March 26, 2017

Don Fitch, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Don Fitch

Interest in cannabis liberation extends back to the 1960s for Don Fitch. Most of his career has been in high tech and preventive health care, endeavors he continues with Well-Being Skills, focused now on ebook publishing. Don has always followed and contributed to efforts for ending marijuana prohibition. An Oregonian whose vision is endangered by glaucoma, Don has benefited from his state’s 1998 medical cannabis law, and his eyesight is fully preserved. Don has been writing about cannabis and well-being since 2008 in his blog, www.YourBrainOnBliss.com. This site explores the bountiful health benefits stemming from the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and increasingly legal medical cannabis. The impact of these discoveries, and the use of marijuana in prevention and treatment, may be as important to health care as were the microelectronic discoveries Don wrote about in the early ’80s were to our on-going technological revolution. His major goal, still frustrated after decades, is to see cannabis down-scheduled from Schedule I at the federal level. For fun, Don flies paragliders and travels.

State Police Marijuana Report Targets Oregon For Federal Prosecutions

A new document out of the state police’s drug enforcement division on marijuana seems to invite federal prosecution to Oregon. The report is called A Baseline Evaluation of Cannabis Enforcement Priorities in Oregon, January 2017.  Oregonian/ Oregon Live reporter Noelle Crombie published details and conclusions of the report. The findings of the state police drug cops seem to be written to justify federal prosecutions in Oregon. They will find eager audience in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office, command center the entire US Department of Justice.

The OSP report claimed that Oregon is a major source of marijuana exported to other states. Such alleged distribution would be a clear violation of the Cole Memo, the Obama-era justice department guidance on federal prosecution of marijuana in medically-legal states. As reported by Crombie, the analysis claims Oregon marijuana production exceeds demand:

It found that Oregon has an “expansive geographic footprint” on the black market across the country. A half-dozen counties — Jackson, Multnomah, Josephine, Lane, Deschutes and Washington — “lead the way” in supplying much of what’s shipped out of state, the analysis said.

Some cannabis activists found encouragement in Session’s declaration that parts of the Cole Memo were “valid.” In reality, Jeff Sessions could enshrine the Cole Memo in his office (unlikely) and still wage a ruinous war on in legal state violations of the memo. This would include, specifically, movement of cannabis out of Oregon to other states. Sessions is champing at the bit, telling his prosecutors, before he fired them, to be aggressive. “Happy hunting.”

From the report’s Executive Summary And Purpose:

The focal points of this section are derived from the federal guidance, issued by former
DOJ Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, on –

  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity .

The report’s Strategic Findings:

  • Diverted Oregon cannabis has an expansive geographic footprint and has been detected
    outside of the United States.
  • Six Oregon counties are tied to the majority of diversion activity in the state, accounting for 76 percent of diversion seizures by weight and 81 percent of diversion incidents; these counties were also tied to the majority of destinations.
  • Oregon originated cannabis is trafficked to known distribution hubs across the Southeastern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States. Specifically, the states of Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Florida represent statistically significant destinations.
  • There is a geographic relationship between the state-authorized Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) registrants and dominant diversion counties (originating counties of diversion activity).

Even if these allegations were true, how negative a situation does that actually make? The OSP drug cops claim eager consumers in states receiving Oregon cannabis are somehow harmed by this agricultural product.

In truth, cannabis is a non-toxic, highly medicinal substance. Residents in other states benefit from distribution to them of high quality Oregon marijuana. Medically, cannabis is often superior to pharmaceuticals for a host of conditions. People can get pain relief without the risks of opioids. Again and again, cannabis shows that it can help reduce opioid addiction and death. Like residents of legal states, citizens in these unfortunately still-illegal states can use cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption, making for safer highways. Federal denial of Oregon cannabis to these Americans reduces their freedom to buy safer products and to make their own health choices.

Were the feds truly interested in anti-drug activities for the health of Americans, they would be pulling over tractor-trailers of the cigarettes that kill 1,300 of their countrymen each day, and burning their lethal contents in Kentucky roadside bonfires. The feds would be raiding the opioid factories and the pharmaceutical companies poisoning small rural counties with 100s of millions of opioid doses. They would be fighting enormous numbers of liquor stores plaguing neighborhoods instead of persecuting relatively safe cannabis.

Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Session does not see it that way. He, and the massive Department of Justice he leads, are locked and loaded to undertake persecutions and prosecutions of violations of federal marijuana law. This self-serving Oregon State Police document may give him the quick opportunity to bring down a brutal new war on marijuana in this progressive state, wounding Oregon’s cannabis entrepreneurs, crimping the state’s economy, and shrinking its booming employment.

 

Jeff Sessions: Marijuana is “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Good news for the 30 million Americans who consume cannabis; your Attorney General has declared that your preference is “less awful” than a heroin habit, although “only slightly.” Jeff Session again betrays his medieval marijuana mindset in a speech given to law enforcement.

The Trump administration has already tried to link the country’s opioid epidemic with marijuana. In reality cannabis consumption has nothing to do with America’s addiction to pharmaceutical opioids, fentanyl, and heroin.

Just the opposite. Mounting evidence shows that use of safe, never-lethal cannabis can reduce, even end, use of addictive and often fatal opioids. The attorney general is aware of this fact, but defiant to the truth.

 And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.  Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.

So, Sessions’ definition of “drugs” includes marijuana and heroin, with little difference between them. He does not appear to include the truly addictive and deadly drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Matt Novak reports how Jeff Sessions, Anti-Weed Crusader Was a Shill for Big Tobacco. Regarding alcohol, Sessions was furious when former president Obama conceded that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol:

I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that.

Apparently, Sessions is unaware that alcohol kills tens of thousands of Americans each year while marijuana kills zero.

The attorney general focused on the real drug issue of the day in his law enforcement speech:

Our nation is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic.  Overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.  According to the CDC, about 140 Americans on average now die from a drug overdose each day.  That means every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks.

What Session’s forgot to mention here is that the epidemic of opioid addiction and high number of deaths are the end result of this country’s half-century, trillion-dollar war on drugs. The heavy-handed, lock-em-up approach the AG seeks to revive and amplify is a failed policy, clear as the inscriptions on thousands of new gravestones across the midwest.

In the meantime we can only dream for the day when we get an attorney general “slightly less awful” than Jeff Sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 Gets More Cosponsors

H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, has been introduced and is gaining cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

This bill would end decades of “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious” federal criminalization of cannabis. The legislation was sponsored by Virginia Representative Tom Garrett, a freshman republican in the state’s 5th district. Joining from across the aisle, is Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an original cosponsor. Another original cosponsor is Scott Taylor, also a freshman republican from Virginia.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and classify it with alcohol and tobacco, essentially the same as Bernie Sander’s proposed legislation in the last congress. Although cannabis presents none of the dangers of these two deadly substances, this classification is still a good regulatory home for marijuana. Free, free at last from the clutches of the DEA.

Marijuana policies would be managed by states with their own state laws, as should have been done all along. Banking and tax issues (280E) that have hindered cannabis industry would disappear.

New cosponsors have joined up: Congressional Cannabis Caucus members Jared Polis [D-CO2], Earl Blumenauer [D-OR3], Don Young [R-AK0], along with Justin Amash, [R-MI3] are now cosigners.

The bad news is the legislation will likely be blocked by longtime anti-cannabis crusaders Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), and Rep. Greg Walden, who unfortunately head, respectively, the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These men alone get to make the decision as to whether a bill makes it out of committee and into the full House. Without their consent, the legislation dies in their hands, the probably fate of this sensible bill.

This occurred last congress in the senate where Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley kept the cannabis rescheduling bill, CARERS, from going anywhere, despite its many cosponsors.

It is difficult to see how any cannabis law reform legislation will every make it into even a vote in congress, as long as marijuana dinosaurs like Goodlatte and Grassley control judiciary committees.

An excellent way to send your support for this timely legislation is to sign Oregon activist Russ Belville’s petition, Tell Congress to Let States Decide Their Own Marijuana Policies. The wonderfully worded petition will be sent to Rep. Tom Garrett, who could use your encouragement, and to Goodlatte and Walden, who need your prodding.

 

Wait, is Germania Holding Cannabis?

It sure looks like Germania, an important icon of Germany, is holding cannabis in this painting by Veit from 1848.  As a concept, Germania is defined in Wikipedia as,

The personification of the German nation or the Germans as a whole, most commonly associated with the Romantic Era and the Revolutions of 1848, though the figure was later used by Imperial Germany.

Germania is also the Roman name for German lands, occupied by Rome for centuries.

In this iconic painting by German Romantic painter Philipp Veit (13 February 1793 – 18 December 1877), Germania as this personification certainly appears to be holding hemp, carrying cannabis. Does she not? Click here for a closer view.

Somewhat disappointingly the Wikipedia entry for Germania omits any mention of cannabis or hemp. However, in his book, Marijuana Medicine, German anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist  Christian Rätsch captioned the Veit painting:

Germania, the personified spirit of the 1848 German Revolution, holds a hemp branch, a symbol of peace and liberation, in her right hand. (German oil painting by Philipp Veit, 1848)

Luckily, if Germania were caught today by the German police carrying cannabis, quite likely it would be legal, as of only January 2017. For in that month, the German parliament took the historical step of legalizing medical cannabis in Germany. If unaffordable, the medical cannabis will be paid by government health insurance. The downside is that use will be limited to a few medical conditions and patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis. Look for both these limitations to wane in the coming years.

As reported in BMJ, “Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, known by the acronym BfArM, is creating an agency to oversee the cultivation of marijuana and the subsequent production of cannabis to be used medicinally.”

To be part of Germany’s (and Europe’s) cannabis transformation, join the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) April 10-12 2017 in Berlin.

The End of The Beginning: Trump Persecution of Non-Medical Marijuana Coming Soon

The presidential administration has thrown down the gauntlet. Trump’s extraordinarily marijuana-hating cabinet, especially drug war fossil Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is champing at the bit to persecute marijuana. The recent state legalizations of adult use (aka recreational) may end, and may even be dismantled. In response, new, fortified, strengthened, and broadened medical initiatives will likely be enacted by state voters.

Spicer’s announcement that non-medical marijuana faces increased federal enforcement foretells of idiotically anti-business, pro-big government coercive action.

So far, Trump’s drug war comments and tweets have been alarming. He has praised the Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte’s Philippine drug war, an obscene catastrophe that has seen thousands murdered in state sanctioned killings. Trump has spoken enthusiastically about asset seizure, even threatening the careers of state representatives opposing the hideously un-American practice of big government directly taking citizen’s property and possessions.

Jeff Session’s coming cannabis crackdown is a job-killing anti-business blunder, a direct attack on the booming legal cannabis industry, which is providing good jobs, high employment, bountiful state taxes, and invigorating entrepreneurial energy in adult-use legal states.

One of the most disturbing aspects of Spicer’s marijuana musings was his wildly bogus link to the country’s very real opioid epidemic with cannabis use. This assertion is easily refuted: Big Pharma pill mills, like those that flooded a Wet Virginia country with nearly a billion opioid doses, caused this epidemic. Indeed, medical cannabis may well be the very best way to end addiction and danger from death of opioids. Spicer’s willingness to promote such a malignant marijuana myth may indicate another drug war big lie tactic from the Trump administration.

The new focus on the evil recreational adult-use of cannabis, as opposed to the more tolerable medical use, calls for new state medical initiatives. More on this soon.

Other state actions in medical and adult-use legalized states should include specific non-cooperation between state and local LEO with federal law enforcement. This may be hard to manage, as the feds can directly bribe with their ill-gained asset forfeiture lucre. State legislation narrowing and eliminating civil asset forfeiture should be enacted, though this is doubtful as state legislatures become redder across the country.

Jury nullification on the federal level might well stifle federal prosecutions, especially as the renewed US attack on cannabis so violates public opinion on cannabis freedom. Of course, for ruinous civil asset forfeiture, the government needs no guilty verdict, not even a prosecution, nor even a criminal charge, to confiscate citizen’s real estate and other possessions.

All Americans, but especially those citizens in adult-use (recreational) at least seven legalized states, plus DC,  need be aware of this renewed federal attack on your personal freedom and financial well-being. To sign a petition requesting the president respect state laws, click here.

Big government is coming for you.

Trump’s Cannabis Crazy Cabinet: HHS Secretary Tom Price

Tom Price, Donald Trump’s selection to head the gigantic Health and Human Services Administration, is an anti-marijuana extremist.

It is as if the President is appointing cabinet members based on their anti-marijuana zealotry.

The HHS is a massive federal grouping of health care and related organizations. Decisions in many of these organizations are very important to the status of marijuana, especially medical use, in the USA and around the world. Some of the dozens of components of this federal giant most relevant to marijuana status include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Into the leadership of the HHS steps a clear enemy of marijuana, its users, and its legalization, Rep. Tom Price R-GA. During his long career as congressman, Price has had many opportunities to vote against marijuana reform. Among his worst offenses are repeatedly voting against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendments that (up until next April) have ended enforcement of federal marijuana law in states where cannabis is legal medically. He also voted (three times) to prohibit VA physicians from even discussing medical marijuana for pain and PTSD.

of the Washington Post did a great job of cataloging Price’s problems with cannabis in “Donald Trump adds another marijuana opponent to his Cabinet.” Ingraham wrote,

Kevin Sabet of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, called the Price pick “encouraging,” saying “HHS plays a big role in drug prevention and I think that what we need is more awareness and prevention around marijuana.”

Sabet is correct about HHS’ huge role in marijuana policy in the USA. Unfortunately, Tom Price will be a key anti-cannabis propagandist as HHS Secretary. His prohibitionist views closely align with those of anti-marijuana crusader and (gasp) Attorney General Jeff Sessions, cannabis-hating Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and all the rest of the radical right Trump cabinet.

Tom Price – Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Drug War Disciple at DHS

Yet another Trump cabinet position has been filled with an anti-marijuana drug war zealot. The Department of Homeland Security is now headed by 45 year Marine Corp vet, Gen. John Kelly. From the DHS announcement:

Kelly now leads the third largest federal department in the United States that includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States Secret Service.

At DHS, President Trump said slowly, clearly, and repeatedly, “The DHS is a Law Enforcement Agency.” To DHS employees, he cajoled, “I’m asking all of you to enforce the laws.” Trump promised massive increases in detention centers near the border and 5,000 new border agents.

Although marijuana enforcement is not the primary role of this law enforcement agency, certainly the DHS will play an increasingly assertive drug war role and crush cannabis at every opportunity. John Kelly, the agency’s new head, has long been a drug war proponent and enemy of all things marijuana.

“Kelly is a big-time drug war zealot,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “As head of Southern Command he demonstrated that he is a true believer in the drug war, and it’s incredibly worrying that he could now head up Homeland Security.”

In that southern command role Kelly lamented that only lack of resources prevented drug war success. Jacob Sullum, examined some of Kelly’s drug war logic in Forbes and Reason.com.John F. Kelly thinks the war on drugs is a failure because we do not spend enough on it.”

Kelly believes and spreads discredited gateway drug nonsense about marijuana and has stated that American legalizations have discouraged Latin neighbors in the war on drugs.

Strangely, if Donald Trump were choosing cabinet members just for their extreme anti-marijuana positions., he would have chosen these very persons who are now taking places at his table. On any consideration of marijuana, Trump cabinet meetings will be an echo chamber of anti-cannabis lies and will spawn vigorous federal attempts to set back state legalization. DHS and all the other agencies will march in step with Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department and again work to make criminals out of American marijuana entrepreneurs and consumers.

Asset Forfeiture In Jeff Sessions’ New War On Marijuana

Next Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears ready, willing and able to plunge into a new federal war on marijuana. Asset forfeiture will very likely be one of the top law enforcement official’s key weapons in his forthcoming assault on state-legal, federally-illegal marijuana, its consumers, and its burgeoning businesses.

Sessions’ views on marijuana are severe. From the viewpoint of cannabis law reformers, he is the worst choice possible for Attorney General. His testimony during confirmation hearing indeed confirmed that he will be enforcing federal marijuana law. He testified:

One obvious concern is that Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state an illegal act. If that is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change it. It’s not the attorney general’s job to decide which laws to enforce. We should enforce the laws as effectively as we are able.

Regarding the Cole memo, the document that has kept the salivating DEA and US Attorneys on leash during the latter part of the Obama administration, Sessions declared:

A guidance document can be beneficial but a guidance document cannot amend the law. Bureaucrats do not have the ability to rewrite the law to make it say what they’d like it to say. Congress makes the laws, not the executive branch.

For those hoping that President Trump’s more moderate views will blunt Sessions’ desire to crush all things marijuana, the Alabaman’s testimony was discouraging. He directly stated that his own views would prevail at the Justice Department. He also whined about lack of resources being the main impediment to more prosecution (actually persecution) of marijuana, its users, and its entrepreneurs.

By this line of reasoning, if the Justice Department and DEA were given sufficient resources, they could prosecute and jail all cannabis users. Actually, congress has been throwing ever more billions at the DEA and into the war on marijuana over the last 45 years, so any complaints about resources are ludicrous. Besides, Sessions already has all the resources he needs to crush state legalizations and cannabis commerce.

Among the many huge powers Sessions enjoys as Attorney General, he inherits potent weapons against marijuana. As head of the Department of Justice, Sessions has 94 US Attorneys at his beck and call. He was, of course, a US Attorney himself from 1981 until 1993, key years of the Reagan war on drugs hysteria. His favorite targets were drug prosecutions, which he gleefully undertook at twice the rate of other prosecutors. Being a Schedule I Drug, cannabis is among the most federally illegal of all substances, with huge penalties already in place for its mere possession. Session’s marijuana target is perfectly vulnerable to him with harsh laws, penalties, and seizures in place.

Perhaps the most powerful of all Sessions’ weapons against marijuana is asset forfeiture. Sessions’ anticipated great expansion of forfeiture, so at odds with public opinion, was, of course, unchallenged during the hearings. Americans are sharply negative on civil asset forfeiture. Pathetically, the only mention of Sessions’ forfeiture boosterism came not as criticism, but as high praise from, wait for it, The Fraternal Order of the Police. Sessions was praised by the police union head for pushing “equitable sharing” a process that allows police to keep the assets stolen from the people they are supposedly serving.

AG Jeff Sessions a huge fan of asset forfeiture. His eagerness to pilfer funds from his fellow Americans through seizure has been well documented, perhaps best by George Leef in the Forbes Magazine opinion, Sessions Has No Problem With Civil Asset Forfeiture — And That’s A Problem. Civil (as opposed to criminal) asset forfeiture requires no conviction, nor even a criminal charge, of the person whose property is being taken by the government. If, in the judgment of the seizing police agency, the property was used in a crime or is proceeds of a crime it may be seized.

Many states, sickened by the spectacle of the looting of citizen property by the government, have placed limits on civil asset forfeiture. But police task forces have been able to circumvent these state restrictions and work directly with the feds. The Wall Street Journal recently opined:

The all-too-common practice allows law enforcement to take private property without due process and has become a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors. Under a federal program called “equitable sharing,” local law enforcement can team up with federal authorities to seize property in exchange for 80% of the proceeds.
Assets are often seized—and never returned—without any judicial process or court supervision. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture doesn’t require a criminal conviction or even charges…. Civil-rights activists have campaigned for years to end forfeiture abuses. But in a 2015 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Sessions defended the practice.

Such seizures no only trespass on state’s rights, they trample property rights, and crush civil rights.

George Leef wrote,

Civil asset forfeiture doesn’t just harm innocent people. It also creates incentives that distort the efforts of police departments away from preventing and solving the worst crimes and toward finding the most lucrative pieces of property to seize.

Asset forfeiture is a weapon of financial mass destruction.  It is a direct threat to the wealth of marijuana entrepreneurs and a clear menace to the future of cannabis commerce. Although Jeff Sessions can now (well, soon) prosecute an effective war on legal marijuana with a few directives to his 94 US Attorneys, vastly escalating civil asset forfeiture would allow the DOJ to grab even greater gravy directly from the citizenry.  Sessions’ DOJ could self -finance a doubled-down war on marijuana with his ill-gotten civil asset forfeiture lucre. By his past actions and his recent statements, civil (and criminal) asset forfeiture will be a key part of Jeff Sessions’ new war on marijuana.

Image: Flickr – DonkeyHotey

Democrat Senator Blames Marijuana, Calls For War On Drugs

Senator Joe Manchin is upset by soaring opioid addiction and death, especially in his state of West Virginia. From his talks with ex-addicts running recovery houses, Manchin informs us at to the roots of the opioid crisis:

“They got started out as a kid smoking occasional, what we call recreational marijuana. From there it led into prescriptions, taking out of their parents or grandparents medicine cabinet and become a cool kid. Then it turned into where they were hooked. Now heroin comes on. Now the fentanyl comes on.”

So, gee, if only the kids had not used marijuana, the whole opioid crisis could have been avoided. Slap on forehead. Never mind the flooding of his state with 433 pain pills per person.

Soaring rates of opioid addiction and death are indeed at crisis levels. Deaths from opioid pills and heroin now exceed automotive and firearms fatalities, nearly 33,000 per year, with nearly half those deaths from prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Think Vicodin and OxyContin. Breakthrough reporting in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by Eric Eyre, showed that “Drug firms poured 780M painkillers into WV amid rise of overdoses.”  That is 3/4 of a billion pills into a small state. During this time, compensation for CEOs of the three largest pharmaceutical companies dumping this torrent of toxins into the state was 450 million dollars. Unsurprisingly, Manchin’s state leads the country in overdose death rate.

The Senator has in mind a cure for the problem, as he outlined on CNN:

“We need to declare a war on illicit drugs.”

Senator Manchin gets many things wrong:

  • Prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies, not “illicit drugs,” drove our current opioid quagmire. People became addicted to prescription pharmaceutical opioids. Many died from overdoses; others began to use the similar — but cheaper — heroin. Especially when mixed with fentanyl, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, heroin deaths soared.
  • Marijuana, rather than being a contributor to the problem, may well be the basis of the most effective treatment. Cannabis killed zero people in 2016, and may have saved many lives. Opioid use is lower in states with medical marijuana programs.
  • The four-fold explosion in opioid overdose deaths since the start of the George W. Bush administration shows the utter failure of the current, very robust War on Drugs. The price of heroin is a good metric for the effectiveness of the drug war. Unfortunately, this dangerous drug is cheaper and more available than ever. Way to go, DEA

Opioids are highly lethal because they affect and suppress breathing. Overdose deaths nearly always result from cessation of breathing. Combining with other drugs such as benzodiazepines (Valium) and alcohol is particularly dangerous. Over one in five opioid deaths are actually opioid-alcohol fatalities.

As it turns out, Manchin need not look far for culprits poisoning his state and country with opioids. His own daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO of pharmaceutical company Mylan, a producer of generic versions of off-patent opioids. If Mylan sounds familiar and vaguely negative, it is probably from the recent news of the wild price increases for the EpiPen. In just a few years the cost of this device for administering one dollar’s worth of drug increased six-fold to six hundred dollars. During this same time, Bresch’s pay increased six-fold to $18 million dollars.

From the standpoint of productive and rational drug policy, the Trump administration’s cabinet is a nightmare. The return of drug war stupidity called for by Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions desperately needs balance and challenge in the US Senate. Unfortunately, in drug war Democrat Joe Manchin we will get no such choice, only an idiotic echo.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Cannabis Tyrant

For cannabis activists and entrepreneurs, medical marijuana users, and all Americans, the impending Trump administration took a nightmarish turn with the selection of cannabigot Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. No other choice could have been worse. Each and every one of Trump’s new cabinet is a hardliner cannabis prohibitionist.

Cannabigotry, prejudice against marijuana and those who consume it, echoed crystal clear in one of the former Alabama prosecutors most famous quotations,

Good people don’t smoke marijuana.

Sessions is not just a cannabigot. Decades of incidents show Sessions to be also a racist bigot. Perhaps the most bizarre expression of Sessions corrupt attitudes on both race and cannabis were chronicled by Eric Levitz in New York Magazine:

Alabama senator Jeff Sessions hates marijuana almost as much as he loves his Confederate heritage: The former prosecutor once “joked” to an African-American colleague that he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot.”

So, Jeff Sessions was OK with the KKK until he heard they smoked MJ.

When Donald Trump was talking about “draining the swamp,” he must have meant the Everglades. All his appointees for cabinet and other keys posts are authoritarian, right-wing, reactionaries. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, mentioned for Secretary of Defense (shudder), in addition to being to the right of Dick Cheney on use of the military, is a total prohibitionist He has voted against any drug policy or criminal justice reform. Stunningly, he believes the USA, land of mass incarceration, jails too few of its citizens.

With marijuana a Schedule I drug, any possession is a serious federal penalty. Activities now common in legalized states, such as the growing, processing, and transport of large amounts of cannabis would warrant decades of prison time if arrested and convicted federally. Expect asset forfeiture to ramp up as newly aggressive US attorneys are rewarded for the seizure of citizen assets. Expect no rescheduling, no improvement in banking access, nor change in the ruinous 280 IRS regulation.

The protective Cole Memo will soon be a fond memory for the nascent cannabis industry. Only the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendments blocking federal prosecution in medically legal states. But this may well not be renewed by a newly marijuana-hating Trump administration, especially when opposed by the Attorney General and the entire cabinet.

Expect cannabis tyranny as the new cabinet takes office in January.

Doubtless, Sessions will have a major role in filling DEA Administrator and drug czar head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Which prohibitionist zealots will be chosen to fill those powerful roles?  When will the federal dogs of drug war again ramp up the war on marijuana?

Did Lack of Legalization Doom Hillary?

Hillary Clinton and the democrats are searching for reasons for their devastating loss. Was it FBI Director James Comey they ask? Was it the steady drip of WikiLeaks they wonder?

It just may be that Hillary’s non-committal and suspicious views and statements about marijuana doomed her. Had she come out for full support of legalization she would have gained support in several voting blocks. Instead, she offered vague statements about supporting research but was not for legalization. Her attitude was hands-off, wait-and-see, far less encouraging than the early promises of Barack Obama, who ending up doing virtually nothing about cannabis.

The most telling signal of Hillary’s opposition to marijuana law reform came from one of the WikiLeaks of campaign chairman John Podesta’s email. When speaking to behind the closed doors of Wall Street, Clinton Told Wall St. She Is 100% Against Legalizing Cannabis. That was a losing attitude in the 2016 election environment.

Legalized cannabis, medical or full adult-use won almost everywhere; Hillary and the Democrats won almost nowhere.

Hillary needed only a few more thousand votes in a few states but was plagued by low turnout. Things could have been different. Considered a fringe, minor issue by professionals in both political parties, the legalization of cannabis is a vital freedom concern to millions of Americans. For many, it is the decisive voting factor. This is especially true with the voter’s Hillary desperately needed, but failed to motivate:

  • Millennials – This group overwhelming supports legalized cannabis. Hillary never did excite these younger voters. She could have gained much good will and many votes with these 20-somethings, had she come out strongly to support ending marijuana prohibition.
  • Bernie Sanders Supporters – One of Bernie’s main attraction for million was his clear policy on ending cannabis prohibition. Hillary could have done far better with this group had she supported Bernie’s vision for legalizing marijuana.
  • Gary Johnson Voters – Over four million votes went to the Johnson/Weld Libertarian ticket, which expressly called for the end of marijuana prohibition.
  • Independents – This group, generally supportive of cannabis law reform, went for Trump in a big way.
  • Non-voters – Forty-three million people did not bother to vote. None have ever had the opportunity to vote for a major party candidate who supported legalizing marijuana, because no Democrat or Republican candidate ever has. Many would have voted had they been given that opportunity.

On the important issue of ending marijuana prohibition, the Democratic Party now lag decades behind the American electorate. For millions of voters, this is a key pocketbook, personal health, and individual liberty concern. Should the Democratic party wish to regain the presidency, the DNC will need to field a candidate clear in his or her commitment to end the idiotic 80-year experiment of prohibiting and demonizing marijuana.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

President-Elect Trump’s Anti-Cannabis Entourage May Restart Federal War on Marijuana

President-Elect Donald Trump has surrounded himself with hard-liner, cannabis-hating ex-prosecutors. They present a clear and present danger to state marijuana legalizations across the USA and to the millions of Americans benefitting from medical marijuana and from the booming economies of legalized states.

Actually, prosecutors don’t hate marijuana, they love it, at least as long as it is illegal. Felony marijuana has been a huge boondoggle for prosecutors, one of the big Ps of Big Prohibition. The relative bulkiness and smelliness of cannabis, along with it unceasing popularity made marijuana prosecutions easy as shooting fish in a barrel. With conspiracy provisions included in harsh new drug war laws, marijuana did not even have to be present to secure a conviction, talking about selling it was sufficient to end up in a federal prison cage.

The decades of prison time inflicted upon those falling to draconian marijuana laws also served as feathers in the caps of prosecutors. The long years of incarceration afforded by their easy drug prosecutions looked good on the resumes of prosecutors jailing their fellow citizens. And asset forfeiture presented another huge prosecutor benefit to harsh marijuana laws; government lawyers can simply grab the money and possessions of those suspected of marijuana “crimes,” with conviction, or even charge, against those being looted not even necessary. Marijuana laws have been very, very good to the prosecutor class, and these lawyers will not give them up willingly. In the Trump administration, they may not have to worry.

Trump’s inner circle seems overly represented by ex-prosecutors, and is a true prohibitionist dream team:

Chris Christie, ex-prosecutor. For those interested in cannabis law reform, the specter of an Attorney General Chris Christie has perhaps been the scariest outcome of a Trump presidency. See President Trump’s Attorney General Chris Christie?

Before becoming the scandal-ridden governor of New Jersey, this portly prohibitionist was appointed by George W. Bush as United States Attorney for New Jersey. Except for his in with the president-elect, Christie has little going for him now. His underlings have been convicted in the Bridgegate scandal and few believe he was not involved. His current approval rating as New Jersey governor stands at an abysmal 20%.

Still, Christie’s early support and endorsement of Trump will earn him a place of federal power, bad news for cannabis liberation. See Chris Christie Calls Marijuana Users “Diseased,” Pledges to Cure Them With Law Enforcement. During his (short) 2012 presidential run he warned about state marijuana legalization,

If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it. As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.

Jeff Sessions, ex-prosecutor. This Alabama senator has been a hard-liner drug warrior for his decades in the Senate, building upon his professional prosecutor career as US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and then Alabama Attorney General. A senator since 1996, he has legislated from the far-right and has been a major champion of a harsh war on drugs, mandatory minimums, and asset forfeiture. During hearings for Barack Obama’s (idiotic and tragic) choice of anti-marijuana zealot Michele Leonhart as DEA head, Sessions specifically coached her for hostility to medical marijuana. Some of his Session’s remarks and questions to Leonhart at confirmation hearings:

“I’m a big fan of the DEA,” said Sessions, before asking Leonhart point blank if she would fight medical marijuana legalization.

“I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people, I have seen the abuse, I have seen what it’s done to families. It’s bad,” Leonhart said. “If confirmed as administrator, we would continue to enforce the federal drug laws.”

“These legalization efforts sound good to people,” Sessions quipped. “They say, ‘We could just end the problem of drugs if we could just make it legal.’ But any country that’s tried that, Alaska and other places have tried it, have failed. It does not work,” Sessions said.

“We need people who are willing to say that. Are you willing to say that?” Sessions asked Leonhart.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/11/18/michele-leonhart-one-step-closer-to-officially-heading-up-the-dea/#ixzz4Pj6pFAlr

Rudy Giuliani, ex-prosecutor. His consistent support of Trump has allowed this has-been former prosecutor and New York City mayor to remain relevant and in the public eye. Now, he will be nauseatingly present in our lives for the next four years. Hopefully, he will not be in a position to endanger state legalizations, but that might be too much to ask. Certainly, he will be given a position of power within the Trump administration. Giuliani opposes even medical marijuana. When running for president in 2007 he said,

“I checked with the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]. The FDA says marijuana has no additive medical benefit of any kind, that the illegal trafficking of marijuana is so great that it makes much more sense to keep it illegal. I will keep it illegal.”

Pamela Jo Bondi, prosecutor and current Florida Attorney General. Now on the Trump transition team, Pam Bondi has long opposed medical marijuana in her state. Referring to Florida’s 2014 medical marijuana initiative, she stated,

“Whether the Amendment passes or not, the medical use of marijuana is a federal criminal offense.”

Refreshingly, she did not oppose the 2016 Florida medical marijuana initiative that just passed in a landslide victory.

Any of these prosecutors might be the next Attorney General of the United States. Even if not, each will be in a position to slow, maybe even crush marijuana legalization across the country and the planet.

Mike Pence, our next vice-president, was not a prosecutor but a conservative talk show host. As the far-right governor of Indiana, his attitudes and actions on marijuana and the drug war were deplorable. He reinstated mandatory minimum for Indiana drug offenses. See  Mike Pence: Wrong On Marijuana, Wrong On Tobacco, Wrong For America. In questioning a proposed reduction in the severity of Indiana marijuana laws he stated,

I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties. I think this legislation, as it moves forward, should still seek to continue to send a way strong message to the people of Indiana and particularly to those who would come into our state to deal drugs, that we are tough and we’re going to stay tough on narcotics in this state.

No matter the cabinet or administrative positions that will be filled by these cannabis reactionaries, their collective advice to Donald Trump about cannabis legalization and medical marijuana will certainly be negative and dangerous to the lives, liberty, and health of tens of millions of Americans.  With adult-use cannabis now becoming legal in California, the federal/state divide becomes a chasm. President Barack Obama describes the situation as “untenable,” a damning statement from the man who had the power to fix the problem, yet did nothing. See Obama Leaves Behind a Marijuana Nightmare.

If they choose, the feds have all the laws and tools they need to smash cannabis legalization in the USA. Federally, possession of marijuana ranks as one of the nation’s most severe crimes. Huge penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for federal possession, sale, and conspiracy charges are already in place, calling for decades of imprisonment for activities now common in legal states. And asset forfeiture allows the feds to financially gut cannabis entrepreneurs without even arresting them. The protective Cole Memo would soon become toilet paper in the next Attorney General’s plush federal bathroom.

Woe to the USA should Trump’s anti-cannabis zealots unleash the federal dogs of drug war upon the medical users and entrepreneurs across the country.

 

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Oregon Marijuana Tax: Millions for Cops, Zero For Research

Oregon tax revenues from adult use marijuana sales have exceeded projections. Oregon collected $40.2 million in first nine months 2016, putting the first-year total at about $55 million dollars. This fortune far surpasses the estimates early estimates of backers of Proposition 91, the voter initiative that legalized Oregon adult use in 2014. Year 2017 figures may soar far higher.

While this bonanza from bud will be useful in paying for essential Oregon services, such as education, much of it is now set to be misspent. For no good reason, law enforcement will take over a third of the revenue. Worse yet, not a dollar of this marijuana money will be spent on researching the remarkable medical and commercial properties of cannabis. Oregon has the opportunity to be a national, even global, leader in exploiting this plant’s remarkable medical and commercial potential. Yet the funds available for financing this health-care and industrial leadership position are instead be squandered on already pampered bureaucracies.

These tax trends point to a boondoggle for Oregon law enforcement, suckling from the tax fund at a rate of 35%, nearly the 40% funding Oregon education. Colorado, by contrast, has funded schools to the tune of $138 million while only 2.8 million has gone to the Department of Law. So Oregon schools get slightly more than the cops; Colorado schools receive nearly fifty times the marijuana tax receipts than go to the police! As Anthony Johnson reports at Weed Newsthe Colorado taxes are funding an ambitious school building program, with millions more for innovative student health and anti-bullying initiatives.

Based on a $55 million Oregon 2016 tax figure, a number I think will be low (and far lower than next year), this year’s adult use marijuana tax will generously fund all aspects of law enforcement:

  • Oregon State Police will get 15%, or over 8 million dollars.
  • County Sheriffs will receive 10%, over $5 million dollars.
  • Local police get another 10%, over $5 million dollars. (One good aspect of Oregon’s measure is that counties and cities that opt out of legalization with local prohibitions will also forfeit this tax revenue.)

Bloated police bureaucracies are left with bundles of marijuana tax lucre to spend in ways that may damage the lives and liberty of the very Oregonians who legalized the plant by voting Yes on Proposition 91 in 2014.

To what uses, we should ask, will all these funds be spent? Marijuana tax dollars should not be funding anti-cannabis police activities that prosecute Oregonians for non-existent problems. But how else will this money be spent? Law enforcement costs were predicted to rise by hand wringers because of problems associated with legalization. In fact, as proven in other legal states and now in Oregon, legalization causes few problems. Predicted plagues of traffic accidents have not happened. Use by youth has not increased. So far, Oregon’s primary problem with legalization is its inability to collect fast enough the huge tax revenues pouring in from across the state.

So there are few problems that need police attention, much less the massive enforcement that these funds may create. For example, Colorado has a rational 50 to 1 mix of education over law enforcement funding. However, The Cannabist reports that in next year’s budget, Governor Hickenlooper “also set aside $16 million in marijuana taxes for a forthcoming initiative to control the illegal pot trade operating in the shadows of the state’s legal industry.” This sounds like the makings of a major marijuana drug war against Coloradans in their own legal state. The war on marijuana needs to be ended, not sustained by the taxes of Colorado (or Oregon or California) cannabis consumers.

Another dicey recipient of this cannabis consumer-paid tax is for drug treatment. While honest drug treatment for actual drug problems can be useful, the industry maintains an outdated, unscientific approach particularly hostile to cannabis. Marijuana demonization has been highly profitable for this sometimes sleazy industry. Many who make their livings as drug counselors misclassify any marijuana use to be abuse, and totally fail to recognize the huge medical benefits this mild drug can provide. Indeed, cannabis may act as an exit drug, a safe way to help opioid users avoid addiction and overdose death.

By not providing resources and direction for studying cannabis, Oregon forfeits what could be a leadership position in some of the great industrial and health-care discoveries of the century.

Early in 2016 an Oregon senate task force released a powerful proposal for an Oregon Cannabis Research Institute. The document SB 844 Task Force Report:Researching the medical and public health properties of cannabis, is a remarkable read. The report discloses the staggering potential of medical cannabis to hugely help humankind against dozens of maladies. The list is so impressive it is nearly an embarrassment of health riches.

An Oregon Cannabis Research Institute could absolutely put the state in the catbird’s seat to what may well become a cannabis-based healthcare revolution. The Big Pharma “healthcare” model is sputtering, researching products that provide long-term use, not cures, e.g. toenail fungus or  drugs that attempt to alleviate the side-effects of other pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, research on cannabis and it marvel molecules THC, CBD, THCV and others with their antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties offer fundamental new findings and new medical knowledge.

Important commercial innovations also need research and development, roles perfect for Oregon state institutions, if only funded. In addition to its medically useful cannabinoids, cannabis may be produced into thousands of carbon-neutral products fulfilling important needs. The use of hemp in highly nutritious food, innovative fibers and building materials, fuel, and a huge number of other ways helpful to humankind and to the environment should be major courses of study in the state’s universities and community colleges.

Tragically, the OCRI seems to by dying on the vine, in good part due to zero funding. Were Oregon adult use marijuana tax dollars pumping millions of dollars yearly into the institute, it could become a spark plug for cannabis research and innovations across the state. Instead of the current cannabis tax allocation going to schools at 40%, law enforcement at 35%, and cannabis research at 0%, a more rational and productive mix would be funding for schools at 40%, law enforcement at 5%, and cannabis research at 30%.

Instead of financing new marijuana drug wars against Oregonians, let Oregon adult use tax dollars fund leadership in outstanding cannabis health, commercial, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Marijuana Prohibition’s Billionaire Backer Sheldon Adelson

Marijuana-hating casino magnate Sheldon Adelson may be richest of the Big Prohibitionists. Long a deep-pocket donor to anti-cannabis causes, his latest handout gives a million dollars each towards defeating medical marijuana in Massachusetts and adult-use legalization in Nevada.

With a fortune of around $30 billion dollars, Sheldon Adelson is the 21st richest person on the planet. The entrepreneur has created over 50 businesses in his lifetime. Most of this great wealth has come from his gambling empire, with major properties in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.

Perhaps because of the tragic opioid overdose death of his son Mitchell, Adelson is passionately anti-drug, with cannabis lumped in because he wrongly believes it is a gateway drug. Paradoxically, it now appears that the very medical cannabis that he so zealously opposes may well be the best preventive and treatment for opioid addiction and for avoiding overdose deaths.

Adelson is influenced by long-time drug warrior, Floridian Mel Sembler. This Florida developer and addictions recovery operator has been an anti-marijuana fanatic for decades. As reported by Lee Fang in VICE, his wife Betty was made an honorary DEA agent. Additionally, Adelson’s wife Miriam is a physician with ties to the recovery industry. Regarding his opposition to medical cannabis, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Vice-President Andy Abboud, stated:

Pro marijuana folks have awoken a sleeping giant in Sheldon and Miriam Adelson

Adelson’s prohibitionist philanthropy has been extensive:

Adelson’s political contributions are not limited to anti-cannabis bureaucracies. He is also a major contributor to the Republican Party. Comically, he was an early and big supporter of Fred Thompson in 2008. After failing miserably to secure the presidency, Thompson went on to an alternate career touting reverse mortgages in late night TV ads. In 2012, Adelson went in big for Newt Gingrich for president and spent $100 million on Republicans in total. In 2016 he supports Trump for President.

We can only hope that Adelson’s prohibitionist propaganda will be no more effective than his feeble political accomplishments!

Upcoming Legalizations Violate UN Treaties Demanding Cannabis Prohibition

Several countries are now ending legal prohibition of marijuana. Uruguay has already legalized cannabis; Jamaica and Canada are soon to follow. As they do so, they violate restrictive treaties signed with other UN members. At least three UN treaties demand cannabis prohibition worldwide:

  • 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
  • 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
  • 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances

These treaties, in most part the result of US initiatives and pressure, have been signed by nearly all the planet’s countries. Essentially, they internationalize America’s war on drugs.  Supposedly, signatories such as Canada and the US no longer have the sovereign power to change their drug policies. The UN conventions are enthusiastically enforced by UN anti-drug bureaucracies, especially United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In addition to the UNOCD, the organization sports yet another drug war bureaucracy, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which monitors compliance with the conventions. They call for zero use of cannabis and forbid any production. The conventions encourage countries to punish drug crimes harshly and specifically call for prison time.

The conventions disallow the use and sale of a wide range of natural medicines and entheogens, substances used for religious, shamanic, or spiritual purposes. Potentially beneficial mood drugs such as MMDA, mescaline, and San Pedro Cactus are forbidden. At the same time, the conventions totally ignore the truly dangerous drugs of tobacco cigarettes and alcohol. To be clear, cigarettes kill around six million people yearly; cannabis kills zero, yet UNODC and its conventions demonize cannabis (and even cactus) while giving addictive and deadly cigarettes a free pass.

The UN had the perfect opportunity to interject change and confront new cannabis realities in its recent General Assembly meeting addressing the issue, UNGASS 2016. It did almost nothing, seemingly frozen in place.

Many countries are now moving towards cannabis legalization in spite of UNODC and INCB objections and treaty obligations. This is probably the only way the conventions and UN drug bureaucracies will change, essentially by being ignored.

Uruguay – This small South American country’s legalization came unexpectedly and has been implemented quickly. This legalization was quickly declared by the United Nation’s UNODC as “incompatible with what is stipulated in the 1961 Convention.” Uruguay’s legalization has proceeded unapologetically. Indeed, Uruguayans challenged the UN, and its stifling bureaucracies and treaties. Said Uruguay’s “Drug Czar” Secretary Milton Romani in the PanAm Post, the country’s goal was not to slavishly obey the conventions,

“but rather about upholding the ultimate goals of these treaties, which explicitly say they seek to improve humankind’s health and well-being.”

Jamaica – This island country returns to celebrating the ganga it has so long repressed. Under US and UN domination, Jamaica repressed cannabis along with the islanders who used it. Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith told the UN General Assembly,

We contend that the classification of cannabis under the Single Convention is an anomaly and that the medical value of a substance must be determined by science and evidence-based analysis, above other considerations. Cannabis has been traditionally used as a folk medicine, as well as a religious sacrament by adherences to our indigenous faith, Rastafari.

Canada – With Justin Trudeau’s ascendency to power in Ottawa, marijuana will soon be legal in Canada. As reported by Catherine Cullen in CBC News, Canada can deal with its upcoming violation of its UN treaties in one of two ways:

On the one hand, Canada could take a “principled stand” in favour of the international legalization of pot.

The other, quieter approach, would be to withdraw from the treaties and attempt to re-enter with a special exemption for legalized marijuana.

Withdrawing from the treaties would be the correct step, but forget about attempting to reenter them. To do so would validate the UN’s bogus scheduling, which includes harmless but useful entheogens as Schedule I drugs, classifying them as highly dangerous with no medical value. It would also legitimize the war on drugs.

Canada should take the principled stand and refuse to kow tow to these cruel and counterproductive conventions, as should all the UN member countries.

US States -American voters have legalized medical marijuana in half of American states, and given the go ahead for full adult use in several other of the United States. The UN bureaucracies are unhappy about such American freedoms. Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), was quoted by Reuters,

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing conventions.”

The UN’s oppressive drug policies, bureaucracies, and conventions must end. Long past due is the day when the UN needs to promote humanitarian and harm-reduction policies, not foisting off more failed, harm-maximization drug war policies on the countries and people of the world.

Voter-mandated legalizations in American states, and cannabis prohibitions falling in countries around the globe may yet force real harm-reduction change at the United Nations.