Monthly Archives: March 2014

national

Gaming the system: guns and ganja in Georgia

The state legislature in Georgia has adjourned failing to pass a well-supported law allowing young sick Georgians to seek relief with cannabis medicines as US citizens in 20 other states are allowed to do.

A bill legalizing heavily restricted sales of cannabis to child patients who suffer from seizure disorders in Georgia landed on the trash pile after elected officials failed to move on the legislation.

The senate version of the medical cannabis bill was encumbered with an amendment that ensured that the measure would fail in the republican dominated senate. The amendment, which upon analysis by any compassionate American should have increased support for the measure, would have mandated insurance company coverage for the treatment of autism.

A supporter of the concept that the medical condition of autism should in fact be recognized and covered by health insurance companies who sponsored the amendment in the state’s house, Republican Representative Allen Peake, correctly predicted that the insertion of the amendment in the senate bill would lead to its demise in the state’s senate due to the fact that small businesses would fight the autism amendment perceiving that providing coverage for children afflicted with the tragic aliment would increase business costs.

While the state failed to address the needs of sick and young patients, Georgia’s politicians did extend the rights of gun toting second amendment misinterpreters allowing them to carry loaded weaponry into establishments of spirit worship and of the worship of spirits. The legislature passed a bill that allows conceal and carriers to bring their weapons into bars and taverns and churches and chapels.

The new Georgia law allowing partyers and pray-ers to be armed and dangerous does allow individual bar owners to determine if they want liquored up sharp-shooters in their drinking establishments and allows church congregations to decide if they are comfortable with having prayerful potshots in their houses of worship.

The OK-to-carry-loaded-weapons-anywhere law also allows the Georgia’s “hunters” to use silencers on their high-powered rifles.

Republican State Representative Rick Jasperse, the lead sponsor of the gun-toter measure in the state’s house, celebrated the measure’s success stating, “For the past two years we’ve worked hard to improve the Second Amendment rights of Georgians. It has been a long and winding road.” Republican State Senator Fran Millar lamented, “We did nothing for kids, but we passed a gun bill.”

Sarah Caruso, the mother of a 5-year-old girl with epilepsy and cerebral palsy said that “silly political games” had caused the failure of the measure supporting the provision of medical cannabis to sick children. “We were only asking not to be prosecuted for getting our child the medicine that she needs,” the mother told reporters, her cheeks stained with tears. “There will be kids who will die during this year,” due to the inaction of the gun-loving legislature, Caruso promised, and, “I will be back with their pictures.”

national

Drugged driving duplicity damaged in fender bender with actual science

As cannabis legalization begins and the end of the national prohibition of the natural and useful substance appears on the distant horizon as inevitable, propagandists and their enablers in the media have begun to report in a distinctly yellow journalistic fashion on a scary rise in so-called “drugged driving.”

Implicit in the scare-the-suburbanites style of the various media reports on the topic that have appeared in the few short weeks following the commercial availability of cannabis to adult recreational users in Colorado are a host of unspoken assumptions of the type that underpinned much of the drug-war propaganda that Americans were fed during the 80 year prohibition of cannabis. This includes such unfounded memes as; implying that cannabis users have no concern for the safety of others, conflating the known national scandal of drunk driving on America’s highways with cannabis use when the two drugs are widely known by both medical professionals and regular citizens to have significantly different effects on users, and, misrepresenting findings that suggest a connection between cannabis found in drivers’ blood streams and impairment that results in auto accidents.

Another feature of such sensationalized reporting is neglecting to cite studies that countervail the intended message. In the sensationalized reportage found in mega-media over the past few weeks it is interesting that the 2011 study performed by Dr. Daniel Rees, an economist at the University of Colorado in Denver that was published by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the University of Chicago Law School in 2013 is rarely mentioned or cited. Dr. Rees’ study found that in the states where cannabis has been legal for a decade or more for medicinal purposes traffic fatalities have reduced by statistically significant amounts.

The important study shows that highway deaths in states that have allowed their citizens to use cannabis for medicinal purposes have reduced dramatically, an overall reduction of nearly nine percent. The study looked at traffic fatalities nationwide, including in 13 states that have legalized medical cannabis, over the 19 year period between 1999 and 2009. Rees’ research shows that traffic fatalities dropped significantly in the first year after states legalized medical cannabis, decreases ranging between eight and eleven percent. The decrease was most significant for drivers between the ages of 20 and 39.

At the time the study was released, Dr. Rees advised that his research team was “astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing marijuana.” The team focused on traffic deaths in America because “there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.” An associate of Dr. Rees who co-authored the study, Dr. Mark Atkinson of the Economics Department of Montana State University, added, “Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective, because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans five to 35.“

The largest reason for the decrease in alcohol related fatalities in states that have legalized medical cannabis, according to Dr. Rees, is that the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a decrease in alcohol consumption. The study found that “legalization is associated with an almost 5 percent decrease in the consumption of beer, the most popular beverage among 18-29 year-olds.” Rees found that “legalization of medical marijuana leads to sharp reductions in binge drinking, a form of alcohol abuse considered to have “especially high social and economic costs.””

Rees was careful to point out that while traffic fatalities dropped in states where medical cannabis is legal, “the negative relationship between legalization and alcohol–related traffic fatalities does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol.” Although this is the case with respect to Rees’ study, Rees points to other studies that have been carried out by scientists that indicate that drivers who are impaired by their consumption of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their driving skills are impaired and for this reason alcohol users drive faster and take greater risks behind the wheel. On the other hand, cannabis impaired drivers display greater caution than they do when driving sober, driving more carefully and taking fewer risks.

Rees cautioned that, due to the fact that the majority of medical cannabis users as of the date of the study are younger males (69 percent of Coloradans who use medical cannabis are male and 48 percent of Montanans who use medical cannabis are between the ages of 18 and 40) the data used in his study related primarily to these cannabis users and estimates for female users are less precise. Rees also noted that our nation’s disconnected and varied policies regarding cannabis regulation “have not been research-based thus far,” and called for additional scientific study that can lend legitimacy our nation’s cannabis regulatory policies. Dr. Rees concluded, “Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer.”

It should be emphasized that scientific studies regarding the benefits of cannabis, medical uses for the substance or studies on how the substance affects social relationships, are nearly impossible for researchers to perform due to the self-imposed federal embargo on medical and psychological research of cannabis. The substance is currently scheduled for political reasons as one of the most dangerous drugs known in America and cannabis is said by federal regulators to have no medical benefit. It is a simple yet startling fact that cannabis is considered by our federal government to be a more dangerous drug than both cocaine and methamphetamine.

Due to cannabis being scheduled so aggressively, researchers cannot study the properties of cannabis to discover the possible medicinal uses of the natural substance. It is for this reason, the self-imposed political embargo on scientific study, that researchers who are seeking to understand the medical benefits of cannabis or its influence in our culture are forced to review more general statistical information and develop hypotheses based upon this general information, as was the case in Dr. Rees’ study. Dr. Rees compiled public medical statistics from several sources including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems to draw his conclusions regarding the impact of cannabis legalization on traffic fatalities.

The pushers of the drugged driving meme also falsely equate cannabis detected in the blood of drivers who cause accidents with the widely known and understood concept of blood alcohol measurement. As is well known, alcohol levels detected in the systems of drivers using breathalyzers are in fact indicators of physical impairment – impairments that lead to thousands of automobile accidents every year in America and tragically kill tens of thousands of citizens. What is widely known in both law enforcement and the medical establishment is that while the effects (and therefore the possible impairments caused by) cannabis are short lived, lasting roughly an hour or two, cannabis can be detected in a user’s blood stream for 30 days or more.

The obvious truth is that while cannabis (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC) can be found in the system of a user for up to a month after a single use – a cannabis user can never be physically affected by the substance for up to month after using the substance. Law enforcement officials and journalists who suggest that a driver is ‘drugged’ because they used cannabis 30 days ago are liars, liars who know that they are dishonestly manipulating the facts for the purpose of hoodwinking their audience. The bandying about of statistics regarding drivers who have cannabis in their system, without identifying the huge caveat described above, is a tactic used by cannabis prohibitionists that is cynical, deceptive and patronizing.

national

Barney Fife alert: don’t look suspicious in Kilgore’s County

A Sheriff in rural Nevada is defending his office’s new use of an old tactic in his own private battlefield as the world-wide-war-on-cannabis continues to sputter and stumble. Sheriff Ed Kilgore of Humboldt County Nevada, a rural county in Northwestern Nevada, says that the two speeding stops that his deputies carried out where more than $60,000 was seized even though no criminal charges or allegations were made against the two drivers were legal and not speed-trap shakedowns.

In one of the instances, Tan Nguyen was stopped for driving 78 in a 75 mph speed zone. Nguyen’s attorney, who filed a federal lawsuit against Humboldt County, asserts that the police stop last September, was a “profile stop” based upon the suspicion that Nguyen was transporting drugs in the rental car that he was driving through Humboldt County. No drugs were found during the police search of Nguyen’s vehicle, and Nguyen was given a simple warning (instead of a speeding ticket).

Nguyen was told during the stop that if he handed over the $50,000 he was carrying with him, he would be freed. Nguyen was required to, as a condition of his release, sign a “property for safekeeping receipt” that indicated that the money Nguyen was forced to relinquish during the police roadside take-down was abandoned or seized and was therefore not returnable. Deputy Lee Dove is alleged in the federal lawsuit to have intimidated Nguyen into signing the release telling the speeding suspect his vehicle would be impounded unless he “got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.”

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s office and the Humboldt County District Attorneys Office have refused to comment on the two arrests that are the subject of the federal lawsuits stating, “as a matter of policy, we never comment on pending litigation.” But at the time of Deputy Dove’s roadside cash bonanza speed-warning incident, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office issued a self-congratulatory press release that included a photo of Deputy Dove and the $50,000 seized from Nguyen, which said in part; “This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and will now benefit Humboldt County with training equipment. Great job.” Would have been used…really?

The speed concerned sheriff’s deputies of Humboldt County stopped Denver resident Ken Smith in December who was also, according to the federal lawsuit that he filed against the county, required by deputies to relinquish $13,800 he was carrying. Smith, also stopped by Deputy Dove, was held, according to the deputy, because of an outstanding warrant for a man named Smith. Smith was never charged with a crime and was eventually released, but the money he was carrying and a handgun were “seized” by Deputy Dove. As it turns out, the Smith that Deputy Dove stopped, held and seized property from was born on a different day and is of a different race than the wanted Smith (personal identifiers that Deputy Dove was well aware of during his speed-confiscation-stop). Held due to a warrant…really?

The tactic that Humboldt County is manipulating, civil forfeiture, is both legal and controversial. In situations where an arresting officer suspects an individual obtained property illegally or intends to use property for illegal purposes, police officers can seize the property of an arrestee or suspect. But, in situations such as those detailed in the federal lawsuits filed against Humboldt County, where police stops are based upon subjective determinations made by officers on the ground, allegations of profiling have given rise to further allegations regarding police shakedowns and conflicts of interest.

Humboldt County deputies are “trained to recognize evasiveness during questioning”, and report that they have seized over $180,000 from suspicious drivers over a two year period. Money that they proudly report via press release that they have targeted uses for within their police force. When property such as money is charged with a civil offense – the basic idea behind asset forfeiture, former property possessors have a steep judicial hill to climb in having their property returned to them. In many incidents, as in the two cases that resulted in federal lawsuits in Humboldt County, there is often no criminal arrest or criminal charges filed against the property possessor. The Humboldt County District Attorney is correct in stating that individuals whose property (including cash) is seized have a right to make a claim for their property in the courts.

But, in such proceedings, in a topsy-turvy fashion, the person claiming the property, who may have never been even charged with a criminal violation, is required to prove that his possessions are his possessions and that he came into possession of what was confiscated by officers lawfully; i.e. putting the claimant in the position of having to prove his or her innocence – contrary to most other instances in American jurisprudence, where one is innocent until proven guilty.

It is because of instances of civil forfeiture like those Humboldt County has been sued over that “civil asset forfeiture has been harshly criticized by liberals and civil liberties advocates for its greatly reduced standards for conviction, reverse onus, and financial conflicts of interests arising when the law enforcement agencies who decide whether or not to seize assets stand to keep those assets for themselves”

Humboldt County law enforcers claim that their confiscatory efforts are indeed well intended, stating; “We’re trying to combat crime in our own little way in the war on drugs. We’re not just talking about people driving to buy medical marijuana. These are drug traffickers with guns who may be staying in our hotels.” Staying in your hotels…really?

An interesting side note in all of this is that Humboldt County’s rough and tough Sheriff, Ed Kilgore – a gun-lover, has “put the Obama Administration on notice” with regards his interpretation of the second amendment, advising the president that he will not enforce any new gun laws that he feels violate his personal interpretation of the constitution. His vision of the constitution…really?

Additionally, Humboldt County was the subject of a lawsuit that made its way up to the US Supreme Court in 2004, where sheriff’s deputies’ practice of requiring uncharged citizens to identify themselves at the threat of arrest was challenged. The Supreme Court agreed that (given precedents set in other cases) requiring citizens who have done nothing wrong and are not the subject of a law enforcement investigation to identify themselves on the threat of being arrested was all A-OK with “folks” on the court who opined that the narrow requirements of Nevada’s “stop and identify” law were met and the petitioner’s rights had not been violated in that case.

The majority opinion was, however, countered by two justices (Stevens and Breyer) who both recognized that the acquiescent to and in service of America’s para-militarized drug-warring local coppers majority opinion was problematic. Stevens wrote, “The officer in this case told [Hiibel] that he was conducting an investigation and needed to see some identification. As the target of that investigation, [Hiibel], in my view, acted well within his rights when he opted to stand mute. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.” And, Breyer conveyed his concern that giving on-the ground police such latitude to question an uncharged citizen would be dangerous and could open the door encouraging aggressive police officials to tramp upon the constitutional rights of Americans.

So, in sum – A self-promoting county sheriff, who thinks he has the right to not prosecute laws due to his personal interpretation of the US Constitution, has conveyed that his officers have done nothing wrong and broken no laws as they stop “certain vehicles” and confiscate large sums of money from US citizens who have not been charged with any crime, so he can buy a bunch of cool-neato law enforcement equipment, in a county where sheriff’s deputies (it was in fact Deputy Dove whose behavior landed the state in the Supreme Court because of his 2004 “stop and demand ID on the threat of arrest” incident) seem to feel they can stake out their own personal territory when it comes to enforcing (or forcing as the case may be) the state’s laws against just the specific types of folks that they “know” are really law breakers.

As a majority of our Supreme Court Justices – supremely attentive to the needs of the military, law enforcement, the national security state and corporate oligarchs – would surely exclaim: “no laws broken – nothing to see here – move along now.”

national

Money, Medicine, Marijuana and Moonbeams

The national cable network Comcast has begun running what is the first advertisement regarding medical cannabis of the post-prohibition era. The advertisement, that has begun to run in markets where medical cannabis has been legalized through acts by state legislatures, including in Illinois and New York, will be rolled out into additional markets that are served both by Comcast Cable and by elected officials who understand the humanity in providing medicines to our sick neighbors.

The paid advertisement promotes Marijuanadoctors dot com, which is a business that connects doctors who have experience prescribing medical cannabis with sick patients who are unable for many reasons to get the medical authorization to purchase prescribed medications in their state. Even though cannabis has been legalized as medicine in 20 states (with 13 additional state legislatures considering legalizing medical cannabis), many patients still have difficulty finding a doctor who is willing to prescribe medical cannabis leading to the dangerous, untenable and perverse consequences of, for example, a horribly sick Parkinson’s Disease patient turning to the illicit market to obtain needed medicine. In effect, turning deathly ill Americans into criminals who have to risk both arrest by police and theft and injury by drug dealers in pursuit of life saving and pain ending medications.

Comcast has taken the bold step to be the first media outlet in America to run medical cannabis advertisements because, as Comcast told the on-line news journal the Verge, “It went through our legal department, and they approved it.”

With nothing more from Comcast to analyze, the company’s effort (that is historically the first advertisement that has been presented to Americans on their TV screens involving the nascent commercial cannabis market) may have been inspired out of an altruistic concern for its viewers some of whom are sick and need the relief that medical cannabis can provide them and advertising the services offered by Marijuanadoctors has not been outlawed, or the motivation could have come from the company’s desire to cash in on a truly new and massive market – one can only speculate. But the historic advert does indicate we are living in a changed world.

When the sick and diseased have easily satisfied needs, when suburban moms are lobbying statehouses in red and blue states to repeal prohibition, when international political leaders are finding their courage to confront failed drug warriors, when hippies and international corporations arrive at commonality, when state level politicos and cable company honchos realize the cash that they may be leaving on the table, the finger wagging and tut-tutting of dry-doper politicos and cultural custodians who are intent on maintaining cannabis prohibition are revealed to all as obvious self-serving, self-exculpating and legacy burnishing talking points that have only the effect of consigning more minorities in our country to lives with arrest records and more patients in our land living out lives in pain and desperation – arrests that don’t have to happen and pain and desperation that can be ended by compassionate Americans.

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Shattering the myths proffered by waxy
prohibitionists about hash oil

The point was made everclearly this week that, now that the devil’s door has sprung open to the wild west of cannabis legalization, organized big marijuana and its trailer trash second cousins have begun weaponizing the benign and useful substance in a war to shroud the minds of our youth in a thick green absinthe like haze with nuclear nugs, 151 times stronger than “your mama’s Woodstock weed“.

ABC News, earlier this week, promised television viewers that they would be their guide;

“Into the strange subculture involving a new and powerful drug that you may have never heard of. It can be dangerous to use and even more dangerous to make…and yet, in some places, it’s totally legal.”

And CNBC reported;

“A powerful distillation of marijuana’s essential active ingredients, is mixed into many new and popular cannabis products…The problem-child of concentrates may turn out to be the actual concentrate itself—a hardened or viscous mass of cannabinoids created via a process of butane-gas extraction.”

The “new drug” that is an “explosive secret” is what used to be referred to as hash oil. Hash oil is a smokeable product of concentrated THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) that is made by using chemicals, such as butane, to extract the THC from cannabis plants. Shatter, wax and butter are modern versions of the 1970’s product made with modern technologies. 1970’s hash oil contained 20 to 65 percent THC and modern extractions contain between 60 to 90 percent THC. The product has become commercially available to the public in the states of Colorado and Washington because cannabis is legal for recreational consumption in those states.

As the stories were revealed by the media outlets, however, the dangerous mystery drug turned out to be dangerous because dumb-assed kitchen chemists were brewing ho-made batches in their condos and doublewides with little knowledge and less competence.

The processes of extracting active chemicals from plant and mineral products are not new and have been used by some of the world’s most profitable and prestigious companies for many years, but toxic chemicals and high temperatures and pressures are often used in the chemistry necessary to extract desired compounds that transform agricultural products into commercial products.

What was not pointed out in the sensationalized “news stories” is that extracting concentrated THC from cannabis does not make cannabis or THC any more harmful or toxic than when it is consumed in more traditional ways, such as smoking, eating or vaporizing. In 2002 the medical journal Pharmacology & Therapeutics reported on a study that found that there has never been a documented human fatality solely from overdosing on THC or cannabis in its natural form. Hash oil by any name is no more addictive than any other form of cannabis, and scientists calculate that risk to be equivalent to your risk of being addicted to caffeine.

Though this is the case, in the ABC report a DEA agent said that the agency has, “seen people have an onset of psychosis and even brain damage from that exposure to that high concentration of THC.” And the CNBC story reported that “The high that a user gets from concentrates is far from natural” and went on to quote the head of the University of Colorado Hospital’s residential rehab unit who has fears in general about cannabis’ contribution to “amotivational syndrome” and psychosis in our nation’s youth.

Thankfully, cannabis is legal in Colorado and Washington, and can therefore be regulated, including regulations regarding the chemical extraction of THC from raw plant product. When cannabis becomes legal federally and our nation’s scientists can study the medically useful plant and its extracts without fear of arrest, we will be able to scientifically demonstrate that scare stories of cannabis causing brain damage are nothing more than the ramblings of backward cultural custodians.