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Chronicle AM -- December 2, 2013

The Denver city council votes today on where you can smoke pot, a Tennessee bill equates meth-making with child abuse, there's dissent on drug policy at the UN, India fights a drug menace, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council to Vote Today to Ban Marijuana Smoking on Private Property if Visible to the Public. The Denver city council is expected to give final approval today to an ordinance that would ban marijuana smoking on one's own property if it is visible to the public. The measure won an initial 5-7 vote last week. The measure is opposed by the ACLU of Colorado, Sensible Colorado, and even the Denver Post, which editorialized against it today.

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Returning to Iowa Legislature; Event in Des Moines Tonight. State Sen. Joe Bolckom (D-Iowa City), who has introduced medical marijuana bills in four previous sessions, will try again next year. He said he will introduce legislation modeled on the New Mexico program. Bolckom and Dr. Steven Jenison, who helped create the New Mexico bill, will be speaking about the New Mexico program at the Des Moines Public Library at 6:00pm tonight.

Methamphetamine

Under Proposed Tennessee Bill, Meth Making = Child Abuse. A bill filed last week, Senate Bill 1438, would allow meth-making parents to be charged with child abuse or neglect, even if the child has not suffered any child abuse or neglect. Current state law allows such charges to filed against meth-making parents if there is physical injury as a result of exposure to meth, but that's not good enough for state Sen. Doug Overbey and state Rep. Dale Carr, the bill's sponsors.

Prescription Drugs

Rhode Island Task Force to Study Electronic Prescription Monitoring. A legislatively-mandated commission meets for the first time today to consider whether the state should track certain medications in a bid to prevent prescription drug abuse. The commission is led by Rep. William O'Brien (D-North Providence), and includes state health officials, physicians, and a community health expert -- but apparently no pain patients. About half the states have moved to enact some form of electronic prescription monitoring in recent years.

International

Leaked Document Reveals Splits Ahead of UN Drug Session. A draft of a UN document setting out the organization's long-term strategy for fighting drugs has been leaked to British media and reveals an accelerating erosion of the decades-long, but increasingly shaky, drug prohibition consensus. In the leaked draft, both Latin American and European nations demanded that the UN's drug policy open itself up to new directions. This is all run-up to the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

Another Dark Web Drug Marketplace Shuts Down. The Black Market Reloaded web site, which offered illicit drugs and other items for sale, has closed, a victim of its own success. The site operator said it had grown too big to be able to guarantee anonymity for its customers. The move comes after a competitor, Silk Road, was shut down by US officials, and another competitor, Sheep Marketplace, closed claiming someone had stolen more than $2 million worth of bit coins, a virtual currency. Silk Road 2.0 is reportedly up and running, however.

In Wake of Mass Bootleg Alcohol Deaths, Indian State Wants More Alcohol Prohibition. Responding to a 2009 mass bootleg alcohol ("hooch") poisoning that left at least 156 people dead, the Gujarat high court Sunday called for tougher enforcement of alcohol prohibition. While the high court appreciated the state government's move to impose the death penalty for "hooch tragedies," it also called for stricter enforcement of prohibition to fight "the menace of illegal transportation, manufacturing and possession of liquor."

Jamaica's First Medical Marijuana Company Set to Open. Jamaican scientist Dr. Henry Lowe is expected to open the island nation's first medical marijuana company this week. Lowe said he plans to develop marijuana extracts to treat psychosis and severe pain, and, possibly, "mid-life crisis in men."

Iranians in 550 Armed Clashes with Drug Smugglers in Past Three Months. Iranian officials said Monday that there had been more than 550 armed clashes with drug traffickers in the past three months. Iran borders Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer by far, and is both a transit country and a final destination for tons of Afghan opium each year. It has destroyed more than 60 tons of illicit drugs a year in recent years. It also hangs hundreds of drug traffickers each year.

Chronicle AM -- November 29, 2013

Uruguay's marijuana legalization bill passes another hurdle, a Berlin borough wants cannabis cafes, Chicago proposes tough medical marijuana regulations, Kentucky officials hound the DEA about hemp, and more. Let's get to it:

Is this the face of marijuana legalization? Uruguayan President Jose Mujica (wikimedia.org)
Medical Marijuana

Chicago Proposes Strict Medical Marijuana Regulations. Chicago officials have proposed regulations that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and grows only in manufacturing districts, would limit the number of grows to 22, and would require that dispensaries and grows be at least 2,500 feet from a school, day care center, or residential area. Medical marijuana becomes legal in Illinois on January 1.

Michigan Appeals Court to Hear Cases on Unemployment Benefits. The Michigan Appeals Court has agreed to hear two cases to determine whether someone fired for using medical marijuana can collect unemployment benefits. Lower court judges have overturned state agency rulings denying the benefits, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the law only protects people from criminal prosecutions, not civil penalties.

Hemp

Kentucky Officials Send Letter to DEA Requesting Clarification on Hemp. Kentucky officials have sent a letter to the DEA asking for clarification of its position on industrial hemp. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, US Sen. Rand Paul (R), and US Reps. John Yarmouth and Thomas Massie want the agency to tell them whether growing hemp in states that have enacted a regulatory framework remains illegal. They point to the federal government's response to marijuana legalization and argue that hemp should be treated the same way.

Drug Testing

Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Drug Possession Conviction Based Solely on Drug Test. Idaho's high court Tuesday upheld the conviction of a woman charged with drug possession after blood from her newborn child's umbilical cord tested positive for methadone. The court held unanimously that the drug test result was probable cause to support a possession conviction.

International

Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. Uruguay is one step closer to becoming the first country to legalize the marijuana trade after the Senate Health Commission voted Thursday to approve the bill. The government-supported legislation has already passed the lower house and is expected to win final approval in the Senate next month.

Cannabis Cafes Coming to Berlin? Legislators in the hip Berlin borough of Friedrichschain-Kruezberg voted Thursday to approve cannabis coffee shops there. The move is the brainchild of Green Party Mayor Monika Hermann, who proposed it in September. Now, the borough must get the German federal government to agree. Under Article 3 of the German Narcotics Act, sufficient public interest could lead to law changes, provided there is public support and backing scientific evidence.

European Cancer Docs Say Restrictive Laws Aimed at Drug Abuse Block Millions from Pain Relief. The European Society for Medical Oncology warned that half the world's population lacks effective access to pain relievers because of restrictive laws aimed at reducing drug abuse. The group's Global Opioid Policy Initiative survey estimated that millions of cancer patients don't have access to seven cheap medicines essential for pain relief, including morphine and codeine. Access to such drugs "is catastrophically difficult" in many countries, the report's lead author said.

British Tories, Lib Dems At Odds Over Drug Policy. Britain's governing coalition is at odds with itself over drug policy after the new Liberal Democrat drugs minister, Norman Baker, said earlier this week that marijuana legalization "should be considered." That caused Conservative front-bencher and Justice Minister Chris Grayling to clarify that he and the Home Office "won't be considering it."

Northern Nigeria Alcohol Crackdown Sees 240,000 Bottles of Beer Destroyed. In attempt to deepen a sharia law ban on alcohol imposed in 2001, but largely ignored in hotels and the city's Christian quarter, Islamic police in the northern city of Kano destroyed 240,000 bottles of beer. They chanted "God is great" as they did so, and the head of the religious police warned that they will put an end to alcohol consumption. Multiple bombings of bars in the Christian quarter in late July carried out by suspected Islamic militants who complained the government wasn't enforcing sharia law adequately left 29 dead.

Peru Eradicates Record Amount of Coca. Peru, once again the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, announced Thursday that it had eradicated a record 55,000 acres of coca, about one-fifth of the total estimated 250,000-acre crop. That's a 60% increase in eradication over last year. The government said the increase was due to tougher anti-drug efforts and a weakening of the Shining Path in coca growing areas.

Israel Medical Marijuana Use up 30% This Year. Medical marijuana use is up sharply this year in Israel, according to the Health Ministry, which released figures showing 13,000 patients were approved to us it this year, up from 10,000 last year. The increase comes as the government is working on a new proposal to regulate medical marijuana. The Health, Agriculture, and Public Security ministries are expected to present it within the next couple of weeks.

California Study Suggests Marijuana a Substitute for Alcohol

A New York Times article this week, Few Problems With Cannabis for California, reports that a pending study in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management by Mark Anderson and Daniel Reese has found increased marijuana use to be a substitute for alcohol use in California:

Based on existing empirical evidence, we expect that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington will lead to increased marijuana consumption coupled with decreased alcohol consumption. As a consequence, these states will experience a reduction in the social harms resulting from alcohol use.
 

The article discusses alcohol's relationship to traffic fatalities and violent crime, including domestic abuse, predicting that marijuana legalization will reduce those problems, with youth use of marijuana remaining stable.

The substitution question has been raised repeatedly at academic fora on marijuana legalization since the Colorado and Washington initiatives passed last year. In our movement we have tended to assume that they are substitutes, but not all academics are sure. At a one-day conference held by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, at their Washington office, one of the guest presenters said the evidence they've seen "clearly" indicates that marijuana is a complement for alcohol use, e.g. increased availability of marijuana could have the effect of increasing alcohol use and is at least correlated with it. Another one of the guest presenters immediate chimed in to say that the evidence his team has seen "clearly" indicates that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.

DPRC co-director Beau Kilmer often notes that a change in the amount of alcohol use, up or down, could dwarf any increase in marijuana use in terms of its public health ramifications, because alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. But he's cited evidence pointing in both directions, sometimes in different directions for different groups of people. Hopefully the JPAM study's findings will be born out by further research.

"Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?," on ProCon.org

Did you know the drinking age is an example of continuing societal debate over how best to regulate legal drugs? Read what different thinkers have to say, at "drinkingage.procon.org," part of the ProCon.org family.

This is the fifth in a six-part series of ProCon.org teasers being published in Drug War Chronicle. Keep tuning in to the Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org the next several weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. Read last week's Chronicle ProCon.org highlight piece here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Did You Know? Legal Drinking Age 138 Countries, from ProCon.org

When marijuana is legalized, states across the country as well as Congress will look at what regulations they want to implement as part of that, with age limits for currently legal drugs like alcohol a likely topic.

Did you know the legal drinking age in 138 countries varies from totally banned at one end to no age limits at the other? Read the details on drinkingage.procon.org, part of the ProCon.org family.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next few weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. Click here for last week's Chronicle Did You Know segment.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Chronicle Film Review: Prohibition

Prohibition: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2011, Florentine Films/WETA, 3 discs, 5 ½ hrs., $41.99)

One of America's leading documentarians has done it again. Ken Burns, producer of the widely watched and hailed documentaries, Baseball and The Civil War, has now teamed up with Lynn Novick to examine the rise, fall, and repeal of the 18th Amendment banning alcohol sales and production. It is a worthy effort, and well-executed.

Prohibition "postcards" online at pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/send-postcards/
The multi-hour must-see premiered over three nights this week on PBS, pulling in nearly four million viewers on its opening night -- very big numbers for public TV. It's also available online at the PBS Ken Burns Prohibition web site.

For most us of Prohibition is ancient history, skimmed over bloodlessly in dusty tomes in high school and undergraduate history courses. My 83-year-old mother, for instance, was still a toddler when revelers across the land tippled with delirious joy to mark repeal. For anyone younger than her -- and that's most of us -- Prohibition is no more than a school lesson, not a thing of living memory, except, perhaps, for an old story or two told by grandpa or grandma.

One of the successes of Prohibition is the way it brings that dry history to life. Through the skillful use of contemporary film, photographic stills, oral history, written remembrances narrated by actors, and a lively narration by Peter Coyote, Burns and Novick are able to recreate the living, breathing reality of second half 19th and early 20th Century America. Staring face to face at the glowering glare of a doughty battle-axe like Carrie Nation or the lizard-lidded, full-lipped gaze of Chicago gangster Al Capone, listening to Al Smith rail against the dries or Mabel Willibrand rally preachers against repeal, helps us put a human face on the  passions and frailties behind the march of the social revolution that was Prohibition and the mass rejection of it that was repeal.

Similarly, vivid scenes of saloon debauchery, with passed out drunks and giddy tipplers, of speakeasies filled with good-time guys and giddy flappers, of mass marches for and against, of political conventions and campaigns in which Prohibition was a burning issue of the day, help put living flesh on the dry bones of history.

The early 20th Century experiment in social control and legislating morality contains many lessons for contemporary activists seeking to undo the damage done by drug prohibition. Burns and Novick deserve our thanks for teasing out the varied strands that turned the 19th Century's temperance movement among mostly rural, Protestant, church-going women into a political powerhouse capable of blunting the power of big booze, shuttering the breweries and distilleries, and eliminating the saloons men saw as their last refuge from the demands of wife and children.

For me, the most important achievement of Prohibition is the way in situates the temperance movement within the broader social and political context of a tension-filled, rapidly evolving America. As Burns and Novick make abundantly clear, Prohibition did not happen in a vacuum. Among the forces propelling it were many of the same forces active today propelling reactionary social movements: racism (directed against newly arrived Irish, German, and Jewish immigrants), nativism (ditto), religious bigotry (aimed at those Catholic immigrants), nationalism (against mainly German-American beer brewers, especially during World War I), and rural vs. urban tensions.

But while it may be easy to ridicule the reactionaries of the last century, the roots of Prohibition also come uncomfortably close for present-day progressives. The temperance movement -- in all its intemperance -- was closely tied to "what about the children!" sentiment and women's suffrage, a cry for healthy living,  as well as the sort of "do-gooderism" conducted by "busybodies" that still informs much of the discourse when it comes to drug policy reform today.

As Prohibition shows most excellently, the politics of morality and social control are deep and twisted, and unraveling them reveals some unflattering facets of progressivism, as well as the more easily derided absolutists of what could fairly be called the Christian Right.

Where Prohibition is perhaps most useful to modern day drug reformers is in its depiction of the social ills it generated. Much as the Drug Policy Alliance likes to say "drug abuse is bad, drug prohibition is worse," viewers of Prohibition could fairly draw the conclusion that "mass drunkenness is bad, mass drunkenness under Prohibition is worse." Burns and Novick sketch the rapid expansion of organized crime under Prohibition, the gang wars of Chicago and New York, the corruption of cops and public officials -- all the side-effects of prohibition so familiar to present day reformers.

Prohibition "postcards" online at pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/send-postcards/
But they also look at its public health consequences, which -- like current drug prohibition -- were also in many ways disastrous. There were mass deaths from bad bathtub gin, deaths from drinking wood alcohol, outbreaks of "Jake Leg," a neurological disorder caused by contaminated whiskey that crippled hundreds, if not thousands, and while alcohol consumption initially declined, that decline was soon reversed, and with even more unhealthy drinking patterns.

In the end, Prohibition died of neglect, ridicule, and changing social attitudes, forged at least in part by the experience of Prohibition itself. And at the end, it revealed itself to be hollow, crumpling with amazing rapidity after the Great Depression hit and the big city, immigrant-friendly Democrats under FDR took power. Before the end of FDR's first year in office, Prohibition was history.

There are many lessons and parallels for contemporary drug reformers in Prohibition, but they are not exact and may not apply across the board. Alcohol prohibition lasted barely a decade, but drug prohibition is now in its second century. Why one was a flash in the pan and the other remains a painful, enduring legacy are questions that need to be answered if we are ever to leave drug prohibition in the dustbin of history along with Prohibition. Prohibition can help us start to ask the questions that will give us the right answers.

Disappointingly, Ken Burns doesn't appear interested in pursuing the parallels, nor even the dissimilarities, between Prohibition then and prohibition now. He does not reference the prohibition of other drugs in Prohibition (although heroin and cocaine were already criminalized federally and marijuana was being banned in a number of states), nor, as he has made clear in interviews, does he see a useful comparison between the two.

But that disagreement or lack of boldness notwithstanding, Prohibition is still a great viewing experience that brings alive a critical episode in US social and political history, an episode who reverberations still linger and whose contours are still echoed in drug prohibition. This is your history, America -- watch, enjoy, learn, and ponder.

Attention Students: Start a SAFER Campus Campaign This Spring

The SAFER Campuses Initiative is off to an early start for Spring 2011, and we want to help you get a campaign going on your campus.

We're already helping several campuses get their efforts off the ground, and we'll continue to help them and others work to change campus policies and spark public debate about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

The goal of the SAFER Campuses Initiative is to work with students at as many schools as possible, so please contact us today to let us know if you are interested in working with us on your campus or at one near you.

Whether you're interested in running a full-blown SAFER campaign, or simply taking action when opportunities present themselves, we want to hear from you!  We will be able to provide you with a great deal of support, including instructions, materials, and direct assistance.

The SAFER movement began just five years ago on two college campuses in Colorado, and since then it has spread across the nation. Now, students at more than a dozen schools, including five of the 15 largest in the nation, have adopted SAFER referendums, calling for reductions in campus penalties for marijuana use so they're no greater than those for alcohol use. At a few of those schools, SAFER campus leaders are now working with administrators to develop and implement policy changes that reflect the student votes. Perhaps most importantly, these efforts have generated significant news coverage and discussion at the campus, local, and even national level.

If you're interested in working with SAFER on your campus or on one that's nearby, please take a minute to check out the SAFER Campuses Initiative website, then send us an e-mail and answer the following questions about yourself and your school so we can get things rolling.

1. What school are you currently attending or interested in working at?

2. Are you a member of a student organization working on marijuana policy reform? If so, which one? If not, are you interested in potentially starting one? (NOTE: being part of or starting a student organization is not required, but can be very helpful.)

3. Anything else that might be of note? A personal story? A particular skill or work/volunteer experience?

empowered by Salsa

Group Calls on Elected Officials in Texas to Stop Taking Alcohol Money Until Marijuana Is Legalized (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2010

CONTACT:  Craig Johnson, 469-733-6769, safertexas@protectyouth.org

DALLAS, TX Dec. 2, 2010 -- With Texas politicians collecting a significant percentage of their campaign contributions from the alcohol industry after the November election, the Safer Texas Campaign (a project of ProtectYouth.org) is renewing its call on elected representatives to stop accepting such money until Texas passes legislation allowing the regulated use and sale of marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol.

According to campaign records provided by the nonpartisan, nonprofit FollowtheMoney.org, the five Texas politicians who have received the largest contributions from the alcohol industry are Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, all have so far received a total of $1.4 million during the 2010 election cycle.

Governor Rick Perry and the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 1199 in 2003, a bill that made it significantly easier for alcohol industry groups to pass sales initiatives in "dry" cities.  Despite the tremendous social and economic cost of alcohol use on families and communities, the legislation received no opposition from law enforcement or substance abuse prevention organizations.

Since HB 1199 took effect, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reports at least 391 local alcohol sales initiatives have passed statewide (compared to only 71 initiatives approved by voters during the eight years prior to HB 1199), and the number of "dry" counties has dropped from 51 to 26.

Studies show that alcohol use contributes to aggressive and risk-taking behavior potentially leading to acts of violence, whereas marijuana use does not.  The US Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey reported that two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor and that drinking is a factor in 75 percent of domestic violence incidents involving spouses.  A Harvard School of Public Health study reported in 2004 that 72 percent of college rapes nationwide occurred when the female was too intoxicated by alcohol to resist/consent. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States is shockingly high, consistently between 300 and 400 each year; whereas, there are no records of deaths from marijuana poisonings. 

The recent California effort towards legitimate regulation of the marijuana market, Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act), was opposed by the state's largest alcohol industry group, California Beer & Beverage Distributors.

The Safer Texas Campaign states that it is not anti-alcohol, nor does it advocate the use of marijuana.  "Our campaign works to address increasing public safety concerns that our state laws prohibiting the marijuana market are sending a dangerous message to the public that alcohol is more acceptable than marijuana," said Craig Johnson, coordinator of the Safer Texas Campaign.  "Every objective study on alcohol and marijuana has shown marijuana is a much safer substance than alcohol to both the user and to society, so our legislators should not be driving more Texans to drink by prohibiting the safer alternative of marijuana."

More info online at http://www.SaferTexas.org

Location: 
TX
United States

Alcohol More Harmful Than Heroin or Crack, British Study Finds

A study published Monday in the Lancet assessed the harms of various substances and found that alcohol caused more harm in the United Kingdom than heroin or crack cocaine. The study was done by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, which is headed by Professor David Nutt.

drug harm comparison chart, from the Lancet study
Until this time last year, Nutt was head of the governmental Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, but he was fired for criticizing the then Labor government as basing its decision to reclassify marijuana on politics rather than science. He also offended government sensibilities by saying that riding horses was more dangerous than taking ecstasy. After his firing, he and other scientists formed the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

The study, Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis, assessed the relative harms of different legal and illegal drugs to drug users and to society and concluded that "alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack (54) in second and third places."

It also demonstrated that Britain's drug classification scheme bears little relation to the harms caused by the various substances it regulates or fails to regulate. Alcohol, ranked most harmful in the study, is not a controlled substance, but cannabis (20 points) is Class B, the second most serious drug schedule. LSD (7 points) is a Class A drug, the most serious drug schedule, while tobacco (26 points) is not a controlled substance.

"Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm," the authors said.

A group of experts looked at drug-specific mortality, drug-related mortality, drug-specific damage, drug-related damage, drug-specific impairment of mental functioning, drug-related impairment of mental functioning, loss of tangibles, loss of relationships, injury, crime, environmental damage, family adversities, international damage, economic cost, and harm to the community and assessed weighted values for each to arrive at a final figure.

"The weighting process is necessarily based on judgement, so it is best done by a group of experts working to consensus," Nutt and his coauthors said. "Extensive sensitivity analyses on the weights showed that this model is very stable; large changes, or combinations of modest changes, are needed to drive substantial shifts in the overall rankings of the drugs."

Science-based drug policy, anybody?

United Kingdom

What the Pot Legalization Campaign Really Threatens: Alcohol Industry Profits (Opinion)

Location: 
CA
United States
David Sirota, author of the best-selling books Hostile Takeover and The Uprising, believes our society is drunk off of alcohol propaganda we've had trouble separating fact from fiction.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugs/148279/what_the_pot_legalization_campaign_really_threatens%3A_alcohol_industry_profits

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