marijuana, Inc.: Rise of an Industry

State-legal marijuana is already a $10 billion dollar a year industry, and that's before California goes online next month. It's gone from outlaws and hippie farmers in the redwoods to sharp-eyed business hustlers, circling venture capitalists, would-be monopolists, and assorted hangers-on, from accountants, lawyers, and publicists to security and systems mavens, market analysts, and the ever-expanding industry press.

These people all have direct pecuniary interests in legal marijuana, and, thanks to profits from the golden weed, the means to protect them. Marijuana money is starting to flow into political campaigns and marijuana business interests organize to make sure they will continue to be able to profit from pot.

Having a legal industry with the wherewithal to throw its weight around a bit is generally, but not entirely, a good thing. To the degree that the marijuana industry is able to act like a normal industry, it will act like a normal industry, and that means sometimes the interests of industry sectors may diverge from the interests of marijuana consumers. The industry or some parts of it may complain, for instance, of the regulatory burden of contaminant testing, while consumers have an interest in knowing the pot they smoke isn't poisoned.

And getting rich off weed is a long way from the justice-based demand that people not be harassed, arrested, and imprisoned for using it. Cannabis as capitalist commodity loses some of that outlaw cachet, some ineffable sense of hipster cool. But, hey, you're not going to jail for it anymore (at least in those legal states).

4. The Power of the People: The Key Role of the Initiative Process

The initiative and referendum process, which lets activists bypass state legislatures and put issues to a direct popular vote, has been criticized as anti-democratic because it allows special interests to use an apathetic public to advance their interests, as both car insurers and tobacco companies have attempted in California. It also gets criticized for writing laws without legislative input.

But like any political tool, it can be used for good or ill, and when it comes to drug reform, it has been absolutely critical. When legislatures refuse to lead, or even follow, as has been the case with many aspects of drug policy, the initiative process becomes the only effective recourse for making the political change we want. It was through the initiative process that California and other early states approved medical marijuana; it was five years later that Hawaii became the first state where the legislature acted. Similarly, with recreational marijuana legalization, every state that has legalized it so far has done it through the initiative process; in no state has it yet made its way through the legislature, although we're hoping that will change next year.

And it's not just marijuana. The initiative process has also been used successfully to pass sentencing reforms in California, and now activists are opening the next frontier, with initiatives being bruited in California and Oregon that would legalize psychedelic mushrooms.

The bad news: Only 24 states have the initiative process. The good news: The ones that do lead the way, setting an example for the others.

5. The Glaring Centrality of Race

It took Michelle Alexander's 2010 publication of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness to put a fine point on it, but the centrality of race in the prosecution of the war on drugs has been painfully evident since at least the crack hysteria of the 1980s, if not going back even further to the Nixonian law-and-order demagoguery of the late 1960s and early '70s.

We've heard the numbers often enough: Blacks make up about 13 percent of the population and about 13 percent of drug users, but 29 percent of all drug arrests and 35 percent of those doing state prison time for drugs. And this racial disparity in drug law enforcement doesn't seem to be going away.

Neither is the impact racially biased drug law enforcement has on communities of color. Each parent behind bars leaves a family exploded and often impoverished, and each heavy-handed police action leaves a bitter aftertaste.

The drug war conveyor belt, feeding an endless number of black men and women into the half-life of prison, is clearly a key part of a system of racially oppressive policing that has led to eruptions from Ferguson to Baltimore. If we are going to begin to try to fix race relations in this country, the war on drugs is one of the key battlefronts. Thanks in part to Alexander's bestseller, civil rights organizations from the traditional to newer movements like Black Lives Matter have devoted increasing focus to criminal justice, including drug policy reform.

6. Harm Reduction Takes Hold

We don't think teenagers should be having sex, but we know they're going to, so we make condoms available to them so they can avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs. That's harm reduction. So is providing clean needles to injection drug users to avoid the spread of disease, making opioid overdose drugs like naloxone widely available so a dosing error doesn't turn fatal, passing 911 Good Samaritan laws to encourage and OD victims' friends to call for help instead of run away, and providing a clean, well-lit place where drug users can shoot or smoke or snort their drugs under medical supervision and with access to social service referrals.

Two decades ago, the only harm reduction work going on was a handful of pioneering needle exchanges, thanks to folks like Dave Purchase at the North American Syringe Exchange Network (founded in 1988), and early activists faced harassment and persecution from local authorities. But it was the creation of the Harm Reduction Coalition in 1993 that really began to put the movement on the map.

In this century, harm reduction practices have gained ground steadily. Now, 33 states and DC allow needle exchange programs to operate40 states and DC have some form of 911 Good Samaritan laws, and every state in the county has now modified its laws to allow greater access to naloxone.

The next frontier for American drug war harm reduction is safe injection sites, and on the far horizon, opiate-assisted maintenance. There is not yet a single officially sanctioned operating safe injection in the country, but we are coming close in cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. And let's not forget drug decriminalization as a form of harm reduction. It should be the first step, but that's not the world we live in, yet.

7. Sentencing Fever Breaks

Beginning in the Reagan years and continuing for decades, the number of prisoners in America rose sharply and steadily, driven in large part by the war on drugs. The phenomenon gained America infamy as the world's biggest jailer, whether in raw numbers or per capita.

But by early in the century, the fever had broken. After gradually slowing rates of increases for several years, the number of state and federal prisoners peaked around 2007 and 2008 at just over 1.6 million. At the end of 2015, the last year for which data is available, the number of prisoners was 1.527 million, down 2 percent from the previous year. And even the federal prison system, which had continued to increase in size, saw a 14 percent decline in population that year.

But most drug war prisoners are state prisoners, and that's where sentencing reform have really begun to make a difference. States from California to Minnesota to Texas, among others, enacted a variety of measures to cut the prison population, in some cases because of more enlightened attitudes, but in other cases because it just cost too damned much money for fiscal conservatives.

Current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions would like very much to reverse this trend and is in a position to do some damage, for instance, by instructing federal prosecutors to pursue tough sentences and mandatory minimums in drug cases. But he is hampered by federal sentencing reforms passed in the Obama era. Sessions may be able to bump up the number of people behind bars only slightly; the greater danger is that his policies serve as an inspiration for similarly inclined conservatives in the states to try to roll back reforms there.

8. The Rise (and Fall) of Opioids

In 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin to the market. The powerful new pain reliever was pitched to doctors as not highly addictive by a high-pressure company sales force and became a tremendous market success, generating billions for the Sackler family, the owners of the company. Opioid prescriptions became more common, and for many patients, that was a good thing.

Purdue Pharma's marketing push coincided with a push by chronic pain advocates—patients, doctors and others—to ease prescribing restrictions that had kept many patients in feasibly treatable pain. And which in many cases still do: A 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine found that while "opioid prescriptions for chronic noncancer pain [in the US] have increased sharply ... [29 percent of primary care physicians and 16 percent of pain specialists report they prescribe opioids less often than they think appropriate because of concerns about regulatory repercussions." As the report noted, having more opioid prescriptions doesn't necessarily mean that "patients who really need opioids [are] able to get them."

While it's popular to blame doctors and Big Pharma for getting so many pain patients addicted to opioids, that explanation is a bit too facile. Many of the people strung out today were never patients, but instead obtained their pain pills on the black market. Through a perverse system of incentives, people on Medicaid could obtain the pills by prescription for next to nothing, then resell them for $40 or $60 apiece to people who wanted them. Some pain management practices were on the cutting edge of relieving pain for patients who needed the help. But others were little more than shady pill mills, popping up in places like Ohio, Kentucky and Florida that would become the epicenter of the opioid epidemic within a few years.

When the inevitable crackdowns on pain pill prescribing came, legitimate prescribers, of course, got caught in the crossfire sometimes, especially those who served the poor or the patients who in the worst chronic pain. Their being targeted, or others reining in their prescribing practices, left many patients in the lurch again. And the closure of pill mills left addicted people in the lurch. But there was plenty of heroin to make up for the missing pills the addicted used to take. Mexican farmers have been happy to grow opium poppies for the American market for decades, and Mexican drug trafficking organizations know how to get it to market.

The whole thing has been worsened by the arrival of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid dozens of times stronger than pure heroin, which seems to be coming mostly from rogue Chinese pharmaceutical labs (although the Mexicans appear to be getting in on the act now, too).

And now we have a drug overdose crisis like the country has never seen before, with around 60,000 people estimated to die from overdoses this year, most of them from opioids (by themselves or in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs). The crisis is inspiring both admirable harm reduction efforts and an execrable turn to harsher punishments, while making things harder again for many pain patients. While many argue that the gentler response to this epidemic is because the victims are mainly white, I would suggest that argument pays short shrift to all the years of hard work advocates and activists of all ethnicities have spent creating more enlightened drug policies.

9. Policing for Profit: The Never-Ending Fight to Rein in Asset Forfeiture

Twenty years ago, pressure was mounting in Washington over abuses of the federal civil asset forfeiture program, just as it is now. Back then, passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA) of 2000 marked an important early victory in the fight to rein in what has tartly described as "policing for profit." It was shepherded through the house by then Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican.

How times have changed. Now, with federal agents seizing billions of dollars each year through civil forfeiture proceedings and scandalous abuse after scandalous abuse pumping up the pressure for federal reform, the Republican attorney general is calling for more asset forfeiture. And Jeff Sessions isn't just calling for it; he has undone late Obama administration reforms aimed at reining in one of the sleaziest aspects of federal forfeiture, the Equitable Sharing program, although he is having problems getting Congress to go along.

In the years since CAFRA, a number of states have passed similar laws restricting civil asset forfeiture and directing that seized funds go into the general fund or other designated funds, such as education, but state and local police have been able to evade those laws via Equitable Sharing. Under that program, instead of seizing money under state law, they instead turn it over to the federal government, which then returns 80 percent of it to the law enforcement agency, not the general fund and not the schools.

This current setup, with its perverse incentives for police to evade state laws and pursue cash over crime, makes asset forfeiture reform a continuing battlefield at both the state and the federal levels. A number of reform bills are alive in the Congress, and year by year, more and more states pass laws limiting civil asset forfeiture or, even better, eliminating it and requiring a criminal conviction before forfeiture can proceed. Fourteen states have now done that, with the most recent being Connecticut, New Mexico and Nebraska. That leaves 36 to go.

10. Despite Everything, the Drug War Grinds On

We have seen tremendous progress in drug policy in the past 20 years, from the advent of the age of legal marijuana to the breaking of sentencing fever to the spread of harm reduction and the kinder, gentler treatment of the current wave of opioid users, but still, the drug war grinds on.

Pot may be legal in eight states, but that means it isn't in 42 others, and more than 600,000 people got arrested for it last year; down from a peak of nearly 800,000 in 2007, but still up by 75,000 or 12 percent over 2015.

It's the same story with overall drug arrests: While total drug arrest numbers peaked at just under 1.9 million a year in 2006 and 2007—just ahead of the peak in prison population—and had been trending downward ever since, they bumped up again last year to 1.57 million, a 5.6 percent increase over 2015.

There are more options for treatment or diversion out of jail or prison, but people are still getting arrested. Sentencing reforms mean some people won't do as much time as they did in the past, but people are still getting arrested. And the drug war industrial complex, with all its institutional inertia and self-interest, rolls on. If we want to actually end the drug war, we're going to have to stop arresting people for drugs. That would be a real paradigm shift.

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Want to Celebrate Legal Cannabis in California? Consider a Weed and Wine Tour

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:51
With recreational use legal in January, visitors can join trips matching cannabis with the more established grape-based legal high of the region.

The wine was pale garnet, with notes of smoke and blackberry giving way to a lingering, slightly tart, finish. One sip sent my head spinning.

But then this particular vintage was more potent than your usual Californian red. The grenache, from Know Label wines in Arroyo Grande on the central coast, is infused with cannabis flowers.

Plastic cups of wine were passed around along with joints as our party bus chugged over the Golden Gate bridge. Tupac’s California Love oozed from the speakers into an atmosphere as foggy as a San Francisco morning.

It was the first tour combining wine and weed in California, and the brainchild of Heidi Keyes and Michael Eymer, who run Colorado-based Cannabis Tours. This tour will officially launch in early 2018, when recreational cannabis use becomes legal in many areas of the state. Until then, a medical marijuana card is needed. But the new law means even international visitors will be able to buy cannabis, opening up a new world of tourism possibilities.

“There are so many other ways to use cannabis than to smoke it,” said Keyes, marijuana-leaf earrings jangling. “I think wine and weed can be a great combination in the right quantities.”

Others are following suit. Jordan Lichman, co-founder of Sea of Green Tours, is planning winemaker dinners in Sonoma, with “California cuisine, top wines and cannabis brands”.

Lisa Rogovin, who founded Edible Excursions food tours, has just launched a Curious Cannabis Salon, showcasing various high-end edible cannabis products in San Francisco.

Our tour began at the Oakland Cannabis Creative with a “mocktail” demonstration. Looking like a hipster let loose in a laboratory, bow-tied Andrew Mieure expertly sprinkled and pipetted various doses and strains into spiced apple drinks. His Denver-based company, Top Shelf Budtending, caters for private events, promoting “classy cannabis” and responsible use.

“You should ideally smoke before you drink,” said Mieure. He was on hand throughout the trip with tinctures and sniffing oils “to bring people back” if they got too high. “Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, so the cannabis absorbs quicker into your bloodstream.”

The tour dropped in at the Betty Project, a San Francisco grow facility. Clutching glasses of sparkling (non-infused) wine, we peeped at plants bathing in chartreuse-green lights. Aromas of sage, eucalyptus and lemon verbena wafted from the drying room.

Our last stop was Donkey & Goat Winery in Berkeley, north of San Francisco. They don’t serve “green” wine – as cannabis-infused varieties are known – only red, white and orange.

Gloria, on the tour with her husband, sipped contentedly from a glass of pinot gris and nibbled on a breadstick: “Wine, cheese and weed. How can you complain?”

Visitors shouldn’t get the impression that from 1 January cannabis sales will be legal throughout the state: many city authorities have not yet agreed to issue licences, and Fresno and various counties have banned sales.

As we got back on the bus, Keyes surveyed the sea of serene faces. Some slumped in their seats, half dozing. Others mainlined Doritos or stared, button-eyed, as San Francisco’s skyline soared past the windows.

“If this was just a drinking tour, people would be wasted and throwing up or fighting by now,” said Keyes. Eyes shining, she added: “I mean, I love wine – and I love weed. It’s perfect.”

• The Wine and Weed tour costs $99pp, cannabistours.com

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Water-Soluble THC Is Now A Thing And Edibles May Never Be The Same

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:51
Into microdosing? This is for you.

A guy out of Colorado believes he’s created a product that will disrupt the edibles industry: powdered THC and CBD that’s tasteless and dissolvable in just about anything.

 

Justin Singer came up with the idea after cutting a pot brownie into a million little pieces so his diabetic grandmother could have some without losing her mind, according to Westword. Now, his company, Stillwater Brands, sells a water-soluble product called Ripple, which can infuse pretty much any food or drink item you can think of, from soup to cookies to water.

In fact, according to Westword, Stillwater now offers infused instant coffee and teas with the same technology, with serving sizes ranging from 2.5 milligrams to 10 milligrams of CBD and THC.

The selling point of Ripple is that it doesn’t need fat to bond with, unlike cannabutter. Singer tells Westword the challenge right now is educating consumers. “It’s tough, because dispensaries don’t have a tea aisle. They’re not a Whole Foods. Right now, marijuana information filters down from heavy users to new consumers. So for a 100-milligram user, this probably isn’t for them.”

Singer ‘s ideal consumer? One who microdoses.

“Our product was created for grandmothers and working professionals in mind. Positive effects tend to come in lower doses unless you’re a medical patient. We’ve also seen a little interest in Ripple among active lifestyles — people integrating it into their workouts, adding it to their meals.”

“There’s a helluva lot of math involved in cannabutter.” Singer says. “We don’t expect to be the only ones on the block doing this.”

 

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How Uruguay Makes Legal Marijuana Work

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:28
The South American country’s move to full legalization of cannabis has so far proved a success, especially for its 17,391 registered users

Every afternoon a long queue of people gathers outside a tiny neighbourhood pharmacy in Montevideo. The shop is so small that they can only be let in one at a time. It’s a slow process but the mostly young clients don’t seem to mind. They stand outside or sit on doorsteps chatting in groups of twos and threes as they wait their turn in the warm southern spring.

A chemist inside in a green medical coat asks them each to press their thumb on a fingerprint scanner. The electronic device is connected to a central government computer that will either authorise or deny the purchase of their allotted 10 weekly grams of legal marijuana. It is a state-controlled, high quality product guaranteed to provide excellent highs.

“On the street 25 grams of marijuana would cost you 3,000 pesos, that’s about $100 for something with probably a large amount of pesticide, seeds and stems,” says Luciano, a young buyer who is next in line. “But here the same amount would cost you only $30, and it comes in guaranteed, premium quality, thermosealed 5g packs.”

In July this year, tiny Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the sale of marijuana across its entire territory.

“The most important thing has been the change of paradigm,” says Gastón Rodríguez Lepera, shareholder in Symbiosis, one of the two private firms producing cannabis for the government’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis. “Uruguay dived in at the deep end without too much international support. They said it wouldn’t work. Well, it’s working now.”

With a population of only 3.4 million, squeezed in between its two giant South American neighbours Brazil and Argentina (population 208 million and 43 million respectively), Uruguay has long been at the forefront of liberal policies not only in South America but worldwide.

A divorce law that allowed women to separate from their husbands simply by asking a court for permission was passed as far back as 1913. Abortion was legalised in 2012, with Uruguay the only country in Latin America to do so apart from Cuba.

Part of the reason for Uruguay’s liberal temperament is a longstanding separation of church and state in a region where the Catholic Church remains dominant. There is no official Christmas day on Uruguay’s state calendar. Most Uruguayans refer to the holiday by its government denomination of family day. Easter week is referred to as tourism week.

Uruguay’s switch to a legal marijuana market has not been without its hitches, however, notably the resistance of most pharmacists to act as outlets for the recreational marijuana (medical marijuana remains illegal in Uruguay).

Only 12 of the country’s 1,100 pharmacies have signed up so far to supply the 17,391 government-registered consumers served by the system, which explains the long queues outside. The low price and slim profit margin partly explain their reticence. “But the main problem is that banks have threatened to close the accounts of pharmacies selling marijuana,” said one chemist who sells marijuana in Montevideo, but who did not want to reveal his name for fear of such bank intervention.

Although sales of the drug have been legalised in various US states, they remain illegal at federal level, leading to a situation where most banks refuse to handle marijuana-related accounts anywhere in the world. Even now that sales in Uruguay have been completely legalised, the fear of running into trouble with the US federal authorities has become concrete.

“The problem with the banks was an unforeseen hitch,” says Eduardo Blasina, president of Montevideo’s cannabis museum, set in an old house in the artsy Palermo district of the capital city. “But these bumps will get smoothed out eventually.”

The potency of the original government-licensed marijuana also failed to satisfy consumers at the start. “The government made a mistake because the first batch they released to the market in July had a potency level of only 2% THC,” says Blasina.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis content. This is much lower than the levels found in legal recreational weed in US states like Colorado.

“The government quickly got the message and has now upped the content to 9% THC,” says the Montevideo pharmacist. A consumer himself, he adds: “I’ve tried it and I can assure you that it provides a most satisfactory experience.”

For those who would rather not buy their legal weed at a pharmacy, Uruguay’s marijuana law allows consumers to plant their own at home (up to six plants) or join special privately run “cannabis clubs” with a maximum of 45 members who are allowed to withdraw 40g per month from the club’s crop.

“The transformation of consumers has been astounding,” says Blasina. “They’ve gone from buying low-quality products from street dealers to becoming gourmet experts who compete with the crops at their clubs.”

Confident that pharmacists will eventually find a way to work round the refusal of banks to handle their accounts, Blasina is more worried about the ban on selling legal marijuana to visitors from abroad in a country where tourism keeps growing, partly due to Uruguay’s beautiful beaches, but also because of its growing reputation as a liberal haven in South America.

“Visitors arrive here hoping to enjoy freedom in one of the most liberal countries in the world, so they feel disappointed when they find out they can’t buy legal marijuana,” says Blasina. “They end up buying it on the street, which contradicts the whole point of the law, which is to cut traffickers out of the business.”

Blasina and others have started pressing the government for the passports of tourists to be stamped with a permit to purchase a small amount of marijuana during their stay. “A record number of visitors will arrive this summer and what will we say to them? Sorry, you can’t smoke?” he says.

There are ways round the problem, however. “The quality of the marijuana is so high that the 40 monthly grams permitted by the government far exceeds what I could smoke on my own,” says one Uruguayan who works with foreigners travelling here. “So I always have enough to share around with visitors.”

 

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Jeff Sessions Wants to Crack Down on Legal Marijuana—Will Congress Let Him?

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:46
UPDATED: Limits on federal pot prosecution just got a brief extension, but medical marijuana may still be at risk.

UPDATE: Congress gave the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment a temporary reprieve after this piece was originally published, extending protections until Dec. 22. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., responded by saying, "[T]wo weeks is not enough certainty," and adding, "Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs — and adult use — from federal interference."

In all the budget and tax negotiations frantically being hammered out on Capitol Hill, one small amendment that might get lost in the shuffle could have huge ramifications. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was originally set to expire on Friday (see update above), which would open the door for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do what he's been hinting he wants to: Launch a federal war on states that have partly or completely legalized marijuana use.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, originally passed as the the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment in 2014, bars the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute people buying or selling medical marijuana in states that have legalized it. It's a popular bipartisan amendment that protects 46 states, but there have been concerns about whether it will be renewed after Sessions exerted pressure in May on Congress to let the amendment die.

Sessions argued that the DOJ's hands need to be untied when it comes to prosecuting marijuana dispensaries, "particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." There is, of course, no evidence that marijuana use is contributing to the opioid crisis and, in fact, there's a significant link between legalized medical marijuana and a decrease in opioid overdoses.

The amendment survived, despite Sessions' pressure, through a couple rounds of budget debate in Congress this year, but as Ames Grawert of the Brennan Center for Justice told Salon, "Every time, there’s sort of a dance around whether it will actually get cut this time or not." It’s reasonable to be at least "a little concerned," Grawert said, that Sessions' pressure will eventually convince congressional Republicans to dump the amendment. 

This will-they-or-won't-they game is why Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, and a bipartisan group of 24 other lawmakers have introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, which would prevent the federal government from prosecuting any marijuana users, growers or distributors who are in compliance with state laws.

“You have booming economies in several states, some of whom allow the recreational use of marijuana but many also just for medical purposes, and no real data linking that to a public safety problem," Grawert said, noting that the Brennan Center objects to using federal resources to prosecute people or break up thriving economies without any data to show that doing so would improve public safety.

In March, Sessions argued that marijuana use is "only slightly less awful" than heroin addiction, making it clear that his priority was to aggressively prosecute marijuana users and distributors. He's been stymied by both the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and a memo issued by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole that discouraged the Justice Department from prosecuting people who were following state-level marijuana laws. The obvious concern here, however, is that Sessions would seize upon the first political opening available to reinvigorate the federal war on pot.

 

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The Folks at Senior Centers Are Using a Lot of Marijuana

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:39
Older Americans are finding relief with medical marijuana.

The rise of marijuana as a prevalent recreational substance of choice exploded when today’s senior citizens were becoming adults, so many Boomers grew up accustomed to the herb. But what is surprising is how many of today’s older Americans have embraced cannabis as a medicine.

According to a recent study, the number of individuals living with two or more chronic conditions who used cannabis over the past year more than doubled.

According to Kaiser Health News, cannabis is used to manage diseases that usually strike in older age, pointing to an increasing desire to take a medication that has less side effects than traditional prescription drugs.

In a survey conducted by Eaze, a California cannabis delivery company, Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing demographic while Millennials are using less. According to the survey, Boomers purchased 25 percent more cannabis in 2016 than the previous year. Gen Xers purchases rose 8 percent; Millennials dipped 3 percent. Boomers, according to the report, spend 36 percent more per month on weed than Millennials.

In Albany, NY, a licensed medical marijuana grower will be targeting nursing homes to grow its customer base, the New York Daily News reported.

According to the story:

Etain, one of the five companies licensed by the state Health Department to grow and sell medical marijuana in New York, is reaching out to senior and long-term health care centers and offering to help their patients obtain medicinal pot.

The company already has struck a deal with a Bronx nursing home to provide medical marijuana to the residents. According to the Daily News, it is believed to be one of the first such arrangements in the state.

“We consider it a very vital of our strategy for outreach and building a customer base,” Hillary Peckham, Etain’s founder and chief operations officer told the Daily News. “It is really important because right now there really isn’t a demand for the product.”

 

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