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September 2019
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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.

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Reversing the Effects of Teen Cannabis Use

Prohibitionists tread heavily on possible cannabis consumption by children or teens who somehow managed to acquire the plant despite its high cost. Researchers in Montréal now indicate any effects of THC on the structural development of the adolescent brain in animals or humans, harmful or not, can be permanently reversed by an application of additional drugs:

Dr. Patricia Conrod, at Université de Montréal, studied the year-to-year changes in alcohol and cannabis use and cognitive function in a sample of adolescents consisting of 5% of all students entering high school in 2012 and 2013 in the Greater Montreal region (a total of 3,826 7th grade students). […]

The researchers found substance use to be linked to low cognitive functioning, a finding that could be indicative of an underlying common vulnerability. Cannabis use was linked to impairments in working memory and inhibitory control, which is required for self-control. Cannabis use was also linked to deficits in memory recall and perceptual reasoning. Alcohol use was not linked to impairments in these cognitive functions, suggesting cannabis could have more long-term effects than alcohol. […]

Dr. Steven Laviolette presented research on the effect the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, on the adolescent brain, in rodent animal models. His team demonstrated that adolescent exposure to THC induces changes in a specific region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and in a brain circuit, the mesolimbic pathway, that closely resemble the abnormalities observed in schizophrenia. Furthermore, adolescent THC exposure also caused affective and cognitive abnormalities including deficits in social interactions, memory processing and anxiety regulation.

Interestingly, Dr. Laviolette’s team found that administration of drugs that restore normal PFC function in early adulthood could reverse the effects of adolescent THC exposure. They also demonstrated that co-administering THC with drugs that prevent the THC-induced disruption in brain signaling pathways prevented the development of schizophrenia-like effects. These results offer insights into ways to prevent or reverse THC-induced brain signaling defects in adolescents. […]

A chemically reversible biological condition suspected in certain illness prone teenagers who smoked pot illustrates the magic of drugs and the absurdity of drug wars. Prohibitionism will have people ignore the latest Canadian discoveries while the federal government pursues a medieval method involving drugs and law enforcement that avoids solving problems while creating even more problems — often for the financial or political benefit of the few.

Canada’s research findings may yet result in much needed changes in US drug policies. The survival of prohibitionist organizations and lobbyists, those who use the politics of paranoia to raise money and hysteria about teenage cannabis use, is highly in doubt.

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Shouldn’t NASA Get High?

Jim Bridenstine is the Trump-appointed head of NASA who called out SpaceX founder Elon Musk for smoking cannabis in an Internet podcast. Mr. Bridenstine is also a former Oklahoma congressman and a Navy pilot who flew E-2C Hawkeye aircraft in the South American drug war. No fan of marijuana, the NASA administrator wants to subject NASA contractors SpaceX and Boeing to an inquisitorial scrutiny of their corporate cultures:

NASA has ordered a safety review of the two companies it has hired to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, a months-long assessment that would involve hundreds of interviews designed to examine “everything and anything that could impact safety” as the companies prepare to fly humans for the first time, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, said in an interview with The Washington Post. […]

Bridenstine said he ordered safety reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another NASA contractor — which were first reported by The Washington Post earlier this month — but stressed that he had wanted the reviews of their corporate culture before Musk was filmed smoking weed.

According to The Atlantic, Bridenstine said his decision was influenced by tragedies in NASA’s history, including the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, which killed three astronauts during a ground test, as well as the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003.

Bridenstine said that a frequent question was whether the culture at NASA and its contractors contributed to those accidents. “Were there people that were raising a red flag that we didn’t listen to, and ultimately did that culture contribute to the failure and, in those cases, to disaster?” he said. […]

The Apollo 1 and Space Shuttle disasters had nothing to do with drugs or drug affiliated cultures. The shuttle mishaps were attributed to a Nixon-appointed NASA leader selected for political reasons. Nixon wanted to pay back Utah and the LDS Church for their enthusiastic political support of him and his policies. The bureaucrat he appointed to NASA effectively promoted the problematic shuttle spacecraft design that was to be serviced by Morton-Thiokol, a Utah-based contractor. Morton-Thiokol’s authoritarian corporate culture resulted in company officials dismissing their own non-authoritarian but highly qualified engineer’s assessments and repeated complaints regarding partial O-ring failures in previous space missions. A total O-ring failure caused the 1986 Challenger explosion.

Imagination and an absence of authoritarianism are crucial for anticipating engineering defects, correcting flaws, or inventing new solutions before failures occur. Bridenstine’s safety inspection threatens those who for professional reasons draw inspiration from mind expanding substances.

Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan boosted his imagination by smoking weed and writing physics equations on the fogged glass of his shower stall. Nobel laureate Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA, said he was inspired by taking LSD. Today’s Silicon Valley is crowded with smart, talented and dedicated professionals who sometimes use low-dose psychedelics to boost their imagination quotient — citizens likely to be targeted by Bridenstine’s inquiry. By using the drug war to obstruct or eliminate alleged deplorables the current NASA administrator may be planting the seeds for space flight’s next big catastrophe.

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Hey! Who Lost Their Stash?

A thousand years ago someone lost their drugs and paraphernalia on a Bolivian mountain located at an elevation of 13,000 feet (3962 meters). Melanie Miller just found it:

MAY 6, 2019 — Led by University of California, Berkeley, archaeologist Melanie Miller, a chemical analysis of a pouch made from three fox snouts sewn together tested positive for at least five plant-based psychoactive substances … trace amounts of bufotenine, DMT, harmine, cocaine and benzoylecgonine.

“Our findings support the idea that people have been using these powerful plants for at least 1,000 years, combining them to go on a psychedelic journey, and that ayahuasca use may have roots in antiquity,” said Miller.

The remarkably well-preserved ritual bundle was found by archaeologists at 13,000-foot elevations in the Lipez Altiplano region of southwestern Bolivia, where llamas and alpacas roam. The leather kit dates back to the pre-Inca Tiwanaku civilization, which dominated the southern Andean highlands from about 550 to 950 A.D.

In addition to the fox-snout pouch, the leather bundle contained intricately carved wooden “snuffing tablets” and a “snuffing tube” with human hair braids attached, for snorting intoxicants; llama bone spatulas; a colorful woven textile strip and dried plant material. All the objects were in good shape, due to the arid conditions of the Andean highlands. […]

“A lot of these plants, if consumed in the wrong dosage, could be very poisonous,” Miller said. “So, whoever owned this bundle would need to have had great knowledge and skills about how to use these plants, and how and where to procure them.”

Of particular fascination to Miller is the pouch made of three fox snouts. She describes it as “the most amazing artifact I’ve had the privilege to work with.”

“There are civilizations who believe that, by consuming certain psychotropic plants, you can embody a specific animal to help you reach supernatural realms, and perhaps a fox may be among those animals,” Miller said. […]

Ethnobotany is making great strides in disrupting civilization’s stifled worldview involving illicit drugs. Science is leading us to a new and better era, one allowing informed citizens to override erroneous and disruptive official decisions about forbidden substances. It promises to be an era that incorporates better methods for treating or curing physical or mental disorders – public health problems sometimes brought on by uncaring or poorly informed political leaders. In spite of the drug war, a wonderous new age of realism and discovery shines upon us, even though it may be a thousand years late in arriving.

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Plan Colombia is a Fraud

Prohibitionists make themselves useful to governments by enabling drug geopolitics to influence weaker governments and cultures on behalf of more aggressive and dominating groups.

Illustrating the tactic, human rights activist John Lindsey-Poland, author of Plan Colombia, U.S. Ally Atrocities and Community Activism, reveals the drug war in Colombia to be a scam, a vehicle linking its legitimacy to countering drug trafficking. Its purpose is to support US and international corporate interests operating in Colombia. It uses DEA personnel, taxpayer funding, and US materials to achieve its goal, while drug enforcement is made a sideshow:

The Andean Initiative announced by President George H. W. Bush in August 1989 was followed quickly by a $65 million emergency delivery of equipment that included tens of thousands of weapons, warheads, and mortars, part of $127 million in U.S. nominally counterdrug assistance to Colombia that year. Although the military openly acknowledged that its missions were not focused on counterdrug operations, which were carried out by police, more than three-quarters of the package went to the military. [Kindle 873]

As the 1990s progressed, debate heated up among policy makers about the purposes of the U.S. role in Colombia. Official policy dictated that U.S. activities were restricted to fighting the production and trafficking of narcotics, particularly cocaine, and were not to cross the line into counterinsurgency. Some leaders saw the drug war as better terrain on which to establish the legitimacy of a U.S. role than fighting guerrillas, which politically had gone poorly in both Vietnam and, to a lesser extent, Central America. This official line met with increased resistance from counterinsurgency hawks, especially military officers, both U.S. and Colombian. [Kindle 948]

“We need to find a mechanism,” former ambassador Morris Busby told Congress in 1997, “which will permit us to express our extreme displeasure with the political leadership of a country such as Colombia … but at the same time permit us to go forward with assistance to gentlemen like Generals [Harold] Bedoya [army commander] and Serrano [police chief].” [Kindle 958]

Such an outlook did not require proving that the United States had ulterior motives to fight a drug war. Instead, it measured the negative impact of escalating war, as well as the results of counternarcotics operations, which were ineffective by any meaningful measure (such as the ease of buying and street price of narcotics and the relative efficacy of treatment). [Kindle 983]

The indigenous people of Colombia were targeted as guerrillas or supporters of FARC by corrupt military and paramilitary units eager to produce an abundant body-count favored by military leaders. Meeting the quotas was rewarded with cash bonuses and holiday perks. Between 1990 and 2010 US funded and trained soldiers occasionally raided remote villages using machetes to slaughter its inhabitants, men, women and children, scenes vividly described by the author who interviewed witnesses. The innocent victims were dismissed as “false positives.”

The 1997 Leahy Amendment, the 2011 to 2017 updated Foreign Assistance Acts, and an impressive worldwide human rights public relations campaign directed at Colombia curtailed the attacks and led to the arrests of 4000 Colombian military personnel.

Partial justice for Colombians is not why some US politicians claim Plan Colombia is successful. Drug interdiction was a failure. Coca growers continued production by relocating into larger territories and reducing the size of their plots to escape aerial detection. The success was measured in developing and testing policies and strategies for intervening in countries such as Colombia, Mexico, or Afghanistan to combat communists, insurgents, socialists, journalists, witnesses, critics, and any others deemed threatening to business interests. Colombia has since become the US training center for foreign military operatives in the tradition of the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Prohibited drugs filled their traditional roles as scapegoats and a means of foreign and domestic social exploitation.

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The latest addition to the Democratic field may be the worst

Joe Biden threw his hat in the ring today, and Kyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment has done an outstanding job of detailing Biden’s history of positions with regard to marijuana and drug policy.

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana

Former Vice President Joe Biden is making another run for the White House, he announced on Thursday. The former senator, who served as chair of the influential Judiciary Committee that helped shape U.S. drug policy during an era of heightened scaremongering and criminalization, was among the most prominent Democratic drug warriors in Congress for decades.

And while many 2020 Democratic candidates have evolved significantly on drug policy—and particularly marijuana reform—over the years, Biden has barely budged.

It includes the video of Biden bragging about adding death penalties for drug crimes.

There are plenty of Democratic candidates in the field and all of them are better on drug policy than Joe Biden.

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Drug War Increases Teen Delinquency

Despite reports in recent years that teen delinquency has been on the decline, stop-and-frisks in New York City and similar police encounters in US drug enforcement operations appear to partly counter the reductions.

Publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead author Juan Del Toro explains the significance of his research team’s results:

April 8, 2018 — Four waves of longitudinal survey data demonstrate that contact with law enforcement predicts increases in black and Latino adolescents’ self-reported criminal behaviors 6, 12, and 18 months later. These results are partially mediated by psychological distress. The younger boys are when stopped for the first time, the stronger these relationships. Boys’ race and prior engagement in delinquent behaviors did not moderate the effect. These findings fill a gap in the research literature on labeling, life course, general strain, and deterrence theories. To our knowledge, the relationships among police contact, psychological strain, and subsequent criminal behavior for young boys had not been tested quantitatively before. These findings raise policy questions about the influence of proactive policing on the trajectory of children.

Teenage resentment increases with their treatment as criminals, irrespective of skin color. A similar resentment suffered by adults can spark a revolution, as it did in 1776 in relation to British Writs of Assistance. The good news is that in states with legal cannabis, police searches drop dramatically. A drop in delinquent behaviors can be expected to follow.

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Acetaminophen crisis bigger than opioid epidemic?

Acetaminophen, the main active ingredient in certain non-NSAID pain medications, available to adults and children without a prescription in neighborhood stores throughout the United States, is suspected by Ohio University researchers of causing its users to experience an acute psychological reaction: to lose positive empathy during the time they medicate with the drug. That would make acetaminophen the yin to MDMA’s yang.

It might also be an instigator of many social and international problems. A quarter of all US adults consume a drug containing acetaminophen every week.

In a time when scientific research is making great strides in understanding the biological origins of emotions and behavior, the emergence of strange scientific phenomena is guaranteed to offset various presumptions and the industries or governments that thrive upon them. Some call it creative destruction. Others have more derogatory names.

How the US government and the news media handles the acetaminophen revelations will reveal much about their respective priorities and whose side they’re on when it comes to drug enforcement. This should be interesting.

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Surprise! The war on drugs doesn’t work

The United States’ ‘War on Drugs’ Really Did Make Things Worse, New Research Finds

After five decades of intense and expensive policing, the United States’ so-called ‘war on drugs’ has only created a bigger problem, a new study has found.

The research is based on a unique geographic model, called NarcoLogic, that was designed to figure out how cocaine smuggling networks have adapted to US drug interception over the years. […]

The updated model now suggests that drug traffickers are actively adapting and adjusting their routes, exploiting new locations to get around US drug control. This essentially means that the very presence of law enforcement has only made drug trafficking more widespread and harder to eradicate.

As a result, between 1996 and 2017, the space that drug traffickers use has spread from roughly 5 million square kilometres (2 million square miles) to over 18 million square kilometres (7 million square miles) – a 3.5-fold increase that will only make future enforcement more difficult and expensive.

“In other words, narco-trafficking is as widespread and difficult to eradicate as it is because of interdiction, and increased interdiction will continue to spread traffickers into new areas, allowing them to continue to move drugs north,” the authors write.

A detailed new study confirms what the basic laws of economics were telling us decades ago.

Will the U.S. care?

Of course, we’re dealing with science and facts here, which haven’t really been all that popular within the drug war apparatus.

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