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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
March 2015
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What a great ad for… weed

Weed Billboard

New Jersey prohibitionists clearly don’t have a clue about advertising.

Story at Weedist.

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Bad science reporting again

Here’s a great way of looking at how facts get distorted by government and the media.

Remember, on Friday afternoon (putting it out with the trash), NHTSA released their report showing no evidence that marijuana use is statistically significant in increasing crashes.

The report showed that overall those who smoked marijuana were more likely to get in crashes, but only because of the overlap with certain higher-crash-likely demographics (like young males). When you accounted for those factors, it turned out that there was no significant difference in crashes between marijuana users and those who didn’t use.

That’s a powerfully strong outcome of a comprehensive study.

However, the NHTSA not only released that info on a Friday afternoon, but also in conjunction with a separate study that showed that there was a reduction of those getting behind the wheel with alcohol in their system, but an increase in those getting behind the wheel with marijuana or other drugs (other than alcohol) in their system. This is a completely unrelated study that has nothing to do with crashes.

By combining the two studies in one release, and using a lot of weasel-worded statements downplaying the clear results of the crash study, they hoped for this stunningly ridiculous kind of headline:

USA Today Study finds new driving threat from dopers, druggies

The war against drunk driving appears to be making progress, but more motorists are instead using marijuana or prescription drugs then getting behind the wheel, a government study shows.

Another study, also released Friday, showed that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in crashes. But it also points out that marijuana is smoked mostly by young men, the group with the highest propensity for accidents anyway. […]

“The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” says NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

Fortunately, there were a number of media sources who saw through this and realized that the buried story was the real story here.

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NHTSA study: No evidence marijuana leads to higher crash risk

No evidence marijuana leads to higher crash risk

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a 20-month survey of drivers in 2013 and 2014 found that while drinking dramatically raises the chance of a crash, there was no evidence that marijuana use is statistically significant in boosting wreck rates.

This is something we’ve known, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be too popular in some circles.

Here’s the study.

In fact, the NHTSA didn’t seem to be too happy about reporting their own study’s results. Check out the tortured language in their release (released on a Friday afternoon naturally):

A second survey, the largest of its kind ever conducted, assessed whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. The survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.

This was the most precisely controlled study of its kind yet conducted, but it measured the risk associated with marijuana at the levels found among drivers in a large community. Other studies using driving simulators and test tracks have found that marijuana at sufficient dosage levels will affect driver risk.

“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. “These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.”

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Find out what some people want you to think it’s like to smoke pot


That’s right! The Fatal Vision® Marijuana Simulation Experience – Program Kit ($875), and the Fatal Vision® Marijuana Impairment Experience – Event Kit ($1,590) from Innocorp, Ltd. can show you what they want you to think it’s like to be stoned.

Or, for a whole lot less, I suppose, you could just, you know, try pot.

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Open Thread

bullet image OK, this is certainly interesting…

Remember that in-depth article at Huffpost about how we as a country are failing addicts that I discussed recently? Again, it’s nowhere near where we need to be headed (read “Chasing the Scream” for what we should be doing), but it was at least a wake-up call for some of the worst practices we have been conducting in this country.

Apparently, it struck a nerve.

Federal Government Set To Crack Down On Drug Courts That Fail Addicts

The federal government is cracking down on drug courts that refuse to let opioid addicts access medical treatments such as Suboxone, said Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, on Thursday.

Drug courts that receive federal dollars will no longer be allowed to ban the kinds of medication-assisted treatments that doctors and scientists view as the most effective care for opioid addicts, Botticelli announced in a conference call with reporters.

Again, this isn’t the actual solution, but it’s an awareness that is huge to be coming from the federal government.

bullet image In another moment of federal shifting…

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Says Marijuana ‘Can Be Helpful’ For Some Medical Conditions

“We have some preliminary data that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful,” Murthy said during a Wednesday interview on “CBS This Morning” in response to a question about his stance on marijuana legalization.

While Murthy didn’t take the opportunity to endorse legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, he did add that he believes U.S. marijuana policy should be driven by science and what it reveals about the efficacy of using the plant for medical purposes.

“I think we’re going to get a lot more data about that,” Murthy said. “I’m very interested to see where that takes us.”

That’s a good step, and once again has raised a lot of questions in the press about how it can continued to classified in Schedule 1.

Naturally, after some likely behind-the-scenes pressure, the statement appeared to be walked back slightly yesterday evening in a statement attributed to Murthy…

Marijuana policy — and all public health policies — should be driven by science. I believe that marijuana should be subjected to the same, rigorous clinical trials and scientific scrutiny that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applies to all new medications. The Federal Government has and continues to fund research on possible health benefits of marijuana and its components. While clinical trials for certain components of marijuana appear promising for some medical conditions, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the standards for safe and effective medicine for any condition to date.

Yet today, HHS’s twitter feed was actually promoting his original statements: Feds appear to stand by surgeon general’s comments that “marijuana can be helpful”

And federal drug policy tap dances its way along the edge of testing the idea of moving out of the dark ages. Next thing you know, they’ll admit that the earth isn’t flat.

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Smooth government lies

Here’s a great little exercise in seeing how government agencies can dance and weave to avoid telling the truth, and to make implications that aren’t true.

It’s the ONDCP’s Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Marijuana

It’s really worth understanding how they operate, so you can know how to shine light on their actions.

What are some of your favorite fallacies, sleights-of-hand, and misdirections here?

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So much bad policy at one table

Check out the 9 am panel tomorrow (February 3) at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum.


I’m sure the ghost of Harry Anslinger will be there smiling.

[Thanks, Tom]

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NIDA and drugged driving

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been celebrating National Drug Facts Week (“Shattering the Myths”) with lots of things posted on social media.

As usual, the only “facts” they’re interested in are those that oppose drug use in any way, and even then they’re not really concerned about whether they are actually facts.

In one recent tweet, they were promoting their infographic page on drugged driving. Here are the facts as they present them:

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Rand Paul slams Bush ‘hypocrisy’ on pot

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused Jeb Bush of hypocrisy after The Boston Globe reported the former Florida governor was a heavy marijuana smoker while at an elite prep school. […]

“You would think he’d have a little more understanding then,” Paul told The Hill while en route to a political event in Texas.
“He was even opposed to medical marijuana,” Paul said of Bush, a potential rival in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. “This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that,” he said.

Yes, exactly.

Nice to see politicians calling out other politicians on this.

One bizarre moment in this article written by Alexander Bolton, though, was this passage:

The Globe cited a former classmate, Peter Tibbetts, who said he first smoked marijuana with Bush and also consumed cannabis, a concentration of the plant’s resin, in Bush’s dorm room.

Perhaps Bolton should Google “cannabis” and learn what it is before trying to define it to his readers.

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Our approach to addiction treatment is medieval

There’s a new extensive article at Huffington Post worth reading: Dying To Be Free: There’s A Treatment For Heroin Addiction That Actually Works. Why Aren’t We Using It? by Jason Cherkis.

This article absolutely destroys the abstinence-only approach to addiction treatment that drives so much of U.S. drug policy and the treatment industry, showing how this approach actually leads to many of the overdose deaths we see, while failing to actually serve addicts.

It amazes me that people can read this kind of detail and still spout in comments that forcing people to quit cold turkey is the only way to go. It shows just how dysfunctional we have been as a society by pushing anti-drug propaganda to the point of destroying logic and reason.

It’s also sad that this probably ground-breaking article on addiction treatment in the U.S. still doesn’t even get to HAT (heroin-assisted treatment) and some of the better approaches to managing addiction that have been proven successful elsewhere.

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