Category Archives: Drug Policy

SAM Canada on the Canadian Statement to the UN General Assembly on April 20, 2016

by Pamela McColl, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada   pjmmccoll@shaw.ca

We are greatly disappointed that Canada used its precious time on the global stage to promote the legalization – and thus commercialization – of cannabis. This statement sent a powerful message from our government that profits come ahead of public health.

Not mentioned was the global call among scientists this week that cannabis harms should be widely publicized. This new call to action has been released from scientists around the world, reflecting “a growing consensus among experts that frequent cannabis use can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people and lead to a range of other medical and social problems. ” according to the The Guardian. It was reported that researchers now believe the evidence for harm is strong enough to issue clear warnings. This is in line with a recent World Health Organization report on the harms of cannabis.

Legalizing cannabis creates the potential for broad scale development, manufacture, and marketing of marijuana products.

This dynamic becomes even more pernicious when coupled with the higher addiction rates among underage marijuana users. One of the best ways to develop and capture heavy users is to encourage use at the earliest age possible, when dependence is more likely to develop. This mirrors business strategy by the multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry

It is therefore no surprise that the marijuana industry is borrowing another page from the tobacco playbook by marketing colorful, kid-friendly edible marijuana products. These “edibles,” such as the ones shown below—including marijuana-laced candies, lollipops, gummy bears, and sodas—already account for roughly 50% of the Colorado marijuana market.

Additionally, these market dynamics explains the marijuana industry’s efforts to drive potency of its products as high as possible. As noted earlier, the average potency of smoked marijuana has increased at least six-fold since the 1960s (to around 14% in the US), with edibles and concentrates pushing the rate even higher, up to 95%. The industry has also opposed recent attempts to cap potency at 15% in Colorado.

And the effects of legalization in Colorado have been devastating from a public health perspective. A report from the state of Colorado released this week highlighted their immense challenges.

As a network of more than 300 NGOs have said this week at the UN, we need to prevent, not promote, drug use and addiction. Instead of promoting the use of a dangerous drug, this is what should have been Canada’s theme too.

According to Macleans Canada, here’s the text of Health Minister Jane Philpott’s speech on April 20, 2016.

California Legislator Writes Bill Favoring Convicted Felon

By Roger Morgan, Take Back America Campaign. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #StopPot

California is already in violation of federal laws pertaining to Controlled Substances. To make matters worse assembly member Rob Bonta of Oakland wants to give license to felons to grow and/or sell pot.  Steve DeAngelo, a pot mogul, denies that the bill was written to favor him. Continue reading California Legislator Writes Bill Favoring Convicted Felon

Marijuana Legalization Based on False Premises

False Premises about Marijuana is Misleading Americans

Sven-Olov Carlsson opened the 5th Annual World Federation of Drugs Conference with an address challenging current popular premises in drug policy at this time. When discussing marijuana, Carlsson said the false premises for legalization is misleading Americans.

The United States has replaced drug prevention strategy with a  “Harm Reduction” strategy.  We need to look at the current heroin epidemic and acknowledge that the United States loses 129 people each day to drug overdose deaths, up from 78 a day a few years ago.   We have less than 5% of the world’s population and nearly 60% of the world’s drug users.  Let’s prevent initiation into drug use and bring down the desire to do drugs.

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Sven-Olov Carlsson is President of World Drug Federation. Photo: Drug News

Speaking in Vienna last week, Carlsson said, “A successful drug policy makes clear that drug use is unacceptable. ” Carlsson described the false premises surrounding marijuana in his presentation. Here are excepts from his speech with very minor edits:

  • The first false premise is that The Criminalization of Drugs Fuels the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. It does not.

The prohibition of illegal drug use does not encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS. Rather it reduces illegal drug use among HIV/AIDS patients, as well as the non-infected population thereby reducing the population vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection by contaminated needles.

Illegal drug use exacerbates weaknesses of the immune system, making individuals with AIDS more susceptible to infection and death. Marijuana use causes impaired immunity and opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma, life-threatening for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Marijuana also contains bacteria and fungi that put users at risk for infection.

Illegal drug use among AIDS patients is life threatening because these drugs lessen the effectiveness of anti-retroviral (ARV) medications.

Non-medical drug use is associated with increased risky sexual behaviors, which promote transmission of HIV/AIDS in a way that needle exchange cannot prevent.

  • The second false premise is that the Criminal Justice System and the Public Health System are Conflicting Approaches to Drug Policy. They are not.

The Criminal Justice System and the Public Health System Are Complementary and Not Conflicting Approaches to Drug Policy.

Prevention and treatment are programs that promote public safety and public health. “Harm reduction” tolerates, and thus perpetuates, non-medical drug use.

“Harm reduction” seeks to reduce the “harm” caused by non-medical drug use without stopping the use itself.  Substance abuse prevention and treatment work to stop non-medical drug use. Making non-medical drug use as a crime is an important public health strategy that reduces many of the “harms” produced by illegal drug use.

The challenge of future drug policy is to find ways to encourage the legal and justice systems to work better together with prevention and treatment to achieve goals that neither can do alone.

Treatment systems can work together with the criminal justice system by incorporating new, effective and evidence-based strategies to reduce illegal drug use among criminal offenders. These approaches also reduce the commission of new crimes and associated incarceration.

  • The third false premise is that Major Costs of illegal Drug Use are generated by the criminal justice system itself. It is not.

The greatest costs of illegal drug use are not generated by criminal justice system but by the non-medical drug use itself.

The costs include not only sickness and death but also reduced productivity and the high healthcare costs generated by illegal drug use.

The future of an improved drug policy is not to legalize intoxicating drugs of abuse, including marijuana.

It is the development of a balanced, restrictive drug policy that prevents drug use and intervenes with drug users to provide them with a path to life-long recovery.

Instead of legalizing drugs, an enlightened drug policy can harness the criminal justice system to thwart drug markets, facilitate entry into treatment and restrict incarceration to egregious offenders.

Pope Francis Speaks out Against Corruption and Drugs in Mexico

Pope Francis Criticizes Corruption and Narcos

On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Pope Francis called on Mexico’s government on Saturday to fight endemic corruption and drug trafficking.   As the front page headline of El Universal’s Sunday newspaper said, “Pope Criticizes Corruption and Narcos.”

“Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privilege or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, the drug trade, the exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death,” Pope Francis said in a speech to President Enrique Pena Nieto, government ministers and foreign diplomats.   

The speech startled some who did not expect the Pope to speak so frankly to the President and his Cabinet against corruption. Pope Francis also cautioned the youth of Mexico about the corrosive power of drug trafficking.

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Photo source: Cindy Wooden, Twitter

 

Pope  called on Mexico’s Bishops to take Active Stand Against the DrugTrade

On this trip, the Pope has traveled extensively to a children’s hospital and to big sports stadium in the state of Chiapas. Besides invoking Mexico’s history, its spiritual heritage, the plight of the poor and inequities of power and greed, Pope Francis addressed the Bishops of Mexico:

“I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church.

“The magnitude of this phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, its immensity and its scope which devours like a metastasis, and the gravity of the violence which divides with its distorted expressions, do not allow us as Pastors of the Church to hide behind anodyne denunciations.”    (For full text of the pope’s speech, read here)

It is estimated that 100,000 people have died from the drug trade in Mexico over the last decade. The marijuana lobby likes to say violence is caused by the United States and its War on Drugs, rather than acknowledging how the drug trade causes violence.