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Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category

When legislators lose their minds: One Florida Lawmaker’s Lonely, Wacky Crusade to Ban Kratom

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Philip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

Florida state Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek) is a woman on a mission, albeit a strange and misinformed one. For the last three years, Jacobs has waged a lonely crusade in Tallahassee to ban kratom, the herb derived from a Southeast Asian tree and widely used for pain relief, withdrawal from opiates, and as a less harmful alternative to opiates.

She’s at it again this year, having just introduced a measure, House Bill 183, that would add mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine, the active constituents of kratom, to the state’s controlled substances list. And she’s invoking the specter of Hitler as she does so.

Saying the kratom ban was a “fall on the sword issue” for her, Jacobs railed against the people who have opposed her prohibitionist efforts, accusing them of Goebbels-like propaganda.

“They have a story,” she told the St. Peters Blog. “Just like Hitler believed if you tell a lie over and over again, it becomes the truth.”

Portraying herself as a bravely challenging a “lie machine… a powerful lobby with lots of money,” Jacobs warned against “Big Kratom.” “It’s not just what they’re doing here,” she said. “They’re doing the same thing around the country.”

“They” would be the American Kratom Association and the Botanical Education Alliance. The former was founded by Susan Ash, a 46-year-old who began taking kratom while being treated for dependence on prescription pain relievers and now takes a small dose daily to ease chronic pain and depression. She was so impressed with the results, she founded the group in 2015 to represent kratom consumers. The group now has more than 2,000 members and lobbies against efforts to ban the drug.

The latter is a small nonprofit organization “dedicated to educating consumers, lawmakers, law enforcement, and the media aboutstyl safe and therapeutic natural supplements including Mitragyna speciosa, also known as Kratom,” the group says on its web page. “Our mission is to increase understanding in order to influence public policy and protect natural supplements. Our vision is to create a society where every adult has the right to access safe and effective natural supplements.”

According to the American Kratom Association, “Kratom is not a drug. Kratom is not an opiate. Kratom is not a synthetic substance. Naturally occurring Kratom is a safe herbal supplement that’s more akin to tea and coffee than any other substances. Kratom behaves as a partial mu-opioid receptor agonist and is used for pain management, energy, even depression and anxiety that are so common among Americans. Kratom contains no opiates, but it does bind to the same receptor sites in the brain. Chocolate, coffee, exercise and even human breast milk hit these receptor sites in a similar fashion.”

Unsurprisingly, Jacobs disagrees. She calls the herb a “scourge on society” and says it “is an opiate,” breezily lumping it in with heroin and pain pill mills.

In Jacobs’ dystopian vision, she foresees babies born with withdrawal symptoms, emergency room doctors treating strung-out kratom junkies in the throes of withdrawal, and “addicts with glassy eyes and shaky hands” lurking about until the dreaded kratom overdose gets them. “How many more are going to die?” she asks.

Well, not many, actually. Like opiates, kratom relieves pain, slows bowel activity, produces euphoric feelings, and creates physical addiction and a withdrawal syndrome. But unlike opiates, it causes a pleasant, caffeine-type buzz in small doses and, more significantly, it is apparently very difficult — if not impossible — to overdose on it. The few deaths where kratom is implicated include poly-drug use, or as in a case reported by the New York Times, suicide by a young kratom user who was also being treated for depression.

“Direct kratom overdoses from the life-threatening respiratory depression that usually occurs with opioid overdoses have not been reported,” says Oliver Grundmann, clinical associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida, told journalist Maia Szalavitz at Vice. Grundmann should know; he just reviewed the research on kratom for the International Journal of Legal Medicine.

Szalavitz also consulted Mark Swogger, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who with his colleagues analyzed 161 “experience reports” posted by kratom users on the drug information site Erowid.org for a recent study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that kratom has at least some addiction potential. The data is fairly strong on that and our study also found that people are reporting addiction,” but “overall, we found that it’s really mild compared to opioid addiction and it didn’t seem to last as long.”

Jacobs’ inflammatory and ill-founded comments generated a quick and strong reaction from kratom advocates. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2017 at 11:57 am

Jeff Sessions on marijuana and civil asset forfeiture

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This is not good. Via Radley Balko, who notes, “The makers of the documentary “Do Not Resist” have just put together this short about Jeff Sessions, pot and forfeiture. Meet your next attorney general.”

My previous comment on ignorance and stupidity—and the danger when they are combined—apply here.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2017 at 1:01 pm

City devastated by OxyContin use sues Purdue Pharma, claims drugmaker put profits over citizens’ welfare

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It’s pretty obvious that Purdue Pharma—along with many other pharmaceutical companies—is intensely concerned about profits and pretty much indifferent to patient welfare. (Martin Shkreli is the poster child for this, but he’s just the tip of the iceberg.) However, corporations in the US tend to escape any real punishment, generally just paying a fine that is a fraction of the profits realized—a cost of doing business seems to be how it’s treated.

Harriet Ryan reports in the LA Times:

A Washington city devastated by black-market OxyContin filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the painkillers’ manufacturer Thursday, alleging the company turned a blind eye to criminal trafficking of its pills to “reap large and obscene profits” and demanding it foot the bill for widespread opioid addiction in the community.

The suit by Everett, a city of 100,000 north of Seattle, was prompted by a Times investigation last year. The newspaper revealed that drugmaker Purdue Pharma had extensive evidence pointing to illegal trafficking across the nation, but in many cases, did not share it with law enforcement or cut off the flow of pills.

One Los Angeles ring monitored by Purdue and highlighted by The Times’ investigation supplied OxyContin to gang members and other criminals who were trafficking the drug to Everett. At the height of the problem, in 2010, OxyContin was a factor in more than half the crimes in Snohomish County, and it ignited a heroin epidemic that still grips the region, officials said.

In a complaint in state Superior Court, city lawyers accused Purdue of gross negligence, creating a public nuisance and other misconduct and said the company should pay costs of handling the opioid crisis — a figure that the mayor said could run tens of millions of dollars — as well as punitive damages.

“Purdue’s improper actions of placing profits over the welfare of the citizens of Everett have caused and will continue to cause substantial damages to Everett,” the lawyers wrote. “Purdue is liable for its intentional, reckless, and/or negligent misconduct and should not be allowed to evade responsibility for its callous and unconscionable practices.”

Purdue has been sued hundreds of times over the past 20 years over its marketing of OxyContin to doctors and the drug’s risk of addiction to patients, but Everett’s suit is the first to focus narrowly on what the company knew about criminal distribution of the painkiller. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2017 at 12:50 pm

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

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It is amazing how often something that is scientifically known and demonstrated to work will be ignored in favor of approaches that in fact make the problem worse. (I blogged one interesting example a few days ago.) Iceland took some findings of behavioral science and applied them. Emma Young reports in Mosaic what happened:

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

Read the article for what they did and why. It really is a matter of asking basic questions: Why do teens get high? For the feelings. What causes the feelings? Brain chemistry. Can the same brain chemistry be triggered by other, more benign causes?

Well, there are sports, and learning things, and so on…

It’s quite a fascinating article, and note the many benefits of Iceland’s approach as compared to the approach the US uses (break into people’s houses, steal their possessions through asset forfeiture, lock people up, create cause for cop corruption, and so on). That is, not just lower use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, but also the development of more skills and knowledge in teens (who soon will be adults, and probably more successful as a result of a more productive adolescence).

In the context of the article, watch again this video—but read the article first:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2017 at 2:54 pm

Video of the SWAT raid from ‘Do Not Resist’

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Last fall, I wrote a review of the documentary “Do Not Resist,” which looks at how aggressive, militaristic police tactics have become nearly mundane. One of the more infuriating scenes in the movie is a SWAT raid over some pot. What’s most striking is the nonchalance the cops show when, after smashing windows and storming the place with guns, they don’t find the massive stash of drugs they’re looking for. (There were also children in the home — the officer who planned the raid had said there weren’t.)

Instead, the cops keep looking until they find some alleged pot residue at the bottom of a duffle bag. They then arrest a young black man for the alleged residue and confiscate about $900 he has in his pocket. But they didn’t find the money — he volunteered it to them. He ran a lawn-mowing business to put himself through school and had asked the cops to give the cash to his partner, who was supposed to pick up some mowers and a weed eater. The police took the money under civil asset forfeiture law.

And here’s the clip:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 3:06 pm

Two-thirds of cops say marijuana laws should be relaxed

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

A Pew Research Center survey of nearly 8,000 police officers finds that more than two-thirds of them say that marijuana use should be legal for either personal or medical use.

The nationally representative survey of law enforcement, one of the largest of its kind, found that 32 percent of police officers said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 37 percent said it should be legal for medical use only. An additional 30 percent said that marijuana should not be legal at all.

Police are more conservative than the general public on the issue. Among all Americans, Pew found that 49 percent supported recreational marijuana, 35 percent supported medical marijuana only, and 15 percent said the drug should not be legal.

imrsPew also found a generational divide among cops on the marijuana issue, although not so large as the one that exists among the general public. Officers under age 35 were more likely to support recreational marijuana (37 percent) than those between the ages of 50 and 60 (27 percent). Among the general public, those numbers stand at 67 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Law enforcement groups have often been among the staunchest opponents of marijuana legalization measures. In 2016, such groups made small but significant contributions to oppose legalization measures in California and Arizona, citing concerns over issues such as underage use and intoxicated driving.

“You hear people say it’s not as bad as alcohol,” George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, told the Orange County Register last year. “But if you smoke marijuana and drive, it does impair you.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2017 at 9:41 am

President Duterte has a little list—only it’s not so little: more than a million names marked for assassination

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Patrick Symmes has a story about what happens when a country elects a leader who does not observe the law or political and legal norms:

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines waved a thick sheaf of papers on live television, fanning the pages for the public and the national press corps to see. “This list of names, this is it,” he said in the Oct. 27 appearance. “This is the drug industry in the Philippines.”

Filipinos had been hearing for months about what is commonly called the “watch list” for drug suspects. After he entered office on June 30, Duterte began gathering names of suspects from local police officers and elected officials for a new national war on drugs. The list took many shapes in Duterte’s various tellings, containing anywhere from 600,000 to more than a million suspects. He also once claimed that some three million Filipinos — 3 percent of the population — were drug addicts, and that he would be happy to kill them. “The human rights people will commit suicide,” he said in October, “if I finish these all.”

Duterte made a point of naming names across a broad swath of Philippine society, including 6,000 police officers and 5,000 local village leaders he called corrupt. How they ended up on the list, or even who exactly was on it, was a mystery that fascinated Filipinos. How you got off the list was even more mysterious.

Mañalac looks much younger than his 40 years, a sharp dresser with one full-sleeve tattoo and an email handle that translates as “da pretty boy.” But he is a diligent and effective local politician and a ubiquitous presence in Malabon City. His face beams from campaign posters along the streets and from a painting on the door of a gleaming blue fire engine that services the community — even if one constituent teased him that the engine appeared at more parades than actual fires.

When I went to see Mañalac one morning in November, I found him sitting in his second-floor office with a handbag on the desk in front of him. It contained a Glock 17 pistol with an oversize clip. “This is what is keeping me safe,” he told me, drawing the gun into his lap and stroking it as if it were a cat. “This and a rosary.” The special clip held enough ammo to hold out here, defending the stairway against any attackers that came for him in the office. Maybe enough bullets to buy time, to let the local police respond. Two policemen had been assigned to look after him as bodyguards.

The killings began to increase after Duterte was elected president. As a long-serving mayor in the southern city of Davao, Duterte rose to national prominence by declaring war on a drug that has crippled the Philippines, the cheap variant of crystal meth that Filipinos call shabu. The drug offered the country’s teeming poor an instant tonic against hunger, an illusion of strength during hard labor and a mental escape from hopeless slums. There are more than a million users in the Philippines, according to the country’s Dangerous Drugs Board.

Duterte entered the presidential race at the last minute, vowing to go national with the no-holds-barred campaign he waged in Davao. He promised to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office. In May, he won the election with 6.6 million more votes than his nearest opponent.

Once in office, Duterte immediately ordered thousands of police raids across the archipelago. To date, these operations have killed more than 2,000 suspects, according to the Philippine National Police, in what have usually been reported as “shootouts” or attempts to take a police officer’s gun. The fights seem to have been suspiciously lopsided — nationwide, in six months, 21 officers have died, and three soldiers. But another 4,000 people — many of them from Duterte’s watch list — have died under even murkier circumstances. Late last year I visited 10 crime scenes where 18 individual homicides took place, and most of them appeared to have been the work of teams of efficient killers, encouraged by the president’s inflammatory language.

The list was the distilled essence of Duterte’s appeal, a raw and brutal effort at law and order, whatever the cost. As of October, the president enjoyed an 86 percent approval rating nationwide; his popularity was greatest among the poorest Filipinos surveyed. Family members of the drug war’s casualties on several occasions told me they supported Duterte’s violence, even as they insisted their sons and daughters were targeted inaccurately. The list was a promise to cleanse society, and surrendering to the police, or even being innocent, was no defense — not even for politicians who worked to support Duterte’s drug war, as Mañalac had.

In the two weeks since Mañalac found out he was on the list, he had felt his life to be in doubt. Duterte had singled out barangay kapitans and small-town mayors in his public statements. Before dawn on Oct. 28, a southern mayor named Samsudin Dimaukom was stopped at a checkpoint by a unit of the National Police looking for a major drug shipment. They claimed Dimaukom opened fire first; the mayor and all nine of his aides and security guards were killed, while no police officers were injured. Days later, a team of elite officers from the criminal-investigation division entered the jail cell of another prominent mayor accused of drug offenses. They were supposedly there to deliver a warrant, but after a reported scuffle the mayor and his cellmate were shot dead, in what Senator Panfilo Lacson called “a clear case of extrajudicial killing.”

At his desk, Mañalac held up his phone to show me a text message, one of dozens of death threats he had received. “You are a protector” of drug dealers, it said. Another message called him “a cuddler” of addicts. One threatening letter had been written carefully, then scanned and forwarded to him. . .

Continue reading. And again: it’s a long article and has much more.

Forgetting all the painful lessons that led to the creation of civil rights and the rule of law.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2017 at 10:12 am

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