Tag Archives: Marijuana

Drug Policy Action Congressional Voter Guide


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U.S. Reps Graded on Seven Bills Affecting Marijuana, Hemp, and New Psychoactive Substances
Congressional Support for Drug Policy Reform Surges; Reps Earning Perfect Grade Doubles in Two Years

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 25, 2016.  Today, Drug Policy Action released its 2016 Congressional Voter Guide which grades members of Congress on how they voted on seven key drug policy reform votes in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015 and 2016 (there were no drug policy votes on the Senate floor that could be scored).

A record number of U.S. House Representatives earned a perfect score (“A” grade) – more than double the number of Representatives who earned a perfect score from Drug Policy Action in 2014. More than half of all U.S. Representatives (177 Democrats and 64 Republicans) earned a “C” or better.



Drug Busts Still Lead Arrest Statistics, Even as Marijuana Prohibition Fades


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As troubled as our country is at the moment, divided between two main mutually contemptuous (and contemptible) political blocs, facing a rising generation seemingly frightened by the exchange of ideas inherent in a devotion to protecting free speech, and apparently committed to placing either a psychopath or a sociopath in the White House, at least the country is winding down the depredations caused by drug prohibition. Four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and many more have made it available as a medical treatment. Their ranks are likely to be joined after November by—

What’s that you say? Cops are still filling out their arrest quotas with drug busts?

Holy crap. You’re right.

“The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,488,707 arrests),” the FBI announced about its recently released crime statistics for 2015. Drug busts were followed by “larceny-theft (estimated at 1,160,390), and driving under the influence (estimated at 1,089,171).”

By comparison, there were 505,681 arrests for violent crimes, and 1,463,213 busts for property crimes of any sort.

I already know the naysayers are going to chime in with complaints that the people busted weren’t all simple users. There were dealers in that mix! And manufacturers! And some folks dealing while manufacturing and using.

Well, so what?

In most areas of human life, we recognize that industry and commerce are perfectly peaceful activities—and beneficial ones that produce prosperity and put food on the table. Drug laws may make industry and commerce in disfavored intoxicants illegal, but that doesn’t render such activities inherently less peaceful and prosperity-inducing. As we saw with our national misadventure in banning alcohol, it takes a prohibition to introduce violence into a trade that might otherwise be as work-a-day as any other.

“[I]ncreases in enforcement of drug and alcohol prohibition have been associated with increases in the homicide rate, and auxiliary evidence suggests this positive correlation reflects a causal effect of prohibition enforcement on homicide,” Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron concluded in 1999 after studying the issue in-depth. “The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs,” he emphasized 10 years later.

But for the sake of argument, let’s concede the point. Trafficking is bad, mmkay?

If we dig deeper into those FBI figures, we find that only 16.1 percent of them were for sale and manufacturing. Possession made up 83.9 percent of drug arrests in 2015. That is, the vast majority of arrests for all categories of drugs had nothing to do with making or selling illegal substances, if that’s the sort of thing that matters to you.

And yes, those drug arrests represent the lowest level of marijuana busts in 20 years. But that’s a drop after a big surge during that time, and we still saw over 643,000 arrests for the leafy stuff (over 574,000 if you want to stick to that “possession” distinction). And again, a total of 1,488,707 busts by police just for using or trading in marijuana, cocaine, meth, and other officially disfavored intoxicants of people’s choice—the largest category of arrests.

That’s a lot of folks slapped into handcuffs over stuff that makes everybody but government officials and their hangers-on feel good. (Well, a lot of them like the stuff too, but they rarely have to worry that they’ll be wrestled to the ground as a consequence.)

And never mind the outcome of those arrests—whether or not possession busts ultimately result in hard time. Any encounter with the police is likely to be an unpleasant one. It’s astounding how many people picked up on even minor charges manage to expire under mysterious circumstances.

As we’ve seen before, prohibition is a bit of an industry all of its own. Harvard historian Lisa McGirr writes in her 2015 book, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, of the “federal penal state” that emerged from Prohibition. “The war on alcohol and the war on drugs were symbiotic campaigns,” McGirr told Reason in an interview. “Those two campaigns emerged together, [and] they had the same shared…logic. Many of the same individuals were involved in both campaigns.”

That penal state at the local, state, and federal level hasn’t shrunk an iota in personnel or power in the intervening years. “There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States, which is the highest figure ever,” the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund boasts on its website. Those officers need something to do to justify their employment, and while the FBI reports an uptick in violent crime in 2015, that’s after many years of decline–and overall arrests still dropped. “Arrests of juveniles for all offenses decreased 8.4 percent in 2015 when compared with the 2014 number; arrests of adults decreased 3.0 percent,” according to the Uniform Crime Report.

Now the war against marijuana is winding down—several more state are likely to loosen restrictions through ballot initiatives this year. Out of a sheer lack of opportunity, marijuana arrests will have to drop in jurisdictions where the stuff just isn’t illegal. That leaves other drugs, but they don’t have the same popularity, and seem unlikely to keep “the highest figure ever” busy making arrests.

But a never-ending war on booze, or drugs, or other forbidden consensual activities has kept all those cops and prison guards and interagency task forces gainfully employed through the decades.

It makes you wonder what category of prohibition will lead the arrest statistics a few years from now.

    J.D. Tuccille is a former managing editor of Reason.com and current contributing editor.

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    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.


    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.


    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.


    Clinton Gave Thumbs Down to Legal Marijuana, Leak Shows

    By Tom Angell on October 10th, 2016


    Image result for marijuana and hillary clinton

    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke out against legalizing marijuana in a paid speech, hacked emails from her campaign show.

    During an on-stage Q & A session with Xerox’s chairman and CEO in March 2014, Clinton used Wall Street terminology to express her opposition to ending cannabis prohibition “in all senses of the word”:

    URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don’t. I’m going to start with — I’m going to give you about ten long-shorts.

    SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can’t answer short.

    URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot?

    SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word.

    The excerpt comes from an internal Clinton campaign memo highlighting potentially problematic passages from her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Deutsche Bank and other major corporations.

    Other excerpts from the 80-page document, published by Wikileaks after a hack on Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, show the former U.S. secretary of state admitting she is “far removed” from the struggles of the middle class, arguing that politicians need to have separate positions on issues in public and in private and supporting “open trade and open borders.”

    Over the course of the past year, the Clinton campaign forcefully refused calls to release the speech transcripts from her Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports legalization and has introduced legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition.

    That the campaign flagged the candidate’s opposition to legalization as a potential problem demonstrates a growing understanding by political operatives that marijuana law reform is now a mainstream issue, one which is supported by a majority of Americans and a supermajority of Democratic primary voters.

    While Clinton has made no secret in public appearances that she isn’t ready to endorse full legalization, she has usually framed her position as taking a wait-and-see approach, wanting to give laws like those in Colorado and other states a chance to work before she makes up her mind about ending prohibition.

    The leaked Xerox excerpt, in contrast, positions her as strongly opposed to legalization.

    But the remarks were made two-and-a-half years ago, just two months after legal marijuana sales began in Colorado, so it is possible that Clinton’s personal view of legalization has legitimately softened in the interim.

    During the course of her presidential campaign, Clinton has highlighted support for letting states set their own cannabis policies without federal interference and has pledged to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act if elected.

    But advocates have pushed the candidate to go even further by offering a personal endorsement for the policy of legalization, arguing that doing so could help Clinton win back support from wayward millennial voters who are supporting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or Jill Stein of the Green Party, both of whom have made support for ending cannabis prohibition centerpieces of their campaigns.

    The newly-leaked documents showing Clinton’s strong opposition to legalization in a private appearance, combined with comments from the candidate’s daughter Chelsea last month implying that marijuana use can lead to death, could present an added sense of urgency for Clinton to evolve on the question of ending prohibition prior to Election Day.

    To see what else Hillary Clinton has said about cannabis law reform, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.


    Cannabis oil changing, improving lives




    JJust down from lush Lexington pastures where horses graze, a winged child searches for caterpillars on a warm September evening. Her name is Paige Charles, and she hopes to be a fairy when she grows up. The costume the 13-year-old wears reflects this desire.

    A quiet breeze carries the scent of earthiness from the green buds that surround her. Oil from these hemp plants has transformed Paige. With its use, she no longer rages through her days. Calmness transcends her. Within a month on the CBD oil, she became potty trained. Now she reads, something her doctors never imagined.

    “She started communicating with her words,” says her mother Brenda Charles, who with her husband adopted Paige shortly after her birth. “Sometimes they were loud words, but she was using them. We were happy.”

    The aggressive behaviors brought on by her autism and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have gone away. No more restraints used on her at school. No more tantrums.

    “We continue to see her beautiful personality blossom,” Brenda says. “I don’t know where we would be without it.”

    Legislation enacted by both Kentucky and the federal government allowed this magic to happen for children like Paige. In 2014, KY Senate Bill 124 legalized cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, a compound found in cannabis plants. Time and time again, stories have been told about the oil’s tremendous properties to soothe a host of conditions. Seizures have been lessened. Anxiety decreased.

    Through the same legislation, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) also began both commercial licensing and a hemp pilot program, allowing farmers the chance to legally grow the once popular plant in the Bluegrass state for the first time in more than 50 years. As of 2016, 166 growers have been approved. Some experiment with industrial hemp fiber that can be turned into cloth, rope or even biofuels; others with the powerful oil that can be pressed from its buds and seeds.

    But federal laws contradicted these states attempts. Folks tend to unfairly lump hemp and its cannabis cousin marijuana into the same category. While related to pot, varieties of hemp contain high levels of CBD while containing little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the agent responsible for the mind-altering effects of marijuana. In other words, hemp and its oil can’t get users high.

    With the Farm Bill of 2014, supported by Kentucky’s  Sen. Mitch McConnell, the U.S. government provided support for hemp growers as well, legalizing the trade for research purposes in states that had already had enacted similar measures.

    Inconsistencies about the legality of hemp within the federal government do remain. Even as the plant remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the DEA, the industry continues to grow.

    The fields here at the Kentucky Cannabis Company in Lexington are proof of this.

    For founder Bill Polyniak, farming hemp and producing CBD oil is personal. His son Colten, who had his first seizure at 3 years old, takes his product. Repeated episodes of epilepsy can damage children’s growing brains, at times irreparably. Colten was experiencing hundreds a day. Doctors told his parents that his impairments would force him to never leave their house.

    After he began the CBD oil, his seizures stopped. So have the prescribed medications that wrecked his body with side effects. Now 11, Colten will play football for the first time, leading the life of a typical fifth grader.

    “When you get into the history of it and you sit here and look back today, I don’t give a rat’s ass about what the federal government says. Look at what the preponderance of evidence clearly dictates,” Bill says during a tour of his 4-acre Lexington facility.

    Additional fields, including 40 acres in Mercer County, have been bought as well. They sell their oil to all 50 states through their website, much of it to parents for their children. Even as a 1,000 pounds of hemp waits to be processed, the company finds it difficult to keep up with demand.

    “Kentucky, for the first time, is really ahead of the game… As manufacturers make higher and higher quality stuff, you’re going to start to see epilepsy get its ass kicked,” he says with energetic optimism. “The people of Kentucky, we’re moving forward, and the whole state has hope.”

    At the beginning of twilight, with an almost full moon traveling between the trees, Paige finally finds a wooly worm hidden in the edge of a greenhouse. She giggles as it tickles her palm.

    Promising research

    Dr. Gregory Barnes, Director of University of Louisville’s Autism Center, deals in both medicine and statistics.

    As part of the 2014 Kentucky legislation, the University of Louisville was allowed to conduct research and participate in Food and Drug Administration trials involving CBD oil. Barnes works with the marijuana-derived medicine Epidiolex by GW Pharmaceuticals and has conducted trials to determine its effectiveness in curbing pediatric epilepsy, in particular, a subset of the disease called Dravet Syndrome.

    So far, the randomized, double-blind studies have proven successful. The medicine had a greater effect in reduction of seizures compared to the placebo. Barnes now is looking for patients with autism to participate in similar CBD-related research.

    “This is, in fact, a substance that has been rigidly studied and that is in fact not psychoactive and is safe to use, especially with children and adolescents,” Barnes says, noting few side effects with the drugs.

    “It’s an interesting set of compounds that has possibly diverse biological effects. That certainly is driving the interest in the medical community.”

    Paradoxes within federal regulations do make the process harder.

    “In my clinical practice, the federal government does not recognize my right to prescribe a Schedule I substance,” Barnes says. “Now the state law does, but the federal doesn’t. And that is the problem with the law.”

    Kentucky legislators on both sides of the aisle will look to rectify the discrepancies in future sessions. And while the increased scrutiny of the trials should reassure the public, federal rescheduling of marijuana would also lessen the difficulties in obtaining and prescribing medicines and carrying out the research.

    “Is it a little bit more trouble?” Barnes asks. “Most definitely it’s a little bit more trouble, but on the same token, it does guarantee to even the most rigid skeptic… that there have been incredible processes in place.”

    “It’s worth it.”

    In her Louisville home, Suzanne Maria De Gregorio shows a video of her son Alex as an infant trying to crawl. On the screen, her voice brings smiles to the child’s face as he inches toward her. He’s healthy in every way.

    By age three, his behaviors began to change. Red flags indicated he had autism. By the time he turned six, the regression continued. Alex again needed diapers, and slowly spoke less and less. Petite Mal Epilepsy would be discovered as the cause of his decline. Silent seizures had damaged parts of his brain.

    “We got him on the antiepileptic drugs, and they helped but they never were enough,” Suzanne says.

    Neurological episodes would cause him to be aggressive at school, and so Suzanne quit work to care for him when he was sent home.

    “The child would wake up screaming and go to bed screaming,” she says. “It was a very rough life for him.”

    Alex now sits beside me showing me a selection of tea in a lunch box. He’s calm and laughs and tells me later of his favorite cakes, cookie and red velvet. Nothing is missed. He listens to everything, an all-encompassing awareness

    Suzanne, who advocated for the Kentucky legislation that legalized CBD oil, sits relaxed in a chair. She asks Alex if it’s ok to speak to me about the hard times before he began taking the supplement called Charlotte’s Web. Like the product that Paige takes, this CBD-rich oil is also obtained from hemp.

    Alex smiles. Suzanne takes that as a yes.

    In April of 2015, after the legislation passed her son began the drops shipped from Colorado. Almost immediately, he calmed and began speaking more. His fine and gross motor skills improved, allowing him to master riding a bike for the first time since the age of five.

    Best yet, his seizures stopped, and he’s down to only two anti-seizure prescription medications.

    But the supplement comes at a price. The product costs $250 for a three-week supply, with insurance not covering any of the cost.

    “It’s worth it,” Suzanne says. “We live it. It’s a miracle.”

    And with the DEA designating marijuana and hemp as a Schedule I drug with supposed no medicinal value and, according to the agency but questioned by proponents, a high propensity for addiction, parents of children who benefit from these derivatives are worried. Enforcement or a shift in priorities could halt the sale of these much-needed oils. Greater federal protections remain needed.

    “A lot of parents are afraid. One of the reasons why I want to speak out like this and shine a light on it is because this cannot be taken from him,” Suzanne says.

    “It would send him back to hell.”

    Contributing columnist Amanda Beam’s social justice column appears every other Sunday in the Courier-Journal’s Forum Section. Feel free to let her know your thoughts and column ideas by emailing her at adhbeam@icloud.com.


    The DEA spent $73,000 to eradicate marijuana plants in Utah. It didn’t find any.


    Image result for marijuana

    By Christopher Ingraham October 7

    In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration gave $20,000 to the state of New Hampshire to eradicate marijuana plants, according to federal documents. But the Granite State’s law enforcement agencies didn’t have much luck finding any weed to pull that year — their efforts uncovered a single outdoor grow site with a grand total of 27 plants.

    Do the math, and U.S. taxpayers paid $740.74 for each pot plant uprooted in New Hampshire that year.

    That’s an expensive weeding operation, but it could be worse. Utah received $73,000 in marijuana eradication funds, according to the federal documents, released by Seattle-based non-profit news organization Crosscut. But agents failed to find a single pot plant to eradicate.

    The DEA’s $14 million marijuana eradication program has been the subject of a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Twelve members of Congress have pushed to eliminate the program completely and use the money instead to fund domestic violence prevention and deficit reduction programs.

    [Drug cops raid an 81-year-old grandmother’s garden to take out a single marijuana plant]

    Its purpose is to "halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States," a mission that has become complicated as more states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana programs. Several more states have similar measures on the ballot this year.

    DEA records show the program has been effective in some states, most notably California. Agents pulled 2.6 million marijuana plants in 2015, seizing more than 1,600 weapons in the process. Nearly $5.4 million was funneled into that state’s program.

    Kentucky’s $1.9-million program had the next largest number of eradicated plants, more than 570,000.

    Nationwide, the DEA documents show that spending on the program has shrunk from about $18 million in 2014 to $14 million in the current fiscal year. Some states — including Alaska, Colorado and Vermont — stopped receiving eradication funds completely.

    Here’s where that money’s going on a state-by-state basis.

    California, where medical marijuana is legal, receives the lion’s share of marijuana eradication funds, in part because the "Emerald Triangle" region of Northern California. The area has long been home to many of the state’s legal and quasi-legal marijuana production operations, but law enforcement authorities have maintained that it also has been a haven for the grow operations of Mexican drug cartels.

    Kentucky also receives a large amount of money to eradicate marijuana. The state has a surprisingly rich culture of marijuana cultivation.

    Rounding out the top 5 marijuana eradication states are Tennessee, Georgia, and perhaps unexpectedly, Washington. The aptly nicknamed Evergreen State legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and pot shops opened for business in 2014. So it may seem odd that the DEA is spending $760,000 this year to eradicate pot plants in the state.

    But Washington is the only recreational marijuana state that doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants for recreational use. (In D.C., incidentally, the situation is reversed: homegrows are okay, but you can’t buy weed at the store.)

    [How police took $53000 from a Christian band, an orphanage and a church]

    Washington also receives more marijuana eradication money than any other state with a recreational pot regime in place. Oregon received $200,000 this year, while Colorado and Alaska didn’t take any federal money for marijuana eradication.

    You can also look at the 2015 marijuana eradication totals to compare the states on how much they’re spending per plant. Here’s what that map looks like.

    New Hampshire, Louisiana, Delaware and New Jersey all spent well over $100 for every marijuana plant eradicated. Eleven states spent at least $50 per plant, while nearly half of the states — 23 of them — spent at least $25 in federal money for each marijuana plant they eliminated.

    At the other end of the spectrum, states with big investments in marijuana eradication — like California and Kentucky — also had the most successful efforts to pull up large numbers of pot plants. So their per-plant costs are much lower.

    To be perfectly clear, even in a fully legal, highly regulated market like Colorado’s there will be a need to enforce prohibitions on large-scale, unlicensed marijuana grows — similar to the way the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busts illegal home alcohol distilleries. Beyond that, authorities often make a number of arrests at cultivation sites, or seize weapons and other property from people suspected of involvement with marijuana grow operations.

    Still, some lawmakers are starting to question the need dedicated this level or resources to eliminating pot plants when so many states are relaxing their own restrictions.

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    "It makes zero sense for the federal government to continue to spend taxpayer dollars on cannabis eradication at a time when states across the country are looking to legalize marijuana,"Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told me earlier this year. "I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs."

    More from Wonkblog:

    Marijuana really can be deadly, but not in the way you probably expect

    Heavily armed drug cops raid retiree’s garden, seize okra plants

    DEA warns of stoned rabbits if Utah passes medical marijuana


    81-Year-Old Woman’s Single Marijuana Plant Seized in Raid by National Guard and State Police

    repeal prob

    Authorities want to play "War on Pot"—with helicopters and militarized raids—while they still can.

    Anthony L. Fisher|Oct. 6, 2016

    The full legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts could very well become a reality—if current polling holds up—when voters go to the polls next month. Medical marijuana is already legal in the Bay State, provided you’ve got one of those officially sanctioned cards from the state government.

    But for the time being, personal cultivation of even a single marijuana plant without state permission is illegal, and Massachusetts state law enforcement put on a display of force last week to make sure nobody, not even an 81-year-old woman with glaucoma and arthritis, forgets it.

    According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, on September 21, octogenarian grandma Margaret Holcomb found herself the subject of a joint raid by the National Guard and Massachusetts State Police. It started when her son Tim saw "a military-style helicopter circling the property, with two men crouching in an open door and holding a device that he suspects was a thermal imager to detect marijuana plants." A few minutes later, a number of law enforcement vehicles arrived and a state trooper demanded the "illegal contraband," warning that no charges would be filed if they gave up Ms. Holcomb’s single marijuana plant peacefully and without demanding a search warrant.

    Holcomb does not have a medical marijuana card, and told the Gazette if she is unable to procure one, she’ll likely grow another plant.

    The raid was one of at least six that took place on September 21, all without the knowledge or cooperation of local police authorities.

    Attorney Michael Cutler, who works with clients who need legal counsel regarding medical marijuana, suspects the raids are partially motivated by authorities wanting to experience a few more moments of "action" in a specific theatre of the war on drugs that may soon be coming to a close. From the Gazette:

    Cutler said it’s likely that authorities are using budgeted funds, prior to the end of the federal fiscal year Saturday, to gas up helicopters and do flyovers.

    "We’re seeing the last throes of police hostility to the changing laws," Cutler said. "They’re taking the position that if it’s in plain view, it’s somehow illegal."


    Anthony L. Fisher is an Associate Editor for Reason.com.

    Follow Anthony L. Fisher on Twitter