------------------------------------------------------------------- Joe Hart Defense Fund Announced (AIDS Patient And Director Of Medical Cannabis Providers Club Of Key West, Florida, Recently Arrested After No-Knock Raid By 25 State And Federal Agents For Possession Of Cannabis With Intent To Sell) Medical Cannabis Providers Club of Key West, Florida Joe Hart Director Call Joe Hart @ (305)293-1865 Please send check, money order or cash to: JOE HART DEFENSE FUND Scheduled for APRIL 06 1998 in KEY WEST, Florida c/o THE LAW OFFICE OF LAWRENCE ELLIOTT HIRSCH 1700 Sansom Street, Suite 501 Philadelphia, PA 19103 telephone (215)496-9530 fax (215)496-9532; e-mail LEH36@aol.com. "A government, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People!" WE NEED AS MANY FREEDOM LOVING PEOPLE TO SUPPORT JOE AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE! This is dedicated to Joe Hart who was recently arrested by state and federal agents in Key West, Florida for possession of cannabis with intent to sell. Please help Joe live his last few years as a free man! Joe has AIDS thus his time on this earth is quickly passing. Despite being afflicted with this terrible disease he has remained at the forefront of the medical cannabis debate, nationally and in the state of Florida. It doesn't have to be like this! The sick and suffering or their caregivers are being arrested and thrown in jail all because of a medicine they choose to heal their own bodies. Nevertheless it happens every day. From Montgomery, Alabama to Key West, Florida and from San Francisco, Ca. to Boston, Mass from our smallest towns to our largest cities sick and suffering people are being denied their constitutional rights in a war that has ravaged and divided our country. A few facts about Joe Hart Joe is one of the founders of the Key West Florida Buyers Club and is now the Director of the Medical Cannabis Providers Club of Key West. Joe was arrested in a "no-knock raid" of his apartment in March. Approximately 25 state and federal agents smashed their way in after Joe received a package delivered by a federal postal inspector dressed in a mail carrier's uniform. A package he knew nothing about! In the package it was alleged there were approximately: 2.8 pounds marijuana in two sealed bags. 46.5 grams of marijuana in six packages. Also an assortment of marijuana paraphernalia was allegedly found after police ransacked Joe's home. The police held Joe at gunpoint, "bodyslammed" him to the floor and were verbally abusive. Police and detectives ransacked the place and allegedly found an additional kilo in the freezer already packaged for patients. Joe Hart was also deprived of several personal items including a notebook containing addresses and names and a 35mm camera with film intact. After interrogating Joe for nearly three hours he was transported to the Dade county jail where he was incarcerated in a cell with a TB patient. TB is very contagious! With Joe's already diminished immune system from having AIDS we are hopeful Joe doesn't show any signs of tuberculosis in the coming months. He was also given a tuberculin vaccination which carries the live TB germ. Joe was released after posting a $25,000.00 bond a couple of days later. Joe may also be facing federal charges as well as state charges. Please help a brave and courageous "former highly decorated Viet-Nam veteran" remain free these last few years of his life by sending whatever you can to the address listed at the top of the page. Since Joe's recent arrest his organization has had to move underground. Lawrence Elliott Hirsch is counsel for the defense. He has stated that a suit against the denial of Mr. Hart's civil rights will be filed.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Outrage At Cops Boils Over ('San Francisco Examiner' Says An Overflow Crowd Testified All Day Friday In Santa Rosa, California, Where US Commission On Civil Rights Heard Allegations Of Brutality And Neglect Against County's 11 Law Enforcement Agencies) Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 19:46:19 -0800 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joel W. Johnson) Subject: MN: US CA: Outrage At Cops Boils Over Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: "Frank S. World"
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.examiner.com Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 Author: Carol Ness of the Examiner Staff OUTRAGE AT COPS BOILS OVER Civil rights panel gets an earful as Sonoma residents list gripes of police abuse, neglect SANTA ROSA - U.S civil rights commissioners tapped into a well of antagonism between the people of Sonoma County and their cops - and hit a gusher. Tension crackled all day Friday through the Justice Joseph A. Rattigan State Building, where the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examined brutality and neglect charges against the county's 11 law enforcement agencies, grilled police on their procedures and looked for answers. Hundreds of people on both sides showed up, swamping the 80-seat hearing room and forcing those waiting to speak and to hear to spend most of the day in the lobby, split into camps that had nothing to say to one another. The outraged citizens were a diverse bunch of men and women, most wearing black and white ribbons in solidarity with those they see as victims of police abuse. Police officers, sheriff's deputies and their supporters wore yellow ribbons or buttons saying, "I support our law enforcement community." "I have been to a lot of hearings around the country - in Miami, New York, many in Washington, D.C., - on the issue of police-community relations, and in none of them have I seen the intensity of interest that I have seen here," said Cruz Reynoso, former California Supreme Court justice and now U.S. Civil Rights Commission co-chair. "Nor have I seen this "us' and "them' perspective," he said. "What do you think is happening in Sonoma County? What's gone awry? It's a matter of some concern." What led to Friday's hearing was anger over a spate of police-related deaths, and complaints that at least some officers in the Sheriff's Department and the county's 10 police departments still refuse to treat domestic violence as criminal. Two killings in particular - and law enforcement's solid defense of them - fueled sentiment that police are out of step with the changing community. The fatal shooting of Kuan-chung Kao by a Rohnert Park police officer last April, because he was drunk and loud and waved around a broomstick, galvanized Asian Americans outraged by the stereotype implicit in the officer's defense - that he thought Kao, a Chinese American, was brandishing the stick in a "martial arts fashion." Seven other Sonoma County residents have been killed by police, most of them Santa Rosa officers, since April 1995, and three others died in or just out of jail, according to the October 22nd Coalition, which grew out of opposition to the killings. The other rallying cry has been the 1996 murder of Teresa Macias by her husband, who also shot her mother in the legs and then killed himself. Though Macias had repeatedly reported his abuse, threats and violations of a court stay-way order to sheriff's deputies, neither they nor the district attorney's office ever arrested the husband or took any other action to keep him away from her. Tanya Brennan, a member of the Purple Berets, a domestic violence victims' advocacy group, said Macias' story was all too common. "I'm now working with a 15-year-old woman whose partner violated (a court order) 15 times," she told the hearing panel. "The district attorney is indignant that she wants him jailed. He thinks (the man) is just young and immature. And this is after Macias." Macias' death has become a symbol of what Judith Volkart of the Sonoma County American Civil Liberties Union Friday called a "general pattern of discrimination" by the law enforcement agencies. A key part of the problem is what Volkart called the "absence of (police) accountability to the community and the resistance of law enforcement to be accountable to any organization it cannot control." Complaints against law enforcement are handled by the agencies themselves and the district attorney's office, with oversight by the county grand jury. District Attorney J. Michael Mullins told the panel that in his three years in the job, his office had not once sustained a charge of wrongdoing against an officer. And the grand jury's recommendations for improvements have generally been ignored, several victims' advocates contended. "All our efforts to reach out to law enforcement and local officials have met with closed doors," said Elizabeth Anderson, executive director of the Sonoma County Center for Peace and Justice. In their own defense, the chiefs of the three biggest law enforcement agencies in the county took the hot seat to explain and defend their hiring and recruitment practices, training, policies and procedures, and handling of complaints. "I feel overall (people) are comfortable with what we are doing," said Sonoma County Sheriff Jim Piccinini. He said that the panel was being misled by "certain interest groups." He said he'd taken steps to recruit and retain more women and minorities, and formed a new domestic violence unit. Michael A. Dunbaugh, police chief in Santa Rosa, said a 1995 survey of city residents showed that 82 percent rated his department as good or excellent. Reeling off a list of community groups like the Boy Scouts that his officers take part in, he said, "We are very involved in our community. We treasure it." Santa Rosa police Sgt. James Carlson, who was involved in one of the killings, told the panel, "It's obvious everyone missed the point about who is in the wrong in these incidents. . . . If there have been eight dead officers because of these incidents, there would be no hearing today." Larry Shinegawa, an associate professor at Sonoma State, said part of the problem might stem from changing times and demographics in the rural county - the same changes sweeping the state and country. The county's population has doubled in 20 years, to 424,495 in 1996, with huge increases in the Asian and Hispanic communities pushing the minority total to 18 percent, Shinegawa said. At the same time, police agencies are only 8.7 percent minority, and only 6.9 percent female. "Diversity in Sonoma County is at a cusp," he said. One recommendation likely to come out of Friday's hearing - and urged by most police critics - was creation of an independent civilian review system to decide charges against police. Also explored were ways to improve training, recruitment and hiring, and to reach out to the community. The California committee will make its report to the full commission, probably within 6 months. If the commission adopts it, its recommendations won't have the force of law but will build pressure for change. "Demographics and population changes always create problems for a system that isn't prepared for them," said Philip Montez, the commission's Western regional director. "It's important that law enforcement and all other governmental systems be prepared to meet the change - because it's coming, faster than anyone can say."
------------------------------------------------------------------- Pot Is On A Roll (Staff Editorial In California's 'San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune' Says New But Unnamed Report From National Institute On Drug Abuse Has Cannabis Smoking Increasing Among College Freshmen, From 16.7 Percent To 35.2 Since 1989 - Among High School Seniors, Use Rose From 33 Percent To 50 Percent) Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 11:49:53 -0800 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joel W. Johnson) Subject: MN: US CA: Editorial: Pot Is On A Roll Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: Jo-D Harrison Source: San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune (CA) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.sanluisobispo.com Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 Page: B-10, Opinion section POT IS ON A ROLL It's not surprising, but nonetheless disappointing, that more young Americans than ever are smoking marijuana and finding nothing wrong with it. A new report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that pot smoking among college freshmen has risen from 16.7 percent to 35.2 since 1989. The trend is equally alarming among high school seniors - from 33 percent to 50. Users argue that pot is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol. What's more, young people say, their parents smoked the weed, with no long-lasting damage to body or mind. It's hard to brush off such rationalizing. Still, we can't see marijuana legalized until the medical community comes up with research that minimizes the negative effects and opponents are ready to give up the fight against it. California has a pretty sensible law on marijuana. Its use is OK if approved by a doctor for a specific ailment. Unfortunately, pot zealots manage to find loopholes in the law or defy it outright. Not a pretty picture.
------------------------------------------------------------------- 'Crime City' - A New Look ('Sacramento Bee' Notes Gentrification Of Three-Story Midtown Sacramento Apartment Complex That Was Previously Scene Of Daylight Drug Deals, Shootings, Murders, Other Crimes) Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 19:46:41 -0800 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joel W. Johnson) Subject: MN: US CA: 'Crime City': A New Look Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: Joel W. Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) Source: Sacramento Bee Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.sacbee.com/ Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 'CRIME CITY': A NEW LOOK Then: It was known as "Crime City," a three-story midtown apartment complex that was the scene of daylight drug deals, shootings, murders and other crimes. In the first three months of 1996, police were called 73 times to Midtown Terrace, at 24th and Q streets. Neighbors kept their children inside out of fear. Others got fed up and moved out. Owner Robert Shee-Hong Yee was the first property owner to be fined under the city's social nuisance law. In May 1996, he agreed to pay a $5,000 fine, plus a $6,000 reimbursement to the city for its enforcement costs. Now: While the address remains the same, little else is recognizable at the apartment building. It has new owners, a new name, a new decor and a new type of tenant. Jim Cress, his wife, Ann Schafer, and his brother, Jerome Cress, bought the complex in October. Cress said he offered residents $300, plus their deposit, to move out. Almost all took his offer. Then the partners closed the place down and spent months -- and a "considerable amount of money" -- ripping out carpets, laying ceramic tile, installing new appliances and more. It was much like a modern-day barn-raising, with numerous Cress family relatives investing or adding elbow-grease to the effort. When Cress tore down the Midtown Terrace sign, neighbors cheered, he said. The building now has a new coat of teal and cream paint and a rich red awning pronouncing its new name -- The Oxford -- chosen to evoke its "English-garden theme," Cress said. A lion's head fountain spouts water in the brick-floored entry way. The new owners -- who also own Sutter House around the corner -- envision flowers blooming around the pool.Cress raised the rents to $415 to $625 a month and began renting last month to "young professionals and students." The renovation is due to be finished in three weeks. "It's kind of like buying an old Mercedes that's dirty and dented up but it's really a beautiful car," said Cress.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Needle Exchange Headed To House With Senate's OK ('Rocky Mountain News' Says 20-15 Vote Sends Bill To Colorado House Of Representatives) Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 15:00:57 -0800 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Olafur Brentmar
Subject: MN: US CO: Needle Exchange Headed To House With Senate's OK Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: GDaurer@aol.com Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 Source: Rocky Mountain News (CO) Author: John Sanko Rocky Mountain News Capitol Bureau Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://insidedenver.com/news/ NEEDLE EXCHANGE HEADED TO HOUSE WITH SENATE'S OK Denver and other cities should be able to launch needle exchange programs for drug addicts to slow the spread of AIDS, the state Senate said Friday. But the decision didn't come easily. There was bitter debate before lawmakers approved the legislation by a 20-15 vote. Opponents argued it would encourage drug use and send the wrong message to young people. They noted that most police chiefs oppose the idea. The bill will come up for a final vote Monday before it faces a tougher reception in the House. "It is a public health issue," said Sen. Dottie Wham, R-Denver. "This is one of the most difficult issues I've ever been involved in. But the reality we live in is that people use drugs." Denver wants to launch a needle exchange program. In Boulder, one is already under way--illegally. Local authorities have declined to intervene because of their belief that the program is useful The bill requires prior approval from the state health department before cities or counties could enact a program. No tax dollars could be used, and the programs would have to provide counseling and anti-drug treatment. "This bill does not legalize drugs in any way," Wham said. "If you are carrying drugs when you go to a needle exchange, you will be arrested." But the argument didn't convince Sens. Ken Arnold R-Westminster, a former Colorado State Patrol officer, and Jim Congrove, R-Wheat Ridge, a former undercover drug officer. "This is sending the wrong message to our youngsters and everybody else in our society, saying, 'We don't want you to do it and, yet, here's a clean needle. Go out, and shoot up,'" Arnold said. "Why not just give the needles to drug dealers? That way we don't have to have the center to distribute them. We can give the needle to the drug dealer, and he can give it along with each fix that he sells. The problem is not the dirty needles. The problem is heroin, and it's a moral problem within our society." Congrove, a former Jefferson County law enforcement officer, called it a really bad idea. For more information, call/write: People Engaged in Education and Reduction Strategies (PEERS) 2701 Alcott St. #263 Denver, CO 80203 phone: (303) 455-2472 fax: (303) 455-2548 email: PERSDEN@aol.com
------------------------------------------------------------------- Hall Tip Leads To Drug Arrest ('Daily Times' In Maryland Says A Tip From Salisbury City Council President Carolyn Hall Led Police To Arrest A 21-Year-Old Man On Suspicion Of Selling Pieces Of Soap Passed Off As Crack Cocaine - He's Held At Wicomico County Jail For $7,500 Bond)From: "Rolf Ernst"
To: Subject: MN: US MD: Hall Tip Leads To Drug Arrest Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 19:51:08 -0500 Newshawk: Rob Ryan Pubdate : February 21, 1998 Source : Daily Times (MD) Contact : email@example.com Author: Dan Kulin HALL TIP LEADS TO DRUG ARREST Salisbury - A tip from Salisbury City Council President Carolyn Hall led to the arrest of a 21-year-old man suspected of selling pieces of soap he passed off as crack cocaine. Hall was cruising the East Church Street neighborhood a little before 4 p.m. Thursday checking out complaints the street had potholes when a group of youths standing on the corner of East Railroad Avenue and Baker Street tried to flag down the 51-year-old mayoral candidate. Thinking the youths were selling drugs. Hall called the Salisbury Police Department. Police arrived a few minutes later and using a description provided by Hall, approached Bryan Derrall Pinkett near the corner of Baker and Charles streets and began talking to him. During the conversation, Pinkett reached into his pocket and police, fearing he was going for a weapon, grabbed him. A search of the Salisbury resident revealed he had several pieces of soap and drug paraphernalia on him. "We found some pieces to indicate he was distributing. If it was real it was a quantity to think he was dealing" Salisbury Police Maj. Jeff Livingstone said Friday. Pinkett was charged with possession with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance and possession of paraphernalia. Friday afternoon he was being held at the Wicomico County Detention Center on $7,500 bond.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Killer Heroin Batch ('Herald Sun' In Australia Says Two People Have Died And 27 Have Collapsed In One Of Melbourne's Worst Heroin 'Overdose' Outbreaks) Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 21:21:47 -0800 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Olafur Brentmar
Subject: MN: Australia: Killer Heroin Batch Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: Ken Russell Source: Herald Sun (Australia) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 Author: Mark Buttler KILLER HEROIN BATCH TWO people have died and 27 have collapsed in one of Melbourne's worst heroin overdose outbreaks. A new super-potent batch of the drug stretched the city's ambulance service to the limit in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday. At one stage, officers battled to deal with three overdoses in five minutes as addicts continued to fall. With each overdose response costing about $700, the 24-hour heroin emergency bill came in at more than $20,000. And the Salvation Army has reported people are becoming addicted at earlier ages. Some as young as 13 have sought help from its rehabilitation services. The overdoses were spread across Melbourne. A man, 25, was found slumped pathetically in a paddock in Heidelberg and within hours another user collapsed in a restaurant in South Yarra. One of the deaths was at Cranbourne where a woman, 20, was found dead in her bed. The other, a Noble Park man aged 26, also died at home. Both were seasoned users who had been treated before by ambulance staff. The woman had been revived with Narcan just 24 hours before her fatal collapse. Ambulance sources reported only two overdoses from 9 am yesterday as warnings about the strength of the batch of heroin hit home. But they fear it is only a matter of time before they are battling the next spate of overdoses. The victims ranged from the early teens to middle-age. Ambulance spokesman John Fasham said that while officers did not condone heroin use, those who felt compelled to use it should not do so alone because there would be no help on hand if they collapsed. But that was no help to a man who nearly died after shooting up with "friends" in a Heidelberg paddock. "They left when they thought he'd died," Mr Fasham said. "It was only when some people working at an office saw him that an ambulance was called. He would have died." When the man's companions realised the police had not been called they returned to the scene, but were more hindrance than help. Mr Fasham said one of them constantly badgered ambulance officers for a light for his cigarette as they worked to save the victim. He somehow survived. Captain David Brunt of the Salvation Army said it was disturbing to see people as young as 13 seeking help with rehabilitation. "The age-group seems to be decreasing all the time," Captain Brunt said. He said the low price of heroin also seemed to be an attractive factor for young people. The most recent spate of overdoses compared with a Melbourne average of about five cases a day. Ambulance officer Tim Kay noted the overdoses were not confined to one area. "When you get a strong batch, it is usually localised, but this one is not only concentrated in the inner city, but as far as Melton in the west, Craigieburn in the north and Strathmore and Doncaster," Mr Kay said.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report (An introduction and hyperlinked directory to more than a dozen articles on cannabis published over several issues by New Scientist, in Britain)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Marijuana Special Report Only one thing is certain about the great marijuana debate: whether you are Britain's prohibition-mad Home Secretary, or a stoned ex-hippy who would like to dish out the drug for free, you are likely to have a lot more opinions than facts. Past commissions and reports have tried to clear the clouds of unreason but have been universally ignored. This week we make our own attempt to tackle the key issues, including the latest findings from the Netherlands where possession of small amounts of marijuana has been legal for a decade. Our report homes in on four key claims frequently made by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. As its name implies, this government institute researches (and spends) hard in pursuit of the harmful effects of drugs. Its data also have a vast influence on UN policy. But as the pages that follow reveal, simple statements are never quite as simple as they seem . . . ARTICLES: * Let's chill out (14 November 1998) * Lords reckon it's high time for a change (14 November 1998) * High Hazards (27 June 1998) * Smoke in strokes (11 July 1998) * Newswire: From on high (25 April 1998) * Decriminalisation, Yes. Totally safe, No (21 February 1998) * The report the WHO tried to hide (21 February 1998) * What is left after smoking 10 joints a day for 30 years? (21 February 1998) * Does marijuana press the same chemical buttons as heroin and cocaine? (21 February 1998) * Are athletes better off smoking marijuana or tobacco? (21 February 1998) * Which is most addictive: coffee, alcohol, marijuana or shopping? (21 February 1998) * Aerosols: the future of the spliff? (21 February 1998) * What happens to Dutch dope smokers at the age of 26? (21 February 1998) * Drop in with Dr Dave (21 February 1998) * Is there such a thing as a cannabis addict? (21 February 1998) READERS LETTERS: http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/readers.html MARIJUANA CHAT: http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/chat.html REFERENCES
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Decriminalisation, Yes. Totally safe, No (New Scientist, in Britain, says attitudes towards illegal drugs are becoming more sophisticated and discriminating. After thirty years of research into the harmful effects of cannabis, there can be no hidden dangers left to discover. Only the politicians still seem irrationally terrified by the idea of any relaxation in the law: they think they can continue in the old way, lumping all drugs together.)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Marijuana Special Report: Decriminalisation, Yes. Totally safe, No Let's be adult about this Politicians will just have to bite on the bullet - dope will be decriminalised When Olympic officials decided last week to give errant snowboarder Ross Rebagliati his gold medal back, the cheers drowned out the boos. It was a minor scandal involving a minor sport, but it spoke volumes about the world's shifting relationship with its favourite illicit drug. A decade ago, Rebagliati would have been ostracised regardless of whether cannabis was on the list of his sport's banned substances. What's changed today is that our attitudes towards illegal drugs are becoming more sophisticated and discriminating. After thirty years of research into the harmful effects of cannabis, there can be no hidden dangers left to discover. We know that it is plain nonsense to regard cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug, just as it is a myth to think the substance rots the brain or leads inexorably to harder substances. And despite the anti-dope propaganda that circulates in the US, most people are thankfully well aware that no great social disaster has befallen the Netherlands, where cannabis has been sold openly in coffee shops for years. It would take a perverse mind to twist the data from Amsterdam into a argument for continued prohibition (see The Dutch experiment). While no sensible person believes cannabis is totally safe, even police chiefs back moves to decriminalise the drug. Only the politicians still seem irrationally terrified by the idea of any relaxation in the law: they think they can continue in the old way, lumping all drugs together. Before anyone decides what decriminalisation should mean in practice, however, we must take a hard look at every aspect of cannabis, from its long-term effects on the brain to the social effects of legal reform. If there is to be change, how far should we go? At one extreme, we could go Dutch, at the other, we might decide to do little more than rationalise the existing legal penalties and allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to people with serious illnesses. And if reefers are to be doled out on the NHS, for example, what information should go on the side of the packet? Or should we wait until researchers have figured out how to put cannabis into aerosol devices? Such complexities are why Britain's House of Lords was right to defy Home Secretary Jack Straw recently and launch its own inquiry - and why US drugs Supremo Barry McCaffrey was right to commission the US National Academy of Sciences to report later this year on the harmful as well as the medicinal effects of cannabis. Conversely, the pressing need for an open debate about cannabis is precisely why the WHO was so wrong to bow to political pressure and expunge from a recent report an informative if controversial comparison of the harms caused by different drugs including alcohol (see our news section). Of course, ever since the splendidly named Indian Hemp Drugs Commission of 1894, independent panels have been politely saying that the evils of cannabis have been exaggerated - and politicians have been politely ignoring them. Change is looking more possible now because the forces pressing for legal reform come with unprecedented levels of popular support. In Britain, Tony Blair and his Cabinet can always discard the opinions of the House of Lords, but they are fools to ignore opinion polls in tabloid newspapers which suggest a majority of the nation is now in favour of legal change. And the US government may have already met its Waterloo on the dope issue. In recent months, it has been locked in a bitter and futile dispute with the states of California and Arizona which have independently ruled that doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana with impunity. Even in America, threatening vulnerable patients and their doctors with legal action is no vote winner. Something will have to give, and the best bet is that California and Arizona will triumph in the end. If they do, it will be the beginning of the end for outlawing marijuana because where the US government goes, the rest of the world will quietly follow. None of this, of course, means cannabis is as safe as some of its advocates claim. But neither, as our special report shows (see A safe high?), are the opposing claims of the world's biggest funder of research into marijuana to be taken at face value. Campaigners and pressure groups can be forgiven for trading propaganda, but we should expect world famous scientific organisations like the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to evaluate honestly the research that has been done. David Concar From New Scientist, 21 February 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Aerosols: The Future Of The Spliff? (Britain's New Scientist notes fear of cannabis smoke leads many doctors to wish for a better delivery system.) Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 23:28:33 EST Originator: email@example.com Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Michael (email@example.com) To: Multiple recipients of list (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Aerosols: the future of the spliff? New Scientist 21 February 1998 Marijuana Special Report: Aerosols: the future of the spliff? From pain relief to stimulating the appetites of patients on chemotherapy, marijuana seems to have plenty going for it as a medicine. But many doctors worry about the weed's effects on lungs, and some would rather it didn't get people quite so stoned. For them, the dream solution would be some kind of aerosol or smokeless cigarette filled with a redesigned version of the drug that doesn't bend minds. The first part of the dream is already being worked on - the second will be harder to achieve. For years, doctors have been allowed to prescribe a swallowable capsule containing the main active ingredient of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinnol (THC). The problem is that patients complain of side-effects such as anxiety and say they prefer to smoke grass because that way they can control the dose through careful inhaling. Some researchers think they can improve matters by developing an aerosol form of THC. Even if it works, though, the spray would still make people high, and changing that won't be easy. The problem is cannabis's peculiar pharmacology. In the past decade, researchers have discovered that all cannabis's main effects - from changes in pain perception to euphoria and the munchies - are the work of a single type of receptor, copies of which protrude from neurons scattered far and wide in the brain. This is a problem because normally researchers fine-tune the effects of drugs by tailoring them to home in like a smart bomb on a small subset of the receptors they usually stimulate. For cannabis and THC, there is no subset. The targets are all identical. One solution might be to develop drugs that bypass these identical surface receptors and mimic chemical changes triggered by cannabis deeper in cells. But this is a long way off. In the meantime, there is a more basic puzzle to solve: why the brain has cannabis receptors in the first place. A few years ago, researchers discovered a cannabis-like substance in the brain called anandamide (after the Sanskrit for "bliss"). Like THC, anandamide stimulates cannabis receptors to dampen the electrical activity of neurons and reduce the flow of neurotransmitters across synapses. But nobody has a clear idea why. The best guess is that the brain uses anandamide as a central fine-tuner of electrical activity. (c) Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: High Anxieties: What The WHO Doesn't Want You To Know About Cannabis (New Scientist says a document leaked to the magazine shows that World Health Organization officials in Geneva have suppressed the publication of a politically sensitive analysis that confirms what aging hippies have known for decades: cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco.) Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 08:46:05 -0500 To: email@example.com From: Dave Haans (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: New Scientist: WHO suppresses comparison of mj, alcohol and tobacco Hi Mattalkers, I include this because at least two of the report's authors are Canadian. Cheers, Dave. From: http://marijuana.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/ marijuana/news.html *** Marijuana Special Report: High anxieties What the WHO doesn't want you to know about cannabis Health officials in Geneva have suppressed the publication of a politically sensitive analysis that confirms what aging hippies have known for decades: cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco. According to a document leaked to New Scientist, the analysis concludes not only that the amount of dope smoked worldwide does less harm to public health than drink and cigarettes, but that the same is likely to hold true even if people consumed dope on the same scale as these legal substances. The comparison was due to appear in a report on the harmful effects of cannabis published last December by the WHO. But it was ditched at the last minute following a long and intense dispute between WHO officials, the cannabis experts who drafted the report and a group of external advisers. As the WHO's first report on cannabis for 15 years, the document had been eagerly awaited by doctors and specialists in drug abuse. The official explanation for excluding the comparison of dope with legal substances is that "the reliability and public health significance of such comparisons are doubtful". However, insiders say the comparison was scientifically sound and that the WHO caved in to political pressure. It is understood that advisers from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the UN International Drug Control Programme warned the WHO that it would play into the hands of groups campaigning to legalise marijuana. One member of the expert panel which drafted the report, says: "In the eyes of some, any such comparison is tantamount to an argument for marijuana legalisation." Another member, Billy Martin of the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, says that some WHO officials "went nuts" when they saw the draft report. The leaked version of the excluded section states that the reason for making the comparisons was "not to promote one drug over another but rather to minimise the double standards that have operated in appraising the health effects of cannabis". Nevertheless, in most of the comparisons it makes between cannabis and alcohol, the illegal drug comes out better--or at least on a par--with the legal one. The report concludes, for example, that "in developed societies cannabis appears to play little role in injuries caused by violence, as does alcohol". It also says that while the evidence for fetal alcohol syndrome is "good", the evidence that cannabis can harm fetal development is "far from conclusive". Cannabis also fared better in five out of seven comparisons of long-term damage to health. For example, the report says that while heavy consumption of either drug can lead to dependence, only alcohol produces a "well defined withdrawal syndrome". And while heavy drinking leads to cirrhosis, severe brain injury and a much increased risk of accidents and suicide, the report concludes that there is only "suggestive evidence that chronic cannabis use may produce subtle defects in cognitive functioning". Two comparisons were more equivocal. The report says that both heavy drinking and marijuana smoking can produce symptoms of psychosis in susceptible people. And, it says, there is evidence that chronic cannabis smoking "may be a contributory cause of cancers of the aerodigestive tract".
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: A safe high? What is left after smoking 10 joints a day for 30 years? Claim 1 (New Scientist, in Britain, debunks a claim that "heavy" marijuana use impairs critical thinking related to attention, memory and learning. Differences between users, non-users and heavy users are generally slight, or arguable. In some tests, the heavy users actually do better. For 25 years Jack Fletcher at the University of Texas in Houston and his colleagues have been visiting Costa Rica to test the mental skills of very heavy users. Their scores fall well within the normal range.)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Claim ONE: "Critical skills related to attention, memory and learning are impaired among heavy users of marijuana . . ." Most people think of marijuana users as dreamers with the attention span of a gnat and no memory worth the name. Wrong. The picture emerging from psychology labs is that there is at most a kernel of truth in this stereotype, while some studies find no evidence of even subtle mental impairment in heavy users. And even those that do are open to a range of interpretations - not necessarily worrying to marijuana users. Take the latest findings on which the above claim is based. Harrison Pope and his team at Harvard University compared 65 college students who smoked marijuana daily with a control group of students who smoked it most every other month. After a drug-free day, the subjects completed a range of standard mental tests. Mostly, differences between the two groups were slight. When it came to remembering lists of words, for example, the heavy users recalled about 1 in 10 fewer words than the light users. But in one test the heavy users underperformed more noticeably. The test involved watching and mimicking the simple rules used by an experimenter to match cards with coloured shapes on them, and then adapting whenever the rule changed. Students who rarely smoked marijuana mistakenly carried on with the old sorting rule on about 5 out of 100 occasions, while heavy users made about 8 mistakes. Pope takes this seriously. "In the real world," he says, "people have to deal all the time with situations in which rules are changing..." Fine. But over the years, much stronger claims have surfaced: heavy marijuana users do badly at work or school, are more likely to be delinquent and develop psychiatric problems, or have abnormal brain waves. Time and again, however, such studies encounter the same objection: are the problems caused by smoking marijuana, or is it just that people with problems are more likely to end up using marijuana heavily? In the case of delinquency, schizophrenia and mental illnesses, the balance of the evidence points to the second explanation. Marijuana doesn't cause the problems, although it may make them worse. Some schizophrenics, for example, are drawn to the drug because it eases their sense of alienation. And most researchers now accept that the evidence linking marijuana to abnormal brain waves vanishes when people with psychiatric problems, illnesses or a history of general drug abuse are excluded from studies. But what about subtler problems like the card sorting deficiencies? After all, it might just be that smart college students tend to smoke lightly while others smoke heavily. In which case the card sorting results may have little to do with marijuana. Here opinions diverge. Pope believes the deficiency does have something to do with marijuana because his team controlled for such obvious things as IQ differences, psychiatric histories and heavy use of other drugs. But others are not convinced. What worries some critics is that in this study, as in others, the women drug users did so much better than the men in most tests. Deviant males I know of no reason why there should be a gender difference in cognitive response to cannabis," says John Morgan, a pharmacologist at the City University of New York Medical School and co-author of a controversial new book advocating decriminalisation, Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts. Morgan believes the reason the males underperform in such studies is that they are "deviant" in subtle ways that escape the researchers' notice. And what if the poor test results do turn out to be linked to marijuana? It doesn't automatically follow that heavy marijuana use is causing long-lasting brain damage. One possibility is that, deprived of their favourite drug for a day, heavy users suffer withdrawal symptoms or become so grumpy and distracted that they do badly in tests. Another is that a single drug-free day is not long enough for the effect of their last smoke to have disappeared. The Harvard team's follow-on experiments, in which marijuana users are being tested over a 28-day "dry" period, should provide answers. Other research suggests that evidence of dramatic mental decline is unlikely to be found, even as a result of long-term heavy use. Over the past 25 years, Jack Fletcher at the University of Texas in Houston and his colleagues have been visiting Costa Rica to test the mental skills of very heavy users. Although some of them have smoked 10 joints a day for more than 30 years, their ability to learn and remember lists of words is only mildly impaired (see diagram below). And even when struggling with more demanding tasks, such as recalling information while pressing a tapper as fast as possible, their scores fall well within the normal range.Spot the difference: What cannabis does to memory skills "The effects are subtle and subclinical," says Brian Page, an anthropologist from the University of Miami, who was involved in the study. "Although they could be bad for somebody who's trying to be an arbitrage trader or Wall Street lawyer." And, Page adds: "People who sell bicycles had better not ride while under the influence." Or at any rate common sense suggests they should not. The verdict from research into the impact of marijuana on road safety skills is less clear. In Britain as many as 1 in 10 motorists involved in serious accidents test positive for cannabis. And figures as high as 37 per cent have emerged from studies in urban areas of the US. However, many of these drivers also test positive for alcohol, and even the cases involving just cannabis cannot be equated with people driving under the influence because the drug lingers so long in the body. In driving simulators, marijuana does impair visual skills and mental dexterity. But studies of actual driving show that even high doses of marijuana have less impact than alcohol, perhaps because smoking it doesn't usually make people so reckless. In one study, low doses of marijuana made drivers more cautious. The same broad message is likely to be true for the subtler, longer-lasting effects of marijuana on the brain. Researchers like Pope and Morgan may look at the data very differently, but they agree about one thing: heavy boozing is worse for your neurons than dope. From New Scientist, 21 February 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Does marijuana press the same chemical buttons as heroin and cocaine? Claim 2 (New Scientist, in Britain, examines the research behind NIDA's claim that "more than 120 000 people in the US seek treatment each year for their marijuana addiction" and says it "cannot be taken seriously" since it includes people forced to go into treatment as an alternative to prosecution, as well as workers who test positive for cannabis in random urine tests and opt for "rehabilitation" rather than unemployment. Age group usage rates and comparisons with tobacco addicts also show a very different pattern, with little dependency.)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Claim TWO: "More than 120 000 people in the US seek treatment each year for their marijuana addiction . . ." After years of decline, marijuana use among teenagers is now climbing rapidly in almost every industrialised nation. Will this create a generation of cannabis addicts? The middle classes who enjoy a smoke once or twice a week may laugh at the idea. But doctors who treat the minority of users who have lost control take it more seriously. The pragmatic question is how big is this minority and would it expand if the drug was decriminalised or even legalised? The experience of the Netherlands (see Vraag een Politeagent) suggests the answer to the second question is "no". The first question is tougher. At the very least, NIDA's figure of 120 000 cannot be taken seriously. It includes people who are arrested for cannabis offences and then given the chance of going into treatment as an alternative to prosecution, as well as workers who test positive for cannabis in random urine tests and opt for rehabilitation rather than being fired. The figures don't tell us how many people really get hooked. At Columbia University in New York, addiction epidemiologist Denise Kandel has been taking a different tack. She has been analysing data collected every year in the US National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. And she concludes that subtle symptoms of dependence are more widespread among teenage users than previously thought. Shocking statistic About 15 per cent of teenagers who smoke marijuana report three or more "symptoms" of dependence from a list of six possible symptoms. They range from "feeling dependent" or being unable to cut down on consumption to using ever larger amounts of cannabis to get the same effect. Applying these same measures to alcohol, it turns out that marijuana is just as addictive as alcohol for adults and even more so for teenagers (see below). That shocks most marijuana users, but not Kandel, who believes kids may be unusually "sensitive" to marijuana for biological as well as social reasons. The way she sees it, the reason we have so many alcoholics is simply that there are so many people drinking.Days of depence: marijuana's addictive powers wane with age The problem with this kind of research is that it all depends on what is meant by addiction. A drug addict is usually seen as a person liable to both withdrawal symptoms and long-term damage to their health. But Kandel's self-report criteria are based on a broader definition. If we applied them to coffee, vast numbers of us would qualify as addicts. Similarly, many people might describe themselves as "addicted" to shopping or television or chocolate. Kandel's analysis suggests young marijuana smokers are more likely to show symptoms of dependence than their beer-swilling contemporaries, but it doesn't tell us which substance is the more dangerously addictive. What is clear is that as users enter their 20s, they report this dependence far less frequently. And of the people who are still smoking the drug in their 50s, fewer than one in 30 qualify in her analysis as being dependent. Addiction rates for nicotine follow the opposite trend. This leads to what is perhaps the most telling statistic about the addictive powers of cannabis: more than 90 per cent of people who have ever used the drug have long since quit. While most people continue drinking and cigarette smoking long after the first flush of youth, people drop the weed in droves after the age of 30. From New Scientist, 21 February 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Are athletes better off smoking marijuana or tobacco? Claim 3 (New Scientist debunks the claim that smoking marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue. "Even heavy smoking of marijuana has no impact on any physical measure of lung function.")New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Claim THREE: "Smoking marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue . . ." Smoking a couple of joints is as bad for your lungs as consuming a whole packet of cigarettes, say the anti-dope brigade. Their opponents say smoking marijuana has never caused anyone to die from lung cancer. So, is marijuana smoke more - or less - dangerous than tobacco smoke? The person to ask is Donald Tashkin, a lung expert at the University of California at Los Angeles. For the past 15 years, Tashkin's team has been keeping a close eye on the respiratory systems of more than 130 regular marijuana smokers, comparing them with groups of people who smoke either just tobacco, tobacco and marijuana, or nothing at all. It's the biggest study of its kind in the world. And the results so far suggest that in some respects, yes, marijuana is more dangerous than cigarettes. But in one important respect, joints may actually be better for you - especially if you're an athlete. First, the bad news. While the cigarette smokers in the study were ploughing through 20 or more a day, the marijuana smokers seldom consumed more than three or four joints. Despite this, the marijuana smokers coughed and wheezed as much as the cigarette smokers. In both groups, about one in five people complained of coughing up phlegm and suffering bouts of bronchitis. And when it came to cellular damage to the lungs, there was also little to choose between them. Both groups had too many mucus-secreting cells lining their airways and too few hair cells, and both groups showed evidence of abnormalities in cell nuclei and changes in genes known to have an early role in the development of cancers. The similarity may seem puzzling given that the marijuana smokers were consuming so much less plant material. But there are good reasons for it, says Tashkin. The first is that joints yield up to three times the tar of cigarettes because they are more loosely packed and don't have filters. The second reason is that marijuana smokers inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer. "We actually quantified this and found that the breath-holding time was increased about fourfold," says Tashkin. "That resulted in about a 40 per cent greater deposition of tar." Tashkin's final factor -- contested by some researchers -- is that marijuana smoke is richer in benzopyrene and other polycyclic aromatics known to trigger cancerous changes in cells. So smoking marijuana can cause lung cancer, after all? Well, maybe. Despite the gloomy cell biology, epidemiologists have so far failed to find a link between marijuana and serious lung diseases. That might be because there isn't one. Or it might be because "the marijuana epidemic" (as Tashkin calls it) is still young and the people who started smoking in the 1960s haven't reached an age when cancers become common. Meanwhile, some researchers are worried about another aspect of marijuana smoke - its ability to interfere with immune cells that help to fight off lung infections. Tashkin's team has just discovered that immune cells isolated from the lungs of marijuana users are unusually bad at killing bacteria, 35 per cent worse, in fact, than similar cells taken from cigarette smokers. The marijuana-exposed cells were also below par at producing molecules needed to mount inflammatory responses. In normal marijuana smokers, the effects may be too slight to make much difference. Tashkin fears, however, that the same might not be true in people with AIDS, many of whom use cannabis to stimulate their appetites. Footballer's fancy There's some good news, though, for dope-smoking cricketers and footballers: marijuana smoke won't lead to blocked airways or emphysema. Despite all the cellular changes noted by Tashkin's team, the researchers found that even heavy smoking of marijuana had no impact on any physical measure of lung function. In fact, among their subjects, smoking three joints per day caused no greater rate of decline in lung capacity and the ability to breathe than smoking no marijuana per day. And the reason for this silver lining? It could well be back to those sluggish immune cells, speculates Tashkin: "If cannabis impairs the ability of immune cells to produce inflammatory cytokines, you might be spared mucosal damage in peripheral airways." From New Scientist, 21 February 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Which is most addictive: coffee, alcohol, marijuana or shopping? Claim 4 (New Scientist, in Britain, debunks U.S. drug warriors' claim that marijuana use causes long-term changes in the brain similar to those seen with drugs of abuse.) Date: Sun, 28 Feb 1999 09:48:25 -0800 To: email@example.com From: "D. Paul Stanford" (firstname.lastname@example.org) From: "CRRH mailing list" (email@example.com) Subject: Which is most addictive: coffee, alcohol, marijuana or shopping? New Scientist: Marijuana Special Report: CLAIM FOUR: "Marijuana causes long-term changes in the brain similar to those seen with other drugs of abuse . . ." Back in the 1970s, animal experiments led to groundless fears that marijuana blew holes in brain tissue. The experiments organisations like NIDA now fund are more sophisticated but the controversy still rages. George Koob, an addiction researcher from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, claims the new message from the animals is simple: "The more we discover about the neurobiology of addiction the more common elements we're seeing between THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active ingredient in cannabis) and other drugs of abuse." And for Koob, one of these newly discovered "common elements" is marijauna's ability to trigger chemical changes in the brain that lead to strong withdrawal symptoms. In humans, some researchers claim to see clear evidence of insomnia, anxiety and even flu-like symptoms in heavy cannabis users who abstain. But if there's a consensus, it's that symptoms are mild and variable. By contrast, Koob's rats are shivering wrecks. Does this mean marijuana is more addictive than we think? Not a bit of it, says Roger Pertwee, a university pharmacologist and president of the Cannabinoid Research Society. That's because those symptoms aren't so much observed as manufactured. The animals are injected with high doses of THC, then injected with a second chemical to block cannabis receptors in the brain. Without the block, the sharp withdrawal symptoms can't be seen because cannabis clears so slowly that even heavily doped rats are likely to experience a gentle wind down. Another debate rages over animal studies into the short-term effects of marijuana on brain chemistry. Heroin, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine all trigger a surge in the chemical dopamine in a small midbrain structure called the nucleus accumbens. Many researchers regard this as a hallmark of an addictive substance. Last year, experiments showed that cannabis presses the same dopamine button in rats, leading to claims that the drug must be more addictive than previously thought. To critics, it is just another example of those old exaggerated fears. What nobody tells you, says John Morgan, a pharmacologist at City University of New York Medical School, is that rats don't like cannabis. It's easy for them to get hooked on heroin or cocaine -- but not marijuana. Nor, Morgan claims, are researchers exactly open about awkward observations, such as the fact that there are plenty of nonaddictive drugs that stimulate dopamine in the brain. It's easy to understand why biologists want to find simple chemical traits that are shared by all addictive drugs. Unfortunately, the differences are as important as the similarities when it comes to weighing the relative risks and pleasures involved in taking drugs. And subjectively at least, the intense rush of cocaine and orgasm-like high of heroin have little in common with dope's subtler effects. (c) Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 1999 *** To subscribe, unsubscribe or switch to immediate or digest mode, please send your instructions to firstname.lastname@example.org. *** We are working to regulate and tax adult marijuana sales, allow doctors to prescribe cannabis and allow the unregulated production of industrial hemp! Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp CRRH P.O. Box 86741 Portland, OR 97286 Phone: (503) 235-4606 Fax:(503) 235-0120 Web: http://www.crrh.org/
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: What happens to Dutch dope smokers at the age of 26? (New Scientist, in Britain, examines the comparative success of the Netherlands' policies, implemented in 1976, separating cannabis from more dangerous illegal drugs, effectively decriminalizing possession and low-level sales. The vast majority of people who use cannabis do so almost exclusively in their 20s. The data suggest that more people did experiment with cannabis after decriminalisation, but the increase mirrored that in other countries, and new users generally didn't continue using it for long, leaving Holland with perhaps the lowest rate of cannabis use - and hard-drug addiction - in industrialized Europe. Cannabis dependency and other problems are uncommon. "The number of cannabis users treated in drugs outpatient facilities is low," says Frits Knaak of the Trimbos Institute in Utrecht, the Dutch national institute for mental health and addiction. "In 1996, there were only 2000 in the whole country - just 0.3 per cent of all Dutch cannabis users." Of those, 42 per cent "are also having trouble with alcohol or other drugs - the rest usually just need counselling to help change their lifestyle." Dutch teenagers get among the highest scores in the world on international science and mathematics tests.) Date: Sun, 28 Feb 1999 09:50:21 -0800 To: email@example.com From: "D. Paul Stanford" (firstname.lastname@example.org) From: "CRRH mailing list" (email@example.com) Subject: What happens to Dutch dope smokers at the age of 26? New Scientist 21 February 1998 What happens to Dutch dope smokers at the age of 26? Marijuana Special Report: Vraag een politieagent . . . Go ahead, ask a cop for dope. The Dutch don't mind It is a weird experience. You walk up to a Dutch policeman, and ask where to get some marijuana. You are smilingly directed to the nearest "coffee shop", where the menu offers everything cannabinoid from something called Space Cake to Northern Lights, a local weed. In much of the world, this could never happen: the penalties for using cannabis are severe. But in 1976, the Dutch legalised the possession of small amounts. What has happened since? Some say that crime has soared, schoolchildren drop out, and heroin addiction is rife. Others insist the Netherlands is a stoned paradise of peace and love. "I've visited their parks. Their children walk around like zombies," says Lee Brown, [former] head of the US Office for National Drug Control Policy. "Hard drug use - heroin and cocaine - has declined substantially," says Paul Hager of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. Most comments seems to seem to depend on the speaker's politics. So what is the truth about the great Dutch cannabis experiment? Hard addicts "There was no immediate increase in cannabis use after 1976," says Arjan Sas of the Centre for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam. "Trends in use have generally been the same as in other countries." The percentage who regularly use either cannabis or hard drugs is lower in the Netherlands than in many European countries, including Britain. And the number of hard drug addicts in the Netherlands has not increased for a decade, while their average age is rising. Dutch statistics, however, are far from conclusive. The first national survey of drug use in the Netherlands is only just being done. There have been smaller-scale studies of particular towns or age groups but comparing them is fraught with statistical problems. Nonetheless, Dirk Korf of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Amsterdam has used the smaller studies to estimate that 3 per cent of Dutch people had used cannabis at least once in 1970, rising to 12 per cent in 1991. The best guess for 1998 is 14 per cent. Most of that increase, says Korf, is because "lifetime use" figures are cumulative: people who had used it in 1970 are still around, and are joined by younger users over time. More to the point, he says, is to compare the number of teenagers who start using cannabis. In 1970, he estimates that 20 per cent of all Dutch 18-year-olds surveyed had used it at least once; in 1980, that had fallen to 15 per cent. By 1987, it was 18 per cent, an increase, Korf says, that mirrors the increase in the number of coffee shops in the mid-1980s. Now, about 30 per cent of Dutch 18-year-olds are said to have tried cannabis, though some researchers think that is an overestimate based on studies of Amsterdam where coffee shops abound. But did more people try cannabis after it was legalised? It seems so. At the Centre for Drug Research, Sas and Peter Cohen divided Amsterdamers surveyed in 1987, 1990 and 1994 into two groups -- those that were born before 1958, who were 18 or older in 1976, and those that were born after 1976, for whom cannabis has always been legal. Only 19 per cent of the oldies had tried cannabis, compared with 38 per cent of the younger group. That difference could be partly misleading. Dutch surveys show that the vast majority of people who use cannabis do so almost exclusively in their 20s. The drug became common in the Netherlands in the mid-1960s, so for the older group members who were already more than 30, it was too late. Nonetheless, the data suggest that more people did try cannabis after decriminalisation. But what counts, though, says Sas, is how many continue to use it. (see diagram:"Cannabis users"). In Amsterdam, 55 per cent of people who say they have tried cannabis only end up using it a couple of dozen times or less. The rest may have used it more often, but more than half have not used it in the past month. The data show, says Sas, that legalising cannabis may make you more likely to try it, but it does not make it more likely that you will continue to use it. But it is by no means certain that the first half of that conclusion is correct. Korf finds that surveys of the number of Germans who use cannabis "virtually parallels" the peaks and troughs in Dutch surveys between 1970 and 1990, even though Germany has prohibited cannabis throughout the period. Surveys of young Americans in the 1970s and 1980s found "substantially higher prevalence rates" than in Holland, peaking at 50 per cent of high-school seniors in 1980, although the US was strongly prohibitionist. Legal immunity Since then, says Korf, there have been no discernible differences in use between US states that have decriminalised, and those that have not, while cannabis use has increased in the US and Western Europe since 1990, regardless of the legal framework. "There is no appreciable causal connection between the Dutch decriminalisation of cannabis and the rate at which cannabis use has evolved," Korf concludes. Last year, Robert MacCoun of the University of California at Berkeley and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, compared trends in cannabis use in the US, Norway (which bans it) and the Netherlands. They also concluded that "reductions in criminal penalties have little effect on drug use, at least for marijuana". While the 1976 legislation may have had little effect on cannabis use, how effective has it been in its main goal of keeping people off harder drugs? The Netherlands has fewer addicts per capita than Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France or Britain, and far fewer than the US. Frits Knaak of the Trimbos Institute in Utrecht, the Dutch national institute for mental health and addiction, says the number of hard drug addicts in the country has been the same for a decade because fewer young people are joining their ranks. The average Dutch junkie is now 44 years old and only 0.3 per cent of Dutch teenagers had tried cocaine in 1994, compared with 1.7 per cent in the US. In the Netherlands, virtually everyone who uses drugs tries cannabis first, and many seem content to go no further. Cannabis addiction and other problems are uncommon. "The number of cannabis users treated in drugs outpatient facilities is low," says Knaak. "In 1996, there were only 2000 [patients] in the whole country -- just 0.3 per cent of all Dutch cannabis users." Of those, 42 per cent "are also having trouble with alcohol or other drugs -- the rest usually just need counselling to help change their lifestyle", says Sas. Most people who find cannabis causing trouble with concentration or memory at work or school, he says, apply rules, like no smoking on week nights, or they limit their intake. This self-policing seems to work. Dutch teenagers get among the highest scores in the world on international science and mathematics tests. If there are serious problems caused by legalising marijuana, then twenty-plus years of the Dutch experiment has not revealed what they are. Debora Mackenzie (c) Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 1999
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: A safe high? Is there such a thing as a cannabis addict? (New Scientist says that according to Wayne Hall, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, cannabis is not generally regarded as a drug of dependence because it does not have a clearly defined withdrawal syndrome. But, he says, that is an old-fashioned definition of addiction. "While there may be debate about whether there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome there is no doubt that some users want to stop or cut down their cannabis use and find it difficult or impossible to do so, and they continue to use cannabis despite the adverse effect it has on their lives." But Hall's definition of addiction would also include gambling, sex, shopping, exercise and eating disorders.)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html A safe high? Is there such a thing as a cannabis addict? By Laura Spinney Robin Lefever regards himself as an addict, yet neither alcohol, nicotine nor any other recreational drug has entered his body for eight years. He is 31, and although he has been "in recovery" since the age of 23, he is not out of the woods yet. The physical symptoms of withdrawal may have subsided long ago, but he still attends group therapy meetings. To him, recovering from addiction is like walking up a down escalator: if he stops, he'll descend back into his "madness". Lefever started taking drugs at the age of 12, and has dabbled in most mind-altering substances you'd care to mention. But the drug on which he became most dependent was cannabis. He dropped out of school because of it, enrolled in a tutorial college, took more drugs and dropped out again. From there, he says, the move into London's financial centre was natural. In the mid-eighties you needed no serious qualifications, and there was the attraction of quick, easy money. As an addict in the City, he was far from alone. For six years he worked as a futures trader - gambling in a high-risk environment where the hours were long and the stakes and adrenaline high. "I got off on the intensity of the markets," he says. "The job I was doing was addictive itself, and it paid for all my other addictions beautifully." He took speed and cocaine on the job, drank in the evenings, and smoked cannabis throughout the day, preferring resin to grass because it was cheaper, stronger and more readily available. "When I drove into the City I would roll up going down the Mall because it's a nice, straight road. I could then spark up on the Embankment and put it out as I parked my car." Knowing he had five or ten minutes before the drug kicked in, he would walk into the office looking relatively alert, then "zonk out" while the analysts gave the rundown on what was happening in Tokyo, and come round again in time for the morning business. During his stint in the City, Lefever made one attempt to give up cannabis. It lasted eighteen months. Now he believes he was doomed to fail because he only dealt with the physical component of his addiction without addressing the underlying psychological problem: the urge to anaesthetise all feeling. "I don't think being stoned is about happiness or unhappiness," he explains, "It's about not having to feel at all." Eight years ago, when he gave up for good, "detox-ing" was the easy part. Unlike heroin, for which recovering addicts are often prescribed methadone to ease withdrawal, there is no substitute. You simply stop smoking. But once he had made up his mind he found the experience exciting rather than frightening: "I found that I would wake up maybe fifteen per cent a day, and I kept thinking, this is extraordinary. I'm becoming more and more alert." His short-term memory improved and visually things began to appear with greater clarity. For the first time in years he could make out detail in the leaves on a tree. Physically, Lefever suffered no withdrawal symptoms. Others have reported cold-like symptoms such as a stuffy head or runny nose. But while the withdrawal is typically mild, the predominantly psychological symptoms suffered by some heavy cannabis users can be more distressing. Sammy, 38, smoked cannabis every day for 20 years. When he gave up two years ago, he found that for the first few nights he was unable to sleep at all. Then, for the next couple of weeks, his dreams were so vivid and action-packed that in the morning he would feel exhausted despite having slept for a good eight hours: "I would wake up having gone round the world twice, had three affairs and got to number one in the charts." When you go to sleep stoned, he says, you don't dream. According to Wayne Hall, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, cannabis is not Generally regarded as a drug of dependence because it does not have a clearly defined withdrawal syndrome. But that, he says, is an old-fashioned definition of addiction. "While there may be debate about whether there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome there is no doubt that some users want to stop or cut down their cannabis use and find it difficult or impossible to do so, and they continue to use cannabis despite the adverse effect it has on their lives." Of course, most habitual users never report for treatment, particularly since the withdrawal is mild. And Lefever, who now runs the Promis Recovery Centre, a rehabilitation service near Canterbury, Kent that was set up by his father 11 years ago, says people come to the centre all the time to be treated for cannabis dependence. It is rarely their only addiction, and of all the drug dependences he sees it represents the smallest proportion. But that is partly because public funding is reserved for those whose dependences are conventionally regarded as more serious. Besides, very few addicts are dependent on a single substance or behaviour - which supports his argument that the problem lies in the person, not the substance. Since it opened, Promis has treated around 1700 people for dependences ranging from alcohol, heroin, cannabis and other drugs to obsessive behaviours such as gambling, sex, shopping, exercise and eating disorders. All patients are treated with the same programme - the 12-step Minnesota model adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, which is based on group therapy - and the average stay there is three months. "We lose hardly anybody in the detox process," says Lefever. "Getting off drugs is a doddle. It's being able to live life and stay off them which is the hard part." Further information: Promis Recovery Centre helpline: 0800 374318 (UK number) Promis Website: http://www.ftech.net/~promis/index.html Email Robin Lefever: firstname.lastname@example.org
------------------------------------------------------------------- Marijuana Special Report: Some references (New Scientist cites about a dozen scientific articles and books about cannabis and its effects on users.)New Scientist Britain 21 February 1998 http://www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/drugs/marijuana/marijuana.html Marijuana Special Report: Some references Marijuana Use in College Students, H. G. Pope & D. Yurgelun-Todd, JAMA February 21 1996-Vol 275 No.7 Effects of Chronic marijuana use on human cognition, R. I. Block and M. M. Ghoneim, Psychopharmacology (1993) 110:219-228 Comparative Effects of Alcohol and Marijuana on Mood, Memory and Performance, S. J. Heishman, K. Arasteh and M.L. Stitzer Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Vol 58, No.1 pp 93-101, 1997 Marijuana Intoxication and Brain Activation in Marijuana Smokers, R. J. Mathew, W. J. Wilson, R. E. Coleman. T. G. Turkington, T. R. DeGrado, Life Sciences, Vol 60 No.23 pp 2075-2089, 1997 Relationships between frequency and quantity of marijuana use and last year proxy dependence among adolescents and adults in the United States, K. Chen, D. B. Kandel, M. Davies, Drug and Alcohol Dependence 46 (1997) 53-67 Cognitive Correlates of Long-term Cannabis Use in Costa Rican Men, J. M. Fletcher, J. Bryan Page, D. J. Francis, K. Copeland, M. J. Naus, C. M. Davis, R. Morris, D. Krauskopf, P. Satz, Arch Gen Psychiatry Vol 53, Nov 1996, 1051 Heavy Habitual Marijuana Smoking Does Not Cause an Accelerated Decline in FEV1 With Age, D. P. Tashkin, M. S. Simmons, D. L. Sherrill, and A. H. Coulson, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 155, pp 141-148, 1997 Marijuana and Cocaine Impair Alveolar Macrophage Function and Cytokine Production, G. C. Baldwin, D. P. Tashkin, D. M. Buckley, A. N. Park, S. M. Dubinett and M. D. Roth, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 156, pp 1606-1613, 1997 Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts a review of the scientific evidence, Lynn Zimmer and John P. Morgan, published by The Lindesmith Center, New York 1997 Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda WHO Programme on Substance Abuse, WHO/MSA/PSA97.4 From New Scientist, 21 February 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drugs Shock At Primary Schools ('The Telegraph' In Belfast, Northern Ireland, Says Survey Commissioned By Southern Health Board Found One In 10 Primary Schoolchildren Had Been Offered 'Drugs,' Four Out Of 100 Had Tried Them) Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:53:12 -0800 To: email@example.com From: Olafur Brentmar
Subject: MN: Ireland: Drugs Shock At Primary Schools Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Newshawk: Zosimos Source: Belfast Telegraph Contact: email@example.com Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 DRUGS SHOCK AT PRIMARY SCHOOLS ONE in ten primary schoolchildren have been offered drugs, a shock survey by the Southern Health Board has revealed. And four out of 100 have tried them. The Southern Board also found just under 70% cent of 17-year- olds have been offered drugs and almost half of them had taken them. The report, based on surveys carried out among young people in the Southern Board's area, found the most widely-used drugs were cannabis, solvents, magic mushrooms and LSD. And while more boys than girls had tried cannabis, LSD and Ecstasy, a greater number of girls had experimented with alcohol. Just one percent of those surveyed, who were all boys, had tried heroin. The figures were published in Armagh to coincide with the launch of an action plan to tackle drug addiction in the area. The project is the brainchild of the Southern Drugs Co-ordinating Team - a steering committee made up of local health representatives - and aims to educate parents. George McCague, team co-ordinator, said while the area did not have a hard drugs problem, there was a worrying rise in the amount of drug use. "The drugs are right here. It's not just in Belfast, Dublin and Londonderry. We have a drugs problem here in the district."
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drugs Courier Gets Eight Years ('Irish Times' Notes Dublin Man Sentenced For Ecstasy Tablets, Cocaine, Was Very Small Cog Trying To Pay Off Debt For Drugs - Judge Replies Couriers Have To Be Treated Very Harshly With Long Prison Sentences Because Without Couriers, Dealers Would Have To Put Themselves At Risk) Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:53:12 -0800 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Olafur Brentmar
Subject: MN: Ireland: Drugs Courier Gets Eight Years Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: Zosimos Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 Source: Irish Times Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (backlog) Mail: LTE, The Irish Times, 11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland Fax: ++ 353 1 671 9407 DRUGS COURIER GETS EIGHT YEARS A Dublin man who was found in Cork city centre with 2,000 ecstasy tablets and a large quantity of cocaine was acting as a courier in payment of a drugs debt, a court was told yesterday. Christopher Doherty (31) from Ballincurris Road, Dundrum, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs with intent to supply to others before Judge A. G. Murphy in Cork Circuit Criminal Court. He asked the judge for a chance, stating that he had an awful drugs problem but that since being imprisoned in Mountjoy he had been drugs free for 11 months and was doing a number of courses. Defence counsel Mr Kieran Hughes said that Doherty was "sucked into this web of vice" by dealers who wanted him to deliver the drugs to Dublin, and he was a very small cog paying off a debt. Judge Murphy said that without couriers the dealers would have to put themselves at risk and for that reason couriers had to be treated very harshly with long prison sentences. The case was pathetic as Doherty was weak and was used by evil men. He sentenced him to eight years in prison and said he would review the case in a year's time when he would be sympathetic if the defendant continued to behave himself. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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