Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Boomerang Effect: Anti-Marijuana Ads May Lead to Marijuana Use

Salt Lake Community College Globe

Ads might appeal to rebellious teenagers by giving them something to rebel against

Birds chirp as a fully dressed toddler wanders toward her backyard pool. With no one else around, she drags her pool toy behind her and places it inside of the pool. Leaning over the edge of the pool, the little girl tries to get her toy back. A narrator starts to speak: "Just tell her parents you weren't watching her because you were getting stoned. They'll understand." The screen fades to black.

This ad is similar to the prior spots which compare marijuana smokers to terrorists. Others claim smoking marijuana will lead to rape or make people go crazy. These commercials have the clear aim of preventing marijuana use. The purpose might be clear, but the results measuring the effectiveness of these ads are shrouded in controversy.

Numerous government evaluations of the anti-marijuana media campaign have shown the advertisements as ineffective at reducing drug use among teens. Two of the five studies concluded that the ads might lead to an increase in teen use of marijuana. These conclusions including a more recent study published in the May edition of "Addictive Behaviors" magazine are leading drug war critics and taxpayer groups to call on Congress to slash funding for the ads.

"I don't know what's more outrageous; that our government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on ineffective ads calling marijuana smokers terrorists, or the fact that the White House ignores study after study that shows that their drug control strategy is misguided and unsuccessful, yet it continues to fund this unproductive ad strategy," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The most recent study in "Addictive Behaviors" entitled "Explicit and Implicit Effects of Anti-marijuana and Anti-tobacco TV Advertisements" concluded that the exaggerated fear-based and inaccurate advertisement creates a "boomerang" effect. Instead of getting teen viewers to take the position offered in the ads, this "boomerang effect" causes teens to rebel against the stated message since it is counter to the knowledge teens already possess regarding marijuana.

"Exposure to anti-marijuana advertising might not only change young viewers' attitudes [positively] toward the substance, but also might directly increase risk of using marijuana," warns the study surveying the reactions of 18 to 19-year-old college students after viewing the Whitehouse's anti-marijuana commercials.

Created by President Reagan nearly eight years ago, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was established to define national priorities and objectives regarding drug control programs. The goals of the programs are to reduce drug use, manufacturing, and drug related crime.

The anti-marijuana commercials are part of ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign at a cost of $119 million dollars for the fiscal year 2005. Together, the ONDCP partners with organizations such as Partnership for a Drug Free America to create the ads.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America did not return requests for comments regarding the most recent and prior studies evaluation the effectiveness of the anti-marijuana ads.

The ONDCP does confirm the independent evaluations within the "National Drug Control Strategy: FY 2006 Budget Summary" report calling them "reliable data sources."

"The results of the independent evaluation (managed by National Institute on Drug Abuse) detected no connection between the program advertisements and youth attitudes and behavior toward drug use," the report reads.

Drug war critic groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance are using this information as a rallying call for Congress to eliminate funding of these anti-marijuana ads. Using their website,, the group is urging supporters to contact congressional representatives to transfer the funds to drug treatment instead of advertisements.

"From the start, the Bush Administration's ad campaign has been about taxpayer-funded propaganda, not prevention," said Piper. "Congress needs to eliminate this ineffective program and shift the funding to drug treatment which has been proven to work."

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of the leading organizations working on alternatives to the war on drugs. The mission statement states "a drug policy based not upon fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions but rather science, compassion, public health and human rights."

By Jospeph W. Bateman

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iran, Afghanistan can curb opium cultivation: Mottaki

Tehran Times

Tehran - Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki expressed hope here on Sunday that Iran and Afghanistan would be able to curb the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan through cooperation.

“Iran and Afghanistan can jointly uproot this negative phenomenon by encouraging international organizations to help sponsor replacement crops,” Mottaki told Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadar Spanta.

Mottaki stated that the recent tripartite diplomatic efforts by Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan initiated by Tehran with the aim of promoting regional security and stability have been warmly welcomed.

Sepanta said that Iran and Afghanistan share a common culture and history that can be used as a foundation to boost bilateral ties.

He went on to say that Afghanistan is interested in expanding relations with Iran in all areas, adding that the establishment of a joint economic commission and political committees is essential and in the interests of both countries.

The Afghan nation and government oppose any attempt to threaten the security of neighboring states, he asserted.

Sepanta also welcomed Tehran’s initiative to hold tripartite talks between Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to boost security and stability in the region.

Students Charged With Feeding Teachers Marijuana Muffins

KXTV - Sacramento

Dallas (AP) -- One teen said it started as a senior prank. But it ended up sending 18 people to the hospital and triggering a terrorism investigation.

Two 18-year-olds have been charged felony assault for allegedly giving marijuana-spiked muffins to employees of a suburban Dallas high school.

Most were treated and released, but an 86-year-old school receptionist spent two days in the hospital.

One of the teens apologized at a news conference, saying it was juvenile and stupid. His mother said her first thought when she heard about the tainted muffins was, "My heart goes out to the mother of that stupid kid."

The FBI got involved because the case involved a contamination of the food supply at a school.

Vital Signs Testing: Adding Drug Screening to Teens' E.R. Visit

The New York Times

Should teenagers who come to the emergency room with an injury be routinely screened for drug and alcohol use?

A new study argues that they should, reporting that when researchers looked at four years of pediatric trauma cases at one emergency room, they found that about 40 percent of the patients tested positive for drugs or alcohol. The study appears in May's Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

"Adolescents are often characterized by risk-taking behavior," the researchers wrote, "and when alcohol or other substances are involved, the resulting combination can be, and is often, lethal."

The goal of the screening is to look for opportunities to offer effective counseling. The lead author of the study, Dr. Peter F. Ehrlich of the University of Michigan Medical School, said a patient who had just been injured was often more willing to accept help.

As a practical matter, the study said, many hospitals already screen a lot of their patients of all ages for drugs and alcohol to help make treatment decisions. But often, nothing else is done with the information.

At the hospital that the researchers studied, all injured adolescents were supposed to be screened. But in the period examined, fewer than 45 percent were.

The study found that 443 patients had been eligible to be screened, but that only 193 had been. Of these, 29 percent tested positive for opiates, 11 percent for alcohol and 20 percent for marijuana. Because marijuana lingers in the body a month it was considered a sign of risky behavior rather than a direct link to the accidents.

The injuries were not limited to car crashes. Even teenagers in bicycle accidents were more likely to test positive, the study said.

By Eric Nagourney

Marijuana Chemical Reduces the Development of Diabetes in Animal Study

BBS News

Researchers of the Hadassah University Hospital of Jerusalem investigated the effects of the plant cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) on the development of diabetes in mice, which develop diabetes due to genetic causes. So-called NOD mice develop insulitis within 4 to 5 weeks of age followed by diabetes within a median of 14 weeks. Insulitis is an inflammation of the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, and diabetes is a result of a destruction of these cells.

NOD mice aged 6 to 12 weeks that were treated with 10 to 20 injections of CBD (5 mg per kilogram body weight) presented with a significantly reduced incidence of diabetes of 30 per cent compared to 86 per cent in untreated control mice. In addition, in the mice that developed diabetes in the treated group disease onset was a significantly delayed. Blood levels of two cytokines that promote inflammation, IFN-gamma and TFN-alpha, are usually increased in NOD mice. A treatment with CBD caused a significant reduction (more than 70 per cent) in levels of both cytokines. In another experiment CBD-treated mice were observed for 26 weeks. While the 5 control mice all developed diabetes, 3 of 5 of the CBD-treated mice remained diabetes- free at 26 weeks.

Researchers concluded that confirmation of the observed immunomodulatory effects of CBD "may lead to the clinical application of this agent in the prevention of type 1 diabetes" and possibly other autoimmune diseases. They note that many patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have sufficient residual cells that produce insulin at the time of diagnosis, and may be candidates for immunomodulation therapy.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cannabis disguised as play dough

The Australian

Customs officers at Melbourne Airport have intercepted four tubs of cannabis resin disguised as play dough.

The tubs containing 305g of cannabis were found in packages labelled "baby toys" on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.

Customs officers were alerted to the packages when an x-ray image identified anomalies with its contents.

The tubs were found to contain a dark resinous substance that tested positive for cannabis.

A 25-year-old man from Caulfield, in Melbourne's southeast, has been arrested and faces five drugs-related charges.

The man has been bailed to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on August 21.

Pure form of DXM banned

Springfield, IL - Buying or selling the pure form of a drug known as DXM will be illegal in Illinois under a plan that Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law on Thursday.

Greg Frary of Peoria, who with his wife, Linda, had lobbied for the new law, said it was "a real thrill" to learn of the governor's action.

Their son, Jonathan Frary, died in September 2003 from what authorities ruled was an accidental overdose of dextromethorphan hydrobromide. The 22-year-old Illinois State University student, a psychology major, had a particular interest in dream research and apparently thought that DXM would enhance his dreams, Linda Frary told lawmakers earlier this year.

He was able to buy the drug legally on the Internet, according to his parents.

In e-mailed comments Thursday, the Frarys called the newly passed law an important one.

"Our hope is that this will spare other Illinois parents the agony of losing their child to this dangerous drug," they wrote.

They added that they would like to see similar legislation passed either at the federal level or in each of the other 49 states.

Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is an ingredient in some cold and cough medicines. The pure form, a white powder, acts as a hallucinogen.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2007, will make possession of the pure form of DXM a Class 4 felony, generally punishable by up to three years in prison. Selling or distributing pure DXM will be a Class 2 felony, generally punishable by up to seven years in prison.

"The idea that kids can go online and easily get their hands on a dangerous drug is appalling," Blagojevich said in a news release. The new law will help to stop that, he added.

The measure sailed through the General Assembly this year as House Bill 4300. No one in the Senate or House voted against it.

Sponsors of the legislation included Reps. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet; Dan Brady, R-Bloomington; and David Leitch and Aaron Schock, both R-Peoria; as well as Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria; and Sen. George Shadid, D-Peoria.

Timothy Leary's trip

The Los Angeles Times

It's 10 years since the pied piper of pharmaceuticals died. Where did all the attention go?

Timothy Leary's dead / No, no, no, no, he's outside, looking in
— "Legend of a Mind," the Moody Blues

Although Mat 31 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Timothy Leary, there will be no gathering of the tribes anywhere to commemorate the event. Unlike Jerry Garcia, whose posthumous profile remains so high that the toilet from his home in Marin County was recently stolen after it was auctioned off for charity, Leary's name has not been enshrined on a Ben & Jerry's ice cream carton.

For someone who never met an interviewer (or a drug) he did not like, this constitutes a sad state of affairs indeed. Far more than most of his psychedelic cohorts, Leary understood marketing. He came up with "turn on, tune in, drop out," the catchy mantra he's remembered by (when he's remembered at all), only after consulting with media guru Marshall McLuhan.

Even by 1960s' standards, Leary's life was outsized. Booted out of West Point for violating the honor code, he earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from UC Berkeley, only to suffer a nervous breakdown after his wife committed suicide on his 35th birthday because he was having an affair with another woman.

After ingesting magic mushrooms in Mexico, Leary, by then an instructor at Harvard, began turning on the leading writers, artists and intellectuals of the day. (The university dismissed him in 1963.) When LSD became the drug of choice for the youth of America, he skyrocketed to fame as a genial and beneficent pharmaceutical pied piper.

While living in a sprawling mansion in Millbrook, N.Y., Leary met and married high-fashion model Nena von Schlebrugge (now the wife of Tibet scholar Robert Thurman and the mother of actress Uma Thurman), only to separate from her during their honeymoon in the Himalayas. Moving to Orange County in 1968, Leary threw his lot in with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a band of spiritual surfers turned drug dealers. He announced his candidacy for governor of California, and he flew off to Montreal to join John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their "bed-in" for peace.

After being sent to the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo for possession of marijuana, Leary escaped with the help of the radical Weather Underground and fled to Algeria, where he was placed under house arrest by fellow exile and Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver. Leary then found temporary sanctuary in Switzerland, only to be busted while trying to enter Afghanistan. Flown back to the United States under armed guard, he was locked up in Folsom State Prison, where his neighbor was Charles Manson. In exchange for his freedom, Leary became an FBI informant and betrayed his former friends and associates.

In 1976, Leary moved to Los Angeles and, among other things, began working as a "stand-up philosopher," performing in clubs on Sunset Boulevard and hanging out with A-list celebrities such as Helmut Newton, Susan Sarandon and Johnny Depp (then keeping company with Leary's goddaughter, Wynona Ryder).

Leary became an early computer enthusiast, engaged in a series of well-publicized "debates" with convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy and appeared on stage at Lollapalooza. When Leary learned he was suffering from incurable prostate cancer, he went public with his dying, threatening at one point to commit suicide online. Leary's ashes were shot into space on the same rocket that carried the mortal remains of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of "Star Trek."

Although many of his books remain in print, it was his outrageous conduct rather than his work that shaped the zeitgeist. Still, Leary should not be remembered only for his unflagging advocacy of better living through chemistry. By the end of his life, his real message was no longer turn on, tune in, drop out, but rather think for yourself, question authority, learn how to operate your own brain.

At a time when most people have long since given up believing that consciousness expansion can save the world, a small, unruly celebration would seem to be in order to honor Timothy Leary. If nothing else, he was a man who always marched to the beat of his own drum, whether or not anyone else was actually following along behind.

By Robert Greenfield, ROBERT GREENFIELD is the author of "Timothy Leary: A Biography," to be published in June by Harcourt Books.

Funk pills: Getting on a 'legal high'

The Hamilton Spectator

No longer all that ecstatic over ecstasy, Britons are showing a growing interest in alternatives to hard drugs

They have exotic names like Amsterdam Gold, Funk Pills and Ayahuasca Sacrament, and promise a spectrum of effects that range from the mildly euphoric to "ecstasy-style" energy rushes and the full-on hallucinogenic experience.

But these are not drugs where Britons have to break the law to sell, buy or consume them - they are all completely legal.

Dozens of both new and ancient types of "legal highs" derived from herbs, plants and cacti from South America and Asia, and synthetic stimulants from New Zealand, are now available at often low prices from Internet-based companies and an increasing number of "head" shops around Britain.

Ironically, the trade has been stimulated by the British government's decision last year to ban so-called "magic mushrooms," containing the hallucinogenic psilocin, which had been sold openly through the Internet and places like Camden Market in north London.

The ban left a gap in the market, with both consumers and vendors looking for new products.

Mark Evans, of, one of the leading Internet-based mail order operations, said the increase in trade since last year had been "massive."

He added: "There is a huge gap in the market. These consumers are not going to disappear, they are just looking for alternatives.''

Evans, whose company also sells cannabis seeds for growing, said there had been a change in the culture of people who consumed recreational drugs.

"We do a lot of festivals and speak to people who say they are fed up with dealers and taking drugs - like ecstasy - where they cannot always be confident that they know what is in the pill. People want something, which will not poison them and they know what they are buying."

Although many of the organic-based legal highs are, it is claimed, ones used by primitive communities for millennia, the biggest seller, Funk Pills with names like Flying Angel and Silver Bullet, have been in existence only for a few years; and sales have rocketed in the past six months.

The Funk Pills, which sell for between $11 Cdn and $15, come from New Zealand. They are made by companies licensed by the government there, after it decided that they were a less harmful substitute for illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine.

It created a new category in its drug laws to cover "non-traditional designer substances."

Also known as P.E.P pills, they contain the stimulant benzylpiperazine (BZP), which is banned in the United States, Denmark and Australia, together with other chemicals from the piperazine family, which are also used to create Viagra, although they have no effect on sexual performance.

According to DrugScope, the independent advice body, while some users are keen on the pills, attributing genuine ecstasy style effects, others are more skeptical.

The pills do come with warnings about dosage levels, driving or using machinery. Side effects can include those normally found with ecstasy or amphetamine use, such as dehydration, anxiety and insomnia.

Other big sellers are Spice Smoking Blends, a new version of the herbal mixes, which have been around for many years, as legal alternatives to cannabis.

"Herbal substitutes were always a bit of a joke, but many people say these are the closest thing to marijuana yet," Evans said.

At the other end of the scale from Funk Pills are the $25 peyote cacti. They contain the hallucinogenic mescaline and have a similar effect to LSD. It was the drug used by writer Aldous Huxley before he wrote The Doors of Perception, which influenced the growth in use of mind-altering drugs in the 1960s.

Native American tribes have used it for centuries, as a shamanic plant that can create visions of an alternate world.

"It is selling very well at the moment, a lot more in demand since the mushroom ban," said Chris Bovey, who runs a mail business firm in the south of England.

As well as the traditional herbal mixes, both companies sell products like Salvia, a relative of sage, which provides a short, sharp "hit" of only a few minutes; and Kratom, a leaf from south-east Asia used as an opium substitute.

More esoteric substances are Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Seeds, said to be more powerful than LSD. And there's the powdered Banisteriopsis caapi vine, the main ingredient in Ayahuasca or Yage. It's a sacred and ancient South American medicine said to have visionary qualities and "bought directly from Natives in the Amazon jungle under fair trade policies." It costs about $20 for 50 grams.

Bovey said consumers are broadly divided into two groups - older "hippie" types, used to smoking cannabis who were comfortable with smoking or ingesting exotic plants; and younger buyers seeking to replicate the "E" experience.

He said there were some things he would never sell, such as Datura, or Thorn-Apple, both a poison and hallucinogenic, linked with several deaths in the United States, where it is a common plant.

Despite all the exotic experiences attributed to the various substances, instances of addiction, abuse or harmful affects are almost non-existent.

Britain's Home Office said yesterday that there was no present reason for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to examine the legal status of any of the substances on the market.

Nevertheless, DrugScope issued advice to students in London earlier this year cautioning that any drug that has a psychological effect can prove difficult to stop if used regularly.

It added: "In general, very little is known about these substances. Proper controlled research is sparse, and therefore side effects and possible dangers when taken with other drugs, and even foods, is not known."

Harry Shapiro, a spokesman for DrugScope, added: "The only real warning we would give is the same as that we offer to consumers of illegal drugs ... that people with mental health problems should not take them. That if you are anxious, worried or depressed, they may only make your condition worse, and that if you are going to experiment, do so in a safe and secure environment."

By Terry Kirby

In a safer Colombia, president wins landslide re-election

International Herald Tribune

Bogota, Columbia - President Álvaro Uribe, considered by the Bush administration to be an unswerving caretaker for Washington's drug war in Latin America, has been re-elected in a landslide to a second four-year term.
Colombians gave Uribe 62 percent of the vote Sunday, with nearly all of the votes counted. Voters were apparently satisfied that Uribe had made headway during his first term in wresting control of this country from Marxist rebels and drug traffickers. Uribe overwhelmed the second-place finisher, Carlos Gaviria, a left-of-center former Constitutional Court justice who received 22 percent of the vote, and Horacio Serpa, the Liberal Party's standard-bearer, who garnered less than 12 percent.
"The victory by President Uribe will permit the young people of Colombia to learn about the conflict from the history books - not like us who have had to live with it," said Martha Lucía Ramirez, a former defense minister under Uribe.
Buttressed with more than $3 billion from the United States, most of it military aid, Uribe has aggressively fought Latin America's most persistent leftist insurgency while cooperating closely with an ambitious U.S. program intended to eradicate drug crops through aerial spraying.
He has also supported U.S. trade initiatives, signing a free-trade treaty with the Bush administration that, if approved by lawmakers here and in Washington, would become the second-largest trade pact signed by the United States with a Latin American country. In a region where the Bush administration is unpopular, Uribe also represents a trusted counterweight to rising leftist populism, particularly in neighboring Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez is relentlessly challenging American policy.
Uribe's most important accomplishments have been in security. The army, with 100,000 more troops than it had four years ago - close to a one-third increase - has taken back towns and roads once under the control of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the largest rebel group. When Uribe took office, nearly one-fifth of Colombia's towns had no police or army and kidnappings were out of control.
The rebels often had control of communities like the farming village of Choachi, an hour's drive over rugged mountains from Bogotá's presidential palace. Farmers in wool ponchos and faded fedoras and their wives came down from the hills Sunday and stood in long lines to cast their ballots. Several said they were weary of the earlier violence.
Moments after casting his vote in a school here, Arturo Hoyos, a farmer, simply explained: "There has been peace with this president."
Uribe, though, faces difficult challenges, which some political analysts say will be particularly thorny because of bungling by his own government.
Rightist paramilitary groups, anti- guerrilla forces that were given generous concessions to demobilize fighters, are evolving into drug-trafficking cartels that control politicians and extortion rackets across the northern coast. The government has also been plagued by accusations that important agencies, like the intelligence service, have closely collaborated with the paramilitaries.
Though his popularity ratings have been among the highest of any Latin American leader - often hovering above 70 percent - Uribe leads a loose coalition of movements that could splinter.
"The challenges will not be few," Colombia's leading newspaper, El Tiempo, said in an editorial Sunday.

By Juan Forero

Mexico's leftist candidate backs army in drug war

The Washington Post

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico (Reuters) - The leftist candidate in Mexico's presidential race vowed on Saturday to give more power to the army to fight violent drug gangs, which he said have hopelessly corrupted the country's police force.

Mexico has been in the grip of a drug war between rival cartels since last year and some 1,500 people have been shot, beaten or suffocated to death as bands of gunmen battle for control of the lucrative cocaine, heroin and marijuana trade.

"I'm going to create a legal initiative to reform the constitution and give more power to the army in the war against organized crime," Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told supporters in Nuevo Laredo, a city of 300,000 people that is on the front line of the turf war.

Failed attempts by past presidents to purge the country's top law enforcement officials of the influence of wealthy narco bosses make it clear they are a lost cause, he said.

"There has been enough experimenting," Lopez Obrador said. "Every six years they try to clean up the attorney general's office and it ends up completely infiltrated and totally involved in illegal acts."

The army is already key in what President Vicente Fox has dubbed Mexico's "mother of all battles" against drug gangs from the western state of Sinaloa and the local Gulf cartel.

Fox's six-year term ends this year and Lopez Obrador, who promises to make the country's poor his priority, holds second place in opinion polls ahead of the July 2 vote.

Mexico's police forces are riddled with corruption.

The entire city police force in Nuevo Laredo was suspended last year to investigate apparent links to drug cartels, and many of those officers were later dismissed.

Also last year, the government acknowledged that hundreds of members of an elite police force modeled on the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation had been bought by drug gangs and eight of them were charged with kidnapping.

Many experts consider Mexico's military, which is better equipped to shoot it out with heavily armed drug gangs, to be more honest than municipal, state and federal police.

But troops, including an elite anti-drug commando unit called the Zetas, have also defected to narco gangs.

Drug gang violence has traditionally been concentrated in Mexico's northern states along the U.S. border, but it is steadily increasing in other regions, including the resort town of Acapulco, which in recent months has seen grenade attacks and beheadings of police officers.

Science: The Drug War’s Latest Victim

In These Times

The war on drugs is an attack on rationality. Reason lost yet another skirmish recently when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on April 20 that “no sound scientific studies” supported the medical use of marijuana.

The announcement flatly contradicts the conclusion of virtually every major study on the efficacy of medical marijuana, including two performed by the government. In a New York Times article the following day, Dr. Jerry Avorn of Harvard Medical School said “this is yet another example of the FDA making pronouncements that seems to be driven more by ideology than science.”

Avorn’s criticism is one regularly leveled at the Bush administration, namely, that it is using politics to trump science. Last year, for example, the ACLU released a report titled “Science Under Siege” that detailed efforts by the Bush administration to hamper scientific inquiry in the name of ideology and national security.

The report found the administration has censored and prescreened scientific articles before publication, suppressed environmental and public health information, and increased restrictions on materials commonly used in basic scientific research.

For two years the Union of Concerned Scientists has circulated a petition statement which now contains the signatures of 9,000 U.S. scientists, including 49 Nobel Prize winners and 63 National Medal of Science recipients. The statement complains that the Bush administration advocates “policies that are not scientifically sound,” and sometimes has “misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implication of its politics.” This comes on the heels of a host of other accusations against the administration—charges of censoring a NASA scientist on issues of global warming and burying data on the morning-after Plan B contraceptive.

But the FDA announcement on marijuana is perhaps the most blatant effort to ignore scientific reality. Critics charge that the statement was issued to bolster opponents of various medical marijuana initiatives that have passed in 11 states.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and John P. Walters, the director of national drug control policy (the Drug Czar) oppose the use of medical marijuana. The Times quoted Walters’ spokesman Tom Riley, who said the FDA’s statement would put to rest what he called “the bizarre public discussion” that has helped legalize medical marijuana. But Riley failed to note that some of that discussion was sparked by an exhaustive DEA investigation into cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana) from 1986 to 1988. The comprehensive study examined evidence from doctors, patients and thousands of documents regarding marijuana’s medical utility.

Following a hearing on the study’s findings, the DEA’s administrative judge Francis L. Young released a ruling on Sept. 6, 1988, that noted, “Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance …” Marijuana in its natural form, he said, “is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

He recommended that “(The) provisions of the (Controlled Substances) Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance.”

The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Public Health Association, AIDS Action Council and dozens of other medical groups have endorsed medical marijuana. Anecdotal evidence from Oregon, one of the states that legalized marijuana’s medical uses,”adds to the mountain of data supporting the medicinal value of pot,” according to a May 1 editorial in the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.

Despite this and a growing wealth of new information (particularly new research on cannabanoid medicine by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam out of Hebrew University in Jerusalem) regarding the therapeutic potential of marijuana and its various analogues, the U.S. government refuses to alter its prohibitionist restrictions on marijuana use or research.

Although the Bushites’ rejection of scientific reality is particularly egregious, governmental irrationality about marijuana has been bipartisan. Indeed, more people suffered pot arrests during the Clinton administration than in any other before or since. Washington, in general, seems particularly susceptible to distorted reasoning or magical thinking when considering this ancient herb.

Isn’t it a sign of mental disorder when distorted reasoning is unchanged by empirical evidence? What is it about marijuana that drives our politicians insane?

By Salim Muwakkil

Three people cited when bong falls out of car

The News-Review

A road trip from California was spoiled for several young adults Thursday when their bong fell at the feet of a police officer during a traffic stop.

An Oregon State Police trooper pulled the northbound 2000 Toyota Sienna over near Milepost 115 and noticed the car smelled of alcohol, according to an OSP report.

While attempting to gather information from the three California residents, the bong (big drug pipe) fell out of the vehicle as passenger Benjamin Breiner, 18, of Berkeley opened the door.

The trooper then discovered a plastic container of psilocybin mushrooms and a small black bag holding several bags of marijuana. Michael Fox, 19, of Oakland, Calif., told the trooper he had a medical marijuana card out of California.

The card is not valid or recognized in Oregon, however.

The trooper also found several containers of alcohol in the vehicle and cited Braxton Shapiro, 18, of Orinda, Calif., Briener and Fox with minor in possession.

Shapiro, the driver, was also cited for having an open container in the vehicle, and he and Breiner were released.

Fox was taken to the Douglas County Jail on further charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Connery's ex-wife's lsd claim

The Daily Record

Sir Sean Connery took mind-bending LSD to help cope with the fame James Bond brought him, his ex-wife has claimed.

Diane Cilento said the actor took the drug after consulting a Scottish psychiatrist because he felt insecure and stressed.

Connery was prescribed the drug after appearing in Goldfinger in 1964.

Cilento makes the startling revelation in her autobiography, My Nine Lives, published in Australia at the weekend.

In it, she says: "The more successful Bond became, the more insecure Sean felt.

"He was convinced that he would never feel safe until he had £1million in the bank."

Cilento, 72, said Connery took the drug after she introduced him to controversial psychiatrist RD Laing.

She said: "On the first encounter, Laing gave Sean a tab of pure LSD, taking about a tenth of that amount himself.

"It was his standard procedure with patients he felt were emotionally blocked." Cilento said the drug made Connery ill and he spent the next few days in bed.

The book says Laing encouraged Connery's unease with his homeland, referring to the "boredom" Scotland instilled.

She said: "Sean also started to think a great deal about why so many Scots leave their native land."

Connery, 75, was not available for comment.

Opinion: The phony threat of liberal drug laws

The Baltimore Sun

Recently, Mexican President Vicente Fox vetoed a bill passed by the Mexican Congress that would have removed criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or other drugs. This came after the Bush administration vigorously complained, predicting it would encourage Americans to pour southward as "drug tourists."

But that option is off the table for the moment. So Americans who want to get high without fear of going to jail will have to go some other place where cannabis can be consumed with impunity. Such as Nebraska.

As it happens, no fewer than 11 states on this side of the border have made the decision not to bother filling their prisons with recreational potheads. Among them are not only such states as California and Oregon, which you might expect, but states such as North Carolina and Mississippi, which you might not. About 100 million Americans live in places where pot has been decriminalized.

Maybe there are planeloads of college kids who travel to Maine or Minnesota to spend each spring break hitting a bong, but if so, it's a well-kept secret. In fact, the most noticeable thing about states that have decriminalized marijuana is that they're not - noticeable, that is.

Looking at these places, "you can't tell the difference from how many people use marijuana," says University of Maryland, College Park economist Peter Reuter. A 1999 report commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences found "there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use."

Not everyone is in complete agreement. Rosalie Pacula, co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the RAND Corp., says her research indicates decriminalization does tend to lead to higher use. But by her measures, the effect is small.

Laws are only a modest factor in the decision to use drugs or not - just as they are only a modest factor in the decision to smoke cigarettes or not. Most people don't even know if they live in a decriminalized state.

The evidence from abroad is not terribly scary either. The Netherlands has gone beyond decriminalizing pot: For years, the government has allowed the sale of small amounts of pot through special cafes known as "coffee shops." Yet easy accessibility hasn't made the drug any more tempting to the average person. Dutch adults and teens both are less likely to use cannabis than Americans.

So it's hard to see why the United States should mind if Mexico decides to go easy on potheads. A good deal of evidence indicates that the law wouldn't make much difference in the behavior of either Mexicans or Americans.

There are some clear advantages, though. By freeing cops from focusing on recreational marijuana users, governments can reallocate more resources to serious crime.

Of course, the Mexican measure would have decriminalized possession of other drugs too, including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines - something no American state has done. Wouldn't something so drastic produce an explosion of hard drug use?

Actually, no. Italy, Spain and Portugal have decriminalized personal use of all drugs, not just cannabis. But liberal laws don't necessarily lead to liberal behavior. Spain has one of the highest cocaine use rates in Europe - but lower than the rate in Britain, which has a much stricter approach. Italy, by contrast, is about average for the continent, but Portugal is well below average. On heroin, all three are on the high side, though not dramatically so.

That fact, however, may not reveal anything about the effects of drug policies. It's easy to assume that when you change the law, you change behavior with respect to drugs. But the process may go in the opposite direction. Spaniards may not tend to use more cocaine because they have a permissive law; they may have a permissive law because Spaniards tend to use more cocaine.

States and nations don't seem to lose anything when they stop treating drug use as a crime. But there are gains to be had: more police time to combat violent criminals, less need to build prisons and fewer young lives scarred by arrest and imprisonment for behavior that does no harm.

Some people are happy with Mexico exactly as it is. But it just might benefit from becoming more like Nebraska.

By Steve Chapman

Aussies top the world in using ecstasy

The Advertiser

Australians use more ecstasy than any other country in the world, a federal parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The statement came just days after South Australian Democrats party leader Sandra Kanck said ecstasy "is not a dangerous drug", despite being linked to 110 deaths in Australia in the past three years.

Ms Kanck made the claim to Parliament last week.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre figures tabled to the inquiry showed in the past year, 500,000 Australians used amphetamines - including ecstasy - with 73,000 of them now dependent on the drug.

Up to 66 per cent of users also took the more potent crystalline form, called ice.

Senior NSW police told the inquiry "a culture of acceptance" was to blame, during public submissions in Sydney on Tuesday.

The inquiry heard a United Nations study put Australians at the top of the international list for the consumption of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, per head of population and second for amphetamine, or speed, use.

"We have developed a culture of acceptance of these types of harmful substances," NSW drug squad Det-Insp Paul Willingham told the inquiry into synthetic drugs.

The claims come just a day after experts denounced the use of the term "party drugs" to describe ecstasy and other drugs, saying it made them sound acceptable.

"We as a law enforcement agency have to educate people to let them know it is illicit," he said. "We're pitching to a market that is taking a more potent amphetamine." He said students as young as those in Year 6 needed to be educated about drugs.

A UN report released in 2003 estimated 2.9 per cent of Australians aged over 15 were using ecstasy. That rate was the world's highest with Ireland the next highest (2.4 per cent), followed by Britain (2.2), Spain (1.8), Belgium (1.7 ) and the U.S. (1.5).

Australia also had the second highest rate for amphetamine use at 3.4 per cent, behind Thailand's 5.6 per cent.

By Angela Kamper

Big jump in use of ecstasy

The Advertiser

More than 650,000 Australians have used ecstasy in the past year, with some users believing a pill is on par with a drink, a drug expert says.

Jennifer Johnston, a research fellow from the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne, said the drug now was consumed by couples at home.

"We've got about 3.2 per cent of the Australian population who have used it in the last 12 months," she said.

"It's becoming such a widespread behaviour that we're going to see it (ecstasy use) across all types of people."

South Australian Democrats leader Sandra Kanck this month told Parliament there was no evidence ecstasy was a dangerous substance.

Father Stashes Marijuana In 6-year-old's Bag

All Headline News

St. Paul, Minn. - Books, pencils, crayons and paper are usually what 6-year-olds carry in their backpacks. However, according to an AP report, one teacher got a rude awakening when her young student pulled a bag filled with marijuana from his Scooby-Doo bag. According to a court document the bag was filled with 25 smaller bags of marijuana.

The report notes that the teacher gave the drugs to a school administrator, who called police.

The father, Corey Randle, 29, was later arrested and faces a fifth-degree drug sale charge.

AP notes that Randle told investigators he hid the marijuana in the backpack, and left it in a bedroom closet.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection

The Washington Post

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."

Federal health and drug enforcement officials have widely used Tashkin's previous work on marijuana to make the case that the drug is dangerous. Tashkin said that while he still believes marijuana is potentially harmful, its cancer-causing effects appear to be of less concern than previously thought.

Earlier work established that marijuana does contain cancer-causing chemicals as potentially harmful as those in tobacco, he said. However, marijuana also contains the chemical THC, which he said may kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous.

Tashkin's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, involved 1,200 people in Los Angeles who had lung, neck or head cancer and an additional 1,040 people without cancer matched by age, sex and neighborhood.

They were all asked about their lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. The heaviest marijuana smokers had lighted up more than 22,000 times, while moderately heavy usage was defined as smoking 11,000 to 22,000 marijuana cigarettes. Tashkin found that even the very heavy marijuana smokers showed no increased incidence of the three cancers studied.

"This is the largest case-control study ever done, and everyone had to fill out a very extensive questionnaire about marijuana use," he said. "Bias can creep into any research, but we controlled for as many confounding factors as we could, and so I believe these results have real meaning."

Tashkin's group at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA had hypothesized that marijuana would raise the risk of cancer on the basis of earlier small human studies, lab studies of animals, and the fact that marijuana users inhale more deeply and generally hold smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers -- exposing them to the dangerous chemicals for a longer time. In addition, Tashkin said, previous studies found that marijuana tar has 50 percent higher concentrations of chemicals linked to cancer than tobacco cigarette tar.

While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference this week, did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.

The study was limited to people younger than 60 because those older than that were generally not exposed to marijuana in their youth, when it is most often tried.

By Marc Kaufman

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Afghan peasants bear the brunt of curbs on opium

Pak Tribune

Kabul - He is a 70-year-old drug baron who will claim the girl in lieu of a $2,000 debt her family amassed when their opium harvest failed.

"We don�t have any choice. If the money-lender wants our land, our daughters, we have to do whatever makes him happy," says 65-year-old Abdul Satar, tears welling up in his eyes.

Mr Satar�s harvest was wiped out by a freak hailstorm rather than US-backed counter-narcotics forces, but his predicament highlights how impoverished farmers bear the brunt of the war on drugs.

In the village of Deh Magas, an hour�s drive into the hills above Argu, the main drugs bazaar in north-eastern Afghanistan�s Badakhshan province, the land is too poor to support crops other than opium, which needs very little water.

Afghanistan has seen a drop in the number of acres used to grow poppies - 256,880 last year, down from 323,500 acres in 2004, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

Although the country�s overall opium production - which accounts for 90 per cent of global output - remained steady, the drop in the number of poppy fields planted was hailed as a success in western efforts to curb its narcotics trade.

Some provinces saw sharper declines in poppy cultivation with a 53 per cent drop in Badakhshan and a 90 per cent drop in eastern Nangahar - the re-sult of tighter law enforcement, eradication and promises of aid.

The figures paint a bright picture but behind the numbers the debts of impoverished opium farmers have grown, tightening the stranglehold drug traders have on the local economy. In rural Afghanistan, opium is used as a form of credit. Drug smugglers advance farmers cash against the coming harvest and that is repaid back in opium.

If the harvest fails, or is eradicated by police, the debt multiplies, leaving farmers deeply in hock to traders and left with little option but to sell their land, livestock or, in the worst cases, their daughters.

Since last year there has been a surge in reports of child marriage to repay debts. "Ten years ago, before people started growing opium, you saw people selling their daughters, selling their children, and now it�s happening again. People are desperate and are looking for husbands for girls as young as eight to make ends meet," says Fazel Rahman, a trader in the Argu drugs bazaar where opium and heroin are bought and sold. A recent report commissioned by the British government cites the common perception in rural Afghanistan that the war on drugs is penalising the poorest of the poor, while those with links to the authorities or the finances to bribe eradication teams escape unhurt. "This perception remains divisive and, if true, could serve to increase cultivation in subsequent years but drive up accumulated debt," says the report�s author David Mansfield.

In Badakhshan, dozens of farmers interviewed by the Financial Times in the districts of Argu and Baharak said that, after voluntarily planting other crops in 2005 in return for promises of aid, they were now being forced to plant poppies to settle their debts with local dealers.

"I used to own land but I had to sell it to pay off the money-lender. Now I just work in other people�s opium fields. All those promises the government made were empty. There are no roadmakers, no NGOs, nobody with jobs," says Abdul Maroof, a 35-year-old opium farmer in Baharak district. USAID pledged $60m to alternative projects in Badakhshan in the five years from 2005, but only $4.2m hit the ground last year, leaving many farmers at the mercy of the dealers.

"There is no doubt that criminals have become stronger since last year and people have little confidence in the government. They think the war on drugs is a political game," says General Shah Jahan Noori, the province�s police chief. Abdul Satar, too, will plant opium again.

But his harvest will be too late for Esther.

She will be married to the village drug baron Khan Mohammed, to pay for the flour, sugar and tea the family bought at his dry goods shop over the winter.

"My daughters are beautiful, but they are hungry," says Bibi Sahra, the girl�s mother who has eight other children to feed.

Beware fast boats bearing cocaine

The First Post

Jettisoned drugs are swamping the economy of an island paradise.

On a tiny, paradisical island off Panama's Caribbean coast, a ragged sailboat lands at a jetty and two Kuna Indians sprint ashore carrying a 30kg package of cocaine. The wind rushes through the thatched huts; it sounds like the whole island is whispering conspiratorially.

The drugs were dumped from a rapid Colombian boat (right) scuppered by its captain when coastguards gave chase. Some days, such boats wash ashore.

"I was waiting for the coconut harvest when I saw this thing bobbing in the water," says a Kuna man. "I thought it was a monster, but when I looked closer I saw it was a motorboat. We sold the motors - a pair of 250 horsepower engines - to the police for $1,000. We hope to sell the boat soon," he says, eyes scanning the horizon.

The Kuna Yala archipelago comprises 365 islands, and is ruled by the Kuna Indians - a proud people who won independence from Panama following a bloody revolution in 1925. The women wear traditional clothing, with embroidered bodices and golden necklaces, their noses pierced with gold.

Their lifestyle has remained unchanged for centuries, but modern life is intruding as Colombian booty washes ashore. Most is sold, but some is consumed locally. It's a tropical Whisky Galore.

Two teenagers strut along the island's main street, baggy shorts flapping in the wind, ghetto-blaster thumping, their hip-hop stylings

clashing with the tropical torpor. They are snorting from an ounce bag of cocaine and are higher than the bin-bag kites their friends trail along.

After a few hits, they set off to dive for lobster. They may not return, says island medic Dr Murillo. "Cocaine gives the divers a boost," he says. "But some get arrogant and dive too deep. Several have drowned."

The haul I witness being brought ashore sells that night to visiting Colombian coastal traders, who pay $250,000 for 250kg. The street value is £15m. The next day, there's a party atmosphere and no one can change even a $5 bill. I flee on the next plane.

Then, three days later, my guide calls me. Can I lend him $20? I balk. The Colombians had tricked the Kuna with forged notes. They failed to notice, their only light coming from tiny kerosene jam-jar lamps inside their thatched huts.

By Mike Power

New Treatment for Cocaine Dependence Found

Yahoo! News

Charlottesville, VA (PRNewswire) - Researchers from the University of Virginia Health System have found that ondansetron, a serotonin antagonist drug, reduced cocaine's reinforcing effects in people who volunteered to be part of the study. These findings are the first to show the value of ondansetron in battling cocaine and its addictive qualities.

Most cocaine users find it very difficult to quit. Despite almost two decades of scientific effort, no medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cocaine dependence. Cocaine users have high relapse rates under the currently available behavioral and psychosocial interventions.

"These preliminary findings suggest that ondansetron, in combination with behavioral therapy, may offer a new alternative for treating cocaine addiction," says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health.

Prof. Bankole Johnson and colleagues from the UVa Department of Psychiatric Medicine collected data from 63 cocaine-dependent men and women who were seeking treatment for this study, recently published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. In the study, participants received a placebo or one of three dosages of ondansetron, twice daily. Cognitive behavioral therapy also was provided each week. "We are encouraged by the results of this study, which show a promising role for ondansetron in the effort to find new, effective treatment for cocaine dependence," Prof. Johnson said.

Individuals treated with the highest dose of ondansetron (4 mg) had the lowest dropout rates and a greater rate of improvement in percentage of participants with a cocaine-free week as compared with the placebo group. The results of this study suggest that ondansetron may be beneficial in reducing cocaine's reinforcing effects, which in turn may help cocaine users to quit. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It was a collaborative project between the clinical trials branch within NIDA's Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where Prof. Dr. Johnson began his research and served as deputy chairman for research and a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology.

Cocaine dependence and its psychiatric, social, and economic consequences add up to a major public health problem in the United States, and a pharmaceutical treatment would be a boon for cocaine users trying to quit. According to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 5.7 million people (2.4% of the U.S. population) had used cocaine in the past year and 2.0 million (0.8%) had used cocaine within the past month.

Crystal meth crackdown leading to increased cocaine arrests, use

KPUA Hilo Hawaii

Honolulu (AP) - Cocaine arrests in Honolulu are on pace to hit a five-year high as a police crackdown on crystal methamphetamine has prompted drug dealers to turn to other drugs.

Honolulu police made 75 cocaine arrests during the first four months of this year compared with 135 arrests for all of last year.

Anthony Williams is the assistant special agent in charge of the U-S Drug Enforcement Administration's Honolulu district office.

He says some crystal methamphetamine dealers are reverting to cocaine distribution because of the federal penalties for crystal methamphetamine trafficking.

Major Kevin Lima is the head of the Honolulu Police Department's Narcotics/Vice division.

He says methamphetamine abusers who have a hard time obtaining ice have been known to switch to cocaine.

The great Lagunitas Marijuana Bust and Beer

Inside Bay Area

Our Beer of the Week is about as unusual as beer gets and I don't know whether to laugh or cry or just scream. The beer is Lagunitas Undercover Investigation on Shutdown or "Whatever, We're Still Here" , from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma.

Five-star-world class status isn't for the beer, although it's a typically delicious, major Lagunitas brew: 9.9 percent alcohol by volume, pale barley malt, a touch of wheat, Horizon bittering hops and a mix of mild and spicy Willamette hops, plus Centennial and Liberty hops that effectively mask the high alcohol.

Here's the story: Lagunitas, with its roots solidly in Petaluma in Sonoma County, a county that is home to many a marijuana stash, long held a beer tasting every Thursday evening: $2 beer, free food and music. Founder Tony Magee explains they advertised in a weekly newspaper, under the headline: "420."

The term 420 started, I understand, as the time — 4:20 p.m. — a group of students met to light up joints. Today, it signifies the weed itself. Anyway, the Lagunitas tasting always started at 4:20 p.m. "We were having fun with it," Magee says. "It wasn't like a giant pot party. There might have been three or four people out of 70 smoking pot. It's like, well, this is Sonoma County."

But the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board got the idea that Lagunitas or its employees were selling dope at the tastings. So, for eight weeks, they sent undercover investigators, a man and a woman, to the tastings to try to buy marijuana.

They had no luck. "People kept trying to give them some," Magee says. Finally, the ABC gave up and on St. Patrick's Day, 2005, they cited three people, including one Lagunitas worker, two for possession of marijuana, one for possession for sale.

ABC spokesman John Carr says he isn't sure, but Magee says charges were dropped against all three.

Bottom line: The ABC suspended Lagunitas license to sell beer for 20 days and placed the company on one year's probation, ending Nov. 18. Magee got the message. Although it began in his kitchen in the hamlet of Lagunitas in Marin County, the craft brewery's now a multimillion dollar business with 26 employees.

"Once in a while, God — the ABC — drops in and tells you he's in charge," Magee says.

"Last year, we made 32,420 barrels of beer," he says. "No kidding, that number was in our report (to the federal government)."

Proving there's still free speech: Lagunitas released Undercover Ale as a regular seasonal.

By William Brand

Pahad warns on drugs crime

The Citizen

South Africa - Too many South Africans are falling “easy victims” to the lure of drug money, says Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad.

The number of citizens currently being held in foreign prisons for drug-related crimes was of great concern, he told a media briefing at Parliament on Wednesday.

However, while complaints about conditions in certain foreign prisons had been noted by government, it had no intention of bringing any of these prisoners back home to serve their sentence.

“Unfortunately, South Africa has become a major centre for drugs transmission from many parts of the world. More problematically, too many South African (citizens) have been arrested as (drug) couriers.”

They were being held in many parts of the world, “not only Africa, but Latin America, Asia and elsewhere”.

Government was now looking at starting a programme to educate people about such crime, and “try to warn our people... that they are becoming easy victims to the lure of money” by acting as drug couriers.

Sentences in foreign countries were often “quite harsh”.

While government sympathised with many of the families of the prisoners, “there is very little we can do because government has no intention of bringing back any prisoners who are imprisoned for drug-related issues”.

South African embassy and consulate officials in the foreign countries visited such prisoners “on a regular basis”, but clearly the conditions were not as good as they were at home, Pahad said.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Willie Nelson's Marijuana Measuring Stick

How does Willie Nelson know if he's got a good song? If he can remember it after getting baked. Says Willie:

"I figured if it wasn't worth remembering it probably wasn't a very good song, so that would be the test, to see if I remembered it (after smoking a joint and) got back to a guitar or a piano."

The only thing most people remember after getting high is the number to Domino's. So, Willie's test seems to work for him even though he says he's sure he's forgotten a few over the years (that would have been a great defense to those IRS allegations). Somewhere Afroman is chuckling - of course, he's probably always chuckling.

Editorials: Lawmakers target regular Alaskans with anti-marijuana bill

The Northern Lights Online

It's about time someone formed a committee to investigate the un-Alaska activities of our state politicians and hog-tie our governor and Legislature for attempting to make it a felony for a person to possess more than four ounces of marijuana with House Bill 149. Gov. Murkowski has made criminalizing marijuana during his time in office a personal goal.

Obviously, these fat cats don't realize Alaska is the land where Democrats are NRA members and green-thumb Republicans hobby in hydroponics.

We revel in contradiction and our uniqueness. We're the country's largest state, yet we have fewer people than 47 other states. We're home to one of the country's most lenient privacy policies – which should protect us when we're smoking marijuana quietly at home – but the Republicans in charge, whose ideology should have them govern with a less-is-more approach, act like regulation-thirsty Democrats.

Heck, marijuana was legal until 1990 (within our lifetimes!) when voters approved an initiative – later deemed unconstitutional – to criminalize it.

House Bill 149 would criminalize personal-use amounts of marijuana passed in the Alaska State House of Representatives May 8, after the same bill was rejected April 19.

What changed?

The new bill claims that what you're smoking isn't your grandpa's reefer.

This claim is based on findings that were refuted last year by numerous scientific expert testimonies by UAF, Harvard and Oxford researchers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization aiming to decriminalize weed.

The Alaska courts have consistently upheld the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling in Ravin v. State, which concluded that Alaskans possessing four or fewer ounces of marijuana are protected from the violation of privacy that enforcement of the proposed marijuana law would entail.

Marijuana criminalization is all about a power trip. Most people realize by now the health risks posed by marijuana pale in comparison to those attending alcohol, which has been perfectly legal since Americans acknowledged the destructive effects of Prohibition. Drives toward ever-more restrictive marijuana laws aren't about marijuana as much as they're about an authoritarian government muscling to push people around.

Marijuana is part of the culture in Alaska. And it's big business, too. In April, six Anchorage men we accused by federal prosecutors of importing more than $10 million of marijuana into Alaska, reported the Anchorage Daily News. Also, in the same month, the newspaper reported Alaska State Troopers found a Bethel man with 42 pounds of the stuff – worth about $940,000. And a Palmer father-son team was arrested for growing 22 marijuana plants in a set up described by police as intricate but not uncommon, according to the Anchorage Daily News. As these recent arrests indicate, weed is an economic powerhouse here, so if we're really a conservative state, we should put political stock in laissez-faire economics.

And another thing. Criminalization of private marijuana use affects us common folk differently from the way it affects the elites who made this decision for us. Privacy, when stolen by the law, can always be bought for a price. Large houses on spacious tracts of land naturally afford a thicker wall of protection between a citizen enjoying a joint in his living room and the prying eyes of neighbors and police. When wealthy people and their kids get caught with illegal drugs, they don't go to jail like the rest of us. They attend pretty rehab programs instead.

Nice for them; crap for some of us.

Marijuana Does Not Raise Lung Cancer Risk

Fox News

People who smoke marijuana do not appear to be at increased risk for developing lung cancer, new research suggests.

While a clear increase in cancer risk was seen among cigarette smokers in the study, no such association was seen for regular cannabis users.

Even very heavy, long-term marijuana users who had smoked more than 22,000 joints over a lifetime seemed to have no greater risk than infrequent marijuana users or nonusers.

The findings surprised the study’s researchers, who expected to see an increase in cancer among people who smoked marijuana regularly in their youth.

“We know that there are as many or more carcinogens and co-carcinogens in marijuana smoke as in cigarettes,” researcher Donald Tashkin, MD, of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine tells WebMD. “But we did not find any evidence for an increase in cancer risk for even heavy marijuana smoking.” Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer.

Tashkin presented the findings today at The American Thoracic Society’s 102nd International Conference, held in San Diego.

Boomers Reaching Cancer Age

The study population was limited to people who were younger than 60 because people older than that would probably not have used marijuana in their teens and early adult years.

“People who may have smoked marijuana in their youth are just now getting to the age when cancers are being seen,” Tashkin says.

A total of 611 lung cancer patients living in Los Angeles County, and 601 patients with other cancers of the head and neck were compared with 1,040 people without cancer matched for age, sex, and the neighborhood they lived in.

All the participants were asked about lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as other drugs, their diets, occupation, family history of lung cancer, and socioeconomic status.

The heaviest marijuana users in the study had smoked more than 22,000 joints, while moderately heavy smokers had smoked between 11,000 and 22,000 joints.

While two-pack-a-day or more cigarette smokers were found to have a 20-fold increase in lung cancer risk, no elevation in risk was seen for even the very heaviest marijuana smokers.

The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer and other cancers of the head and neck. But people who smoked more marijuana were not at increased risk compared with people who smoked less and people who didn’t smoke at all.

The THC Connection

Studies suggest that marijuana smoke contains 50 percent higher concentrations of chemicals linked to lung cancer than cigarette smoke. Marijuana smokers also tend to inhale deeper than cigarette smokers and hold the inhaled smoke in their lungs longer.

So why isn’t smoking marijuana as dangerous as smoking cigarettes in terms of cancer risk?

The answer isn’t clear, but the experts say it might have something to do with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is a chemical found in marijuana smoke.

Cellular studies and even some studies in animal models suggest that THC has antitumor properties, either by encouraging the death of genetically damaged cells that can become cancerous or by restricting the development of the blood supply that feeds tumors, Tashkin tells WebMD.

In a review of the research published last fall, University of Colorado molecular biologist Robert Melamede, PhD, concluded that the THC in cannabis seems to lessen the tumor-promoting properties of marijuana smoke.

The nicotine in tobacco has been shown to inhibit the destruction of cancer-causing cells, Melamede tells WebMD. THC does not appear to do this and may even do the opposite.

While there was a suggestion in the newly reported study that smoking marijuana is weakly protective against lung cancer, Tashkin says the very weak association was probably due to chance.

Cancer risk among cigarette smokers was not influenced by whether or not they also smoked marijuana.

“We saw no interaction between marijuana and tobacco, and we certainly would not recommend that people smoke marijuana to protect themselves against cancer,” he says.

By Salynn Boyles

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cocaine navy is busted

Herald Sun

Brazil (AP) - The arrest of a fugitive drug lord in Brazil yesterday has toppled an empire that used submarines to put 15 tonnes of cocaine a month on US and European streets.

The raid on "Don Pablo" Rayo-Montano's Brazilian mansion capped a three-year manhunt that resulted in more than 100 arrests, and the seizure of 52 tonnes of cocaine and $92.5 million of the kingpin's assets, including three islands he owned off Panama.

"The Rayo-Montano organisation had its own private, rogue navy to run a drug business that was nearly as sophisticated as a small nation," said US Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen Tandy.

"Rayo-Montano's decadent, drug-funded lifestyle has caught up with him," Ms Tandy said. "This morning, his real estate holdings went from three islands to one jail cell."

New York City-based DEA agents involved in "Operation Twin Oceans" helped identify Mr Rayo-Montano's associates, and an investigation was continuing to run down his city connections.

Mr Rayo-Montano used the islands off Panama's Pacific coast as shipment points for his fleet of cargo vessels outfitted with underwater lines to tow submersibles packed with cocaine, DEA officials said.

The small submarines would mostly be towed on the surface but they could submerge to evade the Coast Guard.

The DEA operation, co-ordinated with the United States Coast Guard, the United States Navy and agents from nine other countries, hit its most sensitive point with the planned raid on Mr Rayo-Montano's Sao Paulo hideout.

US agents feared that Brazilian police, who have seen more than 40 officers killed in the past week in running street battles with local gangs, might be diverted and that Mr Rayo-Montano, tipped off by other arrests, would go on the run.

But the Sensitive Investigations Unit of the Brazilian Federal Police executed the pre-dawn raid on Mr Rayo-Montano's mansion without incident. "The Brazilians really stepped up to the plate on this one," a source said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

U.S. hardball tactics frustrated Mexican attempt at drug reform

Salt Lake Tribune

The rise and fall of Mexican drug-law reform over recent weeks has been, for drug legalizers, a dizzying high followed by a painfully abrupt crash. U.S. drug authorities laid down their usual bummer: No user is going to get off easy on "their" watch. And thanks to the United States' overwhelming power and influence, their watch extends everywhere.

Mexico isn't the first nation to suffer side effects from America's estimated $30 billion-a-year drug war. A 2003 attempt by former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to liberalize drug possession laws met with threats from U.S. drug czar John Walters that the tougher resulting border security could hold up U.S.-Canadian trade, and the idea soon went up in smoke. Colombia has been for years the site of what is essentially a damaging and expensive proxy war in the service of the United States' delusion that it can wipe out cocaine production.

Still, both cops and heads must have been hallucinating if they thought Mexico's mild reform proposals would have ushered in some kind of lotus-eaters' utopia, a permanent Altered State down Mexico way.

The legislation, which passed Mexico's House and Senate with President Vicente Fox's initial support, would have legalized the possession of minute quantities of substances such as pot, cocaine and heroin (5 grams of pot, 0.5 grams of cocaine -- only a few lines -- and 25 milligrams of heroin), in an attempt to focus drug-enforcement resources on larger-scale dealers. But sales, and possession beyond the tiniest weekend's worth, would have remained illegal. State and local cops would have been dragged into a Mexican drug war that had heretofore been federal, increasing the total resources spent on drug enforcement -- and introducing more cops to the lure of drug-money corruption.

Even before this policy, you could beat a possession rap by convincing a Mexican judge that you're an addict. The quantities allowed under that definition have been undefined; the new law would have defined them, in an effort to eliminate judicial corruption.

As the bill came perilously close to receiving Fox's signature, White House drug officials raised the fear that Mexican border towns would become out-of-control party towns for thrill-seeking U.S. youth. (What else is new?) Border city cops spouted nonsense about how the new policy would lead to unmanageably rowdy public chaos, as if potheads and junkies are an energetic bunch, or as if any substance creates more troublesome public inebriation than already available alcohol. Because sales still would have been illegal under the new law, warnings by U.S. officials -- from the mayor of San Diego to the spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- that the proposal would have led to a drugged-out free-for-all just don't fly.

Trade in other commodities, even damaging ones such as cancer-causing cigarettes or obesity-triggering sugary soft drinks, doesn't generate the rampant violence and corruption of the illegal drug business. The ugly side of drug trafficking isn't inherent in the drugs. It arises because illegal businesses by definition demand artificially high profits, lack peaceful institutions for settling disputes (if you can't take your opponent to court when you feel ripped off, you might feel more compelled to shoot) and attract risk-seeking, violence-prone types to begin with.

When drugs are outlawed, only outlaws deal drugs. If it weren't illegal, the sale of narcotics would be no more prone to violence and corruption than the sale of cola or cigarettes.

Reform far more radical than what Mexico contemplated would drastically reduce, not exacerbate, the serious problems associated with drug-law enforcement.

The United States is fortunate enough not to have rebel armies funded by profits from the illegal coca market within its borders. And we can afford not to care about the thousands of murders a year and dangerously rampant police corruption in Mexico caused by the drug laws we refuse to let it change.

Americans angry about Mexican immigration complain that the country is exporting its troubles to us. In fact, with our drug-war bullying, we're exporting our enforcement troubles back to Mexico, adding to the problems that make so many people want to come here to begin with.

The White House's disproportionate panic can't be explained by any actual damage the law could have caused. Maybe U.S. drug warriors realized that if we saw firsthand, right across the border, just how unnecessary are the laws against drug possession, the futility of making 1.7 million drug arrests each year would be exposed, and that's never a happy thought for any bureaucrat. In the Netherlands' Amsterdam, where pot, hash and mushrooms can be sold freely in certain shops, surveyed use of most drugs is lower than in the United States, illustrating that legalization does not equal everyone getting high. The social order still stands.

Experienced drug users have an ethic: You don't force other people on your trip against their will. Pity that U.S. drug policymakers can't be that sensible.

By Brian Doherty

Lone Dem 'on a high' over stand on ecstasy

The Australian

South Australia's sole Democrat MP says she's "riding on a high" after receiving widespread support for her claims that ecstasy is harmless and should be given to trauma victims.

Sandra Kanck told state parliament last week there was no evidence to suggest MDMA - the active ingredient in ecstasy tablets - was dangerous and that the drug should have been made available to traumatised victims of last year's fatal Eyre Peninsula bushfires.

While she stood by her comments to state parliament, Ms Kanck said they had been taken out of context.

She admitted some people had been upset by her statement, but said she had been talking of the therapeutic use of MDMA, not backyard-manufactured ecstasy.

Despite party disquiet over her comments and calls for her to resign, Ms Kanck said yesterday she had received tremendous support.

"I didn't receive a single phone call from a party member saying, 'What are you on about?"' Ms Kanck told ABC radio in Adelaide.

"The calls I've had have all been incredibly supportive - so much so I'm almost riding on a high at the moment.

There had been calls "from former members saying, 'You've got my vote back - I didn't vote for the Democrats last time and you've got my vote back now"', Ms Kanck said.

More than 110 deaths nationwide have been linked to ecstasy in the past three years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gone to Pot: The Association Between Cannabis and Psychosis

Psychiatric Times

Cannabis, or marijuana, has been consumed by humans for centuries and remains one of the most widely and commonly used illicit substances. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the association between cannabis use and psychosis. The purpose of this article is to review the evidence supporting and refuting the association between cannabis exposure and psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.

As far back as 1845, Dr. Jacques- Joseph Moreau de Tours described psychotic phenomena with hashish use as:

[A]cute psychotic reactions, generally lasting but a few hours, but occasionally as long as a week; the reaction seemed doserelated and its main features included paranoid ideation, illusions, hallucinations, delusions, depersonalization, confusion, restlessness and excitement. There can be delirium, disorientation and marked clouding of consciousness.

In 1964, Gaoni and Mechoulam identified δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (δ-9-THC) as the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.

The identification and cloning of a brain cannabinoid receptor (CB-1) in 1990 provided a jump start to renewed research on cannabinoids (Matsuda et al., 1990). Most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis are believed to be mediated by CB-1 receptors where δ-9-THC is a modest affinity (Ki=35 nmol to 80 nmol) low intrinsic activity partial agonist. A peripheral receptor later named CB-2 was identified in splenic tissue (Munro et al., 1993). Recent evidence suggests the presence of other brain cannabinoid receptors. The presence of cannabinoid receptors led to the logical search for endogenous cannabinoid receptor ligands, culminating in the discovery of anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, two of the better known endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. Cannabinoid-1 receptors are distributed with high density in the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal regions, basal ganglia, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex and cerebellum (Glass et al., 1997; Herkenham et al., 1990), brain regions that are relevant to their known effects. Further, these are also regions that have been implicated in the putative neural circuitry of psychosis. The primary effect of cannabinoids is the modulation of neurotransmitter release via activation of presynaptic CB1-Rs (reviewed in Demuth and Molleman, in press; Freund et al., 2003). Of note, some of these neurotransmitters (eg, dopamine and glutamate) have been implicated in the pathophysiology of psychosis.

The effects of herbal cannabis are a composite of a number of cannabinoid compounds, terpenoids and flavonoids. Thus, cannabidiol, a constituent of herbal cannabis, may offset some δ-9-THC effects (Zuardi et al., 1995). The ratio of the constituents of herbal cannabis varies, and this may result in important differences in its net effect.

Emerging data suggest an association between cannabis exposure and the development of schizophrenia (Table). Interest in the association between cannabis and schizophrenia received a major boost from the Swedish Conscript study, a large historical, longitudinal cohort study of all Swedes conscripted in 1969-1970 (Andreasson et al., 1987). Since Sweden mandates military service, 97% of males aged 18 to 20 years were included. Individuals who at age 18 reported having used cannabis >50 times were six times more likely than nonusers to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the ensuing 15 years. Adjusting for other relevant risk factors, including psychiatric diagnosis other than psychosis at conscription, reduced but did not eliminate the higher risk (odds ratio [OR]=2.3) of schizophrenia conferred by cannabis use.

A reanalysis and extension of the same Swedish conscript cohort reconfirmed that those who were heavy cannabis users by the age of 18 were 6.7 times more likely than nonusers to be hospitalized for schizophrenia 27 years later (Zammit et al., 2002). The OR for cannabis use and schizophrenia remained significant (1.2), albeit lower than in the original study, despite adjusting for a number of confounds, including low IQ and stimulant use. Further, the finding of an increased risk of schizophrenia conferred by cannabis use persisted after controlling for the possibility that cannabis use was a consequence of prodromal manifestations of psychosis.

Several recent prospective cohort studies complement studies using a historical approach. In a general population birth cohort study of 1,037 people born in Dunedin, New Zealand, and followed through age 26, individuals using cannabis at ages 15 and 18, compared to nonusers, had higher rates of both psychotic symptoms at age 26 (even after controlling for psychotic symptoms) and schizophreniform disorder predating the onset of cannabis use (Arseneault et al., 2002). Similarly, cohort studies from elsewhere have also reported a dose-response relationship in the increased risk of psychosis with cannabis exposure (Ferdinand et al., 2005a; Fergusson et al., 2003; Henquet et al., 2005; Stefanis et al., 2004; van Os et al., 2002; Weiser et al., 2002). Several studies of patients during their first-break psychosis suggested that cannabis use precedes or is coincident with the first psychotic break in patients with schizophrenia (Allebeck et al., 1993; Hambrecht and Hafner, 2000).

Are these data sufficient to constitute a causal relationship? And if so, how strong is the association? Temporality, strength, association, direction, dose-response or biological gradient, consistency, specificity, coherence, experimental evidence, and plausibility are some of the criteria that have been used to establish disease causality (Aiello and Larson, 2002).

Several studies reviewed here provided evidence of a dose-response relationship between cannabis exposure and the risk of psychosis. Most studies also provided evidence of direction by showing that the association between cannabis use and psychosis persists even after controlling for many potential confounding variables such as IQ, education, urbanicity, marital status and previous psychotic symptoms. With regard to temporality, several studies suggested that cannabis use precedes or coincides with the onset of psychosis. Further, there is also evidence that cannabis use may be associated with a lower age of schizophrenia onset (Green et al., 2004; Linszen et al., 1994). There is evidence for both the specificity of exposure (i.e., cannabis [Arseneault et al., 2002; Ferdinand et al., 2005a, 2005b; Zammit et al., 2002]) and specificity of the outcome (i.e., psychosis [Arseneault et al., 2002; Stefanis et al., 2004]). Experimental evidence from laboratory studies suggested that cannabinoids can induce transient short-lived psychosis in healthy individuals (D’Souza et al., 2004; Leweke et al., 2000). Further, relative to controls, patients with schizophrenia have been shown to be more vulnerable to the psychotomimetic effects of δ-9-THC (D’Souza et al., 2005). While it is out of the scope of this review, the interactions between cannabinoid receptor function and dopamine, glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid receptor function provide potential mechanisms by which cannabis may “cause” psychosis (as reviewed in D’Souza et al., 2004, 2005).

One of the most obvious genetic risk factors for psychosis is a family history of psychosis. In a case-control study, cannabis users admitted for schizophrenia had a significantly greater familial risk of schizophrenia than patients with schizophrenia without cannabis use (McGuire et al., 1995). Consistent with these findings, data from the Edinburgh High Risk project showed that frequent cannabis use conferred a sixfold higher risk of schizophrenia in individuals with a family history of schizophrenia (Miller et al., 2001). Recently, a polymorphism of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene has been reported to modulate the risk of schizophrenia conferred by cannabis (Caspi et al., 2005).

Emerging findings from postmortem (Dean et al., 2001; Zavitsanou et al., 2004), neurochemical (Leweke et al., 1999) and genetic (Ujike et al., 2002) studies suggested cannabinoid receptor system dysfunction contributes to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Thus, it is possible that cannabinoid receptor dysfunction is the substrate that links cannabis exposure and psychosis.

Finally, if cannabis causes psychosis in and of itself, then one would expect that any increase in the rates of cannabis use would be associated with increased rates of psychosis. However, in some areas where cannabis use has clearly increased (e.g., Australia), there has not been a commensurate increase in the rate of psychotic disorders (Degenhardt et al., 2003). Further, one might also expect that if the age of initiation of cannabis use decreases, there should also be a decrease in the age of onset of psychotic disorders. We are unaware of such evidence.

In conclusion, there is evidence for an association between cannabis and psychosis. It is clear that cannabinoids can cause acute transient psychotic symptoms or an acute psychosis. Also it is clear that cannabis can exacerbate psychosis in individuals with an established psychotic disorder. However, whether cannabis causes a persistent de novo psychosis independent of any other risk factors is not supported by the existing literature. More likely, cannabis is a component cause that interacts with other factors (e.g., genetic risk) to induce psychosis.

Nevertheless, in the absence of known causes of schizophrenia, the role of component causes such as cannabis use remains important and warrants further study. Finally, studying the role of exogenous cannabinoids in the development of psychosis will need to be complemented by further studying a possible role of endocannabinoid dysfunction in the pathophysiology of psychosis.

By Asif R. Malik, Md. and Deepak Syril D'Souza, Md.

Dr Malik is a fourth year resident in psychiatry and Dr D'Souza is associate professor of psychiatry, both at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

Synthetic Marijuana Returning to Market


Washington (AP) - Seventeen years after it was withdrawn from U.S. markets, a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana is going back on sale as a prescription treatment for the vomiting and nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy, its manufacturer said Tuesday.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International hopes to begin selling Cesamet in the next two to three weeks, company president Wes Wheeler said.

The Costa Mesa, Calif. company received Food and Drug Administration approval Monday to resume sales of the drug, which it bought from Eli Lilly and Co. in 2004. Valeant currently sells the drug, also called nabilone, in Canada.

Lilly originally received FDA approval for nabilone in 1985 but withdrew it from the market in 1989 for commercial reasons, Wheeler said. Valeant, since purchasing the drug, has revised its label and updated its manufacturing process, he added.

The drug will compete with Marinol, made by Belgium-based Solvay SA. Marinol, another synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana that's more commonly known as THC. It also received FDA approval in 1985.

Synthetic THC acts on the brain like the THC in smoked marijuana, but eliminates having to inhale the otherwise harmful smoke contained in the illegal drug, Valeant said.

Cesamet is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. The 1-milligram tablets are meant to be taken twice daily before cancer patients undergo chemotherapy and up to 48 hours following treatment. Side effects include euphoria, drowsiness, vertigo and dry mouth.

The FDA last month said it does not support the use of marijuana for medical purposes.