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Marijuana Is Getting So Mainstream That We Have a Former Republican Senator Lobbying for It

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 12:53
Click here for reuse options! The hardcore conservative and former Republican senator is going to be a paid pot lobbyist.

Alphonse D'Amato, the former Republican U.S. senator from New York, will be a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday. The marijuana law reform group, which has played a leading role in medical marijuana and legalization campaigns across the country, is starting a state affiliate in New York and has hired Amato as a "senior advisor."

New York has not legalized marijuana, but it does have an existing medical marijuana program, and the MPP New York affiliate will initially focus on ways to promote and strengthen it. Still, D'Amato didn't rule out a change of focus to legalization in the future.

"If we want to be realistic, you've got to look at the nation, what is taking place around us," he told the Post. "It's been implemented in seven states." (Actually, eight states have legalized marijuana so far.)

"The conversation and the discussion about adult use and the legalization of adult use is taking place and will be taking place," he said. "There is no doubt that that is something that will come more and more to the forefront as time goes on."  

While New York isn't there yet: "It's not something we're promoting but it's something that's taking place around the country and we can't be naïve to it," he said.

Amato's embrace of marijuana reform is an amazing turnaround for a man who made a political career as an ardent—some might even say rabid—conservative during his rise to power in state politics and his tenure as a U.S. senator from 1981 to 1999. As a senator, he was a strong advocate of "law and order," campaigning on issues such as support for capital punishment and harsher drug policies.

That's when he wasn't busy pursuing Bill and Hillary Clinton in the first of the nebulous "scandals" that have plagued the couple to this day. He was a leading critic of the Clintons over the Whitewater scandal, and chaired the Senate Special Whitewater Committee.

D'Amato credits Howard Stern for showing him the light on weed. A 2009 discussion with the radio personality opened his mind to the notion, he said.

"I think I'm a conservative, but I don't think I'm a right-wing kook," D'Amato proclaimed.

Real conservatives are for states' rights, he said, throwing a jab at his former Senate colleague, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who wants to see a federal crackdown on states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

"It's a ridiculous position," he said. "I say how can you on the one hand be for states’ rights and on the other hand say the states that have legalized the use of marijuana, that you're not going to recognize that. You can't be a states’ rights person only when you like what the states are doing and not what the feds are doing. It's one or the other."

Who would have thought? Senator Pothole has become Senator Pot. 

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Ohio Police are Outrageously Charging Opioid Overdose Survivors With a Trumped-Up Misdemeanor

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:59
The controversial new policy aims to curb the rising rates of overdoses in Miami County, Ohio.

As Ohio communities seek relief from the opioid crisis, some are testing a controversial approach to address high rates of drug overdoses.

Discouraged by overdose survivors who cycle in and out of emergency departments, officials in Miami County, Ohio—including its largest city of Troy—upped the ante in August when police began citing OD survivors with inducing panic. 

According to Capt. Joe Long of the Troy Police Department, OD survivors may receive a felony charge if they are found with drugs or paraphernalia. Those who aren’t found with these items will only receive a first-degree misdemeanor of inducing panic.

“It has a little bit more teeth,” said Long, according to the Dayton Daily News. “It gives us, the courts, a little more latitude in what we can do with people as far as penalties.”

According to the Daily News, Miami County saw 25 drug deaths in the first six months of 2017—a much higher rate than the 20 total drug deaths in all of 2016. 

But perhaps the tide is turning. According to a local coroner, the number of drug deaths in Miami County slowed in July and August—good news considering that the number of both fatal and non-fatal ODs rose in the first part of 2017.

Long says he doesn’t know how many people have been cited so far under the new policy. 

This approach is also being tried in other Ohio communities in response to rising drug overdoses. In February, Washington Court House (a town between Columbus and Cincinnati) began directing police to charge OD survivors with misdemeanor crime, a possible $1,000 fine, and up to 180 days in jail.

Washington Court House officials claimed that charging OD survivors with inducing panic will actually help them in the long run, by allowing authorities to “keep an eye on them, to offer them assistance and to know who has overdosed,” according to City Attorney Mark Pitsick, who put a compassionate bent on the otherwise iffy policy.

Critics like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that criminalizing drug users is far from good policy.

They’re getting a free pass," said Rodney Muterspaw, a Middletown police chief who saw nothing wrong with citing OD survivors. "The squad car arrives on the scene, takes them to the emergency room, they live and they come out and do it again.” 

The police chief added that the charges would be dropped if the individual enters treatment for their drug use.

Apparently, Middletown has since put the policy in action. In June, the Dayton Daily News reported that a man who had overdosed and made headlines for falling unconscious onto active train tracks was charged with disorderly conduct and inducing panic after being revived with Narcan.

 

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Statement on Cannabidiol (CBD) for the FDA

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:46
Project CBD responds to the Food and Drug Administration's call for statements on the use of CBD.

The legal and regulatory status of cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the cannabis plant with a huge therapeutic upside, has emerged as a contentious subject in the United States, even though CBD is not intoxicating, has a stellar safety profile, and has no intrinsic abuse liability. When, as expected, CBD becomes an approved pharmaceutical, it will be a matter of enforcement discretion on the FDA’s part as to whether producers of artisanal CBD-rich formulations will be allowed to operate. Accordingly, Project CBD makes the following recommendations to the FDA:

  • Do not make CBD a prescription-only drug. This would only serve the interests of a few pharmaceutical companies while 
  • hurting patients who have benefited from CBD-rich food supplements, topicals and other artisanal preparations.
  • Fast track clinical studies designed to compare the efficacy of CBD isolates and whole plant CBD rich extracts. Let’s learn more about the pros and cons of both in order to maximize their benefits and minimize harm.
  • Require safety warnings for CBD isolates regarding drug interactions.
  • While facilitating access to pharmaceutical CBD, don’t impede safe access to artisanal CBD-rich products. We recognize that the FDA is generally not in the business of approving plants as medicine. Nor should the FDA be in the business of undermining plant medicine in general and CBD-rich cannabis therapeutics, in particular.
  • Prohibit the use of toxic thinning agents and flavoring additives in CBD-rich vape oil products.Several additives (propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, for example) that are commonly found in CBD vape oil cartridges become toxic when heated and inhaled. Most flavoring additives have not been safety tested for inhalation; some are known to be highly toxic when combusted.
  • Publish all FDA test results pertaining to CBD hemp oil products. Artisanal CBD producers have a mixed record thus far with respect to product safety, labeling accuracy, and quality control. The FDAhas already documented instances of fraud and product mislabeling when it analyzed the content of several CBD hemp oil items. The bad apples – hemp oil extracts with little or no CBD or excess THC - should not be a pretext for the FDA to prohibit or restrict access to safe, non-pharmaceutical CBD products.
  • Don’t privilege pharmaceutical priorities at the expense of the fledgling, domestic CBD-rich agricultural sector and the CBD food supplement and topical industry. In Denver, Colorado, state law permits wholesale manufacturers of CBD extracts and edibles to source hemp biomass from within and outside Colorado provided that it originates from a farmer who cultivates CBD-rich plants under regulations guided by safe consumption criteria.
  • Implement procedures to harmonize the patchwork of state regulations regarding CBD. Thus far a coherent regulatory framework is lacking. It’s federally illegal to sell food supplements and other products infused with CBD across state lines, but there’s a gap in federal oversight of CBDmanufacturing operations.
  •  

Here’s why:

Extensive preclinical research has documented the anti-inflammatory properties of single-molecule CBDin animal models of various pathologies, including neuropathic pain, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity and diabetes. Scientists are beginning to understand the specific pharmacological mechanisms underlying CBD’s potential as a treatment for cancer, heart disease, addiction, depression and numerous other health disorders. Cannabidiol is a pleiotropic compound that produces many effects through multiple molecular pathways. It taps into how we function biologically on a very deep level: CBD can penetrate the cell membrane and bind to receptors on the nucleus (PPARs), which regulate gene expression and mitochondrial activity.

1998 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health is the basis for a U.S. government patent on the antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities of plant cannabinoids, specifically CBD and psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD and THC were found to limit “neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma.” Both compounds are described as having “particular application … in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

But double blind, randomized clinical trials that could “prove” CBD’s efficacy as a medical treatment have gotten short shrift in the United States because of marijuana prohibition. The few clinical studies involving single-molecule CBD that are underway pale in comparison to the enormous amount of anecdotal data already generated by cannabis clinicians and numerous patients in states where the therapeutic use of cannabis is legal.

Since the rediscovery of CBD-rich cannabis in Northern California in 2009, a growing number of physicians have been recommending CBD-infused oil extracts and concentrates for patients – often with good, and sometimes with jaw-dropping, results in difficult-to-treat cases. Until recently, however, single-molecule CBD formulations were not part of the grassroots medical marijuana experience. While scientists focused on the pharmacology of CBD isolates and other single-molecule cannabinoids, medical marijuana product-makers and providers have been dispensing an array of whole plant CBD-rich options – tinctures, sublingual sprays, gel caps, topicals, edibles, and raw herb – to a wide demographic of patients, many of whom turn to cannabis therapy as a last resort.

In addition to whole plant CBD-rich products sold by medical marijuana dispensaries, CBD isolates derived from industrial hemp are currently available via unregulated online storefronts and delivery services. If, as expected, GW Pharmaceuticals wins FDA approval of Epidiolex, an almost-pure CBD anti-seizure medication, in the near future, it will become available on a prescription basis at a hefty price. Millions of uninsured families in the United States won’t be able to afford it.

The pharmaceutical development of cannabinoid compounds is based upon controlled experimentation with molecular isolates in keeping with the assumption that sick people benefit most from predictable, reproducible medicine that never varies. While isolates can facilitate precision dosage and confidence in the chemical make-up of a drug, monomolecular medicine also has serious drawbacks.

Several scientific studies report that pure, single-molecule CBD, while possibly effective at high doses in preclinical tests, has a much tighter therapeutic window and is much less potent compared to a whole plant CBD-rich concentrate. Moreover, whether synthesized in a lab or heavily refined from industrial hemp paste, pure CBD isolates lack the full array of phytocannabinoids and medicinal terpenes found in whole plant CBD-rich cannabis, which includes hundreds of biologically active components. These constituents interact with CBD and THC to create what scientists refer to as an “entourage” or “ensemble” effect, so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s not that single-molecule CBD won’t work — pure CBD can be helpful in certain cases, as clinical trials with epidiolex have shown. But whole plant CBD-rich oil has a much wider therapeutic window than a CBD isolate. This was demonstrated in a 2015 preclinical experiment by Israeli scientists who found that single-molecule CBD required a much higher dose to be effective as an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic compared to a whole plant CBD-rich oil extract. Moreover, if one missed the mark slightly, either too low or too high, then the CBD isolate had little impact on pain and inflammation — unlike the full spectrum CBD-rich oil, which was effective at a much lower, and broader, dosage range. “The therapeutic synergy observed with plant extracts results in the requirement for a lower amount of active components, with consequent reduced adverse effects,” the Israeli researchers concluded.

Other scientists and clinicians have reported similar findings. A 2016 study by Italian researchers found that a whole plant CBD-rich oil extract attenuated inflammation and hypermotility in an animal model of colitis, whereas “pure CBD did not ameliorate colitis” symptoms. “These findings sustain the rationale of combining CBD with other minor Cannabis constituents and support the clinical development of CBD [as a] botanical drug substance for irritable bowel disease treatment.”

Problematic drug interactions are much more likely with high doses of single-molecule CBD, which can inhibit the metabolism of 60 percent of marketed pharmaceuticals. At high doses, CBD will deactivate certain cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver, thereby altering how we metabolize a wide range of medications, including clobazam, an anti-epileptic drug. This was evident in GW’s epidiolex trials, when children with intractable seizure disorders were given CBD dosages ranging from 5 to 50 mg per kg of body weight. Doctors had to adjust the amount of clobazam the children were taking because of potentially dangerous interactions with epidiolex. Compare the high dose regimen employed by GWPharmaceuticals to 1 mg per kg of artisanal whole plant CBD-rich oil that cannabis clinicians in California and elsewhere recommend as an initial dosage for treating pediatric epilepsy.

In cancer treatment, the precise dosing of chemotherapy is extremely important; it can be a challenge for doctors to find the maximum effective dose that will not be catastrophically toxic. Many chemotherapy drugs are oxidized by cytochrome P450 enzymes before their inactivation or excretion. This means that for patients also using CBD, the same dose of chemotherapy may produce higher blood concentrations. If CBDinhibits the metabolism of chemotherapy drugs and dosage adjustments aren’t made, the chemotherapy agent could accumulate within the body to highly toxic levels.

There is no clearly established cut-off dose below which CBD does not interact with other drugs. Any pharmaceutical or nutraceutical scheme to exploit the health benefits of cannabidiol must reckon with the fact that therapeutically relevant doses of CBD isolates can potentially impact a wide range of medications. Drug interactions are especially important to consider when using life-saving or sense-saving drugs, drugs with narrow therapeutic windows, or medications with major adverse side effects. By and large, however, there have been few problems reported by cancer patients and others who medicate with artisanal CBD-rich cannabis products. The same can’t be said for CBD isolates.

We recognize there is therapeutic value in CBD isolates as well as in whole plant CBD-rich remedies. The FDA should not ordain pharmaceutical CBD as the only legitimate medical option. Single-molecule medicine is the predominant corporate way, the Big Pharma way, but there’s ample evidence that it’s not always the best way to benefit from cannabis therapeutics. Pure CBD is a molecule, not a miracle, and it doesn’t work for everyone. No-THC and low-THC cannabis oil products represent a small slice of the cannabis therapy spectrum. Patients of all ages and economic means should have access to a range of cannabis-based therapeutic options with different concentrations and ratios of CBD and THC, along with other whole plant components.

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5 Weird Ways Marijuana Affects Men And Women Differently

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 09:46
Estrogen plays an important role when it comes to THC.

Marijuana affects men and women in different ways and it’s not because of size. Some research claims that estrogen and THC have a pretty meaningful relationship, giving a boost to women and  how they experience cannabis’ benefits.

Here are 5 ways in which cannabis can affect men and women in differently:  

Women’s Cycles

Research from Washington State University found that women who are ovulating – the moment their estrogen has peaked and begins to fall – seem to be significantly more affected to THC than usual, making them feel much more pain relief and relaxation than men and women who aren’t ovulating.

Pain Relief

According to this research, women are also able to feel more pain relief than men due to THC’s relationship to estrogen. Research conducted on mice supports this belief, demonstrating 30 % more relief from the females than the males. Men will have to consume much more cannabis to experience the same amount of pain relief.

Tolerance

Women also develop tolerance much faster than men, which is not such a good thing, because they have to smoke much more to get the usual high. This trait was demonstrated on a study conducted on mice, which proved that females developed a resistance within a period of 10 days, at which point they needed a much higher dose of cannabis to show a response to the plant.

Libido

In low doses, cannabis improves the libido of women, but high doses have the opposite effect due to the way in which THC affects estrogen, impairing it and making women less interested in sex. When it comes to men, it’s more complicated because it raises their libido shortly after smoking while consumed in low doses. When consumed in high doses, the spike in libido is much shorter.

Munchies

According to research from Washington State University, men’s hunger is greatly more affected than women’s, making them eat much more than them.

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Strange Days: Orrin Hatch Rolls Out Medical Marijuana Bill, Can't Resist Weed Puns

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 23:43
What's gotten into the straight-laced Utah Republican?

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, re-introduced a medical marijuana research bill on Wednesday that would “improve the process for conducting scientific research on marijuana as a safe and effective medical treatment.” The bill has bipartisan sponsors, and is similar to the legislation he introduced last year, the Washington Post reported.

In the process of announcing the bill, Hatch rattled off a ton of weed puns. “It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” Hatch said, according to a press release. “Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good.”

“To be blunt,” he continued, “we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the [Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017] MEDS Act.

Hatch said that he still doesn’t condone the recreational use of the devil’s lettuce, but intends for his bill to expand and encourage more research “on the potential medical uses of marijuana by streamlining the research registration process, without imposing a scheduling determination on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).”

The DEA still has weed classified as a Schedule I narcotic, which puts it in the same category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to the DEA, Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Drugs such as cocaine, oxycontin, methamphetamine and fentanyl are listed as Schedule II narcotics, a slightly less severe classification.

While the move doesn’t indicate support for recreational use of marijuana, it still contradicts the modus operandi of the Justice Department under President Donald Trump’s administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long opposed any form of the drug; recent reports have even indicated he may look to crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana.

“Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime,” Sessions wrote in a letter on July 24. “The [Justice] Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that efficiently applies our resources to address the most significant threats to public health and safety.”

What’s interesting about the Justice Department’s position is that Trump has made it clear that he wants to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, and even declared a state of emergency last month. The opioid epidemic commission is headed by New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has also long opposed marijuana. But studies have proven that increasing access to medical marijuana can instead help alleviate the opioid crisis.

 

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While Trump Moves Backward on Drug Sentencing, California Heads in a Different Direction

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:49
Click here for reuse options! Just because the feds are regressing doesn't mean the states have to.

The Trump Justice Department under prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviving some of the drug war's worst sentencing practices—mandatory minimum sentences, charging low-level defendants with the harshest statutes. 

 

But that doesn't mean the states have to follow suit. As has been the case with climate change, environmental protection, trade, and the protection of undocumented residents, California is charting its own progressive path in the face of the reactionaries in Washington.

 

The latest evidence comes from Sacramento, where the state Assembly passed a bill to stop sentencing drug offenders to extra time because they have previous drug convictions. The measure, Senate Bill 180, also known as the Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (RISE) Act, passed the state Senate in June and now goes to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

 

The bill would end a three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions, including petty drug sales and possession of drugs for sales. Under current law, sale of even the tiniest amounts of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine can earn up to five years in prison, and each previous conviction for sales or possession with intent add three more.

 

State sheriffs complain that the drug sentencing enhancement is the leading cause of 10-year-plus sentences being served in their county jails, which now shoulder more of the burden of housing drug war prisoners after earlier reforms aimed at reducing prison overcrowding shifted them to local lock-ups. As of 2014, there were more than 1,500 people in California jails sentenced to more than five years and the leading cause of these long sentences was non-violent drug sales offenses.

 

"People are realizing that it is time to reform the criminal justice system so that there’s more emphasis on justice and rehabilitation," Mitchell said after the final vote on SB 180, which is supported by nearly 200 business, community, legal and public-service groups. "By repealing sentencing enhancements for people who have already served their time, California can instead make greater investments in our communities. Let’s focus on putting ‘justice’ in our criminal-justice system."

"This sentencing enhancement has been on the books for 35 years and failed to reduce the availability or sales of drugs within our communities,” said Eunisses Hernandez of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported the bill. "These extreme and punitive polices of the war on drugs break up families and don’t make our communities any safer."

 

The bill is part of a set of bills known as the #EquityAndJustice package aimed at reducing inequities in the system. Authored by state Sens. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), the package also includes Senate Bill 190, which would end unreasonable fees on the families of incarcerated children and also sits on the governor's desk, as well as Senate Bill 355, which will end the requirement that innocent defendants reimburse the counties for the cost of appointed counsel. Brown has already signed that into law.

 

"Harsh sentencing laws have condemned a generation of men of color, and with SB 180 and other bills in the Equity and Justice package we are on our way to restoring the values of rehabilitation to the criminal justice system," Lara said.

 

When Washington is in the hands of authoritarian, law-and-order politicians like Trump, Sessions and the Republican Congress, it's time for the states to step up. California is showing how it's done. 

 

Watch Mitchell and Lara as they began the process of getting it done:

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Ongoing NYC Marijuana Arrests are Not a Joke

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 15:05
Click here for reuse options! It's time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition

During the recent Democratic mayoral primary debate, Mayor de Blasio made light of questions around his personal marijuana use and again repeated his false claim that New York City has ended its marijuana arrest crusade. His statement is not only patently false—the NYPD arrested more than 18,000 people for low-level marijuana possession in 2016 alone—it is dangerous.

In a moment when the federal administration continuously propagates outright lies and half-truths, we cannot accept such reckless behavior from those who claim to be allies of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Unnecessary arrests for low-level marijuana possession continue at higher numbers than during Mayor Giuliani’s first years in office--putting Mayor de Blasio in dubious company as one of the top arresters New York state has known.

It is deeply concerning that Black and Latino New Yorkers are consistently the people most heavily impacted by these arrests, with extreme racial disparities prevailing: 85 percent of all arrests in 2016 were Black and Latino people.

These arrests are not a laughing matter. They involve being handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed, possibly being held in jail for up to 24 hours while awaiting arraignment before a judge, appearing in court several times over the course of months, and can conclude with the imposition of a permanent criminal record that can easily be found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, and banks. New Yorkers 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.

Mayor de Blasio’s talk about protecting immigrants also rings hollow when marijuana possession arrests significantly jeopardize noncitizens. Nationally, a conviction for marijuana possession is the fourth most common reason someone is deported, and this year there have already been cases of people being deported for decades-old marijuana arrests. If the Mayor really wants to shield immigrant New Yorkers from the deplorable policies emanating from Washington he should make clear to the NYPD that arresting people for marijuana possession will no longer be tolerated.

We call on Mayor de Blasio to truthfully address the ongoing marijuana arrests by the NYPD and the disturbing targeting of Black and Latino New Yorkers. He must take action to end these arrests once and for all and put into practice policies that will actually protect New Yorkers.

Mayor de Blasio can try to spin reality all he wants, but numbers don’t lie. The NYPD continues to use marijuana prohibition as a justification for massive violations of civil and human rights. Marijuana prohibition enforcement has been, and remains, a priority for the NYPD, who have arrested over 700,000 New Yorkers for low-level marijuana possession over the last 20 years and more than 18,000 New Yorkers in 2016 alone.

Last week Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance also undermined Mayor de Blasio’s claims by recognizing the damaging collateral consequences caused by ongoing marijuana arrests and announcing a shift in his office’s policy for New Yorkers arrested for low level marijuana possession. While we’re pleased to see a DA acknowledge the harms of arresting thousands of New Yorkers for simple possession of a plant, we know these are just stop-gap measures.

Ending marijuana prohibition is the most reliable way to remove simple marijuana possession as the basis for an arrest that can have lifelong negative consequences, as we see again and again how arrests continue despite empty rhetoric from purportedly benevolent politicians.

The Drug Policy Alliance and our partners believe that while legalizing marijuana for adult use will not alleviate all the challenges faced by those communities who are most criminalized, it will remove a tool that has been used to harm them. That’s why our Start SMART NY campaign – Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade – to legalize marijuana is a racial justice campaign. We believe that it is time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.

We urge New York policy makers including Mayor de Blasio to get on board – we can’t wait any longer.

 

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Surprise! House Votes to Curb Sessions' Asset Forfeiture Revival

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 12:36
Click here for reuse options! Strange bedfellows as Democratic progressives and the House Freedom Caucus join forces to slap down the attorney general.

In a surprise move, the House voted virtually unanimously Tuesday to curb federal asset forfeitures. The vote was a slap in the face to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had reinstated a federal civil asset forfeiture program allowing state and local law enforcement to evade state forfeiture restrictions by handing their cases over to the feds, with the feds then returning 80% of the money to the seizing agency.

In response to a rising clamor over civil forfeiture reform abuses, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder had reined in the program, known as Equitable Sharing. Now, Sessions' attempt to bring it back has been blocked by a congressional coalition of progressives and the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

The move came in a voice vote on an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill, which was sponsored by strange bedfellows Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.).

The amendment aims directly at "adoptive forfeiture," the process by which the federal government agrees to take cases brought to it by local law enforcement agencies attempting to skirt state-level restrictions, which can include an outright ban on civil asset forfeiture (seizure without a criminal conviction) or designating that seized funds are to go the general fund or other designated fund—not the cops.

Critics of civil asset forfeiture argue that the search for lucre distorts policing priorities, creates perverse incentives, and amounts to policing for profit. Numerous states have moved to end civil asset forfeiture outright, while others have imposed various restrictions on the practice.

While Sessions claims the program is needed so criminals "are not allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime," a whopping 87% of federal asset forfeiture takes place in cases where there has been no criminal conviction.  

The House has acted. Now, it's up to the Senate to act. If the Senate fails to pass a similar measure, the amendment could still become law if it gets adopted by the conference committee that will attempt to sort out differences between the two bills. In the meantime, Sessions has been put on notice that his gift to profit-hungry state and local cops has serious opposition. 

 

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Who Becomes a Drug Dealer?

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:51
The great irony of a system that erects barriers for committing a crime is that it drives people to commit more crimes—selling drugs in particular.

It’s time to talk about people who sell drugs. While the national conversation is trending towards a more humane approach to people who use drugs, sellers are still portrayed as greedy criminals who “profit off the misery of others.” We hear stories of dealers peddling drugs to children, giving out free samples to hook new customers, or showing up at recovery meetings to tempt people to relapse. We even see many prosecutors charge drug dealers with murder when a customer overdoses on their product. Although there are many drug sellers who have committed deplorable acts to win customers or expand their markets, this is not the whole picture of most people who sell drugs.

As with most issues, reality is not black and white. The line between user and dealer is often blurred, with many people starting off as users but then selling as their habit grows more expensive or other income sources dry up. The opposite can also happen; sometimes people who sell drugs begin using their own product and wind up addicted as well.

Take the example of Jeffrey Matthews (name changed). A white kid from Minneapolis, Jeffrey started selling weed at 14 years old, mostly because everyone around him was doing it. After his parents separated, he ran around with kids from the neighborhood that were older and getting into drugs. The boys were family to each other, since few had strong ties at home.

“My first supplier was my girlfriend's stepfather, and he was like a father-figure to me,” Matthews explains. “He taught me a lot about being a man of character and integrity, always talking about the ‘principle.’ Like ‘it ain't about the money, it's the principle.’ He was an old-school cat from down south. He also taught me how to box, shoot and clean a pistol, roll good joints, sell drugs, and more. As I got older, I got into selling anything to make money. First some prescription shit, hallucinogenics, and party drugs; later on coke/crack and heroin. As my drug habits shifted to ‘harder’ stuff over the years, I became essentially a subsistence dealer.”

Although Jeffrey’s drug habit would lead him to periods of homelessness, after years of struggle he found recovery and harm reduction, which helped him stop using or selling drugs. Today he works at a nonprofit helping people living with HIV/AIDS and is a passionate and involved member of his community. Though the crimes he committed could have earned him years in prison, he was never caught, and thus avoided many of the collateral consequences that can keep a person stuck in the revolving door of prison and drugs.

Jamal Robinson (name changed), a black man from Durham, North Carolina, was not so fortunate. Like Jeffrey, poverty and peer pressure pushed him into drug sales as a young teen. But unlike Jeffrey, he was caught and imprisoned on multiple occasions, the consequences of which made it harder and harder to find work outside the drug trade.

“I started peddling drugs because I was poor and barely had a dollar in my pocket,” he says. “I sold drugs because of necessity, food, clothes and shelter. To help my mother and little sisters when needed.”

Robinson tried many times to stop selling drugs, but because he had a criminal record, he was rarely called for a job interview. What work he did obtain never paid enough to make ends meet and he was often mistreated by his employers, who knew it would be difficult for him to leave and find other jobs. He entered a cycle: he would work a low-wage job until the bills had piled up so high he had to find something else, then he’d start selling drugs again, get arrested, serve time, and come out with nothing. Then the cycle began anew. The longer his criminal record, the harder the attempts to find work at a living wage, and the more selling drugs became a survival necessity.

“Some people sell drugs to save money and invest in a business so that they don’t have to beg for a job,” he said. “Some people sell to move their momma and family out of the ghetto. There are many reasons people take the risk, but mainly, it’s because there are no decent jobs available and people are tired of trying to do the right thing and just getting the door slammed in their faces.”

Women also get caught up in the cycle of selling drugs. For many poor women without education, selling drugs is a preferred alternative to selling their bodies. Eva Jackson (name changed), a black woman from New York City, knows a thing or two about that choice. As a child, she was taken from her mother and placed in foster care, but she ran away at seven years old because her foster mother was abusive. Homeless on the streets of New York City, she slept in the subway and ate out of restaurant dumpsters. A relative took her in sometimes, but only allowed Eva to sleep outside on the porch. When police or social services would catch Eva, they sent her back to foster care, but she would run away again. At 13 years old, Eva found her biological mother and the two started living together. To pay the rent and get money for drugs, Eva’s mother taught her daughter how to be a sex worker. For a couple of years Eva sold her body on the streets until finally she couldn’t take it anymore and started selling drugs instead. Selling drugs allowed her to stop sex work, but it also meant frequent run-ins with the law. Each encounter and consequent lock-up meant losing everything she had gained, so as soon as she was released from incarceration, she would start selling again.

Jeffrey, Jamal, and Eva never became rich off selling drugs. They were usually homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and each sale only meant food for that day. They all dreamed of the day they would stop, either through recovery, starting a business, or living wage work. Jeffrey, as a white man with no felony record (though he committed many crimes that would have earned him felonies), was successfully able to stop selling drugs and build a new life for himself as a respected member of his community. Jamal and Eva, both black and with records littered with felonies, have not yet been able to break out of that cycle. Both are currently incarcerated on seller-related charges.

The first take-away from these stories of drug sellers is how similar they are to stories of people who use drugs. Necessity – whether the need to self-medicate or survive – often drives a person to use or sell drugs. Peer pressure and environment also play a large role. Most people make genuine attempts to stop, but are driven to relapse through limited choices, poverty or a system that seems designed for them to fail.

The second take-away is that our attempts to solve the drug problem through capture and punishment often serve to perpetuate the cycle. The great irony of a system that bars someone from employment, education or housing for committing a crime is that it drives people to commit more crimes - selling drugs in particular. The more we insist on branding formerly incarcerated people with a scarlet letter, insisting that this knowledge makes us safer, the less we are actually safe.

Maybe it’s an American tendency or maybe it’s just human, but we love to divide people into “good guys” and “bad guys.” Frankly I think most of us are grown enough to realize that these easy categories only exist in movies. There are many complicated reasons for why people use or sell drugs, but we cannot simply drive a wedge between them, painting one group as worthy of sympathy and the other as not. Some people who sell drugs do terrible things. Some people who use drugs do terrible things. Some people who have never touched an illicit drug do terrible things. Life is messier than we want to admit. But just as we have begun to understand that providing resources to people who struggle with drug addiction is far more effective than locking them away, we also need to recognize that this exact solution exists for people who sell drugs. With strong school systems, living wage jobs and opportunities to become meaningful contributors to society, far fewer people would choose to sell drugs. This is where we should concentrate our efforts – not on building more prisons or charging dealers with manslaughter when a customer overdoses on their product. As long as poor living conditions persist, for every dealer we arrest, another will quickly step in to fill his place.

It is foolish to claim that while we can’t arrest our way out of the problem of drug users, we can arrest our way out of the problem of drug sellers. At best that is wishful thinking and at worst it is an attempt to bolster a for-profit prison industry that stands to lose money as treatment-over-incarceration policies cause prison population to decline. Debates about whom to incarcerate and for how long are not just about justice or public safety; there are enormous financial incentives to keep prisons full. Selling drugs is not the only way to profit off the misery of others.

 

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Does Marijuana Affect Your Sleep?

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:47
While motivation to use cannabis for sleep is high, improvements might wane with chronic use.

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it.

This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep – like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It’s also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards.

I am a sleep psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients with insomnia, and it seems to me the success of cannabis as a sleep aid is highly individual. What makes cannabis effective for one person’s sleep and not another’s?

While there are still many questions to be answered, existing research suggests that the effects of cannabis on sleep may depend on many factors, including individual differences, cannabis concentrations and frequency of use.

Cannabis and sleep

Access to cannabis is increasing. As of last November, 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia had legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Research on the effects of cannabis on sleep in humans has largely been compiled of somewhat inconsistent studies conducted in the 1970s. Researchers seeking to learn how cannabis affects the sleeping brain have studied volunteers in the sleep laboratory and measured sleep stages and sleep continuity. Some studies showed that users’ ability to fall and stay asleep improved. A small number of subjects also had a slight increase in slow wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep.

However, once nightly cannabis use stops, sleep clearly worsens across the withdrawal period.

Over the past decade, research has focused more on the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Individuals with insomnia tend to use medical cannabis for sleep at a high rate. Up to 65 percent of former cannabis users identified poor sleep as a reason for relapsing. Use for sleep is particularly common in individuals with PTSD and pain.

This research suggests that, while motivation to use cannabis for sleep is high, and might initially be beneficial to sleep, these improvements might wane with chronic use over time.

Does frequency matter?

We were interested in how sleep quality differs between daily cannabis users, occasional users who smoked at least once in the last month and people who don’t smoke at all.

We asked 98 mostly young and healthy male volunteers to answer surveys, keep daily sleep diaries and wear accelerometers for one week. Accelerometers, or actigraphs, measure activity patterns across multiple days. Throughout the study, subjects used cannabis as they typically would.

Our results show that the frequency of use seems to be an important factor as it relates to the effects on sleep. Thirty-nine percent of daily users complained of clinically significant insomnia. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of occasional users had insomnia complaints. There were no differences in sleep complaints between nonusers and nondaily users.

Interestingly, when controlling for the presence of anxiety and depression, the differences disappeared. This suggests that cannabis’s effect on sleep may differ depending on whether you have depression or anxiety. In order words, if you have depression, cannabis may help you sleep – but if you don’t, cannabis may hurt.

Future directions

Cannabis is still a schedule I substance, meaning that the government does not consider cannabis to be medically therapeutic due to lack of research to support its benefits. This creates a barrier to research, as only one university in the country, University of Mississippi, is permitted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to grow marijuana for research.

New areas for exploration in the field of cannabis research might examine how various cannabis subspecies influence sleep and how this may differ between individuals.

One research group has been exploring cannabis types or cannabinoid concentrations that are preferable depending on one’s sleep disturbance. For example, one strain might relieve insomnia, while another can affect nightmares.

Other studies suggest that medical cannabis users with insomnia tend to prefer higher concentrations of cannabidiol, a nonintoxicating ingredient in cannabis.

This raises an important question. Should the medical community communicate these findings to patients with insomnia who inquire about medical cannabis? Some health professionals may not feel comfortable due to the fluctuating legal status, a lack of confidence in the state of the science or their personal opinions.

At this point, cannabis’s effect on sleep seems highly variable, depending on the person, the timing of use, the cannabis type and concentration, mode of ingestion and other factors. Perhaps the future will yield more fruitful discoveries.

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Making Bud Better for You: Don't Just Breed Marijuana for High THC Levels

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:41
Even the staunchest stoners could benefit from some CBD in their weed.

A nonpsychoactive compound in cannabis called cannabidiol, or CBD, appears to protect against the long-term negative psychiatric effects of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Other research has shown that long-term use of cannabis increases adolescent drug users’ risk for certain psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia. The risk to teens is greater than ever since selective breeding of plants to produce higher levels of THC over the past several decades has substantially increased exposure to the compound.

“This study confirms in an animal model that high-THC cannabis use by adolescents may have long-lasting behavioral effects,” says lead author of the new study Ken Mackie, professor in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences’ psychological and brain sciences department.

“It also suggests that strains of cannabis with similar levels of CBD and THC would pose significantly less long-term risk due to CBD’s protective effect against THC.”

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical in cannabis that causes the “high” experienced during its use. Cannabis with higher levels of THC possess lower levels of the protective CBD, and vice versa, due to a biological link between THC and CBD production in the plant. An analysis of cannabis seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration found that while THC levels rose 300 percent from 1995 to 2014, the levels of CBD have declined 60 percent.

In contrast to THC, CBD does not cause a “high.” It is also an important ingredient in medical cannabis. For example, CBD appears useful as a treatment for some forms of severe childhood epilepsy, and its use for severe epilepsy was approved by the Indiana legislature this year.

“This is the first study in a rigorously controlled animal model to find that CBD appears to protect the brain against the negative effects of chronic THC,” says Mackie, director of the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science at the university.

“This is especially important since heavy use of cannabis with higher levels of THC poses a serious risk to adolescents.”

To conduct their study, the researchers divided adolescent or adult male mice into five groups. Three groups received 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of either THC, CBD, or THC with CBD every day for three weeks. The other two groups received a placebo or no treatment.

All mice were then tested for signs of impaired memory, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and anxiety immediately following treatment as well as six weeks after treatment.

The mice exposed to THC alone showed signs of impaired memory and increased obsessive-compulsive behavior immediately after treatment. The adolescent group still experienced these changes six weeks after treatment, whereas the adult group did not. Both groups experienced a long-term increase in anxiety.

By contrast, adult and adolescent mice exposed to CBD alone showed no behavioral changes immediately or six weeks after treatment. Most significantly, mice in both age groups that received CBD with THC exhibited no short- or long-term behavioral changes. These results suggest that long-term use of cannabis strains containing similar amounts of CBD and THC may be less harmful than long-term use of high-THC strains.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse supported the work, which appears in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Source: Indiana University

Original Study DOI: 10.1089/can.2017.0034

 

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AlterNet Is Leading the Fight for Drug Reform: We Need Your Help

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:13
Click here for reuse options! The struggle continues.

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,

Phil Smith, AlterNet Drugs Editor

 

 

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The 10 Biggest Companies That Subject Workers to Drug Testing

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 12:31
Click here for reuse options! If you want a job with these corporate giants, be prepared to pee in a cup.

For the past 35 or so years, millions of American workers have had to submit to a humiliating, privacy-invading procedure to get or keep a job: the urine sample drug test. As hard as it may be to imagine now, it wasn't always like that—and it isn't like that in the rest of the world.

Thank the Gipper. Mass worker drug testing is yet another dark legacy of the Reagan era. The practice began taking off as a drug war adjunct after Reagan required it for federal employees in 1986 and Congress passed the Drug Free Workplace Act the same year. That law required any business receiving federal dollars to implement a drug testing program.

According to the American Management Association, 21% of employers required drug tests in 1987, but as the drug war deepened under Reagan and his 1990s successors, that figure jumped to 81% by 1996.

Thanks to that drug war impetus, we have seen the growth of a "drug testing industrial complex" consisting of "drug test manufacturers, consulting and law firms specializing in the development of work-place drug testing policies and practices, and laboratories that carry out the testing," as SUNY Buffalo researcher Michael Frone explained in his book Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use in the Workforce and Workplace.

It's now a global industry with annual revenue somewhere around $3 billion this year, but employee drug testing remains overwhelmingly an American phenomenon, with the U.S. market accounting for about three-quarters of those revenues. Somehow, the industrial bases of the European Union, Japan, and other major economic powers survive without resorting to such invasive worker surveillance techniques.

But even here in the land of the free, employee drug testing looks to be on the decline, mainly because there is very little evidence that it actually improves either workplace safety or productivity. And at an average cost of $50 per drug test, employers end up paying an awful lot of money to catch a very small number of working drug users. As a result, the percentage of employers now requiring drug testing has declined to 57%, covering 40% of the American work force, according to a recent poll by the Society for Human Resource Management.

While the impulse to subject workers to drug tests appears to be waning, it is still a reality for tens of millions of American workers. Here, thanks to the good folks at InsiderMonkey, are the 10 biggest companies that still engage in workplace drug testing.

1. Amazon (Market Cap, $486.03 billion)

The e-commerce giant may require a drug test as the last step in the hiring process, depending on the position. It also does occasional random, suspicionless drug tests.

2. Berkshire Hathaway (Market Cap, $411.44 billion)

Warren Buffett's holding company requires mouth-swab drug tests of potential hires at several of its subsidiaries, including Applied Underwriters and Berkshire Hathaway Assurance. Berkshire Hathaway also does random, suspicionless drug testing of employees.

3. Johnson & Johnson (Market Cap, $353.38 billion)

The health care products giant embraces the notion of the drug-free workplace, and tests workers for both drugs and alcohol. But hey, at least its health insurance program will cover drug treatment—unless the employee is already subject to disciplinary action.

4. Exxon Mobil (Market Cap, $347.11 billion)

America's largest oil company requires a urinalysis test for all job applicants, and some may be tested for alcohol. Word is that Exxon is moving toward hair follicle testing, which would extend the period in which past drug use could be detected from days or weeks to months.

5. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Market Cap, $295.74 billion)

These wolves of Wall Street require urine drug testing for all its suppliers' employees, at the suppliers' expense. Those workers may also face random, suspicionless drug testing. (But one wonders if they test for cocaine in the top floor offices.)

6. General Electric (Market Cap, $243.63.03 billion)

GE requires mandatory pre-employment drug testing and may also subject workers to random, suspicionless drug testing. And it will subject employees working at a customer site to drug tests if the customer requests it and it is a lawful request.

7. Walmart (Market Cap, $239.88 billion)

Yep, if you want to be a janitor at Walmart, you'll have to pee in a cup. The retail giant tests new hires and tests again when considering employees for promotion.

8. AT&T (Market Cap, $237.90 billion)

Before the communications company will hire you, it requires a mandatory drug test. It may also subject workers to random, suspicionless drug tests, but appears to do infrequently.

9. Procter & Gamble (Market Cap, $227.26 billion)

To get a job with P&G, workers will have to first pass a drug test, either urine or hair follicle. It's not clear whether the mode of testing is random or based on the position sought.

10. Chevron (Market Cap, $197.51 billion)

The oil and gas company requires employees, contractors and subcontractors' employees to submit to drug tests, including alcohol testing. The company also requires contractors to perform random, suspicionless drug testing as well as drug testing after an accident.

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Western States Try to Tame Homegrown Marijuana

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 09:44
People who want to grow their own pot plants may have to fight for the right--even in legal states.

This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

DENVER — Long before tourists started converging here to sample freshly legalized marijuana in the form of gummy bears and chocolate brownies, thousands of Coloradans were cultivating the medicinal plants for their own consumption and to share with ailing friends.

Now that the Trump administration is pledging to closely monitor states where the federally outlawed substance has been legalized, regulators here, and in Oregon and Washington, are trying to tame what has proven to be an unruly crop of home growers.

The biggest concern is that outsized home growers may be selling their produce across state lines.

In all three states, homegrown medical marijuana was decriminalized at least a decade before the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana sales. The relatively loose rules governing homegrown medical marijuana are now considered at odds with highly regulated commercial markets for medicinal and recreational products.

For regulators and enforcers, the scale of some home growing operations has been a problem for years. Under antiquated rules, growers could cultivate hundreds of marijuana plants in one residence, depending on how many certified marijuana patients designated them as their grower. And while some states kept a database of medical marijuana users, little information was collected on the growers that served them.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington legalized homegrown marijuana for medical purposes, allowing people to either grow it themselves or buy it at cost from a caretaker or co-op.

With the state’s blessing, patients either smoked marijuana or ingested extracts of the plant to relieve the nausea associated with cancer treatment, to calm involuntary muscular spasms, and to treat inflammation, seizures, nervous system disorders, glaucoma and chronic pain, among many other ailments.

When it was the only medical marijuana available, states were reluctant to limit home growers’ crop yields. And regulators deferred to doctors in allowing whatever quantity of the drug was deemed necessary for medical purposes.

The only limits on production were the ones home growers placed on themselves, because they feared federal mandatory minimum sentences for having a hundred or more plants.

Outmoded Laws

While most medical marijuana home growers have adhered to state laws, some have exploited the laws for profit, said Lewis Koski, a Colorado-based government consultant who previously ran Colorado’s marijuana enforcement agency.

In all three states, rental homes have been destroyed by mold from massive indoor cultivations, neighbors have complained of fumes, and state and federal law enforcement officials have seized large quantities of marijuana from criminal drug dealers operating under the guise of medical home growers.

To crack down on Colorado’s so-called gray market growers, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law in June to end what he called the state’s “Wild West” home growing policies.

Slated to take effect in January, the new law slashes the number of plants a Colorado home grower can cultivate for medical purposes from 99 a patient or roughly 600 in a home to no more than a dozen in a residence, with some exceptions.

Oregon also has moved to curtail the volume of homegrown marijuana, putting growers on notice that if they want to cultivate more than a dozen plants, they need to register with the state alcohol and cannabis commission by December and be monitored.

Under the state’s new rules, medical growers can sell up to 20 pounds of excess crop a year in the commercial market, according to Steve Marks, Oregon’s alcohol and cannabis commission director. The alternative is for home growers to apply for a commercial license, which is open to all comers, he said.

As in Colorado, Oregon’s previous limit was 99 plants for each patient with an allowance for co-ops and community gardens to grow for a virtually unlimited number of patients.

In Washington state, a law that took effect last year limits medical marijuana home growers to six plants, or 15 with a doctor’s note, down from a “60-day supply” for every patient. Under the new law, up to four medical patients can form a co-op and grow from 24 to 60 plants depending on their allowances.

While Washington’s old law limited growers to serving only one patient at any given time, growers routinely skirted the rules by documenting that they would attend to just one patient during the time it took to conduct a sale, and then move on to another patient for the next transaction.

Federal Conflicts

Although a large majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization, the federal government has failed to alter its 1970 classification of the popular drug as extremely dangerous and illegal to grow, possess, sell or use for any purpose.

During the Obama administration, states were emboldened to legalize marijuana in part because the U.S. Justice Department agreed to refrain from drug investigations in states that legalize marijuana except in cases of significant use by minors, increased public safety or public health risks, involvement of criminal gangs or cartels, or diversion of marijuana from legalized states to non-legalized states.

In July letters to the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated the Trump administration would adhere to the Obama administration’s oversight guidelines, but made clear that evidence of potential violations of federal rules in those states had not gone unnoticed.

In the letter to Washington state’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, Sessions cited a report from the federal government’s Northwest regional drug investigation agency, stating that the state’s “medical market [for marijuana] is considered ‘grey’ due to the lack of regulation and oversight and, furthermore, aspects of Washington's regulatory structure for the ‘medical market’ have ‘unintentionally led to the growth of black market enterprises.’ ”

Tighter limits on homegrown marijuana wouldn’t be necessary if it were legal in every state or if the federal government had decided to legalize it, said Rick Garza, Washington state’s chief of alcohol and cannabis regulation.

But until either of those things happens, which isn’t likely in the near term, Washington state intends to do everything it can to control home growers’ production or encourage them to join the regulated commercial market, he said.

Unwanted Competition

Some marijuana policymakers fear unfettered homegrown production could harm fledgling commercial markets, said John Carnevale, a Maryland-based economist and drug policy expert who is consulting with California as it develops new rules for recreational marijuana, which is slated for legalization next year.

“In my view, states should not permit home grow. It’s simply not good policy. It interferes with the creation of a legal market and interferes with states’ ability to regulate it,” he said. “Even if the law says I can only grow six plants at home, it’s unenforceable. Police can’t knock on the door and say, ‘We need to inspect your home.’ ”

But advocates for marijuana legalization disagree. Model legislation recommended by the Marijuana Policy Project, for example, includes an allowance for up to six homegrown plants for recreational users and the same number for medicinal users.

“We think it can easily be done in a way that addresses concerns like Colorado’s large medical grows,” said Karen O’Keefe, the group’s director of state policy. “Since adults can brew their own beer in every state, we think people should be able to grow their own marijuana.”

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NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio Admits To Wishing He Still Smoked Marijuana

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 09:39
He says he only smoked in college.

Marijuana consumption rumors have followed around New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for some time now. Partly because he continues to invite such rumors, with various actions and comments like one he made earlier this week.

During a Democratic primary debate with Staten Islander Sal Albanese, de Blasio joked that he wishes he still smoked marijuana, according to SILive.com.

“Currently no…some days I wish I did,” de Blasio said with a laugh after being asked if he still smokes. When prompted whether or not New Yorkers should have the ability to purchase weed along city streets, he replied, “I believe the laws we have now are the right laws.”

His opponent Albanese stated that cannabis should be legalized, according to reports. De Blasio added that he smoked “once or twice” in college, but that’s about it.

Yeah. Whatever you say, man.

 

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Google is Capitalizing off Duterte's Horrific Drug War in the Philippines

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 09:18
Click here for reuse options! Duterte favorably compares himself to Hitler.

When a sitting president likens himself to Hitler, it should get your attention. Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has proudly said he’d “be happy” to exterminate 3 million people who use or sell drugs in his country. His horrific campaign to rid the Philippines of drugs has led to the extrajudicial murders of more than 12,000 people in the last year. Meanwhile, the Google Play store is hosting all these games (some rated “E” for “Everyone”) glorifying the president’s sickening, murderous drug war. It’s time for Google to take down these games.

Sign this petition: Tell Google Play to Remove Games That Glorify Duterte’s Horrific Drug War in the Philippines

We first noticed this after our friends at Release pointed it out on Twitter, and it was amplified by Transform’s Steve Rolles.

There are several games pitting Duterte against “zombies,” capitalizing on his stigmatizing and inhumane reference to people who are struggling with addiction – people he was saying he wanted to get rid of en masse should he become president. He actually said this last year: “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” The top game (below) has over 1 million downloads and 33,000 reviews.
 


Photo via Google Play

Here’s another game where you “help Duterte eliminate people infected by drugs.”


Photo via Google Play

After you look at these photos captured by The New York Times (see one below) you can begin to feel the gravity of the situation in the Philippines. Parents are losing their children, children are losing their parents, and out of the 12,000 murdered, 3,800 were killed by police. Three teens have been killed in the last month, two at the hands of police. Duterte has vowed to pardon police who kill in the name of his drug war. More than a million people have turned themselves in out of fear they might be killed, and are being subjected toovercrowded, horrendous conditions. Duterte even had Senator Leila de Lima, the country’s most vocal political opponent to Duterte’s drug war, arrested –– a terrifying sign that he will do nearly anything to silence those voices speaking out in defense of human rights.


Photo via New York Times

Before he became President of the United States, Donald Trump praised Duterte for his war on drugs. Just last week, the U.S. pledged $2 million to the Philippines to help fights its drug war, ostensibly not just to fight limit the supply but also to help reduce the demand.

It seems pretty clear that these games violate Google Play’s policy, which says “We don’t allow apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalize on a natural disaster, atrocity, conflict, death, or other tragic event.” In that vein, we are demanding that Google recognize the ongoing atrocity happening in the Philippines and that they remove these apps from their store immediately.

Join us and sign this petition telling Google Play to remove these despicably insensitive games.

Derek Rosenfeld is the social media and media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

 

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London's High Flying Cocaine Bankers Get a Wink and a Nod

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:52
“I think sometimes the commercial nature of industry means they can’t afford to be too ethical with regards to what their staff are doing.”

The week before Christmas, and a party at one sales firm in the City of London turned out to be “somewhat eventful”. Two members of staff were ejected – in full view of their colleagues and the directors – after being caught snorting lines of cocaine in a toilet cubicle.

Looking back, a senior employee recalls his surprise days later when the same directors made it known that nothing would be said to those involved, let alone any action taken. “I was somewhat perplexed and asked why, because I thought it would send the wrong message – that we condone drug use,” he said. “They answered: ‘We were in the other cubicle moments before doing the same thing – so how can we discipline anyone?’ ”

For the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, the story is characteristic of a culture that continues to turn a blind eye to what he calls the “rife” use of cocaine in London’s financial district.

It is a view shared by Tony Saggers, recently departed head of drug strategy at the National Crime Agency (NCA), who is challenging big businesses to talk more openly about their employees’ use of cocaine. He wants companies to establish social responsibility schemes aimed at educating workers about the health risks of cocaine, the toll the trade takes on poor producer countries, and the way the proceeds subsidise slavery and trafficking.

“I am a little bit of a cynic but I think sometimes the commercial nature of industry means they can’t afford to be too ethical with regards to what their staff are doing,” Saggers says. “From a reputation point of view, of course they will say that they have a zero tolerance attitude towards drug use, but what does that really mean?

“My main thought – and I have just had my wings unclipped in terms of leaving the NCA – is: at what point will brands really start to put something in place that says they want to minimise or mitigate their contribution to the sort of outcomes people like me have been warning them about for years?”

The statistics are stark. Cocaine use among young British adults (4.2% of the population) is more than double the European average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the amount of the drug seized by police and border officials surged to its highest level in more than a decade in 2015-16, when 4,228kg of the class A drug was confiscated in England and Wales. Home Office data published in August for the third quarter of last year indicates that seizures for 2016-17 will have been higher again.

Usage permeates a social demographic that includes the middle classes and those on lower incomes, according to government drugs advisers. But while Hollywood narratives such as The Wolf of Wall Street continue to feed the work-hard-play-hard stereotype, the reality is that addiction is a very real problem among salaried professionals such as those in the Square Mile. City officials have admitted that there is “a particular risk-taking culture that may contribute to the development of health issues and addictions”.

A 2014 review by the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, said of its drug and alcohol services: “In terms of prevention and awareness-raising activities, attitudinal research shows that City workers do not like to admit that they have relinquished control.”

Little has changed since then, according to Richard Kingdon, an addiction specialist based in the City, who says the typical attitude of employers to drug use is still to ignore the problem. “Cocaine use is illegal, so a lot of people won’t go to their human resources department, and especially now that there is also a climate of fear in the City,” says Kingdon, who runs the City Beacon drugs and alcohol clinic in the Square Mile. “As long as you are pulling the money in, they just turn a blind eye. These organisations do not want negative publicity.”

call-out by the Observer for City workers to anonymously share their experiences of cocaine yielded a diverse range of accounts. Some used words such as “pervasive” and “prolific” to describe the extent of cocaine use. “It’s the late starters who seem to be the most vulnerable to getting themselves into trouble,” said one, who said he had worked as a City solicitor for five years. “Whether it’s a result of the ‘toot’ [a snort of a drug, especially cocaine] or just symptomatic of the risk-taking behaviour, getting into coke when you have money also seems to lead to other bad behaviour.”

Some took a nuanced view, including one northern English male who told of being a heavy cocaine user since he started worked in the City six years ago but described the “City-boy cocaine user” as a lazy stereotype, adding: “I feel the London part of this is more significant than the City.”

A digital marketing consultant made a similar point, referring to cocaine as an “every-weekend normal part of the house party, the pub and the club” in major UK cities: “It’s normal. You will come across the law professor, the factory worker, the just-got-out-of-prison guy, the bar worker and the high-end CEO on coke over the weekend.”

For their part, corporate interests in the City are extremely reluctant to broach the subject on the record. The vast majority of prominent City companies contacted by the Observer about their drugs policy declined to respond.

Among those who did respond was property multinational CBRE, which was the focus of unwelcome publicity this summer when one of its employees narrowly escaped a jail sentence after swindling the firm out of nearly £270,000 after he became addicted to cocaine.

“In common with other large corporations, we run a 24/7 employee assistance programme to support colleagues and their families with issues ranging from legal and financial matters to health and wellbeing, including stress and substance abuse,” said a spokesperson. “This is a free and confidential service, offered face to face or through telephone counselling sessions, with specialist medical professionals and legal advisers.”

The City of London Corporation declined to say whether it had specifically responded to the 2014 report, which warned that its spending on various services was unbalanced and that more focus was needed on prevention work with healthy or low-risk users.

But a spokesperson did say it continued to maintain spending levels on drug treatment and prevention, with money going to WDP Square Mile Health – a drug and alcohol charity with a clinic in the City, which offers outreach work with companies.

Yasmin Batliwala, WDP’s chair, said it had reached hundreds of City employees this year using such programmes, and that this summer it had also established a support group tailored towards LGBT workers.

She agreed that a “risk-taking culture” in the City was a factor: “People do work longer hours and the idea of people working hard and playing hard is actually very true. Recreational use of drugs like cocaine is certainly an issue, although I can also say that we have had a lot of success in terms of our outreach work.”

But she added: “The funding cuts are the biggest single threat to drug treatment recovery outcomes. The government’s drugs strategy may have all the best rhetoric but it is not particularly imaginative and is somewhat behind other countries in terms of moving forward with things like harm reduction. The funding for UK services still tends to be all about recovery.”

Additional reporting by Kaif Siddiqui

FACTS AND FIGURES

In the past year 4.2% of Britons aged 15-34 have used cocaine, according to an OECD report. Across Europe, this is the case for 1.9% of young people.

Men are almost three times more likely than women to use the drug, according to NHS Digital.

In 2014 and 2015 London was labelled the cocaine capital of Europe, with residents releasing the most coke into waste water per person. In 2016, London was ranked second to Antwerp, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

In 2015-16, 4,228kg (9,321lb) of cocaine was seized in England and Wales – the highest amount in more than a decade.

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Marijuana and Sleep: What the Science Says So Far

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:44
The success of marijuana as a sleep aid appears to be highly individualized. What makes it effective for one person and not another?

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it.

This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep – like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It’s also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards.

I am a sleep psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients with insomnia, and it seems to me the success of cannabis as a sleep aid is highly individual. What makes cannabis effective for one person’s sleep and not another’s?

While there are still many questions to be answered, existing research suggests that the effects of cannabis on sleep may depend on many factors, including individual differences, cannabis concentrations and frequency of use.

Cannabis and sleep

Access to cannabis is increasing. As of last November, 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia had legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Research on the effects of cannabis on sleep in humans has largely been compiled of somewhat inconsistent studies conducted in the 1970s. Researchers seeking to learn how cannabis affects the sleeping brain have studied volunteers in the sleep laboratory and measured sleep stages and sleep continuity. Some studies showed that users’ ability to fall and stay asleep improved. A small number of subjects also had a slight increase in slow wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep.

However, once nightly cannabis use stops, sleep clearly worsens across the withdrawal period.

Over the past decade, research has focused more on the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Individuals with insomnia tend to use medical cannabis for sleep at a high rate. Up to 65 percent of former cannabis users identified poor sleep as a reason for relapsing. Use for sleep is particularly common in individuals with PTSD and pain.

This research suggests that, while motivation to use cannabis for sleep is high, and might initially be beneficial to sleep, these improvements might wane with chronic use over time.

Does frequency matter?

We were interested in how sleep quality differs between daily cannabis users, occasional users who smoked at least once in the last month and people who don’t smoke at all.

We asked 98 mostly young and healthy male volunteers to answer surveys, keep daily sleep diaries and wear accelerometers for one week. Accelerometers, or actigraphs, measure activity patterns across multiple days. Throughout the study, subjects used cannabis as they typically would.

Our results show that the frequency of use seems to be an important factor as it relates to the effects on sleep. Thirty-nine percent of daily users complained of clinically significant insomnia. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of occasional users had insomnia complaints. There were no differences in sleep complaints between nonusers and nondaily users.

Interestingly, when controlling for the presence of anxiety and depression, the differences disappeared. This suggests that cannabis’s effect on sleep may differ depending on whether you have depression or anxiety. In order words, if you have depression, cannabis may help you sleep – but if you don’t, cannabis may hurt.

Future directions

Cannabis is still a schedule I substance, meaning that the government does not consider cannabis to be medically therapeutic due to lack of research to support its benefits. This creates a barrier to research, as only one university in the country, University of Mississippi, is permitted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to grow marijuana for research.

New areas for exploration in the field of cannabis research might examine how various cannabis subspecies influence sleep and how this may differ between individuals.

One research group has been exploring cannabis types or cannabinoid concentrations that are preferable depending on one’s sleep disturbance. For example, one strain might relieve insomnia, while another can affect nightmares.

Other studies suggest that medical cannabis users with insomnia tend to prefer higher concentrations of cannabidiol, a nonintoxicating ingredient in cannabis.

This raises an important question. Should the medical community communicate these findings to patients with insomnia who inquire about medical cannabis? Some health professionals may not feel comfortable due to the fluctuating legal status, a lack of confidence in the state of the science or their personal opinions.

At this point, cannabis’s effect on sleep seems highly variable, depending on the person, the timing of use, the cannabis type and concentration, mode of ingestion and other factors. Perhaps the future will yield more fruitful discoveries.

 

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3 Famous Philosophers Who Took Psychedelics and Pronounced It Mind-Changing

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:48
Click here for reuse options! Psychedelics have proven to be of great interest to some great thinkers.

Despite being prohibited in the U.S. for nigh on half a century now, psychedelics are making a comeback. Researchers are studying their use in the treatment of psychological disorders, microdosing LSD has become an abiding phenomenon and there's even a move to legalize magic mushrooms afoot in California.  

Still, because of their prohibited status, research on the benefits of psychedelics is in its infancy. But not everyone feels the need to wait for clinical trials and peer-reviewed studies before jumping on the psychedelic bandwagon. The serious ponderers over at Big Think have been thoughtful enough to put together the following list of philosophers and scientists who tried psychedelics and pronounced them worthwhile.

1. Gerald Heard

The British author and polymath was a psychedelic pioneer, trying LSD for the first time in the mid-1950s. He saw the drug as a catalyst for spiritual insight, and his private proselytizing of his intellectual peers cracked open the door the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s, convincing such counterculture luminaries as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary to follow in his footsteps.

"There are the colors and the beauties, the designs, the beautiful way things appear," Heard told an interviewer. "But that's only the beginning. Suddenly you notice that there aren't these separations. That we're not on a separate island shouting across to somebody else trying to hear what they are saying and misunderstanding. You know. You used the word yourself: empathy." 

2. Alan Watts

The British philosopher played a huge role in bringing the ideas of Eastern philosophy to a Western audience that, by the 1960s, was increasingly receptive to novel spiritual ideas. But this spiritual seeker didn't limit himself to Zen Buddhism; in his quest for enlightenment, he experimented with LSD, among other drugs, which he argued gave people "glimpses" of a greater spirituality and ground their connections to the universe.

But psychedelics are only a means to an end, he cautioned: "If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen."

3. Aldous Huxley

Best known as the author of Brave New World, this British author and philosopher experimented with mescaline in the 1950s and so believed in psychedelics that, knowing the end was near in 1963, he went to his death tripping on LSD.

Huxley published his thoughts on psychedelics in two books, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell,where he argued that the drugs allowed people to see the world "as is" rather than the mundane reality we typically experience. Viewing the world through the psychedelically enhancing "mind at large" would benefit many people, he wrote.

But Huxley also was also something of an intellectual elitist; he argued that drugs like LSD were too much for the masses and should be used only by "the best and brightest." He also cautioned that the psychedelic experience was not enlightenment, but only a tool to help intellectuals trapped by their attachments to words and symbols. 

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Why Can't Legal Marijuana Dispensaries Get Bank Accounts?

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:40
Lawyer Mitchell Kulick talks about cash-only cannabis dispensaries and the role federal banking laws play

As recreational marijuana expands on both coasts of the United States, one major barrier for the profitable industry is banks. Legal dispensaries can’t get bank accounts, and as cannabis lawyer Mitchell Kulick explains: “it’s a real challenge to the industry.”

Kulick, who is a partner at the New York City law firm Feuerstein Kulick LLP, spoke to Salon’s Amanda Marcotte on “Salon Talks” about why banks won’t participate in the cannabis industry and how this stance could actually lead to danger.

On why legal dispensaries can’t get bank accounts:

The banking laws in the United States are federal banking laws . . . and these banks have a lot to protect, and for them to risk being involved, you have to understand marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, so for them to risk their licensure and their charter to participate in this synergy, which is by all accounts a big industry but by a bank account, it’s a small industry. It’s a big risk for a small reward for a bank.

On the potential dangers of not being able to secure money in banks:

If somebody’s going to be coming out of a dispensary with a lot of money and someone’s going to look to rob them and maybe somebody gets hurt in that process—someone unintentionally, like a kid walking down the street who gets hit by a stray bullet. I’m sorry to be so hyperbolic about it, but I believe that it’s going to take something like that for the United States to finally say “this is silly. This is legal in this state, these people are certified, licensed, paying taxes; they should be able to put their money in a bank.” Unfortunately in our country, a lot of times you need to have some sort of tragedy or travesty for people to say this doesn’t make sense.

Watch the video above for more on how federal banking laws have affected Kulick’s clients, and watch the full “Salon Talks” here.

 

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