Canada’s New Medical Weed Program Puts the Poorest Patients Last
At the moment, 40,000 Canadians are currently authorized to possess medical marijuana. Until April 2014, these patients can purchase their supply from a licensed personal producer, or they can get permission to grow it themselves, but soon every Canadian medical marijuana user will be forced to comply with a new medical program that will push them to buy legal medical weed from commercial government-regulated facilities.
Canada’s new “Marihuana for Medical Purposes” (yes, they spell it with an ‘H’ for some reason) program is creating an emerging for-profit market that will regulate crop control, dump money into the economy, and attempt to position Canada as one of the world’s top exporters of medical marijuana. But it’s the patients who are caught in the middle of an evolving system that threatens to make medical weed so expensive many will no longer be able to afford it, forcing them to continue growing their own personal stashes—which will be illegal as of April 2014—or buying it from regular ol’ pot dealers.
According to Health Canada, no one’s trying to turn sick Canadians into criminals with these new laws. It was more in response to problems with the current Marihuana Medical Access Program(MMAP), which a Health Canada spokesperson says is “open to abuse.”
I Went on a Hash Making Holiday in Northern Morocco
Until the Spanish occupation of northern Morocco in the 1920s, Chefchaouen was basically a closed city. In fact, when troops first arrived, they found Jews in the area speaking a medieval form of Castilian Spanish that hadn’t been heard on the Iberian peninsula for around 400 years, and a population that was more opposed to Christianity than reddit’s entire swamp of militant keyboard atheists.
But thanks to the Spanish valiantly wiping out decades of cultural heritage, the city has now opened up to become a popular tourist spot. Backpackers flock in from around the world to take selfies next to its beautiful blue-washed architecture, eat its famous regional goat cheese, and—more than anything else—take advantage of the thriving local hash industry.
Morocco is said to produce nearly half of the world’s hashish, and it’s estimated that around 800,000 Moroccans work in the industry—mostly in the Rif, the mountainous region of northern Morocco where Chefchaouen is located. The debate about decriminalizing that industry has been bubbling away in parliament for a while, with a member of the opposition saying in August that his party hopes to legalize cannabis production within the next three years.
The Police Can Probe You if They Think You Have Drugs
This week, two men in New Mexico claimed they were subjected to horrific invasive anal medical procedures after minor traffic incidents during which the cops came to suspect they were carrying drugs. On November 5, a local news station reported that David Eckert was suing the city of Deming, Hidalgo County, and the officers and doctors responsible for his mistreatment during a January incident. Eckert was pulled over by officers because he didn’t come to a full stop while trying to exit a Walmart parking lot. At some point during their interaction, the cops decided that Eckert seemed to be “clenching his buttocks,” and their dog indicated it smelled drugs under Eckhart’s seat. According to Eckert’s recently filed lawsuit, local cops and state troopers got permission from a judge to send him to the hospital to get intimately probed for narcotics. Reportedly, a doctor at one hospital declined to search on ethical grounds, but the folks at Gila Regional Medical Center weren’t so concerned. Though he never consented to the search, Eckert spent the next 14 hours being X-rayed, got anally probed twice, and was given an enemathree times then forced to defecate in front of cops and doctors. None of this uncovered any drugs, but Eckert was billed for all these procedures, which cost thousands of dollars.
A startlingly similar story comes from Timothy Young, who was stopped by New Mexico state deputies in October of last year after he neglected to use his blinkers while turning. The very same dog that smelled drugs on Eckert also “found” some contraband in Young’s car, so he too was taken to Gila Medical Center and subjected to a similar battery of anal probing and X-rays. The team at KOB 4, the local news station, discovered that the dog isn’t even certified in the state of New Mexico, but Jacob Sullum at Forbes pointed out that dogs can continue to be used as drug detectors even if they are wrong most of the time, just so long as the cops say that the canines are doing their jobs.
More and More Veterans Are Smoking Weed to Cure Their PTSD
In America, the relationship between doctors and the hegemonic pharmaceutical industry is fraught with painful, mind-numbing contradiction. There’s no better example of this than in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US veterans and others around the country. Drugs like Risperdal, an antipsychotic, are said to be no more effective in the treatment of PTSD than a placebo. These drugs are widely distributed to treat the symptoms of PTSD, despite allegations that they’re ineffectual in treatment of the condition.
PTSD is a disorder, characterized by extreme emotional or mental anxiety, often the result of a physical or psychological injury. When confronted with a potentially deadly situation, it’s natural for humans to feel afraid—we’ve developed pretty sophisticated fight-or-flight responses to deal with real or perceived danger. PTSD arises when that response is damaged, and the patient feels stressed or frightened even when he or she is no longer in danger. The disease disproportionately affects soldiers deployed in war zones. Very often they are in situations so dangerous that they develop the condition, and return home as shell-shocked emotional cripples. Veteran’s Affairs claims that today, almost 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, although the number is likely much higher due to lack of diagnosis.
Is a Cure for Meth Addiction Lurking in the Jihadist-Infested Jungles of Thailand?
You know what khat is, right? Well kratom is like that: a mild, leaf-shaped stimulant that gives you a barely noticeable buzz if you chew it for long enough. Both stimulants have also attracted the ire of politicians—while Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to ban khat from Britain soon, kratom has been outlawed in Thailand for the past 70 years. But recently the Thai Minister for Justice, Pradit Sintavanarong, announced that he wants the kratom leaf removed from the country’s illicit drugs list. He claims it could help wean addicts off harder stimulants, like methamphetamine.
Meth has been a big deal in Thailand for the last decade or so. It’s most commonly taken in a concoction known as yaba—a blend of meth and caffeine which comes in pill form that the Nazis invented to keep their soldiers marching for days. Today, the authorities estimate that nearly one in every 60 Thai citizens is a methamphetamine user. Last year, shocking new reports claimed that nearly 7,000 children—kids aged from as young as seven up to 17—had been rehabilitated for meth use within the first half of 2012 alone, while this year it emerged that yaba producers are trying to sell the drug to kids over Facebook. So now might not be a bad time to consider some new ways to tackle all that.
Mennonites in Alberta, Canada Have Cozy Relations with a Notorious Mexican Drug Cartel
From a distance Grassy Lake, Alberta doesn’t have a whole lot going on. The rural hamlet takes up less than one square mile of a prairie highway between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, Canada. The population at last count was 649. According to the nearest town’s newspaper, 80 percent of residents are Mennonites.
But what Grassy Lake’s stub of a Wikipedia entry fails to mention is that the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency has outed the town as a distribution hub for an international weed and coke smuggling operation linked to the Juárez cartel, one of Mexico’s deadliest drug gangs.
I contacted the DEA to find out about the devoted/bearded supply chain that brings Calgarians their party drugs. Fortunately, DEA agent Jim Schrant called me back a few minutes before the United States’ government shutdown sent his media relations department home indefinitely.
“We started investigating a large-scale marijuana and cocaine distribution group in 2010, which was operating out of Mexico and shipping large amounts into the United States and then subsequently to different points in Alberta,” Schrant explained, on the phone from theweed-friendly state of Colorado. “We learned there were individuals who identified as Mexican Mennonites involved in the transportation and distribution.”
Corporations Are Cashing in on California’s Prison Overcrowding Crisis
For years, California’s massive, out-of-control inmate population has been a cash cow for the prison industry. Now, with the state being forced by the courts to reduce the number of men and women it’s keeping in boxes, the prison profiteers—including both corporations and prison guard unions—are trying to squeeze every cent they can out of the government.
The number of prisoners in California peaked in 2006 at 163,000, which was far too many for the system’s 33 detention centers to handle—inmates were sleeping on bunk beds in gyms converted into improvised dorms. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that these conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to reduce the prison population to 110,000.
Officials have been trying to get that number down by shipping inmates to county jails and out-of-state facilities, as well as letting a few go out on parole. But in late September, the state still had nearly 10,000 more bodies in prison than the courts want. Governor Jerry Brown has been frantically negotiating with judges to give him more time to comply with their order; simultaneously, he’s been desperately seeking a way to reduce the prison population without letting anyone go free. Most recently, he cut a deal to pay private prison contractor the GEO Group $150 million over five years to take 1,400 inmates off the state’s hands.
Nope, the GOP Still Isn’t Libertarian
Above: Republican senator Ted Cruz speaking to a conference of social conservatives. When this guy is considered a leading figure in your party, you’re a long way from libertarianism. Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
If you’re bored with the political news this summer—it’s not an election year and Congress is in recess after doing diddly squat for six months—you can always read about how the United States is having a “libertarian moment.” The idea is that after decades of being bandied about by eccentric middle-aged white men and collegiate stoners who made zines and unreadable websites, libertarian principles are finally entering the mainstream.
Most articles on the subject first bring up Rand Paul—son of Ron, hater of drones and the NSA, would-be friend of Silicon Valley’s money, painfully awkward ambassador of the white race, and the most prominent libertarian-ish politician in the country. They then go on to mention that Paul’s antigovernment views and relatively liberal opinions on social issues make him a model for how Republicans can attract the young voters who have largely abandoned the party. (VICE itself took this tack last year.) The “libertarian moment” discussions will also invariably feature polls that show a majority of Americans favor legalizing weed and gay marriage, both issues that libertarians have been talking about for years. (Name something, and libertarians will be in favor of legalizing it.) The final ingredient in the libertarian article recipe is the Tea Party’s influence in Congress. When the Kansas City Star wrote about this, the paper referred to senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and representative Tim Huelskamp (along with Paul, of course) as “libertarian Republicans” and noted their opposition to NSA wiretapping and Obamacare. If you’re keeping score at home, the equation generally works like this:
Young People Hold Antigovernment Views +
Rand Paul! +
The Tea Party’s Influence (a.k.a. Stranglehold) on Congress +
Americans Tolerating Weed and Gay People =
A Strain/Rising tide/Explosion/Pick Your Metaphor of Libertarianism in America
The thing is, I’m not sure this math holds up in the real world. To start at the bottom of the equation, it’s true that America is a far more tolerant place for gay people who want to celebrate their legal marriage by lighting up a fat blunt. But though those causes have libertarian support behind them, the pro-weed and antihomophobia movements have been fueled by liberals; it’s Democrats, not right-wingers, who have advocated for gay rights and tried to push marijuana legislation at the federal level. And many libertarians favor decriminalizing all drugs in the name of individual liberty, which is several steps further than most pot activists are willing to go.
These Nonviolent Female Prisoners Have Been Rotting in Prison for Over a Decade
A few weeks ago, I found a book at a thrift store called The Tallahassee Project. It’s a collection of photos of nonviolent female federal inmates who were incarcerated as part of the war on drugs. Each photo is accompanied by a letter from the woman depicted, explaining her situation.
The majority of the women shown in the book were charged with “conspiracy” based on the statements of informants who spoke to authorities in exchange for reduced sentences. Often, this conspiracy amounted to little more than being the girlfriend, wife, or mother of a drug dealer.
The book was compiled in April 2001 by a guy named John Beresford from an organization called the Committee on Unjust Sentencing. I googled John to see if there was any update on how the women in the book were doing. I guess there’s a part of me that likes to believe that once a horrible injustice has been brought to the attention of the public, somebody, somehow, will do something to fix it.
That’s not the case here. Unfortunately, John died in 2007, and took his Committee on Unjust Sentencing with him. I checked to see if the women from the book were still in prison, and many of them still are—rotting in prison since before 9/11 because they got messed up with drugs.
Below are some of the women who haven’t been released, along with the the letter they wrote to John 12 years ago.
Alice Jones (Inmate ID Number: 29560-004)
Sentenced to 24 years for conspiracy, drug conviction
Estimated release date: 04-24-2015
"I am a mother of two, a 19-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. For 25 years I owned and operated my own property rental business, which I began from the ground up. In 1992, I was arrested and subsequently convicted for a drug conspiracy of which I had no part. The government attempted to seize my home and business. A thorough investigation of my business and tax records proved my business to be legitimate. No drugs were even seized from me or my home. My criminal record was based entirely upon people with multiple arrests and lengthy police records, who were attempting to avoid further convictions.
I did not ever imagine such an atrocious nightmare could ever occur in the United States. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
So on that token, do you think the war on drugs is effective? Especially on our border with Mexico?
I’m kind of agnostic on that subject. I don’t know if it’s the best possible way to go. I don’t know if decriminalization of certain drugs is the way to go, either. You’d think I’d have a stronger opinion on it, but I spend all my time thinking about this one character and not the politics at large. Having said that, I know there are a lot of well-intended men and women trying to stop the flow of drugs and I know these cartels in Mexico, to use one example, are the cause of a great deal of pain and suffering and death. Having said that, is it the right way to go to hit them even harder and keep it all criminalized, or should we suddenly take them out of the market by making all that stuff legal? Hard to say.
Have you ever tried meth?
No, definitely never actually tried it. I suspect I would be more of a downer drug guy than an upper.
—The Time We Tried to Talk Drugs with Vince Gilligan, Creator of Breaking Bad