Tag Archives: Maine

Civil Rights, Drug Wars, Policy, Washington, DC

(Part 2 , see Part 1 – Our first article is about why African-Americans are less supportive of legalization than outsider groups who are trying to impose it on Washington, DC and elsewhere.)

Discussion of marijuana legalization centers mainly on personal freedom, flaws in the criminal justice system, and a theory that government can regulate it and take profits away from cartels and criminals.  There is no evidence that it is possible to regulate marijuana, and black markets persist in Washington and Colorado.  Since the regulation theory has largely been disproven by the two states and by studies, this article concentrates on criminal justice.

Can anyone truly believe legalizing marijuana would end racial discrimination in America? (Recent evidence in Denver and Seattle after the legalization of marijuana in Seattle suggests that racial discrepancies in arrests don’t end.)  However, these disparities are the main reasons people cite for supporting legalization of pot in Washington, DC.

Taking on the ACLU Positions

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L Lanier addressed the racial divide in arrests in the Washington Post.  Some of her comments specifically responded to a American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report.

Washington, DC, Police Chief Cathy Lanier
Washington, DC, Police Chief Cathy Lanier

“The ACLU also appears not to understand our city very well,” she wrote. “It is, indeed, a sad fact that blacks represent a disproportionate number of arrestees in the District; the proportions are similar for marijuana arrests, for other narcotics and all arrests.  But this is a complex issue that cannot be boiled down to an allegation that MPD (Metropolitan Police) selectively enforces the law against our black communities.”

Lanier points out that police in certain neighborhoods received a higher volume of calls from residents complaining about drugs, and that 59% of the police officers are black, a proportion higher than the city’s population.  Blacks are arrested more for marijuana because they tend to smoke it in public among groups, unlike whites who more often smoke in the privacy of their residence or clubs.

Cathy Lanier is the most popular citywide public figure in Washington, DC, with an approval rating over 70%.

Drug Policy in General

Chief Lanier emphasized that the police department in Washington, DC, is strongly committed to supporting youth.  The goal is to prevent youths from ending up in the criminal justice system for a minor transgression. Since she has been in the police department for 24 years and chief of police for seven, she has first-hand knowledge which the ACLU lacks.  She realizes that where there is already criminal activity, trying to put the marijuana under regulations may mean that criminals would branch out to other forms of crime and selling other drugs.

Much of the country agrees with rehabilitating drug addicts and drug abusers, rather than punishment.  While states vary, the drug treatment model is becoming more prevalent.   Transforming our drug policy rather than adopting complete tolerance and normalization of drugs  is a wiser policy.  The answer is not legalization.

We need a non-partisan national discussion, that considers all sides of the issue.  Mandatory minimum sentences don’t accomplish the goals desired when they were established. Three strikes laws should be abolished.  Prisons-for-profit aren’t allowed in most of the country, but they could also be banned.

“War on Drugs” Rhetoric

The idea that the “war on drugs” is a war on black and Hispanic communities is too simplistic to explain a situation.   The ACLU, which has had an important stake in legalization efforts in Maine and Washington (2 states with low African-American and Hispanic populations), uses this arguments to press legalization of drugs.

Wealthy white drug dealers can probably afford more expensive lawyers than minority drug dealers, a different matter.  Black males have been disproportionately jailed for violating drug laws.  Michelle Alexander, who wrote The New Jim Crow, supports legalization of all drugs.  However, she is now lamenting that legalization has benefited the white males who are now making all the profits.

The cause of racial problems of the United States and drug violence in Central America shouldn’t be seen as one-dimensional issues.  The argument that the violence of drug gangs and cartels is caused by US policy shows a lack of understanding of the nature of drugs.

The drug policy – violence theory also demonstrates a poor understanding of the nature of humanity.  Gangs and cartels are money-making paths that bring profits quickly.  Anyone can be lured into the profit motive without fully thinking of the harm, particularly when a person is young and risky behaviors make it seem exciting.  There is a certain “high” that comes from evading the law.

Criminal businesses will be always be attractive to both the rich and the poor.  Some cartel leaders are well-educated and even rich.  If it were only about income inequality, many would get out of the drug trade sooner.  We need to foster opportunities for the poor, so they don’t see drug dealing as a route out of poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, they’re hungry for power and wouldn’t lose power over people, if pot became legal. They would branch out to other crimes such as human trafficking, and to stronger drugs.

Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages
Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages

 When Drug Wars Occur

Drug wars happen when growers and cartels compete to have the strongest, most potent strains of marijuana.   High-THC plants bring higher profits, but the marijuana industry pretends that government is to blame for the greedy, violent wars between drug cartels.

We can see the violence that comes with the competition in the drug trade in the book and movie, Savages of 2012, with Benicio del Toro.  An earlier movie  Blow, in which Johnny Depp played notorious drug dealer George Jung, tries to illicit sympathy for the criminal who was instrumental in bringing the Columbian cocaine trade to the USA.  It is clear that greed and adventure motivated Jung, without concern about the harmful consequences to others.

Marijuana advocates who say “drug wars don’t work,”  play into current anti-government sentiments.  They say those who don’t agree with marijuana must be taking money from the drug-making companies, the police unions, alcohol industry, the prison or prison guard industry.  Otherwise, how could anyone not believe in their psychotropic drug that has been manipulated — to become stronger and to work medical miracles, as they claim? In their twisted logic, they say the US has created cartel violence in Mexico. Violence of course has many causes including poverty.   On the other hand, there is evidence that cartels have moved out of Colorado into Central America, and are causing our heroin epidemic today.

 

Please follow and like us:

Hash Oil Explosions Rise with Legal Pot

Another consequence of changing a public policy to benefit the 6- 7% of adults who use marijuana is the slew of hash oil explosions which have occurred this year.  Making BHO, butane hash oil is a relatively easy, but dangerous, process.

Did anyone figure ambulances, fire fighters and emergency medical care into the cost of legalizing marijuana?  Voters in Oregon, Alaska, Washington, DC, and two cities, Lewiston and South Portland, Maine, need to think of possible consequences before legalizing another dangerous drug.  States considering medical marijuana also need to factor in the legality of making BHO, and the cost for public services when the fires occur.

Downloadable Fact Sheet

Get the Parents Opposed to Pot Hash Oil Facts! Download our new flyer, which describes the hash oil explosions in states which have permissive marijuana laws: POPPOT-Hash Oil Statistics.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called a meeting last week to pass an ordinance that would restrict unlicensed  amateurs using flammables to process marijuana.  There have been 8 blasts in the   city of Denver this year, and 31 in the state.  After an objection was voiced at the meeting on September 15, the discussion was tabled.

Congress made a huge mistake, when on May 30, the House of Representatives voted not to allow Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) funds to be used to investigate federal violations in states with medical marijuana.

Like passing child protection laws, or keeping the marijuana businesses out of communities, it seems impossible to pass any restrictions which might stop marijuana consumption, commerce or expansion in Colorado.  (Marijuana has caused three non-traffic deaths in Colorado this year: one incidence of child neglect in January and two deaths from potent edibles, in March and April.)

Firefighters putting out a hash oil explosion in Jefferson County, Colorado
Firefighters putting out a hash oil explosion in Jefferson County, Colorado.  Photo: CBS Denver

The marijuana industry told voters marijuana is “safer than alcohol,” but the social and public service costs must be staggering by now.  The fires and explosions are increasing, because extracting hash oil from marijuana has become more popular.  The promised tax revenues from marijuana are much lower than was projected, and black markets still thrive.

Seared Skin and Burn Centers

“Hash Oil’s Trail of Seared Skin and Annihilated Homes”  reports of one death in Hawaii early this year and one death in Oregon last year. “March Madness” was a term used to describe the numerous hash oil blasts that took place during one month this year.   Five explosions happened in Colorado during one week in April.

Butane hash oil must be made in an open or well-ventilated area.  If the butane sparks something else, explosions can occur.  What makes it dangerous is that butane is highly flammable, sensitive to heaters, pilot lights, electric cords, a cigarette or the slightest spark of a match.

Of the 31 hash oil explosions that had occurred in Colorado by early May this year,  21 involved injuries and 10 of those suffered from major burns requiring extensive treatment.  In the previous year, there were 11 such explosions in the state, with 11 people treated for burns.  According to an official of the state’s burn center, at University of Colorado’s burn unit, the first explosion occurred in 2012. Most victims are males in their 20s and 30s.

A hash oil explosion.  Photo: ABC7 News Denver
A hash oil explosion. Photo: ABC7 News Denver

A  request to search the records of Oregon’s only burn center over a 16- month period showed that 17 people were treated for butane hash oil burns, including two residents of southwest Washington.  A 12-year old girl sustained broken bones after jumping from the 2nd floor, to escape a Medford, Oregon, hash oil fire last November.

In California, during a 14- month period from 2013 to early 2014, 27 people were treated for hash oil burns in one Northern California burn unit, 17 in southern California centers.  In California, it’s legal for medical marijuana patients to use or buy the hash oil, but illegal for amateurs to make it.  We have written previously of the children endangered by theses blasts. 

Fortunately, no one has died in Colorado from BHO-explosions, though some people have sustained horrible burns.

As far as state law goes, making the hash oil in a home is perfectly legal in Colorado, as reported on ABC7 News.  Charges of arson or child endangerment can be filed, however, when there is property damage, others are put in danger, or children are nearby.

Homes, Apartments and Property Damage

hashoilexplosionSeattle
A hash oil explosion at a Bellevue apartment complex fire caused one death to a former mayor and $1.5 million in damages.  Photo above and below: US District Court of Western Washington

Federal District Attorneys in Washington, California and Oregon have been excessively slow in response to the explosions, despite the extensive damage to property, deaths and injuries to others.  The explosions began 2-3 years ago on the West Coast, but it is only in the last few months that the Department of Justice appears to have decided that action is necessary.

Last weekend the Los Angelos Times reported 20 butane hash oil explosions in San Diego County, alone, within the year. There was $1.2 million of damage to an apartment building in San Diego last January.  The explosions have occurred from New England to Florida, and from to British Columbia to Arizona.

In May, the Oregonian ran a series of online articles about BHO (butane hash oil), detailing the hows and whys of making it, and the explosions.  It has only become popular in the last 3 years.

The hash oil explosion in a Bellevue apartment complex resulted in severe injuries to those who had to jump
The fire at Bellevue apartment complex resulted in severe injuries to those who had to jump, and one woman who died. Three men have been charged for the incident of Nov. 5, 2013.

On July 22, 2014, the US attorney in western Washington filed charges against seven people, mainly for “endangering human life while manufacturing controlled substances.”  The individuals caused fires or explosions in Seattle, Puyallup, Kirkland and Bellevue.  The Bellevue fire caused a massive explosion to an apartment complex, $1.5 million in damages, and killed a former mayor of Bellevue.   During this occurrence, two women experienced multiple fractures, having jumped from second- and third-floor windows to escape flames.

One of those facing federal charges in Puyallup, Washington, was making the hash oil for a marijuana edibles. He’s the owner of an edibles’ company, “Capn Cosmics.”  Additionally, he’s  charged with endangering the life of a 14-month old child.

The District Attorney in Washington asserts that the actions are illegal, because they cause harm to others and to property, although in the past officials found issues of legality hazy in Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

tigard-car-fire
A California many has been indicted for starting the BHO blast in a Tigard, Oregon, parking lot on July 29. Photo: KoinTV

On July 29 in Tigard, Oregon, a parking lot explosion injured one and destroyed or damaged five motor vehicles.  A grand jury indicted a California man for knowingly and intentionally creating a substantial risk of harm to human life in connection materials exploded, and for manufacturing marijuana.  It’s thought to be the first time the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon has filed charges in connection with a hash oil explosion.

State regulations in California and Colorado haven’t stopped the explosions.  California doesn’t allow medi-pot patients to produce BHO, while Oregon and Washington’s medical pot programs don’t regulate BHO.  Colorado and Washington require BHO to be tested for residual butane before being placed on dispensary shelves.

Why is Hash Oil Popular?

Marijuana users are looking for the quicker, faster high—even though they think marijuana is not addictive.  Yet, there are great psychological risks, too, and some users have had psychotic episodes from using this potent substance.

For sellers, it’s an easy way to make large profits.   However, making it at home is so much cheaper, and it’s gaining popularity.

There are plenty of YouTube videos and other online instructions for amateurs to follow.  Makers begin by putting cannabis leaves and flowers in an extraction tube, like a pipe.  They then put the colorless, odorless butane in that small area to extract the THC quickly, letting it fall through a small filter on bottom.  Spraying with butane is called blasting the marijuana, which pulls the THC right out of it.

Problems are most likely to occur indoors or when there is not good ventilation.

makingbutanehash
A butane hash “chef” packs a pipe with marijuana trimmings that will be used to make butane hash. (Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

The solvent or butane must be flushed out.  It can be boiled off in a hot water bath, which is why some home producers use hot baths or double boilers. Many commercial enterprises have the butane pumped out with a vacuum vacuum chamber to lower butane’s boiling point, pulling butane from the oil.

The result is a hash oil which looks like honey.  It’s like the crack cocaine of marijuana.  The THC content can be  70 to 85 percent, while the average joint may be 20 to 25 percent THC.  After cooling, the oil hardens and is broken into bits.  Sometimes the explosions occur in the cooling process, as when the refrigerator door blew off in Manitou Springs.

Butane has oil, a highly potent distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day.  (Photo: ABC News)
Butane has oil, distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day. (Photo: ABC News)

There are many nicknames for butane hash oil: “Wax,” “Honey oil,” “earwax,” “dabs” “shatter” and more.   It could be smoked, vaped or infused into the edibles.   Vaping is a concern, since the vape pens are the e-cigarettes of marijuana.  It is  a way that teens may be using marijuana without detection.

In short, hash oil offers a quick and lasting high for users.   A single hit can last more than a day.   By making it, it costs a user about 50% less than it would by buying it from a licensed dispensary or maker.

Please follow and like us:

Out-of-State Money Funds Marijuana in Oregon

Congressman Earl Blumenauer isn’t voicing objections to the $1.5 million of out-of-state money to finance Measure 91,  the ballot to legalize marijuana in Oregon.   However, he supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling of 2010, which prevents limits on campaign contributions from corporations and associations.   Like so many politicians, his inconsistency is puzzling.  It can only be understood if we imagine that he’s under the thumb of the marijuana industry.

Instead of complaining  of the out-of-state billionaires, the Congressman from Portland takes on the small-time public servants and volunteers.  These are people who would have presented the latest educational information on marijuana and other drugs,  to the smaller towns and cities in Oregon.  If Blumenauer had adequately looked into the studies of youth marijuana usage and other illicit drug usage of his state, he would have known that drug education is needed.   07_nonmedical use pain relievers past yearOregon ranks very high in all illicit drug usage, compared to other states.  (These maps were published late last year, using statistics from 2010-11)   Regarding the current heroin epidemic, and deaths from overdose,  it’s wise to ask why all alcohol and drug prevention programs get 48% less in federal funds than they received 10 years ago!

The money in question was $15,000.  A non-profit prevention group that receives federal funds was going to use the money to put on a summit in Madras, Oregon, followed by a tour.

Voters should have much more of an issue with more than $1.5 million — 100 x the amount provided for the summit —  that outsiders have spent to legalize marijuana in their state.

Rep. Blumenauer has called for a federal investigation into whether taxpayer dollars are being improperly spent on marijuana education events that he said appear to be aimed at influencing voters to oppose the November ballot measure that would legalize the drug.    Kevin Sabet of Project SAM was to be a speaker at 12 localities around the state, just as he had been educating in Oregon years before.  At this time, the program has now been reduced substantially, although a district attorney has been raising funds. This particular summit is a continuation of educational events that takes place every two years in that community and has been going on for over a decade.  Oregon does not have a state-sponsored program of drug education that provides education to the counties.  Local prevention coordinators must do that job.

Blumenauer had taken aim at Mandi Puckett who left her job at Best Care Treatment Services in Madras, to become coordinator of Vote No on 91-Oregon campaign.  Puckett explained in a Press Release on Friday: “My job was to help apply for State and Federal grants and work with the local coalition to use that money to educate people about the dangers of using addictive substances.”  Prevention education efforts, like the Madras Summit, are often a required component of grant applications.  The educational summit in Madras, followed by the tour of Oregon cities was planned between Fall of 2012 to Spring of 2014,  before Measure 91 was on the ballot. There were various stages for approval of the tour, before the state granted final approval in writing from the Oregon Health Authority.  “Later, when it was announced the measure would be on the November ballot, we took extra steps to include in our work plan and advise presenters to not speak about the ballot measure. Our goal was to educate, not lobby,” said Puckett.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., talks with reporters September 5 about a series of marijuana education events. (Jeff Mapes/The Oregonian)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., talks with reporters September 5 about a series of marijuana education events. (Jeff Mapes/The Oregonian)

So as it appears, prevention coordinators were required in their “federally-approved work plans” to educate about alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.  The state, via Oregon Health Authority, was involved in that process and granted approval for the Summit and the tour, which was in planning long before Measure 91 was on the ballot.  Then in August, when advocates in favor of Measure 91 learned of the approved educational events, is when the problem occurred.  According to documents provided by the Oregonian, representatives of Measure 91 and a member of Congress, who is a supporter of Measure 91, lodged false accusations against prevention educators funded to do the very work they were approved to do.

Not Tiny Grants, but Big-time Marijuana Money from the PACs

As one of Congress’ leading advocates for the marijuana industry, Blumenauer isn’t questioning the use of huge donors with no connection to his Congressional district or state.  New Approach Oregon, the group sponsoring Measure 91, plans to spend $2.3 on television ads, while the opposition has no money to advertise.  Here’s the group’s financial status:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
New Approach Oregon 2014 $599,455.82 $599,455.82
New Approach Oregon $950,168.16 $912,890.50
Drug Policy Action of Oregon $0.00 $0.00
Total $1,549,623.98 $1,512,346.32

Private, out-of-funds state funds donated earlier this year are:                            Peter Lewis & his family                      $350,000                                       George Soros                                              $160,000

Soros is connected to the Drug Policy Action PAC.  Because not all donors to PACs are made public, it is a bit difficult to sort the information.  None of the big donors appears to be from Oregon.

According to Ballotpedia, as of July 30, 2014, the No on 91 group had zero money, but Measure 91 had received more than $1.5 million.   The top 5 contributors were:

New Approach PAC $250,000
Drug Policy Action $200,000
Drug Policy Action Fund for Oregon $150,000
Philip Harvey $100,000
Henry van Ameringen $100,000

 

Soros lives in New York.  Peter Lewis was a Florida resident when he died in November, and his sons have continued to contribute to the campaign.   Philip Harvey is from Washington, DC, and Henry van Ameringen lives in New York.  They serve on the New Approach Oregon Committee, along with Cari Tuna, wife of a Facebook co-founder.

How Marijuana Money Controlled the Oregon Election in 2012

In Oregon, the marijuana lobby succeeded in determining the outcome of the 2012 race for Attorney General.   The winning candidate in the Democratic primary for Attorney General had received the largest portion of her campaign money from marijuana industry supporters.  These donations came from: Drug Policy Action committee,  $80,000; Arizona resident John Sperling, $70,000, and Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, which spent $53,000 on radio ads.  (The largest non-marijuana donation was $25,000)  There were to be no Republican candidates running in the primary or general election.  Since it was a ballot by mail and only 25% of the Democrats voted,  marijuana advocates got out their vote.

Other voters were led to think the main issue was that the opponent, interim US Attorney General Dwight Holton, had not been a resident of Oregon very long.   In reality, Holton had taken a tough stance on drugs, allowing some federal raids on marijuana producers in violation of law.  He had called the state’s medical marijuana program a “train wreck.”   Medical marijuana came to Oregon after a ballot vote in 1998, but it didn’t come under state regulations until this year.

Winner Ellen Rosenbaum had promised not to prosecute medical marijuana.  John Sperling, also a big marijuana donor, was the founder of the University of Phoenix.  At the time, Oregon’s Justice department was part of a multi-state investigation into his school and other for-profit universities.  Only 25% of the Democrats voted, so it is clear that radio commercials sponsored by pro-pot groups, in addition to Rosenblum’s campaign ads, got out the “weed vote.”   Rosenblum won by 64% to 36%, and the marijuana groups  bragged about their victory.

Two years ago the big out-of-state donors financed marijuana legalization campaigns in Washington and Colorado, but they did not donate to Measure 80,  Oregon’s failed legalization initiative of November 2012.   However, by June 2012, BIG MARIJUANA had already funded and controlled the race for Attorney General that year, which promised that medical marijuana in the state would — relatively speaking — continue unregulated.

 Key Components of Measure 91

This year’s initiative,  Measure 91, would place marijuana regulation under the state liquor board.  The premises of Measure 91 are that legalization would 1) Eliminate 12,800 arrests (The number of marijuana arrests was actually around 2700, politifact.com found.   2) Regulation would do a better job at keeping it away from children (only with good prevention education!) and 3) It would eliminate drug cartels and give profits to the state instead of criminals (highly speculative, with no concrete evidence).

New Approach Oregon hired ECONorthwest, a Portland firm,  to estimate the potential tax revenues of a legalized marijuana industry, if this measure is approved. The estimate of $38.5 million for the first year was to be based on a Colorado’s figures, from the viewpoint of cost/benefit analysis.  Currently, Colorado is taking in much lower taxes than they originally planned.

Although the tax rate would be lower than Colorado’s tax, the experience in Colorado and Washington shows that black markets don’t end with legalization.  Marijuana has been decriminalized in Oregon since 1973, and medical marijuana was approved in 1998. The Oregon Medical Association does not recommend marijuana for medical reasons, or otherwise.  After 15 years, Oregon only began regulating medical marijuana this year, after passage of House Bill 3460.

Why BIG MARIJUANA won in Colorado

The Marijuana industry targeted Colorado for legalization because its largest city, Denver, is in the center of the state.  The Denver – Colorado Springs television market is the only place in the state with a sizable population.   Television ads could target the Denver region, while other parts of the state  were less likely to know marijuana was on the ballot. The Marijuana Industry may have hoped the same thing could happen in Oregon this year.  Possibly they took issue with Madras summit because voters in outlying areas would be getting more factual information about marijuana.  As in Colorado, voting in Oregon is done by mail in the weeks leading up to the election date.

Oregon compares well to Colorado, because both states have a high number of pain pill abusers and other drug abusers.  States with medical marijuana tend to have higher percentages abuse, dependence and teen marijuana usage.  It’s not clear if the difference reflects medical marijuana or the low perception of risk from using pot.  An exception is Maine, which has had medical marijuana since 1998, but its percentage  of youth marijuana use and all drug  use is significantly lower than in nearby states and it can be attributed to good prevention education programs and staff.

States that have high amount of illicit drug usage tend be the states where the highest percentage of teens begin using marijuana at a young age, Oregon included. There’s good reason to believe the Summit in Madras and the entire 12-city tour is very much needed

We ask Representative Blumenauer and other politicians to stop pandering to the marijuana industry and caving to their lobbyists.

Please follow and like us: