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