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RainDog's Journal
RainDog's Journal
July 26, 2013

Ross Gay: Some Thoughts On Mercy


This is from a wonderful writer worth reading. Ross is the author of two books of poetry and, simply, a great human being. The friend, Don Belton, that he mentions in this essay was murdered in what was considered a hate crime - not because he was black, but because he was homosexual. Don, too, was simply a great human being.

I've included a few paragraphs, but the essay ranges across many issues, not just the one I've included here.

AS ABOLITION became a real possibility in the nineteenth century, a mythology about black-male criminality was crafted by proponents of slavery, and that myth was then amplified after emancipation. Our current prison system, and the “drug war” that is responsible for that system’s status as the largest in the world, actively cultivates the same story of a unique criminal blackness. I put “drug war” in quotes, because, as Michelle Alexander points out in her brilliant book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, if there were a true War on Drugs, then “people of all colors, . . . who use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates,” would be incarcerated at very nearly the same rate. But that’s not the case.

Alexander’s book is an incisive analysis of how the drug war has specifically targeted African American men, saddling huge numbers with ex-felon status, which makes employment, voting, housing, education, and more nearly impossible: in other words, effectively reinstating Jim Crow. Among her most striking observations is that in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan declared that he was “running up a battle flag” in the War on Drugs, fewer than 2 percent of the American public viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the nation. That figure jumped to 64 percent in 1989, thanks largely to a sensational (and racist) media campaign. She also points out that the police could make numerous drug arrests by raiding the fraternities and sororities at colleges, but for the most part they don’t, because those students are not viewed as criminals: they’re just kids who use drugs.

A few years back I was teaching a summer enrichment class for public-school students in Philadelphia who were almost all black, and I had a discussion about drug use with them. One outspoken child told me, and the class, “Mr. Ross, my name’s not Sally; my name’s Takeisha. I smoke weed.” God bless this child and her weed. But what she didn’t know, and won’t until she makes some white friends or goes off to college, is that Sally probably smokes just as much weed as she does, or takes OxyContin, or snorts Ritalin, or uses cocaine or Adderall. Takeisha believed that she was different from white people in her habits. She believed she was a criminal, whereas her white counterparts were, well, white. I wish Takeisha and everyone else knew that people of all races use drugs. It’s just that if you’re black or brown, like the people in Takeisha’s neighborhood, your drug use is more often policed and punished. But the fantasy of black criminality continues. This, to a large extent, is what the drug war is about: making Takeisha — along with her teachers, her local shop owners, her neighbors, her city’s police, her prosecutors — believe she’s a criminal. It is, perhaps, the only war the U.S. has won in the last thirty years.

I shudder at the emotional and psychic burden we’ve laid on the young black and brown New Yorkers — so many of them children — being profiled in that city’s “stop-and-frisk” program. One man featured in a New York Times video speaks with courage and dignity about having been stopped as a teenager “at least sixty to seventy times.” Another, in a video made by The Nation, talks about having been roughed up for “looking suspicious” and called a “mutt.” Eighty-seven percent of stop-and-frisk targets are black or Latino, though blacks and Latinos constitute only about half of New York City’s population. How, when their city believes them to be criminal, do these young people escape believing the same of themselves?

July 24, 2013

Marijuana Causes Remission in Crohn's Disease


We studied 21 patients (mean age, 40 ± 14 y; 13 men) with Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) scores greater than 200 who did not respond to therapy with steroids, immunomodulators, or anti-tumor necrosis factor-? agents. Patients were assigned randomly to groups given cannabis, twice daily, in the form of cigarettes containing 11.5 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or placebo containing cannabis flowers from which the THC had been extracted. Disease activity and laboratory tests were assessed during 8 weeks of treatment and 2 weeks thereafter.

Complete remission (CDAI score, <150) was achieved by 5 of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (45%) and 1 of 10 in the placebo group (10%; P = .43). A clinical response (decrease in CDAI score of >100) was observed in 10 of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (90%; from 330 ± 105 to 152 ± 109) and 4 of 10 in the placebo group (40%; from 373 ± 94 to 306 ± 143; P = .028). Three patients in the cannabis group were weaned from steroid dependency. Subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.

Although the primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved, a short course (8 weeks) of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 11 patients with active Crohn's disease, compared with placebo, without side effects. Further studies, with larger patient groups and a nonsmoking mode of intake, are warranted.

This article reporting the study claims complete remission, but the study is more conservative in its claims. It is true that nearly half the patients in the study were in complete remission, but the sample size is very small.

But, interestingly, 10 out of 11 patients in the study using cannabis, rather than the placebo, demonstrated a "clinical response" to the cannabis. Out of those 10, 5 were in complete remission.


Often mischaracterized as an autoimmune disease, Crohn's disease is in fact an immune deficiency state. Arising from a host of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors, the disease causes a chronic inflammatory disorder that attacks the person's gastrointestinal tract — anywhere from the mouth to the anus — in order to fight the body's antigens that otherwise do no harm. Symptoms of the disease range from mild abdominal pain to more severe cases of bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fevers.

There is no cure for Crohn's; however, various methods are aimed at limiting flare ups and keeping the disease in remission. Treatments, like disease severity, fall on a spectrum depending on the person. Simple dietary changes suffice for some, while invasive surgery to remove the affected area may be needed for others. Corticosteroids and other medications are also prescribed for less severe cases.

The disease affects around 400,000 to 600,000 people in North America, although many people do not get diagnosed until they've had the disease for years, simply because no symptoms were present.
July 23, 2013

Cannabis for Elders (Those who would benefit most have the least access)


Margo Bauer was desperate. Dealing with chronic nausea and frequent bouts of vomiting -- both attributed to her multiple sclerosis -- the retired nurse was constantly exhausted and in pain. That was, until she attended an informational meeting where she was introduced to medical marijuana.

Under California's Medical Marijuana Program, she received a medical marijuana card and now legally grows her own plant at a Southern California assisted living facility where she lives with her husband who suffers from Alzheimer's. She smokes a rolled joint occasionally, which she says keeps her nausea at bay, and her pain lifted to the point that she joined an all-female synchronized swimming team, the Aquadettes.

While California remains at the forefront of the country's tumultuous relationship with the marijuana industry, medical marijuana usage is on the rise amongst seniors like Bauer.

Ailments ranging from chemotherapy side effects, arthritis, glaucoma, chronic pain and even malnutrition are being treated with cannabis, a promising alternative for seniors who are increasingly susceptible to the dangerous side effects and growing dependency of multiple prescription medications. The fastest growing population in the U.S. also comprises a significant portion of medical marijuana users, amounting to as much as 50 percent, according to Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest member-based medical marijuana advocate group.

more at the link.

a really interesting article about issues for seniors regarding their legal status to use cannabis related to changing living situations (i.e. assisted living facilities and licensing, medicare and guidelines for those who provide patient care and more.)
July 22, 2013

Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke


As recently as a decade ago a review of the world literature on the status of the efficacy and safety of cannabinoids for pain and spasticity revealed that only nine randomized studies of acceptable quality had been conducted [1]. All of these were single dose studies comparing oral synthetic THC (or cannabinoid analogs or congeners) to codeine or placebo...In the past decade, the scope and rigor of research has increased dramatically. This research has employed cannabis, cannabis-based extracts, and synthetic cannabinoids delivered by smoking, vaporization, oral, and sublingual or mucosal routes.

Smoking cannabis provides rapid and efficient delivery of THC to brain. THC can be detected immediately in plasma after the first puff of a cigarette; peak concentrations occur within 10 minutes, then decrease to approximately 60% of peak by 15 minutes and 20% of peak by 30 minutes, but there can be wide inter-individual variation in concentrations achieved [3]. Rapid onset and predictable decay means that self-titration of dosing is attainable.

Evidence is accumulating that cannabinoids may be useful medicine for certain indications. Control of nausea and vomiting and the promotion of weight gain in chronic inanition are already licensed uses of oral THC (dronabinol capsules). Recent research indicates that cannabis may also be effective in the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy and muscle spasticity from conditions such as multiple sclerosis [58]. Other indications have been proposed, but adequate clinical trials have not been conducted. As these therapeutic potentials are confirmed, it will be useful if marijuana and its constituents can be prescribed, dispensed, and regulated in a manner similar to other medications that have psychotropic effects and some abuse potential. Given that we do not know precisely which cannabinoids or in which combinations achieve the best results, larger and more representative clinical trials of the plant product are warranted. Because cannabinoids are variably and sometimes incompletely absorbed from the gut, and bioavailability is reduced by extensive first pass metabolism, such trials should include delivery systems that include smoking, vaporization, and oral mucosal spray in order to achieve predictable blood levels and appropriate titration. Advances in understanding the medical indications and limitations of cannabis in its various forms should facilitate the regulatory and legislative processes.

The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value [59] are obstacles to medical progress in this area. Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking. It is true cannabis has some abuse potential, but its profile more closely resembles drugs in Schedule III (where codeine and dronabinol are listed). The continuing conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology will hopefully be reconciled in a judicious manner [60, 61]. In the meantime, the decision to recommend this treatment in jurisdictions where use of medical marijuana is already permitted needs to be based on a careful assessment that includes proper diagnosis of a condition for which there is evidence that cannabis may be effective, along with consideration as to response to more standard treatments. Prior substance abuse history, psychiatric comorbidity, and other factors need to be weighed in a risk benefit analysis. Part of this analysis should consider that the potential longer-term harms of the cannabinoids are not fully understood: these include abuse and a dependence syndrome, adverse psychiatric and medical effects in vulnerable populations, and documented risk to traffic safety when combined with alcohol, and perhaps singly [62]. In the long term, as further studies demonstrate whether cannabis is effective for various indications, this should lead to development of novel modulators of the endocannabinoid system which may be prescribed and used as more traditional medicines.

This study is noted in the following link (posted in GD by someone else, cross posting here:


The federal government, in its attempt to keep marijuana illegal and misunderstood, recently sponsored a study which was conducted by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis. The goal of the study was to disprove the many other studies that show cannabis to be safe and effective in treating symptoms, side-effects and diseases. Guess what? The CMCR came to the same conclusion as those other studies: marijuana is medically useful and effective. Oops. That’s rather inconvenient, isn’t it?

As published in the Open Neurology Journal, this new study showed that cannabis treats many conditions including chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and the side-effects of chemo therapy, among other things. The study also showed that other delivery systems besides smoking – vaporizing, tincture, ingestion – work almost as well as lighting up. But smoking is the best way to take cannabis. Good thing another recent study showed that marijuana does not cause lung cancer.

July 19, 2013

See how the conversation has changed in the U.S.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America has released a new survey poll related to parents and their views on marijuana. For some background, this group began in the 1980s in response to Reagan's War on Drugs. They're an advertising group that decided to turn its efforts toward the issue of drug use. Their first, and perhaps most famous, commercial was the egg in the frying pan image with the slogan, "This is your brain on drugs" from 1987. This is probably one of the most famous PSAs ever.

By 2005, this organization had moved from "Drugs fry your brain" to "Drug Addiction is a Disease" - iow, they moved from punitive campaigning to health campaigning.

In 2007, in response to studies that indicated that parents who have ongoing conversations with their children about drug use and possible risks showed those children were 50% less likely to use drugs, the organization asked adults to talk to their children.

Now, in 2013, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America is acknowledging that legalization is here and their task is to note that parents support regulation of marijuana.

...just like the majority of those who have worked to change the law for decades, in spite of the zero-tolerance stance for adults among prohibitionists.


(Full report here: http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/research-publication/marijuana-survey-full-report)

The PDFA survey found that half of all parents among the 1600 in the survey had used marijuana in the past.

72% of the moms support legalized medical marijuana, while 44% support decriminalization while 67% of dads support legal mmj and 47% support decriminalization.

Interestingly, support for each of these scenarios increased by anywhere from three to 11 percentage points when survey respondents were given more information about what medicalization, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana means:

- Medicinal marijuana refers to marijuana being made available through licensed medical centers only to individuals who have a doctor’s recommendation to possess and use marijuana to treat a medical condition.

- Decriminalization of marijuana refers to changing laws so that those caught with marijuana would receive a warning or fine (much like a speeding ticket), but would not face jail time.

- Legalization of marijuana refers to changing laws so that anyone over a certain age would be permitted to possess, buy, sell, and use marijuana for recreational purposes within the limits of the law (much like alcohol).

And this is the point - and the reason the conversation about marijuana has changed in this nation in a relatively short amount of time. Information access and discussion among citizens, rather than pronouncements from bureaucrats, or commercials on tv, is what has changed this conversation. Prior to internet information sharing, someone had to seek out sources that might challenge the conventional "wisdom" repeated by politicians and the news media, or by educators led by LEO drug programs, or by studies skewed to achieve pre-ordained results, whose methods were hidden for this same reason.

The PDFA recognizes that support for changes in marijuana policy among parents is widespread. To steer the conversation to the realms in which it has operated for so long, the group is shifting its focus on issues regarding access to teens. Since adults, in general, favor regulating access to substances like alcohol, etc. this is nothing new - what is new is acknowledging marijuana belongs in that same category of regulated substances.

To remain relevant, the organization is shifting concerns to proper information sharing about marijuana, rather than pretending marijuana has no place within society among consenting adults.

“Increasing availability, mass marketing and wider use of marijuana is a public health issue because of the genuine risks that marijuana poses to children’s health and development,” said Pasierb. “Clearly these changes mean that parents and caregivers have an even more critical role to play to ensure that the readily available marijuana in these states does not result in higher levels of use by and problems among their children and young teens.”

As far as harm to society, however, the organization might find a better focus for their concern from alcohol use, according to this Lancet survey:

And, overall, in terms of the entire issue of drug use in the U.S., the greatest public service someone could offer would be a look at the impact of economic policies, educational and employment opportunities, and the impact of class and race assumptions upon outcomes for various drug treatment policies.

But this would require structural analysis, rather than isolation of the issue of addiction and its consequences upon individuals who try to negotiate this structure.
July 9, 2013

City of Berkley Files Claim to Protect Dispensary From Feds


"The City of Berkeley has filed a claim aiming to protect the city's largest medical marijuana dispensary, Berkeley Patients Group, from closure prompted by the federal government. In May, US Attorney Melinda Haag targeted the dispensary's landlord for asset forfeiture, a bullying tactic that has been used regularly in the feds' war on state-sanctioned, legal medical pot programs. Now, Berkeley is fighting back.

On May 21st, the city adopted a resolution opposing the forfeiture on the grounds that Berkeley Patient Group has “contributed significantly to our community, providing good jobs and paying millions of dollars in taxes. They have improved the lives and assisted the end-of-life transitions of thousands of patients. They have been active supporters of dozens of Berkeley community organizations.”

On Wednesday, the City filed a claim in US District Court asserting that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group will hurt the city via loss of revenue (including taxes paid by the dispensary), while subverting the City's hard work and resources invested in the control and regulation of medical marijuana, a program intended to treat ailing Berkeley residents.

“Medical marijuana is legal under California law. The federal government, against the wishes of the community, is undermining Berkeley’s concerted efforts to control and regulate medical marijuana distribution within its borders. The U.S Attorney’s action harms patients, the community, and the City -- and benefits no one. It is pure folly; sadly, it is also deeply destructive folly," Senior Staff Attorney at Drug Policy Alliance, the group representing the City of Berkeley, Tamar Todd said in a press release."
July 6, 2013

Gen. Smedley Butler's Testimony on The Businessmen's Plot


The Business Plot or The Plot Against FDR or The White House Putsch was an alleged conspiracy brought to light by a retired General, involving moneyed interests who intended to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the early years of the Great Depression.

The allegations of the plot came to light when Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler notified the McCormack-Dickstein Committee in 1933 and testified to the existence of the plot. The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was the first House Committee On Un-American Activities (HUAC).

In his testimony, Butler stated that a group of several men, representing mainly Wall-Street Banking interests had approached him to help lead a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a fascist military coup. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported General Butler's claims on the existence of the plot, but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.

Just wanted to post this on DU as a source. If any of you have read War is a Racket, Butler talks about the "captains of industry" in the U.S. who wanted to stage a fascist coup and put Butler in place as a figurehead that they could manipulate. The coup involved an assassination plot against FDR.

iow, the class war the oily-garchs have been waging on the rest of the nation has been going on for a long time. This war includes the prohibition of cannabis, btw, which was also overseen by members of the DuPont family and buddies of the Mellons... some of whose family members, now, include Richard Scaife - who has funded the extreme right wing in this nation for decades (Coulter, the attempted take-down of Clinton, and, esp. The Heritage Foundation, of which he is a board member.

FDR chose not to bring charges against the monied-men who instituted this.
Ford pardoned Nixon after being placed into office for just this purpose, when the president attempted to steal an election.
Reagan made a deal with the Iranians to delay the release of the hostages until after the election in an attempt to manipulate the hostages' release and use this delay against Jimmy Carter.
The Supreme Court made a one-time ruling in favor of George W. Bush to install him in the executive branch. Bush asked Cheney to select his vice president. Cheney chose himself and proceeded to spend his time accruing more and more unchecked power to the executive branch - which includes bureaucracies like the NSA - who, as part of their function in the federal bureaucracy are supposed to be, with the president, under the scrutiny of Congress.

and, to take this back a few more decades...

Congress decided not to punish the Confederates who had engaged in treason against this nation based upon their determination that it was their right to enslave others for their personal profit. Radical Republicans (who would be considered "the left" at this time in history) wanted to bar these former Confederates from office but they were overruled. Within a generation, the Confederate states had created laws to enslave black men (predominantly) and put them on work gangs. The federal govt. looked away.

There's a pattern here, iow.

July 5, 2013

St. Louis Police Officer Gets Permission to Lobby for Legal Marijuana


St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has reversed course and will allow a veteran officer to moonlight as a lobbyist for a pro-marijuana organization.

Dotson wrote to police Sgt. Gary Wiegert on Tuesday saying his request for "secondary employment" will be allowed.

Wiegert filed a complaint earlier this year with U.S. District Court claiming the department violated his First Amendment rights to free speech for refusing to allow him to lobby on behalf of Show-Me Cannabis.

Wiegert worked for three years as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party. In February, he submitted a new application to the department. The application did not require him to state for whom he would lobby. It was approved but revoked after the department learned Wiegert was lobbying for the pro-marijuana group.

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is a great resource to add another voice to the legalization discussion.


Retired Superior Court Judge, David Nichols talks from long experience about the profound wastefulness of the prohibitionist approach to drug use and abuse.
July 5, 2013

National Lawyers Guild Calls for Legalization of Marijuana


In November 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states—and the first jurisdictions in the world—to legalize the possession, use, and regulated distribution of marijuana. Although Attorney General Eric Holder promised in March 2013 to announce a Department of Justice policy to address the state initiatives, the White House has yet to take a position. This shifting legal terrain is the subject of “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” a new report by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

The NLG report analyzes the legalization process under way in the states, suggests strategies to further marijuana legalization initiatives, and highlights current obstacles to ending prohibition. Among the NLG recommendations: reframe drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, challenge the punitive international drug policy framework, support states’ rights to regulate marijuana use, and reclassify marijuana to allow for medical research.

“High Crimes” also calls attention to the role of law enforcement agencies and private prison industry interventions in the field of US drug policy. “It is crucial to examine who profits from the continued prohibition of marijuana,” said NLG Senior Researcher Traci Yoder, the report’s author. “The increasing militarization of police forces is funded through property and financial seizures during drug arrests. Continued profit making by private corrections corporations is contingent upon ever-increasing rates of incarceration.”

As the nation waits for a response from the White House, the NLG joins other organizations and individuals in calling for the end to marijuana prohibition. “Marijuana legalization will create new jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes,” said Brian Vicente, NLG member and one of the primary authors of Colorado’s legalization amendment. “It would be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”

...full report in pdf at the link.

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