Congressional Research Service says states can legalize cannabis

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is part of the Library of Congress, and it provides "policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation." This month the CRS issued a report that says Colorado and Washington (where cannabis is legal, according to state laws) can't be coerced to enforcing federal cannabis laws. "While the federal government can ban what it wants," reports Reason, "the Tenth Amendment allows the states to opt out of participating in the law or assisting in enforcement in any way, leaving federal officials to do the heavy lifting themselves." From the report, State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues:

Although the federal government may use its power of the purse to encourage states to adopt certain criminal laws, the federal government is limited in its ability to directly influence state policy by the Tenth Amendment, which prevents the federal government from directing states to enact specific legislation, or requiring state officials to enforce federal law. As such, the fact that the federal government has criminalized conduct does not mean that the state, in turn, must also criminalize or prosecute that same conduct.

States Can Legalize Marijuana (Though Federal Laws Stand), Says Congressional Research Service

(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from cannabisculture's photostream) Read the rest

Marijuanamerica: One mans' quest to understand America's dysfunctional love affair with weed

Alfred Ryan Nerz is a journalist and public broadcasting producer. He smokes weed, sometimes several times a day, for weeks at a stretch. He praises it for allowing him to unwind and feel good, but he also wonders if his dependence on cannabis is bad for him, both mentally and physically. Nerz knows he isn't the only person asking the same questions (according to NORML, 14 million Americans smoke pot regularly) so he embarked on a trip around the country to find out as much as he could about the current state of cannabis culture.

The result of his explorations is Marijuanamerica: One Man’s Quest to Understand America’s Dysfunctional Love Affair with Weed, a fascinating and entertaining snapshot that looks at how weed has infiltrated every corner of society (despite the fact that it's prohibited by the federal government). It reads like something Hunter S. Thompson might have written in his Hell's Angels days, had he laid off the hard stuff and graduated from Yale. Read the rest

DEA wants to imprison 8% of West Virginians

Chron: "Scott Masumoto of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cited state health statistics that more than 152,000 West Virginians have an addiction to prescription medication — more than 8 percent of the population. But Masumoto said the price of these pills can be $80 or more apiece, making it difficult for teenagers to sustain their addictions, so they are moving to "cheaper" alternatives such as heroin." (Via Sanho Tree) Read the rest

Drug OD fatalities up for 11th consecutive year; not one was due to marijuana

Federal data to be released this week through the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th year in a row. Most were accidents involving prescription painkillers: specifically, opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin which are commonly prescribed for pain management, and are widely abused. Those two drugs contributed to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths, according to the report.

Not one single death in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data set was due to overdosing on marijuana.

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US Navy produces comedy thriller about bath salts

Dose Nation lauds it an "amazing turd of institutional anti-drug propaganda." Read the rest

Patrick Kennedy: I was hooked on cocaine, painkillers and booze, therefore no one is allowed to smoke pot

Tony Papa says: "A very interesting story about how a liberal U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy who has a drug addiction problem suddenly becomes an outspoken opponent of the legalization of marijuana."

“It’s almost ‘Reefer Madness’-type stuff about marijuana he’s saying,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. “There’s something remarkable about Patrick Kennedy deciding to go after users of a drug that is by almost all accounts less dangerous than the drugs he struggled with. Where Patrick Kennedy could have made a really important contribution is by saying that we need a responsible public health model for dealing with legal marijuana.”

SF Gate reports that Kennedy wants to send pot smokers to education camps:

Oxycontin addict, alcoholic, and former Rhode Island rep. Patrick Kennedy has come out with a startling, new plan to oppose pot legalization in the United States: round up potheads and re-educate them in camps.

Kennedy’s communist reeducation scheme is being billed as Project SAM, standing for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and it launched today in Denver, CO. Project SAM’s stated goals are to create laws that would “funnel marijuana users to interventions or treatment” and deny medical marijuana to cancer and AIDS patients in favor of something that pharmaceutical corporations can profit from.

Pot opponents regroup following Wash., Colo. votes Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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." Read the rest

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

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.

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.

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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.

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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." Read the rest

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.

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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 (via @radleybalko) Read the rest

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