Archive for the ‘pot’ Category

Pot-smoking cows could stop BSE- better take your medicine

December 21, 2008

ggw_blond_blue_cranberryA NEW Zealand pro-cannabis groups says it has scientific evidence that cannabis can stop the development of mad cow disease.

It was not clear whether the findings applied to both cows and humans.

The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml) said a French study showed cannabidiol might be effective in preventing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease, the New Zealand Press Association reported tpday.

Scientists at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France found cannabidiol – a non-psychoactive ingredient – may prevent the development of prion diseases (progressive neurodegenerative disorders), the most well known of which is BSE, Norml said.

Researchers found cannabidiol inhibited the accumulation of prion proteins in infected mice and sheep.

Norml spokesman Chris Fowlie said the discovery added to the scientific evidence supporting a bill from a New Zealand Greens MP to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis.

“(It) should be supported by any MP with a clear head. Unfortunately most politicians act like mad cows whenever cannabis is mentioned,” Mr Fowlie said.
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22430980-23109,00.html

What’s the Going Price for a Joint?

January 21, 2008

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More Than You Might Think
By PAUL ARMENTANO

What’s the current price for a bag of weed? According to the latest figures from the FBI, the human cost is roughly 739,000 a year.

That’s the number of American citizens arrested in 2006 for possessing small amounts of pot. (Another 91,000 were charged with marijuana-related felonies.) The figure is the highest annual total ever recorded, and is nearly double the number of citizens busted for pot fifteen years ago.

Those arrested face a multitude of consequences, primarily determined by where they live. For example, most Californians charged with violating the state’s pot possession laws face little more than a small fine. By contrast, getting busted with a pinch of weed in Ohio will cost you your driver’s license for at least six months. Move to Texas–well, now you’re looking at a criminal record and up to 180 days in jail. Or if you happen to be a first-time offender, possibly a stint in court-mandated ‘drug rehab’ (one recent study reported that nearly 70 percent of all adults referred to Texas drug treatment programs for weed were referred by the courts), probation, and a hefty legal bill. And don’t even think about getting busted in Oklahoma, where a first time conviction for minor pot possession can net you up to one year in jail, or up to ten years if you’re found guilty of a second offense. Thinking of growing your own? That’ll cost you a $20,000 fine, and–oh yeah–anywhere from two years to life in prison.

Yes, you read that right–life in prison.

Of course, not everyone busted for weed receives jail time. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer significant hardships stemming from their arrest–including (but not limited to): probation and mandatory drug testing, loss of employment, loss of child custody, removal from subsidized housing, asset forfeiture, loss of student aid, loss of voting privileges, and the loss of certain federal welfare benefits such as food stamps.

And yes, some offenders do serve prison time. In fact, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are incarcerated for marijuana offenses. In human terms, this means that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for violating marijuana laws. (The report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for pot-related offenses.)

In fiscal terms, this means that taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.

Yet this billion dollar price tag only estimates the financial costs on the ‘back end’ of a marijuana arrest. The criminal justice costs to taxpayers–such as the man-hours it takes a police officer to arrest and process the average pot offender–on the ‘front end’ is far greater, with some economists estimating the financial burden to be in upwards of $7 billion a year. Naturally, as the annual number of pot arrests continues to increase (according to the latest FBI data, marijuana arrests now constitute 44 percent of all illicit drug arrests), these costs are only going to grow larger.

There are alternatives, of course–options that won’t leave this sort of human and fiscal carnage in its wake, and that won’t leave entire generations believing that the police are an instrument of their oppression rather than their protection.

‘Decriminalization,’ as first recommended to Congress in 1972 by President Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, called for the removal of all criminal and civil penalties for the possession, use, and non-profit distribution of cannabis. Such a policy, if adequately implemented, would eliminate the bulk of the human and fiscal costs currently associated with enforcing pot prohibition.

A second option, ‘regulation,’ would also significantly slash many of society’s prohibition-associated fiscal and human costs. Legalizing the commercial sale and use of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, with state-mandated age controls and pot sales restricted to state-licensed stores, could also potentially raise billions of added dollars in tax revenue while simultaneously bringing an end to the more egregious and adverse black-market effects of the plant’s criminalization – such as the production of pot by criminal enterprises and its clandestine cultivation on public lands.

Would either option be perfect? No, probably not. (‘Decriminalization,’ for instance, might indirectly encourage pot use; ‘regulation’ might not entirely eliminate the black market sales of pot.) But how can continue with the status quo? Since, 1990, law enforcement have arrested over 10 million Americans–more than the entire population of Los Angeles county–on pot charges. Yet, according to federal figures, both marijuana production and use are rising. Isn’t it time we began looking at ways to address the marijuana issue that move beyond simply arresting and prosecuting an inordinate amount of otherwise law-abiding Americans? Or must we wait until another 10 million citizens are arrested before our state and federal politicians find the courage to begin this discussion?

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He may be contacted at paul@norml.org.

is there anything that Pot can not cure?

December 27, 2007

Cannabinoids, the active components in marijuana, are used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, weight loss, and vomiting, but there is increasing evidence that they may also inhibit tumor cell growth. However, the cellular mechanisms behind this are unknown.

Robert Ramer, Ph.D., and Burkhard Hinz, Ph.D., of the University of Rostock in Germany investigated whether and by what mechanism cannabinoids inhibit tumor cell invasion.

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ScienceDaily (Dec. 27, 2007) — Cannabinoids may suppress tumor invasion in highly invasive cancers, according to a study published online December 25 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Cannabinoids did suppress tumor cell invasion and stimulated the expression of TIMP-1, an inhibitor of a group of enzymes that are involved in tumor cell invasion.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of TIMP-1-dependent anti-invasive effects of cannabinoids. This signaling pathway may play an important role in the antimetastatic action of cannabinoids, whose potential therapeutic benefit in the treatment of highly invasive cancers should be addressed in clinical trials,” the authors write.

Adapted from materials provided by Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071226004546.htm

Cancer opens one’s eyes to the many facets of marijuana.

December 24, 2007

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By Diana Wagman

December 22, 2007

Ahh, cancer. One learns so much from being diagnosed with a death-sentence disease. Of course, 95% of it is stuff you would rather not know, but that other 5% is downright interesting. For example, “America’s Next Top Model” is much more fun to watch when you’ve lost 15 pounds without trying. During chemotherapy, vanilla smells good, but vanilla wafers taste disgusting. And eyelashes really do have a purpose; without them, my eyes are a dust magnet.

But the most compelling fact I learned was about my friends. Not just what you would expect: how they cooked for my family and picked up my kids and took me to doctors and pretended not to notice how bad I looked and, most important, that I could not — cannot — survive without them.

No, what really shocked me was how many of my old, dear, married, parenting, job-holding friends smoke pot. I am not kidding. People I never expected dropped by to deliver joints and buds and private stash. The DEA could have set a security cam over my front door and made some serious dents in the marijuana trade. The poets and musicians were not a surprise, but lawyers? CEOs? Republicans? Across the ideological spectrum, a lot of my buddies are stoners. Who knew?

OK, I admit it, in college I smoked dope with the rest of them. I mean, everybody was doing it — an excuse I do not allow my children — and at parties I didn’t want to be uncool. Plus, I felt my only other option was alcohol, and the sweet drinks I liked were too fattening. But that was a long time ago, and since then I have learned to drink bourbon straight, get high on life and appreciate the advantages of not doing anything you wouldn’t want your kids to do.

I thought all my friends felt the same. Boy, was I wrong. When I surfaced from my chemo haze enough to care about anyone else, I was curious. Why do so many 40- and 50-somethings still get high? I asked my suppliers. Pain was the No. 1 answer. Not just the psychic angst of being mothers and fathers to teenagers, but real physical pain. We’re all beginning to fall apart, and for those who imbibe, a couple of tokes really take the edge off the sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines.

The second biggest reason was anxiety. Perhaps we can blame politics for middle-age pot use: the war, the environment, the loss of our civil liberties, little things like that.

Obviously some of us use drugs to ease the lives of quiet desperation we never thought we would have back when we were getting stoned the first time. Our drug use now is really the same as in college. Then I got high to relax, to gain confidence, to forget I was an overweight, mediocre college student terrified of the future. Now we get stoned to relax, forget our disappointing careers and mask our terror of not just our own future but the future for our kids as well. Is it so different from my dad coming home from work and having a couple of martinis? Or my mother and those little prescribed pills she took when she felt “nervous”? At least — we can rationalize — marijuana is all natural.

I spoke to my oncologist about the pros and cons of marijuana use for cancer patients. He said he was part of a study 25 years ago on the effects of pot on nausea, joint pain and fatigue caused by chemotherapy. It worked then, he said; it really helped some people. But now they have great new drugs, such as Emend, dexamethasone and Ativan, that keep the nausea and other pain at bay. He said the people who use pot now do it because they like it. Or maybe they use it because they would rather support a farm in Humboldt County than a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate.

After chemo No. 1, I was violently ill. Anti-nausea drugs notwithstanding, I was hugging the porcelain throne. My body did not want to be poisoned; I guess it liked cancer better. I was willing to try anything, so I lit up. It helped. A lot. I collapsed on the couch, I zoned out watching “Project Runway,” I was able to take deep breaths without puking.

My 15-year-old daughter was shocked. The look on her face was proof that her elementary school D.A.R.E. program had really done its job. A friend — not a supplier or a user — explained to her it was just to make me feel better and that if it worked, wouldn’t that be great? My daughter reluctantly agreed, but I knew she didn’t mean it. I had come full circle in my life — the next time I had a toke, I stood in my bathroom with the fan on, blowing smoke out the window, but instead of my parents, I was scared my kids would find out I was smoking dope again.

The biggest pain of cancer is the gnawing, scratching, bleeding dread that they didn’t find it all, that you didn’t go to the doctor soon enough, that it is growing out of control at this very moment. My doctor recommended meditation. Yeah, right, I thought, more time sitting quietly trying not to think about dying. I had carpool for that. Meanwhile, I lost all taste for alcohol. Even half a glass of wimpy white wine could make me toss my cookies, so I turned to my friend Mary Jane occasionally, only when nothing else would do.

In the middle of one post-chemo night, my husband was out of town and I was sick and I got up and tried to get the little pipe lit and take one hit so I could maybe sleep. My son heard me struggling and he came into my bedroom. He lit the match for me and showed me where to put my finger on the “carburetor,” the hole on the side of the pipe, to make it draw. I was too grateful to ask him how he knew all this. He stayed with me until I felt better. It was mother-son bonding in a new way.

Just another reason to say: Thank you, cancer.

Diana Wagman, a professor at Cal State Long Beach, is the author of the novels “Skin Deep,” “Spontaneous” and “Bump.”

Molecule of the Year: Cannabiodiol

December 24, 2007

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By FRED GARDNER

THC -delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol- is not the only active ingredient in cannabis. At least five other cannabinoids exhibit biological activity, and so do some terpenes and flavonoids. All these compounds are found in the resin stored in the plant’s glandular trichomes. They are chemically related.

THC predominates in plants bred for psychoactivity (as cannabis plants have been bred for generations in California and elsewhere). Cannabidiol -CBD- is the predominant cannabinoid in plants typically bred for fiber. There are only trace quantities of CBD in high-THC plants because one form of the same gene codes for THC synthase and the other codes for CBD synthase. Thus growers selecting for high THC content get low CBD.

California growers hoping to develop plants with a high CBD-to-THC ratio have been stymied by lack of access to an analytical test lab. In surreptitious tests, “high grade” buds were reportedly in the range of 15-20% THC and 0.1% CBD.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has placed CBD on Schedule I even though CBD has no known adverse effects and doesn’t induce “euphoria.” The most dire effects attributed to marijuana -tachycardia (accelerated heartbeat), panic, confusion, anxiety, even psychosis- are effects of THC that CBD has been shown to mitigate!

By listing CBD as a Schedule 1 substance and denying growers the means to develop high-CBD plant strains, the government is protecting the American people from an immunomodulator with anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant, and neuro-protective properties. In whose interests could that possibly be?

BF Mechoulam on CBD END BF

The chemist who worked out the precise structure of CBD 45 years ago, Raphael Mechoulam, gave a “review talk” at this year’s meeting of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine. Mechoulam had just gotten his PhD in chemistry in the Fall of ’62 and was looking for a research project that might lead to tenure at the Weizmann Institute. He chose to analyze the components of cannabis, he said, thinking “it’s a minor project, it will be finished off in six months.”

Hashish of Lebanese origin was obtained from the police -“There is a fantastic collaboration between Arabs and Jews in smuggling,” Mechoulam observed- and a dozen constituents were then identified by two types of chromatography. (Some cannabis constituents had been identified previously, including CBD, which Roger Adams of the University of Illinois isolated in the early 1940s.)

It was generally assumed throughout the ’60s and ’70s that the cannabinoids exerted effects not by binding to a specific receptor but “nonspecifically” by altering the lipid structure of cellular membranes. Mechoulam established that the action was specific by purifying THC and showing that only the natural version of the molecule -and not its synthetic mirror image- was exerting the effect. In 1988 Alynn Howlett found that THC was indeed activating a receptor. It was dubbed “CB1” and was found in those areas of the brain involved in movement, stress, cognitive function – “everywhere it would be expected,” said Mechoulam, given what was known about the effects of cannabis on people.

Unlike THC, CBD hardly binds to the CB1 receptor. It binds to a second cannabinoid receptor -CB2-originally found in spleen cells by S. Munro of Cambridge University in 1993 and subsequently found in the stomach, liver, heart, kidney, lymph and immune cells, bones, endocrine glands, and throughout the peripheral nervous system.

In his IACM talk Mechoulam reviewed research in recent years that has shed light on aspects of CBD’s mechanism of action. Its lipid-solubility enables it to get into places in the brain that conventional neurotransmitters cannot reach. It is a potent anti-oxidative agent. It turns out to be an antagonist to a recently discovered receptor called GPR-55 to which THC and 2-AG bind as agonists. It blocks the uptake of adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that may promote sleep. It blocks the formation of various cytokines (signaling compounds not released by nerves or glands) under certain circumstances. It activates the serotonin receptors. No wonder, then, that CBD plays a role in many clinical conditions.

Conditions treatable by CBD

Mechoulam described an experiment led by Paul Consroe and colleagues in Brazil in which CBD was tested as a treatment for intractable epilepsy. Patients stayed on the anticonvulsants they had been on (which hadn’t eliminated their seizures) and added 200mg/day of CBD or a placebo. Of the seven patients getting CBD over the course of several months, only one showed no improvement; three became seizure-free; one experienced only one or two seizures, Mechoulam recalled; and two experienced reduced severity and occurrence of seizures.

“So it seemed a very promising approach,” said Mechoulam, “but unfortunately, nothing has been done ever since. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has done any work on cannabidiol in the clinic on epilepsy, and I wonder why.”

A colleague of Mechoulam’s, Marc Feldman at Imperial College, London, tested CBD on mice who had a version of rheumatoid arthritis and found that it reduced inflammation by almost 50% at the right dose -5mg/kg of body weight. But this “beautiful antiinflammatory reaction was lost if we went up to, say, 25 mg/kg,” Mechoulam said. Drug developers must bear in mind and cope with the fact that cannabinoids have a finite “therapeutic window” -they are ineffective at low and high doses.

Mechoulam has been testing CBD on mice bred to have a version of type-1 diabetes that manifests around age 14 weeks. He and his co-workers treated these mice with CBD for their first 6-7 weeks of life, then tested them 6-7 weeks later and found that only 30% had developed diabetes (compared to 90-100% given placebo).

In a follow-up experiment the mice weren’t given a course of CBD until age 14 weeks, when they were developing diabetes. They were then tested at age 24 weeks, and again only 30% of the treated mice were found to have diabetes. In other words, CBD did not just prevent onset but blocked development of diabetes.

Examination of the insulin-producing islets showed that only 8% were intact in the untreated diabetic mice, whereas 77% were intact in the mice treated with CBD. “I believe that here we have something very promising,” Mechoulam said. “We plan to have a clinical trial starting next week treating patients, and hopefully at the next meeting I will tell you that all of them are cured.”

Cardiologists working with mice at Hebrew University have found that CBD treatment at the time of a heart attack can reduce infarct size by about 66%. “So now they’re pushing me, ‘let’s have more CBD,'” Mechoulam said. “We should try it with humans in a few years.”

He went on: “What about sleep? I’m jumping from thing to thing to show you that CBD does quite a lot of things and I’m not sure that all of them are according to the same mechanism.” Mechoulam was part of a group led by Eric Murillo-Rodriguez that administered CBD to rats and determined that while THC caused sleepiness, CBD increased wakefulness and significantly decreased REM sleep. According to Mechoulam, “When one says ‘cannabis causes sleep,’ one should think really of two compounds, one that causes sleep and one that causes awakening.”

The anti-nausea and memory extinction effects of CBD “seem to be closely related,” Mechoulam said. He described the problem of anticipatory nausea, for which no good drugs are available. (The effects of chemotherapy can be so nauseating that patients start vomiting when they see the doctor or nurse who is going to administer the treatment.) Linda Parker at the University of Guelph conditioned shrews to start vomiting by administering lithium fluoride at a certain location. When the shrews were subsequently placed in that location they began vomiting. But if given CBD, they could be moved to the dreaded location without vomiting. “The conditioned-wretching reaction was completely abolished,” Mechoulam declared. [THC is anti-emetic, too; the advantage of CBD in this instance may be legal rather than medical.]

Mechoulam is hopeful that CBD can help tone down other kinds of conditioning. He described an experiment in which rats had a choice of two paths, one leading to cocaine, one to no reward. Rats like cocaine (and amphetamine) and will learn to choose the path leading to it. But if injected with CBD, they no longer show a preference for cocaine! Mechoulam characterized post-traumatic stress disorder, certain phobias and forms of chronic pain as “human situations which are conditioned” and might be amenable to treatment with CBD. “I know that many patients with PTSD take cannabis, self administered,” Mechoulam said. He has been trying to interest the Israeli Ministry of Health in testing CBD and THC at various ratios to treat PTSD.

Fred Gardner will be opening for a band called Lake Street at the Rockitt Room (formerly the Last Day Saloon, Clement St. off 6th Ave.) Sunday, Nov. 25, 8 p.m. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.

It’s Time to Legalize Drugs

December 21, 2007

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By Ethan Nadelmann, Foreign Policy. Posted December 20, 2007.

Rhetoric should not be driving drug policy. Legalization would strip addiction down to what it really is: a health issue.

Prohibition has failed — again. Instead of treating the demand for illegal drugs as a market, and addicts as patients, policymakers the world over have boosted the profits of drug lords and fostered narcostates that would frighten Al Capone. Finally, a smarter drug control regime that values reality over rhetoric is rising to replace the “war” on drugs.

“The Global War on Drugs can Be Won”

No, it can’t. A “drug-free world,” which the United Nations describes as a realistic goal, is no more attainable than an “alcohol-free world” — and no one has talked about that with a straight face since the repeal of Prohibition in the United States in 1933. Yet futile rhetoric about winning a “war on drugs” persists, despite mountains of evidence documenting its moral and ideological bankruptcy. When the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs convened in 1998, it committed to “eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008” and to “achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction.” But today, global production and consumption of those drugs are roughly the same as they were a decade ago; meanwhile, many producers have become more efficient, and cocaine and heroin have become purer and cheaper.

It’s always dangerous when rhetoric drives policy — and especially so when “war on drugs” rhetoric leads the public to accept collateral casualties that would never be permissible in civilian law enforcement, much less public health. Politicians still talk of eliminating drugs from the Earth as though their use is a plague on humanity. But drug control is not like disease control, for the simple reason that there’s no popular demand for smallpox or polio. Cannabis and opium have been grown throughout much of the world for millennia. The same is true for coca in Latin America. Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs can be produced anywhere. Demand for particular illicit drugs waxes and wanes, depending not just on availability but also fads, fashion, culture, and competition from alternative means of stimulation and distraction. The relative harshness of drug laws and the intensity of enforcement matter surprisingly little, except in totalitarian states. After all, rates of illegal drug use in the United States are the same as, or higher than, Europe, despite America’s much more punitive policies.

“We Can Reduce the Demand for Drugs”

Good luck. Reducing the demand for illegal drugs seems to make sense. But the desire to alter one’s state of consciousness, and to use psychoactive drugs to do so, is nearly universal — and mostly not a problem. There’s virtually never been a drug-free society, and more drugs are discovered and devised every year. Demand-reduction efforts that rely on honest education and positive alternatives to drug use are helpful, but not when they devolve into unrealistic, “zero tolerance” policies.

As with sex, abstinence from drugs is the best way to avoid trouble, but one always needs a fallback strategy for those who can’t or won’t refrain. “Zero tolerance” policies deter some people, but they also dramatically increase the harms and costs for those who don’t resist. Drugs become more potent, drug use becomes more hazardous, and people who use drugs are marginalized in ways that serve no one.

The better approach is not demand reduction but “harm reduction.” Reducing drug use is fine, but it’s not nearly as important as reducing the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse and failed prohibitionist policies. With respect to legal drugs, such as alcohol and cigarettes, harm reduction means promoting responsible drinking and designated drivers, or persuading people to switch to nicotine patches, chewing gums, and smokeless tobacco. With respect to illegal drugs, it means reducing the transmission of infectious disease through syringe-exchange programs, reducing overdose fatalities by making antidotes readily available, and allowing people addicted to heroin and other illegal opiates to obtain methadone from doctors and even pharmaceutical heroin from clinics.

Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have already embraced this last option. There’s no longer any question that these strategies decrease drug-related harms without increasing drug use. What blocks expansion of such programs is not cost; they typically save taxpayers’ money that would otherwise go to criminal justice and healthcare. No, the roadblocks are abstinence-only ideologues and a cruel indifference to the lives and well-being of people who use drugs.

“Reducing the Supply of Drugs Is the Answer”

Not if history is any guide. Reducing supply makes as much sense as reducing demand; after all, if no one were planting cannabis, coca, and opium, there wouldn’t be any heroin, cocaine, or marijuana to sell or consume. But the carrot and stick of crop eradication and substitution have been tried and failed, with rare exceptions, for half a century. These methods may succeed in targeted locales, but they usually simply shift production from one region to another: Opium production moves from Pakistan to Afghanistan; coca from Peru to Colombia; and cannabis from Mexico to the United States, while overall global production remains relatively constant or even increases.

The carrot, in the form of economic development and assistance in switching to legal crops, is typically both late and inadequate. The stick, often in the form of forced eradication, including aerial spraying, wipes out illegal and legal crops alike and can be hazardous to both people and local environments. The best thing to be said for emphasizing supply reduction is that it provides a rationale for wealthier nations to spend a little money on economic development in poorer countries. But, for the most part, crop eradication and substitution wreak havoc among impoverished farmers without diminishing overall global supply.

The global markets in cannabis, coca, and opium products operate essentially the same way that other global commodity markets do: If one source is compromised due to bad weather, rising production costs, or political difficulties, another emerges. If international drug control circles wanted to think strategically, the key question would no longer be how to reduce global supply, but rather: Where does illicit production cause the fewest problems (and the greatest benefits)? Think of it as a global vice control challenge. No one expects to eradicate vice, but it must be effectively zoned and regulated — even if it’s illegal.

“U.S. Drug Policy Is the World’s Drug Policy”

Sad, but true. Looking to the United States as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid-era South Africa for how to deal with race. The United States ranks first in the world in per capita incarceration — with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. The number of people locked up for U.S. drug-law violations has increased from roughly 50,000 in 1980 to almost 500,000 today; that’s more than the number of people Western Europe locks up for everything. Even more deadly is U.S. resistance to syringe-exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS both at home and abroad. Who knows how many people might not have contracted HIV if the United States had implemented at home, and supported abroad, the sorts of syringe-exchange and other harm-reduction programs that have kept HIV/AIDS rates so low in Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Perhaps millions.

And yet, despite this dismal record, the United States has succeeded in constructing an international drug prohibition regime modeled after its own highly punitive and moralistic approach. It has dominated the drug control agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations, and its federal drug enforcement agency was the first national police organization to go global. Rarely has one nation so successfully promoted its own failed policies to the rest of the world.

But now, for the first time, U.S. hegemony in drug control is being challenged. The European Union is demanding rigorous assessment of drug control strategies. Exhausted by decades of service to the U.S.-led war on drugs, Latin Americans are far less inclined to collaborate closely with U.S. drug enforcement efforts. Finally waking up to the deadly threat of hiv/aids, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and even Malaysia and Iran are increasingly accepting of syringe-exchange and other harm-reduction programs. In 2005, the ayatollah in charge of Iran’s Ministry of Justice issued a fatwa declaring methadone maintenance and syringe-exchange programs compatible with sharia (Islamic) law. One only wishes his American counterpart were comparably enlightened.

“Afghan Opium Production Must Be Curbed”

Be careful what you wish for. It’s easy to believe that eliminating record-high opium production in Afghanistan — which today accounts for roughly 90 percent of global supply, up from 50 percent 10 years ago — would solve everything from heroin abuse in Europe and Asia to the resurgence of the Taliban.

But assume for a moment that the United States, NATO, and Hamid Karzai’s government were somehow able to cut opium production in Afghanistan. Who would benefit? Only the Taliban, warlords, and other black-market entrepreneurs whose stockpiles of opium would skyrocket in value. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan peasants would flock to cities, ill-prepared to find work. And many Afghans would return to their farms the following year to plant another illegal harvest, utilizing guerrilla farming methods to escape intensified eradication efforts. Except now, they’d soon be competing with poor farmers elsewhere in Central Asia, Latin America, or even Africa. This is, after all, a global commodities market. And outside Afghanistan? Higher heroin prices typically translate into higher crime rates by addicts. They also invite cheaper but more dangerous means of consumption, such as switching from smoking to injecting heroin, which results in higher HIV and hepatitis c rates. All things considered, wiping out opium in Afghanistan would yield far fewer benefits than is commonly assumed.

So what’s the solution? Some recommend buying up all the opium in Afghanistan, which would cost a lot less than is now being spent trying to eradicate it. But, given that farmers somewhere will produce opium so long as the demand for heroin persists, maybe the world is better off, all things considered, with 90 percent of it coming from just one country. And if that heresy becomes the new gospel, it opens up all sorts of possibilities for pursuing a new policy in Afghanistan that reconciles the interests of the United States, NATO, and millions of Afghan citizens.

“Legalization Is the Best Approach”

It might be. Global drug prohibition is clearly a costly disaster. The United Nations has estimated the value of the global market in illicit drugs at $400 billion, or 6 percent of global trade. The extraordinary profits available to those willing to assume the risks enrich criminals, terrorists, violent political insurgents, and corrupt politicians and governments. Many cities, states, and even countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia are reminiscent of Chicago under Al Capone — times 50. By bringing the market for drugs out into the open, legalization would radically change all that for the better.

More importantly, legalization would strip addiction down to what it really is: a health issue. Most people who use drugs are like the responsible alcohol consumer, causing no harm to themselves or anyone else. They would no longer be the state’s business. But legalization would also benefit those who struggle with drugs by reducing the risks of overdose and disease associated with unregulated products, eliminating the need to obtain drugs from dangerous criminal markets, and allowing addiction problems to be treated as medical rather than criminal problems.

No one knows how much governments spend collectively on failing drug war policies, but it’s probably at least $100 billion a year, with federal, state, and local governments in the United States accounting for almost half the total. Add to that the tens of billions of dollars to be gained annually in tax revenues from the sale of legalized drugs. Now imagine if just a third of that total were committed to reducing drug-related disease and addiction. Virtually everyone, except those who profit or gain politically from the current system, would benefit.

Some say legalization is immoral. That’s nonsense, unless one believes there is some principled basis for discriminating against people based solely on what they put into their bodies, absent harm to others. Others say legalization would open the floodgates to huge increases in drug abuse. They forget that we already live in a world in which psychoactive drugs of all sorts are readily available — and in which people too poor to buy drugs resort to sniffing gasoline, glue, and other industrial products, which can be more harmful than any drug. No, the greatest downside to legalization may well be the fact that the legal markets would fall into the hands of the powerful alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies. Still, legalization is a far more pragmatic option than living with the corruption, violence, and organized crime of the current system.

“Legalization Will Never Happen”

Never say never. Wholesale legalization may be a long way off — but partial legalization is not. If any drug stands a chance of being legalized, it’s cannabis. Hundreds of millions of people have used it, the vast majority without suffering any harm or going on to use “harder” drugs. In Switzerland, for example, cannabis legalization was twice approved by one chamber of its parliament, but narrowly rejected by the other.

Elsewhere in Europe, support for the criminalization of cannabis is waning. In the United States, where roughly 40 percent of the country’s 1.8 million annual drug arrests are for cannabis possession, typically of tiny amounts, 40 percent of Americans say that the drug should be taxed, controlled, and regulated like alcohol. Encouraged by Bolivian President Evo Morales, support is also growing in Latin America and Europe for removing coca from international antidrug conventions, given the absence of any credible health reason for keeping it there. Traditional growers would benefit economically, and there’s some possibility that such products might compete favorably with more problematic substances, including alcohol.

The global war on drugs persists in part because so many people fail to distinguish between the harms of drug abuse and the harms of prohibition. Legalization forces that distinction to the forefront. The opium problem in Afghanistan is primarily a prohibition problem, not a drug problem. The same is true of the narcoviolence and corruption that has afflicted Latin America and the Caribbean for almost three decades — and that now threatens Africa. Governments can arrest and kill drug lord after drug lord, but the ultimate solution is a structural one, not a prosecutorial one. Few people doubt any longer that the war on drugs is lost, but courage and vision are needed to transcend the ignorance, fear, and vested interests that sustain it.

Want To Know More?

Drugpolicy.org, the Web site of the Drug Policy Alliance, offers statistics, arguments, and information about drug policies worldwide. Ethan Nadelmann and Peter Andreas examine the politics of global crime control in Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy #162 (September/October 2007) www.foreignpolicy.com. © 2007, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

A friend with weed is better

November 28, 2007

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Placebo – Pure Morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend with weed is better
A friend with breasts and all the rest
A friend who’s dressed in leather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who’ll tease is better
Our thoughts compressed
Which makes us blessed
And makes for stormy weather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
My Japanese is better
And when she’s pressed she will undress
And then she’s boxing clever

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who bleeds is better
My friend confessed she passed the test
And we will never sever

Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who’ll tease is better
Our thoughts compressed
Which makes us blessed
And makes for stormy weather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who bleeds is better
My friend confessed she passed the test
And we will never sever

Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
My Japanese is better
And when she’s pressed she will undress
And then she’s boxing clever

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend with weed is better
A friend with breast and all the rest
A friend who’s dressed in leather

Cannabis compound ‘halts cancer’ – BBC

November 20, 2007

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A compound found in cannabis may stop breast cancer spreading throughout the body, US scientists believe. The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute team are hopeful that cannabidiol or CBD could be a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy.

Unlike cannabis, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties so its use would not violate laws, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics reports.

The authors stressed that they were not suggesting patients smoke marijuana.

They added that it would be highly unlikely that effective concentrations of CBD could be reached by smoking cannabis.

  This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects
Lead researcher Dr Sean McAllister

CBD works by blocking the activity of a gene called Id-1 which is believed to be responsible for the aggressive spread of cancer cells away from the original tumour site – a process called metastasis.

Past work has shown CBD can block aggressive human brain cancers.

The latest work found CBD appeared to have a similar effect on breast cancer cells in the lab.

Future hope

Lead researcher Dr Sean McAllister said: “Right now we have a limited range of options in treating aggressive forms of cancer.

“Those treatments, such as chemotherapy, can be effective but they can also be extremely toxic and difficult for patients.

“This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.”

Dr Joanna Owens of Cancer Research UK said: “This research is at a very early stage.

“The findings will need to be followed up with clinical trials in humans to see if the CBD is safe, and whether the beneficial effects can be replicated.

“Several cancer drugs based on plant chemicals are already used widely, such as vincristine – which is derived from a type of flower called Madagascar Periwinkle and is used to treat breast and lung cancer. It will be interesting to see whether CBD will join them.”

Maria Leadbeater of Breast Cancer Care said: “Many people experience side-effects while having chemotherapy, such as nausea and an increased risk of infection, which can take both a physical and emotional toll.

“Any drug that has fewer side-effects will, of course, be of great interest.”

But she added: “It is clear that much more research needs to be carried out.”

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/7098340.stm

Published: 2007/11/19 06:11:45 GMT

© BBC MMVII

marijuana should be the city’s “lowest law-enforcement priority

November 1, 2007

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Denver voters are deciding on an initiative that says marijuana should be the city’s “lowest law-enforcement priority.”

To find out how the law works, Denver can look to Seattle, where an 11- member panel began reviewing marijuana incidents in 2003 to see whether police and prosecutors were pursuing cases against adults who possessed small amounts of marijuana.

Seattle City Attorney Thomas Carr, who says he is required to sit on the panel, says he hopes Denver doesn’t pass the initiative.

“The panel is slanted toward proponents of the law,” Carr said. “It does not work all that well. We get yelled at a lot by people in the room. Telling police and prosecutors to look the other way on a crime is really bad policy.”

Dominic Holden, a community representative on Seattle’s panel, says that citations and prosecutions for marijuana-related incidents declined by 50 percent a year after the initiative passed.

“The law does not tell police to ignore state or federal law,” he said. “It simply tells them where on the schedule of priorities these arrests fall.”

Although the committee cannot agree on why the numbers of marijuana arrests and prosecutions are down in Seattle, city officials have sent a letter to Denver endorsing the law as safe, effective and inexpensive.

The Seattle group also found no evidence of an increase in marijuana use among young people, crime or adverse effects on public health.

Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, spokeswoman for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, said that marijuana-possession cases already are a low law-enforcement priority.

“It isn’t something police specifically target for enforcement or to which they deploy significant resources,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Generally, when a person is charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana – as the state law requires – it is because the marijuana was uncovered by police during the course of investigating another crime.”

In 2004, Seattle police officers were told during roll call that marijuana incidents would be their lowest priority.

But Denver police Sgt. Ernie Martinez says he’s not going to direct officers to stop arresting drug users.

“Our official response is to continue to enforce marijuana laws,” Martinez said. “It’s still illegal in the state statues and federal statutes.”

That philosophy is the reason why marijuana proponents felt the need to draft an initiative in Denver.


Farmers sue DEA for right to grow industrial hemp

October 20, 2007

(CNN) — The feds call industrial hemp a controlled substance — the same as pot, heroin, LSD — but advocates say a sober analysis reveals a harmless, renewable cash crop with thousands of applications that are good for the environment.

 

 

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Industrial hemp, left, looks a lot like its cousin in the cannabis family, marijuana.

 

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Two North Dakota farmers are taking that argument to federal court, where a November 14 hearing is scheduled in a lawsuit to determine if the Drug Enforcement Administration is stifling the farmers’ efforts to grow industrial hemp. The DEA says it’s merely enforcing the law.

Marijuana and industrial hemp are members of the Cannabis sativa L. species and have similar characteristics. One major difference: Hemp won’t get you high. Hemp contains only traces of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gets pot smokers stoned. However, the Controlled Substances Act makes little distinction, banning the species almost outright.

Marijuana, which has only recreational and limited medical uses, is the shiftless counterpart to the go-getter hemp, which has a centuries-old history of handiness.

The February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine heralded hemp as the “new billion-dollar crop,” saying it had 25,000 uses. Today, it is a base element for textiles, paper, construction materials, car parts, food and body care products.

It’s not a panacea for health and environmental problems, advocates concede, but it’s not the menace the Controlled Substances Act makes it out to be. Video Watch why a North Dakota official thinks the U.S. should be in the hemp business »

“This is actually an anti-drug. It’s a healthy food,” explained Adam Eidinger of the Washington advocacy group Vote Hemp. “We’re not using this as a statement to end the drug war.”

Rather, Eidinger said, Vote Hemp wants to vindicate a plant that has been falsely accused because of its mischievous cousin.

North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson say comparing industrial hemp to marijuana is like comparing pop guns and M-16s. They’ve successfully petitioned the state Legislature

— of which Monson is a member — to authorize the farming of industrial hemp.

They’ve applied for federal permits and submitted a collective $5,733 in nonrefundable fees, to no avail, so they’re suing the DEA.

North Dakota is one of seven states to OK hemp production or research. California would have made eight until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week vetoed the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, citing the burden on law enforcement which would have to inspect hemp fields to make sure they were marijuana-free.

Administration skeptical of initiatives

The DEA claims the farmers’ lawsuit is misguided because the agency is obligated to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.

“Hemp comes from cannabis. It’s kind of a Catch 22 there,” said DEA spokesman Michael Sanders. “Until Congress does something, we have to enforce the laws.” The difference between marijuana, industrial hemp »

Asked if the DEA opposes the stalled House Resolution 1009, which would nix industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, Sanders said the Justice Department and President Bush would make that call.

“When it comes to laws, we don’t have a dog in that fight,” he said.

The Justice Department has no position yet on the resolution, said spokesman Erik Ablin. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, however, is skeptical because of the burden hemp would place on law enforcement resources. Also, hemp advocates are regularly backed — sometimes surreptitiously — by the pro-marijuana movement, the office alleges.

“ONDCP cautions that, historically, the hemp movement has been almost entirely funded by the well-organized and well-funded marijuana legalization lobby,” said spokesman Tom Riley. “All we do is ask people not to be naive about what’s really going on here.”

Often, the hemp movement — like hemp legislation — is inextricably tied to marijuana. Pot advocates like actor Woody Harrelson and activist Jack Herer have double or ulterior agendas when they expound the virtues of hemp.

Not so with Monson, 57. The assistant GOP leader in the state House, who returned to the family farm where he was reared in 1975, said he became interested in hemp in 1993 when scab, or Fusarium head blight, devastated his wheat and barley crops.

 

What Is It Good For?

Hemp’s handiness can be traced back hundreds of years. Here are a few examples of its myriad applications:

Paper — The plant’s long, strong fibers make it an alternative to timber for paper. The Declaration of Independence and first Gutenberg Bibles were drafted on hemp.
Construction — Hemp’s woody core makes a good source of boards for construction materials.
Auto parts — The plant’s fiber can be crafted into a composite that is used for interior automobile parts typically made of fiberglass or other materials.
Textiles — For centuries, hemp fibers have been used for fabrics, both fine and coarse.
Body and health care products — Oil from the seeds is used in lotions, balms and cosmetics.
Food — The seeds and oil are high in protein and essential fatty acids and are used in a variety of edibles.
Ethanol — Though the technology is embryonic at best, hemp’s high cellulose content makes it a good candidate for biofuel production.

Source: Vote Hemp, Hemp Industries Association
Monson grows canola, too, but wants another crop in his rotation. Soybeans are too finicky for the weather and rocky soil. Monson also tried pinto beans, fava beans and buckwheat with no luck.

“None of them seemed to really be a surefire thing,” he said. “We were looking for anything that was potentially able to make us some money.”

Hemp, said the lifelong farmer, seemed an apt fit. It likes the climate, its deep roots irrigate soil, it doesn’t need herbicides because it grows tall quickly and it breaks the disease cycles in other crops, Monson said.

States follow Canada’s lead

About 20 miles north of Monson’s Osnabrock farm lies the Canadian border, the hemp dividing line. Just over the border in Manitoba, farmers have been reaping the benefits of hemp since 1998, when Health Canada reversed a longtime ban.

In a Vote Hemp video, Shaun Crew, president of Hemp Oil Canada Inc., a processing company in Sainte-Agathe, praised Canada’s foresight in differentiating between hemp and marijuana.

While marijuana THC levels can range between 3 and 20 percent, Canada demands its hemp contain no more than 0.3 percent. In some hemp, the THC levels can sink as low as one part per million, Crew said.

“There’s probably more arsenic in your red wine, there’s more mercury in your water and there’s definitely more opiates in the poppy seed bagel you ate this morning,” Crew said on the video.

The North Dakota Legislature is convinced, as are the general assemblies in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and West Virginia.

With his state’s blessing, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson is backing the farmers and has proposed modeling North Dakota’s hemp laws after Canada’s strict regulations.

“We weren’t just going to tell the DEA to take a hike,” Johnson said. “We’re serious about this, and we want to do it in concert with the DEA.”

In a March 27 letter to Johnson, Joseph Rannazzisi of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, said the permits were denied because the state hadn’t satisfied the agency’s security and logistical requirements.

Security aspects require careful evaluation because “the substance at issue is marijuana — the most widely abused controlled substance in the United States,” Rannazzisi wrote.

“We’ve been terribly brainwashed”

Hemp wasn’t always banned in the U.S. Jamestown Colony required farmers to grow it in 1619. Even after Congress cracked down on marijuana in 1937, farmers were encouraged to grow the crop for rope, sails and parachutes during World War II’s “Hemp for Victory” campaign.

Jake Graves, 81, heeded the call. Graves, whose father grew hemp in both world wars and whose grandfather grew it during the Civil War, was a teen when his father died in 1942. At the time, Graves’ family was growing hemp for the Army.

The Graveses continued growing hemp on their 500-acre Kentucky farm until 1945, when the market dried up after the advent of synthetic fabrics and the post-war reinvigoration of international trade.

 

Don’t Miss

But Graves stands by the crop and its versatility and says that by lumping hemp in with marijuana, lawmakers “threw the baby out with the wash.”

“We’ve been terribly brainwashed as a society,” Graves said. “Man didn’t use it for all those hundreds and hundreds of years without knowing what they were doing.”

In the U.S., tapping hemp’s versatility relies on imports. The DEA clamped down on most hemp imports in 1999 and 2001, but relented after a Canadian company sued, saying the ban violated its rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Though advocates considered it a victory, Johnson said hemp won’t be fully utilized until it can be grown and researched stateside.

“For us to grow it isn’t enough. You have to build that infrastructure,” Johnson said. “None of those uses is really going to develop to any great degree until we’re able to grow this commodity.”

Johnson said the farmers’ Vote Hemp-funded lawsuit has no hidden agenda. It’s aimed solely at allowing farmers to grow hemp — without going to jail because federal law says hemp and marijuana are the same.

“I’ve got a state Legislature saying they aren’t and the entire world saying they aren’t. This is about a crop that is a legitimate crop every place else in the world,” Johnson said. “It’s not a crusade thing. It’s a crop. Let farmers grow it. We don’t want anyone to be growing drugs.”