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Marijuana Reform in the Trump Era: Turning Back the Tide

25 Feb

We have a lot of work to do.

First, this has to be said: I agree with Tom Angell that at the time of this writing (24 February 2017) we don’t yet really know what the administration’s marijuana policy is going to be.

I also agree with Shaleen Title. She advocates reading and analyzing everything available, from a variety of reputable sources, in order to get a clear idea of administration policy as it’s developing, and I agree. That is the absolute best thing anyone can do.

Mind you, the only way that people are going to get anything, let alone everything, to read and analyze, is if those of us who work as journalists at some level or other report on what’s actually being done and said, by whom, to whom, and in what context.

For instance, here’s some important reading material. These are the executive orders on crime that were issued by the White House on February Ninth. Anyone who cares about criminal justice, civil rights, or democracy and the rule of law, should read this. They are disappointing, upsetting, and guaranteed to anger any decent, moral person.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/09/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-federal-law-respect-transnational

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/09/presidential-executive-order-preventing-violence-against-federal-state

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/09/presidential-executive-order-task-force-crime-reduction-and-public

The language, and the policies outlined in those executive orders, are throwbacks to the late 60s, the era of John Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. Those orders outline a harsh approach to criminal justice and law enforcement overall as well as a renewed war on drugs, and display a contemptuous disregard for basic American values and freedoms.

For example, the task force on crime reduction and public safety that’s set up by one of those orders is to be run by Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions III. Sessions argued in the Judiciary Committee that some drug offenses should be considered violent crimes. He also believes that civil rights enforcement needlessly hampers the police and prevents them from doing their jobs. There’s a transcript that’s well worth a read, where Sessions is questioning – haranguing really – former DOJ official and ACLU hero Vanita Gupta at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing in Nov 2015. It’s at

http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/6143

The title of that hearing by the way was “The War on Police: How the Federal Government Undermines State and Local Law Enforcement.” The whole hearing is worth a listen, if you have a strong stomach. The video is on the Judiciary Committee website.

While we’re on the topic of cabinet officials, one thing needs to be made perfectly clear: the appointments of hardline drug warrior and racist reactionary Sessions as Attorney General, and that of anti-pot and anti-harm reduction Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, are strong indicators of this administration’s future marijuana policies, and its drug policies overall.

It has been pointed out by some that the president can overrule his cabinet officials. That is true. Yet, people do not get chosen for cabinet positions because of their ability to reverse themselves politically. People get nominated for cabinet positions because of the policies they advocate.

It may be fun to mock Sessions or Price or DeVos and the rest. Some people do regard them as flakes spouting inane dreck just to hear themselves speak. However, because of the offices those people currently inhabit, they represent the administration in their designated areas of policy. They are absolutely seen as speaking for the government, not just themselves.

Ultimately though, we do need to look to the White House. We had nothing official from the new administration specifically about marijuana until recently. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about marijuana by a reporter during the regular White House news briefing on Thursday, Feb. 23. The official video of that brief exchange is at

and the transcript is at

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/23/press-briefing-press-secretary-sean-spicer-2232017-15

Here’s what Spicer said:

“There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that’s one that Congress, through a rider in 2011 — looking for a little help — I think put in an appropriations bill saying the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks. There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical — when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature. So I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana, which states have a — the states where it’s allowed, in accordance with the appropriations rider, have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage, versus recreational marijuana. That’s a very, very different subject.”

Spicer was asked a follow-up about whether the feds were going to “take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states”. He said this:

MR. SPICER: Well, I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.

Understandably, most reformers reacted negatively to Spicer’s statement. It is true, as someone pointed out, those are only the words of Sean Spicer, you know, the guy Melissa McCarthy parodied so well on SNL. The thing is, Spicer is the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director for the current president, and he spoke those words during the regular daily press briefing at the White House on Feb 23.

So yes, those are only the words of Sean Spicer. For just a minute though, forget those SNL bits, forget about your opinion of Spicer and his boss, and think about who Spicer is and what he does for a living. He now serves as the official voice of the current president and the White House. Spicer’s job gives particular weight to what he says.

Admittedly, it is possible that one day, maybe someday soon, Spicer will go back to that podium, declare previous statements to no longer be operative, and then say something totally different. In the meantime, however, we have to go by what he’s told us.

I’m not going bother parsing the specific words and phrases he used because he’s not the details guy. He’s a blunt instrument, he pushes the message, communicates the big picture. Specific details are someone else’s problem. Besides, any problematic and possibly offensive details could distract the media and the public from the big picture that he’s painting, so in a sense Spicer’s job is to keep people away from the details.

The only other person in the administration to say much of anything about marijuana was the current president himself, but that was on the campaign trail. People say all kinds of things to get elected. It’s what they do once they’re in office that counts. But it is true that he did say something about weed while he was running.

Unfortunately there are some fake stories that are still making the rounds on Facebook that make outlandish claims about endorsing legalization. Those are lies. Those lies add to the confusion over what he actually said, which is a problem because what he said was neither clear nor coherent. Here’s a transcript of what our current president actually said during that campaign rally in Nevada in Oct. 2015, when he was asked about pot:

DONALD TRUMP: “The marijuana thing is such a big, such a big thing. I think medical should happen, right, don’t we agree? I mean, I think so. And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states, it should be a state situation. Because, you know, you have, like I just left Colorado, and I love Colorado, and the people are great, but there’s a question as to how it’s all working out there, you know, that’s not going exactly trouble free, so, I really think that we should study Colorado, see what’s happening, but, I believe that the legalization of marijuana other than for medical, ’cause I think medical, you know, I know people that are very very sick, and for whatever reason the marijuana really helps them. But, but, really helps them, but I think in terms of marijuana, I think, and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”

http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/comment/2074

He’s a showman, and he’s good with a crowd. On this particular topic, which even he had to know would come up eventually, he blathered, obfuscated, avoided making any real commitment, and finally took the safest and limpest position he possibly could: “I think medical should happen, right, don’t we agree? I mean, I think so.”

He thinks so. Bless. He doesn’t know it for certain. People in his cabinet, like Sessions and Price, may help him to modify his thinking.

In August of 2016, candidate Trump was interviewed by Brandon Rittiman of KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado, and the topic of marijuana came up. On the one hand, this time Trump didn’t ramble, used short declarative sentences. in some respects it was plain clear speaking. On the other hand, the then-candidate jumped in before any questions had actually been asked. Rittiman seemed to be setting up a question about Colorado’s marijuana law yet he was also setting up a second, much trickier, question about whether Chris Christie was in line to become Trump’s Attorney General. The transcript is at

http://www.9news.com/news/local/politics/brandon-rittimans-trump-interview-transcript/284502526

Here’s the portion where weed is mentioned:

RITTIMAN: I want to drill down on a couple of Colorado issues.

Chris Christie was one of the first sort of establishment guys to really jump in with both feet for you. He gets talked about as a possible AG pick, but he was also the only presidential candidate who was campaigning saying he would use federal authority to shut down sales of recreational marijuana in states like Colorado.

TRUMP: Yeah, I wouldn’t do it, no.

RITTIMAN: You wouldn’t let him?

TRUMP: No.

RITTIMAN: Even if you picked him as AG?

TRUMP: Well you’re asking me. I wouldn’t do that, no.

RITTIMAN: You think Colorado should be able to do what it’s doing.

TRUMP: I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.

We don’t yet know the specifics of the new administration’s policies in regard to marijuana, and possibly the president doesn’t either so at least we’re not alone. Yet, we do have a pretty good idea of the direction they want to go.

In terms of criminal justice and overall drug control policies, some very clear statements are being made. There are the executive orders issued February 9th, which I outlined at the top of this piece. And, there are the president’s own words. Unlike his comments about marijuana during the campaign, the current president has recently spoken very clearly and directly about those broader issues.

For example, in a speech given to a police group, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, in Feb 2017, he pushed for a return to the war on drugs. As Salon reported:

“We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in,” Trump told law enforcement professionals of the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Wednesday. “We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.”

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/16/trump-goes-full-nixon-on-law-and-order-executive-orders-vows-ruthless-war-on-drugs-and-crime_partner/

That angry bit of bluster and demagoguery would have made Nixon proud. It’s not an embrace of harm reduction, or treatment, or efforts to address the root causes of societal problems. It’s literally a call to arms.

Also in February, the current president held a round table discussion with a delegation from the National Sheriffs Association. The president spoke to them – clearly and directly – about wanting to see tougher law enforcement, more action against drugs, particularly on the Mexican border, and more forfeiture.

It should also be noted that in the sheriffs roundtable, the current president also made a comment about expanding access to “abuse-deterring drugs,” which he described as very hard to get. At a guess, I’d say that is a reference to Naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Naloxone, or naltrexone, is sometimes added to prescription opioids to create what pharmas call an “abuse deterring formulation.”

https://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2016/10/key-facts-about-abuse-deterrent-opioids/

Presumably he’s talking about continuing to support the expansion of naloxone availability, which the Obama administration had also done. I say presumably because I can’t be sure. I usually hear naloxone referred to as an overdose reversal drug or an overdose cure. I do hear it referred to as “abuse deterring” but only in the context of opiate manufacturing. That’s why I can’t be sure if he’s talking about access to the overdose reversal drug, or the production of abuse-deterring pain meds by pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The new administration’s overall drug, civil rights, and criminal justice policies are taking shape. They appear to be horrible, reactionary, counterproductive, shortsighted, wrongheaded, and just plain bad. So what do we do? There’s no question that criminal justice and drug policy reform advocates need to get to work and organize politically against the current administration on these issues.

When it comes to marijuana specifically, reformers have a couple of choices. One is to stand back and do nothing, engage in watchful waiting, keep repeating a mantra about how politically popular weed is and how it would be suicide to crack down in the industry, and wait for a clearly written memo or some other solid, irrefutable statement of policy, like a strategy report, or a series of raids, or a threat to withhold federal funds from any state that decides to legally regulate any Schedule One drug.

There are a couple of problems with that wait and see approach. First, there’s the calendar. The current president doesn’t face re-election until 2020. He can afford a possible short-term hit on his popularity. Actually given the current president’s poll numbers, and his repeated attempts to paint critics as illegitimate and fake, “political suicide” is less than a joke, it’s certainly not a viable threat.

Members of Congress on the other hand are usually sensitive to that sort of thing. News hit recently that the current administration’s plans for a massive spending increase to fund infrastructure building and improvements around the nation – roads, airports, the kinds of big money projects that states and voters like and need – is being put off until 2018.

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/320886-report-trump-congress-may-punt-on-infrastructure-until-2018

Of course it’s merely a coincidence that 2018 is also the next general election for all 435 members of the House and one third of the Senate, and it would be impertinent to suggest otherwise. So call me impertinent, I’ve been called worse. The point is, that’s some bargaining power the administration is planning to have.

As to the billions being made by the industry, that may sound impressive, yet it’s really not relevant in the political debate. Policymakers aren’t automatically going to care about whether a handful of investors and businesspeople make a greasy buck. Tax revenue is where the rubber quite literally meets the road, not corporate profits. A few questions about obscene profit margins and price gouging, maybe a couple of well-placed articles about any of the less-than-charming penny stock hustlers, weed oil scammers, touts, shills, shady foreign investors, and just plain con artists who have been finding their way into the corporate weed industry in the past few years, and a lot of people will be watching with glee as pot shops got raided.

So, watchful waiting is out.

Arguably, reformers could go to the other extreme and call for immediate nationwide protests, strikes, blockades of courthouses, and demonstrations at federal buildings and the White House, having decided that the current president plans to order an immediate crackdown on all adult use and possibly even some medical programs. That’s technically an option but it’s not really on the table right now, partly because we still just don’t know the administration’s real marijuana policy yet also because the public isn’t there yet.

Getting arrested at the White House can be an effective tactic, if the White House is having the Justice Department arrest people at dispensaries, but not when officials are still hemming and hawing.

Really there’s just one other option, and coincidentally it’s the approach I favor: educate, organize, prepare for the resistance that may be needed, and at the same time continue outreach in a bipartisan way to build more support for good medical marijuana programs and for adult use programs.

The support we say that marijuana legalization has, which some people say would make it political suicide to go against weed, needs to be built up, strengthened, and expanded. We need to do more public education, more consciousness raising, and more community building. We can’t afford to wait until after J Beauregard Sessions III authorizes a new memo.

A moment ago I dismissed the idea that the size of the marijuana market could convince the new administration to keep its tiny hands off of the weed business. Tax revenue on the other hand, the money flowing into state coffers from legally regulated weed, that’s a bottom line that policymakers care about. The impact that legal marijuana has had on prescribing practices for other drugs, the impact that legal marijuana availability has had on alcohol use – those are important too. Those things are important in the debate because they’re data people really do care about: life, death, and taxes.

Obviously, we need to spread the word about these things far and wide. More generally, we need to broaden the public’s understanding of both why legalization is a good thing, and why marijuana is not a bad thing. Inside the drug policy bubble, we understand all that. The majority of people live outside of our bubble. It’s our responsibility to reach out to them, teach them, and bring them over to our side.

The bottom line: J. Beauregard Sessions III is our new attorney general. Tom Price is head of HHS. Sean Spicer may be easy to mock but as far as I can tell he spews out the official administration line on stuff. The current administration is definitely planning for a renewed war on drugs, complete with border madness and military involvement.

We may not yet have a clearly written, definitive statement of administration policy on marijuana, yet waiting until Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III signs off on a new memo before we start preparing for the worst would be a mistake. It’s better to be prepared only to be able to stand down instead, than to be caught flat-footed and then get knocked down before we even start getting ready.

Again, I’m not suggesting that people should start getting arrested in front of federal buildings or the White House again in protest, not yet. When I do think it’s that time I will be one of the first in line to take a bust. I’ve done it before. It’s just that the public, and the movement, aren’t there quite yet.

I believe that the marijuana industry is facing potentially its biggest crisis ever. I know that the marijuana movement – the political and cultural force of which I am part, which made the industry possible — is facing a serious challenge. Yet, it’s a challenge which is also a huge organizing opportunity.

We have a lot to do. It’s time to get to work.

[Note: On Feb 25th I added a paragraph about comments regarding marijuana policy made by candidate Trump in August 2016, in an interview with Brandon Rittiman of KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado, also a short quote and a link to the interview transcript. I also added Spicer’s response to a follow-up on the marijuana question, just below the first bit. DM]

Drug Policy Facts Podcast #27 Available For Download

14 May

This week: Hemp seeds are going to Kentucky; the constitutionality of cannabis scheduling is going to federal court; urine testing in the cannabis industry is going nowhere, so far; and the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program goes ahead with dispensaries. It’s the Drug Policy Facts podcast for May 13, 2014.

Drug Policy Facts Podcast #15 Is Online

19 Feb

The new Drug Policy Facts Podcast is online!

This week: Oregon moves closer to putting marijuana on the 2014 ballot; the monitoring the future survey looks at drug use among today’s high school students; and members of Congress leading the efforts to end prohibition and reform U S drug policies. Download/listen/subscribe!

Drug Policy Facts Podcast #13 Is Online!

5 Feb
Let nations rejoice, the new Drug Policy Facts Podcast is online!
This week features audio from a landmark hearing on Capitol Hill on federal marijuana policy, a report on the environmental impact of drug trafficking and transshipment, and a look at the lessons we can learn from the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Download, listen, and subscribe from:
http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/drug-policy-facts-13_10549
#DrugWar #DrugFacts #DrugPolicy #DrugPolicyReform #mmot #HarmReduction

Drug War Facts Podcast #12 Is Online!

28 Jan

The new Drug War Facts Podcast is online! This week we speculate about tonight’s state of the union address, hear from US Attorney General Eric Holder about federal sentencing reform, learn how states are reducing their prison populations, and find out about sexual violence behind bars. Download, listen, and subscribe from:
http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/drugwarfacts
The RSS feed to subscribe is
http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/podcast-rss.php?id=1642
And the URL to listen to and download the new podcast, Ep #12, is
http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/drug-policy-facts-12_10034

Drug War Facts Podcast #11 Is Online!

22 Jan

The new Drug Policy Facts Podcast is online! Listen, download and subscribe from http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/drug-policy-facts-11_9613

This week’s show: Washington and Colorado reach the Super Bowl; President Obama admits marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol; NIDA’s drug facts week is Jan 27-Feb 2; and more Nixon White House tapes, this week discussing heroin and the creation of the first drug czar’s office, the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention.

Knowledge is power. Get the facts.

Correcting NIDA Director Nora Volkow

29 Dec

The new Monitoring the Future Survey results for 2013 were released recently.

In discussing the new data in a video released on YouTube, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said this: “If we compare the numbers that were, for example, in 2000 regular users, and now in 2013, we have seen increases in those numbers. But in 2000, at the 2000 level of 9 THC was at least half of the levels that we observe now, at least half. So that means that not just were there less kids taking the drug regularly, but even those that were taking it regularly were taking a much less potent drug.”

It almost sounded like she was asserting that THC levels have doubled but that’s not what she said. She did definitely assert that in 2000, cannabis was much less potent.

The short version of this report is, she was wrong. Way wrong. And this isn’t just some political hack, or an uninformed blogger. She’s the director of the government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, she’s supposed to be the science person on drugs. That’s not acceptable.

Here’s how badly she got it wrong. Let’s look at what’s known. I make these data available through my website at drugwarfacts.org, in the marijuana section, where you can find a table of average THC levels of seized samples of cannabis as reported by the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project.

These are the only data on this, they’re the same data Nora Volkow has. The Project stopped testing domestic samples a few years ago, the last domestic cannabis data are from 2010. Samples of non-domestic cannabis – imports from Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, and so many other countries – continue to be tested, but only preliminary data for 2012 are currently available.

Average THC potencies are given for two grades of cannabis: low-end commercial grade – what they call simply “marijuana” – and high-end sinsemilla-type cannabis. The overall combined average they report includes a few samples of ditchweed, so let’s just stick with specific data for those two types, and since 2010 is the last year with domestic data, let’s use it for comparison.

In 2000, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 5.10% THC. The non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.87%. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 3.96% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.72%.

In 2010, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 6.69% THC. Non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.81% THC. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 2.79% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 11.84%.

So only one category shows an increase in average potency from 2000 to 2010 is for non-domestic commercial grade cannabis – an increase of 31%, going from 5.1 to 6.69% THC. The others all show decreases, in fact the average THC of domestic commercial grade dropped by 29.5%.

Sure, there are fluctuations: In 2011, the average THC in non-domestic commercial marijuana was down to 5.6%, the average for non-domestic sinsemilla type was 13.47%. They stopped testing domestic samples in 2010, remember, and for what it’s worth those numbers were much lower in 2009, when domestic commercial averaged 2.43% THC and domestic sinsemilla type averaged only 7.37%.

So, Nora Volkow’s statement? Maybe not a flatout lie, but inaccurate and misleading at best.

Eventually, hopefully, we’ll get complete data for 2012, and when that’s available, you’ll find it at drugwarfacts.org.

Policing By The Clock [AUDIO] | Common Sense for Drug Policy

27 Mar

Drug War Facts Editor Doug McVay reports for the Drug Truth Network and puts into context new research showing the amount of police time spent enforcing marijuana possession laws.

This 4:20 News report was first broadcast on March 24, 2013, as a segment on the syndicated weekly radio program Cultural Baggage produced in Houston, TX for KPFT-FM.

Research data used in this segment are available at
Drug War Facts, particularly the chapter on Crime. DWF fact items include full citations and where possible a link to the original source materials.

Following is the script. To listen to or download the full audio, please visit the Drug Truth Network.


It’s all in the timing.

According to new research, it takes an average of about two-and-a-half hours of police time to make one simple pot possession arrest in New York City. New York is a decriminalized state, so people in NY don’t necessarily go to jail just because they got caught in possession – especially if they’re a State Assemblyman, but that’s another story.

On average, people who get popped for pot in New York City do spend a great deal of time in custody: an average of at least 12 hours, according to this new research by Professor Harry Levine of Queens College, City University of New York. The report was recently released by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project.

Professor Levine found that from 2002 through 2012, the NYPD made a total of 439,056 low-level marijuana possession arrests. They estimated that given an average of 2.5 hours for each arrest – a conservative, low-ball estimate – that comes to 1,097,640 hours of police time over that period, or as it’s put in the report, quote:
“That is the equivalent of having 31 police officers working eight hours a day, 365 days a year, for 11 years, making only marijuana possession arrests.” End quote.

That’s just New York City, of course. Marijuana is decriminalized in New York state. In many other states, marijuana possession is still considered a real crime.

It’s not only the police whose time is taken up by low-level marijuana arrests, there’s also the time and resources of the prosecutor, the court, and possibly the jail or probation system.

In 2011, there were 663,032 arrests for simple possession in the entire US. If the rest of the country were like New York City, at just 2.5 hours per arrest, that would work out to 1,657,580 hours of police time in 2011 alone. The report’s hypothetical 31 police officers would work the equivalent of eight hours per day, 365 days a year, for more than 18 years to make that many marijuana arrests.

Each year, the FBI reports that US law enforcement manages to clear just under 50% of reported violent crimes and less than 20% of reported property crimes. Those are just the ones that get reported, mind you, and clearance doesn’t mean that anyone has been found guilty, only that someone has been indicted.

As legalizers and policy reformers, we’re accustomed to being accused by opponents of being soft on crime. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Law enforcement resources are strained, so the question is being asked: Are we using those resources effectively, or is it time for major changes?

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

UN Drug Body: Marijuana Legalization in CO, WA, Violates UN Treaties

5 Mar

Latest news from the <a href=”http://www.csdp.org/cms/node/21″>Common Sense for Drug Policy blog</a>:

The International Narcotics Control Board is criticizing the decision by Colorado and Washington voters to regulate and control marijuana, saying that such a move violates international drug control agreements. As the Guardian reported on March 5, 2013:

<blockquote>
Launching its annual report in London, Raymond Yans, the INCB president, said that the successful ballots in Colorado and Washington to legalise the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and the fact that Massachusetts had recently become the 18th state to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes violate the international drug conventions.

“They also undermine the humanitarian aims of the drug control system and are a threat to public health and wellbeing,” said Yans. He claimed that so-called “medicinal use” initiatives were little more than “a back-door to legalisation for recreational use”.

The INCB has warned the US government that medical cannabis must be properly regulated. “In some US states they are being operated in a way that is completely inappropriate and outside of the conventions,” the report says.

Yans said the INCB had already been reassured by the US attorney-general that federal laws banning the cultivation and possession of cannabis would remain in force. The UN drug authorities are now waiting to see how Colorado and Washington implement their votes to legalise recreational use and what response is taken by the federal authorities.
</blockquote>

Read more from the article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/05/relaxation-cannabis-laws-us-un

Download a copy of the INCB’s new annual report from http://www.incb.org/incb/en/publications/annual-reports/annual-report-2012.html

Sativex As Substitution Treatment for Cannabis Addicts?

22 Jan

The Associated Press reportedon Jan. 22, 2012, that GW Pharmaceuticals is making progress in its efforts to gain FDA approval for use of its cannabis-based drug Sativex in the US. According to AP:

A British company, GW Pharma, is in advanced clinical trials for the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents— a mouth spray it hopes to market in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain. And it hopes to see FDA approval by the end of 2013.
Sativex contains marijuana’s two best known components — delta 9-THC and cannabidiol — and already has been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for a different usage, relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
FDA approval would represent an important milestone in the nation’s often uneasy relationship with marijuana, which 16 states and the District of Columbia already allow residents to use legally with doctors’ recommendations. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes pot as a dangerous drug with no medical value, but the availability of a chemically similar prescription drug could increase pressure on the federal government to revisit its position and encourage other drug companies to follow in GW Pharma’s footsteps.
“There is a real disconnect between what the public seems to be demanding and what the states have pushed for and what the market is providing,” said Aron Lichtman, a Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacology professor and president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. “It seems to me a company with a great deal of vision would say, ‘If there is this demand and need, we could develop a drug that will help people and we will make a lot of money.'”

As broad as the market for medical cannabis products is currently, there are even more applications being researched which could significantly expand that market should Sativex gain approval. One example: Australia’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre is researching use of Sativex as substitution therapy for to help cannabis addicts quit using. The Sydney Morning Herald reportedon Jan. 9, 2012 that:

SMOKERS have nicotine patches and heroin users have methadone but cannabis users have little choice except to go ”cold turkey” if they want to kick their habit.
However, researchers at the University of NSW hope a cannabis-based mouth spray, prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers and not available in Australia, could be used to help people quit marijuana.
There are no products aimed at easing people off cannabis, the only option being rehabilitation where a cocktail of prescribed drugs is used to counteract withdrawal symptoms.

Here’s a link to the NCPIC’s news releaseon the research. According to NCPIC:

In a world-first, researchers from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC), based at the University of New South Wales, are leading a study to determine whether the pharmaceutical drug Sativex can help people better manage cannabis withdrawal symptoms as a platform for ongoing abstinence.
It is estimated that there are at least 200,000 people dependent on cannabis in Australia, with one in ten people who try the drug at least once in their lifetime having problems ceasing use.

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