Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but there are still use cases that are very controversial, like medical marijuana for children. Some claim it’s a wonder drug for epilepsy, severe autism, and even to quell the harsh side effects of chemotherapy, while others decry pumping marijuana into still-growing bodies. We went to the small town of Pendleton, Oregon, where medical marijuana is legal, to visit Mykayla Comstock, an eight-year-old leukemia patient who takes massive amounts of weed to treat her illness. Her family, and many people we met along the way, believe not only in the palliative aspects of the drug, but also in marijuana’s curative effect—that pot can literally shrink tumors.
Watch the documentary
Everyone in This Wheelchair Sports Camp Is Stoned and Making Beats
Kalyn Heffernan is 42 inches tall, has been diagnosed with a brittle bone disease, is confined to a wheelchair, smokes lots of weed, and won’t hesitate to publicly shame anyone who gets on her bad side with a brutal rap track. Kalyn is the emcee and driving force of Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp, a hip-hop group that mixes classic beats with jazz and avant-garde sound experiments. The group formed while Kalyn was in college, with just her rapping and a DJ supplying the beats, but has evolved into a shifting lineup that sometimes features drums, a saxophone, and even a sitar.
Her music deals with social inequalities relating to handicap people, as well as getting blazed as fuck and how much cops suck. On her song, “This Bitch…” Kalyn attacks problems with healthcare, and on “Party Song” she taunts, “rock, let the midget hit it/cops on my jock, make ‘em, cough/cus I’m sicker with it.” More recently, she’s started to make beats for rapping Haitians who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake, and called out Goodwill for paying handicap people less than minimum wage.
Photo by Adrian Diublado
VICE: Hello, Kalyn. What is your writing process?
Kalyn: I’m a pretty slow writer. Sometimes I write faster, but more than not I have to sit down… well, I’m always sitting down, but I just have to go at it.
You used to sneak backstage at shows and meet people like Xzibit, Ludacris, Erykah Badu, and Busta Rhymes. How did you do it?
It was pretty easy. I would play the wheelchair card and say “oh, so and so” told me to come back here. I was a pretty good scam artist back then. I think, because of my disability and because of my advantages, that I’ve been able to milk the sysem. I could get backstage to almost any concert.
Floridians Are Losing Their Minds on Synthetic Cannabis
The rumors are floating among bystanders in downtown St. Petersburg, where a body lies motionless on the sidewalk, covered by a plastic sheet. Was it over a stolen lighter? Or was it a bicycle? It doesn’t matter. Kenneth Robert Sprankle finally snapped. Just like he said he would.
On the afternoon of September 24, Sprankle “borrowed” a red and yellow firefighter’s axe from a fire engine responding to an alarm at the Princess Martha Apartments. He started his evening by smoking spice, grabbing the axe, and wandering through downtown. Surveillance video caught Sprankle clutching the axe across his waist as he walked purposefully through the frame, seemingly oblivious to concerned onlookers trailing him from a safe distance. Witnesses recalled seeing him in an agitated state, wandering around nearby Williams Park with the axe for nearly three hours. Nobody bothered reporting him to police until things began to unwind, and Sprankle began yelling incomprehensible threats and chasing terrified citizens down bustling sidewalks.
St. Petersburg police quickly responded to an emergency call. The small group fleeing his erratic pursuit rounded a corner and ran past the officers. Moments later, Sprankle followed, axe raised menacingly. His world was closing in. Ignoring repeated orders to drop the axe, he charged. As Sprankle closed the distance, axe held high, veteran officer Damien Schmidt leveled a pistol at his chest and fired.
Five shots later, Ken Sprankle’s body crumpled to the sidewalk. The holes in his chest were fatal. He was 27.
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.
Denver Police Are Using a Nose Telescope to Sniff Out People’s Weed
Can you smell the sweet, pungent perfume of legalized marijuana over the horizon? On November 6, 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington passed Amendment 64 and Initiative 502, respectively, which allowed marijuana to be produced, sold, and consumed by adults 21 and older, regulated like alcohol and tobacco. For pot smokers across the country, this was a huge get, paving the way for an increase in legalization across the country, and now that the related legislation has been reviewed and implemented, hundreds of dispensaries across both states are scheduled to open on January 1, 2014. However, one of the new mandates being upheld in Denver, Colorado, is aimed at the unexpected, yet most identifiable part of the process: the sticky-icky, funky-skunky smell of some dank-ass weed.
Denver is one of a handful of cities with a new odor ordinance, which ACLU lawyer Mark Silverstein called a “tremendous overreach, ill-advised, unnecessary and unconstitutional,” carrying a hefty $2,000 fine for smelly violators. The number of marijuana-based odor complaints in Colorado doubled from 7 in 2010 to 16 in 2012, and that number will undoubtedly continue to climb next year when retail marijuana becomes widely available, although the current crop of complaints comes from the wafting scent of grow-ops and not from smokers themselves. The regulatory concept is still tricky; I mean, how do you qualify the stink of any given area? Hot-box a station wagon in the middle of the summer and to the participants, the smell becomes undetectable after a few minutes, but get into your car the next morning and it smells like one of Wiz Khalifa’s dumps. To help with detection, the Denver police department bought themselves the awkwardly named, high-tech, futuristic, “Nasal Ranger” scent-o-scope, designed to help the user detect odor amounts.
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.
Good News, Drug Users: Silk Road Is Back! VICE Got a Sneak Peek
Silk Road has risen from the dead. After the FBI seized the deep web’s favorite illegal drug market and arrested its alleged founder Ross Ulbricht last month (for, among other things, ordering a hit through his own website), the online-marketplace-cum-libertarian-movement has found a new home and opened for business today at 11:20 AM EST.
In the wake of the original Silk Road’s closure, everything became a little turbulent for its users. First, they had to get used to not getting high-quality, peer-reviewed drugs delivered direct to their sofas. (Though presumably they didn’t stop getting high, instead forced back to the “mystery mix” street dealers and surly ex-Balkan war criminals who have spent years filling cities with drugs at night.) Some users were pissed off that they’d lost all the Bitcoin wealth they’d amassed, or that paid-for orders would go undelivered, while small-time dealers freaked out about how they suddenly lacked the funds to pay off debts owed to drug sellers higher up the food chain.
Viable Silk Road replacements have been few and far between. Project Black Flag, one marketplace purportedly created to fill the void, appears to have been a scam. The site’s owner recently closed up shop and made off with a load of Bitcoins without sending any product out to customers. Another alternative, Sheep, has been plagued with security worries, with many vendors deciding to hold off until a more stable site is launched.
JR Smith and America’s Out of Control Love Affair with Drug Testing
JR Smith isn’t like you or me, because he’s very good at basketball—so good, in fact, that he gets a lot of money to play the game for the New York Knicks. Last season he won the sixth man of the year award while burnishing his reputation for being TMZ fodder whenever he stepped off the court. In January, he crudely propositioned a high school student via Twitter with the line, “You trying to get the pipe?“; during the playoffs no less a personage than Rihanna said he partied too much. Previously, he tweeted a photo of “the girl with the biggest ass ever“ lying in his hotel bed (she turned out to be the on-again off-again girlfriend of rapper Joe Budden), and more seriously, back in 2009 he killed his friend in a car accident and spent 30 days in jail for reckless driving.
In a turn of events that came as a surprise to absolutely no one, Smith recently got suspended for five games for failing a drug test (the fourth such test he’s flunked) and violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy. Though what exactly he tested positive for hasn’t been publicly confirmed, the scuttlebutt is that they detected marijuana in his system.
It’s understandable that the league would want to keep its players away from performance enhancing drugs, but why shouldn’t Smith be allowed to smoke weed? He’s not in charge of the nation’s nukes; he just shoots a basketball in front of tens of thousands of people about 80 times a year. But many, many people have to deal with the same kind of intrusive testing he does. Actually, the fact that Smith has to worry about fucking up a drug test is one of the only things he has in common with the majority of non-NBA Americans.
The Feds Will Let States Legalize Pot… Maybe
Ever since Colorado and Washington state voted last November to legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol or coffee or anything else that comes from nature, maaaaaaaan, the question has been how the federal government would respond. Would the people in charge of conducting the war on drugs really be OK with letting state law trump federal law? Well, the Department of Justice released a memo today and it turns out that yes, they’ll let everyone from Seattle to Denver light up legally—but there are some caveats, as always.
The memo (which can be read in full here) says that the DOJ has already been prioritizing stopping the really bad crimes that are connected to marijuana, like the sale of pot to kids, revenue going to cartels and other criminals, and violence that’s connected with the weed trade. It goes on to advise prosecutors that focusing on those activities is still a good idea before tackling the meat of the matter at hand: though some states have legalized weed, it shouldn’t change the Feds’ policy of going after drug growers and dealers who are killing people, growing pot on federally-owned land, or breaking the law in other ways.