THIS JUST IN ( Top )
(1) ALLMAN: ZIP-TIES ARE IN
Pubdate: Fri, 03 Aug 2007
Source: Willits News (CA)
Author: Mike A'Dair, TWN Staff Writer
Cited: Sheriff Tom Allman http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/sheriff/
The zip-ties are in. So says Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.
The zip-ties are an effort by Allman to reduce the element of fraud in the medical marijuana industry.
Allman said that the zip ties are available at the sheriff's offices in Ukiah, Fort Bragg and Willits. This year the cost will be zero, according to Allman, but next year Allman hopes to sell the ties at $25 apiece. Each tie has a serial number blazoned onto the plastic; next year the ties may be able to contain a microchip. Allman said that each person who wishes to purchase a zip tie must have a valid state medical marijuana card.
Allman said that the zip ties will help his officers determine whether a medical marijuana plant is legitimate or not, but not having a valid zip tie will not automatically mean that any unzipped plant that comes across the eyes of law enforcement will be confiscated.
"My deputies have been told, if you go to a house that has medical marijuana zip ties, unless the patient has died (and it nullifies the prescription) it's no questions asked. You can look at the zip ties, you can see if it's a good number. You can even check to see if it's registered to that patient.
"Now with people who are not in the program, what I have told my deputies is, don't automatically eradicate it if you don't see a zip tie. Because Senate Bill 420 says that the state ID card is optional. It's not mandatory. But you do conduct an investigation, to find out."
(2) OPED: GLOBALIZATION AND THE NARCOTICS TRADE ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
Source: International Herald-Tribune (International)
Copyright: International Herald Tribune 2007
Author: Eduardo Porter
Note: Eduardo Porter is a member of the New York Times editorial board.
For all its global reach, there is something antiquated about the drug trade. The story of a bag of cocaine peddled in an American suburb, for instance, often begins in the Andes, where Quechua and Aymara Indians have harvested coca for centuries.
Cooked in nearby labs and transported through Mexico into the United States by Mexican cartels, cocaine's path to market is not unlike that of a shirt - a straightforward chain from raw material in the third world to finished product in the first.
Chemistry, and globalization, are changing this dynamic, however. The unusual case of Zhenli Ye Gon, who was arrested in Maryland last week following the discovery of $205 million of alleged drug money in his house in Mexico City, underscores how the same process of global sourcing that ripped apart the integrated industries of the 20th century, replacing them with networks of production scattered around the globe, is reconfiguring the drug trade, too.
(3) AGENCIES RALLY TO RUN CRACK-PIPE PROGRAM ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Jake Rupert
Two city councillors who voted to kill the municipality's crack-pipe program are annoyed that a group of health and social support agencies are keeping the program going.
Three weeks ago, city council, on a 15-7 vote, cancelled the two-year- old program that saw health and social workers handing out clean pipes on demand in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users.
The city's involvement in the program ends today, but yesterday the group, including six community health centres, the youth-services bureau, Ottawa's HIV/AIDS coalition and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa announced they will continue to run the program at least until the end of the year.
College Councillor Rick Chiarelli moved the motion that killed the city's involvement in the program, and he thinks it should have been allowed to die.
Orleans Councillor Bob Monette said continuing the program will mean increased drug use in a city that has seen crack smoking increase dramatically.
"I guess the dealers will be happy," he said. "I know (the program) contributes to crack use. The easier you make it to do it, the more people do it.
Members of the group say this type of thinking is dead wrong. They are convinced the program saves lives and have come up with $15,000 out of their budgets to keep the program running until the end of the year. During this time, they will seek permanent sources of funding from governments and other sources.
The decision to cancel the program was made despite the city's chief medical officer of health imploring council not to -- and after an internationally accepted, peer-reviewed study by an epidemiologist found the program was having a positive effect on the behaviour of drug users.
(4) EDITORIAL: SOME DAMAGE UNDONE ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
Source: Record, The (Hackensack, NJ)
Copyright: 2007 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Providing free, clean syringes to drug addicts is no cause for celebration. It just happens to beat letting them use dirty needles and spread a deadly disease -- which, in our deeply imperfect world, is the only real alternative. Now that New Jersey's leaders have become the last in the Union to grasp that piece of wisdom, Paterson and three other cities can begin benefiting from it.
State health officials this week approved pilot programs that will give out clean needles in exchange for dirty ones in an effort to slow the spread of AIDS in Paterson, Newark, Camden and Atlantic City. The cities applied to start the service under state legislation passed in December, which made the programs legal on a limited basis. Although every other state allows a means of legal access to clean needles -- either through needle exchanges or non-prescription sales - -- New Jersey did not join them easily.
Needle exchange was blocked for more than a decade in Trenton. Leading opponents included former Gov. Christie Whitman, several Republicans in the Legislature and a key Democrat, state Sen. Ronald Rice of Newark. To get it passed, Governor Corzine and other supporters had to agree to several concessions, including a three-year limit on the program and no provision of state funds.
Opponents tend to argue that distributing needles encourages drug use, as if the decision to inject heroin into one's veins was ever predicated on the availability of properly sterilized paraphernalia. On the local level, officials who object to the idea say it could make their cities drug marketplaces attracting addicts from miles around, as if the drug dealers might be stymied by a syringe shortage. These claims appeal to the understandable anger, fear and disgust of many voters. But don't bother looking for evidence to support any of them.
WEEKLY NEWS IN REVIEW ( Top )
Domestic News- Policy
COMMENTS: ( Top )
Mexican officials are reportedly in talks with U.S. officials on
some sort of anti-drug aid package and policy adjustment. Will the
U.S. insist Mexico adopt the same priorities as the DEA, and use
a whole lot of resources on serious problems - like medical
marijuana dispensaries? In addition to shutting down those
dispensaries, which harm no one, the U.S. feds have also been
threatening Californian landlords who rent to dispensaries with
property forfeiture, and local politicians who approve dispensaries
with aiding and abetting. Some medical cannabis users are insisting
that their local government stand up to the feds. And,
unfortunately, a judge determined the feds don't really have to be
honest when distributing information about cannabis.
Mexican officials are reportedly in talks with U.S. officials on some sort of anti-drug aid package and policy adjustment. Will the U.S. insist Mexico adopt the same priorities as the DEA, and use a whole lot of resources on serious problems - like medical marijuana dispensaries? In addition to shutting down those dispensaries, which harm no one, the U.S. feds have also been threatening Californian landlords who rent to dispensaries with property forfeiture, and local politicians who approve dispensaries with aiding and abetting. Some medical cannabis users are insisting that their local government stand up to the feds. And, unfortunately, a judge determined the feds don't really have to be honest when distributing information about cannabis.
(5) U.S. IN TALKS TO HELP MEXICO FIGHT DRUG CARTELS ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2007
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Pablo Bachelet, MCT News Service
Funding Aid Seen As Bolstering Calderon
WASHINGTON - Mexican President Felipe Calderon, locked in a bloody confrontation with drug cartels, is negotiating an aid package with the Bush administration worth hundreds of millions of dollars, several officials say.
Officials on both sides are working out the details of the massive counter-drug aid package. The talks have been taking place quietly for several months and will be a central item on the agenda when President Bush and Calderon are expected to meet in Quebec Aug. 20-21.
Mexican officials have been reluctant to go public with the discussions, mindful of anti-U.S. sentiments harbored by many Mexicans. However, the conservative Calderon believes he has little choice but to enlist U.S. help, given the cross-border nature of drug-trafficking and the ruthlessness of Mexico's drug gangs, officials and observers told MCT News Service.
Most of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic and because details of the plan could change in coming weeks. In public, U.S. officials say little other than to acknowledge the discussions.
"We're working very closely with the Mexicans on counter-narcotics on a variety of fronts and at all levels of government," said National Security Council spokeswoman Katherine Starr. "Presidents Bush and Calderon look forward to discussing this and other issues when they meet in Canada in August."
But officials view the talks as a bold initiative by Calderon that underscores his resolve to tame drug-related violence - most of it between rival cartels - that has cost the lives of 3,000 Mexicans in the past year alone and forced the intervention of 20,000 federal troops.
"I think the Mexicans realize it's going to get worse before it gets better," said Roger Noriega, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs and now with the American Enterprise Institute think tank. "They can't do this alone and should not have to do this alone."
One problem in the talks is that U.S. law enforcement agencies are wary of sharing crucial intelligence information with their Mexican counterparts, viewed as splintered and infiltrated by drug gangs. Noriega says such prejudices ought to be set aside and the two countries should carry out joint operations "seamlessly integrated across the border."
(6) DEA TARGETS LANDLORDS IN POT BATTLE ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jul 2007
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2007 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: William M. Welch, USA TODAY
Threatens to Seize Properties Where Medical Marijuana Sold
LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Justice Department is unleashing a potent new weapon in its battle against California's hundreds of medical pot clinics, threatening landlords with arrest and property seizures for renting to tenants who flout federal drug laws.
Intensifying its crackdown on pot sales that are legal under California law but illegal under U.S. law, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency executed search warrants Wednesday in raids on 10 marijuana dispensaries across Los Angeles.
As agents were moving in, Los Angeles' City Council voted 11-0 to tentatively approve a one-year moratorium on more medical marijuana stores, which have exploded in number in the past two years.
Federal officials estimate there are 400 storefront and office operations selling medical marijuana in Los Angeles and L.A. County, up from 20 two years ago and more than double the number at the start of the year, DEA Special Agent Sarah Pullen said. Law enforcement officials contend the sales have become a source for recreational pot users.
"It's clearly not about compassion or care at this point," Pullen said. "It's about money."
The most serious threat to California's voter-approved pot sales came in a letter last week from the DEA to 150 property owners or managers informing them that a tenant is operating a marijuana dispensary on the property in violation of federal law.
L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine, sponsor of the moratorium, wrote DEA Administrator Karen Tandy on Wednesday protesting the focus on landlords. He asked "that you abandon this tactic."
"Voters in California and in Los Angeles support the medical use of cannabis and want safe, well-regulated access," he said.
Don Duncan, whose California Patients Group distributes medical marijuana from a store in Hollywood, said his landlord had not received a letter but felt threatened nonetheless. He said the store has been operating for a year and a half and sells to as many as 100 patients a day.
"It's very disconcerting, frankly," he said. "It'd be a shame to work this hard and be shut down based on intimidation. ... Right now we're waiting to see what happens."
(7) OFFICIAL DOWNPLAYS THREAT OF PROSECUTION ( Top )
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jul 2007
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: David Olson, The Press-Enterprise
President Bush's nominee to become U.S. attorney for the Inland and Los Angeles areas appeared to take the federal government's campaign against medical marijuana to a new level early this year.
Tom O'Brien, currently chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, told members of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments on Jan. 8 that government officials could be prosecuted for allowing medical-marijuana dispensaries to operate.
Marijuana is legal in California to treat certain medical conditions.
It is illegal for all uses under federal law.
Palm Springs is considering a proposal to allow medical-marijuana patients to grow the plant at city-approved collectives.
Palm Springs City Councilman Mike McCulloch asked O'Brien whether members of city councils are "exposed to risk of arrest or other prosecution" if they allow dispensaries.
According to a tape recording of the meeting, O'Brien answered, "Anyone who aids or abets the commission of a crime -- in this I believe you're hypothetical -- in terms of someone who is distributing marijuana, anyone who assists in that process is technically liable for prosecution."
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, insisted Thursday that O'Brien never directly addressed the issue of liability.
"In our interpretation, what he addressed there was saying like in some theoretical or possible world, that could happen, but I'm not going to address whether that is in the realm of possibility," he said.
McCulloch called O'Brien's comments "intimidating."
(8) MEDICAL POT USERS STORM MEETING ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2007
Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Bakersfield Californian
Author: James Burger, Calilfornian Staff Writer
A large group of Kern County medical marijuana users and supporters demanded county supervisors uphold state law Tuesday.
They said they struggle with ulcers, migraines, glaucoma, nervous-system disorders, heart problems and arthritis.
Marijuana is the only drug that helps them live with their illnesses, they said.
But while state law allows them to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, federal law doesn't.
Recent federal raids against county-permitted marijuana dispensaries - -- and Sheriff Donny Youngblood's support for the raids -- have them riled up.
"The federal government is panicking and throwing everything they can at us to stop the inevitable -- the legalization of marijuana for every American," said Doug McAfee, president of the Bakersfield chapter of NORML, a pro-legalization group.
Supervisors expressed their own frustrations with the situation they're in.
"If you want an example of bad public policy -- this is it," said Supervisor Michael Rubio. "Local government is being let down by the state and federal government."
County ordinances charge Youngblood with issuing permits and overseeing enforcement of the marijuana dispensaries.
But following last week's raids, Youngblood announced he wouldn't issue any more permits because the federal government calls on him to enforce its laws.
Marijuana users say Youngblood is breaking state law by complying with the feds.
(9) SUIT OVER POT'S 'BENEFIT' STUMBLES ( Top )
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: Recorder, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 ALM Properties, Inc.
Author: Matthew Hirsch, The Recorder
An Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit can't put the federal government on trial for saying that marijuana has no medical use -- but it might get to challenge the government for blowing deadlines, a federal judge in California ruled last week.
Americans for Safe Access sued in February after two federal agencies refused to alter government-published statements saying marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use in the United States."
In an eight-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup agreed with Justice Department lawyers that the federal Information Quality Act provides for only administrative, not judicial, review for people to challenge the "quality, objectivity, utility and integrity" of information disseminated by federal agencies.
Alsup's ruling didn't address the government's claim that ASA lacked standing because it failed to identify members who suffered harm from the disputed statements or to show how the issue was germane to ASA's organizational purpose.
Though Alsup rejected ASA's bid to revise those statements, he hinted the plaintiff might be able to at least force the government to address its assertion within a 60-day period provided by law.
"Conceivably," Alsup wrote, "a district court may order an agency to act on the merits of an information-correction petition within a specific time frame."
Law Enforcement & Prisons
COMMENTS: ( Top )
Public officials are trying to stop gang problems by suing the gangs
- it would be a lot easier to take the profit out of their biggest
business. And it wouldn't have the net effect discussed in our
second selection, about the disproportionate number of minorities
incarcerated for drug offenses. You can bet a child of privilege,
like Al Gore's son, won't be seeing jail time despite his repeated
problems. And do the police have the right to tell a medical
cannabis grower to destroy plants? A judge in California can't seem
Public officials are trying to stop gang problems by suing the gangs - it would be a lot easier to take the profit out of their biggest business. And it wouldn't have the net effect discussed in our second selection, about the disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated for drug offenses. You can bet a child of privilege, like Al Gore's son, won't be seeing jail time despite his repeated problems. And do the police have the right to tell a medical cannabis grower to destroy plants? A judge in California can't seem to decide.
(10) CITIES SUE GANGS IN BID TO STOP VIOLENCE ( Top )
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2007 Bradenton Herald
Author: Angela K. Brown, Associated Press Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Fed up with deadly drive-by shootings, incessant drug dealing and graffiti, cities nationwide are trying a different tactic to combat gangs: They're suing them.
Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.
The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don't allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.
"It is another tool," said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. "This is more of a proactive approach."
But critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth.
"If you're barring people from talking in the streets, it's difficult to tell if they're gang members or if they're people discussing issues," said Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "And it's all the more troubling because it doesn't seem to be effective."
(11) AL GORE'S SON PLEADS GUILTY TO DRUG CHARGES ( Top )
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: People Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2007 Time Inc.
Author: Ken Lee
Albert Gore III pleaded guilty to four drug-related charges in an Orange County court on Monday, and opted to enter a drug rehab program to avoid prison time.
Appearing with his lawyer before Judge Jacob H. Jager, Gore indicated to the court that he would enter an intensive 90-day residential center.
"This is what anyone coming off the street would be eligible for," said Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang-Schroeder. "Gore didn't get any more or any less than anyone else."
Gore was carrying 140 pills of Vicodin, along with "dozens" of other medications when he was pulled over on July 4 in Southern Calif. while speeding in a Toyota Prius.
Deputies searched his car after they detected the smell of marijuana, and found prescription drugs including Xanax, Valium, Soma, Vicodin and Adderall, as well as a small amount of marijuana.
The former vice president's son has a history of encounters with the law.
In August 2000, he was ticketed for going 97 mph in a 55-mph zone in North Carolina, and had his driving privileges suspended.
Two years later, he was cited for DUI in Virginia. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year's probation.
And in December 2003, Gore was arrested for marijuana possession in Maryland after he was pulled over for driving with his headlights off. He was sentenced to drug counseling in that case.
(12) OPED: STUFFING PRISONS WITH BLACK MEN ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jul 2007
Source: Tallahassee Democrat (FL)
Copyright: 2007 Tallahassee Democrat.
Author: Harold Jackson, Philadelphia Inquirer
One of my four brothers graduated from the University of Iowa, but being a black male, I don't think I want to spend too much time in the Hawkeye State.
Only about 2 percent of Iowa's population is black, but blacks are 13.6 times more likely than whites to be imprisoned there. That's more than twice the national average, which is bad enough. Hispanics nationally are imprisoned at double the rate of whites.
I shouldn't pick on Iowa, though. I live in New Jersey, where blacks are imprisoned at 10 times the rate of whites. Over in Pennsylvania, it's five times.
You would think the disparities would be worse in the Old South. But in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, where blacks make up larger parts of the population, they are only about three times more likely to be imprisoned than whites. ( Editor's note: In Florida blacks are 4.4 times more likely to be imprisoned than whites. )
These incarceration statistics, released last week by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group that promotes alternatives to prison, are sure to prompt recitations of that old Richard Pryor joke: I went to the courthouse to find justice, and that's exactly what I found: Just us!
But it's not funny.
According to Human Rights Watch, two out of every five blacks sent to state prisons nationally in 2000 were convicted of drug crimes. Although blacks constitute no more than 15 percent of all drug users, 63 percent of drug offenders sent to state prisons were black.
Why that discrepancy? Studies show the majority of drug offenders sent to prison in the last decade were convicted of low-level drug possession or sales. Where do most of those arrests occur? In low-income neighborhoods populated largely by blacks.
Why? Because it's much easier to make a bust in poor neighborhoods where drugs are sold in open markets than in suburban neighborhoods where drug abuse is largely hidden.
It's not that blacks are more likely to abuse drugs. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse says whites make up about 72 percent of America's illegal drug users; blacks, 15 percent. But blacks are most likely to be caught and sent to prison.
(13) NO RULING YET IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA SUIT ( Top )
Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jul 2007
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Media News Group
Author: Karen McIntyre, Staff Intern
Judge Barbara Roberts is sitting in the hot seat right now, private legal strategy consultant Gordy Dise said after the judge did not make a ruling Friday about whether it's legal to sue regarding the way the medical marijuana law is being prosecuted.
The case, David Williams versus Butte County, was put under submission until September, which means the judge did not decide whether the lawsuit can continue, and a new court date was scheduled. The case is the first of its kind in California.
Williams, of Oroville, sued after a Butte County sheriff's deputy threatened to arrest the man if he didn't destroy all but 12 of the 41 marijuana plants he reportedly was growing for a seven-member collective.
The legal amount of pot in a co-op is six mature plants, 12 immature plants and eight ounces of dried marijuana per patient, according to state Legislature's Senate Bill 420 enacted a few years ago.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey established written guidelines that allow a larger one-pound threshold limit of pot per patient and requires members of a co-op to post their doctors' recommendations and "actively participate in the cultivation process" if their health allows.
But if the Legislature cannot modify or change Proposition 215 -- which passed in 1996 allowing medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation -- then who is Butte County to modify the law, Dise said.
"Butte County Sheriff and county municipal policies are trying to promulgate an illegal underground regulation contrary to the people's will and the law of this state," he said. "They have to enforce the law whether they like it or not."
The District Attorney's Office reportedly issued the guidelines to "end any confusion" and prevent growers from using Proposition 215 as a cover.
Joseph Elford, Williams' San Francisco attorney for Americans for Safe Access, is challenging Ramsey's policies. He is suing the county on William's behalf in a civil suit claiming the deputy did not have the right to tell Williams to destroy the plants.
Judge Roberts has heard arguments from both sides, and was scheduled to issue a written ruling Friday.
Cannabis & Hemp-
COMMENTS: ( Top )
Perhaps last Friday was the start of a reefer madness junk science
research week. The British medical journal Lancet published a study,
'Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychosis in Later Life' which the media
around the world had a field day with, most often exaggerating what
the study concluded. A Focus Alert at
http://www.mapinc.org/alert/0351.html covers some of the problems
with both the study and the reporting. The study, a "meta-analysis,"
has serious flaws, as an analysis of the process published by the
British Medical Journal shows
Below are three press clippings, the first from the United States,
about the study.
At mid-week, the media latched on to a study which indicated that
smoking a joint causes the same health damage as smoking between 2.5
and five tobacco cigarettes. Most news reports, like the Associated
Press article, below, which was published in many newspapers,
exaggerated the research with scare headlines. For most casual,
occasional, users the health damage risks are not significant.
However, for daily users, including those who use marijuana as
medicine, vaporization is a much safer way to use. As is usual there
was no mention of this method of use in the media. Please see this
webpage on the vaporization studies
Finally, the Los Angeles City Beat brings a degree of passion to
it's reporting of the DEA raids on medicinal cannabis collectives
you would never find in the Los Angeles Times.
Perhaps last Friday was the start of a reefer madness junk science research week. The British medical journal Lancet published a study, 'Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychosis in Later Life' which the media around the world had a field day with, most often exaggerating what the study concluded. A Focus Alert at http://www.mapinc.org/alert/0351.html covers some of the problems with both the study and the reporting. The study, a "meta-analysis," has serious flaws, as an analysis of the process published by the British Medical Journal shows http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/309/6957/789
Below are three press clippings, the first from the United States, about the study.
At mid-week, the media latched on to a study which indicated that smoking a joint causes the same health damage as smoking between 2.5 and five tobacco cigarettes. Most news reports, like the Associated Press article, below, which was published in many newspapers, exaggerated the research with scare headlines. For most casual, occasional, users the health damage risks are not significant. However, for daily users, including those who use marijuana as medicine, vaporization is a much safer way to use. As is usual there was no mention of this method of use in the media. Please see this webpage on the vaporization studies http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7240
Finally, the Los Angeles City Beat brings a degree of passion to it's reporting of the DEA raids on medicinal cannabis collectives you would never find in the Los Angeles Times.
(14) POT SMOKING LINKED TO PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS ( Top )
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jul 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer
Heavy Marijuana Use Doubles the Risk, New Research Finds.
People who smoke marijuana daily or weekly double their risk of developing a psychotic illness over their lifetime, according to a study published Thursday.
Among all cannabis users, including sporadic experimenters and habitual users, the lifetime risk of psychotic illness increased by 40%, the report said.
"It's not as if you smoke a joint and you're going to go crazy," said Richard Rawson, who directs the Integrated Substance Abuse Program at UCLA and was not involved in the study.
But he cautioned: "It's definitely not a good idea to use heavy amounts of marijuana."
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S., according to the federal government. In 2006, about 42% of America's high school seniors reported having tried marijuana at least once, according to an annual report funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Dr. Victor Reus, a psychiatrist at UC San Francisco who was not involved in this study, said he was unconvinced by Zammit's conclusions for both psychotic and mood disorders.
Too many outside factors contribute to the disorders, and the studies Zammit used were too vague to draw hard conclusions, he said.
"There's a limit to what you can do with the data that's in these studies," he said.
(15) 50 TOP EXPERTS CONFIRM MENTAL HEALTH RISK ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2007
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.
Authors: Jonathan Owen and Suzi Mesure
Since the 'IoS' reversed its policy on legalising cannabis because of the drug's links with mental illness, many have joined the campaign to highlight its dangers. Here we report on the latest findings to cause concern.
A poll of more than 50 of the world's leading authorities on drugs and mental health confirms that most believe cannabis, and particularly its stronger variant, skunk, pose significant health risks and increase users' susceptibility to psychosis and schizophrenia.
The Government's announcement last week of a review that could see the reclassification of the drug and harsher penalties for possession re-ignited the debate about the risks of using cannabis.
Launching the three-month consultation, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: "Government must remain responsive - alive to new evidence, feedback and trends." Health ministry sources said that new medical evidence about the link between cannabis and mental illness, reported first in this newspaper, would form "a key part of the evidence" that the Government will consider.
It will also examine a new study published in The Lancet last week, which said that cannabis users increased their risk of suffering psychotic episodes by some 40 per cent. The findings by the team at Bristol and Cardiff Universities, led by Dr Stanley Zammit, said that some 14 per cent of psychotic episodes among young people could be prevented if they avoided the drug.
Nevertheless, despite the mounting evidence that cannabis use causes mental health problems - including The Lancet's publication last week - - not everyone believes skunk poses long term health risks.
Professor Tim Kirkham, a psychologist at Liverpool University, argued: "Cannabis has been used safely for many thousands of years," and says there have been "concerted efforts to demonise the drug's use." Dr Trevor Turner, former vice president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says: "I don't think it causes mental illness. I have never seen a case of so-called cannabis psychosis."
Dame Ruth Runciman, the chair of UK Drug Policy Centre who set in motion the downgrading of cannabis, disputes that the drug of today is any different to the weed that Ms Smith would have toked back in early 1980s.
"How do you know it's stronger?" she said, adding: "There is indubitably some skunk that is stronger about the place, but the evidence has been hugely exaggerated and does not support such an alarmist view... Cannabis as Class C is exactly where it should be."
(16) COLUMN: CANNABIS DATA COMES TO THE CRUNCH ( Top )
Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jul 2007
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/175 Author: Ben Goldacre, The Guardian
You know when cannabis hits the news you're in for a bit of fun, and this week's story about cannabis causing psychosis was no exception. The paper was a systematic review and then a "meta-analysis" of the data which has already been collected, looking at whether people who smoke cannabis are subsequently more likely to have symptoms of "psychosis" or diagnoses of schizophrenia. Meta-analysis is, simply, where you gather together all of the numbers from all the studies you can find into one big spreadsheet, and do one big calculation on all of them at once, to get the most statistically powerful result possible.
Now I don't like to carp, but it's interesting that the Daily Mail got even these basics wrong, under their headline "Smoking just one cannabis joint raises danger of mental illness by 40%". Firstly "the researchers, from four British universities, analysed the results of 35 studies into cannabis use from around the world. This suggested that trying cannabis only once was enough to raise the risk of schizophrenia by 41%."
In fact they identified 175 studies which might have been relevant, but on reading them, it turned out that there were just 11 relevant papers, describing seven actual datasets. The Mail made this figure up to "35 studies" by including 24 separate papers which the authors also found on cannabis and depression, although the Mail didn't mention depression at all.
(17) MARIJUANA SMOKE OBSTRUCTS AIR FLOW ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2007
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Associated Press
Author: Ray Lilley, Associated Press
Damaging Effect Equals Inhaling Up To Five Tobacco Cigarettes, But Long-Term Use Doesn't Increase Emphysema Risk, Study Says
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP)-- A single joint of marijuana obstructs the flow of air as much as smoking up to five tobacco cigarettes, but long-term marijuana use does not increase the risk of developing emphysema, new research suggests.
The study by New Zealand's Medical Research Institute found that longtime marijuana smokers can develop symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, along with obstruction of the large airways and excessive lung inflation. The paper was released Tuesday ahead of its publication in the journal Thorax.
"The study shows that one cannabis joint causes a similar degree of lung damage as between 2.5 and five tobacco cigarettes," lead author Sarah Aldington said.
However, the researchers found that the progressive chronic lung disease emphysema, often associated with cigarette smoking, was uncommon among marijuana smokers. Only 1.3 percent of the long-term marijuana smokers were found to have signs of the disease compared with 16.3 percent of those who combined marijuana and tobacco, and 18.9 percent of those who smoked only tobacco.
Earlier studies have shown that smoking one joint results in three to five times more carbon monoxide and tar inhaled than smoking a cigarette of the same size. The New Zealand research also showed that the "products of combustion" in marijuana are very similar to tobacco, Beasley said.
Part of the reason for this is the way joints are smoked, with users often inhaling and holding the smoke in longer for a better hit. Marijuana joints typically do not have filters and they have shorter butts than cigarettes with a higher smoke temperature. Marijuana also is commonly smoked through pipes.
Jeff Garrett, president of the Australia-New Zealand Thoracic Society, who was not involved in the study, said that although researchers found emphysema among marijuana smokers relatively rare, he emphasized that it does occur.
Hospital specialists also are seeing an increasing number of people with emphysema specifically related to marijuana smoking, he said.
(18) BAD MEMORIES OF THE DEA'S WILD DAY IN L.A. ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
Source: Los Angeles City Beat (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Southland Publishing
Author: Ron Garmon
Considered as paramilitary theater, the DEA raids last week on medical marijuana clinics across L.A. County were a nice touch of the old "shock" and "awe." Special care was shown in the timing, striking as they did during a press conference held at L.A. City Hall announcing a one-year moratorium on new collectives. The measure is widely held by local activists as legitimatizing efforts to self-regulate the area's burgeoning medical marijuana. At the conference, three L.A. City Council members - Dennis Zine, Janice Hahn, and Bill Rosendahl - said that they had sent a letter to Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Karen Tandy requesting the feds cease threatening clinics with asset forfeiture notices. Councilman Zine, an ex-cop, affirmed the city's intent to "uphold the will of our voters and adopt sensible guidelines to regulate the provision of medical cannabis in our communities."
This minor triumph of countercultural Better Business got trampled by a high-noon sweep of collectives from West Hollywood to the Valley. Though DEA Special Agent Sarah Pullen shrugged off the timing as "coincidental," the raids underscored the Justice Department's long contempt for California's Proposition 215, the voters who passed it, and the loose coalition of local activists and city officials trying to ensure delivery of medical marijuana to patients.
COMMENTS: ( Top )
We begin this week's review of international drug policy news with a
Miami Herald article announcing that Plan Colombia (dousing Colombia
with plant poisons -- glyphosate) is going to switch to manual
eradication of coca plants. Stated President Alvaro Uribe: "Instead
of uniting Colombians around the idea of eradicating drugs,
[spraying] causes complaints and provokes reactions against
eradication." Colombian papers cheered the move, as did "the
government in neighboring Ecuador, for whom aerial spraying along
the border had become a major diplomatic issue with Colombia." It
remains to be seen how this Colombian-led move to stop the spraying
will be tolerated in the boardroom of Dyncorp, as well as the U.S.
From the U.K., an excellent editorial on opium policy:
Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire versus Afghanistan. How can one
explain to a poor Afghan farmer that his poppies are evil and
illegal, but the poppies grown in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire
back in England (not to mention the poppies grown in Tasmania, or
India, or Turkey), why those poppies are right and proper and legal?
Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire grows "poppies for the
pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith, which makes medical opiates
and is eager for new sources of raw material because of a worldwide
shortage of morphine and similar drugs." The Independent's editorial
ends with a bit of history: "the U.S. has successfully pursued a
legalisation policy before, when it became clear that the Nixon
administration's attempts to stamp out Turkish opium farming was
politically and socially impossible. Instead, they tried licensing
and a preferential trade agreement, which proved highly effective."
The U.K.'s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, continues the
politician's standard repertoire of drug war smoke and mirrors.
After orchestrating a mighty media blast via a U.K.
government-sponsored report rehashing and spinning old studies into
a scary new reefer madness campaign to support the re-classification
of cannabis allowing police to arrest tokers, this week we learn
that Brown intends to cut drug treatment programs by over 10
percent. The 50 million UKP cuts, discovered from "an email leaked
to The Sunday Telegraph", drew heavy criticism. "He's been making
high profile announcements, like his war on cannabis, but the
reality is very different. This reeks of hypocrisy."
And finally this week, a warning from the oil-rich Arab Emirate of
Dubai, in the Persian Gulf: you can be arrested for testing positive
for cannabis. Last week, a UK citizen was sentenced to four years in
a Dubai prison for having a tenth of one gram of hashish. Stories
continue to come out of Dubai about foreigners jailed for years, for
having a few flakes of pot (0.07 gm). Or none at all, as a positive
test for illegal drugs is the same as possession. "Such was the fate
of an 18-year-old Egyptian boy who smoked a cigarette containing
hashish a day before he flew to the UAE this year. Traces of the
drug were found in his blood and he was jailed... for four years."
We begin this week's review of international drug policy news with a Miami Herald article announcing that Plan Colombia (dousing Colombia with plant poisons -- glyphosate) is going to switch to manual eradication of coca plants. Stated President Alvaro Uribe: "Instead of uniting Colombians around the idea of eradicating drugs, [spraying] causes complaints and provokes reactions against eradication." Colombian papers cheered the move, as did "the government in neighboring Ecuador, for whom aerial spraying along the border had become a major diplomatic issue with Colombia." It remains to be seen how this Colombian-led move to stop the spraying will be tolerated in the boardroom of Dyncorp, as well as the U.S. Congress.
From the U.K., an excellent editorial on opium policy: Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire versus Afghanistan. How can one explain to a poor Afghan farmer that his poppies are evil and illegal, but the poppies grown in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire back in England (not to mention the poppies grown in Tasmania, or India, or Turkey), why those poppies are right and proper and legal? Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire grows "poppies for the pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith, which makes medical opiates and is eager for new sources of raw material because of a worldwide shortage of morphine and similar drugs." The Independent's editorial ends with a bit of history: "the U.S. has successfully pursued a legalisation policy before, when it became clear that the Nixon administration's attempts to stamp out Turkish opium farming was politically and socially impossible. Instead, they tried licensing and a preferential trade agreement, which proved highly effective."
The U.K.'s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, continues the politician's standard repertoire of drug war smoke and mirrors. After orchestrating a mighty media blast via a U.K. government-sponsored report rehashing and spinning old studies into a scary new reefer madness campaign to support the re-classification of cannabis allowing police to arrest tokers, this week we learn that Brown intends to cut drug treatment programs by over 10 percent. The 50 million UKP cuts, discovered from "an email leaked to The Sunday Telegraph", drew heavy criticism. "He's been making high profile announcements, like his war on cannabis, but the reality is very different. This reeks of hypocrisy."
And finally this week, a warning from the oil-rich Arab Emirate of Dubai, in the Persian Gulf: you can be arrested for testing positive for cannabis. Last week, a UK citizen was sentenced to four years in a Dubai prison for having a tenth of one gram of hashish. Stories continue to come out of Dubai about foreigners jailed for years, for having a few flakes of pot (0.07 gm). Or none at all, as a positive test for illegal drugs is the same as possession. "Such was the fate of an 18-year-old Egyptian boy who smoked a cigarette containing hashish a day before he flew to the UAE this year. Traces of the drug were found in his blood and he was jailed... for four years."
(19) POLICY SHIFTS IN ERADICATION OF COCA CROPS ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2007
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Miami Herald
Author: Sibylla Brodzinsky, Special to the Miami Herald
Colombia Announced It Will Favor Manual Eradication of Coca Crops Over the Current System, Which Focuses Heavily on Aerial Spraying
BOGOTA -- In a major policy shift likely to get both praise and close examination in Washington, Colombia has announced it will favor manual eradication of coca crops over the current system that focuses heavily on aerial fumigation.
"Instead of uniting Colombians around the idea of eradicating drugs, [aerial spraying] causes complaints and provokes reactions against eradication," President Alvaro Uribe said in a July 20 speech in which he announced the shift. He said spraying would remain only a "marginal" part of the counter-drug strategy.
Many longtime critics of the fumigation policy applauded the decision, including the government in neighboring Ecuador, for whom aerial spraying along the border had become a major diplomatic issue with Colombia.
In an editorial, Colombia's main newspaper El Tiempo also cheered the change. 'Announcing a reduction in aerial spraying and reinforcing manual eradication is the first step for Colombia to formulate an anti-narcotics strategy that answers to more than just 'recommendations' from Washington," the editorial said.
"It's an evolution [of the policy], . . . We are going to give more importance to the manual eradication than to aerial fumigation," Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos confirmed last week to reporters in Washington, where he was discussing the new plans with U.S. policymakers and lobbying Congress to allow more flexibility in the use of U.S. counter-drug aid.
"Manual eradication can be more effective and, at times, cheaper," Santos added.
Colombia has received nearly $5 billion over the past seven years, mostly for the war on drugs, making it the largest recipient of U.S. assistance in the Western Hemisphere.
Analysts warn, however, that any eradication efforts not accompanied by comprehensive efforts to give farmers a legal alternative to coca growing are doomed to fail.
"The farmers have to be taken into account. Otherwise, they will just wait for the eradicators to leave, and they will replant," said Astrid Puente of the environmental group AIDA, which monitors fumigation in Colombia.
Miami Herald correspondent Pablo Bachelet contributed to this report from Washington.
(20) THE BITTER HARVEST OF AN ILLOGICAL POLICY ( Top )
Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jul 2007
Source: Independent (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Thomas Sutcliffe
For those of you who like brainteasers, here is a conundrum. Last Tuesday in the Lords, the freshly ennobled Lord Malloch Brown, Minister of State at the FCO with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, was coming clean about the failure to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan. He said: "It is a terrible black mark on the international community's performance in Afghanistan ... that so far we have not prevailed in the efforts to defeat the growth of this pernicious crop."
And the puzzle I would set you is this: how would you explain to an Afghan farmer who has just seen his livelihood destroyed that in several rural provinces of England - all areas where the writ of the British Government still runs - the cultivation of opium poppies has recently increased markedly, with the explicit approval of the authorities?
It's true that the farmers of Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire who have recently turned fields over to the cultivation of opium poppies aren't selling their crop to drug dealers, or at least not to outlawed ones. They're growing the poppies for the pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith, which makes medical opiates and is eager for new sources of raw material because of a worldwide shortage of morphine and similar drugs.
As the Senlis Council, a development think-tank, has reported, the U.S. has successfully pursued a legalisation policy before, when it became clear that the Nixon administration's attempts to stamp out Turkish opium farming was politically and socially impossible. Instead, they tried licensing and a preferential trade agreement, which proved highly effective. Perhaps Gordon Brown could suggest that George Bush might emulate the Taliban and Richard Nixon, and put practical results ahead of ideological purity. It's not the plant that's pernicious, it's the policy.
(21) GORDON BROWN CUTS UKP50M FROM DRUGS WORK ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jul 2007
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2007
Author: Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor, Sunday Telegraph
The flagship government scheme for treating drug addicts faces singeing budget cuts of UKP50 million, it can be revealed today.
Drug treatment programme: Gordon Brown cuts UKP50m from drugs work Spending on drug treatment programmes faces cuts
Plans to slash total funding by more than 12 per cent, outlined in an email leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, come less than a fortnight after Gordon Brown tried to show off his anti-drug credentials by signalling his desire to reclassify cannabis from Class C to the more serious Class B.
Last night, the Conservatives accused the Prime Minister of hypocrisy.
Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said last night: "When he was chancellor, Gordon Brown always used to hide the bad news in the small print. Now he's Prime Minister, we're finding the same thing.
"He's been making high profile announcements, like his war on cannabis, but the reality is very different. This reeks of hypocrisy."
On its Tackling Drugs, Changing Lives website, the Home Office trumpets successive increases in PTB funding. It boasts: "Drug treatment continues to be a major priority."
Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: "It is extremely concerning that the expectation among officials is of cuts in funding. The Prime Minister has spoken of the need to improve drug treatment, but this is difficult to reconcile with behind-the-scenes discussion of cuts being on the table."
(22) TOURISTS SENTENCED TO FOUR YEARS IN A DUBAI JAIL FOR CARRYING ( Top )
Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jul 2007
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd
Author: Michael Theodoulou
Two Britons visiting Dubai have each been jailed for four years for possessing tiny amounts of soft drugs for personal use.
The harsh sentences highlight the zero-tolerance policy to all drugs enforced by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven Gulf states. A mere speck of a drug forgotten in a trouser pocket can bring a four-year jail term.
One of the Britons, aged 22 and identified only by his initials, PP, was arrested at Dubai airport on June 7 when 0.11 grams (0.04oz) of hashish were found in his bag, according to local media reports. The amount would barely be enough to make one joint.
Since January last year possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in four-year jail terms for foreigners in transit through Dubai.
"The presence of drugs in the body is counted as possession," the Foreign Office cautions. In other words, travellers can be jailed even if they have no drugs on them: a trace in the blood-stream of a drug consumed before entering the UAE is enough to secure a jail term.
Such was the fate of an 18-year-old Egyptian boy who smoked a cigarette containing hashish a day before he flew to the UAE this year. Traces of the drug were found in his blood and he was jailed in April by a court in the emirate of Fujairah for four years.
HOT OFF THE 'NET ( Top )
SPLIFF SPLIT ( Top )
Why don't more Republicans oppose the DEA's medical marijuana raids?
By Jacob Sullum, August 1, 2007
GETTING BUSTED FOR POT CAN COST YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ( Top )
By Silja J.A. Talvi, In These Times, July 31, 2007.
Once you've been arrested for the harsh anti-marijuana laws on the books, you can be denied everything from food stamps to voting rights to the right to adopt a child.
CULTURAL BAGGAGE RADIO SHOW ( Top )
Tonight: 08/03/07 - Valerie Corral, dir of Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Listen Live Fridays 8:00 PM, ET, 7:00 CT, 6:00 MT & 5:00 PT at http://www.kpft.org/
Last: 07/27/07 - Eric Sterling, President Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and LEAP member, Drug War Facts, Poppygate, Dr. Mitch Earleywine on MJ plus Psychosis and Bruce Mirken of Marijuana Policy Project
RETURN WITH ME NOW TO THE THRILLING DAYS WHEN MARIJUANA WAS SPELLED ( Top )
Today is the 70th anniversary of the Marihuana Tax Act, which Franklin Roosevelt signed into law on August 2, 1937.
By Jacob Sullum, August 2, 2007
DRUG TREATMENT ISN'T A SILVER BULLET ( Top )
Memo to Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Al Gore III
By Anthony Papa, AlterNet, August 3, 2007.
It is time to treat addiction for what it is, a medical problem, not a criminal one -- even for celebrities who rely on rehab clinics to bail them out and continue driving down that road to oblivion.
MORE SHODDY REEFER MADNESS REPORTING OF CANNABIS RISKS ( Top )
By Steve Rolles, Transform Drug Policy Foundation
A QUESTION FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ( Top )
Dean Becker of Houston Texas has a question to the Republican Candidates: The drug war has cost our nation more than $11 Trillion dollars thus far, is it not time to tax, regulate and actually control the distribution of these drugs to adults?
WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS WEEK ( Top )
PLEASE REFUTE REEFER MANIA ( Top )
A DrugSense Focus Alert
LETTER OF THE WEEK ( Top )
CANNABIS HEALTH RISKS CALL FOR EDUCATION, NOT PROHIBITION ( Top )
By Paul Armentano
Re: Marijuana's scary science, July 26.
Columnist Margret Kopala's claims that cannabis use is a causal factor in mental illness are far from scientifically established. At best, an observable association between cannabis use and mental illness has been established in a minority of users; however, much of this association may stem from the use of other drugs or from individuals with psychotic symptoms self-medicating with marijuana.
More important, such potential health risks associated with cannabis use -- when scientifically documented -- should not be seen as legitimate reasons for criminal prohibition. Rather, such effects support the call for legally regulating marijuana so that officials can better educate users on its potential risks, and so that better safeguards may be enacted restricting its use among potentially vulnerable populations, especially young people.
Ms. Kopala's remarks, even if taken at face value, no more warrant the continued criminalization of pot than does the desire that pregnant women refrain from alcohol warrant the blanket prohibition of booze.
Paul Armentano, Washington, D.C. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
FEATURE ARTICLE ( Top )
REEFER INANITY: NEVER TRUST THE MEDIA ON POT ( Top )
By Maia Szalavitz
Watching the media cover marijuana is fascinating, offering deep insight into conventional wisdom, bias and failure to properly place science in context. The coverage of a new study claiming that marijuana increases the risk of later psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia by 40% displays many of these flaws.
What are the key questions reporters writing about such a study needs to ask? First, can the research prove causality? Most of the reporting here, to its credit, establishes at some point that it cannot, though you have to read pretty far down in some of it to understand this.
Second -- and this is where virtually all of the coverage falls flat - -- if marijuana produces what seems like such a large jump in risk for schizophrenia, have schizophrenia rates increased in line with marijuana use rates? A quick search of Medline shows that this is not the case -- in fact, as I noted here earlier, some experts think they may actually have fallen. Around the world, roughly 1% of the population has schizophrenia ( and another 2% or so have other psychotic disorders ), and this proportion doesn't seem to change much. It is not correlated with population use rates of marijuana.
Since marijuana use rates have skyrocketed since the 1940's and 50's, going from single digit percentages of the population trying it to a peak of some 60% of high school seniors trying it in 1979 ( stabilizing thereafter at roughly 50% of each high school class ), we would expect to see this trend have some visible effect on the prevalence of schizophrenia and other psychoses.
When cigarette smoking barreled through the population, lung cancer rose in parallel; when smoking rates fell, lung cancer rates fell. This is not the case with marijuana and psychotic disorders; if it were, we'd be seeing an epidemic of psychosis.
But readers of the AP, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and Reuters were not presented with this information. While CBS/WebMD mentioned the absence of a surge in schizophrenia, it did so by quoting an advocate of marijuana policy reform, rather than citing a study or quoting a doctor. This slants the story by pitting an advocate with an agenda against a presumably neutral medical authority.
Furthermore, very little of the coverage put the risk in context. A 40% increase in risk sounds scary, and this was the risk linked to trying marijuana once, not to heavy use. To epidemiologists, however, a 40% increase is not especially noteworthy-- they usually don't find risk factors worth worrying about until the number hits at least 200% and some major journals won't publish studies unless the risk is 300 or even 400%. The marijuana paper did find that heavy use increased risk by 200-300%, but that's hardly as sexy as try marijuana once, increase your risk of schizophrenia by nearly half!
By contrast, one study found that alcohol has been found to increase the risk of psychosis by 800% for men and 300% for women. Although this study was not a meta-analysis ( which looks at multiple studies, as the marijuana research did ), it certainly is worth citing to help readers get a sense of the magnitude of the risk in comparison with other drugs linked to psychosis.
Of course, if journalists wanted to do that, they would also cite researchers who disagree with the notion that marijuana poses a large risk of inducing psychosis at all, such as Oxford's Leslie Iversen, author of one of the key texts on psychopharmacology, who told the Times of London that
"Despite a thorough review the authors admit that there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use causes psychotic illness. Their prediction that 14 per cent of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years."
Such comments don't help the media stir up reefer madness, which they've been doing, quite successfully, for the last few decades. Perhaps covering the marijuana beat makes you crazy.
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: Huffington Post (US Web)
Copyright: 2007 HuffingtonPost com, Inc.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK ( Top )
"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." -- Albert Einstein
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