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A Slight Drawdown in the War on Drugs

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Patience please
Patience please

((During one of this humble blog’s fallow periods, the David Simon incident mentioned below occurred at the White House. An incident custom made for my particular interests, and yet I’m pretty sure I only tweeted about it. Oh well.))

The War on Drugs has been dialed back a bit from the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush years, but it does continue. Too many laws have been passed encouraging civil forfeiture, encouraging stripping drug offenders of their voting rights and other civil liberties for the war to ended. President Obama and A.G. Eric Holder have slightly de-escalated the conflict, and various states in the US are de-escalating aspects of the conflict on their own citizens’ initiatives, but too many people are in jail for the crime of altering their own consciousnesses. 

Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker writes:

In May, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder invited several cast members from the HBO series “The Wire” to Washington, D.C., to help promote a Justice Department initiative called the Drug Endangered Children’s Task Force. “The Wire,” which aired for five seasons and was acclaimed for its nuanced portrayal of the war on drugs, was a favorite of both Holder and President Obama. Holder jokingly ordered the show’s creators, David Simon and Ed Burns, to produce a sixth season. “I have a lot of power,” he said. “The Attorney General’s kind remarks are noted and appreciated,” Simon told a reporter. “We are prepared to go to work on Season 6 of ‘The Wire’ if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive, and dehumanizing drug prohibition.” Fans groaned in despair: the improbable sixth season now seemed to hinge on something even less likely, an end to the war on drugs. But the exchange was significant for reasons beyond its implications for HBO’s programming. Although the catastrophic consequences of that war are widely acknowledged, there is less clarity about what ending it would entail.

The United States has declared war on cancer, on pornography, and on terror, and the lesson to be gleaned from those campaigns is that, unlike most other wars, those declared against common nouns seldom come to a precisely defined conclusion. The wars on cancer and pornography were really instances in which martial language was used to bolster particular policy initiatives by the Administrations that enacted them. The war on drugs has been a multitiered campaign that has enlisted legislation, private-sector initiatives, executive-branch support, and public will. But it actually looks like a war, with military-style armaments, random violence, and significant numbers of people taken prisoner. It has been prosecuted throughout eight Administrations and has had the type of social and cultural impact that few things short of real warfare do. During the Civil War, more than a quarter of a million Southern men died, creating the phenomenon of a vast number of female-headed households throughout the region. Mass incarceration during the war on drugs has produced a similar phenomenon among African-American households.

(click here to continue reading A Drawdown in the War on Drugs – The New Yorker.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 25th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , , ,

Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with perjury

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Police Line - Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross.

In a just world, these officers would all serve time in prison. Knowing our skewed justice system, they will not spend a moment in jail. The state’s attorney’s office must have been pretty pissed at these guys to file felony perjury charges.

Three Chicago police officers and a Glenview police officer have been charged with lying under oath in court during a drug case last year.

The officers — Chicago police Sgt. James Padar, Officer William Pruente, Officer Vince Morgan and Glenview Officer James Horn — have been charged with felony perjury, according to a statement issued early Monday by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The charges come after a video contradicted the officers’ sworn testimony during a March 2014 court hearing on whether evidence in the drug case had been properly obtained.

The other officers took the stand and backed up Pruente’s version of the stop, to one degree or another, before Sperling’s lawyer played police video of the traffic stop.

The video, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune, showed Pruente walking up to the car, reaching through the open driver’s window, unlocking the door and having Sperling step out of the car. Sperling was then frisked, handcuffed and led to a squad car while his car was searched.

 

(click here to continue reading Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with lying in drug case – Chicago Tribune.)

The digital revolution has changed our society in many ways, many negative1 but also in one undeniably positive way. So many citizens now have the capability to record what actually happens during interactions with law enforcement. We are learning that police cannot be trusted to tell the truth unless they know there is contrary evidence. How many drug arrests over the decades come down to the word of a police officer cited as incontrovertible evidence? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

Footnotes:
  1. planned obsolescence leading to massive amounts of environmental pollution, stripping our planet of resources to feed the insatiable maw, isolating people from human contact, etc. []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Posted in crime,News-esque

Tagged with , ,

Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on Susan Shapiro’s self-serving narrative

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High Voltage Grass
High Voltage Grass.

Susan Shapiro claims to have been a cannabis addict for decades, and has turned this former addiction into a career, including books, articles and so on. 

For instance, the Chicago Tribune published this bit of op-ed agit-prop today:

I know the dark side. I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana, like pizza, to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.

(click here to continue reading So you think marijuana isn’t addictive – Chicago Tribune.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt Ms. Shapiro had a problem with addiction; I don’t doubt her anecdotes, but I’m skeptical that this reefer madness essay should be the underpinning of national anti-drug policy. Especially since so many of her citations don’t hold up to even the quickest of fact-checks.

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs

I was going to point out flaws in her argument, but in the beginning stages of researching, discovered instead a rebuttal by Paul Armentano, published in the LA Times.1

 Mr. Armentano make points such as:

Many of Shapiro’s claims regarding pot’s risk potential are unsupported by the scientific literature. For instance, she expresses concerns that some cannabis products possess greater THC content today than in the past while ignoring the reality that most consumers regulate their intake accordingly. (When consuming more potent pot, most consumers typically ingest lesser quantities.) Further, THC itself is a comparatively nontoxic substance, having been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration in 1986 and descheduled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999 (to a Class 3 drug from a Class 2) because of its stellar safety record. 

The author further asserts that cannabis “contributes” to 12% of traffic fatalities in the United States. But the purported source of this claim alleges nothing of the sort. In fact, the study in question solely assessed the prevalence of cannabis or its inert metabolites in injured drivers. (These metabolites, the authors state, may linger in the blood for up to a week following ingestion and should not be presumed to be a measurement of drug impairment.) The study’s authors make no claims in regard to whether these drivers were under the influence of pot or whether their driving behavior was responsible for an accident.

Further, studies evaluating whether marijuana-positive drivers are more likely to be culpable in traffic accidents find that the plant typically plays little role in auto fatalities. According to a 2012 review paper of 66 studies assessing drug-positive drivers and crash risk, marijuana-positive drivers possessed an odds-adjusted risk of traffic injury of 1.10 and an odds-adjusted risk of fatal accident of 1.26. This risk level was among the lowest of any drugs assessed by the study’s author and it was comparable to the odds ratio associated with penicillin (1.12), antihistamines (1.12) and antidepressants (1.35). By contrast, a 2013 study published in the journal Injury Prevention reported that drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.01% were “46% more likely to be officially blamed for a crash than are the sober drivers they collide with.”

 

(click here to continue reading Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on an ex-pothead’s experience – LA Times.)

or on the IQ question:

Shapiro also repeats the specious claim that cannabis use lowers intelligence quotient. But a review of a highly publicized 2012 study purporting to link adolescent pot use to lower IQ later in life determined that once economic variables were factored into the assessment, cannabis’ actual effect was likely to be “zero.” The findings of a previous longitudinal study from Canada that tracked the IQs of a group of marijuana users and non-users from birth similarly concluded, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”

One other minor point: even in Shapiro’s anecdotes, one gets the sense that if our national drug laws were more sane, she wouldn’t have to go to shady neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night to score, instead she could have just bought something that wasn’t oregano at her local organic cannabis dispensary.

Footnotes:
  1. I wonder if the Chicago Tribune plans on running the rebuttal in tomorrow’s paper? Probably not []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 8th, 2015 at 10:27 am

Posted in government,health

Tagged with , ,

The Ridiculous Required White House Response on Marijuana

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

When we talk about how dysfunctional American politics is, here is a prime example. Talk about ridiculous “make-work” jobs, sheesh, thanks President Clinton, and Reagan, and Nixon…

When the White House issued a statement last night saying that marijuana should remain illegal — responding to our pro-legalization editorial series — officials there weren’t just expressing an opinion. They were following the law. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is required by statute to oppose all efforts to legalize any banned drug.

It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The “drug czar,” as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no “approved” medical use.

Marijuana fits that description, as do heroin and LSD. But unlike those far more dangerous drugs, marijuana has medical benefits that are widely known and are now officially recognized in 35 states. The drug czar, though, isn’t allowed to recognize them, and whenever any member of Congress tries to change that, the White House office is required to stand up and block the effort. It cannot allow any federal study that might demonstrate the rapidly changing medical consensus on marijuana’s benefits and its relative lack of harm compared to alcohol and tobacco.

(click here to continue reading The Required White House Response on Marijuana – NYTimes.com.)

via the always interesting and informative DrugWarRant.com

Ballin'
Ballin’

and more history of cannabis prohibition from the NYT Editorial Board:

The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason.

The cannabis plant, also known as hemp, was widely grown in the United States for use in fabric during the mid-19th century. The practice of smoking it appeared in Texas border towns around 1900, brought by Mexican immigrants who cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes as they had done at home.

Within 15 years or so, it was plentiful along the Texas border and was advertised openly at grocery markets and drugstores, some of which shipped small packets by mail to customers in other states.

The law enforcement view of marijuana was indelibly shaped by the fact that it was initially connected to brown people from Mexico and subsequently with black and poor communities in this country. Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of “immoral” populations who were promptly labeled “fiends.”

(click here to continue reading The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia – NYTimes.com.)

National Library of Medicine

Miarihuana – Weed With Roots In Hell! – An ad for the 1930s film “Marihuana.” Credit National Library of Medicine

Fascinating stuff, yet disheartening that decades of policy was built on xenophobia and intentional, malicious misinformation. You should click the link and read the rest of this overview.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 30th, 2014 at 9:13 am

Swedish Covenant wants to dispense medical pot

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 Remember the Past In the Future Perfect Tense

Remember the Past In the Future Perfect Tense

Why shouldn’t medical establishments be able to participate in the great Green Gold Rush?

Medical marijuana will soon be legally distributed in Illinois, and officials at Swedish Covenant Hospital on Chicago’s North Side say their pharmacy deserves to be among the dispensaries.

They say marijuana could benefit patients with cancer and other serious maladies, and that hospital pharmacists already dispense drugs that that are much more potentially dangerous than cannabis.

One problem, though: Pot, medical or otherwise, remains illegal under federal law, and any hospital that fills marijuana prescriptions risks its Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

So for now, Swedish Covenant officials say they can only try to influence the conversation about the distribution of medical marijuana, pointing out what they see as the illogical exclusion of hospital personnel.

“As long as there’s no change to the federal law, we couldn’t jeopardize services by becoming a dispensary … but we’re not afraid of making the noise,” said Marcia Jimenez, hospital director of intergovernmental affairs.

Hospitals around the country have grappled with this conundrum as more states pass medical marijuana laws. Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia permit medical use of the drug, but Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project said he is unaware of any hospital pharmacy that dispenses marijuana.

He said Maryland officials at first required medical marijuana to be distributed through hospitals, but dropped the idea when none would do it.

Marijuana’s continuing illegality under federal law, Lindsey said, “places large organizations such as hospitals in a very risky position, which could lead to criminal charges for officers, doctors or investors, and possible asset forfeiture for hospital property. There is too much on the line for hospitals to go there.”

(click here to continue reading Swedish Covenant wants to dispense medical pot – chicagotribune.com.)

Needed Somewhere To Go
Needed Somewhere To Go

And the federal government really needs to update their policy to reflect the will of the American citizen. Cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the government considers it worse than cocaine, opioids,  methamphetamine, and other powerful inebriants. Nonsensical.

From Wikipedia, the definition of Schedule 1 drugs includes these:

The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

(click here to continue reading List of Schedule I drugs (US) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Yeah, cannabis doesn’t really fit this definition now, does it? High potential for abuse? Uhh, no, not really. No medical use in treatment? Uh, except in states which are collectively 75% of the US population. The third point is the biggest laugh of all: how many people have died from too much consumption of marijuana? Zero. Unless you die from a bale of marijuana falling on you, or you get in a knife fight with a drunk…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 8:29 am

Beer Baron John Hickenlooper Hates The Cannabis Competition

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Ballin'
Ballin’

What nearly amuses me is that Beer Baron John Hickenlooper is so opposed, still, to citizens of his state taking positive steps towards ending the ridiculous drug war in the US. The vote wasn’t even very close, considering. No, if Gov Hickenlooper had his way, only beer should be legal…

Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper has a firm answer to other U.S. governors asking him about marijuana as source of revenue: Just say no.

Hickenlooper said yesterday that about a half-dozen called or asked him at this weekend’s National Governors Association meeting in Washington about his state’s experience legalizing recreational pot. They want to know about the potential to collect money and avoid the costs of enforcement and incarceration, he said.

Colorado projected last week that sales would generate more than $100 million a year toward a general fund of about $9 billion. But Hickenlooper, who opposed legalizing marijuana, said he’s telling fellow governors that he’s not counting on it to lower other taxes or for spending — and that they shouldn’t, either.

(click here to continue reading Colorado’s Experience With Legal Pot Has U.S. Governors Curious – Bloomberg.)

and this is despite admitting in his own state budget that legal cannabis sales could reach $1,000,000,000 in their very first year! Just consider that for a second: a newly legal industry that already is this significant, despite foot dragging from the Beer Baron, and others of his ilk who hold anachronistic viewpoints about the demon weed.

Beer Money at the MCA
Beer Money at the MCA

new budget numbers predicted that those marijuana taxes could add more than $100 million a year to state coffers, far more than earlier estimates.

The figures offered one of the first glimpses into how the bustling market for recreational marijuana was beginning to reshape government bottom lines — an important question as marijuana advocates push to expand legalization beyond Colorado and Washington State into states including Arizona, Alaska and Oregon.

In Colorado, where recreational sales began on Jan. 1 with hourlong waits, a budget proposal from Gov. John W. Hickenlooper estimated that the state’s marijuana industry could reach $1 billion in sales in the next fiscal year, with recreational sales making up about $610 million of that business.

“It’s well on its way to being a billion-dollar industry,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a Colorado trade association. “We went from 110,000 medical marijuana patients to four billion people in the world who are 21 and up.”

In the budget proposal that Mr. Hickenlooper released Wednesday, his office said the state could collect about $134 million in taxes from recreational and medical marijuana for the fiscal year beginning in July.

(click here to continue reading Colorado Expects to Reap Tax Bonanza From Legal Marijuana Sales – NYTimes.com.)

Shiner Bock in Lower Yurtistan
Shiner Bock in Lower Yurtistan

and the truth is that Gov Hickenlooper is just a hypocrite, a politician, in other words:

But the state’s Democratic governor said he “hates” his state’s legal weed “experiment.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper revealed his feelings about marijuana legalization to the Durango Herald’s editorial board Friday.

“I hate Colorado having to be the experiment,” he told the newspaper.

The governor said he intends the regulation of legal weed to be even more strenuous than alcohol. “We are going to regulate the living daylights out of it,” he told the Herald.

Hickenlooper was a beer brewer before governor and made his fortune from selling alcoholic beverages — a fortune that wouldn’t have been possible had the U.S. not ended its prohibition on alcohol in 1933. The irony that he hates the the end of another drug’s prohibition in Colorado was not lost on Marijuana Policy Project’s communications director, Mason Tvert.

“I doubt Gov. Hickenlooper felt like he was participating in an experiment when he was making a living selling alcohol in a legal market,” Tvert told The Huffington Post. “Our state has been successfully regulating alcohol for quite some time, so regulating a less harmful substance like marijuana is hardly something new. Does the governor want to go back to a system in which cartels control marijuana instead of licensed businesses and thousands of responsible adults are punished each year simply for using it? We let that experiment go on for 80 years and it never worked.”

Tvert also called out the governor for suggesting that marijuana should be more heavily regulated than alcohol. “Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is less toxic than alcohol, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior,” Tvert said. “If he is truly concerned about public health, he should be encouraging adults to consider making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol when they are socializing or relaxing after work.”

(click here to continue reading Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Hates His State’s Legal Weed ‘Experiment’.)

Wouldn’t our society be better off if fatties were smoked at sports arenas instead of endless 20 oz mugs of beer? Not to say that pot smokers can’t be aggressive or violent, but let your own experience with drunks be a guide. 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 24th, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Preckwinkle tells the truth: Reagan deserves special place in hell for war on drugs

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

Kudos to Ms. Toni Preckwinkle for speaking the truth. Earlier editions of this story didn’t mention the subsequent dialing back…

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.

The comment from Preckwinkle, known more for a reserved, straight-ahead political style, came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who’s now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.

Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”

(click here to continue reading Preckwinkle regrets saying Reagan deserves ‘special place in hell’ for war on drugs – chicagotribune.com.)

If I ever have a chance to meet Ms. Preckwinkle, I’d like to shake her hand – too many politicians bend their knee to the War on Drugs, despite the facts.

Patience please
Patience please

While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.

“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.

The resulting policies have had the effect of sending young African Americans and Latinos to jail and prison in disproportionate numbers, she said. They also have driven up government costs and damaged communities, she said.

“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jeralyn Merritt, of the seminal blog Talk Left, wrote this about Saintly Ron back in 2004:

three of [Reagan’s] less-than-endearing legacies deserve to be highlighted

Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.

Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing, which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor… Did the law nab Pablo Escobar? No. The law’s first conquest was David Ronald Chandler, known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie grew marijuana in a small town in rural, northeast Alabama. About 300 pounds a year. Ronnie was sentenced to death for supposedly hiring someone to kill his brother-in-law. The witness against him later recanted.

As a result of these flawed drug policies initiated by then President Reagan, (and continued by Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) the number of those imprisoned in America has quadrupled to over 2 million. These are legacies that groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums are still fighting today. Even George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, acknowledged in 2001 that the War on Drugs is a flop.

In Smoke and Mirrors, Dan Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, provides a detailed account of the politics surrounding Reagan’s war on drugs.

Conservative parents’ groups opposed to marijuana had helped to ignite the Reagan Revolution. Marijuana symbolized the weakness and permissiveness of a liberal society; it was held responsible for the slovenly appearance of teenagers and their lack of motivation. Carlton Turner, Reagan’s first drug czar, believed that marijuana use was inextricably linked to “the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations.” A public-health approach to drug control was replaced by an emphasis on law enforcement. Drug abuse was no longer considered a form of illness; all drug use was deemed immoral, and punishing drug offenders was thought to be more important than getting them off drugs. The drug war soon became a bipartisan effort, supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Nothing was to be gained politically by defending drug abusers from excessive punishment.

(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Drug War Legacy | Alternet.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 21st, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Dr. Gabriel Nahas, Researcher Who Waged a Campaign Against Marijuana, Dies at 92

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo

Dr. Gabriel G. Nahas, a controversial medical researcher who became a prominent crusader against marijuana after being shocked to hear, at a PTA meeting in 1969, about the drug’s widespread use, died on June 28 in Manhattan. He was 92.

Dr. Nahas did research to find the physiological effects of smoking marijuana, wrote 10 books on the drug and became a leader of antidrug organizations. He was a visible ally of Nancy Reagan in her “just say no” to drugs campaign as the first lady in the 1980s.

Dr. Nahas saw his antidrug campaign as nothing less than a continuation of the fight against totalitarianism, which for him began during World War II as a decorated leader of the French Resistance; like totalitarianism, he believed, drugs enslaved the mind.

In 1972, he published his first book about the dangers of the drug, “Marihuana: Deceptive Weed.” In 1974, he announced that he had discovered a link between the drug and the body’s immune system. “The findings represent the first direct evidence of cellular damage from marijuana in man,” he said in a statement.

But scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studied the chromosomes of volunteers who smoked marijuana, found no deficiency in immune responses and no chromosome abnormalities, which Dr. Nahas had also predicted. Nevertheless, Dr. Nahas suggested that the results prompt reconsideration of a recent government report that marijuana’s dangers were less than those of alcohol.

His willingness to make strong political and social judgments was again evident in his more popular 1976 book, “Keep Off the Grass,” which contended that every marijuana user was a “pusher” of the drug.

Dr. Nahas’s conservatism extended beyond narcotics. In the 1970s, he marshaled his newly public persona to sign newspaper advertisements criticizing opponents of the Vietnam War.

 

(click here to continue reading Dr. Gabriel Nahas, Researcher Who Waged a Campaign Against Marijuana, Dies at 92 – NYTimes.com.)

What a sad thing to be remembered by history for doing: for causing hundreds of thousands of otherwise innocent people to be incarcerated. Marijuana is a plant – consuming it should not lead to losing ones citizenship and voting rights, should not lead to being raped in prison, should not lead to destruction of one’s freedoms. Dr. Nahas was an evil, misinformed man, if he was responsible for the Drug War, and Nancy Reagan’s ill-guided crusade against cannabis.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 8th, 2012 at 8:38 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , ,

Reefer Roadshow Asks Seniors to Support Medical Pot

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Big Pot of Smiley Faces
Big Pot of Smiley Faces

Seems like a smart strategy, actually. A lot of older people have only heard anti-marijuana propaganda, so are fearful of the reefer madness. Once they are educated as to the realities of cannabis consumption, they would be much less vehemently opposed to decriminalization.

LAKE WORTH, Fla.—Selma Yeshion, an 83-year-old retiree here, says she long considered marijuana a menace. “I thought it was something that was addictive” and “would lead to harder drugs,” she says.

Then she attended a presentation at the local L’Dor Va-Dor synagogue in April put on by a group called the Silver Tour. The group aims to persuade seniors to support legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in Florida. A series of speakers, including a doctor, a patient and several advocates, argued that pot was just what the silver-haired set needed to combat conditions like chronic pain and insomnia.

 Ms. Yeshion was sold. “I want to get some cannabis,” she said afterward, with a big smile. “I have pain in my back, so it would be nice. Damn it to hell, I want to try it once in my lifetime.”

Count one more convert for the Silver Tour, which has been delivering its pot pitch at retirement communities and places of worship around the state.

Robert Platshorn, 69 years old, decided to focus on his fellow seniors—a group that isn’t exactly high on the idea of medical marijuana. People who are 65 and older helped sink a 2010 ballot initiative to legalize pot in California, voting 66% against it, more than any other age group, according to exit polls.

“Nobody in the marijuana movement is talking to seniors,” Mr. Platshorn says. Yet “seniors are the only damn people that go to the polls.” In Florida, people 65 and older represent 24% of eligible voters compared with 18% nationally, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group. Six more states debated legalization bills in legislative sessions this year, he says.

According to a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cannabis can potentially help with pain relief, nausea reduction and appetite stimulation, among other things. The study also noted that possible adverse effects include diminished motor skills and dysphoria, or unpleasant feelings.

(click here to continue reading Joint Effort: Reefer Roadshow Asks Seniors to Support Medical Pot – WSJ.com.)

KAM Isaiah Israel
KAM Isaiah Israel

and this made me giggle:

Barry Silver, the congregation’s wisecracking rabbi, told the audience that his board was a little nervous about having a group promote medical marijuana at the synagogue. “Don’t worry about it,” he says he replied. “Why do you think the holiest day of the year is the High Holy Day?”

 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 29th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Posted in health,News-esque

Tagged with ,

How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death

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Painted Trees Overlooking LSD
Painted Trees Overlooking LSD1

Psychedelic drugs have a lot of potential, especially if we can separate the puritanical Drug-War impulses of politicians from science.

Pam Sakuda was 55 when she found out she was dying. Shortly after having a tumor removed from her colon, she heard the doctor’s dreaded words: Stage 4; metastatic.…As her fears intensified, Sakuda learned of a study being conducted by Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. Twenty-two months before she died, Sakuda became one of Grob’s 12 subjects. When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics. Michael Mithoefer, for instance, has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Halpern has examined case studies of people with cluster headaches who took LSD and reported their symptoms greatly diminished. And psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions.

Despite the promise of these investigations, Grob and other end-of-life researchers are careful about the image they cultivate, distancing themselves as much as possible from the 1960s, when psychedelics were embraced by many and used in a host of controversial studies, most famously the psilocybin project run by Timothy Leary. Grob described the rampant drug use that characterized the ’60s as “out of control” and said of his and others’ current research, “We are trying to stay under the radar. We want to be anti-Leary.” Halpern agreed. “We are serious sober scientists,” he told me.

(click here to continue reading How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death – NYTimes.com.)

Bear in mind, marijuana is sometimes considered a psychedelic drug, and the US still hasn’t stopped demonizing it, despite the number of successful pot smokers who partake (or have partook)…

Quoting myself:

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is by far one of the most ridiculous wastes of taxpayer money in our nation. Their mandate is to convince young folks that marijuana is a demon weed, and that one toke will corrupt young minds forever, and ever, amen. A current ad asserts that if you partake of cannabis, the only career options left for you will be comical dead-end jobs like “Burrito Taster” and “Couch Security Guard” and so on.

[and from The Agitator: Successful Pot Smokers: Let’s Make a List

Barack Obama, president-elect. Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the U.S. John Kerry, U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic nominee for president. John Edwards, multi-millionaire, former U.S. Senator, and 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, 2008 Republican nominee for vice president. British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, and and Chancellor Alistair Darling. Josh Howard, NBA all-star. New York Governor David Paterson. Former Vice President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Oscar winner Al Gore. Former Sen. Bill Bradley, who smoked while playing professional basketball. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former New York Governor George Pataki. Billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

That’s the result of a five-minute Google search. The presence of so many high-ranking politicians so early in the search results puts the lie to the ONDCP’s ridiculous ad campaign, and shows that to the extent that marijuana is harmful, the harm lies mostly in what the government will do to you to you if it catches you

Footnotes:
  1. Lake Shore Drive, but seems a bit trippy to me []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 20th, 2012 at 11:30 am

Posted in government,science

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LSD helps alcoholics to give up drinking

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LSD and the heartbeat of a city

LSD and the heartbeat of a city

Another victim of Nixon’s ill-guided War on Drugs…

One dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD could help alcoholics give up drinking, according to an analysis of studies performed in the 1960s. A study, presented in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, looked at data from six trials and more than 500 patients. It said there was a “significant beneficial effect” on alcohol abuse, which lasted several months after the drug was taken. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology analysed earlier studies on the drug between 1966 and 1970.

Patients were all taking part in alcohol treatment programmes, but some were given a single dose of LSD of between 210 and 800 micrograms. For the group of patients taking LSD, 59% showed reduced levels of alcohol misuse compared with 38% in the other group.

This effect was maintained six months after taking the hallucinogen, but it disappeared after a year. Those taking LSD also reported higher levels of abstinence.

The report’s authors, Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen, said: “A single dose of LSD has a significant beneficial effect on alcohol misuse.”

They suggested that more regular doses might lead to a sustained benefit.

“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” they added.

(click here to continue reading BBC News – LSD ‘helps alcoholics to give up drinking’.)

Puzzling, until you recall that the United States government is adamantly opposed to scientists being able to even research drugs like psilocybin, LSD and marijuana, no matter how many promising studies occur. Tellingly, the US media has not, to my knowledge, published this story.
Update, just took a while. So far, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, and a few other not-quite mainstream players have seen fit to run a story.

Sometimes Darkness Is just a Dream
Sometimes Darkness Is just a Dream

The study is available here, as PDF, if you are interested in the details…

Alcohol is said to cause more overall harm than any other drug (Nutt et al., 2010). Alcohol contributes to about 4% of total mortality and about 5% of disability adjusted life-years to the global burden of disease (Rehm et al., 2009). Despite the often extreme individual and social consequences of alcohol misuse, many users find it challenging to stop drinking. Alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence, continues to be difficult to treat, and many patients do not achieve recovery from existing treatments (Schuckit, 2009).

Numerous clinical investigators have claimed that treating alcoholics with individual doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), in combination with psychosocial interventions, can help to prevent a relapse of alcohol misuse, for example, by eliciting insights into behavioural patterns and generating motivation to build a meaningful sober lifestyle (Dyck, 2008). LSD is well- known for inducing spectacular and profound effects on the mind (Henderson and Glass, 1994; Passie et al., 2008). It has previously been used in standard treatment programs for alcoholism at many clinics, but, unfortunately, assessments of the clinical value of LSD have not been based on formal systematic review and meta- analysis (Mangini, 1998). Hence, we have performed a quantita- tive evaluation of the effectiveness of LSD for alcoholism, based on data from randomized controlled clinical trials.

Methods Search strategy and selection criteria

We searched the PubMed and PsycINFO databases (1943–2010), without language restrictions, using the following terms: LSD, lysergic, lysergide, psychedelic*, or hallucinogen*; and alcohol*, addict*, or dependence. We independently inspected the searchresults by reading the titles and abstracts. We retrieved each potentially relevant publication located in the search and assessed it for inclusion, subsequently examining the reference lists of eligible studies and relevant review articles. We supplemented our search for trials by contacting experts. If publications lacked important information, we attempted to contact study investigators and institutions.

We specified inclusion and exclusion criteria and defined primary and secondary outcomes in the meta-analysis study protocol. We included randomized controlled trials of LSD for alcoholism, in which control condition involved any type of treatment, including doses of up to 50 mcg LSD as an active control. If a trial included multiple randomized treatment arms, all participants in the eligible LSD arms and all participants in the eligible control arms were pooled for analysis. We excluded participants with schizophrenia or psychosis from analysis, as psychosis is recognized as a contraindication for treatment with LSD (Johnson et al., 2008; Passie et al., 2008).

Written by Seth Anderson

March 9th, 2012 at 8:26 am

Posted in government,science

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Criminal Case Glut Impedes Civil Suits

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Circuit Court of Cook County
Circuit Court of Cook County

Seems like our litigious society has consequences, and not all good. If we stopped prosecuting low level drug offenses, our overcrowded courts could clear their glut a bit. Maybe there should be a five year moratorium on prosecuting marijuana offenses regarding amounts less than an ounce? Try it, see if the dockets clear up a bit…

An explosion of criminal prosecutions in the nation’s overextended federal courts has left civil litigants from bereaved spouses to corporate giants waiting years for their day in court.

The logjam, prompted particularly by criminal cases related to drugs and immigration, as well as by the proliferation of more-obscure federal criminal laws, threatens the functioning of the nation’s judicial system, say some judges and attorneys.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. has steadily added to the federal rule book through new criminal statutes and regulations that carry criminal penalties. Combined with beefed-up enforcement, that has led to a 70% jump in the number of pending federal criminal cases in the past decade—to over 76,000, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.
Civil litigation, which accounts for over three quarters of federal court cases, is getting squeezed the most. In 2007, fewer than 7% of civil cases were more than three years old. By last year, that percentage more than doubled, with nearly 45,000 cases in a holding pattern.

(click here to continue reading Criminal Case Glut Impedes Civil Suits – WSJ.com.)

Combo Post Office and Court House

Combination Post Office and Court House in Sitka, Alaska.

It doesn’t help that appointing judges to the bench has become part of our toxic partisan political system

Exacerbating the problem are vacancies on the federal bench. Despite the surge in case loads, the number of authorized federal judgeships has risen just 4% since 1990. Of the 677 district court judgeships currently authorized, about 9.5% are vacant.

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes

and these are just tickets, but still, to my mind this mentality is part of the problem:

A record number of drivers were issued cellphone violation tickets in Chicago for not using hands-free devices last year, translating into millions of dollars in revenue for the city, according to figures obtained by the Tribune.

And because of a change in the way those tickets are processed, the city doesn’t have to offer a cut on most of those fines to the state or Cook County, resulting in a loss of revenue for them, the newly released data show.

In 2010, Chicago police issued 23,292 tickets for using a cellphone while driving, the highest number of citations handed out in a single year for the offense. The number is a 73 percent increase from 2006, the first full year that the city’s cellphone law went into effect. The 2010 tickets brought in $2.2 million for the city, data show. The figures indicate the city has become more aggressive in issuing the violations, which are difficult to fight and come with a hefty fine that has increased from $50 to up to $500 in just five years.

“It’s pay short money now or pay long money later,” said Alvin Wooten, 42, a South Sider who has gotten two cellphone tickets and chose to pay the fines rather than face higher ones by contesting them.

(click here to continue reading Record number of drivers given cellphone violation tickets in Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)

Every little societal change involves laws, and enforcement of laws to change behavior. Some I can see (cellphone usage does impair driving), but not all…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 10th, 2011 at 8:17 am

Posted in News-esque

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Public ahead of Prosecuters re marijuana law

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Yurtistan - faux Barbizon school

Jurors are not idiots, they know that 1/16th of an ounce (less than 2 grams, the size of medium spider, for instance) of a plant is not going to destroy civilization. Too bad the law makers haven’t the courage to change these ridiculous laws that are filling up our prisons with non-violent offenders.

A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week. Jurors – well, potential jurors – staged a revolt. They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren’t about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.

The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel. No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce. In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections. “I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.

(click to continue reading Missoula District Court: Jury pool in marijuana case stages ‘mutiny’.)

This particular trial ended in a plea agreement, but the judge sentenced Cornell to 20 years (with 19 suspended).

Deschamps sentenced Cornell to 20 years, with 19 suspended, under Department of Corrections supervision, to run concurrently with his sentence in the theft case. He’ll get credit for the 200 days he’s already served. The judge also ordered Cornell to get a GED degree upon his release. “Instead of being a lazy bum, you need to get an education so you can get a decent law-abiding job and start supporting your family,” he said.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 27th, 2010 at 8:55 am

Posted in government

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War On Drugs Is A War On Brown Skin

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Seemingly, the best way to have your life ruined is to be born with brown skin, and have a joint in your possession.

Pippin in the Grass

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.

According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”

For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”

This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.

One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.

(click to continue reading Smoke and Horrors – NYTimes.com.)

Just Say No Drugs

The saddest part is that Barack Obama and Eric Holder should know better, should be more cognizant of the repercussions of this wrong-headed policy, but instead of changing the ridiculous Drug War’s attack on plants, they continue it. Even escalate it, as Charles Blow explains:

This wave of arrests is partially financed, either directly or indirectly, by federal programs like the Byrne Formula Grant Program, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to rev up the war on drugs. Surprisingly, this program has become the pet project of Democrats, not Republicans.

…In the last year of the Bush administration, financing had been reduced to $170 million. In March of that year, 56 senators signed onto a “bipartisan” letter to ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to restore nearly $500 million to the program. Only 15 Republicans signed the letter.

Even candidate Obama promised that he would restore funding to the program.

The 2009 stimulus package presented these Democrats with the opportunity, and they seized it. The legislation, designed by Democrats and signed by President Obama, included $2 billion for Byrne Grants to be awarded by the end of September 2010. That was nearly a 12-fold increase in financing. Whatever the merits of these programs, they are outweighed by the damage being done. Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.

Why would Democrats support a program that has such a deleterious effect on their most loyal constituencies? It is, in part, callous political calculus. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.

This is outrageous and immoral and the Democrat’s complicity is unconscionable, particularly for a party that likes to promote its social justice bona fides.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 24th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in government,politics

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U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, Despite Wishes of Voters

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Disappointing decision by Eric Holder and the Obama administration. What purpose does locking up non-violent drug users accomplish anyway? Other than let politicians check off the box that says, “tough on crime” on their reelection mailers, that is.

Single serving pod

LOS ANGELES — The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug. Related

The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.

Still, despite this opposition — or perhaps, to some extent, because of it — the measure, Proposition 19, appears to have at least a decent chance of winning, so far drawing considerable support in polls from a coalition of Democrats, independents, younger voters and men as Election Day nears. Should that happen, it could cement a cultural shift in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 and where the drug has been celebrated in popular culture at least since the 1960s.

But it could also plunge the nation’s most populous state into a murky and unsettling conflict with the federal government that opponents of the proposition said should make California voters wary of supporting it.

(click to continue reading U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside – NYTimes.com.)

Grass Fed Change

So which officials in California are for the bill?

The state Republican Party has officially come out against Proposition 19 and plans to urge people to vote no, said Ron Nehring, the party chairman. He called repeal a “big mistake” and mocked the notion that placing the proposition on the ballot would help Democrats.

“We call that their Hail Mary Jane strategy,” he said.

John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said his party had decided to stay neutral on this issue. Asked if he supported it, Mr. Burton responded: “I already voted for it. Why not? Brings some money into the state. Helps the deficit. Better than selling off state buildings to some developer.”

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that polls showed the measure breaking 50 percent, but said that given the history of initiatives in the state, that meant its passage was far from assured.

Opposition has come from a number of fronts, ranging from Mr. Baca and other law enforcement officials to the Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that it would create workplace health issues.

Still, the breadth of supporters of the proposition — including law enforcement officials and major unions, like the Service Employees International Union — signal how mainstream this movement is becoming.

“I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol,” said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. “I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.”

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2010 at 9:26 am