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Alcohol-related liver deaths have increased sharply

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Marijuana legalization is beginning become attractive simply as harm reduction. Marijuana is not a gateway drug, but alcohol has proven to be, and one of the gates it opens is to physical illness and death. Kate Furby reports in the Washington Post:

Deaths from liver disease have increased sharply in recent years in the United States, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Cirrhosis-related deaths increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2016, and deaths from liver cancer doubled, the study said. The rise in death rates was driven predominantly by alcohol-induced disease, the report said.

Over the past decade, people ages 25 to 34 had the highest increase in cirrhosis deaths — an average of 10.5 percent per year — of the demographic groups examined, researchers reported.

The study suggests that a new generation of Americans is being afflicted “by alcohol misuse and its complications,” said lead author Elliot Tapper, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan.

Tapper said people are at risk of life-threatening cirrhosis if they drink several drinks a night or have multiple nights of binge drinking — more than four or five drinks per sitting — per week. Women tend to be less tolerant of alcohol and their livers more sensitive to damage.

The liver cleans blood as it exits the gut. The more toxins, sugars and fats consumed, the harder it has to work. If the liver gets overloaded, its plumbing can get blocked up, causing scarring that can reduce liver function.

“Dying from cirrhosis, you never wish this on anybody,” Tapper said.

If people with alcohol-related disease stop drinking, “there’s an excellent chance your liver will repair itself,” Tapper said. “Many other organs have the ability to regenerate to some degree, but none have the same capacity as the liver,” he added. He said that he routinely sees patients going “from the sickest of the sick to living well, working and enjoying their life.”

The problem, Tapper said, is that “we do not yet have a highly effective treatment for alcohol addiction.”

The study examined death rates in several demographic groups — divided by age, race, place of residence and gender — using death certificate data and census data. The researchers found that deaths for certain groups of people decreased between 1999 to 2008 — but rose sharply starting in 2009. They speculated that the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent rise in unemployment may have been a factor. Studies have shown that losing a job is associated with increased alcohol consumption in men.

The new study found that men were twice as likely to die from cirrhosis and nearly four times as likely to die from liver cancer as women. The study also found whites, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are experiencing increased death rates for cirrhosis, along with people living in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Mexico. The one positive report from the study is the declining rate of deaths in Asian Americans from both cirrhosis and liver cancer.

“Scar tissue is silent, developing silently, and they [the patients] don’t know. It comes as a big surprise,” said Jessica Mellinger, a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan  who was not involved in the study. Patients typically experience the symptoms “all of a sudden,” Mellinger said of patients suffering from cirrhosis.

Initial cirrhosis symptoms of yellowing skin, jaundice and a swollen abdomen are usually the first signs that something is wrong, Mellinger said. The fluid in the abdomen can make it look and feel “like you have multiple bowling balls” in your stomach, Tapper said. As the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen, including degenerative brain injury, severe bleeding, kidney failure and increasing frailty.

The BMJ report was consistent with data issued earlier in the week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a new report, the agency’s National Center for Health Statistics said that age-adjusted death rates for liver cancer increased steadily from 2000 through 2016 for both men and women. The agency said that  liver cancer had moved to the sixth-leading cause of cancer deaths in 2016, up from the ninth-leading cause in 2000.

The increase in liver cancer comes as  overall cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline, according to the National Cancer Institute. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 11:05 am

New York health officials recommend marijuana legalization in report to governor

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

The New York Department of Health has issued a report concluding that “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

Initiated at the request of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, health officials reviewed the “health, criminal justice and public safety, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program” in the state.

It found that the legal regime of marijuana prohibition has “not curbed marijuana use and has, in fact, led to unintended consequences,” like the disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of minorities. It estimates that a statewide legal marijuana market would be worth between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion, which could generate anywhere from $248 million to $677 million in annual tax revenue for the state.

The report is notable for its full-throated adoption of arguments that have been put forth by legalization supporters for years. It acknowledges that marijuana is less harmful than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, and that legalization and regulation is the best way to mitigate the harm posed by use of the drug.

It notes evidence supporting medical uses for marijuana, particularly its potential to help curb the opioid crisis. It suggests that the greatest risks associated with marijuana use are due to the legal status of the drug, which has led to “more than 800,000 arrests for marijuana possession” in New York in 20 years. The report also makes an economic case that legalization will lead to a reduction in law enforcement costs, and bring jobs and tax revenue to the state.

The study represents something of an about-face on marijuana policy for New York, which has lagged behind a number of its neighbors, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada on marijuana policy. The state didn’t have a medical marijuana policy until 2014, nearly two decades after California voters approved the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996.

As recently as last year, Cuomo maintained that he was opposed to marijuana legalization because he believed that the plant was a “gateway drug” — a claim refuted by the new Department of Health report, which says that “the research community generally does not recognize the premise that marijuana leads to the use of other substances as a legitimate or plausible assertion.”

Cuomo is facing a primary challenge this year from former “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, who has put the issue of legalization front and center in her campaign. “In 2018, in a blue state like New York, marijuana shouldn’t be an issue,” Nixon said in an April campaign video. “If there was more political courage coming out of Albany, we would have done this already.”

May Quinnipiac poll of New York voters found that 63 percent supported “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Support was 71 percent among Democrats, 66 percent among independents, and 40 percent among Republicans.

About 15 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 12 already use marijuana in any given year, according to federal survey data. FBI crime statistics show that there are nearly 16 marijuana possession arrests each year for every 1,000 marijuana users in the state, putting New York in the middle of the pack on users’ likelihood of getting arrested. . .

Continue reading. Interesting chart at the link showing the odds of being arrested for marijuana, by state.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2018 at 12:34 pm

Psychedelic drugs change brain cells in ways that could help fight depression, addiction and more

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Melissa Healy reports in the LA Times:

Psychedelic drugs’ mind-expanding properties may be rooted in their ability to prompt neurons to branch out and create new connections with other brain cells, new research has found.

This discovery may explain why psychedelic drugs appear to be a valuable treatment for a wide range of psychiatric diseases, scientists said.

In test tubes as well as in rats and flies, psychedelic drugs as diverse as LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin and ketamine all share this knack for promoting neural “plasticity,” the ability to forge new connections (called neurites) among brain cells. In particular, the drugs appeared to fuel the growth of dendritic spines and axons, the appendages that brain cells of all sorts use to reach out in the darkness and create connections, or synapses, with other brain cells.

The study, led by UC Davis chemist David E. Olson, was published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports.
The discovery of this neurite-promoting property could shed light on why these chemically distinct drugs all appear helpful in treating depression, anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, Olson said.

It also may point the way to the creation of compounds that mimic the plasticity-promoting properties of these drugs without inducing the potentially dangerous hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and full-on euphoria.

“Chemists are very clever and can modify structures to enhance certain properties and take away others,” Olson said. “We’re attempting to do that with these compounds,” and having a wider variety of compounds to work with makes the prospect of success more likely, he said.

In humans, depression, anxiety disorders and addiction affect many of the same neural circuits. And researchers have consistently found that in people affected by these disorders, the neurons of the prefrontal cortex — the seat of what’s called executive function — have typically lost the dense connections to other brain cells that make a healthy brain hum.

Researchers have long known that ketamine, a sedative that produces a trance-like state and is widely used as a party drug, promotes the growth of neurites in the prefrontal cortex. When infused at low doses into patients with life-threatening depression, ketamine has been shown to be a powerful and fast-acting antidepressant. More recently, it has demonstrated promise as a treatment for PTSD and heroin addiction.

In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA (a shorthand for the chemical name of ecstasy, an amphetamine) a potential “breakthrough therapy” as a treatment for PTSD, a status that will speed testing. An FDA-approved clinical trial of the ergoline LSD as an adjunct to psychotherapy in 2014 found it had powerful anti-anxiety effects in those facing life-threatening illness, and more trials are planned. Psilocybin, an ingredient in magic mushrooms, is from the chemical family of tryptamines and has been found highly effective in the treatment of patients suffering such “existential anxiety.”

But researchers still don’t know exactly how ketamine or these other classes of psychedelic drugs work to banish suicidal depression and related ailments.

That is what Olson and his team set out to explore.

In lab dishes, they found that LSD and chemical compounds that mimicked psilocybin and ecstasy increased the complexes of branches sent forth by rats’ cortical neurons on a par with ketamine.

The effect was “remarkably potent” in LSD, even at very low doses, Olson said. This might shed light on the increasingly popular practice of “microdosing,” in which people take very small doses of LSD or psilocybin in a bid to be happier and more creative.

In lab rats, they found that their chemical mimic of psilocybin had the same powerful effect — and did so by a mechanism thought to be at work in ketamine.

Both psilocybin and ketamine, their findings suggested, appear to promote the growth of axons and dendrites by setting off a cascade of neurochemical events normally governed by the mTOR gene, which in turn triggers production of proteins necessary for the formation of new synapses.

In rats, the psilocybin treatment produced results that persisted for hours after the compound had been cleared from the body. That suggests that in humans, the drug’s neuroplasticity-promoting effects could last well after it has worn off.

“Prior to this study, there was only one player in town and that was ketamine,” Olson said. By demonstrating that drugs with very different chemical structures act like ketamine, “this opens up some new doors.”

 . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2018 at 12:35 pm

Massive, Meaningful Drug Reform in An Unexpected Country: Iran

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And Canada is just on the brink of legalizing marijuana (just as alcohol and tobacco are legal). Philip Smith reports in Drug War Chronicles:

For years, Iran has been one of the world’s leading executioners of drug offenders, with hundreds of people hung from the gallows annually for drug smuggling and trafficking. But in a remarkable turnabout, that is no longer the case.

After the Iranian parliament amended the country’s drug laws in November 2017, drug executions have all but halted, according to a new report from Iran Human Rights (IHR). The non-profit group found that only one person had been executed for a drug offense this year in Iran, compared to 112 during the same period last year and nearly 500 for all of 2017.

That’s a 99% reduction in the resort to the death penalty for drugs in the Islamic Republic.

The changes to Iran’s drug laws didn’t remove the death penalty from the books — it remains one of 33 countries, including the United States, that mete out the ultimate punishment for drug offenses — but it dramatically raised the quantities of drugs needed to merit the death penalty.

Under the old law, being caught with a little more than an ounce (30 grams) of drugs such as cocaine or heroin could bring a death sentence. Now, it takes nearly 4 ½ pounds (2 kilograms). Similarly, for plant-based drugs such as cannabis and opium, the death penalty threshold has increased ten-fold, from 5 kilograms (11 pounds) to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).

The death penalty can also be imposed for certain other drug offenses where quantity is not the issue, for example, the use of a minor in a drug trafficking operations, carrying or using firearms while committing drug-related crimes, having a prior death penalty or prison sentence longer than 15 years, or being the “leader” of a drug trafficking group.

The one man executed for drug offenses in Iran this year, identified as Kiomars Nosuhi, was convicted of being a “leader” of a drug trafficking group.

Bordering Afghanistan, the world’s primary supplier of raw opium and heroin, Iran has for decades waged war on drug smugglers, with thousands of police and soldiers killed in the struggle. While opium smoking was a traditional Iranian pastime, the country now has one of the world’s highest addiction rates, with heroin largely replacing opium. In recognition of that reality, in the past decade, Iranian officials have switched from harsh punishments of drug users to emphasizing drug treatment and harm reduction. The end of the reflexive resort to the death penalty for drugs marks another step in the country’s march toward a more progressive policy response.

While human rights groups applaud the dramatic decline in drug executions, they continue to express concern over the way the Iranian judicial system responds to drugs.

“We welcome the significant reduction in the use of the death penalty and hope that this trend will continue towards complete abolition,” said IHR spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “However, we have several serious concerns regarding the process of implementation of the new amendment, including bribery in the judicial system, insufficient capacity to handle a large number of cases, and lack of a monitoring organ overlooking the process.”

And then there are the tens of thousands of drug offenders filling Iran’s prisons. [Just like the US in that respect. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2018 at 8:04 am

Man with Parkinson’s tries cannabis for the first time

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If you search YouTube on “Parkinson’s and cannabis” and/or “Parkinson’s and marijuana” you can find quite a few more examples.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2018 at 3:45 pm

When the police embrace criminal behavior: A South Carolina anti-drug police unit admitted it conducts illegal no-knock raids

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that evidence seized during raids in which police violate the “knock and announce” requirement is not subject to the exclusionary rule. That rule says that evidence seized during a search that violates the Fourth Amendment can’t be used against a suspect at trial. It’s meant to deter illegal searches. Writing for a 5-to-4 majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that although the knock-and-announce rule is indeed part of the Fourth Amendment, excluding evidence from raids in which police failed to abide by it was too extreme of a remedy for such a minor violation. Instead, Scalia argued that the “new professionalism” in police departments around the country as well as a trend toward more internal discipline at police agencies were sufficient to deter police from violating the requirement.

That was 12 years ago. I’d submit that there’s growing pile of evidence (and a growing pile of bodies) showing that Scalia was wrong. And there’s no better example than South Carolina’s 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).

Here at The Watch, we’ve been following the case of Julian Betton, whose Myrtle Beach, S.C., residence was raided by the DEU in 2015. The evidence for the raid on Betton came from a confidential informant, who claimed to have bought pot from him on two occasions for a total of $100. On April 16, 2015, the task force battered Betton’s door open with a ram, then almost immediately opened fire, releasing at least 29 bullets, nine of which hit Betton. One bullet pierced a back wall in the building, sped across a nearby basketball court and landed in the wall of another house. (This was a multi-family building.)

An expert hired by Betton’s legal team estimates that over the course of his lifetime, his medical bills will run between $6 million and $17 million. Here’s a summary of Betton’s injuries from a previous post:

He ended up losing his gallbladder and parts of his bowel, colon and rectum. The bullets also damaged his liver, small intestine and pancreas. His lung partially collapsed. His left leg was broken. One of his vertebrae was partially destroyed; two others were fractured. He’ll never walk again or be able to have kids of his own. He’ll also need to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.

Several members of the task force at first insisted that Betton fired a handgun at them. When ballistics testing revealed that Betton’s gun hadn’t been fired recently, they next claimed that he had merely pointed his handgun at them. Without video, that accusation is harder to prove one way or the other and, conveniently, the task force members who were wearing body cameras failed to activate them until after the shooting had stopped. But the criminal charge against Betton associated with that accusation has since been dropped.

Every member of the task force but one also said that the officers knocked and announced before entering Betton’s home. Some said they even waited after announcing. They also claimed to be wearing clothing that clearly identified them as police officers.

As it turns out, Betton had a security camera on his front porch. These 11 seconds of footage from that camera show that no member of the task force knocked on Betton’s door.

The video lacks audio, but both the Myrtle Beach police chief and a federal magistrate have since concluded that the video also strongly suggests there was no announcement. None of the officers’ lips appear to be moving, and it all happens very quickly. At best, they announced themselves simultaneously or nearly simultaneously, with the battering ram hitting the door.

That’s consistent with testimony from a neighbor who said she did hear someone yell “police,” but at about the same time she heard the ram hit the door. Another neighbor who was on the sidewalk outside Betton’s home was knocked down and temporarily detained by the task force as the raid commenced. He has said that he heard no announcement, and that he at first had no idea that armed men who knocked him down were police officers.

The task force did not have a no-knock warrant for Betton’s home. They had only a knock-and-announce warrant. Under federal law, they were required to knock, announce themselves and wait a reasonable time for someone to answer the door. By any interpretation of the video, they violated that rule.

Betton has sued the members of the task force, along with the jurisdictions that the task force serves. In March, all of the cities and counties associated with the DEU except for the city of Myrtle Beach settled with Betton for a total of $2.75 million. His lawsuit against Myrtle Beach — and Myrtle Beach police officer Dave Belue, who served on the task force — continues.

Betton’s claim against the city is what’s known as a Monell claim. This sort of lawsuit is extremely difficult to win. Most are thrown out before they ever get in front of a jury. To win, Betton needs to demonstrate that the city — and, in this case, the drug task force that it oversees — has shown a pattern and practice of policies, (lack of) discipline or a general culture that would foreseeably result in constitutional violations.

But the discovery process for Betton’s lawsuit has uncovered damning new information about the raid, the task force and how the task force operates. And just last week, a federal magistrate issued a damning report, along with her recommendation that the lawsuit move forward.

The Raid

All of the officers involved with the raid wrote up initial reports, then gave interviews with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state police agency that investigates all police-involved shootings. (I’ll have more on SLED’s role in all of this soon.) Several of the officers were also deposed by Betton’s attorneys for his lawsuit. Their accounts of the raid during each of these phases of the investigation include falsehoods and contradictions. Here’s officer Frank Waddell of the Coastal Carolina Police Departmentfrom his interview with SLED:

“Agent Belue pulled open the screen/storm door to expose the primary entrance door. Another agent knocked and all agents, including myself, began to yell ‘Police Search Warrant’ prior to making entry.”

This short statement contains at least two and perhaps three falsehoods. No agent from the task force knocked. At most a couple of agents announced themselves, but by all accounts it was simultaneous with entering Betton’s home, not before. And it’s extremely doubtful that “all” agents announced even simultaneously with entry, given that the neighbor detained on the sidewalk at the time didn’t hear any of them. Waddell also told SLED that he saw Betton “approaching them firing his weapon in the Agents’ direction.” This never happened.

Here’s officer Dean Bishop, deputy commander of the DEU, again from an interview SLED:

“At this time, I heard the entry team knock on the door of apartment #2 and yell ‘Police! Search warrant!’ A few seconds later the breaching ram hit the door of the apartment.”

This statement contains two falsehoods. There was no knock, so Bishop couldn’t possibly have heard one. And if you watch the surveillance video, there simply wasn’t enough time for a knock, an announcement and for “a few seconds” to pass before the battering ram hit the door.

Here’s officer Chad Guess, who planned the raid and held the battering ram:

“At this point, I approached the front door, in which we had already knocked and announced ‘police search warrant’ with no response, and hit it with a ram. I yelled ‘police search warrant’ as the door opened up.”

Later, Guess said that he was the one who knocked and announced. Guess’s statement implies that even more time passes before entry than Bishop’s does. He claims that not only had other agents already knocked and announced by the time he got to the door, but also that he then knocked and announced himself, after which sufficient time passed for him to notice that there had been no response. Only then did he use the battering ram. Per the video, none of these things happened. (Officers Christopher Dennis of the Horry County sheriff’s office and Jason Brummett of the Hory County police department also each falsely claimed to have seen and heard Guess knock and announce.)

And here’s officer Belue in his SLED interview:

“I pulled the screen door open and announced in a loud voice ‘police, search warrant.’ The rest of the team had also made their way onto the porch and Agent Guess approached the front door. As Guess approached the wood door he knocked and announced again ‘police, search warrant.’ Upon no answer at the door force was utilized to gain entry into the apartment.”

According to the video, it’s highly unlikely that Belue announced “police, search warrant” at the time he claims. Neither neighbor heard it. And Belue’s own police chief has conceded that Belue’s lips do not appear to be moving in the video. It’s also clear from the video that Guess never knocked, it’s unlikely that he announced, and it would have been impossible for him to have knocked, announced and waited for an answer between the time Belue opened the screen and Guess smacked the door with the ram.

These are not quibbles over minutiae. The details in dispute here are critical to determining whether the officers were legally permitted to force their way into Betton’s home. If they did follow the knock-and-announce rule, the raid was legal. If they didn’t, they entered Betton’s home illegally. At that point, whether or not Betton brandished a weapon is moot: He would have the right to defend his home. Either way, if the entry itself was illegal, then the barrage of bullets the officers subsequently sent at him was wholly unjustified.

The officers’ initial police reports are also rife with falsehoods. Belue’s report says that he “pulled the screen open and announced in a loud voice, ‘police, search warrant.’ ” He adds, “As Guess approached the wood door he knocked and announced again ‘police, search warrant.’ Upon no answer at the door, force was used to gain entry into the apartment.” Officer Dean Bishop claimed to hear a knock, an announcement and the battering ram “a few seconds later.” Officer Austin Cox, a Myrtle Beach cop who is not part of the DEU but was recruited to guard the perimeter of the house, said he heard “a small caliber gunshot being fired and then a series of louder gunshots being fired.” That’s remarkably consistent with the other officers’ initial claims that they only opened fire after Betton fired his handgun at them. It’s more than a bit suspicious that Cox would confirm his fellow police officers’ story — a narrative that exonerates them, but one that we know isn’t true.

Multiple officers on the task force also told SLED that they wore clothing that clearly indicated they were police. But an expert hired by Betton’s defense team — a former SWAT officer with 35 years of experience in law enforcement — testified that if the task force had raided his home, he’d have had no idea that they were police. The officers are permitted to wear what they like on raids, and often mix official gear with personal items, and there’s no uniformity. In the video, only one officer is wearing anything with a visible police insignia: Guess, who, as the battering ram operator, was one of the last to enter the apartment.

Officers Dennis, Waddell and Belue were the first to enter. All had the word “police” somewhere on their clothing, but it was either in small, dark lettering, or partially obscured. It was not at all conspicuous, especially to someone on the receiving end of a violent raid. Waddell wore a mask that partially obscured the word. Here’s what Belue was wearing:

The Task Force

The city of Myrtle Beach recently moved to have Betton’s lawsuit dismissed on summary judgment. Last week, federal magistrate Robin Blume issued her report and recommendation. Blume recommended that Betton’s lawsuit proceed on both his Monell claim and his individual claims against Belue. She found that members of the task force repeatedly made statements that were provably false, both in their reports and to SLED investigators. And she also found that the task force in general seems to be routinely and brazenly violating the Fourth Amendment rights of South Carolinians.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding is that several members of the task force either aren’t aware of the knock-and-announce requirement or are badly mistaken about what it requires. The rule emanates from the Castle Doctrine, a centuries-old principle from English Common Law stating that one’s home is one’s castle — a place of peace and tranquility — and that government agents can only violate that peace and tranquility under limited circumstances, and even then only after knocking, announcing themselves and their purpose, and giving the occupants time to answer the door to avoid destruction of their property and violence to their person. The U.S. Supreme Court has diluted the principle over the years, thanks mostly to the drug war, but still holds that unless police specifically obtain a no-knock warrant, they are required to knock, announce themselves, then wait a reasonable period of time before forcibly entering a private residence. There are some exceptions, known as exigent circumstances, such as if police hear someone flushing drugs, loading a gun or observe other activity that suggests the destruction of evidence or the possibility of bodily harm to the police. But absent those, they must knock, announce and wait before entering.

It seems clear from the testimony in depositions that the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit doesn’t know any of this. Officer Christopher Dennis, for example, said that the “reasonable” waiting period for someone to answer the door begins the moment police arrive on the scene, not after they knock and announce themselves. This is false. Officer Chad Guess — who, remember, planned the Betton raid — said in a deposition that it’s “not the law to knock and announce. You know, it’s just not. It’s the officer’s discretion, each dictate determines itself.” This, again, is wrong. Officer Belue said under oath that he had no idea how long officers are supposed to wait before forcing entry, and that no one had trained him on the matter.

Not surprisingly, the task force routinely failed to assign someone the task of knocking and announcing when serving a drug warrant. Also unsurprisingly, usually no one bothered to do it. Mark McIntyre, a task force officer who was present on the Betton raid, said in a deposition that the DEU “almost always forcibly entered without knocking and announcing, or simultaneously with announcing.” McIntyre, who had served on a similar team in North Carolina, recently resigned from the DEU. In a remarkable affidavit for Betton’s lawsuit, McIntyre said that he believed Betton could have easily been apprehended outside his home. It was well known to the DEU that Betton walked to a nearby convenience store nearly every day. He could have been arrested then. McIntyre added that he is retiring from the task force because its tactics “put the participating officers and nearby civilians at greater risk.”

Or perhaps DEU officers do know the requirement and don’t care. Some of the same task force officers now claiming ignorance of the knock-and-announce requirement also knew exactly what to write in their reports and say in their statements to SLED investigators to give the impression that they had complied with it. They knew to state not only that they had knocked and announced, but also that they had waited after doing so. (Although even their earlier statements suggest they aren’t familiar with court rulings on what constitutes a “reasonable” period to wait.)

Belue and the city of Myrtle Beach recently changed Belue’s story. Once the other jurisdictions settled with Betton, Belue argued that he shouldn’t be held liable because it was Guess who violated the knock-and-announce rule. Once Guess had hit the door with the battering ram before the officers had satisfied the knock-and-announce rule, Belue said in court filings, the raid was compromised. That created an exigent circumstance for a no-knock entry — Belue had no choice but to enter because the suspect was aware that police were outside.

That’s a pretty brazen — and convenient — defense. It’s essentially stating that once a fellow officer violated Betton’s rights, Belue had no choice but to violate them as well. And since Guess’s police department has already settled with Betton, putting all of the fault on Guess gets Belue and Myrtle Beach off the hook without subjecting the other officers to more liability — and without risk of them objecting. It’s also a blatantly dishonest defense: As mentioned earlier, Belue’s previous statements directly contradict his new narrative — he had previously explicitly said that Guess had knocked and announced.

Somehow, it gets worse. As it turns out, the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit doesn’t have an official policy on how to serve search warrants. The DEU manual has policies on nearly every other aspect of narcotics policing, but not for serving search warrants.  Warrant service is arguably the most dangerous and perilous part of drug policing. Officers are breaking into private homes with a battering ram, then storming those homes with guns. These raids are extraordinarily volatile and leave only a thin margin for error.
According to a profile by local NBC affiliate WMBF, the DEU conducts about 150 such raids each year. Given that DEU agents testified that (a) nearly all of those raids were done without a proper knock and announcement, and (b) they hadn’t bothered to obtain a no-knock warrant in almost any of them (officer Dean Baker said they obtained such a warrant in “less than 1 percent, 2 percent” of their raids), it’s fair to say that the DEU has both been routinely violating South Carolinians’ Fourth Amendment rights and has carelessly subjected them to violence, along with unnecessary risks of injury and death.
But you could also argue that the DEU isn’t particularly concerned about the safety and rights of the community it serves. Here, for example, is the emblem the task force used on the cover of its “operational plan” for the Betton raid. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2018 at 9:50 am

Cannabinoids Remove Plaque-Forming Alzheimer’s Proteins from Brain Cells

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The blurb: “Preliminary lab studies at the Salk Institute find THC reduces beta amyloid proteins in human neurons”

The report from Salk Institute:

Salk Institute scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

While these exploratory studies were conducted in neurons grown in the laboratory, they may offer insight into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease and could provide clues to developing novel therapeutics for the disorder.

“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” says Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that leads to memory loss and can seriously impair a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. It affects more than five million Americans according to the National Institutes of Health, and is a leading cause of death. It is also the most common cause of dementia and its incidence is expected to triple during the next 50 years.

It has long been known that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain well before the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and plaques. Amyloid beta is a major component of the plaque deposits that are a hallmark of the disease. But the precise role of amyloid beta and the plaques it forms in the disease process remains unclear.

In a manuscript published in June 2016’s Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, the Salk team studied nerve cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta to mimic aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that high levels of amyloid beta were associated with cellular inflammation and higher rates of neuron death. They demonstrated that exposing the cells to THC reduced amyloid beta protein levels and eliminated the inflammatory response from the nerve cells caused by the protein, thereby allowing the nerve cells to survive.

“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” says Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert’s laboratory and first author of the paper. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”

Brain cells have switches known as receptors that can be activated by endocannabinoids, a class of lipid molecules made by the body that are used for intercellular signaling in the brain. The psychoactive effects of marijuana are caused by THC, a molecule similar in activity to endocannabinoids that can activate the same receptors. Physical activity results in the production of endocannabinoids and some studies have shown that exercise may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Schubert emphasized that his team’s findings were conducted in exploratory laboratory models, and that the use of THC-like compounds as a therapy would need to be tested in clinical trials. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2018 at 9:13 am

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