Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Booze Kills, Pot Doesn't

By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
On Aug. 19, the Associated Press reported on a group of college presidents proposing reconsideration of the legal drinking age. I'll refrain from wading into the emotional debate about what the legal age for alcohol should be, but a graph that accompanied the story in some outlets, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, raises larger questions about our national policies toward drugs and alcohol.

Two things are striking:

1. The number of alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States is shockingly high, consistently between 300 and 400 each year. The number of annual deaths from marijuana poisoning remains -- as always -- zero.

2. The number of alcohol poisoning deaths spiked just as the U.S. government started going all out to demonize marijuana, deploying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of anti-marijuana ads on TV, on radio and in print.

One can't help but wonder if this is really just coincidence. The recent low point came in 2000, with 327 alcohol poisoning deaths overall, 16 of them among college-age Americans. In 2001, the Bush administration came into office, with anti-marijuana zealot John Walters taking over as drug czar late in the year. Shortly thereafter, Walters began his anti-marijuana crusade.

The airwaves were soon filled with commercials telling teens and their parents that lighting up a joint could lead to shooting your friends, getting pregnant, running over little girls on bicycles or supporting terrorists. Walters made wild statements, claiming that marijuana potency had increased up to 20-fold (a claim he's since backed off from but never directly retracted). The message was clear: Forget everything you think you know about marijuana being relatively harmless -- this stuff is dangerous, addictive and scary.

When sensible individuals noted that alcohol is in fact far more dangerous health-wise than marijuana, Walters told the Albuquerque Journal that the idea was "frightening." And the anti-marijuana crusade sped onward, with new waves of ads directed at both young people and their parents.

According to government surveys, marijuana use did decline modestly (though the decline had actually begun before Bush and Walters took office, a point the administration generally neglects to mention). And in 2002 -- the first full year of Walters' modern "reefer madness" -- alcohol poisoning deaths spiked to 383, a level they've roughly maintained ever since. Booze deaths among college-age young people also ratcheted upward and in 2005 set a recent record of 35 in one year -- a 250 percent increase in just four years.

And during that time, the government maintained virtual silence about the dangers of binge drinking.

No one wants to encourage kids to drink or smoke marijuana. But if you keep bombarding young people with propaganda about the dangers of marijuana while saying nothing about the possibility that booze can literally kill you -- which is precisely what our government has done -- well, that just might be "sending a message to young people," as the federal bureaucrats say. And that message could kill.

It's not unreasonable to suspect that it already has.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Legislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use

(CNN) -- The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance.

Current laws targeting marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans, said Frank, flanked by legislators and representatives from advocacy groups.

"The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said on Capitol Hill. "I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time."

The Massachusetts Democrat and his supporters emphasized that only the use -- and not the abuse -- of marijuana would be decriminalized if the resolution resulted in legislation. Watch Frank lay out the proposal »

The Drug Enforcement Administration says people charged with simple possession are rarely incarcerated. The agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have long opposed marijuana legalization, for medical purposes or otherwise.

Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office.

"Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science -- it is not medicine and it is not safe," the DEA states on its Web site. "Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers."

Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, likened Frank's proposal -- co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas -- to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence, he said.

"We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers," he said.

St. Pierre said there are tens of millions of marijuana smokers in the United States, including himself, and hundreds of thousands are arrested each year for medical or personal use. Is it time to legalize pot?

There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965, he said, and 11 million since 1990, and "every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested."

Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for "all violent crimes combined," meaning police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

"Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform," he said.

Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, and Barbara Lee, D-California, said that in addition to targeting nonviolent offenders, U.S. marijuana laws unfairly target African-Americans.

Clay said he did not condone drug use but opposes using tax dollars to pursue what he feels is an arcane holdover from "a phony war on drugs that is filling up our prisons, especially with people of color."

Too many drug enforcement resources are being dedicated to incarcerating nonviolent drugs users, and not enough is being done to stop the trafficking of narcotics into the United States, he said.

Being arrested is not the American marijuana smoker's only concern, said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance Network. Those found guilty of marijuana use can lose their jobs, financial aid for college, their food stamp and welfare benefits, or their low-cost housing.

The U.S. stance on marijuana, Piper said, "is one of the most destructive criminal justice policies in America today."

Calling the U.S. policy "inhumane" and "immoral," Lee said she has many constituents who are harassed or arrested for using or cultivating marijuana for medical purposes. California allows medical marijuana use, but the federal government does not, she explained.

House Resolution 5843, titled the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, would express support for "a very small number of individuals" suffering from chronic pain or illness to smoke marijuana with impunity.

According to NORML, marijuana can be used to treat a range of illnesses, including glaucoma, asthma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and seizures.

Frank, who is chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said that about a dozen states have approved some degree of medical marijuana use and that the federal government should stop devoting resources to arresting people who are complying with their states' laws.

In a shot at Republicans, Frank said it was strange that those who support limited government want to criminalize marijuana.

Asked whether the resolution's passage would change his personal behavior, Frank quipped, "I do obey every law I vote for" but quickly said he did not use marijuana, nor does he encourage it.

"I smoke cigars. I don't think other people should do that. If young people ask me, I would advise them not to do it," he said.

If HR 5843 were passed, the House would support marijuana smokers possessing up to 100 grams -- about 3½ ounces -- of cannabis without being arrested. It would also give its blessing to the "nonprofit transfer" of up to an ounce of marijuana.

The resolution would not address laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit. The resolution also would not speak to state laws regarding marijuana use.


Cass County man kills himself as police investigate marijuana plants at his home

CASSOPOLIS -- A Cass County man apparently shot himself as police came to his door during a drug investigation Monday, authorities said.

Nels Wilson, 51, was found dead inside his mobile home at 25560 Jefferson Court Road after Michigan State Police approached his home to question him about marijuana plants found growing outside, according to a news release. Police had flown over Wilson's property as part of Operation Hemp, a joint venture of the Southwest Enforcement Team and State Police, and spotted more than 130 marijuana plants, including some 8 feet tall, near his trailer and garage, Prosecutor Victor Fitz said.

An officer heard a gunshot from inside the Jefferson Township residence, south of Cassopolis, as they approached, the news release said. They went inside to find Wilson was found dead with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, it said.


suspects sought

OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP -- Four suspects are being sought in connection with a home invasion this morning at Nottingham Place Apartments, police said.

Kalamazoo County sheriff's deputies were called around 1 a.m. to an apartment at 760 Drake Road, where a resident reported that he had been punched in the face by one of four men who came to his door. The men forced their way inside and stole wallets, cell phones and video games, a news release said.

Police ask that anyone who may have information call 383-8821.

Three arrested

in armed robbery

STURGIS -- Three men were arrested Tuesday night in Kalamazoo following an armed robbery in Sturgis.

A woman told police she was sitting outside her home in the 1200 block of Laura Drive around 11 p.m. when two men came onto her porch and one pointed a gun at her, a news release from the Sturgis Police Department said.

She was ordered to go inside, where one of the men pointed a gun at her head as they took an undisclosed amount of cash, it said. The suspects, who left in a car driven by a third man, were tracked to a nearby location, where police were able to identify them and get information that they were headed to a residence on Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers were notified and arrested the three men a short time later. They were being held at the St. Joseph County Jail on armed-robbery and home-invasion charges.

Meth lab busted

KALAMAZOO -- Two people were arrested after police discovered a methamphetamine lab at a home Thursday on Random Road.

Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team officers found several one-pot meth containers inside the home in the 3300 block of Random and in an adjacent garage, a press release from KVET said.

A 20-year-old man was arrested on outstanding warrants and faces methamphetamine possession and manufacturing charges, police said. Another 20-year-old was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

Bomb threat

closes store

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP -- The Wal-Mart store on Gull Road was closed for more than two hours Tuesday after someone reported a bomb was inside.

Employees and customers were evacuated from the store at 6065 Gull Road around 4 p.m. while a Michigan State Police K-9 unit and Kalamazoo County sheriff's deputies searched it.

Nothing suspicious was found inside the store, and employees returned to work, a press release from the Sheriff's Office said.

Tip leads to

drug arrests

DECATUR-- A citizen tip led police Tuesday to a home on 39th Street where they found marijuana and items to make methamphetamine.

The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit responded to the tip at 10:45 p.m. after a resident reported a chemical odor coming from a home at in the 81000 block of 39th Street.

A 34-year-old woman admitted there was drug paraphernalia inside, but she refused to let police in, a news release from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office said. When she was told a search warrant would be served, she tried to run back inside, it said.

Deputies entered the home and found a makeshift anhydrous ammonia tank and other items for making meth, they said. Outside the home, 17 marijuana plants were found.

The woman faces charges of operating and maintaining a meth lab, manufacturing marijuana and resisting and obstructing an officer.

A 36-year-old man, who arrived while deputies waited for a warrant, was arrested on charges of manufacturing marijuana and operating and maintaining a meth lab, the sheriff's office said. A 15-year-old boy who was home at the time was taken into custody by Child Protective Services workers.

Friday, July 11, 2008

An American Pastime: Smoking Pot

The Netherlands, with its permissive marijuana laws, may be known as the cannabis capital of the world. But a survey published this month in PLoS Medicine, a journal of the Public Library of Science, suggests that the Dutch don't actually experiment with pot as much as one would expect. Despite tougher drug policies in this country, Americans were twice as likely to have tried marijuana than the Dutch, according to the survey. In fact, Americans were more likely to have tried marijuana or cocaine than people in any of the 16 other countries, including France, Spain, South Africa, Mexico and Colombia, that the survey covered.

Researchers found that 42% of people surveyed in the United States had tried marijuana at least once, and 16% had tried cocaine. About 20% of residents surveyed in the Netherlands, by contrast, reported having tried pot; in Asian countries, such as Japan and China, marijuana use was virtually "non-existent," the study found. New Zealand was the only other country to claim roughly the same percentage of pot smokers as the U.S., but no other nation came close to the proportion of Americans who reported trying cocaine.

Why the high numbers? Jim Anthony, the chair of the department of epidemiology at Michigan State University and an author of the study, says U.S. drug habits have to do, in part, with the country's affluence — many Americans can afford to spend income on recreational drugs. Another factor may be an increasing awareness that marijuana may be less toxic than other drugs, such as tobacco or alcohol. (However, the study also found that the United States is among the leading countries in the percentage of respondents who tried tobacco and alcohol). As for the popularity of cocaine, the reason may simply be the close proximity of South America, the world's only coca plant producer. And, finally, Anthony notes, it's a matter of culture: the U.S. is home to a huge baby boomer population that came of age when experimenting with drugs was a part of the social fabric. "It became a more mass population phenomenon during a period when there were a large number of young people who were in the process of creating a culture of their own," Anthony says.

The survey also found that more Americans not only experimented with drugs, but also tended to try pot and cocaine for the first time at a younger age compared with people in other countries. Just over 20% of Americans reported trying pot by age 15 and nearly 3% had tried cocaine by the same age. Those percentages jumped to 54% and 16%, respectively, by age 21. That finding isn't surprising, says Dr. Richard Schottenfeld, a professor of psychiatry and a drug expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, since peer influence has a significant impact on the prevalence of drug use. In the Netherlands, for example, there is a large, vocal and homogeneous conservative population that is staunchly opposed to marijuana, says Schottenfeld. And anti-drug activists have made recent attempts to tighten the country's cannabis policies.

Yet experts say the findings of the new survey don't fairly reflect the success or failure of any particular drug policy. The survey asked only whether people had ever tried drugs in their lifetime — it did not ask about habitual use. "For drug policy, what you look at is regular use," says Tom Riley, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Somebody having tried pot in 1968 in college doesn't really have much to do with what the current drug use picture in the United States is."

Though current findings may not provide enough context to judge existing drug policy, Anthony says they do highlight some valid issues, especially since stringent laws don't appear to impact whether kids experiment with drugs. "One of the questions raised by research of this type is whether Americans will want to continue supporting the incarceration of young people who use small amounts of marijuana," Anthony says.

The ongoing study, which surveyed more than 85,000 people in 17 countries, is part of a larger project through the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. Anthony says further research about the frequency of worldwide drug use, and new data from additional countries will be released in the future.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Marijuana, Cocaine Have Contrasting Effects On Driving Performance, Study Says

Victoria, British Columbia: Cannabis and cocaine have contrasting effects upon psychomotor performance, according to survey data published in the current issue of the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

Investigators at British Columbia’s Center for Addiction Research surveyed the attitudes and driving behaviors of adults in drug treatment that had a history of driving under the influence of cannabis, cocaine, or alcohol. Authors reported that pot’s acute effects were more likely to make respondents drive more cautiously or refuse driving altogether.

“When comparing negative physical effects and reckless style of driving with frequency of driving under the influence of cannabis or cocaine, increased negative physical effects from cannabis were inversely related to frequency of driving under the influence of cannabis,” investigators concluded. “In terms of driving behavior, cautious or normal driving was commonly reported for cannabis, whereas reckless or reduced driving ability was frequently reported for cocaine.”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Driving behavior under the influence of cannabis or cocaine,” appears in Traffic Injury Prevention. Additional information on marijuana use and on-road accident risk appears in the NORML report "Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review," available online at:


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marijuana Has Anti-Inflammatory That Won't Get You High

A compound in marijuana may be a potent anti-inflammatory agent that won't get people high, scientists say.

The finding could be a boon to sufferers of arthritis, cirrhosis, and other diseases. Existing drugs can be less effective for some people and can carry side effects, from stomach ulcers to increased risk of heart attacks.

Marijuana supporters have long argued that the plant's active ingredients, known as cannabinoids, are safe and effective treatments for pain, nausea, and other ailments.
The most active cannabinoid—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. But it is also responsible for the plant's psychotropic effects.

Now researchers say that another cannabinoid, called beta-caryophyllene, or (E)-BCP, helps combat inflammation without affecting the brain.

(E)-BCP is already part of many people's daily diets, the researchers note. Foods that are particularly high in the compound include black pepper, oregano, basil, lime, cinnamon, carrots, and celery.

Essential oils from cannabis plants—whose leaves and flowers are used to make the marijuana drug—contain up to 35 percent (E)-BCP.

But even after decades of cannabis research, scientists hadn't previously known that the compound had anti-inflammatory properties.

"This is because the focus was on the classical cannabinoids [rather than (E)-BCP]," said lead study author Jürg Gertsch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Lone Receptor

Cannabinoids in marijuana are known to primarily affect two of the many molecular receptors in the human body.

The CB1 receptor is found in the brain and central nervous system and is responsible for the high people experience when they smoke pot.

The other receptor, called CB2, is found in tissues in the rest of the body and triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions that can help combat inflammation.

"Our interest is to exploit the pharmacological nature of the CB2 receptor," because it does not have psychotropic side effects, Gertsch explained in an email.

"Targeting the CB2 receptor could be a therapeutic strategy to prevent or treat diseases like Crohn's disease [inflammation of the intestinal tract], liver cirrhosis, osteoarthritis, and atherosclerosis."

THC activates both receptors, so it won't alleviate inflammation without also making people high.

But (E)-BCP affects only the CB2 receptor, according to the new study, which appears in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As part of their research, the scientists engineered a strain of mice that lacked the CB2 receptor. The team then fed the modified mice and normal mice a diet rich in (E)-BCP.

When the scientists induced inflammation with chemicals, normal mice experienced an anti-inflammatory effect while the genetically engineered mice did not.

"This experiment shows that the anti-inflammatory effects are mediated via the CB2 receptor," Gertsch said.

Drug Building Block?

Stephen Safe, director of the Texas A&M University's Center for Environmental and Genetic Medicine, said he is impressed by the team's results both in mouse cells and in live mice.

"They did a good study," said Safe, who was not involved in the research.

He also noted that a lot of other studies have been finding that fat-soluble chemicals from plants activate many receptors in the body.

"A lot of these [come from plants that] have been used in traditional medicine," he said. "This is another example of that—but a bit of a sexy one."

In this case, he noted, Gertsch's team has identified some "petty good" activators of the CB2 receptor.

"Can they be further developed and modified into better anti-inflammatory drugs?" he asked. "Maybe. [(E)-BCP] could be a new model [compound] for drug design."


Monday, June 23, 2008

Marijuana Helps Anxiety Disorders


After years of prescription antidepressants that offered no relief from anxiety disorder, Patsy K. Eagan experiments with her drug of choice— marijuana, which for some may be the medicine to send SSRIs up in smoke

A thimbleful is all it takes. After a day’s work, I pinch off a small amount of marijuana and put it in a steel-tooth grinder. The flowers, covered in tiny white diamonds of THC, release a piney scent when crushed. I turn on the TV, and instead of taking a glass of wine with my evening news, I take out my vaporizer and set it on the coffee table.

Outside the walls of my bungalow in Oakland, California, I can hear the rush-hour traffic, but I’ve already changed into my Big Lebowski–style robe and slippers. I tap the ground flakes into a canister that I attach to another piece, this one with a bag on the end, and set both on the vaporizer. I flip the switch, and the bag slowly inflates with plumes of white smoke. Once it’s fully clouded, I attach a mouthpiece to the canister, put this to my lips, and press. On the inhale, the cannabinoids taste like sunned grass. My prescription for anxiety disorder didn’t always begin and end with an herb. But I’ve run through enough pharmaceutical drugs to know that pot dulls my panic better than any pill.

One could say I diagnosed myself in high school, when I recognized my symptoms in a psychology textbook. Finally, I had “generalized anxiety disorder” to describe the dread I felt of some future event that was overtaking my present. I usually sensed the panic attacks first in my chest. Then my vision would start to go to static, and my body would crumple to the floor. There I’d ride it out until the adrenaline ran its course.

Soon after I started to suffer several of these episodes a day (and so often that fear of another one kept me indoors), I sought out a psychiatrist. I told her about the times I’d be driving and convince myself that I was about to spin off the road—the looping, invented terrors. A little talk therapy and a prescription later, I discovered that Zoloft only exacerbated my panic and depression. I stopped taking the little white pills and cut out caffeine instead; I exercised and practiced meditation. For years I abstained from medication, and aside from the occasional pot smoking with friends, I swore off drugs entirely.

By the time I graduated from college, I knew all about the female hysteric and how anxiety was still cast as a womanly defect. Women experience generalized anxiety disorder at twice the rate of men. Every year, as many as 4.5 million American women are diagnosed with GAD—not including the several other permutations of anxiety disorders, namely social phobia, obsessive-compulsiveness, post-traumatic stress, and agoraphobia—for which, as with most mental illnesses, they are prescribed medications. Thus, I resisted pills for the backward “rest cure” and institutionalization they stood for: the only thing to be done for the hysterical female.

For the full artical visit:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Teen Pot Use Falling In States With Medical Marijuana Laws

Washington, DC: States that have enacted legislation authorizing the use of medical cannabis by qualified patients have not experienced an increase in the drug's use by the general population, according to a report issued this week by the Marijuana Policy Project and co-authored by NORML Advisory Board Member Mitch Earleywine.

Among the twelve states that have legalized the use and cultivation of medical cannabis, all but one (New Mexico) have experienced an overall decline in teen marijuana use since the enactment of their medi-pot laws. (Data was unavailable for New Mexico, which passed its law last year.) In seven of the twelve states, marijuana use among young people declined at rates that exceeded the national average.

"Opponents of medical use of marijuana regularly argue that such laws 'send the wrong message to children,' but there is just no sign of that effect in the data," said Earleywine. "In every state for which there's data, teen marijuana use has gone down since the medical marijuana law was passed, often a much larger decline than nationally."

A previous 2005 review of medical cannabis laws and their impact on use reported similar findings, noting that teen use in California had fallen nearly 50 percent since the passage of that state's medi-pot law in 1996. A 2002 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that state medical marijuana laws were operating primarily as voters and legislators had intended and had not led to widespread abuses among the general population.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director,. Full text of the study, "Marijuana use by young people: the impact of state medical marijuana laws,"


Amsterdam smoking ban doesn’t apply to marijuana

The Netherlands' famous coffee shops, where marijuana is available over the counter, face the threat of extinction when the country goes smoke-free on 1 July.

Smoking dope is the raison d'être of the cafes which are scattered across the country, with the greatest and most famous concentration in Amsterdam. But when the tobacco ban comes in, the coffee shops will not be exempt.

This will lead to the paradoxical situation that only pure grass or cannabis resin, which are not covered by the ban, can be legally smoked in the shops.

Anybody rolling a tobacco-based joint will be breaking the law – but only because of the tobacco. "The new rule is nonsense," said Willem Panders, of the Dutch tobacco traders' union. "It will be almost impossible to enforce because how are you going to check if someone is smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco, or pure cannabis?"

But despite desperate lobbying, owners have failed to get the government to make an exception of them. "Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses," the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkanende, said last week. "It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that."

At any one time up to 1,300 coffee shops are for sale across the country, but the Dutch catering magazine Horeca Vizier reports that the figure has jumped to 1,600 because of the ban.

Marc Jacobsen, of BCD, a national association of coffee-shop owners which has been urging the government to give them special status, told the online version of Der Spiegel: "In a cafe you come to drink something. In a restaurant you come to eat. But when you come to a coffee shop you come to smoke, so smoking has to be allowed in a coffee shop."

As in the rest of Europe the purpose of the ban is to protect the health of staff, who at present are obliged to inhale passively other people's smoke. But Sandy Lambrecht, the manager of the Bulldog coffee shop on the Leidseplein in the heart of Amsterdam, said: "The new rules are absurd. You come to a coffee shop to smoke, after all – it's ridiculous that we have to comply. The new rules are meant to protect employees like me, but the point is that we chose to work here."

Paul Wilhelm, the owner of De Tweede Kamer, one of Amsterdam's most famous coffee shops, founded in 1985, argued: "If the boys are old enough to be sent to Afghanistan, then you can't tell me that people want to protect them from smoke in the workplace. They're old enough to decide on their own. They can vote, they can go to war – but now they won't even be allowed to make this decision?"

Many British pubs re-opened their gardens when the smoking ban took effect, but most Dutch coffee shops are penned into tiny premises with no outdoor space. The solution in Bulldog is to create a separate, walled-off space for those who want to smoke, off-limits to staff.

"We're now having to build a new section in our coffee-shop with a glass partition and special air filters for those who choose to smoke non-pure cannabis," said Sandy Lambrecht. "It's a shame as it will change the very congenial ambience in here – half of our customers will be shut off behind a glass wall. Our customers will grumble, that's for sure."

But the Dutch Health Minister, Ab Klink, is impenitent. "A positive side effect of the smoking ban," he said, "may be that consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do."

Cannabis cafe culture

Contrary to popular perception, cannabis is – technically – an illegal substance in the Netherlands. However the country's pragmatic drug policy has led to a division in the eyes of the law between "hard" drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, and "soft", like cannabis.

Holland's policy of non-enforcement towards cannabis consumption and possession goes back to 1976. Originally it applied to a quantity of less than 30 grams, but the amount coffee shops are able to sell to one person is now limited to five grams.

Cannabis cafes haveto stick to strict criteria. They must be licensed, cannot admit or sell drugs to minors under 18, and the advertisement of drugs is banned. In April 2007, new legislation forced the coffee shops to choose between serving alcohol and cannabis. The vast majority opted to serve cannabis.

Although cannabis is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked in a joint, it can be smoked – without tobacco – in a bong or pipe. It can also be consumed as a tea or in cake form, but the effect of the drug takes much longer to be felt.

Via: Belfast Telegraph

Thursday, June 19, 2008

N.Y. poised to OK marijuana for medicinal use

NEW YORK STATE — Richard Williams smokes marijuana regularly.

But he doesn’t consider himself a criminal, and doesn’t think he should be treated like one.

The 46-year-old Richmondville resident has been HIV positive for two decades. Smoking marijuana, he said, relieves the pain in his joints and helps him cope with persistent bouts of nausea. He has hepatitis C and a damaged liver, so he doesn’t want to take pain medication, which is processed by the liver.

Williams supports legalizing the use of medical marijuana in New York. He’s hoping the state Legislature will pass a law that does so before adjourning later this month.

“I don’t use other drugs,” Williams said. “I’m not a drug addict. … I’m speaking out because someone has to stand up for what’s right.”

Last year the Assembly passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana; a new version of the bill has moved out of the codes committee, and another version is pending in the Senate. Those who support the bill are optimistic that this is the year New York legalizes medical marijuana.

The Assembly bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, would allow patients to use marijuana only if they have life-threatening or debilitating conditions, and only if their doctors believe it would be the most effective treatment. Patients and caregivers would register with the state and receive identification cards that would allow them to legally purchase marijuana for medicinal use. They would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants and to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, though a state-regulated distribution system would eventually replace home cultivation. This transition would hinge on the federal government’s approval of the state-regulated distribution system.

Last year, the Assembly passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana for the first time, and this year’s version of the bill attempts to address the concerns that derailed its chances in the Senate. Some legislators felt that last year’s bill did not provide for adequate regulation; the new bill mandates that registered organizations such as pharmacies, nonprofit organizations created for the purposing of selling marijuana to chronically sick people and local health departments handle sale and distribution of the drug.

Twelve states have legalized medical marijuana, with New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana last summer, the most recent to do.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that supports legalizing medical marijuana and overall reform of the country’s marijuana laws, is pushing the state to pass the Assembly legislation. Right now, television advertisements created by the group are running in the Capital Region, Long Island and the Buffalo area.


Burton Aldrich, 45, a quadriplegic from Kingston, appears in the 30-second television advertisement. “I don’t know if I would be around if it wasn’t for marijuana,” he says, in the advertisement. “It shouldn’t be a crime to treat pain and suffering.”

Aldrich became a quadriplegic in 1999, when he crushed his spinal cord in a diving accident. He has limited use of his arms and fingers, can wiggle his toes, and remains confined to a wheelchair. “I’m very fortunate,” he said, in a phone interview. “It could have been worse.” His body is wracked by intense spasms, and he experiences searing pain in his extremities, as well as pounding headaches that disrupt his sleep. He said he can’t take painkillers because they cause constipation. But through marijuana and meditation, he said he’s found a solution.

Aldrich tried marijuana around two years ago, while returning from a sailing trip with a friend. He was in pain, and his friend offered him some marijuana. “My spasms went away,” he said. “My pain went away like a bucket of water dropped on me.”

“I don’t flaunt it,” Aldrich said, of smoking marijuana. “I’m only pushing it because I don’t think it should be illegal. It’s a medicine.”

Williams and Aldrich both said they would rather grow their own marijuana than go to state-regulated distribution centers to acquire their drugs. They said they think the federal government is more likely to raid state-designated distribution centers than individuals growing marijuana for their own use.

The Marijuana Policy Project would like the federal government to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In lieu of that, the group supports efforts to legalize medical marijuana at the state level.

“As long as the federal government is opposed, the states are left to deal with it themselves,” said Dan Bernath, the assistant director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. He said the federal government has made it clear that it will not target and raid sick individuals who are using marijuana to reduce symptoms and pain.

“There are sick people in New York who are relying on medical marijuana,” Bernath said. “They’re using it with a doctor’s recommendation, and right now they’re criminals for doing so. Arrest is always on their minds. It’s a real fear. They’re forced to go on the street and deal with drug dealers.” People who grow their own marijuana also risk running into trouble with the law, he said. “One of the maddening things about the illegality of medical marijuana is that its safety and efficacy has been established. … Real people really do need this. It’s just unconscionable to let them suffer when we could be doing something to help them.”

‘best treatment’

Treatments for cancer and HIV are always improving — for instance, the side effects from AIDS drugs are not nearly as debilitating as they once were — but that doesn’t mean there’s no need for medical marijuana, Bernath said. “There’s always going to be a subpopulation that finds medical marijuana to be the best treatment,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees medical marijuana as a cure for everybody. But there are always going to be some people who will benefit.”

Williams, who has purchased marijuana for himself and friends who are chronically ill, is all too familiar with the risks of buying marijuana. On one excursion to the Bronx, a friend was arrested after buying marijuana for him.

He said marijuana also provides him with mental relief. “There are so many good things it does, and so few bad things,” Williams said. Because he is on disability, he buys marijuana when he can afford to, “not all the time.” He said he’s been living on disability since being forced to retire from his job as a press room supervisor.

“When I was working, marijuana helped me work and deal with the pain,” Williams said. “If I could afford it, and I didn’t have to worry about being busted, I’d probably use it more.”

Bernath said it’s difficult to determine how many New Yorkers would register as users of medical marijuana if it was legalized. In Rhode Island, he noted, fewer than 200 people have registered, but New York is a bigger state.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Students pick marijuana over cigarettes

High school students in Florida are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco, according to a new report on adolescent health from the state Health Department.

About 16 percent of Florida high school students said they used marijuana in the past month versus 15.5 percent who said they smoked cigarettes, according to a 2006 government survey.

The difference is dramatic in Martin County where 24 percent of high school students say they’ve used marijuana in the past month, compared to 20 percent who used cigarettes. Martin County had a higher rate of teen tobacco and marijuana use than neighboring counties.

On the positive side for Martin County youth, the report showed they were more likely to get enough “vigorous physical activity” compared to statewide averages and neighboring counties.

About 46 percent of Palm Beach County high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past month, compared to 42 percent statewide, 40 percent in St. Lucie County and 45 percent in Martin County.

To read the full report, click here.

Via: The Palm Beach Post

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smoke a Joint and Your Whole Family Could End Up Homeless

Drug addiction is bad. But the war on drugs is worse.

Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post wrote a heart-breaking story that exemplifies the wasteful and counterproductive way our society deals with illegal drug use. Mr. Milloy talks about Frances Johnson, a 68-year-old grandmother in Washington, D.C. who faces eviction simply because her grandson was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana. The federal government's public housing system has a "one strike and you're out" policy for any drug law violation -- even if that violation occurs miles away from home.

How does our society benefit from making homeless a whole family because of a little bit of marijuana? Why are we punishing Ms. Johnson who herself did nothing wrong? Does anyone really believe such draconian policies will help reduce marijuana use? How will an eviction affect her grandson's chances for recovery? Should any family be kicked out of their home for a loved one's drug use?

Though they contain no racist language, the application of the government's zero-tolerance prohibition policies are overtly racist, classist, ineffective and inhumane. The New York Civil Liberties Union released a report earlier this month that found 83 percent of those charged with marijuana possession over the last 10 years are black or Latino even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely to use pot. If you are poor and live in public housing, your whole family is punished for a drug offense--even for smoking a joint. But if you are middle class and do not rely on public housing or other benefits it is a "personal" issue. Despite our arresting a staggering 800,000 people for marijuana last year, marijuana is as easily available as ever -- to find some, just inquire around your local high-school.

For 40 years, we have been waging a "war on drugs." Just what does our $40 billion-a-year drug war get us? Our prisons are exploding with nonviolent drug offenders; families are kicked out of housing when many have done nothing wrong; thousands die from street violence generated by prohibition's lucrative black market; and drugs remain as plentiful and easy to obtain as ever.

Enough is enough. Ms. Johnson should not be more "collateral damage" from this unwinnable war.

Via: AlterNet

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cannabis blunder at Tokyo airport

An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan's Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.

A customs officer hid a package of the banned substance in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to test airport security.

Sniffer dogs failed to detect the cannabis and the officer could not remember which bag he had put it in.

Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials.

"This case was extremely regrettable. I would like to deeply apologise," said Narita International Airport's customs head Manpei Tanaka.

Strict laws

The customs officer conducted the test on a passenger's bag against regulations. Normally a training suitcase is used.

"I knew that using passengers' bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog's ability," the officer was quoted as saying.

"The dogs have always been able to find it before... I became overconfident that it would work," he said.

Japan has strict laws against drugs and possession of small amounts of cannabis can lead to a prison sentence.

Via: The BBC

This Bud's For You--And I Don't Mean Beer

It's generally believed that the number one product from California's number one industry isn't legal. Agriculture remains the Golden State's biggest business, and some believe marijuana is worth $14 billion. No one really knows for sure.

The LEGAL medical marijuana business is estimated by advocates to be worth up to $2 billion. Legal, that is, in the state's eyes. It's still illegal under federal law.

Today I'm reporting on the business of selling pot legally, the costs and challenges that go with it. Twelve years after California was the first state to make medical marijuana legal, many clinics are still raided as criminal enterprises (and some are--even under state law), and many others remain paranoid, having come from an underground culture that has pervaded the industry for so long.

Then there are those pushing for openness, transparency, ethics, and standardized practices. In the face of almost no regulatory standards, they're developing their own, and making money doing so.

One company, Oaksterdam University (a combination of its hometown of Oakland and Amsterdam) is charging people $200 to take classes and be tested to achieve "certification" as a grower or clinic owner. There's a company that will even certify your marijuana as "green," grown to organic standards. The USDA, of course, can't do this.

But not everyone in California is on board. Some counties are reportedly suing the state so they don't have to issue identification cards to medical users.

Still, the state has seen a fivefold increase in clinics in the last few years. Some offer only a few choices, but Oaksterdam's Danielle Schumacher says other clinics offer up to a hundred different varieties watched over by a dozen "bud tenders." Teaching these bud tenders is part of Oaksterdam's goal. As Schumacher says, "somebody's gotta do something about this."

And why not make a perfectly legal living doing so?


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Medical marijuana: How much is enough?

Excerpt form an article by Carol M. Ostrom
Seattle Times health reporter

A state Health Department proposal that medical-marijuana patients be allowed more than 2 pounds of pot every two months took law enforcement by surprise and prompted the governor to tell health officials to start over.

Faced with a legislative mandate to spell out what constitutes a "60-day supply" by July 1, the department in February briefed Gov. Christine Gregoire's office on its recommendation: Patients or caregivers could possess up to 35 ounces of cultivated marijuana and be allowed a plant-growing area of 100 square feet.

Gregoire promptly directed Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky to solicit more comment from law enforcement and medical providers. "I wouldn't say she was upset" by the amount, said Gregoire's spokesman, Pearse Edwards, but she believed input had been one-sided.

The issue of how much marijuana a patient needs remains one of the most contentious parts of the law voters passed in 1998, which allows patients with certain chronic, fatal and debilitating diseases to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana with a doctor's authorization.

Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, 48, of Seattle, has grown marijuana legally since 1999. Kyashna-Tocha has had five neck and back surgeries and said that using marijuana manages her pain enough so she can engage in daily life. Kyashna-Tocha's moluccan cockatoo Big Bird Bubba sits on her shoulder and travels with her almost everywhere.

Basis of calculation

How did the state Department of Health (DOH) calculate the amount? According to its briefing memo, obtained through a Public Disclosure Act request, the department began with the average dosages given to a handful of patients enrolled in a federal medical-marijuana program.

It doubled that amount, because some patients might eat the marijuana instead of smoking it.

Sunil Aggarwal, a University of Washington medical and doctoral degree student who studies "medical cannabis" there, says the department's calculation used an incorrect multiplier.

Because "oral administration" of medical marijuana is much less efficient than smoking, the limit should be about 71 ounces for 60-day supply, he has told health officials.

The 35-ounce amount is more than permitted in some places that allow medical marijuana use, but less than others. For example, Oregon allows 24 ounces of usable marijuana and six mature plants, while limits in California counties and cities range from 8 ounces to 3 pounds in Humboldt, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties, the Health Department's memo said.

Via: The Seattle Times

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection

A study at the University of California at Los Angeles (one of
the largest study of its kind) finds no connection in smoking
marijuana, even regularly and heavily, leading to lung cancer.

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking
marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association
between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more
positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association
at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."

The study was limited to people younger than 60 because those older than that were generally not exposed to marijuana in their youth, when it is most often tried.

via: The

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's Just a Plant

It's Just a Plant is an illustrated children's book about marijuana. It about a young girl as she learns about marijuana from a her parents, a local farmer, a doctor, and a police officer.

It's Just a Plant is a book for parents who want to educate their children about marijuana in fact-oriented manner. I don't believe that this is the only way that a parent should go about telling their children about the us of marijuana.

via: It's Just a Plant

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This week in review

This week in review

Washington, DC: US Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced legislation in Congress Friday to strip the federal government of its authority to arrest responsible adult cannabis consumers. The measure, H.R. 5843, known as an “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults,” is the first federal decriminalization legislation introduced in 24 years. Frank’s pending bill, co-sponsored by presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), seeks to eliminate all federal penalties prohibiting the personal use and possession of up to 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of marijuana. Under this measure, adults who consume cannabis would no longer face arrest, prison, or even the threat of a civil fine. The bill also eliminates all penalties for the not-for-profit transfers of up to one ounce of pot. All are encouraged to write their representatives in support of this important legislation via NORML’s online advocacy system.

Washington, DC: Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H.R. 5842, the “Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” earlier today. This bill would make federal authorities respect states’ current laws on medicinal cannabis and end DEA raids on facilities distributing medical marijuana legally under state law. Representative Paul, whose presidential campaign prominently featured the ending of the drug war as a platform plank, was joined by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) in sponsoring this bill. All NORML supporters are strongly encouraged to write their Representatives in favor of this important bill via NORML’s online advocacy system.

New Hampshire: House Bill 1623, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, was passed by the House on March 18. The Senate Judiciary Committee will now hold an important hearing on this bill at 3:00 PM on April 22. All supporters are encouraged to attend. Additionally, our allies at NH Common Sense are now encouraging supporters to contact Governor John Lynch directly and urge him to rethink his assertion that he will veto HB 1623 if it reaches his desk. New Hampshire supporters are strongly encouraged to urge their Representatives and the Governor to support these bills via NORML’s online advocacy system.

It's time for change

I personally believe that the smoking of Marijuana is no more harmful than the consumption of alcohol or of tobacco, but it has a stigma that deep rooted that it is a gateway drug and is somehow more addictive and harm full. I created this blog in order to voice my opinions (as well as others) about the current state of marijuana legislation and why there needs to be a change. As well as to dispel the myths that do nothing but encourages ignorance.