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.
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.
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.
The Trickle-Down Economics of Nicaragua’s Drug Trade
Bluefields, the largest port on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, is in many ways a typical small coastal Central American city—bustling but poor, a natural center for all kinds of commerce, legal and illegal. If you hang out by the bay you’ll see cargo ships come in and passenger boats ferry people to and from the surrounding towns, some of which aren’t reachable by overland routes. By day, the streets are filled with garishly decorated taxis, starving stray dogs, and people selling mangos and pineapples. At night, a few downtown bars stay open late to serve beer and play reggae, bachata, and country music.
The majority of the men who aren’t cops or store owners work on boats, while women often turn their living rooms into sit-down restaurants or sell grilled meat and tortillas outside their homes. There aren’t many more options for the mostly black and indigenous population of 90,000—there’s no highway connecting Bluefields with the wealthier western part of the country, and without infrastructure there’s little prospect of outside investment.
Just about the only industry that’s pumped outside money into the local economy is drug trafficking.
I Saw the Future of Pot at Seattle’s Hempfest
It’s been a good year for pot lovers. The new recreational weed laws Washington and Colorado passed last November have taken effect. Illinois just became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. An industry eager to help users find and ingest their favorite strain grows larger and more legitimate by the day. And the federal government—which still outlaws producing, selling, and using pot—has yet to pull the plug.
So naturally, the vibe at the 22nd annual Hempfest—the massive pot pageant held in Seattle, Washington, this past weekend—was 100 percent celebratory. Sure, there were the usual activists calling for an end to federal prohibition. But the real business of the three-day weed-stravaganza was to make a leisurely victory lap to mark the state’s recent legalization of recreational ganja.
The scene at this so-called protestival, was fairly predictable, especially if you’ve spent time at freakier potcentric scenes like Phish or Grateful Dead concerts (events I’ve been to more times than I’d like to admit). Teens and seniors alike crowded Seattle’s downtown waterfront park to shop, dance, take in the sun, make a statement, people watch, and light up.
To answer your question, yes, there were bongs available for purchase.
Half a dozen stages featured an endless loop of reggae and cosmogroove (yes, that is a real genre). Speakers gushed excitedly about the beginning of the end of prohibition and the remaining work to be done. Vapes, pipes, bongs, grinders, memorabilia, and munchies spilled from hundreds of vendor booths. Pot leaves embellished stages, products, business cards, T-shirts, and port-a-potties. Even Ken Kesey’s legendary Further bus made an appearance. Everywhere I looked, someone was firing up a joint, pipe, or bong.
It’s Good to Be the King – Arjan Roskam’s Cannabis Empire Is More Than Smoke & Mirrors
One afternoon this May, Arjan Roskam lounged on the deck of a 24-foot sport-fishing boat. He was speeding through a deep bay off the Caribbean coast of northwestern Colombia, keeping an eye on a line he’d cast a few minutes before. Arjan is 48 years old, well over six feet tall, and clean-shaven. He has the rough-hewn mien of a Dutchman, and possesses a piercing baritone that cuts through chatter like an oboe. He looks and sounds like a leader, one of those rare souls who was able to fulfill his destiny without compromising. He is the most recognizable and controversial figure in the business of marijuana, the self-styled and self-described “King of Cannabis.”
I was traveling with Arjan through the mountains and jungles of Colombia, along with a crew of international pot growers he calls the “Strain Hunters.” We were searching for three exceptional but elusive varieties of marijuana that have remained genetically pure for decades. They have lyrical, almost mythic names that roll off the tongue: Limon Verde, Colombian Gold, and Punta Roja. The day before our jungle excursion, we’d found specimens of the latter two strains in a nearby marijuana grove maintained by paramilitary groups and local farmers. Arjan was elated. He had acquired the first two of the 200 or so landraces—strains of marijuana that have naturally developed in far-flung regions around the world—and he was hell-bent on getting them all.
Arjan and his breeders will grow thousands of plants from these landrace seeds, pick the strongest ones, and breed new commercial strains based on their exotic genetics. This is the first step in a long, intricate process that makes it possible for a local deliveryman to show up at your house with a backpack bouquet filled with varieties like Alaskan Ice, Bubba Kush, and White Widow. If you’ve ever been cornered by a bleary-eyed pot nerd at a party, you know that the reason we’re not all still smoking Thai stick and twiggy, seed-filled weed is because of the thousands of commercial breeders around the world mixing, cross-breeding, experimenting, and developing new flavors, effects, and qualities—all from what is essentially a common mountainside plant.