Cannabis and Kratom: A Light in the Opiate Dark

philip-seymour-hoffman

Analysis by Terry Gotham

With the country currently gripped in fear that ACA will be repealed, I’ve started to ponder what options will be left for Americans in the throes of physical dependency if the cuts to medical/addiction funding are as deep as the ones currently being floated. While some proponents of the 21st Century Cures Act note that there’s been a scheduled $1 billion increase in funding for treatment, a repeal would remove at least $5.5 billion in funding to almost 3 million people suffering from substance use disorders. As dozens of states grapple with ever-increasing rates of opiate addiction and overdose, states that have legalized cannabis have discovered something startling.

A study published in the Journal of Pain by a trio of researchers out of the University of Michigan documents a reduction in opiate consumption in Chronic Pain patients who use cannabis. Specifically, medical cannabis uses was associated with a 64% reduction in opioid use. Additionally, 45% of the patients (118 out of the 244 sampled), reported reduced side effect frequency & intensity. In states that have medical marijuana available for their citizens, drivers between the age of 21 and 40 who were killed driving accidents tested positive for opiates significantly less often than drivers of the same age in states that didn’t have medical marijuana available. For example, Montana saw a 1.7% reduction in the number of drivers who tested positive for opioids after their MMJ laws went into effect. And that’s just numbers associated with people behind the wheel. When we evaluate the effect of cannabis consumption on opiate overdoses, the evidence becomes even more compelling.

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BPM & Ending The War on Drugs: Don’t You Dare Look Away Now

Narco-sign in Playa Del Carmen after BPM shooting

Photo By Trevor Dunn

Editorial/Analysis by Terry Gotham

I’ve spent the last week interviewing people and collecting information about the worst thing to happen in live events since Orlando. Last week, the BPM Festival suffered a terrible attack, leaving 5 dead and more than a dozen wounded. Long considered one of the crown jewels of the festival circuit, this heinous attack has resulted in the local government showing BPM and all other music festivals the door. As usual, most commentary on the causes or effects either totally misses the mark or descends into slap fighting.

Photo by Semanario Playa News Aqui y Ahora

Photo by Semanario Playa News Aqui y Ahora

Before I dig into this story any deeper, I need to make a strong caveat. This commentary is in no way blaming anyone who was shot at, injured or killed for the violence that was done to them. I cannot stress this enough. While macroeconomic forces, drug cartels and America’s ineffectual responses to the growing demands for legalization are to blame for this attack, blaming BPM or BPM ticketholders for narco-terrorism is tone-deaf to the point of brutality. While I assume people will believe that was my aim to engage in some classist/leftist/racist point that serves only to divide, I believe this can be a wake up call for everyone who parties, not just those who take drugs or care about legalization, but for all Americans who believe in Constitutional rights.

According to Miguel Angel Pech Sen (district attorney of Quintana Roo, a Mexican state) at 2:30 AM, Monday morning, the security at Elrow’s closing party at the Blue Parrot was overwhelmed and the club was entered by an as-yet undetermined number of assailants. BPM declared that there was a lone gunman on the FB post about the shooting, but this has been called into question by a number of witnesses who spoke to Billboard and claimed they saw multiple shooters. The Attorney General later said it appeared there were “a lot of people carrying arms” in the club, and that many of those wounded were hit when security personnel were attempting to shoot the attacker. The attacker escaped, he said, and may have been assisted by a taxi in getting away. Three members of security died, a 4th, who seemed to be the target, and a fifth person died in the stampede to escape the club.

After the shooting at the Blue Parrot, the violence raged across Playa Del Carmen for the rest of the week. On Tuesday, a “Code Red” was activated in Cancun when the Control Center for Command, Computing & Communications was attacked by 10 armed men who arrived by motorcycle. Their goal was to extract a local drug cartel leader from holding, not kidding. Avenues in Cancun were attacked with fucking grenades, while shots were reported inside of the Plaza Las Americas Shopping Center. Narco-signs (messages from the cartels) sprang up, with the Zetas claiming responsibility and announcing that more violence was to come. Again, Playa Del Carmen banned not just BPM, but electronic music festivals, in case you had tickets to the Arena Festival, slated to go on in the beginning of February.

At this point, I hope it’s clear that this is a situation that the police and military do not have under control. While plenty of American and Canadian party people live blissfully unaware of the spiral of drug-fueled violence that Mexico is enduring, we need to stop pretending “this is fine.”

mexican-safety-map

Whether it’s the Fast & Furious gun program, Hillary’s refusal to support legalization, or the psychedelic libertarianism I’ve written about before, the indifference to legalization as a priority has put billions into the hands of cartels that have much of Latin America by the balls. MS13, the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and dozens of others we’ve probably never even heard of have rained suffering and death across so much of our hemisphere. Our continued inability to care about the problems that come with drugs, namely opiate abuse by the poor and swelling the coffers of organized crime, has all but ensured that tragedies like the one that befell the Blue Parrot will keep happening anywhere the drug war has touched.

I don’t want to hear that legalizing drugs will just cause the cartels to make money somewhere else. The revenue is non-trivial. Even before legalization hit, the RAND Corporation and the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness estimated that almost 30% of cartel revenue (not profit) came from cannabis. With legalization, we’re already seeing cannabis seizures drop:

In the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, marijuana seizures fell to 8,158 pounds in fiscal 2015, an 88 percent drop compared to a decade-high of 68,825 pounds seized in fiscal 2011…As marijuana seizures have declined, other drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are skyrocketing at the border. Traffickers are capitalizing on the growing opiate epidemic, as well as their ability to cheaply produce enormous amounts of pure meth from Chinese precursor chemicals in Mexican “superlabs.”
~San Diego Tribune

Source: Washington Post

It’s not just along the California border. According to the US Border Patrol, cannabis is just not showing up at numbers it used to be anywhere they’re seizing it:

But the amount of one drug — marijuana — seems to have finally fallen. U.S. Border Patrol has been seizing steadily smaller quantities of the drug, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Mexico’s army has noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, a drop of 32% compared to year before.
~Time

The Zetas aren’t super-villains from the 50’s. They know how much money they can make getting certain substances over the border and into the hands of eager consumers. This connects back to parties almost depressingly well. How many people do we all know that expect there to be drugs for them to buy at parties? How many of them honestly give a fuck about whether they’re legal or not? Just think of the thousands of party people who demand farm to table, vegan/vegetarian or some other form of “I don’t consume things made unethically” cuisine, but then proceed to put $200 worth of possibly Peruvian Cocaine up their noses. I really think we should be more concerned about the lives of indigenous people living under cartels than whether our almond milk was sprayed with pesticide before it landed in my smoothie. As a dear friend put it, we couldn’t stop the Orlando mass shooting, but decriminalization/legalization probably would have stopped this shooting.

stratfor-map-2014

You need to ask yourself, if this shooting happened at a club on the beach that only Mexicans went to, and had nothing to do with BPM, would you have cared? Would you have even seen it on your news feeds? I’ve spoken to dozens of Clinton supporters over the last 18 months who strongly supported her not legalizing. If the Zetas weren’t able to wholesale pot into every city in America outside of a handful of states, would they be able to buy weapons and commit crime? Of course. But certainly not to the levels that they’ve been able to in the last several years.

Not a lot of people remember this, but over a decade ago, we deported a bunch of MS13 members, trying to break the back of the gang. This backfired so spectacularly that MS-13 chapters cropped up all across Latin America, accelerating its growth from a few thousand members in LA to an international cartel, possessing a massive supply chain and a network that rivals most intelligence services. We trained & funded the 34 commandos that eventually flipped the script & became Los Zetas. Remember them from earlier in the article? Yup, the very same. Our efforts to stop people from doing drugs are directly responsible for this shit. The blood of party people is on American hands.

But don’t think this is anything new. Whether it was Al Capone and the bootleggers profiting from prohibition, the evolution of disco and cocaine, house dealers in the superclubs of the 1990s & 2000s or the flood of adulterated psychoactive substances that find their way into the hundreds of music festivals occurring in North America every year, Americans have partied for decades without agitating for legalization. While the mob did move on to other illegal activities once Prohibition ended, you bet your ass they jumped right back into trafficking once drug prohibition returned in the 20th Century. Until we (whether we do drugs or not) demand decriminalization/legalization and an end to the DEA/ATF/FBI/CIA’s fuckery south of our border, we should expect things like this to keep happening. Some people are fine with throwing up our hands, giving up and only partying/consuming illegal drugs made within our national  borders, but that still resigns millions of our fellow citizens to a fate of incarceration, underemployment and a life controlled by the scarlet letter of conviction. People demand the ability to modulate the contents of our minds. We should allow them to, and join them in ensuring they can, legally…if only to ensure a horrific attack like this one never happens again.

History Of The User & Society: An Introduction

drugsBy Terry Gotham

I’ve been exceptionally lucky to be able to report on new, interesting and potentially dangerous trends in drug and alcohol use/abuse for Burners.me. Whether it was novel psychoactive substances, designer Xanax, Fentanyl as the scourge of North America or even just about the commercialization of cannabis, I’ve tried to ensure my points were data-driven and relevant in the current day. This next segment of my reporting for Burners.me is going to be less focused on the present and more the past.

Tens of thousands of people have written about drug use, both recreational and medicinal, in addition to the nature of using. What far fewer have written about is the systematic segmentation of consumers of certain substances as “addicts” or “problematic users.” Drug use goes back as far as we have written records, but the labeling of certain populations as addicted/sick/bad for society is a far more recent practice. In researching to help me understand why and how this designation came about, I was stunned how many commonly held beliefs about substance use and who was using what and why were smashed. Everything from conventional wisdom surrounding The Civil War to how societal markets were shaped by tea, coffee & chocolate. Continue reading

Two Ominous Side Effects Of Cannabis Legalization

By Terry Gotham

A caveat: things are heading in the right direction in places where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use for adults. We can all agree that Colorado, Washington, Alaska & the District of Columbia didn’t become the pot-drenched “Beyond Thunderdome” dystopias that pearl clutchers & puritans envisioned. My aim is not to deride legalization efforts, nor question the dedication or motives of anyone associated with the fight to get America’s head out of its ass. Because Burning Man can be seen as a laboratory for progressive thinking & ways of living, and because a lot of Burners live in states that are currently grappling with the “how” instead of the “if” of legalization, medicalization or decrmininalization, I felt compelled to mention them. We’re legalizing in uneven steps across the country, which has brought us into unknown economic, cultural & law enforcement territory and produced some worrying side effects. Continue reading

The Future Of Cannabis: Illegal Plants Become Legal Products

marijuana-marketing-blog-imageBy Terry Gotham

As part of my efforts to get the word out about the problems drug users currently face, I’ve presented at a number of academic conferences across North America. Whenever I’m in a state with more liberal drug laws than the one I currently reside in, I always like to examine it both as a consumer & a policy advocate. In Vancouver, while I was being pitched the differences between different sativa infused energy drinks & indica infused lip balm when it hit me.  We’re not in Kansas anymore ladies and gentlemen, the future of drug marketing is now.

While the majority of the USA is still screwing around, debating morality & incarcerating minorities for fun and profit, several states and British Columbia have seen what many moralizing policymakers claimed could never happen. The proliferation of cannabis products post-decriminalization & legalization is proof that recreational drug users are not skittering crackheads, but in fact discerning consumers who, if given the option, can make smart choices about their consumption and habits.

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