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Published: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 17:51:40 -0400


WikiLeaks Shows Hillary Clinton Was Against Pot Legalization In 'All Senses Of the Word'

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 10:25:00 -0400

There isn't much to divine from John Podesta's hacked emails (published earlier this week by WikiLeaks) when it comes to Hillary Clinton's supposed evolution on marijuana legalization. But in an email circulated among senior Clinton campaign staffers concerned about the content of Clinton's paid corporate speeches and appearances—which includes an 80-page attachment detailing "a lot of policy positions that we should give an extra scrub"—a brief portion of Clinton's Q & A with Xerox CEO Ursula Burns in 2014 shows Clinton's staunch opposition to any form of marijuana legalization: URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don't. I'm going to start with — I'm going to give you about ten long-shorts. SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can't answer short. URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot? SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word. (emphasis added) That was in March 2014, and even if it's the briefest of exchanges, it says something that the Clinton campaign suspected this message of staunch prohibitionism needed "an extra scrub." Clinton was on the record opposing medical marijuana in 2007—she supported "research," but not decriminalization—but just three months after saying she opposed marijuana legalization "in all senses of the word," she said on a CNN town hall that "there should be availability (of marijuana) under appropriate circumstances." She also said she would allow Colorado and Washington—which had just fully legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults—to serve as "laboratories of democracy" and reserved the right to offer her opinion on the subject at an unspecified later date. Also in 2014, she offered the standard "gateway drug" trope as a defense of prohibition in a KPCC radio interview: I think the feds should be attuned to the way marijuana is still used as a gateway drug and how the drug cartels from Latin America use marijuana to get footholds in states, so there can't be a total absence of law enforcement, but what I want to see, and I think we should be much more focused on this, is really doing good research so we know what it is we're approving. The Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016—who had to "evolve" a number of her long-held policies and supposed principles just to make it through her bruising primary battle with Bernie Sanders—now fully supports both medical marijuana and the removal of the drug from the DEA's Schedule I classification. The question is, which Hillary Clinton should be believed? The lifelong drug warrior who as recently as 2011 seemed to misunderstand both prohibition and supply-and-demand when she said drug legalization was an impossibility "because there is just too much money in it"? Or the chastened Democratic presidential nominee hoping to energize the youth vote and perhaps even convince some libertarians she can be trusted in her promises regarding criminal justice reform? src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Criticism Has Delayed a Kratom Ban but Probably Won't Prevent It

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 08:30:00 -0400

The Drug Enforcement Administration's decision to withdraw its ban on kratom, a pain-relieving leaf from Southeast Asia, underlines the arbitrariness of the federal government's pharmacological taboos, which are based on undefined terms subjectively interpreted by bureaucrats with broad discretion to decide which substances Americans may ingest. The DEA's backtracking was prompted by complaints from kratom consumers, the companies that serve them, researchers who study the drug, and members of Congress. But despite the agency's newfound interest in public input on the question of kratom's legal status, it seems likely that we will end up with the same prohibitory result after a somewhat more elaborate process of post hoc rationalization. When the DEA announced at the end of August that it was temporarily placing kratom's main active ingredients in Schedule I, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it declared that a ban was "necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety." When the ban did not take effect on September 30 as expected, DEA spokesman Russell Baer assured Washington Post drug policy blogger Christopher Ingraham that "it's not a matter of if—it's simply a matter of when, in terms of DEA publishing the final order to temporarily schedule kratom." Since Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg "has determined that kratom represents an imminent hazard to public safety," Baer said, "I have a sense that publishing our final order will be sooner as opposed to later." Rosenberg's determination was based on an unpersuasive, weakly supported analysis that dismissed kratom's benefits and exaggerated its hazards. Critics pointed out that the DEA's emergency scheduling authority, which Congress approved in 1984 at the agency's behest, was aimed at dangerous new synthetic drugs that might cause many injuries and deaths during the time required by the standard scheduling process. Here is how then-DEA Administrator Francis Mullen explained his understanding of "imminent hazard to the public safety" in a letter to legislators: The "imminent hazard" implies a need for immediate response to a drug trafficking and abuse situation that has occurred with such rapidity and with insufficient warning that normal control mechanisms would result in a large number of deaths and injuries or the continuance of an uncontrolled trafficking situation....The burden would be on the Government to prove that such an urgency exists and that the public safety would be jeopardized during the period that a drug would remain uncontrolled during routine scheduling action. As examples of substances that would be covered by the new provision, Mullen cited "newly synthesized drugs or uncontrolled analogs of existing drugs such as PCP and fentanyl," which "can cause widespread deaths and injuries in a very short period of time following their synthesis." Kratom, a "minimally toxic" natural substance that humans have used for centuries with little evidence of serious harm except in exreme cases, hardly fits that description. "The use of this emergency authority for a natural substance is unprecedented," noted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in a September 29 letter to Rosenberg. Whatever legislators may have had in mind when they created this prohibition shortcut, they did not define "imminent hazard to the public safety." The CSA says only that the attorney general (who has delegated his scheduling authority to the DEA) should consider a substance's "history and current pattern of abuse," "the scope, duration, and significance of abuse," and "what, if any, risk there is to the public health." That formulation leaves bureaucrats like Rosenberg free to describe any uncontrolled psychoactive substance, no matter how favorable its risk-to-benefit ratio, as "an imminent hazard to the public safety." The unscientific nature of that determination is clear from the fact that the DEA has reconsidered it in response to political pressure, as opposed to new evidence. Suddenly Rosenberg's contri[...]

DEA Withdrawing Awful Attempt to Completely Ban Kratom

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:47:00 -0400

(image) Sometimes outrage is the right response. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has heard loud and clear that it has very little support for its declaration that it was going to ban the pain-killing plant and possible opioid addiction treatment known as kratom.

The DEA announced at the end of August it was going to place kratom in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act, meaning the government has determined that the drug had absolutely no medical purpose. This was an extreme overreaction, according to many researchers and even lawmakers, and they responded accordingly.

There were hints that the DEA might delay its own decision and today Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post got official confirmation. The DEA is withdrawing its notice that it will be placing kratom on the ban list.

But it's far from over, and one would have to be naïve to think that the feds would simply allow a psychoactive substance to be sold without any sort of oversight. The DEA is opening up a new comment period until December 1 and is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the use of the plant and suggest a "scheduling recommendation."

While this is all a massive improvement over what had initially be planned, kratom researchers and experts are nevertheless concerned over what is likely to happen next, Ingraham notes:

"It's certainly a positive development," said Andrew Kruegel of Columbia University in an email. Kruegel is one of the researchers working to develop next-generation painkillers based on compounds contained in kratom.

Kruegel says that the FDA's evaluation of the drug will carry a lot of weight in the DEA's decision. But the kind of rigorous, controlled trials that the FDA typically refers to in situations like this simply don't exist for kratom.

"Unfortunately, in the United States I don't think we have a good regulatory framework for handling this situation or taking perhaps more reasonable middle paths" between banning the drug outright or keeping it unregulated, Kruegel says.

Still, he says, "the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency, so I am encouraged that they will now be having more serious input on this important policy decision."

Reason's Jacob Sullum has been weighing in on the oppressive "anything not permitted is strictly forbidden" approach the DEA has taken with drug controls. He wrote about the arbitrary nature of its knee-jerk effort to ban kratom just last week.

Read the DEA's withdrawal note here.

Someone Is Arrested Every 25 Seconds for Drug Possession in the U.S.

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 10:30:00 -0400

Someone is arrested for drug possession or use every 25 seconds in the U.S., according to a strident joint report on the drug war by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union released Wednesday. As a result of the 1.25 million people who come into contact with the criminal justice system every year for drugs—more than all annual arrests for violent crime combined—the two civil rights groups are making an unequivocal call for the full decriminalization of personal drug use. There are 137,000 men and women on any given day serving time in jail or prison for drug charges other than trafficking, according to data analyzed by the report. Despite the recent wave of decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, more than half of those arrests were for possession of pot. Besides facing jail time, they risk diminished job, housing, and education prospects, often leading to a downward spiral of poverty. "These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence," says Tess Borden, the author of the 190-page report, who interviewed more than 300 people across the country who have been arrested, prosecuted, or incarcerated for drug possession. Citing the "staggering human rights toll of drug criminalization and enforcement in the U.S." displayed in the report, the two civil rights groups call for full federal and state-level decriminalization of personal drug possession and use in the report. "While governments have a legitimate interest in preventing problematic drug use, the criminal law is not the solution," the report says. "Criminalizing drug use simply has not worked as a matter of practice. Rates of drug use fluctuate, but they have not declined significantly since the "war on drugs" was declared more than four decades ago. The criminalization of drug use and possession is also inherently problematic because it represents a restriction on individual rights that is neither necessary nor proportionate to the goals it seeks to accomplish." Borden says one thing that shocked her in the course of her research was how much of the "huge carceral state and the massive machinery of enforcement" was used to prosecute people for miniscule amounts of drugs. One person Borden interviewed in Texas received 15 years in prison for possession of trace amounts of methamphetamines so insignificant that the drug lab couldn't even assign a fraction of a weight to it. His case was not an outlier. More than 78 percent of people sentenced to incarceration for felony drug possession in Texas in 2015 possessed under a gram—roughly the weight of a paperclip. Across the country, the report says, the criminalization of drugs subjects people to humiliating police encounters, leaves them with the stigma of an arrest record at best, coerces guilty pleas, adds draconian sentencing enhancements, and keeps those with drug addiction churning through the system over and over until they end up facing years in prison. "I remember when they said I was guilty in the courtroom, the wind was knocked out of me," Jennifer Edwards, told Borden from jail in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Edwards faced a minimum of 20 years to life in prison for possessing a small amount of heroin. "I went, 'the rest of my life?' … All I could think about is that I could never do anything enjoyable in my life again. Never like be in love with someone and be alone with them… never be able to use a cell phone… take a shower in private, use the bathroom in private… There's 60 people in my cell, and only one of us has gone to trial. They are afraid to be in my situation." The report also found, like many other statistical surveys of drug arrests, wide racial disparities in who is targeted by the drug war. In the 39 states where there was sufficient data to analyze, the report found black adults were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white adults, despite roughly equivalent rates [...]

Legal Medical Pot Helps Older Americans Remain in the Workforce

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 09:35:00 -0400

(image) States with legal medical marijuana have more people over age 50 in the workforce—and they're working longer hours.

The correlation is noted in a study published last month by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Temple University, who analyzed 20 years of data from the national Health and Retirement Study, an annual survey of Americans over 50.

"The enactment of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 to 4.9 percent increase in the hours worked per week," write researchers Lauren Hersch Nicholas and Johanna Catherina Maclean.

As of 2016, 25 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to legalize medical marijuana, though the laws differ in terms of which medical conditions are eligible to be treated with marijuana as well as how the drug can be accessed. Studies have shown marijuana to be an effective treatment for pain, anxiety, depression, nausea and sleep disorders, Nicholas and Maclean say. Those kinds of conditions are often chronic and worsen as a person ages, so better treatment options can help older workers say on the job.

That, in turn, puts less stress on welfare and disability programs.

"These effects should be considered as policymakers determine how best to regulate access to medical marijuana," Nicholas and Maclean conclude.

For this study, researchers reviewed workforce data from 1992 through 2012, comparing participation rates before and after those states decided to legalize medical marijuana.


"This study contributes to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that regulating cannabis access is associated with a variety of unanticipated yet positive health and societal outcomes, such as decreased rates of opioid addiction and mortality, fewer workplace absences and reduced Medicare costs," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a national pro-legalization marijuana policy organization, in an email to Reason.

There are nine states with marijuana initiatives on the ballot next month. Of those, there are three—Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota—asking voters to decide whether marijuana should be legalized for the treatment of medical conditions.

81-Year-Old Woman's Single Marijuana Plant Seized in Raid by National Guard and State Police

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 15:40:00 -0400

(image) The full legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts could very well become a reality—if current polling holds up—when voters go to the polls next month. Medical marijuana is already legal in the Bay State, provided you've got one of those officially sanctioned cards from the state government.

But for the time being, personal cultivation of even a single marijuana plant without state permission is illegal, and Massachusetts state law enforcement put on a display of force last week to make sure nobody, not even an 81-year-old woman with glaucoma and arthritis, forgets it.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, on September 21, octogenarian grandma Margaret Holcomb found herself the subject of a joint raid by the National Guard and Massachusetts State Police. It started when her son Tim saw "a military-style helicopter circling the property, with two men crouching in an open door and holding a device that he suspects was a thermal imager to detect marijuana plants." A few minutes later, a number of law enforcement vehicles arrived and a state trooper demanded the "illegal contraband," warning that no charges would be filed if they gave up Ms. Holcomb's single marijuana plant peacefully and without demanding a search warrant.

Holcomb does not have a medical marijuana card, and told the Gazette if she is unable to procure one, she'll likely grow another plant.

The raid was one of at least six that took place on September 21, all without the knowledge or cooperation of local police authorities.

Attorney Michael Cutler, who works with clients who need legal counsel regarding medical marijuana, suspects the raids are partially motivated by authorities wanting to experience a few more moments of "action" in a specific theatre of the war on drugs that may soon be coming to a close. From the Gazette:

Cutler said it's likely that authorities are using budgeted funds, prior to the end of the federal fiscal year Saturday, to gas up helicopters and do flyovers.

"We're seeing the last throes of police hostility to the changing laws," Cutler said. "They're taking the position that if it's in plain view, it's somehow illegal."

Where Voters Are Likeliest to Legalize Marijuana in a Month

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 08:45:00 -0400

A month away from Election Day, it seems likely that California will join the four other states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Every poll taken so far this year indicates that most voters favor Proposition 64, a.k.a. the Control, Tax, and Regulate Adult Use of Marijuana Act, with support in three September surveys ranging from 52 percent to 60 percent. If the California initiative passes, it will more than triple the number of Americans who live in jurisdictions that see fit to tolerate cannabis consumption without a doctor's note. Legalization also looks more likely than not in Maine and Nevada, although the numbers there are closer. Massachusetts and Arizona are longer shots. In addition to the five states considering legalization for general use, four states will decide whether patients should be allowed to use (or, in Montana's case, have easier access to) marijuana for symptom relief. If the Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota initiatives pass, the number of medical marijuana states will rise from 25 to 28. Polling indicates that support is strongest in Florida, where a similar measure fell two points short of the required 60 percent supermajority two years ago. Here is a rundown of the nine marijuana initiatives on state ballots next month, including relevant polling data where available: Arizona (Proposition 205): Legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, and authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, some of which eventually could allow on-site consumption. Full text. Support for the measure in three polls conducted this year—one in April and two in August—averages 44 percent. Opposition averages 47 percent, with 9 percent undecided. Arkansas (Issue 6 and Issue 7): Both initiatives allow production and distribution of marijuana for medical use. Issue 7 (full text) is more permissive than Issue 6 (full text), recognizing more treatable conditions (56 vs. 17) and allowing patients to grow their own medicine. A June survey by Public Opinion Strategies put support for Issue 6 and Issue 7 at 63 percent and 68 percent, respectively. A September survey by Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College, by contrast, found that Issue 6 had more support: 49 percent, compared to 36 percent for Issue 7. Opposition was 43 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The last medical marijuana initiative in Arkansas fell a point and a half short in 2012. California (Proposition 64): Legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can make deliveries to consumers and allow on-site consumption if licensed for that purpose. Full text. Support for the measure in eight polls conducted this year, including three from last month, averages 60 percent. Opposition averages 35 percent, with 5 percent undecided. Florida (Amendment 2): Allows the use of marijuana for the treatment of eight specified diseases as well as "other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated." Authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed medical marijuana treatment centers. Full text. As a constitutional amendment, the initiative needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass. Support for the measure in 10 polls conducted this year, including two last month, averages 69 percent. Opposition averages 24 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Maine (Question 1): Legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, and authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can allow on-site consumption with a special license. Full text. Support for the measure in two polls conducted this year—one on March and one in September—averages 53 percent. Opposition averages 40 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Massachusetts ([...]

Medical Marijuana Replaces More Dangerous Drugs

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 06:30:00 -0400

Insys Therapeutics, the Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that recently became the biggest financial supporter of the campaign against marijuana legalization in that state, makes an oral spray that delivers the opioid painkiller fentanyl and plans to market another one that contains dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC. Insys says it gave $500,000 to the main group opposing Arizona's legalization initiative because the measure "fails to protect the safety of Arizona's citizens, and particularly its children." But one needn't be terribly cynical to surmise that Insys also worries about the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products. A new study suggests Insys has good reason to worry. In an article published last week by the American Journal of Public Health, Columbia University epidemiologist June Kim and her colleagues report that fatally injured drivers are less likely to test positive for opioids in states that allow medical use of marijuana. That finding, together with the results of earlier studies, indicates that making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications. Kim et al. collected data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 1999 through 2013, focusing on 18 states that drug-tested at least 80% of drivers who died in crashes. They found that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 were half as likely to test positive for opioids in states that had implemented medical marijuana laws (MMLs) as in states that had not. "Among 21-to-40-year-old deceased drivers, crashing in states with an operational MML was associated with lower odds of testing positive for opioids than crashing in MML states before these laws were operational," the researchers write. "Although we found a significant association only among drivers aged 21 to 40 years, the age specificity of this finding coheres with what we know about MMLs: a minimum age requirement restricts access to medical marijuana for most patients younger than 21 years, and most surveyed medical marijuana patients are younger than 45 years." The fact that a driver tested positive for opioids does not necessarily mean the painkillers he took contributed to the crash, so it is not safe to draw any conclusions about medical marijuana's impact on traffic safety from this study. But the FARS data are an indirect way of measuring the extent of opioid consumption in a given state. Kim et al. note that "severe or chronic pain is among the most common indications cited by medical marijuana patients." It therefore makes sense that opioid use would decline (or rise less) in states that recognize cannabis as a medicine. The FARS numbers reinforce the results of another recent study, published last July in the journal Health Affairs, that looked at prescriptions covered by Medicare from 2010 through 2013. Ashley Bradford, a graduate student in public policy at the University of Georgia, and her father, W. David Bradford, an economist at the same school, found that "the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly once a medical marijuana law was implemented." The most dramatic decline was in painkiller prescriptions, which fell by 3,645 daily doses per physician after medical marijuana laws were implemented. There were also statistically significant drops in prescriptions for drugs used to treat seizures (down 1,370 daily doses per doctor), depression (1,280), psychosis (1,123), anxiety (1,106), nausea (1,028), and sleep disorders (615). Meanwhile, Bradford and Bradford "found no changes after implementation of a medical marijuana law in the number of daily doses filled in condition categories with no medical marijuana indication," which "provides strong evidence that the observed shifts in prescr[...]

Medical Marijuana Seems to Reduce Deaths From Pharmaceuticals

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 06:30:00 -0400

(image) While sounding the alarm about an "opioid epidemic" that included a record number of painkiller-related deaths in 2014, the federal government insists marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use." As I explain in my latest Forbes column, that dogmatism may be deadly:

Insys Therapeutics, the Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that recently became the biggest financial supporter of the campaign against marijuana legalization in that state, makes an oral spray that delivers the opioid painkiller fentanyl and plans to market another one that contains dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC. Insys says it gave $500,000 to the main group opposing Arizona's legalization initiative because the measure "fails to protect the safety of Arizona's citizens, and particularly its children." But one needn't be terribly cynical to surmise that Insys also worries about the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products.

A new study suggests Insys has good reason to worry. In an article published last week by the American Journal of Public Health, Columbia University epidemiologist June Kim and her colleagues report that fatally injured drivers are less likely to test positive for opioids in states that allow medical use of marijuana. That finding, together with the results of earlier studies, indicates that making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications.

Read the whole thing.

This Picture of Willie Nelson and a Major Democratic Pol May End Pot Legalization

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:17:00 -0400

Seriously, could weed's reputation take a bigger hit, especially now that it's trying to go street legal all over the country?

More on McAuliffe.

Hat tip: A. Barton Hinkle's Twitter feed.

After Banning Kratom, DEA Says It Might Be a Useful Medicine

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 07:30:00 -0400

Officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seem to have been surprised by the negative reaction to the agency's "temporary" ban on kratom, which it implausibly claimed was necessary "to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety." That ban, which will last at least two years, can be extended for another year, and during that time the DEA is supposed to go through the motions of justifying the decision it has already made. But according to DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson, the agency may decide not to keep kratom in Schedule I, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). "I don't see it being Schedule II [or higher] because that would be a drug that's highly addictive," Patterson tells Washington Post drug policy blogger Christopher Ingraham. "Kratom's at a point where it needs to be recognized as medicine. I think that we are going to find out that probably it does [qualify as a medicine]." Patterson makes it sound as if the DEA had no idea Americans were using kratom for medical purposes, even though it discusses those uses in its explanation of the ban. The storm of protest from medical users of kratom, which included a demonstration near the White House on Tuesday, "was eye-opening for me personally," Patterson says. "I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them. Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them." And what better way to do that than banning all kratom products? Patterson's comments are surprising, not least because they contradict conclusions the DEA already has reached about kratom, a pain-relieving leaf from Southeast Asia that recently gained a following in the United States as a home remedy and recreational intoxicant. Explaining why it decided to ban kratom, the DEA says "available information indicates that [mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, kratom's main active ingredients] have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." Those are the criteria for Schedule I, which Patterson now says is not appropriate for kratom. Although the DEA does not have to demonstrate that kratom meets the criteria for Schedule I to put it there temporarily, it goes to great lengths to show that kratom has "a high potential for abuse," mainly by classifying everything people do with it as abuse. Under the CSA, drugs in the top two schedules are all supposed to have a "high potential for abuse," while drugs in lower schedules (III through V) are supposed to have progressively less abuse potential. Patterson suggests a drug cannot have a high potential for abuse unless it is "highly addictive," which kratom is not. Yet neither are many other substances in Schedule I, including marijuana, qat, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, MDMA, and dimethyltryptamine, assuming addictiveness is measured by the percentage of people who become heavy users after trying a drug. Evidently a drug need not be highly addictive to be placed in Schedule I. Nor does the DEA define abuse potential based on the hazards a drug poses. Chuck Rosenberg, the agency's acting administrator, notes that "Schedule I includes some substances that are exceptionally dangerous and some that are less dangerous (including marijuana, which is less dangerous than some substances in other schedules)." Emphasis mine, because people tend to assume that Schedule I is a list of what the DEA considers to be the world's most dangerous drugs. The DEA does not see it that way. "It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale," Rosenberg says. If "high potential for abuse" does not refer to addictiveness or to danger, what does it signify? Nothing more than the DEA's (or Congress's) arbitrary preferen[...]

Leading Legalization Opponent to Sell Medicine That Competes Directly With Marijuana

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:45:00 -0400

(image) Insys Therapeutics, the Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that recently became the biggest financial supporter of the campaign against marijuana legalization in that state, makes an oral fentanyl spray that might compete with cannabis as a painkiller. But as Lee Fang notes at The Intercept, Insys has another, more direct financial interest in defeating marijuana legalization: It is about to introduce an oral spray to deliver dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC, marijuana's main active ingredient, as a treatment for AIDS wasting syndrome and the nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.

In a 2007 disclosure statement that Insys filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company noted the competitive threat posed by marijuana legalization:

Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate.…If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Marinol, a dronabinol capsule, in 1985 for the same two indications cited by Insys. The company's oral spray, which the FDA approved in July, should take effect faster than Marinol and be easier for patients suffering from severe nausea to absorb. But smoked or vaporized marijuana has those same advantages and will no doubt be considerably less expensive than the product Insys plans to sell, especially in a full-scale legal market like the one voters could decide to authorize this fall in Arizona, where marijuana is already legal for medical use.

Insys says it gave $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, the main group opposing Arizona's legalization initiative, because the measure "fails to protect the safety of Arizona's citizens, and particularly its children."

If the US Is Serious About Pot Prohibition, We Will Bar Justin Trudeau From Entry

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 11:17:00 -0400

(image) As Jacob Sullum notes, anybody trying to enter the United States from a foreign country who has used a controlled substance is inadmissible without a special waiver. This law often trips up Canadians driving into the country from the Great White North and Sullum writes about concertgoers being kept out, a medical doctors denied entry simply because he'd written a journal article detailing decades-ago use of psychedelics, and a former Canadian football player who had been convicted of possessing a joint 30 years prior to his attempted visit.

But if America is serious about keeping out potheads from Canada and really wants to send a message, we should insist on an all-points-bulletin for the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Young, hip, and hunky, Trudeau has never made a secret of his past pot use. And yet, there was earlier this year, toasting his spiritual "sibling" (and another admitted pot user) Barack Obama at the White House! In 2013, he told Huffington Post Canada:

Trudeau said he's smoked pot five or six times in his life. "It has never really done anything for me," he later told HuffPost in an email.

"When the joint went around the room, I usually passed it around to the next person," he said.

"(But) sometimes throughout my life, I've had a pull on it."

"Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I'm not really crazy about it."

Drugs, Trudeau said, were never his thing. He also described himself as not much of a drinker. He has never smoked cigarettes and doesn't drink coffee.

Even worse, there's this statement of personal responsibility that would be ruinous to our own war on drugs:

Trudeau said that his decision to smoke pot was personal and that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions.

Read the whole article here.

Trudeau is also outspoken in his desire to legalize marijuana and treat it akin to alcohol. He also notes that all sorts of international treaties make that tougher than it should be.

Somebody get Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on the horn and make sure he knows about this. It may help the prohibitionist legislator in his pernicious quest to sink criminal-justice reform on the grounds that currently illegal drugs are inherently violent commodities. Certainly, President Barack Obama, no stranger to the bong himself, seems at least half-heartedly committed to keep marijuana illegal. Despite the apparent spectacle of one of his daughters lighting up, about 600,000 people will be arrested for pot-related crimes this year.

Aren't our elected leaders supposed to set examples for the rest of us, who are incapable of making our own life choices?

Hat Tip: rachel gurstein

The NFL Should Let Players Use Marijuana

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 13:15:00 -0400

"I was sitting in the training room one day and I just watched player after player come in to take a Toradol shot just to practice," says former NFL player Ricky Williams. "I realized if we have to take all this medication, all these pharmaceuticals, just to practice it can't be good for our bodies in the long run. And that's when I started to look at my health seriously and look for alternatives." Williams, the Heisman-winning running back who set multiple rushing records for the Miami Dolphins, was suspended by the NFL and then retired under a cloud of shame in 2003 for testing positive for marijuana. Dolphins fans, the media, and the league all turned on Williams, labeling him an underachiever with a drug problem. Williams ultimately returned in 2005 and played several more seasons in the NFL, but the stigma never went away. But what if the league and the public were wrong to judge Ricky Williams? What if he was just ahead of his time? Some researchers are now finding evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have two major benefits for athletes: 1) they act as a non-addictive pain reliever and 2) they can protect the brain from injury. These healing properties could be beneficial in a league where opioid addiction and concussions have become significant health concerns. Williams is now part of a group of former NFL players who are lobbying the league to reconsider its position on marijuana. The former NFL star was one of several athletes in attendance at the 420 Games in Santa Monica, CA this Spring representing the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group dedicated to the advancement of medical marijuana. Cannabis is a banned substance under the NFL's player agreement and commissioner Roger Goodell has made clear that he will not change league policy to allow medicinal marijuana until research proves it is a legitimate drug. But marijuana is classified as an illegal substance at the federal level, which makes getting grants and approval for research a long and arduous process. So former players are putting up their own money to get around the government's tight regulations and fund their own studies. "Cannabis has been in the closet. It's been suppressed. It's coming out," says Constance Finley, founder of the cannabis extract firm Constance Therapeutics. Finley is working with the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition to produce the evidence players need to change NFL policy. "The owners have to see responsible, smart people who are completely mainstream to have their experiences reflected, have their minds opened," says Finley. "I think that we could move past the impasse with the level of research that we're talking about doing. It will be irrefutable." Players like Ricky Williams are hoping their participation in these studies can lead to change and help future athletes stay healthy long after their playing days are over. "Hopefully as public opinion starts to change the leagues will soften their stance," says Williams. "Especially the NFL. They could really be ahead of the charge as far as getting this medicine to people who really need it." "Wouldn't it be great if the NBA and the NFL and the other professional sports organizations accepted the validity of the science and the experience of their players and we came to a compromise of efficacy and performance and using cannabis oil to promote health instead of using opioids and other drugs [that] kill health?," says Finley. "There's this marvelous plant that with regular use could really truly minimize that damage. That's a beautiful story." Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning and Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Joshua Swain and Meredith Bragg. Music by Podington Bear,[...]

The American Legion Wants Marijuana Reclassified to Help Treat PTSD

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:50:00 -0400

These aren't your filthy hippies and stoners looking for an excuse to toke (not that there's anything wrong with that!): The American Legion is calling for the federal government to reclassify marijuana to acknowledge its potential benefits as a medical treatment. As Jacob Sullum previously noted, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is stubbornly refusing to change the federal classification of marijuana as a drug that has no "accepted medical use" until science proves them wrong. Fortunately they're easing off on the Catch-22 situation that has resulted in this classification making it extremely difficult for researchers to perform the very scientific testing that could determine marijuana's medical value. One of the potential medical values of medical marijuana is as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And in what must certainly at this point make it abundantly clear where the majority of Americans stand on marijuana use, the American Legion has just voted at its national convention to support a resolution calling on Congress to legislatively reclassify cannabis and place it in a category that recognizes its potential value. The resolution, readable here at, highlights a number of important statistics that have helped push the Legion to support it. Across two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs have diagnosed thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans as having PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). More than 1,300 veterans in fiscal year 2009 were hospitalized for brain injuries. And the resolution notes that systems in the brain can respond to 60 different chemicals found in cannabis. Therefore, the American Legion wants the DEA to license privately-funded medical marijuana and research facilities and to reclassify marijuana away from being lumped in with drugs like cocaine and meth. Tom Angell over at notes that Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist and medical marijuana researcher, has been lobbying the Legion and their local posts to get their support. Sisley is notable for actually getting federal permission to research marijuana as a treatment for PTSD and then getting dumped by the University of Arizona (where she worked) in 2014. What does this mean for a legislative effort to give VA docs permission to actually talk about medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans? As I noted in May, there was an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would end a gag order that prohibits VA doctors from recommending or even discussing medical marijuana treatment with patients, even in states where it had been legalized. The amendment would end the gag order, but wouldn't permit the VA to prescribe or pay for marijuana. The amendment passed the House and Senate, but as Angell notes, after the two sides went through the reconciliation to hammer out any difference, the language completely disappeared. It is no longer part of the Veterans Administration package. Legislators return to session today to hammer out last-minute spending bills to keep the government running (and the Democrats and Republicans are currently in disagreement on how long to extend spending authorizations for the incoming administration). Technically the amendment's language could be restored.[...]