The Observer, Saturday 3 November 2012 17.15 GMT
With reader comments
Three US states are set to legalise recreational cannabis use this week in votes that could have major implications for the country's war on drugs.
Alongside their choice for president, residents of Washington, Oregon and Colorado – a swing state – will be asked on Tuesday whether they want to decriminalise cannabis.
If the measures are passed, adults over 21 would be able to possess, distribute and use small amounts. Cannabis for authorised medical use is already permitted and regulated by each state, even though it is against federal law.
Washington state's I-502 marijuana legalization, taxation, and regulation initiative appears headed for victory with increasing support, according to the latest KCTS 9 Washington Poll, released Thursday. The poll had support among likely voters at 55.4% in surveys conducted during the second half of October, compared to 47.1% in surveys conducted in the first half of the month.
Similarly, opposition to I-502 was declining, from 40.1% earlier in the month to 37.6% in the second half of the month. The figures suggest that undecided voters have been breaking in favor of the initiative.
The debate rages on over Amendment 64, with just one week left until voters decide the fate on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Statewide, pot possession arrests are up, even though 100,000 people can legally use medical marijuana. Also, our partners at Colorado Public News found that blacks and Hispanics are being arrested in higher numbers than whites even though they use the drug less.
MILES CITY, Mont. (AP) — Montana authorities say a man shot himself in the ankle after hospital staff refused to give him painkillers for his back.
The Miles City police chief says the 48-year-old man was upset when left Holy Rosary Healthcare hospital Monday night, so he grabbed a gun from his car and shot himself in the hospital parking lot to get treatment.
Prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether to charge the man, whose name was not released.
The Miles City Star reports (http://goo.gl/buHbK ) the hospital was temporarily locked down after the shooting.
A New Orleans attorney was cited for marijuana possession this week after a joint tumbled out of his pocket in front of police, according to media reports.
Police say Jason Cantrell, who has a private practice but also serves as a part-time assistant city attorney, was in the magistrate section of criminal court chatting with police officers when a marijuana joint fell out of his pocket and onto the floor, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
Cantrell, 43, was a first-time offender and was cited, issued a summons to appear in court for simple possession of marijuana and let go, according to police spokesman Garry Flot.
A historic vote this November on legalizing marijuana may seem like the perfect backdrop for Seattle's Hempfest at Myrtle Edwards Park, but activists will unfurl their pot-leaf flags Friday amid unprecedented political infighting.
The pro-marijuana movement in Washington state is so splintered that Hempfest organizers are staying neutral on the legalization measure, Initiative 502.
For months, a faction of pot activists has been campaigning against the initiative. And on Saturday at Hempfest, activists for and against the initiative will square off in a panel discussion.
Things are so fractured that Hempfest director Vivian McPeak, a critic of I-502, said several staff members would have left the organization if it had taken sides on the measure.
Kronic-style drugs are expected back on the shelves under the new legal high law being crafted by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.
Experts say the law will create one of the world's first open and regulated recreational drug markets with synthetic cannabis making a return. The first legal highs will be offered for sale in 2014, based on estimates in papers released by health officials.
The new regime, announced by Mr Dunne last week, aims to end the uncontrolled legal high industry which is estimated to have made $250 million in 10 years. The unregulated market has seen drugs sold legally with effects mimicking illegal substances like P, cannabis and Ecstasy. In the law Mr Dunne aims to have ready by August next year, legal high manufacturers will have to pay to have their substance proved "low risk". His office acknowledged it would create a legal drug market.
"That is the absolute intention behind this regime. The problem in the past has been that we had a totally unregulated market with who knows what substances in these products.
"I am quite unapologetic about leading changes that will make things safer for young New Zealanders."
When Lee Cronin learned about the concept of 3D printers, he had a brilliant idea: why not turn such a device into a universal chemistry set that could make its own drugs?
Professor Lee Cronin is a likably impatient presence, a one-man catalyst. "I just want to get stuff done fast," he says. And: "I am a control freak in rehab." Cronin, 39, is the leader of a world-class team of 45 researchers at Glasgow University, primarily making complex molecules. But that is not the extent of his ambition. A couple of years ago, at a TED conference, he described one goal as the creation of "inorganic life", and went on to detail his efforts to generate "evolutionary algorithms" in inert matter. He still hopes to "create life" in the next year or two.
At the same time, one branch of that thinking has itself evolved into a new project: the notion of creating downloadable chemistry, with the ultimate aim of allowing people to "print" their own pharmaceuticals at home. Cronin's latest TED talk asked the question: "Could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? Can we 'app' chemistry?" "Basically," he tells me, in his office at the university, with half a grin, "what Apple did for music, I'd like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs."
Every night, Margaret’s two boys fly into the house after sports practice and flip on the TV, while she races to the kitchen to get dinner cooking. “It’s that tedious witching hour when I feel incredibly frazzled,” says the Tennessee singer/songwriter mom of a 6- and an 8-year-old. But instead of pouring herself a glass or two of merlot, she heads to the standalone garage next to their house for a few puffs of Humboldt Kush, one of the four strains of pot she smokes seven days a week.
The drug helps her keep focus on the giant statue of popsicle sticks she’s building with her kids and relaxes her so she can get through the rest of the night without stressing. “It can make folding a pile of laundry fun,” says Margaret, 45, who asked that we not use her last name for fear of getting in trouble with the law. “If I didn’t smoke, that’d be three piles later in the week.”
Scientists should have access to illegal psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin to aid them in brain research, according to the government's former drug adviser Professor David Nutt. He said that research into the deepest mysteries of the brain, including consciousness and mental illness, had been curtailed by the prohibition of the drugs.
Prof Nutt said that scientists might find treatments for conditions such as schizophrenia by using modern techniques to study the effects of psychedelic drugs on the brain.
"Neuroscience should be trying to understand how the brain works," said Nutt, who is professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. "Psychedelics change the brain in, perhaps, the most profound way of any drug, at least in terms of understanding consciousness and connectivity. Therefore we should be doing a lot more of this research.
"It's extraordinary that 40 years of advances in brain imaging technology and there's never been a study about this before. I think it's a scandal, I think it's outrageous the fact these studies have not been done. And they've not been done simply because the drugs were illegal."