Releaf Magazine

Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year

Here's an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.

Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

Armstrong claims that "the police are now taking more assets than the criminals," but this isn't exactly right: The FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, in addition to plain ol' burglary. If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That's more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.

One other point: Those asset forfeiture deposit amounts are not necessarily the best indicator of a rise in the use of forfeiture. "In a given year, one or two high-dollar cases may produce unusually large amounts of money — with a portion going back to victims — thereby telling a noisy story of year-to-year activity levels," the Institute for Justice explains. A big chunk of that 2014 deposit, for instance, was the $1.7 billion Bernie Madoff judgment, most of which flowed back to the victims.

For that reason, the net assets of the funds are usually seen as a more stable indicator — those numbers show how much money is left over in the funds each year after the federal government takes care of various obligations, like payments to victims. Since this number can reflect monies taken over multiple calendar years, it's less comparable to the annual burglary statistics.

Still, even this more stable indicator hit $4.5 billion in 2014, according to the Institute for Justice — higher again than the burglary losses that year.

One final caveat is that these are only the federal totals and don't reflect how much property is seized by state and local police each year. Reliable data for all 50 states is unavailable, but the Institute of Justice found that the total asset forfeiture haul for 14 states topped $250 million in 2013. The grand 50-state total would probably be much higher.

Still, boil down all the numbers and caveats above and you arrive at a simple fact: In the United States, in 2014, more cash and property transferred hands via civil asset forfeiture than via burglary. The total value of asset forfeitures was more than one-third of the total value of property stolen by criminals in 2014. That represents something of a sea change in the way police do business — and it's prompting plenty of scrutiny of the practice.


VIA The Washington Post

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DUI ruling: Marijuana presence not proof of impairment

PHOENIX — People with marijuana in their system can escape driving-under-the-influence convictions if they can show they weren’t “high” enough to be impaired, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The justices rejected a claim by two individuals that the fact they had state-issued cards allowing them to ingest the drug automatically means they can never be charged with driving while impaired. Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing for the unanimous court, said nothing in the 2010 voter-approved law allowing the medical use of marijuana provides such immunity.

But Bales said the presence of marijuana is not proof that someone is actually impaired.

Friday’s ruling creates what is called an “affirmative defense” for those charged with driving with drugs in their system.

In essence, they can still be charged with violating the law. And all prosecutors have to prove is that they did, in fact, test positive for marijuana or one of its metabolites, the chemicals caused when the drug breaks down in the body.

But Bales said defendants can escape conviction if they can prove to a court “that the concentration of marijuana or its impairing metabolite in their bodies is insufficient to cause impairment.”

The decision is a mixed bag for prosecutors.

On one hand, they praised the fact the high court did not say medical marijuana users can drive without fear of being stopped or prosecuted.

“This is a very welcome ruling in today’s culture, where the small minority of individuals who use marijuana seek to reorganize Arizona’s laws to protect their use to the detriment of the public’s safety,” said Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

But prosecutors were upset the justices effectively voided the state law that makes it a crime for individuals to operate a vehicle “while there is any drug defined in (state law) or its metabolite in the person’s body.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that law is plain on its surface: If a motorist tests positive for marijuana, he or she is guilty of driving while impaired. He said that differs from other laws wherein prosecutors have to specifically prove someone was impaired.

Bales conceded that point. And he said there apparently was a purpose behind that statute.

“The Legislature, in seeking to combat the serious problem of impaired driving, recognized that for certain drugs it may be difficult to identify concentrations that definitely establish whether a defendant is impaired,” Bales wrote.

But he said there’s another law at play: the one voters approved in 2010 allowing those with certain medical conditions to legally possess and use marijuana. And that law spells out that a patient “shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.”

Bales said those two statutes, read together, give medical marijuana patients the chance to argue that they cannot be convicted because they were not impaired.

Montgomery said there’s one big practical problem with that: There are no scientific studies that show at what level of marijuana in the blood someone becomes impaired.

That’s far different than laws dealing with drunken driving. Lawmakers have enacted laws saying that someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more is presumed to be driving while intoxicated.

What that potentially leaves, said Montgomery, is having defendants testify that they were not impaired.

For example, he said an individual could say he uses marijuana for back pains but still had a spasm, which is what resulted in the car jerking, and which is further why the officer pulled the person over in the first place.

“I’m going to declare from my personal testimony, ‘I wasn’t impaired, I drive like this all the time,’” Montgomery said of how the testimony might go.

He pointed out that Friday’s ruling says that question of impairment is determined by the “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning whether something is more likely impaired than not. Montgomery said that could mean a defendant would be acquitted unless a prosecutor could find some way — he’s not sure how — to rebut the driver’s claim that he or she was not impaired.

Friday’s ruling extends even further the legal protections the state Supreme Court provided last year for marijuana users charged with DUI.

Polk said Friday’s ruling will have even more far-reaching implications if voters approve the initiative now being proposed for the 2016 ballot to allow the recreational use of marijuana.


VIA The Arizona Star

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Mexico Rules Consumption and Cultivation of Cannabis is a Fundamental Human Right

Marco Torres, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

The world is slowly but surely turning the page on one of the most fundamental rights we have on this Earth–the right to consume, cultivate and possess a plant. That right has been stripped away from many populations globally for decades. Days after voters in the US state of Ohio rejected a proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational use, Mexico has ruled that pot, whether smoking, consuming or cultivating is a fundamental human right.

The Mexican Supreme Court ruled by 4 to 1 that banning the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for personal use violates the human right to free development of one’s personality.

“This vote by Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons,” says Hannah Hetzer of the US Drug Policy Alliance, which campaigns for the relaxation of drug laws. “First, it’s being argued on human-rights grounds, and secondly, it’s taking place in one of the countries that has suffered most from the war on drugs,” she says.

Cannabis reached the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, arriving in the southwest from Mexico, as immigrants fled the country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911. The cultivation of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, can be traced back at least 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops. However, modern humans have found it acceptable to prohibit the use of one of the most therapeutic plants in the world based on mostly political reasons.

A federal law called the Marijuana Tax Act banned its use and sales in 1937. Prior to 1937 in the United States (and 1928 in the United Kingdom), cannabis had enjoyed a 5,000 year run as a therapeutic plant with no history of illegality.

Four US states — Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon — have legalized the personal use of cannabis and Canada is expected to follow suit. More than a dozen U.S. states have nowcompletely decriminalized the act of possessing marijuana. It’s a far cry from initiatives in 2011 when the federal government decreed that marijuana had no accepted medical use use and should remain classified as a highly dangerous drug like heroin.

We now know that accepting and promoting the powerful health benefits of marijuana would instantly cut huge profits geared towards cancer treatment and the U.S. would have to admit it imprisons the population for no cause. Nearly half of all drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana.

Bills to legalise cannabis for medical use are under debate in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. The world is moving towards it’s inhabitants finally be able to once again possess, sell, transport and cultivate the plant.

Several other countries have moved towards more lenient laws on cannabis use, but none have done so solely on the basis of human rights. Most, like Ireland, which in early November moved towards legalising supervised heroin use and possible decriminalisation of other drugs, have cited health, compassionate and economic grounds.

“We’re seeing a new rationality in relation to drug laws,” says David Nutt of Imperial College London, who is a former UK government adviser on drugs. “At last some countries have the courage to admit that the ‘war on drugs’ is futile and does more harm than good.”


1. Cancer

Cannabinoids, the active components of marijuana, inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals, and also kill cancer cells. Western governments have known this for a long time yet they continued to suppress the information so that cannabis prohibition and the profits generated by the drug industry proliferated.

THC that targets cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 is similar in function to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body and activate these receptors. The researchers suggest that THC or other designer agents that activate these receptors might be used in a targeted fashion to treat lung cancer.

2. Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by uncontrollable facial grimaces, tics, and involuntary grunts, snorts and shouts.

Dr. Kirsten Mueller-Vahl of the Hanover Medical College in Germany led a team that investigated the effects of chemicals called cannabinols in 12 adult Tourette’s patients. A single dose of the cannabinol produced a significant reduction in symptoms for several hours compared to placebo, the researchers reported.

3. Seizures

Marijuana is a muscle relaxant and has “antispasmodic” qualities that have proven to be a very effective treatment for seizures. There are actually countless cases of people suffering from seizures that have only been able to function better through the use of marijuana.

4. Migraines

Since medicinal marijuana was legalized in California, doctors have reported that they have been able to treat more than 300,000 cases of migraines that conventional medicine couldn’t through marijuana.

5. Glaucoma

Marijuana’s treatment of glaucoma has been one of the best documented. There isn’t a single valid study that exists that disproves marijuana’s very powerful and popular effects on glaucoma patients.

6. Multiple Sclerosis

Marijuana’s effects on multiple sclerosis patients became better documented when former talk-show host, Montel Williams began to use pot to treat his MS. Marijuana works to stop the neurological effects and muscle spasms that come from the fatal disease.

7. ADD and ADHD

A well documented USC study done about a year ago showed that marijuana is not only a perfect alternative for Ritalin but treats the disorder without any of the negative side effects of the pharmaceutical.

8. IBS and Crohn’s

Marijuana has shown that it can help with symptoms of the chronic diseases as it stops nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

9. Alzheimer’s

Despite what you may have heard about marijuana’s effects on the brain, the Scripps Institute, in 2006, proved that the THC found in marijuana works to prevent Alzheimer’s by blocking the deposits in the brain that cause the disease.

10. Premenstrual Syndrome

Just like marijuana is used to treat IBS, it can be used to treat the cramps and discomfort that causes PMS symptoms. Using marijuana for PMS actually goes all the way back to Queen Victoria.

About the Author

Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.


VIA Waking Times

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Marijuana fights Alzheimer’s disease, new study indicates

Another study is adding evidence to the case for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease with the compounds in cannabis.

Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease this September “strongly suggest that THC [the main active ingredient in marijuana] could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”

More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s today. One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, costing America about $203 billion in 2013.

Chuanhai Cao and other researchers at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University wanted to investigate the “potential therapeutic qualities of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with respect to slowing or halting the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.”

So they treated Alzheimer’s research cells (N2a-variant amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) cells) with THC and examined them for amyloid-β at the 6, 24, and 48-hour time markers. Amyloid-β is a type of protein that is linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms. The researchers found THC “to be effective at lowering Aβ levels … in a dose-dependent manner.”

The main active ingredient in pot “directly interacts” with amyloid-β, “thereby inhibiting aggression”. THC was also effective at lowering other key Alzheimer’s Disease markers. Furthermore “no toxicity” was observed from the THC. The researchers also found THC “enhances” the function of the cell’s energy factories — the mitochondria.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” stated study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.

“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”

Other research in the same journal that month indicates THC boosts the body’s natural anti-Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism — the endocannabinoid system.

Alzheimer’s Disease is thought to result from a lifetime of brain inflammation. Cannabis is one of the most safe anti-inflammatories in medicine. Some neuroscientists believe a bout of pot smoking in early adulthood may prevent Alzheimer’s onset later in life. Cannabis slows brain aging, Time reported in 2012.

Smoking, vaping, or eating the pot molecules THC and CBD directly effects nerve cell function, reducing chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular dysfunction — all the while promoting stability of the human body’s internal environment (homeostasis) and healthy brain cells (neurotrophic support), studies show.

“What we found was that not only did the single puff a day reverse the memory impairment but also restarted neurogenesis,” Ohio State University, Gary Wenk told the Seattle Post Intelligencer this year.

Other studies have shown THC inhibits other key pathological markers of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The U.S. government has patented marijuana molecule CBD as a neuroprotectant, evan as it maintains that cannabis is a schedule 1 drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse. The federal drug war is blocking deeper research into cannabis’ impacts on brain disease, Wenk states.



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New Bill Would Cut Off Federal Forfeiture Funds For DEA Marijuana Seizures

By Nick Sibilla
A new bipartisan bill would eliminate a controversial source of funding for one federal marijuana seizure program. Last week, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced the “Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.” The bill is quite simple: It would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. Additionally, the bill would ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property “is used for any purpose pertaining to” the DEA’s marijuana eradication program.

Under this program, the DEA receives federal forfeiture funds ($18 million in 2013), which it then funnels to over 120 local and state agencies to eliminate marijuana grow sites nationwide. Last year, the program was responsible for over 6,300 arrests, eradicating over 4.3 million marijuana plants and seizing $27.3 million in assets. More than half of all plants destroyed were in California, which also accounted for over one-third of seized assets and nearly 40 percent of the arrests.

Across the country, drug cops have ensnared countless innocent Americans. In February 2014, the DEA seized a college student’s entire life savings, without finding any drugs or charging him with a drug crime. The student, Charles Clarke, has since partnered with the Institute for Justice and sued to win back his cash. In Georgia, the Governor’s Task Force for Drug Suppression raided an Atlanta retiree’s garden last year after spotting suspicious-looking green plants. But the plants weren’t marijuana: They were okra. The task force received federal forfeiture funding through the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.

Groups that want to reform the nation’s drug laws, like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, are backing Lieu and Amash’s legislation. But regardless of how one views legalizing marijuana or the war on drugs, funding programs with civil forfeiture is unconscionable. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which occurs after a criminal conviction is obtained, under civil forfeiture, law enforcement does not need to convict, much less charge people with a crime to take their property.

Federal agencies pursue both civil and criminal forfeiture cases, but the former is far more common. Analysis by the Institute for Justice found 78 percent of properties in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) system were seized for civil forfeiture, compared with 22 percent for criminal forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture is fraught with a staggering lack of due process. Under federal law, owners must prove their innocence in court to regain their seized property. Property owners in civil forfeiture proceedings do not have a right to an attorney, rendering it even more difficult to prevail. Meanwhile, seizing agencies can keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds of a forfeited property. That creates a perverse incentive to “police for profit.”

Over the past thirty years, forfeiture has grown tremendously for the federal government. Back in 1985, the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Fund had $27 million in proceeds. By 2013, that number topped over $2 billion. This year, in a budget request, the DEA wanted over $210 million in “reimbursable funds” from the Asset Forfeiture Fund.

But the DEA’s slush funds may soon be ending. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Lieu to halve funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program. Instead, the amendment would redirect those funds to deficit reduction and to aid domestic violence and child abuse victims.

In January, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) reintroduced the “Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act” to overhaul federal civil-forfeiture laws. If enacted, the FAIR Act would require more evidence to forfeit property, shift the burden of proof onto the government (where it belongs), provide indigent owners with access to counsel and deposit forfeiture proceeds into the General Fund of the Treasury. The bill currently has over 80 cosponsors, Democrats and Republicans, in the House. In the months ahead, even more forfeiture reform legislation is expected.

The Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act is a welcome step to curtail an abusive revenue stream for federal drug cops.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of civil forfeiture, please contact the Institute for Justice. For more information on civil forfeiture, visit

Follow the Institute for Justice on Facebook and Twitter.



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State of Colorado is hiring: Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination

The state of Colorado is looking to hire someone with 'optimism that Colorado’s social experiment with marijuana can be effectively and efficiently implemented in a way that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.

By Ricardo Baca
The Cannabist Staff

The state of Colorado is looking to fill a major marijuana policy position — perhaps you’re the right fit for the job?

The position: Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination.

The application deadline: Wednesday, a.k.a. Nov. 18 — so hurry.

The job description: “To aid the director, however needed, in ensuring the efficient and effective implementation of Colorado’s recreational and medical marijuana laws — and the state’s education, prevention and treatment efforts.”

The person who will become the new Deputy Director — replacing outgoing Deputy Skyler McKinley, who is moving into a more senior role with Governor John Hickenlooper’s team — will report to the state’s director of marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman. The new hire will be responsible for organizing and staffing the state’s Office of Marijuana Coordination. The individual will also write memos, meet with concerned stakeholders, monitor cannabis legislation, coordinate marijuana communications across state agencies and more, according to the job posting.

“Skyler did an amazing job as Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination, and now I am looking for who will follow,” Director Freedman wrote on his Facebook page. “Interested in being at the forefront of one of the most interesting topics in state government? Care a lot about good government, and how to do things right?”

Applicant requirements include “top-notch organizational skills,” “proven ability to treat diverse issues with a professional neutrality and distance” and “proactive engagement on difficult and/or time-sensitive issues.”

One of the position’s “critical competencies” stands out from the job posting, especially for a state gig: “Enthusiasm — optimism that Colorado’s social experiment with marijuana can be effectively and efficiently implemented in a way that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.”

The full job posting is below — but interested parties can send a cover letter and resume to outgoing Deputy Director McKinley at by Nov. 18 with the subject line, “Deputy Director Application Materials.”

[Read the official job posting here.]


VIA The Cannabist

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Nearly 900 apply to grow, produce or sell medical marijuana in Maryland

November 12 at 2:24 PM

Chris Rokus, left, and Steve Usatin look at a live feed of a marijuana growing operation at a cannabis expo in D.C. Usatin owns a company that provides live streams, which could be used by businesses to show compliance with growing laws. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

State regulators in Maryland say they have received so many applications to grow, produce and sell medical marijuana that they no longer expect to begin issuing preliminary licenses by mid-January.

“In light of the exceptional response . . . we will extend the application review period initially proposed,” the Medical Cannibis Commission said in a statement Thursday. “The Commission will provide an updated program schedule in the near future.”

In all, nearly 900 applications were submitted by the Nov. 6 deadline, the commission said. Regulators received 102 applications for marijuana growing centers and 75 requests to open facilities to turn the cannabis into pills, oils and other medical products.

There were 705 applications to open dispensaries. But the commission said a “significant percentage” of those came from applicants who submitted multiple requests, one for each of the state’s 47 senatorial districts, an apparent attempt by prospective shop owners to improve their chances of securing a license.

State law allows up to two dispensaries in each senatorial district, and prohibits any single entity from operating more than one dispensary.

The state can authorize up to 15 growing facilities. There is no limit of the number of processing facilities.

Once all of the applications are reviewed, the commission said Thursday, it will issue preliminary license approvals.

Each entity that receives a preliminary license will have 365 days to complete all the requirements for a full license — likely including raising capital, receiving zoning approvals, preparing the facilities and hiring and training employees — and request a final inspection by the commission.

“The number of applications received ensures the Commission will have a strong pool of qualified candidates to consider as the review process moves forward and that the state’s medical cannabis program will be self-funded as intended by the General Assembly,” said Hannah Byron, the commission’s executive director.


VIA Washington Post

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Marijuana could treat autoimmune diseases: study

The drug has potential to work on chronic inflammation, found in disease like arthritis, lupus, colitis and MS. It may work by suppressing immune functions.

New findings suggest marijuana's potential key role in fighting autoimmune diseases lies in its capacity to suppress certain immune functions, notably inflammation.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 10:37 AM

Building the case for the most widely used illicit drug in developed countries, researchers from the University of South Carolina have discovered marijuana's potential to treat autoimmune diseases in which chronic inflammation plays a pivotal role. These include arthritis, lupus, colitis and multiple sclerosis.

Published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the findings say marijuana's potential key role in fighting these diseases lies in its capacity to suppress certain immune functions, notably inflammation.

The study examined whether marijuana's main active constituent, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could affect DNA through "epigenetic" pathways.

The group of molecules with the capacity to alter DNA and the functioning of genes it controls is collectively referred to as the epigenome. It includes a group of molecules called histones, which are responsible for inflammation, both beneficial and harmful.

The research team, led by Mitzi Nagarkatti, Prakash Nagarkatti and Xiaoming Yang, found that THC can, indeed, affect DNA expression through epigenetic pathways by altering histones.

As recreational and medical use of marijuana become more acceptable in developed countries, more research is being conducted and more potential health applications are being uncovered.

Marijuana already has a variety of medical uses including treatment of chronic pain, nausea, vomiting and the wasting syndrome experienced by some AIDS patients.


VIA NY Daily News

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Local Marine Brings Awareness to Overmedicated Veterans With Photography Project

A military veteran and student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia is using his skills as a photographer to protest the overmedication of our nation’s heroes.

Mike Whiter, 39, launched the photo project “Operation Overmed,” which features pictures of veterans, including Whiter, rejecting pharmaceutical options and using alternative treatments such as medical marijuana for their health issues.

Whiter told NBC10 he joined the Marines at the age of 19 and eventually became a Staff Sergeant. After the Iraq War, Whiter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was medically discharged. He went to a VA Hospital which placed him on medication.

“Over a period of five years I was on 40 different medications,” he said. “Everything from anti-depressants to anti-anxiety medication. At one point they had me on Methadone for chronic pain. I was 35 at the time.”

Wanting to find an alternative to the medication, Whiter started using medical marijuana after watching a documentary about it in 2012. Since then he hasn’t turned back.

“I felt more relaxed after one joint than I had after tons of combinations of pharmaceuticals,” he said. “I threw away my pills and my quality of life is better than it has been in years. I think it is very important to note that cannabis is not a cure for PTSD, but in combination with therapy, it can open a whole new world for you.”

Whiter also decided to pursue his passion in photography and enrolled in the Art Institute of Philadelphia. That’s where the foundation for his photo project took shape.

“I was having a hard time in the studio photographing subjects,” he said. “I have a hard time interacting with people sometimes. One of my professors said, ‘why don’t you shoot veterans? Then I decided to take it a few steps further and involve my activism.”

Whiter launched Operation Overmed in June 2. While the series so far has gotten attention from the medical marijuana community, Whiter hopes the project will reach a wider audience.

“I’m photographing people that use medical marijuana now because I’m a marijuana activist and I run in those circles so I know these people,” he said. “But I’m meeting other people who say, ‘Hey, I don’t use medical marijuana but screw the pill.’ The point is, all of these veterans have chosen alternative treatments whether its medical marijuana or acupuncture, yoga, I don’t care what it is. As long as they’re saying screw these pills, I want to do what’s right for my body. I’m taking my health into my own hands. And that’s what I want to show with these photographs.”

Whiter says his ultimate goal is to draw attention to the countless veterans who shared an experience similar to his own.

“Twenty-seven states report 22 veteran suicides a day,” Whiter said. “A lot of that can be attributed to the medications because guys with PTSD who are already suicidal are taking medications that have increased risks of suicidal thoughts or actions listed as a side effect. I was one of those guys. I was a slave. I was in my house stuck in my head for like five years man, just on all these pills.”

Whiter, who says the response to the project has been “overwhelmingly positive,” hopes his message will reach the average citizen.

“Veterans are overmedicated,” he said. “That’s the message that I really want to send out. The VA is killing the people who fought for this country and it’s not right.”

If you would like to participate in the Operation Overmed project, email Whiter at You can also visit his Facebook page and website for more information.


VIA NBC 10 Philadelphia 

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Jodie Emery Waxes on Toking With Trudeau

Canada’s “Princess of Pot” is glad that we [Canada] finally have a new prime minister. But long-time marijuana activist Jodie Emery knows that Justin Trudeau’s plan to legalize cannabis could go up in flames.

“Everybody’s in favour of legalizing it,” Emery tells 24 Hours. “Now, it’s about how. And when you talk about how, that’s very different.”

The new government would be wise to consult with the cannabis advocate and her husband, Marc.

The couple run the Cannabis Culture head shops, vapour lounges and an online magazine out of Vancouver. They’ve been able to put a stronger focus on the business in the last year – ever since Marc returned from prison in the U.S., where he served a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds.

But when Jodie was rejected by the federal Liberal party for trying to run as a candidate earlier this year, many wondered if Trudeau would forge ahead without the Emerys in his quest to legalize marijuana.

Q: What’s the best way to move forward with marijuana legalization in Canada?

Jodie Emery: Legalization can take many different forms, similar to how alcohol is legal but every city and province can deal with it as they see fit. So, with marijuana being legal, that basically means any sort of model is possible. It could be a very restrictive type of system, similar to Washington State perhaps, where they have a government-controlled system. They don’t allow people to grow their own, and there are different restrictions on driving. Whereas in Colorado, which is a far more successful version, they’ve allowed a real free market to exist, where people are allowed to open up their own retails stores. It’s not government-controlled. And people are also allowed to grow up to six plants of their own personal supply. For me as an activist, and for many people within the activism movement, the right to grow our own is very much a sticking point.

Q: Do you have any predictions about what Justin Trudeau’s government might do?

We know that the Liberals have been actively educating themselves on this file. But which form they’re going to go with, which model, I’m not sure. My one main concern is that they don’t want to be seen as the “pot party”, and so they might want to go with a more restrictive sort of legalization system – just to appease the people who are worried, and the cops and health professionals who are still on the fence. But if you really want to look at the science, and the polls of support amongst the people, clearly, full legalization is desired, and marijuana is far safer than alcohol and prescription pills and a lot of substances that are readily available.

Q: What would be your ideal situation, in terms of legalization?

I’m hoping for a truly free market, where you can grow your own, medically, from a licensed provider who has a sterile environment and medical-grade testing, or you could go to a commercial outlet that sells a whole lot of pot of commercial-grade, or you could go to something similar to a craft brewery or a boutique coffee shop, where it’s a limited selection of fine high-grade products. So ideally, I’d like a free market. But it’s possible, as with all government, that excessive regulation and taxation might be involved in whatever system they implement. So, my job is to try and work against that.

Q: What’s your husband Marc up to these days? Is he writing a book?

Not yet, but I keep bugging him to write a book! He’s just been so busy. He’s managing our store, so it’s an interesting time for us. Now that he’s home (from prison), we’re running our stores, head shops, vapour lounges and online media. We’re just trying to remain cutting-edge.

Q: Have you heard the news that Toronto City Council has outlawed hookah lounges?

Yeah, I saw Toronto voted to ban them, which is terrible. Vancouver did the same thing. And it’s really unfair… I think it’s wrong for governments to stop businesses from operating when everyone involved in those businesses are doing so with consent. And what bothers me about the hookah lounges is it’s not really even smoke in most cases; it’s not nicotine or tobacco. It’s just herbal shisha being vaporized, really.

Q: Once marijuana becomes legal, do you think you’ll get the chance to hang out with Justin Trudeau and roll up a joint?

I sure hope so! I would love to toke with Trudeau. (laughs)


VIA 24 Hours Toronto 

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