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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

“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


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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The Ugly Motive Behind Trump's Repeal of DACA

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:36
The war on drugs and the war on immigrants intersect.

Since the election, time and time again, Trump and members of his administration have touted “law and order” rhetoric, to advance an agenda that aims to expand criminalizationdeportations and promote white supremacy.

While many of the public was still reeling from the shocking news of the presidential pardon of America’s most notorious Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, infamous for his self-described “concentration camps” and illegal persecution of Latino residents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that the Trump Administration will rescind DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is a program allowing young people without documentation who were brought to the United States as children to live, learn, work, and contribute to the communities they call home. A bi-partisan consensus agrees that DACA has strengthened our nation, enabling the full participation of nearly 800,000 talented young “Dreamers” around the country.

In a speech full of false, racist, and nativist claims about DACA recipients, the Attorney General made good on Trump’s campaign promise to enact mass deportations by pen and by force, including by repealing any amnesty programs for immigrants.

We’ve long seen officials use similar language to defend the abusive and inhumane tactics of the war on drugs. The Trump administration is now broadening its use to justify policies—like mandating that local law enforcement provide ICE with arrest records of non-citizens for minor offenses, like marijuana possession, and now repealing DACA—that will make it easier to persecute immigrants.

Although often portrayed in the media as an issue that affects only Latinos, our friends at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration remind us that DACA provided support to many communities, “BAJI stands with the millions of young undocumented immigrants whose lives are on the line, including those protected under DACA. Until dignity, justice, and human rights protections can be afforded all oppressed communities in the U.S., we remain undeterred and emboldened in in our fight against this administration’s racist and xenophobic policies.”

For decades, the war on drugs has served to systematically eliminate communities of color from political, social, and economic spaces in society. Today, we see a continuation of that political agenda directly though such actions such as calling on federal prosecutors to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses and through new means such as the elimination of DACA. The war on drugs has long been used as a rationale to profile, arrest, incarcerate, prosecute and deport people of color.  Eliminating DACA in effect represents a war on drugs 2.0, one that is specifically directed at immigrants and closely tied to the mass criminalization of communities of color we see today across this country.

Because of these grave consequences, advocates for drug policy reform and defenders of immigrant rights have teamed up to demand humane reforms to both drug and immigration policies. Central to our demands is that no one be arrested, incarcerated or deported for merely using or possessing drugs.

Such steps are critical for dismantling the war on drugs and ending the war on immigrants – a fight that is, in many ways, one and the same. To learn more on how to support the 800,000 Dreamers impacted by this cruel policy reversal, go to the United We Dream website and take action.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog. 

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Judge Brutally Mocks Cops Who Claimed "Buying Food at Costco" Was a "Secret Code" for a Drug Deal

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:30
Still, it was a dissent, and the majority ruled with the police.

A federal judge hilariously mocked Hawaii police and his colleagues in a blistering dissent to a ruling on a drug case.

U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski disagreed with the majority, who agreed Honolulu police lawfully searched a drug suspect because he texted a suspected meth trafficker that he was going to Costco to buy food — which officers believed was a secret code.

“If talking about shopping for food at Costco were sufficient to justify a search, many of us would be searched by the police twice a week — thrice right before Thanksgiving,” Kozinski wrote. “Nor does it make any sense to substitute food for drugs when talking about where to meet.”

Police had been conducting surveillance on Jake Del Mundo-Faagai and others connected to a suspected drug ring out of California, and nine suspects were indicted in June 2013 on methamphetamine conspiracy charges, which carry a potential life sentence.

The majority found the search was justified because Faagai and another suspect, John Penitani, had passed other Costco stores to their arranged meeting place — but Kozinski cited the grocery’s website to knock down their argument.

“As savvy shoppers know, not all Costcos are the same,” Kozinski argued. “For example, the Kapolei location is twenty years newer than its downtown Honolulu counterpart, and
features a ‘fresh deli.'”

The research apparently made Kozinski hungry, and he finished his dissent by signing off with the same statement police said had incriminated Faagai.

“Here’s what this case boils down to: Officers had a hunch that a drug transaction was going down,” Kozinski wrote. “They saw nothing obviously suspicious, but got tired of waiting, watching and wiretapping. They then jumped the gun by executing a warrantless search. Until today, this was not enough to support probable cause, but going forward it will be. This is a green light for the police to search anyone’s property based
on what officers subjectively believe — or claim to believe — about someone’s everyday conduct. That puts all of us at risk.”

“Accordingly, I dissent, and I’m off to Costco to buy some food,” he concluded.


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Roger Stone Yanked as Conference Keynote Speaker After Cannabis Community Erupts

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 11:36
Click here for reuse options! Stone's sleazy past and present ultimately outweighed his support for marijuana legalization.

Long-time Republican political trickster and Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone's gig as the keynote speaker at Los Angeles and Boston marijuana expos has been canceled after news of his participation roiled the cannabis community.

The Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition had selected the white-haired provocatuer to address the two pot business conferences after Stone came out for pot legalization early this summer. But Stone's pro-legalization stance wasn't enough to protect him from charges of racism, misogyny and being too close to Trump, who rode his own racist dog whistles to the White House.

After the announcement of Stone's participation, numerous speakers and exhibitors announced a boycott of CWCBExpo led by the Minority Cannabis Business Alliance, whose members loudly withdrew from the conference.

By Wednesday, CWCBExpo had had enough of the controversy.

"Following collaborative discussions with numerous partners, participants and interested parties who support the legalization of cannabis in an inclusive manner, Cannabis World Congress & Business Expositions, (CWCBExpo) is announcing that Roger Stone will no longer be featured as a keynote speaker at the upcoming CWCBExpo events in Los Angeles and Boston," the organizers announced in a news release.

Stone's presence would work counter to the expo's goals. According to a press release, the conference's forums "are crucial to the growth and legalization of the cannabis industry and they supersede the distractions that have surrounded the events."

Stone wasn't taking the snub lying down. He told the L.A. Weekly he would sue CWCBExpo.

"Sad day for the First Amendment," Stone told the newspaper. "The expo is in breach of contract. I will be suing them for $1 million. I will not be deterred from my efforts to persuade the president to preserve access to legal medicinal marijuana consistent with his pledge to the American people."

Expect the prankster to land on his feat. Stone just started a new Internet and radio program on InfoWars, home of Trump supporter and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. 

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Exactly How Cheap Will Marijuana Be In The Future?

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 10:34
Price drops are good news for consumers, not so much for producers.

As the cannabis industry continues to produce immense profits as one of the nation’s fastest growing job markets, it would stand to reason that opportunists would want in. Really, who could blame anyone who wants to work in the cannabis industry? The more, the better, right?

Well, perhaps not in the eyes of cannabis farmers. A report from the Wall Street Journal indicates that saturation within the cannabis industry has caused marijuana prices to fall within the competitive landscape. Since more states have legalized marijuana both medicinally and recreationally, weed has dropped an average from $15 a gram to $10 a gram.

From a wholesale perspective, prices have decreased as well. Following a peak in September 2015 of about $2,133 a pound, average whole sale prices across the country fell to $1,614 a pound in July, according to New Leaf Data Services LLC, which researches the U.S. cannabis market. That’s great for consumers, but not as positive for farmers.

This is why, as we’ve previously written, some cannabis farmers are turning to organic methods to differentiate themselves from the pack. Growers are using industry labels like “SunGrown Certified” and “Clean Green Certified,” as opposed to the traditional indoor practices that can soak up electricity and not conducive or beneficial to supporting the environment.

Since peaking in September 2015 at about $2,133 a pound, average U.S. wholesale cannabis prices fell to $1,614 in July, according to New Leaf. That is the sort of market decline that hit Midwestern corn and soybean growers in recent years after a string of record-breaking crops.

“The socially conscious, premium customer is going to want us because we’re sustainable,” Jeremy Moberg, an environmentally conscious grower in Washington, told WSJ. “It only takes me 30 seconds to convert somebody wearing Patagonia and driving a Prius that they should never smoke indoor weed again.


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Campus Cannabis: The Top 7 Stoniest Small Colleges

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 00:11
Click here for reuse options! Bob Jones University didn't make the cut.

The Princeton Review has released its annual compendium of rankings and ratings of institutions of higher learning across the land, The Best 382 Colleges 2018 Edition, and buried deep inside are student survey results that helped the Review determine which colleges and universities are the most (and least) marijuana-friendly.

In addition to a myriad of questions about academics, diversity and community, the survey asked 137,000 students "How widely is marijuana used at your school?"

Before getting to the list, a couple of caveats: First, the survey data is impressionistic—asking respondents how many other students they thought were tokers instead of asking for self-reporting, which would theoretically be more reliable. Second, the Review provides no hard numbers—just rankings—so it's impossible to know if Ithaca College is way stonier than Bard or just a bit stonier.

That said, the general outline of the pot-friendly small colleges skews heavily to the liberal arts and the Northeast, and New York state in particular, with a couple of outliers on the .legal West Coast and one on the not-so-legal Gulf Coast. Pot isn't legal in the Empire State, but it is decriminalized—and apparently pretty popular.

Here, in rank order, are the Princeton Review's stoniest small colleges:

1. Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY

Enrollment: 6,221

This is a school in a town where the mayor wants to install safe injection sites for hard drug users, and enlightened attitudes toward pot are no surprise.

2. Bard College, Avondale-on-Hudson, NY

Enrollment: 1.995

The school lives up to its reputation.

3. Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL

Enrollment: 1,844

Who knew?

4. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

Enrollment: 2,680

Fun Day is more fun, and the National Comedy Festival is funnier when you're baked. This liberal arts college, a perennial high-ranker, was #1 in 2013.

5. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

Enrollment: 2,971

Inspiration for the '90s film PCU poking fun at campus activism, the school generates a steady stream of artists, actors, and musicians. What's inspiring them?

6. Reed College, Portland, OR

Enrollment: 1,410

Of course.

7. Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

Enrollment: 1,089

Part of the Claremont Colleges, this LA-area school is highly ranked academically, but includes intercollegiate athletics, too. Go, you fightin' Sage Hens!


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What We Know About Medical Marijuana’s Effect On Heart Disease

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 10:28
Research into cannabis and coronary health is its infancy, but findings so far are profound.

Almost everyone knows somebody that has been effected by heart disease—statistics show that coronary artery disease is the most fatal disease in the United States. To put this statistic into perspective, on an annual basis, one quarter of all deaths (or 600,000 yearly fatalities) in America are due to heart disorders. For the most part, individuals contract heart disorders due to unhealthy life styles and bad habits including: fatty foods, smoking, drinking, and sloth.


The term “heart disease” is an umbrella phrase generally used to describe symptoms related to atherosclerosis, which arises with the gradual amassing of fats on the walls of arteries and veins. Over time, with a consistently unhealthy diet and lifestyle, these fatty deposits can eventually restrict blood flow in the arteries to the point of heart attack. However, there are a few other forms of heart disease including “heart failure, arrhythmia, heart valve problems, and hypertension”. While the causes of atherosclerosis (lifestyle, etc.) can also be attributed to these other heart maladies, there are a plethora of other sources for them, including stress and genetic disorders.

As with a majority of medical applications for cannabis, legitimate scientific research into the herb’s potential as a medicine for victims of heart disease is in its infancy—but findings thus far are quite profound. For the most part, studies into the potential use of cannabis as a medicine for heart disease are related to both CBD and “abnormal cannabidiol”. For starters, studies have shown that CBD can be beneficial for heart disease victims as both a preventative and restorative medicine. Secondly, abnormal cannabidiol is potentially a “wonder drug” which can greatly help reduce the chances of heart attacks for atherosclerosis patients. Each of these fascinating compounds are worth exploring in more detail.


CBD has various theoretical medical applications for heart disease. To begin with, CBD “has been shown to cause blood vessels to vasodilate, improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure”. Point being, CBD can possibly be utilized as a preventative medicine for heart attacks, as it has the potential to help blood vessels restrict and move more efficiently. Doctors also feel that CBD can be used as an “anti-arrhythmic” which can reestablish normality in one’s heart beat post heart attack.


Abnormal cannabidiol is a synthetically derived chemical which is related, on a molecular level, to the cannabinoids found within the marijuana plant. Also, abnormal cannibidiol shares the non-psychoactive properties of CBD, meaning that it does not get users “high”. The British Journal of Pharmacology reports that the application of abnormal cannabidiol in lab rats led to “the widening of blood veins and arteries by relaxing muscles on their walls”. Point being, findings show that abnormal cannabidiol, like CBD, can help lessen the chances of heart attacks by opening up blood flow within veins and arteries that would be otherwise restricted by atherosclerosis. It goes without saying that these findings warrant far more research into the potential uses of medical marijuana in relations to heart disease.


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Narcos Season Three and the Lies We Tell About the Drug War

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 10:18
In popular culture the war on drugs is seen as us versus them, good versus bad, legal versus illegal. So why do our banks launder cartel drug money?

o Narcos is back for a third season, which takes us beyond the death of its hitherto protagonist Pablo Escobar into the world of his rivals, the Cali Cartel. An interesting shift is afoot if a remark from showrunner Eric Newman is anything to go by: “Unlike Escobar, who had positioned himself as an outlaw, Cali was very much a part of the system.”

Narcos season three calls the Cali Cartel “the biggest drug lords you’ve never heard of’ – with good reason. The Rodríguez Orejuela brothers Gilberto and Miguel and Jose Santacruz Londoño are not the household names they could, should – and soon will – be.

The Cali cartel split from Escobar’s Medellin syndicate years before his death, to become the trader of what some estimate as a 90% share of the global cocaine market, spearheading the supply into Europe during the “yuppie” boom of the 1980s.

But unlike Escobar, the Cali cartel didn’t wage war on the system – they became part of it.

First they dominated their region, and then national politics – even compromising a Colombian president. They didn’t want to attack the state, as Escobar did with cartel gunmen and rogue police; they wanted to be the state. Their financial affairs were so well managed that Gilberto Rodríguez founded and directed the First InterAmericas bank in Panama – he did so effectively enough to become Escobar’s banker while also trying to kill his rival. Meanwhile, the expertise of the cartel’s counter-intelligence systems baffled the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The series seems, estimably, to want to follow not the story of one man, but the ever-expanding business he created. In doing so, Narcos season three will also illustrate a key point about the nature of cartels: the way in which they morph and mutate from generation to generation.

The famous Sinaloa cartel of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, now awaiting trial in a New York jail from which he is unlikely to be tunnelled out, was a mutation of both Escobar and Cali. He was the last of the baron bosses, a “Godfather” revered as well as feared on his terrain. But he had moved beyond Escobar to find an accommodation with the state: his network of protection within the Mexican state made him the state’s best bet in trying to keep a perverse “pax mafiosa” – mafia peace – against even more vicious drug syndicates.

The latest cartel mutation is Los Zetas, from north-eastern Mexico. This is a narco-militia so brutal that – in contrast to Guzmán’s baronial status – its name is barely even mentioned within the expanding territory under its control, from the Rio Grande valley down the Gulf into Central America. They rule with raw terror, not patronage. They forge into Europe, regardless of what is licit or illicit, be it cocaine, sex-trafficking, migration or oil – all that matters is business and ultra-violence to secure it.

The Zetas are Escobar’s great grandchildren, the Cali cartel’s grandchildren, and Guzmán’s defiant sons.

Along with Narcos, the past few years have seen a flurry of films and books about narco-traffic. When I wrote a book about the drug war in Mexico in 2010, it was one among few. Now, narco-traffic is on trend and clearly lucrative.

Sadly, the narratives developed in those shows mean that audiences in the US and Europe understand it as a cops-and-robbers thriller, obscuring what narcos actually are: astute, ever-adapting businessmen in the legal and illicit economy, supplying products on which our society is more dependent than ever. The fight is seen as a just war against criminal organisations who are at war with us. Our good guys, their bad guys.

But here’s the problem: it’s not true. The idea that there is some kind of line between “us” and “them”, or the “legal” and “illegal” economies, is a fantasy and a lie. The world of narcos is not some exotic underworld horror show, because there is nothing underworld about the money.

Ask yourself: what happens to the money? If Escobar’s and Guzmán’s is a multi-billion dollar business, where is it?

Escobar and Guzmán could not drive around spending hundreds of billions out of the back of a truck. No, you have to bank it, and to do that, you have to find a bank willing to take your money. Escobar found the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and it was busted. Guzmán found Wachovia and HSBC, which have been caught and admitted laundering his money. Yet no one goes to jail.

The New York Times articulated it rather well: “Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money-laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system.”

Without “criminal” money, the “legal” economy collapses. The man who infiltrated Escobar’s Medellin cartel to bust BCCI for the FBI, Robert Mazur, put it thus when we met: “The only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom” – not just in the Narcos’ palaces. “It’s simple”, said the whistleblower at Wachovia, Martin Woods: “If you don’t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks andpeople killed in Mexico, you’re missing the point.”

Series three of Narcos is unlikely to join those dots – it is, after all, a series about Colombia, not Wall Street or Canary Wharf. And even this is important: Colombia has just agreed a peace that ends the world’s longest-running war, between its government and the Marxist Farc. A war entwined with Escobar’s, and funded by Farc with narco-traffic.

And yet despite the peace process, cocaine production continues to increase exponentially in Colombia. And the power and terror of yet a further generation of neo-cartels known in Colombia as “bacrim”, bandas criminales.

The Narcos series is infinite.


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AlterNet Is Leading the Fight for Drug Reform: Will You Help?

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 10:03
Click here for reuse options! Every dollar counts.

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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Trump's Racist Law Enforcement Agenda

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 12:33
Click here for reuse options! He's committed to destroying the lives of black and brown people; increased law enforcement is the next weapon in his arsenal.

Earlier this month, Trump declared his plans to ramp up law enforcement to combat fatal opioid overdoses.  Less than a week later, there were violent protests in Charlottesville, VA that left a woman dead and several people seriously injured. Today, one question lingers: where were the police? Instead of the tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas and other forms of “crowd control” deployed during the conspicuously nonviolent Ferguson protests, there were police standing by as white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched the streets chanting “blood and soil” and violently attacking counter protestors in their midst. 

Despite these tragic happenings, there were no calls for increased law enforcement at these protests, nor was there championing of police “roughing them up a little.”  Instead, Trump ultimately opted to place blame on the people who showed up to demonstrate their belief that America should not be the home to hateful, white supremacist ideology and its various manifestations. His decision made it very clear that his racist rhetoric is more than just talk—it reflects the principles that inform his agenda. Against the backdrop of violence in Charlottesville and his silence on the lack of an adequate response by law enforcement, the Trump administration’s calls for more policing in response to the opioid crisis is emblematic of the racist double standard underlying the strategies used to perpetuate the war on drugs.

Historically, the institution of policing in this country has continuously operated as a tool for the enforcement of racist policies. From the actions of plantation overseers and slave patrols during slavery to the enforcement of the “black codes” that played an integral role in the creation of the prison industrial complex that plagues our society to this day, law enforcement has consistently been synonymous with the control of black people. The use of law enforcement to ensure the efficacy of racist policies was a necessity during the Jim Crow era and segregation, and even more so after segregation was ruled unconstitutional. Many states and local governments refused to cooperate with the highest court in the land, and the police were present to make sure Jim Crow laws and traditions were followed, protecting racism and bigotry instead of the lives of black Americans. Now, in the wake of the “new Jim Crow” that is the drug war, law enforcement has functioned as an instrument of reinforcement for the overarching structural racism on which the drug war was founded. 

For those of us who have witnessed the devastation that enforcement of the drug war has inflicted on communities of color, the Trump administration’s call for greater “enforcement” is clearly a dog whistle for the arrest, incarceration, and criminalization of black and brown people. The Trump administration has used the opioid crisis to justify his racist attacks on Mexican immigrants and to roll back the criminal justice reforms of the Obama era. Trump has very explicitly placed the blame for the opioid crisis on the “thugs,” gangs and cartels rather than the conditions created by the failed war on drugs. For black and brown people, who have been criminalized and demonized by this type of “tough on crime” messaging for many decades, these words signal a future tainted with more state sanctioned violence at the hands of an increased police presence in the name of “law and order.”

While Trump’s rhetoric is deplorable and his policies are proven ineffective, costly and racist, none of this is new. Trump did not invent the racism that grounds the institution of policing just as he did not invent the racist war on drugs. Like the presidents before him, rather than investing desperately needed resources into increased access to naloxone and comprehensive drug treatment, Trump intends to invest $15.6 billion in law enforcement and interdiction.  Despite bi-partisan calls for criminal justice and police reform, and a “gentler” drug war, the Trump administration is clearly committed to maintaining the status quo: the surveillance, harassment, arrest, incarceration, and criminalization of communities of color by the police in the name of the drug war. Instead of saving lives, Trump is committed to destroying the lives of black and brown people, and increased law enforcement appears to be the next weapon in his arsenal.

*Editor's note: In this monthly blog series, the Drug Policy Alliance will examine the nexus between the war on drugs and law enforcement practices that result in the mass criminalization, incarceration and dehumanization of communities of color. These pieces will reflect on the ways in which the institutions of policing and prosecution - both driven by calls for “law and order” in the wake of the war on drugs - continue to function as instruments of reinforcement for the overarching structural racism on which the drug war was founded.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

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Got the End-of-Summer Blues? Here’s How Marijuana Can Help

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 11:04
Cannabis can act as a "neurological laxative" for those suffering from anxiety.

The possibility that a woman could have painless labor became an idée fixe of H. L. (“Doc”) Humes, a literary wunderkind and MIT science prodigy who developed some intriguing theories about cannabis. When his wife was giving birth at their home on July 4, 1977, they tried an experiment involving marijuana, breathing exercises, and massage. Humes gave her some marijuana to inhale just before each contraction and this helped her immensely.

Marijuana is “among the most forgiving medicines we know,” said Humes, who described cannabis as a “neurological laxative” that “acts to surface anxiety which the user holds within himself.” Doc touted the weed as the best remedy for stress, “the necessary medicine for the nation’s anxiety-tension problem.” “America is so sick,” he declared, “and cannabis is the specific medicine for the disease that afflicts us.”

Chronic “anxiety-tension,” Humes explained, “is a state of general blockage that shows up most obviously at an individual’s ‘weakest link,’ so it can have a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms, as well as being generally debilitating … Most of the common elements from which people suffer are really symptoms of anxiety-tension, including headache, backache, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, GI disturbances such as constipation and ulcers, overweight, arthritis, and so on. Anxiety-tension has also been very clearly implicated in more deadly disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer proneness, and premature aging … Depression is frequently a symptom of anxiety-tension.”

Ganja’s biphasic qualities allowed smokers to “equilibrate” the nervous system, according to Humes. Consumed in appropriate quantities, the herb could calm the hyper or invigorate the sluggish. The medical use of cannabis depends precisely on managing its psychoactive properties,” Doc counseled. “In heavy dosage, it functions like a hypnotic. In a light dosage it functions like an illuminant.”

Humes saw early on that the widespread “recreational use of cannabis is also a form of self-medication,” even if most marijuana smokers did not acknowledge this to themselves. He lamented the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people are arrested each year for using the most efficacious and least harmful medication available to cope with the stress of living in the modern world.

Source: H. L. Humes, “Notes on Painless Detoxification from Narcotics Addiction,” unpublished manuscript. 

An excerpt from Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific by Martin A. Lee


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This is What It's Like to Be An Overdose Survivor

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:50
Click here for reuse options! Someone will suffer an overdose today and live. Then what?

I woke up this morning alive. I finished the book my sister gave me last week, Mastering the Addicted Brain. And I wrote an emotional treatise about the three overdoses - the ones I remember. One, in the dorms, at age 17. I had taken a bunch of various forms of speed and was slurring my words. I thought I was having a heart attack. Maybe I was just really high.

The second landed me in the hospital. I showed up to a party at a friend's house drunk and high, and proceeded to get more drunk and dangerously high on any number of substances, but mostly cocaine. Those were the days I kept my stash in hollowed out Burt's Bees lip gloss pallets, or replaced loose eye shadow with it so I could have it in my purse inconspicuously. It's not lost on me that it was childhood church friends that dragged me to a car and to the hospital. It's not lost on me that Nita, my mom's best friend who came immediately to my side, didn't live long enough to see her daughter get married - and yet, here I am. (Not two days later, I got a ride to my grandparents' farm to convalesce and be with my mom, who was caring for ailing relatives. I did more cocaine - literally off the front of a Bible - in the car on the way.)

The third overdose was in Brooklyn, a few weeks before I entered long-term recovery. I'd been tripping for days at that point, and mixing hero's doses of psilocybin with cannabis and cocaine. I had a seizure, and lost control of my legs. I slammed around in the elevator on the way to my apartment. I simply told my flatmate that I'd fainted, and asked for some bread, a cold wash cloth, and water.

It occurs to me again that it was International Overdose Awareness Day last week, and somehow I woke up alive. The war stories just don't matter today.

Some wore silver to commemorate. Others visited the grave of their child, brother, or lover who died this tragic, undignified death. (Undignified on face, anyway.) Some don't know Overdose Awareness Day even exists; they don't know there's a worldwide campaign to #EndOverdose. Someone will overdose today and live. Someone will overdose today and die.

All too often, I'm reminded there are those who visit these graves daily, through the unhealed wrench in the heart, or the persistent pit in a stomach. There are parents, children, and siblings that walk the earth as zombies, numbed and hollow from the overdose death of their own. They are living mausoleums to what might have been.

And then, there's me. Unworthy, unwitting, and unclear on how I survived overdose, time and time again. It's not fair.

It's not fair.

I'm alive, and I don't know why it's me and not your sister, your girlfriend, or your daughter.

I don't always feel guilty enough, or #blessed enough, or whole enough to make it fair. All I know to do is to listen to others, offer my energy to help teach people to use drugs safely, advocate for the shift to an evidence-based, harm reduction model of drug policy in the United States, and to go to the mat over and over for those who are suffering from addiction. I don't let a day - not a minute, really - go by that I'm not grateful for being in recovery. Recovery is all I have. All I know to do is work for a better tomorrow.

This is what it's like to survive overdose.


Save A Life: Free Online Naloxone Training


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Trump's Pardon of Sherriff Arpaio, Who Leaned on Drug Laws to Deport So Many, is Malicious and Unconscionable

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 09:15
Click here for reuse options! The drug war is a war on immigrant communities.

With the unprecedented pardoning of America’s most reprehensible Sheriff, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, the Trump administration doubles down on its blatant disregard for human and civil rights and bull horns its support of racists, racial profiling, border militarization, and white supremacy.

Summarized best by our friends at the Opportunity Agenda, “In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department sued then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for a “pattern of unlawful discrimination” against Latino Arizonans that included discriminatory and unjustified stops, searches, and detentions. As a result, a federal judge ordered him to stop these practices. Last month he was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to do so, opting instead to continue his harassment and intimidation of Latino Arizonans.”

Not one week after the terrorism in Charlottesville, where Nazi and Klu Klux Klan members charged the streets in riot gear and with weapons, leading to the death of one woman and dozens more critically injured, the President, under the cowardly cloak of a Friday night news dump, announced that he will use his first official pardon to give impunity to a notorious violator of equal justice and our Constitution. But the pardon is not final yet. As of Wednesday, The Washington Post reports “two surprising developments relating to the pardon of ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio: a challenge to the president’s pardon power and a court’s decision to hold a hearing rather than summarily dismiss the case.”

Nevertheless, by pardoning him, the president sends a message that civil liberties are only for some, and that he is fine with law enforcement flouting the very laws they are meant to uphold.  What’s more, on the heels of defending hateful demonstrators in Charlottesville, the president continues to use the highest office and his broad presidential pardon powers to absolve, excuse, and protect someone, who described his inhumane detention facilities as “concentration camps.” By stark contrast, the Obama administration used the presidential office to signal sentencing reform and granted clemency to 1,715 federal prisoners who were serving outrageous terms for non-violent drug offenses. In other words, reform and compassion were guiding principles in Obama’s use of presidential pardons and clemencies.  

(For a better look at Joe Arpaio’s long-time record of human rights abuses, see the Phoenix New Times' reporting highlights.)

The drug war is a war on immigrant communities. It fuels racial profiling, border militarization, violence against immigrants, intrusive government surveillance and widespread detentions and deportations. Arpaio’s police department notoriously used drug laws to stop, search, detain, and justify deportations – ripping apart families and attempting to extinguish communities.

In Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio waged his cruel, inhumane, and unconstitutional campaign against Latinx communities, because, simply, no one cared about the people suffering under the Arpaio regime. Aptly stated in this Phoenix New Times’ article on the alarming rate of alleged suicides in his jails, “The sheriff's charnel house is accepted because the victims are not members of a 4-H club. They are late on child support, use drugs, smoke cigarettes, drive without licenses, have problems with authority, sport ink with gang affiliations.”

But we care. The Drug Policy Alliance cares. We advocate for drug policies rooted in science, compassion, health, and human rights. We actively pursue policies that reduce contact between the police and immigrant communities, which helps reduce vulnerability to deportation. We increase opportunities for and accessibility of retroactive relief, like pardons, expungement and records sealing.

This country can and will move forward – if we unite and collectively resist hatred, bigotry, and systemic racism, and if we hold criminals like Joe Arpaio accountable for their crimes against humanity.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog.



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Joe Arpaio Has Been a World-Class Jerk a Lot Longer Than You Ever Knew

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 13:36
Click here for reuse options! He got his start as a narc, and took down a budding Texas music legend back in the day.

Joe Arpaio made his conservative bones as the hardline, long-time sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, home of Phoenix, the state's largest city. Housing inmates in sweltering tent cities in the desert heat, forcing them to wear pink underwear and feeding them slop as incarceration porn voyeurs watched with glee on internet feeds helped make Arpaio a hero of the reactionary right.


He cemented that status with his ill-treatment of the state's Hispanic population in the guise of enforcing federal immigration laws—even as federal courts barred him from conducting "immigration roundups" and the Justice Department found he had overseen the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history. Arpaio's egregious misbehavior ended up costing Arizona taxpayers $146 million in fees, settlements and court awards.


Arpaio didn't care, and he positively reveled in the applause his lawless crackdowns won from the likes of Fox News and Donald Trump. Even after the federal court injunction against his racist immigration sweeps, he continued to order his office to detain "persons for investigation without reasonable suspicion a crime has been or is being committed," the court found. That behavior eventually earned him a criminal contempt citation, for which he was convicted in July and pardoned by Trump last month.


But Arpaio's history as a reactionary lawman goes back well before his seemingly endless tenure as "America's Sheriff." (He served for 23 years before being defeated in his 2016 election bid.) As an agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (the predecessor to the DEA), Arpaio kept busy busting hippies in the 1960s, including one of Texas' biggest music legends.


In 1965, the Sir Douglas Quintet had a monster national and international hit with "She's About a Mover," a bouncy, infectious amalgam of Brit pop, Texas pop and Cajun two-step powered by Augie Meyers' incredibly cheesy Vox Continental organ. Although "Sir Douglas" Sahm was Texas born and bred, with deep roots in country, rhythm and blues, and other Texas music styles, legendary New Orleans producer Huey Meaux, Jr. prevailed upon Sahm to pretend to be part of the British Invasion in a bid to get a hit. It worked.  




The Sir Douglas Quintet appeared on its way to stardom, but got detoured in 1966, which is where Joe Arpaio comes in. At the time, Arpaio was agent in charge of the Bureau of Narcotic Drugs' San Antonio office, and when he got a tip that Sahm and band member Frank Morin were carrying marijuana on a flight to Corpus Christi, Arpaio arranged for federal narcs and local cops to meet them at the airport.



It wasn't exactly a big bust—Sahm and Morin were each nailed with "a tobacco can" full of the devil weed—but even a small-time pot bust in Texas in the 1960s was a big deal, as Lee Otis Johnson could attest. Johnson, a black student activist, was nailed in 1968 for giving a joint to a cop in Houston and sentenced to 30 years in prison. (The sentence was later overturned, but still.)


Not a big bust, but enough to derail the Sir Douglas Quintet, temporarily putting the kibosh on its touring plans, and ultimately inducing the band to hightail it out of Texas, shed the British affectation and relocate to the much friendlier climes of San Francisco and Northern California.


That led to a second round of popularity for the band, and a second hit, about a Northern California county that was becoming a popular destination for hippies fleeing the big city and that would become famous for its role in the American marijuana scene:


The Sir Douglas Quintet never again had a hit that big, but Sahm was well on his way to becoming a Texas music legend. Although the Quintet disbanded, Sahm and Augie Meyers continued to collaborate, and Sahm continued to release rock, blues, Tex-Mex, Cajun, country, and pop-inflected albums through the 1970s, '80s and '90s. He also joined Meyers, Tex-Mex accordion king Flaco Jimenez, and Hispanic country crooner Freddy Fender (born Baldomar Huerta) in the Texas music supergroup the Texas Tornadoes. 


Back in the late '80s and early '90s, I would occasionally chat with Sahm as he and Augie and sometimes Freddy Fender chilled out between Thursday night sets at the Hole in the Wall on the Drag in Austin. I loved his attitude and his music. And I really liked that "Free Baldomar Huerta" graffiti somebody painted on the side of the club, a reference to a 1960 bust involving six grams of weed that ended with Fender serving time in Louisiana.


Joe Arpaio did his best to bring down a budding Texas legend, but he failed. Doug Sahm died of a heart attack at a hotel in Taos in 1998, but his legacy lives on, while Joe Arpaio is reduced to being an angry loser. The two men symbolize two conflicting visions of America—one harsh, authoritarian and intolerant; the other mellow, fun- and freedom-loving and inclusive. Arpaio wanted a Texas where the law was enforced with a firm hand, especially against people with the wrong skin color or hair style; Sahm wanted a Groover's Paradise. The battle is still being waged: 





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