In a series of raids March 16 the DEA took down several East Bay facilities -indoor grow sites and kitchens- at which cannabis-laced candies and sodas were produced for distribution through dispensaries. Twelve people were arrested, including the alleged honcho, Ken Affolter. Considerable care and skill had gone into the preparation and packaging of their “Pot Tarts,” “Munchy Way” bars, “Toka-Colas,” etc. The labels stated, “contains cannabis… for medical purposes only.” The confectioners were arraigned in federal court and are being held pending a bail hearing next week.
According to DEA Special Agent Lawrence Mendosa, “the real concern is for public safety. If a four- or five-year old who is too young to read finds this in a house, picks it up and eats it thinking it’s real candy, it could be disastrous.” SA Mendosa’s scenario plays out very, very rarely. Overdosing on pot-laced candy would be extremely unpleasant for a child (ending in a long, deep sleep) but it would only turn disastrous if the grown-ups involved sought help at an ER. Then they could be arrested for child-endangerment and lose their kid(s) to the foster care system.
While law enforcement pours enormous resources into possibly saving a few children from inadvertently ODing on cannabis, the intentional, systematic drugging of U.S. children by the pharmaceutical companies escalates. A study by William Cooper, MD, and co-workers in the March-April issue of Ambulatory Pediatrics concludes that, as of 2002, some 2.5 million children under age 18 had been prescribed powerful anti-psychotic drugs such as Seroquel, Abilify, and Risperdal. Cooper reports that doctors are prescribing antipsychotic meds routinely for treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and behavioral problems that don’t rise to the level of psychosis.
Comparing data from two national surveys, Cooper and his team at Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital found that the prescription of antipsychotics to U.S. children rose from below a rate of one in 100 in 1995-1996 to one in 25 in 2001-2002. If the trend has continued to the present -and advertising and promotion of antipsychotics suggests that the rate at which they’re prescribed has probably increased- one in 10 kids in the U.S. have had these pharmaceutical atomic bombs dropped in their brains.
In the seven years covered by the study, children made 5.7 million visits to doctors who gave them prescriptions for antipsychotics; 53% were written for behavioral and affective problems (as opposed to schizophrenia). The dramatic rise in prescribing can be attributed to the aggressive marketing of Risperdal and other “atypical” antipsychotics, which supposedly have fewer side-effects than older ones like Thorazine. Cooper points out that the newer drugs have adverse effects of their own -obesity, diabetes, heart problems- and their effectiveness in treating behavioral problems has never been tested. “These are really powerful medications,” says Cooper, “They haven’t been studied in children yet and we don’t know if they work, and we don’t know what the potential risks are.”
If SA Mendosa really cares about kids, he’ll urge the DEA to fight their real enemy -Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson- instead of wasting resources going after small businesses like “Beyond Bomb” (which is what the confectioners supposedly called their enterprise). “Turn the guns around!”
The Doctors’ Perspective
Members of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians have been investigated for approving cannabis use by teenagers, and tend to do it very sparingly. The most outspoken advocate of cannabis as an alternative to the pharmaceutical drugs being pushed for ADHD and other problems of adolescence in the U.S. has been Tom O’Connell, MD. He blames the National Institute on Drug Abuse for providing a pseudo-scientific rationale to the prohibitionists. “One of my first responses to learning that many of the chronic pot smokers seeking my designation as ‘medical’ users had probably been treating serious emotional symptoms since high school was to begin reading what (for me) had been a very unfamiliar genre of peer-reviewed literature dealing with ‘addiction’ and ‘drugs of abuse.’
“What I discovered was an enormous body of work extending back to the mid-1970s. Most such studies had obviously been designed around the concept that juvenile use of cannabis is a risk to be avoided. The historical origin of that idea had been a discovery that nearly all the young cannabis users first encountered in the aftermath of the hippie movement had already tried alcohol and tobacco; and many were still using both. That discovery quickly gave rise to a ‘gateway’ hypothesis suggesting that cannabis, while perhaps not as intrinsically dangerous as ‘harder’ drugs, is still undesirable for youth because it functions in some as yet undisclosed way as a ‘gateway’ between legal and illegal agents.
“One important study in 2002 demonstrated that, theoretically at least, some as yet unidentified ‘common factor’ could explain those well-known pejorative associations. The ‘common factor’ is pot’s unrecognized role as an anxiolytic, which allows it to serve as a benign alternative to alcohol and tobacco -the only previously available agents for teens afflicted with similar (and very common) symptoms. It doesn’t require much imagination to understand why such a formulation would be rejected out of hand by a majority of those dependent on NIDA funding, or simply steeped in three decades of federal anti-pot propaganda… Clinical truth is the best Anti-NIDA.”
SCC founder Tod Mikuriya, MD, is submitting a case report to the International Cannabinoid Research Society describing a teenager whose relatively minor problem (difficulty concentrating in school, the result of an inability to sleep) was exacerbated exponentially by a series of pharmaceutical drugs, starting with Ritalin at age 11 and graduating to the antipsychotics. Tbe subject was put on more than 15 drugs and placed in various inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Now, at age 16, after a little more than a year on cannabis, he is normal, calm, fully functional. “This case describes an all-too-typical pattern,” says Mikuriya. “When Ritalin doesn’t work, ignorant practitioners prescribe anti-depressants, then anti-psychotics, which very often produce symptoms far worse than those with which the child initially presented.”
We are very sorry to report that Dr. Mikuriya, 72, is closing his practice as he weighs what steps to take to combat an inoperable malignancy affecting his liver and lung. He is working on a second volume of “Marijuana Medical Papers,” his anthology of pre-prohibition medical literature, and a paper -“Medical Uses of Cannabis in California, 1996-2006”- that represents the culmination of his 50-year involvement in the field. Mikuriya was the physician most prominently associated with Prop 215, and at the time of its passage, almost alone in his willingness to recommend cannabis to treat conditions other than AIDS or cancer. To date he has approved cannabis use by more than 9,000 patients.
Successes ‘R’ Us
Drug Czar John Walters has responded to George Melloan’s anti-prohibitionist op-ed with a letter to the Wall St. Journal restating the reasons why the War on Drugs is a great success and must go on. (As I read it Thursday morning, Gen. Peter Pace was on the tube restating why the Occupation of Iraq is a great success and must go on.) Obviously, Walter’s staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy put a lot of time and thought into his missive -it took them more than three weeks to draft and polish. It begins with a self-fulfilling prophecy and a false assertion packed into one sentence: “Illegal drugs are inherently dangerous, corrupting and incompatible with health and freedom.” Of course they’re dangerous and “incompatible with freedom” -they can land you in jail. As for health effects… well, that was just a lie.
Most revealing was the last clause of the last sentence of Walters’ letter: “In 2004, we saw a 22% drop in the retail-level purity of south American heroin, and evidence of a 15% decline in cocaine purity for the first three quarters of 2005, ITAL along with corresponding increases in their respective prices. END ITAL ” The prohibitionists measure success in terms of elevated prices. Dennis Peron has always said that law enforcement conducts occasional raids and occasional prosecutions of marijuana growers and dispensaries to maintain high prices. “It’s their form of price supports. They know that a raid now and then will justify the sixty-dollar eighths. They take the marijuana for themselves. Why prosecute, you’re only risking defeat?”
Growers who were asking $4,200/lb and getting $4,000/lb in 1996 are now getting $2,000 -or less, if they urgently need the sale. But dispensaries, especially in Southern California, are still selling 1/8th ounces of sinsemilla for $50 and up, so the feds, although they can’t undo Prop 215, can take credit for successful damage control… John Walters, by the way, is the son of Vernon Walters, the CIA’s top official in Vietnam during the U.S. government’s very successful intervention there.