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‘Dead Serious’ Pennsylvania GOP Mayoral Candidate Determined to Enact ‘Narco Bunnies’ Plan to Sniff Out Drugs

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 11:48
You can't make this stuff up.

While many police departments employ K-9 units that are used to sniff out explosives and drugs, one Republican mayoral candidate wants to see bunnies do the work.

It all began when the Amherst, New York police proposed drug-sniffing bunnies as part of an April Fool’s joke on their Facebook, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. During a Phoenixville, Pennsylvania mayoral forum, GOP nominee Dave Gautreau actually proposed that if he was elected to the Mayor’s office he would find drug-sniffing bunnies for the police department.

Despite snickers, he wasn’t kidding and doubled down.

“I was dead serious,” he said. “I would not make a joke about a rabbit if I did not believe it to be true.”

Voters aren’t sure what to think of the proposal, so they hopped on the internet to sniff around for some examples. That’s when they found the joke the local fuzz in Amherst posted for April Fool's Day. The narco-rabbit even earned a fake article on a satire page called People of Lancaster.

Gautreau’s campaign slogan is “Vote for Goat” and has a website that features a cartoon goat. His candidacy was conceived during a party with friends last year. He said that he would also like the borough to have K-9 officers as well to help the drug problem, but suspected the expenses would be larger. Bunnies, by contrast, are much more cost-effective, a friend told him at the party. The friend went on to cite the Lancaster bunny, but neglected to mention it was a joke.

Gautreau swears that he called the Lancaster police department or the city offices—he couldn’t remember. The woman he spoke to, whose name he also doesn’t recall, told him that Lancaster did use the narco-sniffing bunnies as part of their team to fight the drug war.

The woman “sounded convincing,” he told The Inquirer. “I should have Googled it then, but I didn’t.”

The Lancaster City Bureau of Police doubts anyone confirmed the narco-sniffing bunnies.

“I can assure you we do not use any type of rabbits in our law enforcement activities, nor do we have plans to,” Lt. Bill Hickey said.

Voters are mocking Gautreau for the policy since the proposal.


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Trump's Drug Czar Is Protecting Big Pharma's Opioid Epidemic

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:43
Click here for reuse options! Tom Marino wants to jail pot smokers, yet has a soft spot for the nation's biggest drug pushers.

Update: Tom Marino has since withdrawn from consideration for drug czar following the Washington Post/60 Minutes report. 

President Trump's nominee to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office) appears more concerned with helping Big Pharma sell tons of opioid pain pills than helping the DEA battle the crisis that saw more than 60,000 Americans die of drug overdoses last year.

That's according to a major investigative report from the Washington Post and CBS News' 60 Minutes Sunday. The report identified Trump's pick, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tom Marino, as the primary architect of a bill passed last year that made it harder for DEA agents to go after opioid pain pill manufacturers who in recent years have dumped unprecedented amounts of the addictive drugs on the market.

The bill, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, made it more difficult for the DEA to immediately stop shipments of opioids to or from companies suspected of dealing excessive amounts of the powerful pain-relieving medications. Marino championed it at the behest of a pharmaceutical industry-funded group, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, which argued that the DEA was too heavy-handed in going after pharmacy and drug companies over what it described as minor paperwork errors.

According to the report, companies including CVS, Rite Aid and McKesson spent more than $100 million pushing the bill. It passed a complacent and compliant Congress last year only after Marino spent years trying to get it through.

"The drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores, have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before," former DEA official Joseph Rannazzisi told the Washington Post. "I mean, to get Congress to pass a bill to protect their interests in the height of an opioid epidemic just shows me how much influence they have."

Marino and the industry portrayed the bill as a means of protecting legitimate patient access to the drugs—what happens to chronic pain patients in the midst of a crackdown on opioid prescribing is a real issue—but DEA chief administrative law judge John Mulrooney disagreed.

"At a time when, by all accounts, opioid abuse, addiction and deaths were increasing markedly" the new law "imposed a dramatic diminution of the agency’s authority," he wrote in a draft article the Marquette Law Review editorial board provided to the Washington Post.

Marino, who Trump nominated last month for the drug czar post, is on record supporting the increased criminalization of drug use, which would run counter to efforts to treat it as a public health issue, as well as opposing both medical marijuana and marijuana legalization. But he's got a soft spot for the nation's biggest drug pushers—and that could jeopardize his nomination.

"This is a very serious question," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY)). "I’m going to meet with Mr. Marino. And I hope to ask him about this because it’s very troubling," he told the New York Daily News.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), whose state has been the epicenter of the opioid crisis, said Monday he didn't need to meet with Marino. Instead, Manchin called on the White House to pull Marino's nomination. He was "horrified" by the report, he told the Washington Post, adding that "there's no way that in having the title of drug czar you'll be taken seriously or effectively by anyone in West Virginia and the communities that have been affected by this knowing that you were involved in something that had this type of effect."

On Monday, Trump acknowledged the report in response to questions from reporters. "He was a very early supporter of mine from the great state of Pennsylvania. He’s a great guy, I did see the report, we're going to look into the report," he said when asked whether he still supports Marino as drug czar.

If Trump doesn't withdraw the nomination, Marino is guaranteed to face a rocky confirmation fight in the Senate—a man who wants to jail pot smokers, but paves the way for Big Pharma to earn billions from addictive prescription drugs deserves some tough scrutiny on the Hill. 

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The VA Fueled the National Opioid Crisis, Killing Vets

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 13:47
Veterans have been needlessly suffering for years, and it's only getting worse under the Trump administration.

Close Late one summer night in 2014, Kevin Keller broke into his best friend’s home. Keller was a U.S. Navy vet wracked with constant pain, and because his right arm had been crippled by a stroke, he had to use his left hand to scrawl a note of apology to his buddy: “Marty, Sorry I broke…

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Big Pharma Plays Every Dirty Trick in the Book to Transform Teens and Adults Into Opioid-Zombified Addicts

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 05:14
Click here for reuse options! The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, creating a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day.

This article originally appeared on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Over a 40-year career, Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger has obtained millions in settlements for investors and consumers hurt by a rogues’ gallery of corporate wrongdoers from Exxon to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. But when it comes to what America’s prescription drug makers have done to drive one of the ghastliest addiction crises in the country’s history, he confesses amazement.

“I used to think that there was nothing more reprehensible than what the tobacco industry did in suppressing what it knew about the adverse effects of an addictive and dangerous product,” says Berger. “But I was wrong. The drug makers are worse than Big Tobacco.”

The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, manipulating markets and deceptively marketing opioid drugs that are known to addict and even kill. It’s a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day. Berger lays much of the blame at the feet of companies that have played every dirty trick imaginable to convince doctors to overprescribe medication that can transform both teens and adults into zombified junkies.

So how have they gotten away with it?

A Market for Lies

The prescription drug industry is a strange beast, born of perverse thinking about markets and economics, explains Berger. In a normal market, you shop around to find the best price and quality on something you want or need—a toaster, a new car. Businesses then compete to supply what you’re looking for. You’ve got choices: If the price is too high, you refuse to buy, or you wait until the market offers something better. It’s the supposed beauty of supply and demand.

But the prescription drug “market” operates nothing like that. Drug makers game the patent and regulatory systems to create monopolies over every single one of their products. Berger explains that when drug makers get patent approval for brand-name drugs, the patents create market exclusivity for those drugs, which protects them from competition from other brand drugs that treat the same condition as well as from generics. The manufacturers can now exploit their monopoly positions created by the patents by marketing their drugs for conditions for which they never got regulatory approval —and this dramatically increases sales. They can also charge very high prices because when you’re in pain or dying, you’ll pay virtually anything.

Using all these tricks, opioid manufacturers have been able to exploit the public and have created a whole new generation of desperate addicts. They monopolize their products and then, as Berger puts it, “market the hell out of them for unapproved and dangerous uses.”

Opioids are a drug class that includes opium derivatives like heroin (introduced by German drug maker Bayer in 1898), synthetics like fentanyl, and prescription painkillers like oxycodone (brand name: OxyContin). A number of factors are aggravating the addiction crisis: There has been a movement in medicine to treat pain more aggressively, while at the same time wide-ranging economic distress has generated a desire to escape a dismal reality. But a key driving force is doctors who have been wooed by Pharma marketing reps overprescribing for chronic pain.

“For the first time since the years after heroin was invented,” writes investigative journalist Sam Quinones in Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, “the root of the scourge was not some street gang or drug mafia but doctors and drug companies.”

Doctors were once reluctant to write prescriptions for opioids. The U.S. drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, would only approve such drugs for severe cases like cancer patients in chronic agony or certain people in short-term pain after, say, an operation. But representatives of Connecticut-based drug maker Purdue, which released OxyContin in 1996, along with other companies, began to flood doctors’ offices with reports asserting that using the drug for off-label purposes was harmless. Often the targets were primary care physicians with little training in addiction. Have a chronic arthritis case? Give your patient OxyContin. Tell folks to take it every day, for weeks, even years, to treat just about any kind of chronic pain. The upshot was dependence, typically not because people were getting high for fun, but because they were using a legal drug in precisely the way the doctor ordered.

Purdue and others whisked doctors to stylish retreats to push them to prescribe drugs for uses not approved by U.S. regulators—a marketing strategy banned by federal law. They even created fake grassroots organizations to make it seem as though patients were demanding more prescriptions. Pharmaceutical companies like to dodge responsibility for the opioid crisis by blaming dishonest distributors and pointing out that they’re not the ones prescribing or handing out drugs to patients. True enough: They don’t need to, because they’ve done their work hooking you long before the drug is in your hands.

“The marketing is not only fraudulent; it’s incredibly elaborate,” says Berger. “Fake scientific studies promote the lie that opioids are better than other medications for pain. They’ve gone to just about any length. Bribery, you name it. It’s outrageous.”

OxyContin is so addictive it can create physical dependency in a matter of weeks. As drug makers and doctors who began to dole out pills by the handful in pain clinics learned, addicts do not behave like ordinary consumers: They don’t “choose” to buy or to wait until next week. They need their drug right away and will do anything to get it because if they don’t they will suffer excruciating symptoms.

A Los Angeles Times report shows that among the lies Purdue spread about OxyContin was that one pill subdued pain for 12 hours. Except that for many patients it wears off much sooner, exposing them to unbearable pain and withdrawal. Purdue knew this, but feared lower sales if it admitted the truth. So sales reps advised doctors to just give stronger doses, which increased the addiction risk. As the money from hooked patients piled up, so did the bodies.

In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to misleading doctors and patients about OxyContin’s safety and paid a $600 million fine. But that sum was hardly an annoyance. From 1995 to 2015, Purdue made $35 billion from OxyContin sales alone. The Sacklers, who own the company, is now one of the richest families in America, as revealed by this triumphant Forbes spread. They know that lax regulation keeps the heat off, and that even litigation and criminal prosecutions can do little to stop them. Berger says that until such legal programs are massive in scale and scope, companies will go on with business as usual.

“We have to have injunctive relief [a court order to stop a behavior] that bans the marketing to doctors of opioids completely for unapproved uses, as well as an expansion of the FDA and DEA to specifically target the drugs,” says Berger. His law firm, Berger & Montague, is involved in the effort to seek relief for the city of Philadelphia, which has seen above-average opioid prescribing and suffered the highest rates of fatal drug overdoses in the state last year.

Even though prescriptions have been slightly reduced across the country since 2012, Philadelphia is finding out what happens to many people hooked on opioids when they can’t get a prescription or find the price too high: They turn to heroin. Fatal overdoses of heroin, oxycodone’s close cousin, have been skyrocketing since 2007 across the country.

'Landscapes of Despair'

The opium poppy has been part of human history since at least 3,400 BCE, when it was cultivated in Mesopotamia as the “joy plant.” Derivatives such as laudanum and morphine offered more convenient, and people wrongly believed, safer ways to get the plant’s benefits. Bayer originally touted heroin as a non-addictive substitute for morphine (even for children) until it was outlawed in the U.S. in 1925. Rendering it illegal did not stop it from destroying the lives of many of America’s most celebrated artists, from Billie Holiday to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of all overdoses had one thing in common: opioids. 

Syracuse University’s Shannon Monnat, a sociologist focused on rural issues and an INET grantee, has been studying the epidemic and how it impacts various populations. Her research reveals that the rise in drug-induced deaths has been especially sharp among middle-aged people (45-55), with prescription opioid overdoses increasingly impacting both middle-aged and older populations. Heroin, whose sedating and euphoric effects are very similar to prescription narcotics, looks to be the culprit in more young adult overdoses.

Monnat considers how the opioid crisis points to bigger societal problems impacting the economy, educational institutions, the health care system, political systems, and communities. Her work centers on investigating the characteristics of what she calls “landscapes of despair”—places where people are hurting economically and socially, like Appalachia, the industrial Midwest and parts of New England. She points out that persistent disadvantage and long-term poverty are clearly connected to the opioid crisis, noting that many of the areas most impacted were once robust centers of manufacturing before jobs moved to other countries.

Opioid addiction seems to thrive in downwardly mobile small cities in rural areas—but not all of them. “What’s fascinating is that some of these areas have very high mortality rates from drug overdose, like Appalachia,” say Monnat. “But others, like the Southern 'Black Belt' [a region that stretches across Alabama and Mississippi], have not seen such rises.”

Originally named for its rich, dark, soil, which attracted cotton planters in the 19th century, the Black Belt has a high population of African Americans. The area has a history of unremitting poverty, low incomes, high unemployment, and high mortality. Yet despite many hardships, which are linked to the legacy of slavery, Monnat says that the region is also distinct for its “very tight-knit communities, strong kinship networks, and other networks where people can find emotional support.” It seems that when people have somewhere to turn in hard times, they may build up immunity to an epidemic like the opioid scourge.

Ironically, another factor that may have protected these communities, discussed by Quinones in Dreamland, is prejudice: The low-profile heroin dealers originating from Mexico’s west coast who are associated with the current opioid scourge prefer to target white communities. They also avoid big cities where large cartels are already established. So small, predominately white towns are their sweet spot.

Appalachia is known for kinship networks, but it also has a legacy of isolation and an outlaw tradition associated with the history of moonshining and bootlegging which can feed into today’s underground selling and distribution of opioid drugs. In this region, much of the struggling white working-class has seen economic distress with little hope of relief from America’s political system. Democrats often openly disdain the people they call rednecks and hillbillies, while concentrating on identity politics rather than economic distress. Republicans promote policies of free trade and deregulation that cast the region further into destitution.

Monnat has found that counties with large numbers of people employed in physical labor—especially physical occupations with higher disability rates—have higher drug fatalities. These are places where coal miners work in backbreaking positions and military veterans suffer the pain of injuries. Drug companies have besieged these areas with aggressive marketing of pain pills. “In Appalachia, you’d see mining companies with physicians on staff prescribing opioids to keep people in pain working,” she says. “That was happening before OxyContin, but companies like Purdue targeted these communities to push OxyContin as a safer alternative to other pain medications.”

The National Institutes of Health report that the opioid epidemic, which started as a regional crisis, is now a national crisis, decimating communities and even helping to reshape the American political landscape. Monnat finds a relationship between the landscapes of despair and the 2016 presidential election. Voting patterns show that areas in which President Trump did better than expected, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, were also places where opioid overdoses and deaths from alcohol and suicide occurred at high rates over the past decade.

During his campaign, Trump expressed concern for people in regions like Appalachia and flung stinging barbs at the politicians who had failed them. These voters supported him in high numbers, yet his policies will likely give more power to the pharmaceutical companies that have turned their suffering into stock windfalls.

Profit Trumps People

Trump the campaigner shook his fist at Big Pharma for “getting away with murder”—one of those statements that occasionally drops from his lips with atomic accuracy. But Trump the president has done an about-face. As journalist David Dayen pointed out, a draft of an executive order on drug prices (which never materialized) called for deregulation of the FDA and favors to industry. It was written by a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

In March, President Trump issued an executive order creating a commission to study drug addiction and the opioid epidemic. The commission, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has so far released recommendations that locate the overprescribing problem “in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” while making nary a mention of pharmaceutical marketing departments. The panel suggests insufficient remedies like new treatment facilities and educating schoolchildren on the dangers of opioids, along with ineffective ideas like more funds to Homeland Security. Regulation of Big Pharma? Nope.

The federal government did announce it would team up with drug makers to research and generate non-opioid pain medications and additional medication-assisted treatment options. Among the participants? Purdue.

Economist William Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and an INET grantee, agrees with Berger that the way the pharmaceutical industry operates amounts to a catastrophe for the public. “It’s crazy that each and every drug is not treated like a regulated monopoly,” he says. “Taxpayers fund much of the research that goes into creating these drugs through the NIH and other public research facilities. Moreover, the companies are gifted with a monopoly through patents which last two decades.”

Lazonick notes that Big Pharma claims it needs high profits to keep inventing new drugs, but the industry spends more of its profits buying back its own stock than increasing investment in R&D on new drugs. Executives running drug companies are incentivized to make profits any way they can because they are rewarded by high stock prices. Lazonick explains that they stoke those stock prices by gouging patients or lying about the safety of products—whatever it takes.

He observes that for the past several decades America has undergone a devastating experiment based on the philosophy of economist Milton Friedman, who claimed that the only social responsibility of a company is to make a profit. Untimely deaths from tobacco-related illnesses, auto safety failures, and now, harmful opioid drugs, prove that the experiment is a tragic failure.

Lazonick sees the need for nothing less than a new structure of corporate governance that ensures the ethical responsibly of drug makers to do what they are supposed to do: create high-quality, low-cost products that are safe. The current structure, based on the misguided idea that companies should be run for the sole purpose of enriching shareholders, is particularly perverse when it comes to products that are potentially fatal. The problem with this model is that when shareholders are the only people who matter, the rest of us suffer.

Since taxpayers support pharmaceutical companies by funding public research and many other things they require to do business, Lazonick says it is only fair and logical that someone representing the public sits on their boards. Berger adds that companies should be required to make drugs widely available at affordable prices in return for their use of publicly funded basic research at no cost whatsoever.

America, for the time being, stands out among nations in letting pharmaceutical companies run amok to inflate drug prices, advertise and market drugs without proper regulation, and use taxpayer resources while exposing them to egregious harm. “The only thing America’s drug companies are competitive about,” says Lazonick, “is getting people addicted.”

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Wildfires in Northern CA Have Devastated America's Prime Marijuana-Growing Region

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 22:50
Click here for reuse options! A popular wine tourism destination and marijuana-growing mecca has been turned into a raging inferno.

The wildfires raging through Northern California's wine country this week have killed at least 15 people and left dozens missing and thousands burned out of their homes. The fires have also put a significant hurt on the region's namesake wine industry, as well as its up-and-coming country cousin, the weed business.

As of mid-week, more than 2,000 structures had gone up in flames, including whole neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 about an hour north of San Francisco. Tens of thousands of people endured mandatory evacuations as smoke filled the skies as far south as San Jose.

Vineyards and wineries along the Silverado Trail in Napa County and the Highway 12 corridor between Santa Rosa and Sonoma in Sonoma County have been destroyed or damaged. Wine country towns like Kenwood and Glen Ellen have been hard hit. Major tourist hotels like the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country and the Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa have burned. At least one Silverado Trail winery, Signorello Estates, appears to have been destroyed, while damage reports are pending on others. Similarly, Sonoma County wineries including Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood, Kunde and B.R. Cohn, were endangered Tuesday.

It looks like a bombing run,” winemaker Joe Nielsen told the San Francisco Chronicle as he viewed what was left of Donelan Family Wines. “Just chimneys and burnt-out cars and cooked trees.”

The devastation will have an impact not only on tourism, but on the price of some fine reds. While 75% of the region's grapes have already been picked, premium merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon crops are mostly still on the vines. The number of wineries burned or threatened could cause shortages of these prized grapes for years, since California produces about 85% of American wine, and Napa and Sonoma counties produce the bulk of its premium wines.

The same Mediterranean climate that makes the area so suitable for grape-growing makes it ideal for pot farming, too. Sonoma County's estimated 3,000 to 9,000 marijuana growers have been hard-hit by the wildlifes as well. While damage reports for the wine industry will take a while, pot people are already reporting losses in the tens of millions of dollars.

The marijuana harvest begins a bit later than the grape harvest, and when the fires reared up, many thousands of outdoor marijuana plants were still in the ground. Now some of those fields are little more than ash, including in neighboring Mendocino County, where the Redwood Valley fire is burning up pot crops too.

This is shaping up to be the "worst year on record for California's growers," California Growers' Association head Hezekiah Allen told SFGate Tuesday, adding that at least two-dozen members had lost their entire farms.

"This is going to leave a deep scar," he said. "I had one conversation today where the family was in tears, saying, ‘We don’t know how we're going to make it to January, let alone next planting season.'"

Sonoma County Growers Alliance chair Tawnie Logan reported significant losses among her membership.

"We have a lot of people who have lost their farms in the last 36 hours, and their homes," she said, citing a $2 million greenhouse crop that went up in smoke Sunday night. "There’s no way for them to recover the millions in anticipated revenue they just lost,” she said. “It's gone. It's ashes."

The San Francisco dispensary SPARC reported that while it had suffered "some pretty substantial damage" at its farm in Glen Ellen, it was preparing Tuesday to try to salvage some of its crop. The Sonoma County Cannabis Company also was also hit hard, and working frantically to avoid a total wipe-out.

"There are no words right now to describe the loss, the heartbreak and the trauma that our beloved home and community is going through," the company posted to its Instagram account. "We are trying to save what we can."

While the losses could put a dent in the county's multimillion-dollar pot industry, consumers are unlikely to notice any impact. The state already grows so much marijuana that downward pressures are already keeping prices low, and even the losses incurred in this week's fires aren't going to shake the market.

But unlike the wine industry, marijuana growers are unlikely to be able to obtain insurance to replace lost crops and facilities. Those pot farmers who took losses are going to be feeling the pain for a good while. 

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The Essential Guide For The First-Time Cannabis Tourist

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 09:46
For those who don’t live in a state where cannabis is legal, traveling to a state with legalized cannabis has become a destination vacation.

As more states legalize recreational cannabis, the number of those trying this plant for the first time or resume a habit they gave up after college continues to grow. For those who don’t live in a state where cannabis is legal, traveling to a state with legalized cannabis has become a destination vacation.


Here’s a list of suggestions for first-time cannabis tourists looking to try recreational cannabis.

Do Your Pre-Trip Research

Before booking your trip, review the rules governing cannabis in the state where you will be visiting. These laws will clue you in regarding the basics of how much cannabis you can buy, as well as where you can consume cannabis. Check out Kush Tourism for listings of cannabis tours and cannabis friendly lodgings if you want an in-depth cannabis experience.

Pick Your Dispensary

Download the Leafly app for a handy guide of recommended dispensaries nearest to your location. This site also contains strain reviews and other information that can be valuable to have at your fingertips when on the go.

Bring Your ID and Cash

Be sure to bring along some form of government issued identification. No one under 21 will be permitted to enter a recreational dispensary. Everyone will be checked at the door regardless of how old they may look. Also, leave the pets at home as only service animals will be allowed to go inside. As this is still a cash only business be sure to bring along enough cash for your purchases. Most dispensaries have an ATM on site but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Give Yourself Time

This isn’t like going into a 7-11. At a quality dispensary, the budtenders give each customer personalized attention, and the lines can get a bit long at times.

Honesty is the Best Policy

There’s no stigma to being a newbie cannabis user or only smoked bad weed during your college haze. Budtenders are used to dealing with first-time cannabis users, and enjoy helping someone have the best experience possible. So let them know you’re new to the current cannabis scene, and ask them for their recommendations for first time users.

Be Mindful of Your Money

It’s incredibly easy to get carried away and walk out with a lot of expensive paraphernalia that you may never use after your trip. A pre-rolled joint is the cheapest option to consume cannabis. For those who don’t like smoking, another inexpensive option is a disposable vape pen that comes fully loaded and ready to use. However, do not skimp out by buying bad weed, as poor quality cannabis will not produce the desired effects you may be seeking.

Follow The Law

Be mindful that cannabis cannot be consumed legally in public, and that hotels, restaurants, and bars do not allow smoking of any kind. Also, Federal law prohibits transporting cannabis across state lines or flying with recreational cannabis. A qualified budtender will not give you recommendations regarding how you can circumvent the laws pertaining to recreational cannabis. So don’t ask. Edibles, vape pens, and topicals are ways one can consume cannabis in a discrete manner that won’t draw attention like smoking.

Start Small

Take a short hit from a vape pen or pre-rolled joint. Then sit back and chill for 15 minutes. Then take another hit if you want a stronger sensation. Repeat this process until you have the effect you’re seeking. If you are taking edibles, start with a small 5mg dose. Wait half an hour, and then take another 5mg if you want a stronger hit.

Set the Mood

Clear the schedule so you don’t have to be somewhere within a limited time frame. You don’t know how your body will respond. Even if you don’t go to sleep, you’re liable to be too mellow and relaxed to get behind the wheel.

Have an Emergency Kit on Hand


Before consuming any cannabis have some water or other non-alcoholic beverages readily available as cannabis often produces dry mouth. Also, have some munchies around as certain strains of cannabis can make one hungry. Include pistachios in your munchie mix, as they can come in handy should one consume too much cannabis.


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Campus Cannabis: The Top 7 Stoniest Major Universities

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 02:10
Click here for reuse options! Higher education—literally.

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 the University of Maine is way stonier than the University of Rhode Island or just a bit stonier.

That said, the general outline of the pot-friendly major campus list is not much of a surprise. Those schools tend to be found in pot-friendly states, generally on the West Coast or in the Northeast. Four of the schools are in states that have already legalized marijuana, and two of them are part of the University of California system.

Here, in rank order, are the Princeton Review's stoniest major universities:

1. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Enrollment: 11,159

Vermont very nearly legalized marijuana this year, only to see legislation fall to a governor's veto, and it's on the short-list to be among the next states to free the weed. Students in Burlington aren't waiting, though.

2. University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Enrollment: 27,846

Absolutely not a surprise. This is a campus that has seen monstrous mass smoke-ins—and that was before the state led the way with legalization in 2012. Here's 4/20 the spring after legalization:


3. University of Maine, Orono, ME

Enrollment: 9,323

Another legalization state.

4. University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

Enrollment: 14,801

And another legalization state, and one that has one of the highest rates of marijuana use among the general population.

5. University of California Santa Cruz, CA

Enrollment: 16,962

They better be smoking pot at UC Santa Cruz! That and surfing. And philosophizing. 

6. University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Enrollment: 31,710

Wisconsin isn't a legalization state and it's not likely to join the ranks soon, but you have to do something when you're governed by the likes of Scott Walker. Oh, for the days of Miffland!

7. University of California, Santa Barbara, CA

Enrollment: 21,574

California dreamin'. UCSB always gets ranked high as a party campus, and the seaside location is quite conducive to stoned musing. No shocker here. The campus wasn't always so mellow though; I watched rioters burn down the Bank of America there in 1971. 


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The 6 Least Marijuana-Friendly Colleges in America

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 11:27
Click here for reuse options! Not every school is a party school.

As shocking as it may seem, not every college student is looking to head off to a campus enveloped in a haze of marijuana smoke. Below, thanks to the Princeton Review, we list the six least marijuana-friendly college campuses, sheltered sanctuaries from cannabis contamination for students (or parents) who seek them.

The listings are from the Review's annual compendium of rankings and ratings of institutions of higher learning across the land, The Best 382 Colleges 2018 Edition. 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 the question, "How widely is marijuana used at your school?"

Before getting to the list, a couple of caveats. First, the survey data is impressionistic—they asked 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 BYU is way straighter than Calvin College or just a bit so.

That said, some clear trends emerge. These schools tend to be religious schools (five out of six were founded by one denomination or another), as well as smaller schools—only two of the six qualified as major universities.

(For the flip side of the coin, see our stories last month on the top 7 stoniest small colleges and the top 7 stoniest major universities.)

This list excludes the military service academies—Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard—where of course you can't smoke weed. Had they been included, they would have taken four out of the top five spots.

Without further ado, here, in order of rank, are the schools identified as most unfriendly to marijuana.

1. Brigham Young University (Provo, UT). This is no shocker. BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons. It's a socially conservative college in a socially conservative state where the Church formally rejects even the medicinal use of marijuana. Heck, you can't even buy coffee on campus, let alone smoke weed. But who knows? The times could be a-changin': Just last month, the school broke down and allowed the sale of caffeinated sodas. Students are probably partying like it's 1899.

2. College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Missouri). No surprise here, either. The small Christian liberal arts school not far from the country music hotspot of Branson is noted for its faith-based student groups and its ban on tobacco and alcohol use, so yeah, pot is not very well accepted. That said, it's worth noting that the school requires 90% of students to show financial need to be accepted and educates them through a combination of work-study, scholarships, and grants, helping low-income students get an education while avoiding the indebtedness that plagues so many of their peers. Plus, there's always the Mud Fest tug-of-war and the Sadie Hawkins dance to look forward to.

3. St. Thomas Aquinas College  (Santa Paula, CA). Even in weed-friendly California, enclaves of that old-time religion endure. This small (enrollment: 350) Roman Catholic liberal arts college was founded amidst social and spiritual turmoil in 1971 with a mission to "strive for fidelity with the Magisterium," or old-line Catholic teachings. Those don't include using marijuana. In fact, being caught with alcohol or any sort of illegal drug can lead to expulsion. Fortunately, students who may be about to stray can always seek guidance from the four chaplain-priests who live on campus.

4. Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL). This small evangelical Protestant liberal arts college graduated Billy Graham and is now home to the Billy Graham Center. It comes highly rated overall among small liberal arts colleges, but retains its deeply conservative religious leanings. It's got no room for a professor who converted to Catholicism, it's got no room for a professor who wore a hijab in solidarity with Muslims and it's certainly got no room for godless weed heads.

5. City University of New York, Baruch College (New York City). This is somewhat mystifying. New York is fairly liberal, and several colleges made the lists of most pot-friendly schools, but not Baruch. With some 18,000 undergrad and graduate students, it's the only major university besides BYU to make this list. One clue: It's the home of the Killing Capitalism blog, which in addition to posts such as "Veganism Is an Eating Disorder" and "Sexual Activism Is Misogyny," this spring posted "Marijuana Is the Most Harmful Drug."

6. Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI). Named after doughty old John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, the school was founded a century and a half ago as an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church. Its 4,000 students enjoy an extensive concert series with contemporary acts including Death Cab for Cutie and Sufjan Stevens, among others, but not the New Pornographers. The Canadian band's appearance was canceled when its very name ruffled feathers. John Calvin wouldn't approve, and he apparently wouldn't approve of pot-smoking students, either. 


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Vaping Is Better For You Than Smoking, New Study Says

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:53
The results suggest authorities should be encouraging the practice for smoking cessation instead of moving to restrict it.

Tired of all the vape shops in your city? Tired of the stereotypical bro culture staple? Well get ready for a potential healthy uptick in vapers and reduction in smokers because a cancer research team just released a study saying that if every smoker switched to e-cigs and similar devices exclusively, they would live 86.7 million more years in total.

The study “supports a policy strategy that encourages replacing cigarette smoking with vaping to yield substantial life year gains,” says the study’s lead author David Levy, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi.

Tobacco Control, an international journal that studies the effect of tobacco abuse, published the study by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s the first study to monitor health outcomes of the big vape switch.

The variables in the study depended on when a subject started smoking, when they stopped smoking and when they switched, projecting both an optimistic outcome and a pessimistic outcome. Under the pessimistic outcome, 1.6 million would add a 20.8 million years to their lives. Under the optimistic outcome, 6.6 million cigarette smokers would add 86.7 million years from switching. So, even in the worst case scenario, vapers live longer (though they look very basic doing so).

“In addition, there would be tremendous health benefits including reduced disease disability to smokers, reduced pain and suffering, and reduced exposure to secondhand smoke,” Levy says.  “Even the gloomiest analysis shows a significant gain in years of life if nicotine is obtained from vaping instead of much more deadly amount of toxicants inhaled with cigarette smoke.”


Currently, the office of the Surgeon General's campaign to reduce tobacco use in the U.S. uses legislative strategies such as higher cigarette taxes, no-smoking areas, media campaigns, quitting-support programs and ad restrictions. Levy says the implementation of these programs yields slow results.

“Old policies need to be supplemented with policies that encourage substituting e-cigarettes for the far more deadly cigarettes,” Levy says. “Together, these policies as well as regulating the content of cigarettes have the potential to drastically reduce the massive harms from smoking cigarettes,” which he says is in line with the strategies currently being planned by the FDA.

So get out that vape machine, stock up on vape oil and go out and get some vape friends you can vape with at vape parties. Or, you know, just quit cold turkey.


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VIDEO: OMG! Check Out the Size of These Huge Honking Marijuana Plants!

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:47
Click here for reuse options! You will be hard-pressed to find any plants as big as these monsters.

In the video below, legendary cannabis cultivation expert Jorge Cervantes visits the farm of Will Feetham, vice president of the Southern Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild, to marvel at the huge honking marijuana plants growing there.

Cervantes estimates that each of the towering monsters will yield somewhere above 10 pounds of manicured buds, maybe as much as 15 pounds. That's a whole lot of pot from one plant.

These plants are grown outdoors, in the ground (as opposed to in pots), relying on sunlight, only organic inputs, and lots and lots of water. Farmer Will says he's giving each plant 150 gallons of water a week. He also says pot farming is still easier on water supplies than farm crops like alfalfa or cash crops like wine crops.

This video is from a year ago this week, just before the plants were cut down. Right now, all across the country, pot plants are being harvested, although you will be hard-pressed to find any as big as these monsters.

You'll have to sit through a few seconds of introductory material before you actually get to Will's farm, but persevere, and you will be amazed. Enjoy!

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Atlanta is Decriminalizing Marijuana. Good.

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:42
The city council unanimously approved it, and the mayor says he's for it.



Atlanta is decriminalizing marijuana. Good.

It’s certainly been a rough week, but amid gunfire in Las Vegas, police brutality in Catalonia, and the sluggish pace of relief for Puerto Rico, forces of liberty and common sense won a major victory in Atlanta. The 15 members of the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve Ordinance 17-O-1152, which would decriminalize the…

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Senate Heavy Hitters File Compromise Sentencing Reform Bill

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 21:37
Click here for reuse options! New legislation will dramatically lower the number of federal drug war prisoners.

A bipartisan group of Senate heavy-hitters have filed a bill aimed at reducing the swollen federal prison population by moving away from harsh mandatory minimum drug sentences, among other reforms. But it's not completely reformist.

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

The federal prison system has swollen dramatically since President Reagan reinvigorated Nixon's war on drugs. According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, the federal prison population has increased eight-fold since 1980, and while it peaked in 2012 and 2013, before Obama-era sentencing reforms began to bite, there are still 192,000 people currently behind bars in the federal system.

And while the prison population jumped eight-fold, the number of drug war prisoners jumped nearly 25-fold during the same period, according to the Sentencing Project. The nearly 81,000 people currently doing federal time for drug crimes constitutes nearly half (46.2%) of all federal prisoners.

The reform bill, S. 1917, was rolled out Wednesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with cosponsors senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

"Our justice system demands consequences for those who choose to run afoul of the law, and law enforcement works hard to keep our communities safe," said Grassley. "This bipartisan compromise ensures that these consequences fit their crimes by targeting violent and career criminals who prey on the innocent while giving nonviolent offenders with minimal criminal histories a better chance to become productive members of society. This bill strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. It is the product of much thoughtful deliberation, and we will continue to welcome input from stakeholders as we move forward." 

"This compromise represents more than five years of work on criminal justice reform," said Durbin. "The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth. Mandatory minimum sentences were once seen as a strong deterrent. In reality they have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Given tight budgets and overcrowded prison cells, our country must reform these outdated and ineffective laws that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. This bipartisan group is committed to getting this done." 

Given who is behind it and the senatorial compromise it represents, the measure actually has a chance of moving in the Republican-controlled body. Still, even if it were to pass there, sentencing reform faces murkier prospects in the House and, if the first months of the Trump administration are any indication, implacable hostility from the White House and the Justice Department.

According to a summary from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill:

  • Reduces enhanced mandatory minimums for certain non-violent drug offenders and eliminates the mandatory life provision for third strike offenders.
  • Increases judicial discretion by expanding existing the "safety valve" allowing judges to sentence beneath federal guidelines to include offenders with broader criminal histories, including people with prior felonies or violent or drug trafficking offenses if a court finds those offenses overstate a defendant's criminal history and recidivism risk. The bill also creates a second "safety valve" allowing judges to sentence some low-level drug offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
  • Reforms sentences for drug offenses with firearms to clarify that enhanced mandatory minimums only apply for people who have previously been convicted and served a sentence for such an offense and gives judges the discretion to order lesser sentences if the firearm wasn't brandished or discharged during the commission of a drug or violent crime. This provision would prevent abominations like the case of Weldon Angelos, the Salt Lake city music producer who got nailed for selling $350 worth of marijuana to a police informant, but ended up being sentenced to 55 years because he had a pistol in an ankle holster when he did his pot deals. (He was released last year after winning a sentence reduction.)
  • Makes the Fair Sentencing Act and certain other sentencing reforms retroactive, which would allow some nonviolent offenders current serving time to seek sentence reductions upon a judicial review.
  • Establishes programs to reduce recidivism, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and faith-based programs. Prisoners who successfully complete those programs could get to serve up to the final quarter of their sentences under home confinement or in a reentry center.
  • Limits solitary confinement for juveniles in federal custody.
  • Creates a national criminal justice commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system.
  • Creates new mandatory minimums for interstate domestic violence and providing weapons and defense materials to prohibited countries or designated terrorist groups, and creates a five-year sentencing enhancement for trafficking heroin containing fentanyl.

There's plenty in here to appeal to sentencing reformers, and some sops to conservatives, but from a drug reform and anti-prohibitionist perspective, these are just some fixes on the back end. From that vantage point, instead of haggling over how many months to shave off some poor sap's sentence, we should be questioning why he was even arrested and prosecuted in the first place.

But you have to start somewhere, and ameliorating some of the cruelest injustices of the federal drug war is a good place to get to work. 

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7 Types Of Marijuana For Beginners And Those With Low Tolerance

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 09:39
It’s common for first timers to swear off marijuana forever because of a bad first experience.

It’s common for first timers to swear off marijuana forever because of a bad first experience. It’s easy to smoke too much by accident and feel overtly paranoid, woozy, and draw the conclusion that marijuana just isn’t your thing. That bad first experience can be completely avoided with two simple tips: looking for strains that are high in CBD, or consuming a high-THC strain very slowly.

The safest bet would be to find a high CBD strain, which contains the non-psychoactive compound that will counteract the paranoia that THC is known for. These strains are very calm and mellow, and will leave you feeling very relaxed and cool. They’re also great for first timers who’ve never smoked before and who don’t know how much each hit will affect them. Another good option for first timers would be to smoke high THC strains slowly, taking a single hit of a really low dose. Look for strains with around 15 % of THC, which will be less overwhelming and easier to manage.

Here are 7 strains that are great for beginners and users with a low tolerance for marijuana:

1. Harlequin

This high CBD strain is a sativa that’s mostly relaxing, euphoric and will leave you alert and not droopy. It’s perfect for treating anxiety and it’s also one of the best strains when it comes to controlling paranoia and the negative side effects of THC.

2. Pennywise

This high CBD indica is named after the scary clown from “It”. We don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but it’s still a pretty great strain for leaving you relaxed and stress free. Containing a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, this strain is really welcoming for newbies. Unlike it’s name might suggest.

3. Cannatonic

This hybrid strain produces short but happy highs that work really well for people with low tolerance for cannabis and for newcomers of the drug. Cannatonic is also great for treating migraines, anxiety and other stress related symptoms.

4. Sour Tsunami

This hybrid strain was one of the first to be bred for it’s CBD content instead of it’s THC. This strain will not make you feel very “high”, just very relaxed and stress free.

5. Chernobyl

This sativa strain has more THC than CBD, and is known for producing dreamy highs that are very cerebral and creative. While it doesn’t have that much THC, if you’re a newbie or have low tolerance for cannabis, you should consume it very slowly.

6. Permafrost

This sativa dominant hybrid produces relaxing effects that affect your mind and body in equal parts. This strain has been known to be a great supplement to other activities, narrowing your focus and helping you be more efficient.

7. Maui Wowie


This sativa will leave you in a creative mindset while also motivating you to move around.


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Sheriff Charged With Sexual Battery After Students Groped in Warrantless, School-Wide Drug Search

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 08:55
No drugs were found.

A Georgia sheriff and two deputies have been charged with groping teens’ genitals during a drug search earlier this year at a high school.

Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby was indicted Tuesday on sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office charges, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Deputy Tyler Turner was indicted on one felony count of violation of his oath of office and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery, and Deputy Deidra Whiddon was indicted on one felony count of violation of her oath of office.

The April 14 search at Worth County High School drew national attention after students complained about “aggressive” pat-downs of their groin areas and breasts.

The warrantless search turned up no drugs.

Hobby’s attorney said the sheriff welcomes an opportunity to maintain his innocence before a jury.

“The sheriff’s position is that he’s not guilty,” said attorney Norman Crowe Jr. “He’s committed no crime.”


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How to Talk to Your Kids About Opioids

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 10:33
This is a conversation that needs to take place.

By now, most people are aware of the enormity of the opioid epidemic. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose – more from opioid pain relievers than heroin.

Just because someone experiments with opioids doesn’t mean that he or he will become addicted. However, there’s risk with any opioid use, even when it’s medically warranted. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies opioids as a Schedule II drug, a substance with medically accepted use but a high potential for abuse.

Many parents and guardians don’t think their child is at risk for misusing opioids. While that may be true, consider this: In 2013, one in eight U.S. high school seniors reported using opioids for nonmedical reasons. In 2015, 122,000 teens under 17 and 427,000 adolescents between 18 and 25 had a pain reliever use disorder, meaning that they had a problem with the drug.

I’ve studied substance use prevention for 15 years, including time in rehabilitation centers with teenagers addicted to heroin, so I understand how critical it is to prevent opioid use at a young age. Fortunately, there’s a lot of research on this topic, as well as numerous resources to help parents figure out where to start.

What parents need to know

First, parents should educate themselves about opioids: what they are, how they work in the brain and body, risk factors for using them and how to spot signs of use.

Parents shouldn’t convey misinformation about opioids to their children. If their children find out that what they’ve been told isn’t accurate, they may turn instead to their peers for information.

There are excellent online resources available for parents and their children, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens website and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ Parent Drug Guide.

It’s particularly important to note the long-term effects that nonmedical use of opioids can have on adolescents. Around puberty, the brain starts a massive restructuring process. Neural connections get stronger and stronger, helping adolescents go from the emotional decision-making of youth to rational decision-making in early adulthood. This process continues until the mid- to late 20’s.

During this time, what adolescents do can get “hard-wired” into the brain. So, for example, if a young person is engaged in academics, sports or learning a musical instrument, those connections get set in the brain. If they spend a lot of time using drugs, those could be the connections that stick. That means they’d have an increased chance of developing a substance use disorder later in life.

In adolescence, many people learn important life skills, including how to cope with adversity. However, long-term drug use that starts during adolescence can affect our memory and learning. Because drugs, particularly opioids, help alleviate both physical and emotional pain, adolescents may then continually turn to this drug as a way to cope, rather than using more adaptive coping skills that are usually learned during this time.

Starting the conversation

One of the most important tools that parents have is the ability to talk to their child about substance use. While talking about drugs with young people isn’t always comfortable, research has shown that it’s critical for prevention.

Chances are good that even young teenagers will have heard about opioids and overdose deaths at some point. Pretending that opioid use is not a problem – or thinking that a child is a “good kid” and therefore doesn’t need to hear and talk about it – is a mistake. Being a “good kid” does not mean that an adolescent will not be curious or be tempted by peers.

Starting the conversation can be difficult. I advise parents to keep an eye out for a time when the topic can naturally come up. For example, if a celebrity is found to be using opioids or other drugs, or if the problem comes up in the child’s school or neighborhood, or even on the child’s social media account, this could provide the opening for a discussion.

Parents could ask their children if they have heard about opioids and, if so, what they know. That could be a good starting point and an opportunity to do the research together.

There are also helpful online resources that provide tips and advice on how to have these types of conversations, such as the Parent Talk Kit, which provides advice on what to say in specific scenarios with kids of different ages. For example, the beginning of high school is an incredibly important time for parents to bring up how some teens use opioids and to let their child know that, if she ever makes a mistake or gets stuck in a bad situation, she should come and talk to them.

These conversations aren’t a one-shot deal. They should happen often, ideally repeating parents’ expectations and adding new information when relevant.

Other tips

Parents should make an effort to get to know their children’s friends. Having friends who use drugs is very strongly associated with adolescents’ own drug use.

Additionally, children are less likely to use prescription drugs if their parents monitor where they are when they’re not at home.

About two-thirds of teenagers who use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons report getting the drugs fromfriends or family members, including taking them from medicine cabinets without people knowing. So, parents should properly and safely secure their prescription medication, especially opioids.

Finally, if parents suspect that their child is using or has a problem with opioids, it’s imperative to get help as soon as possible. The best outcomes often come from intervening early.

For more information, the Partnership for Drug Free Kids has a resource hotline with advice on how to confront children about suspected drug use, as well as additional resourcesto help parents navigate getting children help with a substance use disorder.

The good news is that nonmedical opioid use among adolescents is on the decline. However, it’s still a significant problem that needs attention. Parents have the power to help – and talking to their children is an important first step.

This story was published in collaboration with PBS NewsHour.


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Smoking Marijuana Triggers a Woman's Orgasms—Medical Establishment Baffled by First Recorded Case

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 10:26
It's the first known case in the literature.

Smoking Weed, Rough Sex Led Woman to Orgasm for Weeks

After a long night filled with smoking weed and hours of intense sex, one woman experienced the unexpected: She couldn’t stop having orgasms. For weeks, she continued to have orgasms that lasted for hours at a time, even when she wasn’t receiving any sexual stimulation from herself or her male partner. The 40-year-old woman—who’s referred to…

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10 Reasons to End the War on Drugs and the War on Sex Workers

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 08:20
The real lived experiences of drug users and of sex workers are underrepresented and widely misunderstood.

Sex and drugs are two of the most controversial and intensely charged topics in American culture, and the connection between them extends far beyond their shared association with the hedonistic impulse.

Sex and drugs can be powerful ways to alter consciousness, to facilitate surrender, to heal and to reconnect. But there’s yet another important link to be made between the two: the oppressive prohibitionist wars on drugs and sex work.

As someone with experience fighting for both drug users’ and sex workers’ rights, I am struck by the mirroring of underlying issues at play.

Sex workers and drug users share the questionable distinction of being two groups of people who are consistently and often acceptably stereotyped and maligned as a whole, even in so-called progressive circles.

The general campaign against sex work through state and federal laws (as well as lobbying by anti-trafficking organizations) is not generally called the War on Sex Workers—but that’s effectively what’s taking place. Selling sexual services is illegal, and many activities that help ensure the safety of sex workers are criminalized under pimping or trafficking laws.

Like the War on Drugs, these laws further marginalize the most marginalized. Just as the drug war makes drug-taking more dangerous and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, the War on Sex Workers makes sex work more dangerous too—unfairly targeting certain workers based on gender, race and class.

Here are 10 reasons ending the War on Sex Workers makes as much sense as ending the War on Drugs:

1. Criminalization increases harm and dangers (but legalization isn’t the answer either).

We already know that the criminalization of drugs has a whole slew of unintended negative effects, from impure and potentially dangerous product on the market to the unfair targeting of certain populations in its enforcement.

Similarly, criminalizing sex work creates harm and makes sex work more dangerous. Sex workers have no protection under the law if they are robbed, beaten or raped on the job. (Some still don’t believe a sex worker can be raped.)

When sex workers experience theft, rape or other assault, there is no way for them to go to the police. Sex workers who are dealing with a coercive middleman can be left feeling dependent on them, isolated in the underground. Criminal records for sex work (just like records for drug convictions) often prevent those who do want out of sex work from being able to get a different job.

Let’s not forget to mention that police disproportionately target street-based workers, especially trans women and women of color. In some places, carrying condoms is used as evidence of the intent of prostitution—meaning that sex workers are being incentivized not to protect their health and the health of others, because doing so risks arrest.

However, legalization is not ideal either. Legalization is a reverse criminalization that inevitably creates a two-tiered system, with some activity remaining underground. The amount of stigma around sex work pretty much guarantees that many sex workers are not going to want to register with the government under their legal names.

Regulation also involves jumping through hoops, often requiring extra time and money, a process that favors more privileged workers. The most vulnerable workers are left to work in the underground and continue to face all of the dangers of criminalized sex work. The legalization of sex work in Germany and the Netherlands has demonstrated the weakness and ultimately, failure, of this model.

Decriminalizing would make it possible to prosecute violent clients and to provide social services for exiting sex work outside of the criminal justice system. It would also allow sex workers the freedom to continue their work as they choose, except with a reduction in potential harm.

New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003 and its laws remain the model sex worker organizations refer to as the ideal for their rights and safety.

Ninety-six percent of street-based sex workers in New Zealand say they feel the law protects their rights. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the New Zealand government worked directly with sex workers in order to create laws, something that is so often missing from discussion and legislation of the sex industry elsewhere. One popular sex worker protest slogan is “Nothing about us without us!”

2. Stigma around sex work and drug use compounds harm.

The stigma around drugs means many users fear that the discovery of their use could lead to everything from the loss of their job to the loss of their children.

Stigma can also prevent users from asking for help and support when struggling with their relationship to substances. Similarly, sex workers often cite stigma as the most harmful aspect of their work. And many sex workers who do want to switch professions find that stigma makes it difficult to explain resume gaps, etc.

At the very least, stigma is isolating and psychologically harmful. But de-stigmatizing sex work wouldn’t just improve sex workers’ mental health and well being—it would help improve their physical safety as well.

One can see both laws and social attitudes reflected in some clients’ treatment of sexual service providers. The stigma of the “dirty whore” facilitates socially acceptable hostility towards sex workers—and leads to a system that has come to accept violence towards them as an inevitable consequence of their work rather than a societal problem that needs to be addressed.

3. People of color and those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

Generally, those with economic privilege are more likely to get away with using their illegal substance of choice. Similar rules apply in the current enforcement of the war on sex workers. Street-based sex workers are targeted for arrest most often, with trans women and women of color (sex workers or not) profiled far more frequently.

In New York City only one third of the population is black, yet black defendants face 69 percent of charges brought before the court for prostitution-related offenses and 94 percent of the charges for the vague offense of “loitering for the purposes of prostitution.”

Discrimination occurs along socioeconomic lines as well. When law enforcement officers stage setups, they often respond to ads on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage, where sex workers can advertise freely or cheaply. (These cheap advertising sites are frequently the determining factor in whether sex workers can work independently indoors or need to work on the street and/or for a third party, and their shutdown can be financially devastating.) Meanwhile, websites that require tens or even hundreds of dollars a month to advertise on, which cater to sex workers with higher rates and wealthier clientele, are left alone.

4. Both wars use law enforcement and imprisonment responses to what are much broader social problems.

Our society’s criminal justice approach to the war on drugs (and as the brilliant author Gabor Maté often says, this system of justice truly is criminal) counts success by arrest numbers. In doing so, we avoid having to face the underlying and intersecting social issues of addiction, poverty, trauma, racism and other marginalization.

Similarly, the War on Sex Workers allows us to avoid issues like transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, poverty, homeless youth, immigration, labor rights and structural inequality under capitalism. The law enforcement approach to sex work gives a seemingly easy solution to what are incredibly complex problems endemic to our society. It allows politicians to tell their voters they have acted to solve the problem, while actually fixing nothing and often compounding the struggles of society’s most vulnerable.

5. Both wars justify themselves by hysteria around “trafficking.”

Some of us have lived long enough to remember the hysteria around drug trafficking back in the ‘80s that now finds its parallel in the recent explosion of concern over sex trafficking. Both are cases of a moral panic driven by “noble intentions” and an “end demand” prohibitionist approach.

Yet, we all know how that story ended: mandating more law enforcement, funding police militarization, and enforcing stricter laws unleashed an inhumane war on the most marginalized in our society—without any success in reducing drug use or the violence surrounding it.

The war on sex trafficking is having the same effect, with the popular trend of harsher sentences for trafficking offenses (including new mandatory minimums) and huge amounts of funding to agencies to fight sex trafficking. What’s rarely talked about is that most sex trafficking stings end up rounding up sex workers in handcuffs who were working of their own consent.

In the ‘90s, an unholy alliance was formed between evangelical Christians and some radical feminists, who worked to rebrand their (by now unpopular) agenda of eradicating prostitution as a campaign to end sex trafficking. Who could argue with the fight to end sexual slavery?

But leading anti-trafficking organizations such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) define all sex work as trafficking. They pushed their redefinition of commercial sex as “sexual exploitation” into the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was approved and signed by 117 countries. The general public remains unaware of the protocol (along with the ever-expanding range of anti-trafficking laws around the globe) that provides legal and moral cover to target sex work under the guise of fighting trafficking.

Organizations such as CATW do not recognize the existence of voluntary sex work because by their definition, all prostitution is violence against women (never mind the inconvenient fact that a lot of sex workers aren’t women). This strategy of rebranding the fight to abolish prostitution as one of eradicating sexual slavery has largely succeeded—it’s now impossible to have a discussion about sex work today without also discussing trafficking.

Trafficking of people into forced labor, in the sex industry or any other industry, is clearly abhorrent. But too often the activities now targeted under anti-trafficking laws are consensual acts between adults. One can be prosecuted as a “trafficker” for offering or soliciting paid sex, living with a sex worker, running a classified advertising website or being a sex worker’s driver or security person.

In real life, “sex trafficking” seldom resemble the images of desperate young girls bound at the wrists plastered all over “end modern-day slavery” campaigns. Under current U.S. law, anyone less than eighteen years old and selling sex is “trafficked.”

Underage “trafficking victims” are typically street-based youth (most commonly between 15 and 17 years old) trading sex for survival. Recent studies have found that the majority of these underage sex workers are selling sex without the aid of a middleman or pimp—90 percent in New York City, according to a study from John Jay College (the same study found 45 percent of underage sex workers to be boys).  This population would be much better served by the assistance of well-funded social services than by an increase in funding for law enforcement.

Even migrant workers “rescued” under anti-trafficking laws were most often already sex workers in their home country who immigrated illegally to work in the sex industry here.

We can immediately shift the number of people affected by sex trafficking by providing more shelter beds for the homeless (particularly LGBT youth), expanding government programs that provide food and housing, and providing opportunities for job training. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, “For the vast majority of vulnerable sex workers, the greatest barrier to exit aren’t ankle-cuffs, isolation, and shadowy kidnappers with guns, but a lack of money, transportation, identification, or other practical things. Is helping with this stuff not sexy enough?”

6. “End demand” doesn’t work.

“Ending the demand for drugs is how, in the end, we will win,” President Ronald Reagan told us in 1988. “The tide of the battle has turned and we’re beginning to win the crusade for a drug-free America.”

Of course, the number of Americans using illicit drugs has only increased since then, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of prison sentences later.

The “Nordic model” to “end demand” for sex work (which is law in Scandinavia, France, and Canada and is rapidly influencing American policy) criminalizes buying sex but not selling it. Just as in the war on drugs, the Nordic model so popular in feminist circles theorizes that if only we can make enough arrests or make the punishment severe enough, demand will end and people will stop trying to purchase sexual services. Not only is this based on a false premise, but—contrary to the frequent claims by supporters that this law only punishes “johns”—it directly harms sex workers.

You can’t criminalize a worker’s customers and not negatively impact the worker’s life as well. These laws have not only failed to reduce prostitution in places like Sweden, but have actually made life more dangerous for sex workers who, for example, now have less time to negotiate safer sex practices with nervous clients who fear arrest.

7. The real lived experiences of drug users and of sex workers are underrepresented and widely misunderstood.

Due in no small part to stigma, social portrayals of drug users and sex workers often miss the mark.

We’ve seen a slight shift in this recently with the normalization of cannabis use and the corresponding widening of mainstream portrayals of cannabis users as a result.

Representations of sex workers, however, remain split along the dichotomies of “wealthy high class call girl” versus “drug-addled street worker,” and of “happy and empowered” versus “desperate victim.”

The reality is much more nuanced and complex—i.e., human. When will we see the story of the single mom supporting her children through sex work? The trans teenager kicked out of their house and trying to survive? The student putting themselves through college?

A parallel stigma exists for those who purchase sex, particularly if they are men. “Johns” are often demonized as lascivious, aggressive or abusive. But the reality is most men who buy sex are just normal guys.

Where are the stories of the lonely man on a business trip, the cripplingly shy guy who hasn’t gotten laid in years, the guy with the fantasy he’s too ashamed to share with a partner, the divorcee trying to get his mojo back after a terrible betrayal, or the disabled man who yearns for intimacy?

8. Criminalizing drugs and sex workdeniesfundamental human rights to cognitive liberty and bodily autonomy. 

Anti-sex work and anti-drug laws both criminalize activity between consenting adults. Taking drugs and selling sex are consensual crimes where there is no “victim.”

Imagine if we could accept that each person is the best expert on their own life, that we all engage in risk and harm reduction all of the time, and decided to live their own life.

Drug reform campaigners sometimes argue that the right to take certain substances falls under the category of cognitive liberty, the right to “mental self-determination” or to alter one’s consciousness as one so chooses.

Sex work has its parallel here in the principle of bodily autonomy—that is, bodily self-determination. If someone chooses to have transactional sex, that’s their body and their right to choose.

Sex can often be transactional, even outside of sex work. We don’t arrest sugar babies and sugar daddies. Most would find it ridiculous to prosecute someone who felt they should have sex after someone paid for an expensive date. And we would never dream of punishing wives that give their husband oral sex to acquire a favor later. Laws that forbid this transaction from taking place in exchange for cash instead are simply a puritanical hangover.

9. Laws prohibiting drugs and sex work reflect America’s puritanical heritage.

The puritanical impulse is alive and well in America—as is all the hypocrisy that comes with it.

We punish people for using some substances (illegal drugs) but not others (alcohol, legal prescription drugs) whose use can also manifest as anything from life-enhancing to harmless to life-destroying.

Similarly, we punish someone for selling a sexual service to another person—but only if they’re not being filmed to have the video sold on the internet later (pornography). We also allow and sometimes even expect people to capitalize on their sexuality (as the adage goes, “sex sells”) but have a real problem with (particularly women) actually selling sex for themselves rather than for a corporation.

Sue Bradford, member of the New Zealand Parliament, summed this point up well in her 2005 speech:

“We believed, and still do, that it was completely wrong to go on living with an archaic law which criminalized generations of sex workers, mainly women, for a victimless so-called crime in the name of antique moralities shared by only some of the population.”

In fact, just as numerous cultures around the world and throughout history have had sanctioned and sacred occasions for the use of psychoactive substances, there is some evidence to suggest that ancient Mesopotamian temples priestesses provided sexual rites in exchange for donations to the temples. Having sex with a priestess, who was seen as a living embodiment of the divine Goddess herself, would have been seen as a way to worship and connect to Her. Conceiving of that possibility requires a complete shift in the Western understanding of sexuality and the sacred.

10. Drugs and sex work can be powerful tools for healing and spiritual connection.

We now know that some drug use can lead to healing or transcendent experiences that have positive effects on people’s lives.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that participants who took naturalistic doses of “classic” psychedelics—magic mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD—had significantly decreased likelihood of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and psychological distress. Psychedelic users were found to have 19 percent less likelihood of exhibiting psychological distress in the past month, 14 percent lower reports of suicidal thoughts and 36 percent lower probability of suicidal attempts in the past year.

Beyond that, studies with substances such as psilocybin and MDMA have been found to be remarkable healers for anxiety in those with terminal illness, depression, PTSD, social anxiety in autism, etc. Psychedelic experiences can lead to powerful unitive and mystical experiences.

Similarly, sex work can be another powerful tool for healing and spiritual connection. Sex surrogates, sexological bodyworkers, sacred intimates, and neo-tantrikas—all sex workers who focus on sexual healing and re-connection—can be seen as the underground psychedelic therapists of sex work.

It is innately healing to be met in your nudity and vulnerability with complete presence and acceptance, no less by a stranger. Sex workers can help release sexual shame and guilt, work with troubling sexual fantasies, overcome sexual trauma or dysfunction, build confidence, and provide sexual education. Data on these claims is yet to be compiled, but we do know touch and intimacy are healing—and most of us don’t receive nearly enough of it.

Drugs and sex work can be triggering topics for a lot of people, but it’s time to admit that we’ve been using the wrong strategy to address them. It’s no coincidence that organizations like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch are pushing for an end to the War on Drugs at the same time that Amnesty International has called for worldwide decriminalization of prostitution. Prohibition, which only ever increases harm, must come to an end.

It’s time to start legally testing drugs for purity, providing clean needles and access to condoms, and permitting safer online markets like Silk Road and Backpage. It’s time to trust each person to make their own choices with what’s currently available to them—whether they’re a Silicon Valley CEO microdosing LSD to come up with new ideas, a long-distance truck driver taking speed to stay awake at work, a college student escorting to pay tuition or a single mother selling sexual services to keep her kids fed.

To deal with difficult matters such as addiction to drugs and coercion in the sex industry, we can replace our law enforcement approach and redesignate funds to focus on ameliorating the conditions that leave people vulnerable to addiction and abuse to begin with, through education, housing, social services and more. That starts with listening to personal narratives of those affected.

The dream? Once we’ve ended these wars on consensual human activity, destigmatized sex work and drug use, and fully implemented a harm reduction approach, a whole new world of possibility opens.

Exploring one’s body or mind is no longer done with fear or guilt. Sex workers are seen as expert educators and service providers like any other—and just like a masseuse or therapist, clients see them for everything from pleasure and relaxation to exploration and healing.

Drug users have the opportunity to participate in guided experiences with pure substances to explore their own consciousness in a safe and supportive environment, where old traumas can be reexamined and new insight can emerge.

In this future world, two of the most powerful tools we have for healing—reconnecting and exploring consciousness—are set free. And as a result, so are we.

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The Federal Gov't Has Been Paying States to Imprison People: A New Law Could Change That Cruel Policy

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:10
Click here for reuse options! For more than 20 years, Justice Department grants have incentivized states to lock up more people.

Even as President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions support a law-and-order authoritarianism that views mass incarceration as a good thing, Democrats in Congress are moving to blunt such tendencies. A bill introduced this week in the House is a prime example.

On Wednesday, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) filed the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 (HR 3845), which would use the power of the federal purse to reduce both crime and incarceration at the same time. Under the bill, states that decreased the number of prisoners by 7% over three years without a substantial increase in crime would be eligible for grants.

The grants would come from the Justice Department and would be awarded "to implement evidence-based programs designed to reduce crime rates and incarcerations," according to the bill text.

The measure essentially reverses the 1994 crime bill, which set up Justice Department block grant programs aimed at increasing arrests and incarceration. Instead of incentivizing states to increase prison populations, the legislation would pay states to decrease them, while keeping down crime.

Under the legislation, grants would be awarded every three years. States are eligible to apply if the total number of people behind bars in the state decreased by 7 percent or more in three years, and there is no substantial increase in the overall crime rate within the state. The bill could lead to a 20 percent reduction in the national prison population over 10 years.

Although state and federal prison populations have stabilized in the past decade and we are no longer seeing the massive increases in inmate numbers that began under Reagan and continued largely on autopilot through the Clinton and Bush years, the number of people incarcerated is still unconscionably high. With more than 1.5 million people in prison in 2015, the United States remains the world leader in incarceration, in both per capita and absolute numbers.

A healthy percentage of them are people locked up for drug offenses. The Bureau of Prisons reports that nearly half of all federal prisoners are drug offenders. Among the states, the percentage varies between about 15% and 25%; overall, about 17% of state prison inmates are drug offenders.

"The costs of our nation’s epidemic of over-incarceration is not just metaphorical," said Rep. Cárdenas at a press conference rolling out the bill. "Yes, mass incarceration and mandatory minimums have taken their toll on our families and our communities, and represent one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time. At the same time, the cost to the taxpayer is real. Americans spend almost $80 billion per year on our prison system, in addition to much more significant long-term societal costs. It’s time to right the wrongs of the last decades and help states have the freedom to implement programs that are more cost-effective and keep our streets and communities safer."

It's not just in the House. In June, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) filed the Senate version of the bill, SB 1458. Both Booker and Blumenthal came out for the roll-out of the House version.

"In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, which created grant programs that incentivized states to incarcerate more people," said Sen. Booker. "The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act would do the opposite — it would encourage states to reduce their prison populations and invest money in evidence-based practices proven to reduce crime and recidivism. Our bill recognizes the simple fact that locking more people up does little to make our streets safer. Instead, it costs us billions annually, tears families apart, and disproportionately drives poverty in minority communities."
"Our criminal justice system is in a state of crisis," said Sen. Blumenthal. "Under current sentencing guidelines, millions of people—a disproportionate number of them people of color—have been handed harsh prison sentences, their lives irreparably altered, and our communities are no safer for it. In fact, in many cases, these draconian sentencing policies have had the opposite of their intended effect. State sentencing policies are the major drivers of skyrocketing incarceration rates, which is why we’ve introduced legislation to encourage change at the state level. We need to change federal incentives so that we reward states that are addressing this crisis and improving community safety, instead of funneling more federal dollars into a broken system."

While the bills don't have any Republican sponsors or cosponsors, they are backed by a panoply of civil rights, human rights, faith-based, and social justice organizations that are pushing hard for Congress to address mass incarceration and the class and racial disparities that underlie it.

"At a time when we have an Attorney General who seeks to continue the unwise practice of privatizing prisons and putting more and more people in them, Congress must reform our criminal justice system and do more to address mass incarceration," said Vanita Gupta, former deputy attorney general for civil rights and currently CEO of the Leadership Conference on Human Rights.

"Rep. Cárdenas, and Senators Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal, have developed a creative policy proposal that would serve as a powerful tool to accelerate state efforts in reversing the damaging impact of mass incarceration," said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. "This proposal builds on smart prison-reduction policies while also reducing crime. The National Urban League applauds the lawmakers and is committed to working with them until this bill is signed into law."

That could be a while. With Republicans in control of the Congress, the bills' prospects this session are clouded. But even among congressional Republicans, there are conservative criminal justice reformers willing to take a hard look at harsh policies of the past, and there is always the next Congress. While the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 is unlikely to pass this year, it deserves to be fought for and is laying the groundwork for sentencing reform victories when the congressional climate is more favorable. Let's hope that's 2019. 

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Can Marijuana Help With Anorexia?

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 09:50
You might want to put that vape pen down, but some newer studies might be useful, too.

Given the proven power of cannabis to promote weight gain in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, it’s reasonable to ask whether weed might help in cases of anorexia nervosa. The clinical evidence, though slight, is a resounding No! No, no, no, no, no. It is a bad idea. Terrible. Wretched. Did we mention it’s not so great?

The source of this alarm is a 1983 study of 11 subjects who added doses of THC to their standard anorexia treatment. None gained any weight, but three experienced “significant psychic disturbance,” including “paranoid ideations.” In other words, they had the dope fear, and they had it bad.

Munchies-induced eating can help some people who suffer from anorexia reexamine their loathing of food and even enjoy it again.

Unlike AIDS and chemo patients, who want to eat but are too nauseated or lack hunger signals, an anorexic’s identity is tied to the desire not to eat. That’s essentially the whole illness. Anorexia is about control—counting calories, disciplining appetites, compelling the body to fit the dictates of the will. Accordingly, while, in some cases, the intoxicant aspect of marijuana can ease that ironclad self-discipline and allow an anorexic to let go, in other instances, it poses a terrifying threat to the sense of self.

Similarly, munchies-induced eating can help some people who suffer from anorexia reexamine their loathing of food and even enjoy it again. With others, however, the postprandial remorse only intensifies the negative emotions associated with the disease. It can even lead to self-harm.

Anecdotally, marijuana has helped individual anorexics. But the clinical evidence suggests that more than a quarter of those who try the cannabis cure will have horrifically bad experiences. Those are not inspiring odds.


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Amazing Graphic Shows Why Cannabis Is a Medication Worth Legalizing

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:19
Click here for reuse options! The graphic included here lays out the arguments.

Medical marijuana has been legalized by many countries around the world, including 28 states in the US. Some have even legalized the recreational use of the drug.

Practicing in the area of drug offenses, Toronto Defense Lawyers have been successfully defending countless marijuana related drug offenses over the years under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Meanwhile, the clinical studies discussed below have taken a deeper look as to why cannabis is a medication worth legalizing.

According to clinical studies, the chemical compounds found in cannabis (CBD and THC) can successfully treat chronic pain and many other health ailments. This was evidenced in the largest ever study on cannabis which examined over 10,000 studies on the drug. The results found that, not only is cannabis an effective defense to chronic pain, but also a wide range of other health problems such as: muscles spasms in those suffering from multiple sclerosis, nausea in those undergoing chemotherapy, inflammation, arthritis, fibromyalgia, anxiety, stress, and PTSD.

Additionally, medical marijuana has been proven to lower opioid prescriptions and opioid-related deaths. Coinciding with this evidence, states that have legalized medical marijuana suffer from fewer opioid-related deaths. Also, profits to organized crime groups would be cut off by legalizing cannabis.

It is also important not to ignore the current lack of regulation involving medical marijuana. The legal gray area has caused many suppliers to not feel pressured in meeting Health Canada standards. This is true for approximately 1/3 of dispensaries in Toronto. This lack of regulation has led to cannabis containing yeast, mold, and bacteria commonly found in sewage and intestinal tracts of humans. Regrettably, a study of a popular dispensary in Toronto found that the marijuana being dispensed contained 9 times the acceptable amount of yeast and mold, as well as large traces of bacteria found in sewage.

While the history of cannabis worldwide has been long and complicated, the benefits of its legalization cannot be ignored. In April 2017, the liberal government passed a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, which is expected to come into effect in July of 2018, however it remains to be seen whether we will begin to perceive cannabis as an effective form of treatment against a large number of health ailments and a defense against opioid deaths.

The graphic below, courtesy of, summarizes these arguments:


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