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The Drug Test-Free Workplace: 7 Occupations That Don't Require You to Pee in a Bottle to Get Hired

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 13:43
Click here for reuse options! If you're not interested in pre-employment drug testing, go here.

Widespread workplace drug testing—a uniquely American phenomenon—has generated controversy ever since Ronald Reagan pushed hard for it back in the 1980s. On the one hand, opponents see it as an invasion of workers' privacy protections; on the other, advocates believe it is the best means of preventing injuries that might occur when a worker is intoxicated.

Although workplace drug testing was rare prior to Reagan, 56% of all employers now require pre-employment drug tests, according to Statistic Brain. Some of this is mandated by law: Truck drivers, airline pilots and some other public transport positions face federal drug-testing requirements. But much pre-employment drug testing and random, suspicionless drug testing is not required by law; it is instead the employers' choice.

High levels of drug testing are to be found in industries such as health care, heavy manufacturing and construction, where being impaired on the job can lead to loss of life or limb or endanger the health and well-being of others. But drug testing is also popular in industries with no such apparent risk, such as retail. Whether that guy at the camera counter at Walmart smoked a joint over the weekend probably has no discernible impact on public safety.

Speaking of smoking joints, marijuana is by far the most commonly used illicit drug (though it's now legal in nine states). Positive workplace drug tests for marijuana are on the rise, reflecting broader popular acceptance of the drug, which is also leading some companies to quit testing for pot. In a low unemployment economy, employers may be increasingly reluctant to lose potential workers over a positive test for marijuana.

And some potential workers are reluctant to seek employment at places that are going to subject them to drug testing. Fortunately for them, there are some economic sectors where facing a pre-employment or random at-work drug test is not a real risk—in fact, it's a rarity. But most of these jobs require a university degree. Like so many things in America, drug testing is a class thing.

That said, if you want to work in a field where you don't have to worry about peeing in a bottle to get or keep a job, here, thanks to Insider Monkey, are some options.

1. Management Positions

These relatively well-paying professional gigs tend to have drug testing levels approaching absolute zero. On the high end, if you can call it that, were general managers (1.8%) and project managers (1.6%), but office managers, business managers, and retail managers all came in under 1%, with event managers besting them all at a minuscule 0.01%. Average pay for these positions ranged from the mid-40s for retail and office managers to more than $70,000 for project managers. Ironically, the administrative assistant position, which can be an excellent entry-level job for people seeking careers as managers, is more likely to be subject to drug testing than any managerial position. Still, it's only 1.9% of administrative assistants.

2. Personal Services

You're not going to get rich in these jobs, but you're not likely to get drug tested, either. Because of the transient nature of jobs in these careers or because many people in these fields are self-employed, gig economy workers just don't get that drug test scrutiny. Cosmetologists, hairstylists and fitness trainers all face testing less than 1% of the time, while pet groomers and massage therapists come in under 3%. These jobs have median pay ranging from around $25,000 to $30,000.

3. Information Technology

These are the fields that are stereotypically the domain of the nerdy stoner. You wouldn't expect employers in the industry to turn down a budding genius because he gets high at home, and you would be right. Only 3% of web designers and IT consultants face the empty cup, and fewer than 3% of Java developers and front-end developers do. While not quite as drug testing-free as cosmetologists or pet groomers, IT workers make a lot more money. On the low end, web designers are pulling in a median $48,000, while pay is around $70,000 for the other positions listed.

4. Marketing

Those bright, shiny people trying to make us buy stuff are also largely exempt from drug testing, especially on the bottom rungs. Only 0.3% of marketing assistants are subject to pre-employment drug screens, and only 3.8% of marketing coordinators. The former positions average $36,000 a year, while the latter average $41,500.

5. Real Estate, Insurance and Financial Services

These white-collar jobs are all unlikely to see drug testing requirements. Fewer than 3% of loan processors and insurance agents face the prospect of peeing in a cup to win a job, while a minuscule 0.5% of real estate agents do. Real estate agents are also the highest paid in this group, averaging $47,000, while both loan processors and insurance agents come in at under $40,000.

6. Bartender

People whose job it is to mix and sell legal psychoactive substances are very unlikely to be tested for illegal ones. With only 3.2% of employers demanding pre-employment drug tests, bartenders are the least likely of restaurant and bar workers to be tested. Chefs face testing at a rate of 6.2%, while 4% of hostesses are likely to face it. The median salary for bartenders is $29,240.

7. Creative White Collar

Neither graphic designers nor copywriters are likely to face a pre-employment drug test. A big reason is that many of these are freelance gigs: No boss = no drug test. But even when working for employers, drug testing is unlikely in these fields. Copywriters came in at 3.2%, while graphic designers were at 3.9%.

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Is Marijuana Legalization Tied To An Increase In Pedestrian Deaths?

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 11:27
States where the adult use of marijuana was legalized had an uptick in pedestrian traffic deaths last year, according to a new study.

More pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2017 than in any year since 1990, and researchers believe that the legalization of marijuana for adult use may have something to do with the rise in fatalities. 

According to a study released this week by the Governors Highway Safety Association, states that legalized marijuana for adult use (or "recreational marijuana") saw a 16.4% increase in pedestrian traffic deaths in the first half of 2017, compared to 2016. All other states—those that did not legalize—saw a 5.8% decrease in pedestrian deaths. 

Although the connection was not causal, the correlation was enough to catch the attention of Richard Retting, a traffic safety engineer at Sam Schwartz Consulting and author of the study.

“We are not making a definitive, cause-and-effect link to marijuana,” Retting told The New York Times, calling the data “a marker for concern.”

He said that researchers will continue to monitor for links between traffic deaths and marijuana legalization. “It may be a canary in a coal mine, an early indicator to address,” Retting said. 

Researchers couldn’t say whether the data might indicate more marijuana use by drivers, pedestrians or both. 

Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia all legalized marijuana between 2012 and 2016, the time period that the researchers looked at.

Maine and Alaska, which have small populations, had such few fatalities that it was hard to connect increases with marijuana legalization. Massachusetts was the only legal marijuana state that saw fewer deaths in 2017—though the difference was only by one. 

Other states, including Colorado, saw a more significant percentage increase, although the numbers remained relatively low. There, 37 people were killed in pedestrian accidents in the first half of 2017, an increase of 12% over the previous year. 

Jason Levine, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, said that while the connection will be interesting to monitor, it is too soon to draw any conclusions about a possible link between marijuana legalization and pedestrian deaths. 

“I’d be cautious about drawing a direct link to any potential cause,” he said. “But it’s certainly worth trying to figure out why those numbers are what they are.”

Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that overall insurance claims are 3% higher in states that have legalized marijuana for adult use. 

While researchers will continue to monitor the connection between marijuana policy and pedestrian fatalities, they are also looking at rising smartphone use among drivers as another factor. 


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Big Talk, Little Action: How Trump Bungled An Opioid Fix

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 23:40
The president declared a war on opioids. Opioids are winning

The leading cause of death for Americans under 50 is an opioid overdose. Less than a month before President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, he said that there needed to be a plan "to end the opioid epidemic."

Since the announcement last October that opioids were a public health emergency, his administration has yielded no new funds to combat the crisis that has swept America in recent years and claims an average of 115 lives on a daily basis. The recent budget plan passed by Congress for 2019 will eventually usher in new money, but that doesn't help those who need it now.

Trump's plan to fix the opioid crisis has so far been nothing more than lip service, while governors across the nation have pleaded for more resources to no avail. In the past, he's said a border wall would help slow the flow of drugs into the country that has exacerbated the crisis, but dozens of experts have said that a wall would have no impact on the crisis as a whole.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is still without a leader. The person who was nominated, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., withdrew himself after it was reported that he backed legislation that would make it more difficult for federal agents to pursue pharmaceutical companies responsible for flooding the nation with opioids.

Anything that Trump does about the crisis — which claimed more lives in 2016 than all American casualties in the Vietnam War — that doesn't address aggressively going after the major pharmaceutical corporations that flood regions with drugs and punish the doctors that allow it to happen can't be taken seriously.

Despite the rhetoric, big pharma has done quite well under the Trump administration. Even though Trump said he would be tough on drugmakers, the companies were rewarded with the GOP-led tax plan he signed in December. As a result, nine companies invested a combined total of $50 billion in share buyback programs for investors, while those funds far outweighed any investments into employees and drug research and development.

Doctors have a history of overprescription of opioids. Drugmakers, meanwhile, have a well-documented past of shipping excess amount of pills to places across the country. Take Kermit, West Virginia, for example, which saw 9 million hydrocodone pills flood its town over two years, even though only 392 people live there.

Nonetheless, on Thursday night at the White House opioid summit, the president all but explicitly said that he would battle the epidemic by implementing a tougher law enforcement stance. He suggested "the ultimate penalty" was needed for drug dealers, which corroborated reports from earlier in the week that revealed he had praised the implementation of the death penalty in regards to drugs in other countries.

"We have pushers and drugs dealers, they are killing hundreds and hundreds of people," Trump said at the event. "If you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them."

He added, "Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty — and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do."

Just days before the remarks, a senior Trump administration official told Axios that Trump "often jokes about killing drug dealers . . . He’ll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.'"

Couple the comments with his previously reported conversation in which he praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's handling of drugs in his country, and the reality quickly turns harrowing. The international criminal court launched an inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duterte earlier last month, due to his brutal nationwide drug crackdown, in which he's been accused of "extrajudicial executions and mass murder" of thousands of people.

"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump told him in a leaked transcript of their phone conversation in May of last year.

In other words, Trump's position is less about stopping people from getting illegal drugs and more about enforcing a tough-on-drugs stance in the mold of Jeff Sessions.

Even Trump's less intense remarks and his promises to go after pharmaceutical companies are likely just lip service. Trump on Thursday night also said he would follow the lead of the states and go after pharmaceutical companies who have long engagedin predatory practices.

"That will happen," Trump said. But defense attorneys have likely said this move by the Trump administration is highly unlikely to come to fruition.

"While it is difficult to assign motives to an act of the DOJ, this is a PR move, not a sincere attempt to address the opioid crisis," attorney David Cattie told NBC news.

In order to properly combat the opioid epidemic in America, politicians must challenge the powerful and influential pharmaceutical industry, which has spent more than any other to wield power over Washington. Americans make up about 5 percent of the global population yet consume 81 percent of the world's oxycodone products. That statistic alone should exemplify how uniquely American this problem is.

The time has come to aggressively launch a multi-pronged effort to both ease the opioid epidemic in the country and pursue accountability for those primarily responsible — not people crossing the border, but powerful industry executives.


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WATCH: Jeff Sessions Marijuana Rolling Papers Are a Thing

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 14:25
Click here for reuse options! Turn up the heat on the attorney general next time you light up.

A group supporting the legalization of marijuana has come up with a nifty fundraising scheme: Rolling papers with the attorney general's image on the packaging.

Who better to poke fun at than the cluelessly anti-marijuana Sessions—the man who claims "good people" don't smoke pot, that marijuana is a gateway drug, and who once said he liked the local Ku Klux Klan boys until he found out they smoked weed?

The folks at #JeffSesh apparently agreed, selecting the attorney general's visage to grace the packages of "General Jeff's Old Rebel Session Papers," replete with the warning to "Don't Beauregard That Joint My Friend."

"We’re not criminals, junkies or idiots. Regular Jeffs all over the country — good, responsible, patriotic Americans — have a sesh now and then… and it's OK!" the group's website proclaims. "Every time you sesh with any brand of JeffSesh papers, you’re helping keep the law moving forward — and not back to the Nixon era," the website says. "You’re saying we’ve moved on, Jeff."

The rolling paper packages come in either black or white and go for $5 each. #JeffSesh says they're selling out, but hasn't said whether any money raised will go to any specific marijuana legalization groups.

Check out the video below:

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Kentucky Could Become the First State to Tax Opioid Prescriptions

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 11:14
It's not for addiction treatment or prevention, but to fill revenue gaps in the state budget.



Kentucky could become the first state to tax opioid prescriptions

Lawmakers in Kentucky are weighing whether to impose a new tax on opioid prescriptions, the latest effort in a string of so-far failed attempts to pull new revenue from the painkillers that helped seed a nationwide addiction crisis.

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Trump Suggests America Could Solve Opioid Crisis Through Executions in Shocking Televised Remarks

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 00:24
Click here for reuse options! The abhorrent comments came during a White House summit on the opioid crisis.

President Donald Trump went on a shocking rant Thursday during a televised White House summit about the opioid crisis, when he suggested that executing drug dealers is a solution to the overdose and addiction problems sweeping the nation.

“These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people, and nothing happens to them,” Trump said. “Some countries have a very, very tough penalty—the ultimate penalty. And by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do."

"So we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties," Trump added. Trump previously floated the idea of executing drug dealers in private to his associates. Watch Trump's comments below.

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Black Tar, Black Markets: Denver's Opioid Crisis and the Search for a Progressive Fix

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 00:21
Click here for reuse options! The public library shows what compassion for drug users looks like.

A hypodermic needle is not what you would expect to find if you reached for a worn copy of Harry Potter from a library’s bookshelf. And the last thing you would expect is to find a 25-year-old man dead in the bathroom. But for some guests at the Denver Public Library in Colorado, this was the reality. People were coming to the library to find a private place to inject drugs such as heroin away from the eyes of police. The needles were found in books, furniture, and on the lawn, and the man in the bathroom was found by staff in February 2017.

The Denver Public Library, searching for a humane solution, took action. To prevent any additional tragedies, the library trained many of its staff to use naloxone (brand name Narcan), the antidote to an opioid overdose. Over 300 staff now carry naloxone across the library’s different branches.

“Let me be clear,” Rachel Fewell, the Central Library Administrator of the Denver Public Library, told me. “Drug use of any kind in our library is illegal and a violation of our policies. But when we see it, we try to treat the people using our library as individuals and with respect. We try to connect them with the resources and services they need.”

Fewell explained that the library has social workers and peer navigators on its staff who try to help guests deal with problems such as addiction or homelessness. Guests can access these services for free during daily drop-in hours. She told me that the library has successfully reversed 15 overdoses since they equipped staff with naloxone last year, and there have been no more deaths.

The case of the Denver Public Library shows what compassion for drug users looks like. But it also illustrates the significant challenges heroin and other drug users face when they lack a secure place to consume. Denver is home to several thousand people injecting drugs every day, many of whom are homeless. In 2016, at least 20 people died of overdoses in parks, streets or bathrooms.

In response, local advocates have proposed creating a supervised injection facility (SIF) in Denver, a secure place for people to inject drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine in the presence of trained medical staff. Typically, people bring their own drugs while the facilities offer sterile syringes. Staff monitor people and carry naloxone to reverse any overdoses.

The SIF initiative in Denver began late last year after a special bipartisan committee in the state legislature proposed the idea. Their recommendation led to the proposed Senate Bill 40, which the legislature considered early this year. But progress hit a wall on February 14 after the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to indefinitely postpone consideration of the bill. The committee voted 3-2 along party lines, with the committee’s three Republicans voting to stall the creation of the facility.

The failed vote slows momentum for this ambitious solution to public drug use in Denver. No SIFs currently exist in the United States, though cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia are considering similar measures.

About 100 SIFs exist in 66 cities and nine countries globally. Vancouver, B.C. in Canada established the first SIF in North America, InSite, in 2003. A Canadian Medical Association Journal study showed that InSite’s users were more likely to use clean syringes and safe injection techniques, and more likely to seek addiction treatment. The facility, which intervened in over 1,700 overdoses in 2016, has never witnessed a fatality.

Colorado is in the news most often today for its thriving legal marijuana industry. But the state still grapples with a high opioid overdose rate that has increased dramatically in the past decade. In 2016, opioid and heroin overdoses caused 300 and 228 deaths, respectively. These numbers represent a 104 percent and 720 percent increase from 2001 numbers. But anyone who feared legal marijuana in Colorado would cause increased use of other drugs can breathe easy: Data show that opioid deaths decreased 6 percent in the two years following legal pot sales in the state.

Harm Reduction and Drug User Organizing

Despite the political setbacks for supervised injection, advocates are pushing forward. Just across the street from the state capital in Denver, the Harm Reduction Action Center leads the fight for SIF, though they prefer the term supervised use space (SUS). HRAC delivers free services five days a week to the city’s injecting drug users. The agency, the largest of its kind in Colorado, provides clean syringes, STI/STD testing, and referrals to opioid substitution treatment.

Kat Humphries, the programs director for HRAC, operates the drop-in center in the mornings and works on data analysis in the afternoons. “We are pushing forward with any measures we can to keep people alive,” she told me. “What harm reduction means to us is meeting people where they’re at so we can ensure they live the best possible lives for themselves.”

The 15-year-old HRAC has operated its syringe access program for six years. In this time, the center has registered over 7,200 members and had over 95,000 visits, of which roughly half—42,000—resulted in requests for referral services.

“It’s a pretty strong argument that we need to provide these supplies to prevent HIV and Hepatitis C in our community,” Humphries said, “but we’re also just a secure place for people to access referrals and other social services when they’re ready for them.”

The other services HRAC helps its members access, either through the agency or its partners, include Medicaid, mental health treatment and PrEP. The center also holds two health education classes, and even helps its members obtain state identification.

But HRAC does more than just serve people injecting drugs; it actively engages them in its organization. About 60 percent of the agency’s staff are current or former injecting drug users. “That’s something that’s really important to us to,” Humphries said, “to make sure that the people in our community have a big say in how we’re run and are the ones running it to some extent.

“We don’t require our workers or volunteers to be abstinent from drug use to be in this space, and we have a very functional team. I think that speaks to allowing people to be who they are and meeting them where they’re at.”

Injecting drug users in Denver are at a heightened risk of overdose, both because of their use behaviors and the poor quality of their drugs. Heroin in Colorado has a unique composition, as Humphries explained to me. “You’re mainly dealing with black tar heroin here,” she said. “It’s expensive to snort or smoke, so most people here are injecting it. This puts them at a very high risk of overdose.”

According to a state survey of over 700 methadone patients in the Denver metro area, 79 percent of heroin users reported using black tar heroin. Almost half of heroin users reported using four or more times daily, and 72 percent reported injection as their method of choice.

The potent opioid fentanyl is used as an adulterant and is increasingly found in heroin in cities like Philadelphia and Boston, though not much in Colorado. HRAC members who test their heroin for fentanyl, using special testing strips provided by the center, often turn up mixed results. But even with less fentanyl, the quality of heroin in Colorado varies widely. “We know that the purity ranges hugely even in one day from the same location and supply,” Humphries said.

Data from the Drug Enforcement Administration show that street heroin agents purchased in Denver ranged between 15 and 25 percent purity. Fluctuations in purity put users at risk of overdose.

Overdoses in public have put drug users in Denver under an uncomfortable spotlight. But the issue has also created a headache for a city government struggling to find solutions. Denver, Humphries said, is known for its "open air drug market." A bike path along the Cherry Creek Trail downtown was a notorious hotspot for drug activity. But police sought further action after they made over 120 felony arrests in the area and collected over 3,500 used syringes throughout 2016. The city’s parks department and police moved to ban suspected users and dealers from city parks—a move challenged as unconstitutional by the ACLU.

But increased enforcement will not address some of the root problems forcing drug users into public spaces. Humphries told me about 70 percent of HRAC members are homeless or in transitional housing, staying in motels or sleeping on friends’ couches when they can. The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative found in 2017 over 5,100 people suffering homelessness in the metropolitan Denver area, based on a conservative snapshot study.

Lack of secure housing exacerbates the risks facing drug users. “When people live outside they are forced to inject in public or in bathrooms,” Humphries said. “At that point you’re rushed, you’re nervous…You have a much higher likelihood of missing your shot, or not being able to wash the point of injection. You risk contracting a bacterial infection or causing an abscess.”

Humphries explained how many of Denver’s drug users are not merely using one drug, but multiple drugs. Many homeless people use the stimulant methamphetamine to stay up all night walking around in the winter. After being awake for over 24 hours, heroin is the easiest way for them to come down and sleep again.

Denver’s city policies do not make life any easier for people who are homeless. In 2012 the city implemented an urban camping ban allowing law enforcement to eject people sleeping in parks or public spaces. Denver police made 31 arrests for unauthorized camping between 2012 and 2017.

But Denver police counter that arrests, written warnings and citations are a small proportion of the total 14,700 contacts they made in this period. The majority of contacts with people sleeping in public resulted in verbal "move-on" orders. Local authorities maintain that protocol is first to offer people help obtaining shelter or services before taking further action. Nonetheless, the policy has prompted a class-action lawsuit in federal court, which is currently pending.

The Struggle Continues

People injecting drugs in Denver remain without a safe place to use, but HRAC plans to keep up the fight. They have lobbied for the SIF/SUS for over 18 months. “In the first two weeks of January 2017,” Humphries said, “we lost seven participants and that was something we decided we could never have happen again. That’s why we started pushing really hard at that point for supervised use, because our people are dying. It’s not even because of this fentanyl crisis that everyone’s focusing on, it’s just plain old black tar heroin.”

While Humphries expressed doubts about the future of SIF/SUS in Denver, she noted the overwhelming support the initiative has received so far. City council members, local medical societies and a coalition of over 30 businesses have shown support. In December, city council president Albus Brooks traveled to Vancouver to visit InSite and learn more about SIF.

Humphries described the outpouring of support during the State Committee hearing on February 14: “In over a three-hour hearing, where everyone was granted three minutes to speak, only one person spoke in opposition. Everyone else spoke up for the SIF/SUS. So right now there is no organized opposition—only party politics.”

Humphries rejected a common criticism that her agency or SIF/SUS enable illegal drug use. “We’re really just providing people with the services they need,” she said. When it comes to enabling, we say we are definitely enablers; we enable people to stay alive, to not contract HIV or hepatitis C. That’s what we’re here to do."

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WATCH: Putting Pressure on the Philippines, Activists Call Out Drug War Human Rights Abuses at D.C. Embassy Demo

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 00:17
Click here for reuse options! Protesters gathered at the Philippine embassy in D.C. Wednesday to call for an end to the drug war and freedom for a leading Duterte critic.

It was deadly serious street theater (see video below) outside the Philippine embassy in Washington Wednesday afternoon as protestors demanding an end to the country's murderous drug war waved signs, chanted slogans, and dressed as mask-wearing police and caricature-wearing Filipino political figures.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, police and mysterious "vigilantes" have killed more than 16,000 alleged drug users and sellers in a massive wave of extrajudicial killings condemned by human rights organizations, the Catholic Church, and political figures around the globe. Duterte is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Duterte, who rode to fame as the death squad mayor of Davao City, is targeting not just drug users and sellers, but also critics of his bloody crackdown. His most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, has been jailed on far-fetched fabricated drug charges for more than a year. Her real offense was bringing a confessed former member of Duterte's Davao City death squads to testify before the Senate.

Along with calling for an end to the killings, Wednesday's protestors also rallied to demand freedom for Senator de Lima. During the demonstration, attendees symbolically freed a Leila de Lima figure from a mobile prison cell.

The demonstration was spearheaded by's David Borden and was also supported by drug reform and human rights groups including Amnesty International USA, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, local marijuana activists of DCMJ,  the Drug Policy Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, the Filipino-American Human Rights Alliance, the IPS Drug Policy Project, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Not everyone was pleased with the demo. A virtual troll army of Duterte supporters descended on's Facebook page, which carried live video of the event, to denounce it:

"Hang delima to death," counseled Facebook user Nida Adam Landoo.


"Is this sponsored by the druglords in the US?" user NoyZanx Beldia wanted to know.

No, but you knew that. 

Here's the video from the demonstration:


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Jeff Sessions Proves He’s Absolutely CLUELESS On The Opioid Crisis

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:23
The attorney general hasn't kept up with the science.



Jeff Sessions Proves He’s Absolutely CLUELESS On The Opioid Crisis

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that the opioid crisis is caused by marijuana users, rather than the greed and deception of drug makers and distributors. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Peter ...

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How Big Pharma Is Corrupting the Truth About the Drugs It Sells Us

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 13:49
Click here for reuse options! Where's the government oversight we need to stop this?

Remember how appalled we felt as a society when we discovered that, for so long, we had been mistakenly taking Big Tobacco’s word that cigarettes are harmless? Rinse and repeat with lobbyists for Big Alcohol fear-mongering about legal weed. And again and again with a panoply of consumer-level commodities and goods.

Nowadays we have all these familiar worries, but about our drugs and medications instead. It’s become so bad that there's now reason to believe Big Pharma is also colluding to poison the well of scientific inquiry.

The truth is, there are many examples of private industry paying for positive press from the scientific community. When you look closer at our spending priorities as a nation, it’s not entirely difficult to see why. As public funding for the sciences has fallen away, many scientists have had to pivot toward more consistent—and ethically fraught—sources of funding and stability as surely as politicians who, for want of public election funding, get buoyed by billionaires at $100,000-per-plate fundraising dinners.

We’ll take a look at case studies in a moment, but for right now, think about how important it is for us to be able to trust, at a minimum level, the products we invite into our bodies and our homes.

It’s become common knowledge that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most corrupt out there. This is a serious affront to justice that has gone on for far too long. The fight for consumer protections of all kinds can and must begin with health care, medicines, prescription drugs and medical devices. Here are the stakes.

The Erosion of Trust

In 2006, GlaxoSmithKline—the esoteric name for a ubiquitous diabetes treatment brand—took a victory lap after a lengthy report in the New England Journal of Medicine declared its Avandia medication to be the most effective of the three diabetes drugs tested.

Unfortunately for readers and patients, the extent of the report’s bias was not as attention-grabbing as the headline and ensuing celebratory press releases. In fact, with the help of the FDA and renowned heart specialist Steven Nissen, the Washington Post found that GlaxoSmithKline directly funded the research itself. All 11 of the paper's authors had received consultation fees, grants or another form of monetary compensation.

There may be no clearer example of conflicts of interest in the halls of science. Given the degree to which private money may have influenced the result of this scientific endeavor, we have little choice but to assume it did.

Even worse? The drug didn’t merely fail to help patients cope with their illnesses, it actually raised their risk of heart attack. Avandia effectively doesn’t exist anymore in the U.S., in part because GlaxoSmithKline was so busy trying to force two logical dots to connect that it didn’t even pick up on all the collateral damage.

This is outrageous. Consumers shouldn’t have to second-guess the medical professionals who are supposed to help us take care of ourselves.

The Fall of Accountable Science

Between 2011 and 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published more than 70 “original studies” of newly FDA-approved and experimental drugs. Of these 70-plus reports:

  • Sixty received direct pharmaceutical company funding.
  • Fifty were written or co-written by a current employee of a pharmaceutical company.
  • Thirty-seven had lead writers who had, at some point, received speaking fees or other compensation from the subject of the study.

Up until about the 1980s, the federal government was the primary financier of scientific research in the world of medicine. In the '60s and '70s, the federal government had a 70 percent share of scientific research. In 2013, that number finally dropped below the 50 percent mark.

As you may have guessed, there is at least token legal oversight available for clinical investigations of new drugs in the form of FDA regulation. In addition to protecting the personal information of trial participants (patients), the FDA also maintains that no drug may reach the investigation phase until its effects—and its lack of harm—have both been documented in a lab setting. As you can likely tell, these protections no longer appear adequate.

It has become an open secret that most of the drugs the FDA concerns itself with cannot be relied upon to greatly outperform placebos, or existing treatments, in a vast majority of cases. Moreover, the wholesale regulatory capture of the FDA has resulted in a situation where this vital public office serves as a glorified rubber patent stamp for protecting medicines as privately owned, profit-generating pieces of intellectual property.

The American People Are No Longer in Control of Their Scientific Destiny

A generation or so ago, the skill with which a nation pursued and made use of scientific knowledge was one of the chief metrics of its greatness. However, starting in the 1980s, the United States took a decided turn away from public sector expansion. Reagan-era policies aimed to privatize government services in the name of balancing local and state budgets. Since then, the world has watched as Americans have continued to vote accountable government and transparent scientific study nearly out of existence by proponents of “small government” and the shifting of fiscal, bureaucratic and legislative power from the public to the private sector.

When corporatists boast of the rate of innovation in the private sector, they generally fail to mention where the money came from that makes all that innovation possible—or what America used to do with it instead. In truth, privatization does not necessarily lead to less government, as its proponents would like to believe. In many cases of privatized innovation, the government still plays a significant role along the value chain of innovation.

The difference, though, is that instead of the government being involved for the sake of oversight and accountability, profit-seeking privatized enterprises can lobby for the expansion of public funding just the same as those in the public sector would. Those private companies can then skim off only the most successful ventures. It’s simply another example of how the government continues to turn a blind eye to unethical, profit-mongering business practices in the name of “trickle down economics,” which we know have not worked in the past.

However, the winds of change seem to be shifting. For all our present social and political turmoil, we’re more aware of the problem than ever before. But before we can fix it, we must remember science is, like any other endeavor, a human institution.

Like a passionate grade-school teacher who can’t do her best work due to a lack of school funding, scientists of all stripes are, after all, human beings with their own biases, internal monologues, ideas, agendas and needs. Science is one of the most vitally important institutions we have right now. Most Americans say it’s very nearly the only thing that matters in the face of global, anthropocentric climate change, but it’s currently perishing from neglect.

Here is the silver lining: Though junk science seems to have a stubborn place in the spotlight and in our shared vocabulary, scientists are actively trying to turn the tables. Inspired in part by the fallout from the 2016 election, American scientists are seeking political office at a brisk clip—and being vocal about it, too.

Additionally, it seems that we are finally collectively beginning to wake up to the enormous disservices that Big Pharma has done our society. Throwing our support behind scientist-politicians could be one aid to the problem, but we also need to address the bigger issues at hand with how our medical knowledge is funded and who we can trust to provide us with real answers to medical questions.

Government oversight and funding are important aspects of that, and improved transparency regarding where we’re getting our “science” is something people are finally starting to advocate for, and should continue to. With this two-part awakening in both the scientific and general community, we can only hope that we are, at last, reaching the end of the road for scientific illiteracy in the States.

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These Cities Consume The Least Amount Of Marijuana In The World

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 12:53
Don't even think of lighting up in Singapore.

The cities around the world where the least amount of marijuana is consumed are, counter-intuitively, not all in countries with the harshest penalties for users and sellers. Nor are most among the cities where weed is most expensive.


Seedo, a company that makes a device allowing users to grow cannabis plants at home, recently released a report that shows which cities around the world consume the least weed. They compiled the list through crowdsourcing and cross-referenced it with the World Drug Report 2017.

Note: The rankings were on overall consumption in the city, not per capita.

5. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Population:  107,247

Area:  19.87 square miles

Legal status: Partially legal

Total consumption in metric tons: 0.32

Consumption per capita in grams: 2.98

Price per gram: $7.26

The capital city in one of Europe’s smallest countries (by area) reclassified cannabis as a “Category B” substance under local law. This means only a fine on first offense. The fine can range from around $350 to $2000. reports that users are safe from police, just “don’t be too obvious” and lists weed on their tolerance level as “virtually legal.”

The country began a two-year trial of medical marijuana last year.

4. Thessaloniki, Greece

Population:  325,182

Area:  7.5 square miles

Legal status: Partially legal

Total consumption in metric tons: 0.29

Consumption per capita in grams: 0.82

Price per gram: $13.49

Though recreational cannabis is illegal in Greece, courts will often dismiss charges if it is for a small amount for personal use. The country allowed medicinal marijuana in 2017.

Enforcement in Greece’s second-largest city, at least regarding tourists, is lax. Marijuanatravels.comnotes that travelers are mostly left alone by local authorities.

3. Kyoto, Japan

Population:  1.5 million

Area:  319.6 square miles

Legal status: Illegal

Total consumption in metric tons: 0.24

Consumption per capita in grams: 0.16

Price per gram: $29.65

Japan doesn’t have the harshest marijuana laws in the world, but it famously has some of the more stringent and aggressively enforced. Though hemp has been cultivated for more than 10 thousand years, it was generally not for psychoactive use.

The sentence for possession of any amount is up to five years behind bars and a $19,000 fine. Foreigners may be deported immediately and may be banned from returning.


Perhaps because of the penalties, a gram of weed  in Kyoto is the third most expensive in the world.

2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep.

Population:  965,040

Area:  40.3 square miles

Legal status: Illegal

Total consumption in metric tons: 0.16

Consumption per capita in grams: 0.16

Price per gram: $6.93

Marijuana possession is a major offense, so much so that the State Department issued a Travel Advisory. Any amount can get you jailed. Accused persons remain incarcerated while awaiting trial and the whole process could run several years. The maximum penalty for simple possession is two years in prison and a fine.

The penalties are harsh in large part because of geography. The country, and its capital — the center of the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean — is strategically located between South America and the United States. The government doesn’t want the republic’s ports used by smugglers.

In its enthusiast’s travel guide, notes “the police are very corrupt and you will likely be able to buy your way out. Expect a WORLD of hassle if you get caught.”

1. Singapore, Singapore

Population:  5.6 million

Area:  278 square miles

Legal status: Illegal

Total consumption in metric tons: 0.02

Consumption per capita in grams: .03

Price per gram: $14.01

The penalties for using marijuana in the city-state are severe. Simple possession can result in up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Trafficking 500 grams or more, or taking that amount in or out of the country, can result in a death sentence.

As reports:

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the burden of proof lies on the defendant, not on the government. If you’re caught with large amounts of drugs, you are simply presumed by law to be trafficking ….

As per Section 17 of the Act, you are automatically presumed to be trafficking in drugs if you are caught with the following amounts … Cannabis – 15 grams or more.

Despite the dire consequences, the cost of a gram is 20th most expensive among the world’s cities between Helsinki, where enforcement is lax, and Berlin, where simple possession has basically been decriminalized.


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Overdose Deaths Fall in 14 States

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 12:29
Is overdose fever finally breaking? The data is mixed.

New provisional data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that drug overdose deaths declined in 14 states during the 12-month period that ended July 2017, a potentially hopeful sign that policies aimed at curbing the death toll may be working.

In an opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s, drug deaths have been climbing steadily every year, in nearly every state. A break in that trend, even if limited to just 14 states, has prompted cautious optimism among some public health experts.

“It could be welcome news,” said Caleb Alexander, an epidemiologist and co-director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness.

“If we’re truly at a plateau or inflection point, it would be the best news all year,” he said. “But we’re still seeing rates of overdose that are leaps and bounds higher than what we were seeing a decade ago and far beyond any other country in the world.”

The reported drop in overdose deaths occurred in Wyoming, Utah, Washington, Alaska, Montana, Mississippi, Kansas, Rhode Island, Oregon, California, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Arizona and Hawaii. That compares with declines in only three states — Nebraska, Washington and Wyoming — reported for an earlier 12-month period that ended in January 2017.

But even as more states saw a drop in deaths, several saw death spikes of more than 30 percent, most likely due to the increasing presence of the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl in the illicit drug supply, drug experts say. Those are Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, along with the District of Columbia.

Published monthly since August, the new CDC statistics are a compilation of death certificate data from all 50 states for a rolling 12-month period ending seven months prior to release of each report. The seven-month delay is roughly the amount of time it takes for states to complete death investigations and report causes of death, and for the CDC to compile the data.

Previously, the CDC only made death data available once a year and it was 12 to 14 months behind. In a fast-moving opioid scourge, epidemiologists say the increased frequency of overdose death reporting is a welcome improvement.

Farida Ahmad, a public health expert with the CDC, cautioned that the monthly provisional death numbers are subject to change because as many as 2 percent of death certificates for the time period have not been reported. A final death count for 2017 will not be available until November, she said.

Increased Volatility

In Alaska, where deaths declined more than 11 percent between the 12-month period ending July 2016 and the 12-month period ending July 2017, the state’s public health chief, Jay Butler, said the trend has been cause for some optimism.

The greatest portion of that decline was in prescription opioids, drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, Butler said.

“And we may be seeing a plateauing, if not a decline, in overdose deaths from heroin,” he added. “The bad news is that we’re seeing more deaths from fentanyl.”

Indeed, fentanyl-related deaths spiked more than 70 percent nationwide in the 12-month period ending July 2017, according to the report.

“Using illicit drugs has always been a game of roulette,” Butler said. “There’s just more bullets in the chamber now.

“When the epidemic was driven primarily by prescription opioids, we saw a smoldering and chronically escalating problem,” he said. “Now we’re seeing outbreaks and clusters of death resulting from bad batches of heroin or counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.”

Still Rising

The recent drop in opioid deaths in some states might be significant, experts say, but they caution it should be seen in the context of the worst drug death epidemic in U.S. history.

In 2016, the annual overdose death count reached nearly 64,000, more than three times as many as in 1999. It surpassed the number of fatalities from automobile crashes and homicides, becoming the No. 1 cause of death among Americans 50 and younger.

Aside from the 14 states seeing declines, there are few signs of relief ahead.

Nationwide, the death toll is still rising, although possibly at a lower rate than in the past two years. According to the CDC’s current provisional report, the total number of overdose deaths increased 14 percent in the 12-month period ending in July 2017, compared to a 21 percent increase in the 12- month period that ended in January 2017.

One reason could be a decline in the availability of prescription painkillers. Even as overdose deaths spiraled over the last five years, the rate of prescribed opioid consumption began to decline.

That could mean lower rates of heroin use, addiction and overdose deaths in the future, Alexander said. A vast majority — 86 percent — of young, urban injection drug users started misusing prescription opioids before turning to heroin, according to surveys by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Another likely reason for a tapering in death counts is the widespread use of the overdose antidote naloxone, public health experts say.

“It’s hard to imagine how high the death toll would be without naloxone,” said Michael Kilkenny, the Cabell-Huntington public health director in West Virginia.

“It’s a little too soon to tell,” he said, “but we may be seeing the beginning of a decline in the number of deaths in Huntington,” a small city that has the highest overdose death rate in West Virginia, the state with the highest overdose death rate in the country.


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