How The ‘Cannabis Catch-22’ Keeps Marijuana Classified As A Harmful Drug


Marijuana grows in the home of two medical marijuana patients in Medford, Ore.

America has a long and storied history with marijuana. Once grown by American colonists to make hemp rope, by 1970, it was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Possession of it was — and is — a federal crime, despite the fact that in recent years 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Author John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, traces the history of America’s laws and attitudes toward cannabis in his new book, Marijuana: A Short History. He tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies that the recent shift in public policy is, in part, a recognition of the drug’s medicinal value, which became apparent in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“People were saying, ‘If I smoke this and I get the munchies, maybe it will help people dying of AIDS who are so nauseated that they can’t eat and they’re dealing with clinical anorexia as a result of that,’ ” Hudak explains.

The grass-roots movement turned political, and in 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative. Other states followed, though the impetus for the movement grew beyond the medicinal.

“One significant argument in favor of adult use marijuana that not many people talk about is a simple one, and that is some people just like to get high,” Hudak says. “I think in this policy debate, oftentimes seeing marijuana as a recreational product, it is frowned upon to discuss it, but it’s a reality. People enjoy it like people enjoy wine or people enjoy a good steak.”

Interview Highlights

On Harry Anslinger, who played a pivotal role in the effort to criminalize marijuana

Harry Anslinger was the nation’s first real drug czar. He came from the Bureau of Prohibition and was put in charge of a variety of federal government agencies that changed names over the course of time, but were effectively the precursors for the Drug Enforcement [Administration].

He was essentially the J. Edgar Hoover of drugs in the United States. He had the same types of tactics that Hoover had — that was being very aggressive with Congress, going into the media to try to advance his political and policy interests. He had, by all accounts, details and histories of members of Congress and senators that they did not want to become public, and he was a one-man force in expanding drug prohibition in the United States. He did this for a variety of drugs, but he had a special place in his heart for marijuana.

On how marijuana use was made into a racial issue

Anslinger brought to it this real racialized aspect. I mean, he was an absolute avowed racist, and when you look at the letters he wrote to different civic organizations or op-eds that he published, or even congressional testimony, it is riddled with racist language and racist claims about the use of marijuana really being only in Mexican communities in the Southwest, and then eventually it transitioned to be a product that was used by the individuals who were around jazz music, which of course was code language for the African-American community.

And so proceeded this racialized history, and [Anslinger] … claimed that marijuana would turn people into psychopaths, murderers, rapists — it would make women promiscuous, particularly promiscuous around men of color, and this was seen as something that was brought into communities by people of color in order to make the most vulnerable in society behave in ways that would appall society.

On government efforts to suppress studies that showed that marijuana was not as addictive or dangerous as had been claimed

In the 1970s President Nixon commissioned the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ray Shafer, who was a good friend, a fellow Republican, a good friend of Nixon’s, to commission this report about this evil drug infecting society, and Shafer came up, again, with the same answers — it wasn’t as addicting, that there were reasons to try to think about this drug in different ways than the federal government was thinking about it, that it wasn’t causing violent crime.

Shafer was actually called into the Oval Office and read off by the president for this draft report, and [Nixon] said to Shafer, “You cannot publish this.” And Shafer stood his ground. He said, “I’m publishing it.” And Nixon trashed that.

It was just this extended period of president after president asking for answers, not getting the answers that he liked, and then throwing the report away.

On what led to policy change for use of marijuana

This really began in the Castro District of San Francisco in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The AIDS epidemic was … ravaging this community, and it was one that individuals, I think, looked at this product that was largely being used recreationally and understood that it helped with pain relief.

So you had a few individuals — Dennis Peron is one; a woman named Brownie Mary who was an orderly at a hospital in San Francisco who would bake brownies laced with marijuana and deliver them to AIDS patients each day. This community popped up around delivering medical cannabis for those who are dying.

And it wasn’t only people dying of AIDS, it was people who had a variety of ailments — and that grass-roots, underground, even though it was pretty much in the daylight for some time, movement transitioned into a political one, and in 1996 California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative.

On arguments in favor of legalization

We have 750,000 arrests in a year that have to do with marijuana. And so in communities of color that criminal justice argument is a tremendous one. For libertarians you talk about personal liberty and privacy and property rights, and that is an important issue for them. For conservatives or liberals who are interested in balancing the budget, talking about all of the law enforcement dollars that are spent on the prosecution and investigation of marijuana crimes in a year, that’s budget savings, as well as revenue in the door on the tax side.

For others, it is about product safety, understanding that a regulatory system is going to be able to test the product and you’ll know exactly as a consumer what you’re getting, whereas on the black market you don’t know that.

On the federal government’s decision this past summer to continue the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana

One of the reasons for the maintenance of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance was that the medical community is not convinced of its medical value. There are plenty of doctors who believe that there is medical value to marijuana, they’re willing to recommend it to patients, but the threshold required to demonstrate medical value for the medical community as a whole is much higher than it is for the reform community.

There is this cannabis Catch-22 and it is, as a Schedule 1 drug, it is very difficult to do research on the plant. There are only certain researchers who will get the certification and licensure necessary to handle the drug. Then, of course, you need the funding to study it. You need approval from university institutional review boards, and the burdens that exist to do the type of research on a Schedule 1 drug are tremendous. But that research is what will inform the medical community as to its medical use, and so what you need and what you can do are entirely prevented by this federal government policy.


"Gentlemen, in order to produce marked changes in behavior and attitude it is necessary to weaken, undermine or remove the support systems…"

(The following is an excerpt from a blog that I ran across on WordPress that I believe is certainly worth noticing, SK)


“Gentlemen, in order to produce marked changes in behavior and attitude it is necessary to weaken, undermine or remove the support systems of the old patterns of behavior and the old attitudes.  Because most of these supports are the face to face confirmation of present behavior and attitudes, which are provided to those with whom close emotional ties exist, it is therefore essential to eradicate those emotional bonds.  This can be done either by removing the individual physically and preventing any communication with those whom he cares about or by proving to him, the prisoner, that those whom he respects are not worthy of it and indeed should be actively distrusted.”  -Dr. Edgar Schein, Sept. 18, 1962

Dr. Schein then presented to the assembled group a literary of suggestions and tactics designed to attain “behavioral modifications” desirable by prison officials to control the thinking patterns of its incarcerated populace and to curtail or reduce an appetite for cultural or political aspirations.  These 24 accumulous and widely implemented tactics & maneuvers are set out below:

1.  the physical removal of prisoners to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or seriously weaken close emotional ties.
2.  identify and segregate all natural leaders.
3.  use of cooperative prisoners as leaders.
4.  prohibition of group activities not in line with brainwashing objectives.
5.  spying on prisoners and reporting back private materials.
6.  manipulating prisoners into making written statements which are then shown to others.
7.  exploitation of opportunist and informers.
8.  convincing prisoners that they can trust no other prisoner.
9.  treating those who are willing to cooperate in a far more lenient way than those who are not.
10.  punishing those who show uncooperative attitudes.
11.  systematic withholding of mail and other correspondence.
12.  preventing contact with anyone non-sympathetic  to the method of treatment and regimen of the captive populace.
13.  disorganization of all group standards among prisoners.
14.  building a group conviction among the prisoners that they have been abandoned by, and totally isolated from their social order.
15.  undermining all emotional support.
16.  preventing prisoners from communicating with family and supporters regarding the conditions of their confinement,
17.  making available and permitting access to only those publications and books that contain materials which are neutral to, or supportive of the desired new attitude.
18.  placing individuals into new and ambiguous situations for which the standards and rules and policies are deliberately kept unclear and then putting pressure on the prisoner to conform to what is desired in order to win favor and a reprieve from the pressure.
19.  placing the prisoner whose will power has been severely weakened or eroded into a soft living environment with others who are further advanced in their brainwashing reform who’s job is to influence the teetering prisoner to give up and assimilate into the desired behavior.
20.  using techniques of character invalidation, i.e., humiliations, revilements, shouting, isolation; to promote sensory deprivation, to induce feelings of guilt, fear, and suggestibility.
21.  meeting all insincere attempts to conform with the desired thought patterns with renewed hostility.
22.  repeatedly pointing out to the prisoner that those prisoners whom he respects as a leader and example of strength is not living up to the values and militant principles that he espouses.  supplanting the thought that all other prisoners are hypocrites and liars.
23.  rewards for submission and subservient attitudes which embrace the brainwashing objectives by providing praise and emotional support to those who embrace the desired behavior(brainwashing) which reinforces the new attitudes.
24.  making sure that if a once militant prisoner is ever revealed as being a snitch or a homosexual, that all prisoners learn of his disgrace in order to create doubt and misgivings in the environment.  Creating false rumor, character assassination on a militant prisoner.


Letter from Sen. McConnell: (RE:) WRDA of 2016 (S. 2848) This legislation supports several projects in Kentucky



Image result for wrda 2016 senate

Dear Ms. Krider;

Thank you for contacting me regarding America’s waterway infrastructure. I appreciate your taking the time to make me aware of your concerns, and I welcome the opportunity to respond. 

I have long been a tireless advocate for more than 15,000 inland waterways jobs in Kentucky and have used my position as a senior member of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee to advance Kentucky’s inland waterways projects, including the Olmsted Locks and Dam project and the Kentucky Lock and Dam project, among others. You may be interested to know that I was honored by the American Maritime Partnership by being awarded the Champion of Maritime Award in 2014.

As you may know, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) undertakes projects to maintain and restore the nation’s waterways, which are authorized by Congress in Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA). Additionally, WRDA provides for the conservation and development of water resources and authorizes various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors in the United States.

In your correspondence, you expressed your support for the WRDA of 2016 (S. 2848). This legislation supports several projects in Kentucky, including one that will transfer aging infrastructure along the Green and Barren Rivers in Kentucky over to state and local entities so they can determine the best use of this infrastructure, and one that will help the citizens of Paducah better protect themselves from flooding from the Ohio River by helping complete repairs to the city’s flood protection infrastructure.

This legislation also includes assistance for the families affected by lead poisoning, like those in Flint, Michigan, including $100 million for drinking water emergencies, $70 million to subsidize loans for water infrastructure projects, $50 million to help communities comply with drinking water standards, $30 million to reduce lead exposure among children, and $20 million to develop a national lead exposure registry.

Like you, I am very appreciative of the importance of our nation’s inland waterways and flood mitigation infrastructure to our nation, and to the Commonwealth. I am also aware of the importance of WRDA to workers and businesses that rely on our nation’s waterways. For this reason, I was proud to support the WRDA of 2016, which passed the Senate by a vote of 95-3 on September 15, 2016. You may be interested to know that the House of Representatives passed their version of WRDA (H.R. 5303) on September 28, 2016 by a vote of 399-25. Please know that as the House and Senate work towards resolving differences between the two versions, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind. 

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. If you would like to receive periodic updates from my office, please sign up for my eNewsletter at, become a fan of my page on Facebook by visiting or follow my office on Twitter @McConnellPress. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to keep me informed about issues important to you.



Dr. J. Thomas Ungerleider, a UCLA psychiatrist who was among the first researchers to prove the medical benefits of marijuana, has died.




By Soumya Karlamangla

Dr. J. Thomas Ungerleider, a UCLA psychiatrist who was among the first researchers to prove the medical benefits of marijuana, has died. He was 85.

Ungerleider died in his home in Encino on Sept. 19 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, John Ungerleider. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, Ungerleider ran clinical trials that demonstrated  marijuana’s therapeutic effects for patients with glaucoma and chemotherapy. He also served on President Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, which recommended decriminalizing pot, and became an early champion of treating drug addiction as a public health problem instead of a criminal one.

“He was a real pioneer,” said Dr. David Smith, his close friend and colleague who founded the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco.

Ungerleider was born in 1931 in Cleveland to Constance Levison and Harold Ungerleider. He graduated from the University of Michigan and attended medical school and residency at Case Western Reserve University. He then became a U.S. Army captain who served as a base psychiatrist at Fort Ord, Calif.

A few years after Ungerleider started as an assistant professor at UCLA in 1962, people began showing up in the psychiatric ward with hallucinations and anxiety, saying they’d taken a drug no one knew much about: LSD.

Ungerleider was asked to investigate. 

He began surveying people who dropped acid at love-ins and at Timothy Leary’s ranch in Orange County. He became one of the first researchers to document the adverse effects of LSD, during a time when people like Leary were advocating for its beneficial effects, Smith said. 

John Ungerleider said that when he was a teenager one of his father’s colleagues told him, “Your dad coined the term ‘bad trip’ for LSD.”

In the early 1970s, Nixon appointed Ungerleider to the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, often referred to as the Shafer Commission. The 13-member group traveled around the world for a year studying the effects of pot.

Surprising many, the commission concluded that marijuana wasn’t a particularly dangerous drug and that people shouldn’t be subject to criminal charges for possessing it, essentially making it legal for use in homes.

The idea that drug use is a public health problem, not a criminal one, was controversial at the time, Smith said, but it has become a blueprint for how we understand addiction today. 

Nixon ignored the commission’s recommendations and pushed forward with the war on drugs. 

John Ungerledier said his father had been a Republican, but because he so strongly opposed the government meddling in people’s private choices — in this case, regarding drug usage — he began sometimes voting for Democratic candidates.

“He really had a sense of that being wrong, even if he wasn’t somebody who liked to partake,” he said. 

Ungerleider went on to investigate the medical benefits of marijuana and learned that THC helped ease the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and could also help reduce the eye pressure that leads to glaucoma.

He wrote in a 1999 paper that marijuana had a “limited but definite role in medicine,” and whether it’s appropriate for patients should be physicians’ decisions, instead of a legal standard.

“We never seem able to grasp the fact that no drug is inherently good or evil,” he wrote.

Ungerleider also ran treatment programs throughout the L.A. area for people with substance abuse problems and helped care for homeless with mental health issues.

Therese Andrysiak Van Hoof, who worked with Ungerleider as a nurse for decades, said he did a lot of hands-on work because he wanted to improve the lives of real people.

“He wasn’t a scholar’s scholar,” she said. “He met you where you were.”

While speaking on a panel in Woodland Hills in 1967, Ungerleider urged parents to empathize with their kids who wanted to try drugs. He didn’t think they were safe — he didn’t support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, his son said — but he didn’t think they should be so taboo.

“Kids get frightened when we don’t tell them what to explore and help them do it. I’m against our ostrich policy, hiding our heads in the sand, refusing to discuss drugs with them, and even forbidding them to discuss the subject. That’s terrible,” Ungerleider said, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

A girl in the audience then asked for his advice for someone who plans to take drugs.

“God help you,” he replied.

In addition to his son, Ungerleider is survived by his wife, Dorothy, his daughter, Shoshana Margoliot, six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.


Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use…

Interview: Why the US Should Decriminalize Drug Use




Neal Scott may die in prison. A 49-year-old Black man from New Orleans, Neal had cycled in and out of prison for drug possession over a number of years. He said he was never offered treatment for his drug dependence; instead, the criminal justice system gave him time behind bars and felony convictions—most recently, five years for possessing a small amount of cocaine and a crack pipe. When Neal was arrested in May 2015, he was homeless and could not walk without pain, struggling with a rare autoimmune disease that required routine hospitalizations. Because he could not afford his $7,500 bond, Neal remained in jail for months, where he did not receive proper medication and his health declined drastically—one day he even passed out in the courtroom. Neal eventually pled guilty because he would face a minimum of 20 years in prison if he took his drug possession case to trial and lost. He told us that he cried the day he pled, because he knew he might not survive his sentence.[1]


Just short of her 30th birthday, Nicole Bishop spent three months in jail in Houston for heroin residue in an empty baggie and cocaine residue inside a plastic straw. Although the prosecutor could have charged misdemeanor paraphernalia, he sought felony drug possession charges instead. They would be her first felonies.

Nicole was separated from her three young children, including her breastfeeding newborn. When the baby visited Nicole in jail, she could not hear her mother’s voice or feel her touch because there was thick glass between them. Nicole finally accepted a deal from the prosecutor: she would do seven months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea for the 0.01 grams of heroin found in the baggie, and he would dismiss the straw charge. She would return to her children later that year, but as a “felon” and “drug offender.” As a result, Nicole said she would lose her student financial aid and have to give up pursuit of a degree in business administration. She would have trouble finding a job and would not be able to have her name on the lease for the home she shared with her husband. She would no longer qualify for the food stamps she had relied on to help feed her children. As she told us, she would end up punished for the rest of her life.


Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use, just as Neal and Nicole were. Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime. More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year. And despite officials’ claims that drug laws are meant to curb drug sales, four times as many people are arrested for possessing drugs as are arrested for selling them.

As a result of these arrests, on any given day at least 137,000 men and women are behind bars in the United States for drug possession, some 48,000 of them in state prisons and 89,000 in jails, most of the latter in pretrial detention. Each day, tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees. Their criminal records lock them out of jobs, housing, education, welfare assistance, voting, and much more, and subject them to discrimination and stigma. The cost to them and to their families and communities, as well as to the taxpayer, is devastating. Those impacted are disproportionately communities of color and the poor.

This report lays bare the human costs of criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the US, focusing on four states: Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and New York. Drawing from over 365 interviews with people arrested and prosecuted for their drug use, attorneys, officials, activists, and family members, and extensive new analysis of national and state data, the report shows how criminalizing drug possession has caused dramatic and unnecessary harms in these states and around the country, both for individuals and for communities that are subject to discriminatory enforcement.

There are injustices and corresponding harms at every stage of the criminal process, harms that are all the more apparent when, as often happens, police, prosecutors, or judges respond to drug use as aggressively as the law allows. This report covers each stage of that process, beginning with searches, seizures, and the ways that drug possession arrests shape interactions with and perceptions of the police—including for the family members and friends of individuals who are arrested. We examine the aggressive tactics of many prosecutors, including charging people with felonies for tiny, sometimes even “trace” amounts of drugs, and detail how pretrial detention and long sentences combine to coerce the overwhelming majority of drug possession defendants to plead guilty, including, in some cases, individuals who later prove to be innocent.

The report also shows how probation and criminal justice debt often hang over people’s heads long after their conviction, sometimes making it impossible for them to move on or make ends meet. Finally, through many stories, we recount how harmful the long-term consequences of incarceration and a criminal record that follow a conviction for drug possession can be—separating parents from young children and excluding individuals and sometimes families from welfare assistance, public housing, voting, employment opportunities, and much more.

Families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take actions to prevent the potential harms of drug use and drug dependence. Yet the current model of criminalization does little to help people whose drug use has become problematic. Treatment for those who need and want it is often unavailable, and criminalization tends to drive people who use drugs underground, making it less likely that they will access care and more likely that they will engage in unsafe practices that make them vulnerable to disease and overdose.

While governments have a legitimate interest in preventing problematic drug use, the criminal law is not the solution. Criminalizing drug use simply has not worked as a matter of practice. Rates of drug use fluctuate, but they have not declined significantly since the “war on drugs” was declared more than four decades ago. The criminalization of drug use and possession is also inherently problematic because it represents a restriction on individual rights that is neither necessary nor proportionate to the goals it seeks to accomplish. It punishes an activity that does not directly harm others.

Instead, governments should expand public education programs that accurately describe the risks and potential harms of drug use, including the potential to cause drug dependence, and should increase access to voluntary, affordable, and evidence-based treatment for drug dependence and other medical and social services outside the court and prison system.

After decades of “tough on crime” policies, there is growing recognition in the US that governments need to undertake meaningful criminal justice reform and that the “war on drugs” has failed. This report shows that although taking on parts of the problem—such as police abuse, long sentences, and marijuana reclassification—is critical, it is not enough: Criminalization is simply the wrong response to drug use and needs to be rethought altogether.

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on all states and the federal government to decriminalize the use and possession for personal use of all drugs and to focus instead on prevention and harm reduction. Until decriminalization has been achieved, we urge officials to take strong measures to minimize and mitigate the harmful consequences of existing laws and policies. The costs of the status quo, as this report shows, are too great to bear.





"If some of you are here thinking I’m going to elaborate on the presidential election, let me disabuse you of that notion,"


Image result for sen mcconnell in paducah ky

Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks July 19 on the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

WASHINGTON — Republicans nervously eyeing the White House race are learning a lesson with Donald Trump that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell painfully learned in 2010 and 2012.

Faulty outsider candidates blew several perfectly winnable Senate elections those years. Since then, the crafty Kentuckian has tried to make all the right moves. McConnell, the top fundraiser and field general for the Senate Republicans, helped orchestrate the 2014 midterm romp that delivered the Senate back to his party. McConnell and national Republicans aggressively swung behind incumbents and favored candidates while crushing the chances of tea partyers and far-right hopefuls unlikely to prevail in the general election.

McConnell-backed candidates swept this year’s primary cycle. He helped convince Sen. Marco Rubio to run for re-election after the Floridian’s failed presidential bid, boosting the GOP chances of holding the seat. Just two weeks ago, the GOP was cautiously optimistic that the party would retain control of the Senate despite defending 24 of the 34 seats up for grabs this year.

It all may prove futile.

Trump was already sinking in opinion polls after his poor performance in his first debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton last month. His crude, predatory comments about women in a 2005 videotape that leaked on Friday threatened to scuttle his campaign altogether and take the GOP’s Senate majority with it.

McConnell is a disciplined politician, and when it comes to Trump, the senator has kept as quiet as possible after a brief statement in May signaling his support for the presidential nominee. On Monday, as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., stoked controversy by vowing never to campaign for Trump, McConnell simply kept his own counsel.

“If some of you are here thinking I’m going to elaborate on the presidential election, let me disabuse you of that notion,” McConnell said in an address to the Danville, Kentucky, Chamber of Commerce. “If you are interested in the presidential election you might as well go ahead and leave because I don’t have any observations to make about it.”

For Republicans, Trump is reminiscent of Senate candidates like Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Todd Akin of Missouri, who defeated establishment favorites in GOP primaries in 2012 only to make politically stupid remarks about rape and lose by wide margins in states swept by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In 2010, bad tea party candidates lost in Nevada, Delaware and Colorado, enabling Democrats to hold those seats in spite of that year’s Republican wave.

“The biggest lesson that the Senate side had learned that perhaps the rest of the party has lagged on is that in order to win general elections you need to win primary elections with candidates who have a broad mainstream appeal,” said GOP consultant Josh Holmes, a McConnell confidante and former campaign manager. “What manifested itself in Senate elections in ’10 and ’12, that was subsequently corrected in ’14 and ’16 and has for the first time hit the national stage.”


The DEA is withdrawing a proposal to ban another plant after the Internet got really mad

By Christopher Ingraham October 12 at 10:42 AM

The Drug Enforcement Administration is reversing a widely criticized decision that would have banned the use of kratom, a plant that researchers say could help mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic.

Citing the public outcry and a need to obtain more research, the DEA is withdrawing its notice of intent to ban the drug, according to a preliminary document that will be posted to the Federal Register Thursday.

The move is “shocking,” according to John Hudak, who studies drug policy at the Brookings Institution. “The DEA is not one to second-guess itself, no matter what the facts are.”

The DEA had announced in August that it planned to place kratom in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive regulatory category, as soon as Sept. 30. But since announcing their intent to ban kratom, the “DEA has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action,” acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in the notice, “and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action.”

A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[What it’s like to be high on kratom, according to the people who use it]

Kratom is a plant from southeast Asia that’s related to coffee. It contains a number of chemical compounds that produce effects similar to opiates when ingested.

People who take it have have said kratom helped them overcome addiction to opiates or alcohol and treat otherwise intractable pain. Researchers say that their work with kratom could eventually lead to the development of nonaddictive alternatives to powerful opiate painkillers. Placing kratom in schedule 1 would cripple researchers ability to study the drug, they say.

U.S. lawmakers were among the groups expressing their displeasure with the DEA’s intent to ban kratom. A group of 51 U.S. representatives wrote to the DEA saying that the DEA’s move “threatens the transparency of the scheduling process and its responsiveness to the input of both citizens and the scientific community.”

Another group of nine senators said the DEA’s “use of this emergency authority for a natural substance is unprecedented,” and urged the administration to reconsider.

The DEA will now open up a period for public comment until Dec. 1 of this year. It is also asking the FDA to expedite a “scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation” for the active chemical compounds in kratom.

At the close of the comment period, a number of things could happen. The DEA could decide to permanently place the plant in a schedule of the Controlled Substances Act, which would require an additional period for lawmakers and the public to weigh in. It could also decide to temporarily schedule kratom, which would not require any additional comment.

It could also decide to leave kratom unregulated.

[Police arrest more people for marijuana use than for all violent crimes — combined]

Advocates for kratom use, who say the plant has helped them treat pain and stop taking more powerful and deadly opiate painkillers said they are elated.

“I am in tears,” Susan Ash of the American Kratom Association said in an email. “Our voices are being heard, but we still have a long road ahead of us.

Lawmakers who criticized the initial announcement to ban kratom are also pleased. “Concerned citizens across the country have made it clear, they want the DEA to listen to the science when it comes to the potentially life-saving properties of kratom,” said Mark Pocan (D.-Wis.) in an email.

Researchers are welcoming the move, but they point out that the future of their work with the plant is an uncertain one.

“It’s certainly a positive development,” said Andrew Kruegel of Columbia University in an email. Kruegel is one of the researchers working to develop next-generation painkillers based on compounds contained in kratom.

Kruegel says that the FDA’s evaluation of the drug will carry a lot of weight in the DEA’s decision. But the kind of rigorous, controlled trials that the FDA typically refers to in situations like this simply don’t exist for kratom.

“Unfortunately, in the United States I don’t think we have a good regulatory framework for handling this situation or taking perhaps more reasonable middle paths” between banning the drug outright or keeping it unregulated, Kruegel says.

Still, he says, “the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency, so I am encouraged that they will now be having more serious input on this important policy decision.”

Marc Swogger, a clinical psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has published research on kratom use and earlier called the decision to ban the plant “insane,” said in an email that “I’m happy to see this. It is a step in the right direction and a credit to people who have spoken out against scheduling this plant.”


New Study Confirms Marijuana Use Up Drastically in Workforce

Cully Stimson / @cullystimson / October 12, 2016 / comments

This November, there are a record number of ballot initiatives in at least nine states regarding so-called medical marijuana or outright legalization of the Schedule I drug. The pot pushers, both small businesses and large, want more people smoking, eating, and consuming more pot because it is good for their bottom line.

Before voting yes, voters—and, in particular, employers—should take a look at more disturbing data that was released two weeks ago at a national conference.

At the annual Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association conference, Quest Diagnostics—one of the nation’s largest drug-testing companies—unveiled the results of its Drug Testing Index. The index examines illicit drug use by workers in America each year.

In 2015, Quest examined more than 9.5 million urine, 900,000 oral fluid, and 200,000 hair drug samples. Following years of decline in overall illegal drug usage, the results showed that the percentage of employees testing positive for illicit drugs has steadily increased over the last three years to a 10-year high.

The Drug Testing Index is an analysis of test results from three categories of workers—including federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the general workforce, and the combined U.S. workforce

Oral fluid drug testing results—best at detecting recent drug usage—showed an overall positivity rate increase of 47 percent over the last three years in the general workforce to 9.1 percent in 2015 from 6.7 percent in 2013.

According to Quest, the increase was “largely driven by double-digit increases in marijuana positivity.” In fact, according to the report, in 2015 there was a “25 percent relative increase in marijuana detection as compared to 2014.” The report also showed a significant increase in heroin positivity in urine tests for federally mandated safety-sensitive employees.

Another disturbing trend is the rising positivity rate for post-accident urine drug testing in both the general U.S. and the federal mandated, safety-sensitive workforces. According to the index, post-accident positivity increased 6.2 percent in 2015, compared to 2014, and increased a whopping 30 percent since 2011.

To those of us who have warned about the growing liberalization of the use of marijuana, from so-called “medical marijuana” to recreational abuse of the Schedule I drug, the results of the index are all too predictable.

It is also not surprising that none of the major organizations that push for pot legalization and decriminalization of marijuana have written major stories about the Quest Diagnostics report.

The more people use marijuana, the more likely it is that those who work and are subject to testing will pop positive for marijuana, even in safety-sensitive jobs. Think about that next time you hop on an airplane, ride Amtrak, or go about your daily life thinking everyone is focused on their job and your safety.


Why are more Americans in jail for marijuana use than violent crime?

More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….On any given day in the US, at least 137,000 Americans are in prison on drug possession, not sales, charges, says a new report that finds that the “tough on drugs” policies may be disproportionately affecting low-income, black Americans.

By Ellen Powell, Staff October 12, 2016

More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….

The report, released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, points out that violent crime arrests in the US have dropped 36 percent in the past two decades. Meanwhile, arrests for drug possession – including marijuana and other illicit drugs – are up 13 percent. Those arrests tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with high crime rates, where police officers are on the lookout for any offense. As a result, lower-income, black Americans are most likely to be arrested for possessing even trace amounts of illicit drugs. (Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be arrested on drug-related charges, according to federal data, even though they use drugs at the same rate as white Americans.) Those who can’t afford to post bail spend substantial amounts of time in jail, even before their case goes to trial.

Tougher sentencing was intended to get chronic repeat offenders off the street, reduce drug use, and protect public health. But the “tough on drugs” policy prevalent since the 1980s isn’t working, the report argues. Criminalizing drug possession is derailing individuals’ lives and hurting the families who depend on them, while doing little to prevent drug use and abuse.

“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Tess Borden, the study’s author, said in a Human Rights Watch press release. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”


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The report comes at a time when the Obama administration and a bipartisan effort in Congress has already taken steps at judicial reform. For example, the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act erased a 5-year-minimum sentence for simple crack possession. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, “much of the Obama administration’s work has been done courthouse by courthouse. For one, the Department of Justice has guided prosecutors to curb the use of mandatory minimums for drug crimes. But the president has also made broader strokes.” 

Since 2014, the Obama administration expanded the criteria for clemency-seekers, leading to hundreds of who were given long-term sentences for drug charges to be released. 

But the ALCU report says that in some states, such as Texas, a “habitual offender” law means prosecutors still can push for longer sentences, including life sentences, for those with two prior convictions. The actual amount of the drug that individuals possess doesn’t matter.

And what most concerns many low-income Americans is the impact on families. While the accused are in jail, even before trial, they’re not earning a wage, meaning that in some homes the water and lights could be cut off. A woman in Louisiana with a prison record told the rights groups that because of her probation, her family could not get food stamps for a year. That means her children will be eating whatever she can find in the dumpster, she explained. It can also be hard for those arrested to find a job when they get out. 

“When you’re a low-income person of color using drugs, you’re criminalized…. When we’re locked up, we’re not only locked in but also locked out. Locked out of housing…. Locked out of employment and other services,” said one New York City man who had been repeatedly arrested for drug charges over the past 30 years.

Criminalizing drugs, the report says, can actually increase the risks associated with drug use. Driving traffic underground “discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.”

The report calls for an increase in rehabilitation programs and a move to treat drug use as a public health issue, rather than lumping it in with violent crime. That’s an approach the Obama administration is on-board with, Mario Moreno, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, suggested. “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem,” he told CBS.


Bayer and Monsanto: a marriage made in hell

US agriculture giant Monsanto has agreed to a US$66 billion takeover by German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer. If the deal is approved by international regulators, Bayer-Monsanto will become the world’s biggest agribusiness, controlling 29 percent of the global seed market and 24 percent of pesticides.

The companies have dismissed widespread concern about the deal among farmers and environmentalists as fear mongering. Separately, they claim, their products have contributed to a significant boost in crop yields over the past few decades. Together, they’ll be able to increase investment in research and development, driving the agricultural innovation necessary to meet the demands of a growing world population.

We can only imagine what kind of new health and environmental threats may lurk in the “step change” a company like Bayer-Monsanto will make in an effort to restore profits.

In assessing the claims and counterclaims, we would do well to heed the words of radical US historian Howard Zinn: “If you don’t know history, it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can you tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it”.

Monsanto’s horrible history

Monsanto is one of the world’s worst corporate criminals.

Founded in 1901 in St Louis, Missouri, as a producer of artificial sweetener for Coca-Cola, Monsanto had its first big break in the 1930s, when it established itself as the sole US manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls, otherwise known as PCBs.

Monsanto’s profits soared. Evidence quickly mounted, however, that the chemicals were highly toxic and carcinogenic. As early as 1955, an internal document acknowledged, “We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined”. Nevertheless, the company continued producing PCBs until they were finally banned by the US government in 1979.

During World War II, Monsanto partnered with the US government on the Manhattan Project to produce the world’s first nuclear weapon, turning over one of their labs to the manufacture of polonium – a highly radioactive substance composing part of the ignition mechanism for the bomb.

In the 1960s, Monsanto was one of the main producers of Agent Orange – the chemical used by the US military to defoliate vast swathes of jungle during the Vietnam War. It contained a highly toxic dioxin by-product, exposure to which is associated with reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage, interference with hormones and cancer. Millions of Vietnamese people, and many US and allied country veterans, including Australians, continue to suffer the consequences to this day.

When it wasn’t busy with chemical warfare overseas, Monsanto was waging it at home. From the 1940s, it joined a number of other companies in producing vast quantities of the powerful insecticide DDT, the environmental and health effects of which – powerfully documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring – led to it being banned in 1972.

In more recent times, Monsanto’s negative press has come mainly from its status as producer of the widely used herbicide Roundup. Roundup was first sold by Monsanto in 1974. However, until the mid-1990s its use was limited due to the fact that it killed many crops as well as weeds. This all changed after 1996, when Monsanto introduced its genetically modified “Roundup Ready” soybeans, followed by corn in 1998. Now farmers’ fields could be sprayed with herbicide without damaging the crop.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is now history’s most widely used agricultural chemical. In 1987, around 5 million kilograms of it were used on US farms. Today, that figure is 136 million. A 2015 study in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe calculated that, globally, 8.5 billion kilograms of it have been sprayed onto fields. Monsanto’s revenue from Roundup and associated products was nearly US$5 billion in 2015.

This is bad news for human health and the environment. As with PCBs, DDT and Agent Orange before it, it seems glyphosate may be another Monsanto contribution to the “cancer industry”. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, and the company is currently defending itself against numerous lawsuits from farmers with cancer.

Given the widespread, and increasing, use of Roundup in Australia and around the world, this may be just the start.

Bayer: heroin and Nazis

Bayer may not boast quite the array of crimes of its US counterpart, but the sheer depravity of those it has committed is unmatched.

The company was founded in Barmen, Germany, in 1863. From its original line of business – making dyes from coal – it expanded into a chemical and pharmaceutical giant. In 1897, Bayer developed aspirin, which became the world’s first mass-market drug.

Two weeks later, it stumbled across a new “wonder drug” – a stronger version of opium which it named “heroin”. For the next 15 years, heroin was freely marketed and sold around the world as “a sedative for coughs”. Ironically, it was also often prescribed by doctors to patients struggling with morphine addiction.

During the severe economic crisis that followed World War I, Bayer merged with a number of other chemical and pharmaceutical companies to form the giant conglomerate IG Farben. In the early 1930s, IG Farben was among the biggest corporate donors to the Nazis – helping them consolidate power.

During World War II, the company was rewarded for its support with contracts for the supply of synthetic rubber, fuel and explosives to the Nazis and other Axis powers. One of its main centres of wartime production was Auschwitz. There and elsewhere, it made ample use of the slave labour of prisoners in the Nazi death camps.However, this wasn’t the darkest chapter in its alliance with Nazism. Not only was it profiting from the forced labour of Jewish and other prisoners in the camps. It was also profiting from their murder. IG Farben owned a 42 percent stake in another company, Degesch, which manufactured Zyklon B – one of the main chemicals used in the Nazi gas chambers.

After the war, the IG Farben conglomerate was broken up, and Bayer emerged again as an independent entity. Was it sorry for the direct role it played in the holocaust? Evidently not.

In 1956, Bayer appointed Fritz ter Meer as its new company chair, a role he continued in until his retirement in 1961. During the war, as a member of the IG Farben board, ter Meer played a leading role in the planning and construction of the forced labour camps at Auschwitz. On the stand at the Nuremburg IG Farben trial in 1948, he claimed that no specific harm was inflicted on workers in the camps as “without this they would have been killed anyway”.

In a particularly grotesque touch, following ter Meer’s death in 1967, Bayer established the Fritz ter Meer Foundation (later renamed as the Bayer Science & Education Foundation), to provide scholarships to German chemistry students.

Neither did Bayer hesitate at the prospect of getting involved again in the chemical warfare industry. In the early 1950s,it established the US-based Mobay Chemical Corporation, a joint venture with – you guessed it – Monsanto, that went on to supply one of the key, dioxin-contaminated, ingredients of Agent Orange.

Finally, in the 1980s, it was one of a number of companies selling plasma-based haemophilia treatments that infected thousands of people with HIV.

Should we trust Bayer-Monsanto with the future of global agricultural production? On balance, probably not.

Concentration of capital

The Bayer-Monsanto deal is just one among three proposed mergers among the “Big 6” global seed and pesticide giants, which also include BASF, DuPont, Dow Chemical and Syngenta. Dow Chemical and DuPont announced a US$130 billion merger in December, and earlier this year Syngenta agreed to a US$43 billion sale to China National Chemical Corporation.

In 1994, the four biggest global seed companies controlled 21 percent of the market. If all the proposed mergers currently on the table are approved, just three giant companies – Bayer-Monsanto, ChemChina-Syngenta and Dow DuPont – will control 59 percent of the global seed market and 64 percent of pesticides.

In Capital, Karl Marx wrote about this process of concentration and centralisation. In the short term, it can spur technological development and productivity gains. In the long term, however, it’s part of the capitalist system’s inherent tendency to crisis.

The agricultural industry shows the contradiction. The current rash of mergers isn’t a sign of health. Rather, like the heady rush to agglomeration in the banking and financial sector in the run-up to the 2008-09 global financial crisis, it’s a sign of an industry stumbling towards its destructive limits.

Past innovation has helped boost yields to the point where the world is now experiencing a glut of many products. Prices have declined, and farmers are struggling to stay afloat.

The total income of US farmers has dropped from US$123.8 billion in 2013 to just $71.5 billion in 2016. This, in turn, has put the squeeze on the profits of companies like Monsanto, as farmers simply can’t afford to pay the high prices demanded for their products.

At the same time, it’s clear that a new wave of innovation is necessary for yields to continue to grow in the decades ahead. The possibly devastating long term health and environmental impacts of Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer aren’t its only problem. It also, increasingly, doesn’t work. Weeds are developing resistance, and new products will be necessary to address this.

There is a kernel of truth in the Bayer-Monsanto PR spin: to sustain its business model, it needs to innovate. Innovation, however, is expensive. According to Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, “Fifteen years ago, we spent $300 million on R&D. Today we spend $1.5 billion … To realise a step-change, agricultural companies will need to invest more”.

We can only imagine what kind of new health and environmental threats may lurk in the “step change” a company like Bayer-Monsanto will make in an effort to restore profits. Given the history, we can, unfortunately, expect that it will come at a high cost to human society and the environment on which we depend.


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