public health

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U.S.: Blumenauer, Conyers Call For Public Health Approach To Drug Policy

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Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and John Conyers (MI-13) on Thursday led 12 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to highlight the importance of a less punitive and more public health-centered approach to international drug policy at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem in April.

From states taking action to end the failed prohibition of marijuana to lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs proven to reduce HIV infection rates, the United States has made significant advancements moving away from a punitive approach to drug policy to one centered on public health and healthcare, access to treatment services, and harm reduction tools that reduce overdose. The upcoming UNGASS provides an opportunity for the United States to showcase these advancements as a model for international drug policy.

Maine: Voters Oppose Punitive Drug Policies, Support Decriminalization

PoliceDrugArrest[BangorDailyNews]

Findings Come as Legislature Considers Bills Increasing Penalties for Drug Possession

Results Similar to Poll in New Hampshire Which Also Fund Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization

A substantial majority of Maine voters support decriminalizing drug possession, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Sixty-four percent of voters in Maine think people caught with a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be evaluated for drug issues, offered treatment but not be arrested or face any jail time. Seventy-one percent say substantially reducing incarceration is somewhat or very important to them.

The poll results come as the legislature considers legislation backed by the Attorney General that could roll back groundbreaking reforms passed last session that reduced drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. The proposed legislation (LD 1554) would make possession of 30 milligrams (often less than one single pill) or more of prescription opioids and any amount of certain other drugs into felony offenses, continuing the criminalization of drug users and wasting scarce resources on incarceration instead of treatment and prevention.

California Medical Association Announces Support For Adult Use of Marijuana Act

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The California Medical Association (CMA) – representing more than 41,000 physician members statewide -- on Monday announced its formal endorsement of the ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Consistent with the organization’s historic White Paper of 2011 urging legalization and regulation of cannabis to allow for greater clinical research, oversight, accountability and quality control, CMA has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act so:

· First, the impacts of marijuana in California can be monitored, researched, tightly regulated and, where necessary, mitigated to protect the public health and

· Second, improper diversion by non-symptomatic patients into California’s medical marijuana system can be reduced.

"In addition, CMA does not as a matter of policy encourage the use of marijuana and discourages smoking," the group announced. "But, ultimately, its members believe that the most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."

California: Proponents Amend Marijuana Initiative To 'Protect Children,' Keep Local Control

CaliforniaCannabisLegalization2016[420intel.com]

Proponents of a statewide ballot measure to control, regulate and tax adult use of marijuana on Monday announced that they have filed consensus amendments to significantly strengthen "safeguards for children," workers, local governments and small businesses and include even stricter anti-monopoly provisions and the toughest warning label and marketing-to-kids laws in the nation.

Amendments to the measure (known as “the Adult Use of Marijuana Act”) were developed based on input and recommendations received over the last 35 days from hundreds of engaged citizens and organizations representing local government, health and policy experts, environmental leaders, small farmers and business owners, worker representatives and social justice advocates.

The amendments bring the measure even closer in line with the Lieutenant Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and the new medical marijuana laws recently passed by a bipartisan majority of the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown (SB 643, AB 266 and AB 243).

The amendments specifically strengthen and clarify four central objectives of the AUMA measure:
1. To protect children and discourage teen drug use;
2. To maintain local control and local government authority over marijuana commercial activity;
3. To implement strong worker and labor protections for those employed in this growing industry;

U.S.: WOLA, O'Neill Institute To Examine Public Health Aspects To Legalizing Marijuana

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The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, in collaboration with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), has received a $250,000 grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to help develop guidelines on how states, countries, and other jurisdictions that opt to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can create regulatory frameworks, consistent with the goals of legalization, that will work effectively to protect and promote the public health.

“Now is an opportune time to develop regulatory approaches and guidelines that can prevent unnecessary public health harms from the legalization of medical or recreational cannabis while maximizing the potential public health benefits,” said the project’s lead investigator, Oscar Cabrera, Abogado (JD equivalent), LL.M., executive director of the O’Neill Institute. “With new ballot questions and legislation pending, it is especially important, now, to avoid elements that will unnecessarily create health risks or fail to secure potential benefits and likely be harder to fix after they are in place.”

Cabrera says the purpose of the project is not to advocate for or against legalizing cannabis, but rather to inform deliberations over the design and implementation of the laws and regulations governing legalized cannabis products with guidance from relevant experts in public health policy and law, both in the United States and abroad.

Global Commission On Drug Policy Report: The Negative Impact of Drug Control on Public Health

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The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) on Monday released its third thematic report, The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain: The Negative Impact of Drug Control on Public Health: at the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRC2015) taking place October 18-21 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The report was launched by Commissioners, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Michel Kazatchkine and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover.

Key conclusions of The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain are:

Ninety-two percent of the world’s supply of morphine is consumed by just 17 percent of the global population, with consumption primarily concentrated in the global north. Seventy-five per cent of the world’s population does not have access to any pain reliving drugs. That is to say, that most people, in late stages of cancers, enduring severe forms of acute or chronic pain, simply do not have access to pain relief, despite these medicines being included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.

New York: Gov. Cuomo, Politicians Return To Failed Drug War On Synthetic Cannabinoids

KassandraFrederiqueDrugPolicyAlliance[BlogTalkRadio]

Advocates: New Yorkers Need a Public Education and Health Approach to Deal with Emerging Drugs

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued regulations and the New York State Senate introduced a bill that would criminalize the sales of synthetic cannabinoids.

Recently, there have been several media reports of tragic episodes involving synthetic cannabinoids, such as spice and K2. Epidemiological reports suggest an increase in hospitalizations due to these substances.

Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of cannabinoid chemicals typically sprayed over plant matter and packaged with names like “K2,” “Spice” and “Green Giant.” These are only the latest “legal highs” to come on the market that simulate the effects of prohibited drugs like marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine.

In the past, as these kind of substances have been banned, manufacturers have simply invented new variations of the same substances to skirt the bans as well as for legitimate scientific purposes.

“New York needs to find effective, evidence-based strategies for responding to problematic use of these substances," said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Unfortunately, however, to date, the response from the media and from elected officials has been to employ failed drug war strategies and rhetoric.

California: Drug Policy Alliance Releases Videos of 3 Marijuana Symposia

JonathanSingerColoradoHouseRepMSW[DPA]

Top Experts in Policy, Science and Regulation Discuss the Public Health, Social Justice and Environmental Issues Related to Marijuana Legalization

In an effort to educate the public and discuss pressing issues related to the legalization of marijuana in California in 2016, the Drug Policy Alliance held three symposia, each focusing on a different aspect of marijuana regulation. Videos from those symposia are now available online to view for free.

The first symposia, held in Los Angeles, addressed issues related to marijuana use and public health. Speakers included Alison Holcomb from the ACLU, Tista Ghosh from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the environment, and Rep. Jonathan Singer from Colorado. The goal of this symposium was to address concerns related to how marijuana legalization might impact road safety, teen drug use and criminal activity. This symposium can be viewed in its entirety or by individual speaker here.

Global: Justice, Rights Groups Condemn Execution of Nonviolent Drug Offenders By Indonesia

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A number of U.S.-based and international criminal justice reform, human rights and public health groups on Tuesday are joining together to condemn the execution of nonviolent drug offenders by the Indonesian government that just took place.

“Wherever they occur, executions for nonviolent offenses violate human rights,” a sign-on letter from the groups says.

Despite repeated pleas for mercy from family members, citizens, human rights organizations, the United Nations, and governments around the world, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerians Martin Anderson, Raheem Agbaje Salami, Okwuduli Oyatanze, and Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, and Indonesian Zainal Abidin faced a firing squad at just past midnight Indonesia-time. Serge Atlaoui from France has been given a temporary reprieve and Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines was given a last-minute reprieve.

New York City Turns A Corner On Drug Policy: City Council Bill Would Harmonize Strategy

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First of its Kind City Council Bill Would Create a National Model to Harmonize Drug Strategy Between Dozens of Departments and the Community

Bill Emphasizes Research-based Approaches to Promote Public Health and Safety and Reduce Negative Impact of Past and Current Policies

Building on debates that helped shape the last mayoral election, NYC Council Members Corey Johnson, Andrew Cohen, and Vanessa Gibson on Thursday introduced legislation to create an Office of Drug Strategy. Placed in city hall, the new office would be empowered to convene city agencies, outside experts, and communities impacted by drug use to develop a city-wide, health-focused plan for a coordinated approach in addressing issues related to drug use.

“Past and present ineffective drug policy has contributed to tragic and preventable mortality, crime and inequity here in New York City,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “The Office of Drug Strategy will combat these problems by enhancing evidence-based drug education and public health intervention efforts and the availability of medical, psychological and social services to those struggling with drug use.

"Through the coordination of the many agencies and offices that address the numerous facets of illicit and non-medical drug use, we can develop a forward-looking policy to stem overdoses and enhance rehabilitation,” Johnson said.

Louisiana: New Directions New Orleans Brings Public Health Approach To Drug Policy

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One-Day Conference Brings Elected Officials Together with Leading Drug Policy and Criminal Justice Experts to Chart a Health-Based Approach to Drug Policy

Louisiana Leads Nation in Incarceration Rates; Prison Population Has Doubled in Last 20 Years, With Staggering Racial Disparities

An unprecedented collection of drug policy stakeholders – including judges, elected officials, public health workers, law enforcement, and community advocates – will come together to chart a new course for Louisiana’s drug policies at New Directions New Orleans on Thursday, April 2 from 9 am-5 pm at Dillard University.

The one-day conference will provide Louisianans with the opportunity to engage many of the leading minds on drug policy and criminal justice reform from across the country and around the world, who will discuss strategies for moving beyond Drug War policies and toward a health-centered approach to drug use.

“Louisiana continues to strive to become a more population health focused state, but one of the outstanding issues we face are antiquated drug and criminal justice policies,” said Joe Kimbrell, CEO, Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI). “This collaborative conference will be a strong starting point for these extraordinary partners to begin outlining what new policies and best practices we can utilize to educate our policymakers and create a safer, healthier Louisiana.”

U.S.: Federal Govt. To Block Funds For Drug Courts That Refuse Medication-Assisted Treatment

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New Policy Indicates Better Understanding of Addiction, Public Health Crisis

The acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, this week said the federal government will deny federal funding to drug courts across the country that refuse medication-assisted treatment for those suffering from opiate addictions.

The ONDCP will now withhold federal funding from drug courts that prevent people suffering from opiate addictions from having access to drugs such as methadone and Suboxone that can allow them to lead normal lives despite their addiction, reports Jason Cherkis at The Huffington Post.

“I rarely get a chance to applaud the ONDCP, so I’m enjoying this,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “People with addictions deserve access to treatment that works, and any policy that stands in the way of the recovery process is an affront to human rights.”

Because heroin is physically addictive, with users experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms such as depression, nausea and vomiting, those who abstain have a high rate of relapse. However after a period of abstinence, their tolerance drops and doses they could handle while a regular user become lethal. This is often when overdoses occur.

Kansas: Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced; Senate Hears From Supporters, Opponents

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City) and state Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) have once again introduced medical marijuana bills in the Kansas Legislature, as they've done every year since 2009.

None of the measures has ever gone beyond informational hearings, in which no action can be taken, but Sen. Haley thinks that might change this year, reports Amy Himmelberg of the Associated Press.

"I think the ice is beginning to thaw regarding the reasonableness of the issue among the leadership of the Legislature," Haley said.

Rep. Finney -- who has undergone chemotherapy for lupus -- thinks the bill will at least get a hearing after being ignored by Republican legislators for years. "Passing, I don't know about that," she added.

Rep. Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said he's waiting to see what the Senate does with medical marijuana. "Nobody's come and really pushed it," Hawkins claimed, adding that he's heard "very little" from constituents about it. If you'd like to change that, you can click here and let Rep. Hawkins hear from the people he's supposed to be representing.

Canada: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Recommends Marijuana Legalization

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Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has released a new evidence-informed report on cannabis control. The Cannabis Policy Framework released by CAMH recommends marijuana legalization with a strict regulation approach to cannabis control.

Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, with 40 percent of Canadians having used it at least once in their lifetime. CAMH's Cannabis Policy Framework was developed to provide evidence-based principles for reducing cannabis-related harm.

To do this, CAMH scientists and policy experts conducted in-depth analysis of the health, social, and legal implications of cannabis use and examined cannabis policy in other jurisdictions.

"Canada's current system of cannabis control is failing to prevent or reduce the harms associated with cannabis use," said Dr. Jürgen Rehm, director of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department at CAMH. "Based on a thorough review of the evidence, we believe that legalization combined with strict regulation of cannabis is the most effective means of reducing the harms associated with its use."

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper Uses Scare Tactics In Marijuana Prevention Campaign

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Hickenlooper’s Marijuana Prevention Campaign Eerily Reminiscent of Failed “This is Your Brain” Effort

Approach Emphasizes Scare Tactics over More Effective Reality-Based Education

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has introduced his administration’s marijuana prevention campaign to deter underage consumption -- and unfortunately, it uses scare tactics rather than a reality-based approach. The campaign is slated to waste $2 million of taxpayer money.

The theme of the campaign is marijuana’s potential impact on the developing adolescent brain, using the slogan “don’t be a lab rat.” The administration plans to place human sized rat cages throughout the city of Denver, particularly at high-traffic bus stops.

While flashy and memorable, the campaign has raised concerns among advocates who question the credibility of this approach. Drug policy reformers and prevention experts invoke the cynicism generated by 1980s-era scare tactic efforts such as the notorious “This is your brain on drugs” ad, widely recognized today as far more attention grabbing than drug deterring.

Advocates recommend instead an approach that focuses on credible drug education delivered through programs and initiatives that focus on overall youth health and development. Reality-based efforts engage students and prevent the cynicism resulting from simplistic scare tactics. Furthermore, to be successful, parents and/or guardians should be directly involved in drug education and prevention efforts.

Colorado: Teen Marijuana Use Down Since Legalization

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Rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among Colorado high school students has dropped since the state's voters made marijuana legal in 2012, according to a Thursday press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Thirty-day marijuana use fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years,” according to the release. It has dropped nearly five points since 2009 (24.8 percent), when hundreds of medical marijuana stores began opening throughout Colorado.

The state began regulating medical marijuana in 2010. The CDPHE release says the drop from 2011 to 2013 is not statistically significant, but it appears the drop from 2009 to 2013 could be. In either case, it is clear that use among high school students has not increased.

Nationwide, the rate of current teen marijuana use increased from 20.8 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent in 2011 and 23.4 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The national rate of lifetime use increased from 36.8 percent in 2009 to 39.9 percent in 2011 and 40.7 percent in 2013.

New York: Elected Officials, Community Groups Announce Legislation To End Racist Marijuana Arrests

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Comprehensive Legislation would also Address Racial Bias, Collateral Consequences, and Fix Loopholes in NY Marijuana Laws

Despite Dramatic Drop in Stop and Frisk, NYPD on Track to Arrest as Many People in 2014 as Previous Year... and Racial Disparities Persist

Elected officials, community members and the coalition, New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety, will rally on Wednesday, July 9, on the Steps of New York City Hall, to call for comprehensive reform to address racially biased marijuana arrests and devastating collateral consequences.

Last year, there were nearly 30,000 marijuana possession arrests in New York City alone. Based on first-quarter data obtained from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the NYPD is now on track to make nearly as many marijuana possession arrests in 2014 as it did in 2013, with similarly shocking racial disparities.

Proposals to fix New York’s marijuana possession law have stalled in Albany the past few years. With the continued staggering racial disparities and Governor Cuomo’s recommitment to ending marijuana arrests, Assembly member Camara and Senator Squadron along with community members and advocates are calling for reforms that not only end racially bias marijuana arrests but also address the racial bias in the NY criminal justice system and deal with the devastating collateral consequences of these racially biased arrests.

What Does the Fairness and Equity Act Do?

Colorado: Senate Rejects Regressive Bills That Would Have Removed Kids From Parents Suspected of Drug Use

SometimesTheresJusticeSometimesTheresJustUs

Vote Signals Emerging Trend Toward Addressing Drug Use as a Public Health Issue

Bills aimed to amend the Colorado criminal and civil code with an expansive definition of drug endangered children were killed on the Senate floor on Tuesday by a vote of 15-20. The proposals attempted to expand the criminal definition of child abuse to include even attempts at drug use and/or possession.

The Drug Policy Alliance has opposed and organized against the legislation since last year when a similar proposal failed to move forward. The organization spearheaded an opposition coalition that includes the ACLU of CO and National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

“The proposals do little to protect children but will be effective at criminalizing parents, and tearing apart families,” said Art Way, senior Colorado drug policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. "These bills would have done nothing but provide a way for law enforcement to threaten parental rights and further drug investigations.

"It is clear with this vote that Colorado lawmakers realized these bills would not address any actual concerns about child welfare — and would make it worse," Way said.

According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 82 percent of people who use illegal drugs in the past year did so non-problematically. Opponents feared these bills would create barriers for parents trying to access substance abuse treatment by increasing the stigma and consequences for those struggling with substance misuse or use issues.

Illinois: Implementing New Medical Marijuana Law Will Take Time

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Illinois on August 1 became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 1. But the measure -- with some of the strictest rules in the nation -- will take months to set into motion because of complex rules and regulations.

Estimates are that medical marijuana won't be available for purchase in Illinois for from several months to a year after the law takes effect on January 1, 2014, reports Sophia Tareen at The Associated Press.

Three separate state agencies -- the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation -- will be required to draft sets of rules for patients, growers and dispensaries. The rules must then be approved by a committee from the Legislature.

After that, permits will be issued, and 22 "cultivation centers" will be set up in each Illinois State Police district; state officials will review security plans. The cannabis will be sold in up to 60 dispensaries.

Only patients who have serious illnesses and have a long-term relationship with a doctor will be able to apply for an Illinois medical marijuana card. The new law lists dozens of qualifying illnesses, including lupus, HIV, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis. Patients will be allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks; no one under 18 will be eligible.

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