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Can marijuana finally turn this remote Mojave outpost into a boom town?

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Louis Sagahan reports in the LA Times:

Gerald Freeman struggled for three decades to transform this desolate Mojave Desert outpost into a 21st century mecca for nature lovers and prospectors, spending more than $1 million on restoration, shade trees, organic farming projects and gleaming solar panels.

He wasn’t the first.

Nipton had cycled through seven private owners before the Caltech-trained geologist bought the town for $200,000 — all of them believing that a renaissance was at hand for the torrid community composed of a store, a five-room hotel and a handful of homes about 10 miles from Interstate 15 and two miles west of the Nevada state line.

Now, with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California and the recent sale of Nipton to a cannabis company for $5 million, it seems the historic mining camp’s time has finally come.

“We want to pick up where Gerry left off,” said Stephen Shearin, a spokesman for American Green, which has high hopes of turning Nipton into a desert wonderland for potheads and a distribution center for marijuana-related products.

The efforts to rebrand this tiny, tattered town as a Pot City USA reflect the “green rush” — elusive or not — that has swept some parts of California since voters in November legalized marijuana use.

A recent economic study sponsored by the state estimated that the legal market for marijuana could be more than $5 billion, and that it could help make California a destination for pot-loving tourists.

Some cities already are trying to cash in by aggressively approving marijuana licenses in hopes of generating needed tax income; bed and breakfasts in Washington and Colorado have been advertising marijuana vacation getaways for years.

But the situation in Nipton is in a league of its own. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2017 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Business, Drug laws

Can marijuana rescue coal country?

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The issue is health, not jobs. Marijuana, essentially harmless, can substitute for opioids, highly addictive and frequently deadly.

Mark Lynn Ferguson reports in the Washington Post:

Johnsie Gooslin spent Jan. 16, 2015, tending his babies — that’s what he called his marijuana plants. More than 70 of them were growing in a hydroponic system of his own design. Sometimes, he’d stay in his barn for 16 hours straight, perfecting his technique.

That night, he left around 8 o’clock to head home. The moon was waning, down to a sliver, which left the sky as dark as the ridges that lined it. As he pulled away, the lights from his late-model Kia swept across his childhood hollow and his parents’ trailer, which stood just up the road from the barn. He turned onto West Virginia Route 65. Crossing Mingo County, he passed the Delbarton Mine, where he had worked on and off for 14 years before his back gave out. Though Johnsie was built like a linebacker, falling once from a coal truck and twice from end loaders had taken a toll. At 36, his disks were a mess, and sciatica sometimes shot pain to his knees.

Still, he managed to lift the buckets that held his plants; friends sometimes helped. In another part of the barn, they had set up a man cave with a big-screen TV and girlie posters. When they weren’t transplanting and trimming, they played video games and discussed their passion for cultivating pot. None of them had studied marijuana like Johnsie, but they all loved growing, seeing it not just as a hobby or a way to make a buck but as an act of compassion.

“Mostly the people that bought were older men and women, Vietnam veterans and people that’s been hurt,” Johnsie told me. “I mean, to hear them say, ‘You know, ever since I started smoking your pot, I ain’t touched a pain pill … ” He trailed off, shaking his head, but it was clear what he meant. In a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of overdose deaths, most of them opioid-related, it felt good to give people an alternative, one that even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said this year has never caused an overdose fatality.

Minutes after leaving the barn, Johnsie parked in the light of his own trailer, a newly remodeled 14-by-60 that he shared with his wife, Faye, and 14-year-old daughter Bethany. His phone rang. It was a neighbor from Rutherford Branch Road, where the barn stood. Cops were there, asking about him.

Inside, Johnsie dialed his mother. Two officers, she told him, were standing in her living room. She handed the phone to one of them. Though he didn’t have a search warrant for the barn, the officer said he could get one, according to Johnsie. “But,” he said, “I think it would be better if you come and talk to me first.” (This account is based largely on Johnsie’s recollection. Neither arresting officer was permitted to be interviewed for this story, but it is consistent with a description of Johnsie’s case in the 2015 West Virginia State Police Annual Report.)

Johnsie hung up. He’d placed cameras around his building and vented it out the back, but people were packed tight into that narrow hollow. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out what was inside. Turning to his wife, he said, “Look, I’m going up there, and I’m going to jail.”

With Skoal tobacco, his one chemical vice, pressed tightly against his cheek, Johnsie drove back to Rutherford Branch Road, where officers met him outside. “It’s like this. I got your dad. I got a lot of pot on him,” Senior Trooper D.L. Contos told him. This was no surprise. Sam Gooslin had smoked pot for decades, and half of Johnsie’s pot went to him. His dad relied on it to ease pain from lung cancer, a new ailment layered atop others — diabetes, a stroke, four heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“He’s a Vietnam veteran,” Johnsie recalls Contos saying. “I respect that. I don’t want to see a veteran go to jail. If you make me go get a search warrant, I’m taking you to jail, and I’m gonna get your dad on felony conspiracy charges because he’s taking the blame on what’s going on up there.”

Johnsie had only one option. He crossed the road and unlocked the barn, opening a series of doors to release a flood of light. The officers paused. One said he had busted hundreds of marijuana operations and had never seen anything like this. For the next two hours, Johnsie walked the officers through his process. He explained the role of the lights and hydroponics; why he placed three plants in a bucket, not one; how he used gibberellic acid to push the plants at just the right time. At the end, he recalls Contos telling him they had to seize his plants, but, referring to Johnsie’s equipment and supplies, he said, “I’m not going to take it away. One day, this might be legal.”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2017 at 3:18 pm

Therapeutic psychedelics

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Timothy Leary experimented with using LSD with prisoners (one-on-one) in an effort to reduce recidivism by allowing for a shaking up and reshaping of the personality. As I recall, he had some success.

That was brought to mind by two interesting articles this morning on psychedelics:

Model hallucinations: Psychedelics have a remarkable capacity to violate our ideas about ourselves. Is that why they make people better?” by Phillip Gerens, a professor of philosophy at the University of Adelaide in Australia and an associate of the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences in Geneva, Switzerland.

The foundation of Western philosophy is probably rooted in psychedelics” by Olivia Goldhill.

The first of the two articles begins:

Psychedelic drugs are making a psychiatric comeback. After a lull of half a century, researchers are once again investigating the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms’) and LSD. It turns out that the hippies were on to something. There’s mounting evidence that psychedelic experiences can be genuinely transformative, especially for people suffering from intractable anxiety, depression and addiction. ‘It is simply unprecedented in psychiatry that a single dose of a medicine produces these kinds of dramatic and enduring results,’ Stephen Ross, the clinical director of the NYU Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, told Scientific American in 2016.

Just what do these drugs do? Psychedelics reliably induce an altered state of consciousness known as ‘ego dissolution’. The term was invented, well before the tools of contemporary neuroscience became available, to describe sensations of self-transcendence: a feeling in which the mind is put in touch more directly and intensely with the world, producing a profound sense of connection and boundlessness.

How does all this help those with long-term psychiatric disorders? The truth is that no one quite knows how psychedelic therapy works. Some point to a lack of knowledge about the brain, but this is a half-truth. We actually know quite a lot about the neurochemistry of psychedelics. These drugs bind to a specific type of serotonin receptor in the brain (the 5-HT2A receptor), which precipitates a complex cascade of electrochemical signalling. What we don’t really understand, though, is the more complex relationship between the brain, the self and its world. Where does the subjective experience of being a person come from, and how is it related to the brute matter that we’re made of?

It’s here that we encounter a last frontier, metaphysically and medically. Some think the self is a real entity or phenomenon, implemented in neural processes, whose nature is gradually being revealed to us. Others say that cognitive science confirms the arguments of philosophers East and West that the self does not exist. The good news is that the mysteries of psychedelic therapy might be a hidden opportunity to finally start unravelling the controversy.

he nature of the self has been disputed for as long as people have reflected on their existence. Recent neuroscientific theories of selfhood are recognisably descended from venerable philosophical positions. For example, René Descartes argued that the self was an immaterial soul whose vicissitudes we encounter as thoughts and sensations. He thought the existence of this enduring self was the only certainty delivered by our (otherwise untrustworthy) experience.

Few neuroscientists still believe in an immaterial soul. Yet many follow Descartes in claiming that conscious experience involves awareness of a ‘thinking thing’: the self. There is an emerging consensus that such self-awareness is actually a form of bodily awareness, produced (at least in part) by interoception, our ability to monitor and detect autonomic and visceral processes. For example, the feeling of an elevated heart rate can provide information to the embodied organism that it is in a dangerous or difficult situation.

David Hume disagreed with Descartes. When he attended closely to his own subjectivity, he claimed to find not a self, but a mere stream of experiences. We incorrectly infer the existence of an underlying entity from this flow of experiential moments, Hume said. The modern version of this view is that we have perceptual, cognitive, sensory and, yes, bodily experiences – but that is all. There’s an almost irresistible temptation to attribute all this to an underlying self. But this substantialist interpretation is a Cartesian mistake, according to Hume.

Certain modern philosophers, such as Thomas Metzinger, have endorsed versions of this ‘no-self’ view. They point to connections with non-Western traditions, such as the concept of anatta or no-self in Theravada Buddhism. Narrative theorists of the self adopt a similar interpretation. They argue that the mistake is to think that because we use ‘I’ to tell a story about experience, there must be a real ‘I’, distinct from and underlying the narrative we use to interpret and communicate the stream of experience.

Today there are neuroBuddhists, neuroCartesians and neuroHumeans all over the world, filling PowerPoint screens with images of fMRI scans supposedly congenial to their theory. Abnormal cognitive conditions, pathological or otherwise, serve as a crucial source of evidence in these debates, because they offer the chance to look at the self when it is not working ‘properly’. Data floods in but consensus remains elusive. However, the emerging neuroscience of psychedelics may help resolve this impasse. For the first time ever, scientists are in a position to watch the sense of self disintegrate and reintegrate – reliably, repeatedly and safely, in the neuroimaging scanner.

Before we can properly explain the implications of this research, we need to bring in two important ideas from cognitive neuroscience. The first is the notion of cognitive binding. This refers to the integration of representational parts into representational wholes by the brain. If you’re standing in the middle of the road with a bus coming towards you, the colour, shape and position of the bus are all being registered in different areas of your visual cortex. For your sake, your brain needs to ‘bind’ the right parts into the right wholes – and not, say, to combine the shape and location of the bus with the speed of the cyclist on the pavement. Fortunately, most of the time our brains manage to get it right (although experimental studies and pathologies show that they can get it wrong). But the question of how they do this – the so-called ‘binding problem’ – remains unresolved.

A possible solution comes from the predictive processing theory of cognition, the second set of principles we need to introduce. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2017 at 9:55 am

One in eight American adults are alcoholics, study says

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Marijuana is not nearly so dangerous a drug as alcohol, and marijuana is not nearly so addictive. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this month finds that the rate of alcohol use disorder, or what’s colloquially known as “alcoholism,” rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s. One in eight American adults, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to the study.

The study’s authors characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health crisis, noting that alcoholism is a significant driver of mortality from a cornucopia of ailments: “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries.”

Indeed, the study’s findings are bolstered by the fact that deaths from a number of these conditions, particularly alcohol-related cirrhosis and hypertension, have risen concurrently over the study period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 88,000 people a year die of alcohol-related causes, more than twice the annual death toll of opiate overdose.

How did the study’s authors judge who counts as “an alcoholic”?

The study’s data comes from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative survey administered by the National Institutes of Health. Survey respondents were considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met widely used diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or dependence.

For a diagnosis of alcohol abuse, an individual must have exhibited at least one of the following characteristics in the past year (bulleted text is quoted directly from the National Institutes of Health):

  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use; alcohol-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).

  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by alcohol use).

  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct).

  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).

For a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, an individual must experience at least three of the following seven symptoms (again, bulleted text is quoted directly from the National Institutes of Health):

  • Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.

  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol; or drinking (or using a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

  • Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

  • Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking.

  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.

  • A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking.

  • Continued drinking despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or exacerbated by drinking.

Meeting either of those criteria — abuse or dependence — would lead to an individual being characterized as having an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism).

The study found that rates of alcoholism were higher among men (16.7 percent), Native Americans (16.6 percent), people below the poverty threshold (14.3 percent), and people living in the Midwest (14.8 percent). Stunningly, nearly 1 in 4 adults under age 30 (23.4 percent) met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism.

Some caveats . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 August 2017 at 12:27 pm

How a hydroponic tomato garden inspired cops to raid a family’s home

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I blogged this incident earlier from a Radley Balko column, but this report by Kyle Swenson seems clearer:

The police report would claim it all kicked off at 7:38 a.m., but Bob Harte later thought it had to be earlier.

His 7:20 a.m. alarm had just yanked him awake. Got to get the kids — a boy in seventh grade, a girl in kindergarten — ready for school. Then he heard, like a starter’s pistol setting everything into motion, the first pounding on the front door of his home in Leawood, Kan., a bedroom suburb south of Kansas City. It was thunderous. It didn’t stop. Should I get up? Bob thought. Should I not? Sounded like the house was coming down, he would recall later.

Wearing only gym shorts, the stocky 51-year-old left his wife in bed and shuffled downstairs. The solid front door had a small window carved at eye-level, one-foot-square. As he approached, Bob saw the porch was clogged with police officers. Immediately after opening the door, seven members of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) pressed into the house brandishing guns and a battering ram. Bob found himself flat on floor, hands behind his head, his eyes locked on the boots of the officer standing over him with an AR-15 assault rifle. “Are there kids?” the officers were yelling. “Where are the kids?”

“And I’m laying there staring at this guy’s boots fearing for my kids’ lives, trying to tell them where my children are,” Harte recalled later in a deposition on July 9, 2015. “They are sending these guys with their guns drawn running upstairs to bust into my children’s house, bedroom, wake them out of bed.”

Harte’s wife, Addie, bolted downstairs with the children. Their son put his hands up when he saw the guns. The family of four were eventually placed on a couch as police continued to search the property. The officers would only say they were searching for narcotics.

Addie had a thought: It’s because of the hydroponic garden, she told her husband, they are looking for pot. No way, Harte said, correctly reasoning marijuana wasn’t a narcotic. And all this for pot?

But after two hours of fruitless search, the officers showed the Hartes a warrant. Indeed, the hunt was for marijuana. Addie and Bob were flabbergasted — all this for pot?

“You take the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, all the rights you expect to have — when they come in like that, the only right you have is not to get shot if you cooperate,” Harte told The Washington Post this week. “They open that door, your life is on the line.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2017 at 2:37 pm

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates

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Marshall Allen reports in ProPublica:

The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Cantrell called Roy Gerona, a University of California, San Francisco, researcher who specializes in analyzing chemicals. Gerona had grown up in the Philippines and had seen people recover from sickness by taking expired drugs with no apparent ill effects.

“This was very cool,” Gerona says. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?”

The age of the drugs might have been bizarre, but the question the researchers wanted to answer wasn’t. Pharmacies across the country — in major medical centers and in neighborhood strip malls — routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

ProPublica has been researching why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted.  We’ve documented how hospitals often discard pricey new supplies, how nursing homes trash valuable medications after patients pass away or move out, and how drug companies create expensive combinations of cheap drugs. Experts estimate such squandering eats up about $765 billion a year — as much as a quarter of all the country’s health care spending.

What if the system is destroying drugs that are technically “expired” but could still be safely used?

In his lab, Gerona ran tests on the decades-old drugs, including some now defunct brands such as the diet pills Obocell (once pitched to doctors with a portly figurine called “Mr. Obocell”) and Bamadex. Overall, the bottles contained 14 different compounds, including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers.

The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.

“Lo and behold,” Cantrell says, “The active ingredients are pretty darn stable.”

Cantrell and Gerona knew their findings had big implications. Perhaps no area of health care has provoked as much anger in recent years as prescription drugs. The news media is rife with stories of medications priced out of reach or of shortages of crucial drugs, sometimes because producing them is no longer profitable.

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston says the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets.

After Cantrell and Gerona published their findings in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, some readers accused them of being irresponsible and advising patients that it was OK to take expired drugs. Cantrell says they weren’t recommending the use of expired medication, just reviewing the arbitrary way the dates are set.

“Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions,” he says.

But after a brief burst of attention, the response to their study faded. That raises an even bigger question: If some drugs remain effective well beyond the date on their labels, why hasn’t there been a push to extend their expiration dates?

It turns out that the FDA, the agency that helps set the dates, has long known the shelf life of some drugs can be extended, sometimes by years.

In fact, the federal government has saved a fortune by doing this. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2017 at 2:25 pm

One reason police hate body cameras: Baltimore Cop Doesn’t Realize His Body Camera Is Filming, Films Himself Planting Drugs At Crime Scene

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Vox has a good report, with the video.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2017 at 1:55 pm

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