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More Info on the Downside of Smoking Marijuana Including Impact on Brain Structure of Young Adults

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

A recent study by researchers from Northwestern University and Harvard University Medical School has concluded that even moderate use of marijuana by young adults affects the structure of their brains.

The study, published in the April 16, 2014 Journal of Neuroscience, found that the size and shape of the region of the brain involved in emotion and motivation were abnormal in these casual users compared to non-users. Further, the more an individual uses marijuana, the more pronounced these structural changes are.

The study is significant because most of the recent studies showing the effects of marijuana on the brain were performed with heavy rather than casual users. The study joins the increased amount of recent scientific and medical evidence that marijuana use, especially for young brains, has unhealthy side effects. As reported the last few months in this column, these reports have shown:

  • The tripling of calls to Poison Centers in states that have legalized marijuana in some form about young children who have ingested marijuana (University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research)
  •  Dramatic increase in the need for medical intervention for children in states that have decriminalized marijuana use (American College of Emergency Physicians)
  • The marijuana addiction rate for youth is 17%, three times that of adults (American Society of Addiction Medicine)
  • In medical marijuana states, one-third of the 12th graders report that one of their sources of supply is from adults with a medical marijuana prescription (University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research)
  • Increased use of marijuana by American teens and a sharp decline in their perception that marijuana use can be risky (Same source)
  • Use of marijuana during pregnancy affects the baby’s brain (Live Science)
  • Increased statistics of marijuana-related emergency room visits (DAWN)
  • Chronic use of marijuana may result in increased anxiety by down regulating the cannabinoid receptors in the brain (Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Neuron)

After years of very limited research on the medical effects of marijuana, this barrage of recent studies seems to be receiving little attention among state legislatures which are following the trend toward legalization which has changed the national culture in such a short period of time. Twenty years ago marijuana was illegal in all states in all forms. Today two states have legalized recreational use as well as numerous random municipalities, and 21 have authorized its “medical” use. Numerous states are considering similar bills, and the federal policy on enforcement has been altered dramatically by the present administration.

Pro-marijuana advocates are quick to point out their views on the harm of prohibition and the benefits of legalization. If there is to be a full and fair discussion on the future on this issue, the mounting scientific and medical evidence deserve full consideration.

 

The History of April 19th: American Revolution, Waco, Oklahoma Bombing

This column was originally posted on April 14, 2010. Because I thought it continued to be relevant, it was re-posted last year (2013) on April 2. (I had no idea how relevant it would become.) The subject of the column, “April 19th,” first became significant when some New England citizens confronted a unit of the British Army on Lexington green in 1775 – the day the American Revolution began. That Revolution resulted in “… a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Over time that proposition has been fulfilled by establishing the most diverse, open, tolerate society in the world with freedoms enjoyed by all men and women.
But there are those in the world who do not celebrate equal rights and an open society – to the contrary they feel threatened by them. So last year in Boston during the running of the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day, a day meant to celebrate that confrontation on Lexington green, two young men setoff bombs near the finish line of the race. To demonstrate their displeasure with a society that was open to all beliefs, not just theirs, they killed and maimed innocent people.April 19th is significant, but its significance was reinforced last year, it reminds us that we must never take our freedoms for granted. — Greg Stejskal 
 
 
 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Listen my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy Five….

Longfellow’s poem forever immortalized Paul Revere’s ride. What the poem does not say is that Revere’s mission that night was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were coming to Lexington to arrest them. It was after midnight, April 19th, when Revere arrived in Lexington and warned Adams and Hancock. Revere also aroused the country side, and that morning the “Minute Men” met the British regulars on Lexington green. No one knows who fired the first shot- “the shot heard around the world”. But on that morning, April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began.

Paul Revere/istock photo

Paul Revere/istock photo

In a perverse twist of fate, on April 19, 1993, it is the 51st day of a siege at the Branch Davidian compound, also known as Mt Carmel, outside of Waco, Texas. It is to be the last day of the siege, a culmination of a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities.

The siege began on February 28th. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had gone to the Davidian compound to execute search warrants. The warrants were based on affidavits stating the Davidians possessed certain illegal weapons to include fully automatic weapons and components to convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic. Some of the Davidians were known to have a propensity for violence including their leader, David Koresh, who had changed his name from Vernon Howell. There had been a power struggle a few years earlier within the Branch Davidians and a gun fight had ensued. The history of the Branch Davidians and how they ended up here, led by Koresh is a long story and won’t be told here. Suffice it to say, Koresh became the leader and subsequently claimed to be a messiah, who could procreate with any women followers irrespective of their age or marital status. The group embraced an apocalyptic philosophy, which relied heavily on the Book of Revelation.

The ATF had been surveilling the compound for several weeks prior to the raid from a home across the road. They had also placed an undercover (UC) agent within the Davidians. However, the surveillance was compromised, and at some point Koresh learned of the UC agent. In addition one of the Davidians was the local postman. On the morning of the ATF raid, a TV crew asked the postman for directions to the compound as they had learned there was to be a raid. The postman gave them directions and took the news of the impending raid back to the compound.

Read more »

Marijuana Legalization Triples Poison Calls for Young Children

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The data on the costs to children–both in human and monetary terms—in states which have legalized marijuana continues to mount.

Not only have medical studies shown serious health risks, increased hospital admissions, and more prevalent use by teenagers in those states, but now a study has shown that even younger children will also pay the price.

The Center for Substance Abuse Research out of the University of Maryland reported this week that the rate of Poison Center calls concerning unintentional pediatric exposure more than tripled in states where marijuana had been legalized in some form. Using information from the National Poison Data System, the study tabulated the number of calls from 2005 to the end of 2011 to U.S. poison centers involving children age 9 and younger.

In states which had legalized marijuana either for recreational or medical use prior to 2005, these numbers increased from 3.9 calls per million population in 2005 to 14.8 calls in 2011. States which had passed such legislation during the 2005-2011 period also had substantial increases in the number of calls to poison centers. States without such legislation showed no increase in the number of calls.

What the study means is that states which legalize marijuana in some form will have increased use by adults. When that happens, there will be more children who accidentally ingest marijuana and need medical advice or end up in a medical facility or hospital emergency room.

The authors of the study concluded that such potentially harmful exposures are likely to increase and more children will need medical care. They suggested the need for state legislation for childproof packaging, warning labels, and public education about the dangers of marijuana to children.

On a related note, Vanderbilt University Medical Center published a study in the magazine Neuron this week that cannabinoid receptors have been identified for the first time in the part of the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the fight/flight response. Researchers suggested that, although initial use of marijuana may act as a sedative in the effect on these receptors, chronic use could paradoxically increase anxiety by down regulating the receptors.

The question is whether state legislators who are considering legislation on legalization for adults as part of this trend are considering the inevitable costs to children.

 

Medical Societies Weigh in on Dangers of Marijuana to Children


By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

As the war of words heats up on the trend toward legalization of marijuana, two medical societies have issued their positions on the subject, particularly as it relates to the effect of the drug on teen agers.

As reported earlier, some medical studies have shown negative neurological effects of regular marijuana use on developing brains, particularly the high THC potency available in today’s market. A recent University of Michigan survey found a moderate increase of marijuana use by kids in the nation’s schools, as well as a strong downward trend in their perception that marijuana can be dangerous. The study also reported that one of the sources for one-third of the 12th graders who use pot was from adults who had a medical marijuana prescription.

Among the medical groups that are expressing concern over these developments and others are the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Using NIDA studies ASAM indicated that the addiction rate for youth who use pot is 17%, almost triple that of adults. It also puts the number at 25-50% for those who use the drug on a daily basis. The Society opposes both the “medicalization” of marijuana and the legalization for recreational use.

The ASAM plans to discuss these and other related issues at a Medical and Scientific Conference, April 10-13 in Orlando.

The ACEP issued a recent report that states which have decriminalized marijuana have had a dramatic increase in the need for medical intervention for children. Likewise the call rate to poison centers has increased 30% in those states compared to no increase in states where there are no legalization laws.

The College is especially concerned about the dangers posed to children by marijuana edible products such as cookies and chocolates. Such products are attractive to children and can be eaten with no regard to the effects, especially of high dose products. ACEP has called for child-resistant packaging, warning labels and public education.

 

Leagues Can Learn from Major League Baseball’s Hardball Tactics

 Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. His column first appeared in the New York Daily News. 

Alex Rodriguez

  
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

By moving to drop his civil lawsuits in federal court, Alex Rodriguez has waved the white flag and accepted his 162-game suspension.

Although independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced the original 211-game ban handed down by Major League Baseball, it is still the longest suspension ever in baseball for performance-enhancing drug use. In his lawsuits — against MLB, Bud Selig and the union — Rodriguez had contested how baseball had obtained the evidence, although Horowitz later wrote in his report that the evidence was “clear and convincing” A-Rod was in violation of baseball’s drug agreement.

Several sports commentators had sided with Rodriguez and said that he had been persecuted by MLB because baseball had used nefarious methods to obtain evidence: MLB paying for evidence or “bullying” witnesses.

Having spent over 30 years in the FBI investigating various violations of federal law, it wasn’t unusual to cut deals with unsavory individuals and co-conspirators to further an investigation. This might include paying confidential informants for information or persuading potential witnesses to agree to cooperate.

There’s an old adage that applies: “Conspiracies hatched in hell can’t have angels for witnesses.” In other words, you don’t get to pick witnesses, and they generally come with baggage that may lessen their credibility. The paradox is that Rodriguez actually chose the witnesses against him by doing business with them.

Anthony Bosch, the Biogenesis founder who testified that he supplied Rodriguez with PEDs, became baseball’s principal witness. MLB had a witness with diminished credibility, and in order to bolster their case, it was necessary to corroborate the witness’ statements. Fortunately MLB was able to obtain Biogenesis records that included transactions between Bosch and MLB players, including Rodriguez. In addition there were hundreds of text messages between Bosch and Rodriguez using rudimentary code names for various PEDs like “gummies” for testosterone lozenges.

MLB, to its credit, had already been aggressively pursuing the Biogenesis investigation using standard investigative techniques by the time the first news reports about the scandal surfaced. MLB first tried to get Biogenesis documents from the Miami New Times, the paper that broke the story on the Bosch-PED connection. Not surprisingly, the paper refused. Undeterred, MLB later purchased Biogenesis records.

Although I think it might have been difficult to get my FBI supervisors to agree to pay as much money for the Biogenesis records as MLB did (a reported $125,000), the FBI does often pay for information. MLB was also handicapped by not having alternative means to obtain the records. The FBI has the power to issue grand jury subpoenas and search warrants.

As for “bullying” witnesses, I would prefer to characterize it as persuading witnesses to cooperate. Again MLB did not have all the investigative tools available to them. In Operation Equine — a late ’80s, early ’90s FBI undercover steroid investigation — we did arrest a steroid dealer, released him and postponed prosecution in exchange for him agreeing to cooperate. This technique, sometimes referred to as “catch and release,” was how we got the cooperation of a dealer who not only agreed to identify his suppliers, but told us he had supplied PEDs to former Oakland A’s Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

It certainly was our intent to intimidate the dealer in order to get information, but I wouldn’t characterize it as “bullying.” Ironically, it was this information that I passed on to MLB in 1994, warning them of their steroid problem. They didn’t act on that warning then, but they are fully engaged now.

It’s important to note that of the 14 players who were suspended because of their PED links with Biogenesis only one had tested positive for a PED — Ryan Braun. Braun had successfully challenged his positive test (in 2012) because of a technicality in the chain of custody protocol when his urine sample was collected. Braun ended up accepting a 65-game suspension last year. The other 12 players all accepted 50-game bans without appeal.

Other sports leagues and the NCAA should follow MLB’s lead, and not rely solely on testing to enforce anti-doping measures. MLB should be applauded for aggressively investigating the Biogenesis matter, and using all the legitimate investigative techniques necessary.

 

The “Good Old Days” of Law Enforcement

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
In a recent conversation in a Detroit watering hole in metro Detroit with past and present federal agents, the stories of the “good old days” sounded more like the ”bad young days.” The waitresses were, no doubt, rolling their eyes at our stories of how tough we had it compared to today’s incoming generation of law enforcement officers.

Well, thanks to Justin in Ft. Worth, a stellar example of Detroit federal agent alums, we can have some historical perspective in this recruitment poster for English policemen in 1839.

Walk 20 miles a day, 7 days a week in 12 hour shifts, with one unpaid holiday per year? Most of the guys I worked with could perhaps have handled such rigors. But—no talking to women and no sitting in public houses—that would have required a level of dedication beyond the ability of most of us.

 

Marijuana Use Among American Teens on the Rise

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The use of marijuana by American teens continues to increase. Unlike use of other drugs and alcohol, which are either decreasing or remaining stable, the use by 8th and 10th graders went up 1.3 and 1.8 % in 2013, according to the Monitoring the Future study conducted by the University of Michigan of 40,000 to 50,000 teen agers in 389 private and public secondary schools.

Even more important than this result is the sharp decline among teens in the perception that marijuana use is risky. During the preceding eight years the percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who see great risk from regular pot use has gone down from 74 to 61%, 66 to 47%, and 58 to 40%, respectively.

Another significant finding is that, during the years 2012 and 2013 in states where medical marijuana is legal, one-third of the 12th grade users say that one of their sources is another person’s medical marijuana prescription.

The most encouraging result of the study is that the use of “synthetic” marijuana is decreasing significantly, and the use of bath salts remains stable at a relatively low level. Moreover, teens increasingly report that the risk of these synthetics is great. This result seems to credit the work of DEA, local law enforcement and other sources to publicize the significant dangers of these drugs, as well as the speedy scheduling and aggressive enforcement activity.

Drug use in decline among teens include: narcotics (other than heroin), OxyContin, Vicodin, and most hallucinogens. Alcohol use is also down, the lowest in over two decades. Drugs that are essentially stable in use include: heroin, LSD, amphetamines, Adderall, methamphetamine, Ketamines and steroids.

The study was funded by research grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. It was conducted by research professors at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. 2013 was the 39th year that the study has been conducted. The results will be published in a volume of Monitoring the Future National Results on Adolescent Drug Use later this year.

 

Bravo to DEA’s Michele Leonhart for Criticizing the President’s Remarks About Pot

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart was apparently critical of President Obama’s recent remarks about marijuana in a closed-door session with the Major Counties’ Sheriff’s Association in Washington last week, according to an article in the Boston Herald on Saturday. She received a standing ovation.

Exactly what she said and how critical she was has not been made public. She expressed frustration over the administration’s response to legalization by Colorado and Washington primarily because of the mixed message that it sends to high school aged kids.

DEA spokesperson Dawn Deardon “clarified” the Administrator’s remarks by stating that they were not against the President. In other words, don’t fire her for expressing semi-privately what law enforcement officers are saying openly—that President Obama’s remarks were irresponsible and erroneous.

The President’s remarks were made to an interviewer for The New Yorker’s January 27 issue. He gave his opinion that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and even less so in terms of the health effects on an individual. He freely admitted smoking pot as a kid, a habit that was “not something that I encourage…a waste of time, and not very healthy.”

Setting aside the issue of the wisdom of the recreational use by adults, the problem with his gratuitous opinions especially for law enforcement observers and those who counsel teen agers is twofold. They contribute to the confusing chaos of the nation’s marijuana laws and their enforcement. And they send the message to American teens that smoking pot is no big deal. After all, if Obama did it regularly and grew up to be President, how harmful can it be?

The President’s favorable opinion on legalization in Colorado and Washington throws fuel on the fire of the inconsistent mess of America’s laws on the use and distribution of marijuana. Less than two decades ago it was illegal everywhere in all forms. In 1996 California legalized “medical marijuana” and 19 other states have followed suit.

Ten years ago “recreational” use of marijuana was illegal. Since then personal use decriminalizations have been instituted in Alaska, Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island, Colorado and Washington. The legislation in the latter two states is particularly significant since it legalizes possession, distribution, and cultivation with some conditions. Moreover, proposed legislation, pushed by well funded lobbyists, is pending in more than a dozen states plus Congress to escalate this trend.

Meanwhile marijuana is illegal in all forms in the United States Code and is treated as a serious crime in many states.

The Attorney General announced last summer that DOJ would not challenge medical or recreational use state statutes but would continue to concentrate on large traffickers and demand reduction for children.

But this inconsistent dual enforcement federal system makes no sense to someone who has to make moral and practical decisions about their own conduct. It is even more problematic for prosecutors and law enforcement agents in doing their jobs. One federal agent from Los Angeles told me recently that the legalization trend and the uncertainty were seriously undermining public respect for the drug laws in general and those charged with enforcing them.

Then, too, there are the perplexing problems of jury nullification for front line prosecutors, plea and prosecution guidelines for U. S, Attorneys, sentence guidelines and imposition choices in particular cases for federal judges.

Perhaps more aggravating about the President’s seemingly offhand comments is the shrugging, luke warm advice that he gives to kids. Have you considered, Mr. President, that the highly potent weed today poses vastly greater hazards to kids than the 2% THC stuff that you smoked?

A lot of people in the field think that using today’s marijuana has the potential for reducing young users’ intellectual ability, robbing them of motivation, lowering their ability to concentrate, and aggravating emotional problems and mental conditions. Your tsk-tsking attitude undercuts the life’s work of teachers, parents, counselors, and health professionals.

And, for God’s sake, will some qualified person do a legitimate study to test his assertion that poor kids and children of color are suffering the unduly harsh penalties of jail as a result of petty marijuana offenses, i.e., those not connected with distribution and other crimes?

Assuming that was once the case, I have serious doubts that police and federal agents are doing that today. To the contrary, my impression is that they, along with drug courts and other professionals, are fighting an uphill battle to get treatment for the increasing number of users who need help. The upward trend in the hospital emergency room admissions supports the need for this kind of intervention. And more.

So, Mr. President, my kids think you are cool and pay attention to what you say. But, if you don’t mind, I would prefer that you not give them advice on why they shouldn’t smoke pot. It’s more than just a bad habit and a waste of time.

And Administrator Leonhart, bravo for some truth-telling. Have the courage of your convictions in a city where that is a rarity.

If it costs you your job after such a distinguished law enforcement career, you will always have the respect of thousands of us who admired you for standing up and saying what you believe.