Send comments, tips,
and suggestions to:
DrugWarRant
Join us on Pete's couch.
couch

DrugWarRant.com, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
facebooktwitterrss
August 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives

Authors

Drug War Gulags and Slaves

Drug war exceptions can be the rule in US law. Chief among domestic drug war violators are drug rehabilitation facilities that recruit and provide drug addicts to businesses where they work for no pay. The jobs can include plucking chickens on poultry farms, working 80-hour weeks in senior care centers, or laboring for wealthy corporations like Exxon, Shell, and Walmart, minus any labor or health protections, benefits or cash. The Center for Investigative Reporting has examined the legality of the practice:

…the regulatory agencies and laws don’t really matter. The judges don’t really care. They don’t look into this. They think they’re doing, what, God’s work, or—you know, because sometimes there’s a big Christian aura over the whole thing, and required church attendance, required Bible study. And now go out and pluck chickens on an assembly line. […]

…a common theme among all of these programs is that they tend to be unregulated. They’re not licensed, they don’t have medical staff or other aspects to their program that would typically have to fall under regulation in these states. On top of that, many of them are Christian-based or faith-based, and many Christian-based programs in the United States are eligible for licensing exemptions from state to state. […]

“We forget the founders faced a situation in society where we had a lot of people who were held in the stockade or something, because ‘Oh, you violated the terms of your employment,’ or what have you…” […]

The 13th Amendment basically outlawed slavery in the United States. And it states that involuntary servitude is not OK, except essentially as a punishment upon conviction of a crime. And so when you have participants who are getting sent by courts to these programs, ostensibly for rehab and treatment for their addictions, what lawyers have told us is there’s an argument that that violates the 13th Amendment. Because not only sometimes are there no convictions in these cases yet, but a lot of the time, even if there are convictions, the courts are saying: this is not for punishment. This is to rehabilitate you. This is to provide treatment so that you can recover from your addictions and become a productive member of society. […]

California requires licensing and regulation for non-medically assisted drug rehabs. Under the DHCS system, slaves and indentured servants are not allowed to compete in the job market no matter how disgusting the job. With the advent of marijuana legalization serving to spotlight these activities, non-medical rehabs in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas are being investigated or sued for illegal labor practices.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Desisting DEA Deferrals and Delays

One thing we’ve seen for decades is that the DEA handles any challenges to its authority over marijuana by delaying, sometimes for many years (particularly with scheduling challenges). And they’d get away with it pretty much all the time.

That may be changing.

Federal Court Orders DEA To Explain Marijuana Research Block

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed SRI an initial procedural victory, issuing an order that DEA “file a response to the amended mandamus petition, not to exceed 7,800 words, within 30 days of the date of this order.”

Not 10 years from now. 30 days.

They’ll still use every weapon in their arsenal to slow the process, but it’s going to get harder for them.

Of course, even better would be to remove marijuana from their authority altogether.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Wild Songbirds Clarify Cannabis’ Effects

Dopamine receptors can be quantified using PET scans. For cannabis researchers this is tremendous news. A pair of studies demonstrate how stressful environments decrease the dopamine receptors of songbirds, while the other clarifies marijuana’s effects on dopamine release, PTSD and depression:

19-JUL-2019 – Louisiana State University Department of Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Christine Lattin, and colleagues conducted this study of wild songbirds showing that dopamine is important in responding to chronic stressors, which can help wildlife conservation efforts in response to environmental stressors such as habitat destruction, natural disasters, extreme weather events and increases in predation. […]

They found that one type of dopamine receptor decreased over time during captivity, which suggests that birds became less resilient to stress over time. The greater the decrease in dopamine receptors, the more they exhibited anxiety-related behaviors such as feather ruffling. All of the wild birds also decreased body mass.

“These physiological, neurobiological and behavioral changes suggest that songbirds are not able to habituate to captivity, at least over short periods of time. It is very important that scientists studying stress in wildlife find more ways to study them in their natural habitat,” Lattin said. […]

In a previous study, marijuana’s endocannabinoids were shown to affect the firing of dopamine neurons. University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists revealed the process:

…dopamine causally drives animals to avoid unpleasant or painful situations and stimuli. The results greatly expand the role that dopamine plays in driving behavior.

The researchers also examined the role that endocannabinoids play in this process. Endocannabinoids, brain chemicals that resemble the active ingredients in marijuana, play key roles in many brain processes. Here, Dr. Joseph F. Cheer and his colleagues found that endocannabinoids essentially open the gate that allows the dopamine neurons to fire. When the researchers reduced the level of endocannabinoids, the animals were much less likely to move to avoid shocks.

In both depression and PTSD, doctors already sometimes treat patients with medicine to increase dopamine and there are now clinical trials testing use of endocannabinoid drugs to treat these conditions. Dr. Cheer suggests that this approach may need to be used more often and should certainly be studied in more detail.

Dr. Cheer argues that the research sheds light on brain disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In depression, patients feel unable to avoid a sense of helplessness in the face of problems, and tend to ruminate rather than act to improve their situation. In PTSD, patients are unable to avoid an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety in the face of seemingly low-stress situations. Both disorders, he says, may involve abnormally low levels of dopamine, and may be seen on some level as a failure of the avoidance system. […]

About 34% of medicinal cannabis use is directed at treating depression. For many patients marijuana reduces the anxiety and emotional pain that form links in the chain to their illnesses. The current findings raise another possibility, and not just for house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Cannabis may be the treatment of choice for people arrested and confined in cages for consuming marijuana or any other illicit drug.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Florida Cop Planted Drugs in Vehicles

Governments can employ drug wars for superficial purposes. Sometimes it’s to provide plausible denials for committing human rights crimes against minorities, or even political opponents. Several events in Florida and Russia illustrate the continuing problem of drug war human rights abuses:

In October 2017, Derek Benefield was driving in the Florida Panhandle’s Jackson County when he was pulled over for allegedly swerving into the opposite lane. Once at the car, sheriff’s deputy Zachary Wester claimed to smell marijuana and conducted a search of the vehicle, which, he reported, turned up methamphetamine and marijuana. Despite insisting the drugs weren’t his, Benefield, who was already on probation, was arrested, charged $1,100 in fines and court fees, and sentenced to one year in county jail.

Benefield was seven months into his sentence when, in September 2018, the state attorney’s office dropped his case and those of 118 others. Largely thanks to the diligence of one assistant state attorney, Wester was suspected of routinely planting drugs during traffic stops over his two years in the department. […]

In Russia, human rights leader Oyub Titiyev of Chechnya was recently released from a Russian jail after serving 18 months for 207 grams of marijuana. His supporters say the charges were fabricated after his car was stopped for a documents check. In another case, Russian investigative reporter Ivan Golunov was arrested and charged with drug trafficking, leading to rebukes by Russian journalists and human rights activists that the authorities planted the drugs. Russia’s Interior Ministry was forced to drop the charges against Golunov due in part to Golunov’s status as a public figure, and because the Ministry couldn’t prove he owned the drugs. The incident inspired an ongoing public debate causing many Russians to reconsider their support for Russia’s drug war.

Whether it involves the planting of drugs on 1950s black motorists in Pasadena, California, to discourage them from moving into white neighborhoods, or the more recent performance of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippine drug war, a conflict the UN Human Rights Council sees as a homicidal attack on the poor—drugs notwithstanding; drug wars demonstrate how categorical thinkers in governments use law enforcement to harass or even eliminate an immense range of people deemed undesirable. It’s no surprise public perceptions of drug wars emerge that make the friendly local police officer on the beat look rare, even extinct, replaced by sanctioned predators, destroyers of lives and careers.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

How things have changed

Hearing tomorrow in the United States House Committee on the Judiciary:

Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform

Having a really hard time even wrapping my head around that concept, when I think back to what Congress was like on marijuana issues when this blog started in 2003.

We always said that the people would have to lead and eventually Congress would follow.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Britain’s Drug War Problem

Few events are as likely to produce a marijuana legalization activist as the individual who gets busted for pot by their dad and then dumped into some medieval-minded drug rehab. Just ask his current highness the Duke of Sussex. Cannabis concerns in the UK have produced an unusual alliance between church and monarchy aiding legalization:

Now that the UK has the distinction of being the largest global exporter of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, the Church of England appears to be blessing this bounty. As reported by The Times, “The Church Commissioners for England, who handle £8.2 billion of church assets, ban investment in companies that profit from recreational drugs but said for the first time that they would consider investing in companies that work with medicinal marijuana now that it is legal in the UK.” […]

So do these moves point to the advent of a new form of high Anglican church? Here the ICBC blog points to a not-so-surprising source, Meghan and Harry, a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Harry had to go to a rehab clinic after being caught by his dad for smoking cannabis, while Meghan handed out cannabis gift bags at her … wedding in 2016, and has a cannabis strain named after her called Markle’s Sparkle.) As this royal couple continues to break with tradition, will they be groundbreakers in normalizing cannabis on a global scale?

Some recently married couples with one or more partners arrested and felonized for marijuana or magic mushroom possession may not appear as optimistic as those now residing in opulent British palaces. Regrettably, US prohibitionist forces still retain control of vast land areas rife with poverty, suicides, opioid ODs, and unavailable or inadequate healthcare services due in part to a drug war that discourages safe medicinal and recreational options that can be astonishingly beneficial.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Commenting on Illinois legalization

So, the local paper is aware that I’ve been pretty active in drug policy reform and decided to interview me (and others) about the new legalization of marijuana in Illinois.

In today’s Pantagraph, Marijuana legalization proponents, opponents look to future

Not bad, overall, although comments were shortened and sometimes lost context (it was an hour interview), and I’m a bit disappointed that nothing was included about the social justice parts of the new law (expungements, and helping those communities that had been disproportionately affected by the drug war).

A few opponents were also interviewed. The ones from the health care systems were relatively reasonable – concerned about future potential treatment needs, but not taking a major stand on legalization. But we had a real spouting of the old reefer madness from Paul Pederson – president of the Illinois State Medical Society — a lot of mixing correlations with causation, and a complete lack of any kind of preparedness from looking at the vast number of studies that exist, and the results in states where legalization has occurred.

[For those out of the country who couldn’t access the article, here is a pdf of it.]
Marijuana legalization proponents, opponents look to future

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Cannabis vs. Opiates and Big Pharma

An NIDA funded study co-authored by prohibitionist Keith Humphreys and widely distributed by the media says the association of medicinal cannabis and opioid overdose deaths in marijuana-legal states has changed over time, that the earlier results were “spurious” and marijuana now plays no role in countering the opioid crisis. And yet, a University of Texas medical study just revealed decreases in opioid prescriptions in cannabis-legal states:

11-JUN-2019 — Using data from privately-insured adults…revealed that there is a lower level of opioids prescribed in states that have allowed the use of medical marijuana. […]

“We found that the overall prescription opioid use increased by age, which we expected,” said senior author Mukaila Raji, UTMB professor and director, Division of Geriatrics Medicine. “But, when we looked at the results within different age groups, opioid prescription rates varied depending on the stringency of state cannabis laws. In particular, states that implemented medical cannabis laws had lower rates of opioid prescription in people aged 18 to 54.” […]

Earlier studies that analyzed data from Medicaid and Medicare enrollees suggest a relationship between cannabis laws and lower opioid use, but we’re the first to explore whether this link is mirrored among commercially insured adults — which encompasses a wide range of ages and other demographics.” […]

A decrease in opioid deaths might normally be expected to follow a decrease in opioid prescriptions. There are complications.

The Humphreys study was noted by Brendan Saloner, a co-author of the earlier 2014 study and a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health … who said, “I was not expecting this finding, but I think that it could plausibly be explained by the changing nature of the opioid crisis. Specifically, heroin and fentanyl have been involved in a lot more overdose deaths — including deaths that also involve prescription opioids — and that could reduce the protective effect of medical cannabis.”

It’s too late to incorporate Dr Raji’s UTMB results and data into Prof. Humphreys’ publication. Keith Humphreys’ study is emerging nationally as one more case of helping provide distractions and juggling evidence while refusing to admit marijuana is a safe, effective pain treatment and substitute for the dangerous or deadly side effects of Big Pharma’s pharmacopeia of horrors.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Give Health Care Providers a Break

Seventy-three percent of surveyed medical specialists providing health care think cannabis benefits their patients, but only forty-six percent felt comfortable recommending it. Topping the list of complaints is the usual drug war collateral harm involving uncertainties in marijuana strains versus specific medical effects, product availabilities, and punitive state or federal regulations:

“I think in some cases we’re missing out on providing a useful tool. Providers think it has benefit,” says Ashley E. Glode, PharmD, assistant professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the study’s first author. […]

Providers … reported legal and regulatory concerns, especially providers working in academic medical centers who expressed uncertainty whether recommending medical marijuana could jeopardize federal funding (marijuana remains a [DEA] Schedule 1 drug). Providers felt as if additional clinical data describing the effectiveness of medical marijuana and endorsed guidelines describing the conditions and situations in which it should be used would increase their comfort in prescribing. […]

“Knowledge is an issue,” Glode says. “If we could do a better job educating our healthcare providers, it might be used more often….”

Continued use of DEA scheduling to deliberately obstruct education and research on marijuana is futile. Research gets diverted elsewhere to countries such as Canada, making Canadians the first to profit from any patentable discoveries in their labs. Even those who reject marijuana for moral reasons become better informed about cannabis and its consumers when confronted by a diversity of people–some of them medicating cancer patients–who exemplify the fact marijuana use has nothing to do with a person’s moral character.

One possibility for US hesitancy to reschedule cannabis is it sees it as an admission of an embarrassing and crushing trillion-dollar defeat. Perhaps the beleaguered traditionalists in the federal government can find some comfort in knowing that defeats like those of the drug war, Viet Nam, General Custer’s last stand at the Little Bighorn, are a new national tradition thanks to prohibitionists.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

My home state comes through

It’s been rough living in Illinois and seeing all the progress in Colorado, California, Washington, etc., with only one of the most meager and restrictive medical marijuana programs.

So, it’s pretty thrilling to now be living in the first state in the union to pass marijuana legalization through the legislature. The final bill passed today and is expected to be signed by the Governor.

And it’s not bad-looking.

From the MPP:

The CRTA would end cannabis prohibition in Illinois and replace it with a system to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. Starting January 1, 2020, adults could possess cannabis and purchase cannabis products in licensed stores. Possession would be limited to 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 mg of THC, and five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form.

In addition to legalizing cannabis for adult use, the CRTA would create robust measures to redress the harms caused to those communities targeted for cannabis arrests and convictions. The bill would: (1) clear the records of 770,000 cases, according to the Illinois State Policy Advisory Council, through unprecedented expungement provisions; (2) direct a significant amount of the tax revenue to communities hard hit by the drug war; and (3) include groundbreaking measures to ensure an inclusive, equitable industry. A summary of the bill is available here, and a more detailed look at the social and criminal justice reforms included in the legislation is available here.

Looking forward to January.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon