Saturday, September 25, 2010

Woman orders a computer, gets marijuana

A Bringle Ferry Road resident eagerly awaiting a new computer ripped open a large box delivered by UPS on Tuesday morning to find 45 pounds of marijuana.

Sarah Howell Leach, of 1017 Bringle Ferry Road, immediately called Salisbury police to report the delivery.

Lt. Rodney Harris, acting chief of the Salisbury Police Department, said the marijuana is worth an estimated $35,000 in today's market. A few years ago it would have been worth considerably more.

The package from McAllen, Texas, was sent overnight to be delivered to another mobile home in the park. The UPS driver mistakenly delivered the box to the wrong address.

Harris said officers immediately set up surveillance of the mobile home — which has been vacant for months — hoping the intended recipient would pick up the shipment. The recipient was listed as "Jack Lance" on the package.

The box of marijuana was placed at the mobile home under the watchful eyes of police.

After several hours, when school ended and more children were in the park, officers reclaimed the package.

The marijuana was packaged in a large bale and in several smaller blocks — all wrapped tightly in pink plastic. And the package smelled of air freshener, apparently aimed at disguising the contents.

Harris said police have contacted the SBI, which is assisting with the investigation.

And Leach did get her computer. FedEx delivered it later Tuesday.


I wish I'd get shipments like that. :(

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Alright, so my PC broke down today (for the third fucking time in 2 years) and I might not be able to deliver on new posts on your favourite drugs that often. Don't give up though, I will be back to regular posting by the next week. Don't stop supportin me meanwhile though, as I will do the same to ya'll.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Alcohol Responsible for Over Half of Russian Deaths in One Decade

Alright, here's some good news on alcohol for the lot of you.

Research Summary

More than half of deaths among Russians ages 15 to 54 were attributable to alcohol consumption during the 10-year period following the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, compared to less than 4 percent worldwide, according to a new study led by the Russian Cancer Research Center.

The Associated Press reported June 25 that researchers found that the causes of deaths of nearly 49,000 individuals from three industrial cities in western Siberia were strongly associated with high levels of alcohol abuse, including alcohol poisoning, trauma, pneumonia, and liver disease.

The report noted that alcohol consumption roughly doubled in Russia between 1987 and 1994 -- from the equivalent of about 1.3 gallons of pure alcohol per capita annually to about 2.8 gallons, almost twice the global average. The study showed that this rise in consumption correlated with an increase in mortality.

Other researchers have attributed the unprecedented increase in mortality after the Soviet Union's fall to factors such as increased smoking, changes in diet, or job losses and related stress.

The researchers in this study place the blame squarely on alcohol, however, noting that that from 1985 to 1987 mortality rates declined sharply after Mikhail Gorbachev placed restrictions on alcohol sales. When these curbs were lifted, death rates soared, they found.

David Zaridze, lead author of the study, conjectured that if the sales restrictions had not been lifted, three million Russians would still be alive today.

Russia's premature adult mortality rate is far greater than for western Europe's, according to the U.N.'s National Human Development Report, which showed that males born in Russia can expect to live to age 60, while the average western European man could expect to live to 77. A Russian woman could expect to live to about age 72, while a western European woman could expect to live to 82, according to the U.N.

The study also noted that by 2000 the chances of a 15-year-old western European boy dying by age 35 was one in 50, but for a Russian boy the odds were one in 10, a fact the authors attributed to the high level of alcohol consumption in that country. 


Monday, September 20, 2010

Evolution and cannabis -- human brain is hard-wired to experience marijuana's highs

Wall of text inc fellas, btw some more clicks on them you-know-what would be much appreciated.

If you are still wondering whether humans were intended to enjoy and benefit from marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, THC, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan's bestseller "The Botany of Desire." Pollan, a contributor to The New York Times, should be required reading for anyone weighing the pros and cons of marijuana's booming new acceptance, both as a medicine and perhaps further down the line as a recreational drug. I stumbled across it while researching my own book on medical marijuana, and this is one of the best I've found explaining the drug's affect on the human brain. Most fascinating to me is the revelation that the brain is pre-wired to accept cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis of which THC is one. Just as the brain has receptor cells for endorphins, serotonin and other chemical compounds, so too are there cells specially designed to pair with cannabinoids to unlock certain mental functions.
Here' the gist, in Pollan's words:

In 1988, Allyn Howlett, a researcher at the St. Louis University Medical School, discovered a specific receptor for THC in the brain -- a type of nerve cell that THC binds to like a molecular key in a lock, causing it to activate. Receptor cells form part of a neuronal network; the brain systems involving dopamine, serotonin and the endorphins are three such networks. When a cell in a network is activated by its chemical key, it responds by doing a variety of things: sending a chemical signal to other cells, switching a gene on or off, or becoming more or less active. Depending on the network involved, this process can trigger cognitive, behavioral or psychological changes. Howlett's discovery pointed to the existence of a new network in the brain.
The cannabinoid receptors Howlett found showed up in vast numbers all over the brain (as well as in the immune and reproductive systems) though they were clustered in regions responsible for the mental processes that marijuana is known to alter: the cerebral cortex (the locus of higher-order thought), the hippocampus (memory), the basal ganglia (movement), and the amygdala (emotions). Curiously, the one neurological address where cannabinoid receptors didn't show up was in the brain stem, which regulates involuntary functions such as circulation and respiration. This might explain the remarkably low toxicity of cannabis and the fact that no one is known to have ever died from an overdose.
On the assumption that the human brain would not have evolved a special structure for the express purpose of getting itself high on marijuana, researchers hypothesized that the brain must manufacture its own THC-like chemical for some as-yet-unknown purpose. ... In 1992, some thirty years after his discovery of THC, Raphael Mechoulam (working with a collaborator, William Devane) found it: the brain's own endogenous cannabinoid. He named it "anandamide," from the Sanskrit word for "inner bliss."

So there you have it. Not only is part of the brain designed specifically to react to cannabinoids like THC, but it produces its own in order to achieve effects similar to smoking marijuana, including pain relief, sedation, impairment of short-term memory and cognitive befuddlement. (It should be noted that THC is far stronger and longer-lasting than anandamide, exaggerating and prolonging the effects of the naturally occurring chemical.) Why would the brain want to do this to itself?

Pollan (and the scientists he consulted with) have a few theories, the most intriguing of which is as a natural curative for the "routine slings and arrows of life." Not only is pain dulled (such as during childbirth; there are cannabinoid receptors in the uterus) but quickly forgotten.
Another possibility is that the brain equips us with the natural ability to be amused and excited by our surroundings, that it allows us (through the activation of these cannabinoid receptors) to forget what we know, however mildly, and see the world anew from time to time through the lens of suspended knowledge and rediscovery. As anyone who has ever been high knows, this is one of the main pleasures of the experience -- hearing a song as if for the first time, appreciating textures and colors more fully, being much more intimately aware of one's tactile surroundings.

Such experiences might seem like a waste of time to those who rail against marijuana as the "devil's weed," but evolution apparently considered them valuable enough to develop an entire neural network devoted to their pursuit.

And who's to argue with your own brain?


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not just a high

By Nathan Seppa

In science’s struggle to keep up with life on the streets, smoking cannabis for medical purposes stands as Exhibit A.
Medical use of cannabis has taken on momentum of its own, surging ahead of scientists’ ability to measure the drug’s benefits. The pace has been a little too quick for some, who see medicinal joints as a punch line, a ruse to free up access to a recreational drug.
But while the medical marijuana movement has been generating political news, some researchers have been quietly moving in new directions — testing cannabis and its derivatives against a host of diseases. The scientific literature now brims with potential uses for cannabis that extend beyond its well-known abilities to fend off nausea and block pain in people with cancer and AIDS. Cannabis derivatives may combat multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory conditions, the new research finds. Cannabis may even kill cancerous tumors.
Many in the scientific community are now keen to see if this potential will be fulfilled, but they haven’t always been. Pharmacologist Roger Pertwee of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland recalls attending scientific conferences 30 years ago, eager to present his latest findings on the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It was a hard sell.
“Our talks would be scheduled at the end of the day, and our posters would be stuck in the corner somewhere,” he says. “That’s all changed.”

Underlying biology
The long march to credibility for cannabis research has been built on molecular biology. Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana — Latin name Cannabis sativa — has a medical history that dates back thousands of years. But the euphoria-inducing component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, wasn’t isolated until 1964, by biochemist Raphael Mechoulam, then of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues. Within two decades, other researchers had developed synthetic THC to use in pill form.
The secrets of how THC worked in the body lay hidden until the late 1980s, when researchers working with rats found that the compound binds to a protein that pops up on the surface of nerve cells. Further tests showed that THC also hooks up with another protein found elsewhere in the body. These receptor proteins were dubbed CB1 and CB2.
A bigger revelation came in 1992: Mammals make their own compound that binds to, and switches on, the CB1 receptor. Scientists named the compound anandamide. Researchers soon found its counterpart that binds mainly to the CB2 receptor, calling that one 2AG, for 2-arachidonyl glycerol. The body routinely makes these compounds, called endocannabinoids, and sends them into action as needed.
“At that point, this became a very, very respectable field,” says Mechoulam, now at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who along with Pertwee and others reported the anandamide discovery in Science. “THC just mimics the effects of these compounds in our bodies,” Mechoulam says. Although the receptors are abundant, anandamide and 2AG are short-acting compounds, so their effects are fleeting.
In contrast, when a person consumes cannabis, a flood of THC molecules bind to thousands of CB1 and CB2 receptors, with longer-lasting effects. The binding triggers so many internal changes that, decades after the receptors’ discovery, scientists are still sorting out the effects. From a biological standpoint, smoking pot to get high is like starting up a semitruck just to listen to the radio. There’s a lot more going on.
Though the psychoactive effect of THC has slowed approval for cannabis-based drugs, the high might also have brought on a serendipitous discovery, says neurologist Ethan Russo, senior medical adviser for GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Porton Down, England. “How much longer would it have taken us to figure out the endocannabinoid system if cannabis didn’t happen to have these unusual effects on human physiology?”

Beyond the pain
Today smoked cannabis is a sanctioned self-treatment for verifiable medical conditions in 14 U.S. states, Canada, the Netherlands and Israel, among other places. It usually requires a doctor’s recommendation and some paperwork.
People smoke the drug to alleviate pain, sleep easier and deal with nausea, lack of appetite and mood disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression. Patients not wanting to smoke cannabis can seek out prescriptions for FDA-approved capsules containing cannabis compounds for treatment of some of these same problems.
Research now suggests that multiple sclerosis could join the growing list of cannabis-treated ailments. More than a dozen medical trials in the past decade have shown that treatments containing THC (and some that combine THC with another derivative called cannabidiol, or CBD) not only ease pain in MS patients but also alleviate other problems associated with the disease. MS results from damage to the fatty sheaths that insulate nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
“MS patients get burning pain in the legs and muscle stiffness and spasms that keep them awake at night,” says John Zajicek, a neurologist at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Plymouth, England. Patients can take potent steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs, but the effects of these medications can be inconsistent.
Pertwee has analyzed 17 trials in which MS patients received some form of cannabis or its derivatives. Reports from the patients themselves, who didn’t know if they were getting real cannabinoids or a placebo in most of the trials, show improvements in muscle spasticity, sleep quality, shakiness, sense of well-being and mobility. Pertwee, who is also a consultant for GW Pharmaceuticals — which makes a cannabinoid drug that is delivered in spray form, called Sativex — reviewed the findings in Molecular Neurobiology in 2007.
Sativex was approved in Canada for MS in 2005 after studies (some included in Pertwee’s analysis) showed its success in relieving symptoms of the disease.
GW Pharmaceuticals expects clearance for MS treatment in the United Kingdom and Spain this year. Later, the company plans to seek U.S. approval of Sativex for cancer pain.
Zajicek’s team has also compared MS patients who received a placebo with patients receiving either a capsule containing THC or one with THC and CBD. Both of the cannabis-based drugs outperformed a placebo, and the researchers are now working on a multi­year MS trial.
Calming symptoms such as muscle spasticity and pain is useful, Zajicek says, but the true value of cannabinoids may exceed that. “To me, the really exciting stuff is whether these drugs have a much more fundamental role in changing the course of MS over the longer term,” he says. “We’ve got nothing that actually slows progression of the disease.”

Fighting inflammation
CBD, the same cannabis component that proved beneficial alongside THC for MS, may also work on other hard-to-treat diseases. Tests on cell cultures and lab animals have revealed that CBD fights inflammation and mitigates the psychoactive effects of THC.
Crohn’s disease, which can lead to chronic pain, diarrhea and ulcerations, could be a fitting target for CBD. In Crohn’s disease, inflammatory proteins damage the intestinal lining, causing leaks that allow bacteria in the gut to spread where they shouldn’t. This spread leads to a vicious cycle that can trigger more inflammation.
Karen Wright, a pharmacologist at Lancaster University in England, and her colleagues have found that CBD inhibits this inflammation and can reverse the microscopic intestinal leakiness in lab tests of human cells. Adding
THC doesn’t seem to boost the benefit, Wright reported in December 2009 in London at a meeting of the British Pharmacological Society. The results bolster earlier findings by Wright’s team showing that cannabinoids could improve wound healing in intestinal cells.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory effect may work, at least in some cases, through its antioxidant properties — the ability to soak up highly reactive molecules called free radicals, which cause cell damage.
In the brain and eye, CBD slows the action of microglia, immune cells that can foster harmful inflammation when hyperactivated by free radicals. Working with rats whose retinas were induced to have inflammation, biochemist Gregory Liou of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and his team found that CBD neutralized free radicals, preventing eye damage. This finding could have implications for people with diabetes who develop vision loss.
Apart from being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, CBD tones down the psychoactive effect of THC without eliminating its medical properties. CBD also mutes the occasional anxiety and even paranoia that THC can induce. This has been welcome news to scientists, who consider the “buzz” of cannabis little more than psychoactive baggage.
But CBD has paid a price for this anti-upper effect. “CBD has essentially been bred out of North American black market drug strains,” Russo says. People growing cannabis for its recreational qualities have preferred plants high in THC, so people lighting up for medical purposes, whether to boost appetite in AIDS patients or alleviate cancer pain, may be missing a valuable cannabis component.

Cannabis versus cancer
With or without CBD, cannabis may someday do more for cancer patients than relieve pain and nausea. New research suggests THC may be lethal to tumors themselves.
Biochemists Guillermo Velasco and Manuel Guzmán of Complutense University in Madrid have spent more than a decade establishing in lab-dish and animal tests that THC can kill cancer of the brain, skin and pancreas.
THC ignites programmed suicide in some cancerous cells, the researchers reported in 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The team’s previous work showed that THC sabotages the process by which a tumor hastily forms a netting of blood vessels to nourish itself, and also keeps cancer cells from moving around.
THC achieves this wizardry by binding to protein receptors on a cancerous cell’s surface. Once attached, the THC induces the cell to make a fatty substance called ceramide, which prompts the cell to start devouring itself. “We see programmed cell death,” Velasco says. What’s more, noncancerous cells don’t make ceramide when they come into contact with THC. The healthy cells don’t die.
Many compounds kill cancer in a test tube and even in animals, but most prove useless because they cause side effects or just don’t work in people. The Madrid team is now seeking funding to test whether cannabis derivatives can kill tumors in cancer patients. In an early trial of nine brain cancer patients whose disease had worsened despite standard therapy, the scientists found that THC injections into tumors were safe to give.
Early reports from other research groups suggest that THC also fights breast cancer and leukemia. “I think the cancer research is extremely promising,” Russo says. “Heretofore, the model for cancer was to use an agent that’s extremely toxic to kill the cancer before it kills you. With cannabinoids, we have an opportunity to use agents that are selectively toxic to cancer cells.”

Looking ahead
Testing of cannabis and its derivatives has also begun on type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Pertwee is particularly optimistic that cannabis will help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Experiments in rats show that THC “speeds up the rate at which the animals forget unpleasant experiences,” he says. And a recent study in people with PTSD showed that THC capsules improved sleep and stopped nightmares.
Despite these heady beginnings, medical cannabis still faces an uphill climb. Although some states have sanctioned its use, no smoked substance has ever been formally approved as a medicine by U.S. regulatory agencies. Smoking cannabis can lead to chronic coughing and bronchitis, and smoking renders a drug off-limits for children, Mechoulam notes.
THC pills don’t have these downsides, but the drugs have received only lukewarm acceptance. Despite smoking’s drawbacks, “it is seen as better because you can regulate the amount of THC you’re getting by not puffing as much,” says pharmacologist Daniele Piomelli of the University of California, Irvine. Capsules can cause dizziness and make it hard to focus. “Patients suffering from neuropathic pain or depression don’t want to be stoned — they want relief,” he says.
Controlled, randomized trials that seek to clarify whether smoked cannabis delivers on its medical promise — with acceptable side effects — have been hard to come by. But scientists in California have recently concluded several studies in which patients with severe pain received actual cannabis cigarettes or cannabis cigarettes with the cannabinoids removed.
In one trial, researchers randomly assigned 27 HIV patients to get the real thing and 28 to get fake joints. All the patients had neuropathic pain, in which neurons can overreact to even mild stimuli. About half of the people getting real cannabis experienced a pain reduction of 30 percent or greater, a standard benchmark in pain measurement. Only one-quarter of volunteers getting the placebo reported such a reduction.
“That’s about as good [a reduction] as other drugs provide,” says Igor Grant, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, who is among the scientists overseeing the trials.
While such studies provide evidence that smoked marijuana has medical benefits, future trials are more likely to explore the benefits of cannabis derivatives that don’t carry the baggage that smoking does.
Ultimately, the fate of medical cannabis and its derivatives will rest on the same make-or-break requirements that every  experimental medicine faces — whether it cures a disease or alleviates its symptoms, and whether it’s tolerable.
“We have to be careful that marijuana isn’t seen as a panacea that will help everybody,” Grant says. “It probably has a niche.… We can’t ignore the fact that cannabis is a substance of abuse in some people.”

Getting cannabis in
When most people think of medicinal cannabis, smoking comes to mind. Though smoking works quickly and allows users to regulate their intake, it’s hardly a scientific approach: Cannabis quality is often unknown, and inhaling burned materials is bad for the lungs. These and other drawbacks have spawned new ways to consume medical marijuana.
Some people inhale cannabis by using a device that heats the plant without igniting it. This vaporization unleashes many of the same cannabinoid compounds as smoking does, without the combustion by-products, researchers say. Anecdotally, patients report that the effect is prompt, on a par with smoking.
Because cannabis derivatives can pass through the lining of the mouth and throat, a company called GW Pharmaceuticals has devised a spray product called Sativex. This drug contains roughly equal amounts of two key cannabinoids — THC and CBD — plus other cannabis components in an alcohol solution. A dose of Sativex is sprayed under the tongue; no smoking required.
In the face of these options, the “pot pill” seems almost passé. But capsules of synthetic THC exist. One called Marinol has been approved in the United States since 1985, and another called Cesamet was cleared more recently. Doctors can prescribe the drugs for nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. Though sales of capsules have increased recently, many users complain of psychoactive side effects and slow action.

tl;dr - Support cannabis you mofos

Saturday, September 18, 2010

World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted

Nearly two pounds of still-green plant material found in a 2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi Desert has just been identified as the world's oldest marijuana stash, according to a paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany.
A barrage of tests proves the marijuana possessed potent psychoactive properties and casts doubt on the theory that the ancients only grew the plant for hemp in order to make clothing, rope and other objects.
They apparently were getting high too.
Lead author Ethan Russo told Discovery News that the marijuana "is quite similar" to what's grown today.
"We know from both the chemical analysis and genetics that it could produce THC (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase, the main psychoactive chemical in the plant)," he explained, adding that no one could feel its effects today, due to decomposition over the millennia.
Russo served as a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Botany while conducting the study. He and his international team analyzed the cannabis, which was excavated at the Yanghai Tombs near Turpan, China. It was found lightly pounded in a wooden bowl in a leather basket near the head of a blue-eyed Caucasian man who died when he was about 45.
"This individual was buried with an unusual number of high value, rare items," Russo said, mentioning that the objects included a make-up bag, bridles, pots, archery equipment and a kongou harp. The researchers believe the individual was a shaman from the Gushi people, who spoke a now-extinct language called Tocharian that was similar to Celtic.
Scientists originally thought the plant material in the grave was coriander, but microscopic botanical analysis of the bowl contents, along with genetic testing, revealed that it was cannabis.
Weird science award winners
The size of seeds mixed in with the leaves, along with their color and other characteristics, indicate the marijuana came from a cultivated strain. Before the burial, someone had carefully picked out all of the male plant parts, which are less psychoactive, so Russo and his team believe there is little doubt as to why the cannabis was grown.
What is in question, however, is how the marijuana was administered, since no pipes or other objects associated with smoking were found in the grave.
"Perhaps it was ingested orally," Russo said. "It might also have been fumigated, as the Scythian tribes to the north did subsequently."
Although other cultures in the area used hemp to make various goods as early as 7,000 years ago, additional tomb finds indicate the Gushi fabricated their clothing from wool and made their rope out of reed fibers. The scientists are unsure if the marijuana was grown for more spiritual or medical purposes, but it's evident that the blue-eyed man was buried with a lot of it.
"As with other grave goods, it was traditional to place items needed for the afterlife in the tomb with the departed," Russo said.
The ancient marijuana stash is now housed at Turpan Museum in China. In the future, Russo hopes to conduct further research at the Yanghai site, which has 2,000 other tombs.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Cannabis users' brains can repair themselves

Meredith Griffiths

ABC News

Friday 11 Jun 2010

New research shows how the brains of chronic cannabis users become less efficient than the brains of people who do not use the drug.

The University of Wollongong study also shows that over time the drug users' brains adapt and almost come back up to speed.

But experts say the study shows more evidence that cannabis should not be regarded as a soft drug.

The study shows the main psycho-active ingredient in cannabis, THC, lingers in the body for weeks, meaning that the brains of frequent users could be constantly exposed to the chemical.

University of Wollongong clinical psychologist Robert Battista says lingering effects of THC mean users' brains have to work harder to do the same tasks as people who do not use cannabis

"It is kind of like if you are driving your car down a freeway and the freeway is the most efficient neural pathway ... [cannabis users might find] the road has potholes or there is fog so that it is more effortful, more resources have to go into doing that same task," he said.

Mr Battista says for the study he asked cannabis users to perform tasks testing their memory, inhibition and attention.

He says long-term cannabis users surprisingly performed better at some tasks than newer users.

"During the process of the brain reorganising itself over an extended period of time, it looked like that long-term cannabis users were actually getting some recovery of their memory function with a longer history of use," he said.

"It is essentially the brain going: 'Okay, well these old pathways that we would prefer to use we can't because they have been disrupted so we'll have to use these other ones and we'll get better and better at using them.'"

But Curtin University National Drug Research Institute professor, Simon Lenton, says cannabis users should not get complacent.

He says many studies have been trying to establish if users can restore their cognitive functions over time.

"The picture is mixed. Some studies suggest that functioning does improve after a period of abstinence and for others ... it looks like it doesn't," he said.

"I think we are still at early days in terms of not only understanding the impact of cannabis on the brain, but also understanding the longer-term impacts and what happens when people stop using cannabis."

Professor Lenton says the new research is one of a number of studies to emerge over the past 10 years showing cognitive problems for chronic cannabis users.

He says the message does seem to be getting through that the drug is harmful, as cannabis use has been declining in Australia since the mid 1990s. 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Portugal's experience points to drug solution

Portugal's experience points to drug solution

Political will needed but Tories going other way

By Ethan Baron, The Province June 29, 2010

It has become clear that arresting, prosecuting and jailing heroin and crack addicts doesn't make them stop using drugs. The illegal drug trade continues to fuel crime and gang violence, and the social and health effects of addiction push the cost to $8.2 billion a year across Canada, according to a 2007 report by the Health Officers Council of B.C.

Until now, debate over the issue has tended toward the extremes: legalize drugs or impose harsher penalties. Both solutions are misguided, and the polarized controversy has obscured the middle ground, where lie the best solutions.

Two Vancouver-based organizations -- the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the International Centre for Science and Drug Policy (ICSDP) -- have played a key role in drafting a declaration advocating the worldwide decriminalization of drugs.

The "Vienna Declaration" is the manifesto for next month's 2010 International AIDS Conference in Viennaa. University of B.C. associate professor and ICSDP founder Evan Wood chaired the writing committee.

"There is no evidence that increasing the ferocity of law enforcement meaningfully reduces the prevalence of drug use," the declaration says.

"Billions of tax dollars [are] wasted on a 'war on drugs' approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives."

Wood often refers to the results Portugal achieved by decriminalizing all drugs -- including heroin and cocaine -- in 2001. And a 2009 Cato Institute report on Portugal's experience shows that dealing with drug use as a health and social issue, rather than as a crime, produces surprising results.

Before Portugal decriminalized drugs, opponents of the plan predicted vast increases

in drug abuse and

warned the country would attract hordes of drug tourists.

"None of the nightmare scenarios . . . has occurred," says the Cato report by Glenn Greenwald. "While drug addiction, usage, and associated pathologies continue to skyrocket in many EU states, those problems -- in virtually every relevant category -- have been either contained or measurably improved within Portugal since 2001."

In Portugal, it's still against the law to possess or use illicit drugs. Drug trafficking is still a criminal offence. What's changed is the response when people are caught for using or possessing a 10-day supply of drugs or less.

There are no criminal charges, just a citation and a summons to a three-member "dissuasion commission" composed of officials with expertise in the law, health and social services.

Commission members hear the circumstances of the person and their drug offence and determine whether the person is an addict. Fines can be issued or fines can be issued then waived, conditional upon the person entering a treatment program.

Public money saved by decriminalizing drugs has been diverted into drug treatment, the Cato report says.

"Treatment programs -- both in terms of funding levels and the willingness of the population to seek them -- have improved substantially."

As well, the number of addicts newly infected with HIV has dropped steadily since 2001.

Here in B.C., the political will to create more addiction-treatment space falls far behind the need and our drug-related costs -- financial and human -- continue out of control.

Decriminalization would free up millions of dollars for an expanded treatment system and prevention programs. Unfortunately, the legal changes are required at the federal level, where the Stephen Harper government is going in the opposite direction. 


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Marijuana: Fight Back With The Facts

I've been smoking marijuana for 33 years -- since I was 17.

Coming of age in Alabama in the 1970s as a cannabis user, I learned one thing very clearly by getting busted for pot five times by the time I was 25 years old:

I don't like the laws against marijuana.

They're dumb, they don't work, they don't keep anyone who wants cannabis from getting it, and they destroy people's lives for no good reason.

I decided to fight back with the facts.

That's what I've been doing ever since, and that's what put me on this path.

When I started in this fight, the prohibitionists were still trying to claim that marijuana grows tits on men. As interesting as that might be, it's not true. That's the kind of nonsense they peddle.

Yes, it seems the prohibitionists have a little problem with the truth. They are so eager to stop what they see as the menace of marijuana, they are willing to play fast and loose with the facts, and it's not too hard to catch them in some whoppers.

I believe in the direct approach. The best way to fight lies is with the truth: fight back with the facts.


​The prohibitionists tell us that marijuana causes brain damage. The scientific research tells us that cannabinoids exert a neuro-protective effect -- which, put in everyday language, means that cannabis not only does NOT kill brain cells -- it protects them.

Cannabis is such a powerful neuro-protectant that scientific research shows pot exerts a protective effect against the damage of alcohol use. Now, I don't recommend that anyone drink alcohol, but I know a lot of you do. And if you do drink, let me implore you to please smoke pot with it -- it keeps the alcohol from killing as many brain cells.

Marijuana is good for your brain. Fight back with the facts.

The prohibitionists tell us that marijuana causes lung cancer. Scientific research -- in fact, the biggest study ever done on marijuana and lung cancer, by Dr. Donald Tashkin at UCLA -- shows that there is no association at all between smoking marijuana -- even heavily and daily -- and lung cancer. In fact, people who smoke only marijuana have a lower rate of lung cancer than people who don't smoke at all. What this tells us is that cannabis, even smoked cannabis, exerts a protective effect against cancer.

Marijuana is good for your lungs. Fight back with the facts.

​The prohibitionists try to tell us that marijuana is not medicine. The scientific research tells us that cannabis can be a useful medical treatment for a wide range of diseases, and there are literally hundreds of scientific studies to back this up. For a 420-page listing of studies showing the effectiveness of medical marijuana, check out Granny Storm Crow's list.

Marijuana is medically good for you. Fight back with the facts.

The prohibitionists tell us that smoking marijuana makes us stupid and lazy and unmotivated. But the scientific research tells us that cannabis smokers work harder and smarter than their non-toking brethren. The Rubin Study in Jamaica, published in the 1970s by Dr. Vera Rubin (look it up if you don't believe me), shows that the hardest workers are the highest workers.

Marijuana is good for your motivation. Fight back with the facts.

The prohibitionists tell us that marijuana is a gateway drug. The scientific research tells us that not only is cannabis not a gateway drug, but is in fact an exit drug from hard drug use, which has shown to be invaluable in helping addicts of meth, cocaine and heroin, along with alcoholics, maintain abstinence from harmful substances.

Marijuana is good for stopping drug abuse. Fight back with the facts.

​The prohibitionists tell us that the smoking of marijuana by pregnant women results in lower birth weights and less intelligent babies. The scientific research tells us that toking mothers have babies that are just as healthy, with birth weights just as normal, as babies born of non-toking mothers. And you know what else the research showed? That the babies of pot smoking mothers scored better on laboratory tests of cognition than babies of non-smoking mothers.

Marijuana is good for pregnant mothers. Fight back with the facts.

The prohibitionists tell us that marijuana causes car wrecks and that legalization will only increase the toll on our highways. The scientific research tells us that experienced pot smokers show no impairment on driving tests. I believe most of us can back this one up with personal experience, because cannabis makes many of us safer drivers.

Marijuana is good for your driving. Fight back with the facts.

The prohibitionists tell us that relaxing the marijuana laws will result in higher rates of usage in teens. The scientific research tells us that teen pot use rates are lower in the Netherlands -- after they decriminalized cannabis -- than in the United States with its harsh pot laws.

Marijuana legalization is good for teenagers. Fight back with the facts.

Photo: THCF
Paul Stanford
​Now, I want to say a word about the founder and organizer of Hempstalk, Mr. Paul Stanford. I've seen Paul in action, defending one of THCF's patients in court in Kitsap County, Washington, and the man is awesome.

When the prosecutor tried to tell lies about marijuana, Paul Stanford fought back with the facts.

I would encourage each of you to learn all you can about this wonderful plant. Knowledge is power, brothers and sisters.

The more knowledge and experience you have around cannabis, the better able you will be to fight back with the facts when you hear someone tell lies about our sacred herb.

Fight Back With The Facts!


Cannabis "Withdrawal" Syndrome Short-Lived, Affects Few, Study Says

Halle, Germany: Symptoms associated with so-called "cannabis withdrawal" among marijuana "dependent" subjects are relatively mild, short-lived, and "may only be expected in a subgroup of ... patients," according to the results of a prospective clinical study to be published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Investigators at four separate German universities assessed the self-reported withdrawal symptoms of 73 subjects diagnosed with "cannabis dependence."
"The intensity of most self-reported symptoms peaked on day one and decreased subsequently," authors reported. "Most symptoms ranged on average between low to moderate intensity. The most frequently mentioned physical symptoms of strong or very strong intensity on the first day were sleeping problems (21 percent), sweating (28 percent), hot flashes (21 percent), and decreased appetite (15 percent). ... Other often highly rated psychological symptoms included restlessness (20 percent), nervousness (20 percent), and sadness (19 percent)."
Overall, less than 50 percent of the trial subjects reported physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms.
"Only a subgroup experienced a cannabis withdrawal syndrome of clinical significance despite the fact that all patients had a diagnosis of cannabis dependence according to DSM-IV criteria," investigators concluded. "Significant associations of personality characteristics with psychological withdrawal symptoms suggest that at least some of the elevated symptoms are related to factors other than cannabis consumption."
The trial is the first study to prospectively investigate cannabis withdrawal symptoms in an inpatient sample of cannabis dependent subjects.
A 1999 review by the US National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine reported that marijuana's withdrawal symptoms, when identified, are typically "mild and subtle" compared to the profound physical and psychological syndromes associated with most other intoxicants, including alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, "Cannabis withdrawal severity and short-term course among cannabis-dependent adolescent and young adult inpatients," will appear in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.



Welcome to my new blog. Here I will post information about all kinds of drugs daily. Feel free to comment or suggest improvements.