In Israel, new insights on the science of medical Marijuana

A great piece in the NYT by Isabel Kershner on Tikkun Olam, a commercial medical marijuana plantation in Israel. The name is "a reference to the Jewish concept of repairing or healing the world," and while marijuana is illegal in this country, some of the most interesting scientific research into its healing properties is happening here. The last graf is the most amazing. (Thanks, Stoningham!)

Drug Policy Alliance runs full-page New York Times ad: “Prohibition is Finally Coming to An End”

Tony Papa says:

In a full-page ad in today’s New York Times, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) thanks the citizens of Washington and Colorado for voting to legally regulate and tax marijuana—signaling “the beginning of the end for the costly and unjust war on drugs.” The ad, created by Fenton, also recognizes US Presidents Clinton and Carter, NY Governor Cuomo, President Santos of Colombia, and other political leaders for their efforts to end the war on drugs. The headline: “80 Years After the End of Prohibition, Prohibition is Finally Coming to An End.”

Below is the text of the ad:

80 Years After the End of Prohibition, Prohibition is Finally Coming to an End

Voters in Washington and Colorado made history on Election Day when they voted to legally regulate and tax marijuana. Their votes signaled the beginning of the end for the costly and unjust war on drugs.

Thank you to the citizens of Washington and Colorado.

The Drug Policy Alliance is especially proud of this milestone, as we worked for years to make this historic day happen.

We’d also like to thank: President Bill Clinton for acknowledging the drug war’s futility and failure; President Jimmy Carter and Pat Robertson for saying it’s time to legalize marijuana; Governor Christie for calling the drug war a failure and Governor Cuomo for working to end New York’s racially discriminatory marijuana arrest crusade; Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank for introducing the first bill to end federal marijuana prohibition; Presidents Santos (Colombia), Pérez Molina (Guatemala) and Mujica (Uruguay) for breaking the taboo on alternatives to drug prohibition; and, most of all, our many allies around the world for demanding no more drug war.

We strive for the day when drug policies are no longer motivated by ignorance, fear and prejudice but rather by science, compassion, fiscal prudence and human rights, with education and treatment available for everyone. Help us fight the good fight by making a tax deductible donation.

David Frum's reefer madness

Daily Beast contributor David Frum thinks legalizing weed is a bad thing: "marijuana smoking is a sign of trouble, a warning to heed, a behavior to regret and deplore," and that "young Americans deserve better than to be led to a future shrouded in a drug-induced haze." (thanks, @milesobrien)

Drug Policy Alliance's response to Obama's marijuana legalization interview

Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, responds to Obama's marijuana legalization comments this morning. tldr; "Obama is sort of heading in the right direction."

Trailer for Breaking the Taboo: documentary about the disastrous results of the war on drugs

Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says, "Breaking the Taboo, a film narrated by Morgan Freeman about the global drug war, is premiering in December. This is my quote from the film which sums up the insanity of the war on drugs in one sentence: 'If you can’t control drug use in a maximum security prison how could you control drugs in a freee society?'"

Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this groundbreaking new documentary uncovers the UN sanctioned war on drugs, charting its origins and its devastating impact on countries like the USA, Colombia and Russia. Featuring prominent statesmen including Presidents Clinton and Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo and expose the biggest failure of global policy in the last 50 years.
If you can’t control drug use in a maximum security prison how could you control drugs in a free society?

If pot were truly legal, high-quality joints would cost the same price as a Splenda packet

In July, Salon's Matthew Yglesias wrote an article about the price of legal marijuana, which is even more interesting now that Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

How cheaply could pot be grown with advanced farming techniques? One potential data point is Canada’s industrial hemp industry, where production costs are about $500 per acre. If the kind of mid-grade commercial weed that accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. market could be grown that cheaply, it implies costs of about 20 cents per pound of smokable material: Enough pot to fill more than 800 modest-sized half-gram joints for less than a quarter!. Those numbers are probably optimistic, since in practice recreational marijuana is grown from more expensive transplanted clones rather than from seeds. Even so, the authors note that “production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre.” That implies costs of less than $20 per pound for high-grade sensimilla and less than $5 a pound for mid-grade stuff. Another way of looking at it, suggested by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, is that we should expect legal pot to cost about the same amount as “other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco,” something perhaps “100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce—or a few cents per joint.”

This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water. Joints would be about as cheap as things that are often treated as free. Splenda packets, for example, cost 2 or 3 cents each when purchased in bulk.

I wonder how much money the liquor industry is going to contribute in their attempt to get these cannabis laws overturned?

Get High for Free

Legal drugs, deadly outcomes: LA Times investigation on prescription drug deaths

An excellent long read on the growing phenomenon of prescription drug overdoses in Southern California, which a Los Angeles Times investigative team reports "now claim more lives than heroin and cocaine combined, fueling a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade."

Health and law enforcement officials seeking to curb the epidemic have focused on how OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and other potent pain and anxiety medications are obtained illegally, such as through pharmacy robberies or when teenagers raid their parents' medicine cabinets. Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors.

A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor's prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.

Not one of them was from marijuana, which remains a schedule 1 narcotic and is responsible for zero overdose deaths because one cannot die from a marijuana overdose.

Read the rest. Reporting by Scott Glover, Lisa Girion, with photos and video by Liz Baylen.

Drug Policy Alliance director discusses legal cannabis in CO and WA


Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann discusses the legalization of marijuana with Trish Regan on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart."

The Science and tragedy of "Bath Salts"

At PBS NewsHour, Jenny Marder has a truly epic report on so-called "bath salts," a term commonly used to refer to a variable cocktail of drugs linked to a number of violent episodes throughout the US. Her investigative feauture is the most extensive and authoritative I've seen on the topic, a long read full of the stuff that makes great reporting great: nitty-gritty chemistry mysteries, personal stories about the people who use the drug, and big-picture questions about why the stuff is so widely available, and why it seems to be so destructive. Don't miss the slide shows and video that accompany the beautifully laid-out feature. There's even an instructional animated gif!

Users are often hyper-agitated, hot and sweating, she said. Their heart rate is dangerously high, their blood pressure is up, and seizures are common. Often even high doses of common sedatives don't help them. Doctors instead must turn to antipsychotics or other powerful medications.

Early on, doctors began noticing something else that was strange. Compared with other drugs, bath salts didn't follow a normal dose-response pattern. With cocaine or methamphetamine, the drug entered the bloodstream, and, within hours, began to wear off. Not so for bath salts. “Some patients were in the hospital for 5 days, 10 days, 14 days,” Ryan said. “In some cases, they were under heavy sedation. As you try to taper off the sedation, the paranoia came back and the delusions."

As Ryan was scrambling to grasp the scope of the problem in Louisiana, scientists 1,000 miles away were beginning to tease out the drug's chemistry. What was it about this substance, they wondered, that could make a man cut his own throat or a mother leave her 2-year-old in the middle of a highway?

Read: "Bath Salts: The Drug That Never Lets Go" (newshour.org)

(Disclosure: I've worked with Jenny before, on PBS Newshour stories with science correspondent Miles O'Brien).

Police chief in MA: “Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism”

“Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism to some extent,” Wilmington, Massachusetts Police Chief Michael Begonis said today. “It is preying on folks who are more susceptible and who need a better life. And it’s something that we need to deal with head on.” Like hell, writes Mike Riggs at Reason.com. (via @radleybalko)

Al-Jazeera report on the heart-breaking consequences of the drug war in Baltimore (Video)

The election of the first black US president offered hope to millions of African Americans across the country. But have four years of an Obama presidency seen positive change for black communities in the US’ inner cities? Fault Lines’ Sebastian Walker spends time with those on the front lines of the failed drug war to understand some fundamental dynamics of race, poverty, incarceration and economic truths in the US in an election year.
"Don't ever think it's a war on drugs. It's a war on the blacks. It started as a war on the blacks and it's now spread to Hispanics and poor whites… it was designed to take that energy coming out of the civil rights movement and destroy it," says Ed Burns, co creator of The Wire, who is interviewed in the program.

Fault Lines : Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City (Via The Agitator)

Video interview with Doug Fine, author of Too High to Fail, book about cannabis industry

Here's an interview with Doug Fine, author of Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution.

NewImage"How can you have 56 percent of Americans in support of fully ending the drug war, and zero senators in support of it?" asks Doug Fine, investigative journalist and author of new book, Too High To Fail.

Fine sat down with ReasonTV's Tracy Oppenheimer to discuss his time spent in the cannabis capital of California, Mendocino County, and why he thinks this drug can help save the American economy. And it's not just about collecting taxes.

"The industrial [uses] may one day dwarf the psychoactive ones. If we start using it for fermentation for our energy needs, it can produce great biofuels," says Fine, "already, cannabis is in the bumpers of Dodge Vipers."

I interviewed Doug in July about his book. Read it here.

How Cannabis Can Revolutionize Our Economy: Author Doug Fine on "Too High To Fail"

Syringe access programs save lives and money but US Congress voted to ban fed assistance

NewImage
Syringe

Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says:

Millions of people have died of AIDS because of bad drug policy – and millions more lives hang in the balance.

The International AIDS Conference will be held in the U. S. for the first time in 22 years this July 22-27, in Washington DC. Activists, public health professionals, and distinguished world leaders are mobilizing in Washington with a clear message: the criminalization of people who use drugs – and especially backward government policies that restrict syringe access – are driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that drug criminalization forces people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risks become significantly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic, as inhumane conditions and lack of HIV prevention or treatment measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks and AIDS cases behind bars – and among families and communities once those imprisoned are released.

Yet in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. New HIV infections in countries such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland have been virtually eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child HIV transmission has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

In the United States, however, the federal government has resisted evidence-based HIV prevention strategies – costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Congress re-instated a longstanding ban last December that prohibits using federal funds for syringe access programs – a move that will cost thousands of more lives in years to come.

Want to know more about the drug war and AIDS? Check out the infographic and take action by urging Congress to end the syringe access funding ban.

Ask Scott Horton Anything: Should We Get Rid Of The DEA?


Scott Horton of Harper's explains why the Drug Enforcement Agency does a lot of damage to society. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

Ninth Circuit to DEA: putting a gun to an 11-year-old's head is not OK

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the DEA that holding a gun to an 11-year-old girl's head constitutes “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and they should stop doing it. No doubt the DEA will appeal the ruling.

At 7 a.m. on January 20, 2007, DEA agents battered down the door to Thomas and Rosalie Avina’s mobile home in Seeley, California, in search of suspected drug trafficker Louis Alvarez. Thomas Avina met the agents in his living room and told them they were making a mistake. Shouting “Don’t you fucking move,” the agents forced Thomas Avina to the floor at gunpoint, and handcuffed him and his wife, who had been lying on a couch in the living room. As the officers made their way to the back of the house, where the Avina’s 11-year-old and 14-year-old daughters were sleeping, Rosalie Avina screamed, “Don’t hurt my babies. Don’t hurt my babies.”

The agents entered the 14-year-old girl’s room first, shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl, who was lying on her bed, rolled onto the floor, where the agents handcuffed her. Next they went to the 11-year-old’s room. The girl was sleeping. Agents woke her up by shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl’s eyes shot open, but she was, according to her own testimony, “frozen in fear.” So the agents dragged her onto the floor. While one agent handcuffed her, another held a gun to her head.

Moments later the two daughters were carried into the living room and placed next to their parents on the floor while DEA agents ransacked their home. After 30 minutes, the agents removed the children’s handcuffs. After two hours, the agents realized they had the wrong house—the product of a sloppy license plate transcription --and left.

Reason -- Ninth Circuit to DEA: putting a gun to an 11-Year-Old's head is not OK