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July 2015
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Fear-mongering takes another hit

William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn dropped a load in the L.A. times with What happned to the marijuana stigma?

Twenty years ago, drug dealers were seen for what they were — criminal and dangerous elements in our society. They were shunned by the mainstream. People who sold marijuana were considered losers, in the business of harming our children. Parents warned their kids to stay away from those known to use drugs.

But thanks to the marijuana lobby, what was once scorned is hyped and celebrated — even as the drug has become more potent, with THC, the intoxicating chemical, present at much higher levels than in the 1990s. Dealers run state-sanctioned dispensaries, lobby to further legalize their product and receive positive media coverage when doing so.

Paul Armentano responds today: Drug warriors are still crying ‘reefer madness.’ The facts don’t support them.

In their op-ed article against cannabis legalization, former drug czar William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn yearn for a time when fear-mongering, not facts, drove the marijuana policy debate in America. Those days are over.

Bennett and Leibsohn blame the “marijuana lobby” for re-shaping the way Americans think about what they consider to be a truly dangerous drug. But the reality is that voters’ views on pot have evolved in recent years based on both the failures of prohibition and the success of legalization and regulation. For decades, those opposed to amending cannabis criminalization warned that any significant change in marijuana policy would lead to a plethora of unintended consequences. Yet the initial experience in Colorado and Washington, in addition to many other states’ deep-rooted experiences regulating the production and distribution of marijuana for therapeutic purposes, has shown these fears to be misplaced.

I love that phrase: “yearn or a time when fear-mongering, not facts, drove the marijuana policy debate in America.”

Yep. that’s what prohibitionists counted on. But they just can’t hold off the massive marijuana lobby that’s funded with… facts.

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Odds and Ends

bullet image As cops raided pot shop, they allegedly ate edibles, threatened disabled staff

It’s an edited video, so it may have been set to focus on elements that made the cops look bad, but still, this needs to be fully investigated. Once again, we see the the ubiquity of cameras in today’s society is making it harder for bad cops to get away with their activity.

bullet image I heard from a very interesting group: Strong Returns – an organization that “is on a mission to make prison reform the Millennial generation’s issue in the 2016 election.” Sounds like a very good mission. They have put out a video: Prison Reform 101: How Drug War Racism Works.

Curious to see how this group moves forward. Definitely worth keeping an eye on them.

bullet image Last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The vote was 20 – 10.

Now that the medical marijuana language is in both the House and Senate versions of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation, it’s almost certain it will end up in the final conference committee bill that gets worked out by leadership of both chambers.

According to Tom Angell: “With so many votes going our way these days, each new one gets less and less exciting. But that’s a good problem to have. We’re entering an era where marijuana reform is accepted as mainstream and not seen as controversial, and that’s exactly where we want to be. With this vote, it’s now clear that a growing bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers are ready to get the federal government out of the way of the effective implementation of state marijuana laws. These temporary funding restrictions certainly help us to demonstrate political momentum, but the next step should be passing legislation to permanently change federal law.”

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Watch out for this killer drug

I couldn’t resist… just too funny (I’m assuming it’s a parody site, unless it’s proven otherwise, simply because it’s too easy to get fooled by them). Still…

This “Cannibis” sounds pretty dangerous.

Christians Against Tattoos

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NIDA actually discusses harm reduction with teens

As I wrote yesterday morning, NIDA has had an agenda that “focuses on prohibition and abstinence, rather than harm reduction and respect of human agency.”

So I was surprised to see this blog post yesterday in NIDA for Teens: Concerts and Drugs: Is There a Way to Reduce the Dangers?

They don’t come out and endorse harm reduction, of course, but they openly discuss it.

… But some music festivals are trying a different approach to reduce the bad experiences for concert-goers determined to get high off of illicit drugs.

“Harm reduction” is an approach that is based on the belief that some people will do risky, dangerous, and sometimes illegal things even if they know that it could hurt them or have an outcome they don’t want. Risky behaviors include things like using drugs, having casual sex, and binge drinking. And examples of unwanted outcomes from these behaviors include getting HIV, pregnant or arrested, or into a drunk-driving accident.

Supporters of harm reduction feel that educating and protecting people about how to reduce unwanted outcomes is more realistic and helpful than educating them on why they shouldn’t do it in the first place. However, others say there should be a “zero tolerance” approach and that by trying reduce harm from using drugs, you are encouraging drug use.

And they conclude the post by asking…

What do you think? Will harm-reduction programs at concerts help people make smarter decisions about their health, or encourage risky behavior?

Again, in a sane world, NIDA would be actively promoting harm reduction. But in ours, it’s a breath of fresh air just to see them acknowledge its existence.

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Using science for a positive rather than a destructive force

I noticed this call for papers from NIDA:

Harnessing Insights from other Disciplines to Advance Drug Abuse and Addiction Research

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is seeking submission of ideas from the general public on how to leverage specialized knowledge, methods, and tools from other disciplines to inform new directions in drug use and addiction research. NIDA aims to gain insights into new methods or approaches that could transform discovery in order to expand our basic understanding of drug use and addiction processes, accelerate the development of novel and more effective prevention and treatment strategies, and/or enhance our capacity to implement and improve upon evidence-based interventions.

NIDA plans to award $25,000 in total prizes for white papers that describe ideas.
This challenge is being issued as part of NIDA’s strategic planning process for 2016-2020. Winning proposals may be used to guide the development of new research programs within NIDA.

Key Dates:
Submission Period begins May 26, 2015, 9:00 a.m., EST.
Submission Period ends June 30, 2015, 11:59 p.m., EST.
Judging Period begins July 1, 2015 and ends July 24, 2015.
Winners Announced August 6, 2015.

Of course, the real problem here is that NIDA is only interested in pursuing its agenda – one which focuses on prohibition and abstinence, rather than harm reduction and respect of human agency. In a sane world, a request for submission like this from a government agency would be be evidence of good scientific approach, rather than generating cynicism as to their actual motives.

Still, it seems that it would be good for them to get some real submissions from the public that could lead them to better approaches, even if they aren’t likely to accept them.

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Weekend open thread

Thought for the day:

Prohibition is not a victimless crime.

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House votes to protect some state marijuana laws

The House voted on a number of amendments yesterday regarding marijuana and the states. This is another sign of how far we’ve come. Reform in the federal legislature is generally the slowest.

Tom Angell from Marijuana Majority sent me some details on the votes:

  • The one to protect state medical marijuana laws — sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) — passed by a vote of 242-186. (A huge jump from last year, when we won 219-189.)
  • The one to protect all state marijuana laws, including full legalization — sponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) — narrowly lost by a vote of 206-222.
  • The one to protect state industrial hemp laws — sponsored by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) — passed by a vote of 282-146. (A significant jump in support from last year’s vote of 235-170.)
  • The one to protect limited state laws allowing use of CBD oil by children suffering from severe seizure disorders — sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) — passed by a vote of 297-130.

Tom says:

“Now that the House has gone on record with strong bipartisan votes for two years in a row to oppose using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to take up comprehensive legislation to actually change federal law. That’s what a growing majority of Americans wants, and these votes show that lawmakers are on board as well. Congress clearly wants to stop the the Justice Department from spending money to impose failed marijuana prohibition policies onto states, so there’s absolutely no reason those policies themselves should remain on the lawbooks any longer.”

The House also passed (by voice vote), several amendments that would take $23 million from the DEA and put it toward other needs.

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Open Thread

I’ll be in New York from June 1-8, hosting a group of 98 people for a week of theatre and walking tours. That’ll probably keep me a little busy.

I’ll be seeing “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,” “Finding Neverland,” “The Audience,” “Something Rotten,” “Skylight,” “Wolf Hall, parts one and two,” ” and “Hand to God.”

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They just don’t make bongs like they used to

Experts Unearth 2,400-Year-Old Solid Gold Bongs In Southern Russia

Among the items were a pair of gold vessels in the shape of a bucket, and they were placed upside down in the chamber. In addition to the vessels, there were three cups, a bracelet, a finger ring and two neck rings, all of which were made of gold. In total, the well-preserved artifacts weighed almost seven pounds.

Belinski requested from criminologists to analyze the black residue that was found within the gold vessels. The results revealed that the residue was that of cannabis and opium, confirming accounts written by Herodotus of the drug-based activities of the Scythians.

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When science isn’t forced to serve the God of Prohibition, it tells us something else entirely

Johann Hari, author of the outstanding “Chasing the Scream,” which you absolutely should read, continues to get the word out about the failures of our drug war through a large number of interviews and articles.

His latest: Tragedy of Whitney Houston and Her Daughter: The Suprising Factora That Can Make People 4600 Percent More Prone to Addiction

Of course, most of our national discussion on addiction has been hijacked by Nora Volkow and NIDA, whose agenda boils down to “drugs are bad.” They promote the brain disease model of addiction which is essentially presented by them in the following manner:

  1. Drugs cause brain disease
  2. Anyone who uses drugs will probably get this disease
  3. Nobody should use drugs

And this supposedly justifies prohibition.

Of course, even if the NIDA model were true, it wouldn’t justify the sledge hammer approach of prohibition, which doesn’t actually address the problems of addiction but causes all sorts of other problems.

And the brain-disease-directly-caused-by-drugs model is also braid dead, since the large majority of drug users never become addicted.

But, of course, the science already exists to explain the majority of addiction. The problem is that the answers don’t support prohibition and are thus unpopular with agencies like NIDA who exist to serve prohibition.

We know the major reason why addiction is transmitted through families – and it is not what most of us think. There is a genetic factor; but there is another explanation that is even more significant – and that we can do something about. A major study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente (4) of 17,000 people has unlocked this – and its results have subsequently been replicated by over 20 studies funded by individual US states.(5) […]

“A person who experienced any six or more of the categories” of childhood trauma, Dr Felitti tells me, “was 4600 percent more likely to become an IV [injecting] drug user later in life than a person who experienced none of them.” (6) He adds: “I remember the epidemologists at the CDC told me those were numbers a magnitude of which they see once in a career. You read the latest cancer scare of the week in the newspaper and something causes an increase of 30 percent in breast or prostate cancer and everybody goes nuts – and here, we’re talking 4600 percent.”

The published research showed that for every category of trauma that happens to a child, they are two to four times more like to grow up to be an addict – and multiple traumas produced a massive risk.

In these instances, drugs are more a symptom than a cause of addiction, and to attempt to “treat” drug addiction by merely attempting to eliminate drugs, doesn’t address the problem.

Today, we have a criminal justice system that takes people who are addicted because they endured trauma, and we traumatize them more. […] Dr Gabor Mate, one of the leading experts on this question, told me: “If I had to design a system that was intended to keep people addicted, I’d design exactly the system that we have right now.”

Dr Mate – after years of treating patients who became addicts after hellish abuse – has outlined an alternative. Imagine if we had taken the $1 trillion that has been spent so far on the failed drug war (11), and had spent it on the collapsing services designed to protect abused children instead. Every year there are 686,000 kids who have been identified as abused or neglected in the US – and the services for them are appalling. (12) We are setting up a generation of new addicts – and then we will squander more money punishing them. If we spent the drug war money on turning this around, there would, this evidence suggests, be a genuine and substantial fall in addiction.

The more we study, and the more we learn, the more we understand just how warped and counterproductive our drug policies have been.

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