06/08/14 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

Doug Mcvay reports on Georgia attempt to urine test for welfare & European Union report on addiction

Audio file


Century of Lies June 8, 2014


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DOUG McVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network, and is brought to you through the Pacifica network's radio station KPFT-fm in Houston, Texas. You can hear Century of Lies Mondays at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. and Saturdays at 4 a.m. Century of Lies and our sister program, Cultural Baggage, are also broadcast on http://atimeforhemp.com on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. However you are getting the show - thank you for listening.

Now let’s get to the news.

The USDA has notified the state of Georgia that they are in violation of federal law by requiring recipients of Supplemental Assistance Program funds (SNAP or food stamps as they are otherwise known) to give a urine drug test in order to prove that they are not users of illegal drugs. The Guinet Daily Post reported on June 4th that “House bill 772 approved on the final day of the 2014 Georgia legislative session and signed by Governor Nathan Deal requires drug testing of some applicants for food stamps and welfare. It would require people applying for this government assistance to be tested if they raise reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use.

“In a letter dated Tuesday a USDA official told Georgia Department of Human Services commissioner Keith Porton that food and nutrition service policy prohibits states from mandating drug testing of food stamp applicants and recipients.”

The paper further noted that, “Tuesday was not the first time the feds have disputed the legality of the Georgia drug testing effort. Earlier this year – shortly after the measure passed – GHN reported on an email from Robert Caskey of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the food stamp program) to Georgia officials. Caskey’s emails, citing federal law, said that no state agency shall impose any other standards of eligibility beyond the provisions of the Federal Food and Nutrition Act which does not require drug testing.

“The addition of a drug testing provision is prohibited in the SNAP program, it added.”

The state officials who have been pushing this very dumb idea are not yet willing to give up and may try to fight to preserve it. Though it was reportedly modeled after a similar Florida law which was overturned by a federal court the Georgia law included criteria for testing that supporters hoped would make it more palatable. Those criteria, however, even include the applicant’s demeanor so it’s obviously set up for abuse.

Now some of have characterized such programs as unfair to marijuana users and that is, in fact, true. People who are even occasional marijuana users could end up testing positive because the THC metabolite remains in the system for a very long time after use.

But that’s not really the point. The point really is a lot simpler – no one should ever be forced to give up their dignity to pee in a cup in order to get food. The very notion is beyond offensive. The fact that such programs have proven to be quite wasteful and that they find few or no drug users should almost be beside the point, however, those facts should convince even the most rabid anti-drug use zealot that urine testing for food stamps is a bad idea.

Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network. Our sister program is Cultural Baggage. Here’s DTN’s executive producer, Dean Becker, to tell us about this week’s Cultural Baggage.


DEAN BECKER: This week on the Cultural Baggage program we have three main segments. The first being with Sharda Sakaran who had a recent article in the Huffington Post about the many ways that the drug war does not protect our children.

We’ll also hear from Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance and his thoughts in regards to New York Times’ reporter Maureen Dawd’s “Hallucinations on Edible Marijuana.”

Importantly we’ll hear from Dr. Rick Doblin, the head of the Multidisciplinary Alliance for Psychedelic Studies, regarding the passing of regarding the passing this week of Sasha Shulgin, the “Godfather of MDMA” and creator of more than 200 psychedelic compounds.

We’ll have these stories and much more “unvarnished truth” about the drug war on http://drugtruth.net


DOUG McVAY: Thanks Dean.

At the end of May the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction issued its report on drug use and drug policy in the EU. In addition several EU nations released their annual drugs reports. As you can imagine I’ll be making a lot of updates to Drug War Facts over the next couple of weeks.

Some of what they are reporting may sound familiar to people in the US. Let’s hear directly from the EMCDDA. Here’s some audio from their news conference on the launch of the report.


WOLFGANG GOTZ: Thank you very much and I think it is now time to pass the floor onto our scientific director, Paul Griffiths, and he will present you the key results more in detail.

PAUL GRIFFITHS: Thank you, Wolfgang, and good morning.

I’m going to present you with the highlights of the European Report 2014. We looked at some of the response data last night. I’ll be concentrating on the situation data this morning.

Let’s start with the big picture. We heard already that heroin and cocaine indicators continue to decline. I think that’s the good news but we do have concerns about the emergence of substitute substances. As Wolfgang has already pointed out the actual picture can be different and problematic.

In terms of synthetic drugs, including the MPS, we continued to see innovation within a complex and dynamic market place. In terms of cannabis overall use appears relatively stable but we have to see this against the background of the continued innovation and production – the drug being a more significant player in respect to drug treatment and growing criminal justice concerns related to production especially domestic production.

Let me start by talking about the new drugs. I think the headline here is the number of substances reported to the early warning system is not slowing down as you’ve heard already. Moreover we’re seeing more diversity and you can see that in the four substances risk assessed in 2014 already.

In terms of the mechanisms as a whole we’re now monitoring over 350 substances, 81 were reported in 2013 – again, another record year. Thus far 37 substances have been reported in 2014 with some more in pipe.

What I want to particularly draw your attention to is this gray group at the bottom here. These are compounds that either they don’t fit in to the common categories we are used to looking at. These are more varied and complex substances and are leading us to some particular concerns about the future indications of its development.

In terms of the risk assessment products in 2014 we’ve had 24i-NBom, MDPVAH729 and mesketamine. Really what we’ve seen here is a highly potent hallucinogen, a potent stimulant, a potent new opiate agonist and a ketamine like substance. Really what you see is these drugs are targeting all the main segments of the illicit drug market and as Wolfgang has already noted aspects of the pharmacology of all these substances leading us to be particularly concerned about their public health indications and you can find it today on our website a full risk assessment of each of these products.

Just to give you some overview of what these things look like let’s look at AH7921 which is an opioid which is in many respects a failed medicine that was developed back in 1973. We see a few receptor studies in 1980s and that it disappears from light only to emerge in internet chatter around 2010 and to be reported to the Early Warning System in 2012.

Another interesting substance we looked at this year is 25i-NBOM – a hallucinogen. It’s potent at microgram levels and it’s this high potency that is linked to some of the health problems we have seen related to this substance. It is sold as or in place of LSD. It’s toxic. It’s active at such low doses it is difficult to detect in biological samples.

That leads us to this sort of one of the general points made in this year’s EDR about the growing challenge we see to both the drug control and public health of high potency substances. We’ve seen high potency hallucinogens, synthetic opioids and synthetic cannabinoids. In many respects this represents a game changer for drug control strategies as these substances are hard to detect. They can be smuggled rapidly in small packages.

It also has important public health indications – dosing becomes a real issue, the difference between desired dose and overdose can be measured in micrograms.

We have spoken a little bit already about the internet and what we do notice in a number of member states in the last few years is how targeted policies can break some motor outlets – that’s the head shops - but with growing recognition of the importance of the internet both for the supply of new and all drugs.

As you’ve heard already the EMCDDA snapshot for 2013 identified 651 websites selling legal high products to European consumers. Beyond that we have growing concern about the phenominalized networks and so called “Dark nets” with both psychoactive substances and illicit drugs are traded and a growing awareness about the importance of social media, contact apps and online markets for drug commerce.

Let me turn now to the stimulants. What we see here is continuing dynamic market but we’ve marked geographical variations but also interaction between consumption patterns of different drugs. In some ways what we can see here is products competing on a dynamic stimulant market in Europe.

I think overall cocaine preference levels remain high but the indicators are trending down. We’ve seen that 11 of the 12 recent surveys have all reported falls in use. We see that in terms of treatment entrance and we see that in terms of seizures.

The amphetamine situation seems somewhat different however. Amphetamine, the drug most commonly used in Europe, indicators remain stable but we’ve seen increased availability and use of methamphetamine. I think many of you will be aware that methamphetamine is a drug particularly of concern in its relationship to public health problems.

Once more we see the return of high purity ecstasy pills and powders on the European market. Let me start by saying a little bit about ecstasy. As many of you will know it was MDMA shortages in recent years that was associated with the introductions of MPS in some countries. What we saw is preparizines and then the cathanones coming on the back of an ecstasy market where precursor control activities had meant the MDMA (the active compound in ecstasy) was increasing not available.

We’ve now seen a bounce back and this is a global phenomenon. It’s happened in Europe. It is also seen in America. It is seen in Australia. It is seen in parts of Asia. Again, it’s role precursor chemicals here that’s important and the story seems to be one that mirrors one that we’ve seen in the MPS market. We see producers sourcing chemicals (legal chemicals) from outside Europe, importing them into Europe and then re-engineering them into the precursors necessary for MDMA production.

We’ve now seen the increased availability of high potency tables but also innovation in the market with high potency MDMA powder. It will be interesting to see now if that has an impact on consumption. Some of the data is beginning to suggest that and will it also have an impact on the market for MPS or other stimulants.

I’ve already mentioned that for amphetamines the situation for amphetamine remains somewhat stable at far lower volumes, far lower levels, however, we are seeing increases in the evidence of the availability of methamphetamine.

We’ve looked at that in an exploratory study last year and the picture there seems to be very different where you look at in Europe although there are some common elements linking these. If you look at the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic we see an entrenched long term problem but we see that now with the interest of some of the organized crime groups have been involved in cannabis production now moving into methamphetamine production and sale. We see a middle European market developing in methamphetamine that’s affecting some of the neighboring countries - Germany, for example.

In the north of Europe we see [inaudible] either produced in or trafficked through border countries displacing amphetamines in the northern countries and Sweden and Norway. In southern Europe we see for the first time and I think this is a very worrying development reports of the smoking of crystal methamphetamine. This is particularly problematic from a public health point of view. It’s never previously been reported in Europe. At the moment it seems to be sporadic but it is worrying that this is going for the first time. Again, there seems to be the back of a displacement of amphetamine produced in Iran and originally destined for importation through Turkey to Southeast Asia.

We’ve also had reports of new groups of users and new injecting users of amphetamines and you’ll see that in the report we produced on injecting ketanones but also in terms of what we’ve seen in some large western European cities relating to the slamming and sex/drugs parties.

Let me know say something about the opioids. Our current estimates stands at 1.3 million problem opioid users and I think the good news is many of those – at least half to three-quarters – are now in contact with treatment services.

We are seeing indications that synthetic opioids are becoming more important so if we look at the inherent indicators some example of seizures data and the quantity seized and law enforcement cases are now all falling. We also see that in terms of new entrants to drug treatment but what is worrying on the back of this is we’re seeing more people coming into drug treatment in Europe reporting problems with synthetic opiates.

Again if we look at the data on drug-related death the most severe consequences associated with heroin use. What we see now is that figures have been falling for some time but some countries now we’re seeing an increased drug-related deaths again. When we look at that data more closely what we see is it is medicinal products, it’s synthetic opiates as well as heroin that appears to be important. If you notice that green line on that graphic here Estonia is a country reporting some of the highest levels of drug–related death in Europe. In Estonia the drug associated with overdose deaths is Phentanyl – a synthetic opiate.

Coming now lastly to cannabis - Europe’s most commonly consumed substance. As we’ve heard already over 70 million Europeans have used this substance – 14/15 million or so in the last year. If we look at the market we see a general shift towards domestic production, herbal production and higher potency products.

Interestingly in this report for the first time we note that cannabis resin which used to be a very stable product for the first time now we are seeing potency increasing in the resin market and that seems to be linked to the use of genetically modified seeds that Morocco produces and the suspicion is that they are trying to compete with the high potency cannabis now produced domestically in Europe.

Cannabis is also becoming a much more important drug in relation to drug treatment. We know we have very poor understanding of the number of Europeans who require help with cannabis problems. We do estimate that 1% of adults daily use this drug and that’s the group we really expect problems to be most commonly found but it is interesting to note that in specialist treatment services now cannabis use is the most reported drug amongst new entrants.

But that’s not really where we would expect to see cannabis problems emerging. We’d expect to see them in cannabis-associated with acute problems and it is important to note here that Europe’s capacity of reporting on acute emergencies is very weak but we are now seeing reports of a growing problem with acute intoxications related to cannabis.

A new dimension to that problem is also the concern about synthetic cannabinoids. These are high potent products. They are full CB1 agonist unlike THC (the active ingredient in cannabis which is only a partial agonist) and we are concerned that these drugs have a particular potential to cause adverse consequences. We are getting some very limited reports now of people consuming synthetic cannabinoids presenting access to emergency room departments. I think one of the take-home messages here is that this is where you would expect to see problems but it is where our observational window is weakest. Most countries don’t have the capacity to observe problems and report.

When we step back from the EDO in 2014 what are some of the conclusions and observations we made from the drug situation in Europe in 2014? I think we are seeing an increase in the complex and interlinked market with the old/new drug divide becoming to some aspects less relevant. Polydrugs use is a norm with the boundaries increasingly blurred between illicit substances, new psychoactive substances, medicines and even licit drugs like alcohol. Therefore policies and responses to the target single substance are losing their traction.

Understanding these new patterns of consumption is going to be key to developing public health responses. Finally, an implicit message running through our reporting this year is a toxic logical data on acute intoxications and drug-related deaths is becoming much, much more important but the reporting capacity in Europe is overall very weak in this area and new problems will therefore go unreported or even missed.

Thank you for your attention.


DOUG McVAY: Now let’s look more closely at cannabis in the European Union and give a listen to this piece prepared by the EMCDDA.



CHLOE CARPENTER: The market for cannabis is the largest market for any illicit drug in Europe today with about 74 million Europeans who have tried the drug at least once in their lifetime and 18 million who have used it in the last year. We estimate that about 2,000 tons of the drug is consumed every year in the European Union.

DAVID POTTER: You find cannabis in the male form and in the female form. The male form does not produce any drug of any quantity. This, which surprises a lot of people, is a cannabis plant which is in flower. This central section here is just full of female flowers.

In a normal situation when males are there to pollinate a female flower this group would divert a lot of energy to seed production. By keeping the males away the female plant just keeps on producing one cluster of flowers onto another. Those inflorescences are covered in sticky, microscopically small structures called trichomes. As I brush this female flower now I’m actually rupturing those little structures. My fingers are getting sticky because they are covered now in hashish, cannabis resin.

ANCHOR: In Western Europe cannabis resin, mostly from Morocco, used to dominate the cannabis markets.

DAVID POTTER: There were two main ways for producing resin. The process that takes place in Nepal or in India is the traditional method where you literally just hand rub the flowers like this. What’s rather more usual, though, is to dry this material and then press the material over sieves and these trichomes fall off. When you compress it the resin and essential oils leak out and bind the whole material together as a sticky mass which then dries to which people recognize on the streets as hashish.

There are many types that are circulating. The type that I have in my hands is Afghan. This material has this characteristic that is very plastic . What does dominate the European market is what is called a soap bar – a low-potency product and it is incredibly hard. This is made in Morocco in vast quantities.

Things have changed enormously. Certainly in mainland Europe there is a trend for high-potency resin. It is made by sieving high-potency, high-THC cannabis plants.

CHLOE CARPENTER: We now see a shift in the consumption of the two main cannabis products – herbs and resin – with more and more herbal cannabis being produced and consumed across Europe

DAVID POTTER: People talk about herbal cannabis, but it is important to actually differentiate two very different types: traditional herbal cannabis that is grown outdoors in a situation where there were both male and female cannabis plants. Because energy has gone into seed production the potency of the outer material has gone down.

In marked contrast to this seeded cannabis plant, we have seedless cannabis, sensimilla. This is modern cannabis, an all-female crop that has been grown in absence of males. It is much more potent and is much more fragrant.

CHLOE CARPENTER: Cultivation of cannabis is now widespread across Europe with plants being discovered in all countries in a variety of settings both indoors and outdoors. Some growers cultivate the plant for their own consumption or to supply to their friends but commercial growers are now reported everywhere. They are often part of organized crime and they are driven by the prospect of financial gain.

There is an increase in some countries in large-scale cultivation sites run by criminal organizations. Some of them run multiple small-scale plantations to mitigate the risks of being detected by the police but also of being robbed by competitors.

We also see physical violence associated with illicit cannabis production.

DAVID POTTER: A plant whose heritage is Columbia, Afghanistan, Mexico...these are much more southerly latitudes than northern Europe and only indoors can you recreate those bright light conditions. In an indoor growing condition you can grow the entire crop from start to harvest in eleven weeks and then repeat the whole process. The yield of the cannabis plant is basically linearly proportional to the amount of light that you pour down on top of it. So, the typical location has many bright lights trying to recreate a semi-tropical outdoor summer.

One interesting thing that is happening in the last few years is that people have developed so-called auto-flowering cannabis plants. This enables the growers to be guaranteed that their plants will flower irrespective of what day length they put them into.

[snip at 4:50 of 8:07]

View at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/topics/pods/cannabis-markets-developments#p…


DOUG McVAY: Well that’s it for this week. I’m Doug McVay and this was Century of Lies. Thank you for listening. You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website drug truth dot net, where you can check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, where I'm @ Drug Policy Facts. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on Facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends. Spread the word. Remember: Knowledge is power.

For the drug truth network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.