Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
A pharma company that spent $500,000 trying to keep pot illegal just got DEA approval for synthetic marijuana
:sigh: One grows tired of this stuff. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that was one of the chief financial backers of the opposition to marijuana legalization in Arizona last year, received preliminary approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration this week for Syndros, a synthetic marijuana drug.
Insys gave $500,000 last summer to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, the group opposing marijuana legalization in Arizona. The donation amounted to roughly 10 percent of all money raised by the group in an ultimately successful campaign against legalization. Insys was the only pharmaceutical company known to be giving money to oppose legalization last year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance records.
Syndros is a synthetic formulation of THC, the main psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. It was approved by the FDA last summer to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients. The DEA approval places Syndros and its generic formulations in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, indicating a “high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, morphine, and many prescription painkillers.
Whole-plant marijuana remains in Schedule I of the CSA, an even stricter regulatory category that designates a lack of medically-accepted use in addition to a high abuse potential.
Insys has been active marijuana policy for several years. In 2011 it wrote to the DEA to express opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally-derived THC, citing “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”
Last year it petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, another compound in the cannabis plant. The company is currently developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy.
“It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” a spokesman for Arizona’s marijuana legalization campaign said of Insys last year. . .
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
A state-run survey of 37,000 middle and high school students in Washington finds that marijuana legalization there has had no effect on youngsters’ propensity to use the drug.
The Washington Healthy Youth Survey found that the 2016 rate of marijuana was basically unchanged since 2012, when voters in the state approved marijuana for recreational use. In the survey, researchers used the measure of “monthly use,” asking students across all grade levels if they’d used the drug within the past month.
The survey’s numbers show that neither the vote for legalization, nor the opening of pot shops in 2014, have had any measurable effect on the rate of teen marijuana use in Washington state.
Concerns about adolescent pot use have been one of the chief drivers of opposition to legalization campaigns in Washington, Colorado and elsewhere. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently articulated the view when he told reporters that “I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot.”
The concern is that people who start using the drug at a young age are more likely to become addicted to it later. And like any other drug, marijuana use during adolescence — particularly heavy use — can have negative effects on a kid’s mental health or school performance.
But the data coming out of Washington and Colorado strongly suggests that those states’ legalization experiments, which began in earnest in 2014, are not causing any spike in teen use. Teen marijuana use in Colorado fell during 2014 and 2015, the most recent time period included in federal surveys. A separate survey run by the state showed rates of teen use flat from 2013 to 2015, and down since 2011.
The picture in Washington has been a little more mixed. The federal survey showed no significant change in teen marijuana use in the most recent period. But a separate study released last year, did find evidence of a small uptick in marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders in the state.
But the Washington state findings in that study were derived from a national dataset that wasn’t intended to produce representative samples at the state level, said Julia Dilley, the principal investigator on a separate federally-funded study investigating the effects of marijuana legalization in Washington and Oregon.
That doesn’t make those earlier numbers wrong, necessarily, but it does limit how accurate they can be for an individual state like Washington. The state’s own survey, administered to tens of thousands of students and designed to be representative of the entire state, is “more likely to be accurate for reporting state estimates, in my opinion,” Dilley said. . .
South Carolina seems like a good state to avoid. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:
In my series on policing in South Carolina last year, I noted the story of Julian Betton, a Myrtle Beach man who was raided by a multi-jurisdictional drug task force after allegedly making two $50 pot sales to a friend who, unbeknownst to him, also happened to be a police informant. There were some new developments in the case this week. But first, some background:
After forcing Betton’s door down with a battering ram, members of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit fired at least 57 bullets at the then-31-year-old Betton, hitting him nine times. A summary of Betton’s injuries:
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.
The police claimed that they knocked and announced themselves several times before entering Betton’s home. Only after those knocks and announcements did they force down his door. At that point, they said, Betton fired a handgun at them, giving them no choice but to empty their guns into him.
That story was always suspicious. Betton was at worst a small-time pot dealer. It just wouldn’t make much sense for him to knowingly fire a handgun at a raid team of a dozen cops. Even if he were the sort willing to kill a law enforcement officer over some pot, he was massively out-armed and out-manned.
And as it turns out, Betton didn’t fire on them. Ballistics tests later showed that his gun had never been fired. The cops then altered their story to say that Betton merely pointed his gun at them.
That still didn’t make much sense. The police claimed he did this after they made repeated knocks and announcements, and that they were wearing uniforms clearly indicating that they were law enforcement. This again would have had Betton knowingly taking on a well-armed, well-equipped tactical team with a handgun over a comparatively small amount of pot — but this time only pointing the gun at them. Also suspicious: The task force members gave strikingly similar, almost word-for-word accounts of the raid. The police also confronted one of Betton’s neighbor’s as they approached the house. That neighbor would later say he had no idea the raid team was law enforcement, and he thought he was being robbed. If the neighbor didn’t know the raid team were police officers, it’s hard to see how Betton should have.
And as it turns out, much of the rest of the raid team’s story was false, too. The officers were apparently unaware of the fact that Betton had a security camera. Footage of the first moments of the raid shows that the first officers into the house had no insignia on their clothes indicating they were law enforcement. The first officers are wearing dark tops with light slacks. One is wearing a backward baseball cap, another a balaclava hood. Moreover, the video clearly shows that no officer knocked on Betton’s door before the battering ram smashed it open. The video has no sound, so it’s difficult to say if the police announced themselves. But they did not have a no-knock warrant, which means they were obligated to knock, announce themselves and wait a sufficient period of time before entering. The courts haven’t said exactly how long police are required to wait, but it’s generally thought to be at least 10 seconds. The cops who raided Betton didn’t knock. And if they announced, it was within just a few seconds of smashing down his door, and then shooting him.
In short, even if Betton did point a gun at the raiding officers, given that they didn’t properly announced themselves, he would have been legally permitted to do so. But given that the police lied about him firing the gun, their uniforms, and knocking and announcing, it’s difficult to put much faith in their claims that he pointed the gun at them.
Curiously, several members of the raid team were wearing body cameras. Oddly, all of the officers who had body cameras activated them at the same time — not before the raid began, but after Betton had been shot.
This week, Betton pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana distribution and another charge of possession with intent to distribute. All of the gun charges against him were dropped. That seems significant. Generally, prosecutors don’t tread lightly on people accused of assaulting or pointing guns at police officers. For the marijuana charges, Betton was sentenced to five years in prison for each count, which the judge suspended.
All of the officers involved in the raid on Julian Betton were later cleared by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state police agency that investigates shootings and allegations of misconduct by police officers. My series last year looked at a number of cases in which SLED investigations of officer-involved shootings were at best sloppy, and at worst reeked of cops covering for other cops. The SLED report of the Betton raid made only cursory mention of Betton’s surveillance footage. It doesn’t mention that the footage pretty clearly contradicts the officers’ account of what happened. The officers were never punished for their false claims about Betton firing his gun, the false claims about their uniforms, or their failure to knock and announce before battering down Betton’s door, which was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Betton’s lawsuit against the task force is still pending. Recently, . . .
Raid video at the link.
The maijuana the government supplies to researches might as well be dried oregano. Read the article.
Philip Smith writes in Drug-War Chronicles:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comment last week that we “will see greater enforcement” of federal marijuana prohibition has set off tremors in the pot industry, but it should be setting off warning bells at the White House itself.
Any move against marijuana would be politically fraught, economically foolish, and counter to some of the Trump administration’s other expressed goals, such as fighting Mexican drug cartels and creating American jobs right here in America.
Here are five reasons the Trump administration needs to think twice before its meddles with legal marijuana:
1. Legal marijuana is way more popular than Trump is. A Quinnipiac poll released last week is only the latest of a long series of polls in recent years showing majority support for marijuana legalization. That poll had nearly three out of five Americans — 59% — down with freeing the weed. And more directly to the political point, an even higher number — 71% — want the federal government to butt out in states where it is legal. Trump, meanwhile, is polling in the thirties or forties in personal popularity polls. And we know he wants to be liked.
2. Trump can’t make legal marijuana go away; he can only mess it up. Even if Jeff Sessions lives up to marijuana industry nightmare scenarios by successfully shutting down pot businesses and preventing states from taxing and regulating it, marijuana possession and cultivation for personal use will remain legal under state law. The federal government cannot force state and local police to enforce federal marijuana prohibition and it does not have the resources to effectively do so itself. People will continue to grow and possess pot in legal states, and continue to sell it — only now all that activity will return to the black market.
3. Legal marijuana is a job creation dynamo. The marijuana industry already employs more than 100,000 people and, if left unimpeded, would create more jobs than manufacturing by 2020, according to a recent report from New Frontier Data. That report projects that 250,000 jobs would be created in the industry by 2020, while Bureau of Labor statistics project than 800,000 manufacturing jobs are going to vanish by 2024. And new jobs are way more likely to pop up in marijuana processing operations than in coal fields.
4. Legal marijuana is a tax bonanza for the states. In Colorado, the state took in $200 million in pot tax revenues in 2016, using it for schools and public health and safety, Oregon took in $60 million, and Washington saw $35 million in the last fiscal year. In California, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates legal weed will generate $1 billion in tax revenues per year. An awful lot of fiscal conservatives are very happy to see those revenues.
5. Legal marijuana hurts . . .
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
Speaking in Virginia this week, FBI Director James B. Comey pointed to a classic anti-drug strategy to fight the current heroin epidemic: “Our job is to try to crack down on the supply, literally, to be very blunt, to drive up the price to make it less and less attractive for people who are addicted to pills to move to heroin,” he saidalongside DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.
This “supply-side” approach has been in place at the federal level since the dawn of the drug war: The federal drug budget has traditionally emphasized approaches like destroying plants, intercepting drug shipments and arresting the people who sell drugs. The logic is straightforward: You reduce the supply of drugs, those drugs become more expensive, and the higher prices drive down demand and use of the drugs. Economics 101, right?
In the real world, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Here, for instance, is data on federal spending on supply-side drug control going back to 1981. The numbers are adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars.
In inflation-adjusted terms, federal supply-side anti-drug spending ballooned from $2.2 billion in 1981 to $15.3 billion in 2012. You can disregard that crater in 2002 — a temporary change to the drug spending calculation was made that year, resulting in a number of significant spending lines removed from it.
Now according to supply-side drug-control theory, increasing this spending should result in a concomitant increase in drug prices. But look what happened to heroin prices, in inflation-adjusted terms, over the same time period — they dropped like a rock.
The inflation-adjusted price per pure gram of heroin fell nearly tenfold, from $3,260 in 1981 to $465 in 2012. The more the feds spent on supply reduction, in other words, the cheaper heroin got (federal data shows that the prices of other drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamines, fell similarly during this period). That’s the exact opposite of what’s “supposed” to happen, and of what Comey says will happen if we crack down on the heroin supply further. . .
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post on a proposal that would save enormous amounts of taxpayer money plus provide a new source of tax revenue:
A freshman Republican representative from Virginia introduced legislation this week that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana use and allow states to fully set their own course on marijuana policy.
The bill seeks to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and resolve the existing conflict between federal and state laws over medical or recreational use of the drug. It would not legalize the sale and use of marijuana in all 50 states — it would simply allow states to make their own decisions on marijuana policy without the threat of federal interference.
“Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California,” Rep. Thomas Garrett (R) said in a statement. Currently neither the recreational or medical uses of marijuana are allowed in Virginia.
The bill does specify that transporting marijuana into states where it is not legal would remain a federal crime.
Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level, meaning the federal government considers the drug to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no medically accepted use.” But more than half the states have set their own policies allowing either medical or recreational use of marijuana.
Garrett’s bill is identical to legislation introduced in 2015 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). That bill didn’t receive any co-sponsors, nor did it get a Senate hearing. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has already signed on to Garrett’s bill, as have Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D.-Colo.).
Law enforcement groups and conservatives have traditionally been among the biggest skeptics of loosening marijuana laws. As a Republican and a former prosecutor, Garrett might seem like an unlikely champion for marijuana reform.
But the freshman lawmaker frames the issue as both about states’ rights, and creating jobs: “This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth [very important IMO: hemp is easy to grow and an extremely useful plant; during WWII the Federal government greatly encouraged the growth of hemp – LG], something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia,” he said in a statement.
One group that provides data services to the marijuana industry estimates that the legal pot industry could be worth $24 billion by 2020 and create 280,000 jobs. In Colorado alone, marijuana sales topped $1.3 billion last year.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration reviewed the federal classification of marijuana and declined to loosen restrictions on the plant.
Congress has shown increasing interest in tackling marijuana policy issues in recent years, to the extent that there is now an official Congressional Cannabis Caucus. But the most significant piece of marijuana legislation coming out of Congress in recent years was a budget rider preventing the Department of Justicefrom interfering with state-level marijuana laws.
Tom Angell, of the pro-marijuana legalization group Marijuana Majority, said in an email that “while most of our federal gains to date have been through amendments attached to much broader spending bills, I’m hopeful that with the growing number of states changing their laws these stand-alone bills [like Garrett’s] will get enough traction to at least finally start getting hearings.” . . .
Medical marijuana is now legal in 26 states (a majority of states) and recreational marijuana is currently legal in 7 states. Also: