It’s High Time For Canada To Talk Pot

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Marijuana exists in a funny limbo in this country.

Despite a growing number of people who feel it should be decriminalized, or outright legal – and regulated – it remains a controlled substance.

And, as such, we have a multibillion-dollar industry in Canada attempting to operate under the radar of the law.

Weed is grown covertly on farms, in houses, condos or industrial bays, but is used widely across the country.

Often, the grow sites are booby trapped, electricity is stolen, and the property is contaminated, both with chemicals used in growing and mold damage.

A fire at a Calgary grow op even levelled a number of homes in 2009.  Police say there is also the risk of break-ins and home invasions associated with these things.

Despite all of these apparent dangers Albertans just don’t care, or aren’t aware.

That’s one of the key findings in a new provincial report prepared by Calgary MLA Rick Fraser, the associate minister of public safety.

“The prevalent view of marijuana use is that it is either used as a recreational drug or for medical purposes,” he says in the report.

“There is a misperception that growing marijuana is a victimless crime, and this perception detracts from community involvement in reporting suspected MGOs.  Many Albertans do not report marijuana grow ops when they know or suspect a residence in their community has been converted into one.  The crime is likely not viewed as a danger to the community.”

It’s not really until people find themselves living next to one that they perceive this as a problem.

And so, because of the damage done to homes and the potential risk to public safety, the final recommendations report for Grow Op Free Alberta lists a host of solutions to existing problems, including requiring real estate agents to disclose a home was used to grow pot, guidelines for proper and safe remediation and bumping up tools to identify grow ops.

The one solution missing? Legalization and regulation.

I get it – all the province can really do in its power is mitigate the damage, try to hold people accountable when properties are made unfit for habitation, and ensure that remediation is done properly.

But, as public attitude shifts towards acceptance of marijuana, and a desire that governments leave adults alone to smoke what they please, the province could also take the lead in pushing the feds to make changes to criminal law in Canada.

So long as the status quo exists, residential grows will remain a big problem, with thousands estimated to be operating in Alberta.

The recommendations in the report give significant focus toward education, but I think despite the emphasis placed on informing the public, I don’t think we’ll start to see an increase in police reports.

Even if more people start reporting grow ops, that won’t necessarily mean there will be a reduction in people looking to grow marijuana.

So long as the trend toward supporting decriminalization and legalization continues, the public will believe that the key is a change in federal drug laws, not provincial public safety endeavours, no matter how wise they may be.

When looking at people opting not to report grow ops, the reasons behind their complacency are key.

And, with as many as two thirds of Canadians in support of decriminalization or legalization, we shouldn’t be surprised people aren’t reporting grows, and perhaps it should be taken as further sign we’re ready for greater debate on the issue.

As we’re approaching a federal election in 2015, here’s hoping we get one.

Source: Calgary Sun, The
Copyright: 2014 The Calgary Sun
Author: Dave Breakenridge

Five Myths About Legalizing Marijuana

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With 16 states having decriminalized or legalized cannabis for non-medical use and eight more heading toward some kind of legalization, federal prohibition’s days seem numbered. You might wonder what America will look like when marijuana is in the corner store and at the farmers market. In three years spent researching that question, I found some ideas about the plant that just don’t hold up.

1. If pot is legal, more people will use it.

As drug policy undergoes big changes, I’ve been watching rates of youth cannabis use with interest. As it is for most fathers, the well-being of my family is the most important thing in my life. Whether you like the plant or not, as with alcohol, only adults should be allowed to partake of intoxicating substances. But youth cannabis use is near its highest level ever in the United States. When I spoke at a California high school recently and asked, “Who thinks cannabis is easier to obtain than alcohol?,” nearly every hand shot up.

In Portugal, by contrast, youth rates fell from 2002 to 2006, after all drugs were legalized there in 2001. Similarly, a 2011 Brown University-led study of middle and high school students in Rhode Island found no increases in adolescent use after the state legalized medical marijuana in 2006.

As for adult use, the numbers are mixed. A 2011 University of California at Berkeley study, for example, showed a slight increase in adult use with de facto legalization in the Netherlands (though the rate was still lower than in the United States). Yet that study and one in 2009 found Dutch rates to be slightly lower than the European average. When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is not going to turn into a Cheech and Chong movie. It is, however, going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy.

2. Law enforcement officials oppose legalization.

It is true that many law enforcement lobby groups don’t want to end America’s most expensive war (which has cost $1 trillion and counting), but that’s because they’re the reason it’s so expensive. In 2010, two-thirds of federal spending on the drug war, $10 billion, went toward law enforcement and interdiction.

But law enforcement rank and file know the truth about the drug war’s profligate and ineffective spending, says former Los Angeles deputy police chief Stephen Downing, one of 5,000 public safety professionals who make up the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Most law enforcers find it difficult not to recognize the many harms caused by our current drug laws,” he wrote to me in an e-mail. Those harms include, according to a new ACLU report, marijuana-possession arrests that are skewed heavily toward minorities.

Since marijuana prohibition drives the drug war, these huge costs would end when federal cannabis law changes. Sheriff Tom Allman in Mendocino County, Calif., helped permit, inspect and protect local cannabis farmers in 2010 and 2011. When I asked him why, he said: “This county has problems: domestic violence, meth, poverty. Marijuana isn’t even in the top 10. I want it off the front pages so I can deal with the real issues.”

3. Getting high would be the top revenue generator for the cannabis plant.

I called both of my U.S. senators’ offices to support inserting a provision into this year’s farm bill to legalize hemp for domestic cultivation. Based on my research on industrial cannabis, commonly called hemp, I’m staggered by the potential of this plant, which is not the variety you smoke.

In Canada, where 90 percent of the crop is bought by U.S. consumers, the government researches the best varieties for its hemp farmers, rather than refusing to issue them permits, as the United States tends to do. In a research facility in Manitoba, I saw a tractor whose body was made entirely of hemp fiber and binding. BMW and Dodgeuse hemp fibers in their door panels, and homes whose insulation and wall paneling are made partially of hemp represent a fast-growing trend in the European construction industry.

Jack Noel, who co-authored a 2012 industrial hemp task force report for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, says that “within 10 years of the end of the war on drugs, we’ll see a $50 billion domestic hemp industry.” That’s bigger than the $40 billion some economists predict smoked cannabis would bring in.

Foods such as cereal and salad dressing are the biggest U.S. markets for hemp today, but industrial cannabis has the brightest future in the energy sector, where a Kentucky utility is planning to grow hemp for biomass energy.

4. Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol would control the legal cannabis industry.

In 1978, the Carter administration changed alcohol regulations to allow for microbreweries. Today the craft-beer market is worth $10.2 billion annually. The top-shelf cannabis farmers in California’s Emerald Triangle realize this potential. “We’re creating an international brand, like champagne and Parmigiano cheese,” says Tomas Balogh, co-founder of the Emerald Growers Association in Humboldt, Calif. Get ready for the bud and breakfast.

When America’s 100 million cannabis aficionados (17 million regular partakers) are freed from dealers, some are going to pick up a six-pack of joints at the corner store before heading to a barbecue, and others are going to seek out organically grown heirloom strains for their vegetable dip.

As Balogh puts it: “When people ask me if the small farmer or the big corporation will benefit from the end of prohibition, I say, ‘Both.’ The cannabis industry is already decentralized and farmer-owned. It’s up to consumers to keep it that way.” So Big Alcohol might control the corner store, but not the fine-wine shop or the farmers’ market.

5. In the heartland, legalization is a political nonstarter.

President Obama, in an interview last December, for the first time took seriously a question about the legalization of cannabis. He said that he didn’t yet support it but that he had “bigger fish to fry” than harassing Colorado and Washington.

In Colorado in 2012, 40 percent of Republican voters chose to legalize cannabis, and a greater share of Coloradans voted for legalization than voted for Obama.

In Arizona, a pretty conservative and silver state, 56 percent of those in a poll last month supported regulating cannabis for personal use. Maybe fiscal conservatives know about the $35 billion in annual nationwide tax savings that ending prohibition would bring. In Illinois, 63 percent of voters support medicinal marijuana, and they’re likely to get it. Even 60 percent of Kentuckians favor medical cannabis.

I’m not surprised. I live in a conservative valley in New Mexico. Yet as a woman in line at the post office recently told me: “It’s pills that killed my cousin. Fightin’ pot just keeps those dang cartels in business.”

Doug Fine is the author of “Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution,” in which he followed one legal medicinal cannabis plant from farm to patient.

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Doug Fine
Published: June 7, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Washington Post Company
Contact: [email protected]

Weird 1972 Experiment In Marijuana Use

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marijuana_grow_1In the winter of 1972, 20 young women took part in one of the weirdest scientific experiments in this country’s history.

For 98 days in a downtown Toronto hospital, their brains, hearts, kidneys, livers, blood and urine were rigorously tested and analyzed.  A team of nurses kept round-the-clock records of their behaviour, logged at half-hour intervals.

Just how was marijuana affecting the 10 who had to smoke it every day?

Forty-one years later, these women are still wondering what exactly happened to them during their three-month stretch as human guinea pigs.

Doreen Brown, who now lives in Cambridge, is one of the women who took part in the study while in her 20s.  She turns 63 this month.

In the late 1960s, Brown moved to downtown Toronto to live on her own after her mother died.  She was 17.

“I was full of grief, a brick wall,” says Brown.  “I did things I knew weren’t good for me.”

Acid, mescaline, marijuana.

Though high or tired, she never missed a shift as a department store secretary.

But by the time she was 21, the lifestyle was wearing on her.  When a co-worker told her a group of scientists was looking for female volunteers to participate in a marijuana study for money, she saw an escape.

“It was a very split-second decision,” Brown says.  “I didn’t like what I was doing.  I wanted a change and thought, ‘Why not?’ ”

The research was part of a million-dollar program, the last in a series of provincially funded experiments designed to answer one of the country’s most pressing questions, raised when then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau entertained the idea of legalizing marijuana.

The study was lead by C.G.  ( Bill ) Miles, a British psychologist working in Toronto.

In 1971, the Addiction Research Foundation opened a research and treatment hospital where Miles’ marijuana study, Project E206, would be held.

He assembled a team that included two behavioural psychologists, one doctor, a psychiatrist, a social worker and a full-shift complement of registered nurses and attendants.

The hospital welcomed the 20 women to the ward with a formal dinner on Jan.  31, 1972.

Brown, then 21, scanned the long table.  None of the women, aged 18 to 35, looked familiar, though some seemed to know each other.

The ward was clean and modern, with blue carpet underfoot and the smell of fresh paint in the air.

It seemed an ideal place for a personal reinvention.

“I was hoping that maybe in there I would solve some of my issues – to be more open, happier,” Brown says.  “I was definitely a lost soul at that point.  Directionless.  I needed help but I didn’t know where to go to get it.”

The women were quickly split into two groups in two different areas of the hospital.  Half of them – the experimental group – were required to smoke increasingly potent doses of marijuana twice a night, while the other half – the control group – did not.  Both sides could buy as many relatively mild joints as they wanted for 50 cents apiece at a store that also sold alcohol, junk food, toiletries, cigarettes and magazines.

And then they got to work.

A key element of the study was its microeconomy.  The women were required to cover the cost of their existence, except for their bed and water, for 98 days.  Whatever money they earned and did not spend on food, clothing or entertainment, they could keep.  A $250 bonus awaited those who stuck with the experiment until the end.  Those who quit early would lose the extra payout and up to 75 per cent of their savings.

They made their living on a primitive-looking wooden device, a Guatemalan backstrap loom, on which they wove colourful, fuzzy, woollen belts with knotted tassels.  For every belt that passed inspection – it had to contain at least two colours and measure 132 centimetres in length – the women received $2.50.

After a few days of practice, the task got easier.

One participant bought chalk from the ward store to draw murals on the lounge walls.  Another, a professional bartender, mixed drinks.  Women in both groups were known to walk around naked.  Living on locked, separate wards didn’t stop women from the two groups from communicating with each other or people in surrounding office buildings – like the men who were being held in the forensic psychiatry unit at the Clarke Institute, which was next door.  The women wrote friendly, short messages on large placards and flashed their signs through the large windows that faced the street and an interior courtyard.

The carefree vibe didn’t last long.

The joints became so potent that some sought a doctor’s note to get out of their nightly obligations, saying they felt too sick to smoke.

“We were asking them to take it away,” Brown says.  “They knew we wanted it taken away; there was no doubt.  I felt comatose.  I couldn’t do anything.

“It became torture,” Brown says.

In the last week, the women who were left on the mandatory smoking unit refused to continue.

On May 8, 1972, the women left the centre.

Brown expected relief, some sense of freedom, but she felt paranoid instead.

“It was very scary,” she says.  “I thought, ‘Where am I going to go? What am I going to do?’ I was afraid to get on the subway.

“I was hoping that being in there for those 98 days might give me some perspective.  But if anything, for me, it magnified my problems.”

She spent a few years in therapy and went to the University of Toronto to study political science and history.

In her late 30s, she got pregnant and moved to Cambridge to raise her son.  She still works full-time at a local hearing clinic.  She has a granddaughter.

She still wonders what became of the results of the experiment.

Brown says she made several inquiries during the ’80s and ’90s.  She would have been more aggressive but feared she might lose her job at the time if word got out that she had taken part in a marijuana experiment.

She’s less concerned now.

“I want to know, I want to know,” she says.  “The dosages.  What they found psychologically, physically.  I feel ripped off, taken advantage of.  It’s just like it didn’t happen.  I feel like, yeah, you gave three months of your life for what?

“Were the results that horrible that they didn’t give them to us? You wonder.  I think they might have supported legalizing marijuana.  That’s why they didn’t come out.  I don’t know.  It leaves you with a lot of questions.”

Miles died in 2009 at the age of 74, but there are still some people who can help fill in the blanks of the women-and-marijuana study.

Janet McDougall was one of the junior researchers on the project.

She recalls the group disbanding suddenly and being left virtually alone with a few binders and reels of brown data tape.  On Miles’ instructions, she sent portions of it to economists at Texas A&M University.

Among them was John Kagel, now a professor of applied microeconomics at Ohio State University.  “Our analysis showed these people were perfectly rational, worked their butts off.  There was a beautiful, inadvertent event where they went on strike because they were making them smoke too much marijuana and it was interfering with their earnings, which appeared to be a primary motivation for some of them going into the thing.”

Research today indicates that while frequent cannabis smoking may well have harmful effects – including dependence and susceptibility to lung infections – motivation is not a problem.

Junior researcher McDougall does not know where the rest of the research data is today.

Dr.  Harold Kalant, the renowned former director of biological and behavioural research at the Addiction Research Foundation who, at 90, still works for its successor, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, knew in general terms what Miles was doing and what he found.

Did politics get in the way of Miles disseminating the data into a final report?

“My guess is that it probably wasn’t yielding anything that was going to have a direct influence on policy,” says Kalant.

For all the questions it raised, the study did answer at least one question convincingly, according to Ohio State’s Kagel.

“In terms of the central issue, if you legalize marijuana, were you going to get a bunch of stoned people just hanging out smoking dope all the time and not doing any work? This is fairly convincing evidence that wasn’t going to happen.”

Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Diana Zlomislic