Yet another black male falls to cannabis laws, this one’s name is Obama.

Like the millions of American black males whose lives have been devastated by anti-cannabis laws in the USA, another victim fell yesterday, this time in Africa. His name is Obama, George Obama, half-brother to American president Barack Obama. Allegedly, he was found in possession of a small amount of cannabis, known in Kenya as bhang.

Will Obama’s brother George be helped by his cannabis arrest?  If imprisoned in Kenya’s horrifying lockups, doubtless he will be tortured. Torture is common in Kenyan prisons. Indeed, several hundred prisoners die each year, many under torture. Does Africa benefit from Obama’s arrest, and possible imprisonment and torture?

In the USA, an American, often a young black male, is arrested for cannabis possession roughly every 38 seconds. Each arrest tears at that person’s life, family and community. The DEA stubbornly maintains a ludicrously harsh Schedule I classification for cannabis. Because of this draconian classification, severe punishments are inflicted by the state upon the American citizen so charged with possession of this age-old plant. Such arrests are at an all-time high. Does America benefit from these arrests?

True, Schedule I status for cannabis helps fuel one of the USA’s fastest growing industries, imprisonment. Prison guards and their bloated unions benefits, enough to finance campaigns against drug law reform. But just as the young American and their families are injured by overly harsh laws and overly zealous enforcement, so America too is wounded. The total number of Kenyans in prison is small. By contrast, the USA is the planet’s major jailer, with over 2 million prisoners.

Hopefully, George Obama’s last name will keep him from joining fellow Kenyans in the torture cells of Nairobi prisons.

Now if only his half-brother would strike cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule V classification over at the DEA. By doing so, he could save millions more Americans, black, brown and of all colors, from the worst of the soul-searing, family-killing  consequences of arrest. He could slow the rapid and shameful rise of the American prison population. Somehow, such a rational step now seems unlikely from Barack Obama, considering the pro-drug war mongers with whom he has surrounded himself at Vice-President, Attorney General, Chief-of-Staff and now Drug Czar.

Barack Obama, give us some change we can believe in! Reschedule Cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule V.

Bliss out (and pump up) your brain with exercise.

Just as doing push-ups pumps up the size of your triceps, so does aerobic exercise appear to increase the volume of your brain! American researchers reporting in the British Journal of Sports Medicine show that physical exercise, especially aerobic activity, improves the functioning and structure of the brains of older people.

Improvements in brain size, with increased volumes of grey and white matter, and better brain function were found in both those with and without dementia. The so called functions of “executive control,” that help us carry on our lives planning, remembering and changing tasks are those first attacked by dementia. But study co-author Art Kramer of the University of Illinois notes that these functions are those most helped with exercise. Dementia is not only forestalled, but in some ways actually reversed with 6 months of aerobic activity. Brains benefiting from the exercise exertions of their owners maintained plasticity, essentially the capabilities to continue growing, developing and learning.

Although huge rewards accrue to both brain and body from simply walking, these researchers point out the increased benefit from more rigorous aerobic activities, such as jogging, that cause increases in heart rate and rate of breathing. So by all means walk your 10,000 steps a day, at least 5 miles, but also pick up the pace for some of those steps.  Jogging one of those five miles and moving your heart rate up into your age-appropriate training zone will yield great benefits, toning your body and growing your brain. Professor Kramer summarized, “We can safely argue that an active lifestyle with moderate amounts of aerobic activity will likely improve cognitive and brain function, and reverse the neural decay frequently observed in older adults.”

If you bliss out your brain with exercise, there is now good evidence your brain will return the favor. “Runner’s high,” is a flowing, blissful, pain-free experience associated with aerobic exercise. Formerly, the enjoyable mental and physical state was associated solely with endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. With the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system and endogenous cannabinoids produced by our own bodies, such as anandamide and 2-AG, this explanation is taking a new turn. After you begin exercising, your level of natural bliss cannabinoid anandamide elevates, and more of these bliss molecules float in your bloodstream, ready to jump the blood-brain barrier and activate CB1receptors on your nerve cells. The result is pain reduction and mood elevation.  So, in addition to endorphins, endocannabinoids such as anandamide reward you for your exercise efforts.

Better adaptive functioning and increased brain volumes are, at least in part, due to neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells. Both exercise and cannabinoids promote neurogenesis. So, to gain huge health rewards, second-by-second, year-by-year, for your entire life, bliss out your brain with exercise. Walk every day, run some too, lift some weights, and every cell in your brain and body benefits.

100 jack-boot thugs invade 2 northern Californa high schools.

Two northern California high schools, Yreka and Mt. Shasta, were invaded in mid-January by 100 cops, many dressed up in their jack-boot thug costumes, culminating an undercover snitch operation targeting marijuana.  Thirty three people, including a Mt. Shasta councilwoman, will now have their lives destroyed by the “justice system.”

The Yreka Siskiyou Daily News reports that “Agencies that took part in Wednesday’s operations include the California Department of Justice-Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Redding Office, Glenn Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Tehama Interagency Drug Enforcement, Shasta Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Modoc County Narcotic Task Force, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office, Weed Police Department, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department (SCSO), Mt. Shasta Police Department (MSPD), Yreka Police Department (YPD), Siskiyou County Probation Department, Siskiyou County Child Protective Services and the Siskiyou County Interagency Task Force (SCINTF).”

Somehow, three cops were required for each arrest. The processing of the 33 arrested now moves to District Attorneys for prosecution and will continue, years hence, with their imprisonment. The war against cannabis is essentially a massive public works program funding cops, prosecutors and jailers. The program’s end product is humans in cages, adding only to California’s massive deficit. A real public works program should result in things being built, students being educated, value being created. California may soon have to lay off 100,000 teachers, and begin issuing IOUs. Perhaps the newly unemployed teachers can get jobs arresting, prosecuting and jailing their former students instead.

The drugs involved were the softest of all, marijuana, concentrated marijuana (hashish?) and ecstasy.  Cannabis, of course, lacks the addictiveness and lethality of tobacco cigarettes. Ecstasy was a promising new therapeutic tool for increasing empathy and reducing neurosis until stricken illegal by drug warriors in congress.

Had the 100 cops really wanted to achieve safety and public service, they should have swooped down on corner stores selling to minors the addictive and lethal drug, cigarettes. About 3,000 American teenagers begin smoking cigarettes each day, nearly one million new addicts each year. Around one third will die from their new cigarette habit. By contrast, zero people die from using cannabis, except those killed in paramilitary police raids.

Holder his feet to the fire. Eric Holder a drug reform disaster as Attorney General.

Tragically, Barack Obama’s Attorney General will very likely chart a more-of-the-same course on two of America’s greatest criminal justice problems, the fraudulent drug war and the related explosion of the American prison population. Barack Obama’s supporters had every right to hope that their winning candidate would provide a change of direction in America’s disastrous drug and incarceration policies.  But then came his cabinet announcements.

Bizarrely, conservative politicians in and out of congress alone oppose the nomination of Eric Holder as next Attorney General.  Holder’s nomination SHOULD be opposed by all those who love the Bill of Rights and who believe that America should be land of the free, not site of the world’s largest prison complex. Eric Holder, like all of Obama’s Clinton administration holdovers, was a hard core drug warrior, eager to smash the lives of young Americans with felonies, mandatory minimum sentences and fill newly-built prisons.

In just one generation the American prison population has quadrupled. During this same generation a succession of Attorneys General have used the “War on Drugs” as an easy escalator for riding huge expansions in the department. The drug war, especially the persecution of cannabis, has provided decades of high octane fuel for the Justice Department, along with the DEA, SWAT squads, prison industries and urine testers. More arrests are made for the “crime” of possession of cannabis alone, than for all the violent crimes, those with actual victims, put together.

Eric Holder, please note; Barack Obama please note: the Drug War verdict is in!  A July 2008 World Health Organization report found no relationship between severity and enforcement of drug laws and level of drug use by a country’s people. The USA, with its draconian approach (10 times more drug war inmates in USA that in all of Europe), actually still has the highest rates of illegal drug use out of 17 countries studied in new research. The entire war on drugs is a useless fraud. Actually far worse than just useless, in reality a horribly expensive and counterproductive betrayer of America’s key values, as embodied by our Bill of Rights. At this point the USA jails more of its citizens for violations of drug laws than Europe imprisons for all crimes. Europeans look on aghast as across the Atlantic former the land of the free locks away its citizens at a rate 6 times that of their own.

The quality of America’s Attorney General, for nearly all the last forty years at least, has been pathetic. Richard Nixon’s wretched John Mitchell was himself brought down by Watergate. During the long decades of the drug war, most of them have been enthusiastic proponents for jailing an ever larger proportion of the nation’s citizenry for victimless “crimes.” Clinton’s Janet Reno oversaw a massive expansion the Justice Department and corresponding swelling of the American prison population. When not scheming for ways to torture prisoners at Guantanamo or spy on American’s telephone calls, George W. Bush’s Hall of Shame Attorney’s General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales eagerly oversaw the jailing of America’s two millionth prisoner in 2003. Finally, Barack Obama is elected and people hoped for the promised change. Instead, the appointment of another Clinton administration drug war hardliner Holder for Attorney General dashes hopes for change in cannabis, drug and incarceration policy.

Michael Pollan, writing about cannabis in The Botany of Desire, put it very well. He envisions future historians looking back on this era, scratching their heads as to “why Americans would have been so willing to give up so many of their hard-won liberties in the fight against this plant.” From every indication, Eric Holder will be yet another Attorney General eager to separate Americans and their liberties, and continue, without thinking or blinking, the federal war against, “this plant,” medical cannabis.

Another new aspects that makes the prospect of the new Attorney General thoughtlessly cloning the cannabis policies of his predecessors all the more ludicrous has been the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system and the major role this discovery portends for cannabinoids in health care. Ever protective of cannabis’ Schedule 1 designation, the Justice Department has lead the nearly across the board resistance to the study of medical cannabinoids.  As a result, many of the rapid advances in understanding the scope, importance and medical potential of our endocannabinoid receptor system has taken place outside the USA. Now it looks quite likely things will continue on as before, with ideology trumping science still. But let’s hope for the best.

Say it ain’t so, Sanjay. Next Surgeon General down on medical cannabis.

Yet another heart breaker for drug policy reform and medical cannabis in the form of Obama’s Surgeon General. CNN reports Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical coorespondent has been asked by Barack Obama to be the new Surgeon General.

In many ways, Dr. Gupta is an excellent choice. Brilliant, telegenic, a neurosurgeon, huge recognition and an excellent communicator. Yet more important, and still rare for most physicians, Sanjay Gupta focuses on preventive health care, especially on health-enhancing or damaging behaviors. Morbidity and mortality in the USA are much more functions of our everyday behaviors than they are functions of the entire medical care system. How healthy you look and feel, how vital you really are depends chiefly on your daily habits of exercise, nutrition and other health related behaviors. Gupta realizes this, as evidence by his CNN series on obesity, exercise and other key health topics.

Fixing the American health care system, especially as it totters from the oncoming onslaught of Type II diabetics, will require a totally new health care vision, one based on prevention, exercise and self-care. The entire system would be revolutionized by each American walking 10,000 steps a day, a figure that appears to be a requirement for good body composition, healthy blood sugar levels, and basic vitality.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta just might be a Surgeon General who could help this come to pass. Maybe he could even help Barack quit smoking cigarettes, another of his passionate causes, and killer of 440,000 Americans each year.

This makes all the more disappointing the possible Surgeon General’s ignorant take on medical cannabis. He spelled out his unfortunate philosophy in TIME Magazine, on January 8, 2009. His article, Why I Would Vote No On Pot, discussed then up-coming medical cannabis initiatives in Colorado and Nevada (both passed).  Paradoxically, Sanjay starts out by stating recent ways cannabis has been found to be good for your, even asserting, “THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, can help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. (In fact, it seems to block the formation of disease-causing plaques better than several mainstream drugs).”

Yet somehow, in spite of being a neurosurgeon touting the effectiveness of this plant substance as a neuron and brain protector, he doubles back advises readers in Colorado and Nevada to vote no, to vote away their medical choice on this issue. He talks quite a bit about the smoke as hazard, an issue of ever-decreasing importance in the age of the vaporizer. His urging of the no vote is also a vote FOR continued damage to the American citizenry by enforcement of cruel, useless laws. See Austin, Texas Attorney Jamie Spencer, who commented on his blog in 2006 at the release of the  of Gupta TIME article. Spencer notes, “Voting “No on Pot”, as Dr. Gupta calls it, means more tax dollars spent incarcerating casual marijuana users. That’s it, end of story. Neither initiative will force Dr. Gupta or anyone else to use marijuana.”

In the last 20 years, the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system and molecules produced in our bodies to activate these receptors represents a major step forward in our understanding of the human body and its working. Health care in the 21st Century will be revolutionized by these findings and the potential they portend for medical cannabis. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who understands and will help end the goverment’s war against a plant used as medication for millenia and against those Americans who find it of medical benefit. In the article Gupta whines talking points from US government agencies. One statistic he ignores, annual US deaths from cannabis = zero.

Dr. Gupta, after your TIME article, Coloradans and Nevadan disagreed and went ahead and voted for freedom of choice of medical cannabis as they have in nearly every state when given the opportunity. As Surgeon General, please do not scheme to take that choice away from them, and those in a dozen of other states who have voted to assert this basic personal medical freedom.

Cannabinoids 1988 – The Day the DEA told the truth

With 2008 just behind us, this post looks back not across last year, but farther back, 20 years. 1988 witnessed a remarkable event. On September 6 of that year the federal bureaucracy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the truth. This may be the only case of veracity by the DEA during its meteoric 35 year history.

The uncharacteristic truthfulness from the DEA came from one of its own administrative law judges, Francis L. Young, in his report and recommendations to the agency on the prospect of reducing cannabis’ Schedule 1 status.  Such extreme status supports governmental torments inflicted upon Americans nearly equal to the tortures of the Inquisition for mere possession of plant material used by humans over the last 12,000 years. Instead of tools of physical torture, the new Drug War brought torments such as the family and soul-killing horrors of mandatory minimum sentences and asset forfeitures.

Zero-tolerance zealotry inflamed Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, along with authoritarian senators, such Joe Biden and John Ashcroft, and Torquemada-like prosecutors such as Eric Holder and Rudy Giuliani in the 1980s. Their ire was written into harsh new drug laws and sentencing scheduling. New legislation began allowing drug war bureaucrats to make war against a sub-set of Americans

  • These laws allowed the DEA and even local police to take Americans’ property away from them and give it, in part, to police agencies.
  • The same laws encouraged police to take Americans’ liberty away from them and give it to the mushrooming prison/industrial complex.

Cannabis sativa, of all drugs, was the center of this ever-growing drug war. Crack cocaine got the headlines, but as always, marijuana users suffered the most arrests. “Just say no” campaigns and DARE programs, along with beer and cigarette company planned and financed drug-free America campaign, institutionalized lying about cannabis. This drug has none of the violence promotion of alcohol, or the addictiveness or lethality of cigarettes, and even then showed strong medical utility. Nonetheless, it was denounced by the DEA and essentially the entire US government, as without medical value and dangerously addictive, fully supportive of its harsh schedule 1 status.

Into this maelstrom came a voice of calm from DEA law judge Francis L. Young. His investigation into the correctness of Schedule 1 for cannabis resulted in a set of talking points remarkable in their clarity and a direct challenge to the plant’s draconian rating:

  • The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.
  • Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
  • Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.
  • It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

Such findings caused Judge Young to reject the agency’s claim for Schedule 1 status for cannabis. What was the result of truth being told to power? Essentially nothing.

The DEA continued, of course, to be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious and stubbornly clung to the draconian scheduling of cannabis that accounted for (and still accounts for) so much that agency’s total activity. Like any bureaucracy, the DEA is protective of its turf, and persecuting cannabis makes up huge portion of the agency’s reason for existing.

Since Judge Young’s honest but futile ruling, over 10 million Americans have suffered arrest and the resulting damage to their lives and families for possession of a relatively harmless and medically beneficial plant substance.

Californians voted in 1996 to exempt medical cannabis users from prosecution. Clinton administration drug warrior Rahm Emanuel participated in the attempted persecution of physicians who might advise patient’s of cannabis medical benefit. Emanuel actually said “We’re against the message that the initiative sends to children.” Apparently young people might be damaged by being made aware of the medical benefits of a plant? Attempts by Emanuel and the Clinton administration at muting physicians suffered defeat at the hands of the US Supreme Court when such heavy-handedness was declared as a violation of free speech.

During the ensuing 20 years since Judge Young’s refreshing candor, essentially nothing has changed at the federal level. During this time, the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system has redefined our understanding of the workings of the human body. Cannabis remains as Schedule 1, despite 20 years of research, performed mostly outside the USA, showing huge medical value as an anti-inflammatory, neuro-protectant and pain relievers. Instead, over 800,000 Americans suffer arrests each year, more than one cannabis arrest each minute. Although these mass arrests seem to have no effect on use of cannabis, it does serve as a colossal jobs program for urine testers, snitches, cops, DEA agents, drug counselors and jailers.

After 20 years since Judge Young told the truth, many Americans hoped the election of Barack Obama might signal a new direction. Perhaps the drug war might be reconsidered by better minds? Perhaps the incarcerated nation with over 2 million of its citizens behind bars might be reexamined/ Perhaps decades of lies and tens of millions of arrests for possession of a beneficial plant might end? But now things do not look hopeful. Barack Obama, for some reason, has placed in key positions, including Attorney General, the worst of the drug war zealots of the Clinton administration. Probably none of them have heard of the DEA law judge and his findings of the relative harmlessness of cannabis and the great injustice in demonizing the plant in draconian legal code as Schedule 1. Nor would they care. After all, it sends the wrong message to children.