Reefer Roundup 12/14/2010

News from the front line of the War on Drugs

Reefer Roundup 12/14/2010

More teens are smoking pot than cigarettes, and Texas Congressman Ted Poe joins the fight against pot-growing on federal land.

Details on these stories and more reefer-related madness below.

TOKING ON THE RISE:

According to new numbers released today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of teens using drugs increased this year – "fueled" by an increase in marijuana use.

The new data comes from the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey of more than 46,000 teens and reveals that high school seniors are now more likely to smoke pot than cigarettes. According to the new survey, 21.4% of H.S. teens say they are current pot smokers (that is, have used pot in the last 30 days) while just 19.2% said they smoked cigarettes. Along with the increase in use is a decrease in feelings among teens, particularly seniors, that smoking pot is bad: Just 46.8% of 12th-graders now say they believe that regular pot smoking is bad, down from nearly 60% last year. Meanwhile, the number of seniors who say they're binge drinkers (five or more drinks in one sitting) declined this year to 23.2% from last year's 25.2%.

Other highlights: Drug use by eighth-graders was on the rise this year, up to 16% from last year's 14.5%; use of MDMA (that is, ecstasy) by eighth-graders was also on the rise, up to 2.4% (from 1.3%). Tenth-graders also reported an increase in E use, at 4.7%, up from last year's 3.7%.

Interestingly, the new numbers also show that prescription drug use "remains a major problem," NIDA reports. Although the report notes that use of certain scrip drugs has decreased or remained steady this year, NIDA notes that six of the top 10 illicit drugs "abused" by 12th-graders in 2009 were either prescribed or purchased over the counter.

ERADICATING DRUG WARRIORS:

It's true: Beaumont GOP Rep. Poe has joined with Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif. and seven other House members to author a resolution calling on federal narcos with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Dept. of Homeland Security to get serious about eradicating clandestine pot-growing operations on federal lands. "In recent years a growing crisis has presented itself on our federal lands," Herger said in a statement. "The presence of Mexican marijuana cartel operations in national forests in Northern California poses a serious threat to our public safety and use of our public lands." Herger recently joined a police eradication raid near Shasta, he continued, and was able to see firsthand the "flourishing productivity of these foreign drug traffickers."

The cops get out there every year to kill the plants, but seem incapable of stopping the wilderness growing: According to ONDCP numbers, 1.8 million pot plants were eradicated from federal lands in 2006; in 2007, that number had grown to 4 million. Clearly, says Herger, that means the feds have not "taken sufficient action to assist…in dismantling the cartels" and to create a "comprehensive strategy" to solve the wilderness-grow issue.

Wait. What?

To buy Herger's argument you have to forget the fact that the feds have been waging the War on Drugs for four effin' decades – this year alone, according to DrugSense, federal and state governments have spent more than $48 billion to eradicate drugs. Maybe it is actually time to try a different and new strategy to end the problem?

That's exactly what Colorado Dem Rep. Jared Polis has suggested. Polis said he agreed with the goals of Herger's resolution, but that the best way to tackle the problem is to end the "failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana and replac[e] it with regulation," reports the Marijuana Policy Project. "As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground. No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country."

Not surprisingly, the Herger resolution passed.

LEONHART HELD UP:

In other fed reefer-madness news, Dem Sen. Herb Kohl, chair of the Senate Aging Committee, has acted to hold up the confirmation of Michele Leonhart as the new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Leonhart's nomination was rolling smoothly forward without really a hint of opposition until Kohl moved to put on the brakes. The issue? The DEA's interfering with the ability of nursing home attendants to dispense certain controlled pain meeds – including morphine – to their elderly patients. The agency is apparently concerned about drugs being dispensed by non-doctors and having those meds diverted to the black market. (By all means then, keep grammy in pain.)

The agency's position has prompted Kohl to tell Senate Judiciary Committee members that he has "continuing concerns" about Leonhart's nomination and intends to hold it up on the Senate floor until the agency can work to clear up problems that keep elderly patients from getting access to the prescription drugs they need, when they need them. "Despite acknowledging that this unfortunate situation has led to real suffering by elderly and vulnerable nursing home patients, [the Dept. of Justice] and DEA have not yet demonstrated a clear commitment to solving this problem," Kohl wrote in a letter to Leonhart explaining his move to hold her confirmation.

FEDS TO CITY: NO BIG POT GROWS:

According to California Watch, the Obama Administration is warning the city of Oakland, Calif., against going through with plans to license four large-scale pot-growing operations, saying that to do so would run afoul of the state's medi-pot law and, thus, federal drug prohibition.

Obama's DOJ, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, last year told federal pot-law enforcers to back off from raiding users and growers of marijuana who are doing so in compliance with state medi-pot laws. Now, however, Holder is telling Oakland that their large-scale grow plan will do just that. The DOJ has "expressed their concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law," Oakland City Attorney John Russo told CW.

At issue is an ordinance the city passed this summer, which would allow four large-scale pot-growing operations to open in the city. The facilities would grow and process pot to be sold to medi-mari dispensaries across the state. If the city were to go through with their plan, says CW, the facilities "could be the largest of their kind in the world."

Last month, Oakland voters also approved a measure to impose a 5% biz tax on all medi-pot operators; if the industrial pot-growing plan were to go forward, that could mean adding between $4.8 and $7.7 million per year to city coffers.

Whether the plan will go through, however, isn't at all clear as the feds are ratcheting up the scare speak: "The warning is clear: These are illegal, large-scale pot growing operations, with Oakland planning to get a cut of the illicit profits," one federal official told CW.

SUPPORTING HEMP IS NOT A POLITICAL LIABILITY:

That's right: According to VoteHemp, the hemp industry's advocacy and education arm, each of the 25 Congressional co-sponsors of the federal Industrial Hemp Farming Act were re-elected in November. The point? Supporting hemp isn't a deal-killer. "'[F]ence-sitting' lawmakers should realize that supporting hemp farming cannot be considered a political liability, based on this year's election results," VoteHemp Preisdent Eric Steenstra said in a press release. "If anything, supporting hemp farming is a sure sign that a member of Congress is going to be re-elected."

I don't know if I'd go that far….

But really, lawmakers should get off the fence on this one and support the reauthorization of American hemp farming. While the hemp-products industry continues to grow rapidly, all of the raw materials to make those products – from building materials, car parts, paints and oils, to foods and body-care items – must be imported. Indeed, the U.S. is the only industrial nation without an established hemp crop.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Marijuana, War on Drugs, Reefer Madness, Michele Leonhart, DEA, Ted Poe, VoteHemp, industrial hemp, NIDA, drug use, teen drug use, hemp farming, Eric Holder

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