Reefer Roundup: 12/30/11

Your drug war news

Reefer Roundup: 12/30/11

In the final roundup of the year we have pot use on the rise among teens, federal lawmakers afraid of needles, the Adderall mafia, and Gary Johnson running for president.


According to the annual Monitoring the Future drug use survey of thousands of U.S. teens, pot use has increased for the fourth straight year in a row by kids in 8th, 10th and 12th grades – though the increase this year was a minor uptick, according to the report.

Some 47,000 students in three grades were questioned about drug use for the 2011 study and, overall, it seems things are holding fairly steady, if not declining slightly. That is, use of any drug other than pot – including hallucinogens, cocaine, heroin, inhalants, scrip drugs, etc. – has declined in most cases. Pot use, however, continues a steady upward climb, though use rates are still well below those in the late Seventies and Nineties. That said, researchers with the project at the University of Michigan, note that "daily use" of pot – that is, use 20 or more times in a month – in 2011 hit a 30-year high, with 6.6% of high school seniors admitting to daily pot use. "Put another way, one in every fifteen high school seniors today is smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis," Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the study said in a press release.


Just two years after the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs was lifted, Congressional lawmakers last week approved a reinstatement of the ban. That's right, a proven harm-reduction strategy will again be subject to federal ban.

Needle exchange effectively stops the spread of communicable diseases – including HIV and hepatitis C – by allowing addicts the opportunity to exchange dirty needles for clean ones. These programs also help to lower the exposure of public safety employees – chief among them police and EMS – and hospital staff – particularly in the emergency room – who regularly come into contact with addicts in the course of their jobs.

But despite the body of research demonstrating that needle exchange is effective, Republican lawmakers sought a new ban and have gotten it, with apparent help from Senate Democrats.

"The federal syringe funding ban was costly in both human and fiscal terms – it is outrageous that Congress is restoring it given how overwhelming and clear the science is in support of making sterile syringes widely available," Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance told the Drug Reform Coordination Network. "The Republicans who insisted on restoring the ban, and the Democrats who didn't fight hard enough to oppose it, will be responsible for thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. We will make sure Americans know which members of Congress care about their health and well-being and which do not."


David Simon, the former Baltimore journalist best known for his HBO series The Wire, was at it again earlier this month, pushing for an end to the War on Drugs in the only way he believes possible: Jury nullification – the process whereby a jury negates a law by acquitting a defendant who is, according to the letter of the law, guilty. That's the message Simon has spread in the past and that he reiterated to at the Models for Change conference to reform juvenile justice in Washington, D.C. – nullification, he says, is the only way to halt the harm caused by an insatiable drug war machine. In essence, nullification is a way for citizens to send a message to government that a law or particular set of laws are unacceptable. Nullification, Simon reportedly told the conference attendees, is the only way to end the drug war – drug-war prosecutions won't end, he said at a conference luncheon, won't end until "they can't find 12 Americans to put a 13th in jail," reports Youth Today.


In November, AlterNet posted a great piece from The Fix on how Big Pharma has orchestrated an Adderall drought in order to push clients toward a new ADD medicine. It's a quick and good read.

A bit of background, in case you aren't aware: Adderall is a scrip amphetamine meant for use by attention-deficit patients, but many others use it as a "legal" alternative to illicit speeds (think cocaine, for one). The rise in use of Adderall came in the early Nineties when stockpiles of Ritalin declined. And now, writes Moe Tkacik, Adderall's maker, Shire, has been hoarding Adderall in an effort to get folks to try out its new and improved speed pill, Vyvanase – and now, since the company's expiring patent on time-release Adderall threatens to lower company profits with a proliferation of generics on the market.

Notably, the number of drug shortages each year has grown since 2006 – 1,190 shortages were reported to the feds through the first half of 2011. According to the Government Accountability Office, drug shortages are hard to avoid due in part to the weak authority of the Food and Drug Administration, which is unable to require manufacturers to "report actual or potential shortages to the agency or the public, or to require manufacturers to take certain actions to prevent, alleviate, or resolve shortages," reads a report released last month. The GAO is recommending that Congress fix the problem by passing reporting requirements for Big Pharma. Don't hold your breath on that one.


Forgot that drug-reform-minded former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was among the pack vying for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination? Don't worry, you're not alone. Indeed, frustrated by the inability to be heard in the contest, Johnson will now seek the Libertarian nomination, reports DRCNet.

Johnson favored pot decriminalization as guv of the Land of Enchantment and, according to his campaign website, is running on a strong drug-law reform platform that would legalize marijuana and focus on harm reduction instead of criminalization and incarceration. "Before we can get serious about reducing the harms associated with drugs," reads his website, "We have to accept that there will never be a drug-free society." Instead, he writes, drug abuse should be treated as a health problem "that should be dealt with by health experts, not a problem that should be clogging up our courts, jails, and prisons with addicts."

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Reefer Madness, Reefer Roundup, marijuana, drug war, Adderall, Drug Policy Alliance, Drug Reform Coordination Network, needle exchange, Bill Piper, Gary Johnson, Election 2012

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