Reefer Madness
February 7, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke Tuesday evening at a Heritage Foundation event to celebrate former President Ronald Reagan's birthday, and he was eager to tie President Trump to Reagan. One of the ways the Trump administration is echoing Reagan's legacy, he said, is by cracking down on drug use, blaming "lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric, and the media" for undermining Nancy Reagan's "just say no" message, especially with marijuana.

During a question-and-answer period, Sessions addressed the opioid epidemic, which is killing an estimated 175 Americans a day. Under President Trump, Kellyanne Conway and other political appointees are in charge of handling the opioid crisis, but Sessions touted an encouraging 7 percent drop last year in prescriptions of opioids, saying he wants to see that trend continue in 2018. "Sometimes you just need to take two Bufferin or something and go to bed," he said. (Bufferin is an old-timey aspirin brand now owned by India's Dr. Reddy's.)

Opioid pills "become so addictive," Sessions said. "The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addictions starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number — they had it as high as 80 percent — we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs."

Studies suggest medical marijuana actually reduces opioid abuse and deaths, but the attorney general's promised crackdown on marijuana, even where states legalized it, has advocates concerned. "Based on my research and what I've learned while teaching the first U.S. college course on the marijuana business at the University of Denver, I see no reason for supporters of legalization to panic," writes Paul Seaborn at The Conversation. "In fact, I believe that Sessions may have actually accelerated the process toward federal marijuana legalization." Peter Weber

April 28, 2017

"You usually wouldn't be suspicious of your teen keeping his or her graphing calculator close," concedes a new guide to places kids can hide drugs from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "But if you suspect them of drug addiction you may have to be."

Calculators are just one of many ordinary objects in which little Johnny may be stashing some reefer, reveals the DEA's illustrated list of items parents should search, entitled "Hiding Places." Other options include car interiors, alarm clock battery compartments (really, anything with a spot for batteries), and shoes.

In a suggestion that wins the award for "most likely to produce deep resentment and distrust in your child," the DEA recommends ripping open an "adored childhood teddy bear" because the "inside seams of the stuffed animal can be used to hide small amounts of drugs."

Or maybe don't, because, as The Washington Post notes, "use of illicit drugs other than marijuana [among teens] is near historic lows and marijuana use is flat or falling." Sometimes a graphing calculator is just a graphing calculator. Bonnie Kristian

December 24, 2014

A collection of recent research on states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use finds that legal pot can actually make communities safer and healthier by a variety of metrics. These benefits include:

Lower suicide rates, including a drop of 10.9 percent for men aged 20-29, a high-risk group.

♦ An 8 to 11 percent drop in traffic fatalities, the leading cause of death for Americans age 5 to 34 (Colorado in particular has seen highway fatalities plunge).

♦ Lower rates of violent crime and property crime — 5.6 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively, in Denver.

Oh, and when weed is legal, it seems to be less appealing to teenagers: Teen marijuana use is on the decline as it becomes legal in more and more states. Bonnie Kristian

October 7, 2014

Georgia law enforcement learned the hard way that just because it's green and leafy, that doesn't make it pot.

Last week, Dwayne Perry became alarmed when a helicopter was hovering low over his Cartersville home. Soon, deputies and a K-9 unit "strapped to the gills" were at his door, Perry told WSB-TV Atlanta. The helicopter was part of the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppression, and the authorities were on hand to seize the "suspicious-looking plants" they saw in his backyard from the air. "I was actually scared at first because I didn't know what was happening," Perry explained.

It turns out what they thought were marijuana plants were actually okra bushes, and once the authorities realized their mistake they apologized. They still ended up taking some leaves for further analysis, because "it did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant," a Georgia State Patrol captain said.

The apology didn't make Perry feel better. He keeps fielding calls from neighbors who saw the police cars outside of his home, and he believes his reputation has been tarnished. "Here I am, at home and retired and you know I do the right thing," he said. "Then they come to my house strapped with weapons for no reason. It ain't right." Catherine Garcia

June 4, 2014

On Wednesday, Pulitzer-winning New York Times writer Maureen Dowd came out with a doozy of a column. "I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop," she begins. "What could go wrong with a bite or two?" Well, nothing, for an hour, Dowd recounts:

But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he'd call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy. I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me. [New York Times]

The fact that, as Dowd learned the next day, she was supposed to eat just a bit of the pot-laced candy bar sets up the moral of the column: Colorado is "coming to grips with the darker side of unleashing a drug as potent as marijuana on a horde of tourists of all ages and tolerance levels seeking a mellow buzz," but unclear on the right dose.

For a while on Tuesday night, Dowd's bad trip is all anyone was talking about on Twitter, mostly in a mocking tone. But I'll sign on to this half-compliment, from The Week's Sergio Hernandez. --Peter Weber

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