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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Marijuana Growers Subject to Fines for Damaging the Environment

The state of California continues to struggle with a drought that doesn’t appear to be letting up any time in the near future. In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency, urging state officials to prepare for water shortages. While California may be best known for its sandy beaches and lovely climate, the state happens to also be known as one of the biggest fruit and nut producers in the world - its Central Valley needs vast amounts of water to facilitate such growth.

There is another California industry that requires huge amounts of water - marijuana. While many growers are protected by state medical marijuana laws, there are hundreds of illegal grow operations that occur on state forest lands. Illegal growers have little regard for the environment and steal water, at a time when there little to go around. On California rivers and streams, investigators have discovered more than 135 dams or flow diversions constructed to supply marijuana operations, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Governor Brown has signed into law a measure introduced by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) that will allow marijuana growers to incur heavy financial penalties for damaging the environment by:
  • Dumping Wastewater
  • Dumping Chemicals
  • Deforestation
  • Killing Wildlife
“These practices exacerbate California's already historic drought conditions and severely affect Coho Salmon runs and other fishery populations,” Monning said. “The need for flat, fertilized land to cultivate cannabis plants has forced some bad actors to eliminate native vegetation and destroy forested habitat, often bulldozing acres of land with no regard for its ecological effects.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Meth Addiction Breaking Families Apart

With the ever growing opioid crisis in America and the growing acceptance of marijuana, hardly anyone seems to be talking about any other drugs. Unfortunately, press relevance has little to do with reality and many people are still abusing the other addictive narcotics out there - methamphetamine is one of those drugs. North Dakota has seen a boom of natural gas production and with it a rise of meth use which is breaking families apart, The Bismarck Tribune reports.

Methamphetamine addiction is an insidious problem which usually requires treatment to overcome. Many families are being destroyed in the southwestern region of North Dakota; child protective services has had to remove a number of children from their homes due to their parents' addiction, according to the article. Sadly, losing one’s children is often times not an incentive to recover, says Jan Kuhn, clinical director and addiction counselor at Sacajawea Substance Abuse Counseling.

As of June 30th, parental substance abuse resulted in 59 children from nine of the southwest North Dakota counties being sent to foster care. As much as 40% of children in foster care in those counties can be tied to parental meth use, according to LuWanna Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.

"The need (for addiction counseling) here is so great here for pregnant mothers" said Kuhn. "It's a really sad drug." 

There are some mothers who are fighting their addiction and want to regain custody. Kuhn cites two cases, mothers who are doing well in addiction treatment.

"They want their children, want their families," she said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Millions of American Workers Living With Anxiety

Mental health disorders are difficult to treat; and what makes it even harder is the fact that a number of drugs used to treat certain mental illnesses can be habit forming - such as benzodiazepines which are used to treat anxiety. Millions of Americans are affected by anxiety disorders in one form or another, and it comes as little surprise that benzodiazepines are right next to opioids as being the most prescribed narcotics in America.

Severe anxiety disorders can be crippling, affecting one’s ability to operate normally on a day to day basis. A new government report has found that about 3.7 percent (4.3 million) of full time adult workers in America had one or more anxiety disorders in the past year, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) news release. The study showed that 12.9 million American adults are living with an anxiety disorder.

The report, which was presented by SAMHSA, found that Americans working part time or were unemployed had even higher rates of anxiety. In the past year, the findings showed that:
  • 5.6 percent (1.7 million adults) of part time workers experienced anxiety disorders.
  • 6.9 percent (1 million adults) of unemployed workers had anxiety disorders.
  • 8.9 percent (5.9 million adults) of adults not in the labor force had anxiety disorders.
“People with anxiety disorders can have a hard time gaining employment and sometimes dealing with certain situations, but fortunately with treatment and support they can make enormous contributions to the workplace and the community” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Employers, unions, educators, health providers and all segments of the community need to work together so that we can help people surmount the challenges of anxiety disorders and lead full productive lives.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

White House Moves On Heroin Abuse

At this point many in the nation, including the highest officials, are aware that heroin abuse is a force to be reckoned with. The surge of those abusing the drug has led to a rise in overdose deaths and has led to an exponential increase of infectious disease transmissions (i.e. HIV and hepatitis C). This week, the White House announced its plan to combat the insidious problem, and the weapon of choice is treatment not incarceration, NBC News reports.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy will fund the operation, focusing on five "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas" and 15 states. The aim is to target the source the drug which has led to thousands of deaths. What’s more, law enforcement officials will join forces with public health agencies to get down to the root of the problem, according to the article. The partnership will help identify "potential abusers early on in the process and really focus on prevention and treatment," said Eric Schultz, White House deputy press secretary.

"It's also something that's very much on the president's radar," said Schultz. "This is a pretty severe threat that we face and so this program is an unprecedented partnership with both law enforcement and public health officials to really get at the root of it." 

The problem has been especially bad in the Northeast and New England, and not just in major cities. Rural areas have seen a dramatic rise in overdose deaths, first with prescription opioid abuse and now with heroin. Recent reports indicate that admissions to treatment services for opioids have skyrocketed, resulting in bed shortages.

“The new Heroin Response Strategy demonstrates a strong commitment to address the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic as both a public health and a public safety issue," Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy said in a statement. "This Administration will continue to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue 'smart on crime' approaches to drug enforcement, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery'.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nonpartisan Group Supports A States' Rights Position on Marijuana

While marijuana and all its derivatives have remained illegal under federal law, it has not deterred a number of states to pass legislation for the legalization of both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana use. On top of that, in recent years the presidential administration has urged federal agencies to interfere as minimally as possible with state programs - with the exception of preventing access to minors and interstate drug smuggling.

In 23 states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana laws have been passed by voters; another four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) have voted and passed recreational marijuana use for adults over the age of 21. As the country inches closer to the polls next year, it is expected that more states will vote and pass similar legislation.

Not surprisingly, there are many who remain skeptical about the future of what has long been a highly contested drug; but, it seems that with each year that goes by, bipartisan support for state marijuana programs continues to grow. Last week, the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan national group representing state legislatures, called upon Congress to overhaul federal drug laws, according to U.S. News & World Report, allowing individual states to establish their own policies for marijuana and hemp.

“I think there’s every indication that a sea change is taking place in the country,” said New Hampshire State Representative Renny Cushing, who sponsored the measure. “People are realizing it’s the end of prohibition, the parallels are very similar to what happened when the U.S. realized the prohibition of alcohol was a failed public policy.”

In a voice vote, the nonpartisan group approved a policy statement supporting a states’ rights position on state marijuana laws. The resolution reads:

“...the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety, health, and economic development of their communities.”