There is no hope with dope. Crack is whack. Hugs, not drugs.
Rhyme schemed proclamations have been fanning the flames of the War on Drugs since the first shots were fired. Despite the epic failure of our current drug policing strategies, the United States government is doubling down on the theory that non-FDA approved drug users are the scourge of mankind and looking to lock us all up (starting with minorities, of course).
So it seems that the United States could stand to learn a bit from our little brother to the north. In only a few months Canada has taken the reigns of North America and declared itself the fresh, cool, progressive world leader not willing to kowtow to wonky policy and unsubstantiated claims against the benefits of cannabis.
A new study titled Intentional cannabis use to reduce crack cocaine use in a Canadian setting: A longitudinal analysis concludes that using cannabis can reduce the use of crack cocaine for those who prefer their coke on the rocks. Detailing their methods and findings in a piece for The Conversation, MJ Milloy and M. Eugenia Socias “found that people who intentionally used cannabis to control their crack use showed a marked decline in crack consumption, with the proportion of people reporting daily use dropping from 35% to less than 20%.”
Perhaps it’s time for a new slogan in the name of harm reduction—Weed is all you need.
Those of us in the know have been extolling the virtues of marijuana based maintenance programs to eye rolls and feigned interest since Jump Street.
Damaging and dangerous activities induced by hard drinking and drugging are all but erased while enrolled in a lifestyle that incorporates cannabis use as a replacement for far more detrimental substances. Anybody still considering marijuana consumption a reprehensible endeavor is unlikely to be swayed fact, science or reason and are thusly inconsequential to the future success of the human race.
Tremendous insights into the efficacy of cannabis as a means for fall down and stand up drunks to get off the sauce and on with their lives can be found in Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol: a harm reduction approach by Tod H. Mikuriya (1933-2007).
Presented in his research are gems like,
“Nine patients reported that they had practiced total abstinence from alcohol for more than a year and attributed their success to cannabis. Their years in sobriety: 19, 18, 16, 10, 7, 6, 4 (2), and 2.”
“Three patients reported a sad irony: they had “fallen off the wagon” when they had to stop using cannabis in anticipation of drug tests. Patient S., a 27-year-old cable installer, had six alcohol-related arrests by age 21, “ . . . after not smoking herb (for probation drug test) and blacking out on alcohol, I found my drinking getting out of hand and I began getting into more trouble.” He later relapsed when denied use of cannabis at a residential treatment facility.”
In the face of these finding and other anecdotal evidence a litany of defenses is used to discourage people from experimenting with cannabis and psychedelics as wellness tools or a way to remove their dependency on harmful drugs and destructive tendencies. Preachers, teachers, and coaches have been peddling these lies to impressionable youths and foolish adults with blind faith in the hopes of not corrupting the system in place but they don’t have to.
That system is broken. It was never even operational. It’s been gumming up the works ever since it was implemented. Independent thoughts and deviations from the norm are at a premium these days and need to be encouraged and championed instead of repressed.
Free your mind and your ass will follow.
In response to a letter from seven U.S. Senators including Elizabeth Warren, the DEA has indicated it will review its classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance within the first half of 2016.
“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,”
DEA said in a 25-page response.
Warren’s original letter asks the DEA to acknowledge the mainstreaming of medical marijuana. “While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.”
DEA drug scheduling, under the Controlled Substances Act, classifies substances based on their medical uses and potential for abuse. Currently, marijuana is grouped with heroin as a Schedule I substance, a category that is reserved for drugs deemed the most dangerous, highly addictive and of no medicinal value. Comparatively, methamphetamine, cocaine and most prescription painkillers that are currently part the opioid epidemic fall into the Schedule II category, a classification which permits doctors to prescribe them and researchers to access them for studies.
The Reschedule 420 smoke-in demonstration in front of the White House on April 2, 2016 (Photo by John Kagia/Whaxy).
While experts and advocates agree that cannabis should be de-scheduled completely, rescheduling the plant as a Schedule II substance would allow for more collaborative medical research and fewer criminal penalties for possessing marijuana. Currently, medical marijuana research is done on a small scale in the United States or in other countries with favorable legislation.
In their response to lawmakers, the DEA mentions that between 2000-2015, it provided marijuana to researchers at a rate of about 9 per year. The bureaucratic complexity of doing legal cannabis research has led many universities and organizations to abandon it all together.
“That number is totally insufficient to meet public health needs and to answer the number of [research] questions that pop up yearly,”
said John Hudak of the Brookings Institute. “People just aren’t applying because of all the headaches involved.”
While the DEA’s letter might be good news for marijuana advocates, acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg made clear last year that he has no intention of rescheduling marijuana, despite promising research, millions of people providing anecdotal evidence and legal medical marijuana programs in 23 states.
“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert,”
said Rosenberg. He later admitted that marijuana is not as harmful as heroin, a nod to the political agenda of drug scheduling. Similar proposals to reschedule cannabis made in 2000 and 2006 were also rejected by the DEA.
“Almost half the states in the country have medical cannabis laws and major groups like the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians are on board,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. He also suggested that the Obama Administration should use executive powers to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance before he leaves office.
Hundreds of peaceful protesters who agree with Angell gathered in front of the White House for one of the largest smoke-in demonstrations in history on Saturday April 2 (click here to see photos from the rally).
Feature photo credit: John Kagia
In an unprecedented move, federal researchers visited a medical cannabis farm in Vancouver, Washington to gauge the health impacts of working in the industry and performing tasks such as cultivation and processing. Does the repetitive motion of trimming marijuana flowers promote carpal tunnel? Are those processing dozens of pounds of freshly harvested cannabis, over the long term, in danger of inhaling plant particles that may be harmful to their health?
These are the questions that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are trying to answer by making observations and gathering data in a real world facility. They recently spent the majority of a week in carefully controlled observations on a working cannabis farm outside of Vancouver in an effort to gather metrics.
This is a highly ironic and even perplexing research study. Simply put: Because cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government officially regards it as completely lacking medical benefit and being a highly addictive and dangerous drug, as much so as heroin. Even all forms of cocaine and methamphetamines are less-restricted Schedule II drugs that can be prescribed by a doctor.
This study is especially ironic given the refusal of government bodies, such as Congress, to allow even minimal research at the federal level. Last summer, Congress voted not to allow cannabis research, especially that focused on CBD efficacy for conditions like epilepsy and cancer, to be orchestrated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and conducted by the National Institutes of Health outside of D.C.
This scientific investigation involved a team of four researchers descending on a pot farm owned by Tom Lauerman, also known as Farmer Tom to locals and customers, that lies just east of Vancouver. Their overall goal is to develop federal best practices and standards for workers in the cannabis industry. Again, a highly ironic and even confusing move for any group that’s officially part of the federal government. Until this farm visit, the team had never set foot on an actual, working commercial cannabis cultivation facility. The infamous University of Mississippi pot farm was the closest any of the researchers had officially come to a real world cultivation and processing operation.
Lauerman told reporters how he never imagined that his farm might someday be occupied by friendly employees of the federal government. He told local media:
“I never thought in my life that, by the time I’m 55 in the year 2015, we would have federal agents welcome onto my farm — like asking to come onto my farm — and get to educate them about cannabis. It simply just blows my mind.”
Researchers, who were not permitted to be identified by the media, outfitted cultivation and harvest workers with special sensors designed to do things like analyze air quality inside grow facilities. They even leveraged a high-tech glove (photos below) right out of science fiction that featured sensors that measured the activity of trimmers manicuring freshly harvested cannabis flowers.
What about the conflicting messages being sent by the feds to those in the cannabis industry and consumers of their products across the country? NIOSH claims that its research effort in no way conflicts with federal law simply because the researchers are analyzing working conditions, not the substance or product being produced. Because the activities of the cannabis farm are in full compliance with Washington State law, NIOSH — and apparently other government watchdogs — find no problem with the study or the researcher’s presence on the cannabis farm.
There were limitations, however. NIOSH researchers, for example, were prohibited under federal laws from touching or handling cannabis or cannabis products in any way. Results of the study won’t be released for at least a year (probably government speak for two to three). The cannabis industry and legalization movement should eagerly await and support the results of such studies to properly regulate and manage a burgeoning industry that promises to produce tens of billions in economic growth for a nation that has suffered a jobless recovery, severe underemployment, and a withering middle class for nearly a decade.
The White Hat Feds
Unlike the DEA and many Justice Department officials when dealing with individuals or companies in legal states like Washington, the NIOSH researchers were welcomed with open arms and conducted themselves professionally and with the best interests of cannabis industry workers in mind.
It should also be pointed out that the government researchers didn’t simply demand access to Lauerman’s farm or otherwise bully their way onto his property; they were invited. And who invited then? Lauerman. He said he wanted to ensure the eventual adoption by the industry of workplace protections for cannabis workers. Said Lauerman:
“Nobody has any idea what makes a safe workplace, it’s a new industry. I’m honored to have [the NIOSH] here.”
Will the DEA Step In?
Will the DEA try to squelch future research efforts by other government organizations, regardless of the legality? Normalization and acceptance of the plant, for any reason, including hardcore medical applications, are seriously frowned upon by the DEA, an organization that is beginning to see its budget reduced while progressive members of Congress call for its continued defunding and even dismantlement.
Cannabis activists and advocates can only hope that further cooperation between any faction of the federal government and the cannabis industry will occur in an effort to research and regulate what is becoming a multi-billion industry touching tens of millions of consumers and tax payers. Huge markets are being created in single states. The green rush is partially based on what might be accomplished by a majority of states declaring full legalization—let alone the anticipated eventual federal legalization that will inevitably occur after Luddites of Congress have retired and been replaced by more progressive colleagues.
To learn the results of this study, curious cannabis consumers must remain patient. For those who have suffered under the legal paranoia of prohibition and the uncertainty and frustration of black markets — especially those who are sick — patience has always been the modus operandi anyway.