Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013-08-29 "Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy"

from USA Federal Department of Justice - Office of Public Affairs []:
Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.
In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area.
Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.
For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.
A copy of the memorandum, sent to all United States Attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, is available below.
Related Material: DAG Memo 8-29-13 ( 13-974, Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SF Chronicle newspaper columnist argues against war on medicinal cannabis

2013-08-27 "Getting high - everybody's doing it"
by Jon Carroll from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Well, this is unfortunate: According to Bob Egelko of this very newspaper, the feds have come up with a new way to harass medicinal-pot sellers in Oakland - and probably elsewhere as well.
Marijuana is a fraught subject just now. The Justice Department really doesn't want any high-profile cases, so it's not busting the pot stores. Selling marijuana is, after all, legal under California law - provided that your buyers have prescriptions and provided that your city has not passed a law forbidding pot sales within city limits.
The current state of affairs is something of a mess, although commerce is winning out in many areas. There's gold in them thar buds, friends, and lots of people are aware of that and jumping on the bandwagon. If the Justice Department were to back off, we'd see a vigorous free market at work.
Anyway: According to the folks at Harborside, Oakland's upscale, perky-people, "have a nice day," one-stop-shopping marijuana purveyors, the feds are now pressuring armored-car companies not to do business with the pot clubs, threatening possible prosecution for criminal conspiracy. That doesn't look good on any company's resume.
Previously, the feds - it's not clear which agency is doing this, DOJ, DEA, some other three-letter acronym - had leaned on credit card companies not to accept business from marijuana dispensaries. As a result, it's become more of a cash business, with the attendant dangers.
Hence, the need for the armored cars. But now, I guess, it's "toss the bundles of cash into the old Subaru and hope for the best."
Look, everyone agrees that our drug laws are a mess, partly because we are so confused in our own attitudes. We love drugs - we get prescriptions for painkillers and drink nice Scotch whisky - and yet we also abominate them. Crack cocaine, we hate you; you're a whole different kind of drug.
I wouldn't know; I never tried it. I do point out that which drugs I tried was largely determined by my class and friendship affiliations. Drug laws based on the evilness of one drug over another are bound to be farcical. It's all culturally determined.
Medically, I suppose, alcohol is the most dangerous. Factor in drunken driving and domestic violence, and you've got a pretty nasty syndrome going. But the people who are using it are responding to the almost-universal desire to get a little loaded once in a while.
Either we accept that urge or we fight against it. Personal choice, there. But we can't both accept and fight; it's crazy-making.
There is, however, no large push among the citizenry to reform the drug laws. The people in Washington, which is where the solution has to come from, see no urgency to propose bills or hold hearings or mount an executive-office crusade. Politically speaking, it's a big loser.
So with no relief in sight, what to do? Back in the old days, selling alcohol was illegal in parts of many Southern states, even after Prohibition was repealed. Bootleggers ran through the forests evading federal agents, and that's how NASCAR was born. (A little off the point, that last bit, but it's a fascinating fact - the early NASCAR drivers had grown up outrunning revenooers on bad roads.)
Even though it was illegal, the several states always collected taxes on the profits. Not even the law could stand in the way of sound fiscal practices.
Same deal here. The Justice Department could decide unilaterally to just back the heck off. The pot clubs would be permitted to act like the shadowy companies they are, still technically illegal under federal law but otherwise OK. Tens of thousands of customers would be able to buy what they want to buy, and things would be messed up but a little less messed up than they are now.
I understand that this doesn't make sense. There are pockets of illogic everywhere. But I am not persuaded that we have any chance of rational drug laws anytime soon, and all our closely reasoned arguments about why change is necessary profiteth us not. So please, Mr. Obama, sir, call off the dogs. Let Oakland have its nice revenue stream, and let the people have a little muggles to make the day go smoothly.
I don't think the federal government needs any more wars against its citizens. Those NSA revelations were bad enough. The motto of law enforcement should be the same as the motto for doctors: "First, do no harm." Don't mess with something that's working. Let the state worry about it. Look, people are fracking! Go bother them.
Not to mention all the people who are helped through chemotherapy by marijuana.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013-08-21 "LSD, "magic mushrooms," and other psychedelics not linked to mental health woes"

by Ryan Jaslow from "CBS News" []:
New research out of Norway shows that taking LSD, "magic mushrooms," and peyote -- so-called psychedelic drugs -- won't raise risk for mental health problems as previously thought.
Published in the Aug. 19 issue of PLoS One [], the study says that some psychedelic drugs may even reduce risk for psychological problems.
"After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment," study author Pal-Orjan Johansen, a neuroscientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, said in a statement [].
Psychedelic drugs have similar structures to naturally-occurring neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers found in the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The exact way they work is unclear, but they're thought to temporarily interfere with neurotransmitter action, leading to rapid emotional swings and hallucinogenic "trips" that can last hours (on average six hours for magic mushrooms, or psilocybin, and up to 12 hours for peyote and LSD).
A 2007 government survey found about 1.1 million people aged 12 and older had used a psychedelic drug for the first time in the year prior to being surveyed, NIDA reported.
There haven't been properly controlled studies on these drugs, according to the government drug agency, but some case reports and smaller studies suggest there could be long-term effects like flashbacks, impaired memory, and risk of psychiatric illness.
For the new study, researchers analyzed data on more than 130,000 randomly chosen Americans who took a drug use survey between 2001 and 2004, including 22,000 who had used a psychedelic drug at least once. They were also asked about any mental health symptoms and treatments that took place in the year prior to being surveyed. The symptoms in the survey were associated with mental health woes including psychological distress, anxiety disorders, psychosis and mood disorders.
They found no association between the drugs and this range of mental health problems. Instead, the researchers found lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and use of LSD in the past year were linked to lower rates of major psychological distress. Lifetime LSD users were also less likely to receive outpatient mental health treatment, such as from a therapist, or take psychiatric prescription medications.
The research only found links to mental health benefits, not a cause-and-effect relationship, and the study's design made it impossible to determine why these results were occurring.
While they can't rule out the possibility that using these drugs might negatively affect mental health, Johansen and colleagues pointed out that recent studies have also failed to find evidence of lasting harmful effects from psychedelic drugs. The researcher added that studies of people who used psychedelics hundreds of times for religious ceremonies found no evidence of health or social problems.
If there are negative effects from these drugs, they may be counterbalanced at the population level by people experiencing positive mental health effects, according to the researchers.
"Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population," study co-author Teri Krebs added in the statement.
Previous studies have also suggest psychedelics may have protective benefits for mental health. Two studies released in Jan. 2012 found reduced risk for depression in psilocybin-takers [].
Krebs and Johansen also teamed up for a March 2012 study that found LSD may help serious alcoholics stay sober. Many of the alcoholics who took LSD reported "greater self-acceptance and openness," and said they gained a new appreciation for their problem and new motivation to address it [].
"Having personally worked in mental health and trained in psychiatry, I am yet to see any individual suffering from significant mental health problems as a result of using psychedelic," Dr. Mark Bolstridge, a research fellow at the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology of the Imperial College of London in the U.K., said to Medscape. "Alcohol, amphetamines, and cannabis, yes, but never psychedelics," added Bolstridge, who was not involved in the research. "I think the paper is an important addition to the scientific literature, and it can only help in dispelling the myths surrounding these much maligned substances and in reinforcing the case for continued investigations into how these fascinating compounds work in the brain."
Dr. Matthew Johnson, a psychologist in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, told NPR that the new study does not guarantee that people taking these drugs won't face mental health harms [].
"This should not be taken to state that there are never individual cases of harm," he said. "We know that there are. It's a question of how frequent they are and under what circumstances they happen."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New York City government report in favor of government regulation and taxation of private cannabis use

Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC

Comptroller Seeks End to Wholesale Arrests of Minority Youth; Generate More Than $400 Million Annually for Higher Education

(From the Office of New York City Comptroller John C. Liu)
Contact : E.J. Kessler, (212) 669-3747 August 14, 2013
Full Report []
Report Summary []

NEW YORK, N.Y. — City Comptroller John C. Liu today proposed regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana for personal use by adults in New York City. In a report released today, the Comptroller’s office argued that the change would curb the significant social damage caused by prohibiting the substance and generate more than $400 million annually for higher education.
“New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities,” said Comptroller Liu. “It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children. As if that weren’t enough, it would also boost our bottom line.”
Liu proposed that the City use the revenues generated by the regulation of marijuana to reduce CUNY tuition by as much as 50 percent for New York City residents. “In this way, we’ll invest in young people’s futures, instead of ruining them,” he said. “By regulating marijuana like alcohol, New York City can minimize teens’ access to marijuana, while at the same time reducing their exposure to more dangerous drugs and taking sales out of the hands of criminals.”
Under Liu’s proposal, adults age 21 and over could possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which would be grown, processed, and sold by government-licensed businesses for recreational or medicinal purposes. A strict driving under the influence enforcement policy would be implemented concurrently, and marijuana use in public would be prohibited.
To study issues related to regulation, Liu called for the creation of an interagency task force comprised of the NYPD, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Education, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, District Attorneys, and Department of Consumer Affairs. The task force would work with the New York State Senate and Assembly in order to pass the appropriate legislation authorizing the full implementation of the plan.
New York City’s current market for marijuana is estimated to be around $1.65 billion annually. Basing its calculations on average consumption rates and the approximate number of users among New York City residents and commuters, the Comptroller’s office estimated that taxing the sale of marijuana would generate approximately $400 million annually, of which roughly $69 million would go to the State and MTA in the form of higher sales taxes. The office calculated that the City could save another $31 million by reallocating time and resources expended by law enforcement and the judicial system on marijuana-related arrests. It did not analyze other economic benefits, such as the reduction in associated incarceration, costs of those arrested, and potential tourist-generated tax revenue. For a detailed explanation of the estimation and methodology, please view Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC [].
But the social arguments for legalizing marijuana are even more compelling, the study found. Because of stop and frisk, minority communities disproportionately bear the consequences of marijuana arrests in New York City — especially the long-term damage to opportunities for employment, post-secondary education, and housing. Combined, blacks and Hispanics make up 45 percent of marijuana users in New York City, but account for 86 percent of possession arrests. By contrast, whites and Asians constitute 55 percent of users but only 14 percent of arrests. In 2012, 1 out of 627 white New Yorkers was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, compared to 1 out of 175 Hispanics and 1 out of 94 African-Americans.

More than half (56 percent) of marijuana possession arrests in New York City are of those age 25 and under — a group for whom the negative effects of an arrest or criminal record is especially acute. Convictions can affect people’s eligibility for federal student loans and NYCHA housing, and a history of arrest can bar them from many jobs.
Low-level marijuana arrests have skyrocketed during Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration and are directly related to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk strategy. Since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, there have been almost 460,000 misdemeanor marijuana arrests. The number of these arrests is on track to reach 37,000 in 2013 alone.

Liu’s proposal comes on the heels of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Administration was overhauling federal sentencing guidelines to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Liu hailed the Holder move as “a solid step forward” but said the plan did not represent enough real progress for New Yorkers because it did not address the need to decriminalize marijuana or the growing conflict between state and federal laws in this area.

2013-08-14 "New York City Comptroller Releases Report Detailing the Financial and Human Costs of Marijuana Prohibition; Report Calls for the Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana for Adults, Advocates Demand a Comprehensive Overhaul of New York's Racially Biased and Broken Marijuana Policies"
from "Drug Policy Alliance" []:
DPA Network is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs. We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more.
NEW YORK - August 14 - Today, New York City Comptroller John Liu released his report calling for a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use []. The report comes just two days after Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin condemned the city’s police department’s use of stop and frisk – which has resulted in 600,000 unlawful arrests for marijuana possession since 1997 – as racially-biased. That same day, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for Americans to rethink the “unintended consequences” of the war on drugs. Comptroller Liu’s report details the problems associated with marijuana arrests in New York City -- including racial disparities and the impact of saddling young people with a permanent criminal arrest record -- and the overall financial costs of marijuana prohibition.
In growing shift, the federal government and states around the country are engaged in a significant review of drug policies generally and marijuana policies in particular. On Monday, Attorney General Holder noted that the war on drugs has resulted in “the decimation of certain communities, in particular of communities of color” and directed federal prosecutors to develop guidelines for some drug sentencing issues to be handled on the state or local level. Many states have already moved ahead with significant reforms to marijuana policy. Twenty states now permit the use of medical marijuana; fourteen states, including New York and, most recently, New Hampshire, have some kind of decriminalization law on the books; and voters in two states – Colorado and Washington – recently voted to end prohibition by taxing and regulating marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. By creating a regulatory regime, Colorado and Washington are bringing under the rule of law the production, sale and use of marijuana. Recent national surveys find that a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.
“New Yorkers, like people elsewhere around the country, are questioning our broken polices related to marijuana,” said gabriel sayegh, New York Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Comptroller Liu’s report offers another important opportunity for New Yorker to examine the issues and discuss the range of options for fixing these laws – including ending failed prohibition. An increasing number of elected officials in the City and state agree that our marijuana policies are broken—resulting in racial disparities, Constitutional violations, fiscal waste and needless suffering. While there may not be widespread agreement about how to fix these problems, it’s critical that we have an open and vigorous debate about the issue.”
New York leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests, making more arrests than every other state in the country, including California, Florida and Texas. As noted in a recent ACLU report, in 2010, 97% of all marijuana offenses in New York were for possession only. The vast majority of those arrested (85%) are Black and Latino, mostly young men, even though numerous government studies report that young white men use marijuana at higher rates.
Marijuana policy is also being debated, examined and revised at the international level. In May, the Organization of American States produced a report [], commissioned by heads of state of the region, predicting a likely hemispheric move towards marijuana legalization in the coming years. And in an effort to undercut the violence related to drug prohibition, the Uruguayan House of Representatives recently approved a bill to legally regulate marijuana and create the world’s first government-regulated system of production, distribution and dispensing.
Studies show that criminalizing and arresting people for marijuana possession does little to prevent the use of marijuana. In national surveys, young people consistently report that it's easier to buy marijuana than alcohol, and under our current punitive system of prohibition, 20.5% of New York high school students report using marijuana in the past 30 days versus the 12.5% who have used cigarettes, which are carefully regulated. Many experts see the taxation and regulation of marijuana as a more effective way of controlling teen use than our current failed approaches.

Studies have also shown that these arrests have little to no public safety value. A recent report by Human Right Watch showed that the vast majority of people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for public possession of marijuana rarely go on to commit violent crimes. However, these arrests exact a profound human toll and can have far-reaching adverse consequences for those arrested, including lessening their opportunities for employment, education, housing, and loans.

Recent estimates show that New York state spends approximately $675 million a year enforcing marijuana possession laws, and most of these arrests occur in New York City. Fixing New York’s marijuana laws would save hundreds of millions every year, which could be reinvested into the community increasing the quality of life for all New Yorkers. By enacting a regulatory framework, the City and state could capture tax revenue that is, currently, largely under the control of criminal enterprises.

Legislators in Albany have been taking steps to address the myriad problems in New York’s current marijuana policies. Last year, the Governor proposed legislation to address police misconduct and racial disparities in marijuana arrests by standardizing some marijuana possession laws, making possession of marijuana in public view a violation, rather than misdemeanor. Legislators continue work to pass a medical marijuana proposal, with the Assembly passing a tightly-crafted bill earlier this year. And this spring, Senator Liz Krueger announced her intention to introduce a bill that will tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New York State. At the City level, the NY City Council has passed resolutions in favor of state legislation both to allow access to medical marijuana and standardize possession of marijuana in public view. And New York City mayoral candidates, such as Democrat Sal Albanese and Republican Joe Lhota, have called for the full legalization of marijuana.

“The data are clear – our current marijuana policies are doing more harm than good. They’re racially biased, ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive,” said sayegh. “We need to rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Yorkers through sensible reforms, informed by research and sound science. We can enact reforms that make good moral and monetary sense; we can address human costs as well as save millions that can be reinvested in our communities. Tackling these issues will require a vigorous, informed debate. Hopefully this report and other emerging developments – from Holder’s comments to Judge Scheindlin’s ruling on top and frisk to the growing number of reform initiatives at home and abroad – will spur such a discussion, because we can do better, and in fact we must.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dr. Sanjay Gupta discovers medicinal properties of cannabis

2013-08-08 "Why I changed my mind on weed"
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent []:
* Dr. Sanjay Gupta says we have been "systematically misled" on marijuana
* DEA lists marijuana as a schedule 1 substance with "high potential for abuse"
* Most recent research on marijuana has been on its negative effects, Gupta says
* Studies on marijuana require approval from National Institute on Drug Abuse
(CNN) -- Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called "Weed." The title "Weed" may sound cavalier, but the content is not.
I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.
Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot." [,9171,1552034,00.html]
Well, I am here to apologize.
I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now. I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.
Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have "no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse."
They didn't have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn't have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado []. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.
I have seen more patients like Charlotte first hand, spent time with them and come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana.
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
I hope this article and upcoming documentary will help set the record straight.
On August 14, 1970, the Assistant Secretary of Health, Dr. Roger O. Egeberg wrote a letter recommending the plant, marijuana, be classified as a schedule 1 substance, and it has remained that way for nearly 45 years. My research started with a careful reading of that decades old letter. What I found was unsettling. Egeberg had carefully chosen his words:
"Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marijuana be retained within schedule 1 at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue."
Not because of sound science, but because of its absence, marijuana was classified as a schedule 1 substance. Again, the year was 1970. Egeberg mentions studies that are underway, but many were never completed. As my investigation continued, however, I realized Egeberg did in fact have important research already available to him, some of it from more than 25 years earlier.

High risk of abuse -
In 1944, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia commissioned research to be performed by the New York Academy of Science []. Among their conclusions: they found marijuana did not lead to significant addiction in the medical sense of the word. They also did not find any evidence marijuana led to morphine, heroin or cocaine addiction.
We now know that while estimates vary, marijuana leads to dependence in around 9 to 10% of its adult users. By comparison, cocaine, a schedule 2 substance "with less abuse potential than schedule 1 drugs" hooks 20% of those who use it. Around 25% of heroin users become addicted.
The worst is tobacco, where the number is closer to 30% of smokers, many of whom go on to die because of their addiction.
There is clear evidence that in some people marijuana use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and nausea. Even considering this, it is hard to make a case that it has a high potential for abuse. The physical symptoms of marijuana addiction are nothing like those of the other drugs I've mentioned. I have seen the withdrawal from alcohol, and it can be life threatening.
I do want to mention a concern that I think about as a father. Young, developing brains are likely more susceptible to harm from marijuana than adult brains. Some recent studies suggest that regular use in teenage years leads to a permanent decrease in IQ. Other research hints at a possible heightened risk of developing psychosis.
Much in the same way I wouldn't let my own children drink alcohol, I wouldn't permit marijuana until they are adults. If they are adamant about trying marijuana, I will urge them to wait until they're in their mid-20s when their brains are fully developed.

Medical benefit -
While investigating, I realized something else quite important. Medical marijuana is not new, and the medical community has been writing about it for a long time. There were in fact hundreds of journal articles, mostly documenting the benefits. Most of those papers, however, were written between the years 1840 and 1930. The papers described the use of medical marijuana to treat "neuralgia, convulsive disorders, emaciation," among other things.
A search through the U.S. National Library of Medicine this past year pulled up nearly 20,000 more recent papers []. But the majority were research into the harm of marijuana, such as "Bad trip due to anticholinergic effect of cannabis," or "Cannabis induced pancreatitits" and "Marijuana use and risk of lung cancer."
In my quick running of the numbers, I calculated about 6% of the current U.S. marijuana studies investigate the benefits of medical marijuana. The rest are designed to investigate harm. That imbalance paints a highly distorted picture.

The challenges of marijuana research -
To do studies on marijuana in the United States today, you need two important things.
First of all, you need marijuana. And marijuana is illegal. You see the problem. Scientists can get research marijuana from a special farm in Mississippi, which is astonishingly located in the middle of the Ole Miss campus, but it is challenging. When I visited this year, there was no marijuana being grown.
The second thing you need is approval, and the scientists I interviewed kept reminding me how tedious that can be. While a cancer study may first be evaluated by the National Cancer Institute, or a pain study may go through the National Institute for Neurological Disorders, there is one more approval required for marijuana: NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is an organization that has a core mission of studying drug abuse, as opposed to benefit.
Stuck in the middle are the legitimate patients who depend on marijuana as a medicine, oftentimes as their only good option.
Keep in mind that up until 1943, marijuana was part of the United States drug pharmacopeia. One of the conditions for which it was prescribed was neuropathic pain. It is a miserable pain that's tough to treat. My own patients have described it as "lancinating, burning and a barrage of pins and needles." While marijuana has long been documented to be effective for this awful pain [], the most common medications prescribed today come from the poppy plant, including morphine, oxycodone and dilaudid.
Here is the problem. Most of these medications don't work very well for this kind of pain, and tolerance is a real problem.
Most frightening to me is that someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental []. Every 19 minutes. It is a horrifying statistic. As much as I searched, I could not find a documented case of death from marijuana overdose.
It is perhaps no surprise then that 76% of physicians recently surveyed said they would approve the use of marijuana to help ease a woman's pain from breast cancer.
When marijuana became a schedule 1 substance, there was a request to fill a "void in our knowledge." In the United States, that has been challenging because of the infrastructure surrounding the study of an illegal substance, with a drug abuse organization at the heart of the approval process. And yet, despite the hurdles, we have made considerable progress that continues today.
Looking forward, I am especially intrigued by studies like those in Spain and Israel looking at the anti-cancer effects of marijuana and its components []. I'm intrigued by the neuro-protective study by Lev Meschoulam in Israel, and research in Israel and the United States on whether the drug might help alleviate symptoms of PTSD []. I promise to do my part to help, genuinely and honestly, fill the remaining void in our knowledge.
Citizens in 20 states and the District of Columbia have now voted to approve marijuana for medical applications, and more states will be making that choice soon. As for Dr. Roger Egeberg, who wrote that letter in 1970, he passed away 16 years ago.
I wonder what he would think if he were alive today.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vallejo Drug War propaganda against cannabis concentrate

Vallejo City's Holy War against medicinal cannabis

The following propaganda piece was published originally in the Vallejo Times-Herald's Sunday edition, formatted in a way that even if the newspaper were not purchased, the message would still be seen by anyone in Vallejo's supermarkets and gas stations or wherever the newspaper is publicly displayed.
The story has been picked up nation-wide by the monopolized press which seeks to uphold the illegal Drug War against the People, a war whose benefits are seen in the high return on investments in militarized police equipment and private prisons filled with non-violent cannabis users.
The story actually admits that only ONE person so-far in Solano County has been a victim to a concentrated form of cannabis, that this person has had no toxic effects after the initial experience, and that he was mis-treated by police while in the hospital ("his hands were handcuffed to the bed rails"). This young man was not a violent criminal, his only "crime" being a sensitive person who couldn't handle the effects of a substance he had no knowledge of... in other words, the article's purpose is plainly to act as a "public service" propaganda piece to sway public opinion against a cannabis concentrate which kills nobody, as opposed to alcohol.
The article even says that the cannabis concentrate is "dangerous to certain people", without explaining what kind of people, or that, again, NO ONE HAS DIED FROM CANNABIS CONCENTRATE, EVER!!!

2013-09-18 Letter by R.E. Humphry to the "Vallejo Times-Herald" in response to the article:

"Potent Plants - Officials: Little known locally about 'earwax' variety, its dangers"  
by Marie F. Estrada from "Vallejo Times-Herald" []:
Contact staff writer Marie F. Estrada at (707) 553-6840 or Follow her on Twitter @MarieVTH.
Two minutes after taking a five-second hit from a vaporizer, Josh felt the effects of the ear wax marijuana rushing over him.
"I felt like I was gonna die," the 17-year-old recalled. "The movie we were watching started to look 3-D. I kept seeing lights."
What the others in the group Josh was with had failed to tell him when they offered the drug to him, was that ear wax marijuana can include up to 90 percent THC.
In short, it's highly hallucinogenic. And, knowledgeable sources say, it can be very dangerous to certain people.
Officials on Solano County's Alcohol and Drug Advisory board, say they know little about ear wax marijuana -- its nickname derived from its appearance -- or its potential dangers.
The night Josh was under the drug's influence, someone telephoned Rhonda, Josh's grandmother. She picked him up and drove him to the hospital -- where his hands were handcuffed to the bed rails and he was later arrested.
(Josh and Rhonda agreed to be interviewed for this article under the condition that certain details of Josh's experience the night he tried ear wax be excluded.)
The effects of the drug didn't end with Josh's arrest. The ear wax was so intense that Josh's high lasted three days, all of which he spent in juvenile hall.
A year of probation and $7,000 in fines later, Josh is just beginning to get over the experience.
But he isn't the first -- and won't be the last -- teenager who has tried a modified form of marijuana. Even former Vallejo dispensary employees said that ear wax marijuana is a common concentrate to have in stock.
Despite this, most teenagers are unaware that a high THC content in their bodies can have short- and long-lasting detrimental effects on their bodies and their lives.
And what's worse, say some experts, the cannabis plant itself, whether as an ear wax variety or other type, is now bred to be increasingly potent.
Christie DeClue, a Solano County Alcohol and Drug Advisory board member, said marijuana has come a long way from the days of hippies and disco.
"In the 1970s, (people) were primarily smoking the leaves of the plant," DeClue said "Now users are smoking (the more potent) buds of the plant."
DeClue is also concerned that the starting age for many marijuana smokers also has changed.
Where most in the 1960s might have started while in college, today, children as young as 12 are experimenting, which can result in long-term damage.
Andy Williamson, a substance abuse administrator in Solano County, said using marijuana before age 25 can lower a person's IQ by up to 8 points since a young individual's brain is still developing.
Robert Lunch, a former volunteer for the Highway 29 Health Care dispensary in Vallejo, said many local dispensaries have ear wax in stock. It is for patients with a high tolerance and need the high potency medication, he said.
Lunch said the ear wax marijuana, which gets its name from its yellow-brown appearance, ranges in potency from 50 to 90 percent THC -- depending on the source.
Regardless, juveniles don't have to wait around for a friend with a marijuana card to pick up some ear wax -- they can make it themselves.
After officials confirmed that it was ear wax that Josh smoked, Rhonda Googled the substance and found numerous "how-to" Youtube videos.
What disturbed Rhonda the most was not that the ear wax exists -- but that the recipes are so easy to find -- and not one video explains the high THC content or potential risks.
Donald Poston, Josh's former counselor, said the substance is fairly easy to make, but can be incredibly dangerous.
"The ear wax is made with aerosol butane and the resin of the leaves and buds of the female plants. The result is a yellow-green waxy material," Poston said.
A substance abuse counselor for Youth and Family Services of Solano County in Fairfield, Poston said Josh was the first person he met who had tried the drug.
Since then, it has been coming up more in group meetings with other juveniles.
The consensus? It is too strong.
On June 17, CBS Detroit reported two people have been sent to the hospital in Detroit after using ear wax.
In the article, reporter Sandra McNeill wrote the two 36-year-olds -- both medical marijuana patients -- suffered episodes of psychosis.
Director Susan Smolinske, of the Children's Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Control Center, told McNeill the two, "needed to be sedated because they were so agitated that they could not be controlled."
Josh can relate.After an intense year of fines, probation, weekly meetings and anger management, Josh said he thinks back to his decision and wishes it were different.
"I think what if I hadn't stayed (with the group) and what if I had just called my (grandparents)," he said.
But for the most part, he just had to stop thinking about it and move on.
All he can do now is discourage his younger brother from trying drugs and start to pay his grandparents back for his fees.
"I paid when I could, but they'll get all of their money back one day," Josh said. "I'm not gonna let them lose all of that money for one deed that I did."
In August, Josh will turn 18 and his advice to others is to take marijuana more seriously.
"What people are telling me is that (marijuana) is not a drug, that it's just an herb," Josh said. "That's bullsh--! If it gets you high, it's a drug, so don't do it."
The reality of it all, Rhonda said, is that it this could happen to anyone.
While there are groups that people might think are more at risk, many juveniles are unaware of the potency differences, she said.
"(Josh) is not, 'that kind' of kid. And I'll tell you, I don't think half of them are," Rhonda said. "I think it could be any kind of kid because marijuana is so downplayed. They just get caught up."

2013-08-02 Search Results for "Potent Plant Earwax" from shows that the article's main purpose was to act as propaganda in the monopolized press across the United States and world-wide, providing false or misleading information about cannabis, and utilizing only one person's anecdote about the effects on his mental behavior.