CannaMinutes April 2018: The US Government’s Dubious Relationship with Cannabis

It’s April 2018, this is Matt from RuffHouse Studios and welcome to CannaMinutes.

In the light of a recent progress at the FDA after giving a positive review for a new cannabis based anti-seizure drug, and a push to legalize industrial hemp from an unlikely conservative politician in the US Senate, let’s take a brief look at the dubious relationship between the US Government and cannabis.

Up until the early 1900’s cannabis was legal in America and many doctors used cannabis extracts to treat numerous symptoms such as nausea and pain. But when the Mexican American war in the mid-1800’s brought an influx of Mexican immigrants into the US it led to a shift of perceptions among many Americans about the drug. Because of its favored use among many of the Mexican immigrants as the recreational drug of choice, xenophobia among Americans led to a shift about the plant which was given the name marijuana by its opponents. This began what would snowball into a years long campaign to vilify cannabis as dangerous, despite the truth and for all the wrong reasons.

Another factor contributing to this shift in public perception was the threat that the commercial hemp industry  posed to the newspaper industrialist who used cotton for printing their papers and were heavily invested in the cotton industry as well. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst used his massive media reach to disseminate false harmful information about cannabis, linking it, without evidence to violent crime. Some scholars have suggested this was an attempt to destroy the hemp industry and protect the interest of the cotton profiteers. Eventually, the states started regulating and outlawing cannabis and hemp and eventually led to the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which taxed and regulated cannabis by requiring stamps to obtain the drug legally. The stamps where then not released as they were supposed to be.  And, by the 1950’s, minimum mandatory sentencing laws impose harsh penalties even for small possession violations and even stiffer penalties for quantities as little as an ounce leading to a felony conviction, which is still the case in many states today.

This disinformation campaign by law enforcement and governmental agencies continued through to the Nixon Admin’s war on drugs and to the eventual enactment of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This is the law that “officially” made cannabis  illegal and placed it on the Schedule 1 of The DEA’s controlled substance list as a drug with a high potential for abuse and zero medicinal value. And this is where the relationship between cannabis and the US government begins to get complicated.

Here is a quote from President Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman as told to Harper’s writer Dan Baum for an article he researched in 1994 prior to Ehrlichman’s death.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

And to prove they knew they were lying, the US government grew cannabis, rolled it into joints, and mailed it to government sanctioned Medical Marijuana recipients from a 12 acre farm at the University of Mississippi, which is still in use. Though the original program’s patients have passed away and new patients have not been allowed in many years, it’s been unable to meet the demand for large quantities of high grade cannabis for testing so other growers are being recruited to help with the demand and quality issues.

And the inconsistencies grow deeper and seemingly more sinister still. First the Reagan administration ignores a 1988 article from the National Academy of Science entitled Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. The report was written by a group of esteemed doctors including a Doctor A. J. Hampson. Yet despite the refusal to acknowledge the Academy’s findings a patent on THC and CBD as neuroprotectants was filed by the same A. J. Hampson in 2001. The owner patent is listed as The United States Government. The patent is still on file as United States Patent #6,630,507.

However as recently as 2016 the DEA code was revised to specify CBD and ALL cannabis derived extracts acts and oils as covered by the law, Doubling down on CBD as Schedule 1 with no medicinal benefits. Years after a trusted government agency described its specific benefits and filed a patent on its medicinal value.

But to be consistently inconsistent yet again, now, only 2 years later the Food and Drug Administration just gave a positive report to Epidiolex, a cannabis based Anti-seizure drug from the British GW Pharmaceuticals recommending it for approval. This same company has multiple cannabis based drugs approved across the world, but not in the United states, perhaps until now.

And also this month the industrial hemp bill was  introduced by conservative Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize the cultivation of hemp and production of CBD oil as well as remove hemp from the Schedule of Controlled substances. However it  does distinguish hemp from what it calls it’s illicit cousin, “Marijuana.”

So perhaps it’s a good sign that one of the first major attempts of suppressing cannabis, by making hemp illegal, is being undone. But considering that racism was another major cause of the vilification of cannabis it does not seem very hopeful that the current administration is eager to relieve the obvious unfair harm cannabis laws impose disproportionately heavy upon people of color.

I find it ironic that America will bomb and entire city out of existence to attack a few miscreants terrorists committing atrocious acts such as disrupting the medicine supplies of innocent people, while essentially doing the same to its own people. Cannabis is a medicine that is readily and affordably available to bring relief, healing and simple joy to the lives of millions but Law Enforcement in much of America will terrorize those who use and sell cannabis. Breaking down doors, breaking up families  and even killing its own citizens to enforce draconian laws designed to persecute rather than protect. It seems to me that the only thing consistent about the relationship between cannabis and the US government is blatant hypocrisy and lies.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of CannaMinutes, if you did, please hit the like button and subscribe to RuffHouse Studios for more cannabis culture videos made just for you! This is Matt for RuffHouse Studios, thank you for watching.

Music Attribution:
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CannaMinutes – News for the Cannabis Culture: Feb 2018

CannaMinutes – News for the Cannabis Culture: Feb 2018 (Who’s Obstructing Legal weed?)

Although well over half of the States in America have some sort of legal cannabis laws and the support of legal cannabis has reached an all time high among American citizens there is still a lot of resistance to the cause. Let’s look at the some of the entities obstructing legalizing recreational cannabis use on a federal level in the United States.

Big Pharma
A 2017 Esquire article referred to Big Pharma as the biggest obstacle to legalized recreational cannabis in America. The article outlines the donation of $500,000 by Insys Therapeutics to the opponents of the recent attempt at a recreational law in Arizona. It was the single largest donation to an Anti Cannabis initiative to that date and Arizona voters rejected the Recreational law and have instead adopted a medical only law. This is only one of example of many instances of Big Pharma lobbying against legalized cannabis out of concern that many of their opioid based medications profits could take a considerable hit.

Although it has skeptics, a 2017 study in Colorado showed that opioid overdose deaths fell after legalizing cannabis. One would presume that overall use of opioids would also fall off if alternate less addictive and harmful pain medications grew on trees.

Another entity that stands to lose a tremendous amount of money with legal cannabis is the alcohol industry. According to Forbes, those loses could equal up to over $2 Billion as determined by the Cannabiz Consumer Group. And just this month the Molson Coors Brewing company reported in their 10-K earnings report that legal cannabis is a “potential risk” to it’s business. And with some state initiatives, such as California’s new recreational cannabis law, forbidding the sale of cannabis infused alcoholic beverages across the board, it’s unlikely that brewers of alcohol will be able to get a piece that market. And the trend is for adults to use less alcohol and more cannabis in states where it has become legal although alcohol sales have still increased in Colorado since legalizing cannabis.

Private Prisons
Private prisons are also one of the several law enforcement entities fighting against legalized cannabis. According to Leafly “The Corrections Corporation of America, one of America’s largest for-profit prison companies, revealed that continuing the drug war is a central pillar of their business strategy.” Prison Guard and Police Unions are also among this law enforcement group rallying to stop the progress of legalized cannabis. And it’s really no surprise that law enforcement entities would oppose legal cannabis when the nation’s top cop is one the biggest obstacles of them all.

Jeffrey B. Sessions
That enormous obstacle of course is United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Good people don’t smoke cannabis” is just one of his irrational quotes about cannabis. He once even stated, while referring to the Ku-Klux-Klan that “I thought those guys were okay until I learned they smoked pot.“ He insists that legalizing cannabis is a threat to national security and constantly ignores data showing that cannabis use can help ease the opioid addiction by lowering deaths in legal states as well as an off-ramp drug for people with seriously dangerous addictions.

It’s unreasonable to believe that someone who served as a General, a US Senator and holds the highest law enforcement office in America is a complete idiot, so there must be some other reason to deny logic and hold such a firm stance against cannabis and state’s rights. It leads one to believe that perhaps the man is but a puppet with the strings being pulled from some entity from beyond the voice of reason… corporate profits.


For 100 Years The US Government Has Enabled Coca-Cola to Produce and Sell Cocaine: Marijuana Minute

Many people know that Coca-Cola, the number one selling soft drink in the world originally contained cocaine. But did you know that Coca-Cola, through a proxy company,  has for a hundred years produced cocaine as a byproduct of making the soda? And they also sell it for pharmaceutical use. And it’s all 100% legal, at least for Coca-Cola it is.

With an epidemic of obesity in adults and as the world leader of childhood obesity, you may wonder why the United State’s government would enable the sellers of an over-sweetened syrup with zero nutritional and zero medicinal value to prosper around it despite harsh laws against cocaine for most American citizens. A drink containing several dangerous substances such as caffeine and caramel coloring, which is known to raise risk for cancer, is on almost every store shelf in the nation and is marketed relentlessly to us all, man, woman and child.  However, other less harmful substances with actual medicinal properties, such as cannabis, are demonized and criminalized by the very same government.

But it was not always such a sweet relationship between Coca-Cola and the United States Government. In 1909 the United States v. Forty Barrels & Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola case was brought to the Supreme Court. This unique case alleged that the Coca-Cola product was in violation of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. It tried to force The Coca-Cola Company to remove caffeine from the formula, believing that the product was adulterated and also misbranded. Although Coca-Cola won the 1909 decision, the government appealed twice, winning the second appeal in 1912, at which point Coca-Cola finally agreed not to remove, but at least to lower the amount of caffeine added to the Coke secret formula.  

By this time in Coca-Cola’s history the cocaine had already mostly been voluntarily removed from the formula leading in part to the misbranded claims by the lawsuit brought by the feds. It was around this era just after the turn of the century that the Stepan Corporation becomes a part of the Coca-Cola process. The New Jersey company imports coca leaves, by special permit from the DEA, mainly from Peru and Bolivia. The leaves they import have already been processed and the alkali to make cocaine mostly but not completely removed. The import of coca leaves into the US is strictly forbidden, but special laws, unofficially known as Coca-Cola laws, give the company special permission to do so. The Stepan company further refines the cocoa leaves to chemically remove the residual cocaine materials and then extracts the flavor required for the Coca-Cola syrup.

 The cocaine is then sold to and used by doctors for medicinal purposes. This is according to a 1998 New York Times article.

But if this is all legal, due to those special laws, then what’s the big deal? Well let’s look at the math.

According to the American Beverage Association American consumers on average drank just over 54 gallons of carbonated soft drinks per person in 2005. That made carbonated soft drinks the most popular beverage in the U.S., almost three times more popular than bottled water, milk or coffee. Although sugary soda consumption is on the decline in the US due to consumer awareness of how unhealthy it is, Coca-Cola still boasts regularly profits in excess of 10 billion dollars yearly.

Considering the quantity of decocainized coca leaves required to make that much Coke, where do the leaves that have already been decocainized come from? Who removed the cocaine? No other coca based products are even allowed to be sold in America. Are there enough legal uses for coca leaves to generate that much decocainized coca leaves for  Coca-Cola to import and make their sugar filled drink? Could it have been drug cartels making cocaine then selling the leaves to third parties to sell to Stepan?

A 1906 Coke advertisement claimed that Coca-Cola”is the perfectly balanced combination of these valuable tonics in the form of a healthful drink.” But, in reality, there is absolutely no health benefit from Coca-Cola. In fact quite the opposite is true.

A 2016 study of 2,800 adults found that the consumption of at least two 7 oz. sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks a day was linked to a twofold greater risk of type 2 diabetes.  At five 7 oz. sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks a day the risk increased to 10.5 times greater risk of type 2 diabetes. * Then there are the dental drawbacks, the addictive caffeine, the unsafe sugar spike. The mind altering combination of all these “stimulate”, including the carbonation is the perfect storm of  being a gateway to a cycle of destructive behavior. Although there are many studies, funded by Coca-Cola, that will deny all these claims; but there are many, many more to support them.

But the extent to which the government will make allowances for Coca-Cola to profit off of a health risk to Americans does not stop there. In the 1960’s in Hawaii a project known as the Alakea project secretly teamed the Stepan Corporation with the University of Hawaii to grow coca directly on US soil. But that project was abandoned after a fungus destroyed the crops and Coca-Cola continued importing it’s coca leaves through Stepan corporation from South America. According to a 2011 Huffington post article this monopoly on coca imports into the United States also severely disrupts the cocaleros, or local coca farmers who grow the coca, leaving them at the mercy of cartels to turn a profit.

The baffling part of this is that the government at once can be so accommodating to enable a company to sell a nutritionally worthless, medicinal bankrupt product that contains numerous harmful and addictive properties. Not only do they enable it indirectly but sodas are also on the Food Stamps list, so they actually also pay for people to drink this harmful drink.

But this same government  has demonized cannabis, which is known to have many medicinal values and has not been proven to be as harmful as even caffeine. The same government imprisons citizens, destroys lives and propagates lies to keep cannabis out of our hands. Why?

Perhaps it has to do with the down market benefits of the mass marketing, even to children, an unhealthy substance like Coca-Cola. The healthcare industry, diabetes medication, diet pills, exercise gyms, dentists, orthodontists and eventually funeral homes all greatly benefit from the mass sales of Coca-Cola. Or, perhaps it’s the “Special Taxes” that Coca-Cola pays to the government to import a controlled substance with  special permits by the DEA.  Truly, I would hate to think that it has a tie to the illegal cocaine industry but I can not rule that out considering the nefarious reputation of meddling and collusion in Central/ South America by the CIA, DEA and US government entities and their apparent friendliness to the Coca-Cola Company.

But in states where cannabis is legal, there is less illegal opioid abuse, less purchases of over the counter pain medication and less abuse of prescribed pain killers.  So less money made by down market economies. Federally and in states where cannabis is still illegal there are mass amounts of money made on  law enforcement, fines and incarcerating citizens for cannabis in private run state prisons. So for all the governments talk and bluster about health and safety of the citizens it’s pretty clear, as it most often is the case, that it’s all about the money.

By Matt Lamb

* Published by Josefin Edwall Löfvenborg, of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, in the European Journal of Endocrinology.