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Join us on Pete's couch., the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy, is published by the Prohibition Isn't Free Foundation
September 2015
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Odds and Ends

bullet image Big Government-Supported Study Finds No Evidence That Medical Marijuana Laws Encourage Teenagers to Smoke Pot

A study reported [earlier this week] in The Lancet Psychiatry, based on 24 years of survey responses from more than 1 million students, finds no evidence that allowing medical use of marijuana boosts cannabis consumption among teenagers. Columbia epidemiologist Deborah Hasin and her co-authors analyzed data from the government-sponsored Monitoring the Future Study, which asks middle and high school students about their drug use, from 1991 to 2014. They found that the percentage of students reporting marijuana use in the previous month was higher in the 21 states that legalized marijuana for medical purposes during that period but did not rise after those laws were enacted.

“The risk of marijuana use in states before passing medical marijuana laws did not differ significantly from the risk after medical marijuana laws were passed,” Hasin et al. report. “Our findings, consistent with previous evidence, suggest that passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana.” […]

“The new analysis is the most comprehensive effort to date,” The New York Times notes.

bullet image U.S. Deports Tens Of Thousands Each Year For Minor Drug Crimes, Human Rights Watch Says

Tens of thousands of people are deported each year for minor drug offenses, even if they served their time long ago, because of draconian U.S. drug laws, according to a report released Tuesday by the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch’s 93-page report, “A Price Too High: U.S. Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses,” details struggles of immigrants and families involved in more than 71 cases in which non-citizens had been arrested or convicted of drug offenses, and then were placed into deportation proceedings.

bullet image The Disposable Life of a 20-Year-Old Confidential Informant

On June 27, 2014, the body of 20-year-old Andrew Sadek, a promising electrical student at the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton, North Dakota, was pulled from the Red River bordering North Dakota and Minnesota.

Missing for two months, the young man was found shot in the head, wearing a backpack filled with rocks.

The grisly death of a college student in one of the safest towns in the state, where violent crime is extremely rare, did not lead to a sweeping investigation. In fact, police immediately said they did not suspect foul play.

Such a supposition strains credulity as it is, but what would be slowly revealed over the following months is that Andrew had been working as a confidential informant for the police, and that his school knew that authorities were busting its students and using them as bait to catch drug dealers.

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Living Canvas

This is completely off topic for drug policy, but as many of you know, I have a number of different active parts of my life. One of them is a performance company called The Living Canvas, which has specialized in performances utilizing the human body as a canvas for projected textures and images. In addition to it being a unique art form, it has also had a side benefit of promoting body acceptance and self-confidence among both performers and audiences. I plan on incorporating the company as a full non-profit this summer.

The Living Canvas was fortunate enough to catch the attention of a BuzzFeed producer, who produced a segment focusing on our most recent performance – a short 10-minute thing at a student event on campus. It has provided a bit of sudden internet fame, as BuzzFeed has a lot of followers.

For those who are interested, here is the BuzzFeed segment — the video is part of a larger video about “How to Like Yourself as a Grownup.”

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Just because the court says you can, doesn’t mean you should

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a company can fire a worker for their use of marijuana off the job, even if there’s no evidence that they were impaired on the job.

Now, without even getting into the nuances of the case too far (the ruling hinged on the fact that marijuana is illegal federally, which could change in the future), there’s a more important point to be made here.

Companies that do so are shooting themselves in the foot. They send a message that they do not care about their employees, and that they have poor management skills, something which sends up red flags to competent potential employees.

The rush to drug testing by companies has reversed as more and more are discovering that they were sold a bill of goods by the drug testing industry and that there’s no evidence that drug testing provides a more stable or safer workforce. In fact, the more we learn, the more likely it is that it actually does the reverse — sure, it may weed out a few idiots who can’t figure out how to pass an employment drug test, but it’s more likely to deter qualified candidates, while giving administration a false sense of security that they’re actually doing personnel management, when that’s nothing of the kind.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the ability to stick to my principles and never work for a company that drug-tests. Not everyone is able to do so, but I think more and more, particularly as states move toward legalization, it will become a significant factor in the employment decision, and companies will quickly realize that spending a lot of money on drug testing an inferior work force will not make them competitive.

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Sheila Polk – intentionally misleading, moron, corrupt, or some combination?

This is just unreal…

Safe pot? Tell that to the 62 kids who died by Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney and vice chair of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

Marijuana is an addictive and hazardous drug. But lately, some have taken to proclaiming that “marijuana is safer than alcohol,” a message that is not only wrong but dangerous.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, in a study that examines all deaths in Arizona of children under the age of 18, a disturbing number of child deaths resulted from substance use. It was linked to the deaths of 128 of Arizona’s children in 2013.

Guess which substance was the most prevalent? Not alcohol, not methamphetamine (although they were close seconds), but marijuana. In 2013, marijuana use was associated with the tragic and needless deaths of 62 children in Arizona. […]

It is unconscionable to experiment with legalization on Arizona’s youth. Those 62 children whose lives were snuffed out in 2013 would certainly agree.

The only thing missing, of course, is what the study actually says:

Note: Although substance use is a known risk factor in child fatalities, it is important to remember the term associated is used because it is not always clear if or how the substance use had a direct or contributing effect on the fatality incident.

The CFR program defines substance use as associated with a child’s death if the child, the child’s parent, caretaker and/or if the person responsible for the death, during or about the time of the incident leading to the death, used or abused substances, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and/or alcohol.

Also, the study notes that more than one substance may have been “associated.”

Just think how high the numbers would be if they tracked how many child deaths were associated with milk, based on this definition!

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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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