Monthly Archives: April 2014

national

Arizona Supreme Court Actually Takes a Smart Approach to Marijuana and Driving

The Arizona Supreme Court has overturned an appeals court ruling that allowed police to arrest drivers who are legal medical cannabis users who are in no way impaired.

The state’s lower court had agreed with state prosecutors who argued that Arizona’s zero-tolerance style law regarding driving with detectable remnants of cannabis use, some of which remain inactive in the blood stream for as long as 30 days after using the medicine, allowed police officers to arrest medical cannabis users who were not under the influence of the substance.

The court ruling establishes that, in Arizona, for a driver to be arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis, the driver has to actually be under the influence of cannabis. Only after finding active cannabis metabolites in the blood of a driver can the police make a DUI arrest for cannabis.

The court’s decision arose from an incident where a driver was stopped by Arizona police for speeding. When the driver advised the officer that he had used cannabis the previous evening, the driver was blood tested and arrested.

The decision rendered by the court stated plainly that the officer’s interpretation of the law “leads to absurd results. Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect.”

Hold-out Justice Ann A, Scott-Timmer, who remained unconvinced by the other justices’ clear-cut understanding of the matters involved in the case, wrote as the sole dissenter that, in her mind, arresting drivers whose blood stream contains inactive cannabis metabolites that in no way effect or impair drivers for DUI serves to “enhance detection and prosecution of drugged driving.”

The practice of arresting patients who are not under the influence of cannabis, a knowing misinterpretation of the intent of Arizona’s traffic safety laws, was viewed to be a form of harassment by police (some of whom do not personally agree with medical cannabis) due to the fact that simple common sense should indicate to an honest person that it is physically impossible for a cannabis user to be under the influence of a drug that they consumed weeks or even months earlier.

The questionable and aggressive interpretation of the state’s zero-tolerance rules was enshrined as standard operating police procedure when Arizona state prosecutors warned all medical cannabis users to simply stay off Arizona’s roads or risk being arrested for driving under the influence. Medical Cannabis advocates and patients, outraged over the suggestion that cannabis using patients could never drive again because they are administering legal medications, correctly analyzed that the prosecutors’ threat criminalized their usage of the legal medicine.

Across the US, 26 states have passed legislation allowing for cannabis to be used by patients as medicine. As it stands today the laws regarding how cannabis in the blood stream of drivers is measured to identify impaired drivers are inconsistent and contradict each other. Eight of these states have rules similar to Arizona, where the laws do not distinguish between active and inactive cannibidiol metabolites creating Catch 22 situations for patients; choose to use medicine and risk being arrested on criminal charges, or do without needed medications.

In 2013 the Supreme Court of Michigan held that medical cannabis patients have to be shown by police to actually be impaired by cannabis usage before being criminally charged with driving under the influence.

The attorney for the arrested Arizona medical cannabis patient, Michael Alarid III, told the Associated Press that the court’s the ruling on the matter and the clarity that the decision provides can “have far reaching impacts on medical marijuana patients” in that it “corrects an error in the interpretation of the law.”

international

Cannabis brain study study finds measurable inaccuracies

Today, while tweeting our weekdaily twitter #cannabis headline blasts (follow @mLaw_news), we found an article that piqued our interest.

Last week mLaw published a parody critique of the fawning and uncritical media reportage of a medical study of cannabis users and the pop-psychological puffery that the doctors who performed the research engaged in while engaging the press, all of which was presented with baited breath by the ‘oh so concerned for the kids’ MSM worldwide (our article focused on reports in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe).

Our parody took the form of a report on an analytic study that purported to demonstrate that scientists who receive moneys to perform studies from America’s “drug warring law enforcement/scientific agencies” have problems with emotion and decision making that were revealed in the doctor’s decisions to make claims that are not born out of their research study and are instead emotional appeals for ‘protecting our youth’ (which, obviously no one disagrees with) that are of the distinct character of those which have been made over the past 80 years by prohibitionists to help sustain the unfair and anti-science prohibition on the substance cannabis.

Today we find an analysis of the national reportage of the study and what its authors told credulous media the study demonstrates: “Does Researching Casual Marijuana Use Cause Brain Abnormalities?” wherein the author Lior Pachter, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler professor of computational biology at UC Berkeley and professor of mathematics and molecular and cellular biology with a joint appointment in computer science, in a causal effort – as opposed to a rigorous study, slammed the cannabis brain research as “quite possibly the worst paper I’ve read all year.”

Dr. Pachter breaks down his critique into 3 categories; flaws in the design of the study, flaws with regard presenting data, and that the researchers suggest correlation in their study amounts to causation.

The study’s design flaws, as analyzed by Pachter, include; the small sample size of the study from which the authors intuit the results that they reported to the press, and Pachter also questions the definition in the study of “casual user” stating that, for him an acknowledged non-cannabis user, smoking 30 joints a week (as one of the study’s participants admitted) seemed to be more than a casual cannabis user.

But beyond these criticisms, Pachter advised (as our parody analysts found) that the media statements of the researchers did not accurately describe the results of the research. One of the researchers (Dr. Hans Breiter, of Northwestern University) told the media in unequivocal terms; “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem; if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our Data directly says that is not the case.” After reviewing the research paper Pachter found that, “Breiter’s statement in the press is a lie.” Pachter states, “There is no evidence in the paper whatsoever, not even a tiny shred, that the users who were getting high once or twice a week were having any problems.”

Going deeper into the science behind the study, Pachter discovered that the findings reported by the researchers were not corrected to take into account data recorded in multiple tests. The study measured different aspects of the brains of the test subjects, including grey matter density, volume and shape. Multiple tests were taken by the researchers and brain volumes of the test subjects were estimated. Pachter says that the researchers “should have…correct(ed) the p-values computed for each type of analysis,” and not doing this led the researchers to report findings where “the extent of the testing was not properly accounted for.”

Additionally, and importantly, Pachter found that “many of the (study’s) results were not significant.” An example Pachter points to is a “volume analysis (that) showed no significant associations for any of the other four tested regions.” Pachter says that, in one of the brain volume tests, for the left nucleus accumbens, if the researchers removed the “outlier at a volume of over 800 mm3” the study would have possibly revealed no effect whatsoever (“flatten the line altogether”) in the brains of cannabis users…a theory that would be of interest to test, but, as Pachter points out in frustration, “the authors did not release any of their data.” (bold in original)

Further – and even more bizarre in an academic study, is that for some of the charts that the researchers use as examples in the study, “the authors did not report the p-values at all” or only reported them where “they were significant or not” and even in these instances “without correlation.” (italics in original)

And finally, Pachter took the researchers to task for pretending to the reporters that, out of all research ever performed, it is only in their cannabis study that the differences that they were able to measure can only be related to what they posit – cannabis use. Even mLaw’s ‘analysts’, who received their certificates in parody from far less well known institutions than Harvard, Northwestern and UMass, did actually point out to the researchers in our parody what they may have missed in their first college classes: “correlation does not prove causality”.

Pachter closes his critique by suggesting in all apparent seriousness; “I believe that scientists should be sanctioned for making public statements that directly contradict the content of their papers, as appears to be the case here.”

It goes without saying, the staff at mLaw are not scientists and claim no expertise at all regarding the study of the brain. What we can do, however, is read and our review of the articles that were widely and sensationally broadcast across the spectrum of MSM found that the doctors made statements that the study revealed data that the researchers themselves claimed they never studied.

The single biggest finding from this study, as we see it, is: we need more medical research on cannabis and politicians are standing in the way of this needed research.

But, the researchers’ first demand was not that President Obama must reschedule cannabis for medical research, as he (a never running for office again lame duck) has the power to do. And mLaw is not letting congress off the hook on this, but in the case of Obama, its one man and one action that is consciously not being taken. Instead, the doctors took their time to wax all Dr. Phil in the media interviews, making connections that simply are not supported by the study and that are also of the same tenor as the barrage of prohibitionist scare-talk we have heard since Washington and Colorado citizens voted to legalize cannabis – it is all standard Smart Approach BS.

The study seems significant and worthy of further research – but cannabis is scheduled as being of less value and more dangerous than heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Doctors can’t easily experiment with cannabis due to this listing on the federal schedule of drugs …think about that for a second, our leaders assert that cannabis and LSD are more dangerous and of less value than cocaine and heroin.

To be clear, there is one unequivocal finding from this study…whether you are a supporter of medical cannabis, support ending the prohibition of cannabis, or favor continuing the war on cannabis, we have to agree “more study is needed”, cannabis must be rescheduled immediately.

We find, however in the reportage of the brain measurement study on casual cannabis users that received so much attention in the MSM, that these doctors – who promised to do no harm – spend their energies broadcasting results that are not results that the research afforded and, moreover, are the kind of scare tactics that are used every day by appointees in the White House’s Office on Drug Control Policy, a White House that, in contradiction of scientists on the government’s payroll who have called for more cannabis study, in callous dismissal of mothers and fathers of children suffering from Epilepsy, in immoral support of un-equally applied drug laws as hundreds of thousands of our citizens have to live their lives under the stigma of a cannabis arrest or conviction, and (surprisingly for this particular White House) when, at a time when harsh economic realities are facing this nation, thousands of potential small businesses (and even the felonious banksters who pull Obama’s strings) stand to make boat loads of legally earned dollars should cannabis prohibition be ended federally, has steadfastly refused (for purely political reasons relating to Mr. Obama’s “presidential legacy”) to re-classify cannabis – at least to free up our scientists to perform needed research.

And, although our previous article on this matter was indeed a parody, we at mLaw have to ask ourselves to consider the motives behind all parties involved in the study, its mischaracterization by the researchers and its broad based uncritical boostering by our mainstream media.

What is known is that, in general, regular folks when listening to a doctor describe research, assume a whole lot of good faith on the part of the professional. In this case, sadly, what we find is that while science is science (whether one agrees with or likes what is revealed by scientific study), doctors, on the other hand are humans who can be objective or decide to misuse the good faith with which they are approached by regular citizens to spout propaganda and emotional appeals that are hardly scientific – for whatever reason, whether to support their own predeterminations or to kiss (as opposed to bite) the hand that feeds them and their research studies.

national

Fed Moneyed Scientists Choose Deception, Because : Young People

A recent study of the how funding sources of scientific studies impact the emotional honesty and decision making abilities of scientists revealed that researchers make fantastical presumptions, unfounded deductions and engage in deceptive conflations that are not supported by scientific evidence when speaking to the media about studies performed using monies provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center.

...scientists lie for it

Recent research funded by America’s drug warring law enforcement/scientific agencies found that 20 casual cannabis users brains had measurable differences when reflected against a group of 20 subjects who were not casual cannabis smokers.

The scientists did not seek to discover if the differences that were measured resulted in any behavioral changes in the subjects, whether for good or for bad. The scientists did not attempt to understand if the changes measured equated in any way scientifically with addictive or criminal behaviors. The study did not attempt to qualify or quantify in any way how the measured differences effected the study’s subjects decision making or emotional reactions or even if the measured changes were transitory or permanent – the researchers simply did not seek answers to these questions.

Analysts reviewed the statements of the doctors who performed the research to find, strikingly, that although the scientists (from well-respected medical learning institutions including Harvard, Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts) had not sought in any way in their study to understand the implications of the different brain measurements or the possible consequences for casual cannabis users whose brains reflected the different measurements from non-cannabis users brains in their study, they nonetheless reported in their statements to major US media outlets that their study demonstrates the dangers of even casual cannabis use – especially in young people.

The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Jodi Gilman told the media outlet the Boston Globe that her review of the results of the study led her to conclude that America should be concerned because, as the Globe reports, though the “researchers did not study whether (the) changes (found in the tested subjects brains) were linked to corresponding declines in brain function”, we have to be worried because : young people.

Gilman, careening wildly from scientific researcher to self-appointed cultural custodian opinion maker, when responding to questions about the results of her scientific study reminded the credulous Globe reporter of : young people. When, not speaking about any matter the researchers studied, she told the Globe;

“This is when you are making major decisions in your life, when you are choosing a major, starting a career, making long-lasting friendships and relationships.”

Of note, the Globe reporter did not ask the doctor if her team actually investigated topics such as selecting college majors or embarking upon long-lasting relationships relating to their discovery regarding brain measurements.

Though, as the Globe points out, the study “did not address whether the brain changes are permanent”, Gilman also made the speculative claim that the changes that the study revealed are related to addictive behavior in cannabis users stating that cannabis is, for the brain, “a sort of learning process” that allows the brain “to make connections that encourage further drug use.”

Another researcher involved in the government funded experiment, Dr. Hans Breiter, told the Washington Post that the research “raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” and, “people think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school, our data directly says this is not the case.”

In actuality the study says nothing of the sort as the scientists admit that they did not study, research or in any way test Breiter’s theories that the measurable differences in the brains of the test’s subjects were related to any changes in the behaviors of the subjects – whether good changes or bad changes, or if the measured changes promote, as Breiter frames it editorially as opposed to scientifically; “bad consequences”.

To his credit, it appears that the effect of receiving monies for the study on Breiter was less significant that it was on Gilman, as Breiter did actually throw a smattering of qualifiers in his answers to the Post. In a down column quote the good doctor drops this hedge to the unequivocal-ish statements he made to the Post’s reporter; “there are still many unanswered questions.”

Additionally, although both Gilman and Breiter endeavored to continually mention in their media interviews that the parts of the brain that exhibited differences in measurement in their study are neurological centers for both motivation and decision making, the study itself made no claims or efforts to study the motivations or decision making of cannabis users. Analysts expressed concern about the motives behind the scientists’ decision to stress and discuss attributes that have long been conflated with cannabis use by prohibitionists in their description of the study that had nothing to do with motivation or decision making. The analysts suggested that mLaw seek input from well known cannabis users, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and California Governor Jerry Brown to further understand the consequences of the impaired decision making abilities and debilitating a-motivational capacities that haunt college-age cannabis addicts and injure America as a nation.

The analysts pointed out that it should be noted that, in an act of journalistic honesty, the Post (unlike the researchers) does inform its readers; “The study did not look at the behavior of the pot smokers, only their brains.”

The analysts who reviewed the responses that the researchers gave to the major media outlets, while reminding in the strongest possible terms that in science, correlation does not prove causality and acknowledging that the study that they performed focused on an infinitesimally tiny number of federally supported scientists’ media claims, said the researchers, whether consciously or unconsciously, removed themselves from the realms of scientific study in their commentary to provide pseudo-psychological theories about the study’s subjects that (in general) are consistent with the overall policy goal of the science/law enforcement agencies who funded the study; this being, the perpetuation of the unjust, unscientific and irrational prohibition of the substance cannabis, about which other scientific studies performed by American scientists advise;

“Evidence accumulated during the last decade supports that the active components of Cannabis possess anti-cancer activity” – National Institutes of Health

national

64.5 percent of Dane County Residents want to Spark a Prairie Fire

An overwhelming majority of residents in Dane County, WI (home of Madison, the state’s capitol and the University of Wisconsin) voted to express their desire for the state’s politicians to legalize cannabis in the state on Tuesday.

fightin' Bob LaFollette,
the 'Prairie Fire'

Though the referendum is not binding and, unlike the measures passed by voters in Washington and Colorado, does not have the force of law, the measure does reflect the broad-based and active support of the voters in Dane County for legalizing cannabis for recreational use by adults who are, by the measure, demanding that state, county and local politicians do their putative jobs; “represent” and “legislate”.

The voting in the referendum revealed some surprises. In some Dane County towns that overwhelmingly voted to retain republican governor Scott Walker, voters voiced their strong support for legalizing cannabis – indicating that even in areas that are republican strongholds and where conservatives live, support for the notion of ending prohibition, re-evaluating efficacy of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ and consideration of the benefits of the taxation of legalized cannabis are commonly held oppinions of both conservative and liberal Wisconsin voters.

And, while some republican strongholds did not vote their support for the referendum signifying somewhat of a partisan divide on the the issue, the significant support for the referendum in traditional democratic locales in Dane County should embolden timorous democratic politicians to step from the shadows and join the majority of Americans who now are calling for the end of cannabis prohibition and acknowledging their awareness that cannabis is an important medical substance.