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Medical Marijuana Update

Illinois' medical marijuana program is set to be extended and expanded, the Ohio legislature passes a medical marijuana bill, the Ohio medical marijuana initiative is now dead, and more.

Illinois

Last Friday, the House approved an extension and an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program. The House voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Massachusetts

Last Tuesday, the Senate voted to waive medical marijuana fees for veterans. The Senate approved a rider to the FY 2017 budget bill that would waive registration fees for veterans for qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. Other patients would still have to pay the $50 registration fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, the medical marijuana bill was approved by the legislature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523. The bill barely cleared the Senate on an 18-15 vote and won final approval from the House on a 67-28 vote. Gov. John Kasich (R) has said he will review the bill when it gets to his desk.

Last Saturday, the backers of a medical marijuana initiative called it quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Book Review: The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry

Chris Conrad and Jeremy Daw, The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry (2016, Reset.Me Press, 249 pp., $19.95 HB)

Legal marijuana is a big deal and it's only getting bigger. It's already a billion dollar-plus industry in the medical marijuana and legal states, and with California and a handful of other states poised to go legal in November, it's only going to get bigger.

With growing legality comes growing acceptance. Marijuana is insinuating itself deep within popular culture, and more and more people are getting interested. Pot use is on the increase among adults, especially seniors. In fact, it seems to be gaining popularity with just about everybody -- except kids.

Some folks have been pot people for decades. They've been smoking it, growing it, selling it, agitating for its legalization. They have an intimate understanding of the plant and the issues around it. Still, there are many, many more people who are not cannabis aficionados, but are becoming curious about marijuana or the pot business.

Will marijuana ease my aches and pains? If I start smoking pot, won't I get addicted? How do you grow the stuff? Can I make a million bucks growing weed? How do I start a pot business?

Chris Conrad and Jeremy Daw are well-positioned to provide some answers. Conrad has been around cannabis since forever -- he's a certified expert witness on marijuana cultivation, he curated the Amsterdam Hemp Museum back in the 1980s, he formed the Business Alliance for Cannabis Hemp in the 1980s, too, and hes9;s been politically active in California (and national) pot politics the whole time -- and Daw is the up-and-coming publisher of The Leaf Online.

With The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry, the pair of pot pros provides a compendium of marijuana-related information sure to be invaluable to interested novices and likely to hold some hidden treasures for even the most grizzled veteran of the weed wars.

The guide begins with a quick but detailed look at cannabis botany before shifting gears from the natural sciences to the social ones with a thumbnail history of pot prohibition and the last half-century's increasingly successful efforts to undo it. Conrad and Daw take up through political developments into this year, noting the spread of medical marijuana, with outright legalization now following in its footsteps.

And they make one critically important point here (and repeatedly in the business sections of the book): Despite how swimmingly legalization may be going in Colorado and Washington and Alaska and Oregon, pot remains illegal under federal law. All it would take is a new administration hostile to marijuana in the White House and a new memo from the Justice Department to bring the entire edifice crashing to the ground.

That's certainly something for would be ganjapreneurs to ponder, but it should also behoove the rest of us to remember that the job of freeing the weed remains unfinished business. As long as federal marijuana prohibition remains on the books, the prospect of a reefer rollback remains. Admittedly, the prospect seems unlikely: We are pretty far down the path of acceptance in the early legalizing states, and any return to harsh federal enforcement could have the paradoxical result of criminalizing or at least freezing state-level taxation and regulation while leaving pot legal, untaxed, and unregulated at the state level. While the federal government could try to block the states from acting to tax or regulate marijuana, if not in court then by going after the businesses, it can't force states to make it illegal again. It could attempt to enforce federal prohibition laws, but it doesn't have enough DEA agents to effectively do that, especially in states with home growing.

Conrad and Daw also delve more deeply into the botany of marijuana, addressing questions that will face consumers -- edibles or smokables? Indica or sativa? High THC or high CBD? -- as well as drilling down into the precise roles played by cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids (oh, my!) in creating marijuana highs, tastes, smells, and colors.

It's worth taking a moment to note the high production values of The Newbie's Guide. The book has an illustrated cover (not dust jacket) and is filled with with hundreds of color photographs of the plant, its users, marijuana production and sales, and more. It's also printed on glossy, high-quality paper stock. This thing isn't going to turn yellow in a few years.

Conrad and Daw devote a large chunk of the book to getting in the pot business or, more accurately, what people need to be thinking about if they're thinking about getting into the pot business. They accurately lay out the obstacles -- legal, political, financial -- awaiting anyone hoping to navigate the nascent industry, and they explore the manifold opportunities within the industry.

As they make clear, there's more to the pot business than growing and selling weed (although they certainly devote ample material to covering those basics) and there are employment and business opportunities far beyond growing, trimming, or budtending. Marijuana is spinning off all sorts of ancillary businesses, from edibles and cannabis oil manufacture to advertising and public relations to paraphernalia production to business services and beyond.

The Newbie's Guide is a most excellent handbook for marijuana consumers and potential consumers. It should also be required reading for anyone who is thinking about making a career in the industry. There is money to be lost as well as money to be made, and Conrad and Daw could well help stop you from throwing good money down a rat hole.

Perhaps as important, they demand that people wanting to get into the business do a thorough self-examination. Just why, exactly, do you want in? What is it you seek? Honest answers to those questions will help people make the right choices for themselves. If you're seriously thinking about using marijuana or getting into the business, you should read this book.

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Driving Bill Killed, OH MedMJ Init Quits, More... (5/31/16)

An effort to create a per se marijuana DUID law in California ran into a brick wall of science, the Ohio effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot shuts down, a US senator seeks an investigation into Purdue Pharma over its claims on OxyContin's extended effectiveness, and more.

The California Assembly rejects a per se marijuana DUID bill after hearing there is no scientific basis for it. (Wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Driving While High Bill Killed. A bill that sought to create a per se marijuana drugged driving level of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood has been killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The committee killed it and a bill that would have let police use oral swabs to strengthen cases after cannabis industry officials said they were not supported by science.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Program Gets Extension, Expansion. The House Friday voted to approve a plan to expand the state's medical marijuana program by adding PTSD and terminal illness to the program's list of qualifying conditions and by extending the program for an additional 2 ½ years. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now come around and says he supports the bill, which still needs a final Senate vote. The measure is Senate Bill 10.

Ohio Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers Call It Quits. Faced with a medical marijuana bill approved by the legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that they were ending their campaign to put an initiative on the November ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed effort decided to call it quits because "the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill." The bill passed by the legislature will allow people with about 20 different diseases and conditions to use marijuana, but not to smoke it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Senator Calls on Feds to Investigate Purdue Pharma Over OxyContin Time-Effectiveness Claims. A US senator has called for a federal investigation of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, in the wake of reports that the money-making pain reliever wears off early in many patients, leaving them exposed to pain and increased risk of addiction. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Friday sent letters to the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission urging them to begin probes of the Connecticut-based drug maker.

New York Overdose Tracking Bill Goes to Governor. The Senate and the Assembly have both approved a bill that requires the state Health Department to track non-fatal drug overdoses in a bid to get a more complete picture of opioid drug use in the state. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

US Senator Calls on Feds to Investigate Purdue Pharma Over OxyContin Time-Effectiveness Claims

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

A US senator has called for a federal investigation of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, in the wake of reports that the money-making pain reliever wears off early in many patients, leaving them exposed to pain and increased risk of addiction.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Friday sent letters to the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission urging them to begin probes of the Connecticut-based drug maker.

The move comes in the wake of a Los Angeles Times investigation into Purdue Pharma's claim that OxyContin relieves pain for 12 hours, which was one of the drug's main selling points. But the Times found that the effects often wear off before that, leaving patients cycling between relief and intense pain and suffering from opiate withdrawals before their next scheduled pill.

The Times also found that Purdue knew about the problem since OxyContin first appeared in 1996, but continued to claim that it worked for the full 12 hours in part to protect its revenues. The newspaper reported that when faced with the problem, Purdue instructed doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones. Stronger doses of opioid pain relievers are more likely to be implicated in overdose deaths.

"These are serious allegations," Markey wrote in his letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "They raise questions about ongoing deception by Purdue, harm to the public, continued costs to the United States, and the availability of further judicial recourse against Purdue. If upon investigation these allegations are substantiated, the Department should take legal action" against the drug company.

Purdue has rejected the Times' findings, noting that the FDA had approved OxyContin as a 12-hour drug.

"We promote our medicines only within the parameters approved by FDA and, given FDA has not approved OxyContin for eight-hour use, we do not recommend that dosing to prescribers," the statement said.

That's not good enough for Markey, who represents a state hard-hit by problems with prescription opioids and heroin. More than 1,300 people died from opioid overdoses in the state last year, according to the state Department of Public Health.

In his letter to the FDA and FTC, Markey called Purdue "the leading culprit in the current opioid and heroin overdose epidemic" and accused it of making "false and misleading claims about the longevity of OxyContin's pain-relieving properties."

The FDA and FTC should "investigate these claims and take action to protect patients and consumers from the harm caused by Purdue Pharma's deceptive marketing materials."

Justice, FDA, and FTC all say they are studying Markey's letter.

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: Federal Marijuana Charges Drop, Toronto Dispensary Raids Cause Ruckus, More... (5/27/16)

Federal marijuana trafficking charges are on the decline, although it's not clear why; Britain's prohibitionist Psychoactive Substances Act has gone into effect, Toronto dispensary raids cause a ruckus, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Trafficking Charges Decline in Age of Legalization. According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the US Sentencing Commission, federal marijuana trafficking offenses have declined dramatically since 2012, the year Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana. "The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," the commission reported. It's not clear why the decline has occurred since marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Senate Votes to Waive Medical Marijuana Fees for Veterans. The Senate Tuesday approved a rider to the FY 2017 budget bill that would waive registration fees for veterans for qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. Other patients would still have to pay the $50 registration fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.

International

British Law Banning "Legal Highs" Goes Into Effect. The Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect Tuesday, essentially banning any substance that has an effect on the brain -- even if it doesn't exist yet. The new law is attracting criticism from activists and scientists, who say it is overly broad and could lead to an increase in the use of more harmful substances.

Toronto Police Raid Dozens of Dispensaries. Toronto Drug Squad officers raided up to 43 dispensaries across the city Thursday in a crackdown on the shots, which have proliferated in anticipation of marijuana legalization. Cash and marijuana were seized, and some dispensary employees were temporarily detained, but it's unclear what charges, if any, will be coming.

Toronto Police Chief's Press Conference on Raids Disrupted by Angry Protestors. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders ran into a buzz saw of opposition at his press conference Friday attempting to explain the raids on 43 dispensaries a day earlier. Saunders claimed the raids were done in part because of health concerns, but was interrupted repeatedly by protestors challenging his claims. "These clubs have literally been around for 20 years and literally the medical marijuana has been around for hundreds of years and have literally never killed anybody. So how do you justify that there's a health concern when really it's the most benign substance you can ingest?" one protestor shouted.

Chronicle AM: CA Polls 60% Support Legalization, Federal Forfeiture Reform Advances, More... (5/26/16)

It's looking good for California's marijuana legalization initiative, an Ohio medical marijuana bill heads for the governor's desk, a congressional committee approves federal asset forfeiture reform legislation, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Support for Legalization at 60%, New Poll Finds. Voters in the Golden State are poised to approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in November, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll had support for legalization at 55% among adults and an even higher 60% among likely voters. Support is up four points from the last PPIC poll in May. "Democrats (69%) and independents (65%) are much more likely than Republicans (45%) to say the use of marijuana should be legal. Two in three adults under age 35 favor legalization, while about half of older adults are in favor. Across racial/ethnic groups, strong majorities of blacks (78%) and whites (65%) favor legalization, while fewer Asians (50%) and Latinos (40%) do so. An overwhelming majority of those who say they have tried marijuana favor legalization (78%), while a solid majority of those who have never tried it are opposed (63%)."

West Virginia Decriminalization Bill Filed. Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) Tuesday filed House Bill 114, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana and the growing up of to six plants. The bill includes language about protecting medical marijuana patients, but does not contain language limiting possession and cultivation prerogatives to patients.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Awaits Governor's Signature.Both houses of the legislature gave final approval to the measure, House Bill 523, Wednesday. The bill barely cleared the Senate on an 18-15 vote and won final approval from the House on a 67-28 vote. Gov. John Kasich (R) has said he will review the bill when it gets to his desk.

Asset Forfeiture

House Judiciary Committee Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The committee unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation. Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings. The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the "policing for profit" incentive issue.

It's Not the Kids Turning on to Weed, It's Grandma and Grandpa

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

The growing acceptance of and access to legal marijuana has some people worried that the youth are going to start using it more frequently, but that's not the demographic where pot has really taken off. Instead, it's senior citizens.

Whether it's wide-open medical marijuana states like California or fully legal states like Colorado, the gray-haired set is increasingly turning to pot, and not just to ease their aches and pains With a half-dozen more states likely to have legalization on the ballot (and win) this year and medical marijuana coming to more, grandma and grandpa are set to become even more interested.

Last week, CBS This Morning reported on the phenomenon of senior marijuana use, and the numbers are striking. Citing data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the program reported that the number of pot users over 55 jumped from 2.8 million in 2013 to 4.3 million in 2014, a 55% increase in a single year.

Correspondent Barry Petersen took viewers inside Oakland's Harborside Health Center, the world's largest medical marijuana dispensary, where the senior demographic was well-represented. His footage shows people in their 50s and 60s describing how marijuana treats what ails them. Watch the video here

"Seniors account for only 14% of the population, but they use more than 30% of all prescription drugs, including some highly addictive pain killers," Petersen reported. "So pot is fast becoming a pill alternative."

One Harborside patient, an 80-year-old woman who uses marijuana to help with mobility got right to the point:

"Every medication has a risk," she said. "I've made my choice."

Meanwhile, what about the kids? New research suggests that visions of legions of stoned teens as the inevitable results of not sending adults to jail for smoking pot are unfounded. Contentions than teen marijuana use would increase have not been proven.

"A survey of more than 216,000 adolescents from all 50 states indicates the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining," according to a research report released Tuesday. "Similarly, the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact more U.S. states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased."

The researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined survey data from 2002 to 2013 on drug use among young people aged 12 to 17. They found that the number of kids with marijuana-related problems was down 24% at the end of that period and that annual use fell 10% as well.

The declines came alongside reductions in other behavioral problems, including fighting, property crimes, and drug selling. According to the researchers, the two trends are connected, with reductions in problem behavior associated with reductions in problematic marijuana use.

"We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse," said Richard A. Grucza, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and the study's first author. "We don't know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization."

We are still in the early years of the great social experiment with marijuana legalization. It's too soon to tell what the long-term impacts will be, but so far, the sky is yet to fall. Despite increased legal access, the kids are still alright, and seniors are finding some surcease for their woes.

Chronicle AM: CA MJ Taxes Could Generate $1 Billion/Year, CVS Expands Narcan Program, More... (5/25/16)

There's a pot of gold waiting in California, a Republican congressman comes out of the closet on his medical marijuana use, CVS is expanding expanded access to naloxone to seven more states, and more.

CVS is moving to get the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone into the hands of more drug users. (gov.pa.org)
Marijuana Policy

California Legislative Analyst's Office Says Legalization Could Generate $1 Billion a Year in Taxes and Fees. In a report presented to state lawmakers, the Legislative Analyst's Office said the figure was a mid-range estimate. "Our best estimate is that the state and local governments could eventually collect net additional revenues that could range from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually," analyst Aaron Edwards told lawmakers. The analysts cautioned that legalization could also incur some costs, with likely increased marijuana use requiring additional money to be spent on drug treatment.

New Hampshire Legislature Balks at Decriminalization. The Granite State will remain the only one in New England that has not embraced decriminalization. House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a version of Senate Bill 498 that would lower the penalty for possessing small amounts of pot, but still leave it a criminal offense. The bill does lower the fine from $500 to $350, but possession remains a misdemeanor criminal offense. The House had voted twice in favor of decriminalization this year, but the Senate wouldn't go for it.

Medical Marijuana

GOP Congressman Steps Out of the Closet on Medical Marijuana Use. Long-time medical marijuana supporter Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has told marijuana reformers lobbying on Capitol Hill that he uses medical marijuana for arthritis pain. "I went to one of those hemp fests in San Bernardino," he explained, adding that a vendor showed him a topical preparation he could rub on his sore shoulder. "And you know what? I tried it about two weeks ago, and it's the first time in a year-and-a-half that I've had a decent night's sleep, because the arthritis pain was gone."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senate Bill Would Tax Prescription Opioids to Fund Drug Treatment Facilities. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Tuesday introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (BOAT) Act, which would impose a one-penny fee for each milligram of opioid prescription drugs. That fee would generate $1.5-2 billion annually, Manchin said. The bill has not yet been assigned a number.

Harm Reduction

CVS Health to Expand Naloxone Access to Seven More States. CVS Health, the massive pharmacy chain, announced Wednesday that it will increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) in the states of Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington this summer. CVS has already increased access to naloxone in 23 other states. The CVS program establishes a standing order with a physician in the state, allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone to patients without an individual prescription.

911 "Bad" Samaritan Law Goes to Ohio Governor's Desk. The state Senate Tuesday approved House Bill 110, which was originally designed to save lives, but has been amended to the point where advocates say it will actually make people less likely to seek emergency help for overdoses. The amended bill limits the number of times people can seek overdose help to the first two times they call and it requires medical providers to give patient information to law enforcement. The bill also requires people to get mandatory treatment screening within 30 days or face arrest. Harm reduction advocates are calling on Gov. John Kasich (R) to veto the bill.

Chronicle AM: CA Teamsters Donate to Anti-Legalization Effort, OH MedMJ Bill Moves, More... (5/24/16)

Arizona legalizers are closing in on their needed signatures, California Teamsters kick in some bucks to oppose legalization, the Patagonia clothing company gets behind industrial hemp, and more.

Coming to Ohio soon? (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalizers Have 215,000 Signatures, They Need 150,000 Valid Ones. With two weeks until their July 7 signature gathering deadline, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it has gathered 215,000 signatures, just short of its goal of 230,000. If the campaign obtains all 230,000 and has a 25% invalidation rate or less, it qualifies. If it has a 30% invalidation rate, it falls just short. Stay tuned.

California Teamsters Kick In Cash to Anti-Legalization Campaign. Joining police and prison guards in opposing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative are the California Teamsters. The truck drivers' union has donated $25,000 to the anti-legalization Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies. The Teamsters' concerns appear to be less with legalization itself than with the initiative's vision of legal marijuana distribution. The Teamsters want distribution to follow the alcohol distribution model, which would benefit its membership.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill Amended to Remove Pharmacist Requirement. The Senate has changed House Bill 523 to remove language added by a committee that required dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist. The Senate also expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana. Patient advocates cheered both moves. The bill is expected to head for a full floor vote as early as today.

Industrial Hemp

Patagonia Clothing Company Gets Behind Hemp. The outdoor clothing retailer is getting behind the push to legalize industrial hemp. The California-based company has created a documentary about Kentucky farmer Michael Lewis, who was the first to grow industrial hemp in the US since World War II. The documentary is called "Harvesting Liberty."

International

Former French Anti-Drug Boss Investigated for Drug Smuggling. Francois Thierry, the former head of the anti-drug agency, Octris, is being investigated over allegations that he imported drugs to supply one of his informers and the he ordered the smuggling of several tons of hashish from Morocco. One informant told the newspaper Liberation that French police officers delivered 19 tons of hash to a Spanish villa he occupied on behalf of Thierry. The drugs were supposed to be bait to catch traffickers, but only some were seized while the rest went to a convicted drug dealer who was an informer for Thierry. This allowed Thierry to trumpet drug busts to the press, but also eliminated the informant's competition and allowed him to corner the market in hash.

Chronicle AM: Bratton Blames MJ for Prohibition Violence, Opioid Prescriptions Decline, More... (5/23/16)

Bill Bratton misses the point on prohibition and violence, Nebraskans will have to wait for medical marijuana, Fentanyl is displacing heroin in Vancouver, and more.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York City's Top Cop Blames Marijuana Legalization -- Not Prohibition -- for Black Market Violence. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton Sunday criticized states that have legalized weed because there is violence around the black market in his city, which hasn't legalized weed. "Here in New York, the violence we see associated with drugs, the vast majority of it, is around the issue of marijuana, which is ironic considering the explosion in use of heroin now in the city," Bratton said. "Interestingly enough, here in New York City most of the violence we see -- violence around drug trafficking -- is involving marijuana and I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana, and more liberalization of policies."

Medical Marijuana

No Medical Marijuana Initiative for Nebraska This Year. Cornhusker medical marijuana advocates have decided to delay a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot until 2018. They cited the late start this year and the expense involved.

Rhode Island Senate Approves Adding PTSD to List of Qualifying Conditions. The Senate last Friday unanimously approved a bill that will add PTSD to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Opioid Prescriptions are Falling for the First Time in 20 Years. Two reports from health information providers show that opioid prescriptions have declined in recent years. IMS Health reported a 12% decline in opioid prescriptions nationally since 2012, while Symphony Health Solutions reported an 18% drop during those years. IMS said prescriptions have fallen in 49 states, with only South Dakota showing an increase. The figures could have implications not only for overdose and addiction rates, but also for pain patients. "The climate has definitely shifted," said Dr. Daniel B. Carr, the director of Tufts Medical School's program on pain research education and policy. "It is now one of reluctance, fear of consequences and encumbrance with administrative hurdles. A lot of patients who are appropriate candidates for opioids have been caught up in that response."

International

In Vancouver, Heroin Has Been Displaced by Fentanyl. The synthetic opioid has been identified in half of all drug overdoses in the city this year, which is on track to exceed last year's drug overdose toll. Advocates for drug users in the city's Downtown East Side say there's no more heroin on the street after it has been pushed out by the cheaper and more potent Fentanyl. "Traditionally, heroin comes in about four different colors,"said the longtime drug advocate Hugh Lampkin of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, describing a bland palette of beiges, browns and blacks. "Well now you're seeing multiple colors, like colors of the rainbow: green and pink and orange and white... Right away, when you see these colors that's a pretty good indicator that it's fentanyl that you're doing. The people who are controlling the supply, they're passing off what should be heroin as fentanyl because of the close proximity of the high."

Afghans Celebrate Bumper Opium Harvest. Hundreds of laborers from across the Pashtun heartland gathered in Naqil, Uruzgan province, to harvest a bumper crop of opium poppies and celebrate with after-work games in a festival-like atmosphere. "This is the only time of the year to make money," said Afzal Mohammad, who came all the way from Kandahar, standing amid chest-high poppy stalks nearby. "People work here for about 15 days and then are jobless for the rest of the year."

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