April M. Short en US Fertility Rates Are Lower than Ever Recorded <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This could be a good thing.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/not_pregnant.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Fertility rates in the U.S. are lower than ever previously recorded according to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—but this doesn’t herald a <em>Children of Men</em> scenario on the horizon. (<em>Children of Men</em>, for those unfamiliar, is a science fiction thriller novel-turned-film that depicts a world after two decades of global human infertility.) The lower rate of fertility does not mean fewer people are physically able to make babies. Instead, the fertility rate is defined simply as “the number of babies born per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.” The declining number of babies born most likely speaks to a growing number of women and families <a href="">choosing not to have children</a>.</p><p>Given the <a data-saferedirecturl=";q=;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471203586563000&amp;usg=AFQjCNH39iJa_zrOlNKrJGRXF487qpNpyg" href="" target="_blank">serious and devastating global implications of mass overpopulation</a>, the fact that people are having fewer babies could speak to a positive trend in this country.</p><p>The new <a data-saferedirecturl=";q=;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471203586563000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHJMpFblh7YMW2ijzace6c5VTCNKw" href="" target="_blank">report</a> used population data from the CDC cataloging birth and fertility statistics beginning in 1909. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the fertility rate decreased from 60 births per 1,000 women to 59.8 per 1,000 women (both of which were measured during the first quarter of the year).</p><p>The report found a continued decrease in the rate of teen births, and a continued decrease in birthrates for 15-year-old girls through 29-year-old women. However, the birthrate among women ages 30 to 44 is actually increasing. This is probably related to improvements in infertility treatments as well as the <a href="">trend amongst US couples toward marrying later in life, according to census data</a>. According to <a data-saferedirecturl=";q=;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471203586563000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHuxbDRuuURQcLlpvrN0qZRhaRbwA" href="" target="_blank">ABC’s recent report</a> on the study, “measuring the fertility rate is viewed as a more accurate measure than overall birthrate, which compares babies born with the total U.S. population.”</p> Sat, 13 Aug 2016 11:09:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1061859 at Personal Health Personal Health birthrate fertility fertility rates Some Ultra-Marathoners Now Swear by Marijuana to Help Their Training <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">More athletes are coming out publicly about their pot use.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_359568020.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As the cannabis legalization movement continues to grow, so does public education about the long-demonized pot plant. There is an increased understanding of marijuana as being less of a dangerous drug (though the U.S. government still stubbornly <a href="">classifies</a> it as such) and more of a potentially beneficial <a href="">medicinal herb</a>. Its benefits have been invaluable for cancer patients, children with <a href="">epilepsy</a>, <a href="">veterans</a>, <a href="">rape survivors</a> and others suffering from severe PTSD.</p><p dir="ltr">As public opinion shifts, more <a href="">athletes</a> are coming out publicly about their pot use. In a <a href="">recent article</a>, Leafly writer Gage Peake discussed the “CannAthlete movement” with 24-year-old runner Avery Collins, part of an emerging group of high-intensity extreme distance runners, or ultramarathoners, who openly incorporate cannabis into their training and recovery routines. Ultramarathoners run distances of 50 to 500 or more miles with inclines reaching thousands of feet. A <a href="">Runner’s World article</a> last February detailed the many reasons runners are “mixing marijuana and mileage,” and the subject has been a source of major debate in running circles. (In a 2015 article for <a href="">Ultra Running Magazine</a>, writer and ultrarunner Will Cooper sums up his personal ganja quandary.)</p><p dir="ltr">While many athletes find cannabis helps their bodies to recuperate during training, it is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and most of the largest marathon events scan for cannabis in drug tests. Whether cannabis is an ethical, safe option for athletes to recover and reduce inflammation or a performance-enhancing drug remains a subject of debate.</p><p dir="ltr">Three ultramarathon athletes who speak openly about their pot use explain why they use the herb.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Avery Collins</strong>, who lives in Colorado (one of the first three states to legalize cannabis in 2012, along with Washington and Oregon) told Gage Peake of Leafly he used to use marijuana socially during college, then started to use it as a professional training tool after moving to Breckenridge, Colorado. His training regimen, as described to Peake, consists of five-week blocks of gnarly sounding workouts.</p><p dir="ltr">“I am doing about 150 miles a week,” he said of his most recent training period. “I’m averaging anywhere from 25-30 miles a day and 30k to 40k feet in elevation climbing in a week.”</p><p dir="ltr">Collins <a href="">uses cannabis</a> to help his body repair the wear and tear of those intense training periods, Peake notes.</p><p dir="ltr">“To run 100 straight miles, like the race I’m doing this Friday, I could be out running for 28 straight hours. Once you stop, you sit down and it is crazy, your body has been so used to running for over a day it thinks it is still going, so your muscles just throb and throb and all of a sudden it all stops and everything swells up,” Collins said. “With its various medicinal compounds, you can really cut down not only on the fatigue but you can calm the muscles and shoot down a lot of that inflammation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Collins also spoke with the <em>Guardian</em> in a May article by <a href="">Josiah Hesse</a> about his weed use. He told Hesse the first time he combined pot and running was “amazing.”</p><p dir="ltr">“It helps me stay in the moment and embrace what’s going on right then and there,” he said. The Guardian noted that “Collins is quick to state that while he enjoys running high, he never uses it during races and doesn’t think his success should be credited to pot.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Jenn Shelton</strong> is one of the world’s top female ultrarunners. (Her story is featured in Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book <em>Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.</em>) She is out of the proverbial pot closet and talks about its benefits when it comes to distance running.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="">High Times</a> quoted her as saying, “The person who is going to win an ultra [marathon] is someone who can manage their pain, not puke and stay calm. Pot does all three of those things.”</p><p dir="ltr">She also told the <a href="">Wall Street Journal</a>, about her use of the herb in training, for reasons similar to Collins’.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Jeff Sperber</strong> is another pro-pot ultramarathoner. The 43-year-old used a vaporizer to inhale some cannabis post-race, according to a <a href="">Runner’s World piece</a> by Nevin Martell last February in which Sperber explains that for him, pot is on par with Advil, but safer.</p><p dir="ltr">“When you’ve been running for that long, you’ve got swelling muscles and aching joints, and you’re tired. ...You can take an Advil, which will help the swelling and inflammation, but it’s also very taxing on your liver.”</p><p dir="ltr">The article explains how Sperber has turned to weed rather than pharmaceuticals to deal with pain after multiple surgeries (at the time he had undergone two hip surgeries and a hernia surgery) and for stage-four arthritis in a toe. He is a legal medical marijuana user in California.</p><p dir="ltr">“I can’t do that stuff and function as a normal human being,” Sperber said, referring to the side-effects of the pharmaceutical pain medications he’s been prescribed. “As a weed smoker, I can function.”</p><p>Cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties are <a href="">scientifically proven</a>, and numerous studies (as well as anecdotal evidence) suggest cannabis is more efficient and less harmful than many pharmaceutical drugs when it comes to reducing pain and inflammation. An <a href="">article</a> from Cannabis Now explains why many find pot works better than opiates for pain management.</p> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 12:42:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1061454 at Personal Health Drugs Personal Health ultrarunner ultramarathon runners running run athletes marijuana cannabis pot weed inflammation muscles health pain muscle marathon avery collins jenn shelton jeff sperber guardian wall street journal high times high runner's high The Upsetting Reason My Young Yoga Students Think I Should Be Married <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The seeds of inevitable sexism are planted young.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5466870318_dfae84fdf8_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">If you're wondering why the fight for gay marriage was such an uphill battle, or why rape culture is still an epidemic, or why Trump's attitude toward women is apparently acceptable to so many Americans, look to the stories we're telling our children. The seeds of inevitable sexism and the "hetero-normative agenda" (the belief that heterosexuality is the only true sexual orientation) are planted young. Kids are fed the "boy-gets-girl-and-then-they-get-married" agenda from the second someone sings that obnoxious rhyme about K-I-S-S-I-N-G where "first comes love, then comes marriage."</p><p dir="ltr">The TV tells kids Barbie needs a new wedding dress to bedazzle Ken, movies remind them that girls dream of boys rescuing them and boys plot to "get the girl." Some highly touted children's books are even teaching 5- and 6-year-old boys how to "get a girlfriend," as Nicole Tompkins-Hughes wrote in a <a href="">December 2015 article</a> in The Mary Sue. At a school book fair, Tompkins-Hughes did a double-take when she saw a dating manual written by and marketed to 5-year-olds, which kindergarten teachers were encouraging classes to read.</p><p>“[The book] won an award from the company that decides what books are put in front of our children at their public school book fairs,” Tompkins-Hughes wrote, lamenting the fact that someone is selling a dating manual for kindergartners and that the book perpetuates the old, damaging, boy-gets-girl narrative. The article goes on to discuss how the plot of the Peanuts movie plants the same ideas in kids’ minds.</p><p>Kids are sponges, and normalizing particular ways of being and relating between genders over other ways of being and relating to those genders is exactly what leads to homophobia, sexism, misogyny, rape culture and hatred in general. These kinds of narratives teach kids what normal means: boy-meets-girl; boy-woos-girl; boy-is-the-subject, girl-is the-object; while boy-meets-boy and girl-meets-girl stories are odd.</p><p>While teaching yoga to elementary schoolers in Portland, Oregon, a city that is reputed to be one of the most liberal places in America, I recently had my own encounters with the early impacts of gender/sexuality socialization/normalization of certain behaviors on kids. It could be that the age range of the kids I taught is a time when mommy and daddy are like gods, so whatever their parents do is normal and everything else is strange. Even so, these youngsters’ thinking was pretty darn heteronormative for being Portlanders in 2016.</p><p>One of my smallest kid yoga classes had just five students and took place in a library on top of a giant floor rug depicting the globe. After I finished answering the question “what’s a warrior?” (The answer I usually give is “A person who protects others,”) Johnny raised his hand.</p><p dir="ltr">“Are you married?” he asked.</p><p dir="ltr">“Nope.”</p><p dir="ltr">His eyes bulged. “Why not?”</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t want to be married.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Do you have a boyfriend?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Yep.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Ooooo!” he teased.</p><p dir="ltr">I laughed, and took a deep breath.</p><p dir="ltr">“Well, I actually call him my partner, not boyfriend. We’ve been together for eight years and we live together, so even though we’re not married, he is my family.”</p><p dir="ltr">Another little girl in the class chimed in.</p><p dir="ltr">“Why don’t you just get married?”</p><p dir="ltr">She wasn’t asking, so much as commanding. I remained matter-of-fact about it, though I was laughing a little on the inside at their air of disapproval.</p><p dir="ltr">“We just don’t want to. Marriage is great for some people, and other people just don’t choose it.”</p><p dir="ltr">At this point I was starting to feel like I was at Thanksgiving with my 93-year-old Irish Catholic grandma, and I was ready to be done with the interrogation, so I said:</p><p dir="ltr">“Okay, everybody, let’s reach our arms up to the sky and fill up our bellies with air.”</p><p dir="ltr">Their fingers lifted toward the ceiling.</p><p dir="ltr">“Imagine you’re standing underneath an apple tree and there’s a yummy apple right above where your fingers are: can you reach it?”</p><p dir="ltr">All 10 arms stretched a little higher.</p><p dir="ltr">“You live together and you’re not married?” gasped a third child, her hands collapsing to her hips. Apparently she’d been quietly contemplating this outlandish notion.</p><p dir="ltr">“Yep,” I said. “Now everybody fold yourself in half, let all our air out, bend your legs just a little, and see if you can touch the floor!”</p><p dir="ltr">Everybody folded.</p><p dir="ltr">“Not being married is <em>stupid</em>!” I looked up to see a red-faced Johnny shouting at the top of his lungs.</p><p dir="ltr">As if out of a movie, the librarian, who was behind a desk at the far end of the room, cast a scornful glare at me over the rim of her glasses.</p><p dir="ltr">I could no longer hold back my laughter.</p><p dir="ltr">“Wow! Strong feelings about that,” I chuckled. “I’m actually really happy with my life. Okay, enough about me, you guys. Let’s pretend we’re puppies and hop back into downward dog! Wiggle those puppy tails and step out your puppy paws!”</p><p dir="ltr">“But why don’t you get married?” Johnny insisted. This kid would not let it go.</p><p dir="ltr">“Well, there are lots of reasons,” I answered, thinking to myself how this probably was not the time or place to educate the little ones about my personal qualms with heteronormativity, gender inequality or the long history of oppression that precedes modern-day marriage.</p><p>So I just went with, “Well, getting married is expensive for one thing, but the main reason is we just don’t want to.”</p><p>“Ah. Money,” Johnny nodded. Now that was something he could understand.</p><p>By the end of the semester, this bit had played out in all five of my classes, and it always went about the same. I am always honest with my students about my marital status if they ask. The kids are probably just used to the grownups in their lives being hitched. That’s what mommy and daddy did, so why wouldn’t everybody else? But I was pretty surprised that at this point in history, in one of the liberal bastions of the planet, little kids appear generally bewildered by the notion of a 27-year-old woman shacking up with her partner. The audacity of it all!</p><p>In another yoga class for kids that took place in a school cafeteria, I asked students to take turns sharing something big or small that they were looking forward to. Most of the children said something like, “The summer,” which at the time was fast approaching, or “Seeing my mommy.”</p><p>Then, little 6-year-old Natalye said, “Well, I’m not so much looking forward to it, but my mommy’s friend Susan is marrying her other friend Jane. I like weddings, but this one’s yucky!”</p><p dir="ltr">“Why’s that?” I asked, genuinely curious.</p><p dir="ltr">“Girls aren’t supposed to marry girls! I think if they kiss I might puke.”</p><p dir="ltr">This prompted giggles from the rest of the class.</p><p dir="ltr">I have had relationships with both men and women and am a proud supporter of equal marriage rights, so I felt I had to say something.</p><p dir="ltr">“Hmm. Well, do you think Susan and Jane love each other?” I asked.</p><p dir="ltr">Natalye thought about this for a long few seconds, and all eyes in the room were on her.</p><p dir="ltr">“Yes,” she said, quietly.</p><p dir="ltr">“Well then, why is it yucky if they get married?”</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t know.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Love is love, and that’s a good thing always. At least that’s what I think,” I told her. I could see the little wheels turning in her head.</p><p dir="ltr">“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.</p><p>I moved on. Kids are smart. In my experience, generally, if they’re given permission to think about something for themselves, they will come to a pretty tolerant conclusion. I was surprised by the encounter, though, because it seemed that while Natalye’s parents were accepting enough of gay marriage to take their children to a lesbian wedding, somewhere along the road she’d picked up some homophobic behavior.</p><p>If I’m noticing these patterns in my kid yoga classes in Portland, Oregon, I can only imagine what it’s like in other parts of the country. I feel for the struggle of parents who want to educate their kids about tolerance and dispel the more harmful impacts of heteronormativity, because that way of thinking creeps at kids from all angles. I commend parents and teachers who take the time to talk through these issues with kids in a gentle, patient way.</p> Wed, 27 Jul 2016 14:10:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1060835 at Sex & Relationships Culture Sex & Relationships marriage marriage equality yoga children values sexism Here's Why We Should Probably Say 'Cannabis' Instead of 'Marijuana' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The word marijuana has a rotten history.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/903450bdaeaca6e45f4c6391a8308e71b2a10e22.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Weed, pot, ganja, bud, herb, grass, green, dank, Cali, Dutchie, hippie lettuce, Mary Jane. That sticky-icky-icky herb goes by many different names, but the most common is of course, “marijuana.” Why is that, when the plant’s official Latin name is actually “cannabis?”</p><p dir="ltr">In a recent article in <em>The Stranger,</em> Tobias Coughlin-Bogue breaks down the complicated and troubling reasons. The article, titled “<a href="">The Word ‘Marijuana’ Versus the Word ‘Cannabis</a>,'" explains how the term marijuana began to circulate widely after Harry Anslinger—first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who famously launched the war on drugs—shamed the herb publically. The year was 1937, and racist stereotypes about Mexican immigrants abounded (how far we’ve come). Thus, Anslinger used the Mexican term for the plant in his speech in front of a congressional panel to push his pot prohibition bill.</p><p dir="ltr">"We seem to have adopted the Mexican terminology, and we call it marihuana,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Anslinger intentionally circulated the word because of ulterior motives.</p><p dir="ltr">“While he sounds all innocent there, like he just picked up the word from who knows where, many surmise that he was actively using the term to focus the discussion on recreational use," Coughlin-Bogue explains. "His terminology distanced the plant as much as possible from its common medical and industrial uses, where it was more often referred to as cannabis or hemp. Using ‘marijuana,’ most commonly associated with recreational use among poor Mexican immigrants, was a sneaky bit of branding for the bill he wanted passed.”</p><p dir="ltr">Coughlin-Bogue’s piece goes on to outline the history of marijuana demonization and eventual prohibition which. It consists of a collaboration between a crooked government hellbent on prohibiting cannabis for greedy and racist reasons, working in cahoots with William Randolph Hearst’s yellow journalism news empire.</p><p dir="ltr">While “marijuana” no longer connotes a racial message for most, Coughlin-Bogue favors referencing the plant, which we now know to possess myriad <a href="">healing properties</a>, by another of its many available handles. And, as he points out, he’s not alone: “Harborside Health Center, one of California's largest and most influential dispensaries, has a page on its website devoted to the issue."</p><p dir="ltr">Harborside's website states the following:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"The word 'marijuana' or 'marihuana' is an emotional, pejorative term that has played a key role in creating the negative stigma that still tragically clings to this holistic, herbal medicine. Most cannabis users recognize the 'M word' as offensive, once they learn its history. We prefer to use the word cannabis, because it is a respectful, scientific term that encompasses all the many different uses of the plant.’"</p></blockquote><p><em>Read the full</em><a href="">Stranger</a><em><a href=""> article</a>.</em></p> Sat, 23 Jul 2016 10:51:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1060682 at Drugs Drugs marijuana cannabis terminology racist Harry Anslinger Alarming Trends I've Noticed Teaching Yoga to Little Kids <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We adults are creating a pretty stifling environment for our young ones.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/kids_yoga.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">I’m barefoot on the floor of an elementary school cafeteria, and the 60 tiny toes of my children’s yoga class point toward me on purple mats. “Take a big, deep breath as slowly as you can,” I say. I watch as six bellies inflate like balloons.</p><p dir="ltr">“Hold your breath in for a couple of seconds; now slowly let it out. Think for a second about something you’re really good at and just smile. You can sit up when you feel ready.”</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve just finished sharing a story I made up about a raccoon who discovers his previously unrealized talent for scouting out food. I’m about to lead the group in a closing <em>namaste,</em> when I notice that Aiden (her name has been changed here) has been crying. She sits up and says, “Thank you. I really needed that.” Her voice is quivering, and the amount of relief on her face is striking.</p><p dir="ltr">Aiden is only seven years old and she’s thanking me in tears for the five minutes allotted for relaxation at the end of our after-school yoga class. For last few months, I’ve spent my weekday afternoons teaching yoga to kids at five different public elementary schools in Portland, Oregon. Aiden’s reaction speaks to an alarming trend I’ve noticed: Kids are seriously stressed out, and it seems like testing and homework are a major culprit.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="" target="_blank">study last summer</a>, published in <em>The American Journal of Family Therapy,</em> showed kids are getting three times too much homework assigned to them. This is largely due to the intense pressure teachers are under to get through stringent curriculums to meet standardized testing requirements. The <em>Washington Post</em> wrote about this issue citing a study <a href="" target="_blank">last October</a> showing how standardized tests are overwhelming our nation’s schools. The article explained that some parents are <a href="" target="_blank">rallying against</a> standardized tests, probably because they’re seeing the same things I’m seeing in their kids. Some people argue kids should opt out of <a href="">standardized testing altogether</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">During class, Aiden was a ball of anxiety. I could see it in her shaking hands and the way she would zone out as I talked the class through yoga poses via a story in which we pretended to be pirates. Later, in the middle of a game, she got in an argument with her sister about who was more tired.</p><p dir="ltr">“I had to take <em>three</em> tests today, okay?” she hissed.</p><p dir="ltr">“Well, I have to do<em>three</em> math assignments, and<em>five</em>reading assignments tonight!” Her sister, who is only five and in kindergarten, yelled this retort at the top of her lungs.</p><p dir="ltr">I did my best to dispel their debate with a little breathing exercise and a reminder that yoga is a time for inner work.</p><p dir="ltr">“In this class we don’t have to think about anyone else, or any tests or homework,” I said. “Remember, your mat is your own personal magic bubble, and no one but you gets to enter that safe space. This is a time in the day where you can just focus on you—not your friends, not your sister or brother, just your own mind and body.” I took the class into the downward dog pose.<br /><br />“Where do you feel a stretch now, doggies? Your legs? Your arms?” This got us back on track, for now at least.</p><p dir="ltr">At the end of class I always tell a story, and it typically takes kids a while to relax, but once they do, they drop into the final resting pose, aka savasana. (We don’t use the Sanskrit terms, other than namaste, in my kids' classes, because some people are concerned it could connote religion. There’s an <a href="" target="_blank">ongoing debate</a>, spurred on largely by fundamentalist Christians, about bringing yoga into schools.)</p><p dir="ltr">While my students don’t usually express their relief verbally and in tears, many of them do arrive to class on the verge of tears, and I’ve found that high-stress behavior is the norm for these elementary schoolers, not the exception.</p><p>Kid yoga is nothing like grownup yoga. I don’t ask them to sit in meditation unless I’m telling a story or talking them through a creative visualization. We don’t work through sequences, and there isn’t a clearcut flow by any means. I make up my own curriculums as guidelines, but rarely do we stick to my class plans. Kid yoga is a boisterous endeavor, full of interruptions. Teaching it means staying fluid and being ready to shift gears or quench fires at any given moment. We move through poses via stories and games, and while I do have guidelines to prevent all-out chaos, it’s nothing near rigid.</p><p>From what the kids have told me, many days yoga class is the only time an adult asks them to let their guards down and just imagine. In some classes we color, and I’ll give them a loose guideline like, "draw a picture of something that makes you feel good about yourself.” As they tune into their imaginations I can almost visibly observe the layers of stress and structure melting off of their little bodies.</p><p dir="ltr">At the start of every class I ask my students to share a rose (something good from their day), a thorn (something not so good) and a bud (something they’re looking forward to). Typically just about everyone has a little trouble thinking of the rose, less trouble thinking of the thorn. As for the bud, they can usually think of something good on the horizon, but I’ve had students ask me what you call something you’re <em>not</em> looking forward to. We decided to call that one “dirt,” and there’s no shortage of it. Often, it consists of homework.</p><p dir="ltr">Every class, the flurry of students arrives visibly flustered, chattering to me about all the homework they have to do that night. A week before the summer break several first-grade-going-on-second-graders came to class angry and basically hyperventilating because their teacher had assigned rigorous daily homework assignments throughout the summer.</p><p>I don’t remember worrying that much about homework when I was in elementary school. It seems like too much when children are distracted from their creativity and imaginations because the big, bad homework monster is hanging over their heads.</p><p>I’d heard about this drift toward over-regulation in schools through <a href="" target="_blank">articles</a> I've read and parents I know, but teaching has made the repercussions of over-standardization real to me. At the beginning of the semester, I felt like the kids in my classes were waiting for some kind of punchline. This was fun and all, but when was I going to ask them to compete, or take a test? When was I going to snap, yell and send someone away from our circle for interrupting or acting out? It took some trust-building across the board for them to realize the answer was, never. But these kids’ entire school days consist of rigidity, and being the sponges that they are, that’s what they’ve come to expect.</p><p dir="ltr">From the beginning, I decided my yoga classes weren’t going to follow the kind of structure school classes follow. Yoga was going to be a time for them to explore and move inward and light up their less analytical right brains. We were going to laugh and let loose a little, because these kids desperately needed an adult in their lives to give them permission to be kids.</p><p dir="ltr">Since my yoga classes are an after-school program that parents pay for, most of the kids I teach are generally well-off, middle-class and relatively privileged (though the program does offer scholarships in special circumstances). And they are still stressed-out. I can only imagine the stress of inner-city kids who deal with hunger and poverty in addition to the overwhelming burden of school work.</p><p dir="ltr">Often my young students have more difficulty than my adult students letting go of their current realities and relaxing into visualization exercises (e.g., <em>close your eyes, stretch out your arms and imagine you’re flying</em>). That doesn’t feel right to me. Childhood should be all about expanding the imagination, not repressing it. Instead, our schools are asking kids to hunker down, get serious and focus, all day long.</p><p dir="ltr">One class told me that during lunch break, "they"—I assumed this meant teachers and cafeteria workers—made all of the students sit silently and eat. I asked, was that because some people were getting too rowdy or fighting? Every single kids answered in unison, “no.”</p><p dir="ltr">“They just do that sometimes,” one girl said.</p><p dir="ltr">“We weren’t doing anything, no one was,” said another student.</p><p dir="ltr">“Lunch is <em>supposed</em> to be our <em>free</em> time!” exclaimed another.</p><p dir="ltr">Yes, it is. Wonder what’s up with that. While I respect and understand the necessity of putting your foot down with kids sometimes (they will walk all over you if you don’t), I don’t really see why officials would make kids eat in silence during one of their few breaks from structure in the day.</p><p dir="ltr">This is just one in a plethora of kid anecdotes I’ve heard over the last few months. Couple this lack of free time with piles of homework, standardized tests and the fact that schools continue to cut back on arts and music programs, and the evidence is clear: We adults are creating a pretty stifling environment for our young ones.</p><p>Another thing I’ve noticed about the kids in my classes is that they have serious trouble focusing—that is, until you put a screen in front of them. I'm not sure there's a correlation between kids' apparent tech fixation and their stress and difficulty focusing in yoga class. However, studies have shown that too much <a href="">screen time</a> builds stress, fatigue and attention-deficit patterns in adults. According to neuroimaging research, excessive screen time <a href="">damages the brain</a>. Now, I'm sure most of the kids I've taught don't use computers or watch TV to the extent defined as "excess," but I have my suspicions that the time they are spending on computer tasks in school and playing digital games at home, isn't the healthiest thing for their developing minds.</p><p dir="ltr">These little kids are seriously <em>obsessed</em> with screens. No big shocker there. But it seems like many of them are getting too much of it. It also seems like one of the only times they are asked to let loose and play games is in the digital realm. Kids tell me all the time about the iPad and computer games they’re going to play later at home. They never mention the “analog” games they play with friends or parents away from screens.</p><p dir="ltr">This last semester has also taught me that elementary schoolers are learning HTML coding. I guess that’s what they’re doing instead of learning cursive? Maybe it’s a good thing, but it kind of blew my mind. And it means they’re spending hours of school time staring at screens as well.</p><p dir="ltr">The moment that made the kids’ screen obsession really come into focus for me was when I whipped out my phone to pull up some music for a round of Musical Mats (think musical chairs, but with yoga mats). As soon as the phone came out, it was chaos. Forgetting all of our guidelines about staying on our mats, the kids rushed me. Everybody wanted to see that screen. When one kid lost a round of the game and started to get emotional about it, I made the mistake of telling her she could press play on my phone for the next round. That became the new target of the game for the entire class. Other kids tried to lose so they might get a chance to touch that magical phone screen.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s just a button on a screen, you guys,” I told them. “It’s not that cool.” This deterred no one.They would rather tap a button on a phone than play an actual, physical game.</p><p dir="ltr">I'm grateful I've had the chance to create a space where kids can let go of the structures imposed on them during their usual school days. It's pretty magical to watch the release of tension on their little brows as they sink into reclined butterfly pose, close their eyes and imagine they're floating on a cloud, or the joy in their eyes as they fling themselves up into wheel pose and forget about everything outside of their bodies. It's just too bad this kind of inward exploration seems so rare for most of them.</p> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:08:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1058995 at Education Education Personal Health yoga kids school schools children learning education yoga teacher yogi kids yoga children's yoga More Young Adults Live With Parents Than Their Partners—for the First Time in 130 Years <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Millennials have come of age amid the bursting of the housing bubble, perpetual war and the Great Recession.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/living_with_parents.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Live with your parents again? Chances are you’re not lazy, or a loser, or any other stigma that might be hovering in your subconscious due to cultural stereotyping; you’re just a normal millennial responding to the economic realities of the age. For the first time in 130 years, more Americans between ages 18-34 are living with their parents than in any other living situation. That is according to <a href="">an analysis</a> by the Pew Research Center published May 24 based on national census data from 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">The analysis notes that 2014 didn’t represent a record high number of young adults living with their parents.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">”This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35 percent of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32 percent in 2014). What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The report explains that by 2014,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“31.6 percent of young adults were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, below the share living in the home of their parent(s) (32.1 percent). Some 14 percent of young adults were heading up a household in which they lived alone, were a single parent or lived with one or more roommates. The remaining 22 percent lived in the home of another family member (such as a grandparent, in-law or sibling), a non-relative, or in group quarters (college dormitories fall into this category).”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Some people may learn about this trend and scoff at the laziness and petulance of those darn millennials who just can’t seem to get it together. But their scoffing has its roots in misplaced frustrations and an ignorance of the economic realities that come with being a young adult today.</p><p dir="ltr">Pew opens its <a href="">analysis</a> with the following précis of the situation: "Broad demographic shifts in marital status, educational attainment and employment have transformed the way young adults in the U.S. are living."</p><p dir="ltr">Yep. Right now is the <a href="">worst time</a> in the country’s history to be a renter, according to statistics reported last year by the real estate database Zillow. As I wrote in a recent AlterNet story:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck. Mortgage prices have remained relatively stable over the last several years, while rent has skyrocketed. A <a href="">Bloomberg article</a> points out that the cost of homeownership is actually at a historic low, while the rate of homeownership is also lower than it has been in years. With home ownership is at its lowest rate in five years, apartment living has become increasingly competitive and some landlords appear to be taking advantage of the situation."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Astronomical student loan debt is hovering over the heads of millions of young collegiates and graduates. A <em>Time</em> article reported in January on “<a href="">Why the Student Loan Crisis Is Even Worse Than People Think</a>," noted that “more than 25 percent of students who take on college debt are graduating with way too much of it," and the situation is worsening.</p><p dir="ltr">The Bildungsroman of the millennials is set to the bursting of the housing market bubble and an economy steered by and large by (arguably) the most crooked banksters in history and a government that has made its priorities clear by bailing out those rich crooks with just about zero consequences for <a href="">screwing over</a> average Americans (along with the entire nation's fiscal stability). It is a coming-of-age story that takes place during the worst recession on record since the Great Depression. Millennials have lived the majority of their lives during a constant overseas war depleting and steering national funding priorities. They are facing one of the toughest job markets on record and a wackjob GOP that wants to starve or eliminate the few social programs left in this country—programs that keep many people adrift in their most difficult times, e.g. <a href="">food stamps</a>, <a href="">Planned Parenthood</a> and the list goes on.</p><p dir="ltr">The Pew report also notes a “dramatic” social trend away from settling down romantically before 35 as a primary reason young adults are living with mom and dad. It states:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Dating back to 1880, the most common living arrangement among young adults has been living with a romantic partner, whether a spouse or a significant other. This type of arrangement peaked around 1960, when 62 percent of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, and only one-in-five were living with their parents. ...By 2014, 31.6 percent of young adults were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, below the share living in the home of their parent(s) (32.1 percent)."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">I’d argue the various trends are interconnected. If, for instance, you’ve gone to college only to accrue heaping debt, can’t find a job in a related field, the job you do have pays less than a living wage ($15/hour), you can’t afford to live on your own because rents are worse than ever, and you've got nothing saved up for a downpayment on a house, you're probably less than inspired to settle down nuclear family-style and raise some kids behind a picket fence. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Read the full Pew <a href="">report</a>.</em></p> Sat, 28 May 2016 12:21:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1057355 at Economy Culture Economy family millennials Millennial baby boomer generation economy housing crisis renter pew report parents research analysis Angela Davis and asha bandele: Getting People out of Prison Is Just the Start to Solving America's Incarceration Crisis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Millions of people&#039;s lives are still controlled in racist and dehumanizing ways after they leave prison.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-05-04_at_10.59.34_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The United States is locking up and dehumanizing its people at extraordinary rates. Just over 4 percent of the world’s population lives in the U.S., yet we hold captive within our borders a whopping 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. This gives the U.S. the largest prisoner population in the world. And that <a href="" target="_blank">population is growing</a>, though not for any noble reason, like “crime is on the rise” (<a href="" target="_blank">au contraire</a>). It’s growing because of the same sleaze that’s behind most of our country’s problems: giant corporations are incentivizing, and <a href="" target="_blank">profiting from</a> the expansion of the prisons industry.</p><p>Over that gaping wound that is mass incarceration, we’re pouring a noxious vinegar called racism, which is distilled from the most putrid seeds that sprouted our nation: slavery. Our bloated prisons are disproportionately full of poor men and women of color, and it’s no accident. Nor is it a coincidence that as smartphones have turned us all into vigilante documentarians, able to capture injustice on our streets, some cops are caught murdering black men, and seldom forced to answer for their crimes.</p><p>These issues are all linked. They are part of a perpetual motion set off a couple hundred years ago with this nation’s shameful beginnings on the backs of stolen and imported humans. This is the crux of a powerful argument that activist, author and scholar Angela Davis threw down in a recent <a href="" target="_blank">public phone conversation</a> about the prison-industrial complex with asha bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance. </p><p>“It would seem to me that the recent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement causes us to reflect on the connection between our lives in the second decade of the 21st century and the history of slavery, and particularly the failure to entirely abolish the consequences of slavery. We are still living with those consequences today. I like to think of racism also as a way of acknowledging the fact that we continue to be haunted by the institutions connected with slavery,” Davis said.</p><p>Davis and bandele—who prefers to spell her name in lower case—took the conversation past mass incarceration into a compelling overview of what the residual label of criminal does to a person, as well as the community, and society at large. What happens, they asked, when your community is targeted and generationally oppressed; when you are raised to fear the police because you’ve seen whose blood it is they’re spilling; when your father and uncle and siblings and cousins are all labeled criminals?</p><p>bandele opened the conversation on that note, which she said DPA has been grappling with for decades.</p><p>"While it's certainly true that there are 2.2 million people living in the worst conditions in America's prisons and jails, it's also true that more than twice that number are monitored, their movements measured and controlled, their citizenry redacted in ways that diminish their humanity,” bandele said during her opening comments. “It's also painfully true that [mass incarceration proponents'] defining of particularly, although not exclusively, young black and brown men as criminals, has created what I think is an open hunting season on young black and brown men.”</p><p>Davis pointed out that schools, particularly those in poor communities of color, “reflect the impact of the prisonization of our society.”</p><p>“We inhabit a carceral society,” Davis said. “We might talk about the U.S. as a prison nation, and that not only refers to the fact that we have the largest prison population and the largest number of prisons and the largest rate of incarceration. It not only refers to the fact that racism is largely what has driven that soaring prison population, but also the fact that carceral institutions determine the way our children are educated. It refers to the fact that the health-care system is very much linked to this what you call 'mass criminalization.'"</p><p>Davis continued, “It seems to me that if we seriously want to move from mass incarceration, also from mass criminalization, we'll have to think about what it might mean to transform some of the other major institutions in our society."</p><p>Davis said that while the official retelling of America’s history of incarceration often begins with the creation of the penitentiary in Auburn, New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our punishment systems truly began with slavery. She explained how slavery systems have played a key role in the development of systems of punishment.</p><p>"As a matter of fact, in the aftermath of slavery," Davis said, "when one sees the convict lease system develop, when one sees the transformation of some of the huge slave plantations, into places where prisoners work, where convicts work, and of course Angola and others remain as witness to that connection between punishment and slavery and the mass incarceration in the 21st century,” she said.</p><p>Racism in this country is embedded in the language of many of our laws, and drug laws in particular, “as Drug Policy Alliance has made us aware,” Davis said. She noted those laws “have been a large driver in the contemporary increase in the numbers of people in prison. But the institution itself is grounded in slavery.”</p><p>To Davis, it has long been clear that the issues society faces have deep roots. It appears that today, with more widespread awareness and education, public grasp of the complexities of the prison-industrial complex is beginning to catch up with reality.</p><p>bandele reflected on the way Democrats and Republicans have both switched gears, from once calling for mass incarceration to now seeking ways to reduce it via reforms (largely due to <a href="" target="_blank">budgetary pressures</a>). She asked Davis to share her concerns about the way mass incarceration has taken center stage within the mainstream political discourse.</p><p>Davis responded with, “It’s about time." She said it did not surprise her that the right may have figured out a way to incorporate the issue into its call for smaller government, but its solutions are all “carceral.”</p><p>Davis said, “Their solutions are more ways to control and surveil people without necessarily keeping them within prison institutions. That is not a solution, that is a part of the problem, and as a matter of fact, more electronic bracelets, more probation, more parole, all of that adds up to creating ... a society that is even more determined by the carceral.”</p><p>The consensus of the talk was that, when talking about criminalization, incarceration “doesn’t take it far enough.” Along the same vein, bandele noted, when talking about drug crimes, the dichotomy of violent vs. nonviolent is also a simplification.</p><p>“[We’ve] developed this sense of compassion for people who use drugs over the last several years, but we have little or no compassion for people who sell drugs,” bandele said. “That was made evident recently by <a href="">Bill Clinton in his rant</a>, and I wonder how we can begin to disrupt some of these dichotomies we have. ... We care about the drug user, but not the drug seller. We care about the nonviolent prisoner, but not the violent prisoner. How do we begin to tear down these walls? Or should we?”</p><p>Davis’ said often the notions that delineate violent from nonviolent are constructed.</p><p>“What counts as violence?” she asked. “As a matter of fact, law enforcement people have an enormous amount of discretion in terms of charging someone with a so-called violent or nonviolent offense. Say, the difference between robbery and shoplifting, or whatever.”</p><p>She called the distinction between drug user and drug seller “totally artificial,” using the example of women who are charged disproportionately with drug-dealing charges over men.</p><p>“[I]t's women who are most affected by the drug laws. As a matter of fact, proportionately, more women are in prison for drug offenses, and this is true not only in the U.S., all over the world,” she said. “It often has to do with the fact that often male prisoners—a male defendant escapes imprisonment, or they have their sentences reduced, because they're able to enter plea-bargaining deals and they're able to provide information to the prosecution. And women are not. So we have a disproportionate number of women going to prison on drug selling charges, and often times it's only because of relationships with men. Often times it's not even because they have been actively involved in the process of drug selling.”</p><p>While 4 percent of the world’s women live in the U.S., 33 percent of the world’s incarcerated women live in the U.S. That is almost a third of the world’s woman prisoners.</p><p>Midway into their conversation, bandele asked Davis a question that is rarely asked, “I wonder if you can help us think through that particular harm. What does it mean that we have just exponentially removed our mothers and our grandmothers and our sisters from our communities? We've talked, and we should continue to talk about what it's meant that we've removed our fathers and our brothers, but what does it mean that we've lost our mothers in this way? What harm does that cause, especially black and brown communities?”</p><p>Davis called this a major trend, “regardless of the numbers.”</p><p>“However, there are issues that we discover by looking very closely at the predicament of women in prison as we understand the relationship between intimate violence, which so many women have experienced, and institutional violence or state violence,” she said. “And issues that we've become aware of over the last period, especially since the campaign around CeCe McDonald in Minnesota, has been the question of trans women prisoners.”</p><p>The talk with Davis was the seventh in a series of public conversations DPA has hosted, which began in 2014 with <a href="" target="_blank">Michelle Alexander</a>, law professor and author of <em><a href="" target="_blank">The New Jim Crow; Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness</a></em>. DPA launched the talks as a way to broadcast some of the organization’s most urgent internal conversations to the public.</p><p>“We've wondered privately and aloud, what if we do the urgent and important work of emptying out the prisons, but people's lives are still controlled in myriad and dehumanizing ways?” bandele said.</p><p>The issue of mass criminalization has been paramount, bandele said, especially as both major U.S. political parties begin to feel the pressure to reduce the <a href="" target="_blank">prison population</a>.</p><p>Listen to the <a href=";amp;auto_play=false&amp;amp;hide_related=false&amp;amp;show_comments=true&amp;amp;show_user=true&amp;amp;show_reposts=false&amp;amp;visual=true" target="_blank">full talk</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src=";auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> Tue, 03 May 2016 09:27:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1055786 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Culture Drugs angela davis incarceration mass incarceration I Love California Deeply: Here's Why I'm One of the Hundreds of Thousands Who Left to Move North <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">People who don’t make extravagant tech salaries can no longer afford to live in my golden home state.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ca.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">It’s mid-March in Portland, Oregon and a chill rain is pelting the roof. I’m bundled up in three layers, a scarf and sweatshirt—indoors. I know that for much of the country this time of year, this is just an everyday afternoon. But not so much in my native home on the central coast of California.</p><p dir="ltr">Oh, California. I sit on the couch beside the cat, who is all curled up in a perfect circle. I think how I am a textbook cliche as I daydream about the many ways I love that place, and that Beach Boys song* (you know the one) drifts through my head.</p><p dir="ltr">But I’m not new to California dreaming. Even when I studied abroad for a semester in Barbados, a Caribbean island nation that would qualify as a paradise by pretty much anyone’s standards, I surprised myself with a droning ache in the pit of my stomach to be back on that vast strip of land that runs along the Pacific. I’d have visions of those tumbling, golden hills, which grow green this time of year and roll boundless for miles framed by the forested mountains and crashing sea. California is like my beautiful mother, who has given me everything: deep respect for the ocean, in which my dad taught me to surf when I was very young; and ceaseless love of the wild, non-human world, which only blossomed after I studied in the university beneath the majestic Santa Cruz redwoods. California also gave me an appreciation of myriad cultures, from laid-back beach town hippies to the strong work ethic and familial bonds of Mexican immigrant families whose children's quinceaneras I attended growing up, to the pounding beats and bold palette of the city streets, which are everyone’s canvas at once.</p><p dir="ltr">But I’ve left California behind. I simply can’t afford it.</p><p dir="ltr">Mine is a story that’s been lived a thousand times, and my tragedy a minor one of the white and relatively privileged. It’s also one that reflects part of an insidious national trend. So, here is the tale of how and why I am one of the contentious hundreds of thousands flocking from California to the Pacific Northwest.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year I was a 26-year-old writer and yoga teacher living with a documentary filmmaker. My partner and I shared a tiny cave of a one-bedroom on a busy street in Oakland, Calif. Oakland sits about 10 miles across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, the most expensive city in the U.S. thanks to the encroachment of Google and other Big Tech companies. We moved to the Bay Area from Santa Cruz after graduation, seeking to expand our professional horizons, and we stayed just shy of four years. Even as our professional lives did eventually take off, we struggled hard the whole time.</p><p dir="ltr">Just about everyone I knew who wasn’t working for a giant tech firm was overworked and underpaid, just scraping by to exist in the city. (Except for one person who works for a big pharmaceutical testing company, and another couple several years older who purchased their house more than a decade ago in an area that has become increasingly expensive ever since.) (This <a href="" target="_blank">AlterNet article</a> outlines the boom of Oakland’s housing market and the impacts of gentrification.)</p><p dir="ltr">Oakland, once a reasonable alternative for many people who worked in the bigger city across the bay, has become unreasonable. In December 2015, SF Gate reported that Oakland had the <a href="" target="_blank">fourth highest rents</a> in the country. And it’s about to get worse as big companies such as Uber set their sights on <a href="" target="_blank">Oakland’s soul</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">I found steady income in Oakland after a rough first year of working seven days a week more than full-time—weekends all day at a small plant nursery, interning full time for a small magazine for $700 a month, and freelancing. Thank goodness for food stamps, or after rent, I wouldn’t have been able to eat. After a couple of years in the Bay I was hired as an editor at AlterNet, which took a lot of the load off and allowed me to pay for my own groceries, as well as get health insurance and share a 2001 Subaru Legacy with 150k miles on it with my partner.  But even with steady work, the struggle deepened as time went on.</p><p>Between 2012 and 2013 San Francisco was dubbed the most expensive city in the U.S., as more and more tech companies moved to the area and rents kept creeping up. Around 2014, instead of creeping, rents were skyrocketing. Along with rent, rose the price of just about everything else. One day you’d be buying beers on tap at your favorite little pub at the longtime standard of $5 a pop, then a few months later you might glance down at the tab and you’d been ordering pints for $7, $8 or sometimes even $9 each. Same story with gas, clothing and groceries (in particular our most beloved of California commodities, avocados).</p><p>Even the price of sunlight went up in a sense, as the fees to park at or take public transportation to outdoor recreational areas (and anywhere else) went up. The cost of living, even very humbly, was insane. People talked about it all the time; no matter what you made or who you were, it was impossible not to notice the difference.</p><p dir="ltr">At the end of 2015, my partner and I were paying $1850 a month for a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. Real estate companies attempting to “<a href="" target="_blank">rebrand</a>" Oakland” have labeled Temescal “up and coming”—which to many Oaklanders these days sounds like code for “white and wealthy." Our place was dingy, there were no windows in the bedroom, no dishwasher, and only an overpriced laundry unit in the small flea-infested yard we shared with about 25 other tenants. This was considered a steal, and our friends envied us for our incredible find. When we decided to move out of the little unit near the end of last year, our landlord told us he was thinking of renting it out for $3,000 a month. </p><p dir="ltr">I was making $30 an hour for writing work when we left the area, living stingily, eating in most nights and going out only occasionally. But with all of my expenses, in the almost three years we were in that apartment, I was able to save just under $1,000.</p><p dir="ltr">And mine is the story of privilege in the Bay Area. I’m a white woman raised in a mid- to upper-middle-class family, with a BA degree from one of the top universities in the country. My black and Latino neighbors whose homes surrounded mine were up against odds that far surpassed my own.</p><p dir="ltr">It could be argued that I was part of the gentrification problem that plagues the region, as well as many others. I didn’t come to the neighborhood to infringe on anyone already living there. I moved to the apartment because it was the first one within our budget that accepted us, after a long and competitive Craigslist hunt. My partner and I did our best to support the local businesses and get to know our neighbors, many of whom were families of color who’d been living in Temescal for decades before we arrived. We always went to the local market down the street and we got into long conversations with the owners of the Brick Pig’s House, an old Oakland roots BBQ spot a couple doors down. My friends and I played pickup basketball games with the teenagers blasting an enviable selection of old school hip-hop at the park across the street. Gentrification—and doing as little of it as possible—was something I held in mind with serious respect. Even so, I was a white person who came to this once sketchy part of town because I could afford to. Despite my best intentions, I was what you would call a circumstantial gentrifier.</p><p dir="ltr">Largely because of gentrification, racial tensions are high in Oakland and San Francisco. More than once strangers yelled at me for walking around in my neighborhood, because I am visibly not someone who was raised there. I can’t really blame people for yelling—I’m pretty mad, too. I hate that people are being pushed out of their homes in favor of more privileged transplants. To a lesser degree, the exact same thing has happened to me.</p><p dir="ltr">The true culprit behind displacement and gentrification is a complex ricochet effect that arguably began with the tech boom, as large Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook and Apple were drawn to this desirable and nearby area. As their money has flooded the city, landlords and business owners have hiked up prices and ultimately life in San Francisco has become too expensive for many artists, laborers and others who don’t receive salaries comparable to those of tech workers. Many of those San Franciscans have moved to Oakland, which remains less expensive (if only slightly). That migration includes many tech startup workers who can’t afford to buy or rent in San Francisco and have heard Oakland is more affordable. As Oakland has been inundated with this mass influx of people from across the bay, landlords and businesses over here have in turn hiked up their prices, forcing longtime locals further into the outskirts.</p><p dir="ltr">Another important piece of the problem are the unethical practices of these tech giants. The most obvious example is the tech companies’ corporate shuttles that allow non-locals to be driven into the city from Silicon Valley aboard luxury buses, which have earned the nickname Google buses. Mass protests have gathered to stop the buses, and in response, the city of San Francisco recently forbade those private buses from using public bus stops. But the mass displacement of San Francisco’s people and the white-washing <a href="" target="_blank">gentrification</a> of its streets have not reversed (<a href="" target="_blank">Truthout</a> has an in-depth snapshot of the situation).</p><p dir="ltr">Another thing to note is the greed of some landlords. As rents have skyrocketed in the last three to five years, mortgages have remained relatively stable, and some landlords have been charging more just because they can. Because of this trend, and similar situations in New York, Los Angeles and many other metropolitan areas, it is officially the worst time in American history to <a href="" target="_blank">be a renter</a>. A <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> by the online real estate website Zillow showed in August how rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck.</p><p dir="ltr">My partner and I hit our stress limit late last year, and because we are so privileged, we actually had the option to leave. We looked into moving back to our hometown, which neighbors San Luis Obispo, but to our surprise the rent and cost of living rivaled Oakland's. Plus, the area is largely rural, far from any major city and there was little work for media people like us.</p><p dir="ltr">After hearing whispers of a promised land up north where one could afford an entire house for the price of our stuffy Oakland apartment, we packed everything into a UHaul, and moved in with our parents for the month of December to save money for a trip to the Pacific Northwest.</p><p dir="ltr">Our decision was part of a frustrating catch 22. By moving to Portland, where we ultimately settled, we are contributing to that city's own price inflation. A new report by <a href="" target="_blank">,</a> shows that the rates of rent increases in Portland are now the highest in the country. Rents went up on average 14 percent between February and March, and the report states that rent on a one-bedroom apartment jumped from $1,143 to $1,303, which was the highest percent of the top 10 cities with rent increases. While the rent increases and other cost-of-living hikes do not yet rival those in California, they’re ascending fast.</p><p dir="ltr">Whenever I tell fellow Californians I moved to Portland, they respond with, “But isn’t it so rainy there?” Yes, it is rainy here. And it is cold. And it is no California. It rained just about every day until about two weeks into April. But after living in a drought state for the last several years, this lush, green place is refreshing. I like many things about living here. I don’t like everything. There is a serious lack of cultural diversity, and Portland is one of the whitest cities I’ve ever seen. There are huge homeless encampments here, and its own (growing) gentrification problems have forced low-income communities (including many people of color) futher and further out of the city. But many of the people who are here don’t seem as miserable as in the Bay— and I’m guessing that has a lot to do with being able to afford their lives.</p><p dir="ltr">There’s a calm air sweeping through this cold place—one the Bay Area exhaled years ago. People in the Bay Area just aren’t very happy. My partner liked to point out the perma-frowns plastered on San Francisco faces. You’d expect those faces in New York City, maybe, which is known for being hyper-competitive. But San Francisco was long revered as a cultural epicenter of artists, free love, experimentation, political activism, and celebration of diversity. Now San Francisco is like a skeleton of what it once was. It is the garish picture of a once-magical city that has largely lost its soul, as all but the techies have been pushed out or forced to scrape by.</p><p dir="ltr">It scares me to think that as more and more people are driven from California, they will do as I did and come here. People in the Pacific Northwest are frustrated, reasonably, with Californian transplants. But it’s not a new trend; at least not according to a man in his 60s I met while we were sitting naked in a (very Portland) community hot tub. He moved to Oregon from California in his 20s, and he’s been here for 45 years. He said he and his friends, most of them fellow transplants, have always joked about the “great Californian migration” that just keeps coming.</p><p dir="ltr">But these days it’s happening at a more rapid pace, and prices are already starting to hike. The Big Tech monster is already casting its <a href="" target="_blank">shadow</a> over Seattle and its artists, as rent prices continue <a href="" target="_blank">their climb</a>. While tech isn’t as big in Portland, rents have been <a href="" target="_blank">climbing more</a> than in most U.S. cities, and they’re getting steep enough so that everyone I meet here mentions the trend.</p><p dir="ltr">But in Portland, my partner and I share a spacious house in the trees that is more than triple the size of the Oakland apartment and costs less. It’s freezing here, and I shiver a lot. It’s hard to get motivated to leave my bed some mornings because the skies are so gray. But it’s new, which makes it exciting, and it has its own— if damper— flavor of beauty.</p><p dir="ltr">I’m grateful I had the option to move when things got too tough for me in California, but most people aren’t so lucky. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I know it begins with raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so that people who don’t make extravagant tech salaries can at least have a shot at making a living. And because of the plight of my generation, the millennials, I wish that would start with the election of a Democratic Socialist senator from Vermont who promises to help us rise up and rein in corporate greed. It’s time to tax the wealthy proportionately in order to afford basic social programs like healthcare, Social Security and education. That's why one of the first things I did upon landing here was register as a Democrat in Oregon. I’m still going to cast my vote for Bernie Sanders on May 17 because I am among the displaced, and so many other people have it so much worse.<br /><br />[**The song "California Dreamin'" is originally by the Mamas and the Papas, not the Beach Boys. But the Beach Boys version is the one I had in my head.]</p> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 11:25:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1055160 at Economy Culture Economy Hard Times USA Visions california pacific northwest oregon portland expensive rent privileged privilege afford money wealthy gentrification gentrify tech google Uber facebook technology boom apple san francisco oakland los angeles san luis obispo The Creepy Way Processed Food Packaging Messes With Your Hormones <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new study shows common plastic packaging steeps food in industrial chemicals.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/51552-burger-and-fries.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><p>As if it weren’t already enough of a headache to find non-toxic, safe and healthy food to eat, a recent study published in the journal <a href="">Environmental Health Perspective</a> reveals that the packaging used for certain food products can impact hormones. Researchers for the study found that people who eat more fast food have significantly increased rates of phthalates—industrial chemicals used to make plastics—in their systems. The study authors attribute the trend to chemicals seeping from plastic packaging into foods.</p><p dir="ltr">The study asked 8,877 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examinations Surveys between 2003 and 2010 to report all the food they had eaten within last 24 hours. Participants also donated a urine sample to the study. Researchers tested each urine sample for the industrial chemicals di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) and bisphenol A (BPA)—all of which are suspected to impact health and hormones.</p><p dir="ltr">The results showed people for whom fast food made up 35% or more of their daily food consumption had higher rates of DEHP (24%) and DiNP (40%), compared to those who did not eat fast food. There was no significant correlation between BPA and fast food.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast foods often comes in packaging that contains phthalates, as do a number of processed grocery store items, according to the <a href="">American Chemistry Council.</a></p><p>While the study did not show a correlation between BPA in the blood and fast-food consumption, <a href="">researchers concluded</a> in 2008 that plastics containing BPA can and do seep into foods, and then into the bloodstream. Since then, BPA has been banned by many food packaging manufacturers, which could potentially explain its absence in the recent study.</p><p dir="ltr">A<em> </em><a href=""><em>Time</em> article</a> on April 13 discussed the recent study results in detail, and spoke with study author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Zota told <em>Time,</em>"The same range of concentrations measured in this [group] overlaps with the range of concentrations that have been measured in some of epidemiological studies that find adverse health effects.”</p><p dir="ltr">Thanks to efforts to educate the public that date back to the '50s, most people now know chemicals are entering our food supply in a number of ways. Studies continue to link chemicals with common <a href="">cancers</a>, like <a href="">breast cancers</a>, as well as other health issues like reproductive abnormalities in men and women. Despite mass efforts to rein in the big companies like Monsanto that are responsible for the creation of <a href="">many chemical poisons</a>, toxins continue to make their way into our food supply all the time via packaging, pesticides sprayed on crops, and antibiotics and hormones given to poultry, pigs and cattle in industrial factory farm operations.</p><p>Many people are generally aware that fast food is unhealthy (toxic chemicals aside, fast food contributes to high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity), and it’s likely the average person has heard that processed foods contain cancer-causing carcinogens. Still, Americans continue to consume these foods at perversely high rates. According to the <a href="">United States Healthful Food Council,</a> the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week and more than 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day. Americans spend an average of $100 billion on fast food each year. </p><p dir="ltr">Ami Zota spoke to this piece of the puzzle in the<em> Time</em> interview, which points out that “about a third of all the people in the study had eaten fast food in the prior day.”</p><p dir="ltr">“That’s a lot,” Zota said. “That alone tells you the public health impact of this type of food preparation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Zota also told Time that in addition to chemicals leaching into food through packaging, “plastic gloves and conveyer belts could also be sources.”</p><p dir="ltr">The study concludes that, “Fast food may be a source of exposure to DEHP and DiNP. These results, if confirmed, could inform individual and regulatory exposure reduction strategies.”</p></div><p> </p> Sat, 23 Apr 2016 10:21:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1055158 at Food Food Personal Health fast food diet health personal health poverty bernie sanders time magazine fight for $15 minimum wage POVERTY WAGES diabetes cancer breast cancer carcinogens food food safety fda packaging hormones bpa dehp dinp zota Bedbugs Are Getting Tougher to Eradicate: The Big Myths and Facts About the Bloodsucking Pests <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They&#039;ve been developing thicker exoskeletons to resist insecticides. Good luck sleeping tight.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bed_bug_265_17.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite—and if they do bite, good luck killing them because they’ve been developing thicker skins to resist insecticides.</p><p dir="ltr">Creepy, right? Creepy but true. The itchy little tormentors of sleeping people everywhere (they live in every U.S. state according to <a href="" target="_blank">Scientific American</a>) are growing stronger exoskeletons, according to new research. A <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> published April 13 in the journal <em>Plos One</em> concludes that changes in bedbugs’ “cuticle thickness, the lipid composition” (i.e. the exoskeleton) “and passage of insecticides” does not bode so well for the future use of insecticides to control their populations.</p><p dir="ltr">David Lilly, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney, along with colleagues, studied the little bloodsuckers, exposing them to insecticides and observing how they responded. They found that the bedbugs that survived 24 hours after exposure had thicker skins than the ones that died within the first few hours.</p><p dir="ltr">An <a href="" target="_blank">article in <em>Newsweek</em></a><em></em>discussing the recent study explains this isn’t the first time the sly bedbug has outsmarted the insecticide:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Besides cuticle thickening, bedbugs have also evolved other tricks to stay a step ahead of insecticide. Pyrethroid insecticides <a href="" target="_blank">target the sodium channels</a> within the insect's nervous system, where they bind and wreak havoc with the animal’s nerve communication, which ultimately leads to their death. But the insects have begun to evolve mutations in the proteins that control these channels, termed <a href="" target="_blank">kdr mutations</a>, which prevent the chemical from binding and interfering. The insects have also evolved the ability to produce a variety of enzymes that can detoxify insecticides.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">In 1972, the nasty pesticide DDT (which was the primary bedbug killer on the market) was banned because it carries a myriad of awful health risks to humans, wildlife and birds. Apparently, by that time most bed bugs were already resistant to DDT, according to the same Scientific American <a href="" target="_blank">article</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Super (Bed)Bugs</p><p dir="ltr">Bedbugs are by no means the first pest to develop a resistance to our overuse of insecticides and other chemical deterrents. Chemical pesticide and herbicide resistance is a common issue for Big Ag producers. Over time, various crop-threatening creatures and plants have evolved with stronger resistance to pesticides and herbicides. This has led to a dangerous trend by which stronger and stronger chemical concoctions are sprayed onto food crops. This in turn endangers the health of the people who eat those crops, since <a href="" target="_blank">we now know</a> poisonous chemicals sprayed on food crops seeps into those plants and poisons us as well (ending in cancers, birth defects and other serious health issues). (Herbicides and pesticides are also wreaking havoc with the health of wildlife, birds and insect pollinators.) A similar trend is happening in our own bodies, as well as in our livestock, as harmful bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and stronger and stronger antibiotics are prescribed, cycling eventually to the <a href="" target="_blank">creation</a> of dangerous “superbug” illnesses.</p><p>So, if we don’t want to create super-bedbugs, it might be time to think about controlling their populations using chemical-free means. Here is one list of natural, non-toxic bedbug <a href="" target="_blank">control tactics</a>, though the effectiveness of many of these methods hasn’t been scientifically verified to date.</p><p dir="ltr">Common Bedbug Myths Debunked</p><p dir="ltr">What exactly are bedbugs and why do they insist on tormenting us? They are flat, brownish-red parasites that go by the scientific name Cimex lectularius. They feed solely on mammalian and avian blood and have been ruining our nights since ancient times. (AlterNet covered bedbugs <a href="">back in 2010</a>.) They were just about wiped out following WWII (due to better hygiene and the widespread use of insecticides) but they’re baaaack.</p><p dir="ltr">There are a lot of urban legends out there surrounding the little parasites. Let us recount a few corrections Scientific American made in 2011 to common misconceptions about the bedbug:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">1. Bedbugs don’t only bite when you’re sleeping tight. They can get you anytime. In a <a href="" target="_blank">2011 article</a>, Scientific American described their biting schedule thusly: “Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they're like humans—if they're hungry, they'll get up and get something to eat. ...Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.”</p><p dir="ltr">2. The good news is, bedbugs don’t actually spread diseases (other than maybe anxiety), as Scientific American <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a>. The bad news is they do carry pathogens, including, “At least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more.”</p><p dir="ltr">3. Turns out they don’t care whether your apartment is crystal clean or a pigsty. They just want your blood. Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, told Scientific American in 2011: "Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory” as they live with people both rich and poor, clean and dirty, old and young. According to Scientific American, “the prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect's preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies.”</p></blockquote><p>However infuriating bedbugs may be, some people find them fascinating—people like Brooke Borel who wrote a whole book about them titled <em><a href="">Infested</a></em>. Borel wrote an article in <em><a href="">Popular Science</a> </em>last July on the weirdness of bedbugs. He explains that just one mated female can cause a whole infestation, "which means the insects seem okay with <a href="" target="_blank">inbreeding</a>; they mate through <a href="" target="_blank">traumatic insemination</a>; and they survive solely on blood, often ours."</p><p>The main point in the article was to explain a newly discoverd bedbug phenomenon: they can inherit mitochondrial DNA from both parents. "This might not sound as intriguing as the fact that a male bed bug ejaculates right into the body cavity of a female bed bug," Borel writes. "But it is."</p><p>He explains that mitochondria have their own unique DNA, which is passed down solely through the mother in most species. When both parents contribute, it's called "heteroplasmy." In addition to bedbugs, heteroplasmy is seen in "fruit flies, mosquitoes, bees, mussels, and more," Borel notes. And it appears bedbugs might have a higher rate of heteroplasmy than the "other mitochondrial misfits." The Journal of Medical Entomology published preliminary research on the subject.</p><p>At this point you may be scratching your bedbug bites and thinking, "Bedbugs are weird. So what?" Apparently their genetic strangeness is providing scientists with new insights into complex biological systems and they could be a unique model for vast areas of further study.</p><p>If you're worried about an infestation, you may want to peruse the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website page on <a href="">bedbugs</a>, which is complete with tips including how to avoid them, scout for them, ID them and get rid of them. </p> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 11:08:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1055039 at Personal Health Personal Health bedbugs bed bug bug bed sleep itch parasite health Insecticide monsanto poison how do I kill bedbugs get rid of bedbugs scientific american popular science creepy bloodsuckers mosquitos insecticides pesticides pesticide toxic bomb health risks disease ddt superbugs antibiotics PLOS One Unmarried Women Are Called 'Leftovers' in China: Viral Ad Combats That Sexist Message <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If you happen to be born with a vagina in China and haven’t tied the knot by 25, you’re labeled a &quot;leftover woman.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-04-09_at_11.35.09_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Women in China are expected to marry by the time they’re about 27, or else they’re considered incomplete and a disappointment or embarrassment to their families. That sexist sentiment doesn’t just come in the form of insidious advertisements or those not-so-subtle hints from mom during the holidays (the way it often arrives here). In China, there's a special shaming term, “sheng nu,” designed to rub singledom in women’s faces. It literally translates to “leftover woman.”</p><p dir="ltr">Can we take a second to think about the social implications of that label? If you happen to be born with a vagina in China and haven’t tied the knot by the time society says you should, you’re told you’re a leftover. Little girls grow up hearing the term, likely fearing it might someday come to label them, too. Worse still, they grow up measuring their worth based on the way men respond to them. </p><p dir="ltr">The Chinese skincare brand SK-II was fed up with this rotten <em>sheng nu</em> business and recently launched a commercial aimed to combat the idea that unmarried  women are incomplete.</p><p dir="ltr">The video, which has gone <a href="">viral</a>, begins with snapshots of parents explaining why they are ashamed of their unmarried daughters. One father says, "If she can't find the one, it will be heart disease for me.” The video hints at the way social pressures on women to marry young can spiral into women being discouraged to explore the world, focus on their careers or have their own adventures, rather than settling into a lifelong relationship before they’re even 30.</p><p dir="ltr">The story shifts when the parents in the video visit a matchmaking "marriage market" and read a bulletin full of messages from their daughters. The messages are self-affirmations, like one that states, "I don't want to get married just for the sake of marriage, I won’t be happy that way.” The parents appear moved and the video ends with a single woman who states, "I'm confident. I'm independent. I love life. I'm a pretty outstanding woman.”</p><p dir="ltr">Watch the video below:</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><div class="media-youtube-outer-wrapper" id="media-youtube-1" style="width: 312px; height: 222px;"> <div class="media-youtube-preview-wrapper" id="media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"> <object width="312" height="222"> <param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="312" height="222" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> <script type="text/javascript"><!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- if (Drupal.settings && Drupal.media_youtube) { Drupal.settings.media_youtube = Drupal.settings.media_youtube || {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"] = {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].width = 312; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].height = 222; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].video_id = "irfd74z52Cw"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].fullscreen = true; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].id = "media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1_iframe"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"].options = { autoplay: 0 }; Drupal.media_youtube.insertEmbed("media_youtube_irfd74z52Cw_1"); } //--><!]]> </script></div> </div> </div><p> </p> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 11:23:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1054272 at Gender Culture Gender World leftover woman women sexism China video skincare SK-II How Burning Herbs Cleanse Your Space—No, Really. They Can Kill Bacteria <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The ancient practice of &quot;smudging&quot; is apparently antiseptic, which might come in handy to replace chemical cleaners and antibiotics.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/smudging.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I strike a match and hold it up to a bundle of dried sage. A flame ignites, and I let it burn for a moment, then blow it out. A cleansing dark blue-to-white ombré of smoke swirls around the room, purifying the space. And I don’t mean that energetically or symbolically. As it turns out, smudging—as the ancient practice of burning sage and other herbs is called—appears to have antiseptic, bacteria-killing properties.</p><p dir="ltr">The results of a study that set out to examine the potential uses of smudging in Western medicine were published in a 2006 <a href="">scientific paper</a> titled “Medicinal Smokes,” in the <em>Journal of Ethnopharmacology.</em>The researchers behind the study undertook it based on the fact that "All through time, humans have used smoke of medicinal plants to cure illness," as the study's abstract states.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the abstract, “All through time, humans have used smoke of medicinal plants to cure illness. To the best of our knowledge, the ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products' smoke for therapy and health care have not been studied. ... The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.” The practice of smudging is an ancient one, but it has never gone away. People all over the world (over five continents, according to the study) still burn sage and other herbs, usually for spiritual purposes like "energetic cleansing," or to call on the energetic properties of a given plant.</p><p dir="ltr">It drew on research from 50 countries around the globe and found that according to various human medicinal practices dating back to ancient civilization, “inhalation of smoke is typically used in the treatment of pulmonary and neurological disorders and directed smoke in localized situations, such as dermatological and genito-urinary disorders.” However, the key finding was that in those traditions, “ambient smoke is not directed at the body at all but used as an air purifier.”</p><p dir="ltr">Therefore, a <a href="">follow-up paper was published in the same journal</a> eleven months later, examining those air purifying potentials of smoke, or smudging.</p><p dir="ltr">That paper concludes that, “medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria” (this is actually the title of the paper’s abstract). This study observed the effects of “burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs” on the “aerial bacterial population” in a closed room for 60 minutes. The results showed 94 percent of the aerial bacteria were eliminated. The abstract also states that “The ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24h in the closed room.”</p><p dir="ltr">Ultimately, the research concluded that in addition to potential health benefits, smudging is a viable, and strong, antiseptic. The final sentence in the study’s abstract states, “We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”</p><p dir="ltr">As our overuse of antibiotics and cleaning products has resulted in the threat of “super bugs” that have become immune to our pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, it is time we looked more closely at the alternatives. It is encouraging that natural remedies as simple as lighting a bundle of plants on fire, might actually be viable. Other research and scientific study has shown us that essential oils could potentially replace antibiotics, and as my friend and fellow journalist Elizabeth Limbach points out in her <a href="">detailed article on the topic</a>, “medicinal applications of essential oils are currently <a href="">being studied</a> in the United States, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and India.”</p><p dir="ltr">The issue is a lack of research, which is likely due to a combination of <a href="">Big Pharma’s overwhelming control</a> over the medicine and health-care space, as well as a societal stigma that surrounds traditional medicine practices. An article on smudging published last year on <a href=""></a> explained this ugly phenomenon well, stating:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">Of course, there are <a href="">skeptics</a> who belittle the practice as unscientific and akin to magic. The practice has a negative association to a form of cultural imperialism, where traditions of dwindling indigenous populations are co-opted by the descendants of those who more-or-less conquered them.</p></blockquote><p>Additional research is necessary before we have conclusive evidence showing us exactly how smudging, essential oils and other herb-based remedies might come to play in the future of Western medicine. But what we've seen so far suggests human healing practices might just come full-circle.</p> Wed, 06 Apr 2016 13:09:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1054073 at Personal Health Belief Personal Health smudging smoke science health personal health bacteria Meet Rick Doblin, Psychedelic Pioneer Who Has Expanded the Boundaries of Medicine <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies discusses three decades of psychedelic research. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/1970rickinrussia.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When Rick Doblin founded his psychedelics research and education organization in 1986, he was a young therapist-in-training and proud Vietnam War draft-resister. The organization was his response to a decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to list MDMA (aka Molly or Ecstasy) as a Schedule I, felony-offense drug.</p><p>Prior to MDMA’s illegal status, Doblin had witnessed its healing potentials first-hand during sessions with people. He, along with a niche contingent of therapists in the early '80s, had found that MDMA—which was <a href="">originally synthesized</a> for pharmaceutical use in 1912— seemed to help people open up about blocked or buried feelings and traumas. But the government’s crackdown on MDMA arrived after the drug made its way onto the dance floors of mid-'80s nightclubs and became wildly popular in recreational settings.</p><p></p><div alt="Rick Doblin with Albert Hoffman." class="media-image" height="330" style="width: 480px; height: 330px;" width="480"><img alt="Rick Doblin with Albert Hoffman." class="media-image" height="330" style="width: 480px; height: 330px;" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/rd-albert_hofmann_crop_1_ps2_img001_4.jpg" /></div><p><em>Photo: Rick Doblin with Albert Hofman, the first person to synthesize and ingest LSD. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Thirty years later, Doblin’s nonprofit, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is arguably responsible for some of the biggest breakthroughs in the recent history of health and psychology. It has sponsored unprecedented human clinical trials—all legal and government-approved—looking into the ability of various psychedelics to mitigate psychological problems. MAPS studies usually involve participants ingesting a given substance in a living room-like setting under the supervision of a male/female co-therapist team and working through chronic issues like severe anxiety, PTSD, depression or addiction.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, a MAPS-backed <a href="">study</a> in Switzerland revealed that LSD can ease anxiety for patients facing the end of life. It was the first clinical trial to look into LSD for therapeutic use in more than 40 years, and made worldwide headlines for its encouraging results. Their research looking at MDMA for PTSD is on course to enter phase III trials, after which, depending on the results, MDMA could be approved by the FDA and other government agencies as a medication prescribed by doctors for use in session with a therapist. Other current <a href="">psychedelic research</a> aims to assess the clinical potentials of DMT, ayahuasca, psilocybin, ketamine and mescaline, among other substances. The results of MAPS’ phase I and II clinical trials have been overwhelmingly positive.</p><p dir="ltr">Doblin spoke with me on the phone from his home office in Boston, Massachusetts, where he’s lived since 1998 (though he spends a good deal of time at MAPS headquarters in Santa Cruz, Calif.). He said running things “on remote control” gives him much-needed mental space to focus on his unending surge of objectives. We spoke on March 18, just hours before a monumental moment for MAPS: the DEA’s recommendation to approve the Arizona location where the first ever U.S.-based, independent <a href="">clinical study of marijuana</a> as a potential medicine for PTSD is set to take place. The DEA thumbs-up was the last hurdle keeping the long-blockaded <a href="">research effort</a> on pause.</p><p>Doblin spoke with AlterNet about MAPS’ metamorphosis from an off-the-radar collection of psychedelic activists into the well-respected institution it is today. Referencing a recent show of interest from Stanford and Harvard in hosting upcoming MAPS studies, he joked he was afraid he was losing his edge.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="381" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="381" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/rick-rgb.jpg" /></div><p><em>Photo: Rick Doblin today. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr">When he founded MAPS, he was a rebellious young college student in training to be a therapist, who threw the ramshackle effort together with a small group of colleagues, because, he said, it was scarier not to try to change the world than it was to try. He had no idea at the time what he was taking on, nor how much his work might begin to shift social consciousness around drugs and health on a global scale. Today he’s a 62-year-old father who has raised three children—two of whom are already out of the nest—and runs a company of 20 employees.</p><p>MAPS will celebrate its <a href="">30-year anniversary</a> with a banquet dinner fundraiser on April 17 in Oakland, Calif. With this milestone in mind, Doblin reflected on three decades of psychedelic hurdles and quantum leaps.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>April M. Short: So you’re about to celebrate 30 years of MAPS. How are you feeling about that?</strong></p><p>Rick Doblin: Where did the time go? I’m feeling pretty good about it. I feel like where we’re at right now is a great spot. I’m very optimistic and hopeful and whether we should have been here 20 years ago or whatever, the fact that we’re here at all is so good that I’m not bitter about it.</p><p>It’s more just sad actually to think about all of those people with PTSD who have committed suicide and all the suffering that’s taken place that doesn’t really need to take place if we have these drugs. So that’s the hardest part, just to think—it was obvious 30 years ago when I started MAPS that MDMA had incredible therapeutic potential, it’s not like we just discovered it or anything.</p><p><strong>AMS: Did you expect MAPS to last 30 years?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Somehow or other, when I started it, I had a much shorter time horizon. I didn’t know how long things would take, but I did know I would stick at it however long it took. I guess I’m not surprised that it’s taken 30 years, culturally.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, what has changed for me is that I’ve become a parent. I’ve already got two out of the three kids out of the house and into college. And when you look back and you think about, where’d the time go? I now realize that 20 years isn’t really that long. So, having a 20-year plan or a 30-year plan makes sense.</p><p dir="ltr">And then when you think about it, it was just 150 years ago we had the Civil War and people kept slaves; and it was 100 years ago or so that women couldn’t vote. So when you think about cultural change, it takes multiple generations for things to happen—sometimes centuries or thousands of years. I think maybe it was a little bit unrealistic to think that when I started MAPS in ‘86 that by ‘96 we should have MDMA as a medicine. I don’t really begrudge the time or anything like that, it’s more just the unnecessary suffering so many people have gone through when MDMA and psilocybin and other psychedelics—and marijuana— could have been incredibly helpful.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: You <a href="">told me</a> at the 2013 Psychedelics Science Conference in Oakland that you initially founded MAPS in response to the DEA’s announcement that it planned to designate MDMA as a Schedule I drug. This was in 1984. It meant the restriction of its availability and indicated it had high abuse potential with no accepted medical use. </strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>At the time you had been using MDMA to aid in therapy. </strong><strong>Can you talk a bit about that time in your life?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">What was really frustrating was to win the DEA administrative judge lawsuit and have the judge say MDMA should be available as a therapeutic medicine, even though it should be criminalized for recreational use—and then to see the DEA reject that recommendation. That was the frustrating part that really led to starting MAPS: to realize that there was no way politically. We had been completely blocked, and the only way was gonna be to try to use the science to make it through.</p><p dir="ltr">... I had started out as—I was a draft resister for Vietnam—and I was an LSD user, so my identification was as this counter-culture drug-using criminal. So that’s kind of who I thought of myself as, who I was. I just kind of accepted that. I learned about LSD by taking it in the ‘70s. And, well, I’ll tell you: waking up to LSD and the therapeutic uses was early in ‘72, just as it was being shut down. So, I always felt like I was kind of slow to the party, I didn’t know what was going on until it was all smashed.</p><p dir="ltr">And then, when I learned about MDMA in 1982, it was this incredible situation because it was still legal, but it was already being sold as Ecstasy. So, it was clear that there was gonna be a crackdown. I felt like, here was my opportunity. Now I’ve learned about it beforehand and I can see what’s coming, and everybody else that’s involved in this therapeutic community can too. And so I said, OK, let’s get organized. Let’s fight this.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: How did you do that?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Well, that’s where I started blending a little bit more, from being this counter-culture drug-using criminal. A friend of mine had this nonprofit, Earth Metabolic Design Labs, that he wasn’t using, and it was written in such a way that it could justify supporting MDMA, and that’s where I started seeing, wow, the "system" has some some pretty progressive elements that give you the ability to fight the system. And you can give people tax reductions to help you fight the system. I thought, This is pretty amazing.</p><p dir="ltr">This was sort of like my coming out from the underground and onto the surface. It was a really exciting time. For instance, when I went to the DEA—well, let’s back up. The Huichol Indians, who use peyote [in ceremony], have this tradition of doing yarn art. They also make these bags, sort of peyote carrying bags. I had this yarn peyote bag, and I used that as my briefcase. When I was finally going to go to the DEA to file the petition in Washington demanding the hearing about MDMA’s therapeutic use, I carried the petition in my Huichol peyote bag. It was a good contrast. I knocked on the door of the DEA and went in, and that was this sort of crossing line between being underground, and hidden in a way, and also surfacing.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/rick__john_lilly_roberta_tonimaps.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Rick Doblin with famed psychonaut John Lilly and friends. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: And you’ve kept surfacing ever since?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Right—well, that felt good. The big worry that I’d had was: culture’s going crazy and scapegoating, the way we still do with drugs, and the way Donald Trump is doing now. The same way Hitler did—the way people scapegoat others for problems. I always felt like I was scared of doing nothing. I felt doing nothing could yield insanity, and nuclear arms race, and nuclear warfare and genocide. So it was that sort of crossing into the DEA office and handing in that petition that actually made me feel safer, and not less safe. That was a feeling that really surprised me. I thought, “They don’t have any idea who I am, and that’s been good, and here it is I’m walking in the door and handing them all these papers and they’ve got my name on them.”</p><p dir="ltr">But that made me feel safer.</p><p dir="ltr">So, I think that’s been my main experience over the past 30 years: Trying to argue for psychedelic research, for marijuana research, for ending the drug war, and sort of the deeper aspect of it—which is this global spirituality. Psychedelics can help people have these unitive mystical experiences, and how those have political implications in the direction of peace and tolerance and understanding. Once I started doing that I just kept feeling safer, and safer, and safer, rather than more and more at risk. I think that’s what’s helped me do this for 30 years.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: And that fear of losing anonymity and maybe putting oneself at risk is maybe what often keeps people from becoming activists, or involved in whatever cause they deeply believe in.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: I think so. I think the way to say it for me is that it was a bigger fear, the bigger fear of doing nothing. You know, growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust and the Cuban missile crisis; and with the arms race with the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War—just doing nothing was the bigger fear.  </p><p dir="ltr">A lot of times when I would be stopped by the DEA or FDA or review boards and they would be blocking everything we were doing, and I’d get super frustrated, I would think, God, my life is so easy compared to the concentration camps, or compared to being in Vietnam or compared to being black in America. Those things all just made me feel like, how hard is it really, for me? That just made it easier to keep going.</p><p><strong>AMS: So three decades later, MAPS has a lot cooking. What would you say are your biggest successes?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Well, it was in the last week. The biggest success is coming to the conclusion of the Phase II [MDMA]-PTSD pilot studies, and negotiating with regulatory authorities about moving to Phase III. Because [Phase III trials] are where it really starts to be a conversation about making these things into legal prescription medicines. So, that’s the biggest success.</p><p dir="ltr">Also just in the last week, what's been fantastic is that I’ve had conversations with researchers at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and a meeting’s going to be taking place at Stanford, about whether they would be Phase III sites for MDMA-PTSD research. So, there’s an interest. I don’t know if any of these negotiations will result in studies at those locations. But I’ve told several friends of mine I’m worried I’m going to get too mainstream and lose my edge. We’re in danger of becoming too mainstream, is what’s happening now. [laughs] I’m willing to let it be even more dangerous— for that mainstreaming to accelerate. It is good to see.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ve had discussions with Tom Insel who was the head of NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health). The last time the NIMH funded psychedelic psychotherapy research was in 1966. (They’ve done a little bit recently with ketamine for the treatment of refractory depression.)</p><p dir="ltr">So, I see these cultural turning points. The other big thing for us is that since 1992 I’ve been trying to do marijuana research. And, just today in Phoenix, Arizona the DEA is inspecting the site for our marijuana PTSD study. That’s gonna be in about an hour, so as we’re talking, almost. </p><p dir="ltr">And, there’s the fact that we got our first government grant in 30 years from the State of Colorado, this $2.1 million grant for the marijuana study.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: That’s pretty big.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Yeah. We’re still trying to end the government monopoly on marijuana. Now, of course they don't’ have a monopoly on marijuana. They have a monopoly on DEA-licensed marijuana that can be used in FDA studies, and that feels like it’s coming—there’s a good chance before Obama leaves office, that we will have ended the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) monopoly. And they’ve had that since 1968. [See <a href="">Psychedelic Science Org's 14-Year Headache of Trying to Buy Pot From the Feds</a>.]</p><p dir="ltr">The fact that we’re about to start the study is the result of over 20 years of effort, just on marijuana.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Right. And people think MAPS, they think psychedelics, but studying cannabis has been a focus of yours for quite a while.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: The reason that I’m so focused on the marijuana project when my main interest is in the psychedelics is that it’s trying to win the principle, in a way, of science over politics.</p><p dir="ltr">I’m always worried about the backlash and where it might come from. As long as we’re doing all this research with psychedelics, that’s really positive and promising. But if politics is blocking research with marijuana, I worry there could be this potential backlash. If we can overcome that resistance, and we’ve just about done it, then that reinforces the idea of science over politics and protects the gains we’ve made with psychedelics.</p><p dir="ltr">The other thing that’s really exciting about 30 years is that within the last week, again, we’ve had discussions with teams who are thinking about doing MDMA-PTSD Phase III studies with us in Brazil, Columbia and Australia. The globalization, the internationalization of psychedelic research has been particularly gratifying because if there is a backlash in any one country, there are other countries.</p><p dir="ltr">It seems increasingly like the big backlash is not gonna happen. We’ve learned the lessons of the ‘60s. We’re not saying these are miracle drugs. We’re not trying to exaggerate the benefits and minimize the risks. And we’re not saying that if you take these drugs you’re gonna tear down the foundations of society.</p><p dir="ltr">There are so many people that have been influenced by psychedelics that are mainstream—one of the main ones being Steve Jobs—that it doesn't carry that same kind of revolutionary flavor anymore. It’s moved from revolution to evolution.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s part of cultural growth and change, but it’s not like “tear down the system.” I think that’s a big, big change in these 30 years. The thought that psychedelics can be mainstreamed into culture. It’s not “turn on, tune in and drop out,” it’s “turn on, tune in and take over.”  [laughter]</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="340" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="340" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/rick_and_tim_leary_jubilant_3.jpeg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Rick Doblin with a jubilant Timothy Leary. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: It seems pretty clear this sort of paradigm shifts in the kinds of strides MAPS and drug policy in general are taking is a sign of the times. Things are changing, however slowly. A lot of the war on drugs demonization and stigma is melting away. We see this especially with pot, but also psychedelics. That said, psychedelics and marijuana both remain federally illegal here as well as in most parts of the world—</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Right, and Canada, our neighbors to the north, are getting ready to legalize marijuana. And in Mexico, our neighbors to the south, they’re decriminalizing drugs. There was just a big conference on <a href="">ibogaine in Mexico</a>. With the Mexican cartels and all the violence, the negative consequences of drug prohibition are more apparent.</p><p dir="ltr">There was just this [meeting in Vienna of The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to prepare for the UNGASS meeting].</p><p dir="ltr"></p><p dir="ltr">MAPS had a representative there. Even in these international circles, there’s more of an openness to moving towards public health and harm reduction, rather than criminal justice. I think we’re really piosed as a global society to integrate psychedelics. The U.S. is kind of lagging behind.</p><p dir="ltr">My perspective is that mysticism is the antidote to fundamentalists. Where we see this rise of fundamentalism in a lot of places in the world, it’s like a desperate reaction against modernity, and science and globalization. It’s increasingly difficult for people to say, My way’s the only way.</p><p dir="ltr">If you even look at ISIS and the way that they’re trying to destroy all of the historical sites that are from other cultural contexts, it’s just this incredibly misguided and desperate attempt. So, how do we break out of that? It’s with this understanding of this global spirituality and global mysticism that we’re all in it together.</p><p dir="ltr">We can have different languages for it. Everybody uses words, but it’s all the same even though it's different languages. And I think we’ll get to that point with religion. We all are similarly trying to figure out what’s going on, what's the meaning and how do we implement a code of conduct? And we can have all these different languages from different religions, but we’re all basically doing the same thing, communicating about the same kinds of issues. It’s not like “English is better than German is better than French is better than Spanish.” They’re just different ways that grew up in different parts of the world to describe the same things.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="376" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="376" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/ps_2011_12_02___18_08_41_1.jpg" /></div><p><em>Photo: Young Rick Doblin. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: What is MAPS’ biggest challenge right now?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: The major challenge is that we have to make MDMA into a medicine. On the one hand, there’s the financial challenge. We estimate right now it will cost around $24 million. We already have half of that pledged or in hand, and I think we can raise the rest of it. So, even though it’s a major challenge, funding is not really the crucial issue. I think our major challenge is, how do we train therapists to work with MDMA?</p><p dir="ltr">There are a fair number of people, not that many, that are underground credentialed and above ground credentialed. Now, we’re reaching out to people that have the aboveground credentials but don’t have the underground credentials.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Underground meaning they’ve worked with people using psychedelics?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Right. So, how do we train people who are traditional psychotherapists, working with PTSD who have never done psychedelics. How do we train them to work with psychedelics? And, even people who are experienced with psychedelics, it’s one thing to take them yourself, it’s another to try to really help somebody else. To do phase III [of the MDMA trails] we’re probably gonna have to train 50-75 therapists. So, how do we do that?</p><p dir="ltr">The other big challenge is preparing the public. Doing public education for what’s coming so that it doesn't seem so scary.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the things we’ve noticed about other social justice movements like gay rights and gay marriage, is that what really contributed to the progress was the coming out of people saying that they were gay. Everybody maybe knew somebody that was gay and thought they were pretty good, but they didn’t know they were gay, so it didn't really change people's attitudes much. But, when people started coming out that started really changing. What we’re trying to figure out is how do we encourage this coming out about people with psychedelic experiences when it’s a crime, and it’s something that people are worried about?</p><p dir="ltr">So that’s where our big challenge is. How do we facilitate this coming out process we saw so effective with gay rights and gay marriage? Our <a href="">Global Psychedelic Dinners</a> are part of that. The idea is they provide this forum for people to feel comfortable in safe surroundings to share with their friends what psychedelics have meant to them, and then maybe be able to broaden it out to their parents or siblings or relatives.</p><p dir="ltr">There was a major entrepreneur, incredibly successful in technology, one of the most successful people in the world. And psychedelics have been very important to him in his life. He made a donation to us. I was saying to him, what would it take for you to say that in public? He said, Well, if you could get a list of 1,000 people that have some sort of a reputation for one thing or another, I would come out in a group of 1,000 people.</p><p dir="ltr">And, I was like, Hm, would you come out in a group of 100 people? [laughter]</p><p dir="ltr">So I think that the other part of it is changing the cultural attitudes to really facilitate this coming out process.  That’s why public education is so important.</p><p dir="ltr">I should probably talk about the Zendo Project. [A harm reduction effort in which MAPS trains volunteers at festivals to help care for people having bad trips. See the AlterNet article, “<a href="">How to Learn to Help People on Psychedelic Trips</a>.”]</p><p dir="ltr">Zendo’s part of this looking around at where the backlash is likely to come from. In the past it’s come from the political connotations. That’s no longer really at the top of people’s minds. I think what’s really driving the drug war now is parents’ fears about their children.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="321" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="321" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/inside_zendo.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Inside the Zendo at Burning Man, 2013. Courtesy of the Zendo Project.</em></p><p dir="ltr">A lot of times it’s young people going to festivals and taking drugs that, they don’t even know what they are, in unfamiliar surroundings that are not very supportive, and having these panic reactions or fears come up. And then they end up going to the authorities for help and then they get tranquilized or then they get arrested. So, that’s where I see the main tragedies are happening that could link towards creating negative publicity and backlash.</p><p>The Zendo Project has two functions. One is to try to show that in a post-prohibition world where people, particularly young people, are using these drugs at festivals, many times for spiritual purposes—for the sense of communion and group identification—when they do that, if there’s this safety net around them, many times if they can get support and reassurance they can actually learn and grow from the experience. That’s really important.</p><p dir="ltr">The other part of this is to think about training therapists. It’s also a way—for therapists that volunteer with us at Zendo around the world and want to start working on phase III trials with us— it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to have experiences in a group setting working with people taking drugs. It’s a tremendous situation for training therapists, for therapists to get feedback from each other and work with people who happen to be on psychedelics, in an unofficial capacity. It’s also building this model of how we could have a post-prohibition world and the risks are just vastly reduced.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s one of my proudest accomplishments, the Zendo project. It was also something we had a lot of debate about whether we should do—whether being involved with illegal use would somehow or other make regulators less likely to work with us.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/zendo_0.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: The Zendo at Burning Man, 2013. Courtesy of the Zendo Project.</em></p><p><strong>AMS: Has it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: It hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, it’s turned out the opposite because they see we’re trying to be responsible.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: In 2013, when I first interviewed you I was 24. You told me that the best piece of advice you could lend a young person starting out was basically to play the long game—plant seeds now that could come to fruition 10, 20, even 30 years down the line.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What things are you seeing play out now that you laid the groundwork for in the early days?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Well, the relationships with FDA that we’ve been building since actually the mid-‘80s. We have benefited greatly from the advice of—we have two consultants who used to work inside the FDA division of psychiatry products, including the head of it, and the head of toxicology. They’ve since left and now one of them is retired and one of them is consulting for Big Pharma. But they’ve agreed to consult with us, because they saw that we’re trying to do things the right way.</p><p dir="ltr">We also have our first DEA consultant, a senior retired DEA guy. Sadly, the reason is because his son enlisted in the military, went to Iraq and is 50% disabled by PTSD, and he uses marijuana to help deal with PTSD.</p><p dir="ltr">So, we’ve in our study we just finished with <a href="">veterans</a>, for political reasons what I wanted to do was to say, It’s for veterans, firefighters and police officers, just to sort of make the point that this is for first responders. I didn't think we’d ever get any firefighters or police officers, but we did. We got twenty-two veterans, three firefighters and one police officer. Building those bridges to the police is just incredible.</p><p dir="ltr">The other thing coming to fruition is we’ve started this <a href=",-mdma-could-be-a-legal-pharmaceutical-for-therapy">MAPS public benefit corporation</a>, so that’s gonna be the vehicle we use to sell MDMA once it’s approved as a medicine. That’s pretty exciting, because when you hear about capitalism and the goal of maximizing profits, that has caused an enormous amount of progress, but also an enormous amount of suffering. And environmental destruction, and exploitation and all sorts of short-term thinking. The benefit corporation has been created as an antidote to capitalism. It’s where you maximize social benefits rather than profits.  The public benefit, there are no investors. The only investor is MAPS, the nonprofit.</p><p dir="ltr">With the public benefit corporation, the vision that maybe we’ve planted the seeds for is this idea of a sustainable nonprofit and because we’re one of the rare nonprofits that is actually about ending up with a product for sale, which is a prescription drug. Now, even though it's’ gonna go generic, it won’t go generic right away. So, there’s a possibility that if MAPS is the organization that makes MDMA into a medicine for PTSD before anyone else, than we’ll have what’s called data exclusivity and we can sell it for more, not that much more, but a bit more than it cost us, and then with that extra money we can fund more research.</p><p dir="ltr">You started out by asking, am I surprised MAPS lasted 30 years? Well, what I have not really accomplished yet is making it so MAPS is obviously gonna survive without me. I think that, probably right now if I were to be hit by a bus the board of directors would pick somebody very qualified and it would be fine. But so much of what I do is fundraising, and it’s based on multi-year relationships that have been sustained over decades sometimes. But if we can build this, if we can actually get MDMA approved and then have it more widely used, then this idea of this engine of income will sustain MAPS.</p><p>We’ve talked about whether we should do this for marijuana as well. Now, I don’t know if you saw, last week there was an <a href=";action=click&amp;contentCollection=business&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=collection&amp;_r=0">article</a> in the New York Times [March 14] and it was about GW Pharmaceuticals, which is this British company making marijuana extracts.</p><p dir="ltr">They have a drug called Epidiolex, which is CBD for epilepsy, childhood. They reported their results, and they were really good, and their stock went up 25% in one day. The last paragraph in the article, I’ll read it:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Analysts expect Epidiolex to cost $2,500 to $5,000 a month, which would be more expensive than some of the medical marijuana products, which cost from about $100 to more than $1,000 per month. However, Epidiolex might be covered by insurance, unlike the other products.”</p></blockquote><p>That has now led us to think—and I’ve been thinking, of course, about this for a long time—if MAPS could make the marijuana plant in bud form into a medicine, it will be incredibly cheap. And, the Israelis are making marijuana, they’re able to grow high-potency trimmed buds for .50c a gram, $14 an ounce. So what we’re thinking is, it’s another public benefit if there’s a marijuana bud available through the FDA as a prescription medicine covered by insurance. Some people will still want to go with Epidiolex, let’s say, and pay $2,500-5,000 a month, or have their insurance companies do that. But if the same thing is available for $30 a month in bud form with high CBD marijuana that’s smoked or vaporized, insurance companies are gonna like it, people are gonna like it.</p><p dir="ltr">So that’s sort of the thing I’m still trying to talk about. The MAPS board of directors is worried I’m too ambitious... But that’s what I’m starting to imagine, because we’re about to start our cannabis study.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="387"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="387" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/ps_2011_12_02___18_09_32.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Outside the DEA offices in the mid-'80s. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p><strong>AMS: From what I’ve seen the challenge with plant-form marijuana becoming a prescription or FDA-approved medicine, is the dosages being variable. Do you think that’ll be a problem?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: No, I don’t think that’s a problem because what we have is what's called patient self-titration.... When you smoke marijuana or vaporize marijuana you get the signal pretty quickly of how high you are, which is way different than edibles. With smoked or vaporized marijuana, people can self-titrate the dose, so that it’s not like one pill, one size fits all. That is an advantage. When you look at antidepressants—the SSRIs—it’s not like one dose for everybody. People try it out and you customize the dose to the person. It’s not always clear what [the dose is] based on. It’s not always genetics or prior psychological history. Different people respond differently to drugs, and you need to adjust the drugs for the person.</p><p dir="ltr">So, you can have a standardized supply of marijuana, but you won’t know exactly, when somebody smokes it, how much they’ll get per dose. I do think we’d have to have a standardized supply, which you can get from genetically cloned plants. Then, to determine how much people actually use, it’s okay to say we’re gonna rely on patient self-titration. That’s the best way to do it. There are metered dose inhalers that give you an exact measured amount, aerosol sprays for different cannabinoids, and also vaporizers that are pretty standardized in how much they release in every inhalation—but i don’t think that’s gonna be necessary. I think the argument is gonna be, let’s permit patient self-titration, and that’s good enough. That’s even better, than good enough. I mean, that’s the way everything should be dosed.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: What seeds are you planting now? What’s ahead for MAPS in the longer long run?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Well, this is actually something just in the last few days: we’re trying to branch out to ibogaine and ayahuasca research in terms of clinical studies. We’re getting ready to publish papers on our ibogaine observational studies from the clinics in Mexico and New Zealand, but the issue is we’re just watching what these clinics do, and reporting on the results. That’s different from a controlled clinical trial. I just learned that in the last few days... that now there is a source of ibogaine that could be acceptable to the FDA. We’ve also been talking about doing ayahuasca research though the FDA.</p><p dir="ltr">Those are the horizons in the future. More plant-based medicines that we standardize, or isolate their active ingredients, then try to do research. But I have to be careful not to keep starting more and more stuff, and getting to the point where there’s so much happening I, or MAPS staff can’t keep up with it. We now have 20 people, which is kind of astonishing to me—but we have a million and a half payroll, so there’s a lot of fundraising that needs to be done. Other seeds that have been planted are this move to Phase III [MDMA clinical trials], and the confrontation with the regulators on our hopes and dreams. We’ll find out what they think about Phase III both in the U.S. and Europe and elsewhere around the world.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: That’s huge.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Yeah. And I’d say we still need to do some work with the RAVE Act [<a href="">Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy</a>] and psychedelic harm reduction. Actually, I’ll tell you a funny story about that. So, Natalie Ginsberg, [policy and advocacy manager] on our staff, met with some of Vice President Biden’s staff. <a href="">Biden is</a> the one that passed the RAVE Act in 2003 when he was a senator. So she went to speak with his staff and they didn’t even know the RAVE Act was blocking psychedelic harm reduction all over the world, with its ripple effect out of America.</p><p dir="ltr">So now, maybe we can get some kind of progress out of Biden’s office about how he didn't really need to have the RAVE Act block harm reduction. But, as Natalie was leaving the office, one of the people she talked to said, “Do you think there are any jobs for me at MAPS?”</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="479"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="479" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/1970rickinrussia_0.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Rick Doblin in Russia in 1970. Courtesy of Rick Doblin.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Could you talk a bit about what people can expect at the dinner? I understand it’s a fundraiser to support MAPS’ $400,000 purchase of 1 kilogram of MDMA for Phase 3 clinical trials to make MDMA-assisted psychotherapy a legal prescription treatment for PTSD.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: Yeah, and the irony there is that back in 1985 I had a kilogram of MDMA made by Dave Nichols, and that’s the MDMA we’re still using today. That MDMA cost us $4000. And not only that, but Dave had extra better yield than he anticipated so they got about a kilogram and half. We still have 960 grams, and it’s still among the world’s purest MDMA. But, it’s not GMP (good manufacturing practices) meaning that there’s not enough paperwork documenting it. So what we’re doing now is having MDMA that’s not gonna be any purer than Dave’s MDMA, but it’ll have all the pedigree.</p><p>And of the kilogram, we need about half of it for phase III MDMA-PTSD research. The other half is gonna liberate MDMA research all over the world, because it’s now of the medical grade that will be accepted by any regulatory agency, anywhere.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Who’s making the MDMA?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: It’s a company in England, Shasun. They are also making the psilocybin for Heffter [<a href="">Heffter Research Institute</a> is a nonprofit that sponsors a number of psilocybin studies.] They’re up near Newcastle in Northern England and they’re just this enormous firm, massive factory and they make tons of other stuff. They gave us the sense they really cared about what we were doing.</p><p dir="ltr">I kept saying, Why are you doing this? I mean, this is so great, but all we want is a kilogram, Heffter is getting less of a kilogram, we don’t need more for another five years, and Heffter isn’t going to need psilocybin for another five years, so why are you doing this?</p><p dir="ltr">They said, You never know what’s gonna get big.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: To stick with a project for 30 years is a big deal on its own. Not many people can say they’ve done that. Your project has come up against some unique and continual hurdles. Why did you keep going with it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">RD: When I started on this, it didn’t really matter if MAPS ever worked. I knew eventually it would—maybe it would be 100 years or whatever, but psychedelics have value. They’ve been used for several thousands of years, and our culture was making a terrible mistake with prohibition and mass incarceration. So it didn’t really matter if it ever worked. I felt like this was a way to make a contribution. To just say, there’s some value here with psychedelics and we should be looking at it.</p><p dir="ltr">But what’s interesting is that there’s been gradual openings over these years and now it feels like we’re in this cultural cusp where it could very well become integrated into western culture. It’s not the mainstreaming of psychedelics into western culture, but it’s the re-mainstreaming of psychedelics. The last time it was fully done in a way was through the Eleusinian mysteries, and the heart of the Greek culture. They were 2000 year old mystery ceremonies wiped out around 396 by the catholic church because they were a competition. They had a psychedelic component. Really, we’re talking about a 1600-year cycle.</p><p dir="ltr">But Pythagoras and Aristotle and all these people had participated in the Eleusinian mysteries, so what we're talking about is reintroducing psychedelics into western culture, but they were there from the beginning. So, that also keeps me going. It’s not like we’re trying to do something that’s never been done before.</p> Sat, 02 Apr 2016 17:35:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1053266 at Drugs Culture Drugs maps psychedelics rick doblin harm reduction psychedelic science psychology ptsd drugs trippy trip high marijuana weed cannabis pot drug policy multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies 6 UC Santa Cruz Students Face MDMA Felonies, but Throwing Them In Prison Won’t Help Anyone <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The solution runs deeper than punishing a few students as if they are an international drug trafficking ring.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/handcuffs_2.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Six students in their fourth year at the University of California, Santa Cruz (my alma mater), were arrested earlier this month and could face felony charges for suspected involvement in what authorities are calling an “international drug ring,” conspiring to sell MDMA (aka Molly or Ecstasy). According to the <em><a href="">San Jose Mercury News</a>,</em> U.S. Customs and Border Protection worked with U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s San Jose team to confiscate 4.1 pounds of pills, which were shipped from overseas to residences throughout Santa Cruz. Officers with the Santa Cruz Police Department arrested the six 21-year-old suspects, all fraternity or sorority members, at their homes on March 4. They were each assigned bail between $5,500 to $30,000, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office records. They are no longer being held.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Santa Cruz Police Department spokesperson, the confiscated MDMA is worth more than $100,000. The local prosecutor, Abel Hung, has said it’s “not uncommon” for drugs to be seized in the mail after suspicions are reported.  </p><p dir="ltr">The suspects are all in their final year of undergrad. According to the <em><a href="">Mercury News</a></em> report, they are good students who “held leadership positions in Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority.”</p><p dir="ltr">Now, sending and receiving pounds of illegal drugs via the Postal Service is not a wise thing to do. But you could argue that neither is dedicating the amount of tax-funded resources that have already been spent to busting a few nonviolent students on felony drug charges for a few pounds of MDMA. History, along with stacks of data, shows us that catching small-time drug deals in the act doesn’t prevent illegal drugs from circulating. That old-school war on drugs mentality has gotten us into <a href="">debt and disaster</a> and <a href="">failed to halt</a> illegal drug use. In this case, all it’s likely to do is ruin a few students’ lives. If they’re convicted and incarcerated, they’ll wind up in the <a href="">severely overcrowded</a> California prison system. We know by now that incarcerating people for nonviolent drug-related crimes is a wasteful, ineffective policy, but nevertheless it's still an option for authorities.</p><p dir="ltr">This is not to say these students should walk away without consequences. Most of them already face expulsion from UCSC and the general shame that comes with having one's mistake—along with names and photos—plastered all over national news. Perhaps mandatory community service, counseling and/or hefty fines are in order. But treating them like a dangerous drug trafficking ring, stamping them with lifelong felony records and throwing them behind bars probably isn’t what we should do.</p><p dir="ltr">The problem begins with the DEA's heavily disputed decision to make MDMA illegal in the first place. Before government officials got freaked out by what they saw as too many partiers using MDMA recreationally, and reactively demonized it as a Schedule I drug (meaning a criminal offense with "high potential for risk" and "no known medical uses"), MDMA was legal. It was first synthesized in 1912 for pharmaceutical use, then in 1965 American chemist and psychopharmacologist Alexander Shulgin resynthesized it, which inadvertantly ignited a huge popular interest in its use. By the mid-'70s, a number of therapists were exploring its apparent abilities to encourage empathy and lower stress reactions.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the drug promotes stimulant, euphoric and empathetic feelings, it became popular for use in recreational settings like festivals and raves. The DEA’s decision to deem MDMA a Schedule I drug actually went against its own initial recommendation to keep it legal for further research into medical use because of its reported therapeutic properties.</p><p dir="ltr">A movement to re-legalize MDMA has been in place ever since the 1984 decision to criminalize it. In direct response to MDMA’s Schedule I designation, Rick Doblin founded his nonprofit research and education organization, MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), in 1986. He was among the therapists who’d been using MDMA to help clients and has been fighting to re-legalize the drug for 30 years. MAPS has been working within the system on government-approved clinical trials to show scientifically whether MDMA can safely work in tandem with therapy to treat psychological issues like PTSD and anxiety. The results of the first two rounds of study have been so overwhelmingly positive they are about to enter Phase III human clinical trials. Depending on the results, MDMA could be an approved <a href=",-mdma-could-be-a-legal-pharmaceutical-for-therapy">pharmaceutical medicine</a> in the next five years.</p><p dir="ltr">The fact is, when popular, well-loved drugs like MDMA are criminalized and banned, people resort to illegal means of obtaining them. It is also a fact that prohibition comes with dangerous consequences—like untested, underground pills that masquerade as something they’re not, and wind up hospitalizing, or on rare occasion, killing people. </p><p>Emanuel Sferios is leading a worldwide charge against MDMA’s prohibition, and drug prohibition in general. He founded the organization <a href="">DanceSafe</a>, which tests pills and provides a safe space at festivals and raves, to help reduce the amount of harm illegal drug use can cause. He is working on a <a href="">feature-length documentary</a> about MDMA to raise public awareness of the real risks and benefits of the drug. Sferios called the UCSC students’ case “a travesty of justice,” comparing them to “students whose lives were ruined” in a similar <a href="">MDMA bust</a> at Wesleyan University last year. After a rash of student hospitalizations due to a bad batch of what was supposed to be MDMA (but was never tested), four students were arrested on suspicion of distributing the drugs responsible. What the students had planned was to help their fellow students experiment with MDMA and other drugs, but it went awry and the media went crazy with the case. Some reports took to calling the students the Wesleyan “mafia” and the press plastered their names and images across the Internet. (For more details, read the Rolling Stone piece about <a href="">the incident</a>.)</p><p dir="ltr">Sferios and the DanceSafe staff responded at the time with a <a href="">blog post</a> pointing out the shortsightedness of the press and authorities.</p><p dir="ltr">“Reports on these issues often neglect to analyze many of the social, environmental and political factors contributing to this life-threatening issue. Without widespread implementation of proactive public health policies, such as mandating ‘Safe Setting’ standards for electronic music events, we continue to ignore many of the environmental and community level factors impacting health and safety. Rather than targeting individuals or a drug, there are pragmatic health promotion, drug education and harm reduction strategies effective at reducing risks associated with drug use.”</p><p dir="ltr">The post went on to note that media coverage failed to acknowledge a simple, realistic way to reduce the dangers of illegal drugs: give people avenues to test them.</p><p dir="ltr">“Currently in U.S. culture, there are essentially only two ways to do this. One is to purchase a home <a href="">testing kit</a>, which use various chemical reagents to gives limited but useful information on drug contents. The other way is to anonymously send a sample of the drug to <a href=""></a>. Results can be obtained on the website, usually within a few weeks. It is telling that in almost every article about the Wesleyan incident, these two harm reduction programs are not mentioned, yet they have been implemented and available for more than 16 years.”</p><p dir="ltr">The blog attributed the media’s decision in part to “a drug war culture that has prioritized ‘increasing risk perception’ above practical, evidence-based solutions that are effective at reducing hospitalizations, overdoses, and death.” The post concluded that arresting students was not likely to solve the issue of illegal drug use.</p><p dir="ltr">“As authorities continue to make arrests, it behooves us to ask whether putting more people in jail will actually reduce drug use on college campuses. We’ve never had a drug-free society; it’s unrealistic and harmful to continue to think that’s attainable. Isn’t it time we acknowledge that recreational drug use is a norm in society, and that what we should really be doing is making it safer through public health-based policies of harm and risk reduction?”</p><p dir="ltr">As for the UCSC drug bust, <a href=""><em>Mercury News</em> reported</a> that prosecutors and police are in the process of downloading what they called “huge amounts of information” from the students’ computers and other digital devices, so the county superior judge has delayed their arraignment.</p> Sat, 26 Mar 2016 12:55:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1053351 at Drugs Drugs Personal Health UCSC UC Santa Cruz santa cruz students molly mdma ecstasy drug policy drugs drug drug use illegal dancesafe war on drugs arrest arrested trafficking ring wesleyan A Feminist On a Mission to Introduce Women to Ayahuasca, the 'Cosmic Spirit' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Her program takes women to South America for psychedelic healing ceremonies.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cosmic_sister_zoe_helene_with_amazon_vine_of_the_soul_by_tracey_eller_high_res.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The first words Zoe Helene ever said to her husband Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist who is the “<a href="">Medicine Hunter</a>” on Fox News, were in reference to a boar’s tusk bracelet clasped around his wrist. The tanned white man in the Hawaiian shirt had a “wild vibe about him.” He was fidgeting in his chair behind a booth at the bustling Natural Products Expo East trade show in 2005, which Helene, who worked in natural products communications, was attending for business.</p><p>She sat down next to him and said, “You’re not supposed to wear that if you’re not a chief.”</p><p dir="ltr">Helene, an artist and wildlife activist, had spent ages 9-19 living in New Zealand. She knew a thing or two about the region’s indigenous Maori culture, and recognized the bracelet as a traditional adornment. She also has an MFA in costume design and takes special note of what people wear and why. She thought the boar’s tusk bracelet was “a typical tourist’s fashion faux pas.”</p><p dir="ltr">As it turned out, Kilham <em>was</em> a chief. When Helene met him, he’d just returned from a medicine hunt working with the psychoactive plant Kava in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, east of northern Australia. He’d participated in an epic fire walk, and was an honorary chief on the island of Pentacost in the village of Baie Martellie.</p><p>“At the time, he was also Vanuatu’s Honorary Consul to the United States,” Helene says. “I didn’t know any of this. I just found his energy intriguing and I loved the way he moved....To this day I still don’t know where I got the chutzpah to just blurt that out, first thing,” Helene says.</p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><em>Photo: Chris Kilham, Medicine Hunter and Helene's husband. Photo</em> <em>by Tracey Eller.</em><p dir="ltr">But thanks to her chutzpah, the next time you need a tax write-off you can make a <a href="" target="_blank">donation</a> that will help women travel to the Amazon and sip the psychedelic concoction called ayahuasca, via Helene's financial backing program, the <a href="">Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant.</a></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Plant Spirit Grant</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Helene and Kilham eloped in 2007, and since then the two of them have traveled the world exploring the traditions and plant medicines of indigenous peoples, as part of Kilham’s ethnobotanical investigations. It was by way of this work that Helene first encountered ayahuasca. Native to the Amazon rainforest region, ayahuasca is a traditional plant medicine used by indigenous peoples throughout South America in sacred healing rituals. But while some scientific study of the brew <a href="" target="_blank">exists</a>, psychedelics like ayahuasca are strictly controlled throughout the US, Asia and Europe, so research has been limited.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p><em>Photo: Chris Kilham and Zoe Helene. Photo by Ivan Kashinsky, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">When Helene encountered ayahuasca nearly a decade ago she had never heard of it. In the years since, stories of its benefits have surged around the globe. Today a booming <a href="" target="_blank">ayahuasca tourism industry</a> has developed, as thousands—if not millions —of Americans and Europeans participate in ayahuasca ceremonies throughout Peru, Costa Rica and nearby nations every year (the numbers here are tough to exactly call since most pople don't speak publicly about their psychedelic tourism). The healing properties of the tea are widely reported to reverse mental afflictions like <a href="" target="_blank">PTSD, depression and anxiety</a>. Many people also claim it mitigates physical ailments, like <a href="" target="_blank">chronic pain</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">cancer</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, Helene is among the most vocal proponents of drinking, preserving and educating people about ayahuasca. Since she feels ayahuasca has improved her own life, she decided to make it one of her life’s goals to help other women connect with the potent psychedelic. She came up with the idea for the Plant Spirit Grant because she noticed a gap between women who could benefit from the “consciousness-expanding” experience of a Peruvian ayahuasca retreat, and the money it takes to get there (the ceremonies alone often cost $2000 or more).  </p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Ayahuasca ceremonial maloca at Nihue Rao ayahuasca retreat center. Photo by Tracey Eller, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Your skeptical side isn’t crazy for raising its eyebrows about writing off your donation to an ayahuasca grant: taking, making, purchasing or possessing known psychedelics (including ayahuasca, with some <a href="" target="_blank">religious exceptions</a>) is illegal in the U.S. However, a <a href="" target="_blank">donation</a> to Cosmic Sister’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is tax deductible and 100% legitimate.</p><p dir="ltr">While <a href="" target="_blank">MAPS</a> is known for its scientific research-based work, Brad Burge, director of communications for MAPS, said Cosmic Sister is in line with the nonprofit’s educational mission. Any money given through MAPS supports the educational component of Helene’s program. Helene pays primarily out of pocket for the ceremonial side of things, via sales of products and services in the natural products and sustainability sectors.</p><p dir="ltr">As for the women who’ll be drinking the brew in Peru, not only is ayahuasca legal there, the Peruvian government has designated it a "<a href="" target="_blank">Cultural Patrimony</a>."</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Plant Spirit Grant recipient Susan Sheldon at Temple of the Way of Light during ceremony. Photo by Chris Kilham, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Under the supervision of a shaman and under the influence of ayahuasca, plant spirit recipients set out to purge physically and mentally, witness lucid dreamlike visions, heal and confront themselves in deep reflection. Afterward, they’re encouraged, though not required, to tell the world about their experiences. The idea is to promote realistic education about ayahuasca, and psychedelics at large.</p><p dir="ltr">Attorney Richard "Dick" Evans helped Helene to draw up her grant agreement, and said its purpose is similar to most contracts:  "to make sure that all parties are on the same page as to their respective rights, duties and expectations." He has worked with MAPS in the past and says Helene and Kilham are similar to MAPS in that they are pioneering "the exploration of inner space in from the fringes, giving it the seriousness that it has long deserved and been denied."</p><p dir="ltr">He called Helene courageous for proceeding with her unusual grant program.  </p><p dir="ltr">"Ninety-nine out of 100 people would let ther fear of something going wrong deter them from taking these steps," he said in an email. "Her approach, however, is to do her homework very thoroughly, and to insure that the participants do their homework as well.  And when you’ve done your  homework, you can go out on a limb (if you don’t mind mixing metaphors)."</p><p dir="ltr">Evans said he predicts that someday, "after we’ve explored every square inch of land, the depth of the oceans and a few other planets," humanity's research will turn to the human mind. </p><p dir="ltr">"Zoe will be recognized as one of the very early pioneers into this new and forbidding territory," he said. </p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Shaman Estella at DreamGlade retreat center. Photo by Tracey Eller, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Two companion projects supporting the original Plant Spirit Grant are Helene’s <a href="" target="_blank">Women of the Psychedelic Renaissance</a>, and the <a href="">Cosmic Sisters of Cannabis</a> projects, which are dedicated to educating the public about the real benefits and risks of psychedelics and cannabis. Both projects filter creative funding to help women develop quality educational materials (writing, photos, presentations, and so on). Plant Spirit Grant recipients are often also involved with these projects.</p><p dir="ltr">“I thought it was important to educate people not only about the benefits, but the risks—and there are risks for women especially,” Helene said. “There are cases of sexual abuse during ceremony, which is awful but happens more than you think. It can be mentally and physically taxing to work with these plants, and oftentimes what you’re presented with during an experience with sacred plants like ayahuasca requires a lot of digesting, a lot of processing.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Creating Cosmic Sisterhood</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cosmic Sister had nothing to do with psychedelics in the beginning.</p><p dir="ltr">Helene has worked for years in communications for the natural products industry, and then in the field of interactive media. She conceived of Cosmic Sister after becoming fed up with the sexism she encountered in the industries where she worked. She remembers calling a board meeting sometime in the mid-'90s. She was the only woman on the board, so the men treated her like a secretary, assuming she would get them coffee and take notes.</p><p dir="ltr">After working in tech, Helene became an independent contractor working in communications for big Americana brands, like Unilever. Eventually, she grew tired of promoting unsustainable brands and felt morally obligated to refocus her work on the natural products industry. To her dismay, in this industry loomed a brand of sexism she hadn’t yet encountered.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="346" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="346" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo via</em></p><p dir="ltr">When she married Chris Kilham, a high-profile man in the small community that makes up the natural products niche, “everything changed overnight.” For the first time, she felt like a trophy wife.</p><p dir="ltr">“I went to the same places where I was regarded professionally before, and I was treated so differently,” she says. “This was in a sector of business that professes to be more enlightened— these are the ‘sustainable’ businesses, right? People would come up and talk directly to Chris, and sometimes not even acknowledge me. I would try to get into the conversation or introduce myself, and they literally saw me as this girl on his arm. At first it was kind of funny, and then it wasn’t.”</p><p dir="ltr">As Helene got to know the other women who had married bigshot men in the industry, she realized she wasn’t alone. Even women who had impressive careers behind them were often disregarded by their colleagues as well as the media, in favor of the men who stood in the spotlight.</p><p>“I decided the only way we could counteract this trend was to support each other,” she says. Cosmic Sister, officially founded in 2008, was Helene’s way of evening out the working climate by promoting women and encouraging them to promote each other.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Meeting Ayahuasca</strong></p><p>It was through Helene’s work with her husband, while researching and meeting with the indigenous Shipibo peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, that she first encountered Ayhuasca, which is a proper noun in Helene's eyes. She—along with many others who work with ayahuasca traditionally— believes it has a cognizant spirit.</p><p>“It sounds very woo-woo, but if you talk to all these big herbalists and ethnobotanists and some of the anthropologists, they will say that the term ‘plant spirit’ is not woo-woo at all,” Helene said. “It’s just a way of looking at it. Like you might say the 'spirit of the bear.’ Well, there are spirits in these plants—they’re living. And these sacred plants just seem to have spirits, or that’s how people interpret them in many cultures. The spirit of ayahuasca is quite different than the spirit of cannabis, for example, which is quite different from the spirit of peyote.”</p>In fact, at a conference-style 300-person-or-so meetup titled the <a href="">Plant Teachers Visionary Convergence</a> in Los Angeles, California last summer, Chris Kilham was among the lecturers, a group which included medical doctors, scientific researchers, spiritual leaders and therapists alike discussing ayahuasca and other plants considered sacred in human cultures. In the keynote speech, researcher and ethnobotonist <a href="">Kathleen Harrison</a> (formerly married to famed psychonaut <a href="">Terence McKenna</a>) said she believed that when people experienced psychedelic plants, those plants also experienced people. She called the plants "beings," and imagined their personas aloud. <div alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div> <em>Photo: Ayahuasca boils in preparation for ceremony in Peru. Photo by Tracey Eller, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em><p dir="ltr">To the majority of people, Helene says, ayahuasca appears as a feminine energy. Several indigenous Amazonian cultures consider ayahuasca to be a goddess-like deity, and/or messenger from the plant realm. This is one of the reasons  Helene felt connecting women with ayahuasca was an intuitive choice.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems to me that the vast majority of people experience ayahuasca as a feminine plant spirit—I am one of those people; we don’t know why this is,” Helene says. “Not everyone does, however. Chris doesn’t, so this comes up in conversation in our home fairly often. I’m a female, so it makes sense to me that ayahuasca comes to me as a female, in part because my theory is that the medicine helps us communicate with the subconscious parts of our own psyche, and to our own deepest inner wisdom, which is a nature wisdom.”</p><p dir="ltr">Helene created the Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit program <a href="" target="_blank">to support</a> women she sees doing “outstanding” work in the name of feminism, wilderness, wildlife and psychedelics. Nine women have already traveled to Peru for previous plant spirit grant sessions, and this year Helene has awarded grants to six more. They are women from all over the world, including journalists, photographers, a medical doctor, a yoga teacher, mothers, grandmothers and others. The group will travel in December to a new ayahuasca retreat center called DreamGlade, located outside of Iquitos, Peru.</p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="360" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="360" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Plant Spirit Grant recipient Susan Sheldon at Temple of the Way of Light. Photo by Zoe Helene.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of several books including <em><a href="">The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook</a>,</em> and former editor in chief of <em>Natural Home &amp; Garden</em> magazine, is a is part of this winter's trip. She has already experienced ayahuasca in the past, when she traveled to Peru with Helene and Kilham in the spring of 2013. </p><p dir="ltr">"I'd had breakthroughs with issues that had seemed intractable for much of my life," she said. "An eating disorder was probably the biggest. Zoe offered me the grant so that I could return to Peru the next fall to build on that. I cleared away a lot of noise and trauma, and I wanted to know what was next. That series of ceremonies helped me find a path forward that was not based on ego."</p><p dir="ltr">It also helped her commit to "working toward liberating and normalizing the cannabis plant"—which is what she's doing now. </p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Grant recipient Robyn Lawrence with Shaman Estella. Photo by Zoe Helene.</em></p><p dir="ltr">"Zoe’s genuine concern and love for women and all beings has been an important part of my ayahuasca journeying," she says. "Her passion for sharing the miracle of ayahuasca has made a huge difference not only for me but for all of the grant recipients. I believe every one of them experienced deep healing and transformation like I did, and they’re now sharing their gifts with the world."</p><p dir="ltr">Helene said she receives hundreds of inquiries from women asking about the plant spirit grant. She’s proud of their diversity as far as personality, career paths and time of life, but says she’d like to see women of more diverse ethnic backgrounds applying.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t want this to be only white women,” she says. “But to date, all the women would be considered white in most circles, other than one Asian-American woman and a Columbian-American woman who will be with us in December.” </p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Zoe Helene and Cosmic Sister Susan Sheldon in the Amazon. Photo by Chris Kilham, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Something she makes clear to her grant recipients is that an ayahuasca retreat is not a vacation, ”not by any stretch of the imagination.” </p><p dir="ltr">“Ayahuasca is a strong hallucinogenic blend,” Helene says. The ayahuasca brew used in ceremony is a mixture of two plants native to the Amazon: the ayahuasca vine Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca means “vine of the soul”) and either chacruna or chagropanga, which both contain the psychotropic substance dimethyltryptamine. DMT is a chemical compound naturally produced in the human body. It is theoretically released in our brains at peak moments, like the <a href="" target="_blank">time of death</a>, or near-death experiences, as well as during deep REM sleep. Some researchers also theorize it can be released during orgasm and deep meditation.</p><p dir="ltr">“It is not a recreational drug, and if you’re coming at it from that perspective, you are in for a big surprise!”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The First Plant Spirit Grant</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Helene and Chris Kilham dedicate their time and personal resources to creating awareness about plant medicines like ayahuasca, as well as the cultural contexts from which they are derived. Kilham works part time as a professor for the University of Massachusetts, and created a program in which he brings groups of his students on field study trips to the Amazon to learn about indigenous plants and practices.</p><p dir="ltr">It was on one of these trips that Helene met the first guinea pig recipient of the Plant Spirit Grant, <a href="">Rachael Carlevale.</a> Carlevale met Kilham through his class, the Shaman’s Pharmacy, which brought students to the jungle of Iquitos, Peru to live with native Shipibo practitioners. Carlevale was a pre-med senior student at the time, and had become fed up with the program’s heavy focus on prescribing pharmaceuticals, and answering problems with pills.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was driven by dollars rather than actually healing the whole person, more focused on the symptoms than the cause, that sort of thing,” she says. “I had a lab where you sat on the computer for two hours and basically it was like WebMD—you’d go through all these symptoms and try to figure out what pharmaceutical would be best for the person. And it just completely turned me off of that type of education.”</p><p dir="ltr">Carlevale, now a holistic health educator and yoga teacher who grows marijuana with her fiance in Colorado, says she’s always leaned toward organic, sustainable approaches to both life and healing. This drew her to Kilham’s class.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="320" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Rachael Carlevale in the Amazon jungle during her week long ayahuasca ceremony with Zoe Helene and Chris Kilham.  Photo by Misia Landau, courtesy of Cosmic Sister.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Because she had to pay for the trip herself, Carlevale wrote to 72 companies asking them to help fund her trip. Nine responded, five pitched in, and she was on her way.</p><p>During the trip, Carlevale and Helene swapped stories and eventually became “like sisters.” They kept in touch over the next few years, as Carlevale’s life entered a rough patch. She was diagnosed with a uterine tumor, but refused a hysterectomy, opting for plant medicines like cannabis and other herbs. She reached out to Kilham and Helene for advice.</p><p dir="ltr">Carlevale had previously expressed interest in participating in an ayahuasca ceremony—something Helene believed could help her both mentally and physically. She and Kilham decided to bring Carlevale with them on their next trip to the Amazon and pay for her expenses out-of-pocket.</p><p>“I didn’t know it at the time, but this was really when the Plant Spirit Grant was born; it was a sort of trial run nobody knew about,” Helene says.</p><p dir="ltr">In the months following the ceremony, Carlevale’s tumor shrunk 20 millimeters. She was also taking high CBD cannabis concentrates, which she credits with some of the healing.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="384" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo: Rachael Carlevale with Shipibo artist in Iquitos, Peru. Photo by Zoe Helene.</em></p><p dir="ltr">“I think ayahuasca really helped on an emotional spiritual level as well as the cellular level,” Carlevale says. “It’s one of the most transformational experiences anyone can have in my opinion, because while you're there you’re feeling so many different things. It’s literally a paradigm shift of your understanding of yourself, and of the world, and your relationship to people and to nature. ... Personally, one of my weakest strengths was communicating. Telling people how I felt, that sort of thing, was really hard for me. I feel completely different now. Now it’s no problem.”</p><p dir="ltr">She feels proud to have been a part of the inspiration for the plant spirit grant. Today she is a member, featured on the Cosmic Sister collective <a href="" target="_blank">website</a> and works with Helene on several of the project’s initiatives.</p><p>“The work [Helene]’s doing with Cosmic Sister is just outstanding and fully needed,” Carlevale says. “There is not equality between the male and female sectors of our society, so it’s really just helping bring women to the forefront. One of the things [Helene] says is, to protect women, wilderness and wildlife. I love that, I resonate with that. That’s everyone. It’s really this connection for all these different females to feel supported and to support one another.”</p> Fri, 11 Mar 2016 14:26:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1052405 at Drugs Drugs Gender Media Personal Health ayahuasca Chris Kilham zoe helene psychedelics drugs drug policy aya yage donation maps multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies peru ayahuasca tourism south america brew costa rica Medicine Hunter fox Kilham Helene plant spirit plant healing health cancer 5 Ways Bernie Sanders Is Leading the Fight Against Big Pharma’s Rip-Offs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sanders has been vocal on the issue for years.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sanders_3.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Today in the U.S., pharmaceutical drugs are outrageously overpriced. These unfair prices are under widespread scrutiny for the first time, thanks in part to Democratic presidential primary candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has been vocal on the issue for years.</p><p>Americans pay by far the highest prices in the world for their pharmaceutical medicines. As Sanders has <a href="" target="_blank">pointed out</a> in several speeches, as well as in the Democratic primary debates, last year almost <a href="" target="_blank">one in five Americans</a> ages 19 to 64—35 million people—opted not to fill their prescriptions because they did not have enough money to pay for them. <a href="" target="_blank">ThinkProgress</a> created the following chart to sum up the “High Cost of Prescription Drugs” in America:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="231"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="231" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/drug-prices-638x1325.png" /></div><p><br />The overpricing issue is so clear cut, it turns out, that even the GOP candidates—who maintain long-standing <a href="" target="_blank">financial relationships</a> with the pharmaceutical industry and the Big Pharma lobby—have <a href="" target="_blank">included the issue</a> in their primary platforms and speaking points. (Even so, none of the GOP presidential candidates think the government should set limits for drug company profits or that Medicare should negotiate with Big Pharma for fair drug prices.)</p><p>Meanwhile, requiring Medicare to “use its bargaining power to negotiate with the prescription drug companies for better prices, a practice that is currently banned by law,” is at the very top of Sanders’ detailed plan to lower <a href="" target="_blank">prescription drug prices</a>. He also plans to increase competition with Big Pharma by letting individuals, pharmacists and wholesalers in the U.S. import their prescriptions from Canada; restore discounts for low-income seniors; prohibit deals that keep generic drugs off the market; strengthen the penalties for prescription fraud; and require drug companies to be transparent when it comes to the pricing and cost of drugs, i.e. show us exactly what they’re spending the money on.</p><p>Sanders’ extensive plan to reel in pricing is just one of the reasons he is the most likely presidential candidate to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and stop Americans from getting so brutally ripped off. Here are five more.</p><p><strong>1. Hillary Clinton takes more donations from Big Pharma than any other candidate in </strong><strong><a href="" target="_blank">either party</a>.</strong></p><p>Sanders has accepted zero dollars from the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps in response to Sanders’ plan to reduce drug costs— which he announced right out of the gate— the former Secretary of State entered the primaries revealing her <a href="" target="_blank">comparable plan</a> to tackle the issue. Both candidates’ plans would encourage competition, use the bargaining power of Medicare and restore senior discounts, among other things. Both candidates also have strong histories tackling major health care inadequacies, and have spoken out against the inordinate price spikes for medications.</p><p>But we can’t ignore that glaring difference between the two candidates and their likelihood to actually stand up to the Big Pharma machine. <a href="" target="_blank">Clinton has taken</a> more donations from pharmaceutical companies than any candidate in either party. Her Big Pharma donations already totaled $164,315 in the first six months of her campaign, according to the figure compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and reported by the <a href="" target="_blank">Boston Globe</a> in October. As Sen. <a href="" target="_blank">Elizabeth Warren</a> (D-MA), Sanders and others have pointed out, Clinton’s track record hasn’t exactly been impervious to the needs and wants of her big industry funders.</p><p><strong>2. This is not a new fight for Sanders.</strong> Back when he was a congressman in 1999, Sanders led seniors across Vermont’s Canadian border to purchase their medications at cheaper Canadian rates. Sanders' position on drug prices has not wavered since then.</p><p>Responding to a 12.6 percent hike in the price of U.S. prescriptions in 2014 (according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), Sen. Sanders introduced a <a href="" target="_blank">bill</a>, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015, in September to strengthen the federal government’s ability to rein in medication prices. It was assigned to a congressional committee in September 2015.</p><p><strong>3. Sanders voted against Obama’s nominee for new head of the FDA due to his Big Pharma ties.</strong></p><p>When President Obama announced his decision to nominate Michael Califf as the new head of the Food and Drug Administration in January, Sanders formally <a href="" target="_blank">blocked the choice</a>, citing Califf’s close ties to Big Pharma.</p><p>Sanders said in an <a href="" target="_blank">official statement</a>, “Dr. Califf’s extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies."</p><p><strong>4. Sanders has named the overprescription of opioids a cause of the nation’s heroin epidemic.</strong><br /><br />According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use in the U.S. increased by 63% between 2002 and 2013 across age groups and income brackets. The same report shows that heroin overdose-related deaths just about quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. The report’s authors noted that heroin use is part of a larger national substance abuse problem and point to the widespread over-prescription of opioids as contributing to increased heroin addiction rates.</p><p>"Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin," CDC director Tom Frieden said in a news release last year.</p><p>Sanders has raised the issue on multiple occasions, calling out the <a href="" target="_blank">drug companies</a> that produce opioids for their role in creating the widespread addiction to heroin.</p><p>In the Democratic primary debate on December 19, Sanders said prescribers and drug companies, “have to start getting their act together,” and in the January 17 debate he said, "There is a responsibility on the part of the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies who are producing all of these drugs and not looking at the consequence of it."</p><p><strong>5. Sanders thinks medical marijuana should be legal nationwide; he’s also in favor of ending federal pot prohibition. </strong></p><p>Sanders has been an open <a href="" target="_blank">supporter</a> of medical marijuana use for years. He co-sponsored the <a href="" target="_blank">States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act</a> in 2001, which if passed would have moved cannabis from being listed as a Schedule I substance (the strictest listing possible, which makes it a felony drug) to a Schedule II substance. Schedule II would mean it was recognized as having an accepted potential medical use.</p><p>Already, many patients are replacing their pharmaceutical drugs with marijuana in states where it is legal. Since in most of those states, medical marijuana patients can legally grow their own plants, the cost of medication can be automatically lowered for some individuals.</p><p>Medical marijuana is also likely to reduce the national epidemic of overdose deaths—and thus inadvertently reduce healthcare costs overall. According to an <a href="" target="_blank">abstract</a> published by JAMA Internal Medicine, the use of medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug for prescription purposes has led to just about 25% lower opioid-overdose mortality rates.</p><p>In the 13 states with medical cannabis laws in place between 1999 and 2010, there was "a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without cannabis laws."</p><p>It’s not hard to reason why taking away almost a quarter of overdose deaths might translate into significant savings for U.S. healthcare at large. So while it’s conjecture, it’s possible that legalizing pot—either medically or for across the board adult use—has the potential to significantly lower medical costs for many Americans.</p><p> </p> Sat, 27 Feb 2016 07:28:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1051527 at Election 2016 bernie sanders Exploring Those Confusing Feelings You Have, Yet Can't Name <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Odd emotions have names—just maybe not in English. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/confused_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>What do you call that urge you've sometimes had "to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute?” Filipinos call this <em>gigil</em>. What do you call that feeling you get when someone does you a favor you really didn’t want them to do and you have to thank them for it? In Japanese, the word is <em>arigata-meiwaku</em>. In English, our library of adjectives for often ineffable emotions can feel limited. The inability to verbally categorize our feelings can leave us overwhelmed and frustrated.</p><p dir="ltr">A cover story in the latest issue of <em>Psychology Today</em> calls the random and confusing human experiences we often can’t name, "<a href="">Odd Emotions</a>.” As the article’s author, Rebecca Webber, wrote, “unusual emotions routinely swirl within us, and they aren't easily named. But it may be useful to stop, examine them, and try to put them into words.”</p><p>Webber writes that most of our strangest emotions fit into the following broad categories of experience: “Encounters With <a href="">Nature</a>,” “Encounters With Time,” “Encounters With Other People,” and “Encounters With Ourselves.”</p><p dir="ltr">Under “Encounters With Other People,” she describes the origin of the German term <em>schadenfreude</em>, “which describes the pleasure we may derive from someone else's pain.” But even a term as specific as schadenfreud isn’t always an adequate descriptor, Webber notes. For example, Webber spoke with Joanne Cleaver, 57, of Manistee, Michigan who described the emotion of when someone “finally comes around to your point of view or is served a very cold helping of karma, but sadly, you've matured past the point of really caring anymore." </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mapping Our Emotional Language Gap</strong></p><p dir="ltr">While the English language offers more than 3,000 words to describe our emotions, rarely do any of us use more than a few blanket terms to say how we feel (sad, angry, frustrated, happy, stressed, relaxed, and so on). Even if we did, chances are we’d come up short when attempting to describe “that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do” (<a href="">“<em>mamihlapinatapai</em></a>” in the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego) or that “euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love” (<a href="">“<em>forelsket</em></a>" in Norwegian).</p><p dir="ltr">Pei-Ying Lin turned the lack of emotional descriptors English-speakers have at hand into a design project, while studying at London's Royal College of Art in 2013. Lin created a detailed infographic of the relationship between English descriptions and those in other languages using a <a href="">linguistics model</a> to map out the various emotions. She told <em><a href="">Popular Science</a></em> at the time that she gathered a “list of ‘unspeakable’ English words from colleagues at her school.</p><p dir="ltr">The finished infographic is below, and you can view the full-sized infographic <a href="">here</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="338" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="338" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr">About a decade ago, artist John Koenig (who's also mentioned in Webber’s piece), created a poetic online project called the <a href="">Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows</a>, where he provides names and descriptions for those nameless sentiments we’ve all felt.</p><p dir="ltr">On Koenig’s site you’ll find a name for the perverse feeling of “lachesism: n. the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall—which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.”</p><p dir="ltr">He also names that nagging awareness of “how little of the world you’ll experience” (onism); your “moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life (gnossienne); and the “ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye” (opia). There are hundreds more.</p><p dir="ltr">My partner, who is a filmmaker, has definitely shared with me (without knowing the word for it) the feeling of <em>vemödalen</em>, or “the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist," as defined by Obscure Sorrows.</p><p dir="ltr">Koenig told Webber that his goal is to remind people that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling, no matter how seemingly odd it may feel.</p><p dir="ltr">"Whatever you're feeling right now has been felt by someone else out there,” he said.</p> Tue, 16 Feb 2016 16:40:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1050809 at Personal Health Personal Health emotions psychology psychology today odd strange emotional emotion health mental health japanese words language english Meet the Marijuana Pioneer Who Spent His Life and Risked His Business Crusading for Pot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A Q&amp;A with the famed businessman and activist Steve DeAngelo the day he published his new book &#039;The Cannabis Manifesto.&#039;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cannabis_manifesto.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A pair of unassuming white binders sit on a little round table in the entryway of Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana cooperative in Oakland, Calif. Leafing through the binders, you’ll find heartrending letters to and from prisoners who remain behind bars for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes. Patients who visit Harborside can write to the prisoners and receive responses. Harborside founder and CEO Steve DeAngelo said he has heard back from prisoners after they were finally released thanking him for facilitating the communication, saying connection to the cannabis community was the only thing that kept them going while behind bars.</p><p dir="ltr">Today the “crimes” of most cannabis prisoners are legal in four U.S. states, but many remain locked up on decades-old convictions. They’re serving time that would not be required were they convicted today, due to the many drug policy shifts that have occurred in recent years—including the fact that former Attorney General Eric Holder struck down mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for certain nonviolent drug offenders last year.</p><p dir="ltr">DeAngelo points out in his new book <em>The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness  </em>that it’s imperative to the future of the burgeoning cannabis industry that these prisoners be let free and the injustices of prohibition be set right.</p><p dir="ltr">DeAngelo’s latest work brings to life the activism that has driven the cannabis legalization conversation to the paradigm shift we’re seeing today. It recounts the history of the movement and weaves a vision for the flourishing industry’s future. DeAngelo addresses the ramifications of the longstanding racist (<a href="">and failed</a>) war on drugs and the ways in which newcomers to the industry can help to make amends for the lives prohibition has destroyed. He also writes candidly about the real reasons people use cannabis—which are neither purely medical nor purely recreational.</p><p dir="ltr">The marijuana news site <a href="">The Weed Blog</a> has predicted <em>The Cannabis Manifesto</em> will soon make its way to the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">bestseller list</a> and “likely go down in the history books as the most influential cannabis book of all time.”</p><p dir="ltr">DeAngelo is possibly the most successful cannabis business person out there. In addition to heading the $25-million-a-year business that is the planet’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, he is also president of the premier cannabis industry investment hub and angel investor network ArcView. An activist of more than 20 years, he has put his business and personal freedom on the line fighting for the liberation of the beloved and vilified herb.</p><p dir="ltr">Harborside has been the target of federal crackdowns despite the fact that it has operated without incident and in accordance with city and state laws since its founding eight years ago. In 2011, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag brought a forfeiture action against Harborside to seize its building. The case claimed Harborside — which distributes more than 70 strains of cannabis — was a "superstore" serving 100,000 customers in violation of federal law. At the time, the City of Oakland came to Harborside’s defense, making it the first California city ever to challenge federal threats against a local cannabis facility. In <em>City of Oakland v. Eric Holder</em>, Oakland sued Haag and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block Harborside's closure. On July 3, Judge Maria-Elena James <a href="" target="_blank">granted a motion to stay</a> by the City that delayed the feds' case against Harborside for 15 months.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, the civil forfeiture case appears to be moving forward, despite the fact that Congress passed a bill last year making it illegal for any federal entity to use federal funds to raid or interrupt the business of state-legal marijuana facilities. Additionally, the Obama administration issued guidelines requiring federal prosecutors to respecting medical marijuana businesses in medical marijuana states. The last action in the case was a <a href="" target="_blank">hearing</a> before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2014 between the City of Oakland and the DOJ, which upheld the trial judge’s ruling that the City didn’t have standing in the case.</p><p dir="ltr">Next, the case will be appealed to the full court, then the Supreme Court, if necessary. At the end of July, Haag — who has largely led the crusade against Harborside — stepped down from her post as U.S. Attorney. DeAngelo said since then, Harborside has not heard anything new out of the U.S. Attorney’s office. His assumption is that the case will eventually move forward, but he isn’t too worried.</p><p dir="ltr">“We expect that it’s going to take a few years for that case to be fully adjudicated, and that long before it is adjudicated, political reforms will make the case moot,” DeAngelo said.</p><p dir="ltr">DeAngelo’s stance has always been that worldwide cannabis legalization is inevitable, and his new book declares that eventually, people everywhere may recognize it as an aid to healing and wellness rather than an intoxicating drug.</p><p>As <em>The Cannabis Manifesto</em> hit bookshelves nationwide on Sept. 22, DeAngelo sat in Harborside’s showroom and spoke over the steady flow of electronic music and chattering customers about his love affair with the cannabis plant, the long struggle against prohibition and his groundbreaking manifesto. Here’s what he had to say:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="320"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="320" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/steve_deangelo.jpg" /></div><p><em>Photo by Jesse Andrew Clark.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>April M. Short: Let’s start at the beginning: What inspired you to write <em>The Cannabis Manifesto</em>?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Steve DeAngelo: My whole journey really inspired me to write it. I felt like it was about 20 years or more since any book had been written that really updated all of the arguments in favor of cannabis reform. And in those few decades since Jack Herer wrote <em>The Emperor Wears No Clothes</em>, there’s been a tremendous amount of scientific breakthroughs regarding cannabis, a tremendous amount of political developments, new historical discoveries relating to cannabis, and of course my whole story in the course of the last 10 years. So I felt like it was time for a foundational document. I felt that activists needed a toolkit so they could make themselves as effective as possible. I felt that there were a lot of Americans and people, really around the world, who were just beginning to wake up to this issue and take a look at it seriously, so I wrote it for them. And I wrote it for regulators and teachers and parents who are turning their minds to this issue for the first time. I mean, just really cutting to the chase, I wanted to pour gasoline on the fire of reform. I wanted to blow it up.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Why last year did you finally decide to actually sit down and tackle this project?</strong></p><p>SD: Well, I had hoped to get to it actually sometime previously, but that effort was interrupted by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and the ongoing <a href="" target="_blank">lawsuits and litigation</a>. I actually conceived of this book in 2011.</p><p dir="ltr">It turns out it’s great timing. When I finished the book, I knew the pace of change was going so rapidly that things would happen between the time I finished it and the time it came out. And, indeed, that’s happened. But, with that exception, I think it’s really a great time.</p><p dir="ltr">I was just struck by the Republican presidential debate. What we saw was, for the first time, our issue is a serious issue in a presidential campaign. That has never happened before. Cannabis has always been laughed off, it’s always been a joke, it’s never been a subject of serious policy debate. And it was, and it was [in] the Republican debate that that happened. So it was a huge breakthrough moment.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, there were a remarkable amount of Neanderthal attitudes on display, of course ...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: But it came up.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: Right. But it came up.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: I found it interesting that at the outset of the book you take a page to define the term “manifesto.” What called you to create a “published verbal declaration of your intentions, motives and views?" Or do you consider the book a manifesto for the larger cannabis legalization movement, through your lens?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: I started the book with a definition of manifesto, which is essentially a declaration of belief, because I thought it was something the cannabis movement needed. We don’t have one. We don’t have a foundational document. We don’t have a declaration of independence. We don’t have a constitution. So, I thought it was important to bring together in one place, in a fairly easily absorbed format, all of the most important arguments for reforming cannabis laws.</p><p dir="ltr">You know, every movement, I think, to be really effective needs to come to some kind of sense of agreement on what our most important principles are. Now, I fully expect this is going to serve as a point of discussion. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I may have many things in here wrong. It’s a beginning for a conversation, but we as a movement we need to consider what our strongest arguments are, where our strongest evidence is, and make sure we present that consistently to the public.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: How did you narrow down the points of the manifesto?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: Well, I think writing the manifesto was a long and involved process. It went through a lot of changes in the course of writing it, but the points really came out of my years of being an advocate, of my experiences in delivering these arguments and seeing the kinds of responses that came from them. That’s really where that distillation came from. For years and years and years I’ve delivered many of these same messages, and people have said, “You know, Steve, you really need to write these down in a book.” And so I did.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: One of the overarching themes in the book is that cannabis has always been a medicine. I wonder if you can just talk a little bit about how you yourself came to realize it as a medicine and wellness tool, rather than as a tool for “getting high.”</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: I think the real catalyst for me thinking about wellness in a deeper way, and how it relates to cannabis, was shortly after we opened Harborside and I started getting questions from reporters. They usually went something like, “Well, aren't these people all in here just getting high?” Or “Don't a bunch of the people in here just want to get high?” Or “What percentage of your patients are real medical patients?”</p><p dir="ltr">So I had to come up with a way of answering those questions, and that forced me into a process of self-examination. I really had to think about it. I had to think about my own cannabis use. There are ways I use cannabis that are clearly medical, OK? I’ve got a back problem. My back’s hurting, I use some cannabis. All right, clearly medical. Insomnia. I’ve got some issues with insomnia. Clearly there’s a wellness feature there. But I also like to enjoy some cannabis before I go to a concert because it enhances the sound of the music. I like to enjoy cannabis before I make love because it enhances that experience for me. I like to use cannabis before I go into nature because it brings me into closer contact and communion with nature. Those things don’t feel like “getting high” to me. But they also don’t feel completely medical to me. So what are they?</p><p dir="ltr">And I wanted to answer these questions from reporters honestly, so as I started looking at my own cannabis use, I realized that most of it didn’t fall clearly into a “getting high” category or into a medical category. Most of my cannabis use is in what I call the “overlooked benefits of cannabis” category. Because it’s not just about getting high. Those kinds of experiences are some of the most precious and meaningful experiences in our lives. Being intimate with another person, being close to nature, having a more full spiritual experience — very important parts of our lives.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="464"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="464" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/steve_books.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo by Jesse Andrew Clark.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Have you always been able to openly talk about your personal experiences with and reasons for using cannabis? Does the public opinion shift regarding cannabis and the fact that people are realizing what it is and does make you feel better able to talk about it openly?</strong></p><p>SD: I don’t think I even realized the way I used cannabis and thought about it myself until I was forced to confront the question, “Isn’t this all just about getting high." When I sat down and confronted that question, I realized, no it is not. It’s not about intoxication. And it’s also not for the most part, at least for me, medical. There’s this other realm of cannabis use on the spectrum and I think that’s where most cannabis use is. The overwhelming majority of cannabis use falls into that realm, not into a recreational—and "recreational" has become a code word for “just getting high” — or a medical category.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong> AMS: Right, and as you said, it can be both at the same time. I might be taking care of my back pain while listening to music.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: That’s right.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: One of the book chapters, or manifesto points, is “Cannabis Should Never Have Been Made Illegal,” and in it you speak to the way prohibition was born of racism and ignorance. Can you talk a little about how legalization can not only reverse the trend of prohibition, but also make amends for some of the damage done?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: It’s critically important that, as we think about how we’re going to make cannabis legal, we remember how it was made illegal and why it was made illegal. When it was made illegal, it had nothing to do with the properties of the plant. It had everything to do with the people who were using it, who were mostly brown people and black people. The racial disparity in the enforcement of cannabis laws is not an unintended consequence. It was the prime motivating purpose behind the cannabis laws in the first place. So, as we untangle this travesty, which has ruined people’s lives, which has cost people’s lives — and overwhelmingly black and brown people — we have to address and fix that historical reality.</p><p>So how do we do that? Well, in California there was just a very vigorous debate in the legislature about whether people who have been convicted of felonies, and specifically cannabis-related felonies, should be allowed to be licensees in the regulated system. The law enforcement officers in the state of California threatened to walk away from the table and not support regulation unless a provision was included in there that allows the regulating authority to deny licenses to people convicted of felonies, including people convicted of nonviolent cannabis felonies.</p><p dir="ltr">For me to say to somebody who was convicted of a cannabis crime that they are not allowed to participate in the new cannabis industry is piling injustice upon injustice. It’s also just plain stupid from a policy point of view, OK? We have a terrible problem with mass incarceration in this country, and now we’re beginning to wake up to that. And we’re going to have a lot of ex-felons who are out of prison, and they’re gonna be looking for jobs. Let’s give them some. I mean, the last thing we want to do is be blocking off a pathway for legitimate employment for people.</p><p dir="ltr">And then there’s another factor. If you walk into most industry conferences, or most industry gatherings, most of the people in there look like me. They’re middle-aged white guys. Not acceptable. Not acceptable. This industry cannot look like every other industry in the United States of America. Not with the history. Not with the suffering. Not with what we’ve gone through. It’s not OK. So the industry itself has to raise the flag of diversity, has to embrace diversity not as an obligation but because we know it’s a strength. We have to correct this wrong, and that means reaching out to and making a comfortable place for communities of color, for women, for people of different orientations, for people of different abilities.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Right. You’ve been saying this, and a number of people have been saying this. Michelle Alexander, an attorney who’s originally from here, from Oakland, and author of <em>The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness</em>, has been one especially vocal participant in the conversation about lack of diversity in the burgeoning cannabis industry. So, since you’re one of the, or maybe <em>the,</em> most successful cannabis entrepreneur out there, how do you build that awareness into your business? And as new cannabis entrepreneurs — mostly white men — enter the industry, how would you recommend they go about keeping in touch with the movement, and helping minority communities be a part of it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><br />SD: Well, I think what we want to do is bring oppressed communities into the industry so that it’s not a question of the industry reaching out to those communities, it’s a question of “Do those communities have representation and are they a part of this industry?”</p><p dir="ltr">How do we do that? We do it by working that value into every aspect of what we do. We work it into our recruiting so that when we’re recruiting we take the efforts that we need to reach out to the groups that are underrepresented in our industry and invite them in.</p><p>Don’t wait for the resumes to come across the transom: reach out. Let people know they’re welcome. Support groups like the <a href="" target="_blank">Minority Cannabis Business Association</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Women Grow</a>, who are working to create that welcoming space. Bring it into your training. Make sure everybody in the organization knows from the very beginning that diversity and respect for diversity is a critical cultural value, and that it’s a meritocracy. That it doesn't matter what you’ve got between your legs or what color your skin is: If you do a good job you’re going to rise to your fullest potential. We need to make sure we do that in our marketing. In the way that we present our businesses to the world we need to make sure we represent a full and diverse face to people. Just work it into every single thing that we do.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: The last sentence of your book is a pretty powerful statement: “We will not rest until the last cannabis prisoner is set free.” Could you talk a bit about the fact that, despite the changing tide when it comes to state and national drug policy, people remain incarcerated — often with life sentences — for doing what is now legal in many of the states where they are being held, which is selling, growing, using cannabis?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: Speaking for myself, my job is not going to be done until the last cannabis prisoner on this planet walks out of their cell and nobody ever goes in there again. Until that happens, I will keep on fighting. I think it’s a moral imperative of the cannabis industry to continue doing that. It is repugnant to me that people could be on the outside making money and benefitting from this plant and not do everything they could do to make sure all the cannabis prisoners are free. It’s repugnant to me. I think every successful cannabis business has an obligation and a duty to move that effort forward.</p><p><strong>AMS: And you’re a huge proponent of people in the cannabis business also being activists, and you live that. Why? You are so successful business-wise, and theoretically you could just say, “I’m just gonna do my thing in Oakland with this dispensary, and that’s it.”</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: The reason Harborside is successful is because of the community we’ve created here. It’s not just me and not just my vision or business acumen. It’s because we’ve created a community a lot of people derive value out of. Our patients derive value, our staff derives value, the entire city derives value out of it. I think that’s really the success of Harborside: you don’t have to choose between thriving financially and having values in your business.</p><p dir="ltr">Branding, think about branding in the future. We’re marketing to the smartest generation of humans that has ever been created. This generation has greater access to information and they can get it more quickly. They can synthesize that information into new ideas and act on it in a way that no other generation in human history has ever done. You cannot market and brand to the smartest generation like you did to previous generations. If you put a fancy jingle out and you put up a billboard and a bunch of fancy advertising, out are gonna come the phones, and people are gonna say, "OK, how do you grow your product? How do you treat your workers? How do you interact with your community?" And I’ll tell you what, if there is any discernable gap between the image you’re putting out and what you’re practicing, the smartest generation will find it and blow you to pieces.</p><p dir="ltr">So branding and marketing moving into the future, is very much a values-based proposition. People are going to spend their dollars with organizations they think reflect their values, and if they don’t they’re gonna go somewhere else.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: In states so far that have legalized across-the-board adult-use cannabis, it’s been interesting the way they’ve each handled medical marijuana, and nowhere is it recognized as just a straight-across wellness product. What do you think it will take for cannabis to be seen as a wellness product like you describe in the book?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: If you take a look at not just the laws in the U.S. but public consciousness, the idea that you have to choose between “recreational cannabis”—or just getting high— and medical cannabis is a very widespread attitude. I think that's the way most people look at cannabis. I think it's going to take some rethinking and reimagining. I think individual cannabis users are going to need to read the information and go through the same process I did, of really thinking about our own cannabis use and what it means to us and how we relate to it. I think that first we change the consciousness of the cannabis community, because we all have direct experience with this phenomenon. There’s not one person I’ve talked to and described wellness theory to who uses cannabis that does not get it. So we start with the cannabis community, educate ourselves, and then we can move that consciousness out to the greater public. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote the book.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="341" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="341" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/cannabis_manifesto.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Photo by Jesse Andrew Clark.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: Several medical marijuana states have gone on to legalize recreational marijuana, and integrating medical into the overall legalization scheme has been an issue in all of them. Some (Colorado) have done better than others (Washington). Given that California is likely to vote to legalize recreational next year, what are your concerns about what will happen to medical marijuana in the state? And does the passage of the medical marijuana regulation package ease those concerns or not?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: In California and in every other state in the country I favor a unitary cannabis system. I don’t think there’s any logical, rational reason to separate the supply chain and the distribution functions of the cannabis industry into two different categories. It is the same plant. To a large degree, it's the same consumers, certainly people in the same areas.</p><p dir="ltr"><br />So, in Colorado, you’ll walk into a shop that’s run by one company. There’s a wall down the middle of the shop. One one side, all the medical cannabis patients go, on the other side all the other adult-use consumers go. The selection is identical on each side. There’s no difference. It's grown by the same growers, it’s the same products. But, in order to maintain this wall between medical and “recreational” the operators are required to have a completely separate inventory, a completely separate point of sale system, completely separate managers and employees. It is crazy. Now, who pays the cost of that? The consumer pays the cost of that. There's no reason to do that.</p><p dir="ltr">What I favor is a system in California where you have the same supply chain. One group of people grows the cannabis, manufactures the cannabis, distributes the cannabis, sells the cannabis no matter what consumer it’s going to. The only difference is at the sales counter, where people who have a recommendation from their doctor are exempted from whatever taxes are placed on it. That’s all that really needs to happen.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: If you could pick a moment that solidified for you that the fight to liberate the cannabis plant would be your fight and your life’s work, when was that?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: I knew that at a very, very, very young age. I think probably with my first experience with the cannabis plant I knew it was going to play a very important role in my life. I just knew it. But I’ve been an activist for a long time and there've been a lot of really critical moments.If I had to identify the single most critical moment in my career it would be the day the federal government taped a notice to the front door of Harborside saying they were going to seize the property we were located in unless we voluntarily moved out. In that moment we had to make the decision either to stand up in fight or to close down. Most of the people who gave me advice on that decision advised me to quietly close Harborside, move to another property on the other side of town and reopen. I will always be very, very happy that I made the other decision and decided to stand up and fight for what was right, no matter what the consequences would be.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: And you’re still dealing with those consequences.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SD: That decision has cost the Harborside organization millions of dollars. It’s cost me many, many sleepless nights; it’s not over yet. But this is an example of putting into practice the lessons and the values the cannabis plant teaches. One of the lessons the cannabis plant teaches you is to be true to yourself. For me, to have closed down and backed down in the face of the federal government would not have been true to myself.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>AMS: In the book you talk about cannabis as a valuable plant, and you talk about how, in addition to the wellness benefits of cannabis,  hemp could become a huge fuel source, renewable industrial product and so on. At the end of the book you declare eventually legalization will win and the whole world eventually will legalize. Why are you so sure of that?</strong><br /><br />SD: I am certain, absolutely certain with every single cell and fiber in my being that cannabis is going to be legal and accepted in every corner of the world. Why? Because it’s the most valuable plant on the planet. There is no other plant that gives us so many benefits and asks so little in return. Once people understand that, the pressure to change the laws is going to be unstoppable. It already is unstoppable in some places in the world.</p><p dir="ltr">This is the critical point in the cannabis debate. We need to ask ourselves, "Is this a good plant or a bad plant?" There are large parts of our movement that have bought into the prohibitionist paradigm and said, “Well, it’s not really good, exactly, but it's—well, it’s safer than alcohol. We can control it, it’s better if you legalize and control it. It’s a little bit harmful but we can make it less harmful that way.”</p><p dir="ltr">No. It is a good plant. It is a profoundly good plant. It is the most valuable plant on the planet. It has to be unshackled. There are millions of people dying and suffering, there are tons and tons of carbon being put into the atmosphere that does not need to be. If we want to heal ourselves and heal our planet, we need to embrace this plant.</p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 12:57:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1043427 at Books Books Drugs Personal Health marijuana cannabis pot drugs war on drugs Do You Live In One of the Most—or Least—Happy Places in America? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new poll measures well-being around the country.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/happyfingers.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>What creates happiness? Money plays a part in it, but as a <a href="">study</a> earlier this year from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University showed, that part is limited. Of course, there are a number of factors aside from money that add up to complete emotional well-being, which range from <a href="">altruism</a>, to social connectedness to exercise. When it comes to money, it turns out, people's happiness increases alongside their incomes only until they make around $75k. As an AlterNet article pointed out last month, "according to the study, if you’re below this level of annual income, which the majority of Americans are, you’re more likely to feel unhappy on a daily basis. Meanwhile, if you’re in the minority earning above that bracket, you’ve hit the threshold for diminishing marginal returns on daily happiness." </p><p> Intrigued by the happiness study, the personal finance social network, <a href="">Wallet Hub</a>, conducted a poll to determine how happy people in the U.S. are, state by state. The results were released this month.</p><p>The Wallet Hub poll used similar measurements to the Gallup-Healthways poll for its survey. It compared all 50 states and Washington D.C. across 25 metrics, ranging from emotional health to income levels to sports participation rates. As an article on Wallet Hub notes, "Apart from financial security, a <a href="" target="_blank">pleasant state</a> of being also depends on one’s physical health, job satisfaction, environment, social connectivity and general outlook on life — among others."</p><p>Other groups have paved the way for happiness measurement with similar polls. Last year, members of the research consulting company Gallup teamed up with the well-being improvement company Healthways to create a breakdown of emotional wellness worldwide.</p><p>To take their measurements, Gallup and Healthways broke happiness down into specific positive emotional indicators, such as enjoyment, laughing or smiling a lot, feeling well-rested, feeling respected, or having learned something interesting. They polled people in 138 countries in 2013, asking whether they'd experienced these feelings the previous day. Gallup then organized the "yes" results into a <a href="">Positive Experience Index</a> score for each nation.</p><p>In general, it turns out Latin America is the place to be. For the third year running, Paraguay is the happiest country in the world. The 10 happiest places on Earth are all located in Central and South America— minus Denmark, which squeezed in there at number eight. </p><p>Wallet Hub's US poll found out that the five most emotionally well states are, in order of ranking: Utah, Minnesota, Hawaii, Colorado and North Dakota. The five unhappiest states are Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and all the way down in last place, West Virginia.</p><p>Find out where your state ranks on the Wallet Hub <a href="">happiness scale</a>. </p> Tue, 15 Sep 2015 15:51:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1042465 at Personal Health Personal Health study california happiness emotional well-being Missouri Man Sentenced to Life In Prison for Nonviolent Pot Crime Goes Free <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">He has spent a third of his life behind bars.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/jeff_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Most people, including the president of the United States, now admit the drug laws in the U.S. have been exaggerated for too long. As education spreads and public perception shifts, some of those out-of-date policies are crumbling. Americans are recognizing drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal offense, and state by state the laws are loosening up.</p><p>The change in public opinion is especially overt when it comes to the most popular illegal drug, marijuana. While having anything to do with cannabis remains a felony offense, four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington— have legalized pot for adult use, and almost half of U.S. states allow for its medical use.</p><p dir="ltr">However, for every one of the hundreds of entrepreneurs flipping on the lights for the first time in their Colorado pot shops, there are two unfortunate souls rotting behind bars for cannabis-related crimes. Even in states where cannabis is legal, most cannabis convicts have yet to be pardoned and released.</p><p dir="ltr">A glimmer of hope came this week when 62-year-old Jeff Mizanskey, imprisoned for more than two decades on a nonviolent marijuana-related charge, was released from the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Missouri. Mizanskey was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole for buying pot. As he told reporter Summer Ballentine of the <a href="" target="_blank">AP</a>, he has already spent a third of his life behind bars. He plans to spend the time he still has advocating for cannabis legalization.</p><p dir="ltr">Mizanskey’s family, friends and attorney Dan Viets spent decades working toward his release. Viets told AP the shift in national opinion has everything to do with the long overdue victory.</p><p dir="ltr">Mizanskey was the only inmate in the state of Missouri serving life without parole for a nonviolent, cannabis-related offense. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon agreed to commute his sentence in May.</p><p dir="ltr">While Mizanskey’s release is a step in a less draconian direction, it must be noted that he is white. Despite the fact that all races use and sell drugs at relatively equal rates, the vast majority of drug-related convicts in the U.S. are black or Hispanic. The national war on drugs has primarily targeted minority communities and has had devastating, multi-generational effects (see this <a href="" target="_blank">AlterNet article</a> for a detailed description of the situation by Michelle Alexander). While the release of one marijuana prisoner is a positive sign of the times, the U.S. has a long way to go before we can call our drug policies fair.</p> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:12:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1041944 at Drugs Drugs drugs war on drugs pot crime missouri Jeff Mizanskey marijuana cannabis Breastfeeding in the Industrial Age Could Fill Your Baby With Toxic Chemicals <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A Harvard study showed infants who were breastfed had higher concentrations of common, toxic chemicals.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/breast_feeding.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Breastfeeding could be poisoning babies with dangerous toxins. At the end of August, experts from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health released the results of a study showing a link between a class of industrial chemicals and cancerous toxins in breast milk. </p><p>The chemical substances, which are used in sleeping bags, pizza boxes, cookwares, waterproof clothing and other common household products, are called perfluorinated alkylates, or PFAS, and are known to contaminate drinking water in places close to their production facilities. </p><p>These compound chemicals bioaccumulate in food chains and have the same effect as mercury contamination in seafood: one small animal is exposed to the chemical, then a larger animal eats that animal and becomes even more exposed, and so on up the line. They can stay in the body for extended periods of time, and according to a press release from Harvard, have been “linked with reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and immune system dysfunction."</p><p dir="ltr">This is the first study that quantifies the amount of the chemicals that can be transferred to infants through breast milk over time. It showed that for each month an infant was breastfed, the PFAS concentrations in their blood increased by roughly 20 to 30 percent. In a few cases, the baby's concentration levels exceeded that of its mother by the end of breastfeeding.  </p><p dir="ltr">“We knew that small amounts of PFAS can occur in breast milk, but our serial blood analyses now show a buildup in the infants, the longer they are breastfed,” Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of <a href="" target="_blank">environmental health</a> at Harvard Chan School, said in a <a href="" target="_blank">press release</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The study results suggest breast milk is a major source of PFAS exposure for babies.</p><p>“There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but we are concerned that these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a very vulnerable age,” Grandjean said in the press release. “Unfortunately, the current U.S. legislation does not require any testing of chemical substances like PFASs for their transfer to babies and any related adverse effects.”</p> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:58:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1041943 at Personal Health Environment Personal Health breast milk breast feeding chemicals toxins poisioning Why Now Is the Worst Time in American History to Be a Renter <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">People in San Francisco and LA are spending half of their incomes on rent.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_171813740.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you’re having trouble keeping up with rent, you’re not alone. Renting in the U.S. has never been as expensive as it is right now. </p><p>According to a <a href="">new report</a> by the online real estate database Zillow, rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck. Mortgage prices have remained relatively stable over the last several years, while rent has skyrocketed. A <a href="">Bloomberg article</a> points out that the cost of homeownership is actually at a historic low, while the rate of homeownership is also lower than it has been in years. With home ownership is at its lowest rate in five years, apartment living has become increasingly competitive and some landlords appear to be taking advantage of the situation.</p><p dir="ltr">To come up with its estimates, Zillow tracked data going back to 1979. It found that while the longstanding average income percentage an American spent on rent between 1985 and 1999 was 24.4, today a median renter is spending an average of 30.2 percent of her income on the rent for a median-priced apartment. This is up from 29.5 percent one year ago.</p><p dir="ltr">In Los Angeles, residents are spending half of their incomes on rent. San Francisco residents are just shy of LA, spending 47 percent of their incomes on rent.</p><p dir="ltr">For people like me who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this news isn’t exactly shocking. Rent in California has always been high compared with much of the country, but it’s been especially bananas in recent years. Thanks mainly to the influx of billionare-backed tech companies from Silicon Valley, <a href="">San Francisco</a> is the most expensive city in America. The artists and non-techies who once called the city home are moving en masse to Oakland and surrounding parts of the East Bay. This is creating a damaging domino effect in which primarily white, middle-class people priced out of SF are in turn pricing lower-income minority families out of their longtime East Bay homes.</p><p dir="ltr">Gentrification isn't just a San Francisco trend, of course, and California’s not the only place where city dwellers are spending close to half of what they earn on shelter. In Miami, rent accounts for an average of 45 percent of income, and in the New York metro area, the number is 41 percent.</p><p>Here's a pretty staggering graph Bloomberg put together to show the "Affordability Crunch," based on Zillow's data:</p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="269" style="font-size: 12px;" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="269" style="font-size: 12px;" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/-1x-1.png" /></div> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:07:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1040933 at Economy Economy rent afford housing The Internet Is Swarming With 'Snake People' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Popular browser extension pokes fun at the Internet&#039;s millennial-haters.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/3579905705_b7cd045632_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I am one of the snake people. That is to say, I’m a millennial.</p><p dir="ltr">And if you are one of the thousands of people who downloaded a browser extension that replaces any online use of the term “millennials” with the term “snake people,” this article will be especially confusing to read.</p><p dir="ltr">The popular browser extension is simply called “Millennials to Snake People,” and it's pretty entertaining. In case you’ve been living under a rock (the way snake people are prone to do, not just because <a href="">rents</a> are higher than ever in this country but also for obvious reasons), “millennials” is the name for people born in the '80s and '90s. As the <em><a href="">Wall Street Journal</a>  </em>neatly summed it up: “An extension is a small software program that modifies an Internet browser such as Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox.”</p><p dir="ltr">Usually, people download browser extensions for practical purposes, like blocking ads, spellchecking and other purely functional uses. But not this glorious wordplay. The extension also includes related terms.</p><p dir="ltr">“‘Great recession’ becomes ‘time of shedding and cold rocks,’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ turns into ‘Great Ape-Snake War.’”</p><p dir="ltr">Thirty-three-year-old web designer and snake person Eric Bailey, created the extension for fun, and out of exasperation over one too many crazily titled headlines generalizing about millennials, he told WSJ.</p><p dir="ltr">“A lot of these articles speak of [millennials] in terms of this weird, dehumanized, alien phenomenon.”</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, we snake people have had a bad rap, primarily from more conservative members of the generation formerly ostricized by their parents for being "hippies" (aka out of touch wealthy people with wrinkles) who have reproached us as entitled, spoiled, lazy cat-video-crazed complainers. In reality our vocal unhappiness about the current state of things is a direct reaction to the broken economic system we inherited--like the fact that we’re buried in deeper debt than any other generation, insane rent prices (yes, it’s worth mentioning twice) and joblessness. Former AlterNet editor and snake person Alyssa Figueroa sums things up pretty nicely <a href="">here</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Bailey’s joke wasn’t lost on the Internet; 12,000 Chrome users alone have already downloaded the extension. It is also available for the browsers Safari and Firefox.</p><p dir="ltr">WSJ mentioned there is also a “competing extension that turns ‘millennial’ into ‘pesky whipper-snapper’” But that one only has about 2,000 downloads. Some other funny extensions have invaded the Web  before the snake people. For example, according to WSJ, more than 119,000 people use the Chrome extension that replaces every image with a picture of Nicolas Cage (what?).</p><p>So, if you’re tired of reading the dehumanizing generalizations, maybe it’s time to replace them with commentary on why “<a href="">Snake People are So Obessed With Food</a>,” and how “<a href="">Chinese Snake People Sound Like the Freaking Worst</a>.”</p> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 13:20:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1040937 at Culture Culture snake people millenials extension browser Generation Gap Debunking One of the Most Pernicious Pot Myths <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A cannabis overdose has never killed anyone -- much less a child.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_112430981.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you read the national headlines or watch the reports on TV, you’d think there was a dangerous epidemic sweeping the nation’s youngsters. According to a recent study, more kids are accidentally ingesting their parents’ cannabis, especially in states where the herb is legal. When marijuana-laced edibles are wrapped in darling packaging to look like delicious cookies, brownies, chocolate bars and ice cream sandwiches, it follows that a few kids will accidentally eat them.</p><p>However, the general reaction to the study is waxing hysterical. In reality, as Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project pointed out in an email, the actual statistics of the study aren’t as alarming as they seem.</p><p>In the pot-legal state of Colorado, for example, where there are likely more marijuana businesses (and treats) than anywhere in the world, the study notes that the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) received 151 calls about marijuana exposure in 2014, 45 of which involved children 8 years old and younger. Those incidents should be taken seriously. But they don’t seem so outstanding when you stack them next to the 2,690 calls about children 5 and under being exposed to cosmetics, 1,495 regarding household cleaning product exposure, and 739 calls regarding vitamins—all of which RMPDC received in 2011.</p><p>Published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the study concluded accidental exposure to pot is increasingly common for children. It based its data on analysis of self-reported incidents between 2000 to 2013 from the <a href=";channel=nation&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22National+Poison+Data+System%22" target="_blank">National Poison Data System</a>, which gathers its statistics from all of the poison control centers in the country. Naturally, pot-laced treats were the most common offender.</p><p>As a recent <a href="" target="_blank">article</a> in the Washington Post points out, accidental ingestions account for “a whopping 75 percent of cases," and the study’s co-author, <a href=";channel=nation&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22Henry+Spiller%22" target="_blank">Henry Spiller</a>, said in a statement that “the high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.”</p><p>But according to the study itself, cannabis exposure in children under 6 is still a rare thing. The Post article also notes that the numbers reported to poison control regarding marijuana are "relatively small compared to a host of other things that pose a danger to young children, such as pain medications, which are more likely to be in just about every household.”</p><p>It’s also worth mentioning that cannabis overdose has never killed anyone. While some <a href="" target="_blank">studies</a> have shown that repeated cannabis use may impact adolescents’ developing brains (a notion that is still <a href="" target="_blank">up for discussion</a>), there is no conclusive evidence of its long-term negative effects on young people.</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 06:06:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1040014 at Drugs Drugs cannabis pot edibles marijuana Planned 'Bong-a-Thon' Marijuana Smoke-out Causes Local Panic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The local county has responded à la Reefer Madness, and the name of the town does not help.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bong_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>An upcoming “competitive pot toking” event called the 32nd Annual Colorado Invitational Bong-a-Thon is turning heads across Colorado, but not all of them are smiling dreamily.</p><p dir="ltr">For the last 30 or so years, Bong-a-Thon wasn’t much more than a clandestine meet-up of a few dedicated potheads. Since the state became cannabis-legal in 2012, the event has taken place aboveboard, and anticipates 1,000 or more attendees between July 31 and August 2. Traditionally, Bong-a-Thon is held in treelined Park County, but permits were getting pricier than event organizer Chris Jetter preferred. So, he cleverly sniffed out 52 acres of private property about six driving hours away, in a tiny two-person town aptly named Stoner. The property’s owner, Frank McDonald (he goes by “Ol’ McDonald”) told the <em><a href="">Colorado Independent</a> </em>he plans to get married during the event, and eventually wants to open up a cannabis-friendly resort in Stoner.</p><p dir="ltr">As reported by the <em><a href="">Colorado Independent</a>, </em></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“A place named Stoner with an owner who loves the idea of Bong-a-Thon made it too good to pass up as a new home for the weed fest, Jetter said.</p><p dir="ltr">"Bong-a-Thon had been under the radar this year because Jetter had been referring to the event using the truncated name Colorado Invitational. He had not included the Bong-a-Thon part when he applied for an amplified noise permit from Montezuma County. He never mentioned the event is a carnival of competitive cannabis consumption with contests that include tokers racing to ingest a quarter ounce of pot. Last year’s record: 5 minutes, 18 seconds.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Montezuma County, where Stoner is located, isn’t taking kindly to Jetter’s locale change. When they discovered the true nature of the “Invitational,” they responded in a manner à la Reefer Madness.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the <em>Colorado Independent,</em> residents are organizing against the event. One neighbor, Doreen Garlid, is leading the charge against the Bong-a-Thon, and told the <em>Independent</em>she is disappointed and concerned that the “extreme stoners,” would be hard to contain. Officials are up in arms as well, and the County Commissioners voted this week to seek a court injunction preventing the bonanza. The likelihood of success is slim, however, since it would entail interrupting a wedding on private property. So, the county’s concerned citizens are petitioning other authorities to take action against the impending plume of smoke, including the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, and others.</p><p dir="ltr">The<em>Independent</em>reports that “if the Bong-a-Thon organizers go forward with the event — as Jetter promises they will — the county couldn’t do more than impose up to $1,000 in fines.”</p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:22:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1039113 at Drugs Drugs colorado bong weed marijuana cannabis drugs bong-a-thon Startling Proof That Teen Pregnancies Drop When Birth Control Is Free <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Colorado experiment yields dramatic results.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/teens_1.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If birth control were free, there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies. This is the longstanding hypothesis put forth by women’s health advocates (and correspondingly written into the Affordable Care Act). Over the last six years, a private grant fund from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (billionaire investor <a href="" target="_blank">Warren Buffett</a>’s late wife) has given Colorado a unique opportunity to test this hypothesis. The results are significant.</p><p>When teenagers and poor women in the state were offered free, long-acting contraceptives—i.e. intrauterine devices (IUD) and implants—they overwhelmingly accepted, and the rate of teen pregnancies has plunged. Teen births in Colorado dropped by 40 percent between 2009 and 2013 and the number of abortions in the state decreased by 42 percent, according to the <a href="" target="_blank">Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment</a>.</p><p>The <em>New York Times</em>called the results of the experiment “startling,” in a <a href="" target="_blank">cover story</a> this week, noting that while teenage births “have been <a href="" target="_blank">declining nationally</a>, experts say the timing and magnitude of the reductions in Colorado are a strong indication that the state’s program was a major driver.”</p><p>The impact of the program has been most noticeable in the poorest parts of the state, where the rates of unplanned teenage pregnancy have historically been highest. As the <em>Times</em>piece explains,</p><p>“In 2009, half of all first births to women in the poorest areas of the state happened before they turned 21. By 2014, half of first births did not occur until the women had turned 24, a difference that advocates say gives young women time to finish their educations and to gain a foothold in an increasingly competitive job market.”</p><p dir="ltr">The <em>Times</em> article also notes that the number of women using long-term birth control methods in Colorado is much greater than the use of those methods nationally.</p><p dir="ltr">“<a href="" target="_blank">About 7 percent of American women</a> ages 15 to 44 used long-acting birth control from 2011 to 2013, the most recent period studied, up from 1.5 percent in 2002. The figures include all women, even those who were pregnant or sterilized. The share of long-acting contraception users among just women using birth control is likely to be higher.”</p><p>While the Affordable Care Act mandates “free contraception” for many in the US, not all insurance coverage is panning out equal. Some plans include a <a href="" target="_blank">required payment</a> for birth control, and others only offer a limited selection of birth control <a href="" target="_blank">methods</a> free of charge. And, as the <em>Times</em> notes:</p><p dir="ltr">“Only new plans must provide free contraception, so women on plans that predate the law may not qualify. (In 2014, about a quarter of people covered through their employers were on grandfathered plans, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Kaiser Family Foundation</a>.)</p><p dir="ltr">Advocates also worry that teenagers — who can get the devices at clinics confidentially — may be less likely to get the devices through their parents’ insurance. Long-acting devices can cost between $800 and $900.”</p><p>Meanwhile, Colorado’s program is beginning to run low on funding, but for now continues to save the state money and time. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment <a href="" target="_blank">estimates</a> that the birth control initiative has saved the state’s Medicaid program (which covers more than three-quarters of teenage pregnancies and births) $5.85 for every dollar spent.</p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 10:49:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1039046 at Gender Gender News & Politics Personal Health free birth control teen pregnancy Warren Buffett's wife colorado 5 Incredible Breakthroughs in Pot Science That Mainstream Media Is Finally Paying Attention To <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The recent shift in public opinion about marijuana has propelled a historic heave against the research blockade.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_126159383.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In spite of decades of politicization and prohibition, cannabis science is beginning to experience a rebirth—so much so that it was the topic of National Geographic’s <a href="" target="_blank">most recent cover feature</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“We’re finding surprises, and possibly miracles, concealed inside this once forbidden plant,” writes the article’s author, Hampton Sides.</p><p dir="ltr">“In the apparent rush to accept weed into the mainstream, to tax and regulate it, to legitimze and commodify it, important questions arise. What’s going on inside this plant? How does marijuana really affect our bodies and our brains? What might the chemicals in it tell us about how our neurological systems function?” Sides asks.</p><p dir="ltr">As more and more states legalize the contentious herb, the lack of controlled, scientific research looking into the safety and potential health benefits of marijuana in human subjects is glaring. The reason for this scientific void is not a lack of interested researchers or compelling hypotheses. It is political. The US government has in place a series of systems that effectively act as <a href="" target="_blank">blockades</a> against any scientist who would dare study the benefits of cannabis, so modern research on the herb has fallen behind. Due to <a href="" target="_blank">excess review requirement</a> put in place in 1999 by a tough-on-drugs Clinton administration, it’s easier for an independent researcher to study any substance other than cannabis. This includes the plant’s neighbors on the government’s Schedule I list of most dangerous drugs, like heroin and meth.</p><p dir="ltr">Countless personal anecdotes proclaim marijuana’s life-saving capabilities— the most conspicuous of which are the stories of concentrated cannabis oil’s ability to stop seizures in epileptic children. The web is also full of self-documented cases and news stories showing the oil’s ability to clear up <a href="" target="_blank">skin cancer</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Crohn’s disease</a> and other serious illnesses. Despite the clear and urgent necessity for clinical trials, marijuana’s healing effects remain largely mysterious, thanks to policies leftover from the Reefer Madness era.</p><p dir="ltr">Animal and lab studies out of other countries, like <a href="" target="_blank">Israel</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Spain</a>, have illustrated the plant’s ability to mitigate all number of ailments, including cancer. And, as Paul Armentano of the marijuana legalization organization NORML points out in a recent article, marijuana is actually one of the most studied substances of modern times, and its human use dates back thousands of years.</p><p dir="ltr">“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term “marijuana” yields more than 21,000 <a href="" target="_blank">scientific papers</a> referencing the plant and/or its constituents, nearly half of which have been published just within the past decade. By contrast, a keyword search using the term ‘ibuprofen’ yields only about half as many papers; a search associated with the prescription painkiller ‘hydrocodone’ yields only 700 studies, while a search using the keyword ‘adderall’ yields fewer than 200 peer-reviewed papers.</p><p dir="ltr">The recent shift in public opinion marijuana, coupled with the undeniable proof of its healing potentials, has propelled a historic heave against the research blockade. It is beginning to crumble. After decades of work to get FDA approval, the first ever placebo-controlled <a href="" target="_blank">clinical trial</a> looking at cannabis' benefits for human subjects with PTSD is just about set to leave the ground in Arizona, pending a final DEA approval of the study facilities. Several new animal studies are also breaking ground, and the government has tripled its production of cannabis in response (all legal cannabis studies in the US are required to use government-grown weed—part of the red tape that has slowed research down significantly).</p><p dir="ltr">All in all, marijuana science is a topic very much in vogue, which is likely why a publication as esteemed and historic as National Geographic chose it as the focus of its June 2015 issue. The feature examined the many ways marijuana is shifting in our culture—and in the process urging us to rethink everything we thought we knew about the drug. While noting what a shame it is that there isn’t more pot science already out there, Sides delves into the existing research—primarily performed on lab rats—and outlines some of the most fascinating facts we do know about the cannabis plant to date.</p><p dir="ltr">Here are five of the most mind-boggling marijuana science breakthroughs to date, as outlined in National Geographic.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. THC gets you high, CBD stops seizures and shrinks tumors.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">“[O]ne day in 1963 a young organic chemist in Israel named Raphael Mechoulam, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science outside Tel Aviv, decided to peer into the plant’s chemical composition. It struck him as odd that even though morphine had been teased from opium in 1805 and cocaine from coca leaves in 1855, scientists had no idea what the principal psychoactive ingredient was in marijuana.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mechoulam went on to become known as “the patriarch of cannabis science.” He was the first person to identify the active compounds in the cannabis plant. The first one he isolated was tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Today, THC is practically a household name, famously responsible for the “high” effect of marijuana.  He and his team also isolated CBD, which is now understood to be responsible for many of cannabis’ medical properties—including anti-seizure and cancer shrinking.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was just a plant,” Mechoulam, now 84, told National Geographic. “It was a mess, a mélange of unidentified compounds.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Growers are beginning to zero in on the types of cannabis best suited for medical purposes.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In the article, Hague takes the author into a propagation room where young cannabis clones, all “rich in CBD and other compounds  that have shown at least anecdotal promise in treating such diseases and disorders as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, osteoporosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)” are being grown strictly for medical purposes. </p><p dir="ltr">Hague explains that these strains (which are low in THC, because CBD and THC naturally counter each other) keep him “up at night, dreaming about what they can do.” He notes that marijuana “contains numerous substances—cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes—that have never been investigated in depth.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Studies have shown THC can reduce cancer cells.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Manuel Guzmán of the Complutense University of Madrid, “a biochemist who’s studied cannabis for about 20 years,” has worked with his colleagues using cannabis compounds to treat animals with cancer for the last 15 years.</p><p dir="ltr">In a groundbreaking study, which he showed Sides,  cancer cells injected into lab rats were completely destroyed by THC.</p><p dir="ltr">Sides writes,</p><blockquote><p>“On [Guzmán’s] screen flash two MRIs of a rat’s brain. The animal has a large mass lodged in the right hemisphere, caused by human brain tumor cells Guzmán’s researchers injected. He zooms in. The mass bulges hideously. The rat, I think, is a goner. ‘This particular animal was treated with THC for one week,” Guzmán continues. “And this is what happened afterward.” The two images that now fill his screen are normal. The mass has not only shrunk—it’s disappeared.’”</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>In this study, Guzmán and his colleagues found that the tumors were  reduced in one third of the rats, and eradicated in another third. “Through his years of research [Guzmán] has ascertained that a combination of THC, CBD, and temozolomide (a moderately successful conventional drug) works best in treating brain tumors in mice. A cocktail composed of these three compounds appears to attack brain cancer cells in multiple ways, preventing their spread but also triggering them, in effect, to commit suicide.”</p></blockquote><p>Guzman's team also completed a pilot study in 2006 looking at cannabis ability to inhibit tumor growth in human subjects, which turned out promising results.</p><p dir="ltr">The National Geographic article warns that, while the results of Guzmán’s research are promising, mice are not humans and the effects might not be the same.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Chemicals in cannabis act similarly to beneficial chemicals in our brains.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It is possible that the compounds in cannabis can mimic our natural brain chemicals and fill in where our brains might have become deficient. This is something cannabis journalist Angela Bacca (who used cannabis to successfully reverse her Crohn’s disease) has <a href="" target="_blank">written about</a> in detail. As Bacca explains:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“The chemical compounds produced by cannabis that cause the “high,”  (phytocannabinoids) actually mimic chemical compounds our bodies already produce, use and need to regulate essential functions. These are functions like pain, mood, digestion, appetite, inflammation and sleep. Some of these cannabinoids are already pretty well known — ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), for example. Phytocannabinoids work on the same receptors and perform similar functions to endogenous cannabinoids (or cannabinoids that naturally exist in the human brain). For instance, THC works on the same receptors and performs similar functions to anandamide, which can be produced by rigorous exercise and is the compound responsible for the ‘runner’s high.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">According to the National Geographic article, Guzmán’s lab has looked into this, studying how the chemicals in cannabis work the same way as the chemicals in our bodies to protect our brains against various physical and emotional traumas.</p><p dir="ltr">“Our brain needs to remember things, of course,” Guzmán said to National Geographic, “but it also needs to forget things—horrific things, unnecessary things. It’s much like the memory in your computer—you have to forget what is not necessary, just like you need to periodically delete old files. And you have to forget what is not good for your mental health—a war, a trauma, an aversive memory of some kind. The cannabinoid system is crucial in helping us push bad memories away.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Cannabis can stop epileptic seizures.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">“A good deal of anecdotal evidence shows that high-CBD strains of cannabis can have a strong antiseizure effect,” Sides writes. “The medical literature, though scant, goes back surprisingly far. In 1843 a British doctor named William O’Shaughnessy published an article detailing how cannabis oil had arrested an infant’s relentless convulsions.”</p><p dir="ltr">Pediatric neurologist Elizabeth Thiele of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital is co-leading a study to assess CBD for treating refractory childhood epilepsy. She told Sides that the early results of the CBD study are encouraging.</p><p dir="ltr">“CBD is not a silver bullet—it doesn’t work for everybody,” she said to National Geographic. “But I’m impressed. It clearly can be a very effective treatment for many people. I have several kids in the study who’ve been completely seizure-free for over a year.”</p> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:38:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1037707 at Drugs Drugs Media Personal Health cannabis marijuana media science research Meet the Brave Doctor Still Researching Marijuana Even After Getting Fired for It <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Dr. Sue Sisely is not letting bureaucratic obstacles or political retribution stop her. And veterans suffering PTSD thank her for it. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_science.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Without warning last July, Sue Sisley — a physician specializing in internal medicine and psychiatry — was asked to leave her position as a member of the faculty in excellent standing at her alma mater, the University of Arizona. She was never given any semblance of due process or any reason why she was being let go. She was simply stripped of the three contracts she held with the university — the same university where she received her M.D.., was honored with the Leo B. Hart Humanitarian award and was a generous donor — and asked to leave.</p><p>But the likely reasons behind Dr. Sisley’s termination aren’t too mysterious. She was slated to lead the first ever U.S.-based, independent clinical research study of marijuana as a potential medicine. As the herb remains listed amongst the most dangerous drugs according to the government’s scheduling criteria, the study’s green light (which came only after members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies or MAPS and others worked <a href="">for more than a decade</a> to get it through the stringent approval process) was contentious in the university’s conservative home state. Dr. Sisley has said she thinks her personal political outspokenness, coupled with the nature of her intended work, led a prominent politician to pressure the university for her removal.</p><p>“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Dr. Sisley told the LA Times last year. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”</p><p>The study, which has finally been approved by all the necessary government agencies and boards, intends to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis use to mitigate symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for military veterans.</p><p>Dr. Sisley has already found a group of 76 veterans who are ready and willing to participate in the study. They are veterans from all over the country who have been unable to successfully tackle the severe mental torment that PTSD delivers in the form of nightmares, traumatic flashbacks, insomnia, disassociation, anxiety and depression. Like many of the 21.8 million or more people who have returned from war zones to the U.S., the would-be study participants have all found their Veterans’ Affairs (VA) prescribed pharmaceuticals to be either ineffectual, or ridden with severe side effects that cause even worse mental unrest than the PTSD they’re prescribed to treat. They are, unfortunately, emblematic of many U.S. veterans — at least 22 of whom commit suicide every single day according to VA statistics.</p><p>Dr. Sisley told me in an interview last February that the need for psychiatrists to better understand and treat PTSD is dire, “not just for combat vets but for all our citizens who are plagued by this.”</p><p>“Any physician who’s also a human being can’t rest when we know that there’s something out there, in this case a plant, that has the potential to reduce human suffering,” she said.</p><p>When Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN special, <a href="">Weed 3,</a> premiered on Sunday, it featured Dr. Sisley, and her struggle to get the PTSD study off the ground. Sisley said she doesn’t know how long her portion of the segment is, but she’s had a video crew following her since she was fired last year.</p><p>“They’ve been with us about eight months now,” she said. Gupta recently released an <a href="">article</a> about the premier in the title of which he declared, “It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution,” listing the PTSD study as part of that revolution’s emergence.</p><p>“In Weed 3, we are eyewitnesses to a revolution in full swing,” he wrote. “You will ride along with us for the dawn of the first federally approved clinical study on the use of marijuana for PTSD. You will meet patients such as Sean Kiernan, an accomplished investment banker, and Amelia Taylor, a stay-at-home mom. They are the remarkable and surprising faces of this revolution — smart, successful and suffering — unwilling to accept the fact that commonly prescribed medications often used to treat PTSD can be worse than the underlying disorder itself.”</p><p>Veteran Support</p><p>Sisley regularly treats first responders and military veterans, many of whom have some form of PTSD. After years observing and speaking with patients she learned that many were using marijuana to successfully manage their symptoms. The self-described “lifelong Republican who has never tried an illicit drug and doesn’t drink,” became curious to know why and how cannabis was helping so many of her patients. When she considered studying cannabis to learn more about it, she discovered the same <a href="">research blockade</a> that has effectively prevented any scientific study of cannabis for more than 40 years.</p><p>Her curiosity led her to Rick Doblin, the executive director of the California-based nonprofit MAPS, which has sought for 15 years to complete federally sanctioned clinical marijuana research. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — which has a DEA-protected monopoly on the only legal supply of cannabis for use in FDA-regulated research — has failed to sell them the cannabis required for a study.</p><p>Doblin and Sisley worked to develop the PTSD study, slating Sisley as principal investigator. After years of back and forth, the study’s <a href="">protocols</a> were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Public Health Service also approved the protocols last March, which was the last step before NIDA was required to sell their cannabis to the researchers.</p><p>Sisley’s research also received a $2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last November.</p><p>However, Sisley says part of the final hurdle is attaining all the necessary strains of cannabis for the study. NIDA reported recently that they only have three of the four phenotypes originally requested in 2011. The agency recently sent Sisley and Doblin an email implying that the researchers would have to either use the substandard hybrid that they’d developed (which Sisley said is “not even close” to the strain requested), or wait for another growth cycle. She said NIDA has refused to say how long a normal government grow cycle is, but a usual grow cycle for the plant is about three months.</p><p>Sisley said the researchers may choose to accept the lower quality strain due to the urgent need to get the study underway and begin collecting objective data on marijuana use. Since the University will no longer be its host, the study is currently seeking a location in the Scottsdale or Phoenix areas.</p><p>The study already received approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Arizona, but since Sisley was fired it requires a new IRB approval. While Sisley will treat half the study subjects, Ryan Vandrey, PhD will treat the other half at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The study will also require clearance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) once the marijuana has a delivery date, but according to MAPS this shouldn’t be a difficult step in the process.</p><p>The Veterans</p><p>After losing her job, and becoming a bit of a public figure — which comes with both positives and negatives — Sisley says the bond she has formed with the veterans she plans to work with is what carried her through following her termination, and is what inspires her to continue to fight to get the historic research underway.</p><p>“The only victory for scientific freedom is to persevere and get this study implemented, finally,” she said. “That would be a real victory for scientific freedom. I feel a really strong bond with these vets, and it’s crystallized since my firing. After being terminated, I felt a tremendous amount of affection from these guys and a very deep devotion from them.”</p><p>Sisley said she receives countless emails, voicemails, Facebook messages and texts from vets — and some active duty military members — all over the world encouraging her to pursue this research. Because so many veterans have found relief via cannabis that no other medicine could provide, there is a global movement building amongst vets to legalize and study medical marijuana. Sisley said many of the notes she receives are from vets who are suffering from PTSD but are afraid to try marijuana, because of the lack of scientific research.</p><p>“They don’t understand how it works, and don’t want to try something unless a doctor recommends it,” she said. “They know that it could possibly make them worse.”</p><p>Sisley shared a couple of notes from veterans that she said had a particularly strong impact for her.</p><p>One is from a marine veteran named Ryan, based in Colorado. He wrote:</p><p>“We support you Doc! We need this PTSD study. My brothers and sisters are suffering and maybe your PTSD research can shed some light on a new treatment. Anything you need, ANYTHING, me and my group of veterans are at your disposal. You just say the word Doc! You’re a warrior like us.  Truth stands! Veterans love you!”</p><p>The second note she shared was from an active duty soldier named Brian, stationed at a U.S. army base in Seoul Korea. He wrote:</p><p>“Thank you for all the bullshit you’ve been putting up with for us vets, it means a lot. I’ve already got PTSD and nothing they’ve offered me so far has helped. You’ve shown greater bravery and leadership than a lot of military officers out here on active duty. We’ll follow you to the end Doc!”</p><p>Sisley even has a <a href="">fan page on Facebook</a> called “Veterans for Sue Sisley MD and PTSD Research.”</p><p>While there are still a few barriers to overcome, thanks to Sisley’s unyielding determination we are closer than ever to seeing real, objective, scientific research on a long-vilified plant that has the potential to save countless lives.</p><p> </p> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 11:50:00 -0700 April M. Short, 1035241 at Drugs Personal Health Sue Sisely medical marijuana veterans ptsd University of Arizona Pot Goes Legit, But Will It Sell Its Soul? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A peek inside what could be the fastest-growing, most controversial industry ever reveals dollar-sign dreams and contradictions. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_money.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Like many college students, Billy Woolf left home this winter to travel to the opposite coast for school. Unlike most students, Woolf is a bespectacled 57-year-old—and his topic of study is marijuana.</p><p>One sunny December Saturday in Oakland, California, prior to a civics lecture on the legal rights and responsibilities of medical cannabis patients, Woolf sat across from me at a table inside of the world’s premier cannabis industry training school, <a href="">Oaksterdam University</a>. Since its founding in 2007, Oaksterdam has offered hands-on pot education via a faculty consisting of some of the biggest names in the history of the cannabis legalization movement. Its students learn the skills necessary for entering into marijuana trade jobs — everything from the history of drug policy reform, to in-classroom growing demonstrations, to the legal ins-and-outs of opening a dispensary storefront.</p><p>Emphatic and smiling often, Woolf relayed the many reasons he flew from his Pennsylvania home to Oakland, California to prep for entry into the burgeoning cannabis business.</p><p>When the construction firm he’d owned for 25 years was purchased last year, Woolf found himself with the unique opportunity to recast his career. While he admits cannabis wasn’t at the top of the list when he started to assess his options, researching the industry changed his mind. Woolf’s professional background ranges from chemistry, to biomedical engineering, project management, IT consulting, law school and business administration. He found that the cannabis industry allowed for a unique — and potentially prosperous — marriage of his various interests.</p><p>“What I’m finding is that this market is a growth industry for people who are not afraid, if that’s the right word, to step over the old line of conservatism,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of [professionalism] that this industry is begging for… I’m hoping to bring some of that here.”</p><p>He’s actually hoping to bring it all the way to Pennsylvania, where he plans to open shop as a licensed medical marijuana grower and processor. That is, depending on the state’s political climate this year. While 23 states and Washington, D.C. now have laws allowing certain patients to access cannabis medicine (and four states allow adult-use recreational cannabis), like many states, Pennsylvania still prohibits cannabis in all forms, medical or not. A medical marijuana bill was reintroduced in the state’s legislature at the beginning of this year, and if passed it will allow patients with specific, debilitating medical conditions to use cannabis. It will also make room for new medical marijuana cultivators, processors and dispensaries to open up in the region.</p><p>“I’m hoping to be able to really bring relief to many people who are suffering in Pennsylvania,” Woolf said. “And, to me, that’s more people than I could touch doing any one of the things I’ve done in the past. So I’m really optimistic about the possibility.”</p><p>Woolf says even if Pennsylvania doesn’t loosen its cannabis laws this year, his training in the industry will undoubtedly come in handy.</p><p>“There’s all kinds of accessory businesses that are going to be thrilled to have the opportunity to service a new market,” he said, noting that while the cannabis industry is widely accepted and welcomed in the Western part of the country, he notices more lingering skepticism back on the East Coast. “It’s still talked about in hushed tones and behind closed doors. And it’s like, ‘You guys aren’t going to be talking about it like that real soon when you realize how much money can be made. Let’s be honest about it… I like to think I’m ahead of the curve, wherever that curve is, with a little bit of luck politically.”</p><p>When he initially thought about entering the cannabis industry, Woolf was not without his own hesitations. He said it took him a while to overcome some of the stigma that still surrounds all things cannabis, especially in Pennsylvania.</p><p>“I am concerned a little bit about my reputation and about what less-knowing people… perceive about cannabis,” he said. “But while I don’t want to be the crusader [for cannabis in Pennsylvania], I recognize some crusading might be necessary, and I’m willing to do that.”</p><p>That said, as he’s been asking around for advice on his new endeavor over the last year, he’s been pleasantly surprised. Friends and family — even local politicians — have all been overwhelmingly supportive of his decision to work with weed. </p><p>“I keep thinking someone’s gonna throw up their hands and say, ‘You’re an idiot’” he said. “But no one has said that… It took me a while to get over the stigma, but I’ve overcome it. I realize it’s legitimate. I have support from my family, I have support from my children. I know people out here [in California] take me seriously, but hope people back east will take me seriously, too. I’m excited about 2015. It could be a very interesting year for me.”</p><p>While some stereotypes persists — and the federal government still classifies the herb as a dangerous Schedule I drug — there is no arguing against the massive sea change in the public arena when it comes to cannabis.</p><p>Perhaps encouraged by the shift in public thinking, the  <a href="">US Surgeon General admitted</a> this month that cannabis is beneficial for certain medical conditions. In polls across the board, a solid majority of Americans think cannabis laws should change. According to research by NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) <a href="">eight out of ten people</a> in the U.S. think medical use of cannabis should be federally allowed, and a <a href="">WebMD poll</a> last April showed the majority of American medical doctors support the legalizing cannabis for medical purposes. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center completed last February, the <a href="">majority of Americans</a> think adult-use marijuana should be legal. And, several polls show more than half of all Americans support full-blown adult-use cannabis.</p><p><strong>Oaksterdam</strong></p><p>As laws and attitudes shift, and the industry proves itself profitable, Oaksterdam has had an influx of interested students. These days there are consistently more than 100 people on the school’s waiting list, and their 14 week semesters are waitlisted four to six months in advance.  After Colorado and Washington passed their ballot measures to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2012, the school’s attendance numbers increased noticeably, and they continue to grow.</p><p>Dr. Aseem Sappal, Oaksterdam’s provost and dean of faculty, says there are several plans in the works to expand the school’s curriculum. They’re currently setting up online courses so that people who can’t attend physically can still graduate from the university. Dr. Sappal estimates that Oaksterdam will reach 250 to 500 new students per month via online courses, and “that number can easily grow to 2500 a month.”</p><p>Oaksterdam plans to open a second campus in Colorado, possibly by April and has  plans in the works to offer majors, so that once students complete the foundational coursework they can specialize in a topic of interest. Tentative majors will include medicine, business, law and horticulture.</p><p>Dr. Sappal says medical practitioners and attorneys are enrolled in every single one of Oaksterdam’s classes, so the school is implementing programs designed to specifically cater to those fields. They plan to offer CLE (continuing legal education) credits for attorneys who take their classes, and CME (continuing medical education) credits for medical professionals.</p><p>“Everybody’s looking for an opportunity to find a way to fit into [the cannabis industry], including the attorneys and physicians,” Dr. Sappal said. He explained that medical professionals are noticing patient demand for cannabis medicine, and attorneys are noticing a demand for cannabis law focus. Both fields are regularly reaching out to Oaksterdam for guidance, so the school decided to develop more programs to fill that educational gap.</p><p>“I get calls from people that run oncology departments, for example, saying, ‘Hey, come out here and teach us because we don’t know what to do,’” he said. “We’re passing all these laws, but there’s hardly anybody teaching people how to move forward in this industry. I take that very seriously. I want everybody in the nation to understand that our nation’s physicians and attorneys are going to Oaksterdam to receive that education.”</p><p>In addition to reaching out to doctors and attorneys, Oaksterdam has been taking its show on the road for pop-up seminars and expos across the country. They traveled to Rhode Island and Atlantic City last year.</p><p>“The response was great on East Coast,” he said. “Education is really, really lacking out there. On our final day in Atlantic City we had an elected official, an assemblyman attending, and his jaw just dropped when he saw the response of our students — just how thankful they were as they walked out the door.”</p><p>In addition to vocational training, Oaksterdam is helping students find jobs in the industry via a career placement program.</p><p>“The majority of our students are from throughout the country,” he says. (About 60 percent.) “As people are starting to open these [cannabis] businesses you can no longer just employ your friend and girlfriend and sister and brother, you need to really bring in people who are experts in this industry. We have a great opportunity to offer job placement.”</p><p>The school is working directly with employers in the cannabis industry to match them with Oaksterdam grads, and they’re hosting a cannabis job fair in Las Vegas later this year.</p><p>“Keep in mind that no other schools do this,” Dr. Sappal said. “When you get a degree from Stanford or Cal Berkeley they’re not helping you get a job.”</p><p>Woolf says he feels fortunate to have found Oaksterdam, as there aren’t many other hands-on cannabis training programs out there.</p><p>“Where I come from, education is the place to start,” he said. “That’s why I’m here at Oaksterdam. I’m also taking the opportunity to find online resources for education and I’m developing any accreditations I can gather, because the industry is begging for legitimacy.”</p><p>The Green Rush</p><p>Woolf’s story is in keeping with a trend many have dubbed the “green rush.” People from all over the world are making their way to states where the herb is legal, seeking to build a fortune — and for good reason. The cannabis industry’s whirlwind pace of growth in recent months makes it the fastest growing industry in the U.S. according to researchers from a cannabis industry investment and research firm called ArcView Group. Like Oaksterdam, the firm is based in Oakland, California. In a recent report, ArcView found that if legalization spreads to all 50 U.S. states, the cannabis industry will be bigger than organic food.</p><p>Over seven months in 2013 and 2014, ArcView surveyed hundreds of cannabis vendors, business operators and independent cultivators in states where sales are legal — either medically or recreationally. They also gathered statistics from state agencies, nonprofits and private companies in the cannabis field to compile their overview of the marketplace. They found that the legal cannabis market in the U.S. grew 74 percent between 2013 and 2014. In that time, the size of the market spiked from a $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion.</p><p>“No other industry grows at that rate,” said Troy Dayton, CEO and co-founder of ArcView. “It just doesn’t happen… Some of the evidence suggests that the wider investment world is really starting to notice the cannabis industry. Certainly <a href="">Justin Kan</a> becoming a new member of ArcView — he just sold his company for a billion dollars to Amazon and he’s the partner in Y Combinator — that’s real big.”</p><p>Kan founded Twitch.TV, which he sold to Amazon for $970 million in 2014.</p><p>In just over a year of legal sales, Colorado has already made $44 million in taxes — so much money that they might literally have to give some of it back to residents due to a<a href="">strange mandate</a> in their tax law. Washington and Oregon, which have also implemented legal adult-use cannabis programs, are on pace to match and potentially surpass Colorado’s revenues.</p><p>In states where recreational cannabis is legal, new business ventures like dispensaries, production facilities, grow houses and testing labs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to business possibilities. A myriad of related cottage industries are already developing around legalization, from <a href="">cannabis massage and spas</a>, to<a href="">cannabis tourism</a>. Pair all of that with the added economic benefit of significantly lowered arrest rates (less people in prison, and less tax dollars spent on throwing people in prison), and the economic benefits of legalization may just about double.</p><p>According to a report by the <a href="">Colorado Center on Law and Policy</a> (CCLP) at the end of 2013 — the first year of legalization in Colorado — removing criminal penalties had already saved the state between $12 million and $40 million dollars. As <a href="">Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) reported</a>, “others have estimated the state spends <a href="">over $60 million</a>enforcing marijuana prohibition at the levels now legal, so the CCLP estimate is probably on the conservative side.”</p><p>Just about everyone interested in money seems to be thinking about cannabis lately. Snoop Dogg recently announced he’s looking to invest $25 million in marijuana startups and in January, Peter Theil’s venture capital firm (behind Facebook, SpaceX, Airbnb and others) became the first big time Silicon Valley investor in the industry. Just over one month later, hoards of tech investors are sprinting towards the industry, and ArcView Group is helping to lead the charge.</p><p>Investing In Green</p><p>In the grand ballroom of the extravagant Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, investors worth multi-billions — from tech firms to old money interests — gathered at banquet tables to hear pitches from cannabis start-ups on January 26 and 27.  This was the invite-only, $2,500-ticket marijuana investment forum, organized by ArcView Group. The forum was designed in a similar format to the popular TV show Shark Tank (in the show businesses pitch their investment opportunities to a panel of investors), so much so that the running joke of the two-day event went something like, “Welcome to the Arc-Tank.”</p><p>Backlit by PowerPoint presentations on an enormous projector screen, more than 30 cannabis-related ventures ranging from edibles producers, to indoor LED light designers, to cannabis delivery phone apps and everything in-between took the stage.</p><p>At a table on the far left hand side of the room, a Washington Post reporter scribbled in a notepad as members of the vaporizing company VapeXhale delivered their pitch, explaining that many cannabis users are looking for healthy alternatives to smoke. The following morning, ArcView CEO and co-founder Troy Dayton would declare that every major media outlet in the country, and some beyond, had run something on the event.</p><p>It’s no wonder the industry is making headlines. For one, this is one of the only times in our modern era that we’ve watched a brand new American industry unfold. The only other was the internet and tech boom of the ‘90s (to which ArcView speakers drew plenty of parallels). And it’s possibly the first time in history that an industry has taken off so fast. It’s also a new kind of industry — one born of activists fighting to legitimize an illegal, highly contentious substance.</p><p>An Industry Born From Activism</p><p>There is friction between the parents of the drug policy reform movement — which has made this industry possible via successful legalization efforts in four U.S. states (and 23 medical marijuana states) — and the big money investors with dollar signs in their eyes.</p><p>The growing concern is over how to ensure that big, corporate interests don’t stomp out the smaller players in the cannabis industry.</p><p>Dayton of ArcView said he thinks that is an expected concern, and one that he shares, to some degree:</p><p>“I want to make sure that, as we’re building this industry, we’re not just building a new industry, but a new kind of industry,” he said. “That being said, I think there’s definitely going to be room for large corporate players in the cannabis market… Where the problem lies is when the system is setup to make it only for really large scale producers. I’m really committed to making sure that we have the type of regulation that makes it possible for smaller players to have a role in the above ground economy, but let’s not let the naysayers get in the way of the real truth here. Which is that cannabis prohibition benefits two people. Underground dealers, and police forces—the people who benefit from depriving people of liberty.”</p><p>There is no denying the fact that the people responsible for the cannabis industry’s existence have sacrificed their livelihoods, safety and freedom to make it possible. Many of those most dedicated to the movement are carrying around lifelong felony records, or are still serving prison sentences for fighting against prohibition. Meanwhile, the newcomers to the industry carry little-to-no personal risk, but stand to make huge profits from cannabis.</p><p>A subtle example of this discord came during the Arcview pitch forum. Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam University and famed cannabis activist, took to the podium to pitch a different kind of investment opportunity. “Invest in the movement,” she urged the room, asking for donations in support of the 2016 legalization effort in California.</p><p>“With your help we can make the Golden State even more golden,” she told the crowd, noting that legalization in California would be a game-changer for the industry as a whole, as big trends tend to spread from West to East in this country. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana and has thus far set the standard for the industry. It is responsible for almost half of the $2.7 billion national cannabis market, and many of Colorado and Washington’s new businesses have modeled themselves after those already operating in California.</p><p>The immediate response to Jones’ call to action was unenthusiastic. You could practically hear crickets when Dayton followed Jones on the stage asking people to raise their hands if they’d donate $100k to the cause. A single hand went up at $50k, and several more investors stepped up as the asking amount fell below $10k, but many of the tables ceased to stir at all.</p><p>The divide between the people making the industry possible and the people most likely to get rich from the industry is apparent — and worrisome for those who have worked for decades for the cause. But that’s not to say there aren’t overlaps.</p><p>ArcView president and co-founder Steve DeAngelo, for example, became an activist for cannabis legalization when he was 16. He hasn’t slowed down in 40 years, despite a cannabis-related felony conviction 15 years ago and continuing attacks by the federal government on his medical cannabis dispensary, <a href="">Harborside Health Center</a>. (U.S. Attorney Melinda is still trying to seize Harborside’s property in a tax battle that is currently before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When federal agents first tried to seize Harborside’s property, the City of Oakland stepped in to stop them. Oral arguments are scheduled for late February.)</p><p>“It hasn’t really been about the industry or about the money for me,” he said. “It’s always been about the plant for me. I fell in love with this plant at a very early age. My choices were either to be a criminal for the rest of my life, or to make it legal, or to stop using cannabis — and I certainly wasn’t going to stop using cannabis. I didn’t like being illegal and being hunted so it became a prerequisite. Legalization became a prerequisite for my own personal happiness, so I made it my mission.”</p><p>DeAngelo says the pioneers of the cannabis industry are activists, many of whom were there for what he calls the “birth of the industry” in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early ‘90s. Thus, many of the leading cannabis businesses in California have come out of that activist mentality.</p><p>“Now, of course that’s changing a lot,” DeAngelo said. “We’re beginning to see larger and larger numbers of people who are coming into the industry for the reason that most people get into most industries, which is to make money.”</p><p>DeAngelo said one “bone of contention” facing California’s legalization effort is whether or not people who have cannabis-related felonies should be excluded from the industry.</p><p>“I am one of those people,” he said, noting that he was already denied a license to operate a medical cannabis dispensary in Boston, Massachusetts because of his conviction record.
 DeAngelo calls cannabis policy reform “the lowest hanging fruit on the tree of social justice.”</p><p>“There’s probably not another single action that we could take that would have more positive repercussions in the area of racial justice, in the area of environmental responsibility, in the area of economic justice, community safety, public health,” he said. “The things that I really care about in life are all impacted by cannabis. That’s what keeps me going is the knowledge that by taking this one step we can have a massive positive impact on a whole number of other social issues.”</p><p>As Michelle Alexander, author of the book <a href="">The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness</a>, has pointed out, there is a huge racial discrepancy developing when it comes to cannabis legalization. For 40 years, poor communities of color have experienced the wrath of the War on Drugs. While minorities use cannabis at the same rate as white people, they are disproportionately more likely to be arrested. But white men are largely the ones getting rich from legalization. As I reported in an AlterNet article about Alexander last year:</p><p>“When you flick on the TV to a segment about the flowering pot market in Colorado, you’ll find that the faces of the movement are primarily white and male. Meanwhile, many of the more than <a href=",000-Marijuana-Arrests-In-Colorado.pdf">210,000 people</a> who were arrested for marijuana possession in Colorado between 1986 and 2010 according to a report from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, remain behind bars. Thousands of black men and boys still sit in prisons for possession of the very plant that’s making those white guys on TV rich.”</p><p>DeAngelo — and many other speakers at the ArcView event — pointed out the importance of ensuring that cannabis is a new kind of industry, built with regulations in place to help afford opportunities to all.</p><p>“We have a fantastic opportunity in front of us,” he said. “When else have we had an opportunity in modern era to actually create a new industry from the ground up?”</p><p>DeAngelo said he thinks there’s room in the market for several different business models, but notes that he’s concerned about a trend toward “cronyism” as some states move towards legalization.</p><p>“If you take a look at the situation in Ohio right now, there’s an effort by a group there called Responsible Ohio, where they are trying to pass [legislation],” he said. “They’re being funded by the same folks who passed the gambling initiative there. They are using a model which is going to essentially grant a monopoly to 10 predetermined entities. Those entities are investing in the initiative process and they have lots of money and lots of political juice.”</p><p>DeAngelo said cannabis should be an industry that spreads the wealth more broadly than other industries in the U.S.</p><p>“We already have a problem with concentration of wealth in this country,” he said. “This industry should be an antidote to that. It should not worsen a situation that’s already bad. It should be a new industry that is environmentally responsible that looks at the way that it’s going to be producing cannabis and makes sure that it’s produced in a way that is acceptable to people who love a plant. It should be an industry that’s really engaged with the community that it’s a part of. An industry that returns benefits not just to shareholders, but to the entire community. It should be an industry that really celebrates and embraces diversity, not giving a grudging nod to diversity, but really celebrates diversity. It’s an industry that should be opened up to all kinds of people who have never had a chance to participate in growing a new industry.”</p><p>DeAngelo said he and Troy Dayton founded ArcView with that mentality in mind. As DeAngelo’s Harborside Health Center started to get more media attention over the last couple of years, both cannabis businesses in need of seed money and investors in need of guidance in the industry started to approach him for advice. Since most banks won’t do business with cannabis ventures, those in need of additional financing had to look elsewhere. And, people with money who wanted to get involved with cannabis were often at a loss for where to start.</p><p>“Cannabis has basically stayed the same ever since the beginning of prohibition, and in the meantime we’ve had a whole invention of modern technology and modern business techniques and procedures,” DeAngelo said. “It became very clear that we needed to have a good source of investment capital for small business. That kind of gets back to the spreading the wealth theme that I was talking about earlier. It’s very important to Troy and I that new and upcoming companies that didn’t have a whole lot of resources, but who are really passionate and are going to present cannabis in a good way, be able to get the resources that they need to realize their visions.”</p><p>Meanwhile, Dayton was working as a fundraiser for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and noticing the same thing. The two compared notes, and developed ArcView. Now ArcView is one of the top 10 largest angel investment networks in the U.S.</p><p>DeAngelo was one of more than 30 speakers at the two-day <a href="">International Cannabis Business Conference</a> (ICBC) at San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency Hotel on February 15 and 16. The conference was organized around presentations from experts and politicians discussing the cannabis industry. Alex Rogers, CEO of  Northwest Alternative Health, designed the event as a networking opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis market.</p><p>Rogers told the <a href="">Weed Blog</a> he had the idea for the event after the 2014 elections in which Oregon, Washington, Alaska and D.C. all passed cannabis legalization measures.</p><p>“Colorado and Washington State have already demonstrated the economic benefits of legalizing cannabis, and Oregon and Alaska will soon start seeing new jobs created and new revenue brought into the states’ coffers,” he told the Weed Blog. “California, with its economic power, will clearly be the worldwide leader in cannabis commerce if the state passes full legalization in 2016.”</p><p>If California legalizes in 2016 — along with Arizona, California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Vermont, which is ArcView’s prediction — it could change the game, potentially swaying the direction of federal drug policy. But nothing is certain.</p><p><strong>A Future Unclear</strong></p><p>There are also many question marks when it comes to the industry’s future. While the Obama administration has instituted a sort of “look the other way” policy as far as statewide cannabis laws go, what if the next presidential administration is not so blasé? What about the banking restrictions? Most major banks won’t work with cannabis businesses due to the federal policy on cannabis. What about safety — as more and more places see more and more legal cannabis, are there standards in place for safe cultivation, testing for pesticides contaminants, dosages, and so on?</p><p>While there haven’t been any studies or widespread indications of problems in the almost 20 years since California first allowed medical marijuana, any industry that goes mainstream — especially if it’s agriculture — tends to require increased regulation. How will that look if cannabis remains federally illegal, and the rules therefore segmented state-by-state.</p><p>For about seven years in California there has been an opt-in testing setup in which scientific labs will test cannabis for dispensaries, if those dispensaries so choose. Many do not. Colorado has rolled out new testing requirements, and Washington, Oregon and Alaska may choose to follow suit. However, without federal oversight it will be difficult if not impossible to standardize testing and ensure that so-called “pesticide-free” weed is actually pesticide free, an edible cannabis treat labeled “10mg THC” really contains just 10mg of THC, and so on. In most parts of the country with medical marijuana laws, testing labs are few and far between if they exist at all.</p><p>There are innumerable uncertainties about the cannabis industry, but the one guarantee is a consumer base. There is a clear demand for cannabis among the American people. As more and more states loosen their cannabis laws, and more and more scientific research disproves the claims of the outdated War on Drugs rhetoric, that consumer base is almost guaranteed to increase.</p><p>The obvious answer to most of the long-term concerns over the industry’s future lies in shifting federal policy. Even if the federal government didn’t decide to legalize cannabis or regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco, it could easily change its classification from the most severely restricted Schedule I drug category to a lower scheduling. President Obama has the ability to reschedule drugs without the approval of Congress. Or, seeing as how cannabis is, in fact, just an herb, it could take it off of drug scheduling altogether and treat it instead like other herbal medicines (think echinacea, turmeric, etc.).</p><p>While it’s unclear how the industry will evolve in the long term, from education to business, the short term is looking mighty green. DeAngelo said in 40 years he has “never wavered” in his confidence that eventually cannabis would be legal.</p><p>“Because I know the science and I know the facts about this plant,” he said. “It is possibly the most valuable plant on the plane. Eventually when that truth is known, I’m 100 percent confident that cannabis will be legal everywhere.”</p><p> </p> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 23:12:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1031998 at Drugs Drugs marijuana legalization cannabis oaksterdam Steve DeAngelo Troy Dayton Former Combat Vet and Drug Cop Suffered from Suicidal Thoughts and PTSD and Turned to Ayahuasca in Desperation -- This Is His Story <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The amazing power of a psychedelic.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ayahuasca_and_chacruna_cocinando.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald “Donnie” Bumanglag met with me just months after sipping the psychedelic, sacred, traditional healing brew ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon. Unlike many of his fellow participants in the week long retreat program, Donnie is a 33-year-old veteran military combat medic and father of four. And, like many veterans, he was on the verge of suicide due to severe PTSD symptoms  prior to his visit to the jungle (22 veterans take their own lives in the U.S. each day according to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs).</p><p>For years, Donnie’s life felt like a trap he couldn’t escape. He was living with overwhelming financial, personal, spiritual and emotional stress that felt impenetrable, despite his many efforts. Though it took struggles, heartache and plenty of time before he was able to face what he was going through, he said he realizes now that seeing combat in such a vivid fashion made him feel violated.</p><p>He grappled with the duality of “not just being the guy that was there to kill everybody, but also being the guy that was there to help people.”</p><p>“It became very convoluted many, many times,” he said. “That’s a lot of what I struggled with, was that I felt duped. I felt violated. When I finally realized it, I felt like, I guess the way that a rape victim feels: their body was used for something that they didn’t want it to be.”</p><p>Today, thanks in great part to stumbling upon a TED Talk about ayahuasca, he is living symptom-free and full of a hopefulness that seeps out in his voice when he speaks. Here is his story.</p><p>War</p><p>When he returned from serving three tours overseas as a military medic, Donnie was in a state of denial. He’d joined the military at 17 as a way to earn a living while, he’d hoped, helping people. Growing up he lived in Nipomo, California where his father started out as a migrant farm worker before beginning a long career as a California state correctional officer in San Luis Obispo. It was the end of the Cold War, a patriotic time during which “Be all you can be,” army slogans abounded and cartoons like GI Joe: American Hero were popular on TV. Donnie picked up fast on the fact that his parents’ friends, who were most financially stable, were all military veterans, and by the end of high school he knew his path would include the army.</p><p>“I just wanted to go and serve and do something for myself, and make my parents proud,” he said. “I wanted to not only be a soldier; I wanted to be the smarter version of the soldier. In my mind I was going to find something where I could be on the front lines but I could still help people. So, I became a medic.”</p><p>As it turned out, like many of his generation he was getting himself into much more than he’d bargained for. He joined up in 1999 — a time during which the U.S. was not involved in any active conflicts — thinking his longer life plan would be to work as a paramedic. What better way to get training than through the military? He graduated from the military paramedic training program at 19, just months before the September 11 terrorist attacks.</p><p>“At that time, an airborne ranger, I was maybe 115 pounds soaking wet,” he laughs. “I thought I had the world figured out. It just happened to be that I was in the wrong place or the right place, at the right time/wrong time — however you want to look at it. I graduated in January 2001. I get to my unit, which at the time was 3rd Ranger Battalion in Fort Benning, Georgia. I go there, kind of go through this rites of passage program where they accepts me in as a platoon medic.”</p><p>Then September 11 happened.</p><p>After the 9/11 attacks, Donnie was deployed as part of the U.S.-led war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his first tour he fought off of the USS Kitty Hawk and from an air base in Oman in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, conducting raids in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His second tour was also in Afghanistan. And his final tour was in Iraq via Saudi Arabia.</p><p>“I look at my son now, who is 14 and I go, ‘What the heck?'” he said. “‘A few years later, how could I ever send you off to war, to go fight somebody to die?’”</p><p>A Shaky Homecoming</p><p>When he returned home it was 2003. He was 22 years old, making ends meet selling real estate, and battling alcoholism as well as symptoms of PTSD.</p><p>“At the time I didn’t think I was battling anything,” he said. “I started going down this road of drinking all the time, riding the Harley, getting in fights, just being a dummy. At that time I thought that’s what it meant to be a vet. You talk about war stories and all that stuff. That’s what I thought it meant.”</p><p>Then, Donnie found out he was going to be a father, and some things changed. He decided to look for “the highest paying job” he could get with his experience — one with a medical plan. Over and over again the jobs that popped up were in law enforcement.</p><p>He became an officer in 2006 for the Lompoc Police Department. A few years years later he was promoted to the position of narcotics detective. He enjoyed being regarded as the heroic ex-Ranger by the other cops — for a while.</p><p>Soon, he developed increased symptoms typical of PTSD — he had trouble sleeping and fell into a deep depression complete with suicidal thoughts.  After finalizing a divorce from his first marriage he began to feel uneasy about his career choice and general life path. While he knew something wasn’t right, he felt locked in place.</p><p>“I knew that I wasn’t the person that I wanted to be and I wasn’t as nice to people,” he said. “I started realizing that I had PTSD somewhere right at the beginning of my police career, but then I also realized that I had no other way to make an income, and I had no way to support my [then]-young son, who at the time I was trying to raise separately.”</p><p>He went through the motions of what he “thought it meant to be a police officer.”</p><p>“I started believing that I was, in a sense, better than other people were,” he said. “It led me down this really terrible road of drinking and I just became very, very depressed.”</p><p>When he reached out the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) for medical treatment, he received the usual “cocktail of every type of SSRI’s” (<a href="">Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)</a>. It’s common practice for VA doctors to prescribe anywhere from 10 to 30 or more different medications at a time. In fact, the overmedication of U.S. veterans, long suspected due to numerous personal reports, was confirmed last May with a <a href="">federal investigation</a> concluding that it is widespread, often life-threatening problem.</p><p>Donnie said the pharmaceuticals he was taking made him increasingly susceptible to violent outbursts.</p><p>“I was breaking things in my house, I was constantly upset,” he said. “Meanwhile, I’m trying to hide this at work. I’m trying to hide the fact that I even have PTSD at all. In the law enforcement community they all see me as the veteran hero…I felt like I was always in a fish bowl. It just created this incredible anxiety.”</p><p>By roughly 2013 it was clear to Donnie’s doctors that he shouldn’t be serving on the police force with the number of symptoms he displayed.</p><p>“They’d been telling me that, ‘being a cop is just not a good job for you, because…you have this heightened feeling of awareness already, and now you are carrying a gun off duty, and now you’re doing…all these different factors, and you’re drinking, and you’re not sleeping.’ Things that are just not a good recipe for success,” he said.</p><p>More than once he was told he needed to medically retire, but he saw no other way to support himself and his family. He needed an exit strategy.</p><p>Eventually he decided to put himself through school, initially as a way to tap into his GI bill and earn a little extra cash.</p><p>“I started [the psychology program] to supplement my income,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t really ever want to work for anybody or do anything, but I knew that I needed to figure out what was going on with me.”</p><p>He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandman University online while working full time, and graduated with honors.</p><p>“I took it really seriously,’ he said. “I wasn’t a very good student before, but I guess the military, it has its good and bad.”</p><p>Escaping the Fish Bowl</p><p>About a year and a half ago, Donnie said he started to seriously reassess his life. His depression and stress weren’t subsiding, despite the handful of daily pills he was popping, and it was becoming impossible to pretend everything was OK at work.</p><p>He knew he wanted to help people, using his own experience. He decided maybe he’d become a history teacher and help to change the way people looked at war and conflict. He got into the prestigious University of Southern California master’s program.</p><p>“Getting into a school like that and getting into the master’s program for me was something beyond what I could possibly rationalize as a kid,” he said. “I could see those rich kids going to Southern California [USC], and sporting the Trojan and the white horse, I would have never thought that would have been me.”</p><p>For the first time in his life, he said, he felt smart.</p><p>Meanwhile his PTSD symptoms continued and at work he was put on administrative leave due to stress.</p><p>“They made me turn in my gun and treated me like I was a crazy vet that was going to kill everybody,” he said. “But I didn’t care…I was finally starting to let go of the stigma, the ego and just say, ‘I don’t care if people know that I have PTSD.”</p><p>During one of his classes at USC he was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson’s <a href="">TED Talk</a> on how schools kill creativity. He was becoming disillusioned with the idea of entering into the education system, which he said appeared more and more like a “conveyer belt” for learning. He started searching for other talks that could help him understand himself, mostly related to PTSD.</p><p>He obtained a California State medical marijuana recommendation and gradually switched off of all of his medications to cannabis, which helped him to sleep and relax without many of the harsher side effects of the pills. It also helped to open him up to a new trajectory, he said. It was around this time, as he was listening regularly to TED Talks and other podcasts, that he decided what he was most interested in was exploring consciousness.</p><p>He looked up the word “consciousness” and stumbled upon a TED Talk by <a href="">Graham Hancock</a>, explorer, journalist and author of several books. The talk, titled “The War on Consciousness” has since been controversially removed from from the TEDx YouTube Channel in an act that many people have called out as censorship, but you can find it<a href="">here</a>.</p><p>The talk discusses “this thing called ayahuasca,” as Donnie put it. <a href="">Ayahuasca</a> is a sacred, medicinal brew used traditionally by indigenous peoples of the Amazon. In his talk, Hancock describes his experiences traveling to the Amazon and experiencing ayahuasca healing ceremonies — including exhaustive descriptions of painful purging, powerful visions and life-changing encounters with the Mother Ayahuasca healing spirit.</p><p>In the talk, Hancock also explains how ayahuasca ceremonies have proven — via thousands of years of human experience — successful in mitigating (sometimes reversing) a range of psychological ailments, including PTSD.</p><p>The talk left Donnie flabbergasted.</p><p>“I’m like, what the hell?” he said. “I have a degree in psychology, I just left the master’s program, but I’ve never heard of anything like this. I started talking to other people that are vets and starting talking to other people with PTSD. I started talking to my doctors that are supposed to be the experts in this and I realized that nobody knew anything.”</p><p>Soon after hearing the Hancock talk, a series of unfortunate circumstances sent Donnie into a steep downward spiral. He became more depressed than ever and began to contemplate suicide.</p><p>“I don’t know if I physically tried to hurt myself, but I know that I was on the road to just not caring at all,” he said. “It was just so sad. It’s so sad for me to think about it now because, looking back, I see how beautiful my family, my kids — just how special they are, but I didn’t understand the depth.”</p><p>After doing “something really stupid,” Donnie made a pact with himself to lead an honest life.</p><p>He spent his days practicing the martial art Jiu Jitsu and listening to podcasts while riding an “old, shitty lateral recumbent bike” that had been sitting in his garage.</p><p>He started off playing talks by Joe Rogan, Graham Hancock and <em>Reset</em>‘s founder, Amber Lyon.</p><p>He felt called to explore ayahuasca for himself, figuring “what did I have to lose?”</p><p>“I felt like Ayahuasca just continued to call me from the jungle,” he said. “I didn’t have any resources to get there, I didn’t have the money to get there, but I was passionate about what I felt.”</p><p>He told his father — who had never heard of ayahuasca — about his decision, not knowing what kind of reaction to expect.</p><p>“[My father] decided that we were going to go to Peru together,” Donnie said. “He sat through the whole thing with me. It was a beautiful thing.”</p><p>A Beautiful Thing</p><p>Just a few months after his ayahuasca experience, Donnie reached out to <em>Reset</em>, intent on sharing his story with a wider audience. He says the ayahuasca experience gave him all of the tools necessary to see how his life could be “without the negative thoughts that are sprung about by PTSD and its symptoms.”</p><p>“The feelings of PTSD always try to creep up, so it’s a constant battle,” he wrote in a message to Reset. “But by outlook is better than ever.”</p><p>He says ayahuasca was a rebirth more than it was a cure.</p><p>“It is so transformative, it’s almost watering it down to even talk about it, but the power that it has — there is something special in the jungle,” he said. “Ayahuasca has a way of increasing your tolerance for anxiety, by showing you how strong you are — by really pushing your limits of what you think that you can and can’t endure, because the prison is your own mind. You begin to open these rooms that the government says you’re not allowed to look into.”</p><p>Donnie and his father participated in the ceremony via a company called Pulse Ayahuasca Adventure Tours, which includes ecotourism activities — like fishing for piranha and taking ethno-botanical nature walks complete with sloths — along with nightly ayahuasca ceremonies guided by a shaman. They stayed for a week.</p><p>“Ayahuasca takes you to place where you’re reborn in a sense,” he said. “You feel like you’re a child and everything in the world is beautiful again. Everything is free of all the crap you’ve been putting in your head that tells you it’s bad.”</p><p>Now, Donnie is making it his life’s work to introduce more veterans, and people in general, about techniques that can reset consciousness for the better. Along with a friend and fellow vet, he is starting an advocacy organization called State of Flow to reeducate people about plant medicines like ayahuasca, martial arts and positive, healthy living in general.</p><p>“I feel like I just don’t want anybody to have to go through what I’ve been through,” he said. “[In combat] I was the person that had to see some of these faces, at the very end when people — when that glimmer in their eye went out — when they looked at me and they totally didn’t understand why it happened to them. I want to be somebody who dies at peace with what I’ve done in war. I don’t want to be somebody who is staring off in the distance, wondering, ‘What the hell just happened?’ I want to feel like I made a significant contribution.”</p><p>He said ayahuasca has helped him see this as possible.</p><p>Donnie points out that only about .05% of the population has actually experienced combat firsthand, so who better than those veterans to lead the charge against the war on psychedelics?</p><p>“We have an opportunity because people respect us as warriors; we have a special jump-to-the-front-of-the-line pass, if we want it,” he said. “Guys like me that are retired at 30, are still young enough to change the world. We’re still able-bodied. We still have the right mindset, if we can just get into it. We can lead the charge by saying, ‘Hey look, everybody knows universally that war is bad, and we’ve been victims of this war, and now we’re looking for answers.’ If enough of us get together and say, ‘[Psychedelics] are what helps us, we need to make them legal,’ if we start moving in that direction, I may not be the person or somebody else may not be the person, but maybe we may talk to the person that then does get that to happen.”</p><p>This piece was originally published at <a href=""></a>.</p><p> </p> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 19:23:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1030233 at Drugs Drugs Personal Health ayahuasca treatment ptsd suicide veterans Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You might be surprised who&#039;s on the list. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_157734158_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, released a list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users” in the United States. At the top of the list is none other than our in chief Barack Obama, who has sent more pot smokers and other nonviolent drug offenders to prison in his six years as president than any before him. Just below Obama are media mogul Oprah Winfrey, former President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and television show host Stephen Colbert. Others include the Daily Show's host Jon Stewart, entertainer and entrepreneur Jay-Z, Secretary of State John Kerry, business magnate George Soros, and comedian Bill Maher. So much for the notion that 'stoners' are lazy work-o-phobes. </p><p>“The goal here is to dispel the myth that marijuana users are ‘losers’ who lack motivation and highlight the fact that they are typically productive and oftentimes quite successful,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “As this list demonstrates, many of our nation’s most successful citizens have used marijuana.”</p><p>The list is composed of Americans who have used marijuana at least once during their lifetimes, including some who speak openly about their current marijuana use. They were selected based on their “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and … media profile”—the same criteria Out Magazine uses to select its “<a href="">Power 50” list</a> of LGBT Americans. The list includes known supporters and opponents of marijuana policy reform.</p><p>“We hope this list gets people thinking about the fact that marijuana prohibition laws cause more harm than the substance itself,” Tvert said. “Some of these folks might not have made it to where they are today had they been arrested for using marijuana.”</p><p><strong>The list:</strong></p><p><strong>1. Barack Obama</strong></p><p>"When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point."</p>(Source: <a href="">YouTube</a>) <strong>2. Oprah Winfrey</strong><p>"[Television show host Andy Cohen] asked the last time Winfrey had smoked marijuana. 'Uh … 1982,' Winfrey replied. 'Let's hang out after the show,' Cohen joked. 'Okay,' Winfrey laughed. 'I hear it's gotten better.'"</p>(Source: <a href="">Bravo</a>) <strong>3. Bill Clinton</strong> "I experimented with marijuana a time or two."<p>(Source: <a href="">YouTube</a>)</p><p><strong>4. Clarence Thomas</strong></p><p>"The White House said today that Judge Clarence Thomas, President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, had smoked marijuana while in college."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">New York Times</a>)</p><p><strong>5. Stephen Colbert</strong></p><p>"First, [in high school], I smoked a lot of pot...and that’s how I got to know the people ‘half in’ the society of my high school and we waved at each other over the bong. Then I got to know people by making jokes.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">San Francisco Chronicle Interview (January 2006)</a>)</p><p><strong>6. Jon Stewart</strong></p><p>“Do you know how many movies I wrote when I was high?”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">The Daily Show</a>)</p><p><strong>7. Jay-Z</strong></p><p>"I smoked some weed, and that’s how I finished ‘Izzo.’"<br /><br />(Source: <a href="">XXL Magazine</a>)</p><p><strong>8. John Kerry</strong></p><p>"Yes." In response to the question: "Which of you are ready to admit to having used marijuana in the past?"</p><p>(Source: <a href="">On The Issues</a>)</p><p><strong>9. George Soros</strong></p><p>"He said he had tried marijuana, enjoyed it, 'but it did not become a habit and I have not tasted it in many years.'"</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Reuters, 2/6/97</a>)</p><p><strong>10.  Bill Maher</strong></p><p>"Look, I have never made a secret of the fact that I have tried marijuana... About 50,000 times."</p><p>(Source: <a href=";v=FLKkxPu2hfA#!">YouTube</a>)</p><p><strong>11.  Bill Gates</strong></p><p>“As for drugs – well, Gates was certainly not unusual there. Marijuana was the pharmaceutical of choice…”</p>(Source: <a href="">Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry--and Made Himself the Richest Man in America</a>) <strong>12.  George W. Bush</strong> "I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."<br />(Source: <a href="">New York Times</a>)<p><strong>13.  Andrew Cuomo</strong></p><p>"I did experiment with marijuana when I was a youth."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">New York Daily News</a>)</p><p><strong>14.  Rand Paul</strong></p><p>"According to this woman, who requested anonymity because of her current job as a clinical psychologist, "He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door, and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits. They'd been smoking pot."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">GQ Magazine</a>)</p><p><strong>15.  Sanjay Gupta</strong></p><p>"I have tried it."</p>(Source: <a href="">CNN</a>) <strong>16.  LeBron James</strong> “James also revealed he and his teammates smoked marijuana one night after getting access to a hotel room in Akron.”<br />(Source: <a href="">ESPN</a>) <strong>17.  Rush Limbaugh</strong><p>"I wouldn’t have been able to make it through hundreds of shows if it weren’t for the benefits of medical marijuana"</p>(Source: <a href="">The Internet Chronicle</a>) <strong>18.  George Clooney</strong> “The owner of a local cannabis café told reporters George Clooney was no stranger there.”<p>(Source: <a href="">The Weed Blog</a>)</p><p><strong>19.  Michael Bloomberg</strong></p><p>'You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.''</p>(Source: <a href="">New York Times</a>) <strong>20.  Lady Gaga</strong> "I smoke a lot of pot when I write music."<p>(Source: <a href="">USA Today</a>)</p><p><strong>21.  Brad Pitt</strong></p><p>“I was hiding out from the celebrity thing, I was smoking way too much [marijuana].”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Daily Mail</a>)</p><p><strong>22.  Ted Turner</strong></p><p>"CNN anchor Gwen Scott claimed it is common knowledge that Turner sits in his office and smokes marijuana."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Cannabis Culture</a>)</p><p><strong>23.  Tom Brokaw</strong></p><p>“…what I did was experiment with a little marijuana like a lot of other people and walked away…”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Media Bistro</a>)</p><p><strong>24.  Michael Phelps</strong></p><p>“[Phelps] firmly denies that he takes drugs, suggesting that the notorious photo of him smoking from a bong was a one-time lapse of judgment.”</p><p><br />(Source: <a href="">Huffington Post</a>)</p><p><strong>25.  Jennifer Aniston</strong></p><p>“I enjoy it once in a while. There is nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation. I wouldn't call myself a pot-head.”</p><p><br />(Source: <a href="">Daily Mail</a>)</p><p><strong>26.  David Letterman</strong></p><p>"I went through one period when I smoked a surprising, a really breath-taking, amount of grass almost every night.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Cannabis Culture</a>)</p><p><strong>27.  Morgan Freeman</strong></p><p>"Never give up the ganja."</p>(Source: <a href="">The Guardian</a>) <strong>28.  Angelina Jolie</strong> “… the one that has the worst effect for me was pot. I felt silly and giggly - I hate feeling like that.”<p>(Source: <a href="">Metro</a>)</p><p><strong>29.  Martha Stewart</strong></p><p>"Of course I know how to roll a joint."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Laist</a>)</p><p><strong>30.  Seth MacFarlane</strong></p><p>"I don't smoke much pot anymore."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Star Pulse</a>)</p><p><strong>31.  John Hickenlooper</strong></p><p>'As I've already been open about in the past -- and as I assume many would expect -- I made personal choices when I was younger that I neither support nor condone for others and certainly wouldn't encourage through public policy,' Hickenlooper said."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Media Awareness Project</a>)</p><p><strong>32.  Andrew Sullivan</strong></p><p>"The blogger and commentator Andrew Sullivan was busted in July for possessing a small amount of marijuana within the Cape Cod National Seashore."</p>(Source: <a href="">Boston Globe</a>) <strong>33.  Susan Sarandon</strong> "Cocaine didn't interest me. Not at all. I'm way way back in the early pot…"<br /><br />(Source: <a href="">LA Times</a>)<p><strong>34.  Conan O'Brien</strong></p><p>“I’ve tried pot, but it doesn’t do much for me.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Pink is the New Blog</a>)</p><p><strong>35.  Matt Damon</strong></p><p>“The first time I smoked was at home with my mother and step-father.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Weed Quotes</a>)</p><p><strong>36.  Lincoln Chafee</strong></p><p>"In 1999, then-Warwick Mayor Lincoln D. Chafee won accolades for his honesty in acknowledging he used marijuana and cocaine as a 1970s student at Brown University."</p>(Source: <a href="">Providence Journal</a>) <strong>37.  Maya Angelou</strong> “Angelou settled into a job as a waitress and began smoking marijuana with abandon.”<br />(Source: <a href="">Maya Angelou (Bloom's BioCritiques</a>)) <strong>38.  Justin Bieber</strong> "Bieber both confirmed that he'd been caught smoking weed and apologized for it."<br />(Source: <a href="">Huffington Post</a>) <strong>39.  Sarah Palin</strong> "I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled.”<p>(Source: <a href="">CBS News</a>)</p><p><strong>40.  Phil Jackson</strong></p><p>"In 1975 he wrote “Maverick,” a memoir about his days playing in the NBA. Among other things, Jackson spoke frankly about marijuana use."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Salon</a>)</p><p><strong>41.  Johnny Depp</strong></p><p>"I'm not a great pothead or anything like that… but weed is much, much less dangerous than alcohol."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Celebstoner</a>)</p><p><strong>42.  Madonna</strong></p><p>"It [my behavior on the show in 1994] wasn't because I was excited about you [David Letterman]. I think it may have had something to do with the joint I smoked before I came on.</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Vulture</a>)</p><p><strong>43.  Robert Downey, Jr.</strong></p><p>“Robert Downey Jr. said he started smoking weed at age 8.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">NBC - New York</a>)</p><p><strong>44.  Bryan Cranston</strong></p><p>"Pot always just made me sleepy.” </p><p>(Source: <a href="">Highbeam Business</a>)</p><p><strong>45.  Miley Cyrus</strong></p><p>"You know you're a stoner when your friends make you a Bob Marley cake."<br /><br />(Source: <a href="">LA Times</a>)</p><p><strong>46.  Hugh Hefner</strong></p><p>“Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Schaffer Library of Drug Policy</a>)</p><p><strong>47.  Rihanna</strong></p><p>"Kush rolled, glass full... I prefer the better things!"</p>(Source: <a href="">Daily Mail</a>) <strong>48.  Oliver Stone</strong><p>“I went to Vietnam, and I was there for a long time. [Using marijuana] made the difference between staying human or, as Michael Douglas said, becoming a beast.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">The Raw Story</a>)</p><p><strong>49.  Rick Steves</strong></p><p>"I have used cannabis all over the world."</p><p>(Source: <a href="">LA Weekly</a>)</p><p><strong>50.  Snoop Lion (Formerly Snoop Dogg)</strong></p><p>“It makes me feel the way I need to feel.”</p><p>(Source: <a href="">Esquire</a>)</p><p> </p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 04:55:00 -0800 April M. Short, AlterNet 1029424 at Drugs Culture Drugs pot weed marijuana The Illegal Drug That Could Help Ease Anxiety About Death <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new study looks at MDMA for treating anxiety related to life-threatening illness.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-11-03_at_4.55.34_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Phil Wolfson is a psychotherapist who lost his 16-year-old son to leukemia more than three decades ago. He wrote the book <a href="">Noe: A Father-Son Song of Life, Love, Illness and Death</a>about the experience of watching his son navigate adolescence while succumbing to the terminal disease. His personal experiences, he says, place him in a strange position of “too much knowledge” when he works with patients who are dealing with devastating loss, as well as anxiety and PTSD symptoms that often come with life-threatening illness.</p><p dir="ltr">“I work with lots of people, not only who may have lost children, but who are facing illness and or are involved with treatment that’s very difficult,” he said. “This has been part of my life’s work and certainly accelerated since my son got ill in 1984. I have kind of a personal sensitivity and motivation in the matter.”</p><p dir="ltr">Wolfson’s repertoire is unique in many ways, one of the major ones being his experience integrating psychedelics into his practice. In the ‘80s, before it was designated as illegal, Wolfson was among a number of therapists who used MDMA (now often called ecstasy or Molly) to assist in therapy sessions. The results were overwhelmingly positive at the time, but as more and more people began using MDMA as a party drug, the government cracked down and listed it as a Schedule I illegal substance in 1985. Many of the therapists who used MDMA back then have been fighting to re-legalize it for medical purposes ever since.</p><p dir="ltr">Those early MDMA-assisted therapy sessions ultimately restructured the way many therapists work today, with or without the substance*. Rather than cycling patients in and out the door according to a 50-minute hour, these MDMA therapists were sitting with people for as long as it took to truly help them.</p><p dir="ltr">“When you do MDMA psychotherapy, or other psychedelic psychotherapy, you’re committed to being with people for as long as you need to be,” said Wolfson. “So, that in itself is a revolution. You’re there three, four, five hours—whatever it takes to be with human beings. A bunch of us were developing a family therapy and systems therapy approach; we weren't so worried about timed sessions, we were more concerned with how do we affect people’s lives in a positive way? How do we help people to grow? The family therapy movement was particularly interested in those things and still is. I was very involved with that, and MDMA psychotherapy was a great boon.”</p><p dir="ltr">Three decades later, Wolfson is planning to give MDMA to patients once again. He is slated to head up a newly proposed study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in Marin, Calif. sponsored by the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The study will follow 18 adults diagnosed with life-threatening illness who have a life expectancy of at least nine months and have severe anxiety related to their prognosis. It will assess the ability of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to significantly reduce their psychological symptoms. The study is part of a global series of Phase II clinical trials looking into the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant PTSD. Like all MAPS-sponsored studies, it will be government approved, randomized and placebo controlled.</p><p dir="ltr">“We really want to help people feel and think about what they’re doing with their lives as they approach the issue of dying,” Wolfson said.</p><p dir="ltr">The study protocol explains that one of the goals of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is to help people find a less difficult “perspective and orientation toward death.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Given that in this situation, spiritual, familial, psychological and existential concerns all take a position of primary and imminent importance for many people, the development of new treatment modalities to meet these needs is a clear imperative,” the protocol states. “Enabling individuals to face life-threatening illness and all of its concomitant difficulties with dignity, creativity, love, support and kindness is the primary impetus of this research study.”</p><p dir="ltr">Prior MAPS studies assessing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy have turned out some <a href="">promising results</a>. As of 2014, “MDMA has been administered to 1,080 research subjects in both Phase I and II studies,” according to the Marin study’s protocols. To date just one drug-related “serious adverse event” has occurred. A proof of principle pilot <a href="">study</a>, which MAPS completed in 2010, was the “first-ever protocol evaluating MDMA’s therapeutic applications in clinical trials,” as explained on the MAPS website, and the results showed significant improvements across the board. A long-term followup (which looked at participants an average of 41 months after treatment) “found that the benefits persisted over time, though a few subjects had relapsed due to new life stressors.” Similar studies in Spain and Switzerland came to similarly encouraging conclusions. Several ongoing studies of war veterans, law enforcement officers and victims of childhood abuse and sexual assault, so far point to success as well.</p><p dir="ltr">Wolfson said he is personally politically motivated by the prospect of bringing MDMA back to the above-ground therapeutic world. He thinks the war on drugs only promotes unsafe drug use and needlessly fills up prisons and jails.</p><p dir="ltr">“I loved [MDMA-assisted psychotherapy] and thought it was very helpful, so my motivation is to try and bring it back and move it from science to a prescription pad,” he said. “We need a different approach to dealing with substances. People use them, and the fact is the year they made MDMA illegal it went from thousands of users to tens of thousands and then millions. Large populations of people have been using psychedelics for long periods of time, and the amount of harm is low.”</p><p dir="ltr">Wolfson said legalizing MDMA and other drugs would make them safer because better education about when and where to use them would be more widely available.   </p><p>“If it was legalized, I think set and setting would improve vastly, and when harm did occur it would be majorly reduced, because use wouldn't be criminalized and people wouldn't go to jail for exploring their minds and souls.”</p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:48:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1025448 at Drugs Drugs mdma therapy psychotherapy anxiety ptsd post traumatic stress stress amphetamines california Entheogens Euphoriants Marin medicine multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies Phil Wolfson Psychedelic research psychedelic therapy psychiatry Quotation research Son Song spain switzerland family therapy and systems law enforcement officers study protocol therapeutic applications Body PG&E May Have Secretly Altered Earthquake Standards for California's Last Nuclear Power Plant <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The aging plant is located on an intricate network of earthquake fault lines.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_140666692.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Montaña de Oro State Park is a place where the rolling hills of the Central California coast drop from steep cliffs into crashing waves that are home to diverse sea life ranging from starfish and anemones to sea lions and migrating whales. Nestled among the wildflowers along the craggy bluffs of this majestic natural reserve is Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon.</p><p dir="ltr">I grew up in the small beach town that bumps heads with Montaña de Oro and the ominous plant, aptly named for the devil himself. I recall the piercing screech of testing sirens, sounding the potential for a nuclear disaster to render our homes toxic and dangerous. Since Los Osos is located directly along a large and intricate web of earthquake fault lines, it was no mystery how that disaster would likely come to be.</p><p dir="ltr">At least, we were assured, the nuclear plant was regularly checked and tested, and would withstand even a significant amount of tectonic action. We had better regulations in place than Japan, didn't we? Diablo could not be the next Fukushima Daiichi because everything here was up to California's strict codes that take the Big One into account, or so we thought.</p><p dir="ltr">Surprise! This week a group of environmental activists brought a lawsuit against PG&amp;E and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because, as it turns out, federal regulators secretly revised Diablo’s license “to mask the aging plant’s vulnerability to earthquakes,” as the <em><a href="">San Francisco Chronicle</a> </em>put it.</p><p dir="ltr">“The suit claims that the <a href=";channel=news&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22Nuclear+Regulatory+Commission%22">Nuclear Regulatory Commission</a> and [PG&amp;E] last year changed a key element of the plant’s license related to seismic safety without allowing public input as required by law — or even notifying the public at all. The changes concern the strength of earthquakes that the plant ... can withstand,” reports the <em>Chronicle.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The public PG&amp;E failed to notify consists of my parents, cousins, teachers, childhood friends, and their children. It’s heartbreaking to read about a nuclear disaster an ocean away, but it’s terrifying to realize that the same thing could happen here in California because of a greedy, negligent corporate coverup.</p><p dir="ltr">The lawsuit was filed in <a href=";channel=news&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22U.S.+District+Court+of+Appeals%22">U.S. District Court of Appeals</a> for the District of Columbia, which is specifically set up to review the decisions of federal agencies. The group behind the suit wants the court to shut down the plant until the necessary changes are in place. They want public hearings to take place to amend Diablo Canyon’s license. So far PG&amp;E denies all of the allegations.</p><p dir="ltr">As the <em>Chronicle</em> points out, this isn’t the first time PG&amp;E has been “accused of back-channel dealings with government regulators.” In 2010 it was accused of a similar hush-up effort when its natural gas pipeline in San Bruno exploded.</p><p dir="ltr">The local community, as well as global environmentalists, has long voiced safety concerns about Diablo Canyon and an effort is building to shut it down completely. After the plant's original construction in the '60s, several previously unknown fault lines were discovered nearby, including the Shoreline Fault which is just 600 yards from Diablo's twin reactors. </p><p dir="ltr">"Environmentalists have long argued that the plant wasn’t designed to survive the shaking that some of the newly discovered faults could produce," states the <em>Chronicle</em>. "And last year, <a href=";channel=news&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22Michael+Peck%22">Michael Peck</a>, one of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspectors at Diablo, recommended shutting down the plant until the commission determined that its equipment could withstand a strong quake from those faults. The commission rejected the idea."</p><p dir="ltr">When my parents first bought their house in the mid-90s, the county provided them with a small supply of iodine tablets (which protect against radiation exposure) and instructions for what to do in the unlikely case of a nuclear emergency. They never thought they’d have to use them. Now the odds aren’t looking great. It’s time to shut down California’s last remaining nuclear plant before it’s too late.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Read the details of the lawsuit <a href="">here</a>, and sign a petition to shut down Diablo Canyon <a href="">here</a>.</em></p> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:50:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1025122 at Environment Environment diablo canyon nuclear disaster nuclear power power plant energy pg&e pacific montana de oro los osos 65-Year-Old Woman Says She Sold Marjiuana to Afford Raising Her Grandchildren <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">She started selling pot after her daughter died. Now she could face 10 years in prison.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marijuana_36.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>After her daughter died, 65-year-old <a href=";channel=news%2Fcrime&amp;inlineLink=1&amp;searchindex=gsa&amp;query=%22Candace+Kelly%22">Candace Kelly</a> of Pennsylvania was left raising five grandchildren, according to a recent <a href="">AP story</a>. So, she says, she decided to sell pot in order to afford it.</p><p dir="ltr">According to AP, she “admitted selling hundreds of pounds of marijuana from her home,” in a recent, voluntary guilty plea. Kelly was first arrested, according to AP, after authorities “found 64 pounds of hydroponically grown marijuana and nearly $400,000 in cash at her small mobile home in Buffalo Township.”</p><p dir="ltr">On top of volunteering a guilty plea, Kelly agreed to  forfeit almost $393,000, which authorities confiscated in her home, according to an article in the <em><a href="">Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</a></em>. “Most of the cash will be given to the state police and attorney general's task force, with $12,500 going to her attorney, Jeffrey R. Wasak. ... Wasak is 'hoping to persuade the court that Miss Kelly has demonstrated there is no evidence of her being a menace' to society."</p><p dir="ltr">After the initial charges were dropped due to issues with the search warrant, a grand jury investigation was opened up and she was officially charged in January. (Authorities also found a small amount of “mind-altering mushrooms” according to the <em><a href="">Tribune-Review</a></em>.</p><p>Kelly could face 10 or more years in prison for drug sales, possession and conspiracy, but there is no mandatory minimum sentence requirement. As the <em>Tribune-Review</em>notes, sentencing is completely up to Butler County Judge William Shaffer. He set the sentencing hearing for Nov. 20, but ordered that a further investigation take place prior to that sentencing date.</p><p>At this point it is unclear what will happen to the grandchildren if Kelly is sent to prison.</p> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:47:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1024335 at Drugs Drugs News & Politics pot marijuana old woman grandmother cannabis 6 Brave Researchers Busting the Myths Behind Everything We Think We Know About Drugs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Despite stigmas associated with illegal drugs, they speak out against drug myths.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/drugs_11.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>To get the public on board with the violent, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful war on drugs, the government has had to spin some pretty elaborate stories about drugs and their users. The goal has been to strike fear into people about the looming dangers in order to justify militarizing against them.</p><p dir="ltr">However, thanks to the work of determined researchers who refused to accept these unfounded claims, most of the lies surrounding drugs have been debunked. In recent years the opinion of the American people has shifted to support a public health oriented outlook on drugs. The majority of Americans think cannabis should be regulated like alcohol, and most American medical doctors think medical marijuana should be legal. People everywhere are questioning the validity of sending people to jail for addictions that should be treated like health issues, and many <a href="">world leaders</a> and <a href="">top economists</a> now agree that the drug war has been a massive waste of resources and humanitarian disaster. </p><p dir="ltr">Behind these shifts in public opinion is the work of a few courageous researchers who study Schedule I, illegal drugs ranging from crack and meth to psychedelics and cannabis despite very real professional stigmas still associated with working with illegal drugs. They’ve exposed a variety of truths about these substances that have  been skewed and hidden for decades. </p><p dir="ltr">Here are six researchers who are changing the way people think about drugs and addiction:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. <a href="">Carl Hart</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Carl Hart is a neuroscientist and Columbia University psychology professor who is dismantling drug myths left and right, and combatting the racist war on drugs. In his book, <em><a href="">High Price</a></em>, he describes how he went from dealing drugs in a poor Miami community with high rates of crime and prevalent drug use, to studying addiction at one of the world’s top universities. He argues that drug use is a symptom of a broken society, which targets and criminalizes minority communities disproportionately.  Via his personal history, Hart shows that addiction, crime and poverty do not stem from drug use, but vice versa. Drugs are a result of problems more deeply rooted in our society.</p><p>Hart’s clinical research dismantles some longstanding assumptions surrounding drug users in our society, most of which have carried over from the Nixon-era war on drugs and crack panic. In studies of both crack and meth users, he found that people addicted to those substances actually tend to make much more rational decisions than most people have been led to believe. His work disproves the stigmas that surround drug users. In <a href="">clinical trials</a> in which he brought addicted drug users into a clinic and offered them various amounts of drugs, money and food, he disproved the idea that once a person is an “addict” they become a mindless drone willing to do anything for their next hit.  Nurses administered “samples” of crack to the experimentees at the start of each day, then offered them additional crack samples throughout the day. An alternative offer was also made alongside each offer of crack. Participants could opt instead for a reward like $5 in cash or a $5 voucher to buy merchandise.</p><p dir="ltr">When the dose was high, the subject typically chose to continue smoking crack, but when the dose was lower they were more likely to trade it for $5. He found similar results in studies with meth addicts.</p><p dir="ltr">Hart told the <em>New York Times</em>, “They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” noting that the addicts were making “rational economic decisions.”  </p><p dir="ltr">He said 80 to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine won’t become addicted and told the <em>Times</em>, "the small number who do become addicted are nothing like the popular caricatures.”</p><p dir="ltr">As Hart told <a href=""><em>AlterNet</em> last June</a>, his studies have shown that the pharmacological effects of drugs rarely lead to crime, “but the public conflates these issues regardless.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Certainly, we have given thousands of doses of crack cocaine and methamphetamine to people in our lab, and never had any problems with violence or anything like that,” he said. “That tells you it's not the pharmacology of the drug, but some interaction with the environment or environmental conditions, that would probably happen without the drug.”</p><p dir="ltr">Hart’s work is forcing a powerful, necessary conversation around the various ways our society wrongly demonizes people who use drugs. He is helping to place the issue of drug use into a realistic, health-oriented arena.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>2. <a href="">Raphael Mechoulam</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Often referred to as the father or marijuana, Rafael Mechulum’s work to understand the cannabis plant and its various psychoactive and medicinal properties is unmatched. He is an Israeli organic chemist and the first to isolate and identify the compound THC, which is behind the marijuana “high” that so many people enjoy. He has also led invaluable studies looking into various other compounds, or "cannabinoids", that make up the cannabis plant (including their isolation, structure elucidation and synthesis). </p><p dir="ltr">Cannabinoids interact naturally with the human brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is full of receptors that specifically interpret and integrate cannabinoids. This is the group of receptors and neuromodulatory lipids that control things like like pain, mood, memory and appetite. Among the other cannabinoids Mechoulam's research identified is <a href="">cannabidiol</a>, or <a href="">CBD,</a> which is responsible for many of cannabis' powerful healing effects. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has helped popularize CBD in recent years, after learning about its miraculous healing effects on children with epilepsy and tumors.</p><p dir="ltr">Mechoulam’s pioneering work has helped to change the way people interact with, and use, the cannabis plant. While it was once bred primarily for its psychoactive effects (and sometimes as an alternative pain relief for cancer patients), growers are increasingly breeding for high rates of CBD and other important cannabinoids.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. <a href="">Rick Doblin</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Rick Doblin has poured more than 20 years of his life into clinical research on psychedelic substances and cannabis. He founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is at the global forefront of government-approved psychedelic research. He initially formed the organization in 1982, in response to the government’s criminalization of MDMA (aka "ecstasy" and "Molly").</p><p dir="ltr">In the late '70s and early '80s, groups of psychiatrists, marriage counselors and therapists were using the not-yet-illegal substance to enhance the therapeutic process. As MDMA became more and more popular as a party drug, Doblin and fellow psychedelic therapists anticipated that the Drug Enforcement Administration would move to criminalize it.</p><p dir="ltr">Doblin and fellow therapists formed a non-profit group called Earth Metabolic Design Laboratories (EMDL) to bolster awareness of the therapeutic use of MDMA.</p><p dir="ltr">The DEA had announced its intention to designate MDMA as a Schedule I substance in 1984. This categorization meant overt restriction and regulation of the drug's availability, and indicated that it had high abuse potential and held no accepted medical use. EMDL organized the scientific and medical communities to petition the DEA for a scheduling hearing in which the group argued that MDMA belonged in the Schedule III category, which would permit the continuation of MDMA’s use in psychotherapy. The decision to place MDMA in Schedule I was reached following appeals in 1988 after the DEA overruled a DEA administrative law judge's recommendation that it be placed in Schedule III.</p><p dir="ltr">MAPS was founded in response. Today it continues to support the study of the healing potential of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, in addition to other psychedelics and cannabis, on psychological and emotional damage caused by sexual assault, war, violent crime, and other traumas. An upcoming study in Marin, California will look at MDMA’s efficacy in treating anxiety in people with life-threatening illnesses.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>4. <a href="">Sue Sisley</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr">As a psychiatrist and physician focused on internal medicine, Sue Sisley regularly treats first responders and military veterans with PTSD. After years observing and speaking with patients she learned many of them were using marijuana to successfully manage their symptoms. Sisley was excited at the opportunity to conduct the PTSD study, which would look at cannabis’ effect on 12 treatment-resistant combat veterans with PTSD.  </p><p dir="ltr">While working at the University of Arizona, where the study was to take place, Sisley became a vocal advocate for cannabis medicine, and the necessity of studies into its healing effects. Unexpectedly, and without explanation, the <a href="">university terminated</a> Sisley in July. University of Arizona Institutional Review Board (IRB), as well as the FDA, had approved the study’s protocols, but Sisley and others suspect she was fired due to her outspoken support for medical marijuana.</p><p dir="ltr">Rick Doblin of MAPS called the university’s decision a “repression of science for political purposes.”</p><p dir="ltr">“It is astonishing in this day and age,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Sisley continues to be a powerful advocate in favor of increased research on the benefits of cannabis.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>5. <a href="">Bia Labate</a></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Bia Labate has a PhD in anthropology, and she uses it to study the way people interact with psychoactive plant medicines. Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, she is  a visiting professor at the Drug Policy Program of the <a href="">Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE) in Aguascalientes, Mexico</a>. She is also a research associate at the <a href="">Institute of Medical Psychology at Ohio's Heidelberg University.</a></p><p dir="ltr">Much of her research focuses on ayahuasca—an ancient ritual brew of the indigenous Amazonian people, derived from two plant extracts. Because ayahuasca contains the Schedule I substance DMT, it is illegal for general use in the U.S., however it is allowed to be used for specific religious purposes. Labate advocates for the importance of preserving shamanic and otherwise ceremonial practices in the global study of plant medicines. She says that if Ayahuasca is studied only for biomedical purposes, we will lose important knowledge about the healing properties of the plant, as well as the cultural significances therein.</p><p dir="ltr">Labate is also outspoken against the destructive global war on drugs. Her work is helping to remind the world of the significance of drugs and altered states of consciousness throughout human history, and across all cultures.</p><strong>6. <a href="">Gabor Mate</a></strong> Gabor Mate is a medical doctor from Vancouver who is a prominent ayahuasca researcher. He has worked with psychedelic medicine among aboriginal people, as well as in contemporary, non-indigenous healing circles. He <a href="">contends</a> that therapy assisted by psychedelics, and ayahuasca in particular, can untangle complex, unconscious psychological stresses. He claims these stresses underlie and contribute to all chronic medical conditions, from cancer and addiction to depression and multiple sclerosis.<p>Mate speaks and writes about the various ways the war on drugs is actually a war on drug addicts. He studies the addiction cessation potential of psychedelic substances. In a speech during the Psychedelic Science 2013 conference, Mate asserted an inherant connection between psychological/environmental experiences and medical afflictions.</p><p>Following his speech at the conference, Mate spoke to AlterNet on the importance of an integrative healthcare model:</p><p>“The traditional practices of aboriginal peoples, as in traditional Chinese medicine, have always assumed mind and body are inseparable,” Mate says. “That has now been validated by modern science, but modern medicine still ignores that reality. So, practices that incorporate a holistic understanding of a human being, where we don’t see the individual as separate from the environment, and we don’t see the mind as separate from the body, are essential to a complete understanding of human beings. Not as alternatives, but as part of a much more complete understanding of what it takes to heal people, and what it takes to stay healthy.”</p><p>When asked for an example Mate said:</p><p>“Imagine if I pulled a gun on you right now,” he says. “Your whole physiology would change. I didn’t touch you, but your hormones would change, your nervous system would change, your heart rate would speed up, cortical adrenaline would be shooting out of your adrenal gland, and your brain would be in a different state. And that happens 24/7. Maybe not in such a dramatic fashion, but it happens all the time. So, in chronic illness you see the long-term effects of mind on body and vice versa, body on mind. The point is not that these are connected; you can’t separate them, they are one entity.”</p><p>While Mate is an outspoken advocate of psychedelics as one possible route to health, he is careful to point out that they are just one potential mode of healing, not the be-all, end-all answer to health issues.</p><p> </p> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:33:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1023583 at Drugs Drugs drugs psychedelic psychedelics pot weed cannabis health legalize legal legalization illegal schedule i research researchers researcher doctor gabor maté carl hart rick doblin maps multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies war on drugs drug addict addiction addicted opiate crack cocaine meth Near-Death Experiences May Not be Hallucinations: We Could Have Real, Postmortem Awareness <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new study finds that consciousness might continue to occur minutes after the heart has stopped beating.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_169269710.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Floating out of your body, seeing a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel—these common recollections have long been regarded in scientific circles as hallucinations or illusions of the mind that occur to humans during near-death experiences. However, a group of researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK recognized the lack of objective study dedicated to near-death consciousness, and decided to delve into those experiences in a recent study.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the course of four years, researchers followed 2,060 cardiac arrest cases in 15 different hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study found that people’s experiences during life-threatening moments are much more varied than previously understood. The study results were published in the journal <em>Resuscitation.</em> Researchers concluded that typical, scientifically imprecise terms to describe near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs) may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death, as an article in <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmind_brain+%28Mind+%26+Brain+News+--+ScienceDaily%29">Science Daily</a> notes.</p><p dir="ltr">While those experiences have generally been written off as tricks of the mind due to trauma, the research suggests that consciousness might occur after the heart has completely stopped beating, and before a person has been resuscitated.</p><p dir="ltr">In the study, 39 percent of patients who survived cardiac arrest recalled a sense of awareness, but couldn’t recall their specific experiences following resuscitation.</p><p dir="ltr">Sam Parnia, who was an honorary research fellow at the University of Southampton when he started the AWARE study, told Science Daily this suggests that many people may have mental activity at the time of death, but lose their memories due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs when they are resuscitated.</p><p dir="ltr">"This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with 'real' events when the heart isn't beating,” Parnia said. “In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn't resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.”</p><p dir="ltr">Parnia said that while the results did not prove the “reality or meaning of patients' experiences and claims of awareness (due to the very low incidence [2 percent] of explicit recall of visual awareness or so-called OBEs), it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice."</p><p>Jerry Nolan, editor-in-chief of <em>Resuscitation</em>, stated: "The AWARE study researchers are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die."</p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:37:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1023284 at Personal Health Personal Health death near death experiences hallucinations Plant That Gets You High and Reduces Opiate Addiction Is Taking Off in the US—And It's Legal <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Have you heard of Kratom?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tree.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Why are people across the U.S. chewing on the small, glossy leaves of the Southeast Asian kratom tree? An ancient plant medicine related to coffee, it produces a high that’s both euphoric and legal. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) has long been used in Thailand and Malaysia to relieve pain, settle the stomach and reduce opiate dependence. Now it’s taking off in the West.</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href=""></a>, kratom leaves can be chewed fresh or dry, powdered, or brewed into a tea. It is not usually smoked, because the “amount of leaf that constitutes a typical dose is too much to be smoked easily.” It's most commonly sold in powdered form in packets, both online, in head shops and in kava bars, alcohol-free bars where people can consume tea made from the legal Polynesian <a href=";activeingredientname=kava">kava root</a>. An ounce costs between $20 and $30, which is enough kratom for one very strong dose*, or several more mild doses.</p><p dir="ltr">The fact that kratom can mitigate the painful effects of opiate withdrawl is significant, given that <a href="">heroin use</a> has reached staggering rates in the U.S. A report by the U.S. <a href="" target="_blank">Office of National Drug Control Policy</a> estimated 1.5 million chronic heroin users in the US, which doesn't account for users who use heroin fewer than four days a month.</p><p dir="ltr">While it is regularly used to curb opiate addiction by reducing the withdrawal symptoms, kratom itself can be addictive. One mother in South Florida told the <a href="">local CBS news</a> the story of her 17-year-old son’s spiral into kratom addiction after he tried the plant at a kava bar with friends. She blames the addiction for her son’s eventual suicide, saying he was “not the same person,” after using kratom.</p><p dir="ltr">While it remains popular in underground circles, kratom has been illegal in Thailand since 1943 (it’s also banned in Malaysia, Burma and Australia). However, as Fox News reported, “Thai officials are considering reversing the 70-year-old ban on kratom, due to the plant’s value in weaning addicts off of opiates.”</p><p>Despite the potential for addiction, people have used kratom as a stimulant and a medicine for thousands of years. As Fox News <a href="">reported</a>, “The plant also enjoys a legendary use for extending the duration of sexual intercourse,” and “it mostly enjoys a long history of safe use.”</p><p>A user <a href="">described</a> his experience with "Premium Thai Kratom" as powerfully relaxing and pleasant:</p><blockquote><p>"I start to feel a very warm sensation in my ankles and calves that is very similar to what I felt when I took hydrocodone after getting my appendix removed. My legs feel tingly and altogether it is a very pleasurable sensation. Walking around or excessive movement seems to reduce these effects substantially, however. Mentally, I am clear headed, and able to concentrate perfectly on the television. Waves of slight euphoria come occasionally, and my mood is elevated. I feel content, and happy to be alive on this planet."</p></blockquote><p>*<em>Most people use far less than an ounce per dose, and new users are not advised to try more than 2-3 grams</em>.</p> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:22:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1023167 at Drugs Drugs Personal Health thailand kratom drugs Are You 'Too Hot to Hire'? The Surprising Tactic Attractive Women Should Use to Get Jobs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What to do if an employer is discriminating against your appearance.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/job_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">It may be hard to summon up much sympathy for the beautiful woman. She tends to have better self confidence, <a href="">higher income</a> than the rest of us, <a href=";fa=main.doiLanding&amp;doi=10.1037/0033-2909.110.1.109">better social skills</a>—not to mention her likely ease in attracting romantic partners. But, when it comes to job searches, it turns out pretty women have a harder time than most getting hired if the job they are applying for is considered traditionally masculine.</p><p dir="ltr">As a <a href="">recent piece</a> in Pacific Standard pointed out, this is called the "beauty is beastly" effect and was discovered 30 years ago. At the time researchers "didn’t exactly scramble to find solutions for this not-so-oppressed minority," as Pacific Standard points out. But a <a href="">recent study</a> soon-to-be-published in <em>Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes</em> provides some tips to help all those sexy job-seekers out there to ward off discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">Apparently it helps to acknowledge your attractiveness during a job interview. It’s probably best not to fling an egotistical “I know I’m pretty,” at your prospective employer, though. Rather, the study provides some templates for acknowledging the stereotypes that might be influencing employers' decisions. As Pacific Standard writes:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">In the first study, undergraduate students rated ‘employment suitability’ of four different candidates for a construction job, one of whom was a woman, based on a photo and interview transcript. Some saw the photo of a beautiful woman, while others saw one of a not-so-beautiful woman. In the interview transcript, the woman said ‘I know that I don’t look like our typical construction worker,’ ‘I know that there are not a lot of women in this industry,’ or neither. In the control condition, where the women did not acknowledge any stereotypes, the unattractive woman was rated as more suitable for the job than the beautiful woman. However, the attractive woman received significantly higher ratings if she acknowledged either her appearance or sex than if she didn’t.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The results of this first study were mirrored in a second study that used construction workers as participants. Follow-up research revealed the surprising reason that acknowledging stereotypes worked in the favor of attractive women, as Pacific Standard describes:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">Acknowledging one’s sex and attractiveness causes evaluators to rate women as more masculine—and presumably, a better fit for the manly construction job. Those who acknowledge stereotypes are also, surprisingly, rated as less counter-communal. Women who are counter-communal (a nicer way to say “bitchy,” as ambitious women are often perceived) violate gender norms and are evaluated less favorably because of it. This double standard is just another example of how women on the job market must tread a fine line between feminine and masculine.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">So, since we live in a society that is, unfortunately, still teeming with gender discrimination: if you’re unattractive or plain-looking, it’s best not to say anything about the fact that you’re a woman when applying for “masculine” jobs. If you’re pretty, it’s best to speak up.</p> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 10:27:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1022632 at Labor Gender Labor society reality. sexism sexist gender discrimination job employment 6 Amazing Things Scientists Have Discovered About Psychedelics <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Psychedelics have the potential to treat cancers, addiction and psychological trauma.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_156988109-edited_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Despite the fact that the U.S. government deems many hallucinogenic or psychedelic substances to be dangerous, classifying them as Schedule I drugs with “no currently accepted medical use,” various scientists have dared to study their effects. What they’ve found over the years paints a startling, promising and powerful picture of potentially game-changing medicines.</p><p>The government’s "war on drugs" policies severely limit research on psychedelics. Before scientists can complete any federally sanctioned studies, they have to jump through an expensive tangle of hoops and red tape. Restrictions aside, over the years researchers have collected a database of research showing that many psychedelics have an unprecedented potential to treat cancers, addictions and psychological traumas, among other things.</p><p>Here are some of the coolest things scientists have discovered about psychedelics over the years.</p><p><strong>1. LSD can mitigate end-of-life anxiety.</strong></p><p>The <a href="">results</a> of the first clinical study of the therapeutic use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) in humans in more than 40 years were <a href="">published</a> in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in March. They show that LSD can promote statistically significant reductions in anxiety for people coming to terms with their own impending demise.</p><p>Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser and his colleagues conducted the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, sponsored by the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). They tracked 12 people who were near the end of life as they attended LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions. In <a href="">his report</a>, Gasser concluded that the study subjects’ anxiety "went down and stayed down."</p><p><strong>2. Psilocybin, aka magic mushrooms, actually calms, rather than stimulates, certain brain functions.</strong></p><p>The common conception is that psychedelics do something extra to cause their effects—increase activity, add hallucinations, promote awareness, etc. A <a href="">study</a> that examined brain scans of people under the influence of psilocybin found that it reduces activity in certain areas of the brain. That reduction of activity leads to the drug's effect on cognition and memory. Psychedelics, and psilocybin in particular, might actually be eliminating what could be called the extra "noise" in the brain.</p><p><strong>3. The drug MDMA (aka <strong>ecstasy, or </strong>Molly) promotes release of the "love" hormone oxytocin, which could help treat severe anxieties like PTSD and social anxiety resulting from autism.</strong></p><p>Before the federal government classified it as a Schedule I substance, therapists experimented with MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxyrnethimphetarnine) beginning in the 1970s to help reduce moderate depression and anxiety among their adult patients. After widespread recreational use in the rave scene caught the attention of authorities, MDMA was criminalized in 1985. However, research primarily supported by the MAPS has continued to turn up positive results for the drug’s potential therapeutic use. Various <a href="">clinical trials</a> and statistical research have confirmed that MDMA can successfully treat post-traumatic stress in military veterans and others. One <a href="">example</a> is the clinical trial led by Michael Mithoefer, which used MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat chronic PTSD.</p><p>A 2009 study offers a plausible explanation for MDMA’s effectiveness treating PTSD. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 15 healthy individuals confirmed that MDMA causes the brain to release oxytocin, which is the human hormone linked to feelings of love and compassion.</p><p>MAPS recently received government approval to launch a <a href="">new study</a> examining MDMA’s potential for treating social anxiety in autistic adults. Based on the known effects of <a href=";view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=13&amp;Itemid=109">MDMA</a>, as well as individual reports, this <a href=";view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=10&amp;Itemid=103">exploratory study</a> will focus on enhancing functional skills and quality of life in <a href=";view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=12&amp;Itemid=105">autistic adults</a> with <a href=";view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=14&amp;Itemid=110">social anxiety</a>.</p><p><strong>4. Psilocybin could kill smoking addiction.  </strong></p><p>Psychiatry professor Matthew Johnson, who works at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, presented the preliminary <a href="">results</a> of a pilot feasibility study looking at the ability of psilocybin to treat smoking addiction at the 2013 Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland, Calif. For the study, five cigarette-addicted participants underwent placebo-controlled psilocybin treatment with a psychiatrist. All five completely quit smoking after their first psilocybin session. At all followup visits, which occurred up to one year later for the first four participants, it was biologically confirmed that the participants had abstained from cigarettes.</p><p><strong>5. Ayahuasca can treat drug addiction and possibly much more.</strong></p><p>Ayahuasca is a brew prepared with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, originally used for spiritual and healing purposes in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. The vine is usually mixed with leaves containing the psychedelic compound DMT.</p><p>Gabor Mate, a medical doctor from Vancouver who is a prominent ayahuasca researcher, <a href="">contends</a> that therapy assisted by psychedelics, and ayahuasca in particular, can untangle complex, unconscious psychological stresses. He claims these stresses underlie and contribute to all chronic medical conditions, from cancer and addiction to depression and multiple sclerosis.</p><p>The <a href="">results</a> of the first North American observational study on the safety and long-term effectiveness of ayahuasca treatment for addiction and dependence were published in June 2013 in the journal Current Drug Abuse Reviews. All of the participants in the study reported positive and lasting changes, and the study found statistically significant improvements “for scales assessing hopefulness, empowerment, mindfulness, and quality of life meaning and outlook subscales. Self-reported alcohol, tobacco and cocaine use declined, although cannabis and opiate use did not.” The reported reductions in problematic cocaine use were also statistically significant.</p><p><strong>6. DMT occurs naturally in the human body, and taking it could simulate death.</strong></p><p>The drug <a href="">DMT</a> (diemethyltryptamine), which causes hallucinogenic experiences, is made up of a chemical compound that already occurs within the human body <a href="blank">endogenously</a> (as well as in a number of plants). This means our brains are naturally set up to process the drug because it has receptors that exist specifically to do so. Cannabis is another illegal drug that occurs <a href="">endogenously</a>.  </p><p>Some <a href=";lr=&amp;id=rQeeTNHjdtgC&amp;oi=fnd&amp;pg=PP1&amp;dq=DMT+death&amp;ots=gUxMfxAXx5&amp;sig=BaAhPW0Eq5VNO_491PPWkrK-Hpw#v=onepage&amp;q=DMT%20death&amp;f=false">research</a> based on near-death experiences points to the fact that the brain releases DMT during death. Some researchers have also conjectured that DMT is released during other intense experiences, including orgasm.</p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:14:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1022090 at Drugs Drugs Personal Health drugs psychedelics mdma psilocybin dmt cannabis pot ayahuasca cancer addiction war on drugs health psychedelic anxiety lsd molly magic mushrooms shrooms A Poetic Warning About Police Brutality in Ferguson and Elsewhere—From a Black Father to His Son <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Albuquerque&#039;s poet laureate writes about dehumanization and killing of black people in the US.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tumblr_ljqza9lcv81qhdmcf.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The effect of lynching isn’t to execute a black man, poet and journalist Hakim Bellamy tells me. The effect of lynching is to make a hundred other people watch, to send a message of oppression and intimidation: “Be careful, this could be you.”</p><p dir="ltr">The same is true, Bellamy believes, of police shootings and other brutality against black Americans. He recalls posting a photo to Instagram of a BART station on a recent visit to the San Francisco Bay Area with the caption, “Is it wrong that I feel afraid right now?” It was a reference to the deadly shooting of Oscar Grant at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station in 2009.</p><p>“It sure sends a message about how we are supposed to, or not supposed to, interact with law enforcement,” Bellamy said, remembering various warnings his mother gave him throughout his childhood in New Jersey about how not to talk to the police. “She told me [your white friends] can say, ‘Why'd you pull me over, officer’ and ‘I’ll have your badge number’ and I know that I would never, ever, ever be able to speak to a police officer in that fashion. It would be very dangerous for me to talk to a police officer in the way that some of my friends feel entitled to.”</p><p dir="ltr">Bellamy is a radio journalist, poet laureate of Albuquerque and national slam poetry champion. He said when he heard about Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri he knew he wanted to write something to capture the frustration, anger and hopelessness that had been building after the senseless killings of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and <a href="">so many others</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“I was like, oh my god, here we go again again,” he said. “I wrote a poem when Trayvon first passed away. I wrote lots of short haikus and stuff regarding the Zimmerman verdict, but it never felt like I really captured how I felt. I wrote all these little poems and I captured the anger all right, but I didn’t capture the futility, the disappointment, the inevitability, the matter of factness of it. I felt like I wanted to do that better.”</p><p dir="ltr">As Mother Jones <a href="">reported</a> in August, following the shooting in Ferguson, the alarming prevalence of police shootings targeting black Americans is difficult to quantify because it is so widespread and "no agency appears to track the number of police shootings or killings of unarmed victims in a systematic, comprehensive way." Federal data regarding police use of force is fractured. Mother Jones pointed out that Brown is one of at least four unarmed black men who died at the hands of police <a href="" target="_blank">in August alone</a> and "in 2007, ColorLines and the Chicago Reporter <a href="" target="_blank">investigated fatal police shootings</a> in 10 major cities, and found that there were a disproportionately high number of African Americans among police shooting victims in every one." </p><p dir="ltr">The NAACP <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> 45 officer-involved shootings were recorded in Oakland, Calif. between 2004 and 2008 and 37 of those shot were black. None were white, and Oscar Grant's shooting was not counted as it took place New Years Day, 2009. Mother Jones also notes that  "the New York City Police Department has reported similar trends in its <a href="" target="_blank">firearms discharge report</a>, which shows that more black people have been shot by NYPD officers between 2000 and 2011 than have Hispanics or whites." </p><p>As we speak, Bellamy is on his way to pick up his 6-year-old son from school. He says most of his work is influenced by the fact that he is raising a black son in America. After Ferguson, he was inspired to write a <a href="" target="_blank">poem</a> titled, "A.A. (Afro Anonymous) aka In Recovery aka WARdrobe," in the form of a warning letter to his son. The poem captures everything he is feeling.</p><p dir="ltr">“Being a parent right now, at this moment in our country’s maturation process, is a very scary thing,” he said. “[My son] is essentially a mixed child, whatever that means. I think we’re all mixed, but I visibly identify as black; I could go into how I’m part French, part Native American, but when the police pull me over, I’m black. They’re not asking me, ‘What heritage is your mother.’ They’re not taking the time to get to know me that well. My son is going to be the same way. His mom is very white, very Italian and German, and I’m very black. And he’s a brown-skinned child in America.”</p><p dir="ltr">Bellamy said he often thinks about what he’ll tell his son when it comes time to talk about race issues, and he rehearses via his poetry. “I’m always practicing in my poetry, what will I say to him? How will I say it to him?"</p><p dir="ltr">On his <a href=""> page</a>, Bellamy introduces the Afro Anonymous poem as, “Written by a Black man who was once a Black boy who has a Black son who will be an endangered species. Written while processing Ferguson, MO.” His complex, heart-wrenching verses capture the impacts of police brutality on family and culture in America:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A.A. (Afro Anonymous) aka “In Recovery” aka WARdrobe </strong></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>"I am an invisible man...I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." —</em>Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) </p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Son, if you came up missing <br />your hood would not be able to find you. <br />Unable to pick you out in a crowd, <br />or a police line up. <br /><br />If you made it that far. <br />If they even came looking at all. <br /><br />Don’t be anonymous, child. <br />Make sure you stick out <br />like a pair of sore thumbs <br />alongside eight other fingers. <br />Don’t fist. <br />Don’t flinch, <br />even when their fingers <br />curl horizontally at your chest. <br /><br />They won’t pull if you don’t push, <br />I pray. <br /><br />Get em up, high. <br />As though you could actually reach <br />those pruned dreams above you, <br />rotting on each and every branch of government. <br /><br />Like you’re the one being robbed of something, <br />and everything is suspect. <br /><br />When standing up for yourself <br />becomes a crime, <br />you better stand out. <br /><br />Like flannel in the summertime. <br />Like black combat boots and a trench coat <br />anytime of year. <br />Like Steven Fuckin’ Urkel <br />pants round your nipples, <br /><br />or they will put shackles around your ankles. <br />Hoodies around your neck. <br />Flowers around your casket. <br /><br />Because they murder more Stephons <br />than Steves every single year. <br /><br />Don’t be anonymous, son. <br />Even if your comrades wear fatigues <br />every day in this warzone, <br />and call it a wardrobe, <br />you rock those plaid shorts <br />like a Tiger with no stripes <br />Do not enlist in mortal kombat <br />with a metropolitan military <br />that can’t see the fathers for the G’s, <br />our future for the trees. <br /><br />It is open season on hoodies <br />and skinny jeans. <br />The only bulletproof vest <br />I can offer you is beneath <br />this three-piece suit. <br /><br />We’ve worn these neckties for years <br />because we’re least threatening <br />at the end of a leash. <br /><br />Speak jive only <br />as a second language, <br />because when in Rome <br />do as conquered people do. <br /><br />I know… <br />Romans who? <br />Empires aren’t covered <br />til long after 1st grade <br />but it’s never too soon to grow up <br />in this backwards world <br />of men in backwards hats <br />getting gunned down in Walmart <br />for brandishing a toy pistola <br /><br />While manufacturers live to brand <br />another day, about how lifelike <br />their product is… <br /><br />“So authentic, <br />even cops can’t tell the difference…” <br /><br />So anonymous, <br />even cops can’t tell the difference. <br /><br />Son, <br />this is not cops and robbers <br />this is cowboys and Indians, <br />and the only way to not get shot in the back <br />is to dress like a cowboy. <br /><br />This poem <br />is the only arrow pointing you past 19. <br /><br />When their life <br />or pride <br />is in danger, <br />they cannot tell the difference between you <br />and the criminal record <br />they been bumping in their patrol car all day. <br /><br />The gangsta rap videos <br />they imagine on loop in your brain <br />every time you open you mouth <br />with no “sir.” <br /><br />They can’t tell, <br />just like mothers <br />trying to identify the mutilated bodies <br />of their babies. <br /><br />Pulling Stephon’s <br />personal effects <br />out of a footlocker <br />of Air Force Ones <br />and Phoenix Suns jerseys <br />like it’s a police line up. <br /><br />I will donate <br />your carefully creased curb costume <br />to a “Pimps and Hoes” party <br />at a fraternity you will never get in <br />at a college I am determined to get you to <br />…in one piece <br /><br />This retired uniform, <br />designed to help you survive <br />these gang infested streets <br />is in need of a facelift. <br />To help you survive <br />a more lethal form of thuggery. <br /><br />Because your tank tops <br />will never top their tanks. <br />If wearing a white flag were enough <br />I would drape you in that, <br />but it looks too much like the coroner’s blanket <br />and Officer PTSD might mistake you <br />for a frontline in Iraq. <br /><br />Take off that bulls eye of conformity, son. <br />That bullshit dream of equality, <br />you can’t wear whatever you want in this country <br />that blames women for their own rape <br />because of what they didn’t have on. <br /><br />You tuck your blackness into your bloodstream <br />like a white gold chain in the most dangerous part of town, <br />because the bullets pierce bubble goose parkas <br />leaving puddles of black boyhood flooding our sewers <br /><br />And I’m sorry, <br />but I’d rather have you crying <br />than leaking <br />on your way home. <br /><br />So you will settle <br />for being the preppiest kid in school. <br />Wear your culture <br />like a but naked emperor. <br /><br />Like an invisible man. <br /><br />They will see you when it’s convenient, <br />beyond your Birkenstocks and Brooks Brothers <br />during the next manhunt. <br />When boys are fair game. <br /><br />So, whatever you do <br />don’t be anonymous. <br /><br />When you go back out to that corner <br />be the duck wearing a Labrador Retriever costume <br />in a flock of geese. <br /><br />At least you know <br />they won’t shoot you, today. <br />And hey, <br />if you are lucky, <br />they might even house break you, <br />and take you home. <br /><br /><em>© Hakim Bellamy August 15, 2014</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Don't Be Anonymous, Son</strong></p></div><div>Several times throughout the poem, Bellamy references war against, and conquering of, black Americans. He says his larger message is that in order to control and oppress anyone—be it black people, women, etc.—the oppressor must dehumanize them. That means demonizing certain things, like clothing and language, and objectifying or substantiating other things (body parts in the case of women). </div><div> </div><div>"It is really these accoutrements of culture that, unfortunately for a black person in America, define our culture," he said. "When you can be minimized or essentialized to an article of clothing; essentialized to a hat being worn in a certain position or a style of music or a way of talking or a pair of sneakers—when they can make you that, as they’ve done to women for generations (women become not human beings but a body part, a pair of breasts)—when you can dehumanize someone, it’s really easy to wage this kind of cultural war."</div><div> </div><div>He says this is what's happening with the callous shootings of black males in America.</div><p dir="ltr">"They become more of a product than a person," he said. "It's easy to take them as monolith, and it's easy to make them these things that we’re scared of—and then that justifies how we treat them."</p><div>Bellamy said the recurring plea in his poem, "Don't be anonymous, son," is about the way cops and others seem to be blending people with a certain skin color, wearing a certain style, talking a certain way, together in their minds. Bellamy said this part of the poem also addressed the teenagers he teaches English to inside and outside of the juvenile justice system. </div><div> </div><div>"We are a culture that celebrates celebrities, we celebrate people who stand out, yet we practice fitting in," he said. "I always challenge my students on that. I’m like, okay, you guys love Lady Gaga? Well, Lady Gaga has not ever been accused of being somebody who just fits in."</div><div> </div><div>He said that part of the poem is also a future dialogue he imagines with his son.</div><div> </div><div>"I'm saying, sometimes you'll wanna walk, dress, talk like your buddies, and I understand how important that is to our culture—me talking and dressing like my buddies is part of black culture...everybody has that element to their culture, but at a certain point you have to embrace being different," he said. "In this case fitting might be the most dangerous thing you can do. Your life might actually depend on you being the different kid, and maybe that means you can’t dress like your friends. And now I’m getting into hyperbole in the poem, like maybe it means you have to dress like Carlton in the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" rather than Will Smith because, guess what, Carlton doesn't get pulled over and beat."</div><div> </div><div>"It’s hyperbole and not. And then we can look back a couple years and say, even that won't save you because look what happened to <a href="" target="_blank">Henry Louis Gates</a>. Even if you live in Beverly Hills and do everything 'right' and play by the book, you still will somehow be made to feel like the ‘boy’ in this culture because they have to remind you of your place."</div><div> </div><div><strong>The Practice of Feeling</strong></div><div><div dir="ltr"><br />Bellamy said poetry is a timeless tool because it is the “practice of feeling.”<br /><br />“Today we hear so much on social media and the news, and it’s very analytical,” he said. “We’re processing, and much like our flawed education system, we’re memorizing like ‘Oh I heard these facts about progressives, I heard these facts about conservatives.’ You can remember them, but it’s not actually feeling. …[Poetry] is feeling instead of this analytical logic-ing each other to death. I feel like that's what we're gonna do, at the end of our little human turn in the universe here, were gonna logic ourselves to death instead of, like, holding hands, touching each other, having fun, laughing, crying, making love, feeling pain— the good stuff.”<br /><br />Bellamy choses to write about race in the hopes it will help spread compassion.<br /><br />“All things being equal, my white, male, 36-year-old counterpart from New Jersey might not really connect to Trayvon Martin, they might not really connect to Ferguson, but they can connect to being a parent that is trying to explain something very difficult to a small child,” he said. “So if I write there, and they can understand that, then maybe there’s a higher percentage of success that they will actually understand what I was trying to say.”<br /><br />While his work is heavy, even heartbreaking at times, Bellamy is light and exhuberant when he speaks, often laughing. He says the seriousness of the content often comes up for him in conversation.<br /><br />“I oftentimes get asked, what do you write about? I tell people, you know, I’m a journalist so I write about stuff that's not sexy: oppression, social justice, all these things. And people go, oh, wow, that must be exhausting.”<br /><br />But for Bellamy “exhausting” is an antonym when it comes to his work.<br /><br />“If you look at a lot of my work and you’re like, man, we should all just end it tomorrow because it's not getting any better—If that's what you read, you’re reading it wrong,” he said, laughing. “Actually, the fact that people want to engage this work, that gives me hope. It shows the amazing capacity for the human heart to change and grow and feel. People are not running away from it, they’re running towards it—especially white, Anglo people here in New Mexico are like, 'I want to do this work, I want to hear stuff that challenges me because it reminds me that we have work to do.’ To me, that’s encouraging. That is the bigger part [of my work]. It’s not meant to make everybody go home and feel terrible, but it’s made to make people go, huh, that's right, that’s still happening and we have a lot of work to do."<br /><br />Bellamy said the following quote from the US national Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, sums it up: "Some have said 'you sure do write a lot about race' and I say 'I only write about it as much as it's intertwined into the fabric of our nation'...that's the problem; people just don't pay attention.”<br /><br />“If I’d lived a totally different experience in America, I’d be happy to write about cats,” Bellamy said. "But right now, what I can't go to sleep without thinking about is my son navigating this world and how to make it a little bit safer for him. So that’s just on my mind, and that's what I tend to write about."</div></div> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 10:24:00 -0700 April M. Short, AlterNet 1021348 at Culture Culture News & Politics hakim bellamy poetry ferguson montana Mike Brown