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Pot’s Pesticide Problem

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Kaleigh Rogers reports at Motherboard on a problem due totally to marijuana being illegal instead of being legal, taxed, and regulated:

It goes without saying that growing weed is a little different from growing other kinds of crops. I mean, I don’t suspect vegetable farmers lose much sleep worrying aboutmischievous teens sneaking into their fields at night to grab fistfuls of organic kale (maybe hipster teens). But there’s one area where the difference between marijuana and other crops is particularly stark: pesticides, and it has both growers and consumers concerned.

For every other crop grown in the US, the chemicals used on them (like pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides) are carefully monitored and restricted by the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. There are different limits setfor what kind of pesticides can be used and what is an acceptable level of chemicals that can be left behind on a crop (crops we eat, like tomatoes, are treated differently than crops we use for other purposes, like cotton).

But because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, there are no protocols for pesticides when it comes to growing weed. From the federal government’s point of view, you shouldn’t be using any pesticides on cannabis because you shouldn’t be growing cannabis in the first place.

This has left growers with limited resources for trying to determine the best way to keep their crops healthy and their customers safe.

“Until very recently, it was the wild west: everyone was using whatever they wanted to, whatever they heard about on the internet,” said Whitney Cranshaw, a professor of entomology at the University of Colorado who studies pest management for crops. “Some were appropriate, others were inappropriate, but there was no direction from the feds, no direction from the state, no direction from anybody. So they just did what they thought was right.”

Recently, states where it’s legal to grow and sell medical or recreational marijuana have started rolling out recommendations for growers. In May, Colorado’s Department of Agriculture released a list of pesticides and fungicides that cannabis growers can use. Washington state followed suit earlier this month. But the lists are limited—they mostly focus on natural pesticides like cinnamon oil and garlic—and don’t provide a lot of info about the potential long-term effects of synthetic pesticides on a crop that isn’t just ingested, but inhaled.

“You can consume a large amount of pesticides from the plant by smoking it,” said Jeffrey Raber, a chemistry PhD who has studied the effects of pesticides on cannabis with his lab The WercShop. In 2013, The WercShop published a peer-reviewed study on the effects of pesticides on marijuana and found that up to 70 percent of pesticide residues on pot could be ingested through smoking. Aside from the high rate, Raber pointed out that inhaling a chemical very different from eating it.

“Usually the safety limits for a chemical on an inhalable substance are about ten times greater because they feel it’s that much more sensitive,” Raber said. “You don’t have stomach acid and your liver coming at things first. When you inhale things, it goes directly into your bloodstream. That’s a very different beast.”

The easy solution would seem to be looking to the pesticide restrictions on tobacco. People inhale tobacco the same way they inhale marijuana, so if a pesticide is safe to use on tobacco it must be safe for growing weed, right? Not quite, Raber said. Turns out the EPA has never been all that strict with tobacco regulations: research has shown the tobacco industry lobbies hard to keep its favored pesticides legal, and the list of pesticides commonly used on tobacco is fairly lengthy. Raber said at the end of the day, tobacco is getting mixed up with dozens of other nasty chemicals before it’s rolled into a cigarette. If you’re getting sick from a cigarette, it’s probably not because of a little bit of residual pesticide on the tobacco leaf.

And besides, Raber pointed out that tobacco, though also smoked, is a pretty different product than marijuana. While pot is often prescribed for people going through cancer treatments like chemotherapy to help ease pain and curb nausea, cigarettes are pretty much universally considered a bad idea when you’re going through chemo.

So if growers can’t look to the government and they can’t look to other crops as an example, what’s a modern day grow-op to do? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2015 at 10:43 am

Posted in Business, Drug laws, Health

The disposable life of a confidential informant

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Radley Balko writes about the video below:

The treatment of drug informants is just another way that the drug war encourages state actors to treat citizens as something less than human. Here’s yet another story about a young adult recruited to be an informant after getting arrested for a low-level offense — and was then found dead.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2015 at 2:33 pm

Medical Use of Marijuana Doesn’t Increase Youths’ Use, Study Finds

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Benedict Carey reports in the NY Times:

Marijuana use did not increase among teenagers in the states in which medical marijuana has become legal, researchers reported Monday.

The new analysis is the most comprehensive effort to date to answer a much-debated question: Does decriminalization of marijuana lead more adolescents to begin using it?

The study found that states that had legalized medical use had higher prevailing rates of teenage marijuana use before enacting the laws, compared with states where the drug remains illegal. Those higher levels were unaffected by the changes in the law, the study found.

The report, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, covered a 24-year period and was based on surveys of more than one million adolescents in 48 states. The research says nothing about the effect of legalizing recreational use, however.

A primary concern on both sides of the debate over medical marijuana has been that loosening marijuana restrictions might send the wrong message to young people, and make the drug both more available and more appealing. Teenagers who develop and sustain a heavy, daily habit increase their risk of having cognitive difficulties later on, several studies now suggest.

Previous research on usage trends in the wake of the laws has been mixed, some reporting evidence of an increase among adolescents and others — including two recent, multistate studies — finding no difference. The new analysis should carry far more weight, experts said, not only because of its size and scope but also because the funders included the National Institute of Drug Abuse, whose director has been outspoken about the risks of increased use.

“We have a war going on over marijuana, and I think both sides have been guilty at times of spinning the data,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard and director of the substance abuseconsultation service at McLean Hospital. “It’s nice to have a scientifically rigorous study to guide policy.”

Dr. Hill, author of the book “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth About the World’s Most Popular Weed,” said this study was about as definitive as could be expected. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2015 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Medical Marijuana Update

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From Drug War Chronicles by Philip Smith:

The Senate sends a message to the DEA, a new study deflates fears of medical marijuana leading to increased teen pot-smoking, California continues to try to regulate its medical marijuana free-for-all, and more.

National

Last Thursday, a Senate committee voted to keep the DEA out of medical marijuana states. Just a week earlier, in a series of successful amendments to the Justice Department appropriations bill, the House sent a clear message to the DEA and DOJ to stop interfering in medical marijuana states. Last Thursday, a similar message came from the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted two-to-one today in favor of an amendment from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that prohibits the Justice Department, including the DEA, from using federal funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Click on the link for more details and reaction.

On Tuesday, a study found that medical marijuana doesn’t lead to increased youth use. A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet finds that allowing for the legal use of medical marijuana has not led to an increase in the number of teens using it in the US. The study relied on 24 years’ worth of data from the Monitoring the Future surveys and found that while youth use levels were higher in some medical marijuana states, those higher levels of use had preceded the legalization of medical marijuana.

California

Last Wednesday, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act won a committee vote. The measure, Assembly Bill 258, would bar health providers from denying organ transplants to people solely because they are medical marijuana patients. It has already passed the Assembly, and was approved by the Senate Health Committee. It now heads for a Senate floor vote.

On Monday, members of a Santa Ana dispensary filed a lawsuit against local elected officials and police. The suit comes in the wake of a highly-publicized raid on the dispensary in which police were caught smashing surveillance cameras (oops, they missed one), making crude remarks about patients, and helping themselves to samples of the edibles. But the lawsuit alleges deeper problems, including collusion between Mayor Pulido, the police, and other elected officials to rig the dispensary permit system and harass unpermitted dispensaries.

Colorado

On Monday, the state Supreme Court ruled that employers can fire medical marijuana patients for off-duty use. The Court today affirmed lower court decisions allowing employers to fire employees for marijuana use while off-duty. The decision hinged on the state’s lawful off-duty activities statute. The Court held that in order for the off-duty conduct to be considered “lawful,” it must be legal under both state and federal law. The unanimous decision was not a surprise to advocates working to reform marijuana law and policy in Colorado. The case is Coats v. Dish Network. Coats is a quadriplegic who worked in customer service for Dish, but was fired after a random drug test turned up marijuana metabolites.

Delaware . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2015 at 10:06 am

Posted in Congress, Drug laws

Drug war thuggery

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Radley Balko reports:

From the OC Weekly:

The Weekly has received footage from a recent marijuana dispensary raid that appears to show Santa Ana police officers eating pot candy and throwing darts after destroying–or so they thought–all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.

The video footage shows an officer stuffing something into his mouth and handing something to another cop, who asks him “What flavor?” The officers then laugh. The footage is too grainy to be certain that the item that the officer picks up from the counter of the cannabis shop is in fact a pot edible, although the behavior of the officers suggests this is the case.

Also in the footage: a female police officer joking that she wanted to kick Marla James–a marijuana activist and wheelchair-bound amputee who was present during the raid–in her “nub” . . .

Other footage obtained by the Weekly shows police officers, some of whom are wearing ski masks, battering down the dispensary’s front door and then storming the establishment with guns drawn. The footage also shows the officers using a crowbar to dislodge various surveillance cameras and a DVR machine.

See the videos below.

Apparently, Santa Ana just awarded medical marijuana licenses to 20 dispensaries drawn from a lottery. This dispensary was not one of the 20. Hence, the raid. But a judge had also just issued a temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit from the dispensaries that weren’t chosen. So it’s not entirely clear that this dispensary was breaking the law.

But even if it was, the casual thuggishness and cruelty on display here are really appalling. What justification is there for these cops to destroy the surveillance equipment? And why the face masks and commando tactics? The police department says the video has been edited. But it’s hard to imagine an unedited video that makes this any less outrageous. And if additional videowould have provided the context to explain the officers’ behavior, I guess it’s unfortunate for them that they destroyed the other cameras.

In free societies, the people give the government permission to use force and violence to protect them from threats. The argument for the use of “dynamic entry” tactics to serve drug warrants has always been that drug dealers are uniquely dangerous and likely to be heavily armed. Therefore, the argument goes, the police need to use overwhelming force and utilize the element of surprise to protect their own safety.

There are good rebuttals to these arguments, but in this case, we don’t even need to get that far. This wasn’t an underground criminal enterprise. This was a business. There may be some question about its legality at the moment, but it was operating openly. Its owners posed no threat to these cops. They even had asked their own attorneys to be on site to observe. . .

Continue reading.

Watch the videos of the link. You can see a police department in action when it thinks it’s unobserved.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2015 at 12:16 pm

One solution to the drug problem: Decriminalization

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Radley Balko notes:

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2015 at 9:31 am

Posted in Drug laws

Kansas vindictively prosecutes a medical marijuana patient with Krohn’s disease

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Including taking away her child. Modern version of classic line: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, thank God.”

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2015 at 9:30 am

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