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posted by takyon on Thursday April 20 2017, @04:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the hempire-strikes-back dept.

Past articles: 20152016

What's up, Soylenteers? I've got to write another one of these? #420TooMainstream.

Legalization Status

Timeline of cannabis laws in the United States
Timeline of cannabis law

Since this time last year, Ohio, Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas legalized medical cannabis, Illinois decriminalized it, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis. An attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in Arizona narrowly failed.

29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, although restrictions vary widely from state to state.

Germany's medical cannabis law was approved in January and came into effect in March. Poland has also legalized medical cannabis, and Georgia's Supreme Court has ruled that imprisonment for possession of small amounts of cannabis is unconstitutional.

Recently: West Virginia on Course for Medical Marijuana

🍁 Cannada: Not So Fast 🍁

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled (archive) legislation (archive) that would make Canada the first major Western country to legalize recreational cannabis (the only country to legalize it to date is Uruguay, although implementation has taken years), dealing a serious blow to the crumbling United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. However, the Liberal Party of Canada intends to wait more than a year to act on its campaign promise, during which time Canadians can still face prosecution for possession of the drug:

True to form, this government has written down a series of talking points, in this case, trying to make it sound like it's cracking down on pot rather than legalizing it. And Justin Trudeau's ministers are sticking to the messaging from party central like a child reciting Dr. Seuss.

Not once in that As It Happens interview did [Justice Minister Jody] Wilson-Raybould explain why the government intends to keep on criminalizing Canadians so unfairly (see the Liberal party's website statement) for another year. Instead, literally every second time she opened her mouth, she re-spouted the line about "strictly regulating and restricting access." Off asked eight questions. Four times, Wilson-Raybould robotically reverted to the same phrase.

Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, a parliamentary lifer who mastered the art of repetitive dronetalk sometime back in the last millennium, was out peddling more or less the same line, but with an added warning: Not only will the government continue to criminalize Canadians for what it considers a trifling offence, enforcement will be vigorous. "Existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected," Goodale declared. "This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all." Why the government cannot simply decide to invoke prosecutorial and police discretion, and cease enforcing the cannabis laws it considers unjust, was not explained. Why that would necessarily be a "free for all" also went unexplained.

The Liberal Party of Canada has taken pains to remind everyone that the Conservative Party will "do everything they can to stop real change and protect a failed status quo". Unfortunately, they did not get the memo that "marijuana" is a term with racist origins.

Make like a tree and legalize it, Cannadia... Cannibinoidia.

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Backtrack to April 20th, 2016. Bernie Sanders still seemingly had a shot at becoming the President of the United States. Sanders, as well as Hillary Clinton (though begrudgingly), supported decriminalization of cannabis, medical use, and the continuation of states making decisions about recreational use. The #2 Republican candidate Ted Cruz also had a "let the states sort it out" stance.

One contender stood out, and he went on to become the @POTUS to #MAGA. The widely predicted "third term" was prevented, and that outcome may greatly affect a burgeoning semi-legal cannabis industry. One recent casualty are Amsterdam-style "cannabis clubs" (think: brewpubs). Colorado's legislature has backed off on a bill that would have allowed on-site consumption of cannabis at dispensaries due to the uncertain future of federal enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

Trump's position on cannabis has been ill-defined, although he supports medical use and has indicated that states should handle the issue. But the same can't be said of his Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions. Here are some quotes about the drug from Mr. Sessions:

I thought those guys were OK until I learned they smoked pot. [Source. Context: Sessions later testified that the comment was a joke.]

We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger.

I think one of [President Obama's] great failures, it's obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana... It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started 'Just Say No.

You can't have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink... It is different... It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.

Good people don't smoke marijuana.

Cannabis advocates are becoming increasingly paranoid about the federal government's stance towards the states (and a certain District) that have legalized cannabis. And this is following an Obama administration that was criticized for conducting raids in states with legalization. It is too early to tell how the Trump administration will choose to deal with cannabis, but there are signs that harsher policies and greater enforcement could be coming:

On Wednesday, [April 5th,] Jeff Sessions directed Justice Department lawyers to evaluate marijuana enforcement policy and send him recommendations. And some state officials are worried. This week the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington wrote the attorney general. They asked Sessions and the new Treasury secretary to consult with them before making any changes to regulations or enforcement.

At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said recently that the president is sympathetic to people who use marijuana for medical reasons. He pointed out that Congress has acted to bar the Justice Department from using federal money to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. But Spicer took a harsh view of recreational marijuana. "When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we need to be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by," Spicer said.

Really, Spicer? Recreational cannabis use shouldn't be encouraged during an opioid addiction crisis? Read on.

Politics nexus unavailable for comment.

The Opioid Crisis Drags On (it's relevant)

Heroin use has become more dangerous as dealers have increasingly added other substances that massively increase potency without affecting the size of a dose significantly. Carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer, has led to hundreds of deaths over very short timespans. It is impossible for the average user to predict the potency and potential danger of street heroin. While there have been international responses to these compounds, new chemical analogues are being created all the time:

Chinese labs producing the synthetic opiates play hide-and-seek with authorities. On their websites, they list fake addresses in derelict shopping centers or shuttered factories, and use third-party sales agents to conduct transactions that are hard to trace. The drugs themselves are easy to find with a Google search and to buy with a few mouse clicks. A recent check found more than a dozen Chinese sites advertising fentanyl, carfentanil, and other derivatives, often labeled as "research chemicals," for sale through direct mail shipments to the United States. On one website, carfentanil goes for $361 for 50 grams: tens of thousands of lethal doses.

The cat-and-mouse game extends to chemistry, as the makers tinker with fentanyl itself. Minor modifications like adding an oxygen atom or shifting a methyl group can be enough to create whole new entities that are no longer on the list of sanctioned compounds. Carfentanil itself was, until recently, unregulated in China.

2016 saw the addition of kratom to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. Advocates for the tree leaf drug, which was formerly classified as a supplement, believe that its painkiller effects and low risk factors make it a useful replacement for the oft-deadly opioids that millions of Americans are addicted to. Kratom users have treated their pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms using the formerly "legal high". The DEA has refused to acknowledge this application and points out the "skyrocketing" number of calls to the Poison Control Center regarding kratom in recent years. One skeptic of kratom, Dr. Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, has looked at the same evidence and concluded that the trail of bodies left by substances like fentanyl and the scarce number of deaths (perhaps wrongly) attributed to kratom make it clear that the substance is the better "poison". He also notes that:

The number of calls to poison control centers is not reliable for determining how many poisonings actually occurred. It is a crude approximation at best.

Much like kratom, medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the opioid crisis. States with legalized medical cannabis have seen a reduction in reported instances of opioid dependence [DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.01.006] [DX] So it is puzzling that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would use opioids as a bludgeon against cannabis legalization while AG Sessions expresses astonishment over the suggestion of using cannabis as a "cure" for the opioid crisis.

Bonus: Here's a video (2m14s) of a woman getting administered Narcan/naloxone. Here's an alternate video (2m39s) in which a man who overdosed on heroin is able to sit up in about a minute after being administered naloxone.

⚚ The Slow March for Science ⚕

While the Drug Enforcement Agency has refused to reclassify cannabis from its current Schedule I status, citing the supposedly rigorous conclusions reached by the Food and Drug Administration, it will allow more than one institution to grow cannabis for research purposes, ending the monopoly held by the University of Mississippi. However, the Schedule I status of cannabis remains an impediment to further research:

[...] DEA's decision not to reschedule marijuana presents a Catch-22. By ruling that there is not enough evidence of "currently accepted medical use"—a key distinction between the highly restrictive Schedule I classification and the less restrictive Schedule II—the administration essentially makes it harder to gather such evidence.

"They're setting a standard that can't be met," says David Bradford, a health economist at the University of Georgia, Athens. "That level of proof is never going to be forthcoming in the current environment because it requires doing a really extensive clinical trial series, and given that a pharmaceutical company can't patent whole plant marijuana, it's in no company's interest to do that."

Schedule I status presents obstacles for clinical researchers because of restrictions on how the drugs must be stored and handled, Bradford says. Perhaps more significant, that listing may evoke skittishness at funding agencies and on the institutional review boards that must sign off on research involving human subjects.

Researchers have disparaged the quality and potency as well as the appearance and odor of the University of Mississippi's cannabis products:

"It doesn't resemble cannabis. It doesn't smell like cannabis," Sisley told PBS NewsHour last week.

Jake Browne, a cannabis critic for the Denver Post's Cannabist marijuana news site, agrees. "That is, flat out, not a usable form of cannabis," he said. Browne should know: He's reviewed dozens of strains professionally and is running a sophisticated marijuana growing competition called the Grow-Off.

"In two decades of smoking weed, I've never seen anything that looks like that," Browne said. "People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on."

Research on cannabinoids and psychedelics is proceeding, slowly. One study published yesterday (74 years after the first LSD trip) came to an astounding conclusion: Psychedelics can induce a "heightened state of consciousness":

Healthy volunteers who received LSD, ketamine or psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms, were found to have more random brain activity than normal while under the influence, according to a study into the effects of the drugs. The shift in brain activity accompanied a host of peculiar sensations that the participants said ranged from floating and finding inner peace, to distortions in time and a conviction that the self was disintegrating.

[...] What we find is that under each of these psychedelic compounds, this specific measure of global conscious level goes up, so it moves in the other direction. The neural activity becomes more unpredictable," said Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex. "Until now, we've only ever seen decreases compared to the baseline of the normal waking state."

Inconceivable!

Increased spontaneous MEG signal diversity for psychoactive doses of ketamine, LSD and psilocybin (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep46421) (DX)

♯ Ending on High Notes ♯

Vape Naysh, y'all!

 
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aclarke on Thursday April 20 2017, @07:39PM (9 children)

    by aclarke (2049) on Thursday April 20 2017, @07:39PM (#497018) Homepage

    The issue I hear most about here in Canada about what's slowing us down is how are we going to test people for driving under the influence of pot. See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/saliva-tests-marijuna-1.4071653. [www.cbc.ca] Granted IANAL, just an apparently naïve adult, but I just don't understand how this is an issue. Right now we don't have good DUI tests and pot is illegal. If we legalize pot, we won't have good DUI tests and (driving under the influence of) pot is illegal.

    The only issue I can think of is if the car smells of smoke and you can't tell if the driver is high or not. But then again, that's already probably an issue. "Car smells of pot" isn't likely sufficient evidence to prosecute someone for DUI. Not to mention all the ways of using pot that don't leave a scent. You could go with a possession charge maybe but even that's iffy if there's no weed in the car. It seems like in the end, all legalisation really does is bring to light issues that already exist. Maybe someone here can explain to me what I'm missing.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20 2017, @07:46PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20 2017, @07:46PM (#497021)

    The perception I have seen among the public (not law enforcement unions, police chiefs, politicians, private prison lobbyists, etc) is that stoned driving is impaired driving, but it may be balanced out by paranoia and cautious driving.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20 2017, @09:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20 2017, @09:38PM (#497079)

    As a fellow Canadian, I have been pondering exactly the same points you made. It's as if people believe that all of a sudden there will be this epidemic of stoned driving if it is made legal. Well, I have news for all of these politicians, a gram of weed is easier and cheaper for me to obtain than a pack of smokes or a six pack of beer. The people who a likely to drive stoned are probably already doing it. Legalizing and regulating it will eventually make it harder to obtain, just like it did with alcohol.

  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Thursday April 20 2017, @11:02PM (3 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday April 20 2017, @11:02PM (#497104) Journal

    Isn't there an issue where the Marijuana can be stored in the fat of the body. Such that if you happen to be in period where your fat deposit decreases every so slightly one will get a new uncontrolled high? Thus drug-DUI even if there's no drug in the car nor have taken any as of lately?

    And do test really test for drug-DUI right now or get confused by leftovers from earlier highs?

    • (Score: 2) by dry on Friday April 21 2017, @06:09AM (2 children)

      by dry (223) on Friday April 21 2017, @06:09AM (#497260) Journal

      I think what you are thinking of is the metabolic byproducts of THC, which is usually what they actually test for (may be new tests). These byproducts stay in the system for 2-3 days so all they can really test for is whether you used in the last couple of days, not whether you're stoned.
      There is a lot of work being done of tests for impairment so I may be out of date.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday April 21 2017, @07:00AM (1 child)

        by kaszz (4211) on Friday April 21 2017, @07:00AM (#497280) Journal

        The 10 000 $$ question is. If the test that have a 2-3 day time window turns out positive. Does it count as a offense?
        Anyone caught can claim they were high 2 days ago..

        • (Score: 2) by dry on Saturday April 22 2017, @04:06AM

          by dry (223) on Saturday April 22 2017, @04:06AM (#497779) Journal

          That's why they're working on better tests. I fell asleep at the wheel years ago and the cops thought I was drunk and got a search warrant for my blood and did a detailed toxicity thingy on it. The copy of the report I got said right on it that I tested positive for using marijuana with the caveat that it could have been anytime in the last 48 hours. Not something that they can convict on as it introduces a reasonable doubt though if they'd found something like roaches in the ashtray...
          When I was young, I did smoke a lot of pot and sometimes drove. When I smoked it all the time, I don;t think it made me particularly impaired and what impairment there was was counteracted by being more careful. The most impaired I've ever been has been when tired. A couple of trips I took, looking back at, it's amazing someone didn't die. Worst was when I working about 50 miles away, by the Friday trip home, I was waking up as I wandered off the road, thank god for noisy leaves :) With the cost of housing here (forcing people to live a long ways from work) and the move to make people work longer hours, tiredness is probably the biggest danger.
          Googling, it does seem there are newer tests that actually test for THC in saliva, somewhat surprising as THC is mostly fat soluble, but then again marijuana tea is supposed to be a thing.
          http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/police-across-canada-testing-saliva-based-roadside-devices-to-detect-drugs-in-impaired-drivers [nationalpost.com]
          https://phys.org/news/2016-09-potalyzer-roadside-saliva-marijuana-intoxication.html [phys.org]
           

  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday April 20 2017, @11:35PM (1 child)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday April 20 2017, @11:35PM (#497119) Journal

    The issue I hear most about here in Canada about what's slowing us down is how are we going to test people for driving under the influence of pot.

    Begging the question, eh?

    Has it been scientifically determined that pot negatively affects driving? I'm not saying it doesn't, but, banning stuff before figuring out if it's harmful is how we got in this mess in the first place.

    Is there a roadside test that can figure out if someone was texting? Seems like we're relying on "see it happen" for something we know is dangerous. Why isn't that sufficient for weed?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by dry on Friday April 21 2017, @06:19AM

      by dry (223) on Friday April 21 2017, @06:19AM (#497263) Journal

      There has been scientific tests that show pot negatively affects driving and scientific tests that show it doesn't. Someone who doesn't regularly use pot and gets really stoned shouldn't drive and often they know that and avoid driving. Someone who uses pot all the time still has slightly slower reactions, like being tired, but is likely to take the affects into account and drive more carefully. At that generally pot smokers are more careful, especially compared to alcohol users who are likely to speed and act like idiots.
      The problem is that the public worries about this, they also worry about usage on the job (as if it isn't already happening) which may which may lead to legalizing workplace drug testing and kids getting it, which means more laws about edibles, namely no edibles that look inviting to kids.

  • (Score: 2) by dry on Friday April 21 2017, @06:06AM

    by dry (223) on Friday April 21 2017, @06:06AM (#497259) Journal

    They're also passing a stronger impaired driving law that will allow the cops to haul you in for a saliva test if your car is full of pot smoke or even if you have red eyes. Whether the Supreme Court will be happy with the law remains to be seen.