28 October 2011

The Wonder Drug that Fights Nausea and Shrinks Tumors

Breast Cancer and Medical Cannabis

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and all of us at MediCann wish to shed light on this insidious disease that affects our wives, mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends and friends. As doctors and healers, we are scientifically and ethically committed to doing everything in our power to stamp out cancer in our lifetime. As family members of victims, we are emotionally invested in creating awareness in every corner of the earth to stimulate action and results.

The tangible takeaways of medical cannabis in the treatment of cancer are well documented, and can be a game changer in the healing process, especially when it comes to reducing nausea and inflammation. Cannabis also alleviates the side effects (nausea, headache, insomnia, and even arthritis) of the pharmaceutical drugs Femora and Tamoxifen,  commonly used in treating breast cancer. But, the exciting news is that there has been significant new research about cannabis and its role in the shrinking of tumors.

From the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute to Complutense University in Madrid, studies are revealing what cannabis specialists have suspected since the 1970s : Cannabis is more than safe, natural, medicine, it’s a  miracle plant that has myriad uses in healing a multitude of diseases, in this case cancer.

Researchers at the Complutense University assessed, “…the anti-tumor potential of THC and JWH-133, a non-psychotropic CB2 receptor-selective agonist, in the treatment of ErbB2-positive breast tumors – a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that is typically unresponsive to standard therapies. Both Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ... and JWH-133 ...reduce tumor growth [and] tumor number [in mice]. ... These results provide a strong preclinical evidence for the use of cannabinoid-based therapies for the management of ErbB2-positive breast cancer."

As well, scientists at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute researched and reported in the medical journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment “that treatment of mice with breast cancer and lung metastases with cannabidiol (CBD) showed significant reduction in the primary tumor mass as well as the size and number of lung metastases.  The CBD accomplishes this by regulating genes that control the proliferation and invasion of tumor cells.”

What’s going on here, and why did it take centuries for the truth about the benefits of medical cannabis to become a part of mainstream medical cancer research? Are research institutes finally seeing the light and funding legitimate studies to rival the trillions of dollars spent by large pharmaceutical companies in their quest for ‘the cure?’ And if medical cannabis, a relatively inexpensive plant to cultivate, was seriously studied, funded, and allowed to flourish as mainstream medicine, would it put more expensive (and less effective) treatments out of business? Let’s not forget, the healthcare industry relies on debilitating disease such as breast cancer to stay viable. One thing we are sure about: if Wall Street is investing in cannabis-like drugs, it won’t be long until it heads into the mainstream, and is classified, once again, as a legitimate medicine (as it was in centuries past).

But in the winding road to medical cannabis legitimacy, and the pace at which critical research can shed new light on the disease, we suffer the loss of time and lives.

All of us at MediCann believe that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ to quote Louis Brandeis. Knowledge is power, and if we can all continue to shed this sunlight in the darker corners of ignorance, we can hopefully, together find a cure for breast cancer and wipe cancer off the face of the earth.

To survivors of breast cancer everywhere: we salute you, you are brave and courageous women. 

To our departed mothers, grandmothers, wives, girlfriends and friends: we didn’t get to you in time, and for this, we are profoundly sorry. It’s now time for all of us to get to work…

Yours in health,

25 October, 2011
Dr. Jean Talleyrand

McAllister SD, et al. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, San Francisco. Published online: 22Sept2010.

26 October 2011

‘Tough on drugs’ actually means ‘no new ideas’

One of the interesting side- effects of the Federal Parliament’s obsession with immigration and taxation issues this year has been that serious discussion of social policy has been sadly neglected.

Especially around drugs. It’s been about 40 years since marijuana, LSD and heroin made their way into Australian society and about 30 years for cocaine and ecstasy.

Methamphetamine has been with us for a little more than 15 years and in the past couple of years we’ve started to see the advent of synthetic analogue drugs such as Kronic.

Three inescapable facts arise from the most cursory review of Australian drug policy since the late 1960s. The first is that governments continue to rely almost exclusively on the ”tough on drugs” strategy. Secondly, drug use continues to escalate despite the ”tough on drugs” strategy – or rather, because of it. Thirdly, while tobacco and alcohol are demonstrably the most dangerous drugs, governments still treat them far more leniently than others.

None of this makes any sense at all. If the road toll continued to rise over 40 years despite new speed limits, more traffic cops and speed cameras, would legislators continue with the strategy? Not likely. But when it comes to drugs, Australian governments cannot look any further than the United States for inspiration. They send people to jail for possessing a box of marijuana or as many ecstasy tablets as would fit in a packet of aspirin. But in effect, ”tough on drugs” means ”devoid of any new ideas”.

In Victoria, new legislation is in the parliament to ban bongs. ”We’ll show those young kids that we’re serious about stopping marihuana smoking,” Premier Ted Baillieu said. Yet Baillieu then exempts the traditional Middle-Eastern ”hookah” from the ban seemingly because he doesn’t want to lose votes in Muslim communities. Apart from being a form of racial discrimination this legislation is going to force tens of thousands of young Caucasian and Chinese dope smokers to make their bong out of half an orange juice container and a piece of stolen garden hose. Inhaling hot plastic vapours will make more young adults sick than the dope will.

All states, and the ACT, have simply bought the AMA’s untested and unproven line that synthetic cannabis causes serious health problems and have banned its sale completely. They’ve even wrapped jail sentences around the synthetic drugs that are higher than for real marihuana. Yet many people were using these drugs to alleviate the symptoms of serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia, which may explain why this medical lobby group attacked these new compounds with such ferocity.

In Queensland, Anna Bligh’s Labor Government has gone so far as to introduce laws that say if a substance is ”similar” to synthetic cannabis or ”is intended to have a similar effect” then it is taken to be that. This is probably the most misguided piece of drug legislation in Australian history, and will potentially criminalise all sorts of chemical compounds and stymie medical research on anything that vaguely looks like it could alter mood.

Because tobacco and alcohol are already legal and have unfortunately been with us since white settlement in Australia, a different approach is needed to help people give up these drugs. Every time I hear federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, talking tough on cigarettes, I cringe. It’s taken her (and her previous health ministers) 40 years to go from the first health warnings on cigarette packets to legislation aimed at getting rid of brand names on packets. If that’s the best they can do to stop the current 15per cent of Australians who smoke, they should give the game away.

Any first year university student knows that, after price, the quickest and most reliable way to stop people from buying a product is to legally narrow the point of sale to the bare minimum, without actually enacting an outright ban. Total bans never work and almost always cause a product to thrive on the black market.

So instead of fiddling around with yet more packaging schemes, which will make no discernible difference to the number of smokers, why doesn’t Roxon simply get cigarettes out of supermarkets, out of newsagents, out of service stations and anywhere where children can witness the transaction of tobacco for money? Don’t worry about the kids seeing colourful brand names on the packet. Take the packets out of mainstream circulation and allow them to be sold only from age- restricted premises such as clubs, adult shops and tobacconists.

If people have to make a separate and dedicated trip to a location they are not very familiar with instead of just picking up some cigarettes when doing the grocery shopping, then they will have more time to think about the decision. Their children will not see the transaction happening, in the process normalising the sale of cigarettes.

While we’re on about it, why do we still have alcohol for sale in supermarkets? It’s not as though there is a shortage of outlets selling alcohol that we have to have booze for sale alongside breakfast cereal.

Again, if governments were serious about bringing down drinking levels, they should be focusing on point of sale rather than labelling. Domestic violence and under-age binge drinking are fuelled by the easy availability of alcohol. Inevitably, the supermarket chains will fight to keep both cigarettes and alcohol as part of their mix and argue that without them they cannot be profitable. But look how many different lines the average supermarket carries. If they can’t make it with thousands of different products and have to rely on two of them for their profitability, they should give the game away.

Here again, politicians are duplicitous and will argue about why they can’t do this. They’ll carry the big stick and puff their chest out about being tough on drugs but when the retail and alcohol lobbyists are in the room, their posturing changes. Then they’re just tough on drugs which don’t have lobbyists.

Emeritus professor of history and politics at Griffith University, Ross Fitzgerald is the author of 35 books, including the co-authored satire ‘Fools’ paradise: Life in an altered state’ and his memoir ‘My name is Ross: An alcoholic’s journey’

25 October 2011
Ross Fitzgerald
The Canberra Times, 24 October 2011

25 October 2011

5 Lies Anti-Marijuana Folks Love to Tell

As 50% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, the prohibitionists are coming out in full force with hysterical propaganda to once again terrorize voters about cannabis.  I intended to scour multiple sources to compile the five most common scare tactics they use, but Joseph Summerill, director of the Summerill Group LLC, a Washington, D.C.- based law enforcement think tank and general counsel for the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, made my job easy by using all five in one op-ed piece published today in the Washington Examiner entitled, “Facts on medical marijuana are stubborn things, too“.

Lie #1) Marijuana’s not really medical.  The government says so!

[M]arijuana is a Schedule I drug… a high potential for abuse or dependency… no accepted medical value… unsafe to use, even under medical supervision.  [M]arijuana has not passed the rigid scrutiny of medicine proposed by the FDA.

The Truth

National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts the lifetime dependence rate on cannabis at 9%, same as caffeine.  Alcohol has a 15% rate of abuse and Tobacco’s is 32%.
One third of federal jurisdictions (16 states and DC) accept the medical value of cannabis.
The federal government is supplying four Americans with this “unsafe” medicine with no medical supervision.
Cannabis has been used medically for 5,000 without a single human death – far greater safety standard than an FDA that approved phen-fen and Vioxx.

Lie #2) Doctors and scientists don’t approve of smoked medicine; they do approve of Marinol.

Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association acknowledged the lack of data to support the use of smoked marijuana for medicinal purposes.

What is scientifically approved by the FDA and accepted by the medical community is a medicine called Marinol, a legal, widely prescribed drug currently in pill form containing synthetic THC, a main constituent in marijuana.

The Truth

The American Medical Association said, “smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
Marinol is 100% synthetic THC (the psychoactive component) suspended in a sesame oil capsule.  Cannabis flowers are around 8%-15% natural THC combined with CBD (a component that moderates psychoactivity) and other beneficial compounds.
Explain to us how a cancer patient violently heaving from chemo is supposed to swallow a pill and keep it down?  Then explain how doctors approve of all sorts of inhaled medications (think: asthma inhalers) and why inhaling cannabis vapors, not smoke, from a vaporizer would be any different?

Lie #3) Marijuana smoke is much worse than cigarette smoke!

[S]moked marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, many of which are identical to the most harmful chemicals and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. The fact is that a marijuana cigarette contains four times as much tar as a tobacco cigarette.

The Truth

My pencil contains graphite and wood, which are identical to the graphite found in golf clubs and the wood found in golf tees.  This does not make my pencil a golf club or golf tee.  Water contains two flammable elements, hydrogen and oxygen.  This does not make water flammable.  Many recipes call for the same ingredients; it’s how you put them together that matters.  Joints aren’t cigarettes, they’re far safer than that.
Dr. Donald Tashkin went looking for that “marijuana causes cancer” connection and found quite the opposite, that cannabis smokers had lower incidence of head, neck, and lung cancer.  We even have compelling evidence that cannabinoids may be instrumental in unlocking the cure for cancer.
Very few tokers smoke 20 to 40 joints a day, but even if they did, where are these marijuana smokers with the tar-ravaged lungs filling up our hospitals?  Again we have zero recorded deaths from cannabis smoking and over 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco use.  Joints aren’t cigarettes.

Lie #4) Marijuana is the gateway drug to cocaine, meth, and heroin!

[L]egalizing marijuana leads to the use of more dangerous and harmful drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine…. [T]eens who smoke marijuana were found to be 85 times more likely to use cocaine than those teens who do not smoke marijuana.

The Truth

Teens who ride bicycles were found to be 85 times more likely to join an outlaw biker gang than teens who don’t ride bicycles*.  So we should outlaw bicycles?  Sure, cocaine users may have started first with pot, but they also probably started with alcohol before that.
That same Institute of Medicine report Mr. Summerill referenced in Lie #2 said, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 100 million American adults have tried cannabis.  There are currently about 1.5 million monthly cocaine users, 430 thousand monthly meth users, and 192 thousand monthly heroin users.  So for every 46 people who’ve tried pot, only one went on to be a monthly hard drug user.  A gateway that only affects 2.1% of the people isn’t much of a gateway.

Lie #5) Marijuana legalization leads to carnage on the highways!

[M]arijuana use, including its use for medicinal purposes, is directly related to motor vehicle accidents and reckless driving, as cannabis affects psychomotor functioning.

In a study of fatally injured drivers in Washington state, a state with legalized medical marijuana, about one every eight tested positive for marijuana.

The Truth

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said of marijuana testing of drivers, “It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations” because “[d]etection time is well past the window of intoxication and impairment.”  Finding pot in some drivers’ systems following a crash just tells you some people smoke pot.
From 2008-2009, fatal crashes in the states that had medical marijuana declined overall 9.34%.  Only one medical marijuana state, Rhode Island, had an increase greater than 3%, which resulted in 18 more deaths.  Four other states had 1%-3% increases, leading to 9 additional deaths.  Of the remaining eight states that saw declines, half saw double-digit declines, including the laxest medical marijuana state, California, which had 353 fewer traffic fatalities.
Legalizing marijuana does not legalize DUI.  People who smoke pot and drive now are busted in all fifty states and legalization doesn’t change that.

* OK, that one I just made up. But I’ll bet if you asked 100 Hells Angels bikers, nearly all of them rode a bicycle as a kid. I’ll bet a great majority of rapists have used pornography. I’ll bet nearly every anorexic has seen a skinny model on a magazine cover. But we don’t prohibit something most people handle responsibly because we think it might lead a few people to do something else irresponsibly.

 24 October, 2011
"Radical" Russ Belville

24 October 2011

Cooperation needed for drug war?

One of the most prominent fighters in the war on drugs is calling for the world to get tougher. 
President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos wants world leaders to take a much stronger, more coordinated approach in dealing with trafficking narcotics and the use of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In an exclusive one-to-one interview with Metro, Mr. Santos says legalizing softer drugs such as cannabis could be a way forward, if done globally.

“The world needs to discuss new approaches,” Santos says. “We are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years.”

Colombia’s war on drug cartels has made huge progress over the past 20 years. The killing of notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar in 1993 and then the arrest and conviction in 2006 of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, founders of the Cali Cartel, did much to dismantle the powerful cartels and spark the decline of drug-related violence that had plagued the country. Santos hopes that the world too can build on this success story.

Colombian leader: Legalize marijuana

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on his country’s efforts in the war on drugs.  Santos opens up on drug legalization as a means to stop violence.  Says legalize soft drugs, but only if entire world agrees.

Do you think legalizing softer drugs could be a way forward?

Yes, that could be an answer, provided everyone does it at the same time.

Is that something you would support?

If the entire world does it, yes.

But somebody has to take the first steps?

Yes, and it won’t be me.


Because for Colombia, this is a matter of national security. Drug trafficking is what finances the violence and the irregular groups in our country. I would be crucified if I took the first step. We need to insist on more multinational actions on drug trafficking and innovate the ways we are dealing with it.

How is this different in other countries?

In other countries [Europe and the U.S.] this is mainly a health and crime issue. We need to look at all components, one of them being targeting the assets in this business. But we need to do so on a global level.

What do you think we’re doing wrong?

We must discuss a new approach, looking at all the components: The profit and the crime that follows drug trafficking, the fight against money laundering, trade with arms and so on. These are all effects of drugs.

What about Latin America?

We have something that the U.S. and Europe don’t have: A young population and a lot of optimism. When you ask the population of a country, ‘Will your children have a better life than you?’ and a majority answers ‘No,’ then the enthusiasm of that country is limited. The latest poll in Colombia from Thursday [last week] shows that 79 percent of our population believes that we are on a great path.

23 October, 2011 
Mikael Jenson
Metro World News Bogota

Legalising marijuana urged

The Australian Lawyers Alliance says one of the only reasons cannabis use is so high in Tasmania is because it is illegal and not treated by authorities as a health issue.

Alliance president and Hobart barrister Greg Barns said decriminalising the use, possession and sale of small amounts of cannabis would reduce the drug's appeal to young people.

"Most kids want to try dope. If it wasn't illegal, it would be less attractive," Mr Barns said yesterday.

He said cannabis use should be treated as a health issue, with offenders referred to a health or counselling service rather than the criminal justice system.

"I would say that 70 to 80 per cent of offences [before Tasmanian courts] have drugs at their base," Mr Barns said.

He said instead of spending enormous amounts of police and court resources on cannabis-related offences, money should be redirected to a service to provide lifestyle and health advice for cannabis users.

The call comes after the Australian Medical Association revealed that cannabis is a bigger long-term problem than alcohol abuse among Tasmanian teenagers.

AMA Tasmania spokesman Hamely Perry said teenagers were smoking pot to "self-medicate" and cope with social pressures.

Figures show Tasmanian teens are smoking marijuana on a weekly or daily basis to suppress depression and anxiety.

Findings from the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed almost 10 per cent of Tasmanian youngsters between 12 and 17 recently took illegal drugs, with cannabis the most popular illicit drug.

Ten per cent of Tasmanian teens who smoked marijuana said they did so once a week or more.

Dr Perry, of Moonah's Hopkins St Medical Clinic, said the consequences of cannabis use were greater than those caused by the misuse of alcohol.

He said a growing number of teens with mental health problems were "self-medicating" by smoking cannabis.

But he said mental health services were often reluctant to get involved with drug users, believing that simply stopping use would solve many of their problems.

Mr Barns agreed that cannabis use was primarily a health issue and the state would save money by treating it as such.

He also said that making the medical use of cannabis legal and allowing doctors to supply good-quality cannabis to patients for pain relief would "dim the supply of bad quality cannabis".

24 October, 2011
Sally Glaetzer
The Mercury

23 October 2011

Worth Repeating: Body's Own Cannabinoids Are The Bliss Within

Welcome to Room 420, where your instructor is Mr. Ron Marczyk and your subjects are wellness, disease prevention, self actualization, and chillin'.

Did you see the medicinal cannabis science report in The New York Times on February 16?

In summary, the report says the great sense of euphoria and calm that many people report experiencing after prolonged exercise ("the runner's high") is not so much governed by the endorphins as "now an emerging field of neuroscience indicates that an altogether different neurochemical system within the body and brain, the endocannabinoid system, may be responsible for that feeling" of "pure happiness, elation, a feeling of unity with one's self and/or nature, endless peacefulness," and "inner harmony."

I have always been fascinated by how exercise and positive mood states go together. Having a master's degree in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation, being a runner for 45 years, and as a rock climber with a background in Zen, I feel qualified to discuss how the endocannabinoid system can be activated by exercise and/or THC ingestion.

If you aren't familiar with the endocannabinoid system, the body's own internal source of cannabis-like chemicals, I suggest you read "Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System" from NORML.

To rehabilitate out-of-shape, sedentary individuals and motivate them to get their heart rate into the target zone and sweat, as a health practitioner, I would give them a new cognitive approach to understanding exercise -- not for competition, but as a medicine that gets you "high" on exercise, that gives you that red-cheeked, smiling, glowing face. This is the very expression of the bliss of wellness.

Ongoing discoveries, which are starting to dominate research on the endocannabinoid system, are validating the ancient stories of healing mind and body with this non-toxic plant.

The four parts of the endocannabinoid system that have been discovered piecemeal in the past 19 years, but have only recently been gaining the attention of the pharmaceutical companies, who are now positioning themselves to profit by manufacturing drugs that activate the system but still keep cannabis illegal for the masses.

Only as recently as 1992 did medical researchers discover this previously unknown, body-wide neurocellular receptor system that controls or regulates almost every function in the body, by apparently bringing the mind and body back to a state of homeostasis after being stressed by the environment. This system is the "wisdom of the body" that we all experience as the body "just knowing how to fix itself" after illness. This system is the very definition of wellness!

Researchers at that time hadn't found an internally made neurotransmitter that fit these receptors, labeled CB1 and CB2 (CB stands for cannabinoid). The only molecule that fit and activated them perfectly was the THC molecule from cannabis, so they labeled these body-wide receptors, collectively, as the endocannabinoid system (endo- meaning "made in the body").

The search was on to find a naturally made neurotransmitter that also fit these receptors, and in 1992, anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter, was discovered. The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss, delight, or "the bliss within."

The whole system is controlled by four players -- two bliss receptors and two bliss molecules. CB1 bliss receptors are found primarily in the brain, controlling the euphoric effects of aerobic exercise and of cannabis ingestion. CB2 bliss receptors are found everywhere else in the body, but in highest concentration in the immune system. In addition, CB2 receptor activation also seems to play a large part in controlling inflammation and pain modulation.

Why I am using the term "bliss receptor"? Because when these receptors are activated, the individual experiences an internal state of bliss! When the toggle on a light switch is thrown, the switch doesn't care what flipped it; the same light is always produced. The CB1 receptor is the same; exercise or THC ingestion yields the same result.

The first bliss molecule, THC, was isolated in 1964, but only with the discovery of the second bliss molecule, anandamide, in 1992 did the significance of THC's discovery make sense.

Apparently there existed in nature a non-toxic phytochemical plant family which, when ingested, brings the body and mind back into equilibrium and homeostasis, as important as any other phytochemical, vitamin, or mineral we take in from our environment.

Many individuals may have a sub-optimal anandamide production capability, perhaps due to PTSD, child abuse, poverty, poor nutrition, or genetics. Think of THC as a non-toxic natural phytochemical like Resveratrol. THC ingestion by individuals may be a form of self-selection in which they are boosting the function of the endocannabinoid system through titration to optimally balance their internal state.

Why is anandamide called the "bliss molecule"? Because it describes exactly what happens when the system is activated. When anandamide or THC locks into the CB1 receptor, it produces the euphoria of the runner's high.

So what exactly is this "high" feeling one gets after intense aerobics? The term "euphoria" means "a profound state of well being" or "an intense state of transcendent happiness combined with an overwhelming sense of contentment; the power of enduring easily."

The opposite would be to live in despair, anxiety, depression, and give up. To reject this state of bliss because it is produced by an external agent on the grounds that it is not natural is a false paradigm I reject, and is quite hypocritical, especially living in our culture with nonstop drug advertising on TV to "fix" countless human conditions.

Remember: Due to illness, disability, age and pain, many individuals are not capable of getting their heart rates into the target range to activate the anandamide pathway. Neurons that fire together, wire together. With use, this pathway strengthens; with disuse, the system weakens, which may lead to the depression seen in many chronic illnesses.

Cannabis then becomes their lifeline to joy and happiness. As proof, when CB1 receptors are blocked by the anti-obesity drug and CB1 antagonist, Rimonabant, people overwhelmingly reported experiencing severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and this drug that was being marketed had to be pulled in February 2006.

So when these receptors are turned on, the opposite effect takes place: the will to live.

Ingestion of cannabis is the same model for optimal health that runners experience. Imagine that!

An internal and external molecule that produces bliss akin to a mystical experience, and the first body system named after cannabis... How can cannabis ever be labeled as unnatural?

The totality of human experience can be described as a search for happiness. Isn't this the quest of life, why we toil and struggle? Aren't we all seeking a state of bliss?

It's even enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as "the pursuit of happiness." Isn't the individual the one who defines what happiness is for himself or herself?

"The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make other people happy." ~ Robert Ingersoll

14 March, 2011
Ron Marczyk, R.N.
Health Education Teacher (Retired)
Toke of the Town

18 October 2011

It's Time To Declare Peace In The War Against Drugs

Americans like to style their nation as the land of the free.  Yet the government is engaged in a war on its own people.  The misnamed Drug War.

As Prof. Douglas Husak of Rutgers pointed out:

"The war, after all, cannot really be a war on drugs, since drugs cannot be arrested, prosecuted, or punished.  The war is against persons who use drugs.  As such, the war is a civil war, fought against the 28 million Americans who use illegal drugs annually."

Arresting and jailing people because they use a substance which some people abuse is dubious enough on moral grounds.  Even more it fails the test of cost-effectiveness.

As Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman argued:

"We need not resolve the ethical issue to agree on policy.  Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse for both the addict and the rest of us.”

Banning drugs raises their price, creates enormous profits for criminal entrepreneurs, thrusts even casual users into an illegal marketplace, encourages heavy users to commit property crimes to acquire higher-priced drugs, leaves violence the only means for dealers to resolve disputes, forces government to spend lavishly on enforcement, corrupts public officials and institutions, and undermines a free society.  All of these effects are evident today and are reminiscent of Prohibition (of alcohol) in the early 20th Century.

Perhaps the most obvious cost of enforcing the drug laws is financial.  Government must create an expansive and expensive enforcement apparatus, including financial and military aid to other governments.  At the same time, the U.S. authorities must forgo any tax revenue from a licit drug market.  According to Harvard’s Jeffrey A. Miron and doctoral candidate Katherine Waldock, in the U.S. alone “legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition” and “yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually.”

The Drug War also has corrupted private and public institutions wherever it has reached.  Worst are bribes to police, border control officials, Drug Enforcement Agency agents, and even military personnel involved in interdiction efforts.  The taint also reaches prosecutors, judges, and politicians. The problem is serious enough in the U.S.  Worse, militarized enforcement, relentlessly pushed by Washington, has helped corrupt and destabilize entire nations, such as Colombia, Afghanistan, and Mexico.

Prohibition is advanced to protect users from themselves.  However, the illegal marketplace makes drug use more dangerous.  According to noted economists Daniel K. Benjamin and Roger Leroy Miller, “Many of the most visible adverse effects attributed to drug use … are due not to drug use per se, but to our current public policy toward drugs.”

Products are adulterated; users have no means of guaranteeing quality.  Given the threat of discovery, dealers prefer to transport and market more potent (and thus both more concealable and valuable) drugs.  As a result, the vast majority of “drug-related” deaths are “drug law-related” deaths. Moreover, AIDS spread through the sharing of needles by IV drug users, who cannot purchase needles legally.  In the same way, the drug war has helped spread hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

The Drug War also interferes with treatment of the sick and dying.  Cannabis and other drugs can aid people suffering from a variety of maladies.  Additional research would help determine how, in what form, and for what marijuana could be best used.  Yet government effectively punishes vulnerable people in great pain, even agony. The drug laws also threaten the basic liberties of all Americans, whether or not they use drugs.  The erosion of basic constitutional liberties is years in the making.

As classic “self-victim” crimes with no complaining witness, drug offenses require draconian enforcement techniques:  informants, surveillance, wiretaps, and raids.  Television commentator John Stossel noted that the Drug War is being used to “justify the militarization of the police, the violent disregard for our civil liberties, and the overpopulation of our prisons.” In the U.S. there are 100-plus SWAT raids every day, most for drug offenses.  Innocent people are routinely harmed or killed in misdirected drug arrests and raids.

Lawyers openly speak of the “drug exception” to the Fourth Amendment’s limits on government searches.  Jack Cole, a former New Jersey policeman who co-founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), talked of “a war on constitutional rights.” He explained:  “We would illegally search people all the time, because we felt like ‘we’re fighting a war, we’re the good guys, and no matter how we get these guys, it’s worthwhile because we’re taking them off the streets and that’s our job.’  So that’s why so many get involved in not telling the truth on the stand when they’re testifying about drug cases.  And you almost never find that in other cases.”

Drug prohibition also distorts law enforcement priorities.  Property forfeitures have turned into big business, giving government agencies “free” money.  Police departments routinely seize property without criminal convictions.  In many cases the government doesn’t bother to file criminal charges.  The lure of “free” cash has distorted police priorities.

Noted an amicus brief filed before the Supreme Court by the Cato Institute, Goldwater Institute, and Reason Foundation:  forfeiture “provides powerful, dangerous, and unconstitutional financial incentives for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors offices to overreach.”

The Drug War has turned America into a prison state.  There were 13.7 million arrests in 2009, more than 10% of which, 1.7 million, were for drug offenses.  Nearly half of the latter were for marijuana.  In comparison, just 590,000 people were arrested for violent crimes.  Overall, 80% of drug arrests are for possession.  More than half of federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.  About 20% of state prisoners are incarcerated for drug crimes.

Lisa Trei at Stanford University observed:  “In 1980, about 2 million people in the United States were under some kind of criminal justice supervision, said [Professor Lawrence] Bobo, the director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.  By 2000, the figure had jumped to about 6 million—and the United States had become the country that incarcerated its citizens more frequently than any other major western industrialized nation.  The jump is largely attributed to the government’s ongoing war on drugs.”

In short, the self-proclaimed “land of the free” is more likely than any other to throw its citizens into jail for an act of self-harm.  Over the last two decades more people have gone to jail for drug offenses than for violent crimes. Moreover, arrests and imprisonment disproportionately affect blacks, who make up only about 13% of the population but account for 34% of drug arrests and 45% of state prisoners convicted of drug offences.  This exacerbates problems in a community where families are less often intact and job opportunities are less available.

Finally, the negative social impact of the drug laws includes more crime.  Drugs are rarely “crimogenic.”  In fact, many illicit substances, such as marijuana and heroin, encourage passivity.  (In contrast, alcohol loosens inhibitions of would be perpetrators and victims alike.) Some users steal to fund their habits, but that often reflects high prices resulting from prohibition.  Most of the crimes attributed to cocaine and even crack result from forcing drugs into an illegal market.

As Prohibition spurred the growth of the traditional mob, drug prohibition has encouraged newer forms of organized crime.   My Cato Institute colleagues David Boaz and Timothy Lynch observed:  “Addicts commit crimes to pay for a habit that would be easily affordable if it were legal.  Police sources have estimated that as much as half the property crime in some major cities is committed by drug users.”

Even worse, because drugs are illegal, participants in the drug trade cannot go to court to settle disputes.  This leads to violence on the streets.  Benjamin and Miller wrote:  “If you want to establish an unmistakable, unbreakable link between drugs and crime, the surest way to do it is to make drugs illegal.”

The Global Commission on Drug Policy reached the same conclusion:  “increased arrests and law enforcement pressures on drug markets were strongly associated with increased homicide rates and other violent crimes.”  Even prohibition advocate James Q. Wilson acknowledged that “It is not clear that enforcing the laws against drug use would reduce crime.  On the contrary, crime may be caused by such enforcement.”

Professor Husak estimated that such “systemic” crimes account for three-quarters of “drug-related” crime.  Veritable wars over the drug trade have broken out in foreign nations, such as Mexico.

Despite all this effort, drug prohibition appears to have accomplished little.  Noted Mary M. Cleveland:  “Most people choose not to use illicit drugs even when they have cheap and easy access to them.  Enforcement can have some effect on light users; regular and problem users will get their drugs even in prison.  Drug treatment and changes in social norms have far more influence on drug use than enforcement because they affect individuals’ attitudes.”

For years drug use increased even among teens, the vast majority of whom told government researchers that it was easy to find and purchase drugs.  Government figures indicate that 118 million Americans above the age of 12, or 47%, have used illegal drugs.  A similar percentage of high school students have tried illegal drugs before graduation. Concluded Mike Trace, Chairman of the International Drug Policy Consortium:

"Various mixtures of these strategies and tactics have been implemented around the world over the last 50 years, but there is no evidence that any national government has been able to achieve anything like the objective of a controlled and diminished drug market, let alone a drug free world."

In fact, enforcement often appears to correlate with increased use.  Attorney and author Glenn Greenwald noted that “The prevalence rate for cocaine usage in the United States was so much higher than the other countries surveyed that the researchers formally characterized it as an ‘outlier’.” Other countries with an emphasis on enforcement, such as Australia and Canada, also exhibit higher than average drug use.  The Economist magazine stated simply that “There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking:  citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer.”

The terrible price of the Drug War has sparked growing interest in Latin America in real reform.  Leading politicians, including former Mexican presidents Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, have begun pressing for Drug Peace.

One could imagine anything from open commercial sales, with only age-related restrictions (the cigarette model) to sales through restricted, even government, stores backed by limits on marketing and advertising (the alcohol model).  Individual drugs could be treated differently, depending on assessments of harm and other factors.

The strongest individual liberty position suggests few restrictions on adult drug use.  Any controls should not turn into prohibition sub rosa and should be carefully focused on limiting the impact of drug abuse on others.

Most obviously, sales to children should be restricted.  Ironically, prohibition today endangers kids, pushing youthful experimentation into criminal black markets rather than into less harmful gray markets.  In contrast, legalization for adults would allow greater emphasis on reducing leakage to minors. Overall drug use likely would increase, but perhaps not as much as commonly assumed.  Given the porous nature of drug prohibition, the most likely abusers already have access to drugs.

In their detailed book, Drug War Heresies, Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter concluded that “Reductions in criminal sanctioning have little or no effect on the prevalence of drug use (i.e., the number of users)” and that “If relaxed drug laws increase the prevalence of use …, the additional users will, on average, use less heavily and less harmfully than those who would have also used drugs under prohibition.”

In fact, America had fewer problems with cocaine and heroin when they were legal.  Moreover, consumption of both alcohol and especially tobacco has fallen in recent years without a “war,” and even before politicians began dramatically hiking tobacco taxes.

Indeed, legalization would not be a step into the unknown.  Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland all have allowed some drug use without criminal prosecution.  (Foreign practices often are complicated:  Britain, for instance, was famed for permitting regulated heroin use, but limited that option in recent years and is harsh in other ways.)  Many nations, as well as a dozen U.S. states, have effectively decriminalized marijuana use.

Such systems are not without problems because drug use is not without problems.  In particular, a small country, like the Netherlands, which liberalizes its laws is likely to attract users from other nations, creating difficulties unrelated to drug liberalization per se.  Nevertheless, countries which have reformed and U.S. states which have decriminalized their drug laws have suffered no great increase in consumption.

For example, Portugal decriminalized use of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin, a decade ago.  The measure was advanced, wrote Glenn Greenwald, “as the most effective government policy for reducing addiction and its accompanying harms” by encouraging users to seek treatment.

Adult use has increased only modestly while consumption by minors actually has fallen:  “None of the parade of horrors that decriminalization opponents in Portugal predicted, and that decriminalization opponents around the world typically invoke, has come to pass,” explained Greenwald.  More people are in treatment, as users no longer fear criminal sanction.  Drug-related HIV infections and mortality rates are down.  Drug use in Portugal remains low compared to the rest of the European Union.

Drug use may not be wise — indeed, some drugs inevitably will be abused by some people.  However, a free people should be allowed to make mistakes.  Especially when the cost of trying to protect them from themselves is so high.

Prohibition advocates are brutally determined to impose their will on everyone else, turning the Drug War into a broad assault on a free society.  Argued attorney Steven Wisotsky:  “the War on Drugs actually is a war on the American people—their values, needs and choices, freely expressed in the marketplace of consumer goods.”  Drug enforcement actually targets many of our most important liberties.

It is time to end the Drug War.  The U.S. government should declare Drug Peace.

17 October, 2011

Doug Bandow
Forbes contributor
(Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute; former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan; Senior Fellow in International Religious Persecution with the Institute on Religion and Public Policy; Author and editor of Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire, The Politics of Plunder: Misgovernment in Washington, and Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics; Graduate of Florida State University and Stanford Law School).

50% of Americans say legalise it!

An unprecedented 50% of Americans think it's high time that marijuana should become legal in the United States, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

That's up from 46% from a year ago - and way up from a mere 12% in 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and 84% of respondents opposed to legalisation.

"If this current trend on legalising marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation's laws into compliance with the people's wishes," the pollsters said in a statement.

Support for legalisation was strongest among liberals (69%), those aged 18 to 29 (62%), and those living in the western United States (55%).

Least likely to support legalisation were those over 65 (31%), conservatives (34%) and southerners (44%).

Gallup based its findings on telephone interviews on October 6-9 with adults in all 50 states. Samples were weighted by gender, age, race, education and region, with a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

On its website, the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said: "Marijuana legalisation is becoming more popular with just about everyone."

But it said more political pressure is needed before change can come about.

Last June, several US members of Congress introduced legislation in Washington to legalise marijuana nationwide but allow each state to regulate, tax and control the drug itself.

It was the first-ever effort to legalise the production and consumption of marijuana at a national level, although its sponsors acknowledged that it had little chance of becoming law.

"We believe the federal government shouldn't be involved with prosecuting adults smoking marijuana," said Democratic Congressman Barney Frank at the time. "We don't have enough prosecutors or police officers to do so."

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalised the production and consumption of marijuana for medical purposes, while 14 states have decriminalised small amounts for consumption.

"I don't expect to pass it in this Congress," Frank said. "But I think we're making progress. This is an educational process."

Some 850,000 Americans were arrested in 2009 for marijuana-related offences, according to FBI figures. Nine out of 10 of those cases were for possession.

18 October, 2011
The West Australian