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"Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."
Confucius
"The sale of...[marijuana] for personal use in the Netherlands has not given rise to levels of use significantly higher than in countries which pursue a highly repressive policy."
Drugs Policy in the Netherlands: Continuity and Change, 1995
"After 20 years on the bench I have concluded that federal drug laws are a disaster. It is time to get the government out of drug enforcement."
Judge Whitman Knapp

Drug Dog Use Questioned

NEW South Wales drug sniffer dogs have been been branded an expensive failure.

It follows a report showing that prosecutions result from fewer than one per cent of the searches the dogs initiate.

NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour today said there was little value in using dogs to screen people in public places in the hope of tracking down drug dealers.

An ombudsman report tabled in NSW Parliament today showed just 19 out of more than 10,000 people tested for drugs were prosecuted for drug supply between 2002 and 2004.

But the NSW Government says it won't pension off the sniffer dogs, insisting they contribute to breaking down the illicit drug trade.

“I think 19 people prosecuted successfully for the use or supply of drugs, that are illicit drugs, is an entirely satisfactory outcome,” Acting Police Minister David Campbell said.

The Police Powers (Drug Detection Act) came into force in February 2002 with the aim of targeting drug supply.

It gave police the power to search people without a warrant in entertainment venues and on public transport.

But today's report, released two years after it was completed, questioned whether the laws should exist at all after finding most people searched were found not to be carrying drugs.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the dogs harass young people who use recreational drugs and are ineffective at catching the “Mr Bigs”.

“Today's release of the ombudsman's report, after the Greens used parliament to force the Government to release it, exposes that sniffer dogs have been an expensive failure,” Ms Rhiannon said.

Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher supported their use, saying it was less intrusive for police to enter a nightclub with sniffer dogs than to obtain a search warrant, shut the premises down and strip-search people inside.

The ombudsman's report showed most people found to be carrying drugs had very small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

Other drugs located during the two-year review period included ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

The majority of people successfully prosecuted for supply were carrying drugs for their friends or partners at large events, such as dance parties, the report said.

It also said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that drug dog operations may encourage persons to “engage in risky drug taking practices”.

Mr Barbour said he had “significant reservations” about whether the use of sniffer dogs in public places will ever effectively target drug suppliers.

“Despite the best efforts of police, the evidence suggests that there is little value in trying to identify drug dealers by screening people with drug detection dogs in public places,” he said.

Cannabis Drought Forces Dealers To Import Scot Pot

A cannabis drought in Ulster has forced dealers and users to make trips to Scotland for their drugs.

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said it had received information more people from the province were travelling to Glasgow to buy supplies.

It's understood a number of police raids in recent weeks and a clampdown by loyalist paramilitaries has hit cannabis supplies.

With prices rising as a consequence, the 'drug runners' are risking prison by making the regular trips.

Said the spokesman: "We have had reports that more people from Northern Ireland have been travelling to Scotland to purchase drugs.

"If these people are caught purchasing any type of illegal drugs off dealers in Glasgow, then they will face the full rigours of the law."

The spokesman said Glasgow had a "serious drug problem" and links between criminal gangs in the city and Belfast were well-documented.

"We will continue to work closely with the PSNI if they require our help on the illegal drugs trade between the two regions," he added.

Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers welcomed the fact there seemed to be a cannabis drought.

He said: "The police have been very successful in recent weeks against drug dealers and I hope this trend continues.

"I also know that loyalist paramilitaries are trying to clean up their act and maybe this is why it has been a lot harder for people to buy this drug."

Said a PSNI spokeswoman: "We work closely with various police forces in the UK in the war against drugs. Our efforts to reduce drugs will continue and these efforts will focus on those responsible for importation and distribution."

Classical music fans smoke the most dope

DANCE music fans enjoy the most sex - but lovers of classical music are more likely to have smoked cannabis.

And opera-goers have probably tried magic mushrooms, according to a startling study into the link between music and drugs. It also showed that 37 per cent of rap fans had more than one sexual partner in the last five years.

But country music fans prefer to stand by their man ...or woman.

Just 1.5 per cent of them had more than one sex partner in the five years.

Psychologist Dr Adrian North quizzed 2500 people across the UK on their musical tastes and lifestyle for the study.

Rap and dance music fans were more likely to have tried arange of illegal drugs.

But about a quarter of the classical music and opera fans admitted to having tried cannabis.

Perhaps most surprisingly, 12 per cent of opera fans had tried magic mushrooms.

Dr North found rap fans were the least likely to be religious, least likely to recycle, least likely to demand alternative energy sources, least likely to favour higher taxes for better public services and least likely to support the National Health Service.

In addition, they were more likely to have broken the law.

More than one in two fans of dance and hip hop music had committed a criminal act, compared with just 18 per cent of fans of musicals.

Dr North also confirmed there was a class divide when it came to music.

Fans of classical and opera were more likely to be middle or upper class. They earned an average of £35,000 a year, while dance music fans earned only £23,311.

Classical music and opera fans were also more likely to have been educated to a higher level.

Seven per cent of opera fans had a PhD.

But not a single chart pop fan who took part in the study had one.

Dr North, from the University of Leicester, now wants to recruit 10,000 people across the globe in a bid to complete the "first worldwide picture of who likes what" via a website called musicaltastetest.com.

Revellers Given A Hi-tech Drugs Test

Hundreds of Cheltenham town centre clubbers were tested for drugs and explosives as part of Operation Wizard. Plain clothes and uniformed officers were stationed at club entrances to search and arrest drug users.

They used state-of-the-art computer technology worth £35,000 to spot-test for heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.

More than 200 people were screened at nightclubs Que Pasa, in Clarence Street and Thirteen in St George's Road.

Screening involved taking a swab from a palm and trouser pockets.

The swab was fed into an Ion Track super computer where it was heated to 200C. Six seconds later the results were in.

Eight who tested positive for cocaine, heroin or ecstasy were taken away and searched.

No drugs were found, but police issued formal stop and search forms.

PC Andy Cook, licensing officer for Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, operated the computer.

"We were the first force to pioneer this machine, which is designed to pick up people who regularly use drugs," he said.

"It's far more effective than a brief search by door staff as people can hide drugs in discreet places like their socks.

"Often people think it's a bluff, but when the alarm goes off they soon realise it isn't.

"We find about five people in every 100 test positive for drugs and about one in 100 have drugs on them.

"But we get a tremendous response from the public as they know they're coming into a drug-free environment. They feel safer."

Out of 176 people screened on their way into Que Pasa, four tested positive for heroin.

Mark Steed, 19, from Springbank Way in Cheltenham was found with a high level of the drug on his hands.

He was searched by two officers, but found to be clean.

Mark said: "I couldn't believe it. I don't touch the stuff, but if this operation stops drugs then it's not a problem."

Traces of cocaine were found on the Que Pasa counter where the computer was being used. Staff cleaned it and testing was able to continue.

Trace elements of drugs can be found on door handles, money and bar surfaces, and can get on to people's hands.

Sarah Vancoevorden, a beauty therapist from Hatherley, took the test on a night out with friends.

"Cheltenham has a drugs problem and cocaine is becoming more popular," she said.

"I don't do drugs, but most of my friends do and there is a need for operations like this."

Que Pasa general manager Ben Jelley said: "The feedback has been positive. If you put these machines out in the community two or three times each month, the drug problem in the town would be reduced by 95 per cent."

Study: Pot Helps Hepatitis Treatment

Medical marijuana users are more likely to finish Hepatitis C treatment and so are more likely to be cured, according to a newly published study conducted in San Francisco and Oakland.

Other studies have shown marijuana relieves symptoms, but medical marijuana advocates said this could be the first to show improved cure rates for a life-threatening illness.

The study � authored by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Oakland-based Organization to Achieve Solutions in Substance Abuse (OASIS), and published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology � found marijuana users being treated for HCV were three times more likely to have a "sustained virological response," meaning the virus can't be detected six months after treatment ends.

HCV treatment with ribavirin and interferon causes severe side effects such as nausea, vomiting, weight loss, sleeplessness and depression, causing many patients to quit the long regimen too early. Of 71 HCV patients studied, 21 finished with a sustained virological response: 12 of the 22 cannabis users and nine of the 49 non-users.

"Modest cannabis use may offer symptomatic and virological benefit to some patients...by helping them maintain adherence to the challenging medication regimen," the study concluded.

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., issued a news release touting this as "a landmark study, showing that medical marijuana can literally save lives. Every day that our government continues punishing the sick for using this medicine is literally a crime against humanity."

`Ganja Guru' Wants Grand Jury Info

Lawyers for Oakland "guru of ganja" Ed Rosenthal want more access to the grand jury that's probing him anew, even as they move rapidly toward his retrial on old charges.

Attorney Bill Simpich told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer today he'll file a motion regarding the Oakland-based federal grand jury by Monday. The government has until Oct. 2 to respond, and a hearing is set for Oct. 11.

Breyer set an Oct. 23 trial date but said he expects to postpone it. Rosenthal is still seeking a lawyer other than Simpich for his retrial, and co-defendant Richard Watts -- never tried the first time around because he'd been seriously hurt in a car accident -- also lacks counsel.

Meanwhile, two unnamed individuals who earlier had invoked their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify about Rosenthal to the grand jury have been told they need not return to the grand jury Thursday, Rosenthal said. It's unclear what this might mean, as federal prosecutors can't discuss grand jury proceedings.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars -- time he'd already served.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial. But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance.

Marijuana Aids Therapy

Marijuana can improve the effectiveness of drug therapy for hepatitis C, a potentially deadly viral infection that affects more than 3 million Americans, a study has found. The work adds to a growing literature supporting the notion that in some circumstances pot can offer medical benefits.

Treatment for hepatitis C involves months of therapy with two powerful drugs, interferon and ribavirin, that have severe side effects, including extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. Because of those side effects, many patients do not finish treatment and the virus ends up destroying their livers.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and at an Oakland substance abuse center tracked the progress of 71 hepatitis C patients taking the difficult therapy. Tests and interviews indicated that 22 smoked marijuana every day or two during the treatment period while 49 rarely or never did.

At the end of the six-month treatment, 19 (86 percent) of those who used marijuana had successfully completed the therapy -- meaning they took at least 80 percent of their doses over at least 80 percent of the period. Only 29 (59 percent) of the nonsmokers achieved that goal.

Similarly, 54 percent of the marijuana users achieved a "sustained virological response," the gold standard goal of therapy, meaning they had no sign of the virus in their bodies six months after the treatment was over. That compared with only 18 percent of those who did not smoke pot.

While it is possible that the marijuana had a specific, positive biomedical effect, it is more likely that it helped patients by reducing depression, improving appetite and offering psychological benefits that helped the patients tolerate the treatment's side effects, the team reports in the current issue of the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

U.S. Losing - Winning Drug War

The struggle to wage an effective war on drugs will continue after government officials recently discovered that their recent $1.4 billion antidrug campaign failed to lure teenagers away from the illegal substances.

However, a different federal study reported that illicit drug use had fallen among those between the ages of 12 and 17 - the demographic group much of the media campaign targeted.

The Government Accountability Office announced Aug. 25 that the failed campaign, which has aired since 1998, did not help reduce drug use. In some cases, the program may have actually persuaded youths that the use of illegal drugs is considered normal.

The government-backed crusade - which purchased TV time slots and radio ads that featured the slogan "the antidrug" - were memorable to both parents and youth, but the ads did not change adolescents' attitudes about drugs, according to a University of Pennsylvania study that used the GAO's findings.

UI freshman Tom Flood said the media campaign had no effect on him.

"It's a personal decision to use drugs, and no commercial is going to change my mind," he said, adding that he and his friends often laughed at the ads because he said they were unrealistic.

But data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, show teen drug use may be slowing down.

The rate of illicit drug use has moved consistently downward since 2002, according to the report. Only 9.9 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17 used drugs in 2005, compared with 10.6 percent in 2004 and 11.2 percent in 2003, officials reported.

Sarah Hansen, the UI Student Health Service associate director for education and Health Iowa program coordinator, lauded the number of drug-awareness opportunities on campus.

"Health Iowa provides a continuum of services from education to substance-abuse evaluation, treatment, and care," she said.

The UI offers a drug seminar - a four-hour series attended by 220 students last year - as well as a private substance-abuse evaluation. Last year, 34 percent more students underwent the private evaluations. Health Iowa also added a marijuana-information series for low-risk pot offenders, which 56 students completed in its inaugural year.

The Iowa City police know plenty of people who have had serious - or at least arrest-worthy - problems.

Police Sgt. Doug Hart said the city's Drug Seizure Report documented 1,517 marijuana-related arrests, 176 for cocaine, 127 for crack cocaine, and 113 for methamphetamine, so far in 2006.

"Drugs are big in America," said Travis Blanken, a 20-year-old Iowa City resident and self-proclaimed drug user, who said he only does drugs for fun and - at times - as a form of stress relief.

"When pro-athletes, such as Jamal Lewis, only get a six-month sentence for cocaine trafficking, how seriously can we take them?" he joked.

Blanken, who admits he has smoked marijuana, eaten mushrooms, and taken Ecstasy and opiates, added: Couldn't the $1.4 billion the government spent on a failed drug campaign have had a larger effect elsewhere?

"That money could have aided health care, helped countless other countries, stabilized illegal immigration, or helped to find a new energy source, but, instead, it went down the toilet," he said.

UK Tops European Drug Use Table

Britain has a greater level of serious drug abuse than any other country in Europe, damning new figures show.

The study reveals nearly one in every hundred people of working age in this country is a drug addict, a level unmatched anywhere else on the continent.

The United Nations report showed that rates of problem abuse here are more than three times those in Holland, nearly four times levels of serious drug-taking in Germany, over twice the rates in France, and nearly double the European average.

The number of regular heavy and regular drug abusers in Britain has shot up compared to the rest of Europe over the past decade, according to the figures.

The UN report drew a powerful contrast between Britain and Sweden, a country where the government has increased penalties for drug abuse and fought a campaign to eradicate drugs entirely.

This has brought down levels of drug use, the report said - while Britain, where the Labour has eased the laws on cannabis and helped heroin users - has seen its problems multipy.

Tory leaders and critics of the Government's liberal line on drugs warned that tolerance of drugs has produced a disastrous result. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: 'This is a direct consequence of Labour’s failure to tackle the scourge of drugs and the British people are paying a very high price.'

The report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is based on figures calculated by the European Union's Lisbon-based drugs agency but never publicised. They define problem drug abuse as 'injecting drug use or long duration or regular use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines'.

Occasional use of heroin, cocaine or amphetamines does not count towards the figures, and nor are users of ecstasy or cannabis included.

Britain's 300,000 heroin addicts contribute to a rating of 0.94 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64 as problem drug users - just under one in 100 working age people.

In all 18 EU countries where UN officials believe enough evidence exists to make comparisons possible, the level is lower.

Holland, where drug abuse is often considered rife, has just 0.30 per cent of its 15-64 population ranked as problem drug-takers. In Germany the level is just 0.25 per cent, in France 0.44. The EU average rate is 0.51 per cent.

Among major European countries, the nearest to Britain for problem drug abuse is Italy, at 0.75 per cent of the working age population. Only Latvia and tiny Luxembourg come near the British levels with rates at over 0.9 per cent.

Britain's number of problem drug abusers, the figures said, has gone up from under six per cent of the working age population ten years ago.

The UN report also confirmed that Britain is second only to Spain in Europe for levels of cannabis use among young people aged between 15 and 24, and that use of drugs other than cannabis among young people is highest in Britain and Ireland.

The league table makes uncomfortable reading for Labour, which has twisted and turned since the disastrous decision after the 2001 election to reclassify cannabis from class B to class A, a move that means people caught with the drug are no longer routinely arrested.

Ministers have accepted that the decison was made without taking into account evidence showing links between cannabis and mental illness, but say they will not change the law back because that would cause too much confusion among the young.

There have also been increasing signs that the Government wishes to be more tolerant of hard drug abuse. Public money is to be used to fund four experimental 'shooting galleries' in which addicts will be invited to inject legally-provided heroin. Yesterday North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom announced that addicts will be able to get clean needles from a machine set up at a police station.

By contrast, the UN report praised Sweden, where over the past two decades laws have been tightened so that drug abuse - not possession of a drug as in Britain - is a crime that can result in a jail term and where minor offences attract six month jail sentences.

The UN report praised Sweden's 'ambitious goal of a drug-free society' and added: 'The prevalence and incident rates of drug abuse have fallen in Sweden while they have increased in most other European countries.'

The Home Office yesterday questioned the UN comparisons. 'The way we gather figures in this country is different from everywhere else,' a spokesman said. 'The figures are not comparable.'

He added: 'Levels of use of Class A drugs in Britian are stable. Drug-related crime is falling. Increasing quantities of drugs are being seized, and record numbers of people are getting treatment.'

Earlier this year UN drugs chief Antonio Maria Costa signalled his disapproval of British drug policy, saying: 'Policy reversals leave young people confused as to just how dangerous cannabis is.'

Shadow Home Secretary Mr Davis said: 'Labour needs to get an urgent grip on this problem. Instead of peddling a confused message that lets people think it is ok to take drugs, they should start by securing our porous borders which allow hard drugs to flow into our country.'

Mary Brett of the Europe Against Drugs group said: 'This is saying that harm reduction policies and tolerance of drug use is causing great damage. The change of the law on cannabis and the other signals sent out by the Government have encouraged people to use drugs.'

70-year-old cannabis grower jailed

A pensioner who is believed to be Britain's oldest convicted drug dealer was jailed for 18 months yesterday after a court heard that he had more than 400 cannabis plants in his greenhouse.

George Axton, 70, was found guilty of cultivating and conspiracy to supply the drug at an earlier trial and was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court yesterday. The court heard that the drugs were worth £150,000.

Axton, who runs a care home for young adults in Fordingbridge, Hants, was in court with Richard Kershaw, 29, who was sentenced to 15 months and Gavin Harries, 30, who helped tend the crop and was jailed for a year. Both were convicted of the same charges as Axton.

David Stone, 32, admitted cultivating cannabis and possession of the Class C drug and was jailed for 18 months.

Parents, Here's A New Web Worry, Homemade highs a click away

Four years ago, curiosity about marijuana brought an Idaho teenager named Nick to a popular online drug encyclopedia.

Now 18 and in a rehabilitation program in Southfield, Nick said he became obsessed with the Web site's offerings -- particularly the vaults filled with information about hundreds of mind-altering chemicals, herbs and plants. The site, which the journal Pediatrics reported receives 250,000 clicks daily, also has thousands of posts from users, mostly twentysomethings, about their substance experiences.

"I was so fascinated," said Nick, whose last name is not being published because the drug charges he faced were juvenile charges. He added that the information emboldened him to experiment with many substances. "The fear, the taboo of using ecstasy and crack -- you really start to doubt that fear when someone tells you there's a healthier way. I would never have done a lot of the drugs I did if it wasn't for that Web site."

An increasing number of teen users are turning to the Web to feed or develop their habits, say counselors, drug abuse prevention experts and those in law enforcement. There has been little research into how the Internet enables teens to find new -- and cheap -- ways to get high, but all 12 of the adolescents in rehabilitation programs questioned for a study published last year said information they found online guided how they experimented with drugs.

Experts say it's another danger of unmonitored and unfettered access to the Internet for teens, with the same simple solution -- parents keeping a closer eye on what their kids do online.

No prescriptions needed
Over the past decade, the number of Web sites glorifying drug usage, providing step-by-step recipes for homemade highs and pushing products through questionable online storefronts has increased exponentially. And tech-savvy teens, undetected by their less-informed parents, are flocking to these sites, using them to score drugs, swap stories and further their habits.

One study found only 6% of Web sites selling prescription drugs require prescriptions, making "these drugs as easy to buy over the Internet as candy," said Bo Deitl, chairman of Beau Dietl and Associates, which did the analysis with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

It's not just access to drugs that's troublesome -- misinformation also plays a role.

"To me, that's the bigger danger," said Brian Spitsbergen, director of youth assistance for Growth Works, a Plymouth-based agency that helps those with chemical dependency.

"You can find Web pages that tell you how to make ,,, name it, recipes for methamphetimine to hallucinogens to anything else. It's all over the place. But the recipes may be poison. You find a recipe for meth ... that may be instant death."

Under parents' noses
To address the problem, the Office of National Drug Control Policy published an open letter to parents last month with tips on monitoring teens' digital activities.

"Technology has created an environment for kids where they can really stay under the surface -- right under adults' noses," Spitsbergen said.

Now, he added, finding drug dealers can be as easy as logging onto MySpace.com -- and obtaining the drugs as simple as sending a text message.

"Anytime you want drugs, it's a call or a click away," said Nick, who used to go through 3,600 minutes monthly on his cell phone.

Though keeping up with technology may seem daunting, experts advocate simple strategies for parents to stay abreast of teens' activities.

Among them: checking cell phone records, Internet chat buddy lists and Web page view histories.

"The job of parents is to know where their kids are whether it's in the real world or the virtual world," said Jennifer DeVallance, a representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy . "It's a matter of safety."

Kids want parents to listen
These tactics may help parents learn whether their kids are using drugs, but the best way to prevent them from using in the first place is to have honest discussion, said Ken Krygel, a former police officer who specializes in tracking drug trends in metro Detroit.

"Parents think they communicate with their kids by talking to them," Krygel said. "But kids tell me, 'I'd like my mom or dad to stop for a minute and listen to what I have to say.' No matter how wrong it is, let them say their piece."

That kind of communication, said Jay, 18, of Brighton, might have given him the courage to refuse drugs offered him in junior high.

"For me, it was curiosity and wanting acceptance from others," said Jay, who has been drug-free for almost a year. The Free Press is not publishing his name because, like Nick, he faced juvenile drug charges. "I always said, 'I'll never use drugs.' But I tried it once, and the high was so great, it turned into a daily thing for me."

Jay's mother, Eunice, said she sensed something was wrong, but never imagined the problem was drug abuse.

Her son always denied using anything more than marijuana. Eunice said she also was thrown off by the fact that Jay kept his grades up and held down a part-time job.

"We all have perceptions about people who do drugs," she said. "My perception is that they wouldn't be able to function."

Take marijuana use seriously
Jay said he used text messaging to sell the DXM -- a hallucinogen found in cough medicines -- he obtained from Web sites to his peers.

In retrospect, Jay's mother said she should have listened more and lectured less when she and her son talked about drug use. She also advises parents to take all substance use -- including marijuana and alcohol -- seriously.

"I know a lot of adults say they smoked marijuana as teens and stopped at that, but in this day and age, a lot of kids don't stop at marijuana," she said. "They go further than that. If you think there's something wrong with your child, usually there is."

Street prices of cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine at an all-time low

The price of cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and other drugs is at an all-time low, clearly indicating that efforts to stem the spread of illegal drugs on Britain's streets are failing.

The data, based on a survey of more than 2,300 people last year, shows that cannabis resin sold for an average of £43 per ounce, down from 2004's figure of £45 - and a big drop from the 1994 average price of £120 per ounce. Even at this low price, the profit margin for the dealer remains high, at 169 per cent.

The annual survey of drug prices, to be released by the charity Drugscope this week, shows how prices remain low.

Cocaine, sold for around £44 a gram, is one of the less profitable drugs, with a profit margin of around 95 per cent.

Britain's continuing "pill-popping" culture, particularly in its clubs, is indicated by the falling price of an ecstasy tablet, which is usually bought for less than £3.

Amphetamines are also down in price, and cost an average of £9 a gram - yielding a 237 per cent profit margin.

Heroin was one drug that went up in price - from £38 a gram in 2004 to £58 a gram last year. Its profit margin more than doubled, to 152 per cent.

Illustrating the economies of scale underpinning the demand for drugs, dealers selling ecstasy tablets for less than £3 were still able to pocket £1.50 a pill.

There are a number of factors involved in what is rapidly becoming a "buyer's market", according to drugs counsellors. The decreasing purity of some drugs is one reason for the fall in prices, as dealers import drugs and then adulterate them with other, cheaper chemicals in an attempt to hang on to their profit margins.

Another more fundamental reason for the steady drop in prices is that traffickers are flooding Britain with illegal drugs, because demand has increased.

Home Office research shows that one person in 20 aged between 16 and 24 has used cocaine or crack.

CUT-PRICE HIGHS: How drug prices have fallen since 2000:

HEROIN: dropped from £70 a gram to £58

COCAINE: down from £65 a gram to £44

ECSTASY: fallen from £9 to less than £3 a pill

According to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), Britain is one of the world's most profitable narcotics markets for gangsters, despite a long-running "war on drugs".

Soca aims to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan and cocaine from Colombia. It estimates that up to 35 tons of heroin are brought into the UK each year.

Notts MP: Make Cannabis Legal

Two of Notts' leading political figures have told a group of sixth formers they want cannabis legalised.

Nick Palmer, Labour MP for Broxtowe, and Anna Soubry, who will be his Conservative opponent at the next election, drew cheers for the suggestion at a Question Time-style debate.

They were not the only ones being candid: Notts Chief Constable Steve Green, whose force has seen several pubs temporarily shut for serving under-age "test purchasers", admitted that he drank under age himself.

MPs Paddy Tipping and Vernon Coaker were also on the panel for Shaping Our Future, organised by Notts County Council and the two universities. It was designed to challenge up to 200 teenagers to consider issues affecting their lives.

Dr Palmer, in response to a question on low election turnout, also acknowledged that his household watched Big Brother avidly; and Miss Soubry pledged to move to a more fuel efficient car while speaking on the environment.

Mr Coaker, MP for Gedling and a junior minister in the Home Office, was forced to admit that these days he had to mostly stick to the Government line.

The pupils of Colonel Frank Seeley School in Calverton, Carlton Le Willows, Gedling, and Carlton Digby School in Mapperley, spent the morning in workshops considering various issues. They elected spokesmen to ask the questions in the afternoon.

Drugs and alcohol featured prominently in the debate. Liam Beatty, 16, from Carlton Le Willows asked: "Why are some drugs illegal when alcohol kills so many more people?"

Dr Palmer said it was undesirable and impractical to ban alcohol and people need to be educated to drink responsibly.

In contrast, he said heroin or crack cocaine are so addictive that users are drawn into extensive crime to sustain their habit.

But in relation to cannabis, he said: "I am in favour of legalising small use."

His Tory shadow agreed.

She said: "You need a debate because if adults are to persuade you not to take class A drugs we have to be honest about things like cannabis and alcohol.

"[In an open debate] you will come to the conclusion that certain types of cannabis are less harmful than alcohol and tobacco."

Mr Green said he could not agree and was satisfied with the status quo. Mr Coaker, who earlier this year admitted to using cannabis as a student, avoided that particular issue.

But on drugs he said: "Young people say to me, 'Get hold of the dealers and do them'. That is what I want. We also have to educate people. They key to getting abusers out of offending behaviour is not putting them in prison, it is treating them."

Liam Beatty was impressed with the openness of the politicians. He said: "I was surprised they said some drugs should be available. I think with some drugs like cannabis people go into a dream but with alcohol people get angry."

Abbey Spendlove, 16, was not sure her question had been answered. She said: "More young people vote for Big Brother than they do for elections. How do you aim to get attention of the younger generations?"

Mr Tipping, MP for Sherwood, said research suggests it is the eccentricity and character of the housemates that grips the audience.

"The lesson for me is we have to try and behave as ourselves not be stuck in a party machine but speak out boldly and bravely," he said.

Dr Palmer said he was sceptical about the Big Brother voting figures and asked the students to consider that by voting in an election they could actually make a difference to their own and others' lives.

Abbey said: "They did not explain how they would get more attention."

The environment also featured.

Dario Lowater, 17, said: "Currently nuclear power stations produce 20% of the UK's power, how do you propose to replace nuclear power without increasing carbon emissions?"

Dr Palmer, Parliamentary private secretary to energy minister Malcolm Wicks, said there was a choice between importing ever more gas or generating power at home, which would mean using nuclear power for "one more generation".

But all of the panelists agreed everyone had to take responsibility and cut our own energy use.

Gill Reynolds of Notts County Council, who organised the day, said: "It has been fantastic. The young people have done their schools proud."

Help Police To Smoke Out Cannabis Factories

GRASS on your neighbour if their curtains are always closed - it could be a sign they are running a cannabis factory.

That is the message from Cambridgeshire police who are urging residents to report suspicious and unusual behaviour in their neighbourhoods to help them tackle the production and supply of drugs.

Nine cannabis factories have been raided and closed down across the county since July 2005 including one in Cambridge and two in Huntingdonshire and Fenland.

Detective Inspector Mark Nicholson, from the serious and organised crime department, said: "These illegal factories generate a large amount of money through drugs supply and fuel the drugs economy in Cambridgeshire."

Many of the houses that have been converted into factories have been rented from private landlords.

Postcards are now being sent to landlords and letting agencies across the county alerting them to the problem and offering advice on what to look out for.

Det Insp Nicholson added: "We need the help of the public, landlords and letting agents to help us to identify where these factories maybe in operation.

Those found working in cannabis factories in Cambridgeshire have often been trafficked into the country from places like Vietnam. Working in these factories is not only illegal - leaving those individuals vulnerable to arrest - it is also extremely dangerous. If we can close these factories down early or prevent them from being setup in the first place we can take these drugs off the streets and stop them lining the pockets of criminals."

Cannabis factories can make a whopping £250,000 a year.

Tell-tale signs that could indicate a factory is being set-up, or is already in operation are:

■ The curtains are constantly closed.

■ There is a lot of noise when someone moves into a property but afterwards no-one seems to be living there.

■ There is a strange smell.

■ Paper or plastic is put up inside the windows.

■ There is excess heat.

■ There is condensation on the windows or even on the exterior of the house.

Drug Use Up for Boomers, Down for Teens

Some moms and dads might want to take a lesson from their kids: Just say no. The government reported Thursday that 4.4% of baby boomers ages 50 to 59 indicated that they had used illicit drugs in the past month. It marks the third consecutive yearly increase recorded for that age group by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Meanwhile, illicit drug use among young teens went down for the third consecutive year � from 11.6% in 2002 to 9.9% in 2005.

"Rarely have we seen a story like this where this is such an obvious contrast as one generation goes off stage right, and entering stage left is a generation that learned a lesson somehow and they're doing something very different," said David Murray, special assistant to the director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The annual survey on drug use and health involves interviews of about 67,500 people. It provides an important snapshot of how many Americans drink, smoke and use drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Overall, drug use remained relatively unchanged among Americans age 12 and older in 2005. About 19.7 million Americans reported they had used an illicit drug in the past month, which represented a rise from 7.9% to 8.1%. The increase was not only due to the boomers, but an increase was also seen among those 18-25, the age category that always ranks highest when it comes to illicit drug use.

Among the 18-25 group, drug use rose from 19.4% to 20.1%. Federal officials commenting on the report emphasized the drop in use among younger teens without citing the increase in the next older age group.

"The news today is there is a fundamental shift in drug use among young people in America," Assistant Surgeon General Eric Broderick said in a statement.

Murray called the 18-25 group the gauntlet through which everybody runs. He said the peak of drug use among youth in the United States occurred in the late 1970s.

"And they brought it with them like baggage when they hit 50 and 60," Murray said.

Drug use by baby boomers increased from 2.7% in 2002 to 4.4% last year. Marijuana was by far their drug of choice, Murray said.

That's true overall. There were 14.6 million people who reported using marijuana in the past month, about 2.4 million cocaine users and 6.4 million people who used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers or sedatives. In 60% of those cases, the drugs came from a relative or friend for free.

Only 4.3% reported buying the drug from a drug dealer or other stranger.

While drug use went up slightly in '05, so did alcohol use. Slightly more than half of Americans age 12 and older reported being current drinkers of alcohol. That translates to 126 million people, up from 121 million people the year before.

Officials noted that alcohol use among those 12-17 did decline from 17.6% to 16.5%.

The percentage of Americans who acknowledged driving drunk at least once in the past year also dropped slightly in 2005 � from 13.5% to 13%.

Meanwhile, tobacco use held steady at about 29.4%, even though among youths 12-17, tobacco use did drop from 14.4% to 13.1%.

An Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs

Is it time to forge an "exit strategy" for our prolonged "war on drugs"?

That question -- normally considered a "no-no" in legal circles, especially among prosecutors and police -- has been raised by the prestigious King County (Wash.) Bar Association since 2000. And the results have been impressive. King County is sending minor street drug users and sellers through drug courts instead of incarcerating them; its average daily jail count is down from 2,800 to 2,000.

The Washington Legislature was persuaded to cut back drastically on mandatory drug possession sentences, apportioning funds to adult and juvenile drug courts, and family "dependency" courts. Tens of millions of dollars have been saved.

"This project isn't for fringy ponytailed pot smokers," insists Roger Goodman, director of the bar association's Drug Policy Project. "We did it for the courts. We can't get civil cases heard for three years. And the drug cases are mostly so petty."

The uncomfortable truth is that despite decades of aggressive government crackdowns, U.S. drug use and drug-related crime are as high as ever. Made profitable by prohibition, violent criminal enterprises that purvey drugs are flourishing. Harsh criminal sanctions, even for minor drug possession, have packed jails and prisons. Public coffers have been drained of funds for critical preventive social services. Internationally, we're discovering that the U.S.' heavy-handed campaign of illegal drug eradication in countries such as Colombia is about as successful as we've found our parallel military adventure into Iraq.

Despite the stunning $4.7 billion we've spent since 2000 on planes fumigating Colombia's coca crop, farmers there are producing just as much cocaine as before our aerial assault.

Back home, street prices for cocaine have dropped and purity remains high. Prohibition has failed equally to stamp out markets and quality, or increase street prices for heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The drug war kicked off by President Nixon in the 1970s, and copied by state and local governments nationally, costs $40 billion or more a year. It is a massive, embarrassing, destructive failure.

But politicians are normally afraid to question the system for fear of being called illegal drug apologists. So how did the King County Bar get the ball rolling? "It's the messenger, not the message" -- the credibility of the bar association, says Goodman. The King County Bar in fact assembled a nationally unprecedented coalition of supporters, ranging from the Washington State Bar Association to the King County and Washington state medical associations, the Church Council of Greater Seattle and the League of Women Voters of Seattle and Washington.

And the first-stated goals weren't scuttling drug laws. Instead, the bar association announced its platform as (1) reductions in crime and disorder -- "to undercut the violent, illegal markets that spawn disease, crime, corruption, mayhem and death," (2) improving public health by stemming the spread of blood-borne diseases, (3) better protection of children from the harm of drugs, and (4) wiser use of scarce public resources.

Now the bar association and its allies are asking the Washington Legislature to establish a commission of experts to design how the state can switch from punitive approaches to a focus on treatment, shutting down the criminal gangs that now control the drug trade.

As controversial as it sounds, programs for victims (most likely adults) of such dangerously addictive drugs as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine may be easiest to fashion. Rather than leaving them to the streets and black market exploitation, there may -- as some European models suggest -- be ways to register addicts, provide controlled amounts of drugs in medical settings, and try to guide them into treatment.

For marijuana, control by cartels that now provide huge quantities might be broken by state licensing of home production (like brewing) and non-commercial exchanges. Or a state distribution system like state liquor stores, demonstrably effective in denying sales to youth, could be established.

The toughest issues may surround protection of children. Today, it's noted, they get contradictory messages -- "Take a pill to feel better," and "Just say no, except when you're 21 and then you can drink." Youth see commercial advertising pushing a wide variety of mind-altering, pleasure-inducing substances, even while society leaves control of so-called "illicit" drugs to criminal gangs. Plus, kids do like to experiment.

A realistic program could start with respecting young people, providing them honest information, on uses -- and the demonstrable dangers -- of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Goodman notes that in the 13 states where medical use of marijuana is authorized, teen use is down. "It's not as cool when grandma uses marijuana for cancer pain," he says.

There's surely no risk-free "exit" from today's terribly destructive drug war. But we have to try -- and should thank communities and states with the courage to lead.

Neil Peirce is a member of the Washington Post Writers Group and is the founder of the Citistates Reports.

Gardener's cannabis 'would last ten years'

When police raided the 600-year-old listed country cottage of gardener Michael Spier they found enough cannabis to last him ten years and menus giving details of varieties of the drug and their effect, it was claimed yesterday.

Nearly seven-and-a-half kilogrammes of the drug were at his listed 15th century cottage in Lower Penn, near Wolverhampton, but Spier (48) claimed it was for his personal consumption, Stafford Crown Court was told.

But yesterday Judge Nicholas Mitchell accepted a defence sub-mission that the cannabis was for personal use.

Peter Grice, prosecuting, said Spier, of Walnut Tree Cottage, Springhill Lane, spent £885 in one quarter on electricity to help grow the crop.

Spier admitted two charges of cultivating cannabis with a basis of plea that it was for his own use. He was fined £2,500 and ordered to forfeit £17,500.

He told the court he was a commercial gardener and had smoked cannabis since he was 17. He said he intended to keep the cannabis for five years.

"It was never my intention to sell the cannabis. I had no reason to. I had no idea how long the cannabis would last but I thought I might be self-sufficient for five years. I don't think it would have lasted for ten years."

No jail after Cabinet drug stunt

A drugs campaigner who sent a cannabis plant to Tony Blair and his cabinet has been given a suspended sentence.

Jeffrey Ditchfield's eight-month term was suspended for 18 months after he was convicted of offences including possessing and supplying cannabis.

Ditchfield, 40, of Rhyl, Denbighshire, was also ordered to pay more than £7,000 in costs at Mold Crown Court.

Outside court he said: "I will not pay a penny of the costs to help fund the prohibition on the use of cannabis."

In July, he was convicted of seven drugs offences, including attempting to supply John Reid - now home secretary, but then defence minister - with a cannabis plant.

The court heard he had actually sent plants to the prime minister and every member of his cabinet, urging them to change the law on cannabis.

Recorder Steven Everett sentenced Ditchfield for a variety of offences between 2004 and 2005.

Custody warning
Ditchfield was also ordered to carry out 250 hours' unpaid work, and told to stay out of trouble for the full 18 months. He was also ordered to pay costs of £7,630 within 28 days.

If he broke the law, or the orders, the judge said: "Then you will have no one to blame but yourself if you go down the steps to custody."

Ditchfield had been campaigning for cannabis to be available for medicinal purposes.

He said his campaign was now over because cannabis-based medicines were being considered.

But he said: "I will not pay a penny of the costs to help fund the prohibition on the use of cannabis.

"The NHS should have been doing what I was doing. I have seen so many people, friends in wheelchairs, going to prison for their crimes - and their only crimes are to grow cannabis plants to alleviate their discomfort and pain.

"I would pay the costs if someone could identify a victim of my crime."

Ditchfield, who still faces a proceeds of crime investigation, added: "I don't regret doing what I did but the campaign is now over. It is no longer a part of my life.

"From 1971 until a recent announcement doctors were unable to use a cannabis-based medication despite all the evidence that it was effective.

"All of a sudden that has changed and I think that I have played some part in that."

Ditchfield was earlier cleared of another charge of possessing £12,000 worth of hemp with intent to supply.

A co-defendant, arthritis sufferer David Newton, 48, from Prestatyn, admitted cultivating cannabis and possession with intent to supply, and was given a conditional discharge.

Cannabis MS drug seeks approval

The first medicinal product based on cannabis was filed for approval in Britain yesterday, and could be widely available in a year's time.

Sativex, based on cannabis extract, is aimed at multiple sclerosis sufferers and is intended to treat the muscle stiffness associated with the condition.

The drug has been developed by GW Pharma, which is growing 11 acres of cannabis under glass at a secret location somewhere in Britain.

Some patients already use Sativex, which is imported from Canada where it is already approved, but British approval would make it far more widely available. At present most sufferers pay around £4 a day for the drug.

A spokesman for the MS Society said a "very significant number" of Britain's 85,000 sufferers could benefit from using the drug, which at present is not available to many. "

People with MS are sourcing raw cannabis of whatever quality from goodness knows where and running goodness knows what risks," he said. "It is important that we do see properly tested, effective, cannabis-based drugs."

The drug has already been filed for approval once, but British regulators said they required more information.

Yesterday, Stephen Wright, of GW Pharma, said he was confident in the new data the company had obtained.

''We have a sizeable body of positive clinical data to support the efficacy and safety of Sativex in MS spasticity," he said. He believed that the drug would be widely available within 12 to 15 months.

Gw Pharma Files Cannabis Drug For Approval

GW Pharmaceuticals has submitted a pioneering cannabis-based medicine for assessment by several European regulators as a potential treatment for spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis.

GW said on Tuesday it had filed its Sativex treatment in the UK, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. The UK will be the main assessor, consulting with the other three countries, with a positive decision triggering approval in all four countries.

Sativex is GW's flagship product, and was first approved in Canada in April 2005 for neuropathic pain.

Its progress in the UK, however, has been much delayed.

GW initially hoped for approval by the end of 2003, but regulators asked for more data. Its prospects were further muddied in March, when GW reported mixed results from a clinical trial in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with spasticity.

GW said after those results that it would talk to regulators about whether to file Sativex to treat this condition, or whether to wait for the results for two more trials in neuropathic pain later this year.

GW said its decision to file now was backed by Germany's Bayer , its marketing partner in the UK, and Spain's Almirall, its partner in the rest of Europe. Analysts said it was a sign that all three were optimistic of success.

"GW would not have made this submission without very careful consideration and support from partners and the regulators," Investec Securities analyst Ibraheem Mahmood said in a research note, estimating the European market for spasticity in MS patients at about 500 million pounds.

But Charles Stanley's Jeremy Batstone said there was no certainty that Sativex, an under-the-tongue spray, would be approved.

"Given past experience and the regulator's apparent desire to move the goalposts from time to time, the strategy should be regarded as high risk," he wrote in a research note.

GW shares, which have risen almost a third over the past month, were down 1 percent at 97-1/2 pence by 1 p.m., valuing the business at about 117 million pounds.

GW grows thousands of marijuana plants at a secret location in the English countryside, having been granted a dispensation by the government to use the plant for medical research.

McConnell backs prosecution for cannabis possession

Jack McConnell yesterday reminded police that cannabis possession is a crime, after it emerged some forces are giving warnings to adults caught with the drug instead of passing on cases for prosecution.

The First Minister said he was "very keen" that people were prosecuted. "Cannabis is illegal and nobody in Scotland should ever get the impression otherwise," he said.

His comments followed The Herald's revelation on Saturday that some police forces, in collaboration with the Crown Office, are piloting warnings for possession of cannabis worth less than £15.

The arrangement has been criticised by anti-drugs campaigners, anxious that it sends out the wrong message about use of the class C drug.

Mr McConnell said he would not dictate to the police or fiscals, but wanted their actions to be "proportionate".

Jack McConnell yesterday reminded police that cannabis possession is a crime, after it emerged some forces are giving warnings to adults caught with the drug instead of passing on cases for prosecution.

The First Minister said he was "very keen" that people were prosecuted. "Cannabis is illegal and nobody in Scotland should ever get the impression otherwise," he said.

His comments followed The Herald's revelation on Saturday that some police forces, in collaboration with the Crown Office, are piloting warnings for possession of cannabis worth less than £15.

The arrangement has been criticised by anti-drugs campaigners, anxious that it sends out the wrong message about use of the class C drug.

Mr McConnell said he would not dictate to the police or fiscals, but wanted their actions to be "proportionate".

Albanian hemp growers see project threatened as police suspect cannabis

The slender, 2m-high plants in Martin Pllumbi's field in northern Albania could bring either a profit or a prison sentence, depending on the results of a chemical analysis being carried out in Italy.

As the head of the local farmers' association and co-ordinator of a project funded by Partnership for Growth, a UK-based charity, Mr Pllumbi encouraged other subsistence farmers in the impoverished Shkrel valley to plant industrial hemp as a cash crop.

The project raised hopes of long-term prosperity for the 8,000-strong community, which at present relies on monthly remittances from family members working in the US and western Europe.

However, allegations by local police that Shkrel's farmers are cultivating hemp's botanical relative, cannabis, threaten to wreck their dream of producing high-value exports such as hempseed oil, fibre rugs and even T-shirts and cosmetics.

A mix of rugged terrain and post-communist lawlessness has helped to make Albania a centre for narcotics trafficking. Cannabis grown in remote valleys and high mountain pastures is exported to Greece and Italy, according to government officials.

The police are under pressure to deliver results as the government tries to crack down on the drugs trade. But the Shkrel farmers say they are victims of police harassment.

A study by Partnership for Growth showed the Shkrel area was well suited to growing industrial hemp. The farmers imported certified seed from Hungary, which was approved by the Albanian authorities.

First results were encouraging. West European importers showed interest in buying hemp leaves for making tea. A group of farmers' wives successfully produced rugs made of hemp fibre.

"It was all looking promising," Mr Pllumbi says. "But because of the police intervention, we haven't been able to get past the experimental stage."

In 2001, police burned Shkrel's first big hemp crop and arrested eight farmers on charges of cultivating cannabis. A court later awarded them $1,500 (€1,166, £788) each in damages. But Partnership for Growth, which made a £110,000 ($210,000, €163.000) claim against the Albanian government for legal costs and reputation damage, is still awaiting a decision by Albania's supreme court.

Last December Mr Pllumbi and two colleagues were arrested on charges of growing illegal drugs after police seized bales of hemp stored by the farmers' association to await processing. They were freed pending results of scientific analysis of the seized crop.

An analysis by the Tirana medical institute, using equipment donated by the UK, said the crop was hemp, not cannabis. Because the samples contained less than 1 per cent tetrahydrocanabinolit (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, they met the Albanian legal standard for industrial hemp.

But the prosecutor in Shkodra, the local administrative centre, insisted on sending samples to Italy for another test. "The Tirana laboratory didn't give precise figures of the THC content. In such a case, we need to be absolutely certain," says a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

The farmers complain that following last year's arrests, police from Shkodra are using intimidation to prevent them from planting hemp. This year, only 30 farmers are growing hemp, compared with almost 100 in previous years. The area under cultivation has fallen from nine to three hectares.

"The police come round and threaten our families, as if we were back in old communist times," says Agron Ivanaj, another farmer.

With hemp-growing under threat, the Shkrel farmers are experimenting with other kinds of organic crops with potential for export. This year they planted sage, grown from wild seeds, in a project funded by the UN development agency. "We're going to have a high-quality crop but prices for sage aren't nearly as good as for hemp," says Mr Pllumbi.

The farmers' association also plans to export up to 1,000kg of chestnuts from a forest in the Shkrel valley, with the assistance of Partnership for Growth. But the charity says it is still committed to the hemp project. "With hindsight we were naïve, considering the country's level of illegal drugs activity. But we still maintain that for these farmers, hemp has the greatest potential range of any crop," says Mike Tyler, the charity's project director.

Drugs leader says cannabis warnings a 'sign of times'

THE Capital's alcohol and drugs chief has described a new police policy of issuing warnings to adults found in possession of cannabis as a "sad reflection of society".

Lothian and Borders Police are issuing warnings to over-16s found in possession of cannabis worth £15 or less instead of charging them and handing them over for prosecution.

The force is trialling the pilot scheme in West Lothian in a bid to cut down on the amount of time small crimes take up in court.

Tom Wood, chairman of Action on Alcohol and Drugs in Edinburgh, said: "I recognise it as a pragmatic response to the amount of cannabis that is around at the moment. It is a sign of the times really and is a sad reflection of society."

So far, police have issued 23 warnings to people in West Lothian caught in possession of the drug. If they are caught in possession for a second time they would face charges and an appearance in court.

Drugs campaigners have said that the scheme is sending out the wrong message to young people and will add to the confusion that the reclassification of cannabis to a Grade-C drug has caused.

The scheme follows on from a decision by all of Scotland's police forces to introduce adult warnings for minor first-time offences such as urinating in public or low-level breaches of the peace, in a bid to lighten the load on courts and prosecutors.

The change in policy comes as new figures show a huge increase in the number of people detained in Lothian hospitals with mental and behavioural problems attributed to cannabis.

Soccer Moms Accused Of Smoking Pot At Kids' Practice

It's not how you would picture your typical soccer moms -- unless, of course, you're picturing a scene from Showtime's "Weeds," WLWT-TV in Cincinnati reported.

Police said 40-year-old Deborah Spangler and 39-year-old Jessica Riddell passed the time during their children's soccer practice by sharing a joint in a minivan in the soccer field's parking lot.

"It's just outlandish because they were waiting for their kids to finish soccer practice," Lt. Timothy Traud said.

Authorities received a complaint about the women, and when an officer showed up at the field Wednesday, he spotted Spangler and Riddell in a Chevrolet Astrovan.

"He began talking with them and could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle," Traud said.

A search of Riddell's purse revealed a marijuana cigarette in a box of Marlboros, police said, as well as 2 more grams of pot and rolling papers.

Officials arrested both mothers, and their children had to go, too.

"I feel for the children," Traud said. "They have my sympathy."

Both women have been released on bond and are scheduled to be in court next Wednesday.

Medical Field Against Legalized Marijuana

Even with my busy schedule, I usually make the monthly meetings for the Campbellsville-Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition held at Taylor Regional Hospital. It matters. Removing illegal drugs from the community will help us reach many goals. We want health, prosperity and hope for our community, not despair, hopelessness and poverty.

I laughed to myself when I read the recent letter from Colorado stating that marijuana could and would be used in a responsible way by responsible adults if made legal. I just don't believe that. I grew up in the 60s and 70s.

I watched nickel and dime bags being passed around at concerts and festivals as the police just watched. I helped friends get home safely after they had indulged themselves in smoking the weed. And then I read that "responsible adults" would handle it properly.

I have also noticed that the medical field consistently stands against legalizing the general use of marijuana. The medical field presently uses a synthetic cannabis in some treatments. These treatments are developed and supervised by scientists, pharmacists and medical doctors who have the training, expertise and experience to use a synthetic cannabis in a way that aids their patients. The medical field is using narcotics (both natural and synthetic) in a similar way, to aid their patients. I doubt that most citizens (regardless of how responsible we might be) have the knowledge and skill to use marijuana in a way that does not diminish our mental capacity or even diminish our health.

These are just my personal observations; however, I would like to address one statement made by the citizen of Colorado when he stated that the Bible, even the first page of the Bible, supported the human consumption of marijuana because it bore seeds which caused reproduction. This conclusion is flawed because he makes a leap in logic that just cannot be justified.

The scripture is my area of expertise, with three earned graduate degrees in Bible and theology. The reader from Colorado has a simple argument: God gave all plants that bore seeds and reproduced to humans for consumption. I disagree. If every plant that reproduced itself was given by God for us to consume, then there is an automatic conclusion ... that would mean every plant. This would include coca from which we produce cocaine, peyote cactus and Psilocybe mushroom each from which we produce hallucinogens, none of which have a positive medical use.

If the reader from Colorado is correct in his interpretation of the Bible, then God also intends for us to ingest poison ivy, poison oak and any other poisonous plant. According to Google.com, there are 5.5 million listings for poisonous plants, plants listed as toxic to humans (I don't see a reason to include the multiple names of plants God created that would kill humans). I'm just not convinced God intended for these plants to be eaten, smoked or their resins to be injected. As a matter of fact, Genesis Chapter 2 actually says that those plants that are "good for food" are the only ones given by God to humanity to consume.

I think common sense would conclude that plants which produce health and life are given by God for human consumption. Plants which would alter the state of mind, cause other harm or even death were not given by God for human consumption. God is not in the business of harming the very people He loves. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Outcry as police let cannabis offenders off with a warning

POLICE in the Lothians are among the first in Scotland to ditch prosecutions for possessing cannabis in favour of handing out warnings.

A pilot project has reportedly already seen 23 warnings issued to people over the age of 16 caught with the drug in West Lothian.

The cautions are handed out if individuals are caught with less than £15 worth of cannabis. If they are caught again, they face court.

The scheme has been launched despite reassurances from police chiefs that their stance would not change when the drug was downgraded to a class C substance in 2004. The move has angered anti-drugs campaigners, who are concerned that it will send out the wrong message to youngsters and add to the existing confusion over the legal status of the drug.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police was reported to have said today: "West Lothian is the only division where they use adult warnings. There is a pilot project agreed with procurators fiscal."

The move is also being piloted in Fife, where officers have issued 40 warnings for possession, with only two of the individuals being caught reoffending.

The scheme follows on from a decision by all of Scotland's police forces to introduce adult warnings for minor first-time offences such as urinating in public or low-level breaches of the peace, in a bid to lighten the load on courts and prosecutors.

But campaigners never expected drug offences to be included. Alistair Ramsay, of the educational consultancy Drugwise, said: "If this sends out the wrong message, compounded by the poor information about the reclassification, leading to young people believing that cannabis' legal status has changed, then it is entirely wrong."

And Professor Neil McKeganey, from Glasgow University's centre for drug misuse research, said: "Most members of the public are unclear as to the legal situation in relation to cannabis and that is why this is all the more dangerous."

The apparent change in policy comes as new figures show a huge increase in the number of people detained in Lothian hospitals with mental and behavioural problems attributed to cannabis.

Statistics from the Scottish Executive earlier this year showed that cannabis-related casualties more than trebled, from 45 in 2002-03 to 136 in 2004-05.

The figures followed claims by anti-drugs groups that reclassification would lead to increased usage of the drug. It was also claimed that cannabis could lead to lung damage, depression, anxiety and even psychotic episodes in people with schizophrenia

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland was quoted as saying: "The police service in Scotland continues to take a robust stance on anybody caught in possession of drugs. The projects in place in Fife and Lothian and Borders are in agreement with local procurators fiscal and in the spirit of the criminal justice reform process."

Strong Pong Alerted Neighbours To Drug

An unsuspecting neighbour who lived next to a cannabis farm for months alerted police when she caught a whiff of the drug outside her home.

Teacher Moira Taylor became alarmed at the smells coming from the £250,000 three-bedroom house in Hiddleston Avenue, Benton, Newcastle.

When police arrived they immediately recognised the smell and discovered cannabis plants growing in every room - 250 of them, worth £75,000.

They were being cultivated under ultra-violet heaters.

Moira, 52, a mother-of-three, who had lived on Hiddleston Avenue with her family for 28 years, never imagined that she would end up next to a cannabis farm.

Moira, who teaches at St Vincent's Primary School in Walker, Newcastle, said: "We had some suspicions because there was a lot of drilling going on through the walls and we knew they were only renting the house.

"They were always coming and going and then over the last few months there had been a strange odour. We couldn't put our finger on it and it got worse.

"It was this horrible, disgusting sweet smell but I had no idea it was cannabis. It never crossed my mind but I knew something was going on."

Moira called the police and firefighters feared there may have been fumes leaking from the house.

But on arrival they recognised the odour of cannabis and broke down the door. The two occupants escaped through a back window. Moira, who is married to John, 56, a teacher at St Thomas More School in North Shields, said: "This is a lovely family street where everybody looks out for each other.

"This is the last thing you would expect to happen here.

"Most of the people who live here are professionals, teachers and doctors, not drug dealers. I was gobsmacked."

Police forensics officers were working in the house yesterday, and the tenants' cars were towed away.

A police spokeswoman said: "When police entered the house, shortly after midnight they discovered 250 fully-grown cannabis plants throughout the house.

"We believe it has a street value in excess of £75,000. Nobody was in the house at the time and inquiries are ongoing to find the occupiers."

Life in The Suburbs, Where The Grass Is Greener

When “Weeds” began on Showtime it was a “Queer as Folk” for the illegal drug trade, a dark comedy that depicted suburban marijuana use as boldly and matter-of-factly as the previous series did the sexual practices of gay men.

Crime is never as illicit as sex on American television, so there was not nearly as much outrage over the mischievous portrait of a suburban soccer mom who deals pot to make ends meet. But it was nevertheless a remarkable feat: no other series, not even on HBO, has been quite so nonchalant about the discreet charm of the pot-smoking bourgeoisie.

“Weeds” turned out to be an irreverent and absorbing nighttime soap opera, a “Desperate Housewives” for smart people.

It still is. Yet the second season is trying harder for what Showtime’s advertising campaign coyly calls “buzz.” When it began, “Weeds” was careful not to laugh out loud at its own jokes; three episodes into the second season, the series is straining for shock value and guffaws. The two female leads, played with delicious subtlety by Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins, are in danger of becoming caricatures, while some of the supporting characters are being pushed into the realm of Cheech and Chong.

Sentiment and satire are hard to mix, which is why similar shows like “Nip/Tuck” or even “Desperate Housewives” wilt or labor in their second and third seasons. Drama is much easier. A procedural crime show like “Law & Order” is like paddle tennis — as long as the ball is hit in a steady, predictable pattern, the rally can last indefinitely. Series that blend farce and drama (television executives call them “dramedies” ) are harder to pull off. They are like those old-fashioned puzzles where the player has to tilt the tiny steel balls just right to make them slip into all the holes at once.

The appeal of Nancy (Ms. Parker), who turns to dealing to maintain her family’s affluent lifestyle in a sterile suburban development called Agrestic, is that she has to balance illegal activities with an Erma Bombeck existence: PTA meetings, housekeepers and nosy neighbors. Her motive for turning to crime to stay in a soulless community where neither she nor her children were happy was always hazy, but that was blunted by the charm of Ms. Parker’s performance. As Nancy sinks deeper and deeper into the drug business, she becomes harder to follow. The pathology of a mother who would put her children at so much risk overshadows her spacey, low-key charisma.

Nancy’s brittle best friend, Celia, is to “Weeds” what Ari Gold is to “Entourage,” an outré secondary character who steals every scene. Ms. Perkins layered Celia’s tartness and self-absorption with a knowing sadness, and it made her irresistible. This season, she is reduced to deadpan cracks about her daughter’s weight and her husband’s weakness; the lines are funny but increasingly predictable. Her daughter refuses to put on a pretty dress for a campaign poster, saying, “Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter who is gay.” Celia retorts, “Yeah, and she’s not in any of the pictures, either.” She adds, overworking the joke, “And I didn’t shoot anyone in the face, so stop making comparisons.”

The series’ sendup of suburbia is quietly caustic: the housewives attend stripper fitness class, Celia’s daughter is recruited to model for a children’s clothing line called “Huskaroos,” and a western theme restaurant sends customers home with tinfoil doggy bags in the shape of a cactus.

Nancy’s hapless business partners form an amusing ensemble, led by Kevin Nealon as Doug, the pothead C.P.A. and City Council member. Nancy’s brother-in-law, Andy (Justin Kirk), a charming ne’er-do-well and parasite, is desperate to get into rabbinical school to avoid Army Reserve duty in Iraq. Struggling to compose an essay on what Judaism means to him, Andy complains, “So far I’ve written that being a Jew means I have no foreskin and I may be a Tay-Sachs carrier.”

Some jokes are tapped too many times, particularly the awkward tension between white suburbia and the urban black community. “Weeds” didn’t shrink from casting the series’ only African-American characters as drug dealers, and it moved quickly and confidently beyond stereotypes, particularly in the case of Conrad (Romany Malco), Nancy’s partner in crime and the nephew of the sharp-tongued black matriarch, Heylia (Tonye Patano). But one of the recurring themes — the contempt Heylia holds for middle-class meekness — has been spread to too many other characters.

Heylia acquires a suitor who is a strict follower of the Nation of Islam and who nonetheless reins in his militancy in front of his white customers at the airport lost-luggage desk. Conrad seeks a bank loan from a friend from the old neighborhood who also turns mealy-mouthed around his white co-workers. Even Nancy’s brief tussle with a black employee at the power company has a similar dynamic to her relationship with Heylia; the clerk is harsh and dismissive until Nancy stops apologizing and sasses her right back.

“Weeds” is still an outstanding show, but it would be better if it didn’t push so hard to stand out.

WEEDS

Showtime, Mondays at 10 p.m., Eastern and Pacific times; 9 p.m., Central time.

Jenji Kohan, creator and executive producer; Roberto Benabib and Craig Zisk, co-executive producers; Mark A. Burley, Shawn Schepps and Devon K. Shepard, supervising producers; Matthew Salsberg, producer; Barry Safchif, Michael Platt and Paul Cajero, co-producers; Michael Trim, director of photography; David Helfand and William Turro, editors. Produced by Lionsgate in association with Tilted Productions.

WITH: Mary-Louise Parker (Nancy Botwin), Elizabeth Perkins (Celia Hodes), Kevin Nealon (Doug Wilson), Justin Kirk (Andy Botwin), Tonye Patano (Heylia James), Romany Malco (Conrad Shepard), Martin Donovan (Peter Scottson), Hunter Parrish (Silas Botwin), Alexander Gould (Shane Botwin), Andy Milder (Dean Hodes), Renée Victor (Lupita), Isabelle Hodes (Allie Grant), Indigo (Vaneeta), Maulik Pancholy (Sanjay), Shoshannah Stern (Megan Beals) and Meital Dohan (Yael).

Expulsions for cannabis use unlawful, court rules

The high court held yesterday that Birmingham city council had acted unlawfully in upholding the decision of a Birmingham school to expel two pupils for taking cannabis.

Mr Justice Beatson ruled that the council had acted unreasonably in not following government guidelines which suggested that pupils should not normally be expelled for minor drug offences.

The two boys had contributed £2 each to buy the drugs in what their lawyer described as an "experiment". Neither boy had been in trouble at school before. Their case will be reheard by the council's independent appeal panel.

Cannabis Downgrade Coincides With Drug Deaths Rise

Drug deaths spiralled after Labour downgraded cannabis, it has been revealed.

The number of people killed by overdoses surged by almost 15 per cent in the next year.

Critics had warned that the decision to reclassify cannabis from Class B to C in January 2004, meaning simple possession was unlikely to lead to arrest, would lead to a surge in the use of all illegal drugs.

An internal Downing Street report later admitted that people trying cannabis had been lured on to deadly harder drugs.

As a result, deaths from heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy all rocketed figures from the Office of National Statistics showed yesterday.

The increase meant the Government failed to meet its target of reducing drug deaths by a fifth between 1999 and 2004. Before the reclassification of cannabis, it was on course to do so easily.

Tory spokesman Edward Garnier said: 'Labour continues to fail to deal with the scourge of drugs.

'Drugs take lives and tear apart communities. They also undermine all our efforts to combat crime. The Government needs to get an urgent grip on this problem but so far all we have had is a chaotic and confused approach that gives the impression it is OK to take drugs.'

Mary Brett, of the Europe Against Drugs campaign, said it appeared much more than simple coincidence that the alarming rise in deaths had followed the downgrading of cannabis.

She said: 'Cannabis is a gateway drug, most people agree that now. A person smokes it and they are then far more likely to go on to take a harder drug. The Government will no doubt come up with excuses as to why the number of deaths has increased, saying the drugs were stronger.

But that cannot be the whole explanation.

'It is a significant increase and how many of those who died were, for example, first-time users?'

In 1999, the Government promised to reduce drug deaths by 20 per cent over the next five years.

Following the pledge, the numbers fell each year, from 1,571 in 1999, to 1,255 in 2003. At this point, the target was hit a year early. But in 2004 the death toll suddenly shot up by 14 per cent, to 1,427.

The number of heroin deaths was up from 591 in 2003 to 744, cocaine from 113 to 147 and Ecstasy from 33 to 48.

The Health Department said last night that, despite the rise in deaths last year, there had been a nine per cent reduction overall since 1999.

Within the total, however, there was a 67 per cent increase in cocaine deaths, from 88 in 1999 to 147, and Ecstasy fatalities were up 85 per cent, from 26 to 48. Both figures reflect wider use.

The department has now reconvened its Drug Related Deaths Steering Group, a panel of experts which will produce a plan of action later this year on how to reduce the toll.

Feds Take Aim at `Ganja Guru' Again

Federal prosecutors not only are preparing to re-try Oakland "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal, but seem to be searching for more charges to file against him.

Rosenthal, 61, was in federal court Wednesday for the first time since his 2003 convictions were overturned earlier this year. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered him to return Sept. 13, when he and attorneys will try to set a trial date.

"The government might want to take a hard look at this case, is my suggestion," said Breyer as the brief status hearing ended.

Outside, Rosenthal's attorney, William Simpich of Oakland, said he took that parting comment to mean the judge believes "this case should be terminated."

But William Dolphin, a spokesman for the Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said Wednesday at least two witnesses appeared under subpoena last Thursday before a federal grand jury in San Francisco that's probing Rosenthal's activities over a wider range of time than the original case included - possibly a prelude to new charges.

Those two people, who for now wish to remain anonymous, both invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Dolphin said. They're to appear before the grand jury again Thursday, perhaps to be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony; this could leave them to choose between testifying or being jailed for civil contempt of court.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana, and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars - time he'd already served.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial.

But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance. The court in July refused Rosenthal's requests for rehearing, or for an "en banc" rehearing by a larger panel.

Simpich told Breyer on Wednesday that Rosenthal's team of lawyers by Oct. 15 will file a petition seeking the U.S. Supreme Court's review. But Breyer said the 9th Circuit's Aug. 16 remand of the case requires that a retrial be scheduled within 70 days of that date.

Richard Watts of San Francisco, arrested and charged in the same 2002 raids that nabbed Rosenthal, has not yet been tried. His attorney, J. Tony Serra of San Francisco, is serving 10 months in the federal prison at Lompoc for failing to pay income taxes and won't get out until March. So Breyer on Wednesday ordered Watts to find a new lawyer by the Sept. 13 hearing or one will be appointed for him.

School's Fight To Censor Ensures We Won't Forget

When it comes to Bong Hits 4 Jesus, here's some Advice 4 Dummies: If the phrase poses such a threat to the health and future of any teenager exposed to it, then stop making a federal case out of it.

If the Juneau School Board, in its infinite stubbornness, is so worried that the message waved on a banner four years ago at a nonschool event will lead high school kids down the path to illegal drug use, why does it insist on giving the message such tremendous exposure?

Google "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" and you'll get 14,100 hits. Included among them is proof positive that the message has become part of the vernacular: It has its own Wikipedia entry.

And all Joe Frederick wanted was to catch the eye of a TV cameraman.

Frederick is the man who, back when he was a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, made a 10-foot banner to wave as the Olympic torch relay passed through Juneau. A true Alaska artist, he used butcher paper as his canvas and duct tape as his paint to craft the sign that now waves in perpetuity: Bong Hits 4 Jesus.

The school principal, Deborah Morse, went nuts -- even though Frederick wasn't on school property, wasn't at a school-sponsored event, wasn't under direct supervision of school employees and wasn't representing the school in any way imaginable.

Nor did he cause a disruption at school. School officials admitted as much to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lawyers for Morse and the school board argue that Morse's confiscation of the banner and suspension of Frederick were justified because the poster was inconsistent with the school's mission to teach a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Snipped:
Complete Article: http://tinyurl.com/k6td7

Bong Hits 4 Jesus� Case To U.S. Supreme Court?

Former Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Alaska's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, a dispute involving a high school student, a banner and a tough school policy.

Starr, who gained national prominence while investigating former President Clinton's Whitewater land deal and relationship with Monica Lewinsky, filed the petition Monday on behalf of the Juneau School District in response to a March ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court sided with a high school student who displayed a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" during an Olympic torch relay in 2002. It ruled former Juneau-Douglas High School principal Deborah Morse violated former student Joseph Frederick's free speech rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court petition must receive a minimum of four of the nine justices' votes to be heard.

Frederick, then a senior, was off school property when he hoisted the banner but was suspended for violating the school's policy of promoting illegal substances at a school-sanctioned event.

"The principal's actions were so outrageous, basically leaving school grounds and punishing a student for a message that is not damaging to the school," said his attorney, Doug Mertz.

Superintendent Peggy Cowan said clarification is needed on the rights of administrators when it comes to disciplinary action of students who break the district�s drug message policy.

"The district's decision to move forward is not disrespectful to the First Amendment or the rights of students," she said. "This is an important question about how the First Amendment applies to pro-drug messages in an educational setting."

Starr, of the Los Angeles-based firm Kirkland & Ellis, took the case pro bono.

The outcome could have implications on how student-conduct policies are enforced around the nation, said Eric Hagen, one of two other attorneys from Starr's office named on the petition.

"It makes it a little harder when teachers and principals in their daily duties might be subject to a damages lawsuit and be held personally liable," Hagen said.

DEA Should Keep Out of State Politics

Federal agencies should stick to their knitting, as the saying goes. They have no business using their muscle to influence state ballot races.

Not only could the federal government's vast resources distort the tenor of debate within a state, it would also force out-of-state taxpayers to underwrite political campaigns that have no impact on them.

That message has fallen on deaf ears at the Denver office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is poised to assist in the campaign against Amendment 44. That measure, on Colorado's November ballot, would legalize possession by adults of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana.

Setting aside the merits of Amendment 44, the DEA's decision to raise $10,000 to hire a professional campaign manager is a heavy- handed use of federal power. Jeff Sweetin, the special agent in charge of the local office, acknowledges that the notice seeking an experienced pro to run the campaign was sent from a Department of Justice e-mail account.

Federal officials are free to offer their opinions about the legality or the wisdom of state political controversies, and that bully pulpit can often sway public opinion. But when agencies organize formal opposition to local or state ballot measures, they're interfering in the local political process. And where would it stop?

At least some federal lawmakers have acknowledged the potential for abuse. Three years ago, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would have, among other things, blocked the DEA from using its advertising budget to work against state ballot measures.

(The Senate did not pass the bill and it died in 2004.)

The National Taxpayers Union and the American Conservative Union, among others, persuaded House members that if the DEA could campaign against initiatives that would liberalize drug laws, then there is no principled reason the Environmental Protection Agency couldn't spend money lobbying against property rights protections or the Department of Justice coordinate a campaign for tougher gun controls at the state level - just to cite two possible examples.

Letting federal agencies become political activists in one area invites them to take sides on a host of others. That's why we hope the DEA will abandon this campaign - and that next year, Congress will enact legislation that would prevent any federal agency from pursuing this sort of mischief.

Drug officials fear plants could be mixed in fields

California farmers are on a high after the liberal state moved to overturn part of a 70-year-old US ban on growing and harvesting cannabis plants.

But those hoping that the so-called Golden State is about to become a marijuana smokers' paradise will be disappointed. The California proposal relates only to the cultivation of industrial hemp, used in the manufacture of items such as cosmetics, food, paper and clothing.

"Hemp bears no more resemblance to marijuana than a poodle bears to a wolf," said Tom McClintock, a Republican state senator who backed legislation that would reverse one key section of a 1937 law banning the growth of all types of the plant. "You'd die from smoke inhalation before you'd get high."

The hemp issue has been burning slowly for decades. Farmers including the former US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plants on their land. But the wide-ranging federal ban put an end to that.

Those who want it lifted argue that industrial hemp bears no relation to marijuana because it contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

National drug-control policy opposes the legalisation of hemp because it argues that crops could be mixed with marijuana plants and would be very hard to detect.

"California is a great climate to grow pot in, and no one from law enforcement is going through the fields to do a chemical analysis of different plants,"said a drug-control official.

While six states have passed bills supporting hemp farming, California's is the first to mount a direct challenge to the federal ban by arguing that no special permit would be needed from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The final say now rests with California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after the state's assembly approved the Industrial Hemp Farming Act by 44 votes to 29. He is thought unlikely to veto it.

The legislation requires that hemp crops be tested to ensure they do not contain THC. It does not specify how the testing would be carried out, but there is expected to be no shortage of volunteers.

Eric Steenstra, president of the Vote Hemp campaign, said the future of an industry worth $270m (£142m) a year would be protected. "We thank legislators from both parties that listened to the facts about industrial hemp and made a historic decision to bring back the crop," he said.

"It's a major accomplishment for thousands of environmentally conscious voters, farmers and businesses."

California has a thriving industry in the manufacture of products made from hemp, which also includes luggage, toys, sports equipment, jewellery and rope. Energy bars are particularly popular because hemp is high in essential fatty acids, protein, Vitamin B and fibre. Until now, however, raw materials have had to be imported from Canada, where hemp cultivation was legalised in 1998.

Those in the industry told the New York Times that the biggest flaw in the federal ban was that it did not take into account the genetic differences between industrial and THC-rich hemp.

"They want to lump together all things cannabis," said David Bronner, whose family business makes environmentally friendly cosmetics and snack products using hemp oil in Escondido, California. "You don't associate a poppy-seed bagel with opium."

Hemp thrived as a crop before the 1937 ban. It earned a temporary reprieve during the second world war, when farmers were urged to "Grow Hemp for Victory" to help produce military equipment such as parachute cords and boots.

Tax Dollars Used for Ill-Conceived DEA Push

It's hardly news that Drug Enforcement Agency officials are opposed to a Colorado ballot initiative seeking to make it legal for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana.

It certainly is news, however, when DEA agents admit to spending staff time, paid for by taxpayer dollars, fighting that ballot measure or any other. The Daily Camera reported Aug. 27 that DEA agent Michael Moore sent out e-mails to political consultants looking for someone to advise the federal agency how to set up a campaign against the amendment.

The issue comes before voters in November and seeks to allow state residents over 21 to keep up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

The wisdom of such a change in drug laws is certainly debatable. American learned hard lessons during Prohibition, mostly that it neither kept people from drinking nor persuade Americans to shun alcohol.

Clearly, for all the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on fighting the so-called War on Drugs, illegal drug use seems as dangerous and pervasive as ever.

It's unclear whether decriminalization of drugs such as marijuana would have any effect on American drug use or drug sales, but it's hard to argue that there's much of a black market for alcohol these days.

There are many unanswered questions from this proposal that the media and voters will certainly look to the DEA to for answers. Rest assured anything the DEA says about the issue will be big news, freely disseminated as their side of the story. But any opinions from the DEA are just that.

It's a given that drug-agency officials will be releasing only information that supports their position that legalizing even small amounts of marijuana would be bad for Coloradans. It could be that there would be a need for fewer DEA agents. That means current DEA would be spending time on the job paid for by taxpayers to lobby voters to keep them employed. That's wrong. Certainly DEA agents, like all Americans, enjoy the right of free speech. But here in Colorado, we've wisely limited how the government can use tax dollars to promote that free speech.

Congress would do well to amend the age-old Hatch Act, which limits federal employee involvement in partisan political races, to include limits on all political questions.

And DEA agents would do well to back off their ill-conceived plan against this state ballot issue so that any Hatch Act amendments are precautionary rather than justifiably punitive.

Californians to defy US hemp ban on 'environment friendly' cash crop

California farmers are on a high after the liberal state moved to overturn part of a 70-year-old US ban on growing and harvesting cannabis plants.

But those hoping that the so-called Golden State is about to become a marijuana smokers' paradise will be disappointed. The California proposal relates only to the cultivation of industrial hemp, used in the manufacture of items such as cosmetics, food, paper and clothing.

"Hemp bears no more resemblance to marijuana than a poodle bears to a wolf," said Tom McClintock, a Republican state senator who backed legislation that would reverse one key section of a 1937 law banning the growth of all types of the plant. "You'd die from smoke inhalation before you'd get high."

The hemp issue has been burning slowly for decades. Farmers including the former US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plants on their land. But the wide-ranging federal ban put an end to that.

Those who want it lifted argue that industrial hemp bears no relation to marijuana because it contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

National drug-control policy opposes the legalisation of hemp because it argues that crops could be mixed with marijuana plants and would be very hard to detect.

"California is a great climate to grow pot in, and no one from law enforcement is going through the fields to do a chemical analysis of different plants,"said a drug-control official.

While six states have passed bills supporting hemp farming, California's is the first to mount a direct challenge to the federal ban by arguing that no special permit would be needed from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The final say now rests with California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after the state's assembly approved the Industrial Hemp Farming Act by 44 votes to 29. He is thought unlikely to veto it.

The legislation requires that hemp crops be tested to ensure they do not contain THC. It does not specify how the testing would be carried out, but there is expected to be no shortage of volunteers.

Eric Steenstra, president of the Vote Hemp campaign, said the future of an industry worth $270m (£142m) a year would be protected. "We thank legislators from both parties that listened to the facts about industrial hemp and made a historic decision to bring back the crop," he said.

"It's a major accomplishment for thousands of environmentally conscious voters, farmers and businesses."

California has a thriving industry in the manufacture of products made from hemp, which also includes luggage, toys, sports equipment, jewellery and rope. Energy bars are particularly popular because hemp is high in essential fatty acids, protein, Vitamin B and fibre. Until now, however, raw materials have had to be imported from Canada, where hemp cultivation was legalised in 1998.

Those in the industry told the New York Times that the biggest flaw in the federal ban was that it did not take into account the genetic differences between industrial and THC-rich hemp.

"They want to lump together all things cannabis," said David Bronner, whose family business makes environmentally friendly cosmetics and snack products using hemp oil in Escondido, California. "You don't associate a poppy-seed bagel with opium."

Hemp thrived as a crop before the 1937 ban. It earned a temporary reprieve during the second world war, when farmers were urged to "Grow Hemp for Victory" to help produce military equipment such as parachute cords and boots.

Cannabis Farms Spread To The Suburbs

Indoor cannabis farms, which can produce up to £250,000 of the class C drug each year, are appearing in quiet residential streets throughout the country in unprecedented numbers, police have told the Guardian.

A clampdown on the farms in big cities is forcing drug syndicates to decamp to converted family homes in the suburbs, detectives said.

The operatives behind the farms are typically Vietnamese gangs linked to people trafficking networks and often also produce and supply class A drugs.

Police are concerned that British-produced cannabis contains more THC - the psychoactive component in cannabis - than foreign imports. Analysis of recent homegrown hauls detected THC levels as high as 20%, nearly seven times higher than samples of imported resin, which used to be the predominant form of the drug on the streets, and typically contain around 3% THC. Experts fear this could have health implications for the country's 2 million regular cannabis users.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon Chapman, who led a three-month operation against suburban farms in Hertfordshire, said police forces in southern counties have noticed a surge in suburban farms run by Vietnamese gangs since a crackdown by police in London.

The Metropolitan police said cannabis factories, estimated to earn London-based syndicates at least £100m a year, remain a problem, but there has recently been a slight reduction in activity in the capital.

"A decade ago 11% of cannabis sold on the street was grown in the UK," said Detective Inspector Neil Hutchison. "Now more than 60% is produced in Britain and we are currently finding two to three factories in London a day. This is a growing crime problem across the country."

In the last four months, Hertfordshire police's Operation Miss has discovered 24 factories resulting in 17 arrests and the seizure of 10,000 plants. Thirteen cannabis houses were discovered in the suburban towns of Hemel Hempstead and Watford, and others were found in Stevenage, Bishop's Stortford and Waltham Cross. Most houses are detached or semi-detached houses in residential streets.

Neighbours of one such property in the Hertfordshire village of Standon, six miles west of Bishop's Stortford, had no idea why there were streaks of condensation on the windows of the quietest house in the cul-de-sac. Many concluded the house was occupied by quiet neighbours. "We never saw them that often. They would turn up from time to time, and they only seemed to arrive at night," said one neighbour. But the blinds at number five Orchard Drive were drawn for a reason.

After a raid on the property earlier this month police found two 15-year-old Vietnamese boys inside tending to 438 cannabis plants, arranged beneath rows of high-intensity sodium lamps. Like many of the other factories raided this year, police discovered a sophisticated set-up, with an irrigation system, reflective foil on the walls and ventilation ducts sliced into the ceilings. The electricity meter had also been bypassed to tap into the large amounts of energy needed to power the lamps without raising suspicion from suppliers.

"This is professional equipment, not something you can buy at B&Q. It's worth £50,000," Superintendent Adrian Walter, who led the raid, told the Hertfordshire Mercury. "The two we arrested will just be foot soldiers and part of a very large empire. They probably don't know who they're working for."

He said the intensity of operations against farms in London was driving drug gangs into quieter areas "where they perceive they are safer". Hertfordshire police are now contacting estate agents and landlords in the county to tell them to be aware of individuals looking to pay cash for short-term tenancy agreements in quiet residential streets, if necessary above market rates.

Cannabis production is also believed to have relocated from London to Bedfordshire, Sussex, Surrey and Essex, although suburban cannabis farms are also being found in Wiltshire, the West Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

"Historically, cannabis production in Yorkshire was done in out of the way places, on factory sites or in secluded farm warehouses," said Detective Superintendent Tony Thompson, from South Yorkshire police. "There has certainly been a move towards criminals using urban and residential areas instead, particularly in Sheffield."

Police say the factories, which generate immense heat, can cause fires. One home in Watford was recently gutted by fire after a cannabis factory inside caught fire. Officers are also eager to locate the Vietnamese criminal chains coordinating the farms, which are often linked to people smugglers.

"The majority of people we have arrested in Hertfordshire have been people who have been brought into the UK from Vietnam to set up and cultivate cannabis factories," said Mr Chapman.

The use of trafficked children as "gardeners" inside the factories is of particular concern to child protection groups.

"We were first aware of Vietnamese children trafficked for cannabis factories in 2003 when a case was reported in Sheffield," said Christine Beddoe, from Ecpat, a coalition of children's charities. "Since then we have learned that this is a UK-wide problem, with cannabis houses regularly raided."

Last week the Guardian revealed that children trafficked into Britain to work in cannabis factories were among a number of failed asylum seeking children for whom the Home Office is drawing up plans to return to Vietnam.

US Police Chief's Warning Over Doomed Drugs Policy

The prohibition against illicit street drugs should be ended as hard-line legislation against drugs is doomed to failure, a US police chief warned today.

Jerry Cameron, a police veteran with 17 years experience, urged the Irish Government not to make the same mistakes the United States has made in its war on drugs.

Mr Cameron said there was ample evidence the hard-line crackdown with severe prison sentences for possession of street drugs such as cannabis and heroin in America had failed to deal with the problem.

“If someone wants to try a drug they are going to try it the law makes no difference,” he said.

“In a free society you just can’t keep people from doing things which are sometimes foolish.”

At a conference in Dublin, Mr Cameron said the mission of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) was to save lives and lower crime rates by ending prohibition.

“I would urge the Irish as a sovereign national country to get their own experts together, and dismiss this idea there is only one approach and come up with an Irish solution to Irish problems and do not let the US lead you down this path that we have gone down,” he said.

Mr Cameron said prohibition simply never worked and results in criminal activity.

“I certainly think the first step is physicians ought to be able to prescribe anything that they believe will help their patient, the police have got no business practising medicine,” he said.

Mr Cameron said if the profit motive was removed from the criminals by making drugs legal then law enforcement could regain some control in the area.

“The biggest thing is the violence that is associated with black markets when you buy a product from a person and it is defective, with a drug you can’t take him to court and you have to solve it in another way. And in the US we do that with guns,” he said.

“I don’t think Ireland has started to experience the full consequences of the black market but it will.”

Mr Cameron said if he could sit down with a parent and rationally discuss the evidence he could convince them of the futility of prohibiting drugs.

“I certainly don’t want people out using drugs, but the problem is just like in alcohol prohibition you’re gonna’ have the same usage but with all of these unintended consequences caused by criminalising something that you can’t control,” he said.

“If you wanted marijuana tonight and didn’t know where to go who would you ask? The young people, the teenagers. It is out there they have got it. The only thing that is different now is they have to deal with criminals in order to get it,” he said.

“The guy from the market is not down at the school giving out cigarettes and beer as free samples, and trying to recruit the students to sell these products in their school. He has a licence to worry about.”

Rick Lines of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said by any measure the 30-year international war on drugs has failed.

“The use of illegal drugs has never been more prevalent, our prisons have never been fuller and injecting drug-related health concerns such as HIV and Hepatitis C infection have continued to grow across the world,” he said.

Mr Cameron said marijuana was an innocuous drug which had been demonised. “My drug of choice is alcohol but if I had to make a decision,” he said. “It would take a nanosecond to tell you marijuana is the safer drug.”

He added: “Poor eating habits are definitely more dangerous than marijuana.”

Eoin Ryan, a Fianna Fáil MEP and former minister of state, who attended the conference, said: “What politician is going to get up and say you should legalise drugs?

“The problem is if you are a minister who wants to legalise cannabis you are going to get an endless amount of medical evidence that cannabis is a carcinogenic.”

He added: “The state would end up being sued as tobacco firms are being sued.”

“I don’t know how we solve it, I honestly don’t,” he said.

Legal Medical Marijuana Moves Slowly To Mainstream

If you have:Chronic pain, chronic nausea, muscle spasms, seizures, cancer, AIDS, Medical Marijuana may help.

Call the number in the ad and you'll find a local clinic where, for a fee, a doctor will write a note saying he believes the illegal plant will help what ails you.

Not long ago, such a business plan likely would have police asking a lot of questions. But for two years, The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation has been operating the Bellevue, Wash., clinic completely aboveground, seeing thousands of patients.

It has Washington's 1998 medical-marijuana initiative to thank for that. The law, approved by 59 percent of voters, said people with certain debilitating conditions could use marijuana so long as their doctor said it could help.

The biggest question has always been this: How is a sick person supposed to get the stuff?

"People in the government want the pot fairy to come deliver it," said Douglas Hiatt, a lawyer who crusades on behalf of medical-marijuana patients.

He laments - curses, actually - that medical marijuana isn't part of the mainstream, that sick people with doctors' authorizations are still getting charged with crimes, that some police officers don't even remember the law was passed.

Despite the problems, however, patients are finding their way to marijuana. Over the last eight years patients and entrepreneurs have pieced together an ad-hoc network of products and services ranging from cookbooks to co-ops to classes that help patients get their voter-approved medicine.

Ask Hiatt about The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation's Bellevue clinic and he'll roll his eyes. "Pothead capitalists," he calls them. "Doc-in-the-box."

Indeed, if you look around the clinic, there's not much aside from several dozen chairs, piles of file folders, and buckets of pens.

That's really all you need for the business model devised by Paul Stanford, president of the nonprofit that oversees clinics in Washington, Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado. Altogether they've seen 14,000 patients in four years, he said.

The group's 2003 filings show revenue of $352,000 - and for most of that year, its only operation was in Oregon.

A marijuana advocate since the 1980s, Stanford, of Portland, long ago realized that a lot of doctors are skeptical of marijuana. Providing a friendly doctor, he thought, would fill a niche. He placed an ad and soon hired Thomas "Tim" Orvald, a heart surgeon.

Stanford's clinics do not provide marijuana. Instead, they exist solely to provide doctor's notes for patients who qualify.

On a typical day, Orvald sees 30 to 40 patients. The clinic is open one or two days a week.

Orvald confirms that the patient has a standing diagnosis that is covered under the law, and writes a letter stating he or she could be helped by marijuana. The charge is $150 to $200, depending on income, although Stanford said they see some low-income patients free of charge.

"There are about a dozen different quasi-legal/illegal organizations in the state who are doing dispensaries," Stanford said. Quasi-legal? "They're selling marijuana but the police turn a blind eye to it."

Seattle Police Capt. Steven Brown said officers know it's going on. But "we haven't been involved in that, quite honestly, in terms of priorities."

It's easy to run afoul of Washington's medical-marijuana law. It doesn't legalize the sale of marijuana, even to qualified patients. And patients can grow it only for themselves. The exception is that patients can designate a caregiver, who can grow for them and only them.

This leaves the co-ops playing a game of semantics. Patients don't buy their marijuana; they make donations. Growers don't sell it; they're patients helping other patients. Even the larger-scale operations are labeled "P-patches," where several patients tend to the crop.

Patients say they're sometimes provided poor-quality marijuana; some complain about "moldy pot." Quantities are variable.

Mark Wachter, a 46-year-old multiple-sclerosis patient from Renton, Wash., who uses the drug to battle constant pain, has encountered all of that.

"The frustrating part to me is being a sick person and having to go out and find my medicine," Wachter said. "It's not like you can go to Bartell's [Drugstore]."

This is where Steve Sarich, a relative newcomer to the Washington medical-marijuana scene, is filling another niche.

A 55-year-old with short hair and a phone that's constantly ringing, he does not look like the stereotypical marijuana user. Degenerative disc disease led him to use marijuana to ease the pain in his back. Now he's leading an advocacy group called CannaCare.

"Our goal is to get these patients up and self-sufficient," he said. He does that by teaching classes on marijuana growing and supplying starter plants.

Sarich got motivated last year when he heard about another organization like his that was broken up by Seattle police. That's when he first learned of the department's rule that medical-marijuana patients are limited to growing nine plants.

Sarich and a friend decided to survey law-enforcement agencies around the state to see how they were enforcing the law. The responses ran the gamut and were often wrong, he said.

Anti-Drug Advertising Campaign a Failure

A $1.4 billion anti-drug advertising campaign conducted by the U.S. government since 1998 does not appear to have helped reduce drug use and instead might have convinced some youths that taking illegal drugs is normal, the Government Accountability Office says.

The GAO report, released Friday, urges Congress to stop the White House's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign unless drug czar John Walters can come up with a better strategy. President Bush's budget for 2007 asks Congress for $120 million for the campaign, a $20 million increase from this year.

Walters' office disputed the study and noted that drug-use rates among youths have declined since 1998. A 2005 survey by the University of Michigan indicated that 30% of 10th-graders reported having used an illicit drug the previous year, down from 35% in 1998.

The GAO report is "irrelevant to us," says Tom Riley, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). "It's based on ads from 2� years ago, and they were effective, too. Drug use has been going down dramatically. Cutting the program now would imperil (its) progress."

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Hippie Town Under Pressure In Copenhagen

"Do you want hash?" the young man asks passers-by on Pusher Street, once a thriving open-air drugs market in the heart of Christiania and now an example of how times are changing in this famous Danish "free town."

For decades, Christiania clung to the principles of its hippie founders, who started the settlement as a squat in a disused barracks in Copenhagen in 1971. It grew into a tourist hotspot, largely thanks to an easy trade in soft drugs.

The waterfront district feels like an oasis: rose bushes and wild hedges twist between the haphazardly built houses, workshops, cafes and workmen's huts. People sip beer or smoke joints on benches, while dogs sunbathe on the worn cobblestones.

The community, which does not recognise Danish law, governs itself by consensus on everything from finances to disputes between neighbours. Despite drugs being illegal, marijuana was for decades sold openly at stalls lining Pusher Street.

However, that has changed since police started a wave of raids two years ago and now the stalls are gone.

"There is only a small group of dealers left, but it is the toughest and most hard-bitten who remain," said long-time Christiania resident and documentary film-maker Nils Vest.

More fundamental changes are now being mooted for an area that comprises prime real estate in one of the world's most expensive cities.

The centre-right coalition government wants to construct new buildings, remove houses from the old ramparts, restore historic buildings and introduce normal ownership rules in the area, requiring residents to pay rent.

"Our goal ... is to transform Christiania so it becomes part of the Danish society and conforms to the rules and regulations of the rest of the society," said Christian Wedell-Neergaard, a member of the Conservative party which is in the coalition.

In the true spirit of the "free town", Christiania's around 800 residents are discussing the plans with the government.

"There are still problematic and unconditional things which we have to deal with but there are also positive things, and we are optimistic," said lawyer Knud Folschack, chief negotiator for Christiania's residents.

NOT ALL ROSY
Built some 300 years ago to strengthen Copenhagen's defences during a period of constant warring with nearby Sweden, Christiania covers some 35 hectares (86.5 acres) between a moat and a sea inlet.

After a small group of hippies first occupied it in the 1970s, they were joined by hundreds more and pledged to build a new society of tolerance, democracy and environmental awareness.

The Danish state, with a tradition of tolerance and a strong distaste for confrontation, never forcibly evicted them.

It's a "true anarchistic village democracy where every resident can take part in the decision-making," says Vest.

"There are no cars, except for the garbage truck, I know all my neighbours, there is no vandalism and hardly any burglaries."

It hasn't always been so idyllic in the "free town" whose residents include middle class citizens, welfare recipients, drugs users and criminals, according to a government report.

The community was invaded in the late 1970s by hard drugs dealers controlled by violent motorcycle gangs but in 1980 it fought back, throwing the dealers out and offering junkies withdrawal treatment.

In 2004, the Danish parliament finally ordered an end to 30 years of open marijuana trade. Scores of riot police entered Christiania to enforce the ban, which was initially violated repeatedly.

Now, the force patrolling the area has been reduce to 13 officers. Police say the operation has been hugely successful.

"Dealers came from Sweden, Norway and Finland to buy cannabis in large quantities, because it was cheaper here and the chance of getting caught doing the deal was very small," said narcotics police chief Steffen Steffensen.

Critics say the trade spilt into the rest of Denmark's capital, where it is ungoverned. Since Pusher Street was closed down, there has been an increase in gang violence in Copenhagen.

"In Christiania there were certain unwritten rules. They didn't sell to the very young, they didn't accept stolen goods as payment, they didn't sell hard drugs like heroin, and that has been exchanged for an unknown situation," said drug researcher Michael Jourdan.

It is this spirit of uniqueness and self-sufficiency that residents want to preserve as they go head-to-head with the government over its plans to change Christiania, where until now residents only paid a kind of community tax for services like electricity and water.

Lawyer Folschack says a foundation will be set up to administer housing and business properties under the new rules, but that details still have to be worked out - through consensus of course.

"In my opinion, Christiania will remain as a social and housing experiment," he said.

Denver DEA Rep: Don't Legalize It

The Drug Enforcement Agency is stepping into the political fray to oppose a statewide ballot issue that would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In an e-mail to political campaign professionals, an agent named Michael Moore asks for help finding a campaign manager to defeat the measure, which voters will consider in November. If passed, it would allow people 21 and older to have up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

In the e-mail, which was sent from a U.S. Department of Justice account, Moore also writes that the group has $10,000 to launch the campaign. He asks those interested in helping to call him at his DEA office.

That has members of Safer Colorado, the group supporting the marijuana legalization measure, crying foul. The government has no business spending the public's money on politics, they said.

Steve Fox, the group's executive director, said members of the executive branch, including the DEA, should leave law-making to legislators.

"Taxpayer money should not be going toward the executive branch advocating one side or another," Fox said. "It's a wholly inappropriate use of taxpayer money."

Jeff Sweetin, the special agent in charge of the Denver office of the DEA, said voters have every right to change the laws. And the law allows his agency to get involved in that process to tell voters why they shouldn't decriminalize pot.

"My mantra has been, 'If Americans use the democratic process to make change, we're in favor of that,'" he said. "We're in favor of the democratic process. But as a caveat, we're in favor of it working based on all the facts."

Sweetin said the $10,000 the committee has to spend came from private donations, including some from agents' own accounts. He said the DEA isn't trying to "protect Coloradans from themselves" but that the agency is the expert when it comes to drugs.

"The American taxpayer does have a right to have the people they've paid to become experts in this business tell them what this is going to do," he said. "They should benefit from this expertise."

That argument threatens states' rights to make their own laws, says Safer's Fox.

"By this logic, federal funds could be used by the executive branch without limitation to campaign for or against state ballot initiatives," he said. "Our federalist system is based on the notion that states can establish their own laws without federal interference. The DEA ... is thumbing its nose at the citizens of Colorado and the U.S. Constitution."

State and federal law take different approaches to whether government employees should be allowed to mix work and politics.

Colorado law prohibits state employees from advocating for or against any political issue while on the job, and also bars those employees from using government resources � including phone and e-mail accounts � for any kind of political advocacy.

But federal law � which governs what DEA agents can do � is different.

The Hatch Act, passed in 1939 and amended in 1993, governs most political speech. Passed in the wake of patronage scandals in which the party in power would use government money and staff to campaign against the opposition, the law is mostly aimed at partisan political activity, said Ken Bickers, a University of Colorado political science professor.

While the act's prohibitions against on-the-job partisan politicking are strict, for the most part it allows federal employees to take part in non-partisan politics. And it's mostly silent on non-partisan ballot measures.

"I'm not sure that this doesn't slide through the cracks in the Hatch Act," Bickers said. "The Hatch Act isn't about political activity � it's about partisan political activity. Since this is a ballot initiative, and there's no party affiliation attached to it, that part of the Hatch Act probably wouldn't be violated."

An official from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with investigating violations of the act, said in a statement last week that the DEA hasn't run afoul of Hatch.

In Brazil Cocaine and Marijuana Won't Land You in Jail Anymore

The use of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy is quite widespread in Brazil mainly in the larger cities where there is plenty of the product coming from the favelas (shantytowns).

Thanks to a new law, however, drug users, differently from drug traffickers, will not be sent to jail anymore. The new legislation specify that, although still illegal, Brazilians can "acquire, keep, store, transport or carry drugs for personal consumption," without the fear of being arrested for that.

The law establishes that individuals are allowed to carry "small quantities" of drug, but leaves to the discretion of the judge or policeman how much is small.

Anyone found by police with drugs for personal use will not be detained only having to sign a paper where he agrees to report for sentencing in a future date.

At the same time the law, which was signed by Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, increases from three to five years the minimum prison term for people caught selling drugs.

Drug users who are caught, on the other hand, from now on will face "social educational" sentences, which include community service and courses dealing with the ills of drugs. Those who refuse to meet the new requirements might still have to pay a fine determined by a judge.

As Paulo Roberto Uchoa, Brazil's Anti-drug Secretary puts it, "from now on drug users will no longer be persecuted by society."

While drug user will be sent to special criminal judges, traffickers will still face common criminal courts.

The maximum prison term remains 15 years for drug dealers. For the drug lords or those who finance the drug business, however, the penalty goes from a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 20 years in jail.

The new law of number 11,343 also creates the Sisnad (National System of Public Policies on Drugs) and goes into force on October 8.

The new legislation will bring extra load to the already overworked national Unified Health System (SUS). The service will have to meet the challenge of finding room to treat a wider number of drug users and drug addicts. The SUS is not prepared for such a task.

According to Pedro Gabriel Delgado, the national coordinator for the Health Ministry's Mental Health service, Brazil today has only 115 centers ready to assist people with drug and alcohol addiction and this is not enough to deal with the extra cases entering the system very soon.

Pensioners find carefully tended 'weed' is marijuana

Two elderly homeowners have said they had no idea what the carefully tended plant in their drive was until a passing policeman told them it was marijuana.

The two, who live in a retirement community two hours north of Pheonix, Arizona, told officers they thought the plant was just an "attractive weed", and they had been watering it because "it looked so nice".

Nonetheless, they were questioned by police after the five-foot-tall marijuana plant was spotted growing between their driveways in the housing development.

The plant was confiscated, and the residents were asked to call police if other "attractive weeds" popped up.

The Czars' Reefer Madness

Arjan Roskam, the creator of the award-winning marijuana blend named "Arjan's Haze," has dozens of pictures of celebrity visitors on the wall of his coffee shop in Amsterdam. He's got Eminem, Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys, Mike Tyson -- but so far, unfortunately, not a single White House drug czar.

The czars have preferred to criticize from afar. In the past, they've called Dutch drug policy "an unmitigated disaster," bemoaning Amsterdam's "stoned zombies" and its streets cluttered with "junkies." Anti-pot passion has only increased in the Bush administration, which has made it a priority to combat marijuana.

More than half a million Americans are arrested annually for possessing it. The Bush administration can't even abide it being used for medical purposes by the terminally ill. Why risk having any of it fall into the hands of young people who could turn into potheads, crack addicts and junkies?

But if America's drug warriors came here, they would learn something even if they didn't sample any of the dozens of varieties of marijuana sold legally in specially licensed coffee shops. They could see that the patrons puffing on joints generally don't look any more zombielike than the crowd at an American bar -- or, for that matter, a Congressional subcommittee listening to a lecture on the evils of marijuana.

And if they talked to Peter Cohen, a Dutch researcher who has been studying drug use for a quarter-century, they would discover something even more disorienting. Even though marijuana has been widely available since the 1970's, enough to corrupt a couple of generations, the Netherlands has not succumbed to reefer madness.

The Dutch generally use drugs less than Americans do, according to national surveys in both countries (and these surveys might understate Americans' drug usage, since respondents are less likely to admit illegal behavior). More Americans than Dutch reported having tried marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Among teenagers who'd tried marijuana, Americans were more likely to be regular users.

In a comparison of Amsterdam with another liberal port city, San Francisco, Cohen and other researchers found that people in San Francisco were nearly twice as likely to have tried marijuana. Cohen isn't sure exactly what cultural and economic factors account for the different usage patterns in America and the Netherlands, but he's confident he can rule out one explanation.

"Drug policy is irrelevant," says Cohen, the former director of the Center for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam. It's quite logical, he says, to theorize that outlawing drugs would have an impact, but experience shows otherwise, both in America and in some European countries with stricter laws than the Netherlands but no less drug use.

The good news about drugs, Cohen says, is that the differences among countries aren't all that important -- levels of addiction are generally low in America as well as in Europe. The bad news is that the occasional drug fad get hyped into a crisis that leads to bad laws.

"Prohibition does not reduce drug use, but it does have other impacts," he says. "It takes up an enormous amount of police time and generates large possibilities for criminal income."

In the Netherlands, that income goes instead to coffee-shop owners and to the government, which exacts heavy taxes. It also imposes strict regulations on what goes on in the coffee shop, including who can be served ( no minors ) and how much can be sold ( five grams to a customer ). Any unruly behavior or public disturbances can quickly close down a shop.

To avoid problems at the Green House, Roskam has closed-circuit cameras and a staff that urges novices to stick with small doses, and to protect their lungs by taking hits from a vaporizer. Unlike street buyers in America, customers know exactly what strength they're getting, which is especially useful for the hundreds of people with multiple sclerosis and other ailments who use his marijuana medicinally.

Roskam sneers at the street products in the United States, which he considers overpriced and badly blended. But he acknowledges there's one feature in the American market he can't compete with.

"Drugs are just less interesting here," he said. "One of my best friends here never smoked cannabis, never wanted to even try my products. Then when she was 32 she went to America on holiday and smoked for the first time. I asked her why, and she said: 'It was more fun over there. It was illegal.' "

$1Bn+ Anti-Drug Effort Ineffective

A Government Accountability Office probe of the White House's anti-drug media campaign has found that the $1 billion-plus spent on the effort so far has not been effective in reducing teen drug use.

The report recommends that Congress limit funding until the Office of National Drug Control Policy "provides credible evidence of a media campaign approach that effectively prevents and curtails youth drug use."

The report comes at a time when Congress is poised to take up the anti-drug media campaign budget when it returns from its recess. The campaign's current budget is $99 million, the lowest since the effort began in 1998. ONDCP has asked for $120 million next year. The Senate agrees with that amount, but the House has recommended $100,000.

The GAO report examined the Westat survey, named after the Rockville, Md., research firm that was awarded the contract in 1998 to evaluate the campaign. Since then, the government has spent $42 million on a survey that has been a constant thorn in ONDCP's side because critics argue that it uses a flawed methodology. The survey has concluded that the campaign raises awareness among parents but has done little to alter teen drug use.

Critics charge that Westat did not start measuring the campaign's effectiveness until nearly 18 months after the launch, so the baseline is off. Westat once reported that the campaign contributed to an increase in marijuana use among teenage girls, a finding that captured media attention. When the campaign changed its target audience and creative was directed at 11- to 15-year-olds, Westat continued to measure the previous demo of 9- to 11-year-olds and was unable to measure the new target.

In a five-page response to the GAO report, drug czar John Walters questions the validity of the Westat measurement tool because it seeks to directly prove that advertising caused teens to stop using drugs. "Establishing a causal relationship between exposure and outcomes is something major marketers rarely attempt because it is virtually impossible to do," Walters wrote. "This is one reason why the 'Truth' anti-tobacco advertising campaign, acclaimed as a successful initiative in view of the significant declines we've seen in teen smoking, did not claim to prove a causal relationship between campaign exposure and smoking outcomes, reporting instead that the campaign was associated with substantial declines in youth smoking."

Nancy Kingsbury, the GAO's managing director of applied research methods, said Walters raised a valid point. "It is a really tough social science question to answer and we understand that," she said. "What puzzles us is that when the [Westat] contract was first put in place, ONDCP got a lot of political capital out of the fact that they had an evaluation. But it's just that it did not come out the way they wanted. I still give them credit for doing it. It is the right thing to do."

Kingsbury said Westat has done work in the past for GAO, but that those contracts were in separate divisions that had nothing to do with its current report. Westat handled a $1.6 million contract for GAO from 1997-99 evaluating Medicare and a $534,000 hospital survey done in 2004-05.

ONDCP has been in a no-win situation since the GAO probe began, which followed the convictions of two top agency officials for overbilling the government on the campaign. As one observer put it at the time the probe was launched, "If the GAO finds that Westat is a piece of crap, then ONDCP has wasted $42 million. If the report says Westat has somehow found the holy grail of advertising cause and effect, then the campaign is not working by that measure."

ONDCP representative Tom Riley points to independent studies showing that teen drug use has declined by 19 percent. "Everybody who follows this issue acknowledges the campaign's role in those great results," he said. "Evaluation is important to us. The most telling statistic is that adult drug use has not appreciably changed while teen drug use [the target of the campaign] has gone down dramatically. I think that's the definition of successful advertising."

Stephen Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which coordinates creative on the campaign through 40 agencies, said the GAO probe provides no new learning for the campaign. "There is nothing you can do with this study to change the campaign," he said. "There is no learning here because it seeks to prove something you can't prove. The campaign was never meant to be this kind of a silver bullet."

The recent GAO report was prompted by a request from Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., to examine all of the contracts that were part of the media campaign, including ads, public relations and evaluation.

Riley said that what matters in the end is balancing the kind of messages teens hear. "Teens are saturated with pro drug messages from rap music, from movies and from other teens around them," he said. "The campaign is the only national source of anti-drug messages and it is vital to continue funding it."

Suspects Say Pot Is Part of Faith

An Arizona couple who claim marijuana as deity and sacrament— as well as food, shelter and medicine— staked their religious freedom claim this week in federal court in Albuquerque.

Danuel and Mary Quaintance of Pima, Ariz., were arrested in February in Lordsburg with 172 pounds of marijuana in a car driven by another church member who has subsequently turned state's witness. Mary Quaintance's brother was subsequently arrested in Missouri with 300 pounds of marijuana and was joined as a fourth defendant in the case.

The Quaintances are charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilos of marijuana, which could mean substantial prison time upon conviction. The U.S. Attorney's Office contends the Quaintances are attempting to use religion as a cover for a drug organization.

The Quaintances say they have a right to cannabis as the central focus of the religion they co-founded, a diffuse, decentralized group of perhaps 130 adherents nationwide called the Church of Cognizance that functions primarily through "individual orthodox member monasteries." In support of their legal position, they point to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in another New Mexico case, O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, or UDV. The 130 or so North American practitioners of that religion, many in Santa Fe, use a hallucinogenic tea called hoasca.

Over three days of hearings in the Quaintances' criminal case, U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera heard testimony from a Berkeley-trained anthropologist, a Zoroastrian priest and the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, who is the former sheriff in the county where the Quaintances live and is also a Mormon.

A Sincere Practice
The defense filed a motion to dismiss, saying the Quaintances' use of cannabis is a sincere religious practice.

Danuel Quaintance founded the Church of Cognizance in 1991 and registered it as a religious organization in Arizona in 1994.

The religion, he testified, is based on his own research and interpretation of religious texts and is a form of neo-Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that holds sacred a drink made from a mountain plant called haoma. The plant, the drink and the god are the same in the teachings of Zoroaster. The Quaintances believe that cannabis, hemp or marijuana is haoma.

Deborah Pruitt, a cultural anthropologist and college professor in Oakland, Calif., who conducted doctoral work with Rastafarians in Jamaica, testified as the defense expert. She distinguished "experiential" religions from faith-based religions that rely on institutionalized doctrine passed down through specialists.

Christian pentecostals, Wiccans, practitioners of voodoo and Sufi trance dancing as well as participants in the peyote rituals of the Native American Church or UDV members share characteristics of religions that rely on direct experience to make contact with spirits or deities, she said.

The use of psychoactive substances in religion is not unusual in regions of the world where they occur, she said. In those religions, the plants are typically referred to as teachers and healers.

Pruitt said new religious forms are typically viewed by mainstream groups as cults or charlatans that challenge mainstream religions, but are no less genuine.

'A Priceless Gift'
Prosecutors called as their expert a retired scientist and Zoroastrian priest born in India and living in Canada to testify about the tenets of his religion. Jehan Bagli, whose research area was medicinal chemistry, said he was ordained at age 13 in the Zoroastrian religion.

Bagli said haoma in the ancient Zoroastrian tradition was a deity and plant that scholars believe may have had hallucinogenic properties.

But he said different plants were employed over the centuries and at present, "We have no knowledge what that plant was."

In present-day Zoroastrian ceremonies, he said, "the mind is considered a priceless gift. Any mind-altering substances are abusing that gift of god and would not be accepted."

Herrera said she would accept written arguments and review documents and transcripts before deciding whether to dismiss charges based on the Quaintances' assertion of their right to freely exercise their religion.

Marc Robert, attorney for Danuel Quaintance, will make the case that Quaintance is "a spiritual man who has followed his religious beliefs and practices at great personal risk."

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luis Martinez and Amanda Gould will argue that the defendants are drawing from "a hodgepodge of unsupported speculations for most of their assertions... in an effort to cloak themselves in a religious mantel."

If Herrera finds that the Quaintances are sincere religious practitioners, prosecutors will be required to show that there is "compelling government interest" in burdening religion by barring use of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Meanwhile, the Quaintances are free on bond and conditions that include not using cannabis while the case is pending.

Fundamentalists Flog Somali Woman In Public For Cannabis

Islamic leaders in Mogadishu gave a woman 11 lashes for selling cannabis Thursday, the first female to receive such punishment since the fundamentalist rulers took over the capital in June.

The woman, who throughout the beating insisted she was innocent, was flogged alongside five other men at the Yassin Square in Mogadishu in front of several hundred people. The small bundle of cannabis, worth around $1 on the streets in the capital, was burned before the crowd.

"The reason we punished them was that we want to stop people selling and using drugs," said a local security official, Sheik Omar Hussein. "We believe as Islamists that people should stay away from drugs."

The imposition of strict religious rule has sparked fears of an emerging, Taliban-style regime. The United States accuses Somalia's Islamic leaders of harboring al Qaeda leaders responsible for deadly bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Somalia has not had a police force or judiciary for 16 years since the warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law.

The Islamic leaders stepped into the vacuum in Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia, projecting themselves as a source of stability.

Late Tuesday, Islamic militiamen raided a makeshift video hall in Mogadishu, beating up viewers watching an Indian film. Like the Taliban, members of the group appear to see any secular entertainment as un-Islamic.

Somalia has a weak transitional government set up two years ago with U.N.-backing, but it has been unable to assert its authority beyond Baidoa, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Mogadishu, and could only watch helplessly as Islamic militants seized the capital in June.

Lies Our Drug Warriors Told Us

The reporters made their way through the dim lights and small huts of Virginia City's Chinatown. In the huts, one of the reporters later wrote, "A lamp sits on the bed, the length of the long pipe-stem from the smoker's mouth; he puts a pellet of opium on the end of a wire, sets it on fire, and plasters it into the pipe much as a Christian would fill a hole with putty; then he applies the bowl to the lamp and proceeds to smoke--and the stewing and frying of the drug and the gurgling of the juices in the stem would well nigh turn the stomach of a statue. John likes it, though; it soothes him, he takes about two dozen whiffs, and then rolls over to dream."

The reporter, Mark Twain, whose Victorian sensibilities made him uncomfortable when faced with the scenes in Chinatown, nevertheless was one reporter who did not use his coverage of opium use to demonize the Chinese. Others were less principled. They set the pattern of much of the news coverage of drug use that followed in the next century and a half.

The Comstock journalists produced racist and inaccurate news coverage that relied on uninformed sources (law enforcement instead of physicians), inflamed the people of the town, and produced the nation's first anti-drug law, an ordinance banning opium smoking within Virginia City, enacted on Sept. 12, 1876. The local politicians, discovering that fear of drugs and minorities sold, were just as irresponsible, blaming everything from poor sanitation to child molestation on Chinese drug "fiends." When the local prohibition ordinance failed, they pushed for a statewide law which failed (and, of course, would be followed by national laws that failed).

The entire ineffectual template of the drug war with which we live today was established there in Virginia City--journalists who gave short shrift to science and health-care professionals in favor of treating politicians and law enforcers as drug experts in lurid and exploitive news coverage; politicians who exploited legitimate concern to promote race hatred and reelection; law enforcers who confused cause with effect and exploited public anxiety to promote punitive laws; and all three who treated prohibition as a solution: "Let severe measures be adopted and the sale of the drug will soon be suppressed!" observed a Nye County newspaper. The nation has been chasing that siren's song ever since.

A century later, Reno physician Wesley Hall was the president-elect of the American Medical Association. On April 2, 1970, he used the forum provided by his new stature to announce that in June, the AMA would release a study showing that marijuana deadened the sex drive and caused birth defects. The statement caused a flap, but no such study was ever released. A few weeks later, Hall claimed he had been misquoted but also claimed that he had not bothered to correct the record because "it does some good." By then, correcting the record did no good--Hall's comments kept getting cited and quoted until experience and the passing years showed their falsity.

Over the course of the war on drugs that began in Virginia City and accelerated decade by decade, such lying became an indispensable weapon of that war. The lies sometimes took the form of outright falsehoods. At other times, they took the form of letting errors stand uncorrected or leaving out essential information. Drug warriors--whether journalists, politicians, police or public employees--need lies because the drug war can't be sustained without them. Lies are the foundation of the drug war, and the five listed here are the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more, and they are relevant to a marijuana measure that will appear on this year's Nevada ballot.

1. Gateway Drugs
In the early 20th century, Dr. Charles Towns was a leading public figure and drug "expert," operator of the Towns Hospital in New York. He propounded a theory that would have a long life--that some drugs "lead" to harder drugs. "The tobacco user is in the wrong," he wrote. "It undermines his nervous strength. It blunts the edge of his mind. It gives him 'off-days,' when he doesn't feel up to his work. It always precedes alcoholism and drug addiction. I've never had a drug case or an alcoholic case (excepting a few women) that didn't have a history of excessive smoking. Inhaling tobacco is just as injurious as moderate opium smoking."

The gateway theory evolved until baby boomers raised in the 1950s on "marijuana leads to harder stuff" learned its falsity from personal experience in the 1960s. If that experience and the findings of science were not enough, there was practical evidence that some drugs actually functioned as barrier drugs, not gateway drugs. Whenever mild drugs were removed as a barrier, harder drugs came into use. In 1910, Congress received data showing that during a period of alcohol prohibition in New England, morphine use jumped by 150 percent. In 1968, a Johnson administration crackdown on marijuana in Vietnam reduced supply and provoked an upsurge in heroin use. In 1969 in California, a six-day Nixon administration crackdown on the Mexican border dried up marijuana supplies and filled heath-care facilities with a flood of heroin cases. California physician David Smith told Newsweek, "The government line is that the use of marijuana leads to more dangerous drugs. The fact is that the lack of marijuana leads to more dangerous drugs."

The gateway theory went into decline after such experiences but always made a comeback because drug war dogma requires it. Today it is back, alive and well.

And as it turned out, "Doctor" Towns was a quack--a failed insurance salesman who was not a physician and peddled a bogus "cure" for drug addiction.

2. Marijuana’s Not Medicine
Today, we're accustomed to medical experts like Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick denying that marijuana is medicine (Gammick: "I didn't support medical marijuana because it doesn't exist."), but in 1937, it was a novel argument, since marijuana was universally acknowledged as a beneficial medicine. It was listed in the American Medical Association's Pharmacopeia (list of approved medications) and remained there even after being made illegal until federal officials brought pressure on the AMA. (It is still in the British Pharmacopeia.)

What may have been the first time this lie was told was a key moment in the drug wars. Congress was considering legislation that year to outlaw non-medicinal marijuana at the behest of the lumber and liquor lobbies and fueled by newspaper hysteria over marijuana. By continuing to protect physicians' use of the drug, Congress recognized its medical value.

Though there was an exception in the bill for physicians, the medical community was still concerned about the restrictions. There was apparently an effort to slip the ban through Congress quietly, but AMA lobbyist William C. Woodward found out about a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the bill and showed up to demand actual evidence of the danger of the drug instead of the anecdotal newspaper horror stories to which the committee had been listening: "It has surprised me, however, that the facts on which these statements have been based have not been brought before this committee by competent primary evidence. We are referred to newspaper publications concerning the prevalence of marijuana addiction. We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. An informed inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point. You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children's Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children."

The committee members tore into Woodward spitefully, giving him the kind of grilling they did not give to drug warriors.

One member told Woodward, "We know that it is a habit that is spreading, particularly among youngsters. ... The number of victims is increasing each year." Woodward replied, "There is no evidence of that." He kept insisting on evidence instead of hearsay.

The committee ended Woodward's testimony without thanking him or even formally ending his testimony, brusquely calling the next witness.

One of those present at that hearing was U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson of Georgia. When the marijuana ban reached the House floor on June 10, 1937, he was the floor manager. To give some idea of the care with which the bill was enacted and the depth of knowledge from which lawmakers were working, there was this exchange:

U.S. Rep. Bertrand Snell of New York: "What is the bill?"

U.S. Rep. Sam Rayburn of Texas: "It has something to do with something that is called marijuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind."

Vinson: "Marijuana is the same as hashish."

Snell: "Mr. Speaker, I am not going to object, but I think it is wrong to consider legislation of this character at this time of night."

Then came a question that led to the lie whose consequences are still with us. Snell asked, "Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?"

The response fell to Vinson. A truthful answer might well derail the bill. Future chief justice of the United States Vinson stood and lied: "Their Doctor Wentworth [sic] came down here. They support this bill one hundred percent."

The bill was approved.

3. Crack Babies
The report went on the air at 5:34:50 p.m. on Sept. 11, 1985, with an on-screen headline of "Cocaine and pregnant mothers." In 1 minute and 50 seconds, Susan Spencer of CBS ignited an inflammatory national myth--the crack baby. Footage of a screaming and trembling baby going through withdrawal after supposedly being born to a mother who used cocaine was backed by interviews with physicians Ira Chasnoff and Sidney Schnoll. Chasnoff had just published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that had caught Spencer's eye and prompted the report. Spencer ended the report with the lines, "The message is clear. If you are pregnant and using cocaine, stop."

University of Michigan scholars Richard Campbell and Jimmie Reeves have tracked the events which followed. As other reporters and media chased the story, it evolved. Spencer's report was a health warning. By the time her CBS colleague Terry Drinkwater and others recycled the story, it was an attack on the mothers (Washington Post: "The Worst Threat Is Mom Herself"). As the firestorm built, politicians and others got involved, and the babies themselves were demonized. A judge called them "tomorrow's delinquents," and Democratic U.S. Rep. George Miller of California said, "We are going to have these children, who are the most expensive babies ever born in America, are going to overwhelm every social service delivery system that they come in contact with throughout the rest of their lives." Boston University President John Silber suggested the babies were soulless--"crack babies who won't ever achieve the intellectual development to have consciousness of God."

The drumbeat against the children became so fierce that a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association asked, "Why is there today such an urgency to label prenatally cocaine-exposed children as irremediably damaged?" And Emory University's Dr. Claire Coles said of the "crack baby" label, "If a child comes to kindergarten with that label, they're dead. They are very likely to fulfill the worst prophecies."

Hospitals started threatening to turn mothers over to police; prosecutors started charging mothers with child abuse. (The Nevada Legislature rejected a statute permitting such prosecutions, and when the Washoe sheriff tried to charge a mother anyway, the Nevada Supreme Court slapped it down.) One case--Ferguson v. City of Charleston--made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that hospitals had to stop testing for drugs without patient consent. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that the drug habits of white women were more likely to be overlooked by physicians or hospitals, while African Americans were reported to police.

And it was all built on a pile of sand.

Spencer, like most reporters, did not know how to read a scientific study, and the Chasnoff study was flawed. The study involved just 23 women, and its author himself called it inadequate.

Worse, according to former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum, who wrote an influential account of the drug war, physicians noticed something about video reports by Spencer and others that ordinary viewers--and the reporters themselves--missed. The trembling babies were exhibiting behavior that is not produced by cocaine. Being withdrawn from coke produces sleep, not the trembling and screaming shown in the sensational reports. Baum wrote, "It dawned on [Dr. Claire] Coles that the TV crews were either mixed up or lying. They were filming infants suffering heroin withdrawal and calling them 'cocaine babies.' "

Moreover, the physicians also felt that drugs were not the cause of the problems being attributed to the babies. Lack of nutrition and health care during pregnancy were. A Florida report noted, "In the end, it is safer for the baby to be born to a drug-using, anemic, or diabetic mother who visits the doctor throughout her pregnancy than to be born to a normal woman who does not."

This is a page from the 1909 list of medicines approved by the American Medical Association. The AMA kept marijuana on the list into the 1940s, after it was an illegal substance, but finally was pressured by federal drug warriors into removing it from the list.

The controversy arose at a time when both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and President Reagan had sliced apart the "safety net" that had long existed for poor families. By 1985, prenatal care and nutrition were less accessible. Federal deregulation of the insurance industry had cut low-income families loose from health insurance. Federally funded medical care had been slashed. While journalism had raced off after the mock cause of unhealthy babies, the real causes had received far less press scrutiny.

It was a case study of journalism taking a complex story and simplifying it into inflammatory and irresponsible coverage that made the problem worse. It is now pretty clear to experts and insiders what happened. But the damage is done. Today, there are 103,000 hits on Google for crack baby and 107,000 for crack babies.

4. Instant Addiction
The March 17, 1986, issue of Newsweek hit the newsstands on March 10. Newsweek has long served as the unofficial house organ of the drug war. That alliance has often suspended the critical faculties of its staff members. Never was that failing more dangerous than in that 1986 issue with its "Kids and Cocaine" cover story. Inside was an interview with Arnold Washton, operator of a drug hotline who was known for hyperbole--he had once told NBC that crack was a form of Russian roulette. In the Newsweek article he said, "There is no such thing as recreational use of crack. It is almost instantaneous addiction."

Newsweek did not bother checking the accuracy of the incendiary claim before publishing it. Instead, acting as stenographers instead of journalists, the magazine's editors printed it without a competing viewpoint.

The assertion shot through newsrooms around the nation with the speed of sound, and those newsrooms passed it along like carriers of a disease. And it was untrue. Dr. Herbert Kleber, perhaps the leading cocaine expert in the United States has said, "No drug is instantly addictive."

The claim was as potent in its effect as crack. Laws, fueled by the frenzy created by "instantly addicting" crack, were enacted. One of them, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, imposed lower penalties on powder cocaine (used mostly by whites) than on crack cocaine (used mostly by African Americans). In practice, whites tended to be diverted into treatment more than blacks. All four members of Congress from Nevada voted for the bill.

There were those who tried to brake the inflammatory news coverage. The Washington Journalism Review eventually ran a cover story quoting Peter Jennings saying that using crack "even once can make a person crave cocaine as long as they live." Existing research, the Review said, disproves that statement. But the piece didn't appear until 1990. The Columbia Journalism Review did not directly challenge the claim but did urge greater skepticism toward drug war claims.

It did little good. The belief in the instantly addicting qualities of cocaine has entered popular culture. "The crack cocaine of ..." joined "If we can put a man on the moon ..." as an indispensable phrase. There are 47,800 Google hits for it--"the crack cocaine of junk food," "the crack cocaine of gambling addiction," "the crack cocaine of sexaholics," and so on.

5. Marijuana’s Rising Potency
That distinguished medical expert, Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick, said on Sam Shad's television program, "This is not the marijuana that people used to roll and do a little doobie back at Haight-Ashbury and some of the other things that went on back 30, 40 years ago. This is 10 times stronger in THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] content."

This has become one of the most common new myths about marijuana. White House drug czar John Walters loves it and used it when he came to Reno and Las Vegas to campaign against a 2002 marijuana ballot measure. "What many people don't understand is that this is not your father's marijuana," he told the Washington Post in a story about the Nevada initiative. "What we're seeing now is much more potent." In fact, no reliable evidence substantiates Gammick's 10-times-stronger claim, much less Walters' 30-times-stronger claim.

What they leave out of their sales pitch are these little nuggets of information:

• The claims of higher potency are based on a 1960s study that used unusually low-potency marijuana for testing purposes.

• The Bush administration itself will not substantiate the Walters/Gammick-style claims about potency. The federal Potency Monitoring Project reports negligible fluctuations in potency over the years. The U.S. Department of Justice's "National Drug Threat Assessment" for 2005 said that higher potency marijuana is not marketable because it makes tokers sick--"more intense--and often unpleasant--effects of the drug leading them to seek medical intervention."

• Potency is a so-what issue--when marijuana is more potent, tokers smoke less.

Walters managed to combine two of the lies we listed here into a single sentence when, on one occasion, he talked about border smuggling of pot that he claimed was highly potent: "Canada is exporting to us the crack of marijuana." It's the kind of false statement that would have fit right into 1870s Virginia City.

Joint You Smoked Last Week May Come Back To Haunt You

In June 2003, an Athens County jury acquitted an Athens area woman of aggravated vehicular homicide in connection with a car crash that killed a Shade man.

A blood test allegedly showed that Farah Holter had chemical byproducts of recent cocaine use in her system at the time of the crash. Her attorney, however, using expert medical testimony, persuaded the jury that those byproducts, or "metabolites," were not impairing Holter's ability to drive.

Holter was convicted of only a misdemeanor charge of negligent manslaughter. If her case came up today, however, the outcome might be different.

Effective Aug. 17, the state of Ohio has made it a criminal offense to have certain levels of drug metabolites in your system, regardless of how impaired you may or may not be.

Police still aren't supposed to be able to order a blood or urine test without some evidence of impairment. But some observers worry that Senate Bill 8 will result in people being charged criminally for the lingering evidence of prior drug use.

"There are obviously going to be more cases," predicted K. Robert Toy, an Athens defense attorney who handles a fair amount of DUI cases. "I call this the Defense Attorney Relief Act of 2006."

According to a handout from Athens County Municipal Judge William Grim, including information from the Ohio Department of Health's Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Testing, S.B. 8 sets "per se" prohibited blood and urine levels for certain drugs.

In plain English, if you have the listed level of the drug in your system after last Thursday, you're breaking state law regardless of your impairment level.

Drugs cited in the law include marijuana and its metabolites. S.B. 8 sets illegal blood levels for marijuana (presumably its active ingredient THC), as well as two different levels for marijuana metabolites, which are breakdown products of THC that can show up in the blood long after the intoxicating effects of marijuana use have worn off.

Before S.B. 8, according to Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Colleen Flanagan, there were no defined illegal bodily levels in Ohio for many drugs of abuse, other than the 0.08 milligrams per decaliter of alcohol in the bloodstream that makes one legally drunk.

Therefore, she said, the presence of heroin or cocaine in a person's blood could be used as an aggravating factor in another crime, or as supporting evidence for a drug-possession charge, but wasn't itself a crime.

Toy said he supports keeping people who are high on marijuana out of the driver's seat. However, he said, it's known that marijuana metabolites linger in the bloodstream long after the high wears off, which could lead to people who are not impaired being punished for driving with something in their bodies that poses no threat to the public.

"You may be convicted of DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) without being impaired," he said. "That's the issue."

He added that while police officers are supposed to establish that a suspect is impaired before asking him to undergo blood or urine testing, in practice he believes officers will use very flexible standards for finding evidence of impairment.

As a defense attorney, Toy said, he has seen cases in which an officer testified that a suspect showed all six "clues" of being impaired during sobriety tests (follow a pen with your eyes, walk a straight line, stand on one leg, etc.)

"Then they give them a drug test and - guess what? They shouldn't have had six clues (based on their drug levels)," Toy said. The clear implication, he suggested, is that officers in the field sometimes see what they want to see in a field sobriety test, in order to justify a blood or urine test.

He noted that he has never seen a field sobriety test performed on videotape, though many police officers have video cameras on their cruisers to record vehicle stops.

Toy said he also worries that officers may seek blood and urine testing on people they think look like probable dope smokers.

"I see a lot of people bopping along wearing nose rings being stopped and given the test without evidence of impairment," he predicted.

Flanagan noted, however, that S.B. 8 doesn't criminalize the drugs it cites, because their use was already a criminal offense - it just wasn't illegal to have evidence of that use in your bloodstream.

"I would say, first of all, that all of these drugs would be illegal to use to start with," she said. She added that she would tend to trust the word of a police officer who reported that a suspect had shown evidence of impairment on a field sobriety test.

Flanagan said she believes S.B. 8 was needed. "I think it fills a gap," she said. As an example where the new law would be useful, she offered a scenario in which someone crashes a car, but is too injured to undergo a field sobriety test.

Blood samples taken at a hospital could be used to establish drug use by the suspect, which could then be used to support a criminal charge. Before S.B. 8, the presence of the drugs in the person's system alone would not have been the basis for a charge, she noted.

Flanagan pointed out that the new law also extends, from two hours to three hours after an alleged offense, the time period in which police can take a blood, urine, or breath sample for testing, which she said will also be a change welcome to law enforcement.

MJ Compound May Help Stop Diabetic Retinopathy

A compound found in marijuana won’t make you high but it may help keep your eyes healthy if you’re a diabetic, researchers say.

Early studies indicate cannabidiol works as a consummate multi-tasker to protect the eye from growing a plethora of leaky blood vessels, the hallmark of diabetic retinopathy, says Dr. Gregory I. Liou, molecular biologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

“We are studying the role of cannabinoid receptors in our body and trying to modulate them so we can defend against diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Liou says. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults and affects nearly 16 million Americans.

High glucose levels resulting from unmanaged diabetes set in motion a cascade ultimately causing the oxygen-deprived retina to grow more blood vessels. Ironically, the leaky surplus of vessels can ultimately destroy vision.

Dr. Liou, who recently received a $300,000 grant from the American Diabetes Association, wants to intervene earlier in the process, as healthy relationships inside the retina first start to go bad.

Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body and endogenous cannabinoids are produced to act on them. “Their function is very different from organ to organ but in the central nervous system, cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the neutralization process that should occur after a nerve impulse is finished,” says Dr. Liou.

Nerves come together at a point of communication called a synapse. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that excites these nerves to action at their point of communication. “There are also inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA,” Dr. Liou says. Endogenous cannabinoids help balance the excitation and inhibition, at least until oxygen gets scarce.

In the face of inadequate oxygen, or ischemia – another hallmark of diabetes – nerve endings start producing even more glutamate, setting in motion an unhealthy chain of events. Pumps that keep the right substances inside or outside of cells start to malfunction. Excess nitric oxide and superoxides are produced, which are toxic to the cells. Another irony is the heightened activity increases the retina’s need for oxygen. “We are talking about nerve cell death,” Dr. Liou says. “In the retina, if a lot of our nerve cells die, our vision is directly affected.”

And that’s not all that goes wrong in the nerve-packed retina. Nearby microglial cells, which can function as cell-eating scavengers in the body, sense something is going wrong with the nerve cells, become activated and start an inflammatory process that can be fatal to nerve cells.

Interestingly, the body starts producing more endogenous cannabinoids to stop glutamate release, then produces an enzyme to destroy the cannabinoids to keep them from continuing to accumulate. The same thing happens in the brain after a stroke.

That’s why cannabidiol, an antioxidant, may help save the retina. Test-tube studies by others, as well as Dr. Liou’s pilot studies in diabetic animal models show cannabidiol works to interrupt essentially all these destructive points of action.

“What we believe cannabidiol does is go in here as an antioxidant to neutralize the toxic superoxides. Number two, it inhibits the self-destructive system and allows the self-produced endogenous cannabinoids to stay there longer by inhibiting the enzyme that destroys them.” Cannabidiol also helps keep microglial cells from turning on nerve cells by inhibiting cannabinoid receptors on microglial cells that are at least partially responsible for their ability to destroy the cells.

“Cannabinoids are trying to ease the situation on both sides. They help save the neuron and, at the same time, make sure the microglial cells don’t become activated. How good do you want a drug to be?” Dr. Liou says.

His earliest studies in animal models, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Pathology, indicate it may be very good.

Co-authors on the study include Dr. Azza B. El-Remessy, MCG Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; Drs. Mohamed Al-Shabrawey, Nai-Tse Tsai and Ruth B. Caldwell, MCG Vascular Biology Center; and Dr. Yousuf Khalifa, MCG Department of Ophthalmology.

“We are very pleased,” he says of studies in which cannabidiol is injected into diabetic rats and mice.

70% Of Erratic Drivers On Drugs

It is reported that 70% of erratic drivers stopped by gardaí are under the influence of some kind of drug.

A report in this morning's Irish Independent quotes from a document drawn up by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. It found that most of those stopped had not consumed alcohol but had smoked cannabis or taken prescribed medicine.

The study found that six out of ten men were experiencing the effects of cannabis and that many middle-aged men were driving while on legally prescribed anti-depressants.

Many of the tested drivers had a combination of high alcohol levels together with drugs in their systems.

The report recommends the introduction of education and awareness programmes.

The Road Safety Authority is said to have seen the study and is now in the process of drawing up a new strategy to combat the problem.

News of the report's contents follows the introduction of measures to help the gardaí deal with drivers who break the law.


Brazilians Reject Marijuana Legalization

Many adults in Brazil believe cannabis should remain illegal, according to a poll by Datafolha published in Folha de Sao Paulo. 79 per cent of respondents think smoking marijuana should remain a crime.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) annual World Drug Report, marijuana remains the most widely consumed drug in the planet.

A 2001 UNODC report stated that one per cent of Brazilians between the ages of 12 and 64 consumes marijuana at least once a year. In 2004, the percentage of marijuana users between the ages of 10 and 18 years in the South American country fell to 6.4 per cent, from a high of 7.6 per cent in 1997.

In June 2005, Brazilian culture minister Gilberto Gil revealed that he smoked marijuana for years, adding, "I believe that drugs should be treated like pharmaceuticals, legalized, although under the same regulations and monitoring as medicines."

Drugs and corruption are rife in our prisons. We must clean them up

'Thank goodness the Obscene Publications Squad has gone,' sighed a fraught Mr Justice Mars-Jones in 1976 as he sent down Detective Chief Inspector George Fenwick and four of his colleagues for taking bribes from Soho pornographers. 'I fear the damage you have done may be with us for a long time.'

The kickbacks to a squad that ran a protection racket for the dirty-book trade were part of a wider pattern of corruption whose exposure forced the prosecution, dismissal or early retirement of almost 400 Metropolitan Police officers. It stands as a warning against nostalgically romanticising the rectitude of the British public servant. But there is an equal and opposite danger of underestimating it. Whatever other vices people expect to encounter when they deal with the British state - obscurantism, profligacy, political correctness, pettiness, stupidity and sloth - they don't expect corruption. This isn't Nigeria, or even Italy. The overwhelming majority of British citizens never pays bribes and would be astonished if officials demanded money from them. We remember Fenwick and his 'dirty squad' because proven cases of corruption are so rare.

I wonder if that is changing, particularly in the prison service. Last week, the governor of Pentonville suspended 14 officers because of supposedly 'inappropriate relations with prisoners'. They face allegations that they ran a smuggling ring which brought drugs and mobile phones into the jail. A few days before, a leaked report from a joint police and prison anti-corruption unit estimated that there were 1,000 bent prison officers. It quoted one unnamed governor as saying: 'Here corruption is endemic... I have identified over 20 corrupt staff, but there may be more.' A second said: 'I currently have 10 corrupt staff and am managing the threat they pose to my prison - positive mandatory drug testing figures are over 20 per cent, so it must be staff bringing in drugs.'

I know of governors who worry that drug cartels are ordering gang members with clean records to apply for jobs in their jails. You can see why they would want them on the inside. There's a captive market - 70 per cent of prisoners used drugs before they were convicted - and, in accordance with market economics, prices reflect scarcity value and are far higher than on the outside.

The thing to say at this point would be that the jails are in crisis and criminals are taking advantage of the chaos. It is true that prisons are close to bursting and, in areas of full employment, it is also hard to find recruits to work in an unappealing job for an unattractive salary. Most are on around £22,000. Absurdly, while probation officers receive two years of training, prison officers are given a mere six weeks. Underpaid and underprepared, they are put alongside criminals who are experts in arts of corruption. What do you expect?

But if you read the reports of Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, you find that most jails are coping with overcrowding surprisingly well. There are horror stories. Her account of Rye Hill Prison near Rugby can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end as you try to imagine what it would like to be abandoned in a hellhole where mothers complain that their sons aren't safe because the frightened guards are bullied into submission by the most belligerent prisoners.

Rye Hill is a private prison, however. Owers has not produced reports about inexperienced staff in public-sector prisons 'surviving by ignoring misbehaviour or evidence of illicit possessions'. On the contrary, most jails take contraband very seriously - which may be the problem.

Twenty years ago, the authorities reasoned that dope kept potentially violent men quiet. The smell of cannabis seeping from the cells could all but knock you out. Now, inmates are subject to random drug tests and their visitors to intrusive searches. A woman smoking cannabis on the outside gets little more than a slap on the wrist. If she is caught smuggling it in for her jailed partner, she is treated as a supplier and faces being jailed herself.

This tough stance has pushed up the price of drugs on the inside and made corruption of officers the best way to bring goods to a lucrative market. A cartel that can get sales reps on the inside enjoys a huge commercial advantage. Determination to stop visitors smuggling in drugs has, in effect, crippled the competition.

Operation Countryman stopped the corruption of the Met in the Seventies. Sir Robert Mark, the commissioner at the time, realised that only officers from outside his force would have the independence to go for bent London coppers. The prison service and the immigration service, being hit by similar scandals, need outsiders to take a hard look at them now. Investigators should be free to operate without the knowledge or approval of governors or Home Office managers and follow up leads without fear of the consequences. There are British traditions that are worth defending, and clean government is one of them.

Moroccan Hashish Linked To Terrorism

Like many in this hardscrabble region, Abdurahman and his family are near-destitute people who possess vast riches. Their cinderblock farmhouse, clinging to the stony slopes of northern Morocco's Rif Mountains, is as empty as an abandoned bunker, but a closer look at their lands reveals an illicit bounty.

On the surrounding mountainsides, emerald swaths of cannabis mature under the Mediterranean sun. Abdurahman has laid out bundles of it to dry on the roof. After a few days, he will take the cannabis inside, where it will dry for a month before the resin is extracted and molded into 200-gram bricks of hashish.

Morocco is the world's largest producer of hashish, but the crop that sustains the Rif is feeding more than European drug appetites -- authorities fear drug gangs fund the Islamic terrorism that has struck European cities.

Small sales of Moroccan hash "almost exclusively" paid for the Madrid train bombings in March 2004 by the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, known by its French acronym, GICM, said a U.S. military official familiar with the region.

Drugs and terror have become so intertwined, the official said, that "every time someone smokes hashish anywhere in Europe, they are funding the GICM." He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.


The terror link is causing Moroccan authorities to crack down on hashish growers. Since last year, Morocco, bowing to European pressure, has been razing fields in the Rif's outlying areas. With this year's harvest under way, the sweep has farmers alarmed.

Cannabis, illegal in Morocco but widely tolerated in the Rif, is the only crop that grows well in the stony soil, said Abdurahman, who would not give his last name. Farmers who have tried other crops have ended up losing money.

Some 96,000 Moroccan families like Abdurahman's, mostly in the Rif and surrounding regions, are involved in its production, according to a United Nations drug report.

The estimated yearly turnover of Morocco's hashish trade is $13 billion. Western European countries consume most of the estimated 98,000 tons of hashish produced in Morocco each year, UN figures say.

Farmers in the Rif say their best customers are the European tourists who swing through in search of a cheap high in a lovely setting.

"It's thanks to the Europeans, and their good prices, that we live," said one farmer, standing at the roadside next to his field to flag down possible customers.

But French and U.S. authorities say the bulk of Morocco's hash is sold cut-rate to Moroccan smuggling networks based in Europe, some of whom have ties to Islamic terror.

Last year, the government of neighboring Larache province piloted a program to eradicate cannabis fields, giving their owners amnesty and providing them substitutes like olive trees or goats. But farmers are more concerned with putting food on their tables. Eighteen percent refused replacement crops and replanted their more lucrative cannabis.

Fables, Fictions, And Reefer Madness

Re: Greenades, Marijuana Gumballs, Identified by Maryland Police, Used by High School Students

It was astounding to see Narconon Arrowhead making the claim that "Most experts agree that there is enough THC (the active chemical in marijuana) in one gram of high grade marijuana to produce a lethal overdose that could result in death if swallowed by a toddler." Astounding because marijuana is the least toxic active drug known to man.

Claims that eating marijuana can cause death by a THC overdose are utterly false because raw marijuana contains very little active THC. Raw marijuana contains THC acids and precursor compounds that must be converted to neutral THC by heating or extracting with alcohol to have any effect. This does not happen when marijuana is ingested without cooking. It is utterly impossible to cause a fatal THC reaction eating raw marijuana.

THC itself has no known toxic dose. Not one peer reviewed study agrees that one-gram of pure THC could cause death if swallowed by a toddler, let alone eating a gram of marijuana containing very little active THC.

DEA and FDA approval of moving Marinol (THC and sesame oil) from Schedule II to Schedule III as a safe and effective substance for medical use with a lower potential for abuse than the drugs in schedules I and II contradicts the simultaneous claim that THC in marijuana is very dangerous and must remain a Schedule I substance along with Heroin. The research for rescheduling Marinol did not find any lethal dose for THC demolishing claims of THC toxicity.

Marinol's Schedule III listing contradicts all claims that the THC in marijuana should be a Schedule I substance. Incidentally, the sesame oil in Marinol is far more toxic than the THC!

This is the hypocrisy and pure fraud that Narconon Arrowhead seeks to abet and imitate.

Researchers have great difficulty determining the lethal dose for marijuana because the sheer volume of plant material required causes death long before a toxic reaction can occur. A deadly dose of marijuana would require eating hundreds of pounds of cooked marijuana in a few minutes. Even a toddler would have to consume several hundred pounds of pre-cooked cannabis to have a lethal reaction. Consuming so much marijuana or anything else would cause death by choking.

DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young found that a lethal dose of marijuana would require an adult to smoke 1,500 pounds of cannabis in 15 minutes. That would mean absorbing more than 75 pounds of pure THC in the smoke.

It is now known that THC binds to specific receptors in the brain and throughout the human body where a natural cannabis compound called anandamide normally attaches. These natural cannabinoid receptors enable the body to digest and expel marijuana compounds without any toxic injury whatsoever. The human body's ability to metabolize THC and other marijuana compounds harmlessly is the reason 5,000 years of history fail to show a single death caused by ingesting or smoking marijuana.

Narconon Arrowhead's absurd fiction about "killer weed" mirrors the hysterical fables, fictions and false witness used to outlaw marijuana in 1937:

* "The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."
* "Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death."
* "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."
* "[Smoking] one [marihuana] cigarette might develop a homicidal mania, probably to kill his brother."

Despite many outrageous drug crusader claims, science provides no logical reason for outlawing marijuana.

Since changing their marijuana policy, the Netherlands brought down its heroin death rate by 50% while heroin deaths in the US quadrupled. That is one of the consequences of a deadly marijuana prohibition policy.

In 2005, California State Superintendent Jack O'Connell urged all California schools to drop the Narconon anti-drug education program after a state evaluation concluded that its curriculum offers inaccurate and unscientific information. Narconon Arrowhead is no longer allowed to peddle their Reefer Madness lies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and most other school districts in California.

The Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health concluded that: "No scientifically well-controlled independent, long-term outcome studies were found that directly and clearly establish the effectiveness of the Narconon program for the treatment of chemical dependency and the more credible evidence establishes Narconon's program is not effective." Narconon has been denied certification in Oklahoma because the treatment course formulated by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard is unscientific and potentially dangerous.

Narconon Arrowhead is an unreliable source of information about drugs and an ineffective treatment organization.

Cannabis Adds To Aboriginal Drug Woes

CANNABIS use has risen sharply in remote indigenous communities, with children as young as 10 smoking the drug.

A survey of police has also found that amphetamines are available and commonly used in most of the communities.

Cannabis is now flowing into remote areas at an alarming rate, a trade fuelled by high demand and extreme profits but increasingly facilitated by profiteers from outside the community rather than resident user-dealers, a report by the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund said.

"This new wave of cannabis use is in addition to — not instead of — alcohol and other substances," the report said.

Most of 792 police who were surveyed in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia said that cannabis was commonly used in communities.

Many of the police who were asked also said use of the drug had increased or greatly increased in the past three years.

Some of the poorest and youngest users spend a third to two-thirds of their weekly incomes on cannabis, the report said.

Bucket bongs are widely used to binge on cannabis and the age of first-time use is falling, with children as young as 10 or 11 years old smoking the drug, it said.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Fund, which is funded by the Federal Government, presented the report at an Australian Institute of Criminology conference in Darwin.

It said that poverty and isolation were not impeding the drug trade.

Drug networks were being founded on what one study calls the extreme profits to be made in remote areas, where a $4000 purchase of cannabis could return $16,000 to $21,000 in profits, often within a couple of hours of arriving in the community, the report said.

Police said heavy cannabis use exacerbated many existing problems among indigenous people, especially family violence and mental health problems.

There was strong anecdotal evidence, supported by police survey responses, that local and non-local Aborigines were heavily implicated in the cannabis trade in regional and remote Australia, the report said.

Conventional drug policing strategies were rarely suited to these areas, especially in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where police were highly visible, the report said.

Even sophisticated police attempts to infiltrate drug networks, cultivate informants or conduct surveillance could be easy to identify.

The report described a drug house in an outback town where a non-Aboriginal barman at a hotel invites young Aboriginal girls as young as 12 for free drinks and drugs.

Some live there permanently. There are rumours that young girls offer male visitors sex for drugs or money, the report said.

Police said they were watching the barman but did not seem to act, it said.

The report said the underlying frustration and dysfunction affecting many disadvantaged communities were clearly factors that predisposed residents of those communities to higher rates of alcohol and other drug use.

For police and other services with responsibility to tackle the consequences of alcohol and drug-related harm, the way forward was not always clear, especially if communities themselves were unsure what should be done, the report said.

Brain's Cannabinoid System 'mellows' Seizures

The same brain machinery that responds to the active substance in marijuana provides a central "on-demand" protection against seizures, researchers have found. They said their discoveries suggest that the "endocannabinoid" system might constitute a prime target for drugs against seizures of epilepsy and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings were published by Beat Lutz and Giovanni Marsicano, of Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, and colleagues in the August 2006, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

The endocannabinoid system--which includes the receptors, the natural cannabinoid compounds that trigger them, as well as the machinery for regulating the process--was already known to modulate the excitation of neuronal transmission, noted the researchers. However, it had not been established that such modulation might affect neurons in the hippocampus responsible for the "excitotoxicity" that underlies the uncontrolled activity of seizures.

Thus, Lutz, Marsicano, and his colleagues used genetic techniques to pinpoint the role of the endocannabinoid system on these neurons and on seizure activity. They used mice as their animal model and induced seizures in these mice with the chemical kainic acid (KA).

In particular, they wanted to explore the role played by the endocannabinoid system in hippocampal neurons that are responsive to the neurotransmitter glutamine. These neurons are known to play a central role in seizure activity. The endocannabinoid regulatory system is also active in another type of neuron triggered by the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Thus, the researchers conducted experiments in which they genetically knocked out the endocannabinoid receptor CB1 and analyzed the effects on seizure sensitivity. They found that, indeed, when they knocked out CB1 in glutamatergic, but not GABAergic neurons, the chemically induced seizures increased in the mice. In fact, their experiments all but ruled out the role of GABAergic neurons in the seizure-protection function, they concluded.

"Altogether, these results confirm that physiological endocannabinoid-dependent control of GABAergic transmission depends on intact CB1 signaling in GABAergic interneurons and suggest that the endocannabinoid system does not influence GABAergic transmission during the development of KA-induced seizures," they concluded. "Therefore, direct modulation of glutamatergic transmission by CB1 receptors expressed on cortical glutamatergic neurons appears to be the major mechanism of endocannabinoid-mediated protection against KA-induced seizures."

Furthermore, the researchers' experiments established that endocannabinoid receptors were also present in the same glutamatergic neurons in areas of the hippocampus known to be central to seizure generation. The researchers wrote that this finding "represents a novel step in understanding the progression of acute excitotoxic seizures and the development of epileptic states."

And significantly, when the researchers used a targeted virus to knock out the CB1 gene for the endocannabinoid receptor specifically in the glutamatergic neurons of the hippocampus, the mice also showed strong worsening of chemically induced seizures in comparison to mice still expressing CB1.

"Altogether, these observations support a hypothetical scenario in which acute KA-induced excitotoxic seizures would activate the endocannabinoid system in respect to its ability to inhibit only 'harmful' glutamatergic transmission, but not 'protective' GABAergic release," concluded Lutz, Marsicano, and colleagues.

"In conclusion, our study reveals a mechanism through which the endocannabinoid system is able to provide on-demand protection against acute behavioral seizures. CB1 expression on hippocampal glutamatergic circuits accounts for this protection and might represent a suitable target for the treatment of neurological disorders associated with excessive neuronal excitation," they wrote.

###

The researchers include Krisztina Monory, Federico Massa, and Beat Lutz of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany and Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany; Michaela Egertová and Maurice R. Elphick of Queen Mary, University of London in London, United Kingdom; Matthias Eder, Heike Blaudzun, Wolfgang Kelsch, Wolfgang Jacob, Rudolf Marsch, Barbara Wölfel, Hans-Ulrich Dodt, Walter Zieglgansberger, and Carsten T. Wotjak of Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany; Ruth Westenbroek and Ken Mackie of University of Washington in Seattle, WA; Marc Ekker of University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Jason Long and John L. Rubenstein of University of California, San Francisco in San Francisco, CA; Sandra Goebbels and Klaus-Armin Nave of Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Gottingen, Germany; Matthew During of University of Auckland School of Medicine in Auckland, New Zealand; Matthias Klugmann of Auckland School of Medicine in Auckland, New Zealand and University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany; Giovanni Marsicano of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, and AVENIR INSERM, Institute Francois Magendie in Bordeaux, France.

Grant support was as follows: Marie Curie Fellowship QLG1-CT-2002-51742 (to K. Monory); CIHR MOP14460 (to M.E.); Nina Ireland, MH49428 and MH065670 (to J.R.); DA00286, DA11322, and DA15916 (to K. Mackie); BBSRC S19916 (to M.R.E.); Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) LU755/1-3 and a scholarship from the Hertie Foundation (to B.L.).

Monory et al.: "The Endocannabinoid System Controls Key Epileptogenic Circuits in the Hippocampus." Publishing in Neuron 51, 455-466, August 17, 2006 DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.07.006 http://www.neuron.org/

Related Preview by Alger et al.: "Preview: Not Too Excited? Thank Your Endocannabinoids."

Is drug smuggler working for CIA?

Allen Long began his quest for fame in the 1960s as the lead singer of a garage band that once opened for the Byrds.

Then, as young men will do, he radically changed course and tried his hand at documentary filmmaking. But when the money ran out for his movie on drug running, Long became a smuggler himself and earned a different sort of fame by introducing Americans to "Colombian gold," the Dom Perignon of marijuana.

With the bohemian good looks of a young Jim Morrison and a drug habit to match, Long smuggled 972,000 pounds of his "gold" into the United States between 1972 and 1984, much of it in the bellies of C-130 cargo planes, according to biographer Robert Sabbag. He claims he never owned a gun or harmed anyone during his career selling dope.

Long's story, chronicled in Sabbag's 2002 book Smoke Screen, has captured the imagination of at least one Hollywood producer who hopes to turn it into a film with one of today's rakish superstars -- such as the actor Matthew McConaughey -- playing the part of the charming young drug runner.

At the moment, however, as he sits in Cook County Jail, Long's fantastic tale has taken a far less glamorous turn than most Hollywood stories. Long, 58, has been charged with trying to pick up 13 black duffel bags filled with nearly 1,200 pounds of marijuana from a self-storage facility on Chicago's Southwest Side.

In a jailhouse interview, Long, his once flowing hair now shorn and tinged with gray, insists he left his drug-running days behind him years ago and that the March 28 drug bust wasn't what it appears to be.

"I am no longer actively a smuggler, but I know people in Europe and Asia and South America and Mexico and Canada who are still in the game," said Long, who grew up in a well-to-do Virginia family and claims to be part owner of a restaurant and an investor in golf tee-time software there.

Long says that at the time of his arrest, he was working for the Central Intelligence Agency, using his old smuggling connections to identify national security threats.

"Nothing scares me more than the idea of a biochemical weapon being let loose in the United States," Long said. "I thought I could use 20 years of smuggling expertise to do something good for my country. It seemed this was my chance to do something my kids could be proud of, other than their dad being a big-time pot smuggler."

The Sun-Times was unable to confirm Long's CIA story. The CIA declined comment, as did a Cook County prosecutor supervising Long's case.

Long's lawyer said he has corroborated parts of his client's story with a Drug Enforcement Administration official, but was unable to speak to Long's alleged CIA contact.

Says 9/11 changed his life
"I know my defense is like 'the dog ate my homework,' " Long said.

His involvement with the intelligence agency began after Sept. 11, said Long, who was in New York promoting Smoke Screen the day of the World Trade Center attacks.

"It changed my life," he said.

After reading the 9/11 Commission Report, which said the United States needed better "human intelligence" to help prevent terrorist attacks, Long said he approached DEA's Alex Toth to offer his assistance.

Long said he first met Toth in a bar in the Caribbean in the '80s when he was living under a false identity as a fugitive and selling Miller beer.

When he decided to quit his life on the lam, Long surrendered to Toth in 1991 in Tampa, Fla., because he trusted the DEA agent, Long said. He was freed from federal prison in 1994.

The two men met again in June 2005 at a Starbucks in Carlsbad, Calif., where Long pitched his counter-terrorism proposal and Toth told him he could not use intelligence from drug smugglers he was sworn to arrest, Long said.

Still, according to Long, Toth liked the idea, so he introduced Long to a CIA official at an Arlington, Va., hotel Aug. 16, 2005. After Toth left, Long presented an outline of his plan, Operation WeedEater, to the CIA official, Long said.

The CIA official told Long he could not immediately give him the $250,000 a year for five years and a $50,000 signing bonus he was after, but encouraged him to start schmoozing his smuggler pals and money would eventually come, Long said.

As a result, Long said, he identified corrupt U.S. customs agents in Mexico at a pre-screening facility for trucks crossing the border into the United States and also discovered Indonesians were being smuggled over the border. Indonesia, Long points out, is an al-Qaida stronghold.

'I think Allen is a patriot'
Peter Vilkelis, Long's attorney, met with Toth in Washington where the DEA official confirmed he had spoken to Long about his plan to exploit his smuggling contacts to uncover threats to homeland security, Vilkelis said.

Toth acknowledged introducing Long to a CIA official, Vilkelis added.

"I think Allen is a patriot, and I hope the government does not leave him hanging," said Vilkelis, a former Cook County assistant state's attorney and a board member of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

The Illinois State Police team that arrested Long also nabbed Ricardo Juarez, 49, of Chico, Calif., who was with Long at Public Storage, 4220 W. 47th.

Long said he enlisted Juarez, who served a four-year narcotics sentence in the 1990s, to help with his anti-terrorism plot. They were tracking a pot shipment tied to crooked customs officials, he said.

"I told them [the police] I am not really here to smuggle drugs," Long said.

Juarez's attorney declined to comment.

Lt. Lincoln Hampton, a State Police spokesman, said investigators received intelligence about Long that led them to make a "controlled delivery" to him. "The investigation is ongoing," he said.

Reached by phone, Toth said he is in charge of the DEA's drug enforcement in the Caribbean and Latin America. He referred questions about Long to a DEA spokesman, who declined to comment.

Smart Growth?

The sign on Sergei Grigoryev's office door says "Narcobaron," or drug baron, over a faint picture of a marijuana leaf. That's his way of weathering the joshing he gets for doing nothing more than showing up for work each day. After all, Grigoryev promotes hemp.

The scientist at the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg is quick to draw a distinction between the connotations the word brings to mind - pot, weed, maryjane, hashish, ganja, herb, chronic - and the plant he calls one of the most valuable ever cultivated.

He's equally swift to point out, even without being asked, that he has never used the drug himself. "I have access to marijuana," he says matter-of-factly. "I've never tried it. It's not interesting for me."

His interest is in the hemp plant's lesser-known and, in his view, utterly unappreciated potential: to make fiber and produce oil.

And after decades of research and experimental plant engineering, he thinks he has found a way to make those who have long rejected hemp embrace it instead: by growing a drug-free version.

Grigoryev and his colleagues at the institute, where scientists have collected hemp from around the globe since 1922, produce a cannabis plant that contains only trace elements of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC - the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana smokers their high.

Grigoryev imagines a Russia with hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp fields, as there were in the early days of the Soviet Union. He sees a Russia where more people don clothing crafted from hemp, as peasants traditionally did. He visualizes a Russia where hemp oil - rich in essential fatty acids and reputed to improve skin problems and ease inflammation from arthritis - is not just a supplement for health-conscious hippies.

Unlike the United States, Russia allows the farming of so-called industrial hemp, which already contains low levels of THC. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't allow it, according to Vote Hemp, an American nonprofit working to change the law.

But even industrial hemp is no longer grown widely here: Russia has no more than 25,000 acres, compared with 2 million in 1925.

The modern industrial crop has at times drawn unwelcome attention from Russian federal drug authorities. A few years ago, they forced farmers in the Penza and Belgorod regions to burn some of their fields, Grigoryev said, even though they weren't breaking the law.

The Federal Drug Control Service insists it doesn't oppose industrial hemp. But at a recent conference, one official responded to Grigoryev's plan to expand production by suggesting the fields might become filled with marijuana - and turn into a kind of heaven for those who want a high.

"We try to explain that there is a big difference," says Grigoryev, adding that he has received "indirect pressure" to stop his research (he declined to say where it came from).

Other critics of industrial hemp charge that it's a cover for the effort to legalize marijuana, which is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant and has a higher concentration of THC.

Grigoryev doesn't support legalization. On the contrary, he says, wider cultivation of industrial hemp containing no THC could ultimately drive drug hemp out of existence as pollen from the industrial variety crosses with drug hemp, effectively "diluting" it.

Hemp, which is said to have originated in central Asia, has been grown in Russia since the 11th century, according to Grigoryev, who has hanging in his office a variety of hemp fiber samples that resemble horse tails.

"It's twice as old as Egyptian civilization," he says.

In the mid-18th century, Russia sent 32,000 tons of hemp abroad, making it one of the country's largest exports. Peasants who labored in the fields wore hemp clothing because it was amazingly durable. Hemp oil was their main source of edible fats, as beef and pork fats were a luxury.

Hemp likewise was planted by British colonists in the New World. Drafts of the Declaration of Independence were said to have been written on paper made from hemp. Grigoryev quotes Thomas Jefferson, a noted agronomist, in defense of his plan to bring back industrial hemp: "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture," Jefferson wrote.

In a way, the case Grigoryev makes for the mass production of industrial hemp is strictly economic. In an article last year in the Journal of Industrial Hemp, Grigoryev explained that Russia imports nearly 700,000 tons of cotton fiber each year, mostly from Uzbekistan, to support its textile industry.

He thinks this is foolish, when more hemp could be grown domestically and used to produce clothing fashioned from a cotton-hemp blend. This, he says, would create jobs and boost textile manufacturing.

Olga Yolkina introduced hemp clothing at her Moscow store, Metelitsa, six years ago. She started with a few dozen pieces, at the urging of her teenage daughter, who thought the clothing was cool. Now, she has 5,000 items, mostly casual wear, including T-shirts, dresses, tank tops, jeans, sweat pants and suit jackets.

Hemp looks much like linen. But to prove it holds up better, Yolkina sometimes wears the same hemp pants for three consecutive days to show clients how good it looks without ironing. It's comfortable, protects against the sun's ultraviolet rays and forms a kind of "protective orb" around you, she says.

Yolkina has a pair of clients who used to buy imported linen apparel but now are hemp converts. She wishes the apparel were domestically produced; the brand is actually Australian and made in China.

"As a Russian, I'm very upset that we're selling Australian clothing," she said. "I'd be really happy if there could be a rebirth of production in Russia.

"People only see the evil side of this, forgetting history," Yolkina said. "They're forgetting about the benefits of this plant, if it is grown correctly."

Strong Cannabis 'next Drug Problem'

HIGH-strength cannabis is the next major drug enforcement challenge, a senior United Nations official said today.

"The potency of the cannabis herb has changed drastically," Sandeep Chawla, head of policy analysis and research at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told Reuters.

"Hashish used to be more potent than marijuana, but this is now changing."

Growers have turned to agro-technology to increase the potency of cannabis up to five-fold, he said, using hydroponic cultivation and growing plants under artificial light in a solution of nutrients, not soil.

Mr Chawla said there were now cases of people being brought to hospital emergency rooms because of cannabis usage, which he said was unheard of in the past.

"This is a case of something that's been ignored for so long," Mr Chawla said. "Now the beast is in the room and we don't know what to do with it."

With a market worth $US140 billion ($184 billion) and more than 160 million users, cannabis is the world's most widely used illegal drug.

"We anticipate a continued increase in global cannabis usage this year," he said.

Most governments focus their policing on deadlier drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, but Mr Chawla said being soft on cannabis was a mistake.

One reason for leniency towards cannabis use was the sheer number of people using the drug and the inability of judicial systems to cope.

"If the state is not prosecuting, people think it can't be that bad to take. And the state is not prosecuting because large numbers of people are taking it," he said.

The wide use of cannabis is partly a function of its low price – a gram of cannabis retails for less than $15 in Europe, compared to $200 for a gram of pure heroin, UNODC estimates.

The UNODC expects an increase in opium production in Afghanistan this year due to increased lawlessness in the country, Mr Chawla said.

"The preliminary indications are that it's going to be higher than last year," he said.

"It's not yet possible to say whether production will cross the 1999 peak of 4565 tonnes." Last year, output was 4100 tonnes.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, with its market share likely to rise from 89 percent in 2005 due to a fall in output in Laos, until recently the world's third largest producer behind Afghanistan and Myanmar.

"Laos is virtually insignificant now and Myanmar is a great deal smaller than it used to be," he said.

Afghan opium cultivation fell sharply in 2001 due to a ban by the country's Taliban rulers, but has risen sharply since.

The UNODC is due to publish results of its annual Afghanistan opium survey next month.

What Everyone Should Know About Cannabis!

CANNABIS is as socially unacceptable as cocaine or heroin and the drugs barons who profit from it should be pursued with the full rigour of the law.

That’s according to Brian O’Shea TD, Labour Party spokesman on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, who was a member of the Dail Committee which compiled a new report entitled “What everyone should know about cannabis’.

“It is reliably estimated that there are some 300,000 users of cannabis in the State and in view of the consequences for their mental and physical health, the Committee recommends that a national strategy be drawn up with the aim of reversing the exponential rise in cannabis use over the last decade,” said Deputy O’Shea.

“Particular emphasis must be paid to young women of childbearing age and to their children, as well as to young people in general, given their vulnerability to mental health problems.

“The Committee also expressed support for further neurobiological and clinical research to examine the long-term cognitive impairment effects associated with heavy cannabis use, particularly those impairments relating to heavy use in adolescence and to prenatal exposure to cannabis.

The Committee also drew attention to the physical effects of cannabis use and pointed out that the health risks are greater than those for conventional tobacco as cannabis smoke contains more carcinogens and a higher tar content.

Deputy O’Shea said given that the cannabis trade in Ireland is worth an estimated •375 million and is the largest component of the vile drugs trade, the Committee was united in expressing the view that greater resources be devoted to the criminal investigation side and that there be a more proactive pursuit of those who gain from it financially as is the case with Class A drugs.

“Awareness of the risks of cannabis use needs to be raised through public information campaigns focused particularly on young people and their parents and we need to understand that cannabis is primarily a health issue,” said Deputy O’Shea.

The Committee recommends the adoption of preventive strategies where primary prevention attempts to reduce the number of new cases of cannabis use, where secondary prevention seeks to lower the rate of problem cannabis use and where tertiary prevention seeks to decrease the amount of disability associated with problem cannabis use.

The committee also reported that it wanted integrated treatment for those who were suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse as individuals experiencing these combined disorders face particular difficulty receiving diagnostic and treatment services although separately these disorders are treatable.

“Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in western societies and I have no reason to believe that the position with young people using cannabis in Waterford is any different to elsewhere,” said Deputy O’Shea. “In the past, use of cannabis has been seen as less serious than other drugs and, in some quarters, was regarded as harmless but the findings of the Committee suggest this is far from the reality.

“Over one third of Irish schoolchildren have tried cannabis by the age of 16 and nine per cent of Irish sixteen-year olds use cannabis at least three times a month, with as many girls as boys now using the drug. About one in ten, or 28,000 current users of cannabis are dependent on the drug. “Surveys indicate that the majority of Irish people do not want cannabis legalised and a substantial minority of past and current cannabis users do not wish to see it legalised either.

“There is now compelling evidence that cannabis abuse can result in the development of psychotic illness in later life,” says Deputy O’Shea. “Prolonged exposure to cannabis can induce changes to neurotransmitter pathways in vulnerable people, which can result in serious illness such as schizophrenia in some and result in cognitive impairment in others.

“In recent years it has also become clear that the human brain continues to develop during adolescence and it appears that cannabis use during this developmental phase, when brain architecture relating to some higher functions is being fine tuned, is most likely to result in long-term impairment,” added Deputy O’Shea.

Teens Trying To Make Hash Oil Burned In Blast

Five Alberta teens ran screaming from a residential garage after it exploded Thursday night, said witnesses.

All five boys -- believed to be underage -- were taken to hospital with first-, second- and third-degree burns.

"We were sitting inside and we thought it was a gunshot," said witness Roula Hageahmad, who was holding a garage across the street. "Five guys came running out and they were all burnt."

After the first "boom," a second blast rang out, and Hageahmad said a large puff of smoke billowed from the garage roof.

"Fire was coming out of the roof," she said.

"If the door had been sealed closed, they would have been dead. Somehow, the door came open and they got out," she added, pointing to the crumpled garage door.

Hageahmad said one boy ran up to her family's home.

"He was burnt from top to bottom and he asked, 'Is my hair OK?' "

She said he was rushed to hospital by ambulance.

On the sidewalk, paramedics tended to two of the boys, one with a raw burn on his forearm. All five boys are in non-life threatening condition.

The Calgary Police Service arson unit is investigating the possibility of illegal activity inside the garage, said Sgt. Sergio Falzi.

Global National has learned that the teens were apparently attempting to make hash oil when the process became unstable and exploded.

Hash oil production, which results in a highly potent liquid form of cannabis, is extremely dangerous due to the use of explosive solvents, such as butane, throughout production.

Officials warn parents that the prevalence of online literature on how to make hash oil, coupled with readily available household products required for the process, has led to a growth in the dangerous practice of making homemade hash oil, especially amongst teens.

The FDA's Marijuana Problem

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a marijuana problem. On April 20 of this year, the FDA rejected marijuana for medical uses.

The FDA said, "no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

This conclusion contradicts a lot of other scientific research and expert conclusions, including that of the National Academy of Sciences and the FDA itself. In 1985, the FDA was so convinced of marijuana's medical benefits that it approved Marinol and Cesamet, both synthetic versions of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana.

Here's what the FDA has to say about Marinol. "MARINOL� (Dronabinol) Capsules is indicated for the treatment of: (1) anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS; and (2) nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patents who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments."

The FDA obviously thinks that Marinol and Cesamet are safe and efficacious drugs or else it wouldn't have approved them. If the synthetic versions are so good, why hasn't the FDA embraced the natural version? After all, in the Marinol statements above, the FDA is basically agreeing with marijuana advocates.

Two reasons that might come to mind are dosing and delivery mechanism. Although it may seem that an inability to pin down the ideal dose is a problem, the FDA is fully aware that the gold standard of analgesia in hospitals is patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), in which the patient pushes a button as often as desired to get I.V. doses of morphine. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all dose with PCA. Empirical evidence shows that PCA produces better pain control with less morphine consumed. Marijuana can be used in much the same way as PCA.

The delivery mechanism of marijuana is usually smoke, which can irritate soft tissues and perhaps precipitate cancer. While certainly a problem, I estimate that marijuana smokers consume about one-percent as much per day as do tobacco smokers. Marijuana smokers take a few puffs ("hits") while tobacco smokers may smoke 20 or 40 entire cigarettes per day. Also, many AIDS and chemotherapy patients will be on short-term therapy or won't live long enough to worry about marijuana-induced lung cancer. Many of them would love to live long enough to have such a problem.

Look at the FDA's statements critically. The FDA isn't saying that marijuana doesn't have health benefits; it's saying that no good studies exist to prove that conclusion. In 2004, the FDA stated, "FDA will continue to be receptive to sound, scientifically based research into the medicinal uses of botanical marijuana and other cannabinoids." The key term is "sound research." The FDA recognizes only medicines that have gone through its long, expensive, and exhaustive investigational new drug (IND) application process -- its idea of "sound research."

The FDA is blind to anything that hasn't been through its process. What's worse, marijuana is highly unlikely ever to clear such hurdles. Why? The FDA requires controlled and consistent production batches and it wants to inspect each manufacturing facility. This would be very difficult for a dried weed that is grown in thousands of different places under thousands of different conditions. The FDA also requires placebo-controlled clinical trials with thousands or tens of thousands of patients. What placebo could possibly be used? I doubt that any other safe and medically inactive plant would smell and taste like smoked marijuana. Last, these clinical trials, I estimate, would cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Who would pay for them? Not the FDA. Not drug companies. Not self-medicating AIDS and cancer patients.

Drugs like marijuana almost certainly do have some health benefits for certain patients. But to put marijuana through the IND process would involve paying for clinical trials, manufacturing facilities, data analysis, legal fees, administrative staff, and FDA face-time, which are all private costs that someone must bear. Marinol's and Cesamet's manufacturers were willing to bear these costs due to the prospect of profits that accrue to the patent holder. For a widespread weed that's been around for millennia, how would anyone garner and enforce such patent protection?

Some say this is a weakness of the private enterprise system. The proponents of government spending on medical research use cases like this as an argument for the role of government. They shouldn't be too optimistic about their solution because that's what we have right now and it has failed miserably. Why? Certain parts of the federal government haven't allowed this scientific process to happen. Remember that, above all else, the government is a political organization and the U.S. government is fighting a war against the production, sale, and usage of marijuana.

The federal government maintains marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance, keeping company with infamous drugs like heroin and PCP. A Schedule I drug is defined as having a very high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety data for use under medical supervision. Interestingly, Marinol is rated as only Schedule III (less dangerous), just like, for example, Tylenol with Codeine.

Just recently, the FDA has landed in more hot water over its marijuana ruling. In 2000, Congress passed what is known as the Data Quality Act to help ensure that regulations are based on solid science. The two-paragraph Data Quality Act wasn't written by a member of Congress, but by James J. Tozzi, and included in a longer appropriations bill. Now Tozzi, who is founder of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, is suing the government because the FDA's marijuana ruling has ignored data showing that marijuana is helpful to some patients.

Should we pity the FDA? In some ways, yes, we should. The FDA behaves as a bureaucratic scientist. The FDA will always to be too slow and conservative and require too much data.

I am happy that there are such careful and plodding people in the world. I am not happy that they have the power to prohibit drugs like marijuana. In some cases, like this one, the FDA is the wrong tool for the job. Americans shouldn't rely on the FDA to control widely used and naturally occurring botanicals such as marijuana. The FDA is simply unable to effectively assess the medical value of natural plants like marijuana in any reasonable timeframe. AIDS and cancer are deadly serious diseases and the FDA's approach is fatally flawed. AIDS and cancer patients deserve a better path to useful medicines and than through the FDA's benediction.

Charles L. Hooper is president of Objective Insights, a company that consults for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He is a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution and coauthor of Making Great Decisions in Business and Life (Chicago Park Press, 2006).

Cannabinoid May Halt Alzheimer's Progression, Study Says

THC inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary marker for Alzheimer's disease (AD), far more effectively than approved medications, according to preclinical data to be published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Investigators at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California reported that THC inhibits the enzyme responsible for the aggregation of amyloid plaque in a manner "considerably superior" to approved Alzheimer's drugs such as donepezil and tacrine.

"Our results provide a mechanism whereby the THC molecule can directly impact Alzheimer's disease pathology," researchers concluded. "THC and its analogues may provide an improved therapeutic [option] for Alzheimer's disease [by]... simultaneously treating both the symptoms and the progression of [the] disease."

Previous studies have shown cannabinoids to possess anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which may play a role in moderating Alzheimer's.

Last year, investigators at Madrid's Complutense University and the Cajal Institute in Spain reported that the intracerebroventricular administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 prevented cognitive impairment and decreased neurotoxicity in rats. Other cannabinoids were also found to reduce the inflammation associated with Alzheimer's disease in human brain tissue in culture. "Our results indicate that... cannabinoids succeed in preventing the neurodegenerative process occurring in the disease," investigators concluded.

Over 4.5 million Americans are estimated to be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. That figure is expected to triple over the next 50 years.

Previous human trials of synthetic THC (Marinol) and Alzheimer's found that administration of the drug reduced agitation and stimulated weight gain in patients suffering from the disease.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "A molecular link between the active component of marijuana and Alzheimer's disease pathology," is available online at:
http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/mpohbp/asap/abs/mp060066m.html

Drug Test Kits Used In Schools

SCHOOLS in Greater Manchester are to screen their buildings for traces of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, heroin and LSD as part of a drive to stamp out drug use among pupils.

Two schools in Oldham - which the M.E.N. has chosen not to identify - have already ordered £195 swab-testing kits that can detect the residue left behind by the drugs on walls, desks and toilets.

There are also visits planned from sniffer dogs. A third school in Oldham is considering use of the tests, as well as dogs.

Detection
The schools stress that the tests are designed to form part of a drug education and detection policy and are not in response to particular drug problems.

The schools are not looking to test individual pupils but will concentrate on public locations and fixtures and fixings across the school.

A teacher from one of the schools said: "The reason we have ordered the kit is because we spend a lot of time talking about drug issues at school and we want to be seen to be doing something about it.

"There are obviously concerns from our point of view as some people may think we have a drug problem, but we don't. What we want is to be seen to be taking a sensible approach to drugs and drug education.

"There is always a risk where large groups of youngsters are brought together but we wish to look at the issue in a non-sensational way.

"The dogs will be brought in and used for educational and teaching purposes with the pupils and I think when they have seen what they can do that in itself will act as a deterrent. There are no plans for random dog sweeps at this stage.

"The test kits will be used for intelligence-gathering and they will be kept on standby in the school in case of any suspected drug-related incidents.

"We will not be using them every week to test walls and cloakrooms though if we feel we can use them to gather information they may well be used in this way from time to time.

"The kits are a great way of detecting use in school and reassuring both parents and pupils that we have a proactive policy."

The kits, each capable of carrying out 100 tests, are being provided by Saddleworth-based Crackdown Drug Testing, who work with Greater Manchester Police on drugs initiatives and who supply drug testing kits to Category A jails.

Range

The kits can detect the full range of drugs and are used to swab secluded areas where cannabis joints may be rolled, or toilet seats and flat surfaces where cocaine and amphetamines may be cut into lines and snorted.

Dave Rigg, managing director of Crackdown Drug Testing and an ex-policeman with 17 years' experience, said: "The kits have an aerosol and 100 paper wipes. You wipe the paper on the suspected surface, then spray it with the aerosol. If drugs are present it will change colour.

"It is the first time such methods will have been used in Greater Manchester.

"Oldham is no worse than anywhere else. By using these kits it will provide an intelligence-led response as to whether or not drugs are being used, the type of drugs being used and what can be done to tackle the issue.

"It will also allow youngsters a chance to avoid peer pressure and say no if they are offered anything illegal." Several other schools in Greater Manchester have already used sniffer dogs in response to concerns about drug use on the premises but this is thought to be the first use of test kits.

Sympathetic
Oldham council spokesman Nick Hudson said: "If individual schools decide that it is in the best interests of their pupils to introduce some form of drug testing then, providing the decision is agreed by the school's governing body and it is introduced sympathetically, the authority will support this decision."

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "We are obviously aware that drugs do find their way into schools but Oldham schools are no worse than any others in the area."

The Endocannabinoid System Controls Key Epileptogenic Circuits In The Hippocampus

The same brain machinery that responds to the active substance in marijuana provides a central "on-demand" protection against seizures, researchers have found. They said their discoveries suggest that the "endocannabinoid" system might constitute a prime target for drugs against seizures of epilepsy and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings were published by Beat Lutz and Giovanni Marsicano, of Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, and colleagues in the August 17, 2006, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

The endocannabinoid system--which includes the receptors, the natural cannabinoid compounds that trigger them, as well as the machinery for regulating the process--was already known to modulate the excitation of neuronal transmission, noted the researchers. However, it had not been established that such modulation might affect neurons in the hippocampus responsible for the "excitotoxicity" that underlies the uncontrolled activity of seizures.

Thus, Lutz, Marsicano, and his colleagues used genetic techniques to pinpoint the role of the endocannabinoid system on these neurons and on seizure activity. They used mice as their animal model and induced seizures in these mice with the chemical kainic acid (KA).

In particular, they wanted to explore the role played by the endocannabinoid system in hippocampal neurons that are responsive to the neurotransmitter glutamine. These neurons are known to play a central role in seizure activity. The endocannabinoid regulatory system is also active in another type of neuron triggered by the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Thus, the researchers conducted experiments in which they genetically knocked out the endocannabinoid receptor CB1 and analyzed the effects on seizure sensitivity. They found that, indeed, when they knocked out CB1 in glutamatergic, but not GABAergic neurons, the chemically induced seizures increased in the mice. In fact, their experiments all but ruled out the role of GABAergic neurons in the seizure-protection function, they concluded.

"Altogether, these results confirm that physiological endocannabinoid-dependent control of GABAergic transmission depends on intact CB1 signaling in GABAergic interneurons and suggest that the endocannabinoid system does not influence GABAergic transmission during the development of KA-induced seizures," they concluded. "Therefore, direct modulation of glutamatergic transmission by CB1 receptors expressed on cortical glutamatergic neurons appears to be the major mechanism of endocannabinoid-mediated protection against KA-induced seizures."

Furthermore, the researchers' experiments established that endocannabinoid receptors were also present in the same glutamatergic neurons in areas of the hippocampus known to be central to seizure generation. The researchers wrote that this finding "represents a novel step in understanding the progression of acute excitotoxic seizures and the development of epileptic states."

And significantly, when the researchers used a targeted virus to knock out the CB1 gene for the endocannabinoid receptor specifically in the glutamatergic neurons of the hippocampus, the mice also showed strong worsening of chemically induced seizures in comparison to mice still expressing CB1.

"Altogether, these observations support a hypothetical scenario in which acute KA-induced excitotoxic seizures would activate the endocannabinoid system in respect to its ability to inhibit only 'harmful' glutamatergic transmission, but not 'protective' GABAergic release," concluded Lutz, Marsicano, and colleagues.

"In conclusion, our study reveals a mechanism through which the endocannabinoid system is able to provide on-demand protection against acute behavioral seizures. CB1 expression on hippocampal glutamatergic circuits accounts for this protection and might represent a suitable target for the treatment of neurological disorders associated with excessive neuronal excitation," they wrote.

Substance misuse: Magistrates reconsider cannabis classification

The Magistrates' Association is considering asking the Government to change the classification of cannabis for under-18s to reflect the dangers the drug poses for this age group.

A motion will be debated at the association's annual general meeting in November to see whether or not the association should call for the drug to be given a higher class B rating for under-18s, instead of its current class C rating.

John Fassenfelt, chair of the association's Youth Courts Committee, which is backing the motion, said: "It is not yet the association's policy, it is a motion being put to all members to see what their views are."

Fassenfelt said that cannabis can physically alter the development of the brain, and that its use can often lead to individuals experimenting with more serious drugs. This in turn can lead to people turning to crime to fund their habit.

Cannabis was downgraded from class B to C in January 2004. This meant possession of small amounts of the drug, although still illegal, would be less likely to result in arrest, although dealing would still be treated seriously.

Jenny McWhirter, head of education at charity DrugScope, said that the move would criminalise more young people.

YouGov - people think alcohol and tobacco are more damaging than cannabis

Monday’s Telegraph carries some details from a new YouGov poll for the Telegraph and RSA. The poll suggests that over 90% of people think that drugs are a serious problem today, although 39% of people think that the problem is largely confined to certain neighbourhoods and kinds of people.

Asked to compare the amount of damage done by legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco to that done by illegal drugs respondents thought that alcohol (78%) and tobacco (60%) were more damaging to a larger number of people than illegal drugs (55%) - not a surprising finding given the widespread use of alcohol and tobacco compared to hard drugs. Asked how much damage drugs do to the individual alcohol and tobacco were also relatively highly placed. At the top of the list 97% thought that injecting heroin was likely to do a lot or some harm to users, followed by crack cocaine on 96%, solvents on 93%, ecstacy on 92%, followed by tobacco on 90%. 86% thought that LSD was harmful, 83% alcohol and only 64% cannabis. Of course, these figures do not dintinguish between the amount of harm people think each drug does - if anything, tobacco’s high placement in the list is less surprising than the fact that 10% of people apparently don’t think tobacco is harmful.

Asked about the legal position of hard drugs, 73% of people thought they should remain illegal as at present. 17% thought that possesion of hard drugs for personal use should be downgraded to a lesser offence, while 6% thought possession should be legalised. On soft drugs like cannabis, only 38% of people thought their sale and possession should be treated as criminal offences, 30% thought that the sale of them should be a criminal offence, but possession should be a lesser offence, 13% thought possession of soft drugs should be legal and 15% thought both the sale and possession of soft drugs should be legalised.

On both these questions there was a sharp difference between age groups - 82% of those born before 1945 thought possession of hard drugs should remain a criminal offence, compared to only 67% of those born after 1960. A majority (51%) of those born before 1945 thought that possession of soft drugs should be a criminal offence, compared to 34% of those born after 1960. Only 8% of those born before 1945 thought soft drugs should be entirely legalised, compared to 18% of those born after 1960.

Asked if alcohol and tobacco should be classified in the same way as illegal drugs are, 62% agreed - though presumably 62% of people are not supporting prohibition of them. 56% of people said they would support a D classification for drugs like alcohol and tobacco, to indicate they were harmful.

Cannabis Pitched as Pain Killer at AIDS Conference

The light scent of marijuana wafted among exhibits at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto on Monday, as activists took advantage of Canada's comparatively pot-friendly policies to make a pitch for the drug as a pain-killer.

"This is the first time that an exhibit of this kind has been at the AIDS conference," said Hilary Black, spokeswoman for the Medical Marijuana Information Resource Centre which along with the Canadian AIDS Society sponsored the display.

"It's possible that it may be the only time, until we see a global shift around the policies governing this plant."

Researchers say marijuana can ease some types of severe and chronic pain as well as symptoms like nausea better and with fewer side effects than many prescription remedies.

While marijuana use is not generally legal in Canada, the federal government runs a medical marijuana program, although only about a quarter of medical marijuana users infected with HIV get their cannabis through legal sources, Black said.

In the United States, the use of medical marijuana has long been contested on the state and federal level. Last June, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a bill that would have allowed the medical use of the herb. But efforts are under way in several other states to legalize marijuana use.

The Canadian resource center is backed by Cannasat Therapeutics Inc., a Toronto-based research company trying to develop cannabis-based medicine that would eventually be available by prescription.

The group has been passing out information on legal access and tips on the use of cannabis as a medicine and dealing with reaction from participants who have come from around the world for the week-long conference.

"We had some people here from Uganda. One doctor said its like crack cocaine, it's bad, it trouble," said Sara Lee Irwin, a spokeswoman for the center and medical marijuana user, as she cut open a foil 250 gram (8.8 ounce) bag of government-issued cannabis.

"The next guy said, 'It's not like crack, it's everywhere, why aren't we using it?'," she said.

Attitudes soften towards cannabis but harden against heroin and crack

Realism and pragmatism figure prominently in the majority of people's attitudes to illegal drugs, says YouGov's survey for The Daily Telegraph and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts.

People deplore the use of drugs, especially hard drugs, but they realise that drugs are here to stay. Almost everyone believes that the idea of a drugs-free Britain is fantasy.

They evidently make a sharp distinction between hard drugs, such as heroin and crack, and soft drugs, such as cannabis. Three quarters of people think that the sale and possession of hard drugs should remain serious criminal offences. Only a third think the same of soft drugs.

Far more people think that alcohol and tobacco cause the greatest amount of harm to the largest number of people than think the same of drugs. A considerable majority believes that alcohol and tobacco should be classified with drugs in terms of the harm they cause.

There is also a widespread disposition to regard drug-users as people potentially in need of treatment rather than as criminals. Most people are convinced that treatment can work.

Predictably, people born since 1960 are much more likely than older people to regard illegal drugs as a fact of life. For instance, 18 per cent of younger people believe that the sale and possession of cannabis should not only be decriminalised but be positively legalised. Among the pre-war generation, that figure falls to eight per cent.

The survey, one of the largest of its type conducted in Britain, was commissioned by The Daily Telegraph and the RSA's commission on illegal drugs, communities and public policy. Nearly 3,000 people were interviewed.

Given an acceptance that, "whether we like it or not there will always be people who use drugs", 89 per cent of people say the aim of public policy should therefore be to reduce the amount of harm they cause rather than to try to eradicate them.

Only 17 per cent of respondents believe that "it is possible for some people to use some so-called hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, quite safely without doing themselves and those around them any more harm than drinking alcohol and smoking in moderation". But when respondents were offered the same proposition about soft drugs such as cannabis, nearly four times that proportion, 64 per cent, indicated that they thought people could use soft drugs relatively harmlessly.

As the figures in the chart show, far more people think that hard drugs are associated with crime than think the same of cannabis.

Asked about the state of the law, large majorities in all age groups - a total of 73 per cent - reckoned that the sale of hard drugs and their possession for personal use should remain criminal offences. Asked the same question about soft drugs, the percentage fell to 38 per cent.

Among people born since 1960, 60 per cent believe that the possession of soft drugs for personal use should be legalised completely or treated as a lesser offence, like speeding or illegal parking.

Eighteen per cent of that generation would legalise the sale as well as the possession of soft drugs.

Clearly, many people believe that drug-users who move on from soft drugs to hard ones do so because they have fallen into a culture in which dealers push all manner of drugs indiscriminately.

That belief probably underlies the widespread view that the law should distinguish more sharply than it does now between hard and soft drugs.

Although the phrase "the demon drink" is seldom heard nowadays, the survey shows that people still regard drink as the greater scourge.

YouGov asked which two, out of consuming alcohol, smoking tobacco and taking illegal drugs, caused "most harm to the largest number of people and their families". Seventy-eight per cent of people cited alcohol, compared with 55 per cent citing illegal drugs.

By more than two to one, respondents reckon that different forms of alcohol and tobacco should be classified, along with illegal drugs, "according to how much harm they are thought to cause individuals and society".

A striking feature of the findings is people's belief that, while the possession and certainly the sale of most drugs should remain illegal, the criminal law is not the best way of tackling the drugs problem.

Respondents were asked how people who had used illegal drugs but not committed any other crime should be treated. Sixty-two per cent said "they should be treated as people who may need treatment and other forms of support". Only 30 per cent said "they should be treated as criminals and brought before the courts".

People evidently believe that the criminal law should focus more on the crimes associated with drug-taking rather than on drug-taking itself.

Seventy-nine per cent of people are apparently convinced that treatment can be effective in weaning users off drugs entirely (42 per cent) or in making it possible for them to lead more normal, crime-free lives (37 per cent).

If heroin users, in particular, fail to respond to other forms of treatment, 48 per cent of respondents believe that "doctors should be encouraged to prescribe maintenance doses of methadone or possibly even heroin itself so that the heroin user's health can be monitored".

Only about a third, 36 per cent, think the courts need to intervene.

Most people believe that the connection between drugs and crime - apart from the fact that drugs themselves are illegal - is overwhelmingly monetary. Eighty-nine per cent are convinced that drug-users are more likely than non-users to commit crimes "because they steal to get money to buy drugs".

YouGov questioned 2,938 adults across Britain online between June 21 and 25.

The data have been weighted to conform to the demographic profile of adults as a whole.

YouGov abides by the rules of the British Polling Council.

• Anthony King is professor of government at Essex University and chairs the commission on illegal drugs, communities and public policy established by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce.

Public relaxed on the use of cannabis

Most people would be happy to see the personal use of cannabis decriminalised or penalties for possession lowered to the status of a parking fine, says one of the largest opinion surveys conducted on the issue.

However, the majority of the public is adamantly against any lessening of the restrictions on heroin or crack cocaine, drawing a clear distinction between so-called hard and soft drugs.

Three quarters of people think that the sale and possession of hard drugs should remain a serious criminal offence but only a third think the same of soft drugs.

The YouGov survey, carried out for the The Daily Telegraph and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), indicates a pragmatic attitude towards drugs, legal and illegal, with many people acknowledging that the damage caused by alcohol and tobacco often outweighs that from the occasional use of soft drugs.

The findings follow a report this month from the Commons science and technology committee suggesting that the drugs classification system, which dates from 1971, should be scrapped and replaced by a scale that rates substances on the basis of health and social risks.

The committee proposed a scale that would rate substances purely on that basis, removing the link with potential punishments under the law.

The scale would include legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, to give "a better sense of the relative harm involved" in the consumption of drugs.

The Government is discussing new policies as part of a review of its 10-year drugs strategy, which runs out in 2008.

There is growing pressure on ministers to consider a new approach based on a "rational" ranking of the harm that various substances cause.

The YouGov poll suggests that the public would be receptive to such a move.

Its findings will help to underpin the work of the RSA's commission on illegal drugs, communities and public policy, which has spent more than a year looking at the issue and will report in December.

Asked which substances caused most harm, respondents placed tobacco and alcohol well ahead of cannabis and only just behind heroin.

That reflects the thinking of scientists who have drawn up a new scale based on risk which they say should replace the A, B and C rankings introduced in the Misuse of Drugs Act 35 years ago.

On this template, alcohol would be a borderline Class A/B drug because it is involved in more than half of all visits to accident and emergency departments and orthopaedic admissions. It often leads to violence and is a frequent cause of car accidents.

YouGov also confirms a sizeable age gap in attitudes to drugs: people born after 1960 are far more likely to regard their use as inevitable, whether or not they approve.

Government policy in recent years has been moving towards a tougher crackdown on hard drugs while encouraging the police to focus less, if at all, on the personal use of soft drugs such as cannabis.

That approach was behind the reclassification of cannabis and was reinforced by a recently published internal Whitehall study suggesting that most acquisitive crimes were committed by an estimated 280,000 high harm drug-users to support their cocaine and heroin habits. It found that the approach adopted over the past decade had failed to reduce hard drug use and the crime that accompanied it.

The study also said that more than three million people used illicit drugs every year and compared the 749 deaths annually from heroin and methadone with the 6,000 deaths from alcohol abuse and 100,000 from tobacco.

It also showed that about 700 annual hospital admissions on mental health grounds resulted from the use of cannabis, compared with 500 for heroin users.

No Lighting Up - But Class A Drugs Are Ok

The director of a Fringe play has turned one of its famous characters into a cocaine addict because Scotland's smoking ban prevents him lighting up on stage. Ben Waring, director of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, said the play had to be 'modernised' because smoking was a key characteristic of one of its lead roles.

Critics of Scotland's smoking ban have said it is suppressing artistic freedom and spoiling some productions in which smoking is an integral part.

In Waring's version of the Tom Stoppard play, one of the main characters, Rosencrantz, will now be snorting the Class A drug to explain his erratic behaviour, previously put down to his persistent habit of smoking cannabis.
The move comes after a series of high-profile actors and directors have threatened to ignore the ban on smoking in public places. Last week, council officials threatened to shut down the Assembly Rooms if actor Mel Smith, playing Winston Churchill in Allegiance, lit up one of his character's famous cigars on stage.

Smith, who is a cigar-smoker off-stage, criticised the law saying: 'It would have delighted Adolf Hitler. Congratulations, Scotland.'

Waring, whose production is being staged at C Venues, said it was disappointing that the original version had to be changed. He said: 'The scene is a speech which contemplates what death would be like. Rosencrantz rambles on about this as his mind wanders and Guildenstern has to keep stopping him.

'For this performance we modernised the play, just as Hamlet has been modified many times. We basically thought that Rosencrantz's behaviour was very much like the behaviour of a stoner, so when we performed the play in England we had Rosencrantz smoking a joint.'

For the Edinburgh Fringe performance, it has been turned into a 'coke-addled rant'.

Waring said that, although it was a small part of the play, it was disappointing that it had to be changed. 'It is the loss of liberty that is the most disappointing part.' He has, however, inserted a joke into the play about the ban.

Rosencrantz attempts to roll a joint, but is told by Guildenstern that smoking is banned. Rosencrantz's response is to throw down the joint he has just rolled in disgust.

He picks up his powder box and delivers the same speech as a cocaine-induced rant.

The independent MSP Brian Monteith has said the ban was making Scotland the laughing stock of the artistic community.

He said: 'The purpose of the smoking ban, particularly as it affects stage plays, is not based on any measurable health risk but it seeks to de-normalise and ostracise smokers. 'All this does is make Scotland less free than North Korea or Cuba, and it makes us the laughing stock of the artistic community.'

Last week, Edinburgh City Council warned the Assembly Rooms that it faced fines of up to £5,000 and could lose its entertainment licence if Mel Smith puffed on one of his Churchillian cigars while on stage.

Drug-Terror Connection Disputed

A photograph of President Bush waving a flag after the Sept. 11 attacks is juxtaposed against a black-and-white image of an African American mother smoking crack cocaine in bed next to her baby. Larger-than-life portraits of Osama bin Laden and Pablo Escobar line the walls. The central message of a traveling Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit unveiled at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry yesterday is that terrorism and drugs are inextricably linked.

But advocates of legalization who are leafleting outside the exhibit say the DEA is leaving out an important part of the story. Critics agree that drug trafficking provides a potentially lucrative revenue stream for terrorist organizations. But they say the profit is actually fueled by the government's war on drugs, which creates a situation akin to prohibition of alcohol.

"If we taxed and regulated drugs, terrorists wouldn't have drugs as a source of profit," said Tom Angell of the nonprofit Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which focuses on restoring financial aid for college students with drug convictions.

"With the connection to Prohibition in Chicago we should know better," said Pete Guither, a professor of theater management at Illinois State University and founder of the blog -- http://www.DrugWarRant.com/

DEA spokesman Steve Robertson responded: "We're a law enforcement agency -- we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn't have [drug] laws there wouldn't be a problem, but there was a problem before and that's why laws were established."

Jeanne Barr, a history teacher at a private Chicago high school, plans to distribute fliers and bring her students to study the exhibit, titled "Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause."

"We'll look for possible omissions and oversimplifications," she said. "They don't pin any blame on the prohibition of drugs. But from my understanding of history, the major source of the black market is prohibition. I don't think there's any difference between alcohol prohibition and what we're looking at today."

Critics of the DEA exhibit also question its linking of drugs to al-Qaeda.

Another Web site with which Guither is affiliated -- http://www.deatargetsamerica.com/ -- quotes the Sept. 11 commission report as finding that "there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking."

The 2001 attacks are clearly the centerpiece of the exhibit, with a display of rubble and artifacts from Ground Zero under a banner reading "Traffickers, Terrorists and You."

"For al-Qaeda it's hard" to prove a link, said DEA public affairs chief Garrison Courtney. "I don't think we're saying 9/11 was caused by drug financing. But we're saying there is a link between drugs and terror, and September 11 is a poignant example of terrorism. Terrorists don't hold bake sales to raise money."

The exhibit includes a list of organizations designated as terrorist by the State Department, with the explanation that "nearly 50 percent" of them get funds through drug trafficking. There is a replica of a heroin-processing lab in Afghanistan and references to heroin production funding the Taliban.

But it does not mention that the Taliban publicly opposed heroin production, though federal prosecutors allege that Baz Mohammed, a recently convicted Afghan drug kingpin, had ties to al-Qaeda; that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2003 that production of opium poppies in Afghanistan rose dramatically after the Taliban was overthrown; or that a top U.S. anti-drug official recently acknowledged allies' doubts about the effectiveness of poppy eradication in Afghanistan, where poor farmers have few options on crops.

"The Taliban said they had a moratorium on the production of opium poppies, but they were taxing the farmers who were doing it anyway," said DEA agent David Lorino, who was in Afghanistan.

The exhibit says the 2004 Madrid train bombing involved a hashish-for-explosives swap, and that in 2002 federal agents foiled two plans to trade heroin and hashish for Stinger antiaircraft missiles that suspects planned to sell to al-Qaeda and a Colombian paramilitary organization. The exhibit features Colombian and Peruvian guerrilla forces financed by cocaine.

The exhibit opened in Dallas on Sept. 11, 2003, and has been shown in New York, Omaha and Detroit. It was brought to Chicago at the request of Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), who blamed drugs for "80 percent of the crime factor in our city" in his remarks when the exhibit opened.

The Chicago component of the exhibit highlights terror caused by local gangs involved with drugs. DEA spokesman Robertson also took a broader view of terrorism and drugs.

"Terrorists' goal is to tear down current societies and governments and offer something else," he said. "Drug abuse degrades societies from within because of the effect on society, on users and on health services. Drug trafficking is a way to degrade societies, which helps terrorists in their goal."

Arrests for Marijuana Use Ruins Lives Needlessly

Our war on drugs literally makes me nauseous with disgust. On June 20th, 18-year-old Eli Strunk of Fort Pierce was arrested for having less than an ounce of marijuana in his car. He faces a felony conviction that will follow him for the rest of his life and a possibility of spending five years in prison.

Each year, there are 700,000 marijuana arrests made in this country, mostly for possession or low level sales. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young people are sent to prison and their lives ruined. Our justice system and our police should hang their heads in shame for this injustice.

I am not alone in my views. Walter Chronkite has declared that "The war on drugs is now causing more harm than the drug abuse itself." Other sources, including many newspapers, the mayor of Chicago, the former governor of New Mexico, federal judges, police officials and even Dear Abby have expressed dismay over our war on drugs.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial on March 7 stated: "Its (the war on drugs) collateral damage is fostering anti-Americanism throughout the globe, particularly in South America, and at home, it has trashed the Fourth Amendment and is filling our jails with people whose only crime is to find pleasure in ways that other people don't like."

The Arizona Republic Newspaper in Phoenix did extensive research on illegal drugs and reported that "Alcohol is the most widely used and most commonly abused drug in the United States. It's detrimental impact on society is far greater than that of illegal drugs."

Canada and Mexico were close to making small quantities of drugs legal but changed their minds because of intense pressure from the United States. The Netherlands has virtually no drug problem even though it has legalized drugs. Alaska has legalized the use of marijuana. Rhode Island just became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana. And last November, Denver citizens voted to make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal.

John P. Walters, our current drug czar, has said that 16 million Americans regularly use marijuana. Thus, if the horrible effects claimed for this drug were true, we should be seeing our hospitals filled with desperately ill addicts. We should be seeing thousands of highway accidents due to crazed addicts driving under the influence. We should be seeing untold amounts of violence by the pot-heads.

But this is not happening.

The truth is that virtually all of the government's adverse claims about marijuana are false or greatly exaggerated. Of interest, one of Dr. Peter Gott's columns stated "Marijuana is now viewed by many authorities as being a relatively minor hazard to health."

Yes, there is violence associated with illegal drugs but that is simply a result of their being illegal. Our $50 billion drug appetite fuels the criminal aspects of the drug trade resulting in clashes between rival drug cartels and the dealers and the police. From our experience with prohibition, we know this would end if drugs were legalized.

A long-term review of the "police blotter" in the Port St. Lucie News shows that more arrests are made for simple non-violent "drug possession" than for theft, assault, rape, murder or other violent crime. No wonder there is overcrowding in our jails. No wonder we don't have the resources to protect abused wives. No wonder we don't have the resources to investigate child abuse. No wonder we don't have the resources to keep track of sexual predators.

Now for a serious question for you to ponder: If the police suddenly were able to prove marijuana use by the 16 million people referred to by Mr. Walters, would you want all of them arrested and sent to jail?

Would you want Bill Clinton sent to jail because he admitted smoking pot?

If not, why should Eli Strunk or any other young man be the fall guy?

Iliff, a retired engineering manager and a member of MENSA, is a Port St. Lucie resident. He is author of the handbook, "The War on Drugs, or Rx for Failure."

Nevada Conservatives Against the War on Drugs

Voters have been losing their taste for the war on drugs lately; in the past few years, states from Arizona and Alaska to California and Hawaii have moved toward making marijuana, in particular, a low priority for law enforcement, with first-offense possession cases often dismissed with small-time fines and medical-marijuana measures on the books in several states. But the initiative voters in Nevada will be considering this fall goes much further: The “tax and regulate” measure, whose supporters got it on the ballot by collecting 86,000 signatures, would allow anyone over 21 to possess up to one ounce for personal use, would set up a system of pot shops (at a specified distance from schools), and would tax marijuana in a manner comparable to alcohol.

What’s intriguing about the measure is not just that it could turn Reno and Vegas into American Amsterdams, but that its most enthusiastic champions are folks like Chuck Muth. A burly, crew-cut, 47-year-old meat-and-potatoes man—during dinner at the Glen Eagles restaurant, to which he has driven in a beat-up, 15-year-old station wagon, he opts out of the salad and never touches the vegetables that come with the steak—Muth runs a conservative networking organization named Citizen Outreach. Inspired by a course designed in Newt Gingrich’s office that he took in Washington, D.C., in 1996, he also leads message-honing seminars that have trained many successful Republican politicians and public figures including the state’s current first lady, Dema Guinn; his electronic newsletter claims 15,000 daily readers nationwide.

Nevada went for Bush in 2000 and 2004, but not by much. It is a land of desert and mountains, conservative in an old-fashioned, western sense. And that, says Muth, who grew up in Baltimore and was arrested for pot possession in a city park late one night when he was 19 years old, makes it the perfect state to say no to the war on drugs. “Live and let live,” says Muth. “If I’m not bothering anyone else, don’t bother me.” The politician he most idealizes is Barry Goldwater, another Republican who took on his party’s sacred cows.

What if Nevada were to pass the measure and the feds swept in? “Bring it on,” Muth exclaims, so excited his large fist literally thumps the table. “This country has needed a big fight over federalism for a long time. I’d love to see it here. If the feds came in, you’d start to see a backlash against the drug war and the federal government. The war on drugs is a total failure. It’s time to bring the troops home.”

It’s a hallmark of how much has changed from a decade ago, when Democrats and Republicans were clamoring for ever more tough-on-drugs measures, that the war on drugs will likely be undone (if it ever is) in the red states, by conservatives like Muth, his friend Grover Norquist (the conservative guru at Americans for Tax Reform), writer William F. Buckley, Jr., economist Milton Friedman, and former Secretary of State George Shultz, all of whom have a sort of Nixon-going-to-China advantage in turning soft on pot. Across the nation, says Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, about a quarter of Republicans support marijuana legalization, and the numbers are creeping up. “The next generation of Republicans is much more libertarian than social conservative,” says Piper. “At its core, conservatism is supposed to be about free markets, the rule of law, and smaller government—and you can’t have any of those when you have a massive war on drugs.” At last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann got enthusiastic applause when he called on Republicans to move away from the lock-’em-up approach as a drug-prevention strategy.

For Nevada, this is not the first attempt to pass a legalization measure. Four years ago, advocates got an initiative on the ballot that would have permitted possession of up to three ounces of marijuana; the initiative gained the support of the Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs. “We’re saying we should be spending our time protecting and serving the public,” asserted the organization’s then-president, Andy Anderson, before pressure from members forced the conference’s leadership to abandon its support. On Election Day, the initiative polled 39 percent.

This time around, despite early polls showing 56 percent of voters opposing the measure, supporters are hoping that they’ll do better come Election Day. Across the state, says Neal Levine, who leads the campaign for the measure, more and more conservatives are getting interested in reform for pragmatic as well as philosophical reasons; attempting to stamp out marijuana usage through incarceration, argues Levine, “is the biggest, costliest policy of failure this side of Iraq.” The D.C.-based Sentencing Project estimates that it costs America more than $4 billion annually to arrest, prosecute, and lock up marijuana offenders.

Levine, who lives in Las Vegas, maintains ties to many activists inside the Republican Party. The campaign’s press officer is a Log Cabin Republican. The measure’s most fervent backers, besides Muth, include Earlene Forsythe, a former military nurse who now specializes in caring for cancer patients. Forsythe, 56, chaired the state GOP during the 2004 presidential election season and has framed photos of herself with Laura and George Bush on her office walls. But she’s lost patience with her party over the issue of medical marijuana. “If my patient wants to go out and smoke a joint,” she shrugs, “I say, ‘Why not?’”

Besides, argues Muth, what better state than Nevada to launch a drug-reform movement? “It’s got to start somewhere,” he says. “The first domino has to fall.”

US Drug Chief Promotes Random Testing In Schools

America's drug tsar raised the stakes on drug testing in schools yesterday, suggesting that it could come to be seen as normal required and "responsible behaviour" in the same way that some US schools routinely test all pupils for tuberculosis before admission.

John Walters, director of the White House's office of national drug control policy, was speaking after meeting Jim Knight, an education minister. While Mr Walters said he had no authority to comment on the UK's drug policies, he made it clear that the US would continue to promote the tough line on drugs that has interested the British government.

"Some schools in the United States say a child needs to have a TB test," he said. "It's not considered to be an invasion of privacy. It's responsible behaviour. I believe we're very close to be able to think about that in terms of substance abuse."

Random drug testing has already started in schools in Kent. The government is taking part with Kent county council in a pilot project, overseen by Peter Walker, the headteacher of Abbey school in Faversham. In April Ruth Kelly, the then education secretary, told a teachers' conference that Abbey had found it "a hugely effective way of creating peer pressure against taking drugs in school".

Mr Walters said cannabis use was not just a matter of personal choice and the expression of freedom in the same way as a preference for clothes and hairstyles. "We're still living as if substance abuse is a fashion statement," he said.

Taking a strong line against marijuana was "not being judgmental but showing that we care".

Up to 700 schools in the US have adopted random drug testing, he said, and one school a week was joining them. He said it was not his business to criticise the reclassification of cannabis in the UK but he believed cannabis was "a dead-end drug and a stepping stone to addiction".

He added: "There's no question that these substances acting on human beings are bad for them and leads them to reach out for other drugs ... ".

The US policies were based on scientific evidence - some of it from the UK - that cannabis was linked to psychosis and schizophrenia. "We have a particular problem of our attitudes towards cannabis which hinders policy and hinders people going into treatment," he said.

"The attitude is that it's only marijuana. It doesn't help if your kids are playing Russian roulette that they are using a smaller calibre weapon."

Mr Walters strongly opposed harm reduction policies such as needle exchanges and injection rooms, saying they were "morally dubious". "It is a question of why you would want to use a Band-Aid against the serious disease of addiction when there is a solution," he said.

Permitting such harm reduction measures gave the impression that "society allows a stance of it's OK to be an addict", he said.

US opposition to harm reduction measures is likely to come under serious criticism at the International Aids conference in Toronto next week.

'Weeds' Grows Into One of TV's Best Shows

A second harvest of "Weeds" (10 p.m., EDT, Monday, Showtime) comes just in time to save us from the worst summer drought we've seen in quite some time.

This summer's television garden has been filled with rotten tomatoes ("Big Brother All-Stars") and lightweight peaches ("America's Got Talent") But for adults seeking more sophisticated, engaging fare, it's been an unbelievably bad crop until now.

In summers past, we've had HBO's "Six Feet Under" or "Sex and the City" to produce for us. With those gone, the entire garden is left up to "Weeds," which admirably carries on the tradition. It returns faster paced, wittier and with characters more complex.

"Weeds" is a garden of pleasures. It's oh-so-wrong, yet it manages to be the best comedy on cable. Heck, for that matter, it's also head-and-shoulders above anything on primetime network television, too.

The story picks up from last fall's delightfully teasing cliffhanger, with Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) discovering that she's had intimate relations with a man who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency. This wouldn't be an issue if she weren't secretly a marijuana dealer.

And this is "Weeds" at its best: the story of how compromised life can be for Nancy. She's a widow who reluctantly started selling marijuana to make ends meet after her upper-income suburban husband died. Her decisions are often poor, but made for the right reasons.

As she tries to keep her family together and maintain her position in the community, she gets pulled deeper and deeper into a profession that ethically nags at her.

Even as she scoots out the door after a one-night stand, she tells her DEA agent lover why she's uncomfortable with him still being naked the morning after: "Now, it's daytime, and I'm all dressed ... and Methodist."

The fallout from the encounter has more than one repercussion for Nancy. Her partner in the marijuana-growing business wants nothing to do with her. Her other associates become nervous as well.

Then there's Nancy's best friend, the brutally honest and hard-to-be around, Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), whose latest mission is to take away councilman Doug's (Kevin Nealon) seat. While Celia and Doug were woefully used as stick figures last season, they spring to life in the opener.

Perkins is a particularly ripe season stealer, especially when facing off against her grade-school daughter about the rebellious kid's weight issues (dubbing her, in one scene, "Eliz-a-belly").

Perkins is as feisty as ever, making Celia a wonderful foil for the lazy Doug (Nealon's best role ever), a man who's still stuck in an adolescent stage.

Also rounding out the appealing cast are Justin Kirk as Nancy's opportunistic brother-in-law, a grand sidekick to Doug, and Renee Victor as Nancy's maid, the best lippy servant since Rosario on "Will & Grace."

Only minor quibbles hold back "Weeds" at this point: Needless wordiness drags down the pace of some scenes, but that's a very minor flaw in an otherwise spectacular series.

With Nancy constantly having to dam up one leaking hole after another in her life, Parker has created a character that tries to do right but rarely feels as if she has.

"Weeds" has grown in a short period into a comedy-drama with unparalleled richness and engrossing layers. Now it's time to feast on it. Enjoy.

Today's lesson: scoring drugs

IT ALL turned to pot when John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a mathematics teacher, found his year 9 class at Epping Boys High too unruly.

The topic he chose to address was his enjoyment of alcohol and cannabis. His candour got the attention of the teenage boys and then the principal. Later police charged Kennedy, 28, with supplying cannabis to a 14-year-old.

The downfall of the part-time teacher and his sacking last month was revealed in a police statement to Ryde Local Court yesterday.

Kennedy had pleaded guilty to supplying cannabis to a student and was ready to be sentenced by the magistrate, Hugh Dillon.

But Mr Dillon, after reading the police statement, ordered a report on Kennedy's background and chances of rehabilitation. Police said he lived at his parents' home in Pymble with his two brothers.

Police said Kennedy had admitted after his arrest last month to supplying a 10-centimetre stick of cannabis leaf to a student for $20 in March.

According to his record of interview presented to the court, the drug deal unfolded during Kennedy's second-last maths lesson for his year 9 class in the last week of the first term.

"During the lesson the accused was having difficulty in gaining the students' attention and settling the class," police alleged.

Kennedy became involved in a discussion with a number of students, during which he said he drank and used marijuana at weekends, police said.

One student asked Kennedy if he could supply marijuana. "The accused said that he could and that the price would be $20."

Police alleged the student gave Kennedy $20 in front of the class and arranged to collect the cannabis at the next maths lesson.

The following week the student approached Kennedy in the classroom and "the accused removed a stick of marijuana from his personal wallet and handed the marijuana to the student". The transaction was witnessed by the class of 12 students, police said.

One student reported Kennedy to the principal, who called police. "The accused stated that his actions were extremely regrettable and showed remorse," the police said.

Kennedy's sentence was relisted for hearing before Ryde Local Court on September 20.

GW Pharma starts new Sativex trial

GW Pharma has started a second pivotal phase III trial of Sativex in people with multiple sclerosis suffering from central neuropathic pain, it said today, but the shares slipped back following recent gains.

The cannabis-based medicines group said the study aims to address a currently unmet medical need and will be recruiting patients in the UK, Canada, France, Spain and the Czech Republic.

The first patient has now been enrolled in the study which is expected to report headline results in about a year.

A previous pivotal phase III trial showed that Sativex was significantly superior to placebo in reducing pain and sleep disturbance.

It is regulatory convention for two pivotal phase III trials in the same patient population to be required to support a product approval for a particular indication.

Canada was the first country to approve Sativex as adjunctive treatment for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in MS.

Increase in psychotic symptoms predicts relapse to cannabis use

There may be a two-way relationship between cannabis use and psychosis, according to a new study from Australia. Published in the August issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study found that more frequent cannabis use was associated with a higher risk of psychotic relapse, and more severe psychotic symptoms were associated with increased risk of cannabis relapse.

This was the first prospective study to explore systematically the relationship between cannabis use and psychotic symptoms and relapse, relative to other risk factors, over a 6-month period using highly sensitive measures and frequent follow-up.

At the start of the study, 84 people with recent-onset psychosis were assessed, and 81 were followed up weekly for 6 months, using telephone and face-to-face interviews.

Over 70% of the participants were male, and the average age was 24. Nearly 80% were single and 76% were on disability/unemployment benefits. The average duration of untreated psychosis was 118 days.

It was found that the risk of psychotic relapse increased by approximately 6.4% with each additional day of cannabis use within a 1-week period.

There was a high rate of cannabis relapse, with 61% of participants increasing their cannabis use to a level that met the definition of a cannabis relapse.

After taking into account medication adherence, life stress, other substance use and age at onset of regular cannabis use, psychotic symptom severity was predictive of a cannabis relapse.

These results are consistent with the reports of participants that cannabis use is one way of coping with an increase in positive psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations.

The severity of symptoms of depression and anxiety at the start of the study also emerged as a significant predictor of time to psychotic relapse (but not to a relapse in cannabis use), although this finding needs further investigation.

The authors of the study comment that the use of repeated- measures design to obtain a detailed picture of symptoms, medication, stress and substance use provides the best evidence to date for a strong association between cannabis use and psychotic relapse.

Although further research is needed, this study suggests that when compared with the effect of cannabis use, other risk factors for relapse – such as duration of untreated psychosis, adherence to medication and chronic and acute stress – have less impact on the relapse process.

The findings of this study highlight the need for early intervention programmes to target both cannabis use and psychotic symptom severity in young people.

Cultivating cannabis? It's like growing tomatoes, says judge

A JUDGE has refused to impose an antisocial behaviour order on a man cultivating cannabis because it is “no worse than having tomato plants”.

He also told Oxford City Council, who applied for the ASBO, that it was “the sort of thing they do in Russia or China”.

Twelve cannabis plants, worth £3,400, were discovered growing under special hydroponic lights at Phillip Pledge’s council flat. The council sought a possession order for the National Blood Service driver’s home and an ASBO banning him from the housing estate for two years.

Judge Charles Harris, QC, refused both applications, saying that smoking cannabis did not constitute a nuisance. The judge said: “Smoking or possession of a quantity of cannabis, though a criminal offence, does not constitute a nuisance.

“For some reason the Crown Prosecution Service has not charged Mr Pledge. He was arrested and released. If there is evidence against the defendant he should be brought before a criminal court.”

The plants were found on the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford during a police raid in February. The city council said that Mr Pledge was causing “alarm, harassment and distress” to his neighbours by growing the marijuana.

Simon Strelitz, for the council, said that Mr Pledge had broken his tenancy agreement by storing and growing the drug. He told Oxford County Court: “The city council is not prepared to allow its property to harbour people who wish to commit offences. The fact that he has drugs in such quantity acts as a magnet for other unsavoury characters.”

Mr Pledge, a business partner in Oxford Hydroponics, represented himself in court.

He said that the drugs were for personal use, and added: “I’ve not dealt drugs and it’s never been proven that I dealt drugs. I am a partner in a hydroponics shop, which carries a certain stigma with it. I’ve been trying to get a move away for two years and been trying to wean myself off cannabis.”

Judge Harris said: “If you are Sherlock Holmes and you go back to Baker Street and inject yourself with cocaine, as he did, you cannot be called a nuisance. So quietly smoking cannabis at home, not that it is to be encouraged, I’m not sure at all it constitutes a nuisance. If you are simply growing it, it’s no more offensive to neighbours than tomato plants.”

A spokesman for Oxford City Council said that it would be appealing against the decision.

I Could Die If Don't Have My Cannabis

Epilepsy sufferer Michael Rourke is demanding the right to use the drug that he says cures his violent seizures. Police raided the Brockworth home of the 37-year-old last month, confiscating the cannabis plants he says are vital in averting his fits.

Without his medication, Michael, who is originally from Manchester, says he could die as his night-time episodes increase in frequency.

"The fits I have are in my sleep and they could kill me," said Michael, who has moved to Tewkesbury since the raid.

"The last serious one happened in Rochdale and I had three fractures in my spine."

Michael was diagnosed with epilepsy five years ago after a violent beating outside a Manchester nightclub.

One of the offenders, who was never caught, attacked him with a knife and, as he ducked to evade the blow, the blade pierced his skull.

"It was only later on when I started fitting that I went to hospital - the epilepsy came afterwards," he said.

"I have tried to treat it with medication, but I had reactions to it - you don't know what you're doing with them.

"So a specialist told me, off the record, to take cannabis instead. Skunk is very expensive to buy, so I resorted to growing it for myself.

"It stops me from having fits and when I do, it takes the pain away."

Michael's home was raided on July 22 as part of Gloucestershire Constabulary's Operation Potter - a crackdown on crime in their Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Division.

They took away his plants and growing equipment. He was later arrested and charged with cultivation of a controlled drug and is due to face magistrates on Monday.

But Michael is more worried about the effect taking away his drugs will have on his health.

"Since then I have had two fits because I haven't been smoking it," he said.

"The plants were all I had and I'm not prepared to go on the streets to buy it.

"I have gone back to the medication - 1,000mg of Tegretol a day - which doesn't help me very much at all. It just wipes me out.

"I just don't think it's right that someone taking it for health reasons should be persecuted the way I have been.

"I have to go to court for something I think I should be given medically. There's a lot of people like me."

Cannabis is a class C drug, having been reclassified from class B in 2004.

It is illegal to use the drug but it generally only leads to arrest if taken in public or near a school, if public order is threatened, if the person is a repeat offender or under 17.

Although it has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, there is difference of opinion about its benefits.

Ingrid Burns, a spokeswoman for the Leeds-based Epilepsy Action charity, said: "We can't either condone or condemn this.

"It's important to stress that it's a class C drug and illegal.

"It is not licensed to treat epilepsy. There is anecdotal evidence that it can help some people with epilepsy, but with others it can make it worse."

No 10 fears cannabis link to hard drugs

The Government has defended its policy of downgrading cannabis as an illegal drug after a leaked study suggested users were being sold hard drugs by dealers as well.

The report, written by the No 10 strategy unit, warned: "The vast majority of local drug dealers will use cannabis as an easy way of making money and increasing their client base. They will seek to secure more hard drugs clients from among that base." It said both hard drug and cannabis use was rising, and called for more research.

Cannabis was downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004. The Home Office said yesterday: "Cannabis is illegal and will remain so … It is harmful and its use can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological harms and hazards. The penalties for the possession, cultivation, production and dealing of cannabis are tough."

It added that the classification would be kept "under close review".

If the government were to reclassify drugs, should alcohol and tobacco be included?

Karol Sikora
Society makes strange rules. Its inconsistencies occur when these rules are introduced over wide time scales. The logic would classify tobacco and alcohol in the same bracket as cannabis and some other recreational drugs but, realistically, it would be impossible to change things now. Imagine going to the doctor to get a prescription for a glass of wine. Instead, the current policy of education, restriction of availability and punitive taxation seems the best way forward. And maybe we should reconsider a more liberal attitude towards some recreational drugs.
· Karol Sikora is a cancer specialist

Noreena Hertz
Tobacco is more addictive than heroin. More people die from alcohol and tobacco-related causes than die from 'illegal' drug use. Yet a cocaine dealer can be prosecuted for causing a client's death, while tobacco and alcohol company directors cannot. Incorporating tobacco and alcohol in the drug classification scheme would help address such inconsistency. Drug classifications shouldn't just be about helping the consumer identify the dangers associated with whatever they take. They should also be about determining what kind of punishment those who peddle drugs should face.
· Noreena Hertz is an academic

Sarfaraz Manzoor
To reclassify alcohol and tobacco would be pointless. It is obvious that drinks and cigarettes kill far more people than cocaine and cannabis, but I do not believe that reclassification would prevent people from smoking and drinking. If we want to reduce the deaths from smoking, we need to focus more on ensuring children do not start smoking. Similarly, with drinking, we have a culture where drinking is considered social and binge drinking has become commonplace. What is required is for this culture to be challenged. We need to reclassify what is seen as normal.
· Sarfraz Manzoor is a writer and broadcaster

Sunder Katwala
The current system is illogical, but a debate is difficult when shifting cannabis's grade generates a hysterical reaction. Governments should have two ambitions - to minimise the social harms which arise from addictive drugs and to warn individuals about harming their health. As MP John Mann has suggested, these criteria should be at the heart of classification. Health campaigns, warnings and restrictions do and should apply to tobacco and alcohol too - and have done much to reduce the social acceptability of tobacco.
· Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the Fabian Society

Drugs and prohibition

Certain areas of human conduct lend themselves so readily to bad science that you have to wonder if there is a pattern emerging. Last week the parliamentary science and technology committee looked into the ABC classification of illegal drugs, and found it was rubbish. This is not an article about that report, but it is a good place to start: drugs, they found, are supposed to be ranked by harm, in classes A, B, and C, but they're not; and the ranking is supposed to act as a deterrent, but it doesn't.

Watching this small area of prohibition collapse like wet tissue paper got me thinking: how does the world of prohibition match up against our gold standards for bad science, like the nutritionists or the anti-MMR movement? Have any of the prominent academic papers been retracted? Yes, they have. Professor George Ricaurte, funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, published an article in Science, describing how he administered a comparable recreational dose of ecstasy to monkeys: this dose killed 20% of the monkeys, and another 20% were severely injured.

Even before it was announced - a year later - that they'd got the bottles mixed up and used the wrong drug, you didn't need to be Einstein to know this was duff research, because millions of clubbers have taken the "comparable" recreational dose of ecstasy, and 20% of them did not die. It's no wonder animal rights campaigners manage to persuade themselves that animal research makes a bad model for human physiology.

That's before you even get started on workaday bad science. Like the food gurus, prohibitionists will cherry pick research that suits them, measure inappropriate surrogate outcomes, and wishfully over-interpret data: a prohibitionist will observe that less cannabis has been seized, and declare that this means there is less cannabis on the streets, rather than less police interest.

For textbook bad science we'd also want to see the media distorting research: overstating the stuff it likes, and ignoring stuff it doesn't, especially negative findings. We used to read a lot about cannabis and lung cancer in the papers. The largest ever study of whether cannabis causes lung cancer reported its findings recently, to total UK media silence. Lifelong cannabis users, who had smoked more than 22,000 joints, showed no greater risk of cancer than people who had never smoked cannabis.

While no journalist has written a single word on that study, the Times did manage to make a front page story headed "Cocaine floods the playground: use of the addictive drug by children doubles in a year," out of their misinterpretation of a government report that showed nothing of the sort.

There are even optimists who believe in quick fix treatments for drug habits - the heroin detox in five days, or painless withdrawal in just 48 hours, under general anaesthesia.

Why are drugs such a bad science magnet? Partly, of course, it's the moral panic. But more than that, sat squarely at the heart of our discourse on drugs, is one fabulously reductionist notion: it is the idea that a complex web of social, moral, criminal, health, and political problems can be simplified to, blamed on, or treated via a molecule or a plant. You'd have a job keeping that idea afloat.

Medical Marijuana Laws Going Up in Smoke

Although the medical marijuana movement received a devastating blow last year when the U.S. Supreme Court negated legal protections in 11 states, lawyers involved in several pending actions say the issue is far from dead.

There is a high level of political support for medical marijuana, and clearly that affects the feds, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. They've been changing their message from, 'There's no such thing as medical marijuana' to 'We're not going to harass the sick and the dying.' That's been an important evolution.

According to attorney Joseph Elford, the DEA has limited its dispensary crackdowns to two situations - facilities that have a connection to other drug investigations and instances where local authorities have requested a federal bust.

It's actually played out in somewhat of a comfortable fashion, said Elford, chief counsel for San Francisco-based Americans for Safe Access. In San Francisco, where there are about 30 dispensaries and a city ordinance that regulates them the feds have not made any effort to bust them.

But when the federal government does prosecute, the Supreme Court has eliminated any defense based on state medical marijuana laws. In June 2005, the Court ruled in Gonzales vs. Raich, 125 S. Ct. 2195, that state medical marijuana laws pose no barrier to federal drug enforcement.

As a result, lawyers who champion the medical use of marijuana are fighting on several fronts to regain their legal footing. The battle is being played out most prominently in California, where the DEA has cracked down on storefront cannabis dispensaries that were legalized under state law in 1996 and arrested several individuals who had permission under state law to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

In 1996, California became the first state to allow residents to possess and cultivate marijuana if doctors recommended the drug. Since then, 10 more states - Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington - have passed similar laws. (Arizona also passed a medical marijuana law in 1996, but it has been hung up in legal battles ever since.)

Nadelmann believes a statute would pass in every state if put on the ballot, and his confidence is supported by a 2005 Gallup poll that found 78 percent of Americans support making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.

Of the eight states that have put the issue on the ballot, all eight have passed the measure.

But in the wake of Raich those laws are virtually meaningless, since the court clearly ruled that federal agents have the right to arrest and prosecute users, regardless of how sick they are or whether they have documented permission to use marijuana under state law.

Fresno lawyer Robert Rainwater represents Dustin Costa, a man who legally uses medical marijuana under California law, but faces federal criminal charges for cultivation, possession with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm. Rainwater told Lawyers USA that medical marijuana is pretty much dead as an issue that he can use at trial.

I'll try to put it in medical evidence, he said, but the feds don't allow it. It's as simple as that.

Elford, of Americans for Safe Access, has several pending cases, including that of Ed Rosenthal, a California man who was arrested by federal authorities in 2002 and convicted by a federal jury of growing marijuana.

But only days after rendering their decision, seven of the 12 jurors held a press conference after reading in newspapers that the man they'd convicted was a legal grower who was providing marijuana for people who relied on it for medical purposes. The seven jurors denounced their own verdict.

Although U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer had ordered the medical evidence withheld from the jury, he sentenced Rosenthal to just one day in jail. Several press accounts quoted the judge as saying that the extraordinary, unique circumstances of this case were not covered by the usual sentencing rules, so he imposed the lightest term possible.

The 9th Circuit heard the case on appeal, and on April 26 overturned Rosenthal's conviction based on evidence that two jurors had learned about the medical marijuana angle during trial, contacted a lawyer to ask if they could refuse to convict on conscientious grounds, and were advised not to do so. The government has 90 days from April 26 to file an appeal.

But in the meantime, Elford said his client was not satisfied with merely getting off - he wants to address the issue head on. In keeping with his client's wishes, Elford has petitioned the court for en banc review to reexamine the exclusion of the medical marijuana evidence.

In another closely watched case, County of Santa Cruz vs. Ashcroft, a 250-member hospice group, the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is facing charges of growing and distributing marijuana to its members. In 2002, the DEA raided WAMM's facilities and seized plants. WAMM sued, becoming the first public entity to file a legal action against the federal government over medical marijuana.

The Raich decision scuttled that effort, but in February WAMM filed an amended complaint asserting a Tenth Amendment claim, arguing that the states have the right to regulate the health and welfare of their own citizens.

To strengthen that claim, the city of Santa Cruz established an Office of Compassionate Use last fall that will provide marijuana to qualified users, but only if the plaintiff prevails.

According to Allen Hopper, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, the city's direct involvement in the distribution of medical marijuana gives it the right under the Tenth Amendment to opt out of federal drug enforcement.

The federal government has engaged in a policy of using its criminal-enforcement powers in a way that violates the Tenth Amendment, Hopper said. They're trying to force California to re- criminalize medical marijuana. And you can't do that.

On the other side of the country, a University of Massachusetts scientist has filed suit against the DEA seeking the right to grow marijuana for research purposes. Currently, the federal government holds a monopoly on research marijuana; the National Institute of Drug Abuse produces the only supply of legal marijuana in the country at the University of Mississippi.

Hopper, who is representing plaintiff Lyle Craker, contends that DEA has choked off research that could definitively answer questions about marijuana's medical use. The suit claims that a tightly controlled independent research operation like the one Craker has proposed is badly needed.

The federal government is very concerned that if marijuana is found to be useful as medicine, that their propaganda campaign about marijuana being an evil, deadly drug will lead people to see that the emperor has no clothes, Hopper said.

The Craker case has been fully briefed by both sides before an administrative law judge. The judge's opinion will only be advisory.

In addition to the conflict between state and federal law, the medical marijuana issue has also given rise to workplace disputes, where employees' legal ingestion of marijuana runs afoul of employers' policies.

The California Supreme Court will hear one of the preeminent cases, Ross vs. Ragingwire Telecommunications.

Plaintiff Gary Ross suffered back injuries during his service in the U.S. Air Force and a doctor recommended marijuana to ease his pain.
When Ross was hired as a computer hardware technician at Ragingwire, he provided the company with his doctor's recommendation that he use marijuana to ease the pain, according to his lawyer, Stewart Katz of Sacramento. But Ross was fired on his eighth day on the job when a pre-employment drug test came back positive for marijuana.

It's sort of perverse when someone is protected by the Compassionate Use Act, but it's not enough for him to keep a job, Katz said.

Ross filed suit for employment discrimination, but a trial court and intermediate appellate court focused on the illegality of marijuana under federal law and told Ross he had no cause of action.

In December 2005 the state supreme court agreed to hear the case.

This article was originally published in Lawyers USA, a sister publication.

Porn movie plus tinny for $35

DVD pirates and drug pushers have joined forces to bring their punters a $35 porn movie and cannabis combo deal.

In a brazen marketing twist offered through cannabis tinny houses, they are also selling cannabis and a regular DVD movie for $30.

The Weekend Herald has learned that the Mongrel Mob and rival gang Black Power are offering the identical deal in their tinny houses in different parts of the North Island.

A cannabis "tinny" or bullet containing a small amount of the drug wrapped in tinfoil usually sells for $20.

Tony Eaton, executive director of the New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft, confirmed that its investigations had found evidence of the DVD-cannabis deals and said his group had told the police.

He said investigations led the federation to one of the gangs doing the deal in Auckland and separately to the other doing it in part of the lower North Island. Police were yet to execute warrants on the addresses.

Mr Eaton would not name the gangs, but the Weekend Herald understands they are the Mongrel Mob and Black Power.

"They are selling them [DVDs] part-and-parcel with cannabis through their tinny houses. They're doing combo deals.

"This is a big worry for us. These gangs are organised and all they are doing is putting another item down their distribution channels. Unfortunately, they are looking at us."

Tinny houses are one of the main methods of cannabis distribution to young people and police have previously voiced concern that other drugs such as methamphetamine, known as P, have been pushed through their established channels.

The federation, which is the Motion Picture Association's piracy watchdog in New Zealand, has 12 private investigators contracted to it and is running 50 separate investigations into commercial DVD piracy.

In another investigation, Mr Eaton said the federation would be laying a complaint against a Christchurch woman allegedly caught recording a movie trailer before the screening of the animated film Cars.

Hoyts Cinema staff contacted management and the woman, who was sitting with her family, was approached and her camcorder seized.

Mr Eaton said no one had been charged in New Zealand for recording screenings, but police were investigating a similar case in the South Island.

This week, the federation revealed it had sued 14 New Zealanders who among them sold more than 10,000 pirated DVDs on NZ websites, including Trade Me. Mr Eaton said they had shut down the distribution of pirated DVDs at flea markets and had taken down 1700 pirate DVD sellers from the Trade Me site.

"We've shut down the markets, and now we are casting our net wider."

Worldwide, the Motion Picture Association estimates piracy cost the film industry US$6.1 billion ($9.9 billion) in potential revenue last year.

Mr Eaton said some New Zealand dealers were making thousands of dollars a week through pirated DVDs and it was believed there were up to 30 operations in South Auckland alone.

Although all types were attracted to the trade, Mr Eaton, a former police officer, said links between organised crime and DVD piracy in New Zealand were strong.

He had heard from police officers who had raided gang houses and found piles of DVDs and not acted because they were unaware that charges under the Copyright Act carried a maximum penalty of five years.

Reefer is Worth Getting Mad About

Supporters of the legalization of cannabis would have us believe that it is a gentle, harmless substance that gives you little more than a sense of mellow euphoria.

Sellers of the world's most popular illicit drug know better. Trawl through websites offering cannabis seeds for sale and you will find brand names such as Armageddon, AK-47 and White Widow. "This will put you in pieces, then reduce you to rubble -- maybe quicksand if you go too far," one seller boasts. This is much closer to the truth.

In Canada, as in most parts of the world, cannabis is by far the drug of choice. An estimated 4 per cent of the world's adult population -- that's about 162 million people -- consume cannabis at least once a year, more than all other illicit drugs combined.

Does that matter? I firmly believe it does, because the cannabis now in circulation (like Canada's BC Bud) is many times more powerful than the weed that today's aging baby boomers smoked in college. The characteristics of cannabis are no longer that different from those of other plant-based drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

Evidence of the damage to mental health caused by cannabis use -- from loss of concentration to paranoia, aggressiveness and outright psychosis -- is mounting and cannot be ignored. Emergency room admissions involving cannabis are rising, as is demand for rehabilitation treatment. These health problems are increasingly being seen in young people.

North America is the world's largest cannabis market and most of its cannabis is homegrown. The U.S. market alone has been valued at more than $10-billion. As Canadians are starting to discover, a market that size inevitably attracts organized crime. So cannabis is a security threat as well as a health risk.

Amid all the libertarian talk about the right of the individual to engage in dangerous practices, provided no one else gets hurt, certain key facts are easily forgotten.

Firstly, cannabis is a dangerous drug, not just to the individuals who use it. People who drive under the influence of cannabis put others at risk. Would even the most ardent supporter of legalization want to fly in an aircraft whose pilot used cannabis?

Secondly, drug control works. More than a century of universally accepted restrictions on heroin and cocaine have prevented what would otherwise have been a pandemic. Global levels of drug addiction -- think of the opium dens of the 19th century -- have dropped dramatically in the past 100 years. In the past 10 years or so, they have remained stable.

Cannabis is the weakest link in the international effort to contain the global drugs problem. In theory, it's a controlled substance. In practice, it's running rampant. It grows under the most varied conditions in many countries, a high-yielding plant that can be grown indoors. This makes supply control difficult.

But we can tackle demand, particularly among the young. That need not mean sending them to jail. Young people caught in possession of cannabis could be treated in much the same way as those arrested for drunk driving: fined, required to attend classes on the dangers of drug use and threatened with loss of their driving licence for repeat offences. Prison would be a last resort. Schools and universities should apply zero tolerance.

National policies on cannabis vary and sometimes change from one year to the next. The experience of countries that were more tolerant of cannabis use is ambiguous and not persuasive. The distinction between "soft" and "hard" drugs is, at best, artificial, especially with such a damaging psycho-active substance as modern-day cannabis. Even some advocates of cannabis as a "soft" drug are now reconsidering as they observe the devastating health consequences of abuse.

Canada was a pioneer in introducing systematic anti-smoking policies, which are now being copied around the world. Their success demonstrates that preventive measures can help to change attitudes. Similar policies are needed to prevent cannabis use getting completely out of control.

Let's draw the right conclusions. Cannabis is dangerous. We ignore it at our peril.

Antonio Maria Costa is executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Business profile: Stressful life of pioneering 'cannabis dealer'

Should regulators just chill out about the cannabis-based drug for multiple sclerosis made by GW Pharmaceuticals?

The company has faced so many difficulties from watchdogs it might be enough to drive Geoffrey Guy, GW's executive chairman, to the weed he grows in huge quantities.

Guy prefers to unwind by boating in his native Dorset and does not even drink alcohol or coffee, let alone smoke dope, which he says he has never tried.

He admits running GW - the first company to attempt the complicated process of making a medicine using the entire cannabis plant - has been gruelling.

GW's main product, Sativex, is potentially a revolutionary medicine for people with MS. The under-the-tongue spray, made from cannabis grown in GW's top-secret greenhouses in the south of England, uses the plant's relaxing qualities to alleviate involuntary muscle spasms of MS patients, while not creating any of the hallucinogenic qualities of smoking a joint.

Yet, having been formed eight years ago, GW has disappointed investors by seemingly being on the brink of launching Sativex on the market, only to be thwarted by adverse regulatory rulings and disappointing results from some of its medical studies. The frustrations have led to accusations that Guy has over-promised and under-delivered.

Guy, a co-founder of GW and the G in its name, is normally relentlessly upbeat about the medical potential of cannabis.

But he concedes that the process of developing Sativex in a way that satisfies regulators has been tough: "It has been very, very difficult. I do suffer under the frustrations and some slightly unkind things have been said about us. On the other hand, spending a day with a patient restores it all, when you get a patient who says 'thank you Geoffrey for giving me my life back'."

The Barts-trained doctor points out that many of GW's hiccups with regulators were because he speeded things along. In the mid 1990s, MS patients desperate for something to alleviate their condition were using cannabis, only to find themselves charged with possession of an illegal drug. The courts tended to let them off or hand out suspended sentences, but the Home Office recognised the situation was unsatisfactory and encouraged a plan put forward by Guy to look at turning cannabis into a regulated medicine.

"When I started this programme I did it under a social, legal, medical imperative to work as quickly as possible. The transcripts of a House of Lords select committee in 2001 show it was lambasting the Department of Health for being so slow. The Department of Health was saying in late 2002 Sativex would be approved in 2004."

GW first submitted its dossier to regulators in the UK in 2003 as a treatment for both spasticity and neuropathic pain, which affects peoples nerves. To the company's dismay, it was rejected, on the grounds that separate trials should be conducted for each problem even though most MS patients suffer from both.

Two subsequent trials followed in spasticity, the latest of which was published in March. The study showed good results but just fell short of the efficacy standard demanded by regulators.

Guy admits they did not get the "slam dunk" but he insists the trials taken together show Sativex works, and he is confident that some regulators, perhaps on the Continent, will see it that way.

At the same time, GW has been doing trials of Sativex for neuropathic pain - a massive market - and is also conducting trials for cancer pain in the US.

Mindful of previous promises that have not come off, Guy is cautious about which indication it will focus on first. "I'm not saying it is going to be X or Y on a certain date. We've been caught out very badly on that before," he says.

The 51-year-old nearly died from pneumonia a few years ago and has been diagnosed with diabetes. He admits he is "exhausted", but adds "that is like saying to a marathon runner don't get tired at the end of the marathon".

He says "our European programme has been spreading, we have more positive results across the board and we have got into the US. And since the beginning of the year patients in the UK can get Sativex under prescription from their doctor."

Guy has made a lot of money in the drugs industry, though his 20pc stake in GW has almost halved in value since 2004 to about £18m.

His successes include developing narcotic analgesics and the first skin patch for hormone replacement therapy.

Guy found himself having a conversation on this subject with Margaret Thatcher, who complained about the old style hormone replacement treatment, delivered through jelly bags attached to the skin.

"I was on the British mission in Kiev in the late 1980s, on a stand about drug delivery.

"Margaret Thatcher - who is a chemist - was talking about HRT and said they are awfully crispy and fall off."

Much of Guy's work on HRT was done at Ethical, another drugs company he set up in 1985. He left it after the company "ran straight into the front of the biotech downturn" in 1996 and failed to list in London.

"I felt really, really bad about it at the time. Later it wasn't so bad when you considered that nobody else got away." The decision to leave, he says, was because "I always said if I find a time when I don't believe I can add anything the next day it is time to move on. So that is what I did."

After Ethical, Guy decided to pursue a hunch he had that cannabis might be the missing link in the naturally produced pain killers that include morphine and capsicum, from peppers.

To the doubters Guy can fairly claim he has made progress.

Sativex sales have started in Canada and there has been a small-scale distribution in Spain and the UK under a compassionate use scheme. GW has licensing partnerships with much larger drugs companies, such as Germany's Bayer and Almirall of Spain, which will net it £70m if it meets certain hurdles.

In the key American market the go-head by the Food and Drug Administration to carry out a late-stage trial on cancer pain is also a considerable opportunity.

Guy points out that due to the nature of his raw ingredients, GW's progress has been in the spotlight.

"It is like a cook being asked to choose a new recipe and being told people are going to sit in the kitchen all day and watch them make it. Every single thing, warts and all has been looked at. Most pharmaceuticals companies do not have to do that," he says.

Three cans of Special Brew for breakfast

A FORMER Eastwood man, who is a recovering alcoholic, has spoken out about the perils of drink after a Government report said booze should be re-classified as more harmful than some illegal drugs.

John Hibbard, 57, who now lives in Heanor, quit drinking ten years ago after he was hospitalised on holiday in Scotland.

Working as a bus driver in Underwood, Mr Hibbard spoke of the times he ferried children and pensioners while under the influence of alcohol.

Mr Hibbard said: "I would drink three cans of Carlsberg Special Brew for my breakfast and then go and drive a double-decker bus.

"I was in a very bad place. I was drinking as if it was going out of fashion. My alcoholism wasn't picked up until I was 47."

"I have had to go from extremes to zero tolerance."

A mixture of specialised counselling, and the support of his "magnifcent" local GP, enabled Mr Hibbard to tackle his addiction.

Now he is warning others about the dangers of problem drinking: "Everywhere you go these days you get booze thrown at you."

This week Mr Hibbard took part in a Radio Derby debate about Government findings which rate some illegal drugs as less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.

The suggested rating of drugs, according to harm done, rates alcohol as the fifth most harmful drug, ahead of some current class A drugs, while tobacco was listed as ninth. Cannabis, currently rated a class C drug, was below both those legal stimulants at 11th.

The MPs said including alcohol and tobacco in the classification would give the public "a better sense of the relative harms involved".

Phil Willis, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said: "It's time to bring in a more systematic and scientific approach to drug classification - how can we get the message across to young people if what we are saying is not based on evidence?"

Mr Hibbard said: "Alcohol is the most available drug. It is more available than heroin or cannabis.

"Where you have got a human being, you have got a drink or drug problem."

Hemp -- Myth and Possibility

Two years ago, a federal appellate court cleared the way for goods and foods containing hemp seed and oil to be sold and consumed in the United States.

Today, hemp is used in a wide array of popular products, from soap to snack foods, from paper to shower curtains, from jeans to auto parts. Yet the cultivation of industrial hemp remains illegal in this nation.

Why? Two words: mythology and confusion.

Industrial hemp suffers discrimination by association with its cannabis cousin -- marijuana. The federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 effectively banned the production of all cannabis plants regardless of the level of the psychoactive ingredient THC.

The levels of THC in industrial hemp are so low that it would be almost impossible to smoke or digest enough to give someone even a mild buzz.

Even so, the irrationality that sometimes characterizes our "war on drugs" has allowed foreign hemp farmers to exploit the vacuum created by the prevailing ignorance about its clear distinctions from marijuana. Canada lifted its 50-year ban on industrial-hemp cultivation in 1998.

It took a few years for Canadian farmers to refine their techniques, but today their industrial hemp is considered "the best in the world," according to David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magical Soaps, an Escondido-based company that uses hemp to make its soaps smoother and milder on the skin.

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Complete Article: http://tinyurl.com/hb62p

Why does the Govenment ignore the smoking gun?

Amsterdam, famous for its canals and artists, is now, for far too many visitors, memorable mainly for its stag parties and coffee houses. The city has learnt its lesson. Fewer coffee houses are now being licensed and the many that still flourish are now more tightly regulated.

The British approach to cannabis, meanwhile, is still clouded by the lasting influence of the 1968 generation, who revered youth, whatever the cost, and were frightened to express an honest opinion about cannabis lest it sound old-fashioned, anachronistic or even racist.

The Swedes and the Dutch, whom few would consider quaint or anachronistic, have adopted a realistic approach to cannabis based on its medical side-effects. Conversely, Britain tackles the cannabis problem by producing impotent reports prepared by organisations whose members have been selected by the Government. The latest report on cannabis by the parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee criticises earlier contributions to the debate on drugs from the police and the Government’s own Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). As its recommendations were dressed up in parliamentary language, it sounds less condemning of the present system, by which the Government derives its information from an advisory council that it appointed itself. Although allegedly peopled by experts, the council previously contained no pharmacological toxicologist, no neurologist nor any research biologist.

The better known psychiatrists who have spent a lifetime treating the psychoses that are related to cannabis-taking were not on the Government’s advisory council. The Government admitted that they had deliberately excluded members with known strong moral positions about drug relaxation (but not those with strong moral views about liberalisation). To have excluded detached, realistic, and genuinely independent opinions from the doctors who would be unlikely to have moral views but who would have seen the effects of cannabis can only have been destructive.

The select committee states that it intends to support a rational classification on drugs according to their ability to cause physical harm, and to induce dependence and impact on families, communities and societies, which sounds praiseworthy — but these are subjective evaluations and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement them.

It is easier to assess the damage that cannabis does to an individual, and the impact that this has on a patient and family than it is to judge its more nebulous influence on society and communities.

Research has now indicated, and is accepted by most medical experts, that an unexpectedly large proportion, possibly up to 25 per cent, of people may carry genes that make them vulnerable to cannabis, a vulnerability that may lead to psychotic breakdown. Cannabis can be the trigger that changes a brilliant, but eccentric and even bizarre, personality into someone who is so deranged as to be disabled.

An example of this effect was a young graduate who several years ago consulted me regularly. There was no doubt that she had a personality of the type that would make her vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. Equally, there was no doubt that the trigger for her breakdown had been cannabis.

Most doctors see many patients of this sort, and regret that had the patient been young 60 years earlier, he or she could well have been no more than eccentric and might well have had a rewarding and interesting career. What made a fairly routine case history different was the way in which her father’s response to his daughter’s diagnosis so underlined the select committee’s concern on the effect of cannabis on the family. His forcibly expressed opinion was that his daughter’s diagnosis of psychosis was a disappointment, as he had hoped that she had a cerebral tumour, even though this would lead to her death.

Many of the opinions of members of the Government’s advisory council on cannabis are on record. Those that suggest that cannabis is relatively harmless or even, as one member said, that there had been no deaths to date caused by the use of cannabis, are hard to explain as nearly 20 per cent of people who suffer from a chronic or recurrent psychosis commit suicide.

The use of cannabis is also being increasingly blamed for road accidents, acute heart problems and some malignancies. It is only necessary to compare the life expectation of someone with a psychosis with those of similar age and background without a psychosis to understand that cannabis takes years off your life.

Equally, if not more, important to the individual and society is the effect that cannabis has on everyday personality traits: apathy, loss of drive and effectiveness, emotional escapism leading to a misplaced enthusiasm for the mystical and esoteric, inadequate insight and poor judgment of both their own and other people’s abilities and actions.

Not to mention the effect that cannabis has on potency and fertility, and its ability to harm the embryo.

Judge's Criticised For Drugs Comment

A judge has been criticised for suggesting that people who use their homes as drug factories are no more of a nuisance than those who cultivate tomato plants.

Judge Charles Harris questioned whether council tenant Phillip Pledge was causing anti-social behaviour by growing and storing cannabis of a street value totalling £3,400 at his flat in Blackbird Leys, Oxford.

He also compared the nuisance value of growing cannabis to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes taking drugs in the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The judge's comments, made during an Antisocial Behaviour Order hearing at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, left community leaders baffled.

Blackbird Leys councillor Lee Cole, of the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), who campaigns against the social damage of drug use in his area, said: "It sounds like he's been on something himself. The judge seems to have lost his mind.

"Cultivating cannabis attracts the wrong type of people to your house. And neighbours, especially in a place like a tower block, have to put up with them knocking on doors all the time."

Barry Beadle, area manager for Oxford drugs counselling group Libra Project, said: "In the short term he is probably right but in the long term the production and cultivation of illegal drugs will have anti-social effect to the individual and the community."

The judge's comments, which we have reproduced in full below, were made at a hearing brought by Oxford City Council against Pledge, of Strawberry Path in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, who allegedly broke his tenancy agreement by storing drugs in a council flat.

Police raided the flat in Evenlode Tower in February where Pledge was temporarily housed after an arson attack on his home.

They discovered cannabis plants growing under hydroponic lights and drugs with a street value of £3,400 and weighing 21.1oz.

Prosecuting, Simon Strelitz, told the court by storing and growing drugs, Pledge broke his tenancy agreement .

He asked the judge for a possession order for the council house in Strawberry Path and an Asbo banning Pledge from Blackbird Leys for two years.

He added: "The city council is not prepared to allow its property to harbour people who wish to commit offences.

"The fact that he has drugs in such quantity acts as a magnet for other unsavoury characters."

After making his remarks, Judge Harris also called the Asbo application "the sort of thing they do in Russia or China".

Defending himself, Pledge, a business partner in Oxford Hydroponics and a driver for the National Blood Service, told the court the drugs were for personal use.

He added: "I've not dealt drugs and it's never been proven that I dealt drugs. I am a partner in a hydroponics shop which carries a certain stigma with it.

"I've been trying to get a move away for two years and been trying to wean myself off cannabis. The only reason I went back to the cannabis was because of the traumatic experience when my house burnt down."

Pledge remains on bail for possession of class C drugs with intent to supply.

Judge Harris told the court he would reserve judgement on the case until Monday.

Craigslist Becomes A Place For Pot Peddlers

The classified-advertising Web site craigslist has become popular in recent years with young, tech-savvy city dwellers seeking apartments, jobs and for-sale items.

But it's also being used as an Information Age black market for some Seattle-area marijuana dealers.

"I'm not too concerned about getting caught," said Eric, a Bellevue man in his early 30s who peddles pot online through craigslist.

Local and federal law-enforcement officials said they're aware dealers like Eric are turning to craigslist and other Web sites to sell pot, but the amounts sold are generally so small they're not very concerned.

Eric, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used, says he doesn't make much of a profit — if any — but sells enough marijuana so he can smoke for free. He sells small amounts — usually an eighth of an ounce, which brings in $30 to $40. Most clients are friends or friends of friends, Eric said.

But as some customers have moved away or no longer want to light up, he's found replacement demand online.

Craigslist prohibits illegal activity, but the Web site is mostly self-policed, according to a spokeswoman for the site.

Eric scans craigslist for ads placed by people who are seeking pot. More often than not, he'll find someone posting an ad looking for marijuana using code names like "Mary Jane," "MJ," "the sticky icky," "the chronic" and "420."

Recently, however, Eric posted an ad on craigslist indicating he was willing to trade marijuana for sexual favors from women or money from men. Men who offered up a woman for sex would get a discount.

"It's not prostitution," he said, noting he had completed a few transactions in response to the ad. "It's like a date, just weed instead of dinner."

Eric isn't alone in his sex-for-drugs cyber-trade. Recent ads posted on craigslist included an Everett man who wanted to "smoke some 420 and hook up with a cute guy" and a man in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood who offered women a place to smoke pot, but warned: "I might try to kiss you or touch you."

Eric doesn't flaunt his pot-dealing and said he doubts his neighbors — or law enforcement — know about what he does.

Local police and federal authorities haven't given him reason to worry.

Jeff Eig, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Seattle office, said the amounts of illicit drugs sold via online transactions are generally so small that his agency hasn't specifically gone after craigslist users dealing dope.

Instead, he said, the DEA has chosen to focus on online pharmacies that sell drugs such as Oxycontin, morphine and Ritalin — all legal but restricted prescription drugs — to people without prescriptions at a high profit margin.

"We've done stings with online pharmacies," Eig said. "We have a division called diversion control which regularly investigates how dealers are getting legal drugs into the illicit market."

Lt. William Edwards of the Seattle Police Department's narcotics unit said cracking down on dealers selling drugs on craigslist and other sites such as Myspace, LiveJournal and Friendster is "on the radar screen but not a priority."

Edwards said most of the transactions made over craigslist are very small.

"While we don't have anything ongoing, we do monitor it from time to time," he said. "But right now we're just not seeing that much. In other jurisdictions there seems to be more trafficking. But here, it appears to be mostly coded and in smaller amounts."

Craigslist isn't the only Web site pot smokers are using to find marijuana. One, WeBeHigh.com, hosts user-contributed pages for many world cities, including Seattle, that detail where to find marijuana dealers.

Police in other cities around the country have been increasingly vigilant against online crime via craigslist and other sites. Last year, Boston police arrested five women suspected of running a prostitution ring that advertised on craigslist. Police in Hanover, Mass., southeast of Boston, recently arrested a 44-year-old woman who allegedly sold Ecstasy and other drugs online.

Even though Seattle voters in 2004 approved an initiative that required police to make enforcing marijuana possession for adults the lowest priority, selling is still a felonious offense under state law. Possession of less than 40 grams is a misdemeanor.

Despite the law, Eric and two other dealers contacted by The Seattle Times who sell marijuana online said they simply aren't that concerned.

One dealer who lives in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood said his customers feel more at ease "making a connection" online than on the streets.

Another man from West Seattle, who was recently offering a quarter-ounce of marijuana for $75 — "the good stuff," he said — thinks his clients would rather e-mail a dealer back and forth for a few days to make sure they're legit than risk meeting someone and having the deal go awry.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "You could easily get robbed or beat up if you run into the wrong people."

None of the dealers is worried about retribution from craigslist or other sites.

Susan Best, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based craigslist, said the company prohibits drug peddling and similar crimes on its site and cooperates with law enforcement when asked.

Still, the site relies on users to monitor posts. Users can flag posts that potentially violate the site's rules, but many regarding drug use remain active for days, sometimes expiring before site administrators can delete them.

"And, let me be clear," Best wrote. "We don't want illegal activity on our site. It is not welcome."

Endocannabinoid System Plays Significant Role In Embryonic Development, Study Says

The endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in the development of healthy embryos and their implantation in the womb, according to preclinical data published this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee reported that experimentally inducing elevated amounts of the endogenous cannabinoid anadamide and/or THC in newly mated mice "deferred on-time [embryo] implantation" and was associated with "poor pregnancy outcome."

Previous preclinical studies investigating the role of endogenous cannabinoids in prenatal development have shown that the body temporarily reduces the localized production of anadamide during embryonal implantation. Though some researchers speculate that smoking large quantities of cannabis during this period could negatively impact this biological process, there is - to date - a lack of clinical or epidemiological data supporting the theory.

"Nevertheless, it is apparent that a properly functioning endocannabinoid system is essential for both a healthy pregnancy and child," NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano said.

Previous studies indicate that the endogenous cannabinoid system plays a primary role in the development of memory and oral motor skills in newborns. Some researchers theorize that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system (such as one that under produces anandamide) may be responsible for the development of certain abnormalities in infants - particularly so-called 'failure-to-thrive' syndrome, a condition in which newborns fail to properly grow and gain weight. In preclinical trials, infant mice fail to feed from their mothers when their cannabinoid receptors are blocked by the presence of a synthetic antagonist.

In recent years, scientists have determined that the endocannabinoid receptor system is involved in the regulation of several primary biological functions including appetite, body temperature, mood elevation, blood pressure, bone density, reproductive activity, learning capacity, and motor coordination.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "Fatty acid amide hydrolase deficiency limits early pregnancy events," appears in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Roadside Drug Tests in Two Years

ROADSIDE screening devices capable of detecting "drug-drivers" are expected to be introduced within two years, The Scotsman has learned.

The UK government is set to give the green light by January for the development of new equipment to catch people who get behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs.

Home Office sources say manufacturers have already been told about the likely requirements of the kits, which will look for drugs such as heroin, cannabis, Ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines.

It is anticipated that a pilot scheme will be launched early next year, after which they will be made available to police forces across the country.

Senior officers are anxious to see the introduction of a screening device to replace the current method of testing, which involves putting drivers through a series of physical tests to determine whether they are impaired by drugs.

A study by Glasgow University found that more than a third of motorists who drive after taking illegal drugs nevertheless pass the roadside sobriety tests. Even some with heroin in their system managed to beat the test.

The Home Office "type approval" rules are expected to be issued later this year, identifying which substances have to be picked up and the levels at which a positive reading will be triggered.

A source said the department's scientific development branch was expected to release its specification "within the next few months", after which pilot schemes would be run in selected police forces.

"All being well, we would look for them to be introduced on Britain's roads within two years," the source said.

It is understood the list of drugs to be screened by the new equipment is likely to include opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine (Ecstasy), methadone and benzodiazepan.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Learmonth, of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "Whether people are fit to drive and if there is anything impairing them when they are behind the wheel is something we have to be able to identify.

"If somebody can produce a piece of equipment that allows us to undertake roadside screening for drugs, which would give us a clear indication whether drivers are impaired, that would assist us greatly and we would welcome that."

Oxfordshire-based Cozart developed the Rapiscan drug-screening kit, already used by the Home Office for testing offenders. It involves taking a swab from the subject's mouth, which is dispensed on to cartridges. Each cartridge is inserted into a handheld reading device, which gives a positive or negative result for a particular drug within five minutes.

It is thought this device will be one of those tested for use by traffic police.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "Police have told us they are happy with the devices and want to use them for detecting drug-drivers. The problem with the roadside impairment tests is that they are not precise and suspects have to be taken away for a blood test to determine the level of drugs in their system. Our device gives police an answer within minutes."

Research commissioned by the Scottish Executive published last week found the absence of a scientific roadside test encourages people to drive after taking drugs, and called for police to be equipped with a more reliable test. Experts estimate up to 11 per cent of Scots have driven after taking illegal drugs.

The survey found 72 per cent of respondents felt it was unlikely that someone driving under the influence of drugs would be caught. Just over half (55 per cent) of drug-drivers were not concerned about being caught.

If I smoke a joint, I don't need to take any of the many tablets I'm given

LAST week The Evening Telegraph reported on concerns that cannabis use can be the gateway to addiction to hard drugs. But for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, there is another side to the story.

Rachel Wareing spoke to a woman who uses pot to help her cope with the intense pain of her illness.

Helen and Tom live a respectable sort of life. They've never been in trouble with the police and are bringing up their three children to be the sort of polite, considerate individuals they themselves try to be.

But this ordinary Peterborough couple have a secret – every day they break the law.

Both Helen and Tom smoke cannabis for medical reasons, and have recently started to grow their own supply.

Helen (26) has a rare condition which has attacked her nervous system and causes her intense, disabling pain. Doctors suspect she may also be suffering from multiple sclerosis.

She takes a daily cocktail of 27 prescription pills to counteract the pain and relieve the depression which has dogged her since the illness started to take over her life.

But the prescribed medicine causes its own problems. It makes her feel sleepy and irritable, gives her terrible nightmares and hallucinations and upsets her stomach.

Cannabis, she says, has transformed her life.

Puffing on a joint dissolves her pain within minutes and enables her to lead something which resembles an ordinary life, she said.

"I'm on so many tablets that make me feel ill. But if I smoke a joint I don't need to take any of them.

"I'm able to play with my children and do simple things such as making dinner or a cup of tea, or brushing my hair.

"I get so excited about being able to brush my hair, I'm like a child. It sounds ridiculous, but it's a little thing such as that which means so much to me."

It was Tom who introduced her to cannabis, soon after they met just over a year ago.

Tom (25) has been a regular pot smoker since the age of 13, and views his own use of the drug as medicinal.

He said: "I had a difficult childhood, which caused me emotional and physical problems.

"At the age of 13 I found myself sitting on the edge of a railway bridge, thinking about killing myself. A friend offered me a joint and I really found it has helped to lift my mood. I have smoked it regularly ever since. I don't do it to get high, I do it to feel normal."

Tom, who is Helen's full-time carer and guardian to her three children, gently broached the idea of seeing whether cannabis could help her condition.

She had tried it before, but not since her illness had deteriorated.

Although she was initially cautious, when she did give it a go she was completely won over.

"It's been a revelation for her," said Tom. "When she's had a joint, she's like a different person.

"Her depression lifts and she can play with the children, do normal mum things with them."

When Helen had a windfall from an insurance policy pay-out, she asked Tom to investigate the possibility of buying some equipment so they could grow their own plants, something which had been his lifelong dream.

Being forced to be in contact with drug dealers has always been the worst part of being a cannabis user for Tom.

He said: "I've been forced into some really unpleasant situations – having to go and meet dodgy characters in laybys, being threatened with a knife, having people come to my house making threats after a deal has fallen through.

"It's not a scene I have ever wanted to be associated with at all. I have no interest in getting off my face and I don't want to try any other drugs."

Tom believes there are also health benefits to growing his own supply.

He said: "Cannabis is grown commercially by criminals who care only about making money. They don't care what nasty chemicals they add to make the plants grow faster, which is a real worry. You don't know what horrible chemicals you're smoking.

"At least if you grow your own you can control what goes into it."

During his investigations, he discovered that there are certain strains of cannabis which medicinal users have found more helpful than others, and he was able to get hold of some seeds.

He also found out about a circle of about a dozen people in Peterborough who grow their own cannabis for medicinal purposes and share their crops within the group, but he believes they could be just the tip of the iceberg and there may be hundreds of people in a similar predicament in the city.

The couple now have their own small collection of organic plants growing under lamps in a special tent in their bedroom, which uses about the same amount of power as a fridge freezer.

The growing process has been hit and miss so far, said Tom, as he tries to get to grips with horticulture for the first time in his life.

He said: "It's really hard because you can't just go and borrow a library book to show you how to do it.

"It's all been trial and error. The difficulty is I have to have quite a few little seedlings on the go because some will inevitably fail. But if I did get raided by the police, they will count all those little plants separately and they might try to argue I'm growing enough to sell on, which couldn't be further from the truth."

The couple, who insist they never smoke cannabis in front of the children, hope to start growing more plants in the loft, ensuring they have a continuous supply.

The implications of getting caught is a constant worry and even a knock on the door can spark panic.

Tom added: "I could get 14 years inside for this. If I was sent to prison, both Helen and the kids would have to go into care.

"The family would be split up – and who would that help?
"The situation seems so unfair. We've found something natural, which grows in the ground, which can totally transform Helen's quality of life. I've thought about making some posters with a picture of her pills next to a picture of a joint with the question: 'which would you rather take?' and putting them up around the city in the night.

"I just want people to understand what it's like for us."

Medical opinion split on drug
OPINIONS differ on the benefits and pitfalls of medicinal cannabis use.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association told The Evening Telegraph: "In its 1997 report on the Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, the British Medical Association recommended that the law be changed to allow research leading to the prescription of cannabinoids to patients with medical conditions in which the benefits are proven."

That research is ongoing.
In March 2005, the Home Secretary asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to examine new evidence on the harmfulness of cannabis, and to consider whether this changed their assessment of cannabis as a class C drug. They produced a report and among the findings were the following points:

>> Cannabis can worsen mental health problems (including schizophrenia) and may even trigger them in some cases.
n Smoking cannabis increases your chance of getting lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis) and may also cause lung cancer.

>> Some people can get hooked on cannabis and they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop.

However, the conclusion was reached that the drug should remain a class C drug, because it is not considered as harmful as class B drugs such as speed.

'NHS could save millions with pot'

HELEN has kept a diary recording her highs and lows since March 2006, which she has shared with The Evening Telegraph. Here are some extracts:

March 15

Got up with a headache, back ache and pain in legs and arms. Really starting to struggle even with getting dressed now.
Spend a lot of the day crying, feel a lot older than I am!
Wednesday evening – have a joint and start to feel better in minutes.

March 23

It's a special assembly at my son's school and I don't feel that I can walk down there. Consumed by pain.

Had a cup of tea and a joint, pain started to go and I started to feel more positive. Even made it to the school and the assembly was lovely. I'm a very proud mum and so pleased I could make it today.

April 23

Was up until 3am with pain again. Keep crying, wondering when it will end.

Had a weak joint which was taken off the plant early by Tom to see what the quality was like. It was only one joint, but it sorted me out and now I can't wait for the rest to be ready.

The relief I got from just that one weak joint really made me see the benefits of cannabis. If I could give just one joint to everybody who suffers from pain, then they would see how much it helps and then maybe the Government would have to do something about it.

May 23

After the doctor looked at my MRI pictures he said I need a big operation.

I will be cut wide open and will have to be in a high dependency unit for 24 hours, then a normal ward for a week.

I won't be able to have cannabis for another seven to eight weeks which is hard because it would be interesting to see how it works after an operation compared to what they give me.

May 30

The doctors have given me more tablets and increased my dosage of one of the tablets I take. The chemist doesn't stock them because they're too expensive, so they ordered them and Tom went to pick them up this afternoon.

The chemist told him they are costing £1,255! This is just for one of the tablets I have to take. I take eight different things, so I dread to think how much they cost when they're all put together. If they legalised cannabis, it could save the NHS millions!

June 6

Feeling very low. I know there are people who have suffered more than me and I know how lucky I am to have a great man and three great kids but I really don't know how much more of this I can take.

I'm just waiting for the kids to come home from school. Normally I love helping them with their homework but I feel so shaky and sick from my medication it's getting harder to do that.

Tom stopped off to see his mate earlier and was given enough cannabis for me to have one joint. Had it before tea and it was heaven! For the first time in ages I felt positive and could look to the future. I managed to eat a good amount of dinner and could cut my own food up, which I haven't been able to do in ages.

The best thing was when I was playing with my four-year-old and he said: "Mummy you're funny." I love being able to play with them.

Supply still illegal

Despite the downgrading of cannabis to class C, possession, production and supply of cannabis is still illegal.

>> The maximum penalty for supply, dealing, production and trafficking is 14 years imprisonment. This has increased from five years for all class C substances, including GHB and Valium.

>> The maximum penalty for possession has been reduced from five years to two years imprisonment.

>> It is unlikely that adults caught in possession of cannabis will be arrested. Most offences of possession result in a warning and confiscation of the drug.

But some instances may lead to arrest and possible caution or prosecution, including repeat offending, smoking in a public place, instances where public order is threatened and possession of cannabis in the vicinity of premises used by children.

Class matters

The war on drugs has never been winnable, and now the campaign being waged is revealed as so incoherent that it could have been designed by a general who was himself under the influence. Controlled substances are banded into classes A, B and C, supposedly on the basis of risk, and this settles the punishments that they carry. But a report yesterday from the Commons select committee on science showed that classifications are often arbitrary.

The anomalies are staggering. Last year, for example, fresh magic mushrooms were criminalised and put in the most serious class A. Yet the drug is not addictive and not linked to crime. Indeed, the government's drugs adviser, Sir Michael Rawlins, could give no explanation at all: the drug was in class A, he commented, "because it is there". The law distinguishes amphetamine pills from (more harmful) preparations of the same drug for injection; yet it treats all forms of cocaine alike - from mild coca leaves, chewed and brewed across South America, to highly addictive crack. And while the government listened to the experts on cannabis, it continues to resist their calls to downgrade ecstacy from class A.

Sir Michael said of one unjustifiable ranking that "it was not a big issue". But that is not how it will seem to anyone found in possession, as with class A status comes a jail term of up to 14 years - as many youngsters have found to their cost. A brutalising spell inside can snuff out a bright future just as surely as any drug, and the adverse effects go beyond the unfortunate individuals caught: the misclassifications fuel a bulging prison population, which is costly for taxpayers and detrimental to the hope of reforming dangerous criminals. The futility of the current regime was seen last year when it was decided not to put ice (crystal meth) in class A in spite of alarming evidence, for fear that this would "increase interest" in it.

The report suggests a new scientific scale of harm, decoupled from penalties, and extended to cover alcohol and tobacco. Publicising the real risks of drugs is imperative. The government, though, may prove resistant as this more rational approach as it would raise some deeper questions. Clear exposition of the risks of heroin would expose how medicalisation could reduce harm better than criminalisation. And including legal drugs would raise the issue of why alcohol can be aggressively marketed when people are punished for using other substances of similar danger. So for all the committee's good work, a rational drugs policy is likely to remain a pipe dream.