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Interesting headline: “Teen marijuana use falls as more states legalize”

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Here’s the article, by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post. The article includes some very interesting graphs, and concludes:

The marijuana findings are particularly noteworthy given that Colorado and Washington state implemented full-scale retail marijuana markets this year, and Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., voters opted to do the same. A central tenet of legalization opponents, from present-day prohibitionists like Andy Harris all the way back to Richard Nixon, has been that loosening restrictions on marijuana will “send the wrong” message to youngsters and lead to an explosion in teen use.

Harris sums up the mindset best in a recent appearance at the Heritage Foundation: “Relaxing [marijuana] laws clearly leads to more teenage drug use. It should be intuitively obvious to everyone that if you legalize marijuana for adults, more children will use marijuana because the message that it’s dangerous will be blunted.”

While it’s a politically potent message — nobody wants to see more kids doing drugs — there’s a substantial body of research showing that teen pot use hasn’t risen in the states that have legalized medical marijuana. In 2014, a year when marijuana was all over the news and national attitudes toward the drug are relaxing, teen use actually trended downward.

Or, look at it from the other side: In the early 1990s the federal drug war was in full swing. But teen marijuana use spiked sharply during that period. It didn’t start falling until the late ’90s, when the first states began implementing medical marijuana laws.

This isn’t to say that repealing harsh marijuana laws will necessarily causeteen use to trend downward. But it does at the very least illustrate that it’s impossible to draw a straight line from “relaxing marijuana laws” to “increased teen use,” as Harris and other prohibition enthusiasts do. And there are compelling arguments to be made that taking the marijuana trade off the black market, and letting government and law enforcement agencies, rather than criminals, control the marijuana market, will lead to better overall drug use outcomes among teens.

Note that Harris based his sentiment that “Relaxing [marijuana] laws clearly leads to more teenage drug use.” is based not on any evidence but on what makes sense to him—much as Aristotle said that a heavy object will “clearly” fall faster than a light one. Aristotle was wrong, and so is Harris. (He’s also wrong in asserting that marijuana is “dangerous”: it’s not. Alcohol is, and we have many deaths every year from alcohol. Cigarettes are, and the death toll from cigarette smoking is enormous. But marijuana is not, and there are no deaths due to overdose. I think Harris is ignorant rather than dishonest, but he is willfully ignorant: the data are readily available. (Another possibility: he is simply unable to understand the data.)

I suspect the decline in the states that have legalized marijuana is in part from more rigorous checks of age using state ID (illegal drug dealers tend not to check IDs) and because it’s legal and so is less interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Two thirds of Americans want Congress to grant states a “safe haven” from federal marijuana enforcement

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Of course, Congress often seems strikingly indifferent to what the public wants (while at the same time highly attentive to anything corporations request). But perhaps Congress will act. I’m not very hopeful.

Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:

Americans overwhelmingly want the federal government to keep its hands off of state-level marijuana regulations.

That’s one of the conclusions of a survey on marijuana legalization recently commissioned by Third Way, a centrist think tank. Similar to other recent polling, the survey found Americans split on the question of full legalization, with 50 percent supporting versus 47 percent opposed. But the poll found that six in ten respondents said that states, and not the federal government, should decide whether to legalize marijuana. And 67 percent of Americans said Congress should go further and specifically carve out an exemption to federal marijuana laws for states that legalize, so long as they have a strong regulatory system in place.

Maijuana attitudes

In short, there’s a lot of nuance here. “Even 21% of those opposed to legalization for recreational use still agreed Congress should pass” a waiver policy for the legalization states, according to the report. The waiver approach isn’t without precedent: Congress issues waivers to states all the time.

“Waivers are a nice way for the federal government to acknowledge that they can’t do everything they want, but that ensure that the goals of the law are not lost,” according to John Hudak of the Brookings Institution. Education, the environment and health care policy are all fertile ground for waivers: “We have sort of waivers with these Affordable Care Act programs in red states, where they’re coming up with their own modified version of it. Where the state designs a system that fits its own needs, but is still generally consistent with federal law and regulations,” Hudak says.

How this would work for marijuana is detailed in an exhaustive forthcoming study in the UCLA Law Review. In short, Congress could allow states to opt out of the Controlled Substances Act provisions relating to marijuana, provided they comply with regulatory guidelines issued by the Department of Justice.

This is already the de-facto federal policy toward Washington, Colorado, and other states that have recently legalized marijuana. But it can’t become a formal policy without an act of Congress. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2014 at 2:30 pm

The Short, Happy Life of Colorado Harvest Company Marijuana Plant No. 4045

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Colorado has developed a very interesting tracking system for cannabis, and it seems to be carefully thought out. 5280 Magazine has a long and interesting article by Robert Sanchez that tracks one marijuana plant, good old 4045, all the way through its life.

What’s particularly interesting, though, is how well the industry has been set up and how lucrative it is, for both entrepreneur and state. I suspect that articles like this one will capture the attention of serious, money-minded people who generally care little about the culture.

Forty forty-five begins as a wisp of green with leaves no bigger than a butterfly’s wings. On this morning in mid-January, it’s attached to the stem of a larger marijuana plant, number 3269, which is known more commonly by its street name, Strawberry Diesel—STD, for short—one of the most popular and productive cannabis strains sold in Colorado.

“What a pretty girl!” Kristina Imperi says as she runs her hands across the mother plant’s leaves. “This one’s perfect.” Dressed in a black cardigan, shorts, purple leggings, and leopard-print rubber boots, the 26-year-old Colorado Harvest Company (CHC) grow house worker kneels at the plant’s side and presses the tip of her trimming shears against the plant where the stem meets a branch. “Time to make some money,” she jokes.

The space is bathed in cool light, which casts a bluish-green glow over the 220 marijuana plants lined up in the back room of this warehouse on Denver’s southwest side. Imperi makes a cut, and the first five-inch clipping falls away. She searches the mother plant for nine more “clones” and squeezes the clippers again and again. In less than a minute, a small bouquet of jagged-edged leaves blooms from her hand.Taking a marijuana plant through its three-and-a-half- to five-month grow cycle is a time-intensive, exacting job from the first day. Pick the wrong plant to clone or fail to prepare it properly, and the results—anything from mold to mite infestations to less-than-stellar bud—can kill the bottom line. For cannabis companies like CHC and its sister business, Evergreen Apothecary, whose combined revenues are estimated to reach $7 million this year, anything less than perfection is pot heresy.

Imperi collects her 10 Strawberry Diesel clones in a plastic beaker, sets it on a bench, and pulls out the first clone. She trims a couple of leaves near the bottom, then cuts a half-inch off the tops of the two leaves she keeps. Imperi uses a razor blade to make a 45-degree slice across the base, then makes a vertical cut an inch higher. These last two cuts are where the plant’s roots will grow.

She grabs more clones and repeats the process. She dabs nutrient-rich purple goop at the base of each of the freshly cut clones and pops rubber stoppers around the middles. The clones are then plugged into Box 4, an aeroponic setup made from plastic and PVC pipe that holds up to 77 future plants and looks like a massive block of Swiss cheese. One by one, the STD clones and stoppers are put into their temporary homes, followed by others with names such as Jack-47, Herojuana, Juicy Fruit, and Sour Kush.

In two weeks, the clones will be transplanted into small containers. Five months later, the survivors from Box 4 will be packaged and sold. Among the superstars will be 4045, one plant among many that will help make the owners of this business very, very rich.

At Colorado Harvest Company’s grow site in Denver, 45 people care for the sprawling subdivisions of green—pruning, spraying, and feeding hundreds of marijuana plants each day until the buds eventually are cut, trimmed by hand, cured, dried, packaged, and sold. “It’s like Disney World,” says CHC grow manager Greg Fortemps. “For every person you bump into at the front of the store, there are four more making the magic in the back.” Since recreational shops started selling cannabis on January 1, CHC’s team has produced about 2,000 retail plants and turned the end products into everything from traditional, smokable pot to vaporizer-pen oils, topical creams, and edibles.

Combined with medical marijuana—which has been available to Red Card holders at licensed dispensaries since 2010—recreational pot in Colorado is estimated to pull in $47.7 million in tax revenue in fiscal year 2014 off $400 million in sales. More than $1 million of that tax revenue will come from CHC, which is considered a midsize weed business. While the overall financial haul is substantial for an industry still in its infancy, it doesn’t begin to capture the impact of cannabis in the state. By October, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division had issued 18,666 occupational licenses; not all of the people who’ve obtained licenses work in the business, but many do (one estimate puts the number of pot workers at 12,000). That doesn’t take into account the electricians, plumbers, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialists who continue to benefit from the hundreds of marijuana retailers in the state.

Even if you’re not a hard-core stoner, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the enormity of a grow operation—and the fact it’s all happening under the watchful eye of state and municipal bureaucrats. One day this past winter, I pulled up to the curb outside CHC’s 8,000-square-foot, cinderblock-and-concrete facility on South Kalamath Street. (The company plans to open two more grow sites before next summer.) A heavy, skunky aroma enveloped the block. I swiped my driver’s license on the scanner to the right of the glass-and-metal reinforced door out front. Inside, one of CHC’s co-owners, Tim Cullen, gave me a visitor identification badge and showed me a newly designed showroom that would open in a couple of weeks. We passed a “No One Under 21 Years Of Age Allowed” sign on the wall, then Cullen punched some numbers into a keypad and took me through a second door that opened to a small, climate-controlled hallway filled with dozens of budding marijuana plants. “Welcome to Colorado,” he laughed.

From the hallway, Cullen led me to the main flower room—with more than 150 bud-sprouting plants—then took me to the vegetation room, where plant number 4045 would begin its journey. Upstairs, in two smaller areas adjacent to CHC’s trim and drying rooms, another 100 or so recent clones had been removed from their aeroponic boxes and transferred into quart-size, plastic containers. Plants were on tables, on shelves, along the floor.

On that day, more than 500 plants were in various stages of life, growing behind the locked warehouse doors, guarded by an armed security staff, and watched by more than 30 video cameras placed around the complex. Even the metal trash bin out back had a lock on it, lest some enterprising pothead think there was gratis weed buried inside. (There isn’t.) The place was like the Fort Knox of ganja, and nearly all of the security measures are required by state regulators. When I asked Cullen if the regulations are onerous, he said, “The rules are complex, and there are a lot of them, but we’re always in compliance.” He paused and then added: “Whatever it takes, you know?”

Nearly two weeks after clipping the clones, Imperi gathers several dozen quart-size buckets, then hauls two 30-pound bags of coconut fiber to her work area. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2014 at 10:44 am

Posted in Business, Drug laws

Republicans say they believe in small government. Except when it comes to marijuana.

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Ryan Cooper has a good column in The Week:

If there’s one principle that animates the bulk of Republican discourse, it’s the idea of limits on state power. Government is not the solution, etc. Judges should strictly interpret the laws as written, as well as their original intent. Whenever possible, policy should follow federalist principles, with authority delegated to the states.

It’s a nice little principle with deep roots in American history. It’s also a crock. American conservatives don’t necessarily care about small government. What they care about are certain ideological outcomes, which they set out to achieve by any means necessary, whether it’s using the federal government to override state policy or the Supreme Court to strike down legislation passed by Congress.

Look no further than the King v. Burwell lawsuit, a challenge to ObamaCare that will be up before the Supreme Court this summer. It is perhaps the most blatant case of judicial activism since Bush v. Gore. Conservatives don’t like ObamaCare and want it destroyed. How this happens is of little importance. Until they win a legislative majority, this “Monty Python–esque exercise in extreme tendentiousness,” as Jonathan Chait put it, will suit just fine.

But perhaps an even better example of this particular Republican hypocrisy can be found in Washington, D.C. In the last election, D.C. voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative legalizing possession of marijuana. Outraged Republicans are trying to use Congress’ absolute power over the district to stop the local government from spending any of its own money on legalization, effectively overturning the measure by force.

Now, as German Lopez argues, it’s not clear they could actually do this under current rules, since . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2014 at 7:37 pm

A Struggle for the Soul of Addiction Treatment

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Very interesting article by Scott Kellogg in Pacific Standard:

Anyone who believes in progressive drug policy reform and in embracing a more humanistic system of care would agree that we are living in a time when amazing things are happening. Both the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance, among others, have helped us realize that the War on Drugs has actually been a war on people, and that while drug use can clearly be destructive, the impact of prohibition and incarceration is frequently even worse. It is also an exciting time in the field of addiction treatment because that, too, is in the middle of a major paradigm struggle. The question at the heart of this conflict is: Are individuals who have difficulties with drugs and alcohol bad people who should be punished or sick people in need of healing?

The Moral/Social Model: The “Bad” Tradition

The mainstream addiction treatment system is filled with thousands of dedicated and compassionate clinicians and other professionals. Nonetheless, the belief that people who use drugs and alcohol in problematic ways are fundamentally bad is an assumption that permeates the system. It is also at the heart of what I call the Moral/Social model of treatment.

This model is not only supported by the larger culture and the criminal justice system, but also, tragically, by the 12-step fellowship tradition and the Therapeutic Community movement. “In the AA understanding, the core of alcoholism, the deep root of alcoholic behavior, lies in character,” write Dr. William Miller and Dr. Ernest Kurtz in “Models of Alcoholism Used in Treatment.” “‘Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles,’ reads a key passage of AA’s description of ‘How It Works.’”

In turn, Dr. George De Leon, a student of therapeutic communities, emphasized the importance of values and morals in the Therapeutic Community model. “Drug abuse is regarded as a disorder of the whole person…. Cognitive, behavioral, and mood disturbances appear, as do medical problems; thinking may be unrealistic or disorganized; and values are confused, non-existent, or antisocial. Frequently there are deficits in verbal, reading, writing, and marketable skills. Finally, whether couched in existential or psychological terms, moral issues are apparent,” he wrote in “The Therapeutic Community: Toward a General Model.”

To be fair, mutual aid societies are free to have any beliefs they wish, and the Therapeutic Community movement continues to evolve. Nonetheless, this underlying moral vision has, at times, served as a foundation for attitudes and actions toward addicted patients that we would deem to be unacceptable for patients with other disorders. (I call this a social model because of the overwhelming emphasis on groups as a vehicle for change. This stands in direct contrast to the general emphasis on individual therapy in the treatment of other psychiatric or mental health disorders.)

A recent example of this model’s continuing influence can be seen in a report released by the Institute for Behavior and Health earlier this year. Entitled “The New Paradigm for Recovery,” the report was spearheaded by psychiatrist Robert DuPont, a former drug czar and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Starting in a scientific vein, the report affirms NIDA’s view that substance use disorders are now understood to be a chronic disease that involves a “hijacked” brain.

But in an unexpected shift, the authors then advocate for a public policy that promotes the stigmatization of problematic substance use: “Unhealthy patterns of drug and alcohol use warrant ‘stigma,’ to warn others to avoid such behaviors and to help persons engaged in such behaviors [to] identify the need for help.” (This recommendation is quite striking because there have been a number of efforts to reduce the stigma around addiction, including some by NIDA.) Although the IBH report clarifies that it is the behavior, not the person, that should be stigmatized, it seems to me that the damage is already done. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2014 at 11:08 am

The DoJ and Congress are begging each other to reform marijuana laws. So why hasn’t either budged?

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Good question. Eric Holder, as Attorney General, could move marijuana out of the Schedule I category (more dangerous than cocaine!!) today, but he doesn’t. Why not? Or, perhaps more important, why does Holder give a pass to the banks that break the law? He knows that JP Morgan committed fraud, but he lets them off the hook with a fine (a large portion of which will be paid by taxpayers and victims) and keeps secret the damning evidence that JP Morgan knew quite well that it was committing fraud and in fact had been informed of that by one of its own lawyers/analysts (who was quickly fired).

That actually provides a clue: Eric Holder really doesn’t seem to care much about the law, but he’s very concerned about getting a cushy job when he leaves the government, so he doesn’t want to annoy the fat cats. But regular people? He doesn’t care.

Christopher Ingraham asks the question of the title in the Washington Post:

The crowning inconsistency of the federal drug control system has always been the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, which makes it among the Worst of the Worst drugs as far as the DEA is concerned — literally as bad as heroin, and worse than cocaine! Drug reform advocates have pushed the DEA to change its position for years, citing decades of research on the relative harmlessness of weed compared to other drugs — including alcohol — but the agency hasn’t budged, even as public opinion has rapidly evolved.

The Controlled Substances Act, which set up the drug schedules in the early 1970s, explicitly places drug scheduling authority in the hands of the attorney general, and even instructs him or her to “remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.”

Much to the chagrin and outright befuddlement of drug law reformers, however, outgoing attorney general Eric Holder has repeatedly stated that any changes to the scheduling status of marijuana should be made by Congress.

In an interview with the just-launched Marshall Project, a non-profit news outfit covering criminal justice issues, he said, “I think the question of how these drugs get scheduled and how they are ultimately treated is something for Congress to work on.” This echoes remarks he made in a September interview with Katie Couric, when he said that federal marijuana decriminalization was something for Congress to decide.

As Firedoglake’s Jon Walker noted yesterday, it’s strange that Holder is trying to punt this issue to Congress while the Obama administration is testing the limits of executive authority elsewhere: “It is just mind boggling that while the Obama administration is looking at ways to stretch their legal authority to use executive actions to get around Congress on issues, like the environment and immigration, they would still refuse to move forward on the one issue where they are so explicitly given the power to act under current law,” Walker writes.

The DEA had no problem acting unilaterally to move hydrocodone products up from Schedule III to Schedule II earlier this year. It alsoadded the previously-unscheduled synthetic opiate tramadol to the drug schedule. So Holder’s conspicuous deference to Congress on marijuana is puzzling. . .

Continue reading.

It’s hard to develop much respect for Eric Holder.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 10:48 am

Why Marijuana Legalization Is Winning

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Interesting article by Maia Szalavitz at Substance.com (an interesting site in itself):

When I first started writing about drugs in the mid-’80s—before I got into recovery in 1988—it was almost impossible to imagine an America where four states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana use, 58% of Florida midterm voters just cast their ballots in favor of legalizing medical use (the measure needed 60% to pass), and California passed a ballot initiative to lowerdrug and other nonviolent crime sentences. (Nineteen other states have legalized medical marijuana.)

The magnitude of the change is hard to understand without knowing a bit of recent history—and if we are going to continue to move toward rational drug policy, knowing where we’ve been and how it has changed is critical. I offer this perspective through the lens of my own experience covering the drug war for nearly 30 years.

My first national column was called, embarrassingly enough, “Piss Patrol.” I was assigned by High Times to write about corporate urine testing policies, starting around 1987, presumably as a service to stoned readers who were considering their employment options.

Over the next few years, the media would spill so much ink and airtime demonizing crack cocaine that by 1989, 64% of people polled by CBS News said that drugs were the country’s biggest problem—and Republicans and Democrats began tripping over one another to race to pass the harshest possible drug sentencing laws.

High Times itself was targeted by the DEA with frequent demands for its list of subscribers and raids on all of its biggest advertisers of growing supplies, nearly forcing the magazine to close.

Testifying before Congress, LAPD chief Daryl Gates said that casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot,” [dare I say this is a stereotypical police attitude: the police in general seem to hate the Constitution – LG] and the DARE drug prevention program he founded saw nothing ominous in encouraging kids to turn their parents in to the police if they used drugs. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall warned in a prescient 1989 dissent in a urine testing case that “there is no drug exception to the Constitution,” although Congress and the rest of the legal establishment apparently begged to differ.

Even today, police can confiscate cash and property they suspect to be involved in drug crimes, without convicting the owners and with virtual impunity. The surveillance revelations about the NSA’s spying on American citizens include cases where that agency has shared information with the DEA that was gathered from phones and computers without a warrant. In fact, the DEA has an official policy of basically lying to defense attorneys—and sometimes even prosecutors and judges—about the source of this data.

Yet even before the rage to pass tough drug laws took off in the 1980s, law enforcement efforts like mandatory minimum sentences were known to be ineffective. The federal government had quietly overturned one set of mandatory drug sentences in the late ‘60s—since they had clearly failed to prevent the late ‘60s.

And New York City would never have been one of the capitals of crack if the 15-to-life “Rockefeller law” mandatory sentences for selling even powder cocaine, which had been in place here since the mid-‘70s, actually suppressed drug use.

As is clear from this brief summary, for most of my adult life, the idea of a rational drug policy seemed literally to be a pipe dream (a term, by the way, from opium dens). So how did we go, in just a few years, from seeing drug users as demon enemies in a war who must be locked up to having the drug czar drop the military language and even speak at last month’s National Harm Reduction Conference in Baltimore?

Many factors are clearly playing a role. Two of the most obvious are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2014 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Drug laws

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