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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





 
 
DENVER – The nation's largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), slammed former Congressman Patrick Kennedy's plan to force marijuana consumers into treatment and marijuana "education" classes, which his new organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), is scheduled to unveil in Denver on Wednesday. 

 "The proposal is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state," said MPP communications director Mason Tvert. "In fact, it would be less logical because the science is clear that marijuana is far less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with acts of violence."

MPP is calling on Kennedy, whose family made a fortune selling alcohol, to explain why he wants to keep an objectively less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal. Specifically, MPP is asking Kennedy to address the question on SAM's website and provide facts regarding the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol. MPP also launched an online petition this morning asking Kennedy to provide an explanation or resign as chairman of SAM, which received more than 1,500 signatures within the first hour of being posted – http://chn.ge/13e9Qjl

"Former Congressman Kennedy's proposal is the definition of hypocrisy," Tvert said. "He is living in part off of the fortune his family made by selling alcohol while leading a campaign that makes it seem like marijuana – an objectively less harmful product – is the greatest threat to public health.”


"If this group truly cares about public health, it should be providing the public with facts regarding the relative harms of marijuana and discouraging the use of the more harmful product," Tvert continued. "Why on earth would they want keep a less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal? Former Congressman Kennedy and his organization should answer this question before calling on our government to start forcing people into treatment programs and throwing them into marijuana ‘education’ camps."


Also read http://blog.mpp.org/prohibition/mpp-slams-former-congressmans-plan-to-force-marijuana-consumers-into-treatment-and-marijuana-education-classes/01082013/
 
 
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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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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