Archive for the ‘Spice’ category

First the States, Now Congress OKs Drug-Testing for Unemployment Benefits

February 29th, 2012

By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern

As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs or if they are seeking a job that would ordinarily require drug tests.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630, was signed on February 22, 2012. Section 2105 amends the Social Security Act by allowing states to drug test applicants for unemployment benefits and deny those benefits in the case of a positive result.

What percentage of those applying would be forced to pee in a cup? Although the numbers are unclear, Republicans had cited a study claiming 84% of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Initially, Republicans had pushed for drug testing all applicants, but this was opposed by Democrats. In order to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment, however, Democrats caved on the issue of drug testing.

A columnist for Time pointed out several flaws in this policy. First, a single failure of a drug test does not treat addiction or even determine if treatment is necessary. In fact, because marijuana can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time, drug tests are likely to disqualify cannabis users even though it is one of the least addictive drugs. Second, people may shift their use to other drugs, such as K2 or Spice, which are more difficult to detect in a urine screen but may be more detrimental to the person’s health. Third, creating obstacles for the unemployed to get back on their feet may actually worsen drug use, as it fosters anger and resentment.

Further arguments against this policy include that although the government estimates drug use among unemployed to be about twice that of the employed population, the rates of drug use among those applying for welfare benefits were found to be equal to the general population in Michigan when it tried to implement a drug test law, and much less than the general population in Florida. Not to mention, this type of policy is most likely unconstitutional.

Hopefully states will come to their senses and not opt to implement this policy. If your state is one of the 23 states considering mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits, contact your legislators and tell them to oppose these unsound and unconstitutional policies.

Polish Lawmaker Stands Up for Marijuana Rights

January 20th, 2012

Earlier today, Polish lawmaker and philosopher Janusz Palikot announced that he was going to smoke a joint in Parliament to kick off a campaign to make marijuana possession legal in Poland. Right now, police have the choice of arresting people or simply ticketing them for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Palikot wants all penalties removed, and he is willing to walk the walk.

Don’t you wish we had politicians like this in the United States?

This plan did not sit well with fellow MP and speaker Ewa Kopacz, who immediately informed the prosecutor of Palikot’s plan.

That sounds a little more like what we’re used to over here.

The prosecutor’s reaction was also pretty familiar to those who have experienced the workings of marijuana prohibition. Even though the joint that Palikot ended up lighting was not even marijuana but some sort of cannabis incense (hopefully not the synthetic cannabinoids like K2 or Spice we’ve all been hearing so much about), he could be charged simply for talking about smoking real marijuana. Apparently in Poland, it is illegal to advertise or promote the substance, which the prosecutor alleges is what Palikot did today. He could face up to a year in prison for this act of political theater.

This sort of reaction definitely sounds familiar, and it came as no surprise to Palikot:

“I want to condemn the hypocrisy concerning marijuana consumption,” Palikot told reporters. “Someone said they would smoke a joint in parliament and the reaction was tantamount to someone announcing a coup d’etat.”

Poland is one of several European countries that are reviewing their drug laws and taking steps to soften their marijuana policies. Most recently, lawmakers in Copenhagen, Denmark introduced a bill that would allow for possession and sales of marijuana within certain areas of the city

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Inventor of Fake Marijuana Wants the Real Thing Taxed and Regulated

September 30th, 2011

The news has been all abuzz for the last several months about various forms of designer drugs meant to mimic marijuana. Called Spice, K2, and a million other mildly clever names, these substances usually consist of a synthetic cannabinoid sprayed over plant matter. The resulting euphoria is supposed to be similar to the effects of marijuana. Unfortunately, it is also untested and has been reported to have all sorts of nasty side effects. Enter the DEA, who recently asked the FDA to temporarily ban several of these chemicals, pending a more permanent solution.

Needless to say, most people probably wouldn’t use these chemicals if they could legally use marijuana. Many users of the synthetics report drug tests for probation or work to be their main reason for using it. The Navy had to start testing for it regularly, so prevalent was its use among the oft-drug-tested sailors. Once again, we have prohibition encouraging people to use drugs more dangerous than marijuana.

The inventor of these substances, John W. Huffman of Clemson University, strongly warns against using them and thinks they should be banned. What does he think should be legal?

 

In an interview this week with the L.A. Times, Huffman said marijuana should be taxed and regulated, and had this to say:

“You can’t overdose on marijuana, but you might on these compounds,” he said. “These things are dangerous, and marijuana isn’t, really.”

I wonder if the DEA will listen. Probably just the “dangerous” part.

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