Monday, January 30, 2006

How do you get an 11-year-old off heroin?

BBC News

A primary schoolgirl is undergoing heroin withdrawal treatment after admitting to using the drug for two months. But how do you treat a child drug abuser?

The 11-year-old girl was taken to Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Sick Children after collapsing in her primary school class last Wednesday.

It was thought the girl had fallen asleep in class but hospital staff were stunned when the child said she had been "chasing the dragon" for two months.

It's understood the girl is undergoing "cold turkey" - that is medically unaided withdrawal - because doctors are concerned she is too young to cope with the drugs normally used to treat heroin problems.

So how do you help a schoolchild withdraw from heroin?

Treatment for children differs markedly from that for adults, many of whom have been using - and injecting - heroin for years.

Adults may be prescribed methadone - a powerful pain reliever used as a heroin substitute - to help addicts progress to full withdrawal.

But putting an 11-year-old on methadone would be the very last resort, according to Dr Clare Gerada, Royal College of GPs spokeswoman on drugs and member of the government's Advisory on the Misuse of Drugs.

"An 11-year-old is developing very rapidly and the way the drug would be handled by that child's body is very different to an adult," she says.

Overdose risk

"Methadone is stored in body's fat, and a child's body is constantly changing and developing. You might find that the right dose one week is not the right does the next. This is a serious drug which can cause an overdose in its own right."

Dr Gerada also says methadone is known to rot people's teeth and disrupt menstrual cycles, something doctors would also want to avoid in a pre-pubescent girl.

This means going "cold turkey" - a phrase than conjures up horrific images of a painful and distressing withdrawal.

But Dr Gerada says depending on the level of misuse of heroin, the child's experience of withdrawal would most likely resemble "flu and last for three to four days". She would recommend using conventional pain relief.

Child drug abuse and addiction is regarded as much more complex and involves a wide range of professionals. The child's background, emotional development, family circumstances and mental health would be investigated.

"Drug abuse by children is rarely about having a drug problem, it is most probably a symptom that something - perhaps everything else - is going pear-shaped in their lives," says Dr Gerada.

The Bolton Drug Action Team (Dat) was one of the first substance misuse centres in the country to set up a specialist service for under-19s. Sandy Saunders, its Drugs Misuse Strategy Manager, agrees methadone would hardly ever be recommended for a child.

For her team, the primary objective is to establish how long and how often the child has been using heroin and then to get them off drugs entirely as quickly as possible.


"The most important thing is that all the relevant support services are offered quickly - that includes education, social services, and drugs counselling," says Ms Saunders.

She says it is vital the family is fully involved from the beginning for the child to be successfully treated.

"Young people using sometimes have parents who are using too. We are seeing second and third generation drug users coming forward for treatment," she says.

For both Dr Gerada and Ms Saunders the important question to ask is why an 11-year-old would want to smoke heroin in the first place?

"Dealers do not usually target children so young because they would not risk increased police interest. You've got to ask how and why a child of 11 is buying drugs at one of our shopping centres."

Pot Hole: Marijuana Found Under Border

CBS News

(CBS/AP) Authorities said they discovered more than two tons of marijuana in a cross-border tunnel that began near the Tijuana airport and ended inside a warehouse on the U.S. side.

The 2,400-foot long passageway is longer than most of the 21 cross-border tunnels that have been discovered since authorities began keeping track after the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

The tunnel "is about 8 football fields long," said Michael Unzueta, customs special agent in charge in San Diego.

"It was like being in a cavern or a cave," he said.

John Fernandes, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego office, said he suspected the tunnel was the work of Tijuana's Arellano-Felix drug smuggling syndicate or another well-known drug cartel. He said tougher enforcement aboveground had forced smugglers to dig below.

The tunnel's discovery prompted the U.S. Attorney's office in San Diego to open a criminal investigation, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The tunnel exited into a large, two-story white cinderblock warehouse in an industrial San Diego neighborhood near the border.

A green sign over the door said V&F Distributors LLC. County records listed the building's owner as Helen Park of Long Beach. The phone rang unanswered Thursday at her home.

Mexican authorities found the entrance about 100 yards south of the border on Tuesday, and officers on the U.S. side found the exit Wednesday. Mexican officials allowed reporters and photographers, including an Associated Press photographer, into the tunnel late Wednesday.

"To discover these tunnels truly illustrates the dangers, the risks of the security and safety concerns of the American public and that is a concern to the Federal partners here," Unzueta said.

The tunnel was about five feet wide and high enough for an adult to stand inside, had a cement floor, and lights mounted on one of the hard soil walls. It was equipped with a pulley system on the Mexican side.

Four tunnels have been discovered this month in the Tijuana-San Diego area, including more primitive tunnel that was also found Wednesday when a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle struck a sinkhole.

Hemp to turn King Cotton?

Ukiah Daily Journal Online

By James Faulk /The Eureka Times- Standard

EUREKA -- A new bill to legalize industrial hemp passed the state Assembly last week, and some believe it could provide the North Coast with significant economic benefit.

Assembly Bill 1147 would make legal the growing of hemp, a material that can be used to make everything from fabric and rope to soap and jewelry. It still has to get by the state Senate and gain the signature of the governor, but even then farmers can't just start growing the marijuana cousin.

Because it contains trace amounts of THC -- the psychoactive chemical in marijuana -- it still falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

But some people here -- conservatives and liberals alike -- think the legalization of the plant could help the region''s economy.

North Coast Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, co-athored the bill.

"People should be able to farm it," she said. "It's useful for so many products. It's not a marijuana issue, it's a manufacturing issue."

"It's definitely a good thing," said Arcata Councilman Dave Meserve. "Hemp has so many different uses industrially and to me it's a totally separate issue from marijuana."

Meserve said hemp has almost no psychoactive properties.

"I think this provides a new opportunity for farmers to grow an industrial crop here, since we do know that the related species grows very well in this climate," Meserve said.

He refers to the region's reputation for producing high-quality marijuana.

Republican stalwart Mike Harvey said he too believes that the potential legalization of hemp could be a good thing for Humboldt County.

"I personally don't have a problem with industrial hemp as a commodity on the market," he said. "It's a viable economic option, as long as it doesn't go down that slippery slope to the legalization of marijuana."

In a press release issued this week, the bill's author, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said it would be an economic positive for the state's farmers.

"California farmers are missing out on a multimillion-dollar market that already exists in California," he said. "Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries. This measure will put California at the top of a $270 million industry that's growing by $26 million each year."

But some critics complained that allowing hemp to be grown puts the state on a slippery slope.

"You pass industrial hemp today and then something else and then something else," said Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia. "And then at some point you will get legalized marijuana."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Federal Medical Marijuana Stance Fails to Impress N.M. Lawmakers

Join Together

The White House drug czar's office, in Santa Fe to argue against a proposed medical marijuana law, got a cool reception from New Mexico lawmakers, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Jan. 28.

Office of National Drug Control Policy official David Murray told the state Senate Judiciary Committee that marijuana is addictive and has no proven medical benefits. He characterized backers of the legislation as legalization supports and compared them to "medicine shows, traveling charlatans and snake-oil salesmen."

But many lawmakers disagreed with the tenor and substance of Murray's remarks, notably when he criticized supporters of the bill as "cynical and manipulative" for bringing pain patients to the state capital to testify in favor of the measure.

"I don't know how you do it back East," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Belen), "but this is the people's house. Everybody has a right to be here just as much as you do. When you said this to us, you showed us where you were really at. I don't think you should go to a state and say such things about their people."

Republicans also slammed Murray for his remarks. "We are not talking about the healing power of marijuana," said Sen. Clint Harden (R-Clovis). "The purpose of this is to reduce pain." Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell) disagreed with Murray's claim that a medical-marijuana bill would increase recreational use of the drug.

The Senate Judiciary Committee then approved the bill and sent it to the floor with a "pass" recommendation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Marijuana-grow operation found in underground boxcars

The News Review

An Azalea man was arrested for allegedly growing marijuana in a well-hidden, underground operation on his property.

The Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team found two buried rail car boxes and a large diesel generator while serving a warrant on the property of Jeffrey D. House Thursday and Friday, according to a press release. The underground grow rooms were covered by timbers and about a foot of soil. There was a hidden trap door which led to stairs down to the rooms.

It appeared the site had been in place for several years and was used to clone a particular breed of marijuana plants that are popular with other growers, according to a DINT press release.

There were marijuana leaves on the floor, but no plants were growing at the time the search warrant was served. DINT found 43 growing marijuana plants in other locations on the more than 100 acres, and there was indication that 180 plants had been harvested.

Jeffrey D. House, 47, was arrested for manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana, and possession of hashish. DINT also seized the diesel generator, and excavator, a pickup and an ATV. DINT also located scales, dried marijuana, hashish and a large number of firearms.

House is lodged at the Douglas County Jail.

Debt-ridden farmers threaten to grow marijuana

The Times of India

NAGPUR: After a series of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra, those in Vidarbha region are making unique demands to the authorities to draw the government's attention to their plight, sources said.

While some farmers have mortgaged the entire village, others are trying to sell off their kidneys or seeking permission to cultivate marijuana to repay debts and run their families in view of heavy losses due to crop failure.

Farmers from Naigaon in Dhamangaon taluka of Amravati district were seeking licences for cultivating Marijuna and running illicit liquor dens to cover their agricultural production cost, according to sources.

The ‘gram sabha’ (village council) moved a resolution recently, seeking licence from the authorities for these two `options'. Also demanding a cotton price of Rs 5000 per quintal, besides better prices for soya and tur dal (pulses), they have set a deadline of one month for the authorities to fulfil them.

They have threatened to commit mass suicide or indulge in open cultivation of ganja (marijuana) or start illicit liquor trade.

Village Sarpanch Sunanda Pachore and her deputy Sunil Shisode have sent a memorandum to the authorities in this regard.

Giving a detailed profile of the village, they said it has 121 farmers, owning about 652 acres of land for farming. They have taken a crop-loan of Rs.5.11 lakh from Land Development Bank, Rs.11.83 lakh loan from District Central Co-operative Bank, Rs.2.56 lakh from State Bank of India and Rs.30 lakh from private money lenders.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Can goats and cows help stop heroin?

The Herald

(UK) Goats, sheep and cattle could be the key to winning the battle to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, according to Scottish-based researchers.

A team of experts has been investigating alternative sources of income if Afghan farmers are forced to give up growing opium poppies.

The research, led by the Macaulay Institute of Aberdeen, looked at meat, wool, skin and hide production and determined that the price of meat in urban markets is sufficient for livestock production to provide an alternative source of income.
"Margins from livestock cannot, at the moment, compete with the returns being made from growing poppies," said Iain Wright, chief executive of Macaulay Research Consultancy Services.

"However, if policies which aim to curb poppy cultivation are to have any success they must provide alternative sources of income to rural families."

Mr Wright said that introducing restocking schemes and providing credit packages for farmers to help reinvigorate the livestock sector would give many poor rural families an alternative.
The project was carried out with Mercy Corps and the Afghan ministry of agriculture, animal husbandry and food.

"This study has shown that with a high demand for meat, livestock can play an important part in Afghanistan's agriculture and economy," said Mr Wright.

The increased demand for animal products, particularly in urban areas, has come about due to the population growth and economic recovery enjoyed since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002.

"However, severe drought has meant that the numbers of livestock – and livestock farmers – have
out with Mercy Corps and the Afghan ministry of agriculture, animal husbandry and food.
"This study has shown that with a high demand for meat, livestock can play an important part in Afghanistan's agriculture and economy," said Mr Wright.

The increased demand for animal products, particularly in urban areas, has come about due to the population growth and economic recovery enjoyed since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002.

"However, severe drought has meant that the numbers of livestock – and livestock farmers – have
decreased alarmingly in the last seven years, which has also seen sales of imported meat, mainly frozen chicken legs from Western countries, rise to one-third of the market share."

The report says opium poppy production – the basis for heroin production – has soared. In 2004, the crop was valued at £1.57bn and an estimated one-in-10 of the population was involved in poppy growing. Many of those involved are destitute and landless families with huge debts.

Afghanistan is the biggest producer of heroin in the world. The country's
government, with assistance from the international community, is giving high priority to the implementation of a strategy that aims to control and eventually eradicate the growing of poppies.

Graeme Smith

Cannabis use 'will impair but not damage mental health'

Daily Telegraph

(UK) Regular cannabis use can have "real and significant" mental health effects but is unlikely to cause schizophrenia, according to a report from Government drugs advisers published yesterday.

The drug can impair psychological and psychomotor performance, cause acute intoxication reactions and lead to relapses of individuals with mental illnesses.

But the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said that on current evidence smoking cannabis was likely to increase the chances of developing schizophrenia by just one per cent.

The council, which was asked to reconsider the Government's decision to downgrade cannabis from a Class B to a Class C substance, recommended that it should not be reversed.

It had been asked by ministers to look afresh at medical evidence suggesting that more powerfully psychoactive varieties of the drug were posing an increased danger to mental health.

But the committee concluded: "For individuals, the current evidence suggests, at worst, that using cannabis increases the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia by one per cent.

Some individuals are at higher risk than others for developing schizophrenia from the use of cannabis, but there is currently no means by which these individuals can be identified.

"The evidence for the existence of an association between frequency of cannabis use and the development of psychosis is, on the available evidence, weak. The council does not advise the reclassification of cannabis products to Class B; it recommends they remain within Class C.

"While cannabis can, unquestionably, produce harms, these are not of the same order as those of substances within Class B."

The council said that since it recommended in 2003 that cannabis should be downgraded, "further evidence has emerged about the possible link between the use of cannabis and the subsequent development of psychotic symptoms.

"While these studies do not of themselves prove beyond reasonable doubt that such a link exists, the accumulating evidence suggests that there is a causal association.

However, the consumption of cannabis is neither a necessary, nor a sufficient, cause for the development of schizophrenia.

"In the last year, over three million people appear to have used cannabis but very few will ever develop this distressing and disabling condition. And many people who develop schizophrenia have never consumed cannabis.

Based on the available data the use of cannabis makes (at worst) only a small contribution to an individual's risk for developing schizophrenia."

However, the council emphasised that cannabis use was harmful - it can also cause bronchitis and cancer - and should be discouraged. To that end, it wanted to see "a sustained education and information strategy" and more research into the links with mental health problems.

In the Commons yesterday, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, confirmed that he proposed to keep cannabis as a Class C drug, which means police generally take a more lenient line with personal possession and penalties are lower.

He said guidelines to police setting out the amount of cannabis that would be assumed to be for personal consumption would be lower than the four ounces proposed in a consultation paper last year. Such an amount would be enough to roll about 512 light joints or about 256 strong ones.

Mr Clarke said that although he was not proposing to reclassify cannabis, the message had to go out that it was harmful and that "its use can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological hazards".

He ordered a review of the classifications system which dates to 1971 and which critics say is confusing and misleading. Mr Clarke also asked the council to look again at the classification of the so-called "date-rape" drugs Rohypnol and GHB, which are currently Class C substances.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, condemned the decision to reclassify cannabis as a confused message that would lead some "to continue thinking cannabis is a safe, 'soft' drug".

However, Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman, said: "Charles Clarke is right to base his decision on the best available evidence, and not on hysteria or political pressure. Cannabis is not harmless, but it is less harmful than many other illegal drugs."

Heather Mills Stopped Paul McCartney's Use of Marijuana

Star Pulse

Heather Mills refused to marry Paul McCartneyunless he stopped smoking cannabis. The 37-year-old blonde said the former Beatleused the drug "as regularly as others drink cups of tea," but she gave him an ultimatum to ditch the drug or stay single. She told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper: "Him and (his first wife) Linda smoked it every day for the whole of their lives together. But I would not get married to him if he was taking drugs. I hate it."

Heather insists she introduced the ban for the sake of their daughter, two-year-old Beatrice. She added: "I could not have him lying to our child about not taking drugs and then going off for a sneaky puff. Fifty percent of people can smoke joints their entire life and be fine. But the other 50 percent, if there's a history of depression in their family or in their genes, then they cannot smoke marijuana."

The stunning blonde, who lost one of her legs in a motorcycle crash, also revealed she's always been clean and sober throughout her life. She explained: "I've never taken drugs in my life. One time at Ascot two models ran into the toilets and sniffed some cocaine off the cistern and I was totally shocked. I've never really drank either until I met Paul. I was recently drunk on two glasses of wine at a Christmas party. I'm a very cheap date."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parents Admit To Allowing Kids To Use Heroin

A northern Ohio couple has pleaded guilty to child neglect charges that they allowed two of their three children to use heroin. Huron County Juvenile Court officials said the parents are out of jail pending charges in other drug-related cases. Authorities said the parents are accused of using and selling heroin in the presence of their children, ages seven, 12 and 14. The parents also are accused of allowing the two older children to use heroin left over from their supply. The two older children are in foster care and the 7-year-old is in the custody of his maternal grandparents.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dutch hemp fair gets higher

Yahoo! News

AMSTERDAM (AFP) - The annual cannabis growers' bonanza in the Netherlands -- the HighLife Hemp fair, which is underway until Sunday -- has come up in the world since it started nine years ago.

More than 20,000 visitors from Europe and North America, that is 5,000 more than last year, are expected to travel to Amsterdam for the annual event where dope lovers share their appreciation of weed.

In a sign of the festival's increasing popularity it has been moved this year from the regional capital Utrecht to Amsterdam, the capital of coffee shops where people indulge in the Netherlands' liberal drugs' laws.

And in a sign of its increasing sophistication the crew of old hippies and rastafarians and others will be treated to a champagne bar, promotional films on a plasma screen, demonstrators in white lab coats and skimpily dressed models distributing multilingual prospectuses.

"By moving to Amsterdam we have increased our visibility," Andre Beckers, the fair's information officer, said.

"People will come from further afield because Amsterdam, for a weekend, has more to offer than Utrecht".

Visitors to the fair -- soft drugs lovers including many of whom cultivate their own cannabis at home -- will be in their element as they visit the some 150 stands spread over a 15,000 square metre exhibition hall recently used for a motor show.

The link with cannabis might not always be evident -- the first stand, for example, features an organic fertiliser -- and a young woman doing pole dancing around a flagstaff.

Although visitors would be forgiven for thinking that it is an agricultural fair there is one big difference: exhibitors are not allowed to distribute samples as only Amsterdam's famous coffee shops legally have the right to stock and sell drugs.

But the main attraction is for people who cultivate cannabis at home. By the look of their drying rooms, airing and watering systems they cultivate more than they need to consume themselves.

Since the Netherlands banned the production of cannabis seed eight years ago growers have become more cunning, specialising in exporting and importing seed or material which, according to their promotional material, is used to grow basil and tomatoes.

They carry out a lucrative trade with an annual turnover of between five and 10 billion euros, between one and two percent of the Dutch gross domestic product, even more than the Netherlands' other speciality: cut flowers.

Michka Seeliger and Tigrane Hadengue have visited the fair from Paris, where they also have to use skill in circumventing France's repressive legislation.

They are here to push their annual guide to cultivating cannabis CannaScope, which has sold 27,000 copies since it hit the bookshops in 2001.

Their publishing house Mama Editions last year brought out what is considered to be the Bible of home dope growers, the neutrally titled "Indoor marijuana Horticulture" by Jorge Cervante, complete with three dimensional drawings of marijuana leaves but no mention of the active content of cannabis THC.

"Everything that could possibly be construed as an encouragement to consume drugs has been removed," Hadengue said.

The book was so popular that the first 10,000 copies sold out in weeks and had to be reprinted to satisfy demand.

Police: Brockton Man Tried To Sell Cocaine Online


BOSTON An accused drug dealer was arrested last night for trying to sell cocaine on the Internet.

Tyrone Burgo, 20, of Brockton, posted an online advertisement for cocaine that included a phone number, according to Boston police.

Police called the number 2:15 p.m. yesterday and arrangements were made to meet Burgo last night near City Hall.

An undercover officer bought cocaine from Burgo and then arrested him.

Burgo is scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Boston Municipal Court.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Transsexual Drug Dealer Spared the Cane


A court has spared a Thai transsexual drug dealer from caning because Singaporean law does not allow women to be sentenced to that punishment, a newspaper reported Friday.

Thai prostitute Mongkon Pusuwan, who underwent a sex change from male to female a decade ago, was instead sentenced on Wednesday to six years in jail after a medical report concluded that she was a woman, The Straits Times reported.

District Judge Bala Reddy handed down the sentence after the long-haired Mongkon, 37, pleaded guilty to charges including trafficking in cocaine and tablets containing ketamine, the report said.

The amount of drugs in her possession was too small for her to qualify for Singapore's mandatory death penalty for some drug cases.

Mongkon, whose passport identified her as a male, was arrested in December.

Men who commit similar crimes can be sentenced to caning. Offenders are strapped to a wooden frame and lashed across the bare buttocks with a rattan rod.

The punishment drew international attention in 1994 when American teenager Michael Fay was caned for spray-painting cars, despite objections from then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Overhaul of drugs to put ecstasy in heroin class

BRITISH drugs laws are to be overhauled for the first time in a generation after Charles Clarke decided a new system is needed to grade ecstasy pills and date-rape drugs.

The Home Secretary said yesterday that he had decided against upgrading cannabis but would instead take a fresh view at the system which places the dance drug ecstasy in the same category as heroin.

Considering the problem of cannabis, he said, had made him realise how arcane Britain's drugs laws are - and that they are ripe for an outright overhaul.

The laws will apply on both sides of the Border and the review was last night welcomed by the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency.

At present, drugs are put into three classes - A, B and C. But police have long believed that the system has failed properly to distinguish the levels of harm.

Since Labour came to power, the cost of all drugs has plunged. The price of cannabis has fallen 19 per cent and ecstasy 68 per cent.

British government upholds decision to downgrade of marijuana's danger

The New Mexican

LONDON - Britain will uphold its 2004 decision to downgrade marijuana's classification as a less dangerous drug, the country's top law enforcement official said Thursday.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said experts' preliminary assessment was that marijuana use had not increased since it was downgraded from a class B to class C drug, meaning the government considered it less harmful.

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett decided to downgrade the drug, saying it would allow police to concentrate on tackling the use and distribution of more serious drugs.

But critics say there is evidence that marijuana can damage users' mental health and have urged Clarke to return the drug to its earlier, more serious, classification.

Clarke said he was concerned about the health effects of marijuana, including evidence suggesting it can exacerbate or trigger a range of serious mental health problems.

"Cannabis is anything but harmless," he said.

Nonetheless, he said he was accepting the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which he commissioned to examine the issue. He also announced a major information campaign to educate the public about the drug's dangers.

Medical marijuana on agenda

The New Mexican

by Steve Terrell

In an unforeseen move, Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday night said he will include a medical-marijuana bill on his agenda this legislative session .

The governor’s decision surprised drug-law-reform advocates, who had been disheartened by Richardson’s statement earlier this week that there wouldn’t be enough time in an already packed 30-day session to take on the measure.

House Speaker Ben Luján , DNambé , said before the session started that he had asked Richardson not to include medical marijuana on his call, saying there wasn’t enough time.

But on Wednesday night, Richardson said in a news release, “After speaking with many seriously ill New Mexicans, I have decided to include this bill on my call. This issue is too important, and there are too many New Mexicans suffering to delay this issue any further.”

“We’re so thrilled and so grateful,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of the state chapter of The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group that has been pushing the proposed bill.

“We’re proud to have a governor who will stand up for compassion. We know it was a hard decision,” she said.

This week, the group advertised in newspapers urging readers to contact officials about the issue.

An e-mail from Szczepanski to supporters this week said, “Thanks to public outcry from supporters like you, we’ve had hundreds of letters from our members sent to the governor.”

The proposed bill would allow patients seriously ill with cancer, AIDS or certain other medical conditions legal access to marijuana.

Patients would be recommended by their doctors to a program overseen by the state Department of Health.

The department would be responsible for developing regulations for licensed producers of medical marijuana within the state and coming up with standards for safety, security and distribution.

Although both Richardson and Luján said the bill might be too controversial for a short session, last year relatively little controversy surrounded the bill, which had bipartisan support.

Last year, the legislation sailed through the Senate, passing 27-11 .

Though it breezed through House committees, the bill died in the House after Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque , got upset with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque , over Silva’s unrelated zoning bill.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

CHP Returns Seized Medical Marijuana

Hollister Free Lance

By Brett Rowland

Hollister - After refusing to obey a court order to return a Los Angeles-area man's medical marijuana for months, the Gilroy-Hollister California Highway Patrol decided last week to return the pot it confiscated during a 2004 traffic stop on Highway 156.

The decision came just eight days before a contempt of court hearing was scheduled to determine if area CHP Commander Otto Knorr had violated a San Benito County Superior Court order by not returning the marijuana. In December, local defense attorney Greg LaForge argued before Judge Steven Sanders that Knorr should return the 4 grams of medical marijuana, or face the possibility of being held in contempt of court because a judge had already issued a court order mandating the marijuana be returned.

"It's clearly a victory, a court order is a valuable tool and nobody is above the law, especially law enforcement officers themselves," LaForge said Monday. "I think (Knorr) is out of touch with his own department's guidelines, it should have never been set for a hearing."

Knorr previously told the Free Lance that while California recognizes marijuana as a medicine under certain instances, the federal government does not. He had said that he was stuck in an apparent Catch-22 between the two laws and had no authority to distribute marijuana for any purpose.

But last Thursday, LaForge received a letter from Miguel Neri, a California deputy attorney general, which stated the marijuana taken from 28-year-old Eugene Popok, would be returned. CHP officers had seized the marijuana from Popok during a traffic stop for speeding in October of 2004. LaForge does not know what ailment his client suffers requiring the use of medical marijuana.

"This matter raised a number of novel legal issues that necessarily required further analysis by the California Highway Patrol," Neri wrote in the letter. "After such deliberation, the California Highway Patrol has decided in this instance to return Mr. Popok's claimed medical marijuana."

Knorr declined to comment on the decision or how it was reached.

"A decision was made and that's all I have to say," he said.

LaForge said that instead of refusing to return the marijuana, Knorr should have immediately contact his boss or the attorney general for direction on the matter.

San Benito County District Attorney John Sarsfield was not involved in the legal battle, but said that he could sympathize with Knorr.

"He had to choice between violating a state law and a federal law," Sarsfield said. "What it really comes down to is the medical marijuana law is extremely poorly written and needs to be clarified otherwise this will continue to happen."

Sarsfield suggested the county Health Department look into issuing identification cards for medical marijuana users. If Popok had presented a valid ID card to CHP officers at the time of his arrest, the matter could have been avoided, Sarsfield said.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was not surprised by the CHP's decision to return the marijuana.

"It's a situation where law enforcement need not be so pigheaded," he said. "This has happened all throughout California, but in their mind they don't have to follow the law."

St. Pierre sees the decision as a victory for medical marijuana advocacy groups, but said more still needs to be done to protect the rights of prescription marijuana users.

"It's keeping with the precedent," he said. "In the end, the county, town or state has to return the marijuana."

However, St. Pierre did worry about the condition the marijuana. If not stored correctly, the marijuana could breakdown rapidly and lose it's medicinal value, St. Pierre said.

"(Popok) could be getting back medicine that may not be of any use to him. This guy may have more or less been ripped off of $40 to $50 worth of marijuana," St. Pierre said. "But he could have fought a good legal battle for symbolic purposes rather than being able to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the medicine."

Popok will have 60 days to claim the 4 grams of marijuana, according to a letter sent to him by Knorr last week.

"He should get back what was taken from him," LaForge said. "Now his concern is that he has to spend another $350 to fly back up here to get it."

Drug Inquiry Spurs Investigation of Police

The Daily Californian

by Ryan McDonald

At least one Berkeley police officer is under criminal investigation in connection with discrepancies between the Berkeley Police Department's drug evidence records and inventory, police said.

According to a report released by the department Friday, a review of drug evidence handling ordered by Berkeley police Chief Doug Hambleton on Jan. 6 revealed procedural irregularities.

The investigation was launched on Friday by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office in response to the report.

The review indicated that drug evidence held in storage at police headquarters at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way did not match records of the evidence, said Berkeley police Officer Ed Galvan.

Police would not elaborate on the type or amount of drugs involved in the discrepancies.
Galvan said the exact number and identities of officers under investigation is confidential due t
o the ongoing criminal investigation.

Hambleton requested that the district attorney's office investigate the department to insure an objective and thorough inspection, police said.

"When we (on-duty Berkeley police officers) get into a car accident, we don't write the report ourselves," Galvan said. "We will bring in the California Highway Patrol or another group as an outside agency. It's the same sort of situation."

Hambleton has instructed police officers to cooperate fully with the investigation, according to a statement issued by the department on Friday.

The process of reviewing stored evidence is relatively common in the department, and was not prompted by any prior allegations, Galvan said. He said this particular review was initiated because a number of officers had recently been reassigned within the department.

"It's just a set of checks and balances," Galvan said. "The department does it whenever we move people around."

Evidence is traditionally stored by police to be used while investigating open cases and for undercover work, Galvan said. Drugs are stored in special cases with the other evidence, he said.

The Internal Affairs Bureau of the police department launched a simultaneous investigation on Friday focusing on potential violations of departmental procedure in connection with the evidence discrepancies, Galvan said.

The district attorney's investigation, meanwhile, will examine possible criminal actions by the police officers.

There has been no word yet from the district attorney or police department on possible disciplinary actions for officers involved.

The Pleasant Hill law firm Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson, which is representing the Berkeley Police Association in the criminal investigation, did not return calls for comment.

The heroin guilt trip

The Age

by Michael Keane

THE tragic case of Nguyen Tuong Van has generated much debate about the appropriateness of capital punishment for heroin traffickers. His execution in Singapore late last year was felt by many to be appropriate because, as one columnist put it: "Heroin makes people do bad things to themselves and to others. We must ensure people don't use it."

But is it really the restriction of supply, through prohibition, that prevents the disintegration of society as we know it?

Heroin is a member of the family of drugs called opioids, which includes morphine, pethidine, methadone. Opium poppies are used to extract or synthesise opioid drugs.

The present policy of prohibition assumes a homogeneous propensity to abuse opioids. However, there is mounting evidence that it is, instead, a heterogeneous phenomenon. A number of studies have evaluated the subjective effects of various opioid drugs in people who have no history of abuse.

Dr James Zacny and colleagues in the University of Chicago's department of anaesthesia and critical care have done a number of such studies. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has recognised the research with a merit award.

Zacny summarises: "In our studies, we find the majority of healthy, non-drug-abusing volunteers do not report euphoria after being administered opioids in the lab either with or without pain. Since euphoria appears to be a factor in opioid abuse, it seems that the abuse potential of these opioid medications is generally low in such people."

Epidemiological studies from regions of the world with a ready supply of heroin and great economic hardship — which might presumably increase demand — provide further insight.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's 2005 Afghanistan Opium Survey concluded that opium addiction affects just 0.5 per cent of the rural population in Afghanistan. Heroin addiction levels, in contrast, are still significantly smaller — 0.03 per cent of the total population. This is despite the fact that 11 per cent of the rural population is from families that cultivate opium.

Similarly the office's 2005 Myanmar (Burma) Opium Survey found that, for opium, the overall addiction prevalence rate was 0.57 per cent of the population aged 15 and above. Heroin addiction ranged from 0.01 per cent to 0.3 per cent. And these surveys define addiction merely as daily use, when many of those daily users otherwise lead functional lives.

These rates of addiction among people with a ready supply are not significantly different from the rates in Australia. This is consistent with the observation that many who abuse other types of drugs don't necessarily like heroin.

So what is the problem with heroin?

We are led to believe that heroin can transform ordinary people into depraved monsters, willing to go to any extreme to secure their next hit. Yet during a 1997 study by Zacny, non-dependent volunteers were given an opioid drug, then asked how much they would be willing to pay to have the drug again.

On average, it was a trifling $US3.90.

What would happen if prohibitions were relaxed? Would there be mass use of heroin and other opioids — and mass dependency?

It is impossible to be certain, but we can gain further insight from the experience of patients being treated for chronic pain. More and more such patients are taking opioids, largely due to a paradigm shift in attitudes in the medical profession.

This shift is summarised by Dr Daniel Bennett, a past chairman and board member of the National Pain Foundation in the United States: "I long ago abandoned the naive and opiophobic idea that opioids are dangerous … (they have) a favourable safety profile … and no known end organ-damaging effects."

Some critics claim that heroin — which is used medically in the United Kingdom — is unique among the opioids in its ability to wreak social havoc. However, there is not enough evidence to exclude heroin from the discussion of opioids in general.

The example of the opium trade in East Asia in the 19th century is often quoted as proof of the socially destructive impact of heroin and opioids. This is an affront to logic. That corruption-charged historical environment can hardly be equated with today's social and political environment.

Many specialists dealing with chronic pain now speculate that the number of side effects, hospital admissions and deaths might all be lower for opioids than for common anti-inflammatory analgesics available at supermarkets.

Not only are opioids relatively safe, but chronic users can lead satisfying, functional lives. In fact, these drugs enable many chronic pain sufferers to work again. And the cost of opioids, in an open market, would be less than a dollar a day for even the heaviest users.

What about the immediate effects of opioid use?

Opioids don't make people violent and, if anything, are calming agents. It is true, however, that the intense subjective distress of opioid withdrawal includes marked agitation and feelings of aggression. If deprived of the drug, some addicts will take extreme measures to get a relieving hit.

It is argued that restriction of supply through prohibition reduces the number of deaths through overdoses. But the chance of a fatal overdose from a dose that is sterile, where the exact amount is known and there is basic supervision, is minuscule.

Finally, although opioids affect mood and feelings of calmness and wellbeing, they do not prevent a person (whether intoxicated or withdrawing) from making judgements about what is right or wrong.

In summary, if prohibitions on heroin and other opioids were relaxed or lifted, things would almost certainly change. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Who decides?

Many of the staunchest anti-drug commentators are right-wingers. In the tradition of the Central Committee or the Council of Guardians, they justify the hanging of a young man to save us from ourselves.

It is a pity that decisions about such efficacious and potentially beneficial drugs have been so deeply politicised. The almost religious conviction that opioids are evil is leading to needless suffering for hundreds of thousands of Australians with pain.

Fortunately, opinion is changing, but it is exasperating to see patients denied effective relief because of misguided ideology.

Drug firms eye fat profits from new obesity pills

Yahoo! News

LONDON (Reuters) - A marijuana joint might seem an odd starting point in the search for weight-loss secrets.

Yet a compound switching off the same brain circuits that make people hungry when they smoke cannabis looks set to become the world's first blockbuster anti-obesity medicine, with sales tipped by analysts to top $3 billion a year.

Sanofi-Aventis SA's Acomplia, or rimonabant, which could be approved by U.S. regulators as early as next month, is the first of a new wave of treatments that may spell fat profits for some pharmaceutical companies.

Another two experimental drugs from Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc and Alizyme Plc, with different mechanisms of action, have also produced promising clinical results in recent weeks, prompting some investors to start laying big bets on weight-loss medicine.

It is a risky area, however.

Slimming pills have had a chequered history, due to modest effectiveness and adverse side effects -- most notoriously with the diet drug combination "fen-phen," which was linked to heart-valve problems and has cost Wyeth more than $21 billion in provisions related to patient claims.

But past upsets have not deterred drug manufacturers from investing heavily in a new generation of possible winners.


Jonathan de Pass, chief executive of specialist consultancy Evaluate, calculates there are now 26 new drugs in clinical trials for obesity and a further 32 in early-stage development.

In addition, at least half a dozen diabetes medicines are being tried out as treatments for reducing weight.
The potential market is large in every respect.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than 1 billion people in the world are overweight and, if current trends continue, that number will reach 1.5 billion by 2015.

Of the current total, more than 300 million already rank as obese, putting them at substantial risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, respiratory problems and some cancers.

Worryingly, the problem is also starting to spread rapidly in developing countries, including parts of Africa, and the western Pacific islands of Nauru and Tonga hold the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage rates of obesity in the world.

Given the scale of the problem, the arrival of new weight-loss drugs will be greeted with some excitement -- but they may also pose a dilemma.

Dr Timothy Armstrong of the WHO's department of chronic diseases believes medication can help only a very small minority of patients and will not impact the overall obesity epidemic.

"It's not a panacea," he said. "Drugs don't have a role in preventing obesity in the wider population, where interventions around physical activity and diet are far more cost-effective."

Professor Luc Van Gaal of Belgium's University Hospital Antwerp, the lead investigator for one of the main clinical studies for Acomplia, sees things rather differently.

He argues doctors must accept that dieting and exercise alone often produce disappointing results, leaving patients at risk of falling seriously ill.

"Drug therapy is not the answer for every obese person in the street, but for certain patients who are running a risk, pharmacological therapy can help," he said.


Today, there are two main obesity medicines on the market -- Roche Holding AG's Xenical, which works by limiting fat absorption, and Abbott Laboratories Inc's Meridia/Reductil, which suppresses appetite.

Both can have adverse side effects, however. Xenical can cause excess gas and oily discharge, while Meridia may increase blood pressure. As a result, sales of both drugs are modest, at $460 million and $300 million respectively in 2004.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc hopes to win backing from a U.S. panel later this month for its own low-dose, low-side effect version of Xenical that would be sold without prescription -- although many industry experts still doubt it will become a major seller.

By contrast, the consensus forecast from analysts for peak sales of Acomplia is $3.1 billion, according to Evaluate, with some predictions topping $5 billion.

Just how big the drug will be, however, depends on the terms of use that Sanofi agrees with healthcare regulators.

The company hopes to prove that Acomplia specifically reduces key cardiovascular risk factors, since a simple obesity label may not be enough secure widespread reimbursement from governments and insurers.
Side effects could also be an issue. While patients on Acomplia have lost around 7 kg (15 lb) in body weight over two years, concerns remain about its potential impact on mood.

Still, rivals clearly think Sanofi is onto something big, with Merck & Co Inc, Pfizer Inc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co among a clutch of companies now developing similar cannabinoid receptor blocking drugs.

Boxer fights Games dope ban

The Australian

by Natasha Robinson

A CHAMPION young Aboriginal boxer was hopeful last night that he could overturn a decision banning him from fighting at the Commonwealth Games after a court found he unwittingly and passively inhaled marijuana smoke.National lightweight titleholder Anthony Little, who tested positive for cannabis after he won gold at the Commonwealth Games selection trials in Melbourne, told the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday that five days before the event, his two cousins smoked bongs in the car as the three travelled to an outback football game.

Little - who won gold despite boxing with a broken knuckle in his dominant hand - also told the court his father smoked cannabis in his Perth hotel room two weeks before the selection trials.

The court heard Little's father was a former alcoholic who used to wake the then 12-year-old Little at night to help him commit burglaries in his home town of Geraldton, four hours north of Perth.

Arbitrator John Winneke QC yesterday found Little was "an honest and fine young man" and ruled that the 25-year-old did not actively ingest marijuana, was not aware the substance was banned and that his "use" of cannabis in no way enhanced his performance when he won gold at the selection trials in August.

Little's barrister, Terry Forrest QC, said Boxing Australia should amend their selection criteria to allow Little - who many regard as Australia's best amateur boxer - to compete at the Games, which begin in Melbourne on March 15.

Mr Forrest said he would draft a submission asking Boxing Australia to amend their selection rules in the same way that the Australian Shooting Association did to allow Michael Diamond to compete at the 2004 Athens Olympics after being ruled ineligible for the first two rounds of selection trials. Diamond's gun licence had been suspended pending a court hearing on charges he had assaulted his then girlfriend and failed to secure one of his firearms properly. Both charges were later dismissed.

"The fact that, through bad luck, the best boxer in his division is in danger of being excluded is a matter of real concern," Mr Forrest said. "Anthony Little is a role model for thousands of Aboriginal children. His immediate future is in the hands of Boxing Australia."

Boxing Australia said yesterday it would consider Little's bid. "We want the best athletes in our team at the Commonwealth Games but the other side of the story is that we've set selection criteria - we've set an anti-doping policy," acting chief executive Simon Thompson said.

Coach Geoff Peterson said that since Little had tested positive for cannabis, the boxer's sponsors had abandoned him and he was almost bankrupt.

"He catches a bus to come to Perth to train - it's six hours on a bus from Geraldton," Mr Peterson said. But he added: "I won't give up on him."

Methamphetamine abuse on the rise

Science Daily

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. hospital emergency rooms are reporting a strong increase in cases resulting from methamphetamine abuse, the National Association of Countries says.

The association, in a survey of some 200 hospitals in 39 states and the District of Columbia, found that 47 percent of the facilities' emergency rooms reported that methamphetamine led the list of illicit drugs causing emergency room visits, USA Today reported Wednesday. The report said 16 percent of the hospitals listed marijuana first and 15 percent cocaine.

In additional, 56 percent of the hospitals said their costs had risen because of treatments for methamphetamine use.

Methamphetamine is a highly additive stimulant. While much of the methamphetamine abused in the United States is smuggled in from Mexico, it is also concocted in homes using ingredients in cold medicines, USA Today said.

The newspaper said methamphetamine abuse appears worse in the Midwest and rural areas. The NAC survey reported that in Nebraska about 10 percent of all emergency room visits were related to methamphetamine.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

LSD: The Geek's Wonder Drug?


By Ann Harrison

BASEL, Switzerland -- When Kevin Herbert has a particularly intractable programming problem, or finds himself pondering a big career decision, he deploys a powerful mind expanding tool -- LSD-25.

"It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used, " said Herbert, 42, an early employee of Cisco Systems who says he solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead -- who were among the many artists inspired by LSD.

"When I'm on LSD and hearing something that's pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I've stopped thinking and started knowing," said Herbert who intervened to ban drug testing of technologists at Cisco Systems.

Herbert, who lives in Santa Cruz, California, joined 2,000 researchers, scientists, artists and historians gathered here over the weekend to celebrate the 100th birthday of Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD here in 1938. The centenarian received a congratulatory birthday letter from the Swiss president, roses and a spontaneous kiss from a young woman in the crowd.

In many ways, the conference, LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug, an International Symposium on the Occasion of the 100th Birthday of Albert Hofmann, was a scientific coming-out party for the drug Hofmann fathered.

"LSD wanted to tell me something," Hofmann told the gathering Friday. "It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation."

Bent with age but still eloquent, Hofmann said he hoped the symposium would encourage the renewed therapeutic and spiritual use of LSD in supervised settings.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, a derivative of lysergic acid found in the alkaloids of the ergot grain fungus, has been illegal worldwide since the mid-1960s and still generates controversy. The conference was picketed Saturday by a splinter group from Scientology opposed to drug use.

The storied history of LSD as a mind-expanding tool began five years after Hofmann discovered LSD-25, and had what he described as a "peculiar presentiment" compelling him to resynthesize the drug. Without ingesting the substance, Hofmann managed to accidentally absorb enough of the chemical to experience its effects. In a second intentional trip, Hoffman said he had a frightening experience that gave way to feelings of rebirth.

During the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was found to be a promising tool for psychiatry and psychotherapy and was studied by the CIA as a potential interrogation weapon. It was criminalized after it escaped from the lab to be widely embraced by the youth culture.

Hofmannn said millions of people have taken LSD, but some had bad reactions when they took counterfeit drugs. He would like to see a modern Eleusis, the ancient Greek site that held the rituals of Eleusinian Mysteries which took place for two millennia beginning in 1500 BC. During the LSD symposium, mythologist Carl P. Ruck and chemist Peter Webster presented their research suggesting that an ergot preparation was the active ingredient for the Kykeon beverage used during the ritual.

"When Hofmann synthesized the chemical in LSD, he stumbled upon a 4,000-year-old secret," said Ruck, author of Road to Eleusis.

In 1958, Hofmann was the first to isolate the psychoactive substances of psilocybin and psilocin from Mexican magic mushrooms (psilocybe mexicana) which were among a variety of sacred plants used around the world to invite ecstatic and spiritual experiences.

The United States Supreme Court is now considering an appeal brought by the New Mexican chapter of the Uniao do Vegetal, or UDV, which uses the outlawed ayahauska brew in its ceremonies and cites the Eleusinian Mysteries as a precedent for a psychoactive Eucharist.

At the symposium, presentations of electronic trance music and psychedelic art by painter Alex Grey encouraged meditative and spiritual reflection for participants -- especially those in altered states of consciousness.

Participants eager to describe their modern-day spiritual LSD experiences were encouraged to contribute to a library of drug experiences on the Erowid website. Earth and Fire Erowid, who operate the site, presented a sampling of comments at the symposium and documented the two to five known deaths that have been associated with LSD.

Geri Beil of Cologne, Germany, who attended the symposium, recalled his own ecstatic LSD experience on an Indian beach on New Year's day, 2000. "I was crying from happiness, so thankful to my parents that they created me," said Beil. "This experience has not disappeared; it has had a lasting effect."

Like Herbert, many scientists and engineers also report heightened states of creativity while using LSD. During a press conference on Friday, Hofmann revealed that he was told by Nobel-prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences.

"When you study natural science and the miracles of creation, if you don't turn into a mystic you are not a natural scientist," said Hofmann.

In his presentation, artist Alex Grey noted that Nobel-prize-winner Francis Crick, discoverer of the double helical structure of DNA, also told friends he received inspiration for his ideas from LSD, according to news reports.

The gathering included a discussion of how early computer pioneers used LSD for inspiration. Douglas Englebart, the inventor of the mouse, Myron Stolaroff, a former Ampex engineer and LSD researcher who was attending the symposium, and Apple-cofounder Steve Jobs were among them. In the 2005 book What the Dormouse Said, New York Times reporter John Markoff quotes Jobs describing his LSD experience as "one of the two or three most important things he has done in his life."

But the symposium wasn't just a census of LSD-using notables. Attendees included psychotherapists and psychiatrists who discussed research into the therapeutic usefulness of psychedelic drugs.

Dr. Michael Mithoefer presented the preliminary findings of his study in Charleston, South Carolina, which is investigating whether MDMA is effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder in people traumatized by crime or war.

Harvard University professor, Dr. John Halpern, discussed his proposed study -- now awaiting DEA approval -- using MDMA to treat anxiety in cancer patients.

The Florida-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is supporting studies and research in Canada investigating the use of ibogain to treat drug addiction.

And a study at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, supported by the Heffter Research Institute, is investigating whether psilocybin effectively eases the anxiety of terminal cancer patients. Psychiatrist Charles Grob says his research group has located six of the needed 12 subjects and is looking for more participants.

While the data has yet to be analyzed, Grob told seminar participants that all the participants in the study have shown promising reactions, and he applauded the opportunity to share the data in an international gathering.

"It's very encouraging to see such a large number of people, including very knowledgeable people, getting together and sharing a common vision that these compounds have tremendous potential to facilitate healing, especially in areas that do not respond well to conventional treatments," said Grob. "There is global healing in these compounds which have been used for millennia by indigenous people that have much to teach modern man and modern woman."

MAPS founder Rick Doblin says his goal is to make psychedelic medicines into prescription drugs, lamenting that LSD is not yet being studied for therapeutic purposes. "We have been deeply touched by our experiences with psychedelics and it is hard that there is not a single legal study with LSD given to humans anywhere in the world," said Doblin. "We need to bring what is underground and illegal back into a legal context."

But Doblin notes that a group of people who say LSD provides relief from their cluster headaches have organized online and are pushing for a study at Harvard to explore a possible therapy using the drug. If Harvard accepts the MDMA study, Doblin says it could pave the way for the symbolically important return of LSD research at Harvard that halted during the tenure of Timothy Leary. His goal, says Doblin, is to secure an LSD study in time for Hofmann's 101st birthday.

Dr. Andrew Sewell, a psychiatrist and neurologist from the Harvard Medical School who studies alcohol and drug abuse, says most problems with LSD occur when users take an unknown dose they don't feel comfortable with, in an uncontrolled setting, without supervision to shield them from dangerous situations.

"LSD flashbacks are well-confirmed phenomenon but they are relatively rare and don't seem to cause as much trouble as the media would have you believe," said Dr. Sewell at the LSD symposium.

Dr. Sewell says people who have underlying mental disorders should not take LSD because it could make their symptoms worse. "Like any powerful drug, if LSD is used incorrectly it can cause more harm than good," said Dr. Sewell. "LSD is a potentially dangerous drug and should be taken under medical supervision."

"There is no evidence that LSD causes permanent brain damage -- and quite a lot of evidence that it doesn't," said Sewell. "We are lucky that we have over 1,000 papers written in the '50s and '60s when LSD was given to thousands and thousands of research subjects so we have a pretty good idea at this point what it does and does not do."

Asked if the world needs his invention, Hofmann said he hoped that the Basel LSD symposium would help create an appropriate place for LSD in society.

"I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD," said Hofmann. "It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be."

Internet a conduit for legal highs

The Oakland Press


You probably don't know what salvia divinorum is. But there's a chance your Internet-savvy kids do. You're not alone in ignorance - many school administrators and police officials also know little to nothing about salvia, a hallucinogenic plant from southern Mexico related to cooking sage and a member of the mint family. Described by one person who has dabbled with the plant as an "intense" experience, salvia is not a controlled substance and is not illegal in many states, including Michigan.

It's also readily available over the Internet from cybershops that sell it for as little as $9.95 for an ounce of the dried leaves and that target young adults with color-coded packets and pop-up ads touting a "legal high."

And, yes, they do take credit cards.

"This is just another example of another concern we have with the Internet," said Farmington Hills Police Chief William Dwyer.

Dwyer, who headed the narcotics division of the Detroit Police Department before coming to Farmington Hills, had not heard of salvia. "There's no police force to monitor the Internet," he said. "It's just such a wide open system that there's no way to monitor everything that's offered over the Internet. ... "To deal with every single criminal act or enterprise, it's just overwhelming." Undersheriff Michael McCabe of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office also was not aware of salvia. "I checked with our narcotics enforcement team, and they are familiar with it," he said.

"It's not illegal at this point in time," he said. "It's one of these things that gets out on the Internet and kids read about it and they smoke it."

The way the Internet permeates society ‹ especially youth culture ‹ sometimes leaves law enforcement behind the curve regarding new trends in substance abuse.

"These things get out there, and you've got these bloggers out there who say, ŒJust Google it,' and they Google it, and there it is," said McCabe. "It can apply to just about anything."

In Oakland County, he said, narcotics officers have not run across salvia or had any contact with it, "but that doesn't mean it's not out there."

It's out there, said Ken Krygel, drug and alcohol recognition expert at Macomb County Community College's Criminal Justice Training Center in Fraser.

"Our wonderful Internet drives this stuff," he said. Becoming more popular

People who work with drug abusers, said Krygel, are concerned that "once this stuff gets ingrained into like a culture or a certain age group, if they do ban it or try to stop people from using it, it just makes it more exciting."

Tom Ghena, executive director of Maplegrove Center, a chemical dependency treatment center in West Bloomfield Township, said therapists at the center have encountered teens who have experimented with salvia.

"There is a limited exposure that we are seeing here," he said. "Some of the kids are talking about it. It is something that they may use in passing, but certainly not a primary substance at this point."

Carolyn Gibson, public information officer for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's Detroit Field Division, said the agency knows about salvia.

"Although it's not a controlled substance, it definitely is a drug and a chemical of concern for the DEA and other law enforcement agencies," she said.

Like Dwyer, McCabe and Krygel, she pointed to the Internet as a conduit for information about hallucinogens and other drugs.

"The Internet obviously expands people's drug interests, as well as a lot of dealers are on the Internet," she said. "The Internet, I guess, is enabling the drug problem to grow at a faster rate."

Anecdotal evidence, however, seems to indicate that salvia is not a major player in the drug culture.

"Here in Detroit, I could not say we have seen a lot of it," she said. "I do know it is becoming a drug of choice, particularly among teens and people in their early 20s.

"A lot of sales are taking place in head shops and on the Internet."

Salespeople at two local head shops said they had heard of salvia - and in one case had carried it - but were not selling it now. A salesman at a third store would not speak on the record but was selling a gram of salvia extract, made by boiling the leaves in grain alcohol, for $40 - $42.40 with sales tax.

According to Krygel, "If you're 18 years old, it's quite available to you."

While salvia was originally sold as a leaf or an oil, it's now available as a powder, said Krygel.

"That's the new way of buying it," he said. "You either dust it on whatever type of cigarette you want ... and you roll it in your joint or whatever and you use it.

"And it's legal."

Is it safe?

While the DEA, perhaps predictably, has concerns about the health effects of salvia, bloggers and Web sites tout the herb as natural, legal, safe and nonaddictive.

"It's safe if you use it responsibly," said Daniel Siebert. "It's safe if it's used at appropriate doses in appropriate settings."

Siebert, a resident of Malibu, Calif., who maintains an educational Web site about salvia, claims there is no indication salvia has negative physiological effects.

"At doses people have tried, it is not known to have toxic effects," he said. "Physiologically speaking, it seems to me to be pretty safe."

There are concerns, however, that users could hurt themselves while in an altered state.

"It's like getting drunk," said Siebert. "Drinking is relatively safe as long as you don't get in a car and drive when you're drunk, or as long as you don't grab a gun when you're drunk.

"You don't want to do dangerous things when you're altered."

Dr. Frank McGeorge, chief of emergency medicine at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, said that while he's aware of salvia, he's yet to see anyone in his emergency room because of it.

That doesn't mean, however, that he considers it completely safe.

"As with all herbal or ethnic remedies, they will eventually find their way into the subculture of people looking for a new high," said McGeorge. "And as people begin to experiment with them more and more, we will begin to see the harmful effects, because people will, one, push the level of their doses, or two, increase the frequency of use.

"The number of bad effects can begin to go up."

Krygel said there's not been enough research to indicate what a downside might be.

"With kids, they feel nothing is going to hurt them," he said.

McGeorge pointed to GHB, also known as the date rape drug, use of which can result in death.

"This is another example of a simple easily available substance, like GHB used to be, that fell into the popular subculture or drug subcultures and became a problem that medical professionals and law enforcement offi cials had to catch up with," said McGeorge.

Siebert, who first tried salvia in 1989, said users enter a dreamlike state.

"When we're sleeping, most of us stay still in our beds and don't act on what we're seeing," he said.

Most "trips" are short, about 10 to 15 minutes, he said.

"Some people will move around - move around in an aimless way," said Siebert. "They don't seem aware of the fact that they're moving around.

"Some people will get up and amble across the room kind of aimlessly. They don't remember doing that. They will remember some kind of visionary scene they were experiencing."

He claims the nature of the drug precludes it from becoming popular or part of the "club" scene.

"It's kind of a strange inner journey," he said. "It doesn't make people feel good and stimulated.

"It's kind of a weird thing that's hard to handle."

Krygel said reaction varies from user to user.

Love it or hate it

"You either love or hate the stuff when you take it," he said. "If you're a first-time user of it, and you have a bad trip, you'll never touch the stuff again."

Sometimes, he said, users report the sensation of being in a room where the door closes - and they're afraid the door will never open.

"Other people that will use it, they will always see that opening or the way out," he said. "Those are the types of people that will use it numerous times."

Siebert said he's seen studies indicating that the substance in salvia that induces hallucinations, called salvinorin-A, actually reduces production of L-dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and desire.

Salvia is used by shamans of the Mazateca people in southern Mexico much as peyote is used by other native cultures - as a religious experience, as a way to experience a different spiritual plane.

"For them," said Siebert, "it's getting in touch with sacred deities and beings, going into the spirit world and contacting these beings."

He's concerned that some people who use it don't take it seriously.

"They think, ŒHow strong can it be? It's legal,' " he said. "It can definitely cause problems for people if they use it in a reckless way."

He advocates using salvia as a "meditative tool rather than as a roller-coaster ride that throws you around."

"Personally, I don't think teenagers should be taking it because most of them don't have the maturity and are taking it for the wrong reason.

"I think it makes sense that we don't sell alcohol to minors," he said, "and we shouldn't sell salvia to minors either."

McGeorge agrees that salvia is "not likely to produce the effects that most people are going to be looking for in a drug.

"On the other hand, that doesn't mean it's not going to be used," he said. "Some kids, teens, adults will do anything to escape parts of their lives.

"The issue involving mindaltering drugs in general has more to do with escaping the pressures of your life in society." What can parents do?

Siebert said parents need to talk to their kids honestly about hallucinogenic plants and drugs.

"Find out what their reasons are for trying it," he said.

"People have their own minds, and to tell them they can't do this, sometimes it doesn't work."

McGeorge said parents need to know what their children are doing. He used the choking game - children choking each other until they pass out in order to get a "brain rush" - as an example.

"That's something that you just talk to your kids and if you know what they're doing, you have an opportunity to intervene," he said.

"(But) do you need to talk to your kids about the choking game specifically or salvia divinorum specifically?" he asked. "The list is so long that you probably couldn't go over them specifi cally."

For McGeorge, the issue isn't salvia, but substance abuse.

"I wouldn't say this single specific agent is something you need to be aware of," he said. "What your kids are doing and what they're involved with is what you need to be aware of.

"For every one of these we know about, there are probably about 10 that we don't know of."

Legally stoned

Sydney Morning Herald

Business is booming for the retailers of substances that promise euphoric sensations without the worry of a jail term, writes David McCandless.

POCKET bongs, digital scales, herb grinders and exotic shamanic plants. The shelves of King Bong in Bournemouth, southern England, are packed with all the discerning drug user could possibly want. There are brightly packaged pills such as "Yellow Veg-E's", "vegetarian blissed-out dance capsules", and the citrus-flavoured Lime-Fantazias which promise "euphoric sensations" all night. And all of it entirely legal.

Most major towns and cities now have a resident drug emporium, selling raver toys, cannabis accessories, and a selection of legal, mind-altering drugs. Along with several large-scale websites, they form a lucrative "legal highs" industry which markets exotic mind-changing plants and chemicals to a growing audience of drug users looking for alternatives to illegal substances.

Demand has never been higher. "Business is on the up," says King Bong's owner, Tony Rotherham, who has run headshops for 12 years. "We're getting all sorts in here. Hippies, clubbers, students, housewives, even slimmers looking for appetite suppressants."

It was the boom in sales of magic mushrooms that kickstarted the industry. A legal loophole led to a proliferation of vendors. The mushrooms' reliable and mostly benevolent psychedelic effects changed public perception of legal highs. "Mushrooms opened people's mind to the possibility you could go into a shop and get a legal high that had an effect," he says.

When the loophole closed in July, vendors filled the void. "We've got a lot of new good products coming in," Rotherham says. Some 20 new, effective drugs have emerged in the last year.

A hotchpotch of shamanic plants, synthetic stimulants and psychedelic cacti, most imported from the Netherlands, New Zealand and India, are repackaged and sold across Britain. An plant from Thailand called kratom is a big seller and dubbed the "herbal speedball" due its apparent euphoric effects. Also selling well are ecstasy-like drugs, sold as "p.e.p pills". They contain piperazines, stimulant chemicals from the same chemical family as Viagra.

Magic mushroom sellers have switched to selling another mushroom, not yet outlawed: the red-and-white spotted Fly Agaric toadstool, which contains the psychoactive chemicals muscimol and ibotenic acid which can trigger delirious, dream-like states.

Thanks to the effectiveness of these legal highs and the large customer base created by the mushroom boom, the trade is booming too in shops and online, with shoppers exploiting secure credit card orders and 24-hour websites.

"Loads of people are getting into it," says Mark Evans, the owner of, Britain's biggest online headshop. "At the click of a button you can have whatever you want next day, at your home or in your office."

His site boasts more than 5000 products and many types of drugs: stimulant, visionary, relaxant, aphrodisiac. Customers can give star ratings and post reviews. Highs that don't work or have negative side effects quickly disappear from sale. It is a lucrative international business. "We're selling to thousands of customers a week all over Europe and North America," Evans says. His company claims a £2 million ($4.6 million) a year turnover, with the estimated worth of the British industry put at £10 million.

While most of the new drugs remain unscheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, retailers are careful not to encourage any illegal activity or promote products as drugs. Cannabis seeds are often sold as "souvenirs". Bottles of inhalant amyl nitrite or "poppers" are advertised as "room odourisers". Bongs (a water pipe used for smoking cannabis) are labelled for "legal smoking mixes only". However, some of the plant-based highs have a quasi-legal status because they contain naturally occurring illegal drugs. The San Pedro cactus contains the outlawed psychedelic substance mescaline.

Says Katy Swaine, the head of legal services at the drugs advice charity Release: "The circumstances in which it is illegal to possess or supply the plant are ambiguous." But the authorities seem unconcerned. "We've only had the police in here once in 12 years," says Rotherham. "The local beat officer came in after someone from a local mental health institute bought some herbal highs. He asked us not to sell to anyone from there. So we didn't."

Retailers say legal highs are safer than illicit drugs, which are often either adulterated or dangerously powerful. In contrast, many legal highs have a history of human use dating back thousands of years. Plant preparations such as the psychedelic Amazonian brew, ayahuasca, or yopo seeds, which contain the hallucinogen DMT (dimethyltryptamine), are used in shamanic ceremonies, with vomiting and loss of bowel control common.

Some authorities have moved to ban some legal highs as use has increased, creating a patchwork of inconsistent legislation. The potent psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum is banned in Australia and Italy but is legal elsewhere. "Governments tend to respond to very visible problems or public health scares," says Swaine. "If there was an explosion in the use or supply of a particular substance, as with magic mushroom, they might take steps."

Mark Evans, of, says: "The Government know we're here. We pay 40 per cent tax plus 1 per cent for national insurance ... I'm sure they do very well out of the headshop industry."

The Guardian

Marijuana-hating granny jailed in dispute

United Press International

NEWTON, W.Va., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A West Virginia grandmother thinks justice went astray when she spent a night in jail because she told off a family member for growing marijuana.

Linda Beglar, 54, said she "just came unglued" when she confronted the family member about the discovery of a marijuana patch on the family farm in Newton.

But, she insists she didn't become physical with the unidentified 41-year-old relative, the Charleston Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

The relative complained to police that Beglar had ripped his shirt and scratched him, and State Trooper G.K. Walsh arrived at her door with a warrant for her arrest.

Walsh agreed not to handcuff Beglar in front of her visiting granddaughter, and took her to a county jail, where she was held overnight.

"I cried and we talked," Beglar said. "He was sympathetic and said, 'You know the law doesn't always work for the innocent.'"

The marijuana patch has since disappeared, the report said.

Aerial fumigation of coca suspended on border w/ Ecuador

Dominican Today

Bogota.– Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced here Monday after a meeting with Ecuadorian counterpart Alfredo Palacio that his government has suspended for now the aerial fumigation of coca crops near its border with Ecuador.

"For the moment, there will be no more fumigation in that area, in response to the suggestion of President Palacio," Uribe said after talks with his guest.

Palacio traveled to Bogota Monday morning for a visit to analyze with Uribe the progress on negotiations for a free trade treaty linking their nations with the United States.

Uribe said that the suspension of fumigation was a gesture of solidarity with Quito, which had asked Colombia to desist from aerial fumigation of coca leaf - the source of cocaine - and heroin poppies within a buffer zone 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide along the countries' common border.

Prompted by complaints from area residents, Quito came to conclude that the herbicide used by Colombia, glyphosate, has harmed people, livestock and food crops on the Ecuadorian side of the border.

The Colombians, however, have insisted that the chemical, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Roundup, is not responsible for any such problems.

The Colombian leader said that this week, 12 groups of manual eradication personnel - a total of 360 civilians - will be moved to the border along with police who will provide security for them.

But Uribe did not rule out the resumption of fumigation along the frontier with Ecuador, which extends for 586 kilometers (363 miles).

The progress in the destruction of the illegal crops will be reviewed periodically by the two governments "to see if it is possible in that border area to completely destroy the drug(s) through manual eradication," said Uribe.

"If not, we'll have to resort once again to fumigation," he warned.

Bad Trip to the Seaside

The Daily Record

Ordeal after pet dog eats cannabis

A DRUG-CRAZED puppy went berserk after wolfing down a lump of cannabis.

Black labrador Molly gulped the hash resin after finding it during a beach walk.

And three hours later, she had to be rushed to the vet after having a terrifying fit while owner Michelle Thomson looked on helpless.

Michelle said: "She was dropping her head and her eyes were rollin. Her hind legs were paralysed. I was hysterical. If I hadn't checked on her, she probably would have died."

At the Town and Country Veterinary Group surgery, in Aberdeen, Molly became super-sensitive to light, noise and movement near her.

She then went berserk, tearing out her drip and throwing herself around a kennel.

Council worker Michelle, 41, said: "She is normally a very passive dog but when she was tripping, she snapped at the vet and threw herself at the walls."

Vet Clair Gale added: "It is most likely that Molly was suffering from a drugs intoxication.

"It was like a bad trip for Molly. The dog was unaware of what was happening. It must have been very distressing for her.

"Dogs have different metabolisms to humans, so drugs have very different effects on them.
"By her behaviour, it was probably cannabis.

"She was manic and could easily have hurt herself or someone else.

"But she is now back to her happy, bouncy self.

"We are going to take other blood samples from her to make sure there's no organ damage.
"She doen't appear to have any brain damage.

"The poor wee lass must have felt like she'd done 20 rounds with Mike Tyson."

Michelle, who lives in the Footdee area of Aberdeen, said: "Molly is only nine months old. She is curious so she goes for everything."


Golden Globe winner Mary Louise Parker has urged the US Government to legalise marijuana, after playing a cannabis-selling mother in her hit comedy Weeds.

The 41-year-old actress, who won her second Golden Globe for her portrayal of drug-dealing Nancy Botwin last night (16JAN06), has been surprised by the public and critical response to the show, and admits she expected her character's controversial job to offend a lot of US TVviewers.

She says, "I'm really in favour of legalising marijuana. I don't think it's that controversial.

"I thought people would be more offended by this than they are. I'm surprised they weren't."

Parker adds she was stunned she beat Desperate Housewives stars Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria to win Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series - Musical Or Comedy last night.

She adds, "I thought Felicity would win. I think we're all desperate housewives. My character is just a little bit more desperate than theirs."

Spanish police reveal record cocaine seizures

People's Daily Online

Spanish police captured a record 50 tons of cocaine last year, indicating that consumption of the drug across Europe is almost certainly on the increase as traffickers find new routes via Africa into the continent.

Last year's haul confirmed Spain's position among the top five countries in the world in cocaine seizures, with the rest all in the Americas.

Spain now accounts for 60 per cent of cocaine finds in Europe, according to El Pas newspaper, which published the figures on Sunday. El Pas said investigators believed the 2005 total may rise further as they had only counted major hauls and smaller finds had not yet been added.

Spanish police work on the assumption that they intercept some 20 per cent of the drug in Europe. That would suggest that 250 tons had got through, and that Europe as a whole consumed upwards of 410 tons of the drug during 2005.

The street value of the intercepted drugs was estimated at 6 billion euros (US$7 billion), while the amount supposed to have got through into Spain would have fetched 24 billion euros (US$29 billion) on the street. The European total, measured in Spanish street prices, would be around 40 billion euros (US$48 billion).

Collaboration with police forces and customs officials in the United States and Britain had led Spanish police to some of their biggest cocaine hauls during the year. They were now convinced, however, that the Columbian cartels behind the trafficking were setting up half-way houses in west African countries.

"We are increasingly sure that Colombian traffickers have cocaine stores in African countries to the south of Mauritania where we have great problems investigating or getting help from local authorities," Eloy Quirs, head of the Spanish police's central drugs brigade, told El Pas.

From there the drugs are loaded into cargo ships working routes along the Atlantic coast of Africa and Europe particularly into the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, where traffickers are already well established.
The cocaine is often unloaded on to trawlers and, from them, to fast speedboats that take it on to the isolated beaches of Galicia's rugged Atlantic coastline.

Spanish police have also detected attempts to fly cocaine into Europe from African airfields. One light aircraft discovered at a Spanish airfield recently had carried the drug from west Africa.

A global increase in cocaine availability was due to new plantations in Peru and Bolivia and the fact that some Colombian paramilitary groups were releasing cocaine they had stored, Spanish police said.

The increase in cocaine seizures did not coincide, however, with a fall in the drug's availability in Spain.

Street cocaine became both purer and cheaper over 2005, suggesting that the quantities reaching the market were also increasing.

One of the results of the cocaine boom is that Spain now has the highest rate of consumption of the drug in the world, according to a recent report from Spanish state prosecutors. Spain has overtaken the United States, and left Britain and Ireland behind, with the proportion of people who use the drug rising to more than one in 40.

"Spain occupies the top place in the world," the report said, citing United Nations figures.