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Nearly 250,000 Killed in Mexico's Drug Wars, and the Government Thinks More Soldiers Are the Solution

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 23:44
Eleven years in, there are more killings than ever, but civil society is understandably wary of the military acting as cops.

Mexico’s war on drugs has left 234,966 people dead in the last 11 years. In 2017 alone, the country saw some 29,000 murders, the highest annual tally since such record-keeping began in 1997.

For years, incensed Mexicans have demanded that President Enrique Peña Nieto – now in the final stretch of his six-year term – take action. Recently, lawmakers from his Revolutionary Institutional Party proposed a controversial solution: Put Mexico’s military on the streets to fight crime.

Despite protests and warnings from human rights advocates, who say the law will actually escalate violence, on Dec. 15, 2017, the Mexican Senate approved the Internal Security Law.

Just before Christmas, Peña Nieto signed the legislation into law. In response, activists poured red paint in fountains across Mexico City to symbolize the bloodshed it would usher in.

A military history of massacres

I’ve been studying the violence in my home country for decades. While something must be done to stem the bloodshed, history shows that militarizing law enforcement will hurt rather than help.

Mexico’s military has actually been fighting crime informally for over a decade. In 2006, former President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 soldiers to battle cartels in the state of Michoacán. And they never really stopped.

The consequences have been grave. Between 2012 and 2016, Mexico’s attorney general launched 505 investigations into alleged human rights abuses – including torture and forced disappearances – committed by the military.

In 2014, soldiers shot 22 unarmed citizens in the town of Tlatlaya. Later that year, the army was allegedly involved in the unsolved kidnapping of 43 students from a teachers college in southern Mexico.Much of the military’s extrajudicial violence is undocumented and investigations move slowly, so crimes by the armed forces have been difficult to prosecute. In 11 years, only 16 soldiers have been convicted of human rights abuses in civilian courts.

Supporters of the Internal Security Law, including Secretary of Defense Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, say the new law will right this wrong. By providing a legal framework for the armed forces to take on law enforcement duties, it ensures stricter regulation and more oversight.

Security experts, on the other hand, call the Internal Security Law dangerous, saying it delays much-needed police reforms and violates the Mexican Constitution, which prohibits using the military for Mexico’s public security.

The authoritarian connection

The idea of “internal security” has a dark genealogy in Mexican law. It first appeared just after the country’s independence from Spain, in 1822. According to the short-lived Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, his government had the right to protect “the internal order and the external security” of the fledgling nation.

In practice, that meant persecuting those who had opposed Iturbide’s dissolution of Congress and proclamation of himself as Mexico’s new emperor.

Authoritarian regimes have since invoked “internal security” – which made its way into the country’s 1917 constitution – to fight all sorts of rebels, from revolutionaries to student liberals to indigenous discontents.

The new Internal Security Law continues this tradition, giving the president the right to order federal authorities, including the army and the navy, to intervene when other federal and local forces cannot handle certain “threats to internal security.”

Built-in safeguards are supposed to prevent the government from abusing this power. Within 72 hours of such a threat emerging, the president must publish a “designation of protection” that details the specific place and limited time frame of military occupation.

In practice, though, these requirements are optional. In cases of “grave danger,” the law says, the president can take “immediate action.”

The new law contains other concerning contradictions. One article states that peaceful protests do not constitute a threat to Mexico’s internal security. This should avoid a repeat of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which soldiers in Mexico City gunned down hundreds of student demonstrators.

But another article of the law may undermine that provision by deeming “controlling, repelling or neutralizing acts of resistance” to be a legitimate use of military force.

The most challenged law

Mexican human rights advocates aren’t the only ones alarmed by the new law. In December, both the United Nations and Amnesty International asked the president to veto it.

Instead, Peña Nieto approved the law but declared that it would not be enforced until the Supreme Court can review its constitutionality.The Supreme Court has now received thousands of legal challenges to the Internal Security Law. Suits alleging that the law encroaches on Mexicans’ basic rights were filed by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission188 congressmen and 43 senators. More than 12,000citizens have also submitted individual complaints on similar grounds. On Feb. 12, the hugely popular governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, traveled to Mexico City to personally file a claim in the name of the people of his state.

No date has yet been set for the 11 Supreme Court justices to hear arguments.

The problem with the police

Another consequence of the Internal Security Law, in my analysis, is that it will further weaken Mexico’s already troubled police force.

According to a December 2017 government report, Mexico has just 0.8 police officers per 1,000 inhabitants – less than half what the U.N. – recommends.

The report also notes that just 1 in 4 officers has received sufficient training. And out of 39 police academies, only 6 satisfy the minimum conditions – for example, dormitories, medical services or training infrastructure – to be considered fully functional.

Mexico’s police are also widely perceived as corrupt and ineffective. In part, that’s due to their low salaries. Currently, officers in poor states like Chiapas and Tabasco earn about half the federally recommended minimum monthly salary of 9,993 pesos, or US$500.

To supplement their poverty wages, as Mexicans well know, many police officers have traditionally turned to petty bribery. More recently, some police have gotten involved in more lucrative criminal activity, working with the same drug cartels they're supposed to be fighting.

Successive Mexican governments have used the shortcomings in the police force to justify sending in soldiers and marines, claiming it’s a provisional measure to get crime under control while the police are professionalized. The new law has turned this temporary solution into national policy.

A spectacular failure

The military is not exempt from corruption.

The brutal Zetas cartel, infamous for beheadings and indiscriminate slaughter, was originally formed by deserters of the Mexican army’s elite special forces.

The claim that the military can keep Mexicans safe was recently put to its first test. In January President Peña Nieto had to cancel a trip to the city of Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, where criminal groups have been violently clashing. The army said it could not guarantee his safety there.

If the military cannot even protect the president, Mexicans ask, what hope do the people have?

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Rick Steves Has 3 Must-Sees for a Jeff Sessions European Drug Policy Tour

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 15:10
Click here for reuse options! The travel guru is willing to personally help the attorney general find enlightenment.

PBS star and travel guidebook author Rick Steves is a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization and drug reform. For years, he has advocated a more moderate, European-style approach to drug policy.

He has played a leading role in bringing the public around in Washington state, which legalized weed in 2012, and continuing to make his high-profile calls for more enlightened drug policies. But now, the Trump administration, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular, are trying to put the brakes on, and that got Steves thinking.

In response, as Rolling Stone reports, Steves has combined his travel savvy and his drug reform advocacy to propose an eye-opening, pot-centric European travel itinerary tailor-made for Sessions in the hope some Old World tolerance would rub off on him.

Here are the three must-sees on the European drug policy tour Steves created for Sessions. 

1. Switzerland. "I would take him to Switzerland and we'd go to a heroin maintenance clinic," Steves said, referring to the country's pioneering, non-criminal approach to opioid addiction.

2. Barcelona. Cannabis clubs are allowed there. "In Spain they can't sell marijuana but they can grow it. In practice, they don't want to grow it so they join a club that grows it collectively, and they can enjoy the harvest."

3. The Netherlands. Steves would take the attorney general to one of those famous Dutch "coffee shops" where adults can legally purchase small amounts of weed. "After the coffee shop, we'd visit a mayor and a policeman and have [Sessions] listen to the mayor and policeman explain why they'd rather have coffee shops than have marijuana sold on the street," Steves says.

Although Steves inexplicably neglected it, there is one other European destination that could be an eye-opener for Sessions: Portugal. The Iberian nation decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. Not only is it still standing, Portugal has drug use levels similar to other European countries, but without all the arrests.

Of course, Sessions is unlikely to take Steves up on his offer and even more unlikely to be convinced by saner European approaches, but Steves' point is still made: There are better ways of dealing with drug use and abuse. We just have to acknowledge them.

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Benzodiazepines: Our Other Drug Epidemic

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:49
The country is gobbling down Valium, Librium, Xanax, and Klonopin like crazy. There are consequences.



Benzodiazepines: our other prescription drug epidemic

I got the call every addiction doctor dreads: A patient of mine nearly overdosed. ... and progressing to heroin by his early 20s. He had been in recovery for six months. "Was it heroin?" I asked the doctor, who was calling from the emergency department. "Not opioids," said the doctor. "Benzos ...{C}

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The Big Pharma Family That Brought Us the Opioid Crisis

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:05
Who will bring to justice the billionaires who have profited so royally from addiction.

If the devil wears Prada, what do America’s most destructive drug pushers wear? They wear smiles. The drug pushers we have in mind here have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, enough fatalities to decrease overall U.S. life expectancy at birth for the last two years running. Yet no police SWAT teams have pounded down any doors hunting these drug pushers down.

These particular drug pushers have devastated millions of families across the United States. Yet some of America’s most honorable institutions, outfits ranging from Yale University to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have spent decades lauding their philanthropic generosity and benevolence.

We’re obviously not talking El Chapo or any of his drug-running buddies here. We’re talking about the mega-billionaire family behind one of America’s most profitable drug-industry empires, the privately held Purdue Pharma.

Last week, flacks at Purdue announced that the company will no longer be flooding doctors’ offices with sales representatives hawking OxyContin, the now-notorious opioid painkiller. This move may be the closest admission of guilt we will ever see from Purdue Pharma — or the patriarchs of the Sackler family that gave it birth.

The roots of Purdue’s criminal profiteering, as Patrick Radden Keefe has chillingly related in the New Yorker, stretch all the way back to three brothers in mid-20th century Brooklyn. All three — Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler — became doctors. All three had an entrepreneurial bent. Arthur had entrepreneurial genius.

Arthur Sackler saw that the pharmaceutical industry of his day had no clue to the marketing magic — and magical profits — that modern Madison Avenue advertising approaches could fashion. He linked the two. His ad agency pioneered tactics that would revolutionize prescription drug marketing.

Pharmaceutical companies, under Arthur Sackler’s guidance, began hiring noted doctors to vouch for their products and subsidizing studies that showed how useful their products could be. Sackler’s campaigns deluged doctors’ offices with attractive promo brochures and filled medical journals with flashy ads.

The promotions sometimes played fast and loose. In 1959, one national magazine investigation found that doctors listed as endorsing a new Sackler-backed antibiotic didn’t exist.

The really big bucks from Sackler’s efforts started flowing in the 1960s. Sackler’s marketing miracles turned the tranquillizers Librium and Valium into everyday commodities. By 1973, millions of annual tranquillizer prescriptions had created what Senator Edward Kennedy bewailed as a “a nightmare of dependence and addiction.”

But Purdue Pharma, the drug company the Sacklers ran, had grander visions, and the company’s dreams revolved around exploiting the untapped potential of opioids, synthetic forms of opium that modern researchers had first started developing in the early 1900s. Doctors had always known that these opioids had a significant pain-killing capacity. Doctors also feared their addictive properties.

Purdue Pharma set out to overcome that fear, with a massive marketing campaign on behalf of OxyContin, the drug company’s new take on the opioid called oxycodone, a “chemical cousin of heroin” that can be “up to twice as powerful as morphine.” Purdue bankrolled widely circulated research that testified to OxyContin’s safety and urged physicians to prescribe the drug for all sorts of conditions.

A sales force that at one point boasted a thousand reps reinforced that message with countless in-person visits to medical offices. Purdue hired several thousand clinicians on top of that to sing OxyContin’s praises at medical conferences. The company even offered doctors “all-expenses-paid trips to pain-management seminars in places like Boca Raton.”

The campaign goal: nothing less than changing the prescription habits of America’s doctors.

The campaign succeeded. Purdue won FDA approval for OxyContin in 1995. Almost overnight the drug became a phenomenal medical marketplace success, eventually generating some $35 billion in revenue. The FDA examiner who ran the approval process would later come to work for Purdue.

But problems with OxyContin soon surfaced. People were becoming addicted, in part because Purdue made abusing OxyContin so easy. The drug was formulated to release slowly over 12 hours. But users could just crush the pills and get a quick high.

Purdue blamed the early reports of addictions on these abusers. But OxyContin had a much deeper problem. Purdue was marketing the drug’s long-lasting, 12-hour relief. In reality, the relief often lasted fewer hours, leaving conscientious users continually craving more of the drug and desperate to get it.

Purdue would systematically stonewall this reality year after year, lining up political heavy-hitters like former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to run interference. Lawsuits against Purdue did start proliferating in the early 2000s. Purdue made them go away, by settling out of court before any incriminating documents revealed in the pretrial discovery process could ever see the light of day.

Meanwhile, the death toll mounted. In hard-hit Pike County, Kentucky, nearly 30 percent of local residents either had lost a family member to OxyContin addiction or knew someone outside their family who did.

The fortune of the various branches of the Sackler clan mounted as well. The combined Sackler clan has become, Forbes calculates, one of America’s richest families, with a current net worth at $13 billion. In 2015, the Sacklers pulled in an estimated $700 million in income from their Big Pharma interests.

Amid this enormous fortune, the heirs to the original three Brooklyn brothers have fallen out with each other. Some are even feeling remorse. But others are looking for greener pastures abroad. With the domestic market for opioids seemingly saturated, opioid makers like Purdue Pharma are invading foreign markets.

These same companies, led by Purdue Pharma, are continuing to subsidize nonprofit groups that promote opioid use. Earlier this week, a report from U.S. senator Claire McCaskill detailed how the nation’s five largest opioid makers handed over $10 million the last five years to 14 of these nonprofits and their affiliated doctors.

Revelations about the incredible extent of corporate opioid irresponsibility continue as well. A congressional committee has just found that “two of the nation’s biggest drug distributors shipped 12.3 million doses of powerful opioids to a single pharmacy in a tiny West Virginia town over an eight-year period.”

Behind every great fortune, the French novelist Honoré de Balzac once observed, lurks a crime.

Some crimes kill.


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Cannabis 101: How Long Does A Marijuana High Last?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:37
Some of the effects have a longer duration than others.

Getting high for the first time can be a frightening experience for some. Not that it should be. Marijuana is one of the safest intoxicating substances on the planet. Even the United States government admits there have not been any recorded overdose deaths from weed in history.


So, there’s that. You’re not going to die. But one of the biggest questions asked by the cannabis-newbie before joining in on the smoktivities for the first time is: How long is this marijuana high going to last? It’s a respectable question.

Let’s say you have to go to work later, or perhaps visit the parents for Sunday dinner. You can’t afford to be ripped out of your mind all day. We get it.

When it comes to marijuana, it is important to understand that some of the effects have a longer duration than others. If you’re short on time and can’t finish this article right now, here are the basics: smoking or vaping marijuana lasts a few hours, edibles will get you really high later in the day (and last most of it), dabs will kick your ass and likely force you to cancel whatever plans you have.


Smoking And Vaping Flowers

Smoking marijuana is the most common form of consumption. The effects come on almost instantaneously and last one to three hours. The high you get from smoking or vaping flowers might seem a bit intense at first, but it never lasts too long.


Dabs are much stronger. But as long as a person doesn’t keep taking hit after hit, the effects will again begin to wind down after the first hour. Then sometime around the second hour, the only concern is what the hell is in the kitchen to eat. That’s right – you will get the munchies. But that is a subject for a different time, another article.

Marijuana Edibles

What about edibles? The effects of marijuana edibles can be somewhat enigmatic. If the product was purchased at a dispensary in a legal state, it is less of an ordeal trying to gauge dosage. Just take a low dose and wait for an hour. But for those folks sitting around a plate of marijuana brownies baked by a giggling team of stoners, the outcome might not be so certain.

Either way, the high from marijuana edibles does not hit immediately. It can take up to two hours before a person begins to feel high. But hang on — it’s only going to get more intense from there. For the next several hours, it might seem like you’re getting higher and higher with each passing minute. This is not an illusion. You are. Edibles can last between five and eight hours. And that is if you have consumed them modestly. And for the love of everything holy, don’t make the mistake of eating more THC-infused treats after catching the munchies. You could be stoned for days.

Chill, Baby

The best advice for the cannabis newcomer is to take it slow. But if you screw the pooch and end up higher than you can handle, just try to relax. Don’t call 911. Nothing bad is going to happen. Again, you’re not going to die. You won’t end up in a mental institution. You’ll be back to your normal self in no time.


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Is the Current Opioid Crisis a Class Issue?

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:00
Rich people can go to ritzy private clinics to get help. The rest of us, not so much.

Recently there have been a lot of discussion about how terrible the opioid crisis is. Parents all over the country are concerned about the numbers of young people who overdose and/or die. Heart wrenching stories of families stunned by the fact that their children taking drugs to that extent. Big pharma as drug manufacturers are called, that make and sell opioid painkillers as well as other countries which ship in fentanyl are being confronted as families demand something be done. People are caught completely by surprise because they obtained their initial drugs as prescriptions and addiction was not something that happens here.

Although heroin abuse has existed well before the current opioid epidemic, prescription opioids have created a new market. When drug abusers run out of their prescriptions or cannot afford to buy painkillers off the black market, they turn to heroin and fentanyl. Users quickly build a tolerance to opioids, leading them to seek increasingly large amounts to produce the same high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2016 drug overdoses claimed the lives of as many as 65,000 Americans.

Morphine, the active ingredient in opium, was synthesized in the early 1800s and in its purest form, is ten times stronger than opium. The drug was widely used as a painkiller during the U.S. Civil War. During the Civil War. Many of the veterans who had horrendous injuries used. As a result, an estimated 400,000 soldiers became addicted.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, scientists had begun to look for a less addictive form of morphine, and in 1874, an English chemist named Alder Wright refined heroin from a morphine base. It was intended to be a safer replacement for morphine and supplanted the more addictive pure opium.

The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at limiting the number of Chinese immigrants in the belief they brought opium to the United States. The first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans for pretty much the same reasons. These populations were viewed as part of or responsible for the drug problems of their time.

In the 1903 the Harrison Act regulated what could and could not be distributed as drugs. Dr. Hamilton Wright was appointed Opium Commissioner of the United States. and was quoted as saying, “Of all the nations of the world, the United States consumes most habit-forming drugs per capita. Opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this country, with far fewer safeguards than any other nation in Europe."

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. President Richard M. Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) into law in 1970. This statute calls for the regulation of certain drugs and substances. Nixon went on to create the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973. This agency is responsible for tackling drug use and smuggling in the United States.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan reinforced and expanded many of Nixon’s War on Drugs policies. In 1984, his wife Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, which was an effort to educate children on the dangers of drug use. President Reagan’s refocus on drugs led to a significant increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes.

In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. Although the National Drug Intelligence Center suggests that drug abuses involving cocaine aren’t tied to any age group or demographic, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was later heavily criticized as having racist ramifications because it allocated longer prison sentences for offenses involving the same amount of crack cocaine (used more often by black Americans) as powder cocaine (used more often by white Americans), leading to disproportionate incarceration rates among communities of color.

The abuse of and addiction to opioids is not confined to the united states. prescription pain relievers is a serious global problem. It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States

In just one year—from 2014 to 2015—the death rate from synthetic opioids increased by 72 percent, and heroin death rates increased by almost 21 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually in health-care costs.

Why am I talking about this? Because the opioid crisis is not new. When a societal threat becomes a moral issue attributed to a lack of mental strength (remember President Trump echoing Nancy Reagan’s “just say no”), it becomes a crisis. As funds to Medicaid and Medicare are cut, many of those who most need treatment will find it out of their reach. Treatment itself then becomes a class issue. Rehabs that are not government-funded are horrendously expensive and out of the reach of poor people. The old assumption that there is a correlation between poverty and people of color and drug abuse leaves many of the white rural families of potential addicts woefully ignorant of the signs of abuse and treatment.

In 2016, drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans. That was 21 percent more drug deaths than America had seen in 2015, which had been the worst year for such fatalities in our nation’s history. It was also more unnatural deaths than gun violence, HIV/AIDS, or car accidents had ever caused in the United States in a single year. The scale of devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic was so vast, life expectancy in the United States fell for the second consecutive year — the first time that had happened since the early 1960s. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl continues to grow at its current rate, Stat News forecasts that more than 650,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses over the next decade.

There is a long list of evidence-based reforms that could save thousands of Americans such as medication-assisted treatment. Under MAT, addicts are provided with methadone and buprenorphine — less powerful opioids that satiate most addicts’ cravings, and arrest their withdrawal symptoms, without inducing heroin’s debilitating, euphoric high.

Despite the fact that the opioid crisis cost the American economy $504 billion, in 2015 alone, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. the present administration has prioritized passing trillion-dollar cuts to Medicaid, one of the top sources of funding for addiction treatment in the United States and called for reducing spending on preventative anti-drug measures and proposing slashing the budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent. Treatment will only be available to those most able to pay.


National Institute on Drug Abuse » Legislative Activities America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
Nora D. Volkow, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control May 14, 2014
About Addiction » Drugs of Abuse » Cocaine » Crack Cocaine Statistics
E. Levitz (2018) New York Magazine, Trump Has Given Victims of the Opioid Crisis Nothing but Contempt
K. Leonard, Staff Writer (2016) These Are the Drugs Killing the Most People in the US. |Dec. 20, 2016, Staff (2017), Heroin, Morphine and Opiates,, Access Date, February 05, 2018
National Institute on Drug Abuse » Legislative Activities America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
Nora D. Volkow, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control May 14, 2014


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Science Proves Marijuana Is Not A Gateway Drug, And Never Was

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:55
Jeff Sessions and the other drug warriors are flat-out wrong, latest research shows (again).

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading drug warrior, took another shot at his herbal enemy: Cannabis.

During a speech decrying the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, Sessions displayed his reefer madness tendencies by claiming, “The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent,” Sessions said. “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”


Wrong. Instead of saying “I think,” perhaps America’s top cop should say “I read.” The latest in a countless string of studies regarding the “Gateway Theory” was released earlier this week and it demonstrates that Sessions is out of touch with reality.

According to a paper published in the journal Drug And Alcohol Review:

Given the expansion of cannabis legalisation throughout North America, it is encouraging that cannabis use was associated with slower time to initiation of injection drug use in this cohort. This finding challenges the view of cannabis as a gateway substance that precipitates the progression to using harder and more addictive drugs.

Sessions, of course, is infamous for saying that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” so it’s pretty obvious he is not the most objective person on the subject. But it has been demonstrated over and over and over again that there is no empirical evidence that marijuana use causes harder drug use.

report by RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center explains:

The new DPRC research thus demonstrates that the phenomena supporting claims that marijuana is a gateway drug also support the alternative explanation: that it is not marijuana use but individuals’ opportunities and unique propensities to use drugs that determine their risk of initiating hard drugs.

Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests marijuana actually reduces opioid use. Data has shown that medical marijuana legalization lowers the number of people misusing opioids.


According to Canadian brain researcher, Dr. Matthew Hill, “I’d say the whole idea of cannabis being a gateway drug is a debunked thing at this point. …I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that,” said Hill, who is an assistant professor at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary.

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Medical Cannabis Can Help You Heal From Hepatitis C

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 13:03
But not in the way you think.

Although Hepatitis C can be treated effectively, and may even clear up on its own, there is evidence that cannabis can help heal the liver. But it’s vague. A 2005 review of the medical literature concluded that cannabinoids “appear to be involved in several aspects of acute and chronic liver disease.” Another review from that year was both more upbeat and less precise: Cannabis, it said, presents “an exciting interventional landscape.”


Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. Its symptoms are so mild that it is frequently undiagnosed—which is bad, because chronic Hepatitis C and lead to life-threatening conditions, such cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is spread through blood, so the primary channels are having sex (particularly if you already have an STD) and sharing needles.

Newer Hep C drugs work well and have mild side effects, but the traditional treatment can cause anxiety, depression, nausea, and diarrhea. If you’re lucky, you’ll just get flu-like symptoms.

But one interesting vein of research shows that the primary benefit that cannabis provides hep C patients is not medical but motivational.

A study from 2006 observed that the primary risk group for Hepatitis C is illicit drug users are. Not to trade in stereotypes, but that population, practically by definition, is one that is marginal and has little support. Accordingly, it’s easy for them to drop out of treatment—particularly when that treatment can be physically and emotionally grueling.

The study concluded that cannabis can calm the ill effects of hep C treatment, much as it does the side effects of chemotherapy. But also, it just makes people feel better. And if they feel better and more hopeful about their lives, they’re more likely to continue treatment.

The study ends with this endearing attempt at nerd humor: “It may in fact be an ironical truth that those persons who contracted HCV [i.e. hep C] through a form of illicit drug use may be aided in ridding themselves of this, potentially fatal, virus by the use of another drug in addition to their HCV therapy.”


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Federal Sentencing Reform Bill Passes Out of Senate Committee, But Will It Get a Floor Vote?

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:38
The bill would reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, but Trump and Sessions don't like it.

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a broad, bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, sending it on to an uncertain future before the full Senate.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 reduces mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, giving judges greater discretion to take a defendant’s criminal history into account during sentencing.

The bill would allow inmates to petition courts for reconsideration of their sentence while putting in place higher penalties for crimes of domestic violence and trafficking in heroin laced with fentanyl.

The bill also provides for new programs in federal prisons designed to make it easier for inmates to reenter society after their release. Certain inmates who take advantage of the programs would be eligible for reductions in their sentences.

The Judiciary Committee sent the bill to the floor by a 16-5 vote on Thursday, first striking down an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would have changed how the bill handles sentences for criminals with gun charges in their past and removed the bill’s retroactivity provisions.

The bill only requires courts to hand down mandatory minimum sentences to people who used a gun during a crime of violence or drug crime if they have in the past been convicted and served a sentence for a gun charge.

Cruz said he is concerned the bill would be too lenient on violent criminals, though the bill’s supporters noted courts would not automatically apply the changes retroactively, but would first need to consider a petition from the defendant and evaluate the case record as a whole.

Still, Cruz predicted the bill would not come to the floor without his amendment and promised to vote against it if it did.

“From my perspective, I would happily and enthusiastically support a bill that lessened mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, but as written I cannot in good conscience support this bill and I have real concerns that it could result in violent criminals being released from prison early who would go on to commit other crimes,” Cruz said.

A similar bill stalled in the Senate during the final year of the Obama administration, in no small part due to the efforts of Sessions, who was then a senator from Alabama. Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Sessions sent a letter to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee and a lead sponsor of the bill, opposing the legislation.

Grassley was frustrated with Sessions’ statement, saying at Thursday’s meeting that he would not allow a member of the executive branch to dictate which legislation his committee would consider.

“He’s now attorney general and he’s charged with executing the laws that Congress passes, not interfering with the legislative process,” Grassley said. “Certainly we value input from DOJ, but if Attorney General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job as he talked about last November and be in a Republican Senate seat now held by a Democrat from Alabama.”

Grassley was also frustrated because Sessions condemned the bill even after the senator told President Trump he would not consider a new attorney general nominee at a time of rampant speculation that the president wanted to fire Sessions.

“I’m really irritated that he would send that letter, considering the fact that he was very controversial before this committee to be attorney general, considering that most of the assistant attorney generals that have been sent up here have been very controversial and difficult to get through this committee, considering the fact that the president was going to fire him last spring and I went to his defense,” Grassley said. “I don’t think that’s something that somebody should do to friends.”

Last week Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, urged the committee to consider severing the sentencing reform portion of the bill from the sections directed at prison reform, saying he does not see a path forward on the legislation as written. Cornyn said the White House does not support the sentencing reform portion of the bill, but that it would be open to prison reform legislation.

Cornyn added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be hesitant to bring up any bill that does not have broad support within his caucus. While the sentencing reform portion of the bill does not have such support, Cornyn said the prison reform package likely would.

Cornyn voted against sending the bill to the floor on Thursday, saying he wants the committee to approve a bill that has a chance of becoming law. Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., John Kennedy, R-La., and Cruz joined Cornyn in opposing the bill Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Grassley said he has not received assurances from McConnell that the bill will get a vote before the full Senate.

“That’s the next step, we’ve got to take it a step at a time and we have a few steps to take,” Grassley told reporters Thursday.


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Treat Addiction in Prisons to Reduce Opioid Deaths

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:29
A groundbreaking program in Rhode Island has cut post-release overdose deaths by more than half. That's impressive.

A treatment program for opioid addiction launched by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections was associated with a significant drop in drug overdose deaths after inmates were released—and contributed to an overall drop in overdose deaths statewide, a new study finds.

The program, launched in 2016 and the only one of its kind in the nation, screens all Rhode Island inmates for opioid use disorder and provides medications for addiction treatment (MAT) for those who need it.

Comparing the six-month period before the program was implemented to the same period a year later, the study showed a 61 percent decrease in post-incarceration deaths. That decrease contributed to an overall 12 percent reduction in overdose deaths in the state’s general population in the post-implementation period.

Tackling the opioid epidemic

While the study, which appears in JAMA Psychiatry, was designed as a preliminary evaluation of the program, the results suggest that comprehensive MAT treatment in jails and prisons, with links to treatment in the community after release, is a promising strategy for rapidly addressing the opioid epidemic nationwide, the researchers say.

“This program reaches an extremely vulnerable population at an extremely vulnerable time with the best treatment available for opioid use disorder,” says coauthor Josiah “Jody” Rich, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brown University and director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Miriam Hospital in Providence.

“With this study, we wanted to see if that intervention could impact statewide overdose mortality, and the answer is a resounding yes,” Rich says.

The program could be a national model for how to begin turning the tide in the opioid epidemic, says lead author Traci Green, an adjunct associate professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology, senior researcher at Rhode Island Hospital, and a researcher at Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction.

“People have been searching for some way to stop overdose deaths,” says Green, who is also an associate professor in Boston University’s schools of medicine and public health. “Here we have a program that’s shown to work, and it’s absolutely replicable in other places.

“Not only do we see that a statewide program treating people using medications for addiction treatment is possible and reduces deaths, but also this approach intervenes on the opioid epidemic at its most lethal and socially disrupting point—incarceration—to give hope and heal communities,” Green says.

Path to recovery

The nature of opioid use disorder makes people who are incarcerated especially vulnerable to overdose, Rich says. People who use opioids build a tolerance, meaning they require an ever-increasing dose to get the same effect. That tolerance quickly evaporates during incarceration, when people are forced off the drugs.

“They may have stopped using while incarcerated, but nothing has been done to change the pathways in the brain responsible for addiction. So when they get out, people are likely to relapse, and with their tolerance gone, they’re at high risk for overdose,” Rich explains.

Decades of research from around the globe have shown that MAT is the best path to recovery for people with opioid use disorder, whereas simple detox or “cold turkey” fails 90 percent of the time.

The MAT program implemented by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) consists of three different drug therapies. Two drugs, methadone and buprenorphine, are opioid medications that help to reduce withdrawal symptoms like drug craving. The third drug, naltrexone, blocks people from experiencing the high normally associated with opioid use. Clinical criteria are used to tailor the best treatment for each individual patient.

“While comprehensive treatment for opiate use disorders has not been the traditional role of correctional facilities, we have shown that it is feasible,” says Jennifer Clarke, an associate professor of medicine at Brown, medical programs director at RIDOC, and director of the RIDOC MAT program. “Providing treatment saves lives and helps people become productive members of society, positively engages them with their communities and families which makes for healthier and safer communities.”

CODAC Behavioral Health, a nonprofit provider of medications for addiction treatment contracted by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC), provides treatment to the inmates. Upon release, former inmates can continue their treatment without interruption at CODAC, primary care providers, or other Centers of Excellence in MAT locations around the state. Patients also receive assistance with enrolling or re-enrolling in health insurance to make sure they are covered when they return to the community.

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The study was designed as a preliminary assessment of the program’s effectiveness in reducing overdose deaths among recently incarcerated people, meaning those who had been incarcerated within a year of their deaths.

The findings show that the number of recently incarcerated people who died from overdose dropped from 26 in the first half of 2016—before the program started—to just nine in the first half of 2017, after the program’s implementation.

The decrease in post-incarceration overdose deaths, which occurred within six to 12 months of initiating the program, was a major contributor to the overall decline in overdose deaths among Rhode Island’s general population in the two study periods. The number of deaths fell from 179 in the 2016 period to 157 in the 2017 period.

Turning the tide

“What’s remarkable is that between 2016 and 2017 there was a huge jump in the amount of fentanyl and related compounds available on the illicit market,” Rich says. “So in the face of a worsening overdose risk, we actually saw a decline in overdose deaths. We’re quite confident that that happened because we’ve given people these medicines and they’ve stayed on them long enough to avoid an overdose.”

The researchers say the study’s positive results likely underestimate the effect of the program. Though launched in the summer of 2016, the program wasn’t fully up and running at all locations in the correctional system until early 2017. So the 2017 study period doesn’t capture the fully operational program.

The research team plans to perform further evaluation of the program, looking at longer-term outcomes among those treated with MAT, as well as how the program might affect re-incarceration and other population-level outcomes. But these early data make a strong case that this type of intervention could help stem the tide of opioid overdoses, the researchers say.

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“People may say, well, Rhode Island is a small state and that’s why they were able to implement this,” Green says. “But there are state and county correctional systems all over the country that are the same size as Rhode Island’s. They could all be doing this, and this study tells us that they should be.”

Rich agrees that Rhode Island’s program should serve as a model for similar programs across the country.

“If people are concerned about overdose deaths in their community, they should demand that a similar program of comprehensive MAT be promptly implemented in the correctional facilities that service their community,” he says.

The program grew out of work done by Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. Both Green and Rich are expert advisors to the Task Force and study’s coauthors include the two Task Force co-chairs, Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, and Rebecca Boss,  the director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health funded the work.

Source: Brown University

Original Study DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.4614



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Challengers of Marijuana Scheduling Unlikely to See Lift-Off

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:15
It looks like the federal judiciary will once again defer to the executive branch when it comes to rescheduling pot.

MANHATTAN (CN) – Forecasting defeat for a group of medical marijuana users, a federal judge said Wednesday that their strong arguments simply do not give him authority to alter Schedule I drug classifications.

“I think the right thing to do is defer to the agency,” U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said, though he ultimately ended the hearing without making a decision.

Though it may ultimately prevail, the government drew skepticism from Hellerstein with its argument in court filings that it “uniformly rejects the notion that there is a fundamental right to use marijuana, including for medical purposes.

Schedule I drugs by definition cannot be considered to have currently accepted medical use, but Hellerstein noted that the challengers are “living proof of the medical-appropriateness of marijuana.”

To the government’s point, however, Hellerstein conceded that “a District Court is not the appropriate forum” to weigh scheduling criteria.

Michael Hiller, an attorney for the marijuana users, focused meanwhile on the futility of pursuing administrative relief.

“I represent people who need cannabis to live,” Hiller said.

Among these clients are former NFL player Marvin Washington, Iraq war veteran Jose Belen, and two children who use marijuana to treat epilepsy and the severe neurological disorder called Leigh’s syndrome.

Hiller called petitioning process to change the drug’s scheduling so drawn out that his clients may die in the process.

Justice Department attorney Samuel Dollinger meanwhile argued that the doctrine of administrative exhaustion requires dismissal of the case in any case.

Hellerstein, who his 85, has been on the bench since his appointment in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.

He noted that, even if marijuana were rescheduled to Schedule II, it would still be in the same category as the prescription opiates that have cause a nationwide epidemic.

“The scourge that’s going on now would be Schedule II,” Hellerstein said.

Schedule I criteria also list a high potential for abuse and say the drug cannot be used or tested safely, even under strict medical supervision.

It was in the Nixon administration that Attorney General John Mitchell placed marijuana the Schedule I category in 1972 under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

When the plaintiffs filed suit in July 2017, they connected the criminalization of marijuana in America to an “illegal racial and ethnic animus, … implemented and enforced at the federal level by those who have chosen to disregard its scientific properties and benefits, and have been motivated by hatred and outright bigotry.”

Hellerstein voiced objection at Wednesday’s hearing to probing the “inner machinations” of the Nixon administration, but attorney Hiller still managed to squeeze in that the history of marijuana’s federal scheduling was part of Nixon and Mitchell’s “predatory effort to break up protesters and infiltrate opposition groups.”

Hiller’s complaint remarked that the federal government has used the Controlled Substance Act to “harass, intimidate and incarcerate African Americans in disproportionate numbers over the years, ruining the lives of generations of black men and women and other persons of color.”

Marijuana proponents filled Hellerstein’s courtroom to capacity. At least four were using wheelchairs, and one was accompanied by a service dog wearing a vest with military veteran insignia.

The arrival of silver-haired attorney and marijuana activist Joseph Bondy elicited applause from the room of supporters. Bondy then shook hands with nearly everyone in attendance.

Directors from the New York-based Cannabis Cultural Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group, also appeared in court as co-plaintiffs.

At a press conference outside the courthouse, supporters were optimistic about Hellerstein’s acknowledgement of marijuana’s medical uses.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in January that the Trump administration would reverse an Obama-era policy that gave states room to legalize marijuana.

The change will allow federal prosecutors to enforce marijuana laws in their districts as they see fit.

Sessions says the shift is necessary because Congress has made it clear through other laws that “marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.”

In April 2016, Sessions reportedly declared that he believed “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”


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We All Use Drugs, So Treat Drug Users as You Would Want to Be Treated

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:45
Click here for reuse options! Let's help people with drug problems, and hold responsible the people who harm others.

We are all drug users. Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, weed, Viagra, ecstasy, antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills and more: people are using these drugs on a weekly or even daily basis.

Why do we all use drugs? Because drugs work. We all have our personal reasons for using, whether for pleasure, or treating pain or otherwise. And of course many people face challenges from their drug use.

Coffee helps me start my day and gives me a little boost in the afternoon. While I know how harmful my cigarette habit is, it also gives me pleasure. I enjoy my smoke breaks throughout the day, going outside and getting some space, clearing my head and doing my people watching as New Yorkers walk by. I really appreciate my vodka sodas after work. Whether I am kicking up my feet at home or hanging out with friends, it is pleasurable for me. Smoking weed can both relax me and also give me energy. I like watching movies or eating a nice meal after a smoke and also enjoy getting deep with friends or doing some creative writing while a little high.

It’s clear to me that some of my drug use is because of stress and an attempt to push down some anxiety and difficult feelings. Life can be hard. Most of us are stressed when it comes to jobs, money, paying bills and god forbid trying to save a little bit. Watch the news and you are inundated with scary, deadly fires, hurricanes and floods. There are wars happening around the world and people fleeing violence and oppression. We have a President who is constantly attacking women and marginalized communities and playing a game of nuclear war chicken with North Korea. We read about school shootings on a weekly basis. We are living in nerve-wracking times. I sometimes joke, if you are not self-medicating, you are not paying attention. There is a serious opioid overdose crisis in our country right now and the reasons are many and complex. But I would wager that people’s physical and spiritual pain is a major factor contributing to the widespread use and misuse seen today.

While most people use drugs, not everyone has the same relationship with these different drugs and some of us have different experiences with drugs depending on the night or what is going on in our life at that time. The majority of people can enjoy alcohol, but for some, alcohol is a harmful drug and causes real harm and destruction in their lives. Some people can enjoy a couple of cigarettes when they have a couple of drinks. For others, there is no moderation and a single cigarette easily turns into a pack a day habit. Some use their opioids in a healthy way for their pain and for others, it can lead to serious addiction that can become the focus of their life.

While it is counterintuitive, it is worth pointing out that the overwhelming majority of people who use drugs don’t become addicted. Dr. Carl Hart, a neuroscientist and professor at Columbia University has done groundbreaking work around drug use and addiction and notes that, “80 to 90 percent of people who use illegal drugs are not addicts. They don't have a drug problem. Most are responsible members of our society. They are employed. They pay their taxes. They take care of their families. And in some cases they even become president of the United States.”

While drug use and abuse don’t discriminate, our drug policies do. The war on drugs is a vicious war on people and African Americans and people of color feel the brunt of this war. Despite similar rates of use and sales, African Americans go to prison at 13 times the rates of whites for drugs. While marijuana legalization is becoming mainstream and entrepreneurs are getting rich, we still have hundreds of thousands of people getting stopped, frisked and arrested for marijuana – mostly young people of color. Last year, in “progressive” New York City, 18,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession with African Americans and Latinos making up 85% of the arrests. People who are arrested often face immediate and long-term consequences that can make it difficult to get and keep a job, maintain a professional license, obtain educational loans, secure housing, or even keep custody of a child or adopt.

So if we can agree that the majority of people in society are using drugs, and if most people who use drugs don’t have a problem, what should be done about it? The answer is not what Donald Trump is proposing. His proposals are building a wall along the border, telling people to “Just Say No” and doubling down on law enforcement and mass incarceration. I think it is pretty obvious that our 50-year war on drugs is not the answer.

So how should our society deal with people who use drugs? I propose four simple solutions: 1) Offer treatment and compassion to people who want help for their drug problems; 2) leave people alone who don't want or need treatment; 3) continue to hold people responsible for crimes that harm others; and 4) fight like hell to end the war on drugs and stop locking up our brothers and sisters.

1) Offer treatment and compassion to people who have drug problems. While our society gives lip-service to helping people struggling with drug misuse or addiction, 90 percent of folks who want treatment can't get it. Meanwhile, thousands of people are forced into treatment every year simply because they were arrested for drug possession, even though many of them don't meet the diagnostic criteria for substance dependence.

We should have free treatment available on request. We should remove barriers to entering treatment, which is far more effective and less expensive than putting someone in jail. We need to reduce overdose deaths by getting the overdose reversal drug Naloxone into the hands of people who use opiates and their family members. We need laws that allow people to call 911 when witnessing an overdose without fear of arrest. We need supervised injection facilities where people can use in safe places with medical staff on hand to make sure people don’t die from an overdose. We should make methadone and replacement therapy available to those who want it. We should acknowledge that relapse happens and not kick people out of treatment who slip up.

2) Leave alone people who don't want or need treatment. As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of people who use drugs don't have problems from their use.

More than 1.5 million people are arrested every year in the U.S. simply for drug possession. The majority of these people don't have drug problems and yet we are handcuffing them and saddling them with criminal records that will severely limit their opportunities in life.

3) Continue to hold people responsible for crimes that harm others. People who harm others, whether on drugs or not, need to be held responsible. Simply using or possessing drugs should not be cause for arrest, but if someone gets behind the wheel while impaired, or commits a predatory or violent crime against someone, they should continue to be held accountable.

4) Fight to end the war on drugs and stop locking up our brothers and sisters.
The war on drugs is really a war on us. It is time to decriminalize all drugs and stop arresting people simply for using or possessing a certain substance. We are all using drugs, most non-problematically. How can we allow the police to target, arrest and lock up our brothers and sisters in cages for something we are all doing? Let's help people with drug problems, leave in peace those without a problem, hold responsible those who harm others and end this tragic, inhumane war on drugs. Let's get people to care about this.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

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True Love, Not Tough Love: How Mothers of Addicts Are Helping to End the Drug War

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 07:24
Click here for reuse options! Stop using failed drug war tactics to address what is essentially a public health epidemic.

On Wednesday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate love in all relationships and forms. For mothers, whose children have struggled with substance use disorders, it is a day to reflect on the pure nature of unconditional parental love. With this deeper reflection, mothers from the Moms United to End the War on Drugs international campaign are rejecting paternalistic drug policies that circumvent our maternal wisdom and replace it with cruel, anti-family values. The mission of Moms United is to end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are the result of current discriminatory and prohibitionist drug policies.

On February 14, 2018, Moms United launched our “True Love Not Tough Love” campaign. Many of us have lost teens and adult children to drug-related death. We know that simplistic advice, by well-meaning but misinformed friends and criminal justice and healthcare professionals, to just let our loved ones “hit bottom” would often mean death. We have insight as moms that others don’t have, so we are speaking out to other mothers to warn them that their children are in danger too, and to use our innate moral authority to teach unconditional and positive regard. We encourage parents to reject the practice of “tough love” in raising our children, and instead offer steady but loving direction and discipline so that our youth can achieve their goals and live happy and healthy lives. We are reclaiming our basic mothers’ rights to nurture and protect our children.

The opioid crisis is a tragedy of epic proportion. In the United States, one person is dying every 10 minutes due to overdose. Many of these deaths could have been avoided. We must stop wasting time and resources by employing failed drug war tactics to address what is essentially a public health epidemic.

Moms suggest a better way to save lives and propose five policies to potentially solve the opioid overdose crisis. First, the government must provide adequate funding to address the epidemic. To this day, despite much talk and “commissions” to discuss the crisis, no money has been allocated. Second, we need to have a healthcare system of treatment on demand. Third, we promote and advise therapeutic services, not criminalization and mass incarceration. Fourth, medication-assisted treatment has been proven to be effective in treating addictive illness, so these services should be provided in the community as well as behind bars. And fifth, most importantly, community-based harm reduction services must be made widely available. These include syringe exchanges, naloxone (a safe drug that can quickly reverse an accidental opioid overdose) distribution, and safe consumption spaces. For five days in February, we will be promoting these proposals on social media and encourage others to post and share the messages.

It is beyond time to break away from punitive prohibitionist approaches that exacerbate the problem. “Tough love” paternalistic approaches don’t work, but nurturing and humanistic approaches can achieve success. Ironically, the words “tough” and “love” don’t resonate together and are a jolting and contradictory concept.

As a mother of two sons who have struggled for decades with addiction to heroin, but are now in long-term recovery, I’m deeply concerned that our government appears to be so unenlightened about a health emergency that is taking so many lives across the cultural and socio-economic spectrum. I am one of the lucky moms. My sons are survivors of a retributive criminal justice system. My older son is a survivor of accidental overdose. I deeply believe that constant, abiding love can lead to healing. So, on Valentine’s Day, please honor “true love” and help us to save precious lives.


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Jeff Sessions Just Kicked Off a Brand-New Civil War in the Republican Party

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 01:01
Click here for reuse options! An imbroglio over sentencing reform exposes a major fissure in the GOP.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions came out against a painstakingly cobbled-together Senate sentencing reform bill Wednesday, sparking a public food fight with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the face of dour Corn Belt conservatism.

In a letter reported by Reuters, Sessions warned the committee not to approve the sentencing reform bill, S. 1917, claiming it would reduce sentences for "a highly dangerous cohort of criminals." Passage of the bill would be "a grave error," Sessions said.

The measure is actually a mixed bag, a product of lengthy discussions among senators seeking a compromise that could actually pass the Senate. While it has a number of progressive sentencing reform provisions, mainly aimed at non-violent drug offenders, it also includes new mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, including some drug offenses. Those provisions provide political cover to conservatives fearful of being tagged “soft on crime,” but tired of perpetuating failed drug war policies.

Sessions has no qualms about hardline drug war policies, and his voicing opposition to the sentencing reform bill doesn't come as a shock. But Grassley, who has been shepherding the bill along for months, took it personally.

In an interview with Bloomberg Politics Wednesday afternoon, the rock-ribbed Republican ripped into Sessions, accusing him of being ungrateful after Grassley protected him from Democratic demands for public hearings on his contacts with the Russians and supported him when President Trump wanted to fire him.

"I think it’s legitimate to be incensed and I resent it, because of what I’ve done for him. He had a tough nomination, a tough hearing in my committee," Grassley said. "They wanted to call him back every other day for additional hearings about his Russian connection, and I shut them off of that until we had the normal oversight hearing in October I believe it was, see? And the president was going to fire him, and I backed him, you know? So why wouldn’t I be irritated?"

Grassley also took to Twitter to express his umbrage with his former colleague, tweeting: "Incensed by Sessions letter An attempt to undermine Grassley/Durbin/Lee BIPARTISAN criminal justice reforms This bill deserves thoughtful consideration b4 my cmte. AGs execute laws CONGRESS WRITES THEM!"

For Grassley and the bipartisan coalition attempting to move the bill forward, Sessions' intervention is little more than a last-minute betrayal. A hearing to mark up the draft bill is set for Thursday.

Again, that Sessions would try to derail sentencing reforms is no surprise. He helped kill an earlier sentencing reform bill that also had broad bipartisan support when he was in the Senate. Since taking over as attorney general, he has refused to deviate from a conservative "law and order" agenda.

Sessions regularly takes rhetorical aim at violent crime, illegal immigration, and drugs, but he puts his policy where his mouth is. Last year, he crafted a memo to federal prosecutors instructing them to charge people with the most serious offense possible, a move designed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences. He also crafted another memo to prosecutors undoing Obama's more laissez-faire approach to state-legal marijuana, and he blames marijuana for fueling the opioid epidemic.

Grassley didn't attack Sessions for his draconian policy prescriptions but for his ingratitude at what he saw as a usurping of congressional prerogatives. Still, this battle of the dinosaurs shows how the Trump-Sessions crime agenda is creating fissures at the heart of the Republican Party.



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My Valentine's Day: 33 Years Ago Today I Was Sentenced to 15-to-Life

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 13:26
Click here for reuse options! My wife held her face in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks: the vision would haunt me for years to come.

Today I heard a piece on National Public Radio about the Rockefeller drug laws. It struck me hard – real hard. That's because 33 years ago today, on Valentine's Day, I blew trial and was sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws.

I had delivered four ounces of cocaine for $500 straight into the hands of undercover narcotic officers in Westchester County. A bowling buddy had set me up in a sting operation when he noticed my car kept breaking down and I was arriving late for my bowling league. He knew I was desperate for cash. It was the biggest mistake I ever made.

I remember my last day as a free man as clear as a bell. I sat in the back of the courtroom with my wife Marylou. Our six-year-old daughter was not there because we did not want to put her through the shit we were going through. I had been on bail for a year and was facing hard time.   

After the final arguments, Judge Marasco briefed the jury on deciding a verdict. I sat there, dry-mouthed, the world spinning out of control, catching only snippets of what he was saying: “…must prove…beyond a reasonable doubt…consider the evidence…agree on a verdict…should be as follows….”

I tried to focus, but part of me already knew I’d lost.

“ …the first count, criminally selling a controlled substance in the first degree, either guilty or not guilty. On the second count, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, either guilty or not guilty….”

The jury left the courtroom at 2:43pm. A half-hour later, the jury sent a note to the judge asking to hear an inaudible tape that was the main piece of evidence against me. They also relied on a transcript that the undercover cops created from the tape, putting words in my mouth. It was unreal, like a nightmare. They did this four times, concentrating mainly on the tape. Some jurors even timed the alleged transaction, opening and closing an imaginary envelope and smelling its contents. At the end of a grueling day, the judge recessed until the following morning. I knew it was my last night as a free man.

I thought about running. I called up Johnny Payne, who was a bowling buddy. “You gotta lend me some money,” I said, my voice cracking. “I gotta run away.” He tried to discourage me, told me I was overreacting. And besides, he said, did I want to spend the rest of my life as a wanted man? It seemed like a better choice than 15 years in prison, I said.

I stayed up all night. My wife and daughter lay on each side of me in our bed. I clutched them tightly and stared at the religious candles my wife had lit, praying for strength and guidance. I had no money, no place to go. My only real choice was to go back to court and pray for the best. My wife and daughter needed me. It wouldn’t do them any good if I ran.

The next day, deliberations on People vs. Papa continued until 3:30pm, when a verdict was finally made. At the time, I was sitting with my wife in the hallway. The doors of the courtroom swung open and two court officers came out.

“If you have a wallet,” one of them said, “you better give that and any other personal belongings to your wife.”

“Standard procedure,” assured the other, when he saw the look of panic on my face.

I was scared. I handed over my house keys and wallet. Now, I wanted to run. I sized up the two armed court officers and looked at the exit. The officer must have read my mind. He put his hand on the gun sitting in its holster. His gesture made my legs wobble. I was too weak to struggle. I knew it was the end.

The officers escorted me into the courtroom and steered me into my chair, each of them placing a hand on my shoulders.

Judge Marasco addressed the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have your note, which reads as follows: ‘We have reached our decision.’” He then turned to the clerk. “The clerk will please read the verdict.”

The clerk nodded and addressed the leader of the jury. “Madam Forelady, please rise. Members of the jury, have you agreed upon a verdict?”

“Yes we have,” she said. It seemed ridiculous that none of the jurors knew that I was facing 15 years to life. The judge told them that they should only be concerned with whether or not I was guilty, not with the terms of punishment. On some occasions, I’d ridden the elevators up to the courtroom with members of the jury. I’d been tempted to shout: Do you know what I’m facing? But the judge had given me a direct order not to speak to them.

The clerk continued reading my fate:

“Members of the jury, as I read each count of the charges, please tell me how you find the accused under each count.” The forelady nodded.

“One, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree.”


“Count two, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.”


It was over. Prison.

“Sorry, pal,” George, my lawyer, said, laying a hand on my shoulder. His other hand wiped a crocodile tear from his eye.

The court officers grabbed hold of my arms and told me to follow them. I was so shocked that fighting and running were the last things on my mind. As they pulled me away, I turned to Marylou. She was crying. That last vision of her, holding her face in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks, was one that would haunt me for years to come. Through choking sobs, she told me she would never leave me. As I walked away, I told her I loved her and wished her a Happy Valentine's Day. She reached forward to embrace me, but the guards blocked her. I was handcuffed and taken away. It was the end of my life as I knew it.

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Why California's Marijuana Taxes Are Much More Than Beer and Wine, But Less Than Cigarettes

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 13:07
For every buck you spend on weed there, add in 35 cents in taxes. Why California's cannabis taxes are much more than wine and beer, but less than cigarettes

Bummer! For every dollar you spend on cannabis in California, you may have to pay another 35 cents to the government. The tax man's grab on ganja proceeds has come into full focus since legal sales started in January, and the sticker shock over the price of pot has filled social media with a mix of outrage and confusion over just what's driving up the cost of cannabis

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Malaysia Set to Execute More People for Drug Offenses

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 15:25
The U.N. opposes the use of the death penalty for drug law violations, but too many countries won't listen.

Last month, six people were sentenced to death for drug trafficking by a Malaysian court. Two are Malaysian and the rest are Indian nationals (India is another country that maintains the death penalty for drug offenses). While Malaysia has taken steps to make the death penalty for certain drug offenses non-mandatory, slow implementation of the law and the retention of the death penalty means that many more will executed in the name of the war on drugs.

The six people are among hundreds facing capital punishment for drug law violations in Malaysia. And among hundreds more in the region. Less than two months ago, China executed seven people for drug offenses in front of thousands of onlookers. And just a few years ago, Indonesia executed eight people for drug offenses, despite repeated pleas for mercy from family members, citizens, human rights organizations, the United Nations and governments from around the world.

Even here in the U.S., where the death penalty isn’t applied for drug offenses, the current opioid overdose crisis has led to more criminalization of people who sell drugs. The governor of Florida recently signed a bill that would expand the definition of first-degree murder—a crime for which the death penalty can be applied in the state—to include selling a lethal dose of the opioid fentanyl.

The United Nations opposes the use of the death penalty for drug law violations, and has repeatedly upheld that using the death penalty to enforce drug laws violates international law. International law limits the application of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes” which does not include drug use, sales, or trafficking.  

Despite this, 33 countries still use this ineffective and draconian measure to deal with drug offenses. In some countries, there have been signs of reform. Iran, which has sentenced thousands to death for drugs, recently amended its penal code, indicating that even countries that have long relied on capital punishment for drug offenses are realizing how ineffective it is.

While the death penalty represents an extreme example of the perverse ways in which governments punish people suspected of involvement with illegal drugs, many more countries around the world of are also guilty of heinous crimes in this misguided global drug war.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

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Trump's Budget Doubles Down on the Drug War

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 13:21
Click here for reuse options! Plenty of spending on cops, and money to burn on a border wall that will accomplish nothing.

The Trump administration released its proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget Monday, and it looks like a return to last century's failed law-and-order drug war policies. While paying lip service to the nation's opioid crisis, the administration shows its priorities by asking for more money for Trump's quixotic border wall than to actually address opioids.

In contrast with the Obama administration, which sought to tip the balance between law enforcement and treatment and prevention by tilting funding toward more counselors than cops, the Trump budget tilts back toward law enforcement.

The budget would also gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), a move that is alarming mainstream critics of Trump's drug policies, but one that more radical critics of drug prohibition—on both the left and the right—are not too upset about. For such critics, the drug czar's office is just one more prohibitionist federal bureaucracy, and shrinking or eliminating it would be a good thing.

But overall, the Trump budget is doubling down on the drug war.

Here are some of the lowlights from the proposed budget:

  • The DEA gets a spending increase of $400 million, despite its legacy of obstruction, thuggery, and corruption.
  • $18 million in funding over two years for the border wall, even though it won't stop the flow of drugs and even though undocumented immigration over the border is at a historic low.
  • The Interagency Crime and Drug Enforcement program, an entity that coordinates federal agencies to go after drug sellers, gets a $5 million increase.
  • Restored funding to the tune of $50 million for an anti-drug media campaign, a failed initiative that was zeroed out in 2012 after studies showed that the over-the-top campaigns may have actually increased drug use.
  • $43 million for expanding drug courts, a misbegotten initiative where the criminal justice system pretends to have medical expertise and punishes people suffering from drug dependency for failing to get better.  There is also mounting evidence that drug courts reject evidence-based approaches to treating drug use.
  • A $20 million cut in the Second Chance Act, a program aimed at helping people leaving prison reenter society.
  • It is also deeply concerning to see that the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) would be moved from ONDCP to the DEA. The Reagan-era program incentives state and local law enforcement to make drug arrests and then bill the federal government, allowing states to fill their courts and prisons with drug offenders on the cheap.
  • $333 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. The figure is actually a slight decline from the last years of the Obama administration, but still represents hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to state and local law enforcement to incentivize drug arrests and prosecutions.
  • Overall, an increase of $775 million for the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security for drug war efforts.

"Trump’s budget proposes new funds for addressing the opioid overdose crisis, but far more money is being sought by the president to escalate the war on drugs," said Grant Smith, interim director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. "We know from decades of locking people up for drugs that it doesn’t work to curb drug use, but Trump’s budget proposes wasting billions of dollars to do exactly that. That money would be much better spent on harm reduction and treatment interventions that actually prevent overdoses and save lives."

The Trump budget does include $900 million in increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to address the opioid epidemic, and it claims it would allocate a total of $13 billion to "combat the opioid epidemic," but that figure mixes treatment, prevention and war on drugs funding. And it's still less than what Trump wants to spend on his border wall.

The bright side is that the Trump FY 2019 budget is likely dead on arrival. It's a wish list, likely to be shredded and reconstructed during budget negotiations, and unlikely to look much like the proposal by the time things get done. Still, it demonstrates Trump's priorities with cold clarity.

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Why Police Need to Get Behind Needle Exchanges

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 10:23
Although they are a proven harm reduction intervention, too many cops still see them as somehow enabling drug use.

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Until the opioid epidemic began seeping into nearly every city and town in the country, the idea of a Main Street storefront offering free needles, alcohol wipes and small metal cookers for heroin users was unthinkable in a conservative Southern city like this one.

But these days, most of the roughly 100,000 residents of this historic port on the Cape Fear River are painfully aware that their community has a serious drug problem. Syringes carpet sections of public walkways, drug users congregate in vacant lots, and an increasing number of residents are attending the funerals of friends and family members who have died of an opioid overdose.

As a result, many police officers here fully support syringe exchanges, places where drug users can go to dispose of used needles, pick up fresh ones, get health exams, and maybe find out about treatment options. They say they’re willing to overlook the fact that possessing drug paraphernalia, including syringes, is an arrestable offense.

But even in North Carolina, where the state Sheriffs’ Association helped a grassroots harm reduction organization enact the most liberal syringe exchange law in the country in 2016, many cops still insist that giving free supplies to heroin users simply enables their drug use.

“Police officers are just like the rest of the public,” said Capt. Lars Paul of the Fayetteville Police Department. “Until I got educated on harm reduction, I questioned why we were giving drug users all kinds of free supplies too. It was just a matter of taking the time to talk to folks and learn about the public health benefits of syringe exchanges.”

Kendra Williams, a recovering addict who works part-time for the Wilmington syringe exchange, said some cops in the drug unit there still don’t take the law seriously. “They’ll take away ID cards proving they’re syringe exchange clients and tell them it doesn’t mean anything. If they want to arrest you, they’ll find a way.” 

Shifting Attitudes

Last year, a poll in Ohio — among the nation’s hardest-hit states — found that half of adults in that state favor syringe exchange programs. Politicians are listening.

Nationwide, at least a dozen states legalized syringe exchanges in 2016 and 2017, said Daniel Raymond, policy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, a New York-based national organization that advocates for syringe exchanges. And nearly all of the new laws were signed by Republican governors and approved by GOP-led legislatures, including in Ohio.

That’s not surprising, Raymond said. Many Republican leaders’ constituents — particularly middle-income white males — are among those who have suffered most in the opioid epidemic.

Even so, most of the lawmakers and governors who ultimately approved the laws resisted until they received endorsements from law enforcement groups, Raymond said. Otherwise, they would have risked appearing soft on crime.

A dozen states — Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — enacted laws in 2016 and 2017 that protect the employees and clients of syringe exchanges from existing state drug paraphernalia laws that otherwise could be used to prosecute them for possessing a syringe, according to Raymond.

Five more Republican-led states, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Missouri, are considering similar legislation this year, he said.

An Old Idea

Syringe exchanges, also known as needle exchanges, first came into being in the late 1980s in places such as New York City and San Francisco and in liberal states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington. Once it became clear that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was spreading through needle sharing among injection drug users, public health officials took up the cause.

But until recently, syringe exchanges were nonexistent in rural towns and cities in the rest of the country, except for informal underground efforts organized by advocates.

In North Carolina, syringe exchanges now are cropping up in office parks, pawn shops, church basements, fire stations, hotel parking lots and treatment centers throughout the state, and the state health department is tracking their progress. So far, 26 syringe exchanges have opened, and the coalition is working to open more.

“Until the law was enacted, people were afraid they’d be arrested if they came to pick up supplies,” said Robert Childs, director of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. “And we were afraid to advertise.”

North Carolina’s law made it simple for a syringe exchange to open its doors, he said. For underground groups already supplying drug users with sterile supplies, it simply meant registering with the state health department and providing a plan to ensure the privacy of clients. For new groups, it meant finding funding and a base of operations, even if it was a private vehicle in a parking lot.

A Rural Problem

Unlike the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and previous drug epidemics, which were spawned and largely defeated in urban areas, this opioid epidemic is ensnaring people who live in far-flung small cities and rural communities. In addition to mounting overdose deaths, these rural communities are experiencing unprecedented surges in hepatitis C infections and increasing threats of HIV/AIDS outbreaks.

Despite nearly 200 people testing positive for HIV in Scott County in 2015, Indiana’s then-Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, was reluctant to allow a syringe exchange, because of his moral opposition to drug use. But among those whom Pence sought for counsel, according to The New York Timeswas the local sheriff, who told him: “I believe the only thing we can do … is to get clean needles out there.” Pence declared a public health emergency and allowed a syringe exchange to open to curb further infections.

That exchange has since closed because of lack of support.

Even so, Pence’s emergency declaration marked a turning point for other Republican governors, said Gary Tennis, president and CEO of the National Association of Model State Drug Laws, a research group supported by the federal government. It made it easier for conservative politicians to support syringe exchanges.

But if states want to attack their long-term drug problem, Tennis said, it will be essential to nurture grassroots coalitions like North Carolina’s and build political will, particularly with law enforcement. Without that local support, standing up and maintaining syringe exchanges in affected communities will be impossible, he said.

According to Paul LaKosky, executive director of the North American Syringe Exchange Network, which helps fledgling groups launch syringe exchanges, that’s already starting to happen in dozens of places, including Native American tribal lands and small rural communities across the country.

Nationwide, LaKosky said, the list of syringe exchanges, both official and unofficial, has grown by about 15 percent a year for the past three years, with the fastest growth in Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio.

“We’re seeing the greatest growth in rural areas, where there’s been an historic lack of access to health services of any kind,” LaKosky said. “The opioid epidemic is shining a light on those places.”

Variable Cooperation

West Virginia, which has by far the highest opioid overdose death rate in the country, has not yet enacted legislation to authorize syringe exchanges. But a proposed opioid response plan released by the state health department in January lists harm reduction, including syringe exchanges, as a top priority.

Even without statutory authorization, at least 10 West Virginia municipalities have started exchanges, including eight with affiliations to county health departments.

In Charleston, the state’s new director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, Dr. Michael Brumage, said the police department there fervently supports the city’s syringe exchange. But just a few miles outside of the city, he said, the attitude among police officers is very different.

Dr. Michael Kilkenny, who as Cabell-Huntington public health chief runs a syringe exchange an hour’s drive away in Huntington, said the lack of state authorization makes him nervous.

The city’s drug control director when the exchange opened in 2015, Jim Johnson, said he also worried whether the police department would continue to support it without a state law. “All you’d have to do was stick a policeman outside the office on Monday and you’d have to close the doors on Tuesday.”

In Philadelphia, which has also been hit hard by the epidemic, Scott Burris, director of Temple Law School’s Center for Public Health Law Research, said Kilkenny’s concerns are warranted. To be effective, he said, syringe exchange laws must affirm that distributing syringes is a legitimate public health function that should be funded with public money. At the same time, any new laws must remove syringes from the definition of illegal drug paraphernalia, so that anyone can possess one without fear of prosecution.

“Authorizing exchanges to distribute syringes still leaves drug users vulnerable to arrest, which means fewer will come,” he said. 


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A Doctor’s Tips for Marijuana Dosing So You Don’t Get Too High

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:07
Learning what works best for you is often a trial-and-error experience.

Marijuana dosing, what is the trick? Here’s a story that newcomers can understand.

Years ago I drank large amounts of coffee. This improved my ability to work long hours and to keep up with my studies and work. Over time I found that I needed increasing amounts for the same energetic buzz. I also noted with larger amounts I experienced some irritability and mild tremors.

At that point I knew that I needed to take a break from caffeine. Months later when I had my first cup, I had the same energy as if I had previously had four cups without tremors. This experience is typical of caffeine sensitization and shows that increasing dosages increases the risks of side effects.  This also allows us to reflect on self-dosing regimens.

We have to be cognizant of dosing when using medical marijuana. There are many factors that have to be considered when using this as a medication. Generally the patient learns what dosage works for them. But this can be a variable effect based upon many factors including sleep patterns, variability of symptoms of the disease process, mental state among others.

Absorption of the cannabis is also a factor. Certainly it is easier to titrate the cannabis for effect when smoked or vaporized due to the fact that it is quickly absorbed, but unfortunately the effects do not last as long as when eaten. Consuming cannabis by eating it, drinking it or as a tincture has a more lasting effect, but learning a correct dosage is more difficult due to the fact that the full effect may not be felt to 1-2 hours.

Another issue to consider is the effective dosage itself. We know that for certain diseases such as anxiety, a low dose of cannabis can alleviate the symptoms whereas a higher dose can actually worsen the symptoms. This is a case where less is more.

At times we can run into problems with desensitization or tachyphylaxis. Desensitization is caused by a high-intensity treatment or often repeated stimulus bringing on a diminished response. This is certainly what I experienced with caffeine. We see this in long-term users of cannabis very frequently. They notice that they need a much higher dosage to have the same effect physically and mentally. This requires termination of the treatment for a while to allow the body and receptors to reset back to normal.

Studies have shown that the body and receptors will reset after two days. This unfortunately means that the symptoms of the disease may recur or worsen while the body is resetting. During this period of time the patient has to either tolerate the worsening symptoms or use alternative medications or non-medical therapies to alleviate symptoms. When the cannabis is restarted, a lower dose can then be used for the same effect.

Tachyphylaxis is a rapid decrease of response to a drug after a single or series of small doses. We can see this in the use of some pharmaceuticals. We find that increasing the dose may restore the initial response.

At this time, I do not know of any scientific studies that have revealed tachyphylaxis in association with cannabis. But we are still in the infancy of pure medical knowledge of cannabis.

So now we are in a conundrum. If my dosage is not working, do I stop the drug to reset or increase the dosage looking for a better effect? At this point I would first look at the time period in which the drug has been used.

If it has been days or weeks since initiating the medication with less effect, I would increase the dosage to the desired effect. If my symptoms have been stable of months and then are returning, consideration should be made towards a weekend away from cannabis. But we also would have to consider other factors than the medication itself.

Could the disease process be worsening? Are there other factors involved such as concurrent diseases or stresses in life? This is a situation where I would encourage the person with the disease to reconnect with their health care provider.


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