Pot-smoking moms are apparently no longer willing to put up with the judgement of their wine-guzzling counterparts. Margaret, a 45-year-old mother of two boys, has defended her nightly cannabis habit on Today MSNBC—saying that she needs the drug to relax and be a better parent, and maligning the unfair criticism she receives from other mothers. “Being judged for doing something nontoxic and totally organic, enjoying a god-given plant, by moms who suck back two bottles of Chardonnay like sports drinks feels like shit,” she said. “Any hypocrisy is hard to swallow. A drunk mother is pathetic and I often leave parties when I experience other mothers tying one on.” Margaret isn't the only mom in America to use pot to help mediate the stresses of parenting. A Jezebel blogger recently caused a stir after admitting to being stoned while taking care of her newborn; and as of today, the group "Moms For Marijuana International" has over 18,000 likes on its Facebook page. “No matter what you use, you shouldn’t be judged if it works for you, you’re productive, and you do no harm,” says Diane Fornbacher, co-vice chair of the Women’s Alliance at NORML, the non-profit organization working to legalize marijuana. “Marijuana parents aren’t perfect, but they’re far less imperfect than parents who use alcohol irresponsibly. Cannabis can influence people to be nicer to one another. You rarely find a story that says two stoners beat each other up outside of a bar.” Still, toking up while parenting does have its risks. Like alcohol, marijuana can be addictive—and studies show that children whose moms smoke pot are more likely to start using the drug at an earlier age.
America's huge and growing hunger for prescription pills is signaling the need for new drug policy, both in the US and in Mexico. The US has long fought to keep illicit drugs out of the country—running vigorous border patrol efforts, prosecuting traffickers, and backing crackdowns in Latin America. But recent years have seen street drugs like cocaine and heroin overtaken by prescription painkillers as America's drug of choice: in the mid-1980s, a government survey showed 5.8 million people had used cocaine in the past month—that number dropped to 1.5 million in 2008. Abuse of painkillers, in contrast, is on a frightening upswing—with 20,044 overdose deaths documented in 2008—a number that tripled in ten years, and is higher than ODs from all illicit drugs combined. All of which is forcing policy-makers to re-examine long-held strategies.
"This is an urgent, urgent issue that needs to be addressed promptly,” says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Many American officials, and even the Drug Enforcement Administration, are coming to believe that border patrol and drug trafficking arrests are no solution for the new problem. “The policies the United States has had for the last 41 years have become irrelevant,” says Morris Panner, a former counter-narcotics prosecutor. “The United States was worried about shipments of cocaine and heroin for years but whether those policies worked or not doesn’t matter because they are now worried about Americans using prescription drugs.”
In Mexico, a shift in anti-drug efforts is already apparent. President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is promising to focus less on the interdiction of drugs, and more on reducing the violence that has claimed over 50,000 lives as traffickers battle for power. US officials say they're now allocating more of the anti-drug budget towards helping Mexico build communities, including supporting prevention programs for at-risk youths—whereas in the past, most of the budget was spent on arresting kingpins and seizing drugs. In the US, some measures are being taken to address the prescription drug epidemic. DEA officials say they've recently created 37 “tactical diversion squads” focusing on prescription drug investigations, and will add 26 more in the near future. “Unfortunately,” says Republican Representative Mary Bono Mack, chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, “it’s because more and more members are hearing from back home in their district that people are dying.”
- Mexico's Drug Murders Down 15-20% [FOX]
- Pot-Smoking Moms Tired of Being Judged by Wine Drinkers [MSNBC]
- Longtime American Fugitive is Arrested [New York Times]
- Marijuana Fields In Sierra Nevada Linked To Rare Wildlife Deaths [Huffington Post]
- Cory Booker Slams Drug War [US News & World Report]
- Mason High School Drug Bust: Teen Charged With Leading Marijuana Ring [ABC]
- Duran Duran's Days of Sex & Drugs [Huffington Post]
Late last week, Oregon joined Washington and Colorado on the list of states whose voters will have the chance to legalize marijuana in November. If they pass Measure 80, Oregonians could be purchasing pot legally as soon as January 1. But public opinion is split: a survey last month found that 43% of respondents in the state believed pot should be legalized, while 46% wanted it to remain illegal. Recent polls show higher support in the other two states: 50% in Washington and 61% in Colorado.
Advocates remain hopeful, but these numbers may still not be high enough—history shows that with marijuana reform laws, momentum is generally lost during campaigns, rather than gained. "A betting person might make a bet strongly that none of these are going to succeed, that they're all going to fail within very, very high pluralities," Allen St. Pierre, executive director of pot advocacy group NORML, tells The Fix. "But certainly, NORML is very hopeful that one of these is going to get into the majority, which will then set up a tremendous conflict with the federal government that will hopefully resolve itself, as it usually does, in favor of the state rather than the federal government." Should marijuana be legalized in any of these states come November, they will be in violation of federal and international law, so the better solution may be to go through the court system. "The argument is made here, that this ought to be a nation-wide reform, and have Congress—from our biased-point of view—fix the problem it started in 1937 by making marijuana illegal and having it go from the top down," says St. Pierre.
Regardless of the outcome this fall, St. Pierre sees the legalization of marijuana as a fait accompli—it's just that it may take years to get there. “It’s pretty clear that this issue is not going away for some years to come because of the public opinion swinging so quickly in favor,” he tells us. Projections estimate that at the current rate of movement, public approval for legalizing marijuana may not reach a crucial majority until 2021. However, "At some point, another state will take another bite of the apple and somebody will eventually get a majority.” This fall, Montana and Nebraska are also considering legalization initiatives, and Massachusetts will have medical marijuana on the ballot. Advocates have a long road ahead no matter what the outcome, but feel that getting these initiatives on the ballots is a good start. “There is a schism between the federal and state governments and the more and the more these states keep either passing voter initiatives or legislation," St. Pierre argues. "It’s only going to create greater friction with the federal government, agitating them towards some degree of reform."
That shrinking violet Marilyn Manson continues living up to his outlandish reputation—now claiming that drugs and booze are the reason his body is healthy and germ-free. In a new interview with the Observer magazine, the 43-year-old discusses insecurities, drug and alcohol use, romantic relationships and even potential fatherhood. According to Manson, he's so proud of being a "demented genius" that he may be ready to start a family with girlfriend Lindsay Usich, so that their little one can "set fire and breathe profanity." He's even more inflammatory regarding his seemingly clean health, for which he credits years spent using drugs and alcohol. "My body is a place where drugs and alcohol have made germs afraid to live," he claims. "I have no health problems to speak of, touch wood." The eccentric singer has famously experimented and written songs about illegal substances, such as "Dope Show" and "I Don't Like the Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)." He also disputes the accuracy of his reputation as a fetish-crazed sex maniac: "I think I would laugh nervously in the face of a threesome," he says. "I'm shy. I'm the kind of person who turns the lights out."
How do you test for a drug with an ever-changing chemical composition? That's what Dr. Harry Leider, Chief Medical Officer of testing company Ameritox, is trying to figure out. His target? “Bath salts”—the drug type that made a big splash with the story of Florida's "causeway cannibal." (Although we've since learnt that the face-eater wasn't on bath salts, the task remains tricky.) “Legal highs” are sold in little packets labeled “bath salts” or “plant food,” but don't try to use it as either of those—the only active ingredients are synthetic cathinones, chemically synthesized drugs meant to mimic the effects of methamphetamine.
Testing (and making laws) for bath salts is a game of chemical cat-and-mouse. The problem is, according to Dr. Leider, that they aren't that difficult to synthesize or modify for anyone who has some knowledge of chemistry, and these “street chemists” stay one step ahead of lawmakers and enforcers simple by shifting the elements in the compounds a little. Despite the challenge, Dr. Leider is fighting to keep bath salt detection on pace with street chemists' modifications via a two-pronged approach: “We have a couple different methods—actually buy the substances and develop technology to detect them as they emerge, which is a hard thing to do,” he explains to The Fix, “and another way is our specialty lab where, with the size and scope of Ameritox, we test thousands of specimens a day from doctors.”
“It's like a battle,” Dr. Leider tells us. But it's a battle he thinks can be won with a “concerted effort on multiple levels”: the DEA, doctors and insurance companies. The DEA, he says, needs a faster way to outlaw drugs by class, rather than by substance. As of now the agency is behind Dr. Leider's labs—Ameritox tests for eight different strains of bath salts, but the DEA has only declared three of them illegal. Doctors must also be trained to identify patients suffering from bath salts' side effects and be able to report if there's an outbreak in the area. And insurance companies must also be encouraged to foot the bill for drug screenings. Last, but not least, is educating the public about the dangers of bath salts. “It's a real dangerous category of drugs—potency varies from packet to packet and it's not regulated in any way,” says Dr. Leider. “Many people think because something is legal, it's safer.”