by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
According to the U.S. government, marijuana has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical abuse.” This is the definition of the category (Schedule I) it’s been placed in under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to the category’s definition, marijuana is one of the “most dangerous drugs” with “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
While marijuana surely can be abused (what can’t?), this is highly debatable, to say the least, that marijuana meets any of those criteria. Its potential for abuse seems lower than that of many pharmaceuticals, not to mention alcohol and tobacco, which the CSA specifically excludes from its schedules.
In an interview that aired last week, President Obama was asked if he was open to reconsidering marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, in light of his recent observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Obama incorrectly claimed that moving marijuana to a less restrictive legal category would require an act of Congress.
In terms of abuse potential, marijuana could be placed in a lower schedule. “When you look at the Schedule IV drugs, you’ve got the opiate Tramadol, the stimulant Modafinil, lethal sedatives like phenobarbital and chloral hydrate, and the ‘date rape’ drug rohypnol. Surely cannabis is safer than these,” argues SUNY at Albany psychologist Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana.
But Harvard psychiatrist and cannabis expert Lester Grinspoon believes “none of the schedules is truly appropriate for marijuana.” But if he had to choose, he’d place marijuana in Schedule V, a category that includes codeine and opium preparations and is for prescription drugs with the lowest abuse potential.
In 1988, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young urged the DEA to reschedule marijuana, calling it “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Though the advantages of reclassifying marijuana wouldn’t be as substantial as one might think, given the complicated nature of this issue, it would facilitate a more honest discussion of marijuana’s hazards and benefits.
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Pictured: A U.S. Customs agent points his gun at a car suspected of transporting marijuana, 1969.
Watch: Dr. Oz Swears By Hemp Seed, Urges Audience to Try It
The “groovy super seed” was featured earlier this month on the Dr. Oz Show. Touting it as “the next big thing for your memory,” Dr. Oz explained hemp seed’s positive health effects on strengthening memory and reducing stress, against a backdrop of swirling tie-dye and many, many flowers. Oz and his guest Danita — who was decked out in hokey hippie garb — sampled hemp seed milk, protein powder, oil, granolas, and cereals as Oz challenged the audience to try hemp for themselves.
Hackneyed hippie references aside, the highlight of this segment was when Oz said this:
"Hemp’s not actually the same thing as marijuana. It comes from a different variety of the same kind of plant. There’s very low amounts of that psychedelic stuff that folks enjoy, so you can’t get a high."
Hemp has been illegal to grow in the U.S. since the advent of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which made growing hemp a felony because of its resemblance to marijuana. But it was a major American crop in the 18th and 19th centuries, during which it was used to make rope, cloth, and paper. Lately, hemp has been creeping into the mainstream. It was legalized in Colorado in 2012 along with recreational pot and will be allowed to be cultivated next year. (Apparently, these guys couldn’t handle the wait.) And currently, eight states (Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) have enacted laws legalizing cultivation, using the 0.3 percent THC standard to distinguish it from marijuana. We think now’s a good a time as any for hemp to make a major comeback, as the American hemp industry produces an estimated $450 million in product sales, while the business of importing hemp raw materials reached about $11.5 million in 2011.
So the fact that an Oprah Winfrey protégé would put his stamp of approval on this once-controversial plant is pretty significant. We’ll shake the hippie thing soon enough.
Watch this episode here
i found this 1972 edition of playboy a few weeks ago at a flea market. in the readers forum, several prison inmates wrote in to protest the injustice of their marijuana convictions:
Two years ago, the police in Lima, Ohio, raided my home, searched it for four hours and came up with enough grass to make approximately one joint. The charges: possession for sale (ten to 20 years) and maintaining a house for users (one to five years). The jurors who found me guilty don’t know the difference between marijuana and heroin and think a roach clip has something to do with needles. Such people are jelly in a prosecutor’s hands. Although this was my first offense, the judge ran the sentences consecutively, so I’m in for 11 to 25 years. I defy anyone to imagine what it would mean to lose 11 years of his life—much less 25—and then tell me this is justice.
Ohio State Reformatory
We are serving sentences at the Mansfield reformatory of from ten to 40 years for sale or possession for sale of marijuana. By now, with all the information that has been published about grass, there is no reason any member of the public should still believe that marijuana is a narcotic, that it is addictive, that it causes people to use addictive drugs or that it is detrimental to the user’s health. Nevertheless, we are doing time equal to that for rape, murder, manslaughter and armed robbery, for actions that have harmed no one. We know we have broken the law, but we see no justification for the severity of the penalties imposed on us. We ask people to write to Government officials, urging them to save our lives.
(Signed by 53 inmates)
Ohio State Reformatory
cnn’s dr. sanjay gupta comes around on medical marijuana
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”
They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications.
Researchers ran tests on three creepily well-preserved mummies—a boy and a girl who were four or five, and one 13-year-old girl. They were discovered in 1999 in a shrine near a the summit of a volcano in Argentina, buried some 500 years ago.
Forensics tests on the teenage girl revealed that, for the last year of her life, she switched from eating potatoes to a diet of llama meat and maize. An analysis of her hair—performed by researchers just as if she were a potential employee—revealed that during the same period her consumption of coca spiked as well. Coca is the plant that cocaine is extracted from, and a large lump of coca quid was found in the mummy’s mouth.
The coca leaves contain only trace amounts of the alkaloid that is turned into coke, but the coca levels detected in the mummy were much higher than other ancient coca-leaf chewers. The tests also revealed that she ingested a large amount of alcohol (probably from fermented corn) in her last final weeks of life.
In the early 1880s, cocaine was touted as a cure for everything from morphine addiction and depression to dyspepsia and fatigue. It was widely available in tonics, powders, wines, and soft drinks before its mass consumption created a cadre of raging addicts demanding medical attention. One of cocaine’s greatest medical advocates was Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud, who began studying its effects in 1884. His clinical notebooks demonstrate that his favorite experimental subject was himself.
In a time when substituting one addictive drug for another was a common means of treating substance abuse, Freud was eager to treat his best friend’s morphine addiction with cocaine. The friend was Ernst Fleischl-Marxow, a brilliant physiologist who injured his thumb while dissecting a cadaver, resulting in chronic pain alleviated only by large doses of morphine. In essence, Freud transformed his friend into an addled cocaine and morphine addict who died seven years later at age 45. Unfazed, Freud continued his love affair with cocaine for the next 12 years, using it to deal with his aches and mental anxieties. He loved how the drug made him talk endlessly about memories and experiences he previously thought were locked in his brain for no one to hear. Fleischl-Marxow wasn’t the only victim of Freud’s favorite “antidote.” In 1895, Freud nearly killed a patient named Emma Eckstein with a botched operation and too much cocaine. Like so many others, Freud suffered the most maddening symptom of addiction: the stealthy process by which the addict’s mind conspires to convince that nothing is askew or dangerous about something that most decidedly is.
Could jury nullification have saved a pro-marijuana activist from an 81-year prison sentence for selling pot?
Rich Paul of Keene, New Hampshire, is planning on appealing to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on the grounds that the judge misled the jury on what nullification is in his trial for selling marijuana to an undercover Drug Task Force informant. According to Free Keene’s coverage of the trial, judge John C. Kissinger emphasized that the jury had to follow the law as he explained it and didn’t mention jury nullification. Kissinger’s instructions to the jury were different than the ones given to the jury in the case of Doug Darrell, a 59-year-old Rastafarian woodworker who was acquitted of marijuana-growing charges thanks to jury nullification.
Paul, who essentially admitted that he sold marijuana to an FBI informant, had refused plea-bargain deals (including one that would have let him walk away with no jail time) because he wanted to stand up for his principles—weed is basically harmless and you should be allowed to smoke it and sell it to your friends. “Somebody had to stand up and say that this is wrong, and I thought I might as well be that guy,” he said in an email to VICE two days before the jury found him guilty. “I took the risk and now we’ll find out whether I bet my life well.”
some background on jury nullification:
Confusion about the legality of jury nullification is natural—essentially, it’s legal only because jurors can’t get punished for whatever verdict they reach. In the 90s, a juror from Colorado named Laura Kriho was charged with contempt of court for voting to acquit a 19-year-old charged with possession of meth and supposedly lying about her anti–drug war beliefs during the jury selection process, in what a lot of people read as an assault on the doctrine of nullification. Since then, though, the idea has become more mainstream—in 2010, the New York Times reported on prospective jurors in Missoula, Montana, voicing their concerns about sending an admitted weed dealer to prison, which led to the charges being dropped, and the mayor of San Diego recently said he supported nullification in a case involving a man running a medical-marijuana dispensary (legal under state law) who got arrested by the Feds.
In the past, juries in the South have used nullification to acquit whites accused of hate crimes against blacks, so the doctrine does have some nasty history behind it. A common critique, as expressed by the Straight Dope in a 2009 blog post on nullification, is, “If you want to change the law, do it at the ballot box, not in the jury room.” But change at the ballot box is complicated in 2013’s America. Even when states legalize marijuana, the federal government’s agencies can still crack down on people using and selling a legal (or semilegal) substance. Juries are supposed to represent the conscience of the community—is it so far-fetched to believe that many communities would find laws that send nonviolent criminals to prison for years repugnant? And shouldn’t they have some clearly defined mechanism for stopping that from happening?
Justice is not cheap in America so a fundraiser has started to help hire a lawyer for Rich Paul’s appeal. You can donate to his cause here
Washington Post editor David Maraniss‘ forthcoming book Barack Obama: The Story at points describes the president’s marijuana hijinks during his high-school and Occidental College days. Book excerpts posted online reveal that young Barack Obama frequently smoked marijuana, and he and his “choom gang” developed clever strategies for how to better maximize the impact of the “sticky-green.”
On its own, stories like these about a young adult are actually kind of funny, even humanizing — like something straight out of a stoner comedy. But when you realize it’s about President Obama, it becomes a little less humorous.
Less humorous because President Obama has repeatedly laughed off and dismissed serious discussion about drug policy, like in that 2009 virtual town hall where the president mocked online voters for picking a question about marijuana legalization.
Less humorous because the president shuts down medical marijuana dispensaries with a frequency that would have made Richard Nixon stand up and cheer. He presides over a DOJ, IRS, and DEA that have threatened, audited, and shut down legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington. All this despite once promising to respect state laws regarding medical marijuana.
This is a still from an LSD experiment in the Fifties. Watch the video
It wasn’t really until the early 1960s that psychedelics, specifically psilocybin and LSD, began to be demonized en masse. Timothy Leary’s initially admirable attempt to spread information about psychedelics devolved into cult-of-personality-based recreational drug use. The Leary contingent’s rabble-rousing from their Millbrook, NY estate, coupled with Leary’s egotistical quest to become a countercultural icon (remember “turn on, tune in, drop out”?), ultimately helped to contribute to the poor perception psychedelics have faced historically by providing reference material for the Drug War propaganda machine.
Prior to the Leary Hour in psychedelic history, scientists enjoyed years of unfettered study and experimentation with drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. With the discovery of LSD in 1938 by chemist Albert Hoffman and its subsequent mass production by Sandoz Laboratories in 1947 as a psychiatric drug, the psychedelic study floodgates opened. Scientists examined psychedelics as treatments for everything from alcoholism and addiction to anxiety and depression. So popular was the study of hallucinogens that throughout the ’50s and ’60s, scientists administered psychedelics to some 40,000 patients across 1,000 clinical studies.
The slow death of prohibition | BBC News (March 2012)
When prohibition came into force, in 1920, saloons across the country were boarded up and the streets foamed with beer as joyful campaigners smashed kegs and poured bottles down the drain.
But far from ending corruption and vice, as opponents of the “demon rum” had hoped, prohibition led to an unprecedented explosion in criminality and drunkenness.
Thousands of speakeasies selling illegal liquor, often far stronger than legal varieties, sprang up across the country - and gangsters such as Al Capone fought bloody turf wars over the control of newly created bootlegging empires.
National prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, but it never quite died out.
When alcohol regulation was handed back to individual states, many local communities voted to keep the restrictions in place, particularly in the southern Bible Belt.
Today there are still more than 200 “dry” counties in the United States, and many more where cities and towns within dry areas have voted to allow alcohol sales, making them “moist” or partially dry.
[…] Methamphetamine and prescription pills like Oxycontin, dubbed “hillbilly heroin”, have taken over from bootlegging and the distillation of moonshine as the main source of profit for local criminals.
Bootleggers once “ran wild” in the area, according to Paul Croley, but with the growing availability of legal alcohol in wet towns, any profit made from smuggling booze across county lines has largely evaporated.
Local law enforcement largely turns a blind eye to bootleggers now, and few cases make it to court.
"It is simply somebody driving up the interstate, bringing beer down here and selling it to people. That’s it. It’s not the Dukes of Hazzard," says Croley.
But the churches argue that alcohol is a “gateway” drug, and is still offered for sale by bootleggers alongside more dangerous substances.
An NYPD commissioner, John Leach, supervises the destruction of liquor during the height of prohibition.