“Concussion” Is Teachable Moment For Cannabis And Brain Trauma

Will Smith - Concussion

Will Smith – Concussion

Cannabis reduces traumatic brain injury!

Far too few know this benefit of medical marijuana use and treatment. The general public, the NFL, and coaches across the country may soon get that opportunity.

The SONY movie, “Concussion,” examining brain trauma in the NFL, presents a unique opportunity to educate about benefits of cannabis for traumatic brain injury. Will Smith plays a forensic pathologist who discovers the chilling extent of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players, setting them up for depression, dementia, and early death.

The Christmas 2015 movie has already elevated the issue of traumatic brain injury to the public and NFL players. Although the movie does not address how cannabis can minimize brain injuries, the time will be ripe for such education.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon may be the best educator on this timely issue.

This a retired Harvard psychiatrist and pioneering authority on marijuana’s medical benefits has already specifically addressed the issue of CTE in the NFL, when he petitioned  the organization to fund research into cannabis and brain trauma. Dr. Grinspoon has been educating on the positive health effects of cannabis for decades, since it helped his son with cancer in the 1970s. He has written a dozen books, several on medical marijuana, calling it The Forbidden Medicine.”  He has editorialized in The New York Times that marijuana is a “wonder drug“, where he lists the truly wondrous medical benefits provided, including relief from neuropathic pain. He writes:

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

 

Cannabis and Brain Injury

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Much of the research showing the protective effects of cannabinoids against traumatic brain injury comes from Israel. Studies reported in 2013 in this small, high-tech country showed that THC and similar cannabinoids can reduce injury both before and after trauma.

Irony alert: This research showing the brain-protective benefits was done at the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases. Sheldon Adelson, that is, the American right-wing gambling billionaire and major benefactor to Israel. Ironically, he put several million dollars into a 2014 Florida campaign to PREVENT medical marijuana in that state. With the help of his money, Floridians were denied the benefits of medical cannabis, such as reducing brain injury and dementia, discovered in his own center! WTF?

Other Israeli researchers concentrated on 2-AG, the human body’s own cannabinoid molecule, along with anandamide, that fits lock-and-key into the same receptors activated by plant cannabinoid in marijuana. They discuss how cannabinoids work on the biological and molecular levels to reduce traumatic brain injury (TBI) and with it minimize the disabling disease CTE. The brain trauma of a concussive hit does not all take place and finish with the hit. In the hours following, inflammation is a destructive factor, caused in part by cytokines, cell messengers, such as the dangerous TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-1beta. 2-AG also reduces blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability, another neuroprotective effect.

More ways cannabinoids reduce traumatic brain injury.

Head trauma, such as a massive acceleration/deceleration of a head during helmet to pad collision, common in NFL football, begins a lengthy neurological response process, often inflicting more harm to the brain. This response is primarily inflammatory. For a specific site, even the whole brain, the culprit is “excitotoxicity, the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged or killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate and similar substances.” This neurotransmitter overload degrades and kills brain cells, and they die a messy death, creating further toxicity in the form of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), nasty molecules that damage cell structures and your DNA.

So as soon as a football player takes a concussive hit, from then for hours, and longer,  the resulting excitotoxicity attacks neurons and other cells:

  • Dangerous cytokines deliver massive numbers of inflammatory molecules.
  • Glutamate increases wildly, along with other neurotransmitters.
  • NMDA receptors are activated by excess glutamate which causes a flow of calcium and sodium into cells, generating free radicals.
  • Dying mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse release toxic Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), bully molecules swinging dangerous free radical electrons, and smashing up nerve cells.
  • Vasoconstriction reduces blood flow to the brain.

Amazingly, cannabinoids in cannabis exert a healing calm to excitotoxicity and help reduce neurological damage in all areas.

  • Antioxidants action: Even without activating the  endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids themselves are potent anti-oxidants, the perfect remedy to the oxidative stress, as they neutralize these rowdy ROS molecules.
  • Retrograde signalling, found only in the endocannabinoid system, calms neuronal firings with “backwards” retrograde signaling across synapses to reduce nerve cell activity.
  • Apoptosis, cell death is reduced, lowering the resulting volume of inflammatory molecules.
  • Cannabinoids promote vasodilation, restoring healing blood flow to the brain by counteracting the endothelin (ET-1)-induced vasoconstriction that aggravates brain damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory actions are all neuroprotective. And they result in reduced brain swelling.

So, obviously, the investigation of cannabis in reducing traumatic brain injury and CTE in football players and sports participants who suffer concussions presents a life-saving opportunity. Their are ample reasons for undertaking this research and hopefully the NFL will take up Dr. Grinspoon’s challenge to fund it.

First, do no harm. The NFL’s knee jerk mandate of prohibiting cannabis use by players may be doing huge harms by denying them the medicine that can help prevent, treat, and minimize injuries from the brain trauma they suffer as players.

Beyond that, what can we do as fans of football, and for some, as parent of young players, to help get the NFL to sponsor this vitally needed research into concussion and cannabis?.

Copyright © 2015  Don Fitch

 

Cannabis as the “exit gateway” drug.

Exit © ufotopixl10 - Fotolia.com

Exit © ufotopixl10 – Fotolia.com

Cannabis prohibitionist bureaucrats have always argued that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to abuse of hard drugs. This fiction should have been put to rest with the 1999 Institute of Medicine report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Now, with nearly 15 years more medical cannabis experience in the country, it turns out that cannabis may be an excellent exit gateway or reverse gateway drug, useful in helping people reduce and avoid use of dangerous drugs such as narcotics and alcohol.

Cannabis offers many advantages to people wishing to quit dangerous drugs. Foremost, cannabis is one of the safest drugs in existence, one of the very few that can not cause death. Aspirin can and does kill. Even drinking too much water can be fatal. There is no lethal dose of cannabis. As DEA administrative law judge Francis Young noted in 1988,

“In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. 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 the supervised routine of medical care.” This is perhaps the last time any truth has come out of the DEA regarding cannabis. Judge Young also declared that to not reschedule cannabis down from Schedule I would be, “cruel, arbitrary and capricious,” the exact behavior of the DEA in the ensuing 25 years.

As a candidate for a safer substitute drug, cannabis excels also in the area of lack harms against others. Cannabis reduces violence, especially in contrast to alcohol.  The main area where cannabis use causes hardship to family and community is when the cannabis consumer run afoul of the war on drugs and is arrested and perhaps imprisoned. These harms are from the persecution of the drug consumer by the forces of prohibition, not from the mild effects of cannabis itself.  Cannabis has little additive potential with few withdrawal symptoms when unavailable. Unlike some addictive drugs, lack of cannabis does not cause compelling need.

The third reason cannabis serves well as a substitute for dangerous drugs is the positive effects of the mild euphoria cannabis use can provide. The “high” associated with cannabis is uplifting, not debilitating.  If a person is using drugs to escape a negative mental or emotional state, the feelings of well-being produced by cannabis use are therapeutically useful and appropriate.  As a matter of fact, the introduction of pharmaceutical drugs which had the opposite effect of the cannabis high (cannabinoid antagonists such as rimonabant) were blocked in 2006 by the negative and suicidal reactions to the psychological “low” the drug produced. Indeed, it may well be that many people predisposed to using dangerous drugs are cannabinoid deficient, either with minimal levels of natural cannabinoids such as anandamide, or suffering from insufficient cannabinoid receptors. In such cases, cannabis use would serve a homeostatic role, restoring this imbalance.

Another reason cannabis is being used as a substitute for dangerous drugs is its ability to relieve pain. Pain relief is the main reason for most doctor’s visits. The opioids most available as pharmaceuticals come with a host of adverse effects including, “respiratory depression, sedation, sleep disturbance, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, delirium, hallucinations, seizures, hyperalgesia, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.”  Opioid drugs can kill by stopping breathing; cannabis can not.  For some types of pain, especially neuropathic pain, caused by damage to nerves from conditions such as diabetes, the opioid drugs provide little pain relief. Cannabis is very effective in reducing neuropathic pain. It also makes for an excellent adjunct pain therapy for use in conjunction with other pain drugs, allowing these dangerous substances to be used in lesser amounts.

The American federal government blocks nearly all research into the medicinal use of cannabis, but with more US states asserting medical exemptions, we can increasingly expect more Americans to substitute safer cannabis for dangerous drugs.

 

Patients with medical freedom substitute cannabis for prescription drugs

When given the choice, Americans suffering from a wide variety of medical afflictions substitute safer cannabis instead of increasingly lethal prescription drugs.

Supposedly, freedom of choice is a key American value, especially with regards to personal decisions such as one’s own health care. Yet the federal government and most states deny their citizens the right to include the medical herb cannabis as part of their personal health care options. When “given” this choice in states with voter-mandated medical exemptions patients substitute medical marijuana for prescription drugs.

Increasingly, prescription drugs are costly, debilitating and dangerous. Far more Americans now die from effects of prescription drugs than from the DEA scheduled drugs, such as heroin, meth and cocaine. Prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers are the biggest killers, usually ending lives by suppressing breathing. When considering drug policy and medical options, it must be noted that zero persons, none, die from medical cannabis. As stated by DEA law judge Francis Young, “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.

Evidence pointing to this harm reducing substitution has again been validated by survey of patients using medical cannabis. Two-thirds of the responses showed the patients choosing to substitute cannabis for powerful, disorienting and sometimes addictive and lethal prescription drugs. In particular, patients in pain are able to use less narcotic, opioid pain reliever when medical cannabis was used in adjunct.

Cannabis is one of the least toxic of all drugs. Meanwhile, it offers clear medical benefits to those suffering from a variety of diseases and maladies, including glaucoma, pain and MS. One of its most medically beneficial properties may be in allowing users to use less of dangerous medications and pain relievers.

End moronic Schedule I persecution of medical cannabis!

Publicizing rational ranking of drug harms to show relative safety of cannabis.

Patriots interested in ending the tyranny that is the war on drugs have been given a powerful new tool.  From Britain comes a novel ranking of the dangers of various drugs to their consumers and harms to families and society. In a finding that tears at the foundation of drug prohibition, ranked the legal drug alcohol the most dangerous of all drugs, legal or illegal. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, headed by the esteemed Professor David Nutt found highly illegal marijuana, by contrast, was to be far safer.

Many were shocked that alcohol was declared the most dangerous drug. But others were less surprised, as alcohol is by far the most abused drug, causes the most addiction and promotes behaviors damaging to family and society. It also directly causes disease and death, especially through liver disease. Heroin came in as the second most harmful drug, mainly from it highly addictive nature, although it is not any where near a cause of violence as alcohol. Crack, the most volatile form of cocaine, was ranked as the next most destructive drug. Far down the harm list came marijuana and even lower other psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy and LSD.

The ranking looked at 9 categories of drug harm. Harm-to-self categories are:

  • Drug-specific mortality
  • Drug-related mortality
  • Drug-specific damage
  • Drug-related damage
  • Dependence
  • Drug-specific impairment of mental function
  • Drug-related impairment of mental functioning
  • Loss of tangibles
  • Loss of relationships
  • Injury

Harms-to-others categories include:

  • Crime
  • Environmental damage
  • Family conflict
  • International damage
  • Economic cost
  • Decline in community cohesion.

Numeric rankings were assigned to the Overall Harm Score, the higher the score, the more harmful the drug.

  • Alcohol – 72 – This is a huge number far out pacing the rest.
  • Heroin – 55
  • Crack –   54
  • Crystal meth – 33
  • Cocaine – 27
  • Tobacco – 26  – This number seems low considering the 5 million yearly world-wide cigarette deaths.  1,200 Americans die from cigarettes every day. Tobacco is also the most highly addictive drug and 3,000 American teenagers become addicted to cigarettes each day.
  • Amphetamine/speed – 23
  • Cannabis – 20 – This seems a little high, considering that zero medical deaths are associated with marijuana, and use of cannabis tends to reduce violence.
  • Benzodiazepines – Valium -15
  • Ecstacy – 9
  • Anabolic steroids – 9
  • LSD – 7 – Powerful potential as a psychiatric drug
  • Mushrooms – 5 – Yet psilocybin mushrooms, which grow from cattle dung and may be spiritually beneficial, are persecuted as Schedule I by the DEA

Headlines blared the new rankings:

This is not news, of course. Over a decade ago a similar ranking looking a addictive potential, impairment, danger to health and other indicators had cannabis competing with coffee as the least dangerous drug. The fresh rankings are news, though, in that they diverge from much of the public’s distorted view of drug dangers, fed by decades of federal drug war propaganda. And the new rankings of drug dangers are in nearly a directly opposite ranking of the legality of the drugs in the US federal government. The most dangerous drug, alcohol, is legal (as is the most addictive and lethal drug, cigarettes) while the far safer cannabis is legally ranked as Schedule I. This labels it as among the most dangerous drugs, without medical value, deserving of the harshest prosecution in criminal codes.

Ecstasy, MMDA, LSD and even psilocybin mushrooms are also legally scheduled as terribly dangerous, and of no medical use.  It turns out they inflict little harm and many may well have great value, especially in treating war caused disorders such as PTSD. If only the psychiatrists could use them, but they cannot, because congress and the DEA, in their self-serving wisdom, have declared them Schedule I. Politicians and bureaucrats have set the drug’s schedules, science be damned, and harms not considered. Knee jerk scheduling remains decades later, after legally scourging millions of American lives.

This new, rational ranking of drug harms can be used effectively for those arguing to end the damage of drug wars. This has already been done, e.g. in letter to the Pot Shots at the Criminalization of a Soft Drug. The writer, Alan Shanoff, state, “The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in England recently rated marijuana with a harm score of 20 compared with alcohol at 72.” This numerical rating can be a real eye-opener and winning argument for reducing the only real harms from cannabis, those that come from its prohibition.

Cannabis dispensaries can be true wellness clinics.

Cannabis dispensaries and clinics are multiplying as citizens of ever-more American states vote to decriminalize medical marijuana. Many use the term “wellness” to describe their wider range of services. In fact, as medical cannabis becomes evermore accepted for the variety of conditions for which the herb provides benefit, dispensaries and clinics really can provide a mechanism for providing true wellness services.

The term “wellness” relates to a high level of health status, not simply the absence of disease, but the presence of behaviors that help prevent disease and cause the body to thrive. This behavioral perspective emphasizes the health practices that provide prevention effects from today’s causes of death and disability. High level wellness indicates a body not just disease-free, but strong, toned, nutritionally well fed, and free of excess tension. Wellness also refers to a relaxed but purposeful mental set, engaged with the world.

Several health behaviors are key determinants of our health status and our health future. A few of the physical activity behavioral goals may be beyond the capabilities of those with serious physical ailments, but serve as important guidelines to all. As a wellness center, the dispensary can communicate these basic practices and their importance to all patients in a variety of unobtrusive and complementary ways.

Virtually every person should:

  • Get sufficient exercise, especially walking.
  • Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.
  • Practice good nutrition, focused on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Cultivate a supportive social life.
  • Manage and reduce stress.

Open Source Health Care

Two huge problems, besides the obscene cost, beset the current state of health care in the USA. One is the general non-availability of cannabinoid medications for most Americans. The other is the lack of prevention perspective; in fact, current “health care” is mainly medical care, focusing on relieving and curing established diseases.   Despite the fact that most of the ailments and diseases afflicting Americans are related to health behaviors, there is very little true prevention effort. The open source health care alternative for the 21st Century will enable people to harness cannabis for pain relief, anti-inflammation, glaucoma prevention and a dozen other conditions for which medical marijuana provides results superior to the mainstream medical/pharmaceutical approach. It will also provide a harm reduction, health promotion, preventive alternative to the current curative medical approach. Both these two problems could be addressed by dispensaries providing cannabinoid-based medications and true wellness services. Such services would address the health behaviors above:

Get sufficient exercise, especially walking. Most Americans walk far to little, depriving themselves of muscle and burdening themselves with fat. Taking at least 10,000 steps each day is a key health behavior of huge value to your health, and a crucial foundation for a preventive, wellness lifestyle. Even better is when some of these steps, or additional steps, are taken a faster pace, such as jogging a mile a day. Dispensaries could encourage patients to aspire to such basic fitness guidelines in a variety of ways:

  • Pedometers retail for $5. Providing each patient with one for no cost as part of the wellness services would send a profound message a hugely useful tool. The pedometer would of course bear the clinic’s logo.
  • Posters at the dispensary could impart more awareness of the 10,000 steps per day guideline.
  • If the clinic does the medical evaluations for eligibility for medical cannabis, this presents a perfect opportunity to encourage physical fitness goals such as 10,000 steps per day.

Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.

America, and much of the world is suffering a crisis in body composition. Our bodies are composed evermore of excess fat. Plus we tend to carry too little muscle. Sufficient walking, see above, is key to building muscle tone and preventing fat, but additional muscle building is a healthy practice. A more muscular body composition helps burn calories, but more importantly provides a basic framework of physical strength that provides preventive and fitness dividends. Dispensaries could help patients gain the benefits of strength training with the same method as above, including posters and other messaging. The question of the obesity of its clients is important to a dispensary. Wanting to, “first, do no harm,” the clinic should confirm that its cannabis medication does not contribute to such problems. Cannabis is very effective at ending the wasting syndrome by helping people eat; its effect on people that are overweight may be less helpful. Obesity might even be seen as a contraindication in the prescription or recommendation of cannabis.

Practice good nutrition, especially nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.

  • The clinic or dispensary could educate on the quite incredible nutritional value of cannabis itself, in the form of hemp seed and hemp oil. Hemp seed is perhaps the most nutritious single food source, filled with essential fatty acids and proteins. The omega-3 profile of hemp seed is nearly optimal.
  • Good nutrition sets focus on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods, nearly the opposite of an American fast food meal.

Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. The smoke from cigarettes, inhaled directly or as second-hand smoke, is a deadly toxin that kills over 400,000 Americans each year. Avoiding such exposure is a key preventive behavior. The reduction of cigarette smoking and proliferation of non-smoking areas providing freedom from this toxin have been a major public health victory in the last generation (and it was accomplished with zero SWAT raids and no one going to jail.

Although cannabis smoke appears far safer than cigarette smoke (marijuana smoking is not associated with lung cancer nor emphysema, two of the great risks of cigarette smoking, it is still smoke and contains toxins such as carbon monoxide (CO). Vaporizers provide a safe way to gain the medical benefits of cannabinoids with no exposure to smoke, and should be encouraged, and sold in dispensaries. With vaporizers, medical users can titrate dosages nearly as well as with smoking. In California, clinics, dispensaries and collectives have helped pioneer other ways of medicating with cannabis in a smoke-free manner. Tinctures with alcohol and edibles offer yet other alternatives. Invention, or rather reinvention of these medications (tinctures of cannabis were available to Americans 100 years ago) has been a major contribution of dispensaries in California.

Cultivate a supportive social life. Isolation is detrimental to physical and especially, mental, health. Although most important social interactions occur with family and friends, the dispensaries themselves could help provide some of this social glue so important to health.

Manage and reduce stress. Cannabis itself, especially types rich with a variety of cannabinoids, is a natural stress reducer. Indeed, much of the so called “recreational” use of cannabis helps users maintain a relaxed and happy state of mind. Stress reduction is of course a huge topic and the steps a clinic or dispensary might take are virtually limitless, from yoga classes, to progressive relaxation to massage.

Wellness and open source health care are giant topics that will be revisited.

Southern Oregon sheriffs wallow in tax-payer anti-marijuana money.

A tax-payer funded boondoggle is underway at the Jackson Country, Oregon sheriff’s office. The sheriff is adept at exploiting huge sources of federal money targeted at eradicating marijuana. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, a gravy train of (borrowed) federal dollars awaits local law enforcement willing to focus on marijuana eradication, an easy sell. Even hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars were allocated to warp police incentives towards focusing on cannabis rather than crime.

The DEA plays sugar daddy with federal money borrowed from the Chinese. In the case of Jackson County and surrounding counties such money provides for the funding of a permanent marijuana eradication task force, greatly expanding the providence of local law enforcement. In a state totally broke, in good part from expensive public employee pensions and benefits, the specter of generating more expensive and militant bureaucracy is alarming, especially when this eradication armada provides exactly no public benefit. With agreements between counties, Jackson County deputies can spend their days in SWAT gear eradicating marijuana crops in other counties, instead of providing police services in their own county. Such an agreement allows for paramilitary forces permanently porking on the public dole.

Instead of doing real police work, the sheriffs, deputies and personnel from multiple agencies play in the woods in SWAT costumes driving their machine-gun turreted assault vehicle.  They commonly lease $1,000/hour helicopters. Instead of solving crimes with victims, marijuana eradicators accomplish nothing except for providing price support for the crops they don’t find. That, and building towards their own bloated pensions.

To better harness this flow of federal tax dollars into his SWAT bureaucracy, the Jackson County sheriff has actually hired has own PR flack, paid by tax payers, a former local news anchor adept at gaining favorable reporting of the multi-county task force. And it worked. Even though it is only mid-summer, already the sheriff and the flack has had a PR day.  The local newspaper headlined, “Counties take aim at pot menace.

All three local TV news stations were present and each was given the opportunity to do a customized story. The content of the stories reflected exactly the propaganda intent of the sheriff’s PR office. Unfortunately, these talking points to which the news organizations so blindingly conformed are false,  actually propaganda lies with the goal of justifying plant eradication as a key law enforcement priority:

  • Lie # 1: The marijuana grows are the work of Mexican drug cartels. This is a favorite if unsupported assertion and portrays the brave SWAT teams meeting a grave foreign threat. Each of the “news” organizations was quick to recite and repeat this cartel assertion. Actually there is no proof of any involvement of so-called cartels, except that some of the garden keepers were Hispanic. News flash, Hispanics do most of the agricultural work in the USA. Perhaps the sheriff should be searching out Mexican cartel involvement in spinach growing.
  • Lie # 2: The grows represent a source of danger to hikers and people in the woods. This fallacy is always repeated. The reality is otherwise; no hikers have ever been killed when stumbling upon a marijuana grow. Statistically, Americans are far more likely to be shot to death by SWAT teams than marijuana gardeners.
  • Lie # 3: Counties must band together in marijuana enforcement because eradication in one county forces into other counties. Of course this whack-a-mole syndrome is a fatal flaw to all drug enforcement, but the real reason for this marijuana eradication bureaucracy cartel is to protect and expand the job security, benefits and pensions of the participants.
  • Lie # 4: Marijuana eradication is dangerous and requires SWAT style intervention. This is another totally bogus assertion, common in the war on drugs. In truth, eradication could be done with unskilled laborers and perhaps a couple of cops. Instead, large teams of highly paid cops don jack boots and automatic rifles. Oh, that’ s right, they get paid even more taxpayer dollars when clad in SWAT costumes.
  • Lie # 5: The litter left by growers and harm to natural areas is a function of marijuana agriculture. Again, any such damage is a function of prohibition. When prohibition ends, pot will no longer need to be grown hidden away in the wilderness.
  • Lie # 6: Marijuana is a menace. Actually, this plant provides powerful medical benefits, including pain relief, anti-inflammation and anti-oxidant action. It is among the safest of all medications, is non-toxic, has no lethal dose and has never killed anyone. It is a safer pain reliever than aspirin, which kills several hundred Americans each year. Indeed, it may become the aspirin of the 21st century, if its prohibition can be wrested away from the law enforcement special interests and its blatantly false Schedule I status changed.

The entire county PR effort tries to reinforce the idea that somehow cutting down medicinal plants, even in other counties, should be the highest priority for Jackson County’s chief law enforcement officer. Too bad the local media only breathlessly repeat the talking points of the sheriff’s PR flack, rather than doing any real reporting.

For example, in a state strapped by public employee pension costs, the reporters could examine the PERS retirement benefits for the sheriff, his PR flack, and team of eradication agents. The sheriff’s retirement check from Oregon taxpayers will be higher than $10,000, perhaps closer to $20,000 each month. The squads of eradication agents, along with the propaganda officer, will all get their own generous benefits, including health insurance for life, all on the tab of Oregon state taxpayers. Should not they actually do useful police work for the time they are actually employed?

In these end days of cannabis prohibition, so called ‘public servants’ are milking the system, wasting desperately needed resources and personally benefiting with tax-payer financed lavish retirements. Such excess is nauseating in a state facing a severe economic crisis and cutting desperately needed human services to the bone. Programs such as those helping Oregon’s aging citizens stay at home instead of nursing home are cut, while huge squads of cops waste borrowed dollars on extravagantly expensive eradication raids.

The war on drugs, especially on cannabis, has been an obscene failure, devastating the constitution and bloating the budget deficit as collateral damage.

Instead of wasting billions of dollars each year in its war on cannabis, the Obama administration should focus divert this funding to research in the exploding medical marijuana industry and to exploring the uses of hemp as food, fuel and fiber. The anti-carcinogenic properties of cannabis alone more than justify such an investment. Meanwhile, local Oregon sheriffs should stop milking the federal government of borrowed funds for expensive and useless marijuana eradication boondoggles.

A Cannabis Productivity Revolution

The liberation of cannabis from repressive laws around the globe will unleash a fountain of true human productivity. New foods, new fuels, new fibers and new medicines will issue forth when people are finally free to explore and expand the gifts of this plant. Americans in particular will be quick to exploit the multiple ways cannabis can serve to amplify human productivity when prohibition ends.

The most basic human needs are air, water and food. Regarding air, most of the physical structure of cannabis and other plants is made up of carbon atoms from carbon dioxide pulled out of the surrounding air. While the plant is consuming carbon from the atmosphere, it is also producing oxygen, each human’s most immediate need. The plant also transpires clean water vapor into the air, moisture that will return to earth as rain.

At its most elemental level, human productivity is about creating or gaining food to feed the family. The cannabis plant makes a stellar addition to humankind’s ability to produce nutritional plant foods. The seeds and oil of Cannabis Sativa are arguably nature’s most perfect foods. Cannabis hemp seeds and oil are filled with precious nutritional gems, including omega-3s, essential fatty acids and essential proteins. Silly regulations bluntly enforced by the DEA prevent fellow citizens from growing these powerhouse foodstuffs on American soil.

Shelled Hemp seed

Shelled Hemp seed

Currently, hemp seed and oil must be imported from China, where it is an ancient food, yet currently consumed each day. More hemp products come from Canada. None are grown in the USA, thanks to the DEA and cannabis’ Schedule I status.

So, let’s get this right, the so-called communist Chinese people have the personal liberty to grow and consume hemp, and to sell it to Americans. But the so-called free Americans are bludgeoned by our own government with long-prison terms and social and financial ruin if we plant this same crop?

Another basic aspect of human productivity is in providing clothing and shelter; people need clothes and they need places to live and to work. Again, hemp fibers from the cannabis plant offer bountiful resources. Hemp textiles are exploding in popularity. Part of their attraction is that cloth from hemp offers great environmental benefits, as compared to cotton.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

In terms of working and building materials, hemp, of course, amplified the productivity of early Americans by providing them rope, canvass and a host of other materials. Deemed such an important contributor to colonial productivity and prosperity, some colonies required the growing of hemp. Its use declined with the availability of endless forests for wood building materials and with the introduction of oil-base synthetic fibers. With end of exploitative forestry and the passing of cheap oil, hemp fiber again has a great future as a source of construction material, building material and fiber for fabrication.

  • Many building materials incorporating organic material from cannabis sativa are gaining favor.
  • Hemp can be incorporated into fiber board, insulation, and hempcrete, a more natural form of concrete.
  • Productivity with these materials is multiplied. First, they are carbon negative, a crucial consideration in a warming world. Cannabis plant material comprising hempcrete and similar products sequesters carbon away, out of the atmosphere. Such materials may be locally sourced, as hemp can grow nearly anywhere, saving transportation and carbon costs.
  • Paper has been integral to mankind’s productivity ascent, as books and publications allowed idea sharing. But paper, when rendered from the wood of trees, exerts huge environmental costs. Hemp based paper, made from one year-old plants instead of centuries old trees could revolutionize, and clean up, the paper industry. Better paper products for less inputs equals true productivity.

Another aspect of the American economy in vast need of productivity improvements is health care. Huge cost increases in the American system have not resulted in superior health status. Other countries do far more for far less.

Cannabis, again, offers the American health care system a quantum leap from its pharmaceutical-based doldrums. The drug so outlawed by its Schedule I status as having no medical value now demonstrates its overwhelming medical, preventative and palliative benefits. As Americans demand their medical liberty in the coming years, the non-elected bureaucrats in the federal government will not much longer keep from its citizens this medication they demand.

True health care productivity is demonstrated when a patient can dispense with an entire array of debilitating pharmaceutical drugs after finding relief with medical cannabis. This is the actual case for many victims of disease, injury and pain. Relief is attained with far fewer narcotizing opioid drugs when supplemented (or even replaced) by phyto-cannabinoids, pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, antioxidant molecules from the cannabis plant.

Even now in California, where voters have demanded cannabis medical liberty, health care innovation exploiting the plant is underway. New cannabis strains are being developed to best address the vast array of medical problems treatable with cannabis. Genetic mixtures of phyto-cannabinoids mix cannabinoid molecules such as THC, CBD, and THCV, to better treat different medical conditions. Novel harm-reducing ways of taking cannabis medicine have developed. Smoking has been replaced or supplemented with vaporization along with tinctures, teas, and edibles. The open-source nature of medical cannabis makes its economics exactly the opposite of pharmaceutical drugs it will, in many cases, replace.

Arguably, in a state in desperate need of jobs, innovation and prosperity, the most thriving new industry in California is the cannabis medicine sector.

Harm reduction is a term often associated with drug prohibition and enforcement.  This approach is diametrically opposite the American drug war harm maximization model that uses militarized police, private property forfeiture and decade’s long incarcerations for “crimes” involving nothing but a plant.

Harm minimization can also refer to productivity. Productivity gains made as a result of exploitative activities that cause environmental damage are false. A true productivity gain does not occur if the process of creating the product creates other, larger problems. Productivity is not true if it squanders resources and despoils surroundings. A mine that produces minerals for a few years, then despoils a stream for a century is not a productive resource.

Cannabis and hemp-based foods, fuels, fibers and medications do create opportunities for innovation, propel productivity increase, and gain prosperity in a way that minimizes harm. Every cannabis plant grown sequesters carbon dioxide. It is a local resource, open-source, available to everyone to grow, to innovate, to increase prosperity and to improve health.

The major impediment to these real world solutions are bureaucratic. Cannabis and hemp need to be freed from their dishonest and draconian Schedule I status. The jack-boot of the DEA needs to be removed from the necks of American citizens. Onerous international treaties, those that mandate prohibition of cannabis and its products, need be repudiated.

The planet and its people are in need of productivity and prosperity gains that don’t harm the biosphere. Americans, in this time of economic flux, need be able to explore and to use the huge productive resources of cannabis hemp. Much of this freedom could be attained from the rescheduling, by the President or Attorney General, of cannabis, hemp and cannabinoids from Schedule I to Schedule V.

UN Bureaucrats Promote Drug War Tyranny

The freedoms of Americans and other world citizens are being restricted by a handful of UN bureaucrats.

  • UNODC is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The office takes a hard line, prohibitionist view of (some) drug use around the world. Essentially, they play out international laws codified from the authoritarian mind of Henry J. Anslinger, the USA’s first drug warrior.
  • The agency has an evil twin, the The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). This INCB operates out of Vienna, Austria. With the UNODC, it successfully works furthering the neocon drug war agenda from the USA to the entire planet.
  • The punitive stance played out by bureaucrats at both powerful organizations was formed and is still maintained by America’s delegation, which has pushed this approach for the last 50 years. Sadly, the same coercive stance continues well into the Obama administration.
International Narcotics Control Board

International Narcotics Control Board

Americans are less free because of the prohibitionist, incarceration-happy inclinations of UN officials. These elderly men promote, even demand, that the USA continue its hard-line, zero-tolerance approach to drug use. The demand is based upon US signing onto UN mediated international treaties such as the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

Americans have less medical choice thanks to the UN. America and Americans are not free to act, in their view, in ways that challenge these international laws, such as removing prohibitions against medical use of cannabis. The international organization takes the view that cannabis should remain strictly prohibited, world-wide. They deny that it has any medical benefit. Americans in medical need of cannabis, such as those suffering from glaucoma, do now have increasing access to their medicine because of state action, at least in 13 states. Such freedom of medical choice, however, has been fiercely resisted on the national level by entrenched interests such as the DEA, and on the international level by by UNODC and INCB.

Americans are caged behind bars at record rates because of the hard-line, punishment-oriented approach of this country has taken is reaffirmed by the UN. Execution of drug-possession “criminals” around the world remains a part of the UN’s Anti-Drug Day festivities, each June 26.

UN 1, Magna Carta, 0. Civil forfeiture is the process whereby governments take the property away from their citizens, without need of criminal charges. In the ominous year 1984, the USA adopted this procedure, popular during the Inquisition, to confiscate the property of Americans violating the country’s newly enhanced drug laws. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Supposedly to repossess the fruits of crimes of major drug lords, forfeiture became a favored tool of every prosecutor, sheriff and newly formed drug “crimes” team. Taking the money and property of Americans running afoul of draconian laws was far easier than actual police work, protecting people and property, addressing crimes with actual victims. An analysis of American forfeiture legisilation from a South African paper:

  • In 1970, the US passed the federal statute, The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It was subsequently amended in 1978 and 1984. Unlike the admiralty courts, US civil forfeitures in the modern era are used when wrongdoers are within the court’s jurisdiction. Officials can seize property without notice, upon an ex parte application (without hearing the defendant’s case) of probable cause (a low standard of proof) that the property has been ‘involved’ in a crime.
  • No person has to be charged. The action is against the ‘thing’. The allegation of ‘involvement’ may be that the property is contraband, represents the proceeds of crime, or somehow ‘facilitates’ crime. ‘Probable cause’ may be based on nothing more than hearsay, innuendo, or the oral evidence of a party with interests adverse to the property owner. Family homes, vehicles and other assets have been seized in pursuance of this law, especially in relation to drug-dealing.

As it turns out, the USA and 169 other signatories of the 1988 treaty have to agree to promote forfeiture, just as they have to agree to keep drugs such as cannabis illegal. In the eyes of these UN bureaucrats, Americans have no right to medical cannabis, nor can they even work to change American laws prohibiting cannabis. These international treaties, they argue, trump national sovereignty.  

The only drugs acceptable for use, by the criteria of UN officials such as the UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa, are alcohol and cigarettes. All cultural, sacred and recreational use of other drugs, such as cannabis and coca leaf, are classified as “abuse.” Indeed, in the UN anti-drug mission, both plants, cannabis and coca, are slated for forced extinction.

Idiotically, the UNODC back in 1999 called for a drug-free world in 10 years. Despite valiant efforts towards this goal by such countries as Thailand which killed 2,500 “drug abusers” in 2003, cannabis and other plant-based drugs still exist. In that 10 years, American prison population, already the world’s highest, grew to over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Instead of no drugs in the USA as the result of this incarceration hysteria, drug use is little changed. Indeed, there is almost no relationship between the harshness of a country’s drug policy and levels of drug use.

The UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna met last March to decide the organization’s drug policy for the next decade. Obama’s UN drug policy team, which was the Bush UN drug policy team unchanged, argued for more of the same hard-nosed approach. Harm reduction tactics were vilified.

This first crack in the UN’s intransigence came last week with the release of the UNODC’s annual report. The report did mention the hugely positive results obtained by Portugal in decriminalizing drugs. The UNODC office took a new look at the rousing success of decriminalization in Portugal. They went on however, to reject decriminalization in other countries.

Perhaps the 4th of July is the time Americans should reject the UN’s overbearing and obtrusive drug war zealotry. Individual American citizens deserve to have their rights to medical choices not quashed by paper pushers sitting behind desks in Austria. The American nation deserves to have its ability to free itself from the evils of the drug war and prohibition not given over to UN bureaucrats.

International Drug Policy: Animated Report 2009

A new (March 2009) drug war video has been made available by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. The International Drug Policy: Animated Report 2009 uses animation to quickly look at some of the more ludicrous and damaging aspects of the global drug war.

The video’s description on YouTube:

  • Produced by an Oscar-winning studio for the Global Drug Policy Program of the Open Society Institute, International Drug Policy: Animated Report 2009 highlights some of the disastrous effects of drug policy in recent years and proposes solutions for a way forward.In the run-up to the March 2009 UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting—where the future path of international drug policy will be determined—this film seeks to show that pursuing a “drug-free world” can lead to more harm than good.

It begins with a needed examination of the UN’s idiotic and despotic 1999 assertion that a “drug-free” world could be attained in 10 years. The video quickly points out that 10 years later, opium production in Afghanistan has doubled and the price of cocaine in American city streets has dropped by half.  See the report at YouTube at International Drug Policy: Animated Report 2009.

See also the good drug policy work of the Open Society Institute.  Thanks George Soros, freedom fighter.