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Why Is Trump Ramping Up His Unwieldy War on Weed?

Alternet - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 04:05
Trump’s new “marijuana task force” is a big step backward for America

Earlier this week, it was revealed that President Donald Trump has created a Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, one in which various federal agencies that oversee marijuana policy work together to find ways to prevent Americans from having access to the drug. According to a summary of a meeting held between the White House and nine government departments in July, "the prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate" and needs to be countered with "the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends."

Set aside the irony of government officials denouncing the pro-marijuana legalization arguments as "partial, one-sided, and inaccurate" while making it clear that they're only interested in data that will support their anti-legalization position, there is a deeper issue here: Trump is ramping up his unwieldy war on weed.

"It's a big step towards the prohibitionist status quo that we were in prior to the [President Barack] Obama years," Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Salon. "It's not a step back [in the sense that] we're not behind where we were in the 1930s, but we're moving closer to where we were in the 1930s."

Strekal went on the contrast Trump's policies on marijuana with those of his predecessor.

"It's important to note that, even during the Obama years, the rhetoric and policy guidance that was coming out of the administration's Department of Justice was not necessarily pro-marijuana," Strekal explained. "They more took a neutral stance and allowed, after tension that happened in the early years of the Obama administration where they were conducting raids of medical dispensaries and shutting down access for patients to get safe and legal marijuana, they put forward the Cole memo, which best can be categorized as an uneasy detente between the federal and state policy guidelines."

The Cole memorandum was a policy drafted by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole under Obama that effectively told states which had legalized marijuana that they could do so without federal interference as long as they abided by certain rules, such as making sure the drug stayed out of the hands of children and keeping it out of states where it is still illegal. By revoking the Cole memorandum, Sessions gave federal prosecutors carte blanche to decide for themselves whether they would respect the wishes of states that had decided to legalize the substance.

"Clearly, under the Department of Justice under the leadership of Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration at large, have many leaders who are still suffering from 'Reefer Madness' prohibitionist era rhetoric," Strekal told Salon. "Even coming out and publicly spreading things that are patently false is going to possibly curb the momentum that we have seen play out through the states and the explosion of public support that we have. Marijuana policy should not be characterized as a partisan issue, and unfortunately under a Republican administration, if they choose to make support for reform become a partisan issue, then it's going to hurt them politically."

He then pivoted the kinds of enforcement actions that one might expect to be taken to curb marijuana use.

"It could be a wide range of things," Strekal explained. "In my view it is unlikely that the DOJ [Department of Justice], or DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] specifically, commits to a widespread 'crackdown,' but it would be much more like what the Heritage Foundation called for in 2017... a twelve point plan for how the Trump Department of Justice can shutdown marijuana in America. And largely the DOJ has followed many of those steps, and the biggest enforcement action component of that would be targeted RICO suits against some of the largest companies in the industry. This is the same tool they use to take down organized crime, because in the eyes of the federal government, every single marijuana company — regardless of the fact that it's state legal — is operating in clear violation of federal law."

The Trump administration's attitude toward marijuana legalization stands in contrast with national Democrats, who have indicated they plan to take up federal decriminalization if they take back the Senate this fall.

What the Trump administration is doing is blatantly trying to impose the conservative social values of administration members like Jeff Sessions, a longtime opponent of legalization, on the rest of the country. This is not merely a step back for people who support marijuana legalization. It is also a giant step back for the concept that America is a nation of individuals making individual choices, rather than one in which Big Brother tells us which choices we should and should not make.

Categories: News Feeds

This 'Breaking Bad' Candy Shaped Like the Show's Blue Meth Is a Really Bad Idea

Alternet - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 13:49
The sugary tribute to Walter White is raising eyebrows.

A shop in Provo, Utah—of all places—has been outed for selling packages of rock candy marketed as the infamous "Blue Sky" methamphetamine cooked up by chemistry teacher turned meth maker Walter White in the hit TV series "Breaking Bad."

The series, which aired for five seasons on AMC, told the story of White, an Albuquerque high school teacher who turned his talents to the lucrative task of manufacturing meth after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

The item spoofs the nearly pure blue meth White cooked up in the show, complete with the "Breaking Bad" logo and an image of White as his clandestine alter ego Heisenberg superimposed over a glass beaker.

The rock candy was on sale at the FYE (For Your Entertainment) shop in Provo but apparently is no longer. It was also for sale on the store’s website, but as of today, "this item is currently not available," the website says.

“Ever want to own a street-legal package of Heisenberg’s infamous 'Blue Sky' product? Now you can with Breaking Bad Blue Sky Rock Candy Crystals, a package of deliciously addicting blueberry-flavored rock candy,” reads the product description on the FYE site.

It is still available on eBay, but only at the collector's price of $24.50 a bag. (It was going for $4.99 on the FYE site.)  Amazon and other websites sell blue rock candy without the methy marketing, and recipes for "Breaking Bad" rock candy are also all over the Internet.

Selling meth-marketed candy broke bad for FYE this past week when one of their customers took notice and then took umbrage. Customer Parker Twede posted a photo of the package to his Instagram page (he made his page profile private on Wednesday, so the rock candy pic is no longer available there).

“Just when I thought I had seen it all. Seriously?” Twede captioned the photo.

Twede was also happy to talk to local media about his concerns, racking up at least two interviews with Salt Lake City TV stations.

“It’s presented in a little baggie at the checkout, at children's eye level,” Twede told KSL-TV. “Frankly, it appalled me that this product even exists. It’s really irresponsible to the millions of people suffering from this terrible drug,” Twede added. “I am not easily offended, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this.”

Not everyone was as bent out of shape as Twede. Others interviewed by the TV station described the candy as "hilarious" and "funny."

Breaking Bad Blue Sky Rock Candy Crystals—not for everyone, especially the humor-impaired. But they could make a nice Halloween surprise for that special someone.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

Categories: News Feeds

We Can Save Lives and Fight the Opioid Epidemic — But the Trump Administration's Strategies Make the Problem Worse

Alternet - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 12:01
We're experiencing the worst public health epidemic in U.S. history, yet the Trump administration refuses to acknowledge and accept the complicated nature of addiction and recovery.

International Overdose Awareness Day can be a difficult, emotionally taxing day for many people. August 31 represents a day for families and communities to remember and honor the lives lost due to preventable drug overdose deaths and the failed war on drugs.

A record number of fatal drug overdoses cut over 72,000 lives short throughout the United States in 2017 alone. Drug overdose deaths exceed those attributable to gun violence, car accidents, homicides, or HIV/AIDS. More Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017 alone than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

Decades of the failed war on drugs and fixation on “Just Say No” rhetoric have served to alienate and dehumanize people who use drugs. They have also created a culture that prevents the implementation of proven life-saving measures and evidence-based treatment for people who need it. Just this week, United States Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came out in an infuriatingly inaccurate New York Times Editorial bashing safe consumption spaces and threatening criminal prosecution.

Despite the United States experiencing the worst public health epidemic in its history, the current administration refuses to acknowledge and accept the complicated nature of addiction and recovery. Strategy couched in criminalization, demonizing and racializing drug dealers, and zero tolerance only exacerbate the harms of drug misuse. The general collateral consequences of criminal punishment, in addition to the health-related consequences of incarcerating individuals struggling with drug misuse manifests in the risk of fatal drug overdoses amongst formerly incarcerated people being 40 times higher than the general population within the first two weeks after release. Fixating on MS-13 and building a wall at the Mexican border will not prevent accidental deaths or help reduce other harms directly related to a person’s access or lack thereof to adequate, trauma-informed healthcare, social services, or other needs that may be contributing to misuse.

People use drugs. People have used drugs for generations. Drug-related deaths are preventable in a culture that takes radical steps away from failed punitive and abstinence-only policies and commits to the priority of saving lives and reduced harm. We cannot end drug use, and that ought not be the goal. However, we can end fatal drug overdoses.

On International Overdose Awareness Day, and every day, we must continue to challenge and push back against a political environment that discriminates against people who use drugs and scapegoats drug sellers. We ought to raise awareness of the ways that stigma associated with drug use and criminalization as a response to public health needs have blocked the widespread adoption of life-saving overdose prevention and treatment policies. Proven strategies, like safe consumption spacesdrug checking and medication-assisted treatment, are available to reduce the harms associated with drug misuse, treat dependence and addiction, improve immediate overdose responses, and enhance public safety. These strategies prevent fatalities, not end drug use in of itself. If we are in the business of saving lives, we need to be okay with that.

Chiefly, August 31 is a day where we send a loud and loving message to all people who use drugs, problematically or not, that they are valued, and that their lives matter. Their lives are unconditionally worth saving.

As we remember those we have lost to fatal overdose, we must demand that politics and fear-mongering be put aside, so we can center the needs of people who use drugs, and meet people who use drugs problematically with compassion and the resources needed to keep them alive.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a financial supporter of Drug Reporter.

Categories: News Feeds

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 17:00