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Posted on May 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm
Susan Soares

A new advocacy group called SAM (Smarter Approach to Marijuana), co-founded by Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman and self-admitted alcohol and oxycodone addict, proposes treating marijuana use in the following manner: “Possession or use of a small amount of marijuana should be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program. Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.” But is this forced treatment for marijuana warranted?

In Psychology Today’s “Is Marijuana Addictive?,” the authors compared marijuana to other substances and found that it does not pose the same risks of dependence. It is estimated that 32% of tobacco users will become addicted, 23% of heroin users, 17% of cocaine users, and 15% of alcohol users. Yet only 9-10% of regular marijuana users will ever fit the definition of dependent . Moreover, the other substances are objectively more harmful than marijuana. So what is the incentive for this push for treatment centers for marijuana use when Mr. Kennedy knows from available evidence and personal experience that alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs are far more harmful? Based on my own personal experience, I think I have at least part of the answer.

About a year ago, I was put through some marijuana re-education of my own when I had to attend court-ordered Deferred Entry of Judgment classes. Every Wednesday night for 18 weeks, I met with a health department leader and other unfortunate drug war casualties. The class would start off with roll call and paying a weekly fee. We would watch a video on addiction or the teacher would read some course work to us. Then he would give us some questions that we were required to answer. Most of them were things like, “How does your addiction affect your daily life”?

At first I quietly just didn’t answer most of the questions or I just wrote in, “I’m not addicted. I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me control my migraines.” The teacher started singling me out by reading my answers, thinking that I would buckle from public shame.

It’s important to realize that the attendees in the Deferred Entry of Judgment classes were given a free pass from the court and they are scared of going to jail. Defendants who are offered a DEJ have no prior record or they have stayed out of trouble for over 5 years and have no violent crime history. A DEJ means that after you complete the program, you can say that you were never arrested. It’s a way to run a LOT of drug related cases quickly through the judicial system using fear. If you don’t make it through the program the court will order you to jail for what ever the sentence was without any hearing because you have already plead guilty. Typically the DA overcharges a defendant in order to entice a plea deal so that is a scary prospect.

But I didn’t buckle when I was presented with quiz after quiz that asked me to admit to addiction. I stood up for myself. Without cannabis, my life would again center around debilitating migraines, which honestly were driving me toward suicide.

After I started speaking up, I was approached by almost everyone in the class. They all had heartbreaking stories and also felt like they were being herded through a BS program, but you do what you have to do and so they answered the questions as if they believed they were addicted.

In the end, the instructor graduated me early to get rid of me and didn’t even pee test me because he knew it would come up positive for THC.  He was aware of my court documents stating that I could not only smoke cannabis but grow it.

Under the guise of “treatment,” what they were doing was working on creating statistics that would support a HUGE money grab for more services and create a story of crisis that doesn’t really exist!

Published in CNN Money’s Private equity’s rehab roll-up In February 2006, Bain Capital (yes, the company that clean-livingMitt Romney used to run) purchased an outfit called CRC Health Group for $723 million and proceeded to go on a shopping spree, snapping up nearly 20 new treatment facilities over the next two years. The company took a breather during the financial crisis, but in 2011 resumed its buying binge with the purchase of some smaller treatment centers.

Rehab, it turns out, is a pretty good business. Is rehab roll-up-able? In the most basic sense, the answer is yes. But are these treatment centers working to end addiction or is it all about the profit margin?

All treatment programs are not created the same. “CRC uses a cookie-cutter approach,” says Dr. Howard C. Samuels, an addiction specialist and licensed practitioner based in Hollywood. “It’s the assembly line of recovery.” Samuels, who runs his own 14-bed facility, the Hills Treatment Center, says that he used to refer patients to CRC, but ceased doing so when he felt that bureaucracy and the bottom line had overwhelmed concern for individual treatment.

One word I hear over and over again when cannabis activists get together is “WHY?” As in, “Why on earth do we continue to punish adults who simply choose to relax with marijuana instead of the more harmful substance, alcohol?” I think the answer is clear. Follow the money!!!!

by  Susan Soares ~ Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform Fundraising Chair





 
 

February 10, 2013 9:30 am  •  BY ELLEN KOMP California NORML

In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as secretary of state, she said, “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek.”

Clinton was referring to Venice, Calif.-based architect Frank Gehry, who molded a unique style of laid-back architecture and is the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.

Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him “coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana] smoke behind him.” It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.

I raise this in answer to the op-ed you printed recently from an employee of a drug testing company touting her company’s services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.

I beg to differ.

First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them “Chemical McCarthyism.”

Second, by screening out marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see veryimportantpotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.

Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few nonmilitary industries the U.S. has.

Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?

There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched in our political process and with businesses and insurance companies, and the more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.

Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies that exercise drug testing will have only a piss-poor workforce.


Ellen Komp is the deputy director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Her column is a response to an opinion piece supporting workplace drug testing that appeared in the Star-Tribune on Feb. 3.

 
 
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By David L. Nathan, Special to CNN
updated 9:41 AM EST, Wed January 9, 2013

Editor's note: David L. Nathan, a clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was recently elected as a distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association. He teaches and practices general adult psychiatry in Princeton, New Jersey.

(CNN) -- David Frum is one of today's best and most reasoned conservative political voices, so his recent CNN.com op-ed on marijuana policy was just a little disappointing. Not because he advocates the drug's decriminalization -- he rightly thinks locking people up or arresting them for casual use is a bad idea -- but because he opposes its legalization for adults.

I agree with much of what he says about pot's potential harm, especially for the young and the psychiatrically ill. Like Frum, I am a father who worries about my kids getting sidetracked by cannabis before their brains have a chance to develop. But I am also a physician who understands that the negative legal consequences of marijuana use are far worse than the medical consequences.

Frum would reduce the punishment for marijuana use for adults but nominally maintain its illegality in order to send a message to young people that pot is a "bad choice," as if breaking the rules wasn't as much an incentive as a deterrent for adolescents. Kids are smart enough to recognize and dismiss a "because I said so" argument when they see one. By trying to hide marijuana from innately curious young people, we have elevated its status to that of a forbidden fruit. I believe a better approach is to bring pot into the open, make it legal for people over the age of 21, and educate children from a young age about the actual dangers of its recreational use.

Throughout my career as a clinical psychiatrist, I have seen lives ruined by drugs like cocaine, painkillers and alcohol. I have also borne witness to the devastation brought upon cannabis users -- almost never by abuse of the drug, but by a justice system that chooses a sledgehammer to kill a weed.

Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, caffeine and refined sugar are among the most commonly used, potentially habit-forming recreational substances. All are best left out of our daily diets. Only marijuana is illegal, though alcohol and tobacco are clearly more harmful. In several respects, even sugar poses more of a threat to our nation's health than pot.

I agree with Frum that chronic use of cannabis correlates with mood changes and low motivation, especially when started in adolescence. In individuals with psychosis, it may trigger or worsen their symptoms. But these dangers are far surpassed by the perils of alcohol, which is associated with pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, permanent dementia, physiological dependence and fatal withdrawal. In healthy but reckless teens and young adults, it is frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is essentially impossible to do so with marijuana. Further, alcohol causes severe impairment of judgment, which results in violence, risky sexual behavior and more use of hard drugs.

Those who believe cannabis to be a gateway to opioids and other highly dangerous drugs fail to appreciate that the illegal purchase of marijuana exposes consumers to dealers who push the hard stuff. Given marijuana's popularity in this country, the consumption of more dangerous drugs could actually decrease if pot were purchased at a liquor store rather than on the street corner where heroin and crack are sold.

There is another more pressing reason to legalize and regulate marijuana, even for the sake of our children: the potential for adulteration of black-market cannabis and the substitution of even more dangerous copycat compounds. Much like Prohibition-era fatalities from bad moonshine, harmful synthetic marijuana substitutes are proliferating, with street names like K2 and Spice. The Drug Enforcement Administration struggles to combat these compounds by outlawing them, but I see no decrease in their popularity among my patients. Natural marijuana poses much less danger than synthetic cannabinoids -- legal or otherwise.

So who had the bright idea of banning cannabis in the first place? Was it physicians? Social service organizations? No. The credit goes to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which in 1937 pushed through laws ending the growth, trade and consumption of all forms of cannabis, including the inert but commercially useful hemp plant. America's ban on the so-called "Weed of Madness" was based on bad science and fabricated stories of violence perpetrated under the influence. The madness of cannabis can be ascribed not so much to its users, but to those who sought to criminalize the drug so soon after the monumental failure of alcohol Prohibition.

That's not to say our marijuana laws have failed to change drug use in America. Cannabis is more widely used today than at any time before its prohibition, even though it was domesticated in antiquity and has been cultivated ever since. Pot prohibition has also greatly increased illegal activity and violence. Otherwise law-abiding private users became criminals, and criminals became rich through the untaxed, bloody and highly lucrative illicit drug trade.

But America can fix this mess through marijuana legalization. Federal, state and local governments can regulate the cannabis trade as they do with alcohol and tobacco -- monitoring the production process for safety and purity, controlling where it is sold, taxing all aspects of marijuana production and consumption, and redirecting resources from punishment to prevention.

Forget the antiquated dogma and judge pot prohibition on its own merits. If you still believe that cannabis should be illegal, then you must logically support the criminalization of alcohol and tobacco, with vigorous prosecution and even imprisonment of producers and consumers. Does that sound ridiculous? Then you must conclude that the only rational approach to cannabis is to legalize, regulate and tax it.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.


 
 
I recently reread the AMA's 2009 report and I think it's important for all medical marijuana activists to stay fresh with this information. Here are some of the highlighted selections that I found interesting. The whole report is very informative, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. I've added the highlighted document at the end of this blog entry.

*Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the patchwork of state-based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.

* Several research/treatment studies were conducted by state departments of health during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s under protocols approved by the FDA. These open label studies involved patients who had responded inadequately to other antiemetics. In such patients, smoked cannabis was reported to be comparable to or more effective than oral THC, and considerably more effective than prochlorperazine or other previous antiemetics in reducing nausea and emesis. 

*In patients with HIV-associated neuropathic pain, cannabis cigarettes of varying concentration and number consumed over a 5-day period significantly reduced pain intensity. Approximately half of patients experienced more than a 30% reduction, which is a standard benchmark for efficacy. 

*One independent health assessment of four of the remaining seven patients obtaining cannabis cigarettes through the federal government’s Compassionate Use Treatment IND (see Council report from 1997),1 showed no demonstrable adverse outcomes related to their chronic medicinal cannabis use. Some of cannabis’ adverse effects differ in experienced versus inexperienced users, and it is not clear to what extent the adverse effects reported in recreational users are applicable to those who use cannabis for the self-management of disease or symptoms. Most data on adverse effects has come from observational population-based cohort studies of recreational cannabis users, an unknown portion of whom may be using the substance for medicinal purposes. Adverse reactions observed in short-term randomized, placebo- controlled trials of smoked cannabis to date are mostly mild without substantial impairment. A systematic review of the safety studies on medical cannabinoids published over the last 40 years (not including studies on smoked cannabis) found that short term use was associated with a number of adverse events, but less than 4% were considered serious.

*Although some cannabis users develop dependence, they are considerably less likely to do so than users of alcohol and nicotine, and withdrawal symptoms are less severe.4,79,80 Like other drugs, dependence is more likely to occur in individuals with co-morbid psychiatric conditions. Whether or not cannabis is a “gateway” drug to other substance misuse is controversial and whether the medical availability of cannabis would increase drug abuse is not known. Analysis of trends in emergency room visits for marijuana do not support the view that state authorization for medical cannabis use leads to increased signals of substance misuse. The IOM concluded that marijuana use is not the cause or even the most serious predictor of serious substance use disorders. 
 
*Like tobacco, chronic cannabis smoking is associated with markers of lung damage and increased symptoms of chronic bronchitis. However, results of a population-based case control study of cannabis smokers found no evidence of increased risk for lung cancer or other cancers affecting the oral cavity and airway. Another population-based case-control study of marijuana use and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) concluded that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC. Furthermore, although smoking cannabis and tobacco may synergistically increase the risk of respiratory symptoms and COPD, smoking only cannabis is not associated with an increased risk of developing COPD. 


*Results of these trials indicate smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.


*Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used by the nation’s youth and young adults. However, the fact that cannabis is prone to non-medical use does not obviate its potential for medical product development. Many legal pharmaceutical products that are used for pain relief, palliation, and sleep induction have more serious acute toxicities than marijuana, including death. Witness the evolving series of steps that the FDA has taken in recent months to address the inappropriate use and diversion of certain long-acting Schedule II opioid drugs. However, the patchwork of state- based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. 



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Kerlikowske suggests that we have a process for deciding what's good to put in our bodies (the FDA). Do you think that's what the criminalization of cannabis is about? Really? So then you must believe that being incarcerated is better for your body. That's great logic. ~ Susan Soares

By: Chris Roberts | 01/07/13 7:46 PM
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer


Gil Kerlikowske, the nation’s top drug cop advocated a “different approach” to narcotics enforcement — and stressed that there is no “war on drugs” — but had stern words Monday for the San Francisco-bred medical marijuana movement. 

Drug users need treatment and education rather than jail terms, according to Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief who now heads President Barack Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Speaking at a gathering of law enforcement officers at the University of San Francisco, Kerlikowske also said that calling cannabis medicine “sends a terrible message” to the nation’s teens. High school students are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco due to the growing “perception” that marijuana is less harmful, he said. 

“We have to ask if we doing everything we can to empower them to make a healthy decision about their future,” he said.

Kerlikowske was in town to highlight the Obama Adminstration’s “21st-century” approach toward drug use. Also in attendance were Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr, and Berkeley chief of police Michael Meehan — who served under Kerlikowske as a narcotics captain on the Seattle police force. 

San Francisco has more than 20 licensed and taxpaying medical marijuana dispensaries. Across California, there are more than 1,000 — all of which pay state sales tax — according to Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana users’ advocacy group.

Federal law enforcement officials have long been at odds with state and local policymakers on medical marijuana. Pressure from the federal Justice Department has shut down seven San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries since Oct. 2011. 

Before taking office, Obama said that marijuana would not be a law enforcement priority for his administration. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated that statement, though U.S. prosecutors have since noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and a public health nuisance. 

Kerlikowske noted that neither he nor his office have any sway over the Justice Department, and “I wouldn’t suppose that I should tell The City what to do differently.” 

California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996. Today, eighteen states and the District of Columbia now allow the medical use of marijuana, and adults in two states — Colorado and Washington — can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Kerlikowske had stern words for legalization, which is often painted as a solution to the public health and budget woes caused by drug use. “The Obama Administration strongly believes it is a false choice,” he said, and not “ground in science.”

“Medicinal marijuana has never been through the FDA process,” he added. “We have the world’s most renowned process to decide what is medicine and what should go in peoples’ bodies. And marijuana has never been through that process.”

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and elsewhere have found that cannabis may be effective in relieving “wasting symptoms” caused by cancer and HIV/AIDS, may aid sleep and stimulate appetite, and may be effective in treating chronic pain and other ailments.

croberts@sfexaminer.com


 
 
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After more than four decades of a failed experiment, the human cost has become too high. It is time to consider the decriminalization of drug use and the drug market.

By GARY S. BECKER and KEVIN M. MURPHY
President Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs" in 1971. The expectation then was that drug trafficking in the United States could be greatly reduced in a short time through federal policing—and yet the war on drugs continues to this day. The cost has been large in terms of lives, money and the well-being of many Americans, especially the poor and less educated. By most accounts, the gains from the war have been modest at best.

The direct monetary cost to American taxpayers of the war on drugs includes spending on police, the court personnel used to try drug users and traffickers, and the guards and other resources spent on imprisoning and punishing those convicted of drug offenses. Total current spending is estimated at over $40 billion a year.

These costs don't include many other harmful effects of the war on drugs that are difficult to quantify. For example, over the past 40 years the fraction of students who have dropped out of American high schools has remained large, at about 25%. Dropout rates are not high for middle-class white children, but they are very high for black and Hispanic children living in poor neighborhoods. Many factors explain the high dropout rates, especially bad schools and weak family support. But another important factor in inner-city neighborhoods is the temptation to drop out of school in order to profit from the drug trade.

The total number of persons incarcerated in state and federal prisons in the U.S. has grown from 330,000 in 1980 to about 1.6 million today. Much of the increase in this population is directly due to the war on drugs and the severe punishment for persons convicted of drug trafficking. About 50% of the inmates in federal prisons and 20% of those in state prisons have been convicted of either selling or using drugs. The many minor drug traffickers and drug users who spend time in jail find fewer opportunities for legal employment after they get out of prison, and they develop better skills at criminal activities.

Prices of illegal drugs are pushed up whenever many drug traffickers are caught and punished harshly. The higher prices they get for drugs help compensate traffickers for the risks of being apprehended. Higher prices can discourage the demand for drugs, but they also enable some traffickers to make a lot of money if they avoid being caught, if they operate on a large enough scale, and if they can reduce competition from other traffickers. This explains why large-scale drug gangs and cartels are so profitable in the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and other countries.

The paradox of the war on drugs is that the harder governments push the fight, the higher drug prices become to compensate for the greater risks. That leads to larger profits for traffickers who avoid being punished. This is why larger drug gangs often benefit from a tougher war on drugs, especially if the war mainly targets small-fry dealers and not the major drug gangs. Moreover, to the extent that a more aggressive war on drugs leads dealers to respond with higher levels of violence and corruption, an increase in enforcement can exacerbate the costs imposed on society.

The large profits for drug dealers who avoid being caught and punished encourage them to try to bribe and intimidate police, politicians, the military and anyone else involved in the war against drugs. If police and officials resist bribes and try to enforce antidrug laws, they are threatened with violence and often begin to fear for their lives and those of their families.

Mexico offers a well-documented example of some of the costs involved in drug wars. Probably more than 50,000 people have died since Mexico's antidrug campaign started in 2006. For perspective, about 150,000 deaths would result if the same fraction of Americans were killed. This number of deaths is many magnitudes greater than American losses in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, and is about three times the number of American deaths in the Vietnam War. Many of those killed were innocent civilians and the army personnel, police officers and local government officials involved in the antidrug effort.

There is also considerable bitterness in Mexico over the war because the great majority of the drugs go to the U.S. drug cartels in Mexico and several other Latin American countries would be far weaker if they were only selling drugs to domestic consumers (Brazilian and Mexican drug gangs also export a lot to Europe).

The main gain from the war on drugs claimed by advocates of continuing the war is a lower incidence of drug use and drug addiction. Basic economics does imply that, under given conditions, higher prices for a good leads to reduced demand for that good. The magnitude of the response depends on the availability of substitutes for the higher priced good. For example, many drug users might find alcohol a good substitute for drugs as drugs become more expensive.

The conclusion that higher prices reduce demand only "under given conditions" is especially important in considering the effects of higher drug prices due to the war on drugs. Making the selling and consumption of drugs illegal not only raises drug prices but also has other important effects. For example, while some consumers are reluctant to buy illegal goods, drugs may be an exception because drug use usually starts while people are teenagers or young adults. A rebellious streak may lead them to use and sell drugs precisely because those activities are illegal.

The U.S. spends about $15 billion a year fighting illegal drugs, often on foreign soil. But America's deadliest drug epidemic begins and ends at home

More important, some drugs, such as crack or heroin, are highly addictive. Many people addicted to smoking and to drinking alcohol manage to break their addictions when they get married or find good jobs, or as a result of other life-cycle events. They also often get help from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, or by using patches and "fake" cigarettes that gradually wean them from their addiction to nicotine.

It is generally harder to break an addiction to illegal goods, like drugs. Drug addicts may be leery of going to clinics or to nonprofit "drugs anonymous" groups for help. They fear they will be reported for consuming illegal substances. Since the consumption of illegal drugs must be hidden to avoid arrest and conviction, many drug consumers must alter their lives in order to avoid detection.

Usually overlooked in discussions of the effects of the war on drugs is that the illegality of drugs stunts the development of ways to help drug addicts, such as the drug equivalent of nicotine patches. Thus, though the war on drugs may well have induced lower drug use through higher prices, it has likely also increased the rate of addiction. The illegality of drugs makes it harder for addicts to get help in breaking their addictions. It leads them to associate more with other addicts and less with people who might help them quit.

Most parents who support the war on drugs are mainly concerned about their children becoming addicted to drugs rather than simply becoming occasional or modest drug users. Yet the war on drugs may increase addiction rates, and it may even increase the total number of addicts.

One moderate alternative to the war on drugs is to follow Portugal's lead and decriminalize all drug use while maintaining the illegality of drug trafficking. Decriminalizing drugs implies that persons cannot be criminally punished when they are found to be in possession of small quantities of drugs that could be used for their own consumption. Decriminalization would reduce the bloated U.S. prison population since drug users could no longer be sent to jail. Decriminalization would make it easier for drug addicts to openly seek help from clinics and self-help groups, and it would make companies more likely to develop products and methods that address addiction.

Some evidence is available on the effects of Portugal's decriminalization of drugs, which began in 2001. A study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology found that in Portugal since decriminalization, imprisonment on drug-related charges has gone down; drug use among young persons appears to have increased only modestly, if at all; visits to clinics that help with drug addictions and diseases from drug use have increased; and opiate-related deaths have fallen.

Decriminalization of all drugs by the U.S. would be a major positive step away from the war on drugs. In recent years, states have begun to decriminalize marijuana, one of the least addictive and less damaging drugs. Marijuana is now decriminalized in some form in about 20 states, and it is de facto decriminalized in some others as well. If decriminalization of marijuana proves successful, the next step would be to decriminalize other drugs, perhaps starting with amphetamines. Gradually, this might lead to the full decriminalization of all drugs.

Though the decriminalization of drug use would have many benefits, it would not, by itself, reduce many of the costs of the war on drugs, since those involve actions against traffickers. These costs would not be greatly reduced unless selling drugs was also decriminalized. Full decriminalization on both sides of the drug market would lower drug prices, reduce the role of criminals in producing and selling drugs, improve many inner-city neighborhoods, encourage more minority students in the U.S. to finish high school, substantially lessen the drug problems of Mexico and other countries involved in supplying drugs, greatly reduce the number of state and federal prisoners and the harmful effects on drug offenders of spending years in prison, and save the financial resources of government.

The lower drug prices that would result from full decriminalization may well encourage greater consumption of drugs, but it would also lead to lower addiction rates and perhaps even to fewer drug addicts, since heavy drug users would find it easier to quit. Excise taxes on the sale of drugs, similar to those on cigarettes and alcohol, could be used to moderate some, if not most, of any increased drug use caused by the lower prices.

Taxing legal production would eliminate the advantage that violent criminals have in the current marketplace. Just as gangsters were largely driven out of the alcohol market after the end of prohibition, violent drug gangs would be driven out of a decriminalized drug market. Since the major costs of the drug war are the costs of the crime associated with drug trafficking, the costs to society would be greatly reduced even if overall drug consumption increased somewhat.

The decriminalization of both drug use and the drug market won't be attained easily, as there is powerful opposition to each of them. The disastrous effects of the American war on drugs are becoming more apparent, however, not only in the U.S. but beyond its borders. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has suggested "market solutions" as one alternative to the problem. Perhaps the combined efforts of leaders in different countries can succeed in making a big enough push toward finally ending this long, enormously destructive policy experiment.

—Mr. Becker is a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992. Mr. Murphy is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Both are senior fellows of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


 
 
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Posted By: Joseph Stromberg — In the News,Plants,Science,The Human Body 

One of the chief arguments for the legalization of medicinal marijuana is its usefulness as a pain reliever. For many cancer and AIDS patients across the 19 states where medicinal use of the drug has been legalized, it has proven to be a valuable tool in managing chronic pain—in some cases working for patients for which conventional painkillers are ineffective.To determine exactly how cannabis relieves pain, a group of Oxford researchers used healthy volunteers, an MRI machine and doses of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Their findings, published today in the journal Pain, suggest something counterintuitive: that the drug doesn’t so much reduce pain as make the same level of pain more bearable.“Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine,” Michael Lee, an Oxford neuroscientist and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates. Instead, cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way.”As part of the study, Lee and colleagues recruited 12 healthy volunteers who said they’d never used marijuana before and gave each one either a THC tablet or a placebo. Then, to trigger a consistent level of pain, they rubbed a cream on the volunteers’ legs that included 1% capsaicin, the compound found that makes chili peppers spicy; in this case, it caused a burning sensation on the skin.When the researchers asked each person to report both the intensity and the unpleasantness of the pain—in other words, how much it physically burned and how much this level of burning bothered them—they came to the surprising finding. “We found that with THC, on average people didn’t report any change in the burn, but the pain bothered them less,” Lee said.This indicates that marijuana doesn’t function as a pain killer as much as a pain distracter: Objectively, levels of pain remain the same for someone under the influence of THC, but it simply bothers the person less. It’s difficult to draw especially broad conclusions from a study with a sample size of just 12 participants, but the results were still surprising.Each of the participants was also put in an MRI machine—so the researchers could try to pinpoint which areas of the brain seemed to be involved in THC’s pain relieving processes—and the results backed up the theory. Changes in brain activity due to THC involved areas such as the anterior mid-cingulate cortex, believed to be involved in the emotional aspects of pain, rather than other areas implicated in the direct physical perception of it.Additionally, the researchers found that THC’s effectiveness in reducing the unpleasantness of pain varied greatly between individuals—another characteristic that sets it apart from typical painkillers. For some participants, it made the capsaicin cream much less bothersome, while for others, it had little effect.The MRI scans supported this observation, too: Those more affected by the THC demonstrated more brain activity connecting their right amydala and a part of the cortex known as the primary sensorimotor area. The researchers say that this finding could perhaps be used as a diagnostic tool, indicating for which patients THC could be most effective as a pain treatment medicine. 

 http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/12/marijuana-isnt-a-pain-killer-its-a-pain-distracter/#ixzz2GSkHUMO6 Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on TwitterMarijuana Isn’t a Pain Killer—It’s a Pain Distracter

 
 
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Ruling regarding state law may affect other pending prosecutions

By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer
Published By Times Herald

Posted:   12/20/2012 02:38:42 PM PST



Two Vallejo dispensary operators charged with illegally selling marijuana had their cases thrown out by a judge Thursday.The cases involved the embattled Better Health Group collective, which was raided by Vallejo police in February, March and June. The dispensary at 3611 Sonoma Blvd. was shut down after a third raid on June 22.

Defendants Jorge Espinoza, 25, and Jonathan Linares, 22, both of Vallejo, had been charged with marijuana possession and sale, and operating an illegal dispensary.

But visiting Solano County Superior Court Judge William Harrison dismissed all charges following a preliminary hearing held Wednesday at the Vallejo courthouse.

After the ruling, Harrison said that while not everyone sees eye to eye on the law, dispensaries that comply with the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act are allowed to operate.

"Our Legislature has said you can have this kind of business if you do it right," Harrison said. "I don't think there is sufficient evidence that Jorge Espinoza has committed a crime."

Afterward, Solano County Deputy Public Defender Cheryl McLandrich, who represented Linares, said the court "did the right thing."

"We are pleased with the court's ruling," McLandrich said. "These gentlemen were paying taxes and attempting to comply with state law in running their cooperative. It would have been a waste of taxpayer time and resources for the court to have bound them over for trial."

It was unclear Thursday whether the collective plans to reopen in Vallejo.The case was the first in a series of Vallejo dispensary cases to reach a preliminary hearing following a police crackdown earlier this year.

The raids followed a ballot initiative by Vallejo voters in November 2011 to tax medical marijuana businesses.

At the center of the case were legal and philosophical questions about what constitutes a legitimate medical marijuana cooperative under California law. A pile of conflicting court rulings has added to the confusion, but recent appellate decisions favor a broader view of the law.

During the preliminary hearing, Solano County Deputy District Attorney Jack Harris argued the dispensary did not meet the definition of a cooperative. Harris said the enterprise was not accountable to its membership, and that only a small number of patients grew the marijuana that was sold.

However, defense attorney Scot Candell of San Rafael, who represented Espinoza, argued the group had followed all applicable state and local laws. Candell said the dispensary required members to fill out membership forms and tracked members' prescriptions to make sure they were up to date.

Candell also said the dispensary paid state and local taxes.

"This was a (registered) nonprofit organization with a board of directors," Candell said. "There is no evidence that anyone was doing anything wrong."

Candell also referenced two Fourth Appellate District of California rulings from earlier this year. The rulings, concerning dispensaries in San Diego and Los Angeles, said state law does not limit the number of members a dispensary can have, or require them be growers.

The rulings in the two cases, People v. Colvin and People v. Jackson, also found that storefront collectives can sell marijuana to members as long as the money is used for overhead costs and operating expenses.

Harris, however, argued the club was not a truly a "cooperative" because its roughly 15,000 members were not given a say in how it operated. State laws, however, are vague of what exactly a medical marijuana collective should look like.

"I do not agree that signing a piece of paper makes you a member of a collective," Harris said.

Vallejo police Detective Jared Jaksch testified that three undercover officers posing as patients - including a district attorney's investigator - had purchased marijuana at the business since April 2010.

While the first undercover officer used a "forged" prescription, Jaksch said the other two showed valid physicians' recommendations and filled out membership forms.

Jaksch said a Vallejo detective last bought marijuana at the dispensary on Feb. 16, and the undercover DA inspector made a May 15 purchase. Other than filling out membership forms, he said the investigators were not informed of their rights or responsibilities as members.

Jaksch also said police spoke to more than a dozen individuals seen leaving the dispensary. He said one customer told police she did not possess a doctor's recommendation at the time. Another, Jaksch said, said she had purchased marijuana at the dispensary without being a member.

However, Morgan Hannigan, a dispensary volunteer, testified that many patients carried identification cards with medical information rather than paper copies of doctors' recommendations. Hannigan, who volunteered at the dispensary from April until June, also said the collective kept records of members' prescriptions on its computers.

"New patients were required to show a recommendation and a California ID," Hannigan said. Returning patients, he added, could swipe their driver license through an electronic identification system that would verify if they had a current prescription.

Asked by Harris how the collective set the prices of its marijuana, Hannigan said the amounts charged were determined by factors such as growers' costs, payroll and other overhead expenses.

"What's left gets reimbursed into the business," Hannigan said.

Prosecutors tried to paint a picture of the dispensary as a massive for-profit business, which Espinoza as the CEO and Linares as the manager. Along with pounds of marijuana, hash and edible products, police seized more than $20,000 cash from the dispensary during the raids.

"I think (Espinoza) is the owner of a business that he's attempted to disguise as a nonprofit organization," Jaksch said during testimony.

In his ruling, Harrison said he didn't agree with the prosecution argument that the business was making money.

"The argument from the people's standpoint ... was because of the amount of money found (during the police raids) it was for-profit," Harrison said. "But the evidence I have seen shows there wasn't a profit ... and I don't think forcing them to go through a trial is the right thing to do."

Afterward, Harris said the ruling could affect pending dispensary cases in Solano County.

"We'll have to re-weigh everything," Harris said. "These (appellate) cases have taken a much looser interpretation of what I think a collective ought to be."



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The "Django Unchained" director told a talk show that as he researched slavery, he saw the same sort of injustices happening in America today.Although race always has been an element in his work, Django Unchained has become the flash point for public examination of Quentin Tarantino's thoughts about African-Americans.

Tarantino's new film is set just before the Civil War and features Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who seeks to save his wife by taking down the brutal plantation owner who owns her. The revenge in the film is a symbol for greater black liberation, but as he said during a recent appearance on a talk show in Canada, Tarantino does not believe conditions have wholly improved. Instead, he asserted, the dominion has simply shifted.

"This whole thing of this 'war on drugs' and the mass incarcerations that have happened pretty much for the last 40 years has just decimated the black male population," the filmmaker said on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. "It’s slavery, it is just, it’s just slavery through and through, and it’s just the same fear of the black male that existed back in the 1800s."

In addition, he says that the flesh-for-cash business of slavery mirrors that of the prison industrial complex.

"Especially having even directed a movie about slavery," he said, "and you know the scenes that we have in the slave town, the slave auction town, where they’re moving back and forth -- well, that looks like standing in the top tier of a prison system and watching the things go down. And between the private prisons and the public prisons, the way prisoners are traded back and forth."

PHOTOS: THR's Rule Breakers 2012

Tarantino's words might spark some debate, not only from those politically on opposite sides of the great drug war debate but also from the film community. Graphic abuses of the slaves are depicted throughout Django Unchained, leading to a split between those who think his work is a painfully real look at the horrors of the time and others who believe the violence -- along with the near-constant use of the N-word -- in the movie is exploitative and not handled with respect.

As Tarantino told The Hollywood Reporterthough, no criticism he gets will impact his work.

"Not one word of social criticism that's been leveled my way has ever changed one word of any script or any story I tell," he says in THR's new "Rule Breaker" issue. "I believe in what I'm doing wholeheartedly and passionately. It's my job to ignore that."


 
 
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Oakland cites surprise medical pot backerBob EgelkoUpdated 10:41 pm, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oakland's latest round in its campaign to save the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary includes a statement this week from Mayor Jean Quan saying federal prosecutors should back off, and the federal government's own patent application lauding the therapeutic qualities of cannabis.

In papers filed late Tuesday with the magistrate who is considering the fate of the Harborside Health Center, lawyers for Oakland said patent and research records reveal that "the government believes in the medical efficacy of cannabis" - contrary to the Justice Department's insistence that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no legitimate use.

Cedric Chao, a lawyer for the city, cited a 2003 patent application by the U.S. government that said cannabis compounds are "useful in the treatment and prophylaxis (prevention) of a wide variety of oxidation-associated diseases," including certain types of strokes and immune-system disorders.

Chao quoted another patent application, by two government scientists in 2009, that referred to the "healing properties of Cannabis sativa," or marijuana, that have been "known throughout documented history."

"How can the government credibly deny the benefits of medical cannabis when the government itself is funding cutting-edge research proving the medical benefits of cannabis and seeking patents based on such research?" Chao wrote.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed suit in July seeking the closure of Harborside and the forfeiture of its offices at 1840 Embarcadero. She said the dispensary, which supplies marijuana to 108,000 patients, is violating federal drug laws.

On Dec. 20, U.S. Magistrate Maria Elena James is scheduled to consider a request by the building's owner, Ana Chretien, to shut down the dispensary and Oakland's request to put Chretien's motion on hold until James rules on the city's challenge to the government's suit. Oakland claims the federal statute of limitations required the government to seek forfeiture no later than 2011, five years after Harborside opened.

The city, which collects $1.4 million a year in business taxes from Harborside and other licensed dispensaries, submitted a sworn statement issued Tuesday by Quan in support of its case. She said Oakland adopted a permit system for medical marijuana suppliers after being told by federal officials that they would allow operation of facilities that complied with state and local laws.

If the federal government shuts down the dispensaries, Quan said, tens of thousands of patients "either will be forced to forgo their medicine or be forced into the back alleys and underground, illegal markets."

The city would be better off if the federal government would take the money from its fight against Harborside and use it "to instead increase our police force and assist Oakland with gun violence and investigations," the mayor said.

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: begelko@sfchronicle.com




Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-cites-surprise-medical-pot-backer-4113767.php#ixzz2EwtYYYlA


One of the things I will be focused on highlighting in 2013 and 2014 will be these patents and the hipocrisy of the