on May 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm
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
11:39 AM ET
Marijuana could be the next gay marriage -- a contentious social issue that suddenly picks up broad, bipartisan support for change. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out in favor of legalizing hemp, joining Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and fellow Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to cosponsor a bill that would allow Americans to grow it, NBC News' Kasie Hunt
reports. Of course, hemp is not the same as regular marijuana. Industrial hemp has much less THC, the chemical that gets people high. But right now, hemp is classified in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. On Thursday, the Kentucky state senate voted to legalize hemp if
the federal government legalizes it too. Oregon has legalized hemp cultivation, but farmers risk federal prosecution.
Again, hemp is not the same thing as marijuana, "but some law enforcement groups say it is a step that could lead to the legalization of marijuana," Hunt writes. Other lawmakers -- yes, even conservative Republicans! -- have addressed legalizing the drug itself. The most fascinating example was last week, when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said twice he was "evolving" on the issue of marijuana legalization when political science students at the University of Virginia asked him about voters legalizing weed in Colorado and Washington last fall. "I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [in terms of marijuana legalization]," Cuccinelli said
. "But I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out." He explained it as a federalism thing
: "I don't have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing. I think that's the role of states."
Cuccinelli is expected to be the next Republican nominee for Virginia governor. He's a very conservative dude. He led the states' rebellion against Obamacare. He's said conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia isn't conservative enough
. In the same UVA appearance, he said he didn't support public pools because they distort the free market.
More remarkable is that Cuccinelli later clarified his comments -- but not in the traditional political definition of the word, which is "retract all previous statements." Instead, he questioned the war on drugs
"What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It's been phenomenally expensive...
[If the government] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who's pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I'll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal."
Rand Paul has gone further in talking about marijuana legalization than his pro-him pal McConnell. In November, like Cuccinelli, Paul said, "States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions... I think, for example, we should tell young people, 'I'm not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don't want to put you in jail for 20 years...'"
It's important to explain what's radical and what isn't in this position. Few people who get caught with marijuana go to jail for 20 years, so opposing that isn't a big deal. It's the boring part of Paul's comment -- let states make the call on weed -- that actually is radical. As Reason's Jacob Sullum
explained, a Republican senator supporting "devolving drug policy decisions to the states is pretty bold in the current political context." He writes:
It is the policy embodied in the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011
, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). How many of their fellow congressmen joined them? Nineteen
, all but one (Dana Rohrabacher of California) a Democrat.
So, how are the states doing? On Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced people arrested on minor pot possession charges won't be booked and held for arraignment anymore, The Wall Street Journal
reports. Instead, they'll be released with appearance tickets, which means the person is free until his or her court date. But the issue is being addressed outside liberalism's East Coast capital. In state legislatures like Rhode Island
, and Pennsylvania
, the push for legalization in 2013 has, so far, been dominated by Democrats. But there are signs Republicans might ease their opposition, too. This week, Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach toldRaw Story
that if her marijuana legalization bill was voted on by "secret ballot," it would pass. Privately, Leach said, some of the "most conservative" lawmakers agree on legalization, because it's "just another government program" that doesn't work.
In New Hampshire, some Republican lawmakers are willing to go on the record. "Marijuana can let them die in peace, and if this helps them, so be it," Republican state Rep. Will Infantine said after hearing testimony from people with debilitating illnesses, The Dartmouth
reports Friday. A bill to legalize medical marijuana is expected to pass by mid-March and make New Hampshire the last New England state to allow it. Last year, the Democratic governor vetoed two medical marijuana bills, but current Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she won't veto the current bill.
One of the most fascinating marijuana moments this year was when conservative former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo announced he would smoke pot to make good on his bet with Adam Hartle, a stand-up comic, over whether Colorado would legalize weed. "Look, I made a bet with the producer of the film that if Amendment 64 passed ( I did not think it would) that I would smoke pot," Tancredo said
. "I will therefore smoke pot under circumstances we both agree are legal under Colorado law." His family eventually peer pressured
him out of it.
Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Posted: 02/12/2013 11:04 am
I firmly believe that at some point during his second administration President Obama is going to address the issue of mass incarceration in America. What I fear is that he is going to wait so long, and ultimately do so with such caution, as to minimize his potential impact.
I'll be listening to his State of the Union tonight, hoping against hope that he says something, and says something bold. He's made clear he has other priorities -- the economy, immigration, climate change and now gun violence -- but what a difference it would make for him to speak to this issue when he addresses the nation.
There's no question he gets it. Barack Obama was a strong proponent of criminal justice reform as a state legislator. He spoke about it when he ran for president the first time. His administration worked hard during his first years in office to eliminate the racially disproportionate disparity in federal sanctions for crack and powder cocaine, winning a bipartisan compromise to at least reduce the disparity from 100:1 to 18:1. And he made clear in a Time magazine interview
just two months ago that he views over-incarceration for non-violent offenses as a real problem:
Well, I don't think it's any secret that we have one of the two or three highest incarceration rates in the world, per capita. I tend to be pretty conservative, pretty law and order, when it comes to violent crime. My attitude is, is that when you rape, murder, assault somebody, that you've made a choice; the society has every right to not only make sure you pay for that crime, but in some cases to disable you from continuing to engage in violent behavior.
But there's a big chunk of that prison population, a great huge chunk of our criminal justice system that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it is having a disabling effect on communities. Obviously, inner city communities are most obvious, but when you go into rural communities, you see a similar impact. You have entire populations that are rendered incapable of getting a legitimate job because of a prison record. And it gobbles up a huge amount of resources. If you look at state budgets, part of the reason that tuition has been rising in public universities across the country is because more and more resources were going into paying for prisons, and that left less money to provide to colleges and universities.
But this is a complicated problem. One of the incredible transformations in this society that precedes me, but has continued through my presidency, even continued through the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, is this decline in violent crime. And that's something that we want to continue. And so I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process.
Read that last line, that last clause, again: "but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." He didn't say a few; he didn't say thousands; he said millions. And the fact is that the president's not exaggerating -- not when this country has less than 5 percent of the world's population but almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population; not when our rate of incarceration is roughly five times that of most other nations; not when we rely on incarceration to an extent unparalleled in the history of democratic societies; not when almost six million Americans can't vote because they were convicted of a felony
; not when one of every 32 adult Americans are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, with all the indignities, discriminations and disadvantages that that entails; and not when the tens of billions of dollars spent each year incarcerating fellow citizens displaces expenditures on education, research and non-incarcerative infrastructure.
James Webb, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for the past six years, said it well: "There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice."
During President Obama's first term, I occasionally had opportunity to ask senior White House aides why the president was so silent on this issue. Some simply said he had to focus on other priorities. Others suggested that his being the first black president made him particularly wary of taking the issue on given the extraordinary extent to which over-incarceration in this country is about race and the mass incarceration of black men. But wasn't that precisely the reason, or at least a key reason, I asked, why President Obama needed to address the issue, and needed to provide the leadership that only he could provide. Maybe in a second term, they replied.
Well, that second term is now -- and what the president says tonight is going to frame his proactive agenda for the next four years. "Millions of lives," he said; millions of American lives "being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." If ever there was a time and an issue for President Obama to assert his moral leadership, this is it.
Say it, Mr. President, please say it now.Follow Ethan Nadelmann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EthanNadelmann
~I love that William Lacy Clay signed a bill in 2008 "accidentally" but it ended up being a good thing for him politically! ss
By Chris Goo@c_goodFollow on Twitter
Feb 8, 2013 4:31pm
Image credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
A new effort is under way in Congress to legalize marijuana.
After Colorado and Washington became the first two states to approve the sale and use of pot, marijuana advocates are turning their eye toward the federal government – something they don’t often do.
Members of Congress will introduce between eight and 10 bills to roll back federal marijuana restrictions and levy new taxes.
The first two were introduced this week by two liberal members of Congress. Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., on Monday rolled out a pair of bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, while still allowing states to ban it.
Polis’s bill, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, would remove marijuana from the list of banned substances under the Controlled Substances Act and regulate pot under a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. Marijuana growers would have to buy permits to offset the costs of federal oversight.
Blumenauer’s bill, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, would levy a 50-percent excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, typically from growers to processors or sellers, plus annual “occupation taxes” of $1,000 and $500 on marijuana growers and anyone else engaged in the business.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., meanwhile, plans to introduce another marijuana bill sometime soon. He’s the only Republican to formally support either Polis or Blumenauer as a cosponsor.
Blumenauer’s office confirmed that a slew of bills are on the way.
“We are in the process of a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape,” Blumenauer said in a prepared statement on Monday.
He may be right. Marijuana legalizers enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, hitting on their two major legalization initiatives at the state level in Colorado and Washington. Since then, bills have been introduced to roll back marijuana restrictions in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
It’s unlikely Congress will legalize pot anytime soon, despite polls showing broader public acceptance of pot. In December, 64 percent of Gallup respondents
said they don’t want the federal government stepping in to prevent pot legalization in states that allow it. In November, another nationwide Gallup poll showed that 48 percent think marijuana should be legal, while 50 percent think it shouldn’t be.
But Polis’s bill only has 11 cosponsors and must make its way through the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee. Blumenauer’s has two and must make its way through the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee.
What’s significant about the new push, however, is that it comes on the heels of actual state-level policy change. State and federal laws now thoroughly conflict on the topic of marijuana, and never before has Congress considered legalization in that context.
In fact, Congress rarely considers marijuana legalization at all. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project considers a 2011 effort by then-Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, to have been the first serious effort to end marijuana “prohibition” at the federal level. That bill went nowhere. Before that, Frank pushed a bill in 2008 that mostly decriminalized marijuana federally. In a Democratic Congress, that bill died in committee. One of its seven cosponsors signed on by accident
The present effort appears more coordinated. Along with their bills, Polis and Blumenauer released a 20-page white paper on the history of marijuana’s illegality. It’s the first time pot legislation has been introduced in such a multi-bill wave.
For decades, marijuana advocates have pushed medical-pot laws and decriminalization measures through state ballot initiatives and state legislatures. The federal push, unlikely as it may be, represents a new prong in their strategy.
By Paul Armentano
February 6, 2013, 1:54 p.m.
Former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Robert Bonner wrote in his Feb. 1 Blowback article
, "There is still no such scientific study establishing that marijuana is effective as a medicine."
Nonsense. Over the last several years, the state of California, via the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research
, has conducted several placebo
-approved clinical trials affirming the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis. Other institutions have as well. (Click here
for an overview of more than 200 such trials.)
Summarizing the findings of many of these trials, Dr. Igor Grant of UC San Diego declared
last year in the Open Neurology Journal: "The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value are obstacles to medical progress in this area. Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking."
Bonner's second claim, that "not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse
," is equally specious. In fact, in recent months the NIDA has stonewalled an FDA-approved clinical protocol by researchers at the University of Arizona
College of Medicine to assess the treatment of cannabis in subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder
. Dr. Sue Sisley, who sought to conduct the study, told Wired.com
: "At this point, I can't help but think they [the federal government] simply don't want to move forward. Maybe they figure if they stall long enough, we'll give up and go away."
Finally, Bonner's suggestion that advocates would be better served targeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a red herring. The FDA exists to determine whether patented products from private companies can be brought to market. Because the present law forbids any legal private manufacturers to exist, there remains no entity available to fund the sort of large-scale clinical research and development necessary to trigger an FDA review.
This is not to imply that cannabis could not meet the FDA's objective standards for safety and efficacy. According to a keyword search on PubMed, the U.S. government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research, there are more than 22,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature pertaining to marijuana and its biologically active components, making cannabis one of the most studied therapeutic agents on Earth. Further, the plant has been used as medicine for millenniums and is incapable of causing lethal overdose in humans. By objective standards, cannabis is arguably safer than most conventional therapeutics it could potentially replace.
The federal government’s insistence that cannabis remain classified in the same schedule as heroin
and in a more prohibitive schedule than cocaine is not based on either science or reason. As opined
in a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine article, it is time for federal authorities to "rescind their prohibition of the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat."Paul Armentano is deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Lawsand coauthor of the book "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?"If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed and would like to participate in Blowback, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
By Robert Bonner
February 1, 2013, 8:23 a.m.
Reacting to a federal appellate court decision upholding the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's denial of reclassification of marijuana, The Times states in its Jan. 25 editorial
that whether marijuana should be reclassified under federal law to permit its prescription as a medicine should be based on science and an evaluation of the facts, rather than on myths. I fully agree.
And yet the editorial is based on the myth that the DEA has made it "nearly impossible" for researchers to obtain marijuana for such scientific studies. To the contrary, not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse
. And there is ample government-grown marijuana, specifically for research, available at the marijuana farm run by the University of Mississippi
. More surprising, as your editorial points out, is that there is still no scientifically valid study that proves that marijuana is effective, much less safe, as a medicine.
As the DEA administrator 20 years ago, I denied the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I controlled drug because there were no valid scientific studies showing that smoking marijuana was an effective medicine. In my decision, published in the Federal Register, I interpreted federal law and set forth a five-part test that included whether there were valid scientific studies demonstrating that marijuana was safe and effective for treating any medical condition. I noted that at that time there were none of the kind of controlled, double-blind studies that the Food and Drug Administration
would require before approving a new drug application, and I clearly spelled out that this would be necessary before marijuana would be reclassified to a lower schedule that would permit its use as a physician-prescribed medicine
Essentially, I invited those who advocate marijuana use as a medicine to conduct research and then present it to the DEA. I laid out a road map for what they needed to do. If scientifically valid studies demonstrated that marijuana was “effective” and “safe,” as the FDA defines those terms, the agency would reclassify marijuana into one of the other schedules. It is amazing that 20 years later there is still no such scientific study establishing that marijuana is effective as a medicine. And yet in the interim, the well-funded marijuana lobby, including the National Assn. for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and others, have spent tens of millions of dollars on convincing voters to pass medical marijuana
initiatives based on anecdotes but not science.
The reason the FDA and the DEA have scientific standards is because snake-oil salesmen are able to sell just about anything to sick people without any scientific proof that it has a truly helpful therapeutic effect. If proponents of medical marijuana had invested even a small fragment of their money in scientifically valid studies, we would know one way or the other whether it works.
One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine. Alternatively, we are left to conclude that their agenda was not about marijuana to help sick people, but rather was getting voters to pass medical marijuana initiatives as a wedge to legalize the drug for "recreational" use. Here is a response from a long time activist Rick Doblin:
Dear Mr. Robert Bonner,
Hello from Rick Doblin, Ph.D.,(Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, with my dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana). I'm currently Executive Director of the non-profit research and educational organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS, www.maps.org
), which I founded in 1986. You may be surprised to learn that for the last 20+ years, I have been inspired by, and frequently quote, your 1992 statement that you mention in your article above in which you encouraged advocates of medical marijuana to conduct more research.
In 1992, you wrote, <Those who insist that marijuana has medical uses would serve society better by promoting or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research, rather than throwing their time, money and rhetoric into lobbying public relations campaigns and perennial litigation."
I have put my full energies for the last 20+ years into trying to conduct FDA-approved medical marijuana drug development research. Unfortunately, my experience, to which I hope you will give some credence, is exactly opposite of the open door to research that you claim exists. MAPS has obtained FDA and IRB approval for three different protocols to which NIDA refused to sell any marijuana, preventing the studies from taking place. In addition, NIDA refused for 7 years to sell MAPS 10 grams (!!) of marijuana for laboratory research investigating the vapors that come out of the Volcano vaporizer, compared to smoke from combusted marijuana.
Furthermore, MAPS has been involved for the last decade in litigation against DEA for refusing to license Prof. Craker, UMass Amherst, to grow marijuana exclusively for use in federally regulated research. In 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner recommended, after extensive hearings with witness testimony, that it would be in the public interest for DEA to license Prof. Craker to grow marijuana under contract to MAPS, ending the NIDA monopoly on the supply of marijuana legal for use in FDA-regulated studies. DEA waited for almost two years and then rejected the ALJ recommendation just six days before the inauguration of Pres. Obama. On May 11, 2012, oral arguments took place before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit by Prof. Craker challenging DEA's rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation. A ruling is currently pending from the 1st Circuit. From my perspective, DEA's rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation is arbitrary and capricious, but of course what matters is what the 1st Circuit will eventually decide.
In your article above, you claimed, <To the contrary, not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.> The wiggle room in your statement above is the definition of "scientifically valid study". One would think that for a privately funded study being conducted without a penny of government money, with the aim of developing marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine, that the FDA would be the regulatory agency to determine whether the study was "scientifically valid" and that Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval would be sufficient to protect the safety of the human volunteers to the study. However, in 1999, HHS created a policy (which could be reversed by Pres. Obama at any time without Congressional action) stating that PHS/NIDA reviewers would have to conduct an additional review of protocols from privately-funded sponsors seeking to purchase!
marijuana from NIDA. This additional PHS/NIDA protocol review process exists only for marijuana, not for research with any other controlled substance. MAPS has been able to make substantial progress with our research exploring the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, including a current study in 24 US veterans, firefighters and perhaps even police officers with work-related PTSD.
It is these PHS/NIDA reviewers who have rejected all three of MAPS' FDA and IRB approved medical marijuana drug development protocols, preventing them from taking place. You can claim that the rejection of the these protocols was because they were not "scientifically valid". However, to make that claim, you would be saying that FDA and IRBs have approved studies that are not "scientifically valid", an accusation against the FDA that I doubt you really want to make.
MAPS currently has obtained FDA and IRB approval for a study of marijuana in 50 US veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. Dr. Sue Sisley of UArizona is the PI and approval has been obtained from the UArizona IRB as well as the FDA. Research into a potentially beneficial treatment for US veterans is being blocked by PHS/NIDA reviewers who rejected this protocol. These PHS/NIDA reviewers approached the protocol review as if we were asking for a government grant for a basic science study. Instead, we were seeking to purchase marijuana from NIDA for a privately-funded drug development study. The PHS/NIDA reviewers made numerous incorrect and uninformed comments and clearly didn't understand drug development research. One reviewer objected to our outcome measures when we are using the FDA-required measure of PTSD symptoms, the CAPS. If you or any readers want to review our protocol along with the PHS/NIDA reviewers' comments and my annotated response, the documents are posted at: http://www.maps.org/research/mmj/marijuana_for_ptsd_study/
The compete record of Prof. Craker's DEA lawsuit is posted at: http://www.maps.org/research/mmj/dea_timeline/
MAPS will soon be resubmitting our marijuana/PTSD protocol for another round of PHS/NIDA review, even though we think this review should be eliminated from the process. All FDA/IRB and DEA approved protocols should automatically be allowed to purchase marijuana from NIDA.
To summarize, you have been an inspiration to me and have motivated me to devote several decades of my life to seek approval for medical marijuana drug development research. My failure to make progress in overcoming the obstruction of medical marijuana research by DEA/NIDA/PHS provides one of the clearest reasons for state level medical marijuana policy reform.
My conclusion is opposite of yours, when you said, "One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine."
Rather, one can only conclude that privately-funded medical marijuana drug development research is being aggressively and actively obstructed by DEA/NIDA/PHS because they know it can be scientifically proven that marijuana, smoked or vaporized, is both safe and effective.
The heros in all of this in my eyes are the FDA. It's not because FDA is pro-medical marijuana, or pro-psychedelic psychotherapy. Rather, FDA is pro science over politics. In other words, FDA are heroes simply for doing their jobs. If only DEA/NIDA/PHS considered the public interest over their increasingly out of touch passion for blocking FDA-regulated medical marijuana drug development research.
I urge you to reread your 1992 statement and join MAPS in asking for the end of the PHS protocol review process and for a new policy in which all FDA/IRB/DEA approved protocols automatically obtain approval to purchase NIDA marijuana. In addition, I sincerely hope you will also support DEA licensing of Prof. Craker. It's time to "serve society better by promoting or sponsoring more legitimate scientific research."
Rick Doblin, Ph.D.email@example.com
Posted January 23, 2013 by JEFF PRINCE in News
The bar is well stocked at J.R.’s house, nestled quietly in a well-to-do neighborhood not far from downtown Fort Worth. Booze is in short supply — three dusty wine bottles sit forlornly on a shelf. This bar’s bounty is green, red, and gold flowery buds sprinkled on trays and in baby-food-sized jars. It’s a cornucopia of cannabis, enough to make any connoisseur’s toes curl.
Mexican dirt weed?
J.R. doesn’t touch it. He’s a trained budtender with a diploma earned at Oaksterdam University
, the pot college in Oakland, Calif. With a second home in California (and a medicinal marijuana permit in that state), J.R. buys nothing but the best pot, hydroponically grown with precise formulas of water, light, temperature, and nutrition for maximum effect. (Like all the pot aficionados interviewed for this story, he asked that his full name not be used.)
This ain’t your pappy’s weed. “Hydro” is several times stoner, er, stronger.
Domestically produced marijuana has been transformed into a major, sophisticated industry in this country, including in states like Texas, where pot is still illegal. People in the business are perfecting product development and growing techniques, and all over the country there are entrepreneurs like J.R., already clandestinely in business but waiting for the day when pot is legal –– a day they see rapidly approaching.
Five years ago, about 90 percent of the pot sold in North Texas could be categorized as Mexican weed. Now hydro has taken over about half of that market.
American pot farmers produced about 22 million pounds in 2006, worth about $35 billion, according to a report published that year in the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform
. Texas didn’t rank among the top 10 states in outdoor marijuana production, but came in at No. 5 for indoor growing (115,000 pounds annually).
The same report listed pot as the country’s No. 1 cash crop. Corn and other crops are grown in greater volume, but, according to the Bulletin
, none match weed’s production value — not corn ($23 billion), soybeans ($17 million), or hay ($12 million).
Of course, accurately determining how much pot is grown and smoked is kind of like trying to fence in a butterfly.
“It’s just a wild-ass guess,” said Terry Nelson, who spent three decades in law enforcement, including stints with the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs Service, and the Department of Homeland Security. Now retired, he’s a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
(LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals who disagree with current drug policies. They say legalization would cripple cartels and street dealers.
“If there is one [grower’s crop] you are stumbling on, there are probably a thousand that you’re not,” he said. “Cops always use the 10 percent rule: You catch 10 percent of people doing something wrong and know about 10 percent of what’s going on.”
Mexican weed still dominates the Texas market, he said, but hydro is making a big impact.
“We need to legalize these drugs so we can regulate and control them,” he said. “That will reduce about 80 percent of your crime and violence related to the drug trade.”
|Jan. 22, 2013 12:40 pm
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled today in favor of the DEA's decision to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug--a classification for substances that are highly addictive and have no widely accepted medical benefits.
"On the merits, the question before the court is not whether marijuana could have some medical benefits,"reads the court's ruling inAmericans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration
. Rather, the court was tasked with deciding whether the DEA was following its own rules in refusing to initiate reschedule proceedings for marijuana.
According to the appeals court, the DEA was following its own rules (there are five in all) when it claimed that petitioners for rescheduling marijuana had failed to provide "adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy."
Americans for Safe Access in turn argued "that their petition to reschedule marijuana cites more than two hundred peer-reviewed published studies demonstrating marijuana’s efficacy for various medical uses, and that those studies were largely ignored by the [DEA]."
"At bottom," the court wrote, "the parties' dispute in this case turns on the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations. Petitioners construe 'adequate and well-controlled studies' to mean peer-reviewed, published studies suggesting marijuana’s medical efficacy. The DEA, in contrast, interprets that factor to require something more scientifically rigorous."
How much more rigorous? "The DEA interprets 'adequate and well-controlled studies' to mean studies similar to what the Food and Drug Administration requires for a New Drug Application."
The discussion of medical studies starts on page 21 of the brief. You can read the entire ruling below: Americans for Safe Access v. DEA
- Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.
JAN 14 2013, 7:00 AM ETA single prosecution can easily run more than $1 million -- all to send an empty message about federal drug laws and hand the market share over to a less savory purveyor.
When Matthew R. Davies was growing and selling medical marijuana in California, the 34-year-old father of two "hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits," the New York Times reports
. Unfortunately for him, federal agents raided his business, and "the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, a 2009 Obama appointee, wants Mr. Davies to agree to a plea that includes a mandatory minimum of five years in prison." Let's set the legal questions aside and think through the costs of this course:
- The opportunity cost of focusing on other crimes
- $235,000 in incarceration costs
- Two young girls with an absent father
- Substantial lost tax revenue from his operation
- Other marijuana sellers going underground
- Less savory drug dealers, including violent cartels, getting more business
- More of a hassle for sick medical marijuana patients to get their prescription filled
Doesn't that seem awfully "expensive" when the only real benefit is sending the message that you can't get away with openly flouting federal drug laws? If that's the biggest benefit you can plausibly claim, isn't that a sign that the law should change? After all, it isn't as if anyone believes that sending Davies to jail is going to make victory in the drug war any more plausible. Or appreciably decrease the number of people smoking marijuana. Or even significantly diminish the supply, since there's always another person growing on the black market.
All casualties are purposeless when you're fighting an unwinnable war.
Later in the article, we learn that "two of Mr. Davies's co-defendants are pleading guilty, agreeing to five-year minimum terms, to avoid stiffer sentences." Wow. So the federal government thinks it's worth investing more than a million dollars to shut down this particular operation. Maybe you're sympathetic to marijuana legalization, or maybe you're against it. Regardless, could you spend that $1 million-plus better? Could you spend it in a way that saved more lives or created more happiness or resulted in more justice meted out than jailing these three?
One of Davies's employees, who met him after seeking marijuana to help her through ovarian and cervical cancer, gave this quote to the reporter: "I totally trusted them. We're not criminals. I've never been arrested my whole life. I need that medication, and so do a whole lot of people."
How many people, on hearing a story like hers, are going to react in a way that weakens rather than strengthens regard for the rule of law? The Times
also quotes a former federal drug prosecutor who says, "It's mind-boggling that there were hundreds of attorneys advising their clients that it was O.K. to do this, only to be bushwhacked by a federal system that most people in California are not even paying attention to." But ignorance of the law or getting bad attorney's advice only keeps you out of jail in America if you're apolice officer
or elected official
I saw this idea of anti marijuana addiction re education at work about a year ago when I was attending court ordered Deferred Entry of Judgement classes in Redondo Beach. Every Wednesday night for 18 weeks I met with a health department leader and other unfortunate drug war casualties. I could see that they were setting up a whole new industry, probably backed by big insurance companies. The class would start off with roll call and paying your weekly fee. Then we would watch a video 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 them or I just wrote in, "I'm not addicted. I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me control my migraines." Then the teacher started calling me out thinking that I would buckle from public shame. You have to realize that the folks there were given a free pass from the court and they are afraid to blow it. 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. But I didn't buckle. I stood up for myself. And soon I had a lot of people in the class talk to me after and admit that it was a BS program but you do what you have to do. 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 dirty and I had court documents stating that I could not only smoke cannabis but grow it. What they were doing was working on creating statistics that would support a HUGE money grab and create a story of crisis that doesn't really exist!~ss
*****************************************************************************************Meet SAM, the New Group Hell-Bent on Halting Marijuana Legalization
(SAM) has among its "leadership team" admitted addict Patrick Kennedy and conservative commentator David Frum.January 10, 2013
The passage of marijuana legalization measures by voters in Colorado and Washington in November has sparked interest in marijuana policy like never before, and now it has sparked the formation of a new group dedicated to fighting a rearguard action to stop legalization from spreading further.
The group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana
(SAM or Project SAM) has among its " leadership team
" liberal former Rhode Island Democratic congressman and self-admitted oxycodone and alcohol addict Patrick Kennedy
and conservative commentator David Frum. It also includes professional neo-prohibitionist Dr. Kevin Sabet and a handful of medical researchers. It describes itself as a project of the Policy Solutions Lab, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, a drug policy consulting firm headed by Sabet.
SAM emphasizes a public health approach to marijuana, but when it comes to marijuana and the law
, its prescriptions are a mix of the near-reasonable and the around-the-bend. Rational marijuana policy, SAM says, precludes relying "only on the criminal justice system to address people whose only crime is smoking or possessing a small amount of marijuana" and the group calls for small-time possession to be decriminalized, but "subject to a mandatory health screening an marijuana-education program." The SAM version of decrim also includes referrals to treatment "if needed" and probation for up to a year "to prevent further drug use."
But it also calls for an end to NYPD-style "stop and frisk" busts and the expungement of arrest records for marijuana possession. SAM calls for an end to mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana cultivation or distribution, but wants those offenses to remain "misdemeanors or felonies based on the amount possessed."For now, SAM advocates a zero-tolerance approach to marijuana and driving, saying "driving with any amount of marijuana in one's system should be at least a misdemeanor" and should result in a "mandatory health assessment, marijuana education program, and referral to treatment or social services." If a scientifically-based impairment level is established, SAM calls for driving at or above that level to be at least a misdemeanor.
Less controversially, SAM advocates for increased emphasis on education and prevention. It also calls for early screening for marijuana use and limited intervention "for those who not progressed to full marijuana addiction." ~Where is the proof that marijuana is addicting?? What about alcohol addiction or oxycodone addiction? ss
For a taste of SAM's kinder, gentler, neo-prohibitionist rhetoric, David Frum's Monday CNN column
is instructive. "We don't want to lock people up for casual marijuana use -- or even stigmatize them with an arrest record," he writes. "But what we do want to do is send a clear message: Marijuana use is a bad choice."
Marijuana use may be okay for some "less vulnerable" people, Frum writes, but we're not all as good at handling modern life as he is.
"But we need to recognize that modern life is becoming steadily more dangerous for people prone to make bad choices," he argues. "At a time when they need more help than ever to climb the ladder, marijuana legalization kicks them back down the ladder. The goal of public policy should not be to punish vulnerable kids for making life-wrecking mistakes. The goal of public policy should be to protect (to the extent we can) the vulnerable from making life-wrecking mistakes in the first place."
Marijuana legalization advocates are having none of it. And they level the charge of hypocrisy in particular at Kennedy, whose family made its fortune selling alcohol. The Marijuana Policy Project
(MPP) has called on Kennedy to explain why he wants to keep "an objectively less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal" and has created an online petition
calling on him to offer an explanation or resign as chairman of SAM."Former Congressman Kennedy's proposal is the definition of hypocrisy," said MPP communications director Mason Tvert. "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. He personally should know better."
Nor did Tvert think much of SAM's insistence that marijuana users need treatment.
"The proposal is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state. 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," Tvert said."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 said. "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 re-education camps."