Some Good News From The Fight Against Opioids

SOME 382,000 Americans have overdosed on opioids—a group of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetics—since the year 2000. That is greater than the number of American combat deaths in the second world war and the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. Despite this epic toll, there are early signs that at least one battle may be ending.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the best data for tracking the opioid epidemic. Its latest data, which cover the 12 months to the end of October 2017, show that opioids were responsible for some 46,041 deaths (see chart) in that period. While provisional and subject to revision, that number was at least not dissimilar to the previous month’s figure of 46,202.

The precise workings of the epidemic in recent months are not well understood, but a few elements stand out. The first is that deaths from prescription medication are likely to have been pushed down by lower availability of those drugs. Official data from the CDC show that prescription rates were nearly 20% lower in 2016 than at their 2012 peak. IQVIA, a health consultancy, reckons that prescriptions fell by another 10% in 2017. Donald Burke, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate school of public health, thinks there is “almost certainly cause and effect” between prescription rates and deaths.

Experts agree that the most effective way to fight addiction is with medication-based treatment, such as methadone. But just one-third of Americans live in counties with treatment centers providing these kinds of drugs. For real progress it is necessary to look north. Vancouver has pioneered the use of safe-injection sites. Seattle and other progressive enclaves of America would like to follow their lead but they face stern opposition. America’s attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, has threatened to prosecute such sites under the “crack house statute”. Such sites, claims the Department of Justice, will only “encourage and normalize heroin use”.

The Economist

Some Businesses Stop Drug Testing For Marijuana

A low unemployment rate and the spreading legalization of marijuana have led many businesses to rethink their drug testing policies for the first time in decades. A small but increasing number are simply no longer testing for pot.

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” said Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, New York-based firm Jackson Lewis. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states plus Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.

Here are some questions small businesses need to consider when deciding on what drug testing policies to follow:

– IS IT A FEDERALLY REGULATED POSITION, OR SAFETY-SENSITIVE?

If your business is regulated by the federal Department of Transportation or is a defense contractor, you are likely legally required to drug test for all drugs illegal at the federal level, including marijuana.

– DON’T DISCRIMINATE

In states where medical marijuana is legal, small businesses increasingly risk running into legal trouble if they deny a job to someone who has obtained a medical marijuana prescription.

Read more at Eyewitness News

Bill To Refine West Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Rules Fails

A bill that would have made several changes to West Virginia’s medical marijuana law failed when the state’s legislative session ended last weekend.

West Virginia’s medical marijuana program was set to launch in 2019, but the bill’s failure Saturday night and an opinion from the state treasurer have put the rollout on shaky ground, WVNews.com reported.

Democrat Mike Pushkin, a sponsor of HB 4345, believes issues with the bill can be resolved quickly.

Here’s what you need to know:

• The bill didn’t return to the House floor after the Senate made significant amendments to the first version that passed Feb. 28. The Senate voted to approve it Saturday night.


• Before being altered by the Senate, the original bill would have allowed dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients. It would have also made a push to allow the sale of smokable marijuana, which isn’t allowed under the current law. And the Bureau of Public Health would have been required to issue 100 dispensary licenses throughout the state.


• By the time the Senate passed the amended version, much of those stipulations had been stripped away and the dispensary number was cut in half.


• State Treasurer John Perdue wrote a letter to the governor and other state leaders on March 1 expressing concerns about the state’s MMJ program in context of the federal illegality of cannabis, particularly marijuana businesses’ difficulty finding banking services.

Marijuana Business Daily

Marijuana Legalization Becomes Issue In Democratic Race

Attorney General candidate Patrick Miles, an Obama-appointed official who served six and a half years as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, has taken a position on legalization of marijuana in Michigan. He said last week, upon further reflection, he’s for it.

Conversely, fellow Democratic candidate Dana Nessel, has been very pro-marijuana from the get-go. Attorney Nessel is a hero of the LGBT rights movement for her work to legalize same-sex marriage, although she’s also feuded with elements of her own movement. Last week, she won the endorsement of the group pushing to legalize marijuana in the state.

Until now, the attorney general race has largely been a battle of resumes. But, it appears the issue of marijuana is now on the map as the landscape has changed. Support for legalization is growing.

The pro-legalization movement is organized and well-funded. Petition signatures have been turned in to put the question of marijuana legalization on the November ballot.

In Democratic politics, marijuana is a bit of a proxy for progressive bona fides in a state won two years ago by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Read the complete article at Michigan Radio

Inside The Mexican Towns That Produce America’s Heroin

MEXICO CITY — Journalists in Mexico, foreign and domestic, tend to keep drug cartels at arm’s length. Narco bosses like to stay out of the news. Several Mexican reporters have been killed by drug gangs for trying to expose organized crime. Firsthand reporting from inside the Mexican underworld is rare.

Myles Estey, a Canadian documentary producer, is establishing himself as an exception. Estey has helped produce two documentaries that take viewers deeper into Mexico’s gun-littered badlands: the 2015 film “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, and “The Trade,” a Showtime series about heroin that premiered this month. Both of these projects were directed by Matthew Heineman.

Estey said the goal of those making “The Trade” was to “show the human side of this crisis, beyond the stats and numbers.” He talked to The Washington Post about his experience.

“What was involved in getting this close to the drug business in “The Trade”? How were you able to document heroin producers like this?”

It took months and months and months, probably about six months, before we started getting footage that was useful and started to have the trust and respect of the people where we were working.

Read more at The Washington Post

Can Government-approved Pot Beat Street Weed?

A key goal of legalizing recreational cannabis is squeezing out illegal suppliers. But how competitive will legal cannabis retail be against established black markets?

That’s a key question for federal and provincial politicians. Governments don’t like pot consumers funding organized crime.

That question may also interest investors. They’ve pushed up cannabis stock prices and created demand for four cannabis exchange-traded funds. Alcohol and tobacco companies have bought stakes in cannabis growers. Suppliers of hydroponic equipment and online retailing software could benefit too.

Price is the competitive element politicians mention most. In Colorado, cheap legal cannabis means black markets control only 20 percent of state sales. But in Washington state, where prices are higher, black markets capture 50 percent.

In Canada, governments agree cannabis prices must be competitive. They’ve suggested $10 per gram, including excise and sales taxes.

But Statistics Canada estimates market prices fell below $7.50 last year, and farther since then. Vancouver street prices reportedly are near $5. And street vendors don’t charge tax.

Read the full article at the National Post

Tillerson Says U.S. Must See Decline in Colombia’s Coca Output

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. expects Colombia to start reversing sharp increases in production of coca this year, pointedly declining to guarantee continued aid if those efforts fail.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant.

“Our expectation is that Colombia is going to make significant progress this year in reversing these trends and we want to support that reversal,” Tillerson said at a briefing in Bogota alongside President Juan Manuel Santos. “In the end, we need to see results.”

“One of the things that’s important about this relationship is because we are so close in terms of the bilateral partnership, is that we can speak very openly and very frankly about the things that are of concern to both of us,” Tillerson said.

“I don’t think that President Trump is referring to Colombia because Colombia is not laughing at the U.S.,” Santos said at the briefing. “On the contrary, we think we are working together on a problem and a challenge that needs cooperation from both countries.”

“There is no supply without demand and no demand without supply,” Santos said.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg

Drug Overdose Deaths Rise in Netherlands Linked To Opiates

Between 2014 and 2016 the number of recorded deaths caused by a drug overdose nearly doubled, according to the National Drug Monitor by the Trimbos Institute and research and documentation center WODC, NOS reports.

In 2014 a total of 123 people died of a drug overdose in the Netherlands. In 2016 there were 235 registered overdose deaths. The researchers add that the increase may be partly attributable to improved registration. Just over half of 2016’s overdose deaths were accidental. The rest involved suicide, or an overdose as the result of psychiatric or behavioral problems, according to the researchers.

The researchers found that the use of ecstasy, amphetamine, and cocaine increased slightly between 2014 and 2016. Cannabis is still the most commonly used drug, though cannabis use did not increase in this period. Over 1 percent of Dutch adults smoke cannabis daily, and 6.6 percent have used the drug at least once.

NL Times NL

Cannabis will be a major food trend in 2018. Here’s why.

Spoiler alert for those attending the Winter Fancy Food Show today through Tuesday in San Francisco: There are no cannabis edibles on the trade-show floor. Cannabis cuisine is not the subject of any plenary panel.

In November, the Fancy Food Show’s parent, the Specialty Food Association (SPA), ranked cannabis number eight of the top-10 food trends to watch in 2018.

“As more states legalize recreational marijuana, the varieties of pot-enhanced food and beverage will increase,” the SPA’s Trendspotter Panel wrote last November. “Look out for continued interest and acceptance in a host of snacks, treats and beverages with a little something extra.”

Nielsen is vice president of trends and marketing at CCD Innovation, an Emeryville food, and beverage development agency. She’s attending the Fancy Food Show today through Tuesday at Moscone Center. As a member of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotters — an expert panel comprised of marketers, journalists, and other tastemakers — she’ll roam the Fancy Food Show trade-show floor looking for new and innovative products. There are no cannabis edibles at this year’s Fancy Food Show, but the SPA’s Trendspotters won’t have to go far to find them.

There are five retail cannabis stores reachable via short walk, taxi or rideshare. And many of the edibles on sale in these stores look like they might have sneaked over from the show.

Read more at GreenState

Magic Mushrooms: Treating Depression Without Dulling Emotions

Treating depression can be challenging not only because some depression types are treatment-resistant, but also because existing therapies have a range of unwanted side effects.

A new study — which was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) in the United Kingdom — suggests that magic mushrooms could treat depression while avoiding these side effects.

Participants felt ’emotionally reconnected’

In the first study, published in the journal Neuropharmacology, 20 people diagnosed with moderate to severe depression that conventional treatment had not alleviated participated in two dosing sessions with the magic mushroom compound.

“Based on the present results, we propose that psilocybin with psychological support is a treatment approach that potentially revives emotional responsiveness in depression, enabling patients to reconnect with their emotions.”

‘Mystical experience’ improves efficacy

The second paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, examined whether or not the quality of the psychedelic experience was linked with the success of the treatment.

The study revealed that the more strongly the participants felt this experience, the better was their mental health in the long-term.

Depressive symptoms subsided, and the mental benefits lasted for weeks after the treatment of participants who reported a strong mystical experience.

Read more at Medical News Today

Kush Bottles: Meet One of the Hottest Marijuana Stocks

Kush Bottles derives its revenue primarily from the sale of marijuana packaging and ancillary products like vaporizers, rather than the sale of marijuana. The company’s main customers are marijuana dispensaries and distributors, who purchase its products in bulk for retail sale. The company currently sells products in four major categories: bags, tubes, containers, and vaporizers.

According to commentary from a July 2017 presentation, Kush Bottles was selling more than one million pre-rolled tubes each month. The company has a patent on the child-resistant mechanism on its tubes, a potential point of differentiation in the marketplace, though there are currently several different types of child-resistant tubes competing for market share.

To expand its offerings and footprint, the company has completed three major acquisitions over its history.

1. Dank Bottles — Acquired on April 10, 2015, Dank Bottles was the exclusive distributor of Kush Bottles’ products in Colorado. Kush Bottles paid for the acquisition with $373,725 in cash and 3.5 million shares of stock.

2. CMP Wellness — Kush Bottles acquired CMP Wellness on May 1, 2017. CMP Wellness’ primary products are portable vaporizers, cartridges, and accessories. Kush Bottles paid for the acquisition with $2.3 million of cash and promissory notes, plus 7.8 million shares of restricted stock. The deal also included earn-outs of $1.9 million in cash and up to 4.74 million more shares of Kush Bottles to be paid out based on the company’s performance.

3. Roll-Uh-Bowl — On May 3, 2017, Kush Bottles acquired Roll-Uh-Bowl, which sells portable, silicone water pipes. Kush paid for the acquisition with $150,000 of cash and 200,000 shares of stock.

Continue Reading at The Motley Fool

The Plant Used To Make Cocaine Could Become The Next Superfood

Henry Ruiz rubs the small green leaves between the fingers of his right hand – and then looks out across the valley where one of the world’s most reviled crops is ruffled by a warm breeze.

“We have been caught up in the mistaken belief that we are part of the cocaine manufacture process when we are not,” he says. “We have our own natural plant, but the man has found another use for it and we have lost out as a result.”

The Colombian government’s determination to obliterate coca is not in doubt, particularly in the wake of US pressure to address the recent boom in cocaine production. Despite efforts to tackle the problem, there was an increase of 52 percent in coca growth from 2015 to 2016.

“Coca is very rich in nutrients,” says Ruiz. “It’s important to see how we can use it for other uses than cocaine. We can prepare organic liquid fertilizers, insecticides, and we can use it to make flour. We know the magical and beneficial properties of coca, and it’s about applying this to your family and communities. We are guardians of the coca leaf.”

Research by Harvard University scientists into the coca leaf’s beneficial properties, suggests that compared to 50 other Latin American vegetables, coca leaves are higher in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and riboflavin. In the summer of 2016, the Colombian government issued, for the first time ever, a permit in Cauca that allows the purchase, transport, and stocking of coca leaves, with the objective of industrializing the product.

Read more at The Essential Daily Briefing

Marijuana Sales Begin In San Francisco

Marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco have begun selling recreational pot for the first time, joining many other cities in California.

Six dispensaries confirmed Saturday that they’re selling recreational marijuana. They all received their state licenses to sell on Friday.

One of them, Apothecarium, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with local politicians and even offered a 20% discount for people who brought their mothers.

Sales began nearly a week ago in other parts of the state including West Hollywood, Santa Ana, San Diego and Berkeley.

Los Angeles Times

Cannabis Is Now Legal in California

California has now joined a number of states changing their approach to marijuana, which marks exciting times for national drug reform. If you’re over the age of 21, it is now legal to grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce (!) on your person.

While the state’s residents have already been celebrating the news, tracking down a spot to purchase your recreational weed may prove a little difficult in these early days.

However, this may not indicate the end of drug dealers pedaling marijuana, as taxes are expected to raise the retail cost of the pot up to 70 percent higher than the street price. Nonetheless, It’s a very, very happy new year for Californians.

Papermag

Mike Tyson Is Building a 40-Acre California Weed Resort

Mike Tyson has been a boxer, an actor, a monologuist, and an animated detective, but now it looks like the former heavyweight champion wants to take a bite out of California’s new legal weed game.

According to the Blast, Tyson and two business partners—Robert Hickman and Jay Strommen—have plans to build a massive “cannabis resort” on 40 acres of desert land in California City. The trio broke ground on the property back in December and are getting things rolling now that California has officially legalized marijuana.

It seems like the rest of the Mojave Desert land, though, will earn Tyson Ranch its “resort” title. The Beast reports that there will be “premium ‘glamping’ campgrounds and cabins” for people to stay in, an amphitheater for live music, and a factory for marijuana edibles.

The resort’s land isn’t far from Edwards Air Force Base, and the Blast reports that the ranch will be staffed mostly by veterans and will be committed to helping those in the armed forces, as CBD, a marijuana compound that won’t get you high, has been used to treat PTSD.

Read more at Vice

State’s First Opium Poppy Crop Harvest Under Way In Riverina

Across six top-secret locations in the Riverina and Central West, a historic harvest is underway.

Over 400 hectares of the state’s first-ever opium poppy crop is being stripped and chemically analyzed. Cootamundra mixed-farmer David Forsyth sowed 24 hectares of the plant in June.

“The alkaloid content was 3.6 percent, we thought we might do four, but it was a terrible season; cold and after sowing it didn’t rain for four months.”

Poppy crops grown on fertile soils by the best growers in Tasmania typically yield three tonnes per hectare and assay more than 3 percent.

The venture could return an estimated $100 million to NSW in the next decade. However, the global oversupply of opiate material put great pressure on Tasmanian growers last year, and the lackluster performance of the crop in Victoria, who legalized it in 2014, has reportedly seen a number of farmers ditching it altogether. But Mr. Forsyth still believes it has potential.

“We’re increasing and will do 38 hectares next year, I’ve learned a lot and couldn’t have done it without the help of my wife Janelle, my son Brendan and his wife Ruby,” he said.

The Border Mail

These States Are Likely To Legalize Marijuana In 2018

After four of five statewide marijuana legalization ballot initiatives were approved by voters in 2016, no additional states ended cannabis prohibition in 2017 (though New Hampshire did decriminalize possession of the drug and West Virginia allowed its medical use).

If marijuana policy advocates’ plans come to fruition in the new year, 2018 will bring about the first legalization laws passed by lawmakers; to date, all eight states to end cannabis prohibition did it through voter initiatives.

Here’s a look at the states that are most likely to enact marijuana reforms in 2018:

• Vermont
• New Jersey
• Michigan
• Oklahoma
• Utah
• Missouri
• Virginia

While Vermont and New Jersey are seen as most likely to pass marijuana legalization bills through their legislatures in 2018, advocates are also working to build momentum for bills to end prohibition in a number of other states next year. Among those are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois and Rhode Island, any or all of which could potentially send legalization legislation to their governor’s desks in the coming months.

Forbes

Are Magic Mushrooms Next On The List Of Legalized Drugs?

Citing the benefits of widespread marijuana reform throughout the United States, a handful of activists are now mounting a campaign to push for the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms.

As reported by The Guardian:

Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate for the city of Marina, just south of the San Francisco Bay, has filed a proposal that would exempt adults over the age of 21 from any penalties over possessing, growing, selling or transporting psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms.

If he can get 365,880 voter signatures by the end of April 2018, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative will be placed on the statewide ballot.

A profound magic mushroom experience helped Saunders get over a “debilitating five-year heroin addiction” in 2003 when he was 32. “I got to the root of why I made a conscious decision to become a heroin addict; I’ve been clean almost 15 years.”

The study has since been verified by sufferers all over the country who tell their stories on Web forums. The Atlantic reports that one contributor wrote that he has been taking a preventative dose every 60 days for more than four years now, and he’s spent “the vast majority of the last four years completely pain-free.”

Read more at PersonalLiberty

Illegal Opium Trade Thrives Across Arunachal Pradesh

Guwahati: The flourishing illegal opium cultivation in eastern Arunachal Pradesh has become a major area of concern for security agencies, with the state government miserably failing to tackle this menace. The drug mafia, with some help from Naga rebels, continues to call the shots in the frontier state, where people are reluctant to give up the practice of poppy farming in absence of any alternative for their economic survival.

It is significant than that Arunachal Pradesh tops the list of states with illegal poppy cultivation.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in its last report of 2015 claims to have destroyed poppy fields spread over 399 acres in eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

But as per NGOs, the state still has around 10,000 hectares of opium fields and the annual yield of opium is around 100 tonnes, an average of 10 kg a hectare.

For NCB, opium cultivation in eastern Arunachal Pradesh has become an eyesore. Despite the regular destruction of poppy fields by the authorities, a large section of people is still not ready to give up the practice. This is a huge challenge in the fight against drug smuggling.

According to the bureau officials, apart from Lohit and Anjaw districts, which share borders with Myanmar and China, there are reports of poppy cultivation from Changlang, Longding, Upper Siang and Tirap districts too.

Read more at The Asian Age

First Big Ayahuasca Study Shows Promising Early Results

Ayahuasca is a potent psychedelic that’s recently come into vogue among hipsters backpacking around South America.

The Nature journal Scientific Reports has just published a new piece of research on ayahuasca, making it the largest and most authoritative scientific study on the matter to date. The findings suggest this Amazonian “Shaman’s Brew” might be linked to improved everyday well-being, and potentially offer a treatment for alcoholism and depression.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Exeter in the UK sifted through the Global Drug Survey data of over 96,000 people worldwide and found 527 ayahuasca users. This group reported higher general well-being, along with less problematic alcohol and drug use, over the previous 12 months than other respondents in the survey.

“Recent research has demonstrated ayahuasca’s potential as a psychiatric medicine, and our current study provides further evidence that it may be a safe and promising treatment.”

Read more at IFL Science